Tuesday, January 5, 2021, Mayor Stasiuk called the Town of Langenburg council meeting to order at 7:30 P.M. with all members present. The council reviewed the agenda before Councillor Sicinski made a motion to accept; the motion carried. Next, the council reviewed the minutes from the last council meeting. Following a short discussion, Councillor Popp made a motion to accept the minutes as amended; motion carried. With no business arising from the minutes, the council reviewed the town’s accounts next. Administrator Lemcke explained a few of the charges to the council before Councillor Hunt made a motion to accept the town’s accounts; motion carried. Bank reconciliation was next to be reviewed. Councillor Popp explained the bank reconciliation to the council before making a motion to accept; the motion carried. Councillor Popp explained the financial summary to the rest of the council. Councillor Hunt made a motion to accept the summary which was carried. The council next heard Town of Langenburg Foreman Dave Tucker give his report regarding the happening of the town maintenance staff. Councillor Hunt made a motion to purchase $1500 of hand tools; motion carried. Councillor Farmer made a motion to accept the report which was carried. Economic Development Officer (EDO) Lina Petkeviciene was next to give her report to the council. She discussed the construction of the proposed washroom at the rest stop as well as the banners being looked at by the EDO and council. Administrator Lemcke was next to give her report, starting with Councillor emails to be assigned to the tablet used by the councillors. Councillor Hunt made a motion to go to a town domain for council and town employees; motion carried. Councillor Hunt made a motion to pay Karlis VanCaeseele’s certification to run the water plant in case of an emergency basis; motion carried. The council next reviewed the correspondence received by the town over the last two weeks. Councillor Sicinski made a motion to file the correspondence which was carried. The meeting was adjourned by Councillor Sicinski. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
As we all know the federal and provincial governments have quickly passed a vaccine to combat COVID-19. One selected vaccine type will be the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but what do we know about this vaccine? Traditionally, vaccines take years to develop, test and finally be approved by Health Canada to be used as a vaccine. They usually undergo lab testing, tests on animals then finally human trials to determine the effectiveness and possible adverse side effects long before it is used in the general population. Lack of testing can bring a lack of public confidence in the safety and protection the vaccine is giving, but with COVID-19 the world has pushed for a vaccine and the vaccine companies feel confident that they have produced a vaccine safe for human use as well as protection against the virus. Health Canada authorized the vaccine with conditions on December 9, 2020, under the Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19. About the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (Tozinameran or BNT162b2) is used to prevent COVID-19. This disease is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The vaccine is approved for people who are 16 years of age and older. Its safety and effectiveness in people younger than 16 years of age have not yet been established. How it works mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. Once triggered, our body then makes antibodies. These antibodies help us fight the infection if the real virus does enter our body in the future. ‘RNA’ stands for ribonucleic acid, which is a molecule that provides cells with instructions for making proteins. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines contain the genetic instructions for making the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. When a person is given the vaccine, their cells will read the genetic instructions like a recipe and produce the spike protein. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. The cell then displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune system recognizes that the protein doesn’t belong there and begins building an immune response and making antibodies. The side effects that followed vaccine administration in clinical trials were mild or moderate. They included things like pain at the site of injection, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish. These are common side effects of vaccines and do not pose a risk to health. As with all vaccines, there’s a chance that there will be a serious side effect, but these are rare. A serious side effect might be something like an allergic reaction. Speak with your health professional about any serious allergies or other health conditions you may have before you receive this vaccine. Health Canada has conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. No major safety concerns have been identified in the data that they reviewed. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
Brazil's government will not seek to bar Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from 5G network auctions slated for June this year, newspaper Estado de S. Paulo reported on Saturday, citing government and industry sources. Financial costs potentially worth billions of dollars and the exit of ally President Donald Trump from the White House are forcing President Jair Bolsonaro to backtrack on his opposition to Huawei bidding to provide the next generation cellular network for carriers in Brazil, the paper said.
If you’re slicing into a sizzling steak for dinner tonight, or getting a spoonful of lamb stew, then you have a farmer and butcher to thank. They are the silent, often underappreciated heroes of the food industry, and they are facing massive challenges amid the pandemic. “We feel that people don’t understand us,” said Craig McLaughlin, owner of a medium-sized beef farm in Renfrew County. “It would be so helpful if people understand what we are up against,” echoed Angie Hoysted, co-owner of Valley Custom Cutting, a provincial free-standing meat plant and full-service butcher shop in Smiths Falls. So what exactly are they up against? Bill Dobson, who owns an organic beef farm in Smiths Falls, said one of the biggest challenges local producers have is a lack of infrastructure for processing. “There’s not enough abattoirs (slaughterhouse for livestock),” Dobson said. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website listed a total of 115 abattoirs in the province, and 360 free-standing meat processing plants (FSMP). FSMPs do not slaughter animals. They conduct further processing activities such as the aging, boning, cutting, slicing, smoking, curing and fermenting of meat. Once the animal carcass has been brought back from the abattoirs, the challenge is that there aren’t enough butchers (or FSMPs) to cut and process the meat. “There’s just not enough people getting into that business. We have to encourage (the) government to open up spaces in community colleges and encourage people to go into that field,” Dobson said. Hoysted’s husband Dan was head butcher at an abattoir when it closed unexpectedly. The beef producers in the area – who knew him and trusted his skills – expressed their need for a reliable butcher, so Dan and Angie opened a shop in 2016. Hoysted said farmers invest two years of raising and taking care of livestock, so they’re not just “going take it to a random butcher to cut it. You don’t get a good yield, the cuts you want or your packages professionally done.” Not only do farmers book months in advance for an abattoir, they also have to schedule for butchers, typically a six-month wait. “Once the pandemic hit, spaces booked up at the abattoir. I used to be able to book slaughter space in a month or two; now it’s at least six months,” said Tyler Armstrong, a sheep farmer who owns Pinnacle Haven Farm in Renfrew. “Now I book before the lamb’s even born,” Armstrong said, adding that this issue is not unique to this area – it’s an Ontario-wide issue. McLaughlin said this poses a huge problem: “If I have cattle ready (for the abattoir), and they have no place to go, you have to maintain them. You can’t put them in a storage locker. They require daily care and (it) costs me more.” Another challenge is labour shortage. If a farmer or a butcher gets sick, there’s not a ready source of labour they can avail themselves of quickly. “You might find an able body, but they’ve never worked with livestock before, or trained in specific skills to operate specific equipment,” McLaughlin said. “If we got sick, we have to go home, and everything in our cooler will be garbage by the time we reopen,” Hoysted said about the meat products they sell. “We’re one of the youngest people owning a provincial processing plant in this part of Ontario. Everyone else is older. What’s going to happen in five to 10 years when they retire? You’re going to have a major, major issue,” Hoysted said. Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News
Three European powers on Saturday warned Iran against starting work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, saying it contravened the 2015 nuclear deal and had serious military implications. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, and Tehran said on Wednesday that Iran had started the work, the latest breach of its agreement with six major powers as it presses for a lifting of U.S. sanctions. "We strongly encourage Iran to end this activity, and return to full compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without delay, if it is serious about preserving this agreement," France, Britain and Germany said in a joint statement.
IQALUIT — A sliver of orange rose over Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier this week, tinting the sky pink and the snow a purple hue. The sun washed over the frozen tundra and sparkling sea ice for an hour — and was gone. Monday marked the return of the sun in the Arctic community of about 1,700 after six weeks of darkness, but an overcast sky that day meant the light couldn't get through. Pamela Gross, Cambridge Bay's mayor, said the town gathered two days later, on a clear day, to celebrate. Gross, along with elders and residents, rushed down to the shore as the darkness broke around 10 a.m. "It was joyous. It's such a special feeling to see it come back," Gross said. Elders Mary Akariuk Kaotalok and Bessie Pihoak Omilgoetok, both in their 80s, were there. As Omilgoetok saw the sun rise, she was reminded of a tradition her grandparents taught her. Each person takes a drink of water to welcome and honour the sun, then throws the water toward it to ensure it returns the following year. Gross filled some Styrofoam cups with water and, after taking a sip, tossed the rest at the orange sky behind her. "I didn’t know about that tradition before. We learned about it through her memory being sparked through watching the sun rise." Although the sun's return was a happy moment, the past year was especially difficult for the community, Gross said. She wouldn't elaborate. "Being such a small community, people really know each other, so we feel community tragedies together. There were a few that we’ve gone though this year," she said. Gross said restrictions on gatherings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant losses in the community felt even more heavy. "It made it extra challenging to be close as a community ... and for your loves ones if they’re going through a hard time." Getting the sun back helps. "It's hard mentally to have a lack of sun, but the feeling of not having it for so long and seeing it return is so special. You can tell it uplifts everyone." The return of the sun is celebrated in communities across Nunavut. Igloolik, off northern Baffin Island, will see the sun return this weekend. But the community of about 1,600 postponed its annual return ceremony to March because of limits on gathering sizes during the pandemic. In the territory's more northern areas, the sun slips away day by day in the fall, then disappears for months at a time. Grise Fiord, the most northern community in Nunavut, loses sun from November to mid-February. But in the summer, the sun stays up 24 hours a day. Now that the sun has returned in Cambridge Bay, the community will gain 20 more minutes of light as each day passes. “The seasons are so drastic. It really gives you a sense of endurance knowing that you can get through challenging times," Gross said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021. ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News fellowship Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press
COVID-19. Suite à une discussion avec la Santé publique et en accord avec les représentants des partis, le président de l'Assemblée nationale, François Paradis, indique que les séances des commissions parlementaires prévues pour les deux prochaines semaines seront virtuelles. Les auditions se dérouleront donc à distance pour les témoins et les députés impliqués dans les auditions publiques des projets de loi sur la modernisation du régime de santé et de sécurité du travail, l'Institut de technologie agroalimentaire du Québec et celui sur l’aide aux personnes victimes d'infractions criminelles. Les études détaillées des autres projets de loi qui étaient prévues pour les deux prochaines semaines sont quant à elles annulées. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
The Brazilian jungle state of Amazonas received more emergency supplies of oxygen and respirators on Saturday, as the military and neighboring Venezuela scrambled to alleviate an unfolding humanitarian crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Air Force also said it had evacuated 12 patients from hospitals in the state capital Manaus to the northern city of Sao Luis overnight, with hospitals at breaking point with no oxygen supplies and overflowing intensive care wards. Mass graves were dug in Manaus during the first wave of the pandemic last year.
TRAVAIL. Selon la Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), après la gestion de la pandémie en 2020, les négociations dans le secteur public seront le gros défi que le gouvernement devra relever en 2021. «La Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) compte d'ailleurs rappeler au premier ministre, François Legault, qu'il est maintenant plus que temps qu'il fasse un choix pour le Québec, le choix de bien traiter celles et ceux qui préparent l'avenir des élèves et des étudiants et qui prennent soin des personnes malades et souffrantes», a déclaré Sonia Ethier, la présidente de l’organisation syndicale qui représente plus de 200 000 membres, dont environ 125 000 font partie du personnel de l'éducation. «La pandémie a mis en lumière l'état important de désorganisation dans lequel se trouve notre réseau de santé à la suite des coupes et des compressions des dernières années. La situation n'est guère mieux dans les réseaux de l'éducation et de l'enseignement supérieur où les mauvaises conditions de travail mettent en péril la capacité de l'État à garantir les services à la population. Après la crise sanitaire, il y a une véritable crise des conditions de travail que le gouvernement ne pourra régler qu'en mettant fin à l'exploitation éhontée des travailleuses et travailleurs du secteur public, qui a trop duré», explique Sonia Ethier. La CSQ poursuivra d'ailleurs la mobilisation de ses membres, enclenchée en 2020, qui devrait se traduire par l'adoption de mandats de grève dans l'ensemble des syndicats d'ici la fin du mois de janvier. «Le ras-le-bol et la colère sont généralisés chez nos 125 000 membres du secteur public, et cela se traduit par d'importants appuis à la grève», ajoute-t-elle. Qualité de l'air et vaccination À l’occasion d’une conférence de presse virtuelle tenue le 10 janvier, la présidente de la CSQ est également revenue sur la question de la qualité de l’air dans les écoles. Ayant écouté attentivement les propos du ministre Jean-François Roberge à ce sujet, Sonia Ethier l'invite à ne pas écarter trop rapidement le recours à des purificateurs d'air dans les classes où les normes ne sont pas satisfaisantes. «Le ministre semble dire que leur présence dans les classes et le bruit que ces appareils produisent seraient dérangeants pour la concentration des élèves. Je pense qu'il saute un peu trop vite aux conclusions et qu'il met en doute trop facilement le bon jugement du personnel pour ce qui est de choisir le meilleur emplacement pour ces purificateurs. Rappelons-nous qu'il n'y a pas si longtemps, le ministre doutait de la nécessité de porter des masques en classe, alors que son point de vue a changé depuis. La question des purificateurs d'air mérite sans nul doute d'être plus réfléchie également», met en garde la leader syndicale. Pour ce qui est de la question de la vaccination du personnel du réseau scolaire et du réseau de l'enseignement supérieur, la décision d'inclure les enseignants ainsi que les éducatrices des services à la petite enfance parmi les groupes prioritaires pour la vaccination est une bonne nouvelle pour la CSQ. «Cependant, nous pressons le gouvernement et l'Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) d'inclure tous les personnels de l'éducation dans ces groupes prioritaires, c'est-à-dire d'ajouter aussi le personnel de soutien ainsi que le personnel professionnel. En effet, ces travailleuses et ces travailleurs ne sont pas moins à risque que leurs collègues de l'enseignement», indique Sonia Ethier. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
WASHINGTON — When Joe Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday outside a wounded U.S. Capitol, he will begin reshaping the office of the presidency itself as he sets out to lead a bitterly divided nation struggling with a devastating pandemic and an insurrection meant to stop his ascension to power. Biden had campaigned as a rebuke to President Donald Trump, a singular figure whose political power was fueled by discord and grievance. The Democrat framed his election as one to “heal the soul” of the nation and repair the presidency, restoring the White House image as a symbol of stability and credibility. In ways big and small, Biden will look to change the office he will soon inhabit. Incendiary tweets are out, wonky policy briefings are in. Biden, as much an institutionalist as Trump has been a disruptor, will look to change the tone and priorities of the office. “It really is about restoring some dignity to the office, about picking truth over lies, unity over division,” Biden said soon after he launched his campaign. “It’s about who we are.” The White House is about 2 miles up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol, where broken windows, heavy fortifications and hundreds of National Guard members provide a visible reminder of the power of a president’s words. Trump's supporters left a Jan. 6 rally by the president near the White House to commit violence in his name at the Capitol, laying siege to the citadel of democracy and underscoring the herculean task Biden faces in trying to heal the nation’s searing divisions. Few presidents have taken on the job having thought more about the mark he wants to make on it than Biden. He has spent more than 40 years in Washington and captured the White House after two previous failed attempts. He frequently praises his former boss, President Barack Obama, as an example of how to lead during crisis. “Biden’s main task is going to be need to be to reestablish the symbol of the White House to the world as a place of integrity and good governance. Because right now everything is in disarray,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “But Biden is uniquely situated to do this, his whole life has been spent in Washington and he spent eight years watching the job up close.” The changes will be sweeping, starting with the president's approach to the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed nearly 400,000 American lives. The sharp break from Trump won’t just come in federal policy, but in personal conduct. Trump flouted the virus, his staff largely eschewing masks in the warren of cramped West Wing offices while the president hosted “superspreader” events at the White House and on the road. Biden’s team is considering having many staffers work from home; those who do enter the building will wear masks. Biden has already been vaccinated, something Trump, who got the virus last fall, has chosen not to do despite suggestions that it would set an example for the nation. Biden’s approach to the day-to-day responsibilities of the office will also be a break from his predecessor. For one, Twitter won't be a principal source of news. Trump’s trail of tweets has roiled the capital for four years. Across Washington, phones would buzz with alerts anytime the president used his most potent political weapon to attack Democrats and keep Republicans in line. Biden’s tweets tend to be bland news releases and policy details with the occasional “Here’s the deal, folks” thrown in for good measure. Allied lawmakers are unlikely to have to pretend not to have seen the latest posting in order to avoid commenting on it. Biden has said he wants Americans to view the president as a role model again; no more coarse and demeaning language or racist, divisive rhetoric. His team has promised to restore daily news briefings and the president-elect does not refer to the press as “the enemy of the people.” But it remains to be seen whether he will be as accessible as Trump, who until his postelection hibernation, took more questions from reporters than any of his recent predecessors. While Trump filled out much of his Cabinet and White House staff with relatives, political neophytes and newcomers to government, Biden has turned to seasoned hands, bringing in Obama administration veterans and career officials. Policy papers will be back in vogue and governing by cable chyron likely out. Trump was mostly indifferent to the machinations of Congress, at times appearing to be an observer of his own administration. Biden, a longtime senator who will have Democratic control of both houses, is positioned to use the weight of his office to push an ambitious legislative agenda. His team will be tested, though, by the tumult at home: a virus that is killing more than 4,000 people a day, a sluggish vaccination distribution program, a worsening economy and contention over the upcoming second impeachment trial for Trump. Biden also has as much work ahead repairing the image of the presidency overseas as he does on American shores. Trump repositioned the United States in the world, pulling the U.S. out of a number of multilateral trade deals and climate agreements in favour of a more insular foreign policy. His ever-shifting beliefs and moods strained relations with some of the nation’s oldest allies, including much of Western Europe. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, Trump fostered competition, not co-operation, on research and vaccine development. Trump also abandoned the tradition role the president plays in shining a light on human rights abuses around the world. Biden, who spent years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had a vast foreign policy portfolio as vice-president, has pledged a course correction. He has promised to repair alliances, rejoin the Paris climate treaty and the World Health Organization and said he would shore up U.S. national security by first addressing health, economic and political crises at home. Offering the White House as a symbol of stability to global capitals won’t be easy for Biden as Trump’s shadow looms. “He has a structural problem and needs to make the U.S. seem more reliable. We’re diminished in stature and less predictable,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that even after Biden’s win, the European Union bolstered ties to China with a new investment treaty. “Everyone around the world is hedging, they have no idea if Biden’s a one-term president or what could come after him,” Haass said. “There is a fear across the world that Trump or Trumpism could return in four years.” ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
The body of an unknown man was discovered Friday afternoon along a shoreline in southwest Nova Scotia — an area that has several recent missing persons cases. Nova Scotia RCMP are working with the provincial medical examiner to identify the remains and determine the cause of death. In a news release Saturday morning, RCMP say a man found the body near the water's edge around 1:30 p.m. Friday and called 911. The discovery happened near Central Grove on Long Island. At the time of the body's discovery, seven men were missing in that part of the province in three recent, separate cases. Five crew members of the scallop dragger Chief William Saulis have been missing since their vessel sank in the Bay of Fundy last month, 20-year-old Zachary Lefave was last seen walking home from a party in Yarmouth County on New Year's Eve, and the search for 69-year-old Kenneth Surette, who was last seen canoeing in Yarmouth County last weekend, was just turned into a missing persons case on Wednesday. "The outcome is dependent on the identification, and that could take a while," said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce in an interview. "So for us to speculate as to which one of the missing or somebody else would not be wise for us to do or helpful to anybody." Still, Joyce said RCMP notified family members of all the recently missing men about the discovery. Less than 24 hours later, another body was found in the water off Yarmouth County — that of Surette, the missing canoeist. MORE TOP STORIES
Pavel Zelensky, a member of the Anti-Corruption Foundation team of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, was jailed by a Moscow court on Saturday until Feb. 28 on charges of inciting extremism on the internet, according to a court statement. His detention by the Presnensky District Court comes a day before Navalny's planned return to Russia since being poisoned in August and evacuated to Germany where he has been recuperating. Zelensky is a camera operator for the opposition leader's Anti-Corruption Foundation, which specialises in publishing high-impact investigations into what it says is official graft.
Denmark on Saturday found its first case of a more contagious coronavirus variant from South Africa, and saw a rise in the number of infections with the highly transmissible B117 variant first identified in Britain, health authorities said. The Nordic country extended a lockdown for three weeks on Wednesday in a bid to curtail the spread of the new variant from Britain, which authorities expect to be the dominant one by mid-February. Denmark has become a front-runner in monitoring coronavirus mutations by running most positive tests through genome sequencing analysis.
Thousands of genomic sequences have been identified from the original strain of the novel coronavirus. Depending on the rate of transmission and efforts to curb infections, the variant will either die out or dominate. Crystal Goomansingh explains how researchers are tracking the virus as it evolves.
With the new year here, many are starting to think of tax season which is just around the corner. This year, with the uncertain financial standing Canada and the world, is in with COVID-19 still breathing down our throats, it is helpful to hear of tax credits being offered by the government. Recently, Deputy Premier and Finance minister Donna Harpauer came forward with a few tax credits the Sask Party is offering, “We are pleased to resume the indexation of income tax brackets and tax credit amounts in 2021….. Indexation protects Saskatchewan taxpayers from bracket creep, and helps keep the tax system fair, competitive and affordable.” All Saskatchewan income tax brackets and tax credit amounts will once again be indexed in 2021, this will save taxpayers an estimated $15 million. The level of indexation in 2021 will be 1.0 percent, matching the national rate of inflation. “Restarting the Active Families Benefit to make children’s activities more affordable was a key election commitment of our government,” Harpauer said. “As promised, the Active Families Benefit will provide a non-refundable tax credit of $150 per year per child to eligible families. Families of children with a disability will receive an additional $50, for a total tax credit of $200 per year per child.” Families with children enrolled in sports, arts and cultural activities will also be able to claim the Active Families Benefit once again on their 2021 taxes, the restarting of the Active Families Benefit will be part of the 2021-22 Budget which will be retroactive to January 1, 2021. Parents who enroll their children in sports, arts and cultural activities in the new year are therefore reminded to keep their receipts so they may claim the benefit with their 2021 tax filings. Saskatchewan residents who are planning to renovate their homes may also be able to claim the recently announced Saskatchewan Home Renovation Tax Credit. Under this non-refundable tax credit, Saskatchewan homeowners can save up to $1,155 in provincial income tax in 2021 if they claim a 10.5 percent tax credit on up to $11,000 of eligible home renovation expenses incurred between October 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. A further $945 in savings may be claimed in 2022 in respect of eligible expenses incurred between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022. Eligible expenses include the cost of permits, contractor labour and professional services, building materials, fixtures, and equipment rentals. Tax Credits are always helpful to see as tax season approaches. It is always a good idea to check with your local accountant, or better yet hire a local account, as they are always on top of any tax credit you may be eligible for. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party on Saturday chose Armin Laschet, the pragmatic governor of Germany’s most populous state, as its new leader — sending a signal of continuity months before an election in which voters will decide who becomes the new chancellor. Laschet will have to build unity in the Christian Democratic Union, Germany's strongest party, after beating more conservative rival Friedrich Merz. And he will need to plunge straight into an electoral marathon that culminates with the Sept. 26 national vote. Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the centre-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s Sept. 26 election, but Laschet will either run himself or have a big say in who does. He didn't address his plans at Saturday's party convention. Laschet, 59, was elected in 2017 as governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, a traditionally centre-left stronghold. He governs the region in a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats, the CDU’s traditional ally, but would likely be able to work smoothly with a more liberal partner, too. Current polls point to the environmentalist Greens as a likely key to power in the election. Laschet pointed Saturday to the value of continuity and moderation, and cited the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump as an example of where polarization can lead. “Trust is what keeps us going and what has been broken in America,” he told delegates before the vote. “By polarizing, sowing discord and distrust, and systematically lying, a president has destroyed stability and trust.” “We must speak clearly but not polarize,” Laschet said. “We must be able to integrate, hold society together.” He said that the party needs “the continuity of success” and “we will only win if we remain strong in the middle of society.” Laschet said that “there are many people who, above all, find Angela Merkel good and only after that the CDU.” He added that ”we need this trust now as a party” and that “we must work for this trust.” Laschet beat Merz, a former rival of Merkel who was making his second attempt in recent years to win the CDU leadership, by 521 votes to 466. A third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting. Merz's sizeable support suggests that a strong contingent would like a sharper conservative profile after the Merkel years. Merkel has led Germany since 2005 but said over two years ago that she wouldn't seek a fifth term as chancellor. Merkel, 66, has enjoyed enduring popularity with voters as she steered Germany and Europe through a series of crises. But she repeatedly abandoned orthodox conservative policies, for example by accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and ending military conscription. Her decision in 2015 to allow in large numbers of migrants caused major tensions on the centre-right and strengthened the far-right Alternative for Germany party. Saturday's vote ends a nearly year-long limbo in Germany’s strongest party since outgoing leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who narrowly beat Merz in 2018 to succeed Merkel as CDU leader but failed to impose her authority, announced her resignation. A vote on her successor was delayed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic. Laschet called for unity after Saturday's vote and said Merz remains “an important personality for us.” “All the questions that will face us after the pandemic need a broad consensus in our party,” he said. “And we will need this consensus for all the elections that are ahead of us, too. Everyone will be against us.” Laschet, a miner's son who served as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2005, shouldn't expect much of a honeymoon in his new job. In addition to the national election, Germany is holding six state elections this year, the first two in mid-March. And at some point, he will confer with allies in Bavaria on who runs for chancellor. The CDU is part of the Union bloc along with its sister party, the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, and the two parties will decide together on the candidate. The Union currently has a healthy poll lead, helped by positive reviews of Merkel’s handling of the pandemic. CSU leader Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria, is widely considered a potential candidate after gaining in political stature during the pandemic. Some also consider Health Minister Jens Spahn, who supported Laschet and was elected as one of his deputies, a possible contender. Polls have shown Soeder’s ratings outstripping those of Saturday’s CDU candidates. Laschet has garnered mixed reviews in the pandemic, particularly as a vocal advocate of loosening restrictions after last year’s first phase. “It's very good that a year-long discussion process is over,” Soeder said. “I am sure that Armin Laschet and I will find a joint, wise and united solution to all other pending questions.” Saturday’s result will now be officially endorsed in a postal ballot. That is expected to be a formality but is required by German law. Geir Moulson, The Associated Press
ÉDUCATION. Dans la foulée des nouvelles restrictions sanitaires annoncées par le gouvernement du Québec, la ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur, Danielle McCann, confirme le maintien des mesures déjà en place depuis l'automne dans la plupart des établissements d'enseignement supérieur. Cette décision vise à éviter la propagation du virus sur les différents campus et à assurer la sécurité des étudiants et du personnel. «Au cours des derniers mois, les étudiantes et étudiants ainsi que tout le personnel des réseaux de l'enseignement supérieur ont fait preuve d'une résilience exceptionnelle et exemplaire. Il faut le souligner, les mesures sanitaires mises en place pour freiner l'élan du virus dans nos établissements ont grandement affecté le quotidien des étudiants. Je sais que c'est encore un effort important que nous leur demandons, mais je compte sur la mobilisation de tous les acteurs des cégeps, collèges privés et universités pour que la prochaine session se déroule avec succès», souligne Danielle McCann, ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur. Pour la session d'hiver, il a donc été demandé aux cégeps, collèges privés et universités d'offrir un maximum d'activités d'enseignement à distance à leur communauté étudiante respective. Les étudiants dont la présence est essentielle à l'acquisition ou à l'évaluation des connaissances pourront se rendre physiquement sur le campus. En ce sens, les stages ainsi que les activités de recherche et de laboratoire seront maintenus. Les bibliothèques demeureront ouvertes uniquement pour permettre l'utilisation du comptoir de prêts et des espaces de travail individuels. Les services de soutien psychologiques sur le campus demeureront également accessibles. Notons que le couvre-feu devra être observé sur tous les campus du Québec. Par contre, les étudiants et le personnel qui doivent recevoir ou offrir des services éducatifs dans une école reconnue pourront le faire s'ils sont en mesure de fournir une pièce justificative comme une carte étudiante valide, une copie de l'horaire, une confirmation d'inscription ou une lettre de l'employeur. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
The second batch of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrived in Argentina on Saturday, allowing the South American country to apply the second part of the two-dose program aimed at inoculating front-line health workers. More doses are expected to arrive in Argentina later this month and in February. Paraguay this week became the eighth country outside Russia to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute.
MAMUJU, Indonesia — Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and lack of heavy equipment on Saturday hampered rescuers after a strong earthquake left at least 49 people dead and hundreds injured on Indonesia's Sulawesi island. Operations were focused on about eight locations in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju, where people were still believed trapped following the magnitude 6.2 quake that struck early Friday, said Saidar Rahmanjaya, who heads the local search and rescue agency. Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta landed late Friday for distribution in temporary shelters. Still, thousands of people spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks and a possible tsunami. The National Search and Rescue Agency's operations director, Bambang Suryo Aji, said rescuers recovered three more bodies in the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings in Mamuju late Saturday, raising the death toll to 49. A total of 40 people were killed in Mamuju, while nine bodies were retrieved in neighbouring Majene district. At least 415 houses in Majene were damaged and about 15,000 people were moved to shelters, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati. Bodies retrieved by rescuers were sent to a police hospital for identification by relatives, said West Sulawesi police spokesperson Syamsu Ridwan. He said more than 200 people were receiving treatment at the Bhayangkara police hospital and several others in Mamuju alone. Another 630 were injured in Majene. Among those pulled alive was a young girl who was stuck in the wreckage of a house with her sister. The girl was seen in video released by the disaster agency Friday crying for help. She was being treated in a hospital. She identified herself as Angel and said that her sister, Catherine, who did not appear in the video, was beside her under the rubble and was still breathing. The fate of Catherine and other family members was unclear. The quake set off landslides in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to Majene. Power and phone lines were down in many areas. Mamuju, the capital of West Sulawesi province with nearly 75,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. A governor office building was almost flattened by the quake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge collapsed and patients with drips laid on folding beds under tarpaulin tents outside one of the damaged hospitals. Two hospitals in the city were damaged and others were overwhelmed. Many survivors said that aid had not reached them yet due to damaged roads and disrupted communications. Video from a TV station showed villagers in Majene, some carrying machetes, forcibly stopping vehicles carrying aid. They climbed onto a truck and threw boxes of instant noodles and other supplies at dozens of people who were scrambling to get them. Two ships headed to the devastated areas from the nearby cities of Makassar and Balikpapan with rescuers and equipment, including excavators. State-owned firm AirNav Indonesia, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the quake did not cause significant damage to the Mamuju airport runway or control tower. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Friday that he instructed his Cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to co-ordinate the response. In a telegram sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis, the pontiff expressed “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster.” The pope was praying for “the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve.” Francis also offered encouragement to those continuing search and rescue effects, and he invoked “the divine blessings of strength and hope.” International humanitarian missions including the Water Mission, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross said in statements that they have joined in efforts to provide relief for people in need. On Thursday, a magnitude 5.7 undersea quake hit the same region, damaging several homes but causing no apparent casualties. It was followed by more than 30 aftershocks, including the deadly quake. Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground. A massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. ___ Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia. Niniek Karmini And Yusuf Wahil, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China on Saturday finished building a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients to fight a surge in infections the government said are harder to contain and that it blamed on infected people or goods from abroad. The hospital is one of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong, south of Beijing in Hebei province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. China had largely contained the coronavirus that first was detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has suffered a surge of cases since December. A total of 645 people are being treated in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, Xinhua said. A 3,000-room hospital is under construction in Shijiazhuang. Virus clusters also have been found in Beijing and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Liaoning in the northeast and Sichuan in the southwest. The latest infections spread unusually fast, the National Health Commission said. “It is harder to handle,” a Commission statement said. “Community transmission already has happened when the epidemic is found, so it is difficult to prevent.” The Commission blamed the latest cases on people or goods arriving from abroad. It blamed “abnormal management” and “inadequate protection of workers” involved in imports but gave no details. “They are all imported from abroad. It was caused by entry personnel or contaminated cold chain imported goods,” said the statement. The Chinese government has suggested the disease might have originated abroad and publicized what it says is the discovery of the virus on imported food, mostly frozen fish, though foreign scientists are skeptical. Also Saturday, the city government of Beijing said travellers arriving in the Chinese capital from abroad would be required to undergo an additional week of “medical monitoring” after a 14-day quarantine but gave no details. Nationwide, the Health Commission reported 130 new confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Friday. It said 90 of those were in Hebei. On Saturday, the Hebei government reported 32 additional cases since midnight, the Shanghai news outlet The Paper reported. In Shijiazhuang, authorities have finished construction of 1,000 rooms of the planned hospital, state TV said Saturday. Xinhua said all the facilities are due to be completed within a week. A similar program of rapid hospital construction was launched by the ruling Communist Party at the start of the outbreak last year in Wuhan. More than 10 million people in Shijiazhuang underwent virus tests by late Friday, Xinhua said, citing a deputy mayor, Meng Xianghong. It said 247 locally transmitted cases were found. Meanwhile, researchers sent by the World Health Organization were in Wuhan preparing to investigate the origins of the virus. The team, which arrived Thursday, was under a two-week quarantine but was due to talk with Chinese experts by video link. The team's arrival was held up for months by diplomatic wrangling that prompted a rare public complaint by the head of the WHO. That delay, and the secretive ruling party’s orders to scientists not to talk publicly about the disease, have raised questions about whether Beijing might try to block discoveries that would hurt its self-proclaimed status as a leader in the anti-virus battle. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press