Two pups playing in the backyard as they enjoy their first big snowfall.
Two pups playing in the backyard as they enjoy their first big snowfall.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it intercepted a missile attack over its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on Yemen’s rebel Houthis. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s yearslong war announced the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan, with a fourth toward another southwestern city and other drones being monitored. No casualties or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis. The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019. The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV broadcast footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile. Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in “a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.” The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.” Flight-tracking websites showed a number of flights scheduled to land at Riyadh’s international airport diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack. A civil defence spokesman, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said scattered debris resulted in material damage to one house, though no one was hurt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks. The Houthis overran Yemen’s capital and much of the country's north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign. __ Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report. Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
(NBC/The Associated Press, NBC/Reuters - image credit) Schitt's Creek won the Golden Globe for best television comedy on Sunday, shortly after star Catherine O'Hara captured the award for best actress for her portrayal of Moira Rose. Dan Levy — who co-created the show with his father, Eugene Levy — accepted the award remotely and paid homage to the Canadian cast and crew. "The incredible work you all did over these past six seasons have taken us to places we never thought possible, and we are so grateful to all of you for it," he said. "Thank you to the CBC and Pop TV for making the active choice to keep this show on the air and give it the time and space it needed to grow." The show topped fellow nominees Ted Lasso, The Great, The Flight Attendant and Emily in Paris. "This acknowledgement is a lovely vote of confidence in the messages Schitt's Creek has come to stand for: the idea that inclusion can bring about growth and love to a community," Dan Levy said. "In the spirit of inclusion, I hope that this time next year, the ceremony reflects the true breadth and diversity of the film and television being made today because there is so much more to be celebrated." Earlier, O'Hara thanked Eugene and Dan Levy for creating "an inspiring, funny, beautiful family love story in which they let me wear 100 wigs and speak like an alien." "Thank you CBC for making this show in Canada," she said. Eugene Levy, Dan Levy and Annie Murphy were each nominated for acting awards as well. Jason Sudeikis bested Eugene Levy for best actor in a television series for his role in Ted Lasso, John Boyega won the award for best supporting actor for his role in Small Axe over Dan Levy and Gillian Anderson's turn on The Crown earned her best supporting actress over Murphy. Schitt's Creek, which aired on CBC and Pop TV, ended its sixth and final season last April. The Ontario-shot show swept the comedy category at the Emmy Awards last fall. Nomadland wins 2 awards, Boseman honoured posthumously Nomadland won best drama film while its director, Chloé Zhao, became the first woman of Asian descent to win best director at the Golden Globes. The film follows a woman, played by Frances McDormand, who leaves her small town to join a group of wanderers in the American West. Accepting the best picture award, Zhao paid tribute to all those who have been on difficult journeys, quoting a line from the film: "We don't say goodbye, we say see you down the road." Meanwhile, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm won best movie, musical or comedy, while star Sacha Baron Cohen won best actor for his portrayal of the fictional journalist from Kazakhstan. In a major surprise, the Globe for best actress in a drama film went to Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Day played the legendary jazz and blues singer in the biopic directed by Lee Daniels. A tearful and overwhelmed Day spoke through tears as she said she was "in the presence of giants," naming her fellow nominees Viola Davis, Carey Mulligan, Vanessa Kirby and Frances McDormand. Six months after his death at age 43, Chadwick Boseman won the Golden Globe for best actor in a dramatic film for his final role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Boseman's widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award for her late husband, saying "he would thank God, he would thank his parents, he would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices." Through tears, Ledward added: "I don't have his words, but we have to take all the moments to celebrate those we love." In the Netflix film, Boseman plays an ambitious trumpeter named Levee who aims to launch himself with his own updated version of the songs of Ma Rainey, the powerhouse blues singer played by Viola Davis. Boseman, who starred in the Marvel blockbuster "Black Panther," died in August after privately battling colon cancer for four years. Netflix, which came in with a commanding 42 nominations, won the top TV awards. The Crown, as expected, took best drama series, along with acting wins for Anderson, Josh O'Connor and Emma Corrin. O'Connor and Corrin portrayed Prince Charles and Princess Diana, respectively. The Queen's Gambit, another Netflix show, won best limited series or TV movie and star Anya Taylor-Joy won best actress in a limited series. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, won her first Golden Globe in nearly three decades. Foster won the Globe for best supporting actress in a film for her role in The Mauritanian. Jane Fonda accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award, praising the "community of storytellers" for their vital role in troubled times, and calling for greater diversity in Hollywood. The 83-year-old actor and activist, star of Barbarella, Klute, Coming Home, On Golden Pond and 9 to 5, received the Globes' version of a lifetime achievement award, one of the few honorees to accept a Globe in person in Beverly Hills. The DeMille award honours "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment." Previous winners include Walt Disney, Judy Garland, John Wayne, Sidney Poitier, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Fonda's father Henry Fonda. The Fondas become the first parent and child to both receive the DeMille award. Norman Lear accepted the Carol Burnett Award on Sunday at the Golden Globes for his storied career in television, saying he "could not feel more blessed." The 98-year-old still-working television legend, creator of All in the Family, The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time, is the third winner of the award that honours "outstanding contributions to television on or off the screen." Hosts on different coasts Earlier, co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler began the pandemic-era award show by delivering a split-screen opening from separate coasts. With Poehler at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., and Fey in New York's Rainbow Room, the two did an initial gag where Fey reached out through the screen and stroked Poehler's hair. Golden Globes hosts Tina Fey, left, and Amy Poehler, opened the show from New York and Beverly Hills, Calif., respectively. When attendees would normally be streaming down the red carpet on Sunday evening, many stars were instead posing virtually. Regina King, resplendent in a dazzling dress, stood before her yawning dog. Carey Mulligan, nominated for Promising Young Woman, said from a London hotel room that she was wearing heels for the first time in more than a year. Lee Isaac Chung, writer-director of the tender Korean-American family drama Minari (a movie the HFPA was criticized for ruling ineligible for its top award because of its non-English dialogue), accepted the award for best foreign language film while his young daughter embraced him. "She's the reason I made this film," said Chung. "Minari is about a family. It's a family trying to learn a language of its own. It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language. It's a language of the heart. I'm trying to learn it myself and to pass it on," said Chung. Other awards included Pixar's Soul for best animated film; Rosumund Pike took best actress in a comedy or musical film for I Care a Lot; and Aaron Sorkin won for best screenplay for Trial of the Chicago 7. The film, a favourite to win best drama film at the Globes, was sold to Netflix by Paramount Pictures last summer due to the pandemic. "Netflix saved our lives," said Sorkin. Issues in lead-up to show On a night when the organization that gives out the Golden Globes is facing condemnation for having no Black voting members, the night's first award went to a Black actor, with Daniel Kaluuya winning best supporting actor in a film for his work in Judas and the Black Messiah. Kaluuya's acceptance speech could not be heard from his location at first, and he jokingly shouted, "You did me dirty!" once the audio was restored. Kaluuya didn't mention the issue directly in his acceptance, though he praised the man he played to win the award, Blank Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was was killed in an FBI raid in 1969. The Globes, normally a loose-and-boozy party that serves as the kickoff for Hollywood's awards season, has been beset with problems beyond the coronavirus leading up to this year's ceremony. They include a revelation in the Los Angeles Times that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives out the awards, has no Black voting members in the group. LISTEN | Why the Golden Globes' shady reputation persists: Fey took a shot at the organization in the show opening, explaining to the two small live audiences made up of first responders and essential workers that "the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of around 90 no Black journalists." This year, none of the most acclaimed Black-led films — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, One Night in Miami, Judas and the Black Messiah and Da 5 Bloods — were nominated for the Globes' best picture award. With the HFPA potentially fighting for its Hollywood life, Sunday's Globes were part apology tour. Within the first half hour of the NBC telecast, members of the press association also appeared on stage to pledge change. "We recognize we have our own work to do," said vice president Helen Hoehne. "We must have Black journalists in our organization."
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts ventured out Sunday to install support frames for new, high-efficiency solar panels arriving at the International Space Station later this year. NASA's Kate Rubins and Victor Glover put the first set of mounting brackets and struts together, then bolted them into place next to the station's oldest and most degraded solar wings. But the work took longer than expected, and they barely got started on the second set before calling it quits. Rubins will finish the job during a second spacewalk later this week. The spacewalkers had to lug out the hundreds of pounds of mounting brackets and struts in 8-foot (2.5-meter) duffle-style bags. The equipment was so big and awkward that it had to be taken apart like furniture, just to get through the hatch. Some of the attachment locations required extra turns of the power drill and still weren't snug enough, as indicated by black lines. The astronauts had to use a ratchet wrench to deal with the more stubborn bolts, which slowed them down. At one point, they were two hours behind. “Whoever painted this black line painted outside the lines a little bit," Glover said at one particularly troublesome spot. “We’ll work on our kindergarten skills over here,” Mission Control replied, urging him to move on. With more people and experiments flying on the space station, more power will be needed to keep everything running, according to NASA. The six new solar panels — to be delivered in pairs by SpaceX over the coming year or so — should boost the station’s electrical capability by as much as 30%. Rubins and Glover tackled the struts for the first two solar panels, due to launch in June. Their spacewalk ended up lasting seven hours, a bit longer than planned. “Really appreciate your hard work. I know there were a lot of challenges,” Mission Control radioed. The eight solar panels up there now are 12 to 20 years old — most of them past their design lifetime and deteriorating. Each panel is 112 feet (34 metres) long by 39 feet (12 metres) wide. Tip to tip counting the centre framework, each pair stretches 240 feet (73 metres), longer than a Boeing 777's wingspan. Boeing is supplying the new roll-up panels, about half the size of the old ones but just as powerful thanks to the latest solar cell technology. They’ll be placed at an angle above the old ones, which will continue to operate. A prototype was tested at the space station in 2017. Rubins' helmet featured a new high-definition camera that provided stunning views, particularly those showing the vivid blue Earth 270 miles (435 kilometres) below. “Pretty fantastic," observed Mission Control. Sunday’s spacewalk was the third for infectious disease specialist Rubins and Navy pilot Glover — both of whom could end up flying to the moon. They’re among 18 astronauts newly assigned to NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. The next moonwalkers will come from this group. Last week, Vice-President Kamala Harris put in a congratulatory call to Glover, the first African American astronaut to live full time at the space station. NASA released the video exchange Saturday. “The history making that you are doing, we are so proud of you,” Harris said. Like other firsts, Glover replied, it won't be the last. “We want to make sure that we can continue to do new things,” he said. Rubins will float back out Friday with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to wrap up the solar panel prep work, and to vent and relocate ammonia coolant hoses. Glover and Noguchi were among four astronauts arriving via SpaceX in November. Rubins launched from Kazakhstan in October alongside two Russians. They’re all scheduled to return to Earth this spring. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
CHICOUTIMI, Que. — Another Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team has been forced to pause its season due to COVID-19. The league announced Sunday that new restrictions in Prince Edward Island have forced the Charlottetown Islanders to suspend activities until March 14th. Similar restrictions in Nova Scotia have forced the Halifax Mooseheads to pause their season as COVID-19 cases climb in the province. With the Islanders and Mooseheads on hold, the QMJHL says the Cape Breton Eagles will also have to take a break from games. The league announced Saturday that restrictions have been lifted in New Brunswick, allowing games to resume for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, the Moncton Wildcats and the Saint John Sea Dogs starting the week of March 8. The three teams have not played since late November due to provincial government restrictions. The 18-team QMJHL started its season in October, but has seen numerous pauses and postponements due to positive test results and changing government restrictions. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. The Canadian Press
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021 and it has already begun to send back jaw-dropping images of the surrounding area.
Fundraising efforts for this year’s Coldest Night of the Year have surpassed expectations. The Orangeville Food Bank had set a goal to raise $65,000 through the virtual-only fundraiser Feb. 20. Instead, it brought in $77,544. “We crushed the goal,” said Savanaha O'Reilly, food manager for the Orangeville Food Bank. “We thought, since the pandemic, we wouldn’t get a good of a turnout as we have in the past with it being virtual, but the community as always has surprised us." About 249 walkers signed up, with 47 teams registered. The top three teams were the Care Bears, raising $7,450, Marching Marks with $5,690, and the Young and the Rest of Us contributing $4,627. The Care Bears represented Orangeville District Secondary School. “We had a lot of support from the schools, not just the food drive, but with Coldest Night of the Year now,” said O’Reilly. “They blew our minds, and we didn’t expect that at all.” Those registered could join in on a two-kilometre walk or a distanced five-kilometre walk covering most of the town. Adult walkers who raised $150 and children contributing $75 received a commemorative tuque as a sign of appreciation from the organization. Participants were encouraged to raise money for charities serving people experiencing homelessness, hurt and hunger. The Orangeville food bank serves 700 people a month, 35 per cent of them children. “We have continued to see an increase in clients,” said “O’Reilly. “We are seeing people we haven’t seen before.” They state seniors continue to be the fastest-growing demographic each year. The organization receives no annual provincial or federal funding and is primarily supported by the community. Funds raised will support the food bank operations, including fresh food purchases, gardening programs, seniors' markets, food packages for children, and the community food share initiative. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
MONTREAL — The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in Quebec jumped by more than 100 on Sunday, on the eve of a ramp-up in the province's mass vaccination plan. The province is reporting 137 confirmed cases involving variants, with most of them identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the United Kingdom. While most of the cases are in Montreal, the province's public health institute reports there are also 40 cases of the variant originally found in South Africa in the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region. A further 1,083 cases remain under investigation and are listed as "presumptive." Quebec's health minister described the overall situation as "encouraging" as the province reported 737 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths due to the pandemic. Four of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, while the rest took place earlier. Hospitalizations rose by two to 601, while intensive care numbers rose by five to 117. Christian Dube noted that the situation in the province has been stable for the last week, but asked Quebecers not to let their guard down as spring break begins. "It's not the moment to relax our efforts," he wrote on Twitter. The province will kick off its mass vaccination program in earnest on Monday, with several large clinics in the Montreal area opening their doors to residents age 80 and older who have booked appointments through the province's website. In the rest of the province, the vaccination appointments are being accepted for those born in or before 1936. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Saturday that the start of the mass vaccination campaign was giving him "a lot of hope," even as he expressed concern about spring break week and the spread of new variants. He urged Quebecers to remain vigilant for the coming weeks to allow the province to vaccinate more people, and to wait for immunity to fully develop in those who have received a shot. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Sunday it remains open to talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal despite Tehran’s rejection of an EU invitation to join a meeting with the U.S. and the other original participants in the agreement. A senior administration official said the U.S. was “disappointed” in the rejection but was flexible as to the timing and format of the talks and saw Iran’s decision to snub the European invitation as part of the diplomatic process. The official said the U.S. would be consulting with the other participants — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — on the way forward. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. Earlier Sunday, Iran turned down the offer for talks saying the “time isn’t ripe” for the meeting, at which the U.S. would have participated as an observer. Iran had been insisting that the U.S. lift or ease sanctions imposed on it by the Trump administration under its “maximum pressure campaign” before sitting down with the United States. President Joe Biden has said repeatedly that the U.S. would return to the deal that his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from in 2018 only after Iran restores its full compliance with the accord. "Considering US/E3 positions & actions, time isn’t ripe for the proposed informal meeting," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter. He referred to the so-called E3, which comprises Britain, France and Germany. “Remember: Trump failed to meet because of his ill-advised ‘Max Failure,'" he said. “With sanctions in place, same still applies. Censuring is NOT diplomacy. It doesn’t work with Iran.” The Biden administration announced earlier this month that it would accept an EU invitation to participate in a meeting of deal participants and at the same time rescinded a Trump determination from the U.N. Security Council that Iran was in significant breach of the agreement that all U.N. sanctions had be restored. The U.N. move had little practical effect as nearly all members of the world body had rejected Trump's determination because the U.S. was no longer a participant in the nuclear deal. Biden administration officials said the withdrawal of the determination was intended to show goodwill toward its partners and at the same time had eased severe restrictions on the movement of Iranian diplomats posted to the U.N. Separately on Sunday, the State Department condemned a weekend attack by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels on Saudi Arabia, saying it damaged prospects for peace. Along with the overtures to Iran on the nuclear front, the Biden administration also reversed several late Trump administration moves against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded his predecessor's designation that the Houthi rebels were a “foreign terrorist organization,” a move that the U.N. and relief groups had said would make the already disastrous humanitarian situation in Yemen even worse. In addition, the Biden administration decided to halt all offensive assistance to Saudi Arabia for its military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis, however, have stepped up their operations in the country, pressing ahead with an offensive in Marib province and launching attacks on Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, Saudi authorities said they had intercepted a missile attack over their capital and reported that bomb-laden drones had targeted a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults they have blamed on the Houthis. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Sunday said the U.S. “strongly condemns the Houthis’ attacks on population centres in Saudi Arabia.” He said they “threaten not only innocent civilians but also prospects for peace and stability in Yemen” and called on the Houthis “to end these egregious attacks.” “The United States remains committed to its longstanding partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups," Price said. On Friday, the Biden administration further strained ties with the Saudis when it published a declassified intelligence report finding that Saudi Arabia's crown prince had ordered an operation to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident who was brutally slain at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Saudi Arabia has forcefully rejected the report's conclusions. ___ Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Two political parties have joined forces to petition the federal government to look into the environmental impact of a planned sewage treatment plant near a local river. The Dufferin Caledon Green Party, along with the Dufferin Caledon Conservative Party, are opposed to constructing the proposed Erin wastewater treatment plant. The petition is calling for a federal environmental impact assessment of the proposed plant. Stefan Wiesen, president of the DC Green Party and Kyle Seeback, Conservative MP for Dufferin Caledon, has agreed to sponsor the petition to the federal government and will work together to solicit the 500 signatures required to present it to parliament. This is an effort to address some residents' concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed plant on the West Credit River, a spawning ground for native Brook Trout. They are concerned the temperature of the proposed effluent being pumped into the West Credit River will have a warming effect on the spawning grounds, thus negatively threatening the reproductive future of Brook Trout in the river. It is expected the plant will discharge up to 7.2 million litres of treated warm temperature effluent into the West Credit River daily. The trout needs cold water to survive and spawn. Anything over 19 degrees Celsius can negatively impact the fish. Furthermore, opponents say many harmful substances to humans and animals remain in the treated water as it exits the plant. This follows a protest held over the weekend to convince Erin council to cancel the wastewater treatment plant plans. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
GLASGOW, United Kingdom — Canadian international David Wotherspoon helped St. Johnstone win the Scottish League Cup for the first time in the club's 137-year history with a 1-0 win over Livingston on Sunday. Shaun Rooney's 32nd-minute header off a corner proved to be the difference maker at an empty Hampden Park in the final of the cup competition sponsored by Betfred. Wotherspoon, a 31-year-old midfielder, played the full 90 minutes for St. Johnstone. Wotherspoon was born in Perth and represented Scotland at the youth level but is eligible to play for Canada through his Winnipeg-born mother. He reached out to Canada Soccer after seeing Scott Arfield switch to Canada. Wotherspoon made his debut for Canada against New Zealand in 2018 in John Herdman's first game as coach. He also played against Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League play in 2019. He started his soccer career in the Celtic youth ranks, switching to Hibernian before joining St. Johnstone. He won the Scottish Cup, which is separate from the League Cup, in 2014 in his first year with St. Johnstone. The Perth-based club currently stands eighth in the Scottish Premiership. Livingston is fifth. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021 The Canadian Press
Cannabis consumers may have a second place to purchase legal products as a store will open up soon. Hempire House, located at 59 First St., will open on Monday, March 1. The name is derived from two elements of the industry. “The name Hempire House was chosen to reflect our admiration for cannabis and its many benefits,” said Sharlene Lochan, an owner of the business. “Along with the empire we strive to build in the industry and our community, we decided to add the word 'house' to show our local roots as the store is a 100-year-old converted heritage home. The property allowed for us to create a modern boutique space all while still keeping that small-town charm alive.” The first 35 customers will receive complimentary gift bags as part of their shopping experience that day. Proprietors attest the company is family-owned by two brothers and their wives who are practitioners as well. “We take much pride in the fact that we are the only locally owned and operated (cannabis) business in Orangeville,” said Lochlan. “We have a vested interest in the community as it’s our community as well.” They plan to have educational information for interested and experienced participants and sensory jars where customers can select products with a magnifying glass. After the pandemic ends, the plan is to add an interactive component to it where users can smell the buds. They have hired staff and will continue training them while completing finishing touches before opening their doors to customers. “It was exciting to bring the employees on board and let them know about our vision, ideas for the company as well as how we would like to be viewed on a community level,” said Lochlan. They wanted to be at the forefront of the industry as it continues to expand further amidst legalization. They discussed their passions and aligned what can be made into a business. They then decided to make a boutique store with a fusion of small-town charm. It was a 13-month process as the company began their initiative in January of last year. They completed consulting with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and had their final inspection by provincial auditors last July. “It’s been a lengthy and intricate process,” said Lochlan. “We worked closely with the AGCO as well as OCS (Ontario Cannabis Store) to ensure we have been compliant, and we are following all the rules and regulations during the application process.” Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
TORONTO — Ontario has expanded the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness, its largest municipality announced on Sunday as the province eclipsed 300,000 total infections since the onset of the global pandemic. The city of Toronto said it received word over the weekend that the province had added homeless people to the list of those who qualify for a jab under Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout plan. Shelter-system residents will accordingly start receiving their initial vaccine doses this week, the city said in a release. "People experiencing homelessness are at elevated risk of serious health impacts due to COVID-19 and are vulnerable to transmission in congregate settings," Toronto Board of Health Chair and city Coun. Joe Cressy said in the statement. "By updating their vaccination prioritization plan, the province has made it possible for the city and our hospital and health care partners to help keep those most at risk in our communities safe." Ontario's ministry of health had previously stated that homeless residents would not be eligible for a vaccine until the inoculation drive entered its second phase. The city did not provide a timeline for when the provincial guidance changed, and the ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment on Sunday. Toronto said local health officials and its shelter support and housing administration would identify shelters at the highest risk of contracting the virus, but did not spell out their criteria. Advocates had been pushing for homeless residents to move up the vaccine queue for weeks, citing their significantly higher rates of mental and health afflictions relative to the general public as well as difficulties they face in observing basic public health protocols in an overtaxed shelter system. Dr. Andrew Bond, medical director of the homeless-oriented health clinic Inner City Health Associates, said shelters are akin to long-term care homes where the virus has historically taken hold quickly. A major difference, Bond said, is that unlike the "captive audience" of a long-term care home, those living in shelters leave every day to get food, see doctors and other health-care professionals. The presence of new COVID-19 variants of concern in the city, he said, only compounds the issue. "As people come and go from the shelter into the community, the variant will propagate into the wider community, if it hasn't already," Bond said. "It’s really in everybody's interest here to vaccinate those experiencing homelessness." Bond's organization issued a tweet on Sunday applauding the province's decision to start immunizing homeless residents. The original plan from the province saw shelter workers to be vaccinated in the first phase while shelter residents were slated for Phase 2. That two-tier system drew widespread criticism among homeless advocates. "It makes absolutely no sense, and I'm not being facetious, it just literally makes no sense to me," Bond said of the original inoculation timeline. "The only effective way to control outbreaks is to vaccinate simultaneously all of those individuals in the shelter system, whether they work or live there." A COVID-19 variant believed to be one first identified in the United Kingdom has also highlighted the challenges the homeless face when needing to self-isolate. One outbreak linked to the variant has ripped through the Maxwell Meighen Centre in downtown Toronto, with at least 31 people being infected. A man who lives at the facility said proper isolation inside the shelter is impossible due to regular intermingling and shared bathrooms. The man, who did not want to be identified for fear of recriminations from staff, said everyone staying at the centre has to leave their rooms from 8 a.m. until noon. The Salvation Army, which operates Maxwell Meighan, said people do have to leave the shelter during those hours so their rooms can be cleaned. The situation is not unique to one facility, according to one social worker. "Every shelter I've called has told me that they're on outbreak status and they're closed to new admissions," Sarah Ovens said. "There is nowhere to go where they will feel safe and be able to actually isolate, both to keep themselves safe and to keep other people safe." The move to vaccinate the homeless comes after Ontario reported 1,062 new infections and 20 more deaths linked to the virus on Sunday. Those figures pushed the province's overall virus case count to 300,816 infections over the course of the pandemic, making it the highest in the country. The province is also poised to record 7,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, with 6,980 recorded as of Sunday. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Toronto saw 259 new infections in the past 24 hours, nearby Peel Region recorded 201 and York Region logged 86. Hospitalizations in the province declined by 53 to 627, with 289 patients in intensive care and 185 on a ventilator. The figures come a day before several public health units in the province are set to change status. Seven are set to relax protective public health measures, while Thunder Bay and Muskoka Simcoe are set to move into the lockdown stage of the provincial pandemic response plan amid rising case numbers. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo urged citizens of the West African state on Sunday to ignore conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus vaccines ahead of the launch of its nationwide inoculation campaign against the virus on Tuesday. "Taking the vaccine will not alter your DNA, it will not embed a tracking device in your body, neither will it cause infertility in women or in men," he said. Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines as part of the global COVAX scheme aimed at providing poorer nations vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
La Ville de Montréal a répondu favorablement à la demande du Grand Conseil des Cris de restituer une coiffe qui appartenait jadis à la femme d'un chef de Mistissini. Cet artefact était conservé au Musée de Lachine depuis plus de 70 ans et lui avait été donné par un collectionneur montréalais. La coiffe perlée a été fabriquée vers 1861 avec du lainage, des perles de verre et du coton, pour la femme du chef de la communauté de Mistissini, Jane Gunner. Les femmes portaient cette coiffe dans des cérémonies soulignant le retour d’une chasse importante ou un mariage. Elle a été restaurée il y a une quinzaine d’années par le Centre de conservation du Québec. En 2016, elle avait été prêtée à l’Institut culturel cri Aanischaaukamikw, à Oujé-Bougoumou, où elle avait été reconnue par les descendants d’une membre importante de la communauté crie. Cette coiffe perlée nous parle La décision de restituer la coiffe a été prise le 24 février dernier par le comité exécutif de la Ville de Montréal et a fait l’objet d’une annonce publique réunissant la mairesse de Montréal, Valérie Plante, le grand chef du Grand conseil des Cris, Abel Bosum, et la mairesse de Lachine, Maja Vodanovic. " La restitution de la coiffe à l’Institut culturel cri Aanischaaukamikw est importante pour assurer la transmission de la culture aux futures générations et pour permettre de perpétuer les coutumes traditionnelles de notre peuple », déclare Abel Bosum. « Le retour à Eeyou Istchee d’éléments de notre patrimoine culturel et d’objets liés à nos coutumes permet à nos citoyens de raviver leur intérêt et d’en apprendre davantage sur d’importants aspects de leur patrimoine. " " Cette coiffe perlée nous parle d'une façon telle qu'elle ne peut parler à personne d'autres, ajoute le chef Bosum. Pour les autres peuples, c'est simplement un objet mais, pour les Cris, c'est plein de signification que nous pouvons sentir, une signification qui nous touche de façon profonde. C'est un objet qui nous connecte avec nos ancêtres et avec nos traditions culturelles. Nous connaissons les gens qui ont créé ces objets et nous pouvons les retracer dans notre famille. Pour nous, ce ne sont pas des artefacts abstraits de l'histoire. Ce sont des rappels concrets d'où nous venons et de qui nous sommes. [...] En rapatriant des objets comme ceux-là, nous devenons plus complets." Déclaration des Nations Unies Pour la mairesse de Montréal, Valérie Plante, la restitution de la coiffe traditionnelle répond aux principes de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur le droit des peuples autochtones ainsi qu’aux objectifs de la Stratégie de réconciliation avec les peuples autochtones. « En rapatriant cet objet [...], de dire Mme Plante, la communauté crie aura accès à son patrimoine matériel et au savoir-faire de ses ancêtres. » « C'est fantastique », s'exclame le directeur des programmes de l’Institut culturel cri Aanischaaukamikw, Rob Imrie. « Il faudra encore attendre environ un an avant que l'artefact ne soit exposé », dit-il. Aux journalistes de CBC, Jamie Little et Christopher Herodier, l'ancienne directrice d'Aanischaaukamikw, Sarah Pash, a déclaré que les efforts continuent pour rapatrier d'autres artefacts cris, comme une peau de caribou peinte. Denis Lord, Initiative de journalisme local, La Sentinelle
MADRID — Atlético Madrid got back to winning on Sunday, beating Villarreal 2-0 to halt its slump and restore a five-point lead at the top of the Spanish league. An own-goal by Alfonso Pedraza in the first half and a goal by forward João Félix in the second helped Atlético end a three-game winless streak and rebuild its lead over second-place Barcelona, which won 2-0 at fourth-place Sevilla on Saturday. Atlético has a game in hand compared to the Catalan club. Third-place Real Madrid can get back to within three points of Atlético on Monday with a win against fifth-place Real Sociedad at home. Madrid will have played one more game more than Atlético. Atlético hosts Madrid in the city derby next Sunday. Diego Simeone's team was coming off a 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday. It also lost 2-0 to Levante at home in the Spanish league, and had previously drawn with Levante in a league match postponed from the second round because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It was a very important victory,” Atlético defender Stefan Savic said. “We were coming off a bad streak of results and the team responded well. That’s what makes me happy.” It was Atlético's first clean sheet after eight matches, which had marked the team's worst streak conceding goals since Simeone arrived in late 2011. Unai Emery's Villarreal, winless in six consecutive Spanish league games, dropped to seventh place. Atlético went ahead in the 25th minute after Savic's header was saved by Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo but the ball ricocheted off Pedraza and went in. The goal was initially disallowed for offside but later confirmed by video review. Félix, who recently was sidelined for testing positive for COVID-19, scored his first goal since January with a low shot from inside the area in the 69th. The Portugal forward, who came off the bench after halftime, celebrated profusely and put a finger to his mouth, as if asking someone to be quiet. It wasn't clear to whom he was sending a message. MURILLO SCORES LATE Colombian defender Jeison Murillo scored in the final minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw for Celta Vigo against relegation-threatened Valladolid. Murillo netted the equalizer with a header from a set piece taken by Iago Aspas in the fourth minute of added time. Fabián Orellana had opened the scoring for the hosts in the 70th. The result extended Valladolid's winless streak in the league to eight matches. The team owned by former Brazil great Ronaldo stayed just outside the relegation zone with 22 points from 25 matches. Celta, which has one win in its last 10 matches in all competitions, was in 11th place with 30 points from 25. OTHER RESULTS Eighth-place Granada ended a six-match winless streak by beating second-to-last-place Elche 2-1 at home. Earlier, Juanmi Jiménez scored in the 84th as Real Betis won 1-0 at Cádiz. It was the third win in a row for Betis, which moved to sixth. Cádiz, winless in seven consecutive league games, is three points from the relegation zone. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
One of the town’s timeless traditions returns for the first time this year on March 6. The Orangeville Winter Farmer’s Market is scheduled to be held at the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre’s B-rink at 6 Northmen Way to allow for expand social distancing. This is not a permanent move. They will be downtown again. “People are trying to support the market,” said Alison Scheel, general manager of the Orangeville Business Improvement Area (OBIA). “ (Online orders) grow steadily every market Saturday. It started slow, but it picked up.” The B-rink location offers plenty of space for safe social distancing and can accommodate 50 people at one time. It will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Saturday. Products include maple syrup, honey, falafels, cheese, bread, lamb meat, chicken, baked goods and prepared meals. The market was once held downtown near town hall, where vendors attracted mainly casual shoppers who happened to live nearby. It will return. The market was closed in January and February because of the mandated governmental shutdown. They were still providing preorder and pickup options for interested customers. Scheel said they average about 300 to 350 people every market Saturday as it is only held two times a month. The entrance to the market is located south of the parking lot. There will be no access through the main door. Most vendors will attend every other market, but some will alternate or change from market to market. Scheduled vendors include Bennington Hills Farm, Rasmi’s Falafel and Wild Culture Ferments, along with others. They will all be positioned at least 10 feet apart. “Customers leave their contact information at the door for contact tracing purposes,” said Scheel. “Everyone in the building has to wear a mask, and the vendor has to distance.” Organizers will not permit customers to touch the products or produce, as most items will be pre-bagged. For more information, visit www.downtownorangeville.ca and click on the farmers' market tab. Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
(Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit) Social housing advocates and a provincial network of women's shelters are calling on the provincial government to give domestic violence survivors easier access to safe housing in Quebec. According to Gaëlle Fedida of the Alliance des maisons de 2eme étape pour femmes et enfants victimes de violence conjugale (Alliance MH2), the province is currently dealing with a dangerous shortage of resources in its second-stage homes — shelters where women stay after they head to an emergency shelter but before they find permanent housing. She said the issue is even worse in western regions, including the Laurentians, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Mauricie and Lanaudière, and the consequences of this shortage can be deadly. "Second-state shelters are designed to prevent domestic violence and to prevent domestic homicides," Fedida said in a news conference Sunday. "We know that this spring we will be overwhelmed by the demand and we won't be able to answer all the needs in sheltering the ladies. This is really a big big concern for us." The MH2 says it asked for an additional 106 additional units in its second-stage homes, but more than a year later, the government has yet to approve them. "We're waiting for these units that we desperately need to speed up access to our services," said Fedida. On top of the current shortage of space, Alliance MH2 expects to see a surge in demand once the pandemic ends. In a Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale survey of women served by some of the province's women's shelters, 43.5 per cent of respondents said they were attacked more frequently during the province's COVID-19 lockdown last spring and 43 per cent said they did not ask for help because their partner was always home. Even with those units in place, social housing group Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) says only about 66 per cent of women who leave their second-stage homes manage to find affordable housing for themselves afterward. That's why the two groups are also calling on the province to fund the construction of 50,000 social housing units for women and children who survived domestic violence, over the next five years. "The needs are growing with the pandemic because the housing shortage is still going on and, as we've seen, women are more vulnerable," said Catherine Lussier of FRAPRU.
WASHINGTON — Nearly 4 million doses of the newest COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped Sunday night, and will begin to be delivered to states for injections starting on Tuesday. White House COVID-19 co-ordinator Jeff Zients announced that the entire stockpile of the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will go out immediately. J&J will deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June. Though the new shot is easier to administer and requires only one dose, the administration is not altering its distribution plans. Zients says, “We’re distributing the J&J vaccine as we do the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of the White House equity task force, encouraged Americans to take the first dose available to them, regardless of manufacturer. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — Fraud is overwhelming pandemic-related unemployment programs. J&J’s one-dose shot cleared, giving U.S. a 3rd COVID-19 vaccine to use. Health experts are urging Pope Francis to rethink his March trip to Iraq, saying that could become a huge superspreading event for the virus. Plunging demand for COVID-19 tests may leave US exposed. Biden team readies a broader economic measure after virus relief. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: WASHINGTON — A U.S. advisory panel has endorsed the new one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson as a third option to bolster the national effort against the coronavirus pandemic. Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted overwhelmingly to recommend the vaccine for adults 18 years old and up. The ruling followed emergency clearance of the vaccine by U.S. regulators a day earlier. Members of the group emphasized that all three vaccines now available in the U.S. are highly protective against the worst effects of the virus, including hospitalization and death. J&J plans to ship several million vaccine doses to states in the coming week, delivering a total of 20 million shots by the end of March. Health officials are eager to have an easier-to-use vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed more than 511,000 Americans and continues to mutate in troubling ways. CDC recommendations are not binding on state governments or doctors, but are widely heeded by the medical community. The same CDC panel previously recommended use of the two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna authorized in December. __ SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is cancelling about 7,200 coronavirus vaccine appointments after an error in the state health department’s registration website allowed people without qualifying conditions to register for the shots. Department spokesman Tom Hudachko said in a statement that the error allowed residents who are not 65 or older or who don’t have an underlying medical condition to sign up. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday those appointments are being cancelled. People who meet the state’s conditions can keep their vaccine appointments scheduled through Vaccinate.utah.gov. Public school teachers and first responders also are eligible for vaccines. Utah so far has administered more than 680,000 vaccine doses and estimates that 10% of its 3.2 million population has been fully vaccinated. ___ ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities have announced that 70 specialized intensive care units will be added to Athens hospitals as high hospitalization rates have nearly filled the available ones. The Athens area along with several others across the country are under lockdown until March 8, with most shops closed, schools operating on distance learning and a 9 p.m. curfew, but many experts talk of extending this for at least another week. On Sunday, authorities announced 1,269 new COVID-19 cases, along with 36 deaths. This brings the number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 191,100, with 6,504 deaths. There are 391 patients on ventilators in ICUs, close to a record high. ___ RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s capital has entered a two-week lockdown, joining several states in adopting measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as intensive care beds begin to fill in some important cities. At least eight Brazilian states adopted curfews over the past week due to the rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19. Thursday was Brazil’s deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,541 deaths confirmed from the virus. So far 254,000 people have died overall. Brasilia Gov. Ibaneis Rocha decreed the total closure of bars, restaurants, shopping malls and schools until March 15 and prohibited gatherings of people. Sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited after 8 p.m. In the federal district, 85% of hospital beds were occupied on Sunday, according to the local health ministry. President Jair Bolsonaro again criticized such measures, saying on his Twitter account: “The people want to work.” He threatened on Friday to cut off federal emergency pandemic assistance to states resorting to lockdowns. ___ ROME — While new COVID-19 cases surge in Italy’s north, the island of Sardinia has earned coveted ‘’white zone’’ status, allowing for evening dining and drinking at restaurants and cafes and the reopening after months of closure of gyms, cinemas and theatres. Earlier this year, the Italian government added ‘’white zone’’ status to its colour-coded system of restrictions on businesses and schools, with “red zone” designation carrying the strictest measures. Starting on Monday, the region of Sardinia, with an incidence of fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 residents, will be able to allow the most liberties since a second wave of coronavirus infections last fall prompted the government to tighten restrictions nationwide after easing them during summer. The Health Ministry report covering the third week of February shows nationwide incidence was 145 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and several regions had far higher incidence. The Mediterranean island of Sardinia is a popular vacation destination. Last summer, crowds at seaside discos and clubs there were cited as a factor in the climb in an explosion of cases in Italy in the last months of 2020. ___ TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has surpassed 60,000 known coronavirus-related deaths, the latest grim milestone for the hardest-hit country in the Middle East. The Health Ministry reported 93 new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday and more than 8,000 new infections, pushing the total infection count over 1.63 million. After more than a year of the pandemic, deaths from COVID-19 recently have declined in Iran as movement restrictions in the capital have set in, including inter-city travel bans, mask mandates and school closures. The government on Sunday banned incoming travellers from a list of 32 countries, including Britain and other states in Africa and Latin America, due to fears of new virus variants. Over the year, Iran has struggled with surges that at times overwhelmed its health system as authorities resisted a total lockdown to salvage an economy crippled by U.S. sanctions. Iran’s vaccine drive recently has gotten underway, with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine administered to health workers this month. An additional 250,000 doses by the Chinese state-backed pharmaceutical Sinopharm arrived in Iran over the weekend. The country is also accelerating efforts to produce a domestic vaccine, beginning human trials for its second vaccine on Sunday. ___ BERLIN — The German disease control agency is adding France’s Moselle region to its list of areas with a high rate of variant coronavirus cases, meaning travellers from there will face additional hurdles when crossing the border into neighbouring Germany. The Robert Koch Institute said Sunday that the restrictions would come into force at midnight on March 2, putting Moselle on a par with countries such as the Czech Republic, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Travellers from those areas must produce a recent negative coronavirus test before crossing the German border. The measure is likely to affect many people who live on one side of the frontier and work on the other. The Moselle region in northeastern France includes the city of Metz and borders with the German states of Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate. Clement Beaune, the French minister for European affairs, said France regrets the decision and is in negotiations with Germany to try to lighten the measures for 16,000 inhabitants of Moselle who work across the border. ___ LONDON — Britain’s government says families with children in school will be provided with free coronavirus home test kits as part of plans for schools to reopen beginning on March 8. Free, twice-weekly tests will be provided to children’s households regardless of whether anyone has symptoms, officials said Sunday. The tests will also be offered to adults working with schools, including bus drivers. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said testing family members will provide “another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible.” Schools in England have been closed except to children of key workers since January. Britain is also racing ahead with its vaccination program, with almost 20 million in the U.K. who have now had a first jab. Some 2 million people aged 60 to 63 in England will start getting invitations to book their shots beginning on Monday. The government aims to offer a first jab to all adults by the end of July. Britain has Europe’s worst virus death toll at nearly 123,000 dead. ___ BUDAPEST — Hungary’s prime minister on Sunday received a COVID-19 vaccine developed in China as his country aims to boost vaccination rates using jabs developed in eastern countries. Prime Minister Viktor Orban posted photos on Facebook of himself being inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine. Hungary last week became the first country in the European Union to begin using the Chinese jab. Hungary’s government has been critical of the speed of the EU’s vaccination program, and has purchased vaccines from Russia and China to boost procurements. “The vaccines reserved by the EU are simply not arriving, and they are arriving more slowly than predicted. If we didn’t have the Russian and Chinese vaccines, we would be in big trouble,” Orban said during a radio interview on Friday. He earlier said he would choose to receive the Sinopharm vaccine because he trusted it the most. ___ ROME — Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him. No one wants to tell Francis to call it off, and the Iraqi government has every interest in showing off its relative stability by welcoming the first pope to the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip is expected to provide a sorely-needed spiritual boost to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians. But from a purely epidemiological standpoint, a papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not advisable, health experts say. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Dr. Navid Madani of Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “This could potentially lead to unsafe or superspreading risks.” Their concerns were reinforced with the news Sunday that the Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the main point person for the trip, tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating. The embassy said Archbishop Mitja Leskovar’s symptoms were mild and that he was continuing to prepare for Francis’ visit. Beyond his case, experts note that wars, economic crises and an exodus of Iraqi professionals have devastated the country’s hospital system, while studies show most of Iraq’s new COVID-19 infections are the highly-contagious variant first identified in Britain. ___ ANKARA, Turkey — Travelling across roads covered with ice and snow, vaccination teams have been going to Turkey’s isolated mountain villages as the government seeks to inoculate 60% of the country’s people against coronavirus over the next three months. After much effort, medical workers arrived Friday to vaccinate older villagers in Gumuslu, a small settlement of 350 in the central province of Sivas that lies 140 miles (230 kilometres) from the provincial capital. “It’s a difficult challenge to come here,” said Dr Rustem Hasbek, head of Sivas Health Services. “The geography is tough, the climate is tough, as you can see.” Turkey rolled out the Chinese Sinovac vaccine on Jan. 14 and has so far given out 8.2 million doses. Ankara has also ordered 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Turkey aims to vaccinate 52.5 million people by the end of May. ___ HELSINKI — Police in Denmark said eight people were arrested following in an anti-lockdown demonstration with 1,200 participants in the centre of Copenhagen, the Danish capital. The demonstration proceeded largely peacefully Saturday but those detained are suspected of behaving violently against police or violating fireworks regulations, police said. Participants gathered in a square in front of Copenhagen’s town hall. The rally was organised by a group identifying as “Men in Black Denmark.” It was the first demonstration in Copenhagen since the Danish government last week that it was extending several anti-coronavirus restrictions. ___ BANGKOK — Thailand started its first vaccinations Sunday with 200 public health officials receiving the Sinovac vaccine from China. Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was given the first shot at a hospital near Bangkok, followed by the deputy health minister and other senior officials. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who attended the vaccination ceremony, said the public should have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, as it has been approved by authorities in Thailand and other countries. Prayuth did not receive the vaccine on Sunday because he is older than Sinovac’s recommended age, which is 18-59. Prayuth is 66. Thailand received the first 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine on Wednesday. They are part of the government’s plan that has so far secured 2 million doses from Sinovac and 61 million doses from AstraZeneca. Thailand has had more than 25,000 confirmed cases and 83 deaths from COVID-19. ___ WASHINGTON — The U.S. now has a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Health experts have anxiously awaited a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations. The virus has already killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways. The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents. The Associated Press
Hyatt Hotels Corp called symbols of hate "abhorrent" on Sunday after the design of a stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference at one of its hotels drew comparisons to a Norse rune used by Nazis during World War Two. High-profile Republicans including former President Donald Trump were attending the four-day event in Orlando, Florida, as conflict rages between Trump allies and establishment politicians trying to distance the party from him. A photo of the CPAC stage went viral on social media on Saturday, with thousands of Twitter users sharing posts comparing its distinctive design to an othala rune, one of many ancient European symbols that Nazis adopted to "reconstruct a mythic 'Aryan' past," according to the Anti-Defamation League.