WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 Recycling company Geep is in a legal battle with Apple Inc. over the tech giant’s claim that the Barrie-based company allegedly stole and resold nearly 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches it was supposed to destroy. According to a report in the Financial Post, Apple has filed a lawsuit demanding $31 million in damages and any proceeds from the resale of goods. In September 2019, Geep Canada merged with the Shift Group of Companies to form Quantum Lifecycle Partners, which has a large recycling plant on John Street in Barrie. Quantum is not named in the lawsuit. The Financial Post also reports that Geep has denied all wrongdoing and filed a third-party suit claiming employees stole the Apple devices without its knowledge. Apple’s lawsuit claims 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left Geep’s premises without being destroyed. These allegedly misappropriated devices were then subsequently sold at a significantly higher price than other recycled materials, the lawsuit claims. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Quantum Lifecycle Partners (formerly Geep) has no comment because the case is before the courts. Apple hired Geep in 2014 to destroy its old products and ensure they didn’t end up in landfills. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Wearing a mask in public indoor places is now mandatory in Yukon, and people in the territory are adjusting to the new public health measure.Matthew Hitchcock, store manager at Coast Mountain Sports, said that all their employees were given masks and many customers were prepared and following the new rules on Tuesday. "It's that assurity you have that everyone's on the same page. Everyone's trying," he said. "I think it makes everyone feel a little bit safer."The mask mandate was announced last month and came into effect on Tuesday, as case counts of COVID-19 have risen sharply in the past few weeks.It's applicable to all people in Yukon over the age of five in indoor public spaces, unless they are able to provide an exemption.Hitchcock said customers were very positive about wearing masks, and that there was a real sense of community with everyone wearing one."I think that everyone's of the understanding now that it's for the safety of everyone, and I think everyone's on the same page. It's been working well," Hitchcock said.Those who had forgotten their masks were able to pick up a disposable one at the entrance of the store.Maryann Etzel was out shopping on Monday, and said she felt more comfortable being out and about with others wearing masks."I feel a lot safer like I can go into the stores and not worry about people coughing and stuff, now they have masks."Etzel said she thinks the rules should have been put in place a long time ago, to keep Yukoners safe in public spaces.'Incredibly impressed with level of uptake'Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, said at Tuesday's news conference that he had already seen more public acceptance toward masks within the first day they were made mandatory."I am incredibly impressed with the level of uptake in the population. And just walking through downtown [Monday] I was noticing, even outside, the degree of uptake of mask use was astounding," Hanley said.Hanley said people may need time to adjust, but he expects an increase in uptake, with the goal of having "as close to 100 per cent of the population wearing masks as possible."Graeme Tennant has already been wearing a mask while working at the library, and he said he has gotten used to it. He suspects others in the territory will adapt quickly as well."You get used to it and you go with it. "Everyone knows why it's being done and I have personally not encountered anyone who's really aggressive about it," he said. However, one thing Tennant is still getting used to is guessing people's facial expressions."It's kind of hard to judge when you just see people's eyes … are they smiling, are they sticking their tongue out at me with that mask on? I don't know!"
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 1, 2020 Fourteen ATV riders could have saved themselves more than $100 if they had purchased an off-road trail permit. Instead they were hit with a $215 fine for breaking a Simcoe County bylaw that requires the $103 permits to use trails designated for off-road use. Riding in undesignated areas also carries a $215 fine. Huronia West OPP officers and trail wardens stopped 65 riders in County of Simcoe Forests Sept. 27, with the majority of the trail users in full compliance with regulations. Police remind ATV riders that under provincial laws a helmet, licence plate, registration, insurance and driver's licence are required when operating off-road vehicles on public trails, road allowances and Simcoe County Forests trails. They must be presented to an officer upon demand. Trail permits can be purchased from OFATV and OFTR. For details refer to https://myoftr.ca or call 855-637-6387. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Schools across Nova Scotia will be getting new touchless water stations and extra school supplies, as well as money to test drive new online math, language and literacy programs.Teachers, students and staff will also receive new face masks and have access to more personal protective equipment as part of a spending spree to use up almost all of the almost $48 million promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August.Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill laid out his department's shopping list during a virtual news conference Wednesday from the Tri-County Regional Centre of Education office in Yarmouth."Today I am pleased to announce the province is providing $14.3 million to our students and staff for well-being and learning," he told reporters.That spending includes: * $4.1M to pilot new online math and literacy programs * $3.8M for 950 touchless water stations in every school * $2.7M for additional inspections to ventilation systems and needed repairs * $1.5M for breakfast and lunch programs or for food deliveries if schools are closed * $1.5M for personal protective equipment * $700,00 to move furniture and supplies if students need to change schools as part of blended learningIn August, Trudeau announced the creation of a $2 billion Safe Return to Class Fund. Nova Scotia was promised almost $48 million from the fund to "ensure a safe return to school and (to) protect the health of students and staff."The Nova Scotia government has announced where all but $6 million of that money has been or will be spent. Churchill is holding back the remaining money in case it's needed down the road."We do have approximately six million left that we're going to deploy in areas that we believe are necessary moving forward, but we don't just want to spend it all," he said. "There's nothing to spend it on."We want to respond to issues that are emerging as challenges that we want to deal with, and having some additional resources in place to do that, I think is a wise thing to do."On Nov. 23, Churchill announced the purchase of 32,000 Chromebooks to go home with students if they are forced to move to online learning. That $21.5 million expenditure is from the fund. So too is the $5.5 million announced Nov. 3 to hire cleaning staff and buy supplies so that school gyms could reopen to community groups and sports teams.Although the province was ready Wednesday to announce the purchase of 950 water stations, Churchill was unable to provide a timeline for when they might be installed."That's going to be managed at the regional level so I don't have a schedule on which schools are going to be done (and) when, but the work on this will commence immediately," he said.The $1.5 million earmarked for school breakfast and lunch programs will be used to meet the increased demand for both programs, as well as for food hampers or to but grocery gift cards if students are sent home again if COVID infection rates warrant the closure of schools.Deanna Rawding, principal at West Northfield Elementary School near Bridgewater, said her school has seen an increase in demand for both its free breakfasts and its equity meal program, which offers a free lunch to students who cannot afford to pay for it."I've seen an increase in need ... because we had some families that lost jobs due to COVID or were unable to get the hours they needed to support their family," said Rawding.She said the extra funds to be able to continue to help those students would make a difference in the classroom."That makes them feel good and that makes them better learners throughout the day," she said.MORE TOP STORIES
Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald The Winter Light Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is ready to light it up. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that will mean a few adjustments, but the annual festival is still going forward starting Thursday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Speaking Tuesday, Michelle Day, executive director for Nikka Yuko, said things could change as the event goes on and to stay tuned for updates and check online for any other details. “We need our community support and that comes with patience and being able to be flexible,” said Day. “Working with Alberta Health Services and the City of Lethbridge, we are going to be able to continue our Winter Light Experience. We’re going to continue to monitor the guidelines as they may change. They may have new ones or they may relax them in the future. By this time, it’s going to be as much of a touch-less experience as possible. But we’re encouraging everybody in our community to show support and come out to our Winter Light Festival as it is a safe experience.” With the current guidelines, the first weekend of the Horse and Wagon rides and the first Shakespeare in the Garden performance have been cancelled. “But we’ll continue to monitor (the situation) and as we go along, we might be able to add more programming as the guidelines change, and that’s where we need the communities support and flexibility in the sense (the events) might happen after Christmas or in January,” said Day. As for the events going forward — following COVID guidelines laid out by AHS – a maximum of 100 people will be allowed in the garden per half hour, said Day. “We’re staging the entry ways and all access to the garden has to be done online,” said Day. “I know our community is used to just showing up and going to the visitors’ centre but, unfortunately, we can’t do that. We feel it’s important we work with Alberta Health Services to ensure the tracking is there.” Private events are still able to be booked, said Day. “What we’re asking our companies and our customers during their private events is no gathering-like activities, so no speeches. But we can hand out things at the door and stage entry. “We’re also making sure we have things for people to take home. We’re going to have an enhanced brochure to give everybody when they come to learn more about Japanese and Canadian winter customs.” For the kids, Nikka Yuko has teamed up with local artist Eric Dyck to provide a colouring package. “With Panasonic and their projectors, we’ve teamed up with a local anime gentleman, Keith Morgan (a local CG-Generalist and compositing artist) and he’s going to be telling a story throughout the garden (with) one-minute episodes,” said Day. “So people can space, but enjoy a story and experience along with the lights. They’ll still be leaving with some programming and some memories to take home with them.” Tickets can be purchased on the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden website events calendar (www.nikkayuko.com/events) or through the Enmax Centre. “I stress to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/search/top?q=nikka%20yuko%20japanese%20garden) and watch our website (www.nikkayuko.com) for ongoing updates,” said Day. Day said even before the pandemic, the Winter Light Festival experience was an essential one. “I’ve had many families say it’s affordable, it’s accessible and that the community really enjoyed. I think in the summer when we opened there was much of a need for people to get outdoors in a safe place and connect to nature. We heard that, so I think this Winter Light Festival is so important to our community for both those reasons. It’s outdoors, it’s a connection to nature and it’s a safe location to go.” Day added the Garden was built and designed to promote mental health and wellness and a place to go to reflect. “We don’t lose sight that sometimes the winter months are hard. I think there is seasonal depression and winter holiday anxiety and I think sometimes people just need a place to go to walk and we are honoured to provide a safe place for people to do that.” Follow @DWoodardHerald on TwitterDale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald
Montreal Alouettes running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is used to psyching himself up to sprint down a field, evading a crush of muscled men the entire way. But mentally preparing for his latest venture required bracing for a whole new set of anxieties. As he readied himself to hop in a bobsled for the first time, Murray-Lawrence knew he'd be zipping down an icy track faster than cars are allowed to travel down most highways. “It was very nerve wracking," the 27-year-old Toronto native said of the run. "Once I got in the sled, it was just the longest 50 seconds of my life. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I couldn’t breathe. But when it’s over, I was like ‘Hey, man, I think I could do that again.’”And he has. Murrary-Lawrence, Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Jay Dearborn and B.C. Lions running back hopeful Kayden Johnson joined the national bobsled program after the CFL cancelled its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the national development squad, the trio has been training at the ice house at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park. This week, the group moved to the sliding centre in Whistler, B.C., where they'll perfect their techniques on a full course. Built for the 2010 Olympics, the Whistler track is known as one of the fastest in the world. Dearborn still hasn't figured out how to explain what it's like to race down the ice."The feel of those forces going around the corner, or the speed that you’re going at … the biggest thing that I struggle with is how to describe what it’s like to have your whole being crushed by these forces going through each corner," he said. Just months ago, Dearborn "didn't know a thing" about the sport. A strength and conditioning coach at Carleton University put him in touch with a national recruiter last year, but it wasn't until March that the 26-year-old from Yarker, Ont., got into a sled for the first time. “I just knew the type of athletes it attracted and I knew I was pretty similar — a strong, explosive, fast athlete, that are pretty technically minded people," Dearborn said.Football and bobsled both require ample power and explosiveness, Murray-Lawrence said. "You've got to be very aggressive," he said. "You need so much speed, so much power in such a short amount of time."The sport has a delicate side, too, he added, because you also have to be a "ballerina or ninja" to seamlessly jump into the sled without rocking it as it hurtles down the track. Learning that balance of power and poise has been a long time coming for Murray-Lawrence. He was first recruited by the national bobsled team in 2017 while playing for the Lions.Then his life was upended by a hit-and-run crash that left Murray-Lawrence with a concussion and back injuries.It was about 700 days before he played another CFL game, joining the Alouettes late in the 2019 season. The campaign ended before Murray-Lawrence could firmly reestablish himself, though, and this year was supposed to be his big comeback. “Everything got put on hold. There was so much uncertainty," he said. "For me, the last two years has been about trying to prove myself.”When the CFL finally called off the 2020 season in August, it didn't take Murray-Lawrence long to turn his sights to bobsled. He spoke with former Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Dexter Janke and Olympian Jesse Lumsden, both of whom played in the CFL and competed in bobsled.“I’m just trying to be a sponge. I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge and information that I can," he said.There's a lot of overlap in training for bobsled and football, said Kayden Johnson, a 24-year-old running back from Kerrobert, Sask., who was selected by the Lions in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.Because of the lost season, Johnson has yet to play a CFL game, but he believes his winter work will help his football career. “Bobsleigh has that mental toughness and that competitive aspect of all or nothing," he said. "You’ll always commit to going full speed. Even if you fail, you fail at full speed, that’s what they like to say here. You’re not afraid of the challenge or attacking the run.”For Dearborn, training to be a brakeman includes more sprinting than he was used to in the CFL. He and his coaches regularly watch video to dissect and perfect every detail and angle of his stride, the same way a runner might work with a sprinting coach.“I think it’s going to help my running," Dearborn said. "I should show up on that field a little faster than I was, so that’s really exciting.”In January, the three CFLers are set to take their new skills on the road as the Canadian bobsled team heads to Europe to compete. The bobsled and skeleton world championships are scheduled to take place in Germany at the beginning of February, and there's an Olympic test event slated for early March in Beijing. Knowing that the team is working towards the 2022 Olympics is exciting, said Murray-Lawrence. Competing on the world's biggest stage for your country instead of for a team that you've signed a contract with "holds a little bit more pride," he explained. “This is something I can carry with me forever, that I represented my country," he said. Johnson already knows the thrill of wearing the maple leaf of his chest, having represented Canada in decathlon at the Pan American junior championships, but he'd love to represent his country on the bobsled track in Beijing, too. “The Olympics has always been a dream of mine," said Johnson, who also competed in 60-metre hurdles at York University. "Olympics rings have always been something I’ve been chasing after.” All three athletes hope they can balance bobsled and football when the CFL finally returns. Murray-Lawrence believes he can do both sports for a long time, but adds that, with the current state of the world, little is certain right now."At any moment, this could all be shut down," he said. "So we’re just living in the moment right now. Embrace it, cherish it and have fun.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine approval and distribution in Question Period Wednesday, while facing questions from Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole over the failed vaccine collaboration with China’s CanSino Biologics. He said although the deal with CanSino fell through the government secured “the broadest range” of vaccine potentials.
The owner of the Water Street Dinner Theatre in Saint John says he gave Public Health the names and numbers of the 120 guests and staff who were present for a Nov. 13 show, but he can't say whether that was a superspreader event. Roy Billingsley says he's aware that people are speculating that his was one of " two venues" that the chief medical officer of health has described as being the source of 80 per cent of the current active cases in the Saint John zone. "The timeline might suggest that we were involved," said Billingsley. "But I've received no confirmation of that." Billingsley said Public Health notified him on Nov. 18 about a potential public exposure at the theatre on the previous Friday evening. "I was told that myself and my staff had to isolate for 14 days," said Billingsley, who has since decided to close the venue indefinitely. He said about a dozen employees were working that night, and all were tested for the coronavirus but none tested positive.Billingsley said the business was complying with the strict protocols that were in place at the time and masks were mandatory except when customers were seated at their tables. The venue can accommodate 14 tables of 10 people each, with two metres of distance between the tables. As another precaution, customers were able to place their food orders online in advance of the show, he said.> I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines. We were playing by the rules. \- Roy Billingsley, Water Street Dinner Theatre ownerThere was an option to order drinks by texting the bartender, and diners could also order beverages in advance of the event.Those who decided to line up for drinks had to maintain the appropriate distance. "I guess I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines," Billingsley said. "We were playing by the rules. "It's unfortunate that somebody was identified as attending one of our productions having COVID-19. However, I think as long as business owners abide by the rules, anybody who lays blame is kind of foolish for doing so. We're all working within the guidelines, and I think people really need to be kind at this time."Owner not sure when dinner theatre will reopen CBC News asked Billingsley how his business has been faring since the start of the pandemic. He operates both the dinner theatre and a restaurant in the same building across from the cruise ship terminal He said the restaurant, Steamers, is a seasonal business that normally closes in November. This year he decided to close it in September. In March, Ottawa announced a ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters and later cancelled the season entirely. Billingsley said he doesn't know when he'll be able to safely open the theatre, especially since singing is part of the show. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster," he said. "We've been very fortunate in our region that we haven't had to deal with the effects of COVID for very long … but it certainly takes a toll on you, financially and psychologically." On Nov. 20, when Dr. Jennifer Russell first mentioned the superspreader event in response to a question from CBC News, she said it involved "many" health-care workers. Billingsley said he didn't know about health-care workers attending the show but said many of the customers that night would have known each other.Russell brought up the subject again on Tuesday, without naming dates, times or locations of what she called the superspreader event. She said it occurred at two venues over the course of one evening in Saint John and was directly responsible for 60 confirmed cases in Zone 2. "Sixty people have contracted the respiratory disease from the event — 34 who attended and 26 others who were infected when they came into contact with attendees," said Russell. "This isn't about casting blame, it's really about a teaching moment."
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter There were two standout topics of discussion from last Tuesday's St. Marys Town Council meeting. Council first discussed correspondence from the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. The UTRCA is challenging new amendments to Ontario's Conservation Authorities Act, which the organization claims will cause "additional red tape, further delays for permit approvals, and increased costs, as well as several new municipal constraints regarding agreements with Conservation Authorities and control of Board appointments." The letter sent to St. Marys Town Council also requested the municipality's support in pushing back against these new regulations, as well as calling on Minister Phillips, Minister Yurek, and Minister Yakabuski to reconsider the changes. However, the views expressed by the UTRCA were not shared widely by Council members, specifically, Mayor Al Strathdee and Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer. Several members asked questions about parts of the UTRCA's request for support, but overall, there wasn't a large outpouring of support for the UTRCA's position. Kittmer noted that many of the changes in the new Provincial legislation were changes that St. Marys had advocated for last year. Included in these changes was the ability for municipalities to opt-out of programs as they saw fit, as well as calling on conservation authorities to narrow the scope of their projects. Additionally, Kittmer said that municipalities have been operating under similar regulations that conservation authorities will come under, meaning they have experience dealing with what the UTRCA might have to deal with and, in some cases, regulations that the UTRCA suggests will slow things down will actually speed up certain processes. Mayor Strathdee also spoke on the matter, saying that he feels the changes will increase accountability on conservation authorities, something he felt was needed. Also discussed later in the Council meeting was the one-parent guideline at the Pyramid Recreation Center for youth sports. Currently, only one parent is permitted to be inside the arena during their child's sporting event due to COVID-19 restrictions. Council did receive a letter from St. Marys Ringette, which called on Council to change this policy. However, Council was of the consensus that the one parent per child policy should remain in place while the Huron Perth Public Health coverage area remains at the Orange (Restrict) level of the Provincial reopening framework. They also agreed that, as it relates to ice rentals and gameplay at the PRC, organizations from outside of the HPPH coverage area should not be permitted inside the PRC while the region remains in the Orange reopening level.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
La pandémie de COVID-19 n’a pas épargné les lieux de culte qui ont dû s’adapter aux directives gouvernementales après plusieurs mois de fermeture. Les célébrations du temps des Fêtes ne feront pas exception et les paroissiens devront réserver leur place à certains endroits. « Compte tenu de la pandémie qui nous oblige à pratiquer la distanciation physique, un système de réservation est mis en place afin d’optimiser l’espace pour la célébration de Noël du 24 décembre à 22 h », a dévoilé la paroisse Ste-Croix de Tadoussac sur sa page Facebook. Pour réserver un banc, les citoyens doivent téléphoner au presbytère à 418 235-4324 et des places leur seront octroyées selon le nombre de personnes requis. « Vous devrez cependant être arrivés 15 minutes avant le début de la célébration sinon les places pourront être assignées à d’autres personnes », est-il précisé. C’est le même processus pour la paroisse Sacré-Cœur-de-Jésus où le curé Léonard Kapia présidera la messe de Noël le 24 décembre à 20 h. Les intéressés doivent téléphoner au presbytère au 418-236-4323 pour placer une réservation afin de « maximiser l’espace disponible dans l’église ». En ce qui concerne l’église St-Marcellin des Escoumins, un maximum de 100 personnes sera accueilli le 24 décembre à 19 h. L’équipe pastorale s’occupera de faire le décompte des présences et du respect des mesures de la santé publique. Comme le nombre de paroissiens assistant aux célébrations a diminué depuis la pandémie, ce n’est pas inquiétant de devoir retourner des gens le soir de Noël, selon la paroisse. Secteur est À Longue-Rive, l’église Saint-Paul célébrera Noël le 24 décembre à 21 h 30. « Pour ce qui est de la COVID, nous sommes en zone jaune et l’église peut contenir 160 personnes », mentionne la responsable Marjolaine Tremblay, précisant qu’il ne sera pas nécessaire de réserver son banc à l’avance. De Portneuf-sur-Mer à Colombier, les messes du 24 décembre se dérouleront en rotation. Le curé Irénée Girard débutera la soirée à l’église Ste-Thérèse à 16 h et poursuivra à 19 h à Ste-Anne-de-Portneuf, à 20 h à l’église St-Luc de Forestville pour terminer à la paroisse Saint-Marc-de-Latour à 21 h. L’abbé Antonio Laflamme, quant à lui, célébrera pour la 53e année consécutive la messe du 25 décembre à 10 h 30 à Forestville. Les célébrations de la fête de Jésus se dérouleront comme à l’habitude pour ces quatre municipalités qui pourront accueillir 50 cellules familiales afin de respecter la distanciation sociale. « On prendra toutes les précautions nécessaires pour instaurer les directives sanitaires et offrir une messe de Noël mémorable aux gens présents », affirme M. Girard. Il n’y aura toutefois pas de chorale, ni de crèche vivante.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
MAPLE RIDGE – Officials with the Upper Canada District School Board announced that two cases of COVID-19 have been found at North Dundas District High School. The cases come less than a week after a case was diagnosed at Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore. The board did not identify if the cases were staff or students at the school, or if the cases were related to each other. Contact tracing by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit is underway and people identified who may have had close contact with the infected have been contacted. "The school and health unit are taking all necessary steps to prevent the further spread of the virus in the school and in the community," said UCDSB spokesperson April Scott-Clarke. "The school remains and operating on the regular daily schedule." No outbreak has been declared by the EOHU. A school is considered in an outbreak when two or more infected individuals whose cases are linked go to the same school. It is unknown the case at North Dundas is related to the one at Tagwi. That case, a student, was diagnosed on November 29th. This is the third new case of COVID-19 in North Dundas since Friday. As of December 2nd there are no active COVID-19 infections in South Dundas, and there have been fewer than five cases total. Only one school, a French-Catholic school in Casselman (Sainte-Euphémie) is currently considered in an outbreak. There are 130 active COVID-19 infections in the EOHU region, more than half are in Prescott-Russell. Since the pandemic began there have been 898 cases. Five people are currently hospitalized, none of those are in Intensive Care. Thirty-one people have died from the virus in the region.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
President Donald Trump's threat to veto a defense bill if it does not repeal legal protections for social media companies faced stiff bipartisan opposition on Wednesday, setting the stage for a confrontation with lawmakers scrambling to pass the massive bill by year-end. Unusually, members of Trump's Republican Party broke from the president to join Democrats in objecting to his threat to veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a $740 billion annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon, if it does not include a measure eliminating a federal law - known as Section 230 - protecting tech companies such as Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc. Lawmakers announced on Wednesday that congressional negotiators had completed the conference report on the fiscal year 2021 NDAA, a compromise between separate versions of the bill passed earlier this year by the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-majority House of Representatives.
Manitoba students from Grade 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, Manitoba's education minister says.The two-week remote-learning period, starting Jan. 4 and continuing to Jan. 15, will be mandatory for students in grades 7 to 12, and will also be an option for kindergarten to Grade 6 students if families want to keep younger kids at home, Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a Wednesday news conference."These decisions, we know have various impacts," he said."They're not made lightly … but they are made in consultation with public health and with the understanding that we believe, and still believe, that the best place for students to learn is in the classroom where it is safe to do so."In a news release announcing the shift, the province said the preventative measure is focused on grades 7 to 12 because older students tend to have more contacts, and so have a higher likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In addition, the province said those students are more amenable to online learning. The mandatory shift to remote learning for Grade 7-12 students will keep close to half of the province's student body at home, the province said.Manitoba is currently under a strict lockdown barring visitors to homes. Stores are also prohibiting the purchase of non-essential items due to the high COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations.On Wednesday, the province reported there are 351 people in hospital, including 51 in intensive care, marking yet another new record.Previously, health officials acknowledged the province was mulling the possibility of extending the winter break to offset some transmission that may have occurred over the holiday, but Goertzen said students need to keep up their education."We want to keep students learning … whether that's remotely or in the classroom, the key is we don't want the education of our young students to stop."School safety an issue, critics sayCritics are worried not enough is being done to ensure the safety of Manitoba schools."Whether schools are safe or not, we don't actually know," said Dougald Lamont, the leader of the Manitoba Liberals. "We're not actually doing the testing and the contact tracing to be able to tell whether there's transmission in schools or not."The education critic for the Manitoba NDP, Nello Altomare, said the province should implement asymptomatic testing in schools."Right now it's all based on data that's incomplete." Goertzen said the decision to begin remote learning after the scheduled break was made to allow some time to shift to remote learning, and also to ensure COVID-19 numbers don't spike after the return to school."We have seen traditionally in other places, and in Manitoba … that the COVID-19 numbers can go up over the break. This provides, from a public health perspective, some additional assurance just to see what those numbers are looking like," he said.Province not sure if shift will continue after 2 weeks Goertzen couldn't say with certainty if the remote-learning period will continue after the two weeks are over."Making predictions during a pandemic has proven not to be a good business to be in," he said."But our priority is to have schools operating."Regardless, there will be supports for teachers and students during this period, the province said.Deputy education minister Dana Rudy said the previously announced resource centre to support remote learning will be in place by Jan. 4 to assist students with their studies while they're at home.The province said they were in the process of hiring up to 140 people who will be employed to support teachers delivering remote learning by providing learning programs, professional development opportunities, instructional coaching and technology supports.Early last month, about 500 teachers signed a letter saying they're at a breaking point and desperate for more staff in schools.WATCH | Manitoba education officials announce two-week remote-learning period:
LEXINGTON, Ky. — A 12th former NFL player has admitted to participating in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud the league’s health care benefit program. Former Washington Football Team and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Lexington, Kentucky, to one charge of conspiring to defraud a program set up to reimburse former players for out-of-pocket medical expenses, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Prosecutors allege the players targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. It provides tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents. Indictments say a group of former players defrauded the plan by submitting false claims for expensive medical equipment, including devices used on horses. In reality, they had never purchased or received the medical equipment, prosecutors said. The charges were consolidated in Kentucky because the fraudulent claims were processed through an insurance data centre in Lexington. authorities said. In his plea agreement, Rogers admitted to helping recruit other former players to join the scheme and provided identifying information about them to others to use in claims. Rogers played 10 seasons in the NFL and was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2011 while he was with the 49ers. He is set to be sentenced in March. Ceandris Brown, the only former player who has been sentenced for the scheme so far, has been ordered to serve about a year in jail and must pay more than $84,000 in restitution to the health fund. Three other former players, including ex-Washington running back Clinton Portis, are scheduled for trial in April after they pleaded not guilty. The Associated Press
Codiac RCMP are releasing little information about an incident that happened in the Mountain Road area early Wednesday morning.Sgt. Mathieu Roy says police were called to the area near Oakland Avenue at about 7:45 in the morning, when a man showed up at a gas station."The individual showed up at the Petro gas station on Mountain Road and he had been injured. That's why we arrived and started our investigation." Roy said.Roy said the 39-year-old man is in hospital being treated for serious but non-life threatening injuries to his upper body."The information we gathered from the victim and from the scene led us to an address not far away on Oakland Avenue. Two people were arrested at that residence, a 26-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman," Roy said.A large police presence was seen in the area, and the RCMP New Brunswick tweeted that Oakland, Salter and Atkinson Avenues and Lorne and Argyle Streets had been closed to traffic due to a police operation in the area.An hour later the police tweeted arrests had been made and the streets were reopened to traffic.Sgt. Roy would not comment on whether any weapons were involved or the extent of the man's injuries.He said it's still early in the investigation, so he can't say if charges will be laid.Police are expected to remain on the scene at Oakland Avenue until Wednesday night, or Thursday morning.He said there is no danger to the public.
The city of Pasadena has kept outdoor dining open despite Los Angeles County restricting restaurants to takeout to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. A surge of virus cases last week in the county led to a three-week end to outdoor dining. (Dec. 2)