"Makoyi" sniffs around in the snow and then retires to his igloo.
"Makoyi" sniffs around in the snow and then retires to his igloo.
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Tanya Bogatin's once pristine home is no longer quite so organized, and she's waiting a little longer between loads of laundry, but it's no skin off her back. Her priorities have shifted now that she'll be helping her two young kids attend classes from their home in Vaughan, Ont., for another month. "Things are gonna fall to the backburner," she said. "I tell my kids, don't stress about it ... relax, relax. We're happy, we're safe, we're healthy." With online learning extended until late January across southern Ontario, and for even longer in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Windsor-Essex, parents like Bogatin are finding a litany of strategies to manage all their responsibilities. She said she briefly panicked when she found out her kids would be learning remotely until at least Feb. 10, but then she came up with a game plan. Each morning, she and her kids get up at around 8:20 a.m., with half an hour to spare before classes begin. Once classes start, her son -- who is in Grade 4 -- stations himself in the dining room, and her daughter -- in Grade 2 -- sets up her laptop at the desk in the toy room. Bogatin sits on the stairs between them, listening in case they call for help. At recess, she said, she bundles them up in winter gear and sends them out to play in the backyard. Right after classes end, they get to work on homework. Bogatin works part-time, and as of this week she's able to do that from home. "I'm very, very lucky that I have a very flexible job," she said, noting that she's mostly able to set her own schedule, and will sometimes retreat into her bedroom for online meetings. Her days are busy, she said, but they're "good busy." Parents are making it work, said Rachel Huot with the Ontario Parent Action Network, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy. "It's extremely challenging to try and support children learning remotely," she said. "Your kids are not meant to learn sitting in front of a computer screen for six hours a day." Parents who have to juggle supervising kids and working -- either in or out of the home -- are stretched even thinner, she said. "Then there's the fact that we're watching the government fail us day after day. And there's no clear end in sight," she said. Huot echoed calls from teachers' unions that are requesting broader testing of asymptomatic students, smaller class sizes and better ventilation systems in schools so that kids can safely return to the classroom. A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said student safety is the government's top priority. "We know that parents want their children back in class and we firmly agree, and our commitment to deliver on that is to further enhance our safety protocols and provincewide targeted surveillance testing to ensure our students can safely go back to class," she said. The government has cited rising COVID-19 positivity rates amongst children as well as soaring daily infections for its decision to have students learn virtually for longer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
After 11 years in the trades – from scaffolding and metal work, to her current role in concrete forming – Mulisius Joe has also become skilled at navigating the male-dominated construction industry. “I've worked with a few men who didn’t think I should be there,” she said, citing times when empty reasons were given to exclude her from contributing to a job. “It’s never said out loud but you could feel it…where you don't know if it’s racist or it’s sexist, but you know it's something.” Calls for equity among construction labourers in the GTA were made decades ago, with African-Canadian carpenters and their allies protesting the exclusion of Black workers from trades unions and construction companies in the early ‘70s. Trade union programs are now slowly helping to change that. Joe said she has seen a shift in how journeypersons, or mentors for trade apprentices, are increasingly focused on the treatment of women and visible minorities on site, and are better prepared to foster an equitable environment. These changes make her hopeful the industry will develop a similar awareness around issues of discrimination and equity, especially after the racist incidents this past summer, when five nooses were found tied onto scaffolding or hanging in view at GTA construction sites. Despite police and union investigations – and the firing of at least one worker – another two nooses were found at Michael Garron Hospital in East York in late September. “It didn't just go away because we said how we feel,” said Brampton resident Chris Campbell, of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. In November, Campbell became the union’s first Equity and Diversity Representative. He will work to include racism in the scope of “toolbox talk” – trades-speak for frank discussions about safety issues – in an attempt to change the culture of silence around workplace discrimination in the construction industry. The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario represents more than 30,000 workers across 16 affiliated trades unions. Campbell completed his apprenticeship in the early ‘90s, and became a project supervisor at various sites across the GTA before teaching at the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades, based in Woodbridge. An active member in the Jamaican Canadian Association and other Black community organizations, Campbell went on to become a Local 27 Toronto Carpenters’ Union rep prior to his current appointment. Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, Black Lives Matter demonstrations underscored the urgent need to confront anti-Black racism in the workplace. Campbell said he and other union representatives marched in the downtown Toronto protests in June, sporting the union flag. Mulisius joined the marches, and commended the union for making their presence visible. “It feels good, because as a woman on site, and also as a Black person, I’m always the minority. To see our union jump behind this, it makes me feel so much prouder to be a Local 27 member,” she said. But later that month, the first noose was found at the Eglinton Crosstown LRT job site. Campbell said one of the union’s members admitted to tying it and was fired, had his union membership revoked and was banned from working on projects operated by Crosslinx Transit Solutions. “It’s not just a noose for some people. It’s a health issue, because they’re traumatized, they can’t mentally handle it,” Johnson said, adding that there were Black workers at the site. “Some people, they become emotional and they cannot go back to work because to them, it symbolizes an extreme aggression. To them, it symbolizes what their grandparents went through a few decades ago.” According to 2016 Census data, close to one-fifth of Brampton’s workforce was in the trades, transport and equipment operations industry, compared to about 12 percent in Mississauga. Peel Region also has the highest proportion of immigrants compared to its bordering regions – at about 52 percent of the population – and the highest proportion of visible minorities, at 62 percent, compared to 51 percent in Toronto, and the GTA average of 48 percent. The booming construction industry holds the potential to dramatically improve the employment prospects of Peel’s large visible minority communities. Many of these residents have not been well represented in the trades, traditionally. The BOLT (Building Opportunities for Life Today) program was launched by construction giant Tridel in 2009, and in 2013 it was established as a charitable foundation aimed at introducing career opportunities to marginalized and other “under-resourced” youth across the GTA. It has provided more than 400 post-secondary scholarships for construction-related programs, in an effort to help young people from all backgrounds pursue a career in the trades. Opening up one of Ontario’s largest industries to reflect the province’s population, is a challenge the unions are now taking up as well. Whether it’s because of cultural issues, for example the view among some South Asian-Canadian communities that trades jobs are not traditionally socially acceptable, or because of discriminatory dynamics within the industry, the lack of representation means many Peel residents are being cut off from highly lucrative careers. In 2018, the average wage of workers in the construction industry across the country was almost $32 an hour, according to Statistics Canada. The average minimum wage in the country (which is what many newcomers earn) at the time sat at about $12 an hour. A 2016 Peel-Halton Workforce Characteristics Report notes that women, racialized minorities and newcomers face disadvantages when holding precarious positions in Peel, with the largest proportions of people earning lower incomes located in Brampton and Mississauga compared to Halton municipalities. In the construction and industrial sectors, about 97 percent of Peel and Halton journeypersons and apprentices are male, though there is no race-based data provided or notes on discrimination trends in the workplace. The recent rash of racist incidents raises questions about what the industry is doing to confront discrimination. At the large LRT construction site where the Fairbank Station in Toronto, near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue will open in 2022, Campbell said the union interviewed people on site and had a “toolbox talk” after a noose was tied there. The union has partnered with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to create a charter document and establish standards for an inclusive workplace that rejects racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The document is now posted at some construction sites, Campbell said, adding that the union is planning to address racism in the workplace through new educational initiatives and training for members and senior leadership. In his new role, Campbell will be notified and involved in the complaints resolution process related to racism in the workplace, and encourages workers to report these incidents. “It’s a health and safety issue,” he said. With the work of craft and trade unions based in skill development, at the forefront of efforts to address racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is the question of whose skills are being recognized, said Tania Das Gupta, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University. As part of her research into racism in the labour movement, Das Gupta interviewed visible minority workers in leadership roles within larger unions, who expressed feeling obstructed in their work. “In other words, you could have diversity, but sometimes it becomes tokenism and the [union] structures are not conducive to inclusion,” she said. Education is integral to making anti-racism programs a success, she added. “If the workers are prepared, and they’re educated on why these changes are happening, then they're likely not to feel threatened.” Professional associations and developers such as Tridel and Ellis Don have launched anti-racism campaigns in response to the incidents this past summer, including quarterly roundtable discussions with 21 industry partners, spearheaded by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). The group is meeting for the second time this month. “These incidents didn’t happen in isolation, and it wasn’t just one incident…so we realized that this is an issue that we need to dive deeper into combatting,” said Amina Dibe, manager of government and stakeholder relations at RESCON. The collective launched the Construction Against Racism Everyone (CARE) Campaign, distributing more than 2,000 hardhat stickers for workers to show their solidarity, while launching educational webinars and subcommittees to tackle education, communication and training within the industry. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Kids are normally able to put their lost baby teeth under their pillow hoping for a payment from the tooth fairy. But what if the tooth falls out and goes missing at school? Gavin Jensen, a five-year-old kindergarten student in Prince George, B.C., was faced with this dilemma this week when one of his teeth fell out in class. Seeing how upset he was, the vice-principal of Hart Highlands Elementary School wrote a formal plea to the fabled fairy to make sure Gavin got his due reward. "Please accept this letter as official verification of a lost tooth and provide the standard monetary exchange rate you normally use for a real tooth," Shandee Whitehead wrote in a letter under the school's masthead. "As a trained vice-principal and hobby dentist, I can verify that there is definitely a gap in Gavin's teeth that was not there this morning when he came in." Whitehead says she learned Gavin had dropped one of the teeth after it came out of his mouth before lunch on Tuesday. "When I went into the classroom, he was actually quite upset," she told Sarah Penton, host of CBC's Radio West. "He lost it from his mouth and then he couldn't find it in the room." The vice-principal says she and other staff searched for it in every corner of the classroom. "Despite the heroic efforts of a fearless search team, we were unable to recover it," Whitehead told the fairy. Whitehead's amusing correspondence has become a sensation in her community after posting the letter on social media. "In addition to contributing to a long-term plan for students' success, cultivating leadership in others, managing people, data and processes, and improving school leadership … a vice-principal has the duty of helping to create a positive school culture … one that saves the day!" Whitehead tweeted Tuesday. She also took the opportunity to remind the tooth fairy about some outstanding payments she was owed. "PS — I am still waiting for the money for my wisdom teeth from 2000. Please pay as soon as possible," Whitehead wrote at the end of the letter. "I have bills to pay." While she is still waiting to get paid, Gavin received his reward on Thursday morning. "When I woke up in the morning, the tooth fairy actually did come," he told Penton. "I got the coin…It was a gold and silver one." Tap the link below to hear the interview with Shandee Whitehead and Gavin Jensen on Radio West:
Calling Métis an "interest group," as Premier Brian Pallister did Wednesday after touring the Brandon vaccination site, does not sit well with Manitoba Metis Federation David Chartrand. "It’s insulting," said Chartrand. When The Brandon Sun asked Pallister to explain the lack of a COVID-19 data sharing agreement with the federation, including the lack of a partnership to ensure Métis are prioritized for vaccines as First Nations have been, he was quick to bristle. But instead of answering the question, the premier spoke about Indigenous people generally, First Nations and reconciliation. "Well, Métis representatives have been at the table and have been part of this. But, of course, Métis people live integrated, for the most part, with the rest of us in the province, as opposed to a lot of the Northern Indigenous communities that do not. And, so, the considerations are not identical, as you would recognize," he said, when pressed. When pressed again, he said, "There are significant efforts being made to work with our interest groups in our province, in particular with the Indigenous and Métis people to make sure that we’re doing what’s culturally appropriate, what works well for their population, what’s acceptable, agreeable, sensitive to their needs. That work is ongoing." But Chartrand objects to Pallister’s statements. He said the only committee the federation – a self-governing political representative for Manitoba Métis – has been asked to sit on is about how best to communicate about vaccines, which has nothing to do with the roll-out. To begin with, Chartrand explained, in some villages, the clear majority will be First Nation and Métis, with very few non-Indigenous people living in them. Chartrand offers Camperville, on the western shore of Lake Winnipegosis, St. Laurent, established as Fond du Lac in 1824 by Métis, and St. Eustache as examples of predominantly Métis villages. "Those are Métis villages. The vast majority (of people) are Métis. These are historical Métis villages which existed even before Canada existed, before the Province of Manitoba," Chartrand said. "Excuse me, but I can tell you where every Métis person lives. I can tell you their chronic illnesses. I can tell you their education level. I can tell you what universities they’re going to. I can tell you what colleges they’re going to." Further, Chartrand said Pallister has a responsibility to establish a distinct process with Métis, and that he’s making excuses not to engage with Métis as a rights-holding Indigenous population. NDP leader Wab Kinew weighed in, after Pallister’s appearance in Brandon. "Unfortunately, Mr. Pallister has politicized his relationship with the Métis people in Manitoba. And I think, in this instance, it’s getting in the way of public health," he said. He said due to the strong work of First Nations health leaders, the benefits of data sharing and strategizing can be seen, and that the Métis community being able to participate in the same kind of arrangement would probably benefit all Manitobans. "If there is one group in society that – whether it’s a cultural group, a geographic region, a socio-economic group – that gets left behind, and that becomes the opening by which the virus can spread, then that affects all of us," Kinew said. "Then we all have to live with the virus or the public health restrictions that are attempting to combat it." He thinks the Métis are raising an important issue and Pallister would do well to dramatically improve his working relationship with them. Jerry Daniels, the Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), concurs. "SCO supports our Métis relatives in their efforts to have allotments of COVID-19 vaccines that they can distribute to their own people," stated Daniels by email. "COVID-19 has impacted the Métis population in Manitoba and there needs to be accountability for this. There also needs to be a facts-based approach to vaccine distribution, to ensure they receive a fair amount of vaccines and can keep their most vulnerable people safe. So far, the province has been unwilling to collaborate with the Metis Nation." Meanwhile, in a follow-up email from a Pallister spokesperson, Chartrand’s previous statements on this matter were denigrated. "Contrary to the inaccurate and inflammatory comments made by the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Government of Manitoba appreciates the willingness of the MMF to assist in Manitoba’s COVID-19 response," stated the spokesperson later Wednesday afternoon. "We have invited them to work with us, in partnership, to discuss how Métis communities can be supported to enhance their ability to access Manitoba’s three COVID-19 vaccination super sites. We have yet to receive a response to this invitation, but remain optimistic about the prospect of working together on this pivotal aspect of the vaccination strategy." But that’s not what Chartrand wants. He wants an allocation of vaccine, and he would partner with pharmacies to deliver them to vulnerable Métis, likely much the same way the science has dictated priority groups so far. "We’d pay them (pharmacies) to give the vaccines. We’d put up the resources to make sure it’s there. We know where our people live, we know their ages, we know their locations, we know the communities. We can quickly put an action team together and a plan – overnight," Chartrand said. When asked about a possible "plan B" if the Province of Manitoba continues to exclude the federation from meaningful participation in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the province, to ensure the most vulnerable Métis are adequately protected, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) stated the federal government places great importance on including Indigenous voices in the priority-setting for early vaccination. "ISC is working collaboratively with all provinces and territories to encourage inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples," stated a spokesperson by email. "The logistics of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out require coordination amongst partners and provinces and territories; an efficient and effective roll-out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration."Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
On Agenda Middle East we speak to political commentator and best-selling author, Fareed Zakaria about the takes from his new book: 'Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World'. We also delve into what the future holds for the Middle East.View on euronews
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
An indoor amusement park in St. John's that has hosted countless birthday parties, go-karting sessions and rounds of bumper boats will soon be no more, as the owners of Axtion say the pandemic is forcing them to close their doors. Owner Ross Squires took to Facebook to announce its final day of fun at the 16,000-square-foot facility will be Sunday, and that "COVID won." "Basically, our bills are higher than what the income has been lately," Squires told CBC News on Thursday. COVID-19 pushed his business — which opened eight years ago — over the edge, he said. It started with a wounded economy due to January's snowstorm, then the lockdown caused by the global health crisis, which saw the space close entirely. Upon reopening, Axtion faced capacity restrictions, and despite regulations changing to allow more customers inside, finances didn't improve. Finally came December, and the company's "worst month yet," which in a normal year should have brought a year-end boost, Squires said. But provincial health officials stressed the importance of not holding corporate Christmas parties and keeping contacts low over the holidays in fear of causing further potential spread of COVID-19. "Everyone listened. People wanted to make sure that that didn't happen, understandably so, but it did have a major affect on our business," said Squires. Community support Hundreds of comments flooded in after Squires posted his farewell message on Facebook. Many expressed shock, sadness and disappointment. Outside of the amusement park on Thursday parents and children reeled in light of the news. "I was devastated. I was scared to tell my son because I knew how devastated he'd be. We go there often. Every couple of weeks we're here, at least," mom Melissa Dagostini said. Dagostini isn't alone. For dad Roger Lewis, the place was as much about having fun as it was about teaching his daughter to overcome fears. "We broke the news yesterday to my daughter. She's seven. She came to Axtion initially to get over her fear of heights, and she did succeed," Lewis said. "She shed a few tears yesterday afternoon when she did find out that it was closing." Many hope something can be worked out to keep the park running, with 25 staff members' jobs at stake. Squires said since his post went up on Wednesday business has been booming, and support from his customers has been steadily flowing in. "A lot of support has come in. A lot of phone calls and things like that, and the community is actually coming to bat for me, he said. As for Sunday's closure, "that may change, I can't give a final decision right now. But, things may change pretty quick," said Squires. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has criticized the United States for kicking his country out of the F-35 stealth jet program after Ankara purchased a Russian missile defence system, a move that also triggered U.S. sanctions. Speaking after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey paid “very serious money” for the F-35 fighters but hasn't received them. “This is a very serious mistake that America, as an allied country, has done to us,” Erdogan said. “I hope with Mr. Biden assuming office and with discussions, he will take more positive steps and we can straighten this out,” he added. Turkey was removed from the F-35 program even though it produced some parts for the jets. The U.S. said the Russian system could jeopardize the safety of the F-35s. The U.S. halted the training of Turkish pilots and said Turkey would not be allowed to take final possession of the four aircraft it bought. Erdogan remained defiant, saying the country was in continued dialogue with Russia about a “second package” of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system and would discuss details at the end of the month. Turkey received the first batch of the system in 2019 and tested it in the fall. Washington also sanctioned four Turkish defence officials last month under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a U.S. law aimed at thwarting Russian influence. The sanctions, which included a ban on issuing export licenses to Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries, were the first time the law was used to punish a NATO ally. “No country can decide on the steps we will take for our defence industry,” Erdogan said. The Associated Press
The deal will be largely paid through cash and Lazy Audio's management team will get post-acquisition equity-settled awards, Tencent said. The acquisition comes at a time when the music streaming site is looking to bolster its content library in order to put it behind a paywall and add more paid users.
SaskPower says the rural areas of the province still without power from this week's storm should see their lights back on by Friday afternoon. Wide swaths of the province have been without electricity in the wake of the blizzard and high winds this week. Areas still without power Friday morning include southwest of Elrose, including Beechy, Saskatchewan Landing, White Bear, Lucky Lake and areas south of Weyburn. SaskPower said power has been restored to areas near Glenavon and for customers east of that community with power lines down. Saskpower spokesperson Scott McGregor said the areas still without power suffered major damage to the power infrastructure. "That's really what's keeping the power off, is that some larger transmission lines have been damaged and we're just working on getting those fixed," McGregor said. That will be good news for Natalie Braun and other residents of Beechy, who have been without power since Wednesday afternoon. "I don't know what our wind got to, but our visibility was zero [Wednesday] late afternoon and went on into the evening," Braun said. "I mean, it was crazy." Braun said they have a generator that has helped them cook meals and stay warm, though even it wouldn't work at the height of the storm. The generator was plugged in at the back of the house and she said the night of the storm the snow and wind kept freezing up the generator. Braun said others in the community who don't have generators are still in the dark and cold. "We have gotten quite accustomed to having power outages," she said, adding that's many people have generators. "But there's definitely a lot without. And it's yeah, it's been a long go. Thankfully, it's not freezing freezing cold." She said community organizations have arranged to drop off hot meals to some elderly residents and that the community hall, which has a generator, is open to residents to come warm up. "It's amazing how a small community can really come together," Braun said. "Yesterday we witnessed a lot of people just going out of their way, checking in on the elderly people in our community. And it just is pretty amazing how everybody, especially in these circumstances and obviously going through this in a pandemic there, it takes it to a whole new level." McGregor said a transmission line went down in the Beechy area. "We're still working in that area and [power] should be up around noon, maybe two o'clock at the latest," he said. "I know that it's been it's been out for a long time over two nights ... and we appreciate everyone's patience while we all get through this." More than 100 communities have had power outages because of the storm and roughly 78,000 people were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. McGregor said high winds and blowing snow continued to hamper crews trying to restore power to some communities. Since the storm began, SaskPower recorded more than 780 outages affecting more than 100,000 customers. McGregor said there could be a few people that remain without power if more problems arise. "We're still taking inventory of a lot of the damage out there," he said. McGregor said it's like clearing a major highway after a snowstorm. "You have the highway reopened, but then you have to deal with the side streets. Same with a transmission line being damaged and then re-energise," he said. "They can repair the transmission lines, but then once that is energized, then other problems coming off of that at the distribution level become evident and then we can work on those.." Braun said while the power outage has been stress for the adults, her two children, aged six and three, have been having a blast. "Our street was impassable yesterday so they were loving seeing all the commotion around. And they love all the snow," she said. Coincidentally the kids got a pair of head lamps in the mail a few days ago and are putting them to good use. "We don't run our generators through the night so in the mornings, they're hiding under the blankets with the head lamps on."
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents as fraudsters. In a nationally televised speech, Rutte said he had informed King Willem-Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and to battle the coronavirus. “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” Rutte said. The move was seen as largely symbolic; Rutte’s government will remain in office in a caretaker mode until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands. The resignation brings to an end a decade in office for Rutte, although his party is expected to win the election, putting him first in line to begin talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rutte would most likely again become prime minister. The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is at risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support. Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to keep taking tough policy decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it were in caretaker mode. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least Feb. 9, and the government is considering imposing an overnight curfew amid fears about new, more contagious variants of the virus. “To the Netherlands I say: Our struggle against the coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said. On Thursday, the leader of the Dutch opposition Labor Party stepped down because he was minister of social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a tough policy of tracking down fraud with child welfare. Lodewijk Asscher’s decision put further pressure on Rutte ahead of Friday's Cabinet meeting. Ministers were to decide on their reaction to a scathing report issued last month, titled “Unprecedented Injustice,” that said the tax office policies violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to parliament about the scandal. Many wrongfully accused parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded repayment of payments. The government has in the past apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents. One of those parents waited near parliament as the Cabinet met and said she wanted it to resign. “It's important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘We have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it's quite something what happened to us,” Janet Ramesar told The Associated Press. Rutte plans to lead his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy into the March election, and polls suggest it will win the most seats. That would put Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in line to attempt to form the next ruling coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren, who serves as interior minister, said as she entered Friday's meeting that “it is very important to be accountable and also to show responsibility in the political sense, and we are going to talk about that in the Council of Ministers today.” Mike Corder, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in December led by a the biggest jump in energy costs since June. The Labor Department reported Friday that the gain in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, followed a modest 0.1% gain in November and matched the 0.3% rise in October. The December increase reflected a 5.5% surge in energy costs, the biggest gain since a 9.6% jump in June. That offset a 0.1% drop in food costs, the first decline since August. Over the past 12 months, inflation at the wholesale level has risen a modest 0.8%. The government reported Wednesday that consumer inflation was also well-behaved last year, rising just 1.4% over the past 12 months. These low inflation reading are giving the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels in an effort to help lift the economy out of a pandemic-induced recession. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
As the calendar turns over to 2021, the Northwest Regional Airport is again seeing a decline in total passengers. 2020 was overall a tough year for the airline industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Northwest Regional Airport followed that trend. In March, passenger numbers at the airport plummeted to historic lows. Between March and September, the passenger count increased gradually, peaking at 14,676 in August. Since then, the number of passengers has decreased each month to just over 9,000 in Dec. For the year, the Northwest Regional Airport saw 147,642 passengers — just over half of 2019’s total of 293,895. The Northwest Regional Airport’s statistics do not include passengers on chartered flights, so the actual number of people arriving and departing from the airport is actually higher. Charter passengers use a separate building for arrivals and departures. The airport continues to ask that people in the terminal building wear a mask. To ensure physical distancing, the airport has closed every second chair in the public seating area, security room and hold room. The eating area is at 40 per cent capacity and non-passengers are asked to stay outside the terminal building. Common touch points like handrails, push buttons and chair arms are cleaned after each departure. Other airports in the Northwest also struggled in 2020. The Prince Rupert Airport shut down most of its operations in March, 2020 and resumed flights in June. Then on Jan. 13, 2021, Air Canada announced that it was cancelling all flights to Prince Rupert effective Jan. 23 until further notice as part of its COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery Plan. ALSO READ: Flights to Prince Rupert cancelled Air Canada suspended all commercial flights at Smithers Regional Airport in April 2020, with the airline not resuming activities at the airport until October.Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
When at least five centimetres of snow falls in Mississauga, the City’s army of plows, salters and other winter maintenance vehicles are dispatched to clear the slippery stuff within 24 hours. An excess snowfall volume, or limited on-site space, forces clearers to haul the snow over to a City storage facility – and there aren’t enough of them. The essential work that makes Mississauga’s streets safer to navigate during the winter months, and allows for the smooth operation of parks and recreation features, is made harder as Works, Operations and Maintenance departments vie for places to store equipment, in the same limited spaces where snow sometimes has to be stored. Now, the City is gearing up for a temporary solution by transforming the West Credit Avenue storage site originally planned for MiWay transit vehicles – near Derry Road and West Credit Avenue – to accommodate more snow clearing vehicles and other related uses. The City’s new $141-million winter maintenance contract – which includes additional snow clearing vehicles – is leaving the Works department even more strapped for space. Council opted for a short-term solution in the 2021 budget to create a temporary site at the West Credit location, ahead of the 2022 Yard Master Plan and Modernization Study. This fall, the site was used to stockpile dry leaves after three of the City’s existing yards reached capacity. The “extraordinary high volumes of leaves” that fell this November slowed the Region of Peel’s ability to transfer them to composting sites, according to a staff report that month. In other words, were it not for the West Credit site’s use as a backup storage location, the leaf collection program would have ground to a halt. Mississauga’s One Million Trees program and commitment to urban forest development will affect leaf collection in the future, the report notes. And when the seasonal storage of nature’s elements is not a factor, the City is still left needing room to tuck away equipment. Mississauga has four operations yards: the Mavis yard, built in 1956; the Clarkson and Malton yards, built in 1977; and the Meadowvale yard, built in 1996. In 2005, staff said a fifth operations yard needed to be built urgently, by 2008, for the Engineering and Works Operations, and Recreation and Parks divisions. Thirteen years after that hard deadline, the yard still has not been built. The rapidly growing city faced criticism recently for chronically neglecting desperately needed expansion of its fire service, while through the Region of Peel, which all 12 Mississauga council members represent at the higher tier, affordable housing in the city has been ignored for decades and the recent report revealed crucial infrastructure to keep streets running and parks cleared are also being kicked down the road. “This is understandable, given that yards are costly to construct and yards are not public facing like community centres and libraries,” the November 30 staff report reads. “However, yard capacity is important to maintain Council-approved service levels.” In 2022, the City will release its Yard Master Plan, and Modernization Study completed by consultants, as part of budget discussions for that year. The Works department says its snow storage capacity right now is in deficit of about 26,000 cubic metres, not including the West Credit site. That floor space alone translates to at least six-and-a-half average sized football fields. The Hurontario LRT in 2024 will result in the need for another 51,000 cubic metres of space to store snow, the report states. Earlier this year, the City’s Enforcement staff had to relinquish some of their storage space at a Mavis North facility to the Works department for winter vehicles. The City has 31 tractor and loader plow units, and added another 24 single-and tandem-axle plows, which remove snow and distribute salt at the same time. Outdated winter maintenance practises in Mississauga result in the City using 60,000 tonnes per year of road salt, which will be reduced with the addition of more plowing and be better for the environment. These changes are part of an eight-year, $141 million winter maintenance contract Council approved this summer. The contract begins next year, and will cost about $17 million in its first full year, by 2022. According to 2021 budget documents, the City will be tapping into its winter maintenance reserve to the tune of about $1.9 million, which will go toward funding priority sidewalk and bus stop clearing services. Staff are expecting that the West Credit site can be used for a minimum of a decade. The report was drafted following a request from Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito during budget discussions last month, after some of the $3.5 million project budget line was mistakenly qualified to Council as “throwaway” costs. Saito said she did not want Council to approve the project without having a closer look at the spending. Staff were able to reduce the West Credit site cost by $700,000, to $2.8 million, after changing the type of asphalt for the project, Saito said in an interview. “If we're going to put money into anything, we need to put it into our maintenance locations because if we don't have somewhere to store the snow, to put the leaves…the parks equipment, the forestry equipment and the snow plows, we can't provide service to the community,” Saito said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
NEW YORK — The nation’s largest retail trade group said Friday that holiday sales soared 8.3%, far exceeding its forecast even as the coronavirus kept shoppers away from physical stores. The National Retail Federation had expected growth in a range of 3.6% to 5.2% for the November and December period compared to the year-ago period. The outsized gains show how the pandemic has caused a major shift in spending away from restaurants and travel and more toward buying goods that focus on activities around the home like home furnishings, food and activewear. That trend has benefited retailers. The retail sales figures exclude sales from autos, restaurants and gas. Moreover, even within the retail industry, big box stores like Walmart and Target are dominating the landscape, enjoying big sales gains at the expense of mall-based stores that were forced to temporarily close during the spring and early summer and still face restrictions. Shoppers are consolidating their trips and favouring stores that offer a wide range of goods under one roof as they look to minimize the exposure of the virus. The National Retail Federation also said that shoppers are looking for opportunities to celebrate during tough times. “Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers and heightened political and economic uncertainty, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year, ” said Matt Shay, CEO of the trade group, in a statement. The holiday figures contrast with a downbeat report Friday from the Commerce Department that retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in December from the month before. The numbers, which include restaurants, gas and autos, also fell in October and November, even though many retailers tried to get people shopping early for their Christmas gifts by offering deals before Halloween. However, the government reported a 3.7% retail sales gain in November and a 2.9% gain in December compared to the year-ago periods. Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press
Slovenia's leftist opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against the centre-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Friday, and a secret parliamentary ballot is expected next week. Karl Erjavec, leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said the opposition had gathered 42 signatures in favour of the motion from among deputies in the 90-seat parliament. Until recently DeSUS was part of the ruling coalition, but it quit saying it was unhappy with the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, its jeopardising of media freedom and siding with Hungary and Poland in disputes within the European Union over democratic standards in those countries.
Educators teaching students with special needs are raising concerns about returning to physical classrooms in southern Ontario while schools otherwise remain closed to in-person learning due to COVID-19. Students in southern Ontario are learning online until at least Jan. 25 and the government extended virtual classes for those in five hot spots until Feb. 11. Special education students who cannot participate in remote learning, however, were back in physical classrooms on Monday – a move the government said was recommended by experts. But as COVID-19 cases rise, some special education teachers say they are worried about their safety, as well as the safety of their students, some of whom are immunocompromised. "For my five- and six-year-old (children), it's not safe for them to go to school, but it's totally safe for my immunocompromised students to go to school?" asked Katie Swallowell, a teacher working for a Catholic school board in London, Ont. Swallowell, who teaches high school students with special needs, said some of her students may not wear masks or may have mask exemptions. "Some of them don't wear masks or they take them off because they hate them. Sneezing, coughing, hugging," she said. "Some of them you can't say no to. You try to say no, but they don't understand and you feel bad." Among 16 of her students, only five opted for remote learning, while the remaining 11 resumed in-person classes, said Swallowell. The teacher said she's worried about bringing the virus home to her three children, including a one-year-old. "It's either safe or it's not safe," she said, adding that there have been no added COVID-19 measures at her school since coming back from winter break. "It looks the same as it did in December." The education ministry said students with special needs can benefit from the routine and consistency of in-class learning and noted that their return to physical classrooms comes with "strong health and safety measures." "We have followed that advice, supported by the chief medical officer of health, to ensure a small number of the most exceptional children can receive the care they desperately need," said ministry spokeswoman Caitlin Clark. Laura Kirby-McIntosh, a parent of two children with autism and president of Ontario Autism Coalition, said the government's choice to resume in-person learning for special education students is the right one. Keeping schools open for those students helps them maintain normalcy and routine during the pandemic, she said. But more needs to be done to ensure consistency for students and a safe working environment for educators, she said. A good supply of personal protective equipment, regular asymptomatic testing, temperature checks and access to vaccinations are just some of the things that can help, she said. Jennifer Windsor, a physical education teacher at Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ont., said her school board only informed educators about coming back to teach in-person two days before classes resumed. "We're being told, it's not safe for students. Yet our most vulnerable sector, you're telling us it's safe to return and no changes since we left in December have been made," she said. Windsor, also a mother of three, said she had to ask her ageing parents for help with her own kids as she returned to teach at school. "For me, the potential of exposing my parents – that has a certain burden and stress. I have barely slept since Thursday, I can barely eat," she said. The resumption of special needs in-person learning means unrecognized increased risks for many education workers, students and families, the union representing Windsor and other teachers in her school board said. "(We are) concerned that the Ford government’s announcement is a half measure that does not go far enough in protecting student and staff safety during the COVID-19 pandemic," District 11 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said in a statement. Union district president John Bernans said he can't understand how the government believes it's safe for the group of students and staff to return to in-person learning when it is not safe for any other group. “This government has had 10 months to put social supports in place for parents of children with special needs that keep students, families and workers safe. They have failed to do that," said Bernans. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
BOSTON — A major memorial honouring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is moving forward in Boston, where they met and studied in the 1950s. King Boston, the privately funded organization co-ordinating the estimated $9.5 million project, said this week that fabrication of a roughly 22-foot-high bronze sculpture depicting four arms embracing is expected to begin in March after years of planning. When unveiled late next year, “The Embrace” will be one of the country’s largest new memorials dedicated to racial equity, the organization says. It will be installed on Boston Common near the site of a 1965 rally and march led by MLK, who would have turned 92 on Friday. Imari Paris Jeffries, King Boston's executive director, said organizers hope their broader effort serves as a model for how public monuments can spark positive action in the wake of the national reckoning on racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Besides the King memorial, the organization is also raising money to build an economic justice centre in Roxbury, a historically Black neighbourhood in Boston where MLK preached. It also plans to launch an annual gathering exploring issues of race and equity. “It's not only how symbols and monuments represent this commitment to equity and inclusion," Jeffries said. "It's also about how research, data and policy work to find new solutions, and how we use the arts and humanities to ground us.” Dr. Vicki Crawford, director of the MLK collection at Morehouse College, the civil right’s leader’s alma mater in Atlanta, Georgia, said the Boston project also stands out because it honours the sizeable contributions of Coretta Scott King alongside her husband. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and led the successful push to make his birthday a national holiday after his assassination in 1968. “She hasn’t received adequate recognition for institutionalizing his philosophy of nonviolence,” Crawford said. “He could not have done it without her by his side.” Other recent monuments to MLK include a bronze statue on Georgia Capitol grounds, dedicated in 2017, and the towering granite likeness off the National Mall that opened in 2011. King Boston was launched in 2017 to address what organizers viewed as a glaring deficiency, considering MLK spent some of his formative years in Boston. The Georgia native earned a doctorate in theology from Boston University and was assistant minister at the city’s Twelfth Baptist Church. The memorial effort was later broadened to honour Coretta Scott King, who earned a degree in music education from the New England Conservatory. It has been further expanded to also recognize Boston civil rights leaders during the 1960s, whose names will be memorialized in the surrounding plaza. Like other racial justice efforts, Jeffries said King Boston has been bolstered by civic activism following Floyd's killing. The organization collected roughly $8 million of the total $12 million it has raised to date in roughly eight months last year, he said. The project also comes as Boston, which was scarred by violent protests over efforts to desegregate its public schools in the 1970s, is enjoying something of a “Black Renaissance,” Jeffries said. The city of almost 700,000 residents, roughly a quarter of them Black, now has its first Black police commissioner and is also home to the state's first Black female district attorney and the state’s first Black congresswoman. Soon, New England’s largest city will also have its first Black and first female mayor. “It seems with every passing day this piece becomes so necessary,” said Hank Willis Thomas, the Brooklyn artist who designed the Boston memorial. “I never imagined how prescient this would be.” Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press
COPENHAGEN — U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed Friday it will temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion doses per year. “This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press. Line Fedders said that to meet the new 2 billion dose target, Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, which “presupposes adaptation of facilities and processes at the factory which requires new quality tests and approvals from the authorities.” “As a consequence, fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and the beginning of February,” she said. Germany’s Health Ministry said Friday Pfizer had informed the European Commission, which was responsible for ordering vaccines from the company, that it won’t be able to fulfil all of the promised deliveries in the coming three to four weeks. The ministry said German officials took note of the unexpected announcement by the Commission ” with regret” because the company had made binding delivery commitments by mid-February. “The federal and state governments expect the EU Commission to provide clarity and certainty as soon as possible in negotiations with Pfizer about further deliveries and delivery dates,” the statement said. The Commission sealed the vaccine deals on behalf of all 27 member states, but is not responsible for the timetable and deliveries. Asked Friday whether Brussels has been informed by Pfizer about delays in the EU, Commission health policy spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker said all questions on production and production capacity should be directed to the company. “The Commission stands ready to support and facilitate contacts between the company and member states whenever needed,” he said. De Keersmaecker said deliveries are made on the basis of purchase orders and specific contracts that are concluded between the member states and the companies. "The specificities of these arrangements are laid down in these purchase orders or contracts,” he said. The Commission has secured up to 600 million extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine that's produced in partnership with Germany's BioNTech. Norwegian authorities also said Friday they had been notified by Pfizer about the reduction that will start next week as the company raises its annual dose target from the current 1.3 billion. “We had predicted 43,875 vaccine doses from Pfizer in week 3. Now it seems that we get 36,075 doses,” said Geir Bukholm, director of infection control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. ”The stock we now have will be able to compensate for a reduction in the planned deliveries for a few weeks ahead if there is a need for this,” he said. In Finland, broadcaster YLE said the delay would cause domestic delivery problems at the end of January and the beginning of February. “We expect that this will mean that in the coming time we can vaccinate fewer than first assumed,” said Henrik Ullum, head of Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in Denmark. ___ Samuel Petrequin in Brussels and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed. Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press