ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Mark Cuban, Anthony Anderson and Skylar Diggins-Smith will take part in a series of panel discussions on YouTube that are focused on racial justice.The video-sharing platform announced the lineup on Thursday for “Bear Witness, Take Action 2.” The two-hour special featuring the various panels and musical performances will premiere Saturday at 6 p.m. EST on the YouTube Originals channel.Common and Keke Palmer return as hosts of the forum, which will include sports figures, entertainers and activists. The first event took place in June.Patti LaBelle, Rapsody and SAINt JHN will perform.“I’m excited to return for the second installment to continue these necessary discussions centred around racial injustices in order to nurture, enhance and protect Black lives,” Common said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to the talented and intelligent people we have joining us this time around for more compelling and impactful conversations that we believe will lead to action.”The panels will venture into several topics including criminal justice reform, dealing with mental health during the pandemic and the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality.Some of the highlighted panels include a discussion between Cuban and New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. The Dallas Mavericks owner and Jenkins are expected to talk about what happens when a team owner holds a conversation with a player about white privilege, civil responsibility and political activism.Diggins-Smith will appear on panel with reporter Jemele Hill and activist Harry Edwards about athletes’ impact on today’s political movement.Famed author Isabel Wilkerson will talk with Soledad O’Brien about making society more equitable.“It is so important that we keep a dialogue about racial justice going beyond any particular moment,” Palmer said. “I want to encourage my peers to continue to have thoughtful and powerful conversations that will lead us to change. Let’s talk about it, take action, and see change realized.”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — MTV Entertainment Group says it's making a $250 million commitment to spur reality production over the next three years by companies owned and operated by women and people of colour. ViacomCBS' MTV Entertainment, which includes MTV and VH1, will provide funding, staff and other support to foster new ideas that will “fuel the unscripted content needs" of now and in the future, according to an announcement Thursday. Advocates of increasing diversity in the entertainment industry say progress requires more women and people of colour in decision-making positions. The initiative builds on MTV Entertainment’s unscripted record, including early reality show “The Real World," by creating ownership opportunities “for its diverse partners,” the company said. Lashan Browning and Adam Gonzalez, reality producers who were tapped last year to steer the initiative, will form their own production ventures with a MTV Entertainment equity investment, according to the announcement. Browning was part of the start-up team for Oxygen and was a producer for “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” and “Cartel Crew.” Gonzalez was a producer on VH1’s “Teyana & Iman” and “America’s Next Top Model.” The Associated Press
We don’t know nearly enough about what the climate crisis will cost Canada — but what we do know is already troubling, and should inspire greater action. That’s the conclusion from the first of several sweeping reports on the economic, social and environmental costs of climate change in Canada by the independent, publicly funded Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. The institute pored over decades of data on the costs of weather-related disasters from both government relief and insurance industry payouts. Its findings make it clear that volatile weather events have already become more frequent, and more costly. But it also revealed how climate change-related costs are still barely understood today, and these unknown costs are likely to explode far beyond those that are known. “The lack of understanding of risk, plus the lack of tools to be able to address risk, create this dead zone, where it’s really hard to do anything,” said adaptation director Ryan Ness in an interview. “What we’re suggesting is, we have to act on the knowledge we have, and we have enough knowledge to move forward.” What is already known is stunning: the average cost per weather-related disaster has soared by 1,250 per cent since the 1970s, and the number of catastrophic events has more than tripled since the 1980s. In the nine years from 2010 to 2019, there was over $14 billion in disaster costs — the same amount as over the previous 40 years, save for the one-time $7-billion Eastern Canada ice storm in 1998. As the title of the Dec. 3 report, “Tip of the Iceberg,” indicates, these numbers are just the beginning. There are many more long-term impacts from climate change, such as an estimated $1.3-billion cost to dozens of communities across the Northwest Territories due to permafrost thaw. Such a cost will add to the stretched budgets of northern governments already coping with unaffordable food prices and other stressors such as long-term drinking water advisories. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the many impacts that are just not recorded at all in Canada — things such as the impact on health care that climate change is creating. “Canada lacks up-to-date evidence on the potential economic impacts of climate change,” reads the report. The institute said the last effort to “examine a broad range of costs at a national scale” was done in 2011, by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Over the next two years, it expects to publish further reports on health, infrastructure, macroeconomics and the North. Ness said there are many reasons why it is difficult to cost out climate impacts, but one main issue is that there are so many different ways that climate change affects Canada in the first place. Not only are disasters and extreme weather linked to death, disease and mental health challenges, for example, but there are a range of other consequences. Wildfire smoke harms lungs, for example, while extreme heat makes kids miss school. The Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016 was the “largest single weather-related insurance loss event in Canadian history,” the report states. Ocean warming and acidification will also likely impact fisheries, and therefore the food security and prosperity of First Nations that depend on them, while early heat waves can cause havoc for farmers depending on seasonal harvests. Then there are the economic impacts of extreme weather on Canadian small business operations, or the disruptions to household budgets, as well as the impact of climate refugees on domestic politics and international conflict. “Pick an economic sector, pick an infrastructure type, pick a health impact — each one of those is extremely complex to try and figure out what a changing climate means for those impacts, and then how those impacts play out in terms of costs,” Ness said. Another concern is how all these issues will interact with each other. Ness gave the example of how climate change could impact the electricity supply, causing power outages in the summer, at the same time as climate-driven heat waves drive up demand for air conditioning. “We don’t know how much the climate’s going to change in the end. We don’t know if there’s weird things that are going to happen in those systems ... we could see impacts that are way bigger than science might predict, because science is based on past climate and past behaviour,” he said. The institute said this all suggests that the debate over Canada’s progress in tackling climate change needs to broaden from its current focus on reducing carbon pollution to one that also addresses adaptation — or the ways that Canadians can adjust to account for the widening range of climate impacts. “Current adaptation policies and investments in Canada fall far short of what is needed to address the known risks of climate change, let alone those that are still unclear and unknown. This has to change,” the report states. Its three recommendations are for all orders of government to increase funding for adaptation, more closely co-ordinate their adaptation efforts and examine the current levels of transparency over climate risks. While the federal and provincial governments have come together previously over climate change, such as the Pan-Canadian Framework, Ness said more detail was needed over which authorities do what and how they work in unison. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
SHEET HARBOUR – The Royal Canadian Legion Courcelette Branch 58 is hurting like other non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. During good times the legion was self-sufficient, sponsoring ongoing fundraisers – such as bingos, 50/50 draws, hall rentals, dances and darts – to cover operating costs and ongoing maintenance. After 10 months of an unprecedented pandemic affecting many aspects of the economy, legion members are looking at their budget and reaching out to the community for continued support. A member of the fundraising committee, Barby Cochrane has a message for residents who rely on the legion and the services it offers. “We need the community's help and support. When we open back up in two weeks, we need those who feel safe to come out on Friday night, even if it is just to have one drink or buy a strip of tickets [Chase the Ace]. We need those who cannot come out to reach out to us and we'll arrange to get tickets for you or you can support the 50/50 online,” says Cochrane. “Our numbers for Chase the Ace usually increase week by week, but this year they did not. We had our steady 30 or so participants weekly. “The legion is the only place in the community to gather and it would be a loss to the community, if we had to shut the doors permanently,” Cochrane tells The Journal in an email. “We'll continue to promote the 50/50. We'll hopefully get some of the Covid-19 relief funds from the government. Hopefully, we'll be able to open again after these two weeks, and we'll be able to start Chase the Ace again and community events. But, none of this will matter unless we get the support from our community,” Cochrane says. Past President Vance Thompson adds, “We have helped 25 different organizations within our community over the past few years with Chase the Ace – paying out more than $150,000. We also have a benevolent fund to help people in need – not only vets, but also community members…. The income is used to keep our aging hall going – roof repairs, plumbing repairs, new accessible washroom, new kitchen, new bar fridge, wheelchair ramps, general upkeep of exterior. All these help customers access the building and feel welcome.” Yearly dues are $40 per member, with the local legion receiving a small percentage of that income. Fundraising efforts are the main source of income, although the legion does rely heavily on grants. “We also support community groups, such as the Lions Club, Lily's Hill, GSAR, ATV club, HYGGE [Travel Club], the Sheet Harbour and Area Heritage Society and St. James Church by partnering with them for our Chase the Ace fundraiser,” Cochrane says. “In the past we have helped individual community members when we were able. We also provide rent free space to any and all fundraisers in the community. It is our way of contributing to the fundraiser.” The building is in need of a new roof. The expected expenditure will be in excess of $40,000. Cochrane says they have applied for grants to cover approximately $30,000, but the fundraising committee and legion members will need to work to raise the balance. “The pandemic has hit us hard,” Thompson says. “We had to close our hall in mid-March and we re-opened in mid-September – only now to be closed again for the next few weeks. All events and rentals we had going on are now cancelled until further notice.” There will be about $2,000 in lost income due to the cancellations. “Our membership is primarily made up of elderly residents who are now not able to visit our branch,” Cochrane says. “They cannot come out for Muffin Morning or Chase the Ace or bingo. The reduction in the number of people attending events has impacted our income substantially … yet the building must still be maintained and the expenses must still be paid.” The legion’s service officer supports veterans by providing a confidential service. The officer liaises with other organizations on behalf of the veteran to ensure that they receive everything to which they are entitled. “The branch provides a place for the veterans to gather, services to honour them, and a place where they can remember,” says Cochrane. “We support our veterans through our service officers and poppy campaign, helping them with any requirements they require. As for the community, the legion has always been there for them – even more now that we are the only hall open in the area,” Thompson says. The legion faces membership challenges as most branch members are elderly. “The legion won't continue to operate, if younger people in the community don't get involved. We have to hire maintenance, such as cleaning and sanitizing after events, and shoveling and snow clearing,” Cochrane says. Sometime after Dec. 7, a new Chase the Ace license will start and the Rafflebox 50/50 online draw will continue weekly. Bingo has been closed for the winter and the hall will be open to rentals or community fundraisers. Muffin Morning, dart league and pool will continue to be offered. “The government protocols allow half the normal allowance; 84 people can be accommodated downstairs, with 150 upstairs. Tables are arranged to allow for six-feet spacing. Masks are required and hand sanitizer is provided. We do have a sign-in procedure in case contact tracing is necessary,” says Cochrane.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
The Liberal government has introduced legislation that will begin the process of bringing Canadian law into alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).Justice Minister David Lametti, who tabled Bill C-15 in the House of Commons today, said the bill would chart a path forward for implementing the individual and collective rights set out in the declaration."Working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to implement the declaration and create a framework to achieve its objectives is a statement that the Government of Canada values, respects and promotes the human rights of all, and not just some," said Lametti at a press conference alongside Indigenous leaders."The legislation is a significant step forward on the shared path to reconciliation for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike." If passed, the bill would require the federal government to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the declaration's 46 articles.The bill also would require the federal government to prepare an action plan within three years of the bill's passage to achieve the declaration's objectives, and to table an annual report detailing progress made.WATCH | AFN national chief praises UNDRIP billA step forward for reconciliationUNDRIP was passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007. It affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples to their language, culture, self-determination and traditional lands. It also establishes "minimum standards for the survival and well-being" of Indigenous people, according to the UN.Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the government bill is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Both called for municipal, provincial and federal governments to fully implement and comply with UNDRIP."We have a responsibility as a country to ensure that Indigenous rights are affirmed [and] that they are fully understood and respected," said Bennett.At a technical briefing for reporters — held on the condition that the officials involved not be identified — a senior government official said the bill is not written to make UNDRIP a part of federal law, but instead identifies the declaration as a human rights instrument that governments and courts can use to guide the development and interpretation of Canadian law.WATCH | President of national Inuit organization says implementing UNDRIP will help to reduce discriminationNatan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said implementing UNDRIP is an important step toward ending discrimination against Indigenous peoples because it recognizes their distinct status and rights."It marks a positive departure from the past position of segregating our human rights into an imagined, separate underclass of rights," said Obed.Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde praised the introduction of the legislation. He also said the three-year timeline for tabling an action plan is too long."We've waited too long already. We don't want to wait another three years," said Bellegarde.Bellegarde urged MPs to make improvements to the bill through the legislative process — particularly by spelling out which government department would be responsible for UNDRIP's implementation, and by committing to a periodic review of the legislation.By introducing the UNDRIP bill, the Liberals are fulfilling a promise dating back to 2016 — when Bennett announced Canada would officially renounce its objections to the declaration at the United Nations. The party pledged during the 2019 federal election to implement UNDRIP within the first year of a new mandate, but postponed tabling the bill earlier this year due to the rail blockade crisis.Debate over meaning of consentThe proposed legislation is modelled on a private member's bill tabled by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash and passed by the House of Commons in 2018. That bill died when Parliament was dissolved before last fall's election after Conservative senators — warning it could have unintended legal and economic consequences — slowed its progress.Opponents have argued that a clause in UNDRIP calling for "free prior and informed consent" from Indigenous people for projects on traditional Indigenous land could block resource development. When stalling Saganash's bill, Conservative senators said they feared the legislation would grant Indigenous peoples a veto over such projects.Lametti and the Indigenous leaders at Thursday's press conference pushed back against that idea. "The word veto does not exist in the document," Lametti said.David Chartrand, national spokesperson for the Métis National Council, said the claim that Indigenous people seeking to be consulted on projects want to kill industry is being used as a "fearmongering" tactic."This is a blueprint for clarity," said Chartrand. "This is a better example for industry to know ... full well when they're putting their money to something [that] it's got the backing of not only Indigenous governments, but also the federal, provincial and all parties involved."
Parents of students with special needs are struggling to adapt as states decide whether to close schools again as a second wave of COVID-19 hits the country. (Dec. 3)
ESKASONI, N.S. — The provincial government announced Wednesday it was committing more than $700,000 to help with the transportation needs of multiple communities and as a result, Eskasoni First Nation will receive $117,685 for transit funding. “We’re excited, this is something the community members have been asking for and we got it,” said Chief Leroy Denny. In Eskasoni, the money will go toward purchasing a nine-passenger van for door-to-door service within the Mi’kmaq community and a 20-person bus offering routes to Sydney and Membertou First Nation. The province will contribute $67,685 for the van and $50,000 for the bus. Funding for the initiative was provided through the accessible transportation program and covers 75 per cent of the vehicle cost. Other funding announcements for Cape Breton communities includes: $17,353 for a five-passenger van for La Cooperative de Transport de Cheticamp; $55,385 for an eight-passenger van for Strait Area Transit, and $50,000 for a 16-passenger bus for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Denny says the transit service is something the community has advocated for in the past and the system will address some of the barriers the residents face. Eskasoni is about 44 km from Sydney and Denny says some community members on a fixed income must pay money for rides into town so the bus will be a cost-saving tool. Bus service will come at a small fee, but the price will not be fixed until bus drivers are hired and more is known about the operating fees. “Public transportation allows people to more fully participate in their communities and better access work, schools, shopping and important services,” said Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, minister of communities, culture and heritage in a news release. Denny expects the transit system to be operational in early 2021 but will adhere to strict safety guidelines as the province deals with the second wave of COVID-19. He believes reliable transportation may lead to more employment for some community members. “Transportation is very important if you want to get to school or work,” said Denny. In October, the Eskasoni health department launched a bus system to help ease transportation concerns when accessing health care. The recent announcement is separate from that initiative. But both are expected to help residents without vehicles travel around the large reserve. Eskasoni has more than 4,500 residents and spans more than 100 hectares of land. Denny says the population continues to grow and the transit system is another way to help the community. “It’s a really good thing and we’re excited for it,” said Denny.Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
MIAMI — Brad Six becomes Santa Claus, pulling his black boots over his red pants in the office of a Miami outdoor supply company. It's hot, so he forgoes the traditional heavy jacket for a lightweight vest and grabs his Santa hat.But before sliding it on, the gray-bearded 61-year-old dons a plastic face shield and then takes his chair positioned behind a plexiglass sheet."Getting paid is nice, but to get your battery recharged and to really get something lasting out of it requires interacting with the kids — you don’t get a lot of that this year,” said Six, who first portrayed Santa 35 years ago.This is Santa Claus in the Coronavirus Age, where visits are conducted with layers of protection or online. Putting hundreds of kids daily onto Santa's lap to talk into his face — that's not happening for most. The physical attributes that make the perfect Santa align perfectly with those that make COVID-19 especially deadly.“Most of us tick all the boxes: We are old, we are overweight, we have diabetes and if we don’t have diabetes, we have heart disease,” said Stephen Arnold, the president of IBRBS, an association formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.That has spurred creativity in Santa's workshops. Santas conducting in-person visits are using some combination of masks, the outdoors, barriers and distance for safety. Others are doing virtual visits, where children chat with Santa online for prices typically ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the length and extras, such as whether customers want a recording. Some Santas are taking the season off.“Santa safety is our No. 1 concern” and negotiated into every contract, said Mitch Allen, president of HireSanta, one of the nation's largest agencies. He said the pandemic initially dried up his business, but it bounced back, especially online.The average Santa makes $5,000 to $10,000 during a normal season, Allen said. That's a welcome bonus for men often retired on a fixed income, but many Santas say revenue is down as corporate parties and other lucrative gigs evaporated.Jac Grimes, a Santa in Greensboro, North Carolina, gave up home visits, about a third of his business. He did it not just for his own health, but to prevent becoming a superspreader, fearing he'd pass the virus from one family to the next.At a farmers market he annually works, Grimes and his wife dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and sit in a parking lot where they to talk to people who remain inside their cars. Some homeowners associations are moving their annual Santa-visitation parties outdoors; Grimes will arrive in his red convertible to greet the crowds from afar.One of the hardest adjustments Santas have made is wearing masks that hide their painstakingly grown beards.“Santa performers are fairly vain people — if they are good,” Grimes said.The virus has many Santas and parents turning to virtual visits, which are booked through each Santa's personal website or agencies like Allen's. That often has Santas turning to their children and others for help mastering the computer skills needed.“It has been a challenge,” said Christopher Saunders, a Santa performer in Tool, Texas, a small town near Dallas.But Saunders and others say virtual sessions are a good if imperfect substitute for in-person visits. Parents fill out questionnaires, allowing performers to personalize their patter, and a side benefit is that the sessions aren't rushed. Many Santa mall visits last no more than two minutes to keep the line moving.“You get a different energy,” Saunders said of the virtual visits. “You can see the child’s expressions, as pure as they are.”Jim Beidel, a Santa performer near Seattle, said knowing the children's personal stories, such as their friends and school, helps Santas sell their Christmas magic.“It really enhances the engagement, the suspension of disbelief, especially among the older children," he said.But even Santas with the best gigs are hurting. Howard Graham usually portrays Santa in the grand foyer of New York's Radio City Music Hall during its Christmas show featuring the Rockettes. That's gone, so he's doing virtual visits and five days with a historic railroad in Pennsylvania. Still, he's taking a financial and emotional hit.“I love what I do ... bringing them (children) a little bit of smiles and hope,” said Graham, who has played Santa at Radio City for eight years. “I am going to do what I can not to change that.”That was also Six's goal as he settled recently into Santa's throne for a three-hour shift at Miami's Bass Pro Shops.As families sat in front of the plexiglass for photos, Six tilted his head so his face shield didn't reflect the camera's flash. He cheerfully waved children around the plexiglass so they could tell him their wish list, keeping them 6 feet (1.8 metres) back. As he wished them a Merry Christmas, an elf swooped in with disinfectant, wiping the plexiglass and bench before the next group sat.Six said the arrangement is “a little easier physically on Santa's back because he doesn't have to pick anybody up, but it's not as enjoyable because Santa doesn't get the interaction he normally gets.”But for families, sitting with Santa, even if behind a shield, is a bit of normalcy in abnormal times.Paul and Sarah Morris and their children, 5-year-old Theo and Sophy, 4, were among the first to visit Six that night. An Air Force family visiting from Hawaii, the Morrises cajoled their children into hugging for their photo. “Stop wiggling,” Theo said, scolding his sister before each sibling told Santa their Christmas wish. Sophy wanted candy; Theo, a remote control Ford Mustang.“This is definitely different," Sarah Morris said of the setup, “but the kids are excited and that's what matters.”Terry Spencer, The Associated Press
Leading up to her graduation from Dalhousie University, Fatou Secka had her eyes on the prize: to find a job in her field and get one step closer to permanent residency in Canada. “I was very hopeful of getting into the work field, getting more practical experience, applying myself ... and being part of an organization,” she told The Chronicle Herald. “I was really looking forward to that.” But after receiving a master's degree in civil engineering at the university in May, the international graduate from The Gambia has been job hunting nearly everyday to no avail. “(A few days) ago, my alarm went off and I felt so anxious and so nervous and worried that I would be unable to find work,” she said. Due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, thousands of international graduates in Canada like Secka are unable to find work and meet the requirements of their post-graduate work permits (PGWPs), according to Migrant Students United, an advocacy group for international students and graduates. International graduates are eligible for time-restricted PGWPs that allow them to remain in Canada post-graduation and gain work experience here. If they complete a minimum of 12 to 24 months of work in certain skilled positions, they can then qualify for permanent residency. While Secka has a three-year PGWP, some international graduates have shorter permits that are either set to expire before year’s end or have already expired, which has left them in a state of limbo, said Sarom Rho, an organizer for Migrant Students United. “With the second wave of COVID-19 related job losses spiking all over Canada and the economic shutdown and economic impact of this, most migrant student workers don’t have access to these jobs,” said Rho. “Even in the best of times, these jobs are difficult to get as migrant workers, but in the middle of a pandemic, when there’s a global economic shutdown, it’s nearly impossible.” The federal government has allowed people with work, study and visitor permits that expired before Jan. 30 to “restore their status” until the end of the year if they stayed in Canada. But PGWPs are currently non-renewable, said Rho, so international graduates are unable to do so. Migrant Students United delivered two petitions with thousand of signatures to federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office this week, calling for changes to Canadian immigration rules surrounding PGWPs. They’ve asked the federal government to make PGWPs renewable so former students can complete “realistic requirements” for permanent residency in the COVID-19 job market and to lower the threshold for gaining permanent residency by lowering points requirements and counting work that is part-time, in-school or in any occupation. Rho said international graduates have made multiple sacrifices and poured thousands of dollars into education in Canada only to be faced with COVID-19 setbacks at no fault of their own. During this “unprecedented crisis,” they’ve also contributed to Canada by working in the essential industries “that sustain our economy and our communities,” Rho added, but none of that work is counted toward their PGWPs. “You’ll see that it’s migrant students who are working overnight stocking shelves in grocery stores, handling packages in warehouses, working in food service and retail and delivery,” she said. John Paul Patrick Corpus is one of those international graduates. Corpus completed a diploma in business intelligence analytics from Nova Scotia Community College and received his PGWP, which is valid for one year, in July. He’s currently working as a sales associate at the Atlantic Superstore and as a data analyst with the federal government. Although his work with the federal government counts toward his PGWP, Corpus said only 30 hours of the 37.5 hours he puts in each week are counted. This means he has to work straight through to July 2021, which is when his PGWP expires, in order to achieve the 1,560 hours required to satisfy the requirements of the permit, he said. “It’s really pushed my work permit up to the very end,” said Corpus. Corpus is concerned that he may lose his job with the federal government during the pandemic. “I try to work as many hours as I can because you’ll never know if one day, all of a sudden, you lose your job and they don’t issue a permit or visa,” he said. At his grocery store job, Corpus said many of his coworkers are also PGWP holders that are stuck in a similar state of uncertainty. He said they all share the same sentiments: “Hopefully the government will give us at least another year once the pandemic stabilizes, because they should try to be reasonable. How can you find a job if there’s no job? Or how can you prove your work if there’s no grounds to prove your work?” “We just study here and all of a sudden we’re kicked out of the country because, OK, your post-graduate work permit is expired. That’s so sad,” Corpus added. As she continues to look for an engineering job, Secka said she’s trying her best to keep occupied by networking with people in her field and pursuing professional training to make herself “indispensable.” She’s also found work as a caregiver at the Shannex nursing home in Halifax and at the Dalhousie Writing Centre. Secka encourages other international graduates to do the same. “Although I have not been able to find work, I’ve been talking to people in my field and learning from them. So these are things you can do so you have something to look forward to in your day,” she said. The Chronicle Herald reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ask if the department is considering renewing expired or soon-to-expire PGWPs. In an email statement, IRCC spokesperson Rémi Larivière said that with COVID-19 causing "significant disruptions," the federal government has taken steps to support international students "and we hope to help more of them make the transition to permanent residency." This includes the government's "ambitious" 2021-2023 immigration levels plan that creates more opportunities through Canada's economic immigration programs, he said. According to Larivière, a person whose status will expire has "options to extend it before it does, and a period of time to restore their status if it does expire." He noted the period that temporary residents have to restore their status has been extended during the pandemic. Larivière said the federal government has also "made it easier for former PGWP holders who had to maintain their legal status in Canada as a visitor to quickly start working for a new employer when they find a new job, and for those with employer-specific work permits to be able to quickly switch and start working for a new employer while their new (work permit) application is processed, cutting the delay on working for a new employer from 10 weeks to 10 days." "We will continue to work closely with international students and the wider community to examine new ways to help international students thrive in this country," he added.Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Seven classrooms have been shut down at Diamond Trail Public School in Welland after an individual there tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” District School Board of Niagara said in a news release. Whether the individual who contracted the coronavirus is a student or staff member was not publicly known Wednesday. “The preventative COVID-19 practices that Diamond Trail has been following since the beginning of school, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue,” DSBN said. The same day DSBN reported the case at Diamond Trail, Niagara Catholic District School Board confirmed that the case count at St. Martin Catholic Elementary school in Stevensville had climbed to double digits. The province’s database is indicating that three of the school’s10 cases have been resolved. Of the remaining cases, four have been identified as students and three as staff. The Niagara Catholic website indicated these seven cases are the only active cases for the board. An outbreak was declared at St. Martin on Nov. 19. For DSBN, there are seven active cases from six schools; two at Prince Philip and one case at Martha Cullimore in Niagara Falls, two cases at Eden High School in St. Catharines, one at Port Colborne High School and one at Diamond Trail. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
WASHINGTON — In the modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the U.S. military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbour but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections. The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China. Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation. The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more — including in foreign countries — to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets. The Defence Department has worked to highlight that more aggressive “hunt forward” strategy in recent years, particularly after Russia interfered through hacking and covert social media campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. American officials were on high alert for similar interference in 2020 but described no major problems on Nov. 3. “When we look at the threats that we face, from Russia or other adversaries, it really is all about the partnerships and our ability to expand really the scope, scale and pace of operations in order to make it more difficult for adversaries to execute operations either in the United States, Estonia or other places,” Brig. Gen. William Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, said in a conference call with a small group of reporters this week. Estonia, a former Soviet republic, was in some ways a natural fit for a partnership with Cyber Command because in years past it has been a cyber target of nearby Russia, including crippling attacks on government networks in 2007. Estonian officials say they have since strengthened their cyber defences, created a cybersecurity strategy and developed their own cyber command, which like the U.S. version is part of the country’s military. While nothing malicious was found on the networks during the exercise, “what we did learn is how the U.S. conducts these kinds of operations, which is definitely useful for us because there are a lot of kind of capability developments that we are doing right now,” said Mihkel Tikk, deputy commander of Estonia’s Cyber Command. Tikk added: “In some areas, it is wise to learn from others than having to reinvent the wheel.” Hartman declined to discuss specifics of the operation but said the networks in Estonia were “very well defended.” “I don’t want anyone to leave here with the impression that Estonian networks were full of adversary activity from a broad range of nation states” because that is not the case, he added. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has hinted at a more aggressive, proactive federal government approach to cyber threats. In an August piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, Nakasone wrote that U.S cyber fighters have moved away from a “reactive, defensive posture” and are increasingly engaging in combat with foreign adversaries online. Cyber Command has worked in past years with countries including Montenegro and North Macedonia on similar missions. Estonian officials say they believe the partnership could be a deterrent to countries such as Russia. “These kinds of operations, I think, they will continue,” said Undersecretary of Defence Margus Matt. But, he added, “I don’t know how much we will speak of them publicly.” U.S. officials say they think the risks of a proactive approach — a country could regard such an operation as a provocation toward a broader international cyber conflict — are outweighed by the benefits. “We believe that inaction in cyberspace contributes to escalation more than reasonable action in cyberspace,” said Thomas Wingfield, deputy assistant secretary of defence for cyber policy. Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
SHEET HARBOUR – The Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce is on a mission to spread a little joy this holiday season to help make up for the numerous let-downs of the past year. Chamber director Meryl Atkinson is working with a committee to raise community spirit, provide opportunity and spread happiness. An idea for an outdoor Christmas event has evolved, taking all government protocols into consideration to keep participants safe from the coronavirus. The first call Atkinson made before any advertising was to the RCMP. “We will not be stopping any traffic, we will follow all public health guidelines and participants will be expected to social distance,” she said. “This is a community event and there are lots of people involved. We’ve tried to capture as many people and activities as we can, while having safety foremost in mind. “We are calling the event ‘Christmas on Main Street’,” Atkinson told The Journal. “We had a $1,100 grant we couldn’t use on Canada Day and so we are moving it to the Christmas season.” Taking all the restrictions into account, the event – slated for Dec. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. – will have 22 vendors organized in separate locations along a 2.5-kilometre stretch of Main Street. Vendors, who would have normally sold their wares at indoor markets and craft sales, will supply their own tables and other necessities. “We will market the event,” Atkinson said. “What we are offering is opportunity and we have vendors selling their products, including Christmas ornaments, jewellery, preserves, mats, Scentsy – and so much more.” Vendors will set up in assigned vacant spaces, parking lots and empty areas on Main Street – between the bridges – West River Bridge to East River Bridge. Each vendor will supply sanitizer and those attending will be expected to wear masks. “There is so much more planned,” explained Atkinson. “We have a trackless train set up over by St. James Church in that large lot. It will be free and the operator, dressed as an elf, will sanitize after every child. Local photographer Robert Moser will be taking photos.” Residents have been asked to participate by adopting one of the 71 trees along the business district. “Let Rhea Snow know if you are interested in decorating one of the trees along the route,” Atkinson said, “… and you can make it in memory of someone special if you’d like. The more lights and colour the better.” Several businesses have donated cash to cover expenses and the Lions Club will serve free hot tea, coffee and individually wrapped cookies at MacPhee House. Sheet Harbour Radio will broadcast live music provided by local musicians Nathalie Ladouceur and Dan and Sherrie Goodsell. Chamber members have put up the annual LED wreaths on the light poles throughout the business district and MacPhee House will have the community tree lit. Ground search and rescue will be there with a food truck – hoping to raise some cash, with their annual fundraising events cancelled due to COVID-19. “Carollers will be singing next to Foodland and Santa and the Mrs. will be in the NSLC vacant lot. We have people selling hot chocolate to raise funds for the Gerald Hardy Society and a bonfire and hot apple cider will be offered in the farmers’ market lot,” continued Atkinson. “Lily’s Hill is hosting a ‘Slap Out 2020’ contest, where participants will shoot hockey pucks into an open dryer. The library is packaging individual grab-bags for the children, and others are putting out their Christmas inflatables.” A map of where vendors will be located and parking along the route will be on the Sheet Harbour Facebook page, with printed copies on notice boards. Vendors will also have copies. “There is lots of space, lots of vendors and lots of events…. Be mindful, follow guidelines and be safe,” said Atkinson. “Now… let’s hope for good weather … and let’s spread joy.”Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
MORRISBURG – Alight at Night may be open for the holidays, but don’t expect to see bus tours arriving this year. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission kicked off the 20th annual light event at Upper Canada Village on November 27th with limited numbers of people able to attend. Tickets are sold online only and limited to blocks in 30 minute intervals between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights it is open. Already, the SLPC reports that the first two weeks of tickets have been sold out. However there was concern from area residents that bus tour companies were bringing visitors from areas where higher levels of COVID-19 infection are located. Several tour companies have listings on their websites for bus trips to Alight At Night from previous years, or for 2021. No bus tour packages have been advertised for 2020. “For the 2020 season, group sales have been paused,” said SLPC spokesperson Rosalyn Gambhir. “Upper Canada Village does not have tour operators/companies or buses groups booked for our winter event Alight at Night.” She said that the SLPC has been working to ensure the event continues during the holiday season, even with the current pandemic situation. “This year, like our fall event Pumpkinferno, there are a limited number of tickets available each night and attendance has been drastically limited every half hour,” Gambhir said. “If needed, numbers will be adjusted based on COVID-19 protocols.” This July, the provincial government provided a $7 million funding infusion to the cash-strapped agency, to assist with operating during the pandemic. Two million of that funding was specifically for Upper Canada Village, which ran a shorter season for 2020 with fewer parts of the attraction open. The SLPC was able to run the popular Pumpkinferno event throughout October. Alight at Night runs on select nights until December 17th, then operates nightly except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until January 2nd.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
EASTERN SHORE – Former Moser River resident Marie Turner entered Northwood Continuing Care facility last November. While it was her first placement, it was not her first choice. When she applied, she selected Harbourview Lodge (HVL) in Sheet Harbour as her first choice, to allow her to live in the same community as her family. Turner’s sister, former Dartmouth mayor Gloria McCluskey, is unhappy her sister has not, after a year, been transferred back to her home. McCluskey looked into the policy posted on the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) website. “The policy reads ‘as soon as a vacancy becomes available – you are transferred to your first choice’ – but that’s not true. She’s housed now – they have no compassion. There have been vacancies in HVL over the past year but no transfer for Marie,” she says. Turner contracted COVID-19 last spring as a Northwood resident and spent months unable to have any visits from family members, especially while she was ill. “Marie was in a room with another woman and they didn’t even move her,” complains McCluskey. “She suffered from pains in her legs and headaches. She was lucky and did not become extremely ill – and she survived.” The former politician with a 23-year history in municipal government stresses long-term care facility workers are underpaid for the work they do. “They work hard. Administration undervalues the work they do so they can have a lower pay scale. They’ve dropped the ball. COVID should never have been in there [Northwood].” Turner will turn 93 on Dec. 6 and her sister says she should have been given the opportunity months ago – before the pandemic – to transfer to HVL to spend these years near her children and grandchildren. “They don’t care,” McCluskey tells The Journal by phone. “They have such little empathy for seniors. The dear soul has already had COVID, she could have been transferred before this second wave.” McCluskey does not feel there is any hope her sister will get moved now. “They’ve closed the facilities again. They had given false hope and now there is no solution – they are not going to move anybody now,” she said. McCluskey and Turner are two of the four sisters left from a family of nine. “How little do our seniors mean? They seem to think seniors only die anyway. They built our country and deserve dignity,” McCluskey says. Arthur Turner, Marie’s son, tells The Journal how difficult it was for his family when his mom was diagnosed with coronavirus. “I feel frustration about her being there – and not here – as her choice was. The system should be in place that puts her where she chooses to live.” The last time Arthur saw his mother, in person, was this fall at Northwood. “I had all the COVID gear on and was able to hug her – but only for a second.” When Turner heard of his mother’s COVID diagnosis he felt there had been no consideration for either his mother or her family. “We might never see her again. She was quite low and we couldn’t visit and maybe had seen her for the last time….” Communication with his mother, while she lives in a facility 90 kilometres away from him, has proven to be a challenge. “We try to reach her by phone – but we usually can’t get a hold of her. It’s always an ordeal,” Arthur says. “We have to wait until the nurses are available to help us set it up and get Mom to the phone. She is in her room a lot.” Arthur remains hopeful his mother will ultimately get the transfer she desires and become a resident at Harbourview Lodge. “It would be so good for her to return to her home community. I feel she deserves it, really. You know, she taught school down here and worked for the Guild faithfully,” he shares. “She was a real good person – she was a member of the Eastern Star and helped raise a lot of money for her community. She set a good example.” Arthur’s sister, Ann Martin, is a registered nurse at HVL. “It would be wonderful for Mom to be here and have my sister so close – helping to care for her. We could all see her. I know during COVID they were not moving anybody but there have been quite a few openings here – but there always seems to be red tape,” she says. The Journal contacted NSHA to inquire about the transfer and placement policy, but did not receive a reply by press time.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) says it is looking into several instances of uninvited strangers joining online classes and disrupting lessons.Nathalie Seskus, a Grade 7 St. Alphonsus School student — and the daughter of a CBC employee — said that since moving online this week, her class has been crashed by uninvited strangers more than once."It happened in two calls — one on [a] Google meeting, one on Zoom, where people who aren't part of our school or class have just been joining in calls," Seskus said.Seskus, 12, said the students and teacher can tell when someone uninvited had joined their chat rooms because of their usernames."We noticed because we're always supposed to use our real names when we're on calls. When we don't, we're asked to change them," she said. "In one case, when we were on a Zoom meeting, a man who was posing as a student had a random username."Seskus said the teacher told him to leave because he wasn't part of her class."She had kicked him out of the meeting and he joined again," Seskus said.She said in the other case, the intruder claimed to be a new student. "But he sounded like a man, not a child," Seskus said. "Everyone in the class was telling our teacher to kick them out. So she did, and we didn't see him pop up again."Disruptions were more common in the springBryan Szumlas, chief superintendent of the CCSD, said these disruptions are definitely happening — but were more common in the spring."For example, zoom back from March to June, there were some security issues with them, but they have since improved their technology significantly," Szumlas said. "It has been assessed by our Calgary Catholic technology team and it is a platform that we are comfortable with."Szumlas said the process of moving all Grade 7 to 12 students online this week was bound to include hiccups along the way. "What I did hear wasn't a huge problem," Szumlas said. "But I did hear about it in one or two classrooms where a teacher never clicked on a security feature and consequently [people outside the class joined]."We suspect it was just another student playing a prank and jumping into a class and making an inappropriate comment and then taking off."Szumlas said these types of incidents are taken very seriously and investigated fully."When something like this happens, obviously the teacher would communicate that to the principal and the principal would then start an investigation," Szumlas said. Szumlas said that should an incident be criminal, then the principal would also contact Calgary police, adding that police have not yet been required.Moving students onlineThe superintendent said the direction from the province to move older students online came relatively quickly."There was only four or five days for teachers to prepare," he said. "So the direction that we've given our teachers is that, use whatever platform you're comfortable with, so that we can continue the continuity of education."We've tried to give our teachers choice here. And I think we live in a world today that is so full of different technologies that are improving continuously, that having that rich variety is only good for our staff and good for our students."Szumlas said the district is constantly working with staff to help them understand some of the new security features on Zoom and other online platforms."One of the measures is that all students need to wait in the waiting room and then be admitted by the teacher and the teacher by clicking a few buttons within Zoom can lock in the student names and also prevent other people from accessing the room," he said.Calgary Board of Education experienceThe Calgary Board of Education said this is not an issue it has been seeing."We have not heard of incidences of strangers being a part of online lessons with our students," said the CBE in an emailed statement.The majority of the CBE's online learning takes place through Google Classrooms or D2L, according to the district."Classroom spaces, physical or digital, are learning environments specific for guiding interactions between teachers and students," the statement read.The CBE said there have been instances where a parent or guardian pops in on a lesson. "Caregivers entering a classroom space without invite and without following all of our guidelines are asked to leave and reminded of the importance of privacy for all students," the statement read."In most cases, our school-based administrators share the expectations of the classroom and parallel these expectations with face-to-face learning environments, and parents or caregivers are very understanding and receptive."
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration issued rules to restrict travel to the United States by Chinese Communist Party members and their families, the State Department said in a statement sent on Thursday. The policy reduces the maximum validity of B1/B2 visitor visas for Party members and their immediate family members from 10 years to 1 month, the statement said. The measure was aimed at protecting the nation from the party's "malign influence."
If you ask Mohammed AbuSaad, fresh falafel is something that’s been missing in Halifax Regional Municipality. “To make good and fresh falafel, you have to really focus on the falafel and not on anything else, because it requires some processing and whatnot,” he told The Chronicle Herald. That’s why, on Oct. 6, he launched Falafel Factory and started serving fresh falafel that he makes from scratch. Overnight, he soaks chickpeas. Bright and early in the morning, he mixes them with herbs, adds spices, rolls that mixture into balls and fries them. At first, he was selling falafel balls, falafel wraps and hummus in different parts of the HRM in a food truck. On Nov. 11, AbuSaad moved his falafel business to a fixed location at 1189 Bedford Highway. With colder months ahead, he said he’s grateful to have a more permanent Falafel Factory location. “It’s much better than a non-fixed location because the logistics of the food truck was not easy and the winter’s coming so it’s not going to be any easier,” he said. AbuSaad, who is Palestinian, moved from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to Halifax with his family in 1994. In 2019, he completed an industrial engineering degree at Dalhousie University. Just eight months after graduating, COVID-19 hit, which got him brainstorming about what he wanted to do next, he said. While he was still applying for jobs in the industrial engineering field and consulting his professors about career plans, he came up with the idea of launching a business centred around selling fresh falafel. Six months ago, AbuSaad learned how to make falafel, experimented with different recipes and decided to run with the idea. “If you have a business idea in your head, you think about it all the time, and I said, ‘You know what? I’ll give it a try,’ and I did and it went well,” he said, noting that Old Robot Brewing Company, which is co-owned by ex-engineers, partly gave him the inspiration to launch the business. “So far so good.” Even with COVID-19 posing uncertainty for businesses in the food sector, AbuSaad said he figured his business would stand a chance of surviving — and thriving — because falafel is “mostly a pickup item” that people can easily purchase and take home. Falafel Factory is also on UberEats, making that takeout option all the more accessible, he said. With COVID-19 case numbers in Nova Scotia climbing in recent days, AbuSaad has taken an additional measure to ensure his customers remain safe and healthy. On Tuesday, he started selling raw falafel dough, giving customers the option of cooking their own falafel at home. He’s selling two kilograms of the dough for $25, which he said is enough to make 50 falafel balls. So far, AbuSaad said, Arab and non-Arab customers alike seem to be enjoying his falafel, a traditional Middle Eastern food that is 100 per cent vegan. He even had someone from the UAE recently compliment his falafel, he said, who was shocked to taste “Dubai falafel in Halifax.” “I’m really happy to know people like it.” As he continues to “test the market,” AbuSaad said his vision is to open a lot of small Falafel Factory locations around the Halifax area in the future.Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
CORNWALL – The COVID-19 infection curve is going back up after two weeks of bending in the right direction, downward. Overall infection numbers in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region have increased with 39 cases added since this weekend. As of the December 1st statistics update from the EOHU, there were 123 active cases of the virus in the region. More than half (65) of the active cases were in the Prescott-Russell area of the health unit, while Cornwall had 29 active cases and SDG Counties had 27. There have been 874 infections in the region since the beginning of the pandemic in February. The region remains at the Yellow level according to the Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions. The rolling seven-day-average for the region is 19.9 cases per 100,000 people, which is considered moderate. A high level of infection is 25 or more cases per 100,000 people. The EOHU region peaked on October 13-19 with a rolling average of 53.5 cases. No information was given by the EOHU about the increased infection rate since the weekend. Most of the new infections that have occurred since October have had an “epi-link” meaning it is from a known source like a close contact. South Dundas has zero active cases while North Dundas has one new case, the first in nearly four weeks for that municipality. Including the new case, North Dundas has had 20 COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, South Dundas has had fewer than five. The EOHU does not report exact overall numbers of cases until the case count reaches five. North Stormont has its first COVID-19 infections of the pandemic with four new cases over the weekend, while South Stormont has 14 active cases. The Upper Canada District School Board issued a notice on Sunday that one case of the virus was confirmed at Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore. “The EOHU is working closely with the school and is actively communicating with all individuals who have been identified as possible close contacts through high-risk exposures,” the board said in a release adding that the school was taking steps to “prevent spread in the school and community.” There was no change in school operations as of Tuesday and it was not disclosed if it was a staff member or a student who tested positive. The school is not considered in an outbreak situation currently. No response to questions by The Leader was received by press deadline as the EOHU has moved to a new schedule for media briefings. The EOHU now hosts a twice-weekly media availability on Tuesday and Friday. Tagwi is one of four schools with active cases of COVID-19. Only the French-Catholic school in Casselman, Sainte-Euphémie, is closed due to several classes having contact with an individual who later tested positive. No schools in Dundas County have had any known cases.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — About 750 gallons (2,800 litres) of diesel and water have been cleaned up after an Alaska oil spill that state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said occurred during a fuel tank transfer. State conservation officials said the Nov. 25 spill in the village of Selawik happened after workers started transferring fuel from a city fuel tank to a water treatment plant tank. The reasons for the spill and the amount spilled is still under investigation, officials said. “We know that 35,000 gallons is still in the tank and is not threatening to release at this time," said Sarah Moore, a state conservation agency spokesperson. "So we have a ballpark estimate, but are still working on some more concrete numbers about the volume spilled." The incident was reported to state conservation officials at about 1:30 a.m. last Thursday. The spill happened about 600 feet (183 metres) from the Selawik River, a source of water for the village. The fuel tank holds just under 46,000 gallons (147,000 litres) of diesel while the water plant tank holds about 4,000 gallon (15,000 litres), Alaska's Energy Desk reported. U.S. Coast Guard officials arrived in the village on Tuesday to provide equipment and investigate the cleanup. “In addition to investigating the causal factors of the incident, we are on site to assess any potential environmental impacts,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Dane Grulkey in a statement. “We are assisting our community and agency partners organize a safe, effective and co-ordinated response.” The Associated Press