RuPaul's Drag Race queens Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes go back to school and reflect on what being a drag queen has taught them about the world.
RuPaul's Drag Race queens Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes go back to school and reflect on what being a drag queen has taught them about the world.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
DEER LAKE, N.L. — Police in Newfoundland and Labrador said they arrested a man with a "large quantity" of knives in a parking lot outside an election candidate's office Tuesday.A spokeswoman for Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said his campaign has been advised he was likely the intended target."The police investigation is ongoing, but from what we know so far we’d like to thank the members of the public who stepped in to do what they could to prevent an unimaginable outcome, and all police officers who ensured the safety of the public," Furey spokeswoman Meghan McCabe said in a release Tuesday evening."This is a traumatic incident, for everyone working and volunteering in Newfoundland and Labrador’s election."In a news release, RCMP said they were notified Tuesday morning about a man behaving strangely, talking about guns and saying he was going to Deer Lake in western Newfoundland to stop the provincial election, which is set for Feb. 13. Deer Lake is in the Humber-Gros Morne electoral district, where Furey is running, though McCabe confirmed he was not there at the time of the incident.Police said they found the man driving a truck just outside of Deer Lake and tried unsuccessfully to flag him down. A high-speed chase ensued as the man drove through the town and finally stopped in a parking lot at a local business, in which a provincial election candidate maintains an office, police said. "The man was removed from the vehicle and was arrested in the parking lot. Officers located and seized a large quantity of various knives inside the vehicle," RCMP said in the release. "The truck was seized and impounded."The release did not name the candidate but McCabe said in a statement that Furey's campaign was told he was likely the target. "Our team is connecting with the leadership of the other political parties and connecting with our team members on the ground in Deer Lake to offer support," she said. She said Furey would release another statement as more details become available.Police said there is no longer a concern for public safety and that they anticipate the man will be charged with "a number of criminal and traffic offences." The investigation is ongoing, they said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he remains confident in Canada's vaccine supplies despite threats from Europe that it might impose export controls on vaccines produced on that continent. Speaking to reporters outside his Ottawa residence Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the situation in Europe is worrisome but he is "very confident" Canada is going to get all the COVID-19 vaccine doses promised by the end of March. And despite the sharp decline in deliveries of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech this month, he said Canada will still vaccinate all Canadians who want shots by the end of September. "We will continue to work closely with Europe to ensure that we are sourcing, that we are receiving the vaccines that we have signed for, that we are due," Trudeau said. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video statement posted to Twitter Tuesday that Europe will set up a "vaccine export transparency mechanism" so Europe knows exactly how many doses are being produced in the world's largest trading bloc and where they are being shipped. "Europe invested billions to help develop the world‘s first COVID-19 vaccines to create a truly global common good," she said. "And now the companies must deliver." Europe is also getting smaller shipments from Pfizer than promised, because the company temporarily slowed production at its plant in Belgium so it can be expanded. AstraZeneca has also warned Europe its first shipments of vaccine will be smaller than expected because of production problems. But Europe, which invested more than C$4 billion in vaccine development, is demanding the companies fulfil their contracts on time. "Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business," said von der Leyen. International Trade Minister Mary Ng said she had spoken to her European counterpart, Valdis Dombrovskis, about the situation and will keep working with Europe to keep the supply chain open. "There is not a restriction on the export of vaccines to Canada," Ng said in question period. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner accused Ng of playing games with her response, noting the issue isn't that there is an export ban now, but that Europe is threatening to impose one. With all of Canada's current vaccine doses coming from Europe, "that's a concern," Rempel Garner said. "If the Europeans ban exports of vaccines, what's Plan B for Canada?" she asked. Both Pfizer and Moderna are making doses of their vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe, but all U.S.-made doses are currently only shipped within the U.S. Former U.S. president Donald Trump invoked the Defence Production Act last year to prevent export of personal protection equipment. He then signed an executive order in December demanding U.S.-produced vaccines be prioritized for Americans only and threatened to use the act to halt vaccine exports as well. President Joe Biden has already invoked the act to push for faster production of PPE and vaccines. Though he has not specifically mentioned exports, Biden has promised 100 million Americans will be vaccinated within his first 100 days of office, making the prospects the U.S. shares any of its vaccine supply unlikely. Canada has contracts with five other vaccine makers, but only two are on the verge of approval here. AstraZeneca, which has guaranteed Canada 20 million doses, needs to finish a big U.S. trial before Health Canada decides whether to authorize it. Johnson and Johnson is to report results from its Phase 3 trial next week, one of the final things needed before Health Canada can make a decision about it. Canada is to get 10 million doses from Johnson and Johnson, but it is the one vaccine that so far is administered as only a single dose. Trudeau said AstraZeneca isn't supplying Canada from its European production lines. A spokeswoman for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada will not say where the other vaccines are coming from because of the concerns about security of supplies. AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have set up multiple production lines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, India, Australia and Africa. Canada has no current ability to produce either those vaccines or the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It is entirely reliant on foreign production at the moment. More than 113,000 people in Canada have received two full doses of either the Moderna or BioNTech vaccine. Another 752,000 have received a single dose. But the reduction in Pfizer shipments to Canada forced most provinces to slow the pace of injections. Europe, Mexico, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also have slowed their vaccination campaigns because of the supply limits. Trudeau said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla assured him the full shipments will resume in mid-February, and that Canada will get its contracted four million doses by the end of March. He said he spoke to Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel Tuesday morning and was promised Moderna's shipments of two million doses by March 31 are also on track. MPs were scheduled to have an emergency debate on Canada's vaccine program Tuesday night. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
MADRID — Sevilla signed Argentine attacking midfielder Alejandro “Papu” Gómez from Atalanta on Tuesday. Sevilla said the former Atalanta captain agreed a contract to June 2024. The 32-year-old Gómez had been at odds with coach Gian Piero Gasperini at the Italian club where he spent six seasons and had a key part in recent success. Gómez played more than 250 games with Atalanta, scoring 59 goals and picking up 71 assists. He broke the Serie A assist record last season, with 16. He previously played for Catania in Italy. Sevilla is fourth in the Spanish league. It hosts Valencia on Thursday in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Female soldiers can let their hair down, and flash a little nail colour under new rules being approved by the Army. But male soldiers will still have to shave. Army leaders announced Tuesday that they are loosening restrictions on various grooming and hairstyle rules, as service leaders try to address longstanding complaints, particularly from women. The changes, which also expand allowances for earrings and hair highlights and dyes, are particularly responsive to women of various ethnicities, and will allow greater flexibility for braids, twists, cornrows and other styles more natural for their hair. The new regulations take effect in late February and come after months of study, in the wake of a directive by former Defence Secretary Mark Esper, who ordered a new review of military hairstyle and grooming policies last July. The review was part of a broader order to expand diversity within the military and reduce prejudice, in the wake of widespread protests about racial inequality last summer. “These aren’t about male and female,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, the Army's top enlisted leader during a Facebook Live presentation on Tuesday about the latest changes. “This is about an Army standard and how we move forward with the Army, and being a more diverse, inclusive team.” The Army announcement has been long-planned, but it came just days after the Pentagon's first Black defence secretary — Lloyd Austin — took over. Austin has vowed to try to root out racism and extremism in the ranks and foster more inclusion. Esper and many of the service leaders have also been taking steps to make the military more diverse, particularly in the higher ranks. As an example, Esper last summer ordered that service members’ photos no longer be provided to promotion boards. Officials said studies showed that when photos are not included “the outcomes for minorities and women improved.” On Tuesday, Army Sgt. Maj. Brian Sanders told reporters that the panel recommending the new grooming changes considered a variety of factors, including cultural, health and safety issues. He said the tight hair buns previously required by the Army can trigger hair loss and other scalp problems for some women. And larger buns needed to accommodate thick or longer hair, can make a combat helmet fit badly and potentially impair good vision. At the same time, he said that changes, like allowing women in combat uniforms to wear earrings such as small gold, silver and diamond studs, let them “feel like a woman inside and outside of uniform." He added, "At the end of the day, our women are mothers, they're spouses, they're sisters, they definitely want to be able to maintain their identity and that’s what we want to get after." In many cases — such as the earrings — the changes simply let female soldiers wear jewelry or hairstyles that are already allowed in more formal, dress uniforms, but were not allowed in their daily combat uniforms. Army leaders said women will now be able to wear their hair in a long ponytail or braid and tuck it under their shirt. Sanders said that allowing that gives female soldiers, particularly pilots or troops at a firing range, greater ability to turn their head quickly, without the restraints that the buns created. The new regulations also allow the exact opposite. Female soldiers going through Ranger or special operations training get their heads shaved, like male soldiers do. But when they leave training, their hair is too short, based on the Army's previous minimum length requirements. Now there will be no minimum length rules. For men, however, the perennial request to allow beards is still a no-go. Grinston's answer to the question from the online audience was short and direct: “No.” He noted that the Army already makes exceptions for medical and religious reasons. Also, male soldiers still can't wear earrings. The new lipstick and nail polish rules, however, allow men to wear clear polish, and allow colours for women, but prohibit “extreme” shades, such as purple, blue, black and “fire engine” red. Men will also be able to dye their hair, but the colours for both genders are limited to “natural" shades. Prohibited colours include blue, purple, pink, green, orange or neon. In another sign of the times, the new rules state that soldiers will now automatically receive black and coyote-colored face masks. They are also permitted to wear camouflage colored masks, but have to buy those themselves. The Army also is taking steps to change wording in the regulations to remove racist or insensitive descriptions. References to “Fu Manchu” moustache and “Mohawk” hairstyle have been removed, and replaced with more detailed descriptions of the still-banned styles. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
Northern Health has released COVID-19 exposure notices for Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School in Terrace. The exposure at Uplands Elementary School occurred Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, and Centennial Christian School’s exposure took place on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, according to Northern Health’s list of public exposures and outbreaks. There have been numerous COVID-19 exposure notices for Terrace schools issued by Northern Health since Nov. 2020, and nearly all Terrace schools have had at least one exposure notice. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
KELOWNA, B.C. — An attempted murder trial came to an abrupt end Tuesday when a man from West Kelowna, B.C., pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother. Kevin Barrett admitted to savagely beating and choking Eleanor Holmes before throwing her down a forest ravine. An agreed statement of facts presented in court by Crown attorney Patricia O'Neil says Barrett's 79-year-old mother decided to "play dead," believing that would spare her further assault. Holmes had been expected to testify Tuesday when the Crown and defence attorneys told the judge the 59-year-old Barrett had agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge. During the sentencing portion of the trial, the court heard Barrett has bipolar disorder, frequently goes off his medication and his mental-health problems are exacerbated by a history of alcohol use. The court heard that Barrett was often verbally abusive toward his mother, although she allowed him to live with her in a trailer park after the rest of the family turned their backs on him. “She loved him and she did not want him to be homeless," O’Neil said. On April 29, 2019, Barrett was in a loving mood, the court heard. "Mr. Barrett kissed Mrs. Holmes and told her she was the best mom a man his age could ever have,” O'Neil said. But when Barrett asked for his mother to drive him somewhere and she said no, he flew into a violent rage, the court heard. Holmes told investigators it was as if her son had turned into “Satan himself,” O'Neil said. Barrett savagely beat his mother, using both his fists and a blunt object to hit her in the face, head, neck, stomach, and legs. He yanked out much of her hair, hit her so hard her dentures were dislodged, bit her, and choked her with a seatbelt, the court heard. "Mrs. Holmes believed Mr. Barrett was going to kill her," O'Neil said. Barrett dragged his mother out of the vehicle and tossed her down a 100-metre embankment towards a creek. He then used her bank card to buy liquor and ice cream before returning to her trail, the court heard. Despite her serious injuries, Holmes was able to climb the embankment and was found, barefoot, bloodied and cold, by a West Kelowna couple, the agreed statement says. Barrett was quickly arrested at the trailer and has been in custody for almost two years. O'Neil said Holmes told investigators last year that she loved her son and forgave him for what he had done to her. “That speaks to the depth of her compassion as well as the profoundness of a mother's attachment to her child,” O’Neil said. However, in a brief victim impact statement written by Holmes earlier this week and read into the court record on Tuesday, Holmes said: “I’m terrified of Kevin. I’m old and have a bad heart. I do not want Kevin back here.” (Kelowna Daily Courier) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Ron Seymour, Kelowna Daily Courier, The Canadian Press
Dr. Jeannette Armstrong is the associate professor in Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan (UBCO) campus. Armstrong was one of three speakers discussing systemic racism in science in a conversations on Indigenous knowledge in academia. Indigenous people still face systemic racism, and their voices are often left unheard, said Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president of UBCO during her opening remarks of the Jan. 20 webinar. During the two-hour discussion, three Indigenous leaders and researchers discussed some of the differences and misunderstandings of Indigenous knowledge and western science, as well as the impacts of what they framed “environmental racism.” Armstrong, who shared a Syilx Okanagan perspective, spoke alongside Aaron Prosper from Eskasoni First Nation, and Elder Albert Marshall from the Mi’kmaw Nation. “In these times of climate change, societal disease and diseases, we need Indigenous knowledge,” said Armstrong. As Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy, Armstrong has been recognized for her award-winning literary work on education, ecology and Indigenous rights. Indigenous knowledge remains overlooked in academia, particularly in science, because unlike a western scientific method, Indigenous knowledge is not evidence-based, according to Armstrong. Indigenous knowledge is focused on a holistic perspective incorporating traditional knowledge and lived experiences, she says. “A general definition of Indigenous knowledge consists of those beliefs, assumptions, and understandings of non-western people developed through long-term associations with a specific place,” Armstrong told participants during the event. “Therefore, Indigenous knowledge is considered the second tier of knowledge, that is, below science. This is racist.” According to Prosper, Indigenous knowledge has been misused or co-opted within the scientific field. “Indigenous people had knowledge prior to Western scientific knowledge, in terms of traditional medicine,” said Prosper, who studies Indigenous Health and Indigenous Ethics & Research Methodologies. “In my personal opinion, there is a significant issue within the scientific field when it comes to racism, systemic racism.” Prosper feels Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous information or data should be valued the same as Western scientific knowledge. “Usually what you see done is an Elder getting interviewed, getting traditional knowledge taken out, and then the researcher collects the data as a western methodology, to interpret that data, which makes it incorrect,” Prosper explained. Marshall believes two-eyed seeing is the transformative change society needs to understand and incorporate Indigenous knowledge. “Being Indigenous, I see everything through my Indigenous lens,” said Marshall, who says ‘two-eyed seeing’ means a worldview which reconciles and incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing and western scientific ways of knowing. “To see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge, and to see from the other eye with the strengths of Western science knowledge and to use both of these eyes together, is two-eyed seeing.” Indigenous knowledge systems can offer society solutions for living in balance with the environment, the speakers stressed. According to Armstrong, the Syilx Okanagan people view the land as a dynamic system, and their sole purpose is to protect the tmxwulaxw (land) and tmixw (all living lifeforms). “In the Syilx view, the human duty is to perceive how the tmixw are regenerating themselves and how therefore the human must move forward in unity with them,” she said. “Immersion in the knowledge of tmixw allows us to view its reality and makes it possible for the aliveness of each separate life form.” During the webinar, environmental racism was discussed. “In the context of environmental racism, the government had been failing to shut down treatment plants in Indigenous communities,” Prosper told participants. The Pictou Landing First Nation community in Nova Scotia is east of Boat Harbour and is utilized for traditional fishing and hunting. “This place is a significant importance to the Pictou Landing First Nation community,” he said. According to Prosper, Boat Harbour has been receiving wastewater effluent from the industry, and the government has neglected health concerns from the Indigenous people living there. The government told the community that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to make a change, he says. “The government told the people, there’s no evidence of this effluent that we’re putting into boat harbour is affecting the health of the people,” says Prosper. “If our environment is not healthy, how can we be healthy?” said Marshall. Marshall said Indigenous Peoples need to amplify our voices, to protect the environment for future generations. People cannot live in silence, he says, allowing the government to continuously destroy the land. “The government needs to be held accountable because all they do is compromise the ecological entirety of the area, and they compromise the system,” Marshall says. “I was taught, while you stay here on earth, you have to be mindful for the next generations. Most importantly, the future generations will have the same opportunity as we had, of being able to sustain themselves in a healthy environment.” Armstrong is committed to pursuing an alternative academic approach to Indigenous environmental knowledge in her research and study. She has created a methodology that she says may assist as a model in Indigenous Peoples’ struggle to include Indigenous knowledge in the academy. “I am developing better access to Indigenous knowledge through Indigenous oral literature situated as the knowledge documentation system of the Syilx peoples,” Armstrong explains. Marshall is working on cultural understandings and healing of our human responsibilities to care for all creatures and our Earth Mother through two-eyed seeing. “These essentials of the web of life should be protected under the charter of human rights because they constitute to me, a climate emergency,” says Marshall. In response, Prosper is committed to approaching his research mindfully. “How do Indigenous communities consent to research when they were exposed to these unethical experiments, whether be in the residential school or within their own communities?” Prosper asked the group. “We have to be mindful when engaging with Indigenous communities.” “Even the most adverse individuals are still dealing with various issues as a result of their experience with colonialism, and they are still trying to reconcile that.” Prosper acknowledges that little progress in the scientific field has been made, but a lot of work needs to be done. “Yes, we’ve been a lot done within 100 years. Have we done a great job? I don’t think so,” explained Prosper. “I think it’s going to take another hundred years to see a difference.” This event is the second of three examining racism in science, specifically from Indigenous perspectives, with the final one, planned for the spring, will explore Black scientists’ views. Editor’s note: Jeannette Armstrong is reporter Athena Bonneau’s grandmother. At IndigiNews, we take journalistic independence seriously, adhering to the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines. Due to Armstrong’s role at UBCO and participant in the webinar as an elder and knowledge keeper, we felt it was important to include her perspective in this piece. Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Colin Ratushniak is happy to see a new batch of vaccines coming into his town of La Ronge the past week. The first batch of first dose Moderna vaccines was delivered on Jan. 8, with the newly elected mayor of La Ronge getting the vaccine himself when it first arrived. Ratushniak said he was happy to see the second round of first vaccines coming to La Ronge later in January but he is expecting more challenges coming their way. “There has to be a lot more management to make sure that the second dosages are available for those people who already did receive the first one. It's going to become a little bit more challenging to make sure that happens.” Ratushniak has full trust in the health care providers in La Ronge but that will be something to be made aware of as residents reach that 28-day second dose period. The rollout has been chaotic, he said, with eligible people only given hours of notice for when they can get the vaccine. During the Jan. 19 press conference, Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone addressed the issue of the lack of social media and cell phone usage among Saskatchewan seniors, and said they are currently using the same infrastructure as they would with getting information out about flu clinics. With the storage needs of the vaccine being a challenge in small communities, time is of the essence when administering the vaccine and the Health Authority is still working on the best ways of getting the word out to those who are eligible to receive it. “We are looking at multiple ways of having the ability to contact whether that's through social media, through newspapers, through radio advertisements, direct telephone calls to patients that are, are viewed as eligible to receive a vaccine More education is also needed with people either choosing not to be vaccinated or getting the vaccine and then believing they do not have to follow public health protocols that are still in place, Ratushniak said. “There’s this false sense of believing that once you get the vaccination that you don't have to follow any protocols, and you don't have to wear a mask anymore, you can do whatever you want. That's simply not the case until we see a 70 per cent vaccination rate.” Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Police in the Northwest Territories are warning people not to use illicit drugs after two noxious substances were found in drugs seized in Yellowknife. RCMP say they seized crack cocaine, powder cocaine and tablets on Nov. 27 at a residence in the city. A Health Canada analysis of the drugs found two toxic substances not found before in the territory. Those substances are: Adinazolam, a type of tranquillizer that is listed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act; and, 5-MeO-DBT, a psychedelic drug that is not controlled. Yellowknife RCMP Insp. Dyson Smith says he's concerned those who already use illicit drugs in the territory could be harmed by the substances. The RCMP says it's working with the government to address the potential impacts. "RCMP always warn against illicit drug use, however, with the presence of two new substances in drugs seized in a Northwest Territories community, the danger of illicit drug use has increased," police said in a news release Tuesday. Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi, deputy chief public health officer, says there is concern the two substances could cause unexpected reactions or contain other contaminants like opioids. "People who use street or illicit drugs should always do so with others present and have a plan to respond to an overdose. The plan should include having naloxone present and calling 911 for help with any overdose," Pizzi said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
HAMILTON — Captain Kyle Bekker, who led Forge FC to back-to-back Canadian Premier League titles, has re-signed with the Hamilton team. The Canadian international midfielder was named the CPL's most valuable player last year after leading the league in appearances (tied with 11) and minutes played by an attacking player (879). The 30-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., who had three goals and one assist in the league's truncated 2020 season, was also a finalist for MVP honours in 2019. “We are extremely happy to have our captain sign his new contract and commit to our club for the foreseeable future,” Costa Smyrniotis, Forge's director of football, said in a statement. “Kyle has been such a valuable leader for our club since day one, both on the field and in the community. We look forward to continued success together in Hamilton.” Bekker has made 49 appearances for Forge in all competitions, including 39 in league play. Bekker played in Major League Soccer from 2013-16 with Toronto FC, FC Dallas and Montreal. He then suited up for North Carolina FC in the United Soccer League and the San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League. Bekker, who has won 18 caps for Canada, came up through the Sigma FC youth program in Mississauga, Ont., under current Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, Costa's brother. He played collegiate soccer at Boston College. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
Months-long protests in India escalated on Tuesday as thousands of farmers clashed with police in New Delhi over new laws that they say will push small farmers out of the market and let private corporations exploit them.
The new Peggys Cove viewing platform will mostly replace a paved turning lane and won't be built over any important Mi'kmaw sites, the CEO of Develop Nova Scotia said Tuesday. Jennifer Angel leads the provincial Crown corporation building the platform. Angel said she listened to the protests against the platform over the weekend and understands how much people care about the area. "We're reclaiming that space for people," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning. Angel said 12,000 square feet of the deck will replace an existing paved turning circle. Another 2,000 square feet will extend beyond that, she said. "There's a portion we're calling the Nose that is cantilevered out over some of the rocks in a bit of a more dramatic experience," she said. People will still be able to walk over the rocks and paths to the lighthouse and enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean, she said. Some of the weekend protesters complained that they hadn't been consulted. A Mi'kmaw activist said it could block access to sacred sweet grass. Angel said they've been consulting widely since 2018, including with the 40 people who live in the village. "This is the largest and deepest public engagement we've ever done," she said. "But we do think the concerns raised are authentic and are rooted in a true desire to protect the place." Angel said she's spoken to the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre in Halifax and with the activist, and has planned a site visit with them and a botanist. "We're 99 per cent confident we're not in conflict with any sacred sites, but we're going to double check. And we will not be building a platform over a sacred Mi'kmaw site," Angel said. Angel said people can join a public webinar Thursday at 6 p.m. to learn more. 'It's what a kind society does' Paul Vienneau, an activist for people with disabilities and Halifax's accessibility consultant, said the platform will open up Peggys Cove to more people. "I've had a 30-year span where I haven't been able to take part fully in many things," said Vienneau, who uses a wheelchair. "When I hear my human rights and my right of access easily debated away, it kind of makes me feel like I don't count as a citizen." He said making the spot accessible to more people outweighs the changes to the area. "I think it's what a kind society does. I think it's what an enlightened society does," he said. "To have a safe place to sit in that air and look at all the rocks and the lighthouse and the ocean — I can't wait for that." Gerry Post, an accessibility advocate, also welcomed the changes. He praised Develop Nova Scotia for taking accessibility seriously and said they've done great work. "Before I became disabled — I use a wheelchair — I used to go frequently. Whenever visitors come from away, it's the first thing you do, right? You go to Peggys Cove and show it off and enjoy it," he said Tuesday. "Since that, I've been there once, but basically sat in the car in the parking lot. It's not a very accessible place to enjoy that wonderful space there." Post hopes the new public bathrooms will be fully accessible, including changing tables for young children and for adults who need support. "It's not a big expense when you design it in from the front end," he said. Work has not started on the platform, but it's due to open in June. MORE TOP STORIES
Residents of Île-à-la-Crosse will now have a new place to gather with the completion of their community hall. However, with COVID-19, this is a bittersweet time for the community given that public health restrictions will keep them from using it in the coming months, said Mayor Duane Favel. “Having that space that holds community gatherings and such as weddings and other activities that we like to do within our communities, I think it's going to be a wonderful place for people to gather and socialize in a healthy way.” Île-à-la-Crosse used their Municipal Economic Enhancement Program funding that was announced back in May to finally get the project underway to replace the ageing community hall that was donated in 1980. Additional funding has also been secured, Favel said. The concrete foundation and utility lines are still in good shape, said Île-à-la-Crosse councillor Gerald Roy for an article back in September, so those will remain as they replace the building. The community is looking forward to being able to use the facility, Favel said. Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Maybe Spiderman was onto something about the power of webs after all. A Western University husband-wife research duo, Miodrag and Vojislava Grbic, are using spider mite silk to develop a new, microscopic material they say is “stronger than steel” and would be a boon for biomedical developments. “Silk produced by mites and spiders is one of the most elegant and well-designed materials in existence,” Miodrag Grbic said from his research lab in Spain. The newly developed biomaterial is twice as stiff as spider silk, 400 times thinner and has a tensile strength four times that of steel. It’s also biodegradable and non-toxic. The Grbics used the genetic DNA framework of the gorse spider mite, Tetranychus lintearius, to develop a new fibre and biofilm, based on the insect's silk, which they’ve patented. “These nanoparticles can be used in biomedicine, for example, for targeted drug delivery (in the body) because you need a carrier to deliver drugs to particular cells,” Miodrag said. Other potential applications range from vaccine delivery and regenerative medicine to food production. Miodrag said the team is working to see if the material could have applications in COVID-19 vaccines. Developing the material was a happy coincidence for the couple, born out of a “crazy side project.” The Grbics originally were sequencing the genome of spider mites in an effort to combat the pests in agriculture only to stumble upon the power of the insect’s silk. In collaboration with teams in Spain and the United States, researchers used radiation and light, and minuscule force measurements to determine the makeup of spider mite silk. The Grbics were then able to tweak that code and manufacture their new nanoparticles based entirely on the original spider mite silk. “Instead of focusing on killing this pest, which is devastating tomatoes and potatoes and greenhouse industry, we can actually learn from this particular animal and turn something negative into something positive,” Miodrag said. Outside of medicine, the nanoparticles also could be used to coat slow-release fertilizer pellets, pesticides and herbicides to create “smart agrochemicals” for use in sustainable agriculture. “Having a broader view in a particular project, especially in genome sequencing projects, are really opening gold mines for different applications,” Miodrag said. email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Council approved a property tax increase of 5.68 per cent at last night’s meeting. “Keeping this community safe should be our No. 1 priority,” said Coun. Bill McNulty, who was in favour of the increase. A main point of contention in the increase is the hiring of 16 RCMP officers and 11 municipal employees, amounting to a 1.24 per cent increase. However, Coun. Chak Au was not in favour of the “historical” increase, saying he would not approve growth of more than five per cent. He added that Richmond is not the worst city in the region in terms of police officer to population ratio, with 666 residents per officer. In comparison, Surrey has 692 residents per officer, Burnaby 799, and Coquitlam 829. “We’ve been playing catch-up, we had a very low ratio of police to our population,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “I hear so many people talking about being in favour of community safety and how we really have to be safe as a community. What is more fundamental than having police officers?” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
Over the past 10 years, the Yukon government has collected a mere 0.3 per cent of the value of placer and quartz resources on behalf of all Yukoners, the rightful owners of those minerals. An independent panel appointed by the government to review the territory’s mining legislation found that, during this period, miners extracted minerals worth an average of $335 million per year yet only paid an average of $100,000 per year in royalties. The two laws predominantly responsible for mining in the territory, the Placer Mining Act and the Quartz Mining Act, were established in the late 1800s during the Klondike Gold Rush era and are in serious need of modernization, according to the panel’s recent strategy report, which is based on years of public engagement and is intended to inform the Yukon government’s efforts to bring Yukon’s mineral development legislation into the 21st century. Yukon’s antiquated royalty rates for gold — set into law in 1906 — are famously low at just 37.5 cents per ounce of gold, based on a per-ounce price of $15. In today’s market, one ounce of gold is worth more than $2,300. “The royalty regime is very old, and it has not been updated in a significant period of time,” Math’ieya Alatini, a member of the independent panel, told The Narwhal. “We have to bring the royalty regime up to date and make it commensurate with the value of the minerals that are being removed.” Low royalties are something of a sore spot for many in Yukon, including members of the public, First Nations and miners themselves, who argue their industry provides the territory with a cascade of economic benefits not necessarily reflected by royalties. In order for mining to remain sustainable and profitable and continue to have social buy-in, the panel recommends the Yukon government make some key changes to ensure the benefits of mining are more equally distributed through changes to the royalty regime and, potentially, through new taxes. Over the past decade, Yukon has seen a resurgence of mining interest, especially for gold extracted through placer mining operations. According to the Yukon Geological Survey’s latest comprehensive report on placer mining, published in 2018, there are 25,219 placer claims in the territory, the highest number dating back to 1973. Placer mining involves removing rocks and gravel from streams and wetlands in search of gold and can cause disturbances in water quality that can impair the feeding and reproduction of fish. Over many years, placer mining can destroy irreplaceable wetlands, disrupt waterways and harm unique riparian ecosystems that connect land and water. And although placer mining occurs exclusively in streams and Yukon’s wetlands, there are no specific protections in place to protect these unique ecosystems from this kind of activity. Yukon’s modern gold rush, popularized in reality TV shows like Gold Rush and Yukon Gold, has been facilitated by new technologies, machinery and industrial techniques that are a far cry from the humble gold pan of the 1890s. And while the pace and scale of placer mining operations has evolved in recent years, the royalty scheme has not. “There are going to be detrimental effects [from mining],” Alatini said, noting the resources being harvested are fundamentally nonrenewable. “These minerals are not going to be returned to the ground. … How do we adequately compensate this generation and future generations for the loss of use?” The panel suggests the government act on recommendations first made by the Yukon Financial Advisory Panel in 2017 to carry out a comprehensive review of mining policies “with a particular emphasis on ensuring fair and efficient royalty rates.” Based on the findings of that review, the Yukon government should modernize mining legislation “to ensure all Yukoners receive fair and meaningful financial returns from mining activities while also ensuring competitiveness with other Canadian jurisdictions,” the panel said. One of the primary ways the panel recommends altering the royalty system is by adjusting royalties based on the profitability of individual mining operations. A profit-based placer gold royalty would require higher royalties from more profitable operators, while “placer operations that are truly marginal in terms of profitability will continue to pay essentially no royalties.” The panel also suggests the Yukon government consider charging more royalties from non-Yukoners — miners who might simply show up to cash in on high market gold prices — than from local operators who are there for the long haul. Royalties don’t represent the only way Yukoners and Yukon First Nations might benefit from mines, however. The panel points to new forms of taxation that could improve mining standards, provide social benefits to local communities and generate greater rewards for local mine workers over itinerant workers at mines. Currently, Yukon does not charge mine operators anything for the use of water. An industrial water charge, similar to that introduced in British Columbia in 2016, could be used to generate revenue from mines and also create incentives for miners to keep water clean. The panel recommends the government introduce a rolling water tax that rewards operators for maintaining high water quality. Tyler Hooper, a spokesperson with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, recently told The Narwhal that all licensed surface water and groundwater users are required to pay annual water rents. The rental rates are variable and can exclude small-scale placer mining operations. But according to a B.C. provincial government list of example rates, a mine that uses 1.2 million cubic metres of water per year would be charged $2,500 annually or $2.08 per 1,000 cubic metres. Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst for the Yukon Conservation Society, previously told The Narwhal the recommendation to roll out a water tax was welcome, but added he would need more detail to understand how such a fee would work in Yukon. “How will it be applied? Will it be different for quartz exploration to a quartz mine to placer mining?” The panel’s report does not go into any detail regarding these matters nor the particulars of how a water tax could be applied to various mining operations in Yukon. Water licences for mines are issued by the Yukon Water Board and there are more than 100 granted to placer miners in the Indian River watershed directly south of Dawson City, Yukon, alone. Rifkind expressed concern that a water tax could simply be added to the general cost of doing business rather than act as a true incentive to improve mining practices and keep water clean. The panel also recommends applying a payroll tax to people who work but don’t live in Yukon. Right now, personal income tax corresponds with the jurisdiction in which out-of-territory workers live. “It would allow a sort of prorated amount to be transferred back to the Yukon,” she said, adding that a large portion of Yukon’s workforce is made up of people from other jurisdictions. “We want to make sure some of that money stays in the Yukon to act as a multiplier for the economy.” The payroll tax would be deductible for Yukon residents, the strategy states. Taken together, the water and payroll taxes could help buoy a heritage fund — money that would be held in trust to benefit future generations. Alatini said the creation of a heritage fund would not only recognize the value of the resources extracted from Yukon, but also capture some of that value for Yukoners “that translates from the work that’s being done in their backyard to something that can benefit everyone that is here.” “A Yukon heritage fund would provide a visible link between mining activity, royalty revenues from mining and long-term prosperity in Yukon, thereby enhancing sustainability and the industry’s social licence to operate,” the strategy states. Through Yukon’s modern treaties, self-governing Yukon First Nations are able to receive royalties collected by the Yukon government. But because the territorial government receives such low royalties to begin with, only a “negligible amount” is actually making its way to First Nations, the panel found. Alatini said the creators of Yukon’s Umbrella Final Agreement — a political agreement struck between Yukon First Nations and the Yukon and federal governments — “had contemplated First Nations receiving a portion of the benefits of the resources that are being taken from their traditional territories — full stop,” Alatini said. The average royalty cheque received by First Nations during the past decade ranged between $6 and $24, Alatini added. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, on whose territory the vast amount of Yukon’s placer mining takes place along the Indian River, reported receiving a royalties cheque from the government for $65 in 2017. That same year, placer mining along the Indian River accounted for 50 per cent of total placer gold mined in Yukon, according to the Yukon Geological Survey, amounting to more than 350,000 crude ounces of gold. The panel recommends that “Yukon First Nations receive a fair financial and social return from mining and exploration within traditional territories by strengthening the connection between revenue flows and Indigenous interests in the land itself.” Recommendations from the panel also include allowing First Nations, under their final agreements, to charge companies directly for water use or land rental fees, instituting a statute-based template for benefit agreements with affected First Nations and requiring both impact and benefit agreements in advance of quartz mine development, construction, production and decommissioning. Carl Schulze, secretary treasurer for the Yukon Prospectors Association, told The Narwhal industry isn’t thrilled about the idea of paying more taxes, noting that Yukon’s economy is stimulated just by virtue of mines being located in the territory. “What you’ve got to think about is there’s still the supply chain, service chain, all the employees, all the distribution,” Schulze said. “If you took just payroll for Yukoners, and what you paid your contractors, you know, whoever trucks the ore, whoever supplies geological services, local legal services, anything like that, I mean, it’s an enormous amount of money.” The Klondike Placer Miners’ Association has also been a vocal opponent of increased royalty rates for years, with former association president Mike McDougall suggesting increased royalties would undercut the profitability of placer mining operations, which he likened to the “family farm.” But in addition to industry opposition, there are other potential challenges to introducing new and increased revenue generators from mines in Yukon, most notably the territory’s transfer payment from Ottawa. Under the territorial formula financing arrangement, Yukon receives federal funding every year to pay for public services. But in order to maintain this funding arrangement, the Yukon government can only collect and keep $6 million worth in resource revenues each year. “For every dollar above that $6 million amount, a dollar is deducted from Yukon’s [territorial formula financing] grant,” Eric Clement, director of communications with the Yukon government’s Department of Finance, told The Narwhal in an email. That $6 million ceiling may present challenges to Yukon moving forward with some of the most ambitious recommendations of the independent panel, including the creation of a heritage fund. Six million dollars in resource revenues is simply “too low to capitalize a Yukon heritage fund,” the panel noted in its report. Other arrangements could alleviate Yukon’s $6 million limit, however. The panel suggests Yukon look to the Northwest Territories’ arrangement with the federal government, which allows that territory to keep up to 50 per cent of its resource revenues without a specific cap. If implemented in Yukon, this arrangement would allow the territory to receive roughly $54 million in resource revenues without being forced to forego federal support, the panel found. Alatini said new arrangements might be necessary to re-envision how Yukon generates and holds onto resource wealth. A new agreement would require “that the Yukon government and Canada come to the table,” she said. “We need to have consistently producing mines in order for this to even be an option.” Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
A lawyer representing an Alberta man accused of being one of five gang members who took RCMP on a 150-kilometre, two-hour chase gave the Crown a proposed resolution. Kyle Lajimodiere from Cold Lake, Alta., had an appearance in Lloydminster Provincial Court Jan. 26 and his appearance was waived. Crown Prosecutor Liam Fitz-Gerald from North Battleford asked the court for an adjournment until Feb. 9 to give him time to go over defence’s proposal. Lajimodiere was arrested in November 2020. His co-accused are Tonia Cantel, 22, of North Battleford, Juanita Wahpistikwan, 21, from Big Island Cree Nation, and two young offenders who can’t be named in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The chase the alleged Westside Outlaws street gang members took police on occurred Nov. 20, 2020, and went from Lashburn to north of Paradise Hill. Police officers from six detachments rapidly coordinated resources to track and arrest them. They were all charged with theft of a vehicle, storing a prohibited firearm, four counts of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm without a license, being a vehicle with an unauthorized firearm, possessing a prohibited firearm with accessible ammunition without registration, possession a firearm with an altered serial number, endangering the safety of the public, and flight from police. Cantel was denied bail Jan. 21, 2021, and is at Pine Grove Correctional Centre for women in Prince Albert. She appears next in Lloydminster Provincial Court on Feb. 4. Wahpistikwan also remains in custody at Pine Grove and appears next in Lloydminster Provincial Court on Jan. 28. The charges against the accused haven’t been proven in court. If you are associated with a gang and want to leave it, contact STR8 UP in northern Saskatchewan at 306-763-3001, STR8 UP in central Saskatchewan at 306-244-1771, or Regina Treaty Status Indian Services in southern Saskatchewan at 306-522-7494 to get assistance. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin held their first phone conversation as counterparts Tuesday in a phone call that underscored troubled relations and the delicate balance between the former Cold War foes. According to the White House, Biden raised concerns about the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Russia’s alleged involvement in a massive cyber espionage campaign and reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. The Kremlin, meanwhile, focused on Putin’s response to Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control treaty. While the readouts from the two capitals emphasized different elements, they both suggested that U.S-Russia relations will be guided, at least at the beginning of the Biden administration, by a desire to do no harm but also no urgency to repair existing damage. The two presidents agreed to have their teams work urgently to complete a five-year extension of the New START nuclear weapons treaty that expires next month. Former President Donald Trump's administration had withdrawn from two arms control treaties with Russia and had been prepared to let New START lapse. Unlike his immediate predecessors, including Trump who was enamoured of Putin and frequently undercut his own administration's tough stance on Russia, Biden has not held out hope for a “reset” in relations. Instead he he's indicated he wants to manage differences without necessarily resolving them or improving ties. And, with a heavy domestic agenda and looming decisions needed on Iran and China, a direct confrontation with Russia is not likely something he seeks. Although the leaders agreed to work together to extend New START before it expires on Feb. 5 and to look at other areas of potential strategic co-operation, the White House said Biden was firm on U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, while Russia is supporting separatists in the country's east. Biden also raised the SolarWinds cyberhack, which has been attributed to Russia. reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 U.S. election, the poisoning of Navalny and the weekend crackdown on Navalny's supporters. “President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House said. Biden told Putin in the phone call, first reported by The Associated Press, that the U.S, would defend itself and take action, which could include further sanctions, to ensure that Moscow does not act with impunity, officials said. Moscow had reached out last week to request the call, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Biden agreed, but he wanted first to prepare with his staff and speak with European allies, including the a leaders of Britain, France and Germany, which he did. Before he spoke to Putin, Biden also called NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to pledge U.S. commitment to the decades-old alliance founded as a bulwark against Russian aggression. The Kremlin's readout of the call did not address the most contentious issues between the countries, though it said the leaders also discussed other “acute issues on the bilateral and international agenda.” It described the talk as “frank and businesslike” — often a diplomatic way of referring to tense discussions. It also said Putin congratulated Biden on becoming president and “noted that normalization of ties between Russia and the United States would serve the interests of both countries." Among the issues the Kremlin said were discussed were the coronavirus pandemic, the Iran nuclear agreement, Ukraine and issues related to trade and the economy. The call came as Putin considers the aftermath of pro-Navalny protests that took place in more than 100 Russian cities over the weekend. Biden’s team has already reacted strongly to the crackdown on the protests, in which more than 3,700 people were arrested across Russia, including more than 1,400 in Moscow. More protests are planned for the coming weekend. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s best-known critic, was arrested Jan. 17 as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent nearly five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Biden has previously condemned the use of chemical weapons. Russian authorities deny the accusations. Just from the public accounts, Biden's discussion with Putin appeared diametrically opposed to Trump's. Trump had seemed to seek Putin's approval, frequently casting doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including when he stood next to Putin at their 2018 summit in Helsinki. He also downplayed Russia’s involvement in the hack of federal government agencies last year and the allegations that Russia offered the Taliban bounties. Still, despite that conciliatory approach, Trump's administration toed a tough line against Moscow, imposing sanctions on the country, Russian companies and business leaders for issues ranging from Ukraine to energy supplies and attacks on dissidents. Biden, in his call with Putin, broke sharply with Trump by declaring that he knew that Russia attempted to interfere with both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. elections. ___ Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Matthew Lee And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
The accused in a fatal 2016 shooting at a ByWard Market nightclub says he only fired his gun in self-defence after another drug dealer tried to take over his sale. Mustafa Ahmed, 32, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Omar Rashid-Ghader, who was 33 at the time of his killing. On Tuesday, Ahmed told court about the confrontation that led to Rashid-Ghader's death. I was terrified. I was only trying to save my own life. - Mustafa Ahmed "I was terrified. I was only trying to save my own life," Ahmed testified from behind Plexiglas at the Elgin Street courthouse. The proceedings are being made available to the public via Zoom. Ahmed said he was arranging a drug deal at the bar of the Sentral Nightclub at Dalhousie and Clarence streets just after 3 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2016. He said Rashid-Ghader's associates approached him to try to get involved in the deal, which would've meant Ahmed wouldn't make any money. Shooter startled Ahmed said he was startled when Rashid-Ghader, also known as "Esco," appeared behind him at the bar and began trying to get involved as well. Ahmed said he was then struck by what he thought was the butt of a gun, which video evidence has shown was actually a bottle. He said he didn't know whether Rashid-Ghader still had the weapon as he continued to beat Ahmed on the floor. He said he knew that Rashid-Ghader, from whom he had previously picked up drugs, carried weapons such as guns, baseball bats, bricks and machetes, so Ahmed said he was worried he'd end up in hospital or dead. Ahmed testified that the bouncers at the club hadn't checked him for weapons, so he had no reason to believe they had checked Rashid-Ghader, either. Ahmed said he only fired after he had been slammed into the floor and hit repeatedly. He said Rashid-Ghader tried to wrestle control of the gun from him, and didn't let up until after the second shot was fired. Bullet pierced victim's heart Noting that one of the bullets went through Rashid-Ghader's heart, Ahmed's defence lawyer Solomon Friedman asked his client if he had aimed his weapon with that intention. "My thoughts were focused on getting myself out of that situation. I fired in his general direction," Ahmed responded. "I didn't aim for his head, I didn't aim for his heart." Ahmed said he didn't know Rashid-Ghader was dead when he left the club. Once Ahmed heard he was wanted for second-degree murder, he disposed of the bloodied shirt he'd worn that night, fled to Toronto and got rid of the gun he'd used that night. "I didn't murder him," Ahmed recalled thinking at the time. "I just think in my head, [the police are] not going to believe my side of the story.... I was just defending myself." Court heard Ahmed had previously been shot, and that's why he started carrying a gun. The trial resumes Thursday with cross-examination.