Lightning flashes as powerful storms move across Southern Ontario.
Lightning flashes as powerful storms move across Southern Ontario.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Sarah Nurse's new blue hockey jersey was paid for by a company. She wants to know when she can wear it in a game.Amid a spate of recent sponsorship announcements by the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association comes the corporate branding of a team.PWHPA players based in Toronto are now Team Sonnet. The digital home and auto insurance company has made "a significant six-figure commitment" to the PWHPA, according to Sonnet marketing vice-president Brian Long."They don't own them, but they will be branded as Team Sonnet," PWHPA operations consultant Jayna Hefford told The Canadian Press."Every team this season will be branded."PWHPA players are centralized in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Minneapolis and Hudson, N.H., training hubs with 25 players per roster.Among them are Canadian Olympians Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner and Nurse, as well as American counterparts Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight.Roughly 180 players, including Canadian and American national-team players, formed the PWHPA in the wake of the Canadian Women's Hockey League folding in 2019. Their goal is a league that pays them enough to be full-time professional players with the same competitive, medical and insurance supports the male pros get.The players refuse to join the U.S.-based NWHL, which has expanded into Canada this season with the Toronto Six. The NWHL announced Wednesday its sixth season will run in a bubble with no fans in Lake Placid, N.Y., Jan. 23 to Feb. 5.The PWHPA ran a series of showcase tournaments and exhibition games in 2019-20 under the banner of the "Dream Gap Tour."The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed a second tour. Hefford says up to seven tournaments are in the works for February and March."We're trying to work with NHL partners in each market so those conversations are happening," Hefford said. "One thing we're running into is waiting on the NHL schedule. It's hard for a club to commit to anything, it's hard for us to secure the ice time and venues we want to be in."Hefford has stated the best way for a women's pro hockey league to succeed is to align with the NHL in some way. Sonnet's announcement Wednesday follows a $1-million Secret deodorant sponsorship unveiled last month. The PWHPA declared it the most lucrative deal in women's pro hockey history.Canadian Tire came on board last week with discounts and supplies to defray player and league costs.In a span of two days earlier this month, Tim Hortons launched the sale of Poulin and Nurse Barbie dolls to raise money for female hockey and the vintner Noble Estates said it would provide championship bubbly to the PWHPA.Corporate investment when current COVID-19 restrictions across Canada barely allow the PWHPA players to practise is for Nurse both a validation of her hockey dreams and a signal to the NHL that a WNHL would have corporate legs to stand on."We haven't had big announcements like this in our sport ever," said the 25-year-old forward from Hamilton. "I think the NHL, which is ultimately a business, sees things like that and they see us going out and getting our own sponsorships and creating these partnerships by ourselves. It's that confidence that this can stand on two legs. It may just need a little bit of a push."Sonnet is a corporate partner of the NHL Players' Association, which is a PWHPA supporter. "We believe that it's all about the players right? The players are the ones that make this all happen," Long said."As we got to the evolution of that campaign and to getting to the next round, it was sort of saying, 'well, we're not including the whole community here.'"Hefford was incorporated in Sonnet commercials this year alongside NHL alumni Doug Gilmour and Mario Tremblay and current NHLers Morgan Rielly, Zach Hyman and Frédérik Gauthier."Seeing Jayna in those initial spots was the start of what the bigger conversations were going to be," Long said. "That's what sort of led us to now, obviously working with them in this series and sponsoring a team." Sonnet's commitment is for a 2021 Dream Gap Tour with the potential to continue the relationship, Long said."Our plans are not to just do this as a one off and go somewhere else," he said. "Ultimately, we would like to see this grow."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Audible bestsellers for the week ending November 22nd: Nonfiction 1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 2. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 3. Off Menu by Nell McShane Wulfhart, performed by Katie Schorr (Audible Originals) 4. Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa TerKeurst, narrated by the author (Thomas Nelson) 5. Unf—k Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD LPC-S ACS ACN, narrated by the author (Blackstone Audio, Inc. ) 6. Galileo by Mario Livio, narrated by Jonathan Davis (Simon & Schuster Audio) 7. Atomic Habits by James Clear, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio) 8. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, performed by Aidan Gillen (Audible Studios) 9. Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 10. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, narrated by the author (Folio Literary Management) Fiction 1. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Kate Reading & Michael Kramer (Macmillan Audio) 2. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis, narrated by Amy Landon (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 3. Daylight by David Baldacci, narrated by Brittany Pressley & Kyf Brewer (Grand Central Publishing) 4. The Last Flight by Julie Clark, performed by Khristine Hvam & Lauren Fortgang (Audible Studios) 5. 1984 by George Orwell, narrated by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 6. The Wedding Gift by Carolyn Brown, performed by Brittany Pressley (Audible Originals) 7. The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly, narrated by Peter Giles (Little, Brown & Company) 8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, performed by Rosamund Pike (Audible Studios) 9. Tom Clancy Shadow of the Dragon by Marc Cameron, narrated by Scott Brick (Random House Audio) 10. The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian, performed by Julia Motyka (Audible Studios) The Associated Press
A team of friends and business partners from India are looking to spice things up in Dartmouth — but in moderation, so everyone is satisfied. On Nov. 5, Dinu Mathew, Tinu Matthews, Tony Abraham and Jinu Samuel opened the doors to Spice Hub Indian Kitchen, located at 1015 Main St. The restaurant serves up homestyle Indian dishes prepared by Mathew, who has been cooking for 11 years. “I’ve been cooking for a long time,” said Mathew, who first moved to Ontario in 2010 to do a two-year culinary management course at Fanshawe College and moved to Halifax in 2012. “It was my dream to open up my restaurant for a long time, and I’ve been waiting. I didn’t have enough money to do it myself, so I got three other partners.” The restaurant’s dishes come at a mild-to-medium heat level “so everyone can eat our food,” Mathew said, adding “there is still flavour and everything in it.” For those who want the extra heat, which Mathew said a lot of customers have requested so far, they can have chili added to their meals. When he moved to the Halifax region, Mathew said, he noticed a lack of Indian restaurants in Dartmouth. That’s why he wanted to be among the first to open one up. Originally from southern India, Mathew and his partners also noticed a lack of southern Indian food available in the area. They’re offering a mix of dishes from around India. “It’s mostly north Indian restaurants (here), so we want to introduce some of our stuff from south India, too,” said Mathew. Their offerings include porotta, which is a layered flatbread, as well as dosa, a rice pancake made with rice and lentils. Their northern Indian food offerings include tandoori chicken and butter chicken with naan bread. Spice Hub Indian Kitchen also sells Indian food staples like samosas and an Indian-Canadian dish that’s become a fan favourite — butter chicken poutine. Mathew said everything at the restaurant is reasonably priced but still comes in adequate portions. Appetizers cost less than $10 and entrees are priced between $10 and $15, he said. To reel in Nova Scotians who may be unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, Spice Hub Indian Kitchen is also sharing educational posts on social media about dishes, drinks and desserts. On Facebook, they’ve shared some background on how butter chicken, masala tea and rasmalai are made, for example. “We want to give (people) a little bit of an idea of what’s going on,” Mathew explained. The co-owners initially planned to open the restaurant last year, but then COVID-19 hit and altered their business plans. Luckily, Mathew said, their landlord gave them a break and told them they could start paying rent whenever they opened. With COVID-19 case numbers rising in Nova Scotia, the restaurant is making some adjustments, according to Spice Hub Indian Kitchen’s marketing manager, Binil Kurian. This week, he said, the restaurant is looking to close down dining and focus solely on offering takeout food until the second wave slows in the province. Spice Hub Indian Kitchen is also slated to join Uber Eats this week, begin offering curbside pickup and introduce placemats with barcodes that customers can scan to see a menu, contact-free. “We don’t want an exposure here or we don’t want our customers (to get sick). We really value their time, we really value their (support), so we don’t want anything from our side,” said Kurian. If all goes well with the business, Mathew said, the goal is to open more Spice Hub Indian Kitchen restaurant locations in the region. For now, he said, he and his team have one wish: “We want (customers) to come back.” Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Brighton council has taken its first look at the proposed 2021 operating budget for the municipality. A committee of council met Nov. 23 for round one of discussions about the first draft of the budget, which puts operating expenditures at $14,679,201. The proposed operating budget at this point is $290 lower than the 2020 operating budget. Earlier in the fall, council asked staff to attempt freezing the operating budget for 2021. Meanwhile, Brighton recently arrived at a proposed capital budget for 2021. If passed by council, the municipality’s 2021 budget for capital expenditures, such as maintaining roads and buildings, is $1,492,856. A public presentation of the proposed overall 2021 budget will occur in the new year prior to the budget bylaw being before council. Taxpayers in Brighton pay three levies on their property taxes – a municipal levy, a county levy and an education levy. During the budget process each year, staff provides council with the estimated increase/decrease to the county and education tax levies so that taxpayers can better understand the impact of the total tax increase, not just the municipal levy. Those figures aren’t available yet and the committee of the whole won’t meet again until the new year to further discuss the operating aspects of the overall Brighton budget. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top U.S. envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people", cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is asking young adults to help curb the spread of COVID-19.On Wednesday Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald spoke directly to people age 18 to 35 in the province, noting the demographic is driving a surge in cases across the country and in jurisdictions around the world. "I believe you are an amazing force," said Fitzgerald. "My heart is filled with hope that our planet and society will be in your hands in the not too distant future. ... Today I am asking you to step up once again and be leaders and heroes in the prevention of COVID-19."Many in that age bracket work in places where physical distancing is challenging, said Fitzgerald, are exposed to multiple bubbles and are more likely to participate in gatherings than other age groups.Fitzgerald said young adults should choose outdoor activities for socializing, and to select up to six close contacts and ensure physical distancing if socializing indoors."We have the tools and the ability to keep COVID-19 at bay," she said. Watch the full Nov. 25 update:Premier Andrew Furey said the youth of the province are an extra layer — along with masks and social distancing — to help stop the spread of COVID-19."If you take charge as you have on so many important issues in our province, and have shown real leadership, you can also show real leadership here in helping curb the spread," said Furey. "Please, please step up once again and show the capacity you have in leading this province to safety."Provincial government officials will now hold live COVID-19 briefings three days a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.Furey said the decision was made provide the public with the knowledge it needs to keep schools and businesses open.1 new caseNewfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, in the Western Health region. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the new case is a woman between 40 and 49 years old, a contact of a previous case in the region. Fitzgerald said the woman is in isolation and contact tracing is underway.The province now has 25 active cases of COVID-19, with 295 recoveries and four deaths since March. Fitzgerald said there is no indication yet of widespread community transmission of the virus in the province. "That being said, we should always assume COVID can be anywhere, any time and we should act accordingly," she said.A small cluster of cases in Deer Lake has raised concerns from residents in the area, prompting the municipal government to close buildings and recreational facilities. Elwood Elementary was closed Monday after a student tested positive.On Wednesday, Fitzgerald said everybody in the affected cohort has been tested, more than 30 people, and there have been no other positive cases in that group.Furey addressed Deer Lake and Grand Bank directly during Wednesday's briefing, saying the province is doing everything it can to combat clusters of COVID-19 in those communities. "But we can't do that without your help. Your extra vigilance is needed at this time," he said. Health Minister John Haggie said the test positivity rate — the number of tests over a period of time that return positive results — should ideally be below five per cent, to "show the adequacy of testing and adequacy of contact tracing and identifying cases."Saskatchewan and Manitoba are running between eight and 10 per cent, and there are areas of Alberta where it can't be calculated accurately, said Haggie. But Newfoundland and Labrador's daily rate is about one quarter of one percent, he said, "which suggests that not only we have adequate capacity for testing, we also have contact tracing that is working well." To date, 60,199 people have been tested across the province, an increase of 458 since Tuesday's update.Updates to travellingIn a press release Wednesday the Department of Health advised rotational workers about a COVID-19 outbreak at the Imperial Oil Cold Lake work site in Alberta. The department said it was notified of the outbreak by the Public Health Agency of Canada, as workers from Newfoundland and Labrador work on the project.Project workers who have returned to the province in the last two weeks must isolate away from household members and call 811 to arrange testing, and complete a full 14-day self-isolation, regardless of test result, says the release.As of Dec. 1, said Fitzgerald, the provincial government's COVID-19 website will outline acceptable reasons for travellers to enter the province. Fitzgerald said the update is to make it "very clear" to travellers whether they will be allowed in, and what is required of them upon entry. Another addition to the travel process is a requirement for essential workers to state what sector they are working in and their work site in the province, and to provide their employer's contact information."I want to reinforce that travel at this time should only be for essential reasons," Fitzgerald said. "Newfoundland and Labrador is still in a public health emergency."The regular weekly briefing on Wednesday followed an uptick in cases this month, most of them clustered in Deer Lake, Grand Bank and St. John's.To clamp down on the caseload, those municipalities have locked down some facilities and cancelled some events. Most recently, officials have asked anyone returning from Nova Scotia in the last two weeks, and who visited bars in Halifax and the surrounding metro communities, to call 811 to arrange COVID-19 testing, even if they aren't experiencing symptoms.Also this week, officials changed the self-isolation rules for rotational workers returning home from other provinces. As of this morning, those workers now have to wait until Day 7 — instead of Day 5 — to get a COVID-19 test to reduce the chances of a false negative.Cases on the rise countrywideElsewhere in Canada, cases have steadily increased. Nova Scotia, which reported 37 new cases Tuesday, has advised large swathes of its metro population to get a test and has confirmed community spread, while Alberta and B.C. are reporting record numbers of positive tests.Alberta has banned private indoor gatherings and moved all students Grade 7 and above to at-home learning, but will keep restaurants, businesses and casinos open at reduced capacity.Parts of Ontario also entered lockdown this week, with non-essential businesses closed and gatherings limited to one household, except for those who live alone. Schools there remain open.Prince Edward Island has a new case on Wednesday, a woman who travelled to the province from eslewhere in Atlantic Canada.Newfoundland and Labrador has largely avoided new lockdown measures so far. Furey said Monday that this week's new self-isolation restrictions for rotational workers and incoming travellers from the Atlantic region could prevent heftier controls."The Atlantic bubble has been a source of pride … but the situation has changed," Furey said during Monday's COVID-19 briefing.Last week, a man returned to St. John's from Nova Scotia, and under rules in place at the time, was not required to isolate. That prompted a St. John's restaurant, where he had been a customer, to close of its own initiative and ask its employees to get tested.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The Town of Aylmer is in the midst of revising its flag policy after a request to fly a Christian flag at town hall from resident Susan Mutch on July 29. Ms. Mutch sent in her request the week after the town flew a rainbow-striped pride flag to show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. With that request so far unanswered, the Aylmer Express has found some some history of the flag, including its U.S.A. Methodist founding and unofficial status in Canada. Forrest Pass, flag historian and curator at Library and Archives Canada, said of the Christian flag, “It’s a very American emblem. In the United States, it has some official sanction from an ecumenical body that represents a number of denominations - it has that significance there. “In Canada - the Canadian Council of Churches or any of those organizations have not adopted it.” Mr. Pass said flying a Christian flag at governmental buildings throughout Canada is not unheard of, pointing to a similar case in Newfoundland about four years ago. “The organization that requested this may be in fact taking their inspiration from that case,” noted Mr. Pass. A group of Christians of all denominations raised a Christian flag at the Confederation Building in St. John’s, Newfoundland in March 2016. Almost immediately, the move drew criticism from the general public and some members of the House of Assembly, who felt the symbol had homophobic connotations and represented a “divisive” approach to Christianity. The flag was taken down less than 24 hours later. “Flags can be hugely emotional. These are emblems that are designed to provoke emotion and they do provoke emotion,” noted Mr. Pass. The Christian flag itself has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The red symbolizes the blood Jesus shed on the Calvary, blue represents the waters of baptism and faithfulness of Jesus, and white represents Jesus’ purity. The idea for the flag originated at Brighton Chapel in Brooklyn, New York in 1897. After a scheduled speaker failed to arrive for an event, the superintendent, Charles Overton, of the Sunday school gave an impromptu lecture. He asked students what a flag representing Christianity would look like. The design of the flag was based on the text from this lecture. In 1907, Mr. Overton and and Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary of the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, designed and began promoting the flag. “It’s an interesting case where the design emerges before the physical artifact,” said Mr. Pass. The flag does have some history in Canada, he said, used as early as the 1920s. It’s been used fairly regularly by Sunday school groups, Canadian Girls in Training, and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). “I’m not sure how frequently it would be used by provincial governments or by municipal governments, but I wouldn’t say it’s unprecedented,” noted Mr. Pass. The flag mainly represents a wide swath of Protestant Christianity and is largely an evangelical symbol, he said. It is not a symbol that has any particular resonance for Roman Catholics. “It’s really up to the user of the flag what it represents – that’s one of the interesting things about these symbols is that their meaning changes constantly.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The MPP for Simcoe North says she believes Indigenous people in her riding and elsewhere in Ontario have taken COVID-19 seriously, and she is pleased to see that. Jill Dunlop said that during the first wave of the pandemic, 119 of the 133 Indigenous territories in Ontario reported no on-reserve cases of the coronavirus. That bucks a trend, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the rate of COVID infection is substantially higher among Indigenous people than it is among non-Indigenous people. Dunlop credits the First Nations leaders in Ontario for taking preventive steps. “Some First Nations communities have taken additional measures to stop the spread during the pandemic. Some had established curfews. Some were only allowing residents of that community to come into the community, using a checkpoint,” Dunlop said. “They are also following public health regulations to make sure they are not bringing COVID back into their communities as well.” Dunlop said that the respect that Elders have in their communities is a likely part of the reason COVID numbers have been lower in First Nation communities. “If this was something that was affecting young people, we would see our (Elders) do everything they could to protect our young people,” she said. “We need to do the same to protect our seniors from the virus in this case.” Dunlop’s riding includes two First Nation Territories: the Chippewas of Rama First Nation near Orillia and the Beausoleil First Nation located on Christian, Beckwith and Hope islands on Georgian Bay, not far from Penetanguishene. As of last week, only four COVID cases had been diagnosed on the Rama territory since the global pandemic began. All were detected in October and all four patients have since recovered. There have been no cases reported on the Beausoleil First Nation Territory. Meanwhile, Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said he, too, is extremely pleased with the way Indigenous people on the territories the unit serves have handled the pandemic. “People need to be aware how (the virus) is transmitted. Ideally, you are sticking to your household for intimate contact and that you are otherwise maintaining a two-metre distance from other people, even if they are family and they are not in the household,” the doctor said. Dr. Gardner said he is very aware that it is only natural for Indigenous people to want to get together with extended family and friends. But, he added, that comes with risks and natural tendencies have to be overcome and precautions are needed at this time. The doctor added that currently they don’t publicly report COVID cases from the four First Nations territories that the health unit serves in Muskoka and Simcoe Region. John McFadden is a Local Journalism Reporter with The Parry Sound North Star, MuskokaRegion.com and Simcoe.com. LJI is funded by the Government of CanadaJohn McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Investigators with the 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau are seeking witnesses and two suspects following the attempted theft of a puppy from a commuter parking lot in the Township of King. On Nov. 18 at approximately 4 p.m., York Regional Police were called to a commuter parking lot at Highway 400 and Highway 9 for a report of an attempted theft. When officers arrived they found the victim, a 54-year-old female from the City of Barrie and her puppy, who were not injured. Investigators learned that the victim had advertised two puppies for sale online. She had arranged to meet potential buyers in the commuter lot. After the sale of one of the puppies without incident, two men approached the victim driving an older model white Honda Civic. One of the men assaulted the victim, grabbed the puppy, who was in a carrier, and attempted to flee. The victim chased the suspects who eventually threw the puppy out the window of the vehicle and drove away. Investigators are appealing to anyone who may have been in the area at the time and witnessed the incident or anyone with dashcam to please come forward. One suspect is described as male, South Asian, approximately 20 years old, 5’8.” He was wearing a black face mask, black scarf and green track pants. The other suspect is described as male, South Asian, wearing a face mask. Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7142 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers increased their spending by a sluggish 0.5% last month, the weakest rise since April, when the pandemic first erupted, and a sign that Americans remain wary with the virus resurging across the country and threatening the economy.The October gain reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department followed a seasonally adjusted 1.2% increase in September. It suggested that consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, is being restrained by a weakened economy and by the failure of Congress to provide another stimulus package to struggling individuals and businesses.The government's report also showed that income, which provides the fuel for spending, fell 0.7% in October.With new viral cases accelerating across the country, many states are adopting or considering new restrictions on businesses. Sales at restaurants and bars fell in October for the first time in six months. Restaurant traffic declined further this month, according to the reservations provider OpenTable. Hotel occupancy is down from a month ago. Consumer spending on credit cards dropped in the first week of November from a month earlier, according to data compiled by Opportunity Insights.Economists warn that consumer spending could falter further in the current October-December quarter given that many of the major government support programs have expired and Congress has yet to renew the assistance.“With coronavirus infection rates soaring, states re-imposing restrictions and the ... data on in-person dining and jobless claims beginning to show signs of weakness, we are increasingly worried that the monthly gains in consumption will be weaker," Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.The report showed that while the wages-and-salaries component of consumer income rose 0.7% in October, government transfers — the category that includes unemployment aid and other benefits — fell 6.2%.Inflation, as measured by a gauge tied to consumer spending, was unchanged in October. Measured year over year, it's up just 1.2%. That is far below the 2% annual target set by the Federal Reserve, and it gives the Fed further leeway to supply support to the economy beyond the ultra-low interest rates it is already providing.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
This river otter is having a fantastic day swimming loop-de-loops in front of his window! So awesome!
NEW YORK — Former President Barack Obama, already a million-selling author, is also a prize-winning author.PEN America announced Wednesday that Obama will receive its second annual Voice of Influence Award in recognition of how his writings “have traversed political, social, and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”Obama, whose memoir “A Promised Land” came out last week, will be honoured Dec. 8 at the literary and human rights organization's annual gala, to be held virtually because of the coronavirus.During the ceremony, Obama and historian Ron Chernow, a former PEN board president, will discuss freedom of expression and the importance of truth in a world of misinformation.Obama’s previous books include “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author. His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.PEN presented its first Voice of Influence Award in 2019 to filmmaker Ava DuVernay.Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Alaska within a few weeks, state health officials said.Early batches of vaccine will be prioritized for essential workers in health care, assisted living and emergency medical settings, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.Vaccines initially will be issued in limited quantities and likely will not be available to the general public until March or April.The state continues to work on plans to distribute supplies after the vaccines become broadly available.The mid-December timeline for arrival in Alaska was based on announcements by drug companies working to produce coronavirus vaccines.Pfizer Inc. said earlier this month that test results showed its vaccine is 95% effective and protects older people most at risk of dying. Moderna Inc. said this month that preliminary data from an ongoing study showed its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective.AstraZeneca PLC on Monday reported results from ongoing studies of a vaccine under development with Oxford University, saying the drug was up to 90% effective.The high efficacy rates of the vaccines is “such a triumph,” said Joe McLaughlin, an Alaska state epidemiologist. For comparison, influenza vaccine effectiveness is typically between 40% and 60%, he said.Alaska has not definitively settled a timetable, but the distribution will be done in phases with front line health care workers prioritized, said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of the Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force.The soonest the Pfizer vaccine could be shipped is Dec. 10, with Moderna's vaccine likely being shipped about a week later, said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.After the first round of people get the vaccine, the next phase could include high-risk or critical-infrastructure workers.Pregnant women and children were not included in any of the drug trials and will need to wait longer for access.The state does not know how much vaccine will be delivered and officials are planning for three different scenarios, including batches of less than 5,000 doses and groups of around 10,000 and 20,000 doses, Zink said.For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.The Associated Press
A number of provincial sports leagues in Nova Scotia have voluntarily decided to shut down for two weeks.Those decisions come a day after the Nova Scotia government brought in new regulations to clamp down on travel in and out of Halifax Regional Municipality to try and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus."It's a year of not being the norm," said Nova Scotia U15 Major president Todd Watson. "Our teams outside of Halifax could continue to play, but we want to be part of the solution and not part of the issue, so we will shut down our league for two weeks."The U15 league has five of its 12 teams within HRM.Practices to continue outside HalifaxWatson said teams outside the Halifax zone can still practice, but teams inside the Halifax zone will not be able to because facilities have been closed.Another provincial league, with no teams in the Halifax area, has also shut down.The Scotia Minor Hockey League is an under-11 league with nine teams scattered throughout mainland Nova Scotia."To ensure all teams remain in their respective health zones, effective immediately all Scotia Minor regular-season league play will be suspended until Dec. 9," stated a notice posted to the league website.In total, 11 minor hockey associations in the Halifax zone are impacted by yesterday's announcement and will be off the ice for two weeks. The province will re-evaluate in 14 days and could extend the conditions if COVID-19 numbers don't improve.Any Halifax-area players who are playing for other teams outside their zone will no longer be allowed to travel and be with the team. As an example, the Koltech Valley Wildcats U18 team has eight players from HRM on their roster."These players are also not permitted to participate in any Hockey Nova Scotia-sanctioned activities (including practices, training sessions, or games with their teams) while these restrictions are in effect," a statement posted on the Hockey Nova Scotia website late Tuesday read.School sports also on breakAll school sports, in all regions of the province, are also being paused until Dec. 10.Other leagues, including the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League, will be holding meetings to determine how they move forward."You can't cross players from different health zones and we have a team that is in the northern health zone (Cumberland Blues) that pulls players from the eastern zone and those players can't play for them," said Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League president Heather Campbell."We have a meeting tonight to determine what we'll do."Campbell said only four of the 12 teams in the league — Glace Bay, Eskasoni, Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish — won't be impacted by the new restrictions.MORE TOP STORIES
The Whitestone Public Library is getting a new name to match its expansion. It will now be called the Whitestone Public Library and Technology Centre to better reflect the technology services it will be able to offer. Library vice-chair Cathy Lamb said that the Whitestone Library is a social hub for the Whitestone community and keeping people connected via technology was an important goal. “We are actually going to be offering a lot of virtual programming,” said Lamb. “People who don’t feel comfortable coming into the library can still participate in the programming.” The instructor would be at the library itself and people can join in online, she said, adding that the book club may also be offered virtually. “We are looking at different ways of reaching out to people,” she said. “As we know, a lot of seniors don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes or going into public places (right now).” “With the new enhancements to our technology we will be able to do that kind of outreach.” Whitestone received a $150,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the library expansion, as well as a $150,000 grant from FedNor. According to Coun. Joe Lamb, these foundations rarely invest in libraries. However, creating a technology centre within the library and being able to enhance businesses in town by offering meeting rooms and technology training was, in Lamb’s opinion, the reason the municipality received the funding. Outside of federal and provincial funding, the Whitestone community raised $100,000 itself to fund the new library project. “It’s truly unbelievable,” said Lamb, who is the council representative on the library board. “We ended up with $400,000-worth of our project that was brought in before the municipality had to spend a nickel.” The estimated cost of the project is $705,221.27 and it will include an additional 1,400 square feet, bringing the building size to 2,500 square feet. Another goal for the new library and technology centre is to be able to loan mobile USB internet sticks to patrons to use as a personal internet hub, said Lamb. Construction is nearing its final phases and the library hopes to be able to begin offering curbside pickup in January 2021. “It’s truly a community effort …,” said Lamb of the expansion project. “And something I think will last for generations.” Sarah Cooke is a Local Journalism Reporter with the Parry Sound North Star, and Almaguin News. LJI is funded by the Government of CanadaSarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Aylmer Mayor Mary French announced that she is not the sole decision-maker for town COVID-19-related actions, in response to the brief avalanche of messages received as a result of the state of emergency declaration, and closure of the East Elgin Community Complex, ahead of the Nov. 7 “freedom” rally. The Emergency Control Group (ECG), comprised of the mayor, administrator, staff, emergency and community services repesentatives, works together to make decisions regarding the pandemic. “In this group, my role is the same as it is at council in that I am one of many voices at the table,” said Mayor French, near the conclusion of the Nov. 16 virtual council meeting. “More specifically, actions of the town in response to COVID-19 are never undertaken specifically at my request, but instead are the result of collaborative decision-making processes.” Anyone with questions about the ECG decision-making process can contact Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Reynaert or Emergency Services Director Sam Taylor, she said. Mayor French also thanked the community, council and staff for the “ongoing support that has been received in relation to recent events.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
A North Battleford man accused of attempted murder was denied bail in Prince Albert Provincial Court. Trent Fox, 19, had a show cause hearing on Nov. 19. He has been in custody since mid-October when he was arrested and charged with attempted murder after a 21-year-old man was stabbed at a business. STARS Air Ambulance took the victim to a Saskatoon hospital with life-threatening injuries. According to Prince Albert Police, they were called to a business in the 3200 block of 2nd Avenue West at about 10 p.m. on Oct. 14. Prince Albert Police say that Fox hitchhiked to Prince Albert from North Battleford earlier on the evening of Oct. 14. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Prince Albert Police at 306-953-4222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Fox is now scheduled to appear in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Dec. 3 by CCTV to enter a plea. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
NEW YORK — Kaley Cuoco knew she wanted to turn Chris Bohjalian’s bestselling novel “The Flight Attendant’ into a TV series when the book caught her eye online.“The cover of the book is a blonde woman. It just kind of looks like me,” she recalled in a recent interview. Cuoco read the one sentence summary and called her agent. “The first thing I asked was, ‘Has Reese Witherspoon gotten the rights to this book?’” she said.When she learned Witherspoon had not optioned the book, Cuoco said she instructed her team to hurry and nab the rights because she wanted to make it into a TV series.“My entire team was like, ‘Great. So, you read it? Tell us about it.’ I hadn’t read it, but I knew I needed them to get moving. I’m trying to make up all these things that I think it’s going to be."Cuoco says she then read the book for real and thankfully loved it “because that would have been embarrassing.”Fast-forward to now and “The Flight Attendant” debuts Thursday on HBO Max. Cuoco is an executive producer and stars as Cassie, a party girl flight attendant who meets a handsome man on a flight to Bangkok. She spends the night with him on a layover, and wakes up to him dead in her bed.She panics and leaves, and while she’s at work on another plane, authorities discover the body. Cuoco becomes a suspect in the murder since she doesn’t remember what happened.After 12 years as a lead on the CBS hit “The Big Bang Theory,” Cuoco said her goal for what came next in her career was to play an interesting character — it didn't matter what genre.The writers wrote Cassie in Cuoco's voice, allowing some quirkiness and humour to shine through. She was also able to show her range.“By the time we get to episode six, seven and eight, there’s such an emotional crash and breakdown that I’ve never been able to do before. I’m just so excited for people to see that."The pace of work was new for Cuoco, who was accustomed to the sitcom filming schedule, which actors will gleefully admit is akin to a 9-to-5 job, except for taping days.“I’ve never worked like this before,” said Cuoco. She jokes that one day when she had a 3:40 a.m. pickup time, she was confused: “I remember saying, ‘Is this a.m.?’ I didn’t understand what I was looking at. I’m like, ‘It must be a night shoot.’ I could not wrap my brain around that.”___Follow Alicia Rancilio online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciarAlicia Rancilio, The Associated Press