A blizzard forced Highway 75 in Manitoba to close.
A blizzard forced Highway 75 in Manitoba to close.
LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep roadway in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery. Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median shortly before 7:15 a.m., crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved. The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. Both of his legs were seriously injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odor of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and did not find any. They did not say how fast he was driving. The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to arrive at the wreck, told reporters that he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and has seen fatal crashes there. “I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said. Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club. Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019. He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport. The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event. Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time. He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter. During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he was feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities. He was not sure when he would play again. Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery. “I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.” Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away Tuesday afternoon. This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder. Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and five surgeries on his back. ___ Ferguson reported from Jacksonville, Florida. Stefanie Dazio And Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Fueled by Black turnout, Democrats scored stunning wins in Georgia in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Now, Republicans are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. GOP lawmakers in the once reliably red state are rolling out an aggressive slate of voting legislation that critics argue is tailored to curtail the power of Black voters and undo years of work by Stacey Abrams and others to increase engagement among people of colour, including Latino and Asian American communities. The proposals are similar to those pushed by Republicans in other battleground states: adding barriers to mail-in and early voting, major factors in helping Joe Biden win Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take the two Senate seats that gave Democrats control of the chamber. But one aspect of their plans, a proposal to eliminate early voting on Sundays, seems specifically targeted at a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign used by Black churches, referred to as “souls to the polls." It's led many to suggest Republicans are trying to stop a successful effort to boost Black voter turnout in Georgia, where they make up about a third of the population and have faced a dark history of attempts to silence their voices in elections. “It's a new form of voter suppression, the Klan in three-piece suits rather than white hoods,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which has participated in souls to the polls events. “They know the power of the Black vote, and their goal is to suppress that power.” In previous elections, souls to the polls campaigns were festive, with vehicles and people parading to election offices during early voting windows. Churches would sometimes playfully compete to see which could bring the most voters, said McDonald, who described the GOP legislation as “spiteful.” In Georgia and elsewhere, Republicans say proposals to tighten voting access are meant to bolster confidence in elections, though they have been some of the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the election was fraudulent. The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 165 bills in 33 states this year meant to limit access to voting. In Georgia, Republicans control state government and have introduced dozens of legislative measures that would restrict voting access. GOP state Rep. Barry Fleming is chief sponsor of a wide-ranging proposal that would ban Sunday early voting, require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit the time when an absentee ballot could be requested, restrict where ballot drop boxes could be placed and curb the use of mobile voting units, among other changes. In committee hearings, Fleming has cast the legislation as “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public in our election system.” He didn’t respond to an email or phone message requesting comment. Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project that Abrams founded in 2014, called the GOP measures a backlash “to our multiracial, multilingual progressive majority that is winning elections." Biden beat former President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win a presidential contest in Georgia since 1992. Biden received nearly double the number of absentee votes as Trump in a state that became a major target of Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. Biden's win there was confirmed in three separate counts, including one by hand. "These measures, in our opinion, are not based on any objective, data-driven, evidence-based assessment of the issue but solely with the intention to undermine Black voters and other communities of concern,” said Democratic state Rep. Michael Smith, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Policy Committee. Because Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, at least some form of their proposals are likely to become law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, has called for a photo ID requirement for absentee voting but has yet to back a specific proposal. His office said it was still reviewing the legislation. Republicans are trying to limit ways to vote that have been wildly popular. After states expanded access to mail-in and early voting during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 70% of all ballots cast nationwide came before Election Day. An estimated 108 million people voted by mail, early in person or by dropping off absentee ballots. In Georgia, over 4 million voters cast early or absentee ballots. “They realize if they continue to allow individuals to vote by mail, it is going to be an uphill battle for Republicans to win at the polls and maintain their position,” Democratic state Rep. Debra Bazemore said. At the federal level, Democrats are pushing for a sweeping overhaul of how Americans vote. House Democrats are expected to vote next week on a measure that would establish federal election standards like early voting periods, same-day voter registration and other policies that Republicans have dismissed as federal overreach. And they are expected to introduce another bill to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that had triggered federal scrutiny of election changes in certain states and counties with histories of discrimination. Georgia was among the states that previously had to get approval for voting changes. “If left to their own devices, Republicans will try to limit the ability of minority voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat co-sponsoring the bill on federal election standards. “It's open season on voting rights in Georgia,” he said. ___ Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. ___ Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Anthony Izaguirre And Ben Nadler, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law, Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says the central bank is seeing early signs that people may be purchasing homes solely because they believe prices may go up. Macklem says rising prices in particular for single-family homes are still a long way from the heated market the country observed about five years ago. Fuelling the increase has been a combination of demand for more space as millions of workers do their jobs remotely, constrained supply and rock-bottom interest rates driven low by central bank actions. The bank's key policy rate has been at 0.25 per cent for about 11 months, and its quantitative easing program is trying to reduce the rates paid on things like mortgages to drive spending. Macklem says the central bank is surprised by the rebound in the housing market. He adds there are early signs of what he called "excess exuberance," with people maybe expecting the recent increases in prices to go on indefinitely. "What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolated expectations, when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price increases we've seen recently go on indefinitely," Macklem said during a question-and-answer session with chambers of commerce in Edmonton and Calgary. "We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance, but we're a long way from where we were in 2016-2017 when things were really hot." The central bank plans to keep its key rate low until the economy recovers, expected sometime in 2023, and adjust its bond-buying program over time. Macklem says there is still a need for considerable monetary policy support to generate a complete recovery. In the meantime, the bank will keep an eye on debt levels, as mortgage debt rises as households pay down other debt like credit cards and personal loans, Macklem says. "We are acutely aware that in a world of very low interest rates, there is a risk that housing prices could get stretched, households could get stretched, and certainly that's a risk we want to guard against," Macklem told reporters following the speech. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on Tuesday and agreed to coordinate on efforts to get web giants to pay for news, according to a statement from Ottawa. The two leaders "agreed to continue coordinating efforts to address online harm and ensure the revenues of web giants are shared more fairly with creators and media," a statement detailing the issues discussed in their telephone call said.
TORONTO — Veteran fullback Justin Morrow and centre back Eriq Zavaleta have re-signed with Toronto FC. The signings do not come as a surprise, given both players have been at Toronto's training camp, which opened last week. But they needed new deals after their contracts expired at the end of last season. In keeping the two defenders in the fold, TFC retains experience and continuity. The 33-year-old Morrow is entering his eighth season with the club while the 28-year-old Zavaleta is starting his seventh. Morrow has made 229 appearances for Toronto in all competitions, second only to midfielder Jonathan Osorio (263). Captain Michael Bradley is third (214) on the list. Morrow, a U.S. international who doubles as executive director of Black Players for Change, is respected on and off the field. His new deal covers the 2021 season. "Justin has been a fixture with TFC and it’s great to have him signed," Toronto GM Ali Curtis said in a statement. "His versatility on the field, veteran presence in the locker-room and overall leadership on and off the field have been critical for the club for a long time and we’re thrilled that will continue." Zavaleta adds depth to a defence that lost veteran backup Laurent Ciman since last season. The Indiana native has made 136 appearances in all competitions for TFC. His deal is for one year with an option for the 2022 season. He has served as a backup for first-choice centre backs Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga in recent years. “Eriq is another veteran who’s given a lot to the club,” said Curtis. “This is a big year for Eriq. He comes to the training ground every day ready to work and is a great role model as an all-around professional for our young players.” Zavaleta, originally acquired in a trade with the Seattle Sounders in January 2015, is one of 12 players to have made 100 appearances or more for TFC and currently ranks eighth all-time in club history in appearances. He saw action in five regular-season games in 2020, including three starts. Morrow, joined Toronto in 2014 after four seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes. He was an MLS all-star in 2012 with the Quakes and was named to the MLS Best XI in 2017 when Toronto won the MLS Cup, MLS Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship. Morrow, who has 17 career goals and 19 assists for Toronto, made US$330,000 in 2019, the last year the MLS Players Association released salary figures for. That ranked 11th among TFC players. When healthy, Morrow has been a fixture at left fullback for Toronto with Richie Laryea and Brazil's Auro normally splitting right back duties. Morrow had made it clear he wanted to return to Toronto. "This organization, this city has given me so much as a professional athlete and as a man," he said during the off-season. "And I just want to have a chance to win more trophies here and play in front of our fans again. That is something that I'm desperate for and I know the rest of our team is desperate for." Morrow saw action in 15 of Toronto's 23 regular-season games in 2020 with 11 starts. But he missed most of the stretch drive due to injury. The team finished out the 2020 season playing out of East Hartford, Conn., due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. The club is looking at playing home games in Florida to start the 2021 season, which kicks off April 17. Morrow played collegiate soccer at Notre Dame, appearing in 89 matches over four seasons with the Fighting Irish. San Jose selected him in the second round (28th overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Zavaleta is a former U.S., youth international who began his MLS career with Seattle and Chivas USA after a collegiate career as a forward at Indiana University. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's auditor general says NB Power needs to make reducing its $4.9-billion debt a priority, adding that credit rating agencies are taking notice of the utility's liabilities. Kim Adair-MacPherson tabled two volumes of her annual report Tuesday as she appeared before the legislature's public accounts committee. She said NB Power has the highest debt-to-equity ratio of all government-owned utilities in Canada. "NB Power was financed 94 per cent by debt in 2020," she said. Adair-MacPherson said she has "serious concern" about the utility's repeated failure to meet debt-reduction and income targets. "NB Power has planned major capital projects estimated to cost at least $4 billion, so potentially NB Power's debt could double in the coming years," she told the committee. Those projects include $2.7 billion to $3.7 billion to extend the life of the Mactaquac Dam, $84 million for the Belledune generating station and $93 million for the Coleson Cove generating station. Adair-MacPherson told a virtual news conference later in the day that credit rating agencies are taking notice of the utility's high debt load. "The rating agencies state NB Power as the province's largest contingent risk. Sustainability of NB Power will be a concern whether it's the ratepayer or the taxpayer who ends up footing the bill," she said. Adair-MacPherson said NB Power has reduced debt by an average of $20 million per year since renovations to the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant were completed in 2013. However, she said, the utility would have to reduce debt by $65 million per year to meet its 2027 target. Reducing debt to that extent is possible if management at the utility makes it a priority, she added. Responding to the auditor general Tuesday, NB Power said it takes very seriously its responsibility to operate its facilities "in a safe, reliable and economically sustainable manner." "NB Power remains committed to meeting its mandated debt-to-equity target by 2027," the utility wrote. The utility added that significant portions of its costs remain outside its control, such as fuel prices, electricity market prices and weather. Adair-MacPherson told the committee that NB Power's revenue over the last four years was $195 million less than what the province had expected it to be, adding that inaccurate forecasting by the utility has helped prevent it from reducing debt more quickly. Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said Tuesday that when he was finance minister, NB Power's income forecast was never on target. "There needs to be more focus on financial management and management around the debt," Melanson said. People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said someone needs to be held accountable for NB Power failing to meet its financial targets. Also in her report, the auditor general was critical of the provincial government for failing to address the demand for nursing homes. "In my view, the province is failing to address the nursing home capacity demand. The province is not ready for the increase in seniors requiring placement in a residential facility," she said. Adair-MacPherson said although some capacity has been added, there remains a long wait-list for nursing home placements, which she said is causing pressure on hospitals and increasing costs. "The senior population of New Brunswick aged 75 and older is expected to double over the next 20 years," she said in her report. "Failing to implement nursing home plans and obtain needed services for seniors will result in a crisis." She also took aim at the Health Department's electronic medical records system, which she said has been expensive and adopted by fewer than half the province's doctors. Adair-MacPherson said the government took a hands-off approach to the program's funding and implementation and did not exercise adequate oversight. As a result, she said, the province did not get the intended benefit after spending more than $26 million on the project. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell underscored the U.S. economy's ongoing weakness Tuesday in remarks that suggested that the Fed sees no need to alter its ultra-low interest rate policies anytime soon. “The economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain,” Powell said in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. Powell's comments are in contrast to the increasing optimism among many analysts that the economy will grow rapidly later this year. That outlook has also raised concerns, though, about a potential surge in inflation and has fueled a sharp increase in longer-term interest rates this year. Most economists say they think the Fed’s continued low rates, further government financial aid and progress in combating the viral pandemic could create a mini-economic boom as soon as this summer. Powell acknowledged the potential for a healthier economy. But he stressed the personal hardships caused by the pandemic, especially for unemployed Americans. “As with overall economic activity, the pace of improvement in the labour market has slowed,” Powell said. “Although there has been much progress in the labour market since the spring, millions of Americans remain out of work.” Powell's focus on the economy's challenges reflects his reluctance to send any signal that the Fed is considering pulling back on its efforts to boost economic growth and hiring. The Fed cut its benchmark short-term interest rate to nearly zero last March in response to the pandemic recession. It is also purchasing $120 billion a month in bonds in an effort to hold down longer-term rates. Powell reiterated that those purchases will continue until “substantial progress” has been made toward the Fed's goals of low unemployment and stable inflation at about 2% annually. The economy may improve rapidly later this year, Powell said, "but the job is not done yet, the job is not done.” Powell also downplayed concerns about rising longer-term interest rates and potentially higher inflation, which some analysts worry will result from a burst of spending and growth if the pandemic is brought under control later this year. The Fed chair also refused to endorse or condemn President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, which is beginning to make its way through Congress. When asked by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., if he would “be cool” with Congress approving or voting down Biden's proposal, Powell said, “By either being cool or uncool, I would have to be expressing an opinion. ... which I'm not doing." The divide in Congress in regard to the state of the economy was clearly on display, a key part of the debate over the stimulus. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the committee, spoke of Americans facing eviction, struggling small businesses, and state and local governments that need financial assistance. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., however, noted that 18 states have unemployment rates below 5% and argued that incomes have recovered to pre-pandemic levels. “We are well past the point where our economy is collapsing,” Toomey said. “In fact our economy is growing rapidly ... There's also real danger that we have overheating ... that can lead to inflation.” Powell has previously endorsed government spending in general to offset the impact of the recession. Fed chairs typically avoid commenting on specific legislation. The Fed chair also acknowledged that prices could rise later this year if Americans engage in a burst of spending as the coronavirus comes under control. But Powell emphasized that he doesn't expect sustained price increases. Inflation has been held down for decades by greater international competition, growing online commerce, and other trends that take time to change, he said. In response to a question from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Powell said, "We do expect that inflation will move up. But we don’t expect the effects on inflation will be particularly large or persistent.” Powell's remarks to the Banking Committee are coming on the first of two days of semiannual testimony to Congress that is required by law. On Wednesday, he will testify to the House Financial Services Committee. His testimony comes as the economy is showing gradual improvement in key areas, with manufacturing and retail sales rebounding despite a stagnant job market. Still, the steady rise in interest rates has unsettled the stock market. On Monday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq index tumbled a steep 2.5% as the yield on the 10-year Treasury note surged to nearly 1.37%. At the start of the year, the 10-year yield was below 1%. Powell attributed that increase to optimism about a potential acceleration in growth. “In a way it's a statement of confidence on the part of markets that we will have a robust recovery," Powell said. In response to a question from Toomey, Powell acknowledged that “there is certainly a link” between the Fed's low-interest rate policies and rapid price increases for stocks, homes, and some commodities. But he also attributed much of the price gains that have occurred to rising optimism. For now, interest rates remain, by historical standards, exceedingly low. As recently as the fall of 2018, for example, the 10-year yield briefly topped 3%. But for the past year, the economy and the markets have drawn strength from near-record-low borrowing rates. Many analysts are bullish about the prospects for this year. On Monday, Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America, raised her forecast for growth this year to 6.5%. That would be the strongest calendar year economy growth since 1984. Still, the job market remains essentially stalled, with employers adding an average of just 30,000 jobs a month in the past three months. The economy is about 10 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level. Powell was also asked about the prospects of the Fed creating a digital currency, a move that is gaining steam among other central banks. Powell said the Fed is “looking carefully at whether to issue a digital dollar.” Fed governor Lael Brainard said last year that the central bank has conducted “in-house experiments” on a digital currency, as a complement to cash. Providing a digital dollar would ensure “the public has access to a range of payments options,” she said. Christopher Rugaber And Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Downdetector, an outage tracking website, showed there were close to 26,000 incidents of people reporting issues with LinkedIn. Earlier in the day, LinkedIn said an issue across its platform was causing certain functional requests to take longer or fail unexpectedly and that it was working on a fix. California-based LinkedIn helps employers assess a candidate's suitability for a role and employees use the platform to find new job.
Community advocates assisting folks who are homeless are overjoyed a cold weather shelter has been established in the city of Parksville on Vancouver Island. “It’s just amazing,” said Rev. Christine Muise from OHEART — the Oceanside Homelessness Ecumenical Advocacy Response Team — which is running the new shelter. “It was definitely all boots on the ground last week,” Muise said of the quick, collaborative effort by a number of stakeholders to establish the shelter within a five-day window. BC Housing announced Friday the eight-bed shelter St. Edmund's Anglican Church will run nightly until the end of the winter season on March 31. The shelter, funded by the province, will provide a much-needed warm, safe and secure place to sleep for people who are experiencing homelessness in the community, BC Housing spokesperson Laura Mathews said in an email. “It will provide guests with a clean bed, food, access to a washroom and will ensure people are following pandemic health guidelines, including physical distancing,” Mathews said. OHEART and other community agencies have been calling for a cold weather shelter in Parksville or Qualicum Beach since last March when the previous one at St. Anne’s church was closed because the building wasn’t geared to meet COVID-19 protocols. The new initiative got rolling in earnest on the Family Day long weekend with the help of Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker, BC Housing, the provincial public health service and the Anglican Diocese of Islands and Inlets, said Muise. “It’s pretty exciting that from Sunday to Thursday we went from having no cold weather shelter to one being up and running,” she said. BC Housing had already funded the establishment of 16 temporary beds at a Parksville hotel to shelter vulnerable individuals and prevent the spread of COVID-19, said Muise. But a low-barrier cold weather shelter is still needed to help people who find themselves out in the cold, she added. “The COVID-19 response hotel is not a nightly arrangement,” Muise said. “We have guests that have been there with us since March of last year, so the turnover or the opportunity to help people that are still living rough is limited.” Qualicum Beach town council recently passed a motion to identify a location for a temporary warming centre or cold weather shelter for up to 15 people. The council is expected to vote at its Wednesday meeting about whether to move ahead to locate the facility on land at the Qualicum Beach Airport. The new temporary shelter in Parksville is a good step to establish more permanent resources for the people who are homeless in the region, said Muise. “This will allow us to get things off the ground for the folks that have been living rough and provide them with nurturance, care and hope,” she said. “In the conversations we’ve been having with local, federal and provincial governments, we’ve certainly been discussing what are the next steps to create more long-term permanent structures.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
THUNDER BAY — A new website launched this week features various services and tools to support victims and survivors of local human trafficking, says the co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Thunder Bay has been identified as one of the top six hubs in Ontario for human trafficking says Kristal Carlson, human trafficking youth and transition worker at Thunder Bay Counselling and co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “This crime is rampant in Thunder Bay,” she said Monday, Feb. 22. The website was created to provide victims and survivors of human trafficking with access to free services and to also spread awareness and education in the community about the crime. “The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking created the website to help community members, potential survivors and business people alike to be able to acknowledge, identify and potentially intervene if they should see human trafficking in young peoples’ lives,” Carlson said, adding the crime is often under-reported. For women, only one in 10 will report and for men only one in 20 will report to police, Carlson said. “It is such an under-reported crime so any sex-based crime we know that only six per cent will ever end in conviction so it is really hard to convince people to come forward when there is not the likelihood that something will happen,” she said. And while groups such as the Thunder Bay Coalition To End Human Trafficking exist to support victims of the crime, it is important to note they do not classify themselves as a “rescuing people” group, Carlson said. “We support individuals to move forward when they are ready in the way that is going to best suit them in their current situation,” she said. Last year alone, through various programs across the Coalition more than 60 people were successful in leaving their current situation, Carlson said. The creators of the new website also hope to address misconceptions around human traffickers that are often presented in media and movies. “Human trafficking, more times than not, is somebody being exploited by the person they identify as their boyfriend, their best friend or somebody that they know so that happens in more than 85 per cent of cases,” she said. The other most common form of trafficking is the exploitation of young people by family members, extended family members, caretakers or guardians. “More times than not it’s happening by the person they believe to be their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend,” Carlson said. The website also teaches individuals how to identify signs and risk factors of human trafficking. “We also want to raise the education in the city of Thunder bay because we are identified as one of the top six hubs in the province of Ontario and Ontario makes up two-thirds of all human trafficking that takes place in our country,” Carlson said. Carlson also points out that coming forward doesn’t mean individuals have to report to the police. “The Thunder Bay Police have started to do some really amazing work in being able to meet survivors exactly where they are at and not needing to move forward with charges but to support them for when they are ready to do that if they are ever ready to do that,” she said. “We just want [survivors] to know they are not alone and that there are people to support you no matter where you are, whether you are currently at risk, entrenched, or you looking to exit, there are people here to support you.” For more information, visit Thunder Bay Coalition’s new website by clicking here. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
ROME — The Republic of San Marino finally can start its coronavirus vaccination drive after the first shots arrived Tuesday. But the city-state surrounded by Italy had to resort to its “Plan B” and buy Sputnik V jabs from Russia after plans to get European Union-approved doses from Italy got delayed. A pink and yellow truck escorted by police cars brought the first 7,500 Sputnik V vaccines into San Marino and delivered them at the main hospital. Officials said the Russia-made doses will eventually be enough to vaccinate some 15% of the microstate’s population of around 33,800. San Marino bought Sputnik V shots at the last minute after an agreement to have Italy send a proportion of the vaccines it received through the EU's vaccine procurement system got delayed. San Marino, located near Rimini on the Adriatic coast, isn’t an EU member, and as such was excluded from the deals the 27-nation bloc negotiated with pharmaceutical firms. The San Marino secretary of state, Luca Beccari, said during a news conference last weekend that the negotiations with Italy took a long time and that under an agreement signed Jan. 11, San Marino was to receive one dose for every 1,700 that Italy received from the EU. But the deal hit a snag as Italy and other EU countries faced delivery delays for the three EU-approved vaccines, the ones from: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. Italy has administered some 3.7 million doses. “Unfortunately, the time required to define these procedures and the fact that San Marino is a country that has not yet started its vaccination campaign has forced us to seek alternative solutions,” Beccari said in explaining the Sputnik purchase. “As for all other countries, it is necessary to start the vaccination campaign as soon as possible in order to ensure the safety of its citizens,” he said. The European Medicines Agency has said the developers of Sputnik V recently asked for advice on what data they needed to submit for the vaccine to be licensed across the European Union. Hungarian health authorities have approved both Sputnik V and the vaccine developed by state-owned Chinese company Sinopharm. San Marino has had a proportionately devastating outbreak, with 3,538 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 73 deaths. Roberto Ciavatta, San Marino’s secretary of state for health, said Sputnik V was safe and effective. “It is not that it did not pass any controls. On the contrary, as all the research and data available show, it is a vaccine that is already administered in 30 countries, About 70 million people have been vaccinated with it. It has extremely high safety standards,” he said. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
(Jason Franson/Canadian Press - image credit) Alberta's premier says the province's legal challenge of a federal environmental assessment law is part of a broader fight against what he described as Ottawa's anti-oil policies. "Bill C-69 is part of a series of federal policies that have attacked our vital economic interests that have killed jobs and growth here in Alberta and other parts of Canada," Premier Jason Kenney said during a Tuesday press conference. The province's case against Ottawa's Bill C-69, or the Impact Assessment Act, began on Monday in the Alberta Court of Appeal. Arguments are expected to last all week. The bill, which was given royal assent in 2019, allows the federal government to consider the impacts of new resource projects on issues such as climate change. The bill was heavily amended, with changes that include provisions for taking into account a project's positive impacts and wording that the approval process must safeguard Canada's competitiveness. But the Alberta government claims the bill still unfairly expands the range of federal oversight into provincial jurisdiction — and threatens the certainty required to move major projects forward. Kenney listed shelved projects like the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, and policies like the federal carbon tax, as examples of how it has become harder for the province's oil industry to succeed. He said fighting Ottawa on these issues is part of a promise his government made pre-election. He did not mention the federal government's purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. The province is being supported in its case by the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario. Kenney said, as Alberta's lawyers plan to argue in court this week, that the Constitution gives provinces jurisdiction over exploration, development and management. "This was a condition precedent of Alberta signing the Constitution … this essential power which underscores Alberta's ownership of its resources," he said, while holding up a copy of the Constitution. A wide array of environmental and legal groups are intervening in support of Ottawa's position. David Khan, a lawyer for Ecojustice, which is intervening in support of the legislation, said there is case law demonstrating the environment is a shared jurisdiction. "This is another one of [Kenney's] politically motivated attacks on good laws that defend our air, water and land," Khan told The Canadian Press. Kenney said he expects the timeline for this judgment will be roughly six months. A decision from the Supreme Court of Canada on the province's appeal of the federal carbon tax is expected sometime in March.
FERGUS – The Township of Centre Wellington is seeking public input on design concepts for St. David Street in downtown Fergus. Colin Baker, managing director of infrastructure, said at a Monday meeting that a stretch of St. David Street, from St. Andrew Street to Edinburgh Avenue, is scheduled for a full reconstruction in 2023. He explained the town will be leveraging the province’s connecting links funding, which can cover up to 90 per cent of costs to repair a municipal road that connects two ends of a highway, in this case Highway 6. Beyond that, Baker said the township is taking that opportunity to look at how the road is designed to better meet the needs of the public and complete streets policy from the township’s transportation master plan. This could include widening sidewalks, streetscape visual improvements, reduction in parking spaces, bike lanes or any combination of these. “What we’re really looking at is what the future vision for this road is,” Baker said at the meeting. Council was presented four options for information purposes ahead of the public engagement period. The first option is to match the existing design which would maintain 14 highly used on-street parking spots, maintain the same traffic flow but not improve active transportation or the visual appeal. The second option would increase the sidewalk width which would provide a better visual look with new trees and lighting and increase vehicle width but all parking spots would be removed. Option three would keep on-street parking between St. Andrew and St. Patrick and then widen the sidewalk north of these streets bringing the benefits of both. Option four suggests separated cycling lanes from St. Andrew to Hill Street and an unseparated bike lane for the rest of the stretch. This would mean a reduction to four parking spaces and vehicle lane width. Adam Gilmore, manager of engineering, said option four is in-line with their complete streets policy and cycling lanes are justified given the average daily traffic volumes. Gilmore said, as noted in other municipalities, narrower lanes can have a traffic calming effect. Baker explained the next steps are to get these concepts out for public input through advisory committees, a landing page on connectCW, advertising and meetings with the Ministry of Transportation. They will then take the feedback and come to council with a recommendation at a later date. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
The province prepares to open mass clinics while doing more in-depth testing for worrying variants. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is expanding its pool of immunizers to include dentists, midwives and paramedics before 172 sites open up to eventually offer a vaccine to everyone aged 18 and up.
It's 91 per cent bigger than before.
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19 today. Officials say all of the new infections involve people in the eastern health region, where an outbreak has been spreading through the metro St. John’s area. Authorities say 50 people have recovered from the virus since Monday, leaving 372 active reported cases of COVID-19 across the province. Newfoundland and Labrador's active infection rate is now 71 cases per 100,000 people. Five people are in hospital because of the disease, and officials say two of those people are in intensive care. Public health says the outbreak in the St. John's region was traced to the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom, and the province has been in lockdown since Feb. 12. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Kate Dubinski/CBC News - image credit) Beginning March 1, second dose COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Yellowknife will be open to residents who received their first dose between Jan. 23 and 30. In a Tuesday email to media, the N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority said it added appointments to the Yellowknife vaccine clinic to include this group. Until now, second doses had only been available to people who had received their dose between Jan. 7 and 22. "This now means that [Yellowknife] vaccination appointments are open to anyone who got their first shot before Jan. 30th and priority groups," the email said. The health authority is asking residents to book their appointment online and if they're unable to do so, they can call public health at 767-9120. Clinics schedule in remote communities finalized The email also said the health authority finalized a schedule for vaccine clinics in all of the territory's communities. The latest vaccine clinics in communities outside of Yellowknife are open to residents who are getting their second dose and to any resident who is 18 and older wishing to get their first dose. The communities that were included in the schedule Tuesday are: Fort Resolution, on March 4 and 5; Fort Liard, on March 4, 5 and 6 at the community hall; Norman Wells, on March 2, 3 and 4; Fort Good Hope, on March 8 and 9. "If anything changes it will be documented in it in the update notes," read the email. "[T]his ... should allow all residents who received a first dose to plan for their second and many residents in remote communities to get a second chance at a first dose."
Facebook Inc's oversight board has received a "user statement" for the case it is deciding about whether the social media company was right to indefinitely suspend former President Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts, a board spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday. Facebook handed the case to its independent board in January after it blocked Trump's access to his accounts over concerns of further violent unrest following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by the former president’s supporters. The board's process gave administrators of Trump's page the option to submit a statement challenging Facebook's decision.
Golf champion Tiger Woods was hospitalized in Los Angeles on Tuesday with severe leg injuries suffered when his car careened off a road and rolled down a hillside, requiring rescue crews to pry him from the crash wreckage, authorities said. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference, adding Woods was conscious and "able to communicate" when rescue personnel arrived. The sheriff said there was no evidence of driver impairment when Woods was assessed by emergency workers at the scene, and no blood samples were drawn by investigators after he was rushed by ambulance to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.