When mom said not to drink near the computer, you have to come up with something creative, and this video is a super hack on how to do that. What do you think?
When mom said not to drink near the computer, you have to come up with something creative, and this video is a super hack on how to do that. What do you think?
An envoy hired to defuse tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous commercial lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia has released a bleak interim report highlighting poor communication and a lack of trust between both sides. The report by Université Sainte-Anne president Allister Surette found perhaps the only thing the fishermen can agree on is blaming the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the situation. "The lack of trust and respect has been presented to me by many of the individuals I interviewed," Surette said in his interim report filed with Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Carolyn Bennett, minister for Indigenous-Crown relations. "Firstly, I have heard from Indigenous and non-Indigenous parties of the lack of trust in government," Surette wrote. "Added to this level of the lack of trust and respect, some interviewed also expressed the lack of trust and respect within parties involved in the fishery and I also heard of the lack of trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, stakeholder groups and organizations." Appointed by Ottawa Surette was named special federal representative by the Trudeau government after an outbreak of violence and protests at the launch of an Indigenous moderate livelihood lobster fishery by the Sipekne'katik band in St. Marys Bay last fall. The band cited the Mi'kmaq's right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 but never defined by Ottawa. The fishery was conducted outside of the regulated season for commercial lobster licence holders in Lobster Fishing Area 34, who objected saying the fishery was a blatant violation of fishery regulations. The reaction included alleged assaults, arson, blockades, volleys of wharfside profanity and online venom. It garnered international attention. The blowup capped years of tensions over an escalating Sipekne'katik food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay that was, in some cases, used as a cloak for a commercial fishery. Lobster caught under food, social and ceremonial licences cannot be sold. In one case, a Crown prosecutor said the lobster caught under those licences from Sipekne'katik supplied an international "black market operation." Despite a number of federal initiatives to integrate the Mi'kmaq into the fishery since 1999 — including half a billion dollars for training and buying out and providing commercial licences — there has been a lack of progress defining moderate livelihood and implementing the fishery. Expectations of the First Nations were not met, leaving many of them to doubt the sincerity of DFO, Surette reported. Debate over enforcement Surette said the issue is complex and will not be easily solved. Non-Indigenous fishermen have argued there is not enough enforcement when it comes to Indigenous lobster fishing while the bands have complained of harassment. "However, the point to note on this matter, and more closely related to my mandate, seems to be the lack of clear direction from the government of Canada and the multiple facets and complexity of implementing the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood," he said in the report. Surette's mandate is not to negotiate but rather to "restore confidence, improve relations" and make recommendations to the politicians. His interim report calls for more dialogue to build trust, suggesting areas of declared common interest like conservation and marketing. A lack of information from DFO was a recurrent complaint from the commercial fishermen, said Surette. "There should be some type of formal process for the non-Indigenous to be kept up to speed, especially the harvesters, since this could affect their livelihood. Some process, even though they're not involved in negotiation, that they could have input or at least understand what's going on," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday. Improving communication He made three suggestions for improving communication: a clearinghouse for accurate information, a formal process for talks between the commercial industry and the government of Canada, and forums to create a "safe space" to talk on important issues without extreme emotions. Surette interviewed 85 people — 81 per cent were non-Indigenous. "In some cases, they were heavily focused on the fishery. Others said that they preferred dealing with the ministers at this present time," he told CBC News. Surette said he will be reaching out to gather more perspectives. MORE TOP STORIES
Saskatchewan will start to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses, as supplies run short. Second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will be administered up to 42 days after the first dose. Official guidelines say the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is meant to be given as two doses, 21 days apart, while Moderna recommends spacing doses 28 days apart. The National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI), a body made up of scientists and vaccine experts, say provinces should follow the dosing schedule as closely as possible, but the panel is now offering some wiggle room. WATCH | Canada's COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee approves delaying 2nd dose NACI recommends spacing out the doses up to 42 days when necessary. The recommendation is also supported by the World Health Organization and Canada's chief medical health officer. "The flexibility provided by a reasonable extension of the dose interval to 42 days where operationally necessary, combined with increasing predictability of vaccine supply, support our public health objective to protect high-risk groups as quickly as possible," reads a statement released Thursday from Dr. Theresa Tam, as well as the provincial and territorial chief medical officers of health. The same day, Saskatchewan announced it would further space out its doses. "Saskatchewan will be implementing these recommendations of up to 42 days where operationally necessary in order to deliver more first doses to eligible people," the government of Saskatchewan said in a news release. WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo addresses questions on taking first and second dose of vaccine 42 days apart: Saskatchewan's supply runs short As of Friday, 96 per cent of the province's vaccines have been administered, and new supplies coming in are not enough to replenish what has been used. Pfizer has said it will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium, to boost capacity. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says it's very reassuring to have the length between doses extended to 42 days. "When there's a sudden, further disruption that does present challenges," Shahab said during a news conference on Tuesday. "Most provinces are able to give the second dose of both Pfizer and Moderna within 42 days ... and that becomes very important with the disruption of shipment." Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, agreed. "It does mitigate some of the decreased doses coming in. We also know through contact with the federal government that once the Pfizer plant is back online, they'll be increasing our shipment," Livingstone said during Tuesday's news conference. Livingstone said the new shipments coming in will be allocated for an individual's first and second shot. WATCH | Canada facing delays in vaccine rollout More vaccines on the way Another shipment of vaccines will arrive in Saskatchewan on Feb. 1, says the government. The province is expecting 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and 6,500 doses of Moderna's vaccine. The government says they will be distributed to the Far North West, Far North East, North East and Central West. A second shipment of 7,100 doses from Moderna will arrive on Feb. 22, and will be distributed to the Far North East, North East and Central East. "Our immunization team is trying to be as nimble as possible knowing that we could at any time through the pandemic receive more vaccines, but also then having to readjust our targets and still focusing on the most needy in this Phase 1, and we will continue to do that as vaccine supply keeps coming back up," Livingstone said.
VICTORIA — The federal economic development minister says business leaders in British Columbia want to work with a new development agency aiming to help them endure the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for the future. Melanie Joly said she's heard from entrepreneurs and business owners across B.C. about the support for a home-based economic development agency, including during an online forum Friday with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. Joly said the promised B.C.-based agency will provide targeted economic support and relief in the form of loans, subsidies and advice about federal programs. "People want to be able to have access to levers to survive the economic crisis and the pandemic, but at the same time people want to talk about the future and want to be optimistic as the vaccinations roll out," she said in a phone interview. Joly said she's heard in panel discussions with business leaders that they're concerned about the distance between Ottawa and B.C. as entrepreneurs argue for an agency that is closer to home. "There's a feeling of disconnection towards the federal government," she said. "That has created sometimes frustration on the part of people in B.C. We need to increase our impact, our footprint. We need to make sure that people trust the fact that the federal government is there for them." Joly, who is also the minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, said B.C. entrepreneurs have told her the province's economy was growing before the COVID-19 pandemic and they need help now to get them through. Last December's federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year, she said, adding the budget for the new B.C. agency has not been set and there's no date yet for an opening date. "I always have a sense of urgency in life," Joly said after her meeting with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. "I'm a very impatient person, so the team and I are working extremely hard to make sure we can launch this new B.C. agency but we need to make sure we do things right." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
The RM of Edenwold will go a little longer yet without a permanent chief administrative officer in place, following the retirement of Kim McIvor. A possible replacement candidate for McIvor was preparing for a move to the area in December but for family reasons was not able to make the move.For now that leaves Karen Zaharia, the RM’s assistant administrator, as acting CAO, with Jedlic also assisting with some of the CAO duties on a temporary basis. “We had initiated a search to replace (McIvor) last summer and into the fall,” Jedlic said. “We had a number of excellent candidates and ultimately one we worked with over a period of time who surely would have been an excellent candidate for the RM of Edenwold.” Due to personal circumstances, that candidate withdrew during late stages of the search process. That forced the RM of re-initiate the search process. While the CAO search continues, Reeve Mitchell Huber has also assisted with administration duties in the interim. The CAO opening has been posted by Boyden Canada, an executive search firm. Job requirements include having a Rural Class A certificate in Local Government Administration or a relevant professional degree, along with 10 years of related municipal government experience. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
The Ontario government is kicking off a new social media campaign with actors, singers, athletes, and business owners who are all asking you to remain at home. Meanwhile, data tracking mobility in the city continues to show progress. Matthew Bingley reports.
For the second straight day COVID-19 was connected to a school in Prince Albert after classes returned on Monday, Jan. 18. On Friday morning the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been connected to two classrooms at Riverside Public School in Prince Albert. “Affected students and staff will be isolating until end of Feb. 1 while the rest of the school remains learning in-person,” the division stated in an email. The division was informed recently of the positive COVID-19 test results and communication is being shared with the classrooms/cohorts, the connected staff, as well as with the school communities. The learning program will continue remotely only for those students and staff affected while in-person learning will continue for the rest of the school. As is the circumstance in all reports of COVID-19 in the division due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared. They added that schools remain safe places to learn. Both the Local Medical Health Officer and the provincial Chief Medical Health officer continue to indicate that because of the protocols in place, schools are safe and are not significant source of transmission. The division explained that we all share responsibility to minimize the risk of COVID transmission. “The division deeply appreciates the support that students, parents and community members have demonstrated, especially as the number of cases in our region climbs.” The SHA’s local public health team continues to provide expert advice and strong support for our dedicated staff as we manage the pandemic in our communities. “The division is thankful to have such a cohesive team of administration and staff supported by our partners in Health.” On Thursday a case of COVID-19 was connected to Ecole St. Anne School. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The province’s largest vaccination effort in history is projected to vaccinate all 4.3 million eligible British Columbians by the end of September, health officials announced today. The province is prepared to deliver 8.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — both of which require two doses — to all adults who want one at a rate of up to 500,000 per week as vaccine supply increases. No vaccines have been approved for use by B.C.’s 900,000 children and youth under 18. “By the end of September, everyone who wants a vaccination will have one,” said Premier John Horgan. The province has changed early plans to continue prioritizing specific at-risk groups as is being done in other provinces. Instead, the vaccine will be administered largely based on age in B.C.’s four-phase strategy. “Our immunization plan is based on evidence and data,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “And we know the single greatest risk factor for serious illness and death from COVID-19 is increasing age.” Initially the province said frontline workers such as those in law enforcement, grocery stores and essential businesses and teachers and emergency responders could be prioritized in its plans. But research from B.C. and the rest of Canada indicates that risk of serious illness and death due to COVID-19 increases “almost exponentially” with age, Henry noted. Those over 80 are almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as those in their late 60s, who are five times more likely than people under 45. Even the other chronic conditions proven to increase the risk of hospitalization and death, such as serious asthma, heart disease and diabetes, are heavily correlated with age, Henry said. “Going on an age-based model captures the majority of people with underlying risk factors first,” she said. “This is going to be, and needs to be, an all-B.C. effort to make sure we can protect those most vulnerable and all of us in our communities.” Phase 1 of the strategy is already well under way, focusing on long-term care staff and residents and essential visitors, health-care workers treating COVID-19 patients and remote First Nations communities. More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated so far, and the phase will wrap up by March, Henry said. Under Phase 2, starting in March, 172 communities will see stadiums, high school gyms and public plazas turned into mass immunization centres. Mobile vaccination clinics and house-call teams will also be available for smaller communities and people who can’t make it to a vaccination centre. More than 240,000 seniors over 80 living in the community will be immunized, as well as Indigenous seniors over 65, hospital staff and community practitioners and homeless or vulnerable populations living in settings like shelters and group homes. At the same time, vaccination pre-registrations will start for the general population by phone and online, opening two to four weeks before each age group is eligible on a rolling basis. In Phase 3 starting in April, about 980,000 seniors in the community will be immunized. The plan is to start with people 75 to 79 and move through the population in five-year increments until everyone over 60 is vaccinated. B.C.’s vaccination lead Dr. Penny Ballem said immunocompromised adults and teens over 16 will get the vaccine if it’s deemed medically necessary during this phase, as well as organ transplant recipients and those with other clinical vulnerabilities. And the final phase starting in July will see about three million people aged 18 to 59 vaccinated in descending age order. Patients will also receive physical or digital vaccination records noting the date and kind of vaccination they received, and all immunization records will also be available through the provincial health gateway. The plan is based on the increasing availability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as the anticipated approval of additional vaccines on order. Vaccine shortages have already delayed vaccinations in B.C. and across Canada. The province expects more than 800,000 doses to arrive in B.C. before the end of March, 2.6 million from April to June and six million by the end of September. Planning also assumes 100-per-cent uptake in the population, which surveys indicate will not be the case. Henry hopes around 70 per cent of those eligible will be vaccinated to build community immunity. “This can be reached if the large majority of people in B.C. choose to be immunized,” she said. Officials say the timeline could shift if the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved and available in the province, or if vaccines need to be rerouted to deal with community outbreaks, clusters or high-risk workplaces. Ballem said the baseline estimates “allows us to know how to schedule human resources, supply chains for vaccines and other supplies that are necessary.” Horgan said more delays are possible if vaccine production is slower than expected. But the plan is a good starting point and can be adapted as vaccine supplies increase or acute needs emerge in communities, he said. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix urged people to continue washing their hands, staying home when sick and masking up in public areas. It will be a long time until any sense of normalcy can return, and this is a critical time to protect the most vulnerable before they are immunized, they said. “What’s really important for success and us getting through these next few months is continuing to take the precautions that we know work,” said Henry. Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
BRAMPTON, Ont. — Police say a youth group leader from a Brampton, Ont., church has been charged in connection with alleged sex offences involving three teenagers.Peel Regional Police say the charges relate to incidents that allegedly took place between 1998 and 2003.They say a 43-year-old man from Mississauga, Ont., has been charged with three counts of sexual exploitation and three counts of sexual assault.He's set to appear in a Brampton court on March 29.Police are asking anyone with information to come forward.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
The motor kicks in, slowly raising the viewing hatch to reveal the celestial bodies shining on this crisp January night — ready for their close-up from the Celestron CPC 1100 telescope mounted in the University of Prince Edward Island observatory. The silver dome-shaped tower sits atop Memorial Hall on the Charlottetown campus. Megan Glover, a laboratory technician in the physics department, controls the direction of the telescope using a computerized control pad to find the bright cratered surface of the first quarter moon. Even thought the opening of the dome and telescope can swivel in all directions, Glover said they are still somewhat limited as to what a group of students can see in the artificially illuminated city skies. "We're still able to show them things like planets, some star clusters, nebula, the occasional galaxy if the weather is cooperating enough," Glover said. "It's just a way for them to have a firsthand view of something — rather than just seeing it as a picture on a textbook or a website." Behind her, placed on a wall near the exit of the 2.5-metre diameter dome, is a newly added plaque. "The Earl L. Wonnacott Observatory," it reads, dedicating the structure to the former professor who was instrumental in getting it installed in 1980. 'Just a tremendous experience' Wonnacott began teaching at Prince of Wales College in the 1940s. He continued as a PWC professor — with breaks to upgrade his own education, as well as serve in the Second World War — until the college merged with St. Dunstan's University to form UPEI in 1969. There he taught physics and astronomy and was the chair of the physics department in the 1980s. Bill Whelan, current chair of the department, took one of Wonnacott's two astronomy courses as an undergrad and calls it "just a tremendous experience. "He had a very soft-spoken, very gentle manner and such an enthusiasm for physics and astronomy. He just sort of… brought you right in and helped you experience the wonders of looking up at the sky." In 1980, Wonnacott was able to get funding for the new observatory. It would consist of a telescope, a dome to cover it and all the infrastructure to support it in a sheltered space on top of a new wing being built at Memorial Hall. "He said that he and his student assistants often got very excited about what they were seeing and they hoped that the people that were visiting would get just as excited — and he thought that it would rub off a little bit on them," Glover said, recalling a paper Wonnacott wrote about the observatory in the early 1980s. "I think that's what we continue to do, is let people see some of these astronomical sites for themselves and get interested and it's a great way to get interested in science." Wonnacott was a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society, Charlottetown Centre. After he retired, the Professor Earl Wonnacott Prize in astronomy was established in his honour in 1998. He was named a Founder of the University in 2001 for his contributions to education in the province. He continued to teach astronomy into the early 2000s, and would still show up at public viewing events to join in spreading knowledge about astronomy. Whelan recalls a 2017 solar viewing event, when the university partnered with the Charlottetown chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society to set up devices and telescopes to help the public safely take in the event. They were expecting a couple dozen people to show up, but hundreds of community members attended, including Wonnacott. "I can tell you that it electrified a lot of people who attended because many hadn't seen him in a number of years," Whalen said. "We were very pleased to see him there. He has always shared his knowledge about solar eclipses in these solar events and he just elevated the entire event." Wonnacott died on October 18, 2019. To commemorate the 40th year of the Observatory, in 2020 the physics department proposed to the university that it be dedicated in Wonnacott's honour. The university agreed and the dedication was made in October. Sharing the sky with the public Over the years, the observatory has been used often for public viewings, either for the general public or for community groups. Glover said that continues to respect Wonnacott's original intention of helping people see things in the sky with their own eyes. It also lets those leading the public viewings to share in the magic of someone's first-timer delight. "It can be a bit like getting to see it yourself again for the first time," said Glover. "When someone else gets very excited about seeing it, it's a little bit — kind of gets you caught up in it as well." New camera equipment, including a special filter, will help students collect the different spectrum of light from the stars. "Our hope is that students will be able to get a spectrum from a star themselves and study it and learn what they can about the star," Glover said. More from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his piece with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two leaders spoke by phone for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden's first conversation with a foreign leader since Wednesday's inauguration. It was also Trudeau's first chance to express Canada's official dismay at the decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, and Biden's first to explain it. One of Biden's first actions in the White House was to rescind predecessor Donald Trump's approval for the US$8-billion cross-border expansion project. Trudeau, however, is urging Canadians to look past the decision and focus instead on all the areas of mutual agreement the two countries can look forward to. In particular, Trudeau says Biden and Canada share a vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth at the same time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
The NBC Sports Network, which is best known for its coverage of the NHL and English Premier League, will be going away at the end of the year. NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua announced the channel's shutdown on Friday in an internal memo to staff. “At the conclusion of 2021, we have decided that the best strategic next step for our Sports Group and the entire Company is to wind down NBCSN completely,” Bevacqua said in the memo. NBCSN is available in 80.1 million homes, according to Nielsen's latest estimate, which is less than ESPN (83.1 million) and FS1 (80.2 million). The channel was launched by Comcast in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network. It was best known for carrying the Tour de France until it acquired the NHL in 2005. It changed its name to Versus in 2006 and then to NBC Sports Network six years later after Comcast bought NBC Universal in 2011. Bevacqua said in the memo that Stanley Cup playoff games and NASCAR races would be moving to USA Network this year. USA Network, which is available in 85.6 million homes, had already been airing early-round playoff games since 2012. “This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost,” Bevacqua said. “We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our Sports Group, our partners, and our Company.” The news of NBCSN shutting down also comes during a time when many of NBC Sports Group’s most valuable sports properties are coming up for renewal. This is the last season of a 10-year deal with the NHL and negotiations for the EPL rights, beginning with the 2022-23 season, are ongoing. Many have predicted that the next rights deal with the NHL will include multiple networks with former broadcast partners ESPN and Fox Sports expected to be in the mix. NBC's current deal averages $200 million per season. Premier League deals are usually for three years, but NBC secured a six-year package in 2015 by paying nearly $1 billion. NASCAR, which has its races from July through November on NBC and NBCSN, has a deal through 2024. IndyCar's contract, which includes the Indianapolis 500 on NBC, expires at the end of this year. The sanctioning body said in a statement that NBC “has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift." Tag Garson, Wasserman’s senior vice-president of properties, said TNT and TBS have already proved it's possible to have a cable channel that does a good job of meshing entertainment programming with sports. “NBC has done a great job with hockey and soccer that it would be hard for anyone to walk away from that,” he said. “How many windows can your fit sports programming into at USA? That’s where the internal discussions are going to be and understanding the right balance to have between sports and entertainment.” NBC could also put additional events on its Peacock streaming service, which debuted last year. There are 175 Premier League games airing on Peacock this season. Joe Reedy, The Associated Press
PHOENIX -- Health officials say the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arizona are declining despite the state having the worst infection rate in the country. Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said Friday that the number of patients and even the positivity test rate have dipped slightly in the last few weeks. It was the one bright spot of news as Arizona reached a grim milestone with a pandemic death toll of more than 12,000. That puts COVID-19 on track to eclipse heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in the state. The Department of Health Services on Friday reported 8,099 additional known cases and 229 additional deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 708,041 cases and 12,001 deaths. One person in every 141 Arizona residents was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past week. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Dr. Fauci says a lack of candour about the coronavirus under President Donald Trump “very likely” cost lives. Japan is publicly adamant it will stage the postponed Olympics, but faces vaccine roadblocks. Germany passes 50,000 deaths from coronavirus. Lucky few get COVID-19 vaccine because of rare extra doses in U.S. New Chinese film praises Wuhan ahead of lockdown anniversary. Brazil awaits vaccine cargo from India amid supply concerns. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: BOISE, Idaho -- Limited coronavirus vaccine availability, confusion over which Idaho residents should be vaccinated first and rumours of line-jumpers are all complicating the state’s vaccine rollout. Members of Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee met Friday to help clarify exactly who should have first dibs on the state’s doses. Sarah Leeds with the Idaho Immunization Program says the demand is far higher than the doses available. So far, the federal government has distributed more than 178,000 doses to Idaho. That’s a rate of about 9,970 doses for every 100,000 residents, putting Idaho near the bottom compared to the allotment given other states. Currently, front-line health care workers, nursing home staffers, dentists, pharmacists and other medical-field staffers are eligible to be vaccinated in Idaho, as can child care workers, teachers and staffers at primary and secondary schools and correctional centre staffers. But the people who are charged with giving out the vaccine — local health departments, pharmacies and medical care providers — have different interpretations of exactly who is included in each category. ___ RALEIGH — North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services said on Friday that the state has seen 1,280 of its coronavirus vaccine doses get discarded. “Only 0.1% (or 1,280) of the 1.1 million doses which have entered the state thus far have become unusable for any reason and we have not received reports of significant batches being lost,” the department said in a statement to The Associated Press. In a Thursday afternoon news conference, the state’s top public health official, Dr. Mandy Cohen, estimated the waste to be “in the tens of doses.” Doses being administered at county health departments, clinics, hospitals and other places could be tossed out due to a vaccine being stored too long in a freezer or not being administered in a timely manner once it has been taken out of a freezer. There are currently 136 different vaccine providers in the state. The health department said providers are using low dead-volume syringes are designed to maximize the amount of doses it can get out one multi-dose vial. “In some cases, providers have been able to extract an extra dose out of the Pfizer supply, and we appreciate the hard work of providers to maximize the use of this supply,” the department said. North Carolina expects to continue getting about 120,000 new first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each week. ___ SEATTLE -- A suburban Seattle man who advertised a supposed COVID-19 “vaccine” he said he created in his personal lab, has been arrested. KUOW reports Johnny T. Stine faces a misdemeanour charge of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Stine advertised injections of the supposed vaccine for $400 on his personal Facebook page in March 2020. At that time, there was no authorized COVID-19 vaccine on the market. It wasn’t immediately known if Stine has a lawyer to comment on his case. He could face up to one year in prison if convicted. ___ BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A state health inspector has found that some residents of a long-term care and skilled nursing facility in Burlington, Vermont, failed to get doses of required medication and proper wound care and were left to sit in their urine amid a coronavirus outbreak at the facility last month. The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services did the inspection at Elderwood at Burlington on Dec. 9 and 10, the Burlington Free Press reported. The survey was done following recent anonymous complaints about the facility. A subsequent report did not find any instances of infection control failing to stop the spread of COVID-19, the newspaper reported. The facility said in a statement Friday that it is committed to working with regulatory authorities to ensure it maintains high standards of care and appropriately complies with all guidance. “Elderwood at Burlington is and always has been committed to high quality, safe resident care. Throughout the pandemic, which has stretched the resources of healthcare providers across the country, our staff have worked with diligence and dedication to care for residents,” the statement said. The report states that the facility continues to hire, train and schedule enough competent staff to meet the needs of residents and surpass state minimum staffing requirements. ___ MISSION, Kan. — Online sign-ups for the coronavirus vaccine are filling up almost as quickly as they are posted as health officials in Kansas begin moving beyond immunizing just health care workers and long-term care residents. Saline County had to shut its down within 30 minutes after residents 65 and older nabbed all 900 available slots. That’s about how long Douglas County had its signup open before its 500 slots were filled. The rush comes after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced Thursday that the state was moving into the second vaccination phase, which includes about 1 million people. It includes not just those 65 and older but also people in congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters, and critical workers such as firefighters, police officers, teachers and meat packing plant employees. The state also will continue vaccinating people from the first phase, some of whom wanted to watch the rollout to see if there were problems before getting vaccinated themselves. The challenge is that the state doesn’t have nearly enough doses for all of them — at least not yet. So the state is leaving it up to counties to decide how to prioritize who gets vaccinated next. ___ SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is reporting a one-day record of 764 COVID-19 deaths but the rate of new infections is falling. The deaths reported Friday by the California Department of Public Health top the previous mark of 708 set on Jan. 8. In the last two days California has recorded 1,335 deaths. Hospitalizations and newly confirmed cases have been falling, however, and health officials are growing more optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over. The 23,024 new cases reported Friday are less than half the mid-December peak of nearly 54,000. Hospitalizations have fallen below 20,000, a drop of more than 10% in two weeks. ___ PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday defended her decision to reject federal guidelines and prioritize teachers for the COVID-19 vaccine before the elderly, stating that if all of Oregon’s seniors were vaccinated first teachers would likely not be vaccinated before the school year and many students would not return to in-person learning. In addition, during a news conference, officials from the Oregon Health Authority presented a new vaccination timeline that delays the eligibility for seniors 65 to 69 years old to be vaccinated until March 7 and those 70 to 74 pushed back to Feb. 28. Last week, Oregon officials announced a change to the vaccine distribution — instead of vaccinating teachers and seniors at the same time, teachers would be vaccinated beginning Jan. 25 and people 80 or older beginning Feb. 8. ___ SAO PAULO — Sao Paulo state, which has posted the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths of any Brazilian state, has tightened its restrictions on activity until Feb. 7 with the 8 p.m. closure of non-essential businesses. The reopening of schools, previously planned for Feb. 1, was postponed by a week. Health authorities also announced local hospitals could run out of intensive-care beds in 28 days, which forced them to reassign 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients. Sao Paulo state is home to 46 million people, and has recorded almost 51,000 deaths from the virus —almost one fourth of the total in Brazil, where cases and deaths of coronavirus are surging again. Also on Friday, Brazil’s health regulator authorized the emergency use of 4.8 million CoronaVac vaccines bottled locally by Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute. Six million shots were previously made available by Butantan, and another 2 million AstraZeneca shots are expected to arrive from India later on Friday. Brazil has a population of about 210 million. ___ MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama's state health officer said a low supply of vaccine is the largest hindrance to getting people vaccinated for COVID-19. Alabama health officials were expecting to get more than 112,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses a week based on conversations with federal officials when Operation Ward Speed began last year. Instead, officials said, the state is getting about 50,000 to 60,000 doses a week. Dr. Scott Harris said federal officials later said the 112,000 figure was not a promise but a figure that the state should use in its planning. Alabama has approved more than 883 pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other providers to do vaccinations but only 364 have received any vaccine. He said only about 117 providers will get vaccine this week because of the available supply. The state of nearly 5 million people has received 502,950 vaccine doses and 223,887 of those have been administered, according to state numbers. Harris said many of the unused doses are designated for patients in upcoming appointments for their second or first dose. ___ WASHINGTON — White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about a potential pause in vaccinations in New York, where the state is reporting a shortage in vaccines available for first doses. Psaki says the White House has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “look into what is possible” to address the situation in New York. But she stressed the administration will defer to the judgment of medical experts. “Clearly we don’t want any states to run out of access to vaccines,” Psaki says, adding the Biden administration aims to avoid supply crunches going forward. ___ LONDON — AstraZeneca says it will ship fewer doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the European Union than anticipated due to supply chain problems. The company is waiting for the European Medicines Agency to approve its vaccine, which could happen when the EU regulator meets on Jan. 29. AstraZeneca’s statement said, “initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.” It adds: “We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes.” Regulators in Britain and several other countries have already given the vaccine the green light. ___ BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has released some demographic details on who’s received the coronavirus vaccine. However, the data provided Friday lacks key information to determine if Louisiana’s doses are equitably distributed. Few vaccine providers are identifying race in the data submitted. That undermines Gov. John Bel Edwards’ efforts to ensure minority groups have adequate access to vaccination. The information shows at least 33% of Louisiana’s nearly 273,000 vaccine recipients are white and at least 10% are black. But another 56% of those who have received the shots were listed as “unknown” or “other.” Edwards is calling on hospitals, clinics and pharmacies vaccinating people in Louisiana to start providing more complete data. ___ WASHINGTON — New research finds full doses of blood thinners such as heparin can help moderately ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients avoid the need for breathing machines or other organ support. The preliminary results come from three large, international studies testing various coronavirus treatments and haven’t yet been published. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and other sponsors released the results Friday to help doctors decide on appropriate care. Nearly all hospitalized COVID-19 patients currently get low doses of a blood thinner to try to prevent clots from forming. The new results show that “when we give higher doses of blood thinners to patients who are not already critically ill, there is a significant benefit in preventing them from getting sicker,” said Dr. Matthew Neal, a trauma surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one study leader. However, the researchers say these drugs don’t help and may harm people who are more seriously ill. The study highlights how timing and degree of illness matter for coronavirus treatments. Steroid drugs can help severely ill patients but not ones who are only mildly ill. Some antibody drugs seem to help when given soon after or before symptoms appear but not for sicker, hospitalized patients. ___ HAVANA — A possibly more contagious variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Cuba. Dr. María Guadalupe Guzmán of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine says the variant, originally detected in South Africa, was found in an asymptomatic traveller during a check at ports and airports. While that case was imported, she says authorities can’t rule out the possibility it is also circulating locally. But the institute’s director of epidemiology, Francisco Duran, said it’s not the reason for a recent upsurge in cases on the island. The nation of some 11 million people has recorded more than 20,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 530 on Thursday, and 188 deaths. ___ PHOENIX — Arizona’s death toll surpassed 12,000 on Friday after reporting 229 more deaths. The Department of Health Services reported 8,099 confirmed cases, increasing total cases to more than 700,000. The surge has crowded hospitals statewide. Arizona is ramping up vaccinations by opening an additional site. But like other states, Arizona has had difficulty getting enough doses to administer. ___ WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation is extending its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew and lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more coronavirus vaccinations. Tribal officials announced the measures will take effect Monday and run through at least Feb. 15. Officials say the daily curfew will run daily from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The tribe has reported a total of 26,782 cases and 940 known deaths on the reservation. ___ RABAT, Morocco — Morocco has received its first doses of vaccine against the coronavirus and plans to start injections next week. The Health Ministry sats the AstraZeneca vaccine, delivered from India, will be followed by another delivery next week of a second vaccine, from China’s Sinopharm. The vaccine rollout will start next week. Priority will be given to health workers age 40 and above, police and army officers, teachers 45 and above and those over 75. The Associated Press
MILAN — Italy’s data protection authority said Friday it was imposing an immediate block on TikTok’s access to data for any user whose age has not been verified. The authority said it was acting with “urgency” following the death of a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, who died while participating in a so-called “blackout” challenge while using the Chinese-owned video-sharing social network. Prosecutors in Sicily are investigating the case. The data protection authority noted it had advised TikTok in December of a series of violations, including scant attention to the protection of minors, the ease with which users under age 13 could sign up for the platform — against its own rules — the lack of transparency in information given to users and the use of automatic settings that did not respect privacy. “While waiting to receive a response, the authority decided to take action to ensure the immediate protection of minors in Italy registered on the network,’’ the authority said in a statement. The block will remain in place at least until Feb. 15, when further evaluations will be made. TikTok earlier this month rolled out some tightened privacy features for users under the age of 18, including a new default private setting for accounts with users aged 13 to 15. The new practices, affecting users around the world, followed a move by U.S. regulators to order TikTok and other social media services to disclose how their practices affect children and teenagers. The Associated Press
Ottawa's police force has received nearly three dozen complaints from its members since launching a strategy last spring to tackle sexual violence and harassment, according to a report going before the city's police board next week. The 33 complaints reported to the Ottawa Police Service's (OPS) respect, ethics and values directorate since May 2020 cover a wide range of topics, from harassment — both sexual and otherwise — to abuses of authority, discrimination and ethical breaches. Just over half of the complainants were women, notes the report, which goes to the Ottawa Police Services Board on Monday. Roughly 70 per cent of the complaints came from sworn members of the force, while the remainder were made by civilian employees, the report said. Two of the complaints have been forwarded to the Rubin Thomlinson law firm, which the OPS hired in September to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and violence within its ranks.
WASHINGTON — New first lady Jill Biden took an unannounced detour to the U.S. Capitol on Friday to deliver baskets of chocolate chip cookies to National Guard members, thanking them “for keeping me and my family safe” during President Joe Biden's inauguration. “I just want to say thank you from President Biden and the whole, the entire Biden family,” she told a group of Guard members at the Capitol. “The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies," she said, before joking that she couldn't say she had baked them herself. Joe Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after Donald Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol in a futile attempt to keep Congress from certifying Biden as the winner of November's presidential election. Extensive security measures were then taken for the inauguration, which went off without any major incidents. Jill Biden told the group that her late son, Beau, was a Delaware Army National Guard member who spent a year deployed in Iraq in 2008-09. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. “So I'm a National Guard mom,” she said, adding that the baskets were a “small thank you” for leaving their home states and coming to the nation's capital. President Biden offered his thanks to the chief of the National Guard Bureau in a phone call Friday. “I truly appreciate all that you do,” the first lady said. “The National Guard will always hold a special place in the heart of all the Bidens.” Jill Biden's unannounced troop visit came after her first public outing as first lady. She highlighted services for cancer patients at Whitman-Walker Health, a Washington institution with a history of serving HIV/AIDS patients and the LGBTQ community. The clinic receives federal money to help provide primary care services in underserved areas. Staff told the first lady that cancer screenings had fallen since last March because patients didn't want to come in because of the coronavirus pandemic. More and more patients are taking advantage of options to see a doctor online. When the issue of universal access to broadband internet was raised, Jill Biden, who is a teacher, said she hears from teachers around the country who can't get in touch with their students because of the spotty access in some areas. “We just have to work together and address some of these things," she said. “The first thing we have to do is address this pandemic and get everybody vaccinated and back to work and back to their schools and get things back to the new normal.” Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
Last week Daisy Ridley and Jennifer Hudson went to a movie premiere together. They posed for photos and made remarks from a stage while an audience watched quietly. Or, more accurately, their avatars did. The actors were actually on different continents, brought together for a few minutes through virtual reality headsets to walk a red carpet, pose for photos in front of a step and repeat and to speak to a crowd of other avatars on behalf of their short film “Baba Yaga.” It’s being called the first ever VR movie premiere. “I truly feel like I went to a premiere,” Hudson said later. “But I didn’t leave home! I think it’s a cool way to do it, especially right now.” She especially liked seeing her team and how much their avatars looked like themselves. Virtual movie premieres have become standard in Hollywood since the pandemic started. The “events” typically just involve a start time for the film to broadcast on your home screen and, sometimes, a zoom-style Q&A with talent afterward. But Baobab Studios, the 6-year-old interactive animation studio behind a handful of cinematic VR experiences, decided to push the envelope for “Baba Yaga.” “I really don’t think we would have ever thought of this if it wasn’t for COVID,” said Eric Darnell, the man behind the “Madagascar” films and co-founder of Baobab. “We usually have our films premiere at festivals.” “Baba Yaga” actually got a real festival premiere too as part of the Venice Film Festival last year. But as it became increasingly clear that there would not be an opportunity stateside, the company started working alongside the XR consultancy firm MESH to produce the ambitious event, which included designing a rainforest room inspired by the one in the film. The virtual reality movie premiere is not entirely dissimilar to an actual premiere. There are publicists, filmmakers and actors, things to look at and displays to take selfies with (really). At this particular event, there was also a roped off “restricted” area, although organizers said it was simply there to designate the end of space and not an exclusive side party. And not unlike at actual events, sometimes you find yourself without anyone to talk to and just awkwardly wander around eavesdropping. But at a virtual reality premiere you can’t even pretend to send text messages or respond to emails. This reporter also had to take off her headset for a few minutes after getting VR dizzy. Darnell co-wrote and directed the film/experience alongside Mathias Chelebourg. It also features the voices of Kate Winslet and Glen Close. The film and the rainforest room are currently available to experience through Oculus Quest. Events like this may have been born out of necessity, but they could be the way of the future. “Even if we did go back to premiering at festivals, I still think this is an amazing way to bring people together and to say let’s celebrate this medium by actually having a party inside of it,” Darnell said. —- Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 6:55 p.m. Alberta's daily COVID-19 case count has dropped a bit more to 643 and the active case count has also gone down to 9,987. The Alberta Health Services website shows that 691 people are in hospital with the infection and 115 of those patients are receiving intensive care. A dozen deaths bring that tally to 1,512. There has been a total of 119,757 cases in the province since the pandemic began. --- 6:30 p.m. B.C. is reporting 508 new cases of COVID-19, pushing active infections to 4,479. Nine more people have died due to the illness, bringing the death toll in the province to 1,128. There have been 110,566 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in B.C., including 2,202 second doses. The province is reporting new outbreaks at two hospitals — one in Kamloops and the other in New Westminster — as well as at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry say in a joint statement the risk from the virus in B.C. remains high and B.C. is not at point where public health rules can be lifted. --- 2:45 p.m. Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting one new case of COVID-19. Authorities say the case involves a man between 20 and 39 years old and his infection is related to international travel. There are seven active reported cases in the province and one person is in hospital due to the virus. --- 2:35 p.m. Health officials in Saskatchewan are announcing 312 new cases of COVID-19. Eight more residents have also died. The Ministry of Health says 177 people are in hospital, with 30 people in intensive care. More than 31,000 vaccine shots have also been given in the province. --- 2:15 p.m. The New Brunswick government has announced that it will impose a full lockdown in the province's Edmundston region, effective midnight Saturday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says the number of active cases in the area of northwestern New Brunswick has grown to 129 today from just seven two weeks ago. Health officials are reporting 30 new cases across the province today — 19 of which are in the Edmundston area — bringing the total of active cases to 331, with five people in hospital and three in intensive care. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says that under the lockdown, the first in the province since last spring, schools will shift to remote learning and only essential businesses will be allowed to remain open. --- 2 p.m. B.C. Premier John Horgan says the federal government shouldn't be blamed for shortages of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Horgan says the delays are due to issues in Europe and blaming the federal government will not speed up the process of acquiring vaccines. Pfizer announced a delay in vaccine productions last week, due to production issues at a plant in Belgium. --- 1:40 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today, while health officials say the results of two tests conducted in December confirm two variant cases of the novel coronavirus. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says one of the cases was confirmed to be the U.K. variant while the other was confirmed as the South African variant. Strang says both cases were related to international travel and there is no evidence of community spread from either case. The province currently has 22 active cases of novel coronavirus. --- 1:40 p.m. B.C. has rolled out its timeline for residents to receive vaccinations over the coming months, with an aim of immunizing roughly 4.3 million people by the end of September. B.C.’s oldest residents will be able to pre-register to receive a vaccine starting in March after the most vulnerable groups have been immunized. Those aged 75 to 79 will be able to start being vaccinated in April, and the process will continue backwards in five-year increments. The province says it will use everything from stadiums and convention halls to mobile clinics in transit buses to vaccinate communities across B.C. --- 1:35 p.m. Manitoba is reporting 171 additional COVID-19 cases and two deaths. The province's north continues to see higher numbers per capita than other regions. The Manitoba government announced this week it is easing some restrictions on store openings and social gatherings as of Saturday in all areas except the north. --- 1:10 p.m. Manitoba has stopped booking appointments for people getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at its two supersites in Brandon and Winnipeg. The provincial government says it has been told by Ottawa of another reduction in supplies of the vaccine. It says that during the week of Feb. 1, Manitoba will receive 2,340 doses instead of the 5,850 doses originally planned. --- 12:55 p.m. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there have been 90 reports of adverse events for a patient in Canada who received one of the COVID-19 vaccines. She said those include all health problems after the vaccine was given and may not all be related to the vaccine. Twenty-seven of those events, or one in 22,000 doses injected, were serious, including allergic reactions. --- 12:50 p.m. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there have now been 31 cases of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and three of the one first found in South Africa. Tam says the fact that the variants are now circling in the community without a known connection to travel is concerning. The news comes just after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is some evidence that the U.K. variant may be more deadly than the original virus. --- 11:53 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is considering mandatory quarantine in hotels for travellers returning to Canada from abroad. He says it's not the time to travel. Trudeau says the government is considering a number of options that will make it harder for people to return to Canada, as new variants of COVID-19 are circling. --- 11:40 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is sending two federal mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area. COVID-19 is putting incredible strain on local hospitals in the region. The units will bring an additional 200 hospital beds to help free up space for people who need intensive care. The units will include vital medical equipment and supplies. --- 11:35 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the CEO of Pfizer has promised "hundreds of thousands" of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped to Canada in mid-February and in the following weeks. Trudeau reiterated that Pfizer will ensure Canada gets its four million promised doses by the end of March. Trudeau says the next few weeks will be "challenging" on the vaccine delivery front as Pfizer upgrades its plants and slows deliveries to Canada and other countries. --- 11:27 a.m. Quebec is reporting 1,631 new COVID-19 cases and 88 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 18 in the past 24 hours. Health officials said today hospitalizations decreased to 1,426 and 212 people were in intensive care. The province says 2,040 more people have recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 223,367. --- 10:40 a.m. There are 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario and 87 more deaths related to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 779 new cases in Toronto, 542 in Peel Region and 228 in York Region. Ontario says more than 11,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the province's last report. --- 9:42 a.m. Nunavut is reporting one new COVID-19 case in Arviat, the community of about 2,800 that saw the territory's largest outbreak with 222 cases. It's the first new case of COVID-19 in the territory since Dec. 28. The territory's chief public health officer says the positive result was found in follow-up testing after the outbreak. Dr. Michael Patterson says there is no evidence of community transmission at this time. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Newly confirmed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will have to contend not only with a world of security threats and a massive military bureaucracy, but also with a challenge that hits closer to home: rooting out racism and extremism in the ranks. Austin took office Friday as the first Black defence chief, in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where retired and current military members were among the rioters touting far-right conspiracies. The retired four-star Army general told senators this week that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” Ridding the military of racists isn’t his only priority. Austin, who was confirmed in a 93-2 vote, has made clear that accelerating delivery of coronavirus vaccines will get his early attention. But the racism issue is personal. At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, he explained why. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers, described as self-styled skinheads, were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who was walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. They included 17 who were considered white supremacists or separatists. “We woke up one day and discovered that we had extremist elements in our ranks,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And they did bad things that we certainly held them accountable for. But we discovered that the signs for that activity were there all along. We just didn’t know what to look for or what to pay attention to.” Austin is not the first secretary to grapple with the problem. Racism has long been an undercurrent in the military. While leaders insist only a small minority hold extremist views, there have been persistent incidents of racial hatred and, more subtly, a history of implicit bias in what is a predominantly white institution. A recent Air Force inspector general report found that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct. Based on 2018 data, roughly two-thirds of the military’s enlisted corps is white and about 17% is Black, but the minority percentage declines as rank increases. The U.S. population overall is about three-quarters white and 13% Black, according to Census Bureau statistics. Over the past year, Pentagon leaders have struggled to make changes, hampered by opposition from then-President Donald Trump. It took months for the department to effectively ban the Confederate flag last year, and Pentagon officials left to Congress the matter of renaming military bases that honour Confederate leaders. Trump rejected renaming the bases and defended flying the flag. Senators peppered Austin with questions about extremism in the ranks and his plans to deal with it. The hearing was held two weeks after lawmakers fled the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, in which many of the rioters espoused separatist or extremist views. “It’s clear that we are at a crisis point,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., saying leaders must root out extremism and reaffirm core military values. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., pressed Austin on the actions he will take. “Disunity is probably the most destructive force in terms of our ability to defend ourselves," Kaine said. "If we’re divided against one another, how can we defend the nation?” Austin, who broke racial barriers throughout his four decades in the Army, said military leaders must set the right example to discourage and eliminate extremist behaviour. They must get to know their troops, and look for signs of extremism or other problems, he said. But Austin — the first Black man to serve as head of U.S. Central Command and the first to be the Army's vice chief of staff — also knows that much of the solution must come from within the military services and lower-ranking commanders. They must ensure their troops are trained and aware of the prohibitions. “Most of us were embarrassed that we didn’t know what to look for and we didn’t really understand that by being engaged more with your people on these types of issues can pay big dividends,” he said, recalling the 82nd Airborne problems. “I don’t think that you can ever take your hand off the steering wheel here.” But he also cautioned that there won't be an easy solution, adding, “I don’t think that this is a thing that you can put a Band-Aid on and fix and leave alone. I think that training needs to go on, routinely." Austin gained confirmation after clearing a legal hurdle prohibiting anyone from serving as defence chief until they have been out of the military for seven years. Austin retired less than five years ago, but the House and Senate quickly approved the needed waiver, and President Joe Biden signed it Friday. Soon afterward, Austin strode into the Pentagon, his afternoon already filled with calls and briefings, including a meeting with Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He held a broader video conference on COVID-19 with all top defence and military leaders, and his first call to an international leader was with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Austin, 67, is a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003, and eight years later was the top U.S. commander there, overseeing the full American troop withdrawal. After serving as vice chief of the Army, Austin headed Central Command, where he oversaw the reinsertion of U.S. troops to Iraq to beat back Islamic State militants. He describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a homemaker from Thomasville, Georgia, who will speak his mind to Congress and to Biden. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
TORONTO — A former senior employee with the Ontario government has repaid more than $11 million in COVID-19 benefits the province alleges he took fraudulently, his lawyer said on Friday.The unproven civil claim named Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop the computer application for applying and approving the benefit for families with children.In a brief statement, Madan's lawyer Christopher Du Vernet confirmed his client had made the repayment."In fact, the province has recovered in excess of the funds it presently alleges Mr. Madan took from the Families Support Program," Du Vernet said. "However, it is also seeking its legal costs, interest and punitive damages, so the action continues."In its untested lawsuit filed last fall, the province alleged Madan, his wife and two adult children who all worked for the Ontario government in information technology defrauded the province of at least $11 million.The civil claim, which also sought $2 million in punitive damages, accused them and others of illegally issuing and banking cheques under the program that aimed to defray the cost of children learning at home."The Madan family exploited their positions of employment with Ontario and unique access to the (program) and payment processing system," the government alleged in the claim. "The plaintiff was uniquely vulnerable to Sanjay, particularly with respect to the integrity of the...application."The Ministry of the Attorney General did not immediately confirm the recovered money, first reported by the Toronto Star. Du Vernet said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his condition.According to the lawsuit, Madan and his family opened more than 400 accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May. They then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants with thousands of non-existent children under the support program.Most deposits were made over a four-week period starting on May 25, coinciding with a rule change that allowed more than five payments to be made to an applicant. The government alleges Madan either sparked the rule change or knew about it and took advantage.In other court filings, Madan is said to have told the government that he could explain "all of this" and that he has "helped many families."The government had served notice it intended to seize any money the family obtained fraudulently and obtained a court order to have their bank accounts turned over to the court pending the outcome of the lawsuit.The government also obtained a court order freezing the family's assets, which included a list of properties in Toronto.Madan was fired in November. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Nicola Mining, the company who owns the old Craigmont Mine site on Aberdeen Rd., has announced its 2021 Exploration Objectives at the New Craigmont Copper Project. Last year, the company applied for a multi-year area-based (MYAB) exploration permit that would facilitate a five-year exploration plan. The 2021 program includes five new trenches, the reactivation of six historic trenches and up to 21 drill holes. Trenching is aimed at developing three target areas where copper occurrences have been observed but have not been drill tested. The 2021 season has been divided into two phases, with the second phase contingent on results from phase one. A complete explanation of both phase one and phase two of the 2021 program is available in a report by Yahoo Finance found here. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald