Andy Behrens highlights two picks with big Week 15 performances. Grab them early for Week 16 success.
Andy Behrens highlights two picks with big Week 15 performances. Grab them early for Week 16 success.
Hospital cleaning worker Manish Kumar became the first person in India to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Saturday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched one of the world's largest immunisation campaigns to bring the pandemic under control. Kumar received his shot at Delhi's premier All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), one of 3,006 vaccination centres established around the country. "The vaccine will give me strength and motivation to serve my hospital which has been at the forefront of taking care of coronavirus patients," Kumar said.
WASHINGTON — Michael White's long-anticipated trip to Iran was already a disappointment. The love interest he'd gone to visit had stopped seeing him and he'd idled away hours in his hotel room by himself. Then it got much worse. On his final day, the car he and his tour guide were in was abruptly cut off by another vehicle with a passenger frantically waving his hands at them. He recalls three men getting out, one with a video camera, forcing him into their car and driving him to an office for questioning. From there, it was on to jail, where orange-tinted water spewed from the sink and shower and prison-issued dirty sandals proved useful in shoving sewer roaches in the bathroom into the toilet. A handwritten journal he wrote behind bars — a copy of which was provided exclusively to The Associated Press — offers new details about his ordeal in Iran, which ended last June when the State Department secured the Navy veteran's release. In it, he catalogues physical abuse from his jailers and taunts from fellow inmates while held on dubious allegations. He writes tenderly of the woman he visited even while likening himself to a mouse lured into a trap. And he brands himself a “political hostage,” held on pretextual charges to secure concessions from the U.S. Seven months after his release, White is trying to reassemble his life in Mexico, unsure what comes next but eager to share his story. “I don’t want the government of Iran to think that, 'Oh, Mike White's out of here, he's going away, he's going to be quiet,'" he said in a recent interview. “That's not going to happen. Believe me, if only you understood the fear and anger inside of me as a result of what they did.” The peculiar saga began in July 2018 when White flew to Iran to visit a woman he'd met years earlier in a Yahoo chat room and with whom he hoped to rekindle an on-off relationship that included two prior visits to the country. But the bond turned sour on the most recent trip when the woman stopped seeing him and encouraged him to return home earlier than he'd planned. His 156-page manuscript is told from his own perspective with details that are vivid though sometimes difficult to corroborate. Iran's mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. But according to the document, the men who arrested him pulled him into their car and drove him, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a building for questioning. His interrogator asked about his relationship with the woman, seeming to know details of her family, and telling White, vaguely, that some in Iran were concerned about his intentions there. He was taken to what he calls the “intel jail,” where he says he was given no food for days, nor blanket or pillow even as the vent blew frigid air. The conditions were compounded, he says, by his cancer diagnosis that had resulted in chemotherapy treatment and hospital stays in the months before he left for Iran. He was repeatedly interrogated over several months about why he'd come to Iran, as officials suspicious that he may be a spy handed him questionnaires focused on his military background and any intelligence service connections. At one point, he writes, he fabricated a tale about being tasked to gather intelligence by an acquaintance he said was with the National Security Agency, figuring that interrogators wanted to hear something like that before setting him free. “I was just saying something out of desperation, doing whatever to hopefully get them to just cut me loose," he said in the interview. ”It turned out it wasn’t really helpful at all." The truth was more mundane, he says, albeit more difficult to comprehend: He was a “dumb American” pursuing love. White's decisions were undoubtedly risky: His Iran visits came despite that country's hostile relationship with the U.S. He says he and his girlfriend got together in 2014 in Iran's Kish Island, even though retired FBI agent Robert Levinson vanished from there years earlier. But White, 48, who grew up in Southern California and was honourably discharged from the Navy, says he's long been drawn to Iran's culture and people and had felt safe there, connecting through social media to a network of acquaintances. He'd once thought of law school or entering politics, but at the time of a 2018 trip he hoped would recharge his life, he was working as a Job Corps resident adviser. He struggles to reconcile his affection for the woman he perceived as his girlfriend — “Her voice melts me with its softness and tenderness. My heart flutters when I see her,” he writes — with the suspicion that he was somehow set up during his visit. His Instagram page reflects that ambivalence, with photos posted this year of them together. “Yet, sadly, I was lured into a trap, like a mouse trap. I was the mouse,” he writes. "I followed my heart instead of my head and missed signs.” In jail, he writes, he was once awakened by a guard dumping a bucket of cold water on him. Another time, an interrogator snapped a whip on his toes as he completed a questionnaire. After White tossed water on a surveillance camera to get the guards’ attention, they pummeled him in the ribs and threw him to the floor, he writes. He was relocated to another prison where some inmates tauntingly referred to him as “The Great Satan.” One placed a cockroach inside his pants pocket as a prank. At the suggestion of a prisoner he befriended, he began a handwritten manuscript, writing it under the cover of playing Sudoku to hide it from the guards. He gave the pages to the prisoner who he says was able to smuggle it out through a cousin. White ultimately faced various charges, including posting private images, collaborating with the U.S. against Iran and disrespecting Iran's supreme leader. He was sentenced to 10 years but calls the charges a pretext to “extort” concessions. He insists he's not a spy and never posted any inappropriate photos of his girlfriend. He writes in his manuscript that he has indeed made social media posts about Iran but denies having disparaged Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. An unexpected development came last spring as the coronavirus ravaged Iran. White, who was himself infected, was among thousands of prisoners released on medical furlough, permitted to live freely in Tehran in the Swiss Embassy's custody while required to remain in Iran. The State Department, which has maintained that White was wrongfully detained, arranged for his release in June, flying him back to the U.S. as part of a deal that spared additional prison time for an American-Iranian doctor convicted in the U.S. of sanctions violations. In August, he visited the White House with other freed hostages and detainees to record a Republican National Convention segment praising the Trump administration. He sat beside President Donald Trump in a three-piece suit in an experience he says made him feel like a celebrity, though he recalls Trump not shaking his hand. “He was like, well, you know, if the media sees that, they're going to be flipping out of because of the corona(virus) thing,” White said. White isn't sure what comes next. He had contemplated opening a Persian restaurant, but isn't sure he'll do that now. He likens his life to the aftermath of a city-flattening hurricane. "I’m just picking up the pieces, regrouping and trying to figure out how I’m going to move forward and stuff." ____ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge in Washington on Friday night halted a plan to release and put on house arrest the Arkansas man photographed sitting at a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell stayed the decision to confine Richard Barnett to his home in Gravette, Arkansas, until his trial, and instead ordered that Barnett be brought to Washington “forthwith” for proceedings in his case. The decision came hours after a judge in Arkansas set a $5,000 bond for Barnett and ordered that a GPS monitor to track his location. U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wiedemann's ruling also prohibited Barnett from using the internet or having contact with anyone else who participated in the Jan. 6 violence. Barnett was among supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol as lawmakers assembled to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Five people died during the violent insurrection, including a Capitol police officer. During a nearly five-hour hearing Friday via video conference, federal prosecutors had argued that Barnett should remain in custody. “If (Barnett) will travel across the country and engage in this level of criminal behaviour because he believes that he is right and it is the Electoral College that is wrong, what would deter him?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Harris said. Barnett is charged with unlawfully entering a restricted area with a lethal weapon— a stun gun. Barnett is also charged with disorderly conduct and theft of public property. He faces up to 11 1/2 months in prison if convicted. “I think your honour can shape a release order that provides a sufficient array of conditions that will allow my client to be released, that will allow my client to effectively defend himself and... will allow him to build enough of a ‘fence' around him that if he stumbles, it will be brought to your honour's attention almost immediately," Anthony Siano, Barnett's attorney, told the judge during the hearing. He surrendered voluntarily Jan. 8 to FBI agents at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office in Bentonville, Arkansas, and has remained in the Washington County jail since then. During Friday's hearing, prosecutors showed pictures of Barnett sitting at a desk in Pelosi's office and Capitol security video of him inside the building. They also showed footage of him bragging on a bullhorn to a crowd outside the Capitol about taking an envelope from the speaker's office. Prosecutors also cited concerns that Barnett had not turned over the stun gun or the cellphone he took with him to Washington. Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Many of the province’s co-visitation shelters at personal care homes began operating this week, while some still await permits. Most, however, have permits in place, Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said Thursday. Of the 125 care homes in the province, 43 are in the Prairie Mountain Health region. Some, such as those in Hamiota, Dauphin and Souris, have been outfitted with internal visitation shelters. Others, such as those in Deloraine, Neepawa and Brandon, have been outfitted with external visitation shelters. “The (personal care home) numbers continue to improve, so they want to encourage visitation as much as possible,” Siragusa said. The external, all-season shelters have been carefully developed and constructed with every COVID-19 precaution to allow residents to safely and comfortably participate in social visits with family members and loved ones, a provincial spokesperson stated by email. External and internal shelters have dedicated ventilation systems designed to ensure the required level of air changes, filtration and directional airflow to support the safety of both residents and families, the spokesperson added. Interior surfaces were selected to complement and facilitate ongoing cleaning and disinfection occurring between visits. As well, the shelters are designed so that visitors enter from outside of the building and are not required to travel through the care home, limiting exposure to residents and staff. The designated interior spaces were developed with similar precautions in place. While the province continues under critical level red restrictions, the shelters can accommodate a maximum of one general visitor at a time visiting with one personal care home resident. Visitor screening for symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19 remains in place, and masks must be worn by visitors and residents. Physical distancing must also be maintained for the duration of the visit. Visits are by appointment only, with more details available from individual personal care homes in the coming days, according to the spokesperson. Exact information on how many shelters are in operation will be available next week. A video about the shelters can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/2XGPK49, while the rules regarding visitation can be found at https://bit.ly/35GOja8. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
The province began engaging with Manitobans about their priorities moving past the current level red restrictions with a survey yesterday. The longstanding critical-level restrictions, in place since November, tentatively expire on Jan. 22. Premier Brian Pallister and chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced the survey during Friday’s daily COVID-19 update. When questioned about the government’s own ideas, both men said they would be shared early next week. They also spoke of the importance of maintaining diligence in adhering to current restrictions. “If we let up now, all this hard work and sacrifice from these past several weeks will be for nothing. We need to keep going in order to bring our numbers down and continue to reduce that strain on our health-care system,” Roussin said. “We’ll consider ways to carefully reopen Manitoba. We must always consider the needs of our health-care system and limit the activities that we know cause the greatest risk. We need to remain vigilant, focus on those fundamentals.” The survey can be found online at EngageMB.ca/restartmb-pandemic-response-system. As the province describes it — the Sun could not access the site late Friday afternoon — the survey asks questions about people’s perspectives on the risk of the virus, COVID-19 vaccines and their comfort levels with different activities. The survey also asks about priorities to safely restore services, including possible changes to gradually expand retail shopping, reopen barbershops and salons, gyms and fitness centres, non-regulated health professions, restaurants, faith-based and ceremonial gatherings and organized recreation and sport, alongside possible increases to indoor, outdoor and household gathering sizes. News of the survey came hours after the federal government acknowledged Pfizer would be experiencing disruptions with vaccine supply. For Manitobans, that means no new vaccination appointments, according to the Twitter feed of Dr. Joss Reimer, who is a member of the province’s task force. From Pallister’s perspective, the approach the vaccination task force has taken — ensuring second doses were kept in reserve, as well as enough doses for the super site in Brandon — has been vindicated, despite widespread criticism of the province’s slow pace. “We’re dedicated to getting it right, first. We’ll get it fast, later,” Pallister said, adding because of that new development, Manitobans cannot let their guard down. Roussin pointed out that if Manitoba had continued in the direction of worst-case scenario modelling, prior to critical level red restrictions, he would have had to announce an additional 1,700 deaths. Both he and the premier said it’s thanks to Manitobans adhering to the restrictions that those lives were saved. Pallister also compared Manitoba statistics to those of the rest of the country and said Manitobans deserve to feel proud. “According to Stats Canada, compared to every other jurisdiction outside of Atlantic Canada, Manitoba was the only province that sent the COVID curve down. That trend has continued over the past few weeks,” he said. “Manitoba’s seven-day moving average, according to Stats Can’s most recent numbers, Canada’s average, week over week, is up 14.5 per cent, British Columbia up 11 and a half, Ontario is up 28 per cent, Saskatchewan is up 59 per cent and Quebec is up 10 per cent. Manitoba is down 18.7 per cent.” While the numbers are encouraging, there’s no question small businesses are suffering, with some already permanently shuttered due to the harsh restrictions. The Sun asked if there is a way forward that can include retail businesses reopening safely, in spite of the ongoing pandemic. “I think that if you look at the trajectory that we had in November when we put in these restrictions, we can see that these restrictions have been quite effective, Roussin said. “I do think that in retail settings, where we have capacity restrictions, and there is the ability to reduce that risk. And, so, that is something that we’re looking at. We’re going to be getting feedback on it, then we’ll have more to say next week.” FRIDAY’S COVID-19 UPDATE The COVID-19 update from the province on Friday saw five additional deaths listed, none of which from the Prairie Mountain Health region. The province reported 191 new cases, as follows: - Nine cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region; - 84 cases in the Northern health region; - 13 in the Prairie Mountain Health region; - 14 cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and - 71 cases in the Winnipeg health region. The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate was 10 per cent in the province, and 7.2 per cent in Winnipeg. Lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba total 27,145, with 760 deaths, or 2.8 per cent of the total caseload. There are currently 2,907 active cases in the province and 23,313 people who have recovered from COVID-19. The province has advised the active case count is actually less than their records show and that number will better reflect the current reality soon. The province also reported 118 people are in hospital with active COVID-19, as well as 166 people in hospital with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require care, for a total of 284 hospitalizations. Sixteen people are in intensive care units with active COVID-19, as well as 19 people with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care, for a total of 35 ICU patients. In the Prairie Mountain Health region, there are 219 active cases, with 1,524 recovered. There are 15 people hospitalized, of whom one is in intensive care, and a total of 43 deaths. The Brandon district within Prairie Mountain Health has an active case count of 69, with 803 people having recovered and 19 deaths. On Thursday, 2,025 tests were completed, for a total of 448,061 since February 2020. » Source: Province of Manitoba PRAIRIE MOUNTAIN HEALTH OUTBREAK NUMBERS As of Jan. 15, the status of COVID-19 outbreaks in Prairie Mountain Health were as follows: • Brandon Correctional Centre: 108 total cases, 18 staff infected, 90 non-staff infected, one active case, 107 recovered, zero death. • McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre: 42 total cases, 14 staff infected, 28 non-staff infected, 36 active cases, two recovered, four deaths. • Fairview Personal Care Home: 109 total cases, 41 staff infected, 68 non-staff infected, 0 active cases, 92 recovered, 17 deaths. • Grandview Personal Care Home: 37 total cases, 12 staff infected, 25 residents infected, 1 active cases, 31 recovered, five deaths. • St. Paul’s Personal Care Home: No information • Dauphin Regional Health Centre medicine unit: No information Note: An outbreak is considered over one incubation period (14 days) after the final active case. » Source: Province of Manitoba VACCINATION UPDATE To date, 13,539 doses of vaccine have been administered, including 11,401 first doses and 2,138 second doses. At this time, focused immunization teams are providing immunizations at personal care homes across the province. It is expected that all personal care home residents will receive their first vaccine dose by mid-February. At this time, 281 personal care home residents have been immunized. Manitoba had expected to receive additional shipments of vaccine next week, including: • 9,360 doses of Pfizer vaccine, based on six doses per vial; and • 7,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine. However, the provincial government understands Pfizer has announced there may be supply disruptions in the coming weeks, although no details have yet been shared by the federal government. Manitoba had anticipated these types of issues could arise, and the Vaccine Implementation Task Force is prepared to implement contingency plans if necessary. This could include the cancellation of future appointments depending on the duration and size of the supply interruption. Once additional information is provided by the federal government, it will be shared with Manitobans. To date, a total of 38,890 doses of vaccine has been delivered to Manitoba. This includes: • 31,590 doses of Pfizer vaccine, based on six doses per vial; and • 7,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine, of which 5,300 doses have been allocated to First Nations communities. » Source: Province of Manitoba Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe Biden's inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is telling senators their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president over the Capitol riot will be a “vote of conscience.” The timing for the trial, the first of a president no longer in office, has not yet been set. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear Friday that Democrats intend to move swiftly on President-elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office Wednesday. Pelosi called the recovery package a “matter of complete urgency." The uncertainty of the scheduling, despite the House’s swift impeachment of Trump just a week after the deadly Jan. 6 siege, reflects the fact that Democrats do not want the Senate trial proceedings to dominate the opening days of the Biden administration. With security on alert over the threat of more potential violence heading into the inauguration, the Senate is also moving quickly to prepare for confirming Biden's nominee for National Intelligence Director, Avril Haines. A committee hearing is set for the day before the inauguration, signalling a confirmation vote to install her in the position could come swiftly once the new president is in office. Many Democrats have pushed for an immediate impeachment trial to hold Trump accountable and prevent him from holding future office, and the proceedings could still begin by Inauguration Day. But others have urged a slower pace as the Senate considers Biden’s Cabinet nominees and the newly Democratic-led Congress considers priorities like the coronavirus plan. Biden's incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said Friday the Senate can do both. “The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the people," she said. Psaki noted that during Trump's first impeachment trial last year, the Senate continued to hold hearings each day. “There is some precedent,” she said. Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure. He was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit. When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric hours before the bloody attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but rather part of an escalating campaign to overturn the November election. It culminated, they will argue, in the Republican president’s rally cry to “fight like hell” as Congress was tallying the Electoral College votes to confirm he’d lost to Biden. For Republican senators, the trial will be a perhaps final test of their loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states back home, and their own experiences sheltering at the Capitol as a pro-Trump mob ransacked the building and attempted to overturn Biden's election. It will force a further re-evaluation of their relationship with the defeated president, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate. “These men weren’t drunks who got rowdy — they were terrorists attacking this country’s constitutionally-mandated transfer of power,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in a statement Friday. “They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis. They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” McConnell, who has spent the past days talking to senators and donors, is telling them the decision on whether or not to convict Trump is theirs alone — meaning the leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way or the other. Last week's assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and flashed unsettling imagery around the globe, the most serious breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812, and the worst by home-grown intruders. Pelosi told reporters on Friday that the nine House impeachment managers, who act as the prosecutors for the House, are working on taking the case to trial. “The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by shining a light on the truth,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., who will serve as an impeachment manager. Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House on the single charge, incitement of insurrection, in lightning-quick proceedings just a week after after the siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach, the most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment. McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but he has not signalled how he would vote. McConnell continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial next week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from Georgia. No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. But conviction of Trump is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday, “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence.” She said in a statement that the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments. At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about Trump’s actions, but others have signalled their preference to move on. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement saying he opposes impeachment against a president who has left office. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is building support for launching a commission to investigate the siege as an alternative to conviction. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory as lawmakers fled for shelter and police, guns drawn, barricaded the doors to the House chamber. A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. ___ Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 48,195 new vaccinations administered for a total of 507,687 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,339.569 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 761,500 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 66.67 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,506 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,502 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,102 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 61.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 4,880 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,600 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 7.788 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 33.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,713 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,732 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 11,369 new vaccinations administered for a total of 127,073 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.851 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 162,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.36 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 15,609 new vaccinations administered for a total of 174,630 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.888 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 63.03 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,130 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,539 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.832 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 33,625 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 40.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,032 new vaccinations administered for a total of 14,017 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.887 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 24,400 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 57.45 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 7,157 new vaccinations administered for a total of 74,110 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.835 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 84,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 6,168 new vaccinations administered for a total of 75,914 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.794 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 99,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.31 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 499 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,184 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 28.372 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 16.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 462 new vaccinations administered for a total of 983 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 25.383 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 16.38 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published January 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Guatemalan authorities on Saturday escalated efforts to stop thousands of Hondurans, many of them families with children, traveling in a migrant caravan bound for the United States just as a new administration is about to enter the White House. Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants have entered Guatemala since Friday, according to Guatemala's immigration authority, fleeing poverty and violence in a region battered by the pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November. Videos seen by Reuters showed Guatemalan security forces clashing with a group of hundreds of migrants who managed to break through a police blockade at the village of Vado Hondo, near Chiquimula in eastern Guatemala.
The yellowed grass in the five-acre field pokes through clumps of snow. Nearby, small trees line the Marsh River, which doesn’t so much flow in mid-December as freeze in small puddles along the creek bed. And while this grass patch is underwhelming in appearance, it demonstrates an important part of the provincial government’s plan to address climate change through nature-based solutions and conservation projects. The approach is simple, and allows closer inspection of where and how preserving and restoring nature — from reclaiming farmers’ fields to tree-planting projects — fits into the bigger picture. However, it’s important to understand that while nature-based solutions have a role, they can’t be mistaken for a silver bullet that will solve the climate crisis. Harold Janzen’s truck slips through the mud as he skirts along the edge of his fields to get to the grass patch. Janzen is a third-generation grain farmer east of Morris but he is being paid not to seed, not to fertilize and not to harvest this land, but rather just to allow it exist as a natural ecosystem buffer along the Marsh River. Janzen farmed the land until last year and estimates the area would flood two or three out of every five years, washing away all of the input needed to yield a crop: soil, fertilizer, seed. In 2019, the Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District became one of the first recipients of provincial funding provided through the Conservation Trust and the Growing Outcomes in Watersheds Trust (GROW); two of the three funds — totalling an endowment of $204 million — established by the Pallister government between 2018 and 2020. The interest earned on those funds is tapped to foot the bill each year for various conservation and water-security projects selected and tracked by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corp. Since only the growth in the fund is used, it will serve as a perpetual source of conservation funding in the province. After the district secured funding in 2019, the organization approached Janzen and other area farmers, offering $100 per acre, per year to essentially do nothing with that land. It’s a far cry from what he would earn in a good year if he could pull a crop from it, Janzen says, but it’s a guaranteed payday instead of rolling the dice. “We spent a lot of money to grow the crop to end up losing it,” he says. “We farmers are essentially gamblers. We’d put in the crop and hope to get something out of it. But when the odds are against you, it’s nice that we’re able to get some funding to offset some of our costs so we can afford to set aside this land and grow forages that prevent erosion.” To get started, Janzen seeded the land with hearty grasses, which he can harvest once a year for hay. But that’s it. “When the waters come, the grasses are perennial, so they stay and the soil doesn’t erode. There’s no inputs in that area, so no fertilizer’s going into the river,” says Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District manager Jodi Goerzen. The district’s budget has increased fivefold because of the trusts. Goerzen says it’s difficult to find enough people interested in participating in projects to make use of all the available funding. Currently, she’s overseeing 64 projects. Some are more complex and are meant to divert water in the case of floods. The hope is that the various efforts will provide an adaptation benefit in more-frequent weather extremes expected as a result of climate change. “Basically, the outcomes of the GROW program in Manitoba are reduced flooding, improving water quality, improving climate resiliency, improving biodiversity and wildlife habitat, enhancing carbon storage and enhancing sustainable food production,” she says. The research backs up those claims. However, investing in nature is only a small part of the climate-crisis solution. Last May, when the GROW Trust administered more funding for watershed projects across southern Manitoba, Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen emphasized the emissions benefits of the project. “Climate is all about conservation; they’re one and the same. When you sequester carbon in (environments), such as grasslands, rangelands, you are also doing climate mitigation there, too,” he says. While some emissions are captured as landscapes return to their natural equilibrium, the potential magnitude shouldn’t be overstated. Exact amounts are difficult to pinpoint and research is ongoing. None of these projects have estimates attached for how much additional carbon is stored through conservation efforts. “Sequestration is important, it’s real, we need to get as much carbon-organic matter into our soil as we can. But it’s relatively modest compared to the size of overall emissions from agriculture,” Darrin Qualman, director of climate policy for the National Farmers Union, said in a recent webinar. This is why Tim Sopuck, CEO of the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corp., is more keen to focus on the climate-adaptation benefits, such as flood prevention, that these programs offer. Plus, all of the water-system benefits, along with his view that simply preserving natural habitats, is good in and of itself, he says. “The focus of the trusts is really about getting into the agricultural landscape and re-naturalizing that landscape where we can. To not only deliver outcomes like carbon sequestration but outcomes of far more immediate interest and concern to Manitobans right now, which is things like water quality and water quantity, soil health,” Sopuck says. In southern Manitoba, different approaches need to be taken with regard to conservation because a high percentage of the land is privately owned. “It’s one of the most altered landscapes on the planet, if you think about what was there originally and what is there now,” he says. “And it’s a landscape where people struggle hard to make a living.” Janzen says the trust cash makes it possible for him to rationalize the decision to restore the habitat in other sections of his land, too. “Maybe not every farmer, but most farmers are conservationists. Some are more, some are less. But the last thing we want is nutrients to run off our field, our soils to erode,” Janzen says. “The conservation trusts allow us to do a little bit more than what we have been doing.” ●●● Trees are by far the most-discussed nature-based climate solution by politicians of all stripes and at all levels. Last October, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order committing his country to help protect and restore one trillion trees by 2030. In Winnipeg, Mayor Brian Bowman has challenged residents to plant a million new trees to restore the city’s disappearing canopy and to advance municipal climate-change goals. The federal government has pledged to plant two billion additional trees this decade. Ian Mauro, executive director of the University of Winnipeg’s Prairie Climate Centre, watches the farm-based projects and tree commitments with great optimism. Nature-based solutions are critical, he says, in order to achieve negative emissions in the second half of the century — what’s needed to constrain warming well below 2 C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change signed in 2016, commits governments to such actions, mandating them to take steps to conserve and enhance natural carbon reservoirs, or sinks, such as forests and oceans. “There are some technologies that are coming out that are looking at being able to scrub carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but trees do that already. And natural infrastructure will do that if it’s designed properly,” Mauro says. The emphasis is on “designed properly.” Because while Canada’s forests are vast, they are not currently an asset in the climate-change fight. Natural Resources Canada annually measures and estimates the amount of carbon absorbed and released by the country’s managed forests, which represent about 65 per cent of all of Canada’s forests. Increasingly, tree die-off due to drought, fires and pests is tanking the carbon-scrubbing performance. In every year but two in the 1990s, Canada’s forests sequestered more carbon than they emitted. But it hasn’t happened since 2001. In 2018, NRC estimates reached a new high, pegging emissions from Canada’s forests at 243.2 megatonnes of CO2. That rockets Canada’s forests past the oil-and-gas sector in magnitude of emissions. It doesn’t get any attention because the forest’s emissions aren’t accounted for in the same way thanks, in large part, to how they’re regarded in international climate treaties. For this reason, researchers such as David Keith are skeptical of the use of trees to mitigate emissions. Keith, a professor of both applied physics and public policy at Harvard, co-hosts a webinar series called Energy vs. Climate; a recent topic was nature-based climate solutions and where they fit into the climate policy puzzle. “The climate problem is driven by CO2 being moved from the geosphere — from deep underground — by burning fossil fuels, where it goes into the atmosphere. Then, it can re-equilibrate between atmosphere, land biosphere (such as trees and soils), and the oceans. That happens quickly and it’s mostly out of our control,” Keith says. In other words, moving carbon into trees and soils is better than leaving it in the atmosphere where it traps energy and warms the planet. But natural disturbances leave that stored carbon in a precarious state where rising threats — such as fires — can re-release it back into the atmosphere again. Keith worries that while that shifting carbon from the atmosphere to trees and soils might help reduce atmospheric emissions in the short to medium term, it could come back to bite us down the road. “It’s important to say that shift can be reversed on short time scales. It can be reversed by human action, like if we decide to cut the forest down, but also by climate change,” he says. “Climate change can make forests burn.” When Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s minister of natural resources, was asked at a news conference in December what efforts were being made to keep the two-billion tree initiative from becoming a climate liability, he was unable to say how the risk would be managed, but said considerations were being made by departmental researchers. O’Regan also said research indicated the initiative would result in two megatonnes of carbon being sequestered per year by 2030, and 12 megatonnes by 2050. “It’s a long-term play. But you look at 2050, you have to start planting now,” he said. Research into climate-focused forest management techniques has been pursued for years by the Canadian Forestry Service within NRC, predating the Liberals’ tree-planting commitment. Some techniques being considered involve changes made within the forestry industry, such as an end to burning slash and debris left behind in logged areas, or re-evaluating the optimal amount of time trees should grow before being harvested. There’s also a move to increase the amount of Canadian timber that’s used in long-lived wood products such as homes; if it’s used in paper or other products with shorter life spans, the emissions from the harvested wood are more immediate. Also under consideration is using wood for things such as energy generation or creating bioplastics. Wood could reduce some need for fossil fuels, eliminating the demand for additional carbon to be moved from the geosphere to the Earth’s atmosphere. Mark Johnston, a scientist in the Saskatchewan Research Council’s environment and biotech division, says that in the pursuit of bioenergy, fast-growing trees can be planted that can be turned around in five to 15 years. “Then you would harvest that biomass and use it in a bioenergy facility. So, in that case, you’re turning over biomass stock pretty quickly and the chances of it disappearing through forest fires is not very high,” Johnston says. “But that doesn’t apply to all areas that would be planted. Some of this would be done for conservation purposes, or wildlife habitat, things like that. There has to be some thinking done about what is the long-term prospect of carbon in those trees and how it will be maintained. It’s a question.” There’s also a concept called “assisted migration” in forest management, Johnston explains, which involves planting tree species in areas where they might not have grown before but are more adapted to what the future climate is projected to be. In Saskatchewan, for example, researchers are looking at drought-resistant jack pines, but there are few fast answers available. Researchers at NRC are taking that a step further and have been experimenting for years with genetically modified trees that are, for example, less susceptible to the increasing threat of pests. Genetic modifications could also prove useful in designing trees to absorb carbon more quickly. Neither the NRC nor Canadian Forestry Service made anyone available for an interview. Many details of the two-billion tree initiative have yet to be made public, such as planting areas, species and monitoring plans, but all being considered, a statement from NRC says. “This will include both urban and rural areas across Canada, and will be delivered over 10 years, representing a 40 per cent annual increase in trees planted in Canada, increasing forest cover by an area twice the size of Prince Edward Island by year 10,” the statement says. Finnish researchers, studying the boreal forest in their part of the world, published a paper in 2017 in the Journal of Applied Ecology that examined how optimal forest management would require tradeoffs in timber harvesting, biodiversity and climate-change objectives. Canadian and Danish researchers have found that the amount of carbon stored in the forest soil depends on the type of tree that is planted. Chinese researchers have found that the role of forests in sequestering carbon will be different between the northern and southern hemispheres. Such are the variables that come with wanting to plant more trees. ●●● There is significant focus in proposed policies to restore, or create anew, natural ecosystems that have been impacted by human activity. But there is another prong to the nature-based climate solutions, which involves proactively protecting ecosystems that could release large carbon stores. “Job 1 is to protect the natural ecosystems we still have,” says Mark Tercek, the former CEO of the American not-for-profit organization Nature Conservancy. Tercek spoke in the Energy vs. Climate webinar series. Different ecosystems store different amounts of carbon, Tercek explains, “but we’re protecting them for a multitude of reasons. Not only for carbon, but for biodiversity, resiliency, etc. So first, I would say, protect what we have, and then restore what’s been degraded.” And here in Manitoba, there is no ecosystem more important to storing massive amounts of carbon that the Hudson Bay Lowlands that extend across northern Manitoba and into northern Ontario, as well as the accompanying peatlands that extend throughout the province. Wetlands and peatlands, in particular, are known to be intensive carbon sinks. The climate liability of regular forests pale in comparison. If those ecosystems are destroyed, all of the stored carbon will be released into the atmosphere. And that goes for destruction brought about by human actions or by natural disturbances. Manitoba is responsible for approximately 15 per cent of the country’s peat production, used principally for horticultural purposes. As an example, Sun Gro Horticulture Canada submitted an application to the Manitoba government in October asking to expand the land from which they harvest peat. The estimated emissions from the project if approved would be 637 tonnes annually. It’s a huge issue, Mauro says, that requires further discussions on how the province is currently pursuing peat production. “Having a critical conversation about it, I think is really important,” he says. Beyond direct development of the peatlands or wetlands, Johnston says indirect interference in these ecosystems generally ends up being much more problematic. Building a road, for example, and not realizing that the wetland water source has been cut off, can allow the ecosystem to decay and release its carbon into the atmosphere. “Wetland conservation is really, really important as a climate change mitigation strategy,” he says. In this vein, the Canadian government has committed to protecting 25 per cent of its lands and oceans by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. The newest of Manitoba’s conservation trusts is devoted to wetland conservation. Time will tell if these preservation initiatives prove effective. ●●● In the last couple of years, “nature-based climate solutions” have become a hot topic in the sustainability industry, as well as in politics. The problem is that while humans need a helping hand from nature if warming is to be held to 1.5 C or 2.0 C, it by no means offers a solution that allows for emissions to continue at our current rates. In addition to Pedersen’s comments that “Climate is all about conservation,” Premier Brian Pallister stressed last summer watershed management is an important part of the government’s “Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.” As part of his discussions with the prime minister over the carbon tax, he told the Globe and Mail in 2019 that Manitoba was already doing its part to reduce emissions by continuing development of hydroelectricity and working to protect wetlands. “Carbon tax can be part of a climate-change mitigation strategy, but there are many, many other things that we should be doing together and we should be discussing those,” Pallister told the Globe. The communication strategy of the Pallister government suggests politicians will try to equate conservation efforts with effective climate action. Meanwhile, emissions in the province continue to grow, according to the latest inventory report released in 2020. “You can’t have negative emissions unless you solve your emissions-source problem,” Mauro says. “We’re not going to be able to continue to emit greenhouse gases and make up for it by eco-based system solutions. The idea that we’re just going to forest our way out of this problem is absolutely naive.” Tercek echoed Mauro’s calls not to slow other measures designed to lower emissions. “In the short run, (nature-based solutions) can lead to some very good climate progress. In the long-run though, it’s true, we need to remember what we concluded in Paris, we need to be at net-zero emissions in 2050. That will mostly be by reducing emissions,” he says. “There will be some need for offsets because some emissions won’t go away yet. Maybe nature can play a role there, I hope so. We’ll also need other innovations.” Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19. Question: It seems that positivity numbers are falling, though they still remain two-to-three times the three per cent rate that Dr. Roussin described previously as “concerning.” But, the number of tests being done has also fallen. If more tests were being done, would we be finding more cases, and thus be getting ahead of the curve instead of just trailing after it? Dr. Brent Roussin: It depends. Asymptomatic testing, we’ve shown time and time again, has limited benefits on the grand scale. There’s certain times where it can be very targeted and (a) benefit. But, we see the asymptomatic testing is less likely to find positive cases. We see our test positivity rates here in the second wave remain fairly high, although dropping. It’s dropping with their stable number of tests. So, it is telling us what the trajectory is. What we see in the in the second wave … we’re just not seeing many other respiratory viruses. This time of year, we see RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), we see influenza, and we’re just not seeing any viruses circulate. So, right now, if somebody’s going to have respiratory symptoms, it’s very likely to be COVID. That’s why our test positivity rate remains high because there’s just not many other things out there making people ill. So, we are going to follow that over time. There are times for asymptomatic testing. But, we do have to ensure we’re using our resources effectively. Do you have a question about something in your community? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Readers Ask. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to scrap President Donald Trump’s vision of “America First” in favour of “diplomacy first” will depend on whether he's able to regain the trust of allies and convince them that Trumpism is just a blip in the annals of U.S. foreign policy. It could be a hard sell. From Europe to the Middle East and Asia, Trump’s brand of transactional diplomacy has alienated friends and foes alike, leaving Biden with a particularly contentious set of national security issues. Biden, who said last month that “America's back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” might strive to be the antithesis of Trump on the world stage and reverse some, if not many, of his predecessor’s actions. But Trump’s imprint on America’s place in the world — viewed as good or bad — will not be easily erased. U.S. allies aren’t blind to the large constituency of American voters who continue to support Trump’s nationalist tendencies and his belief that the United States should stay out of world conflicts. If Biden’s goal is to restore America’s place in the world, he’ll not only need to gain the trust of foreign allies but also convince voters at home that international diplomacy works better than unilateral tough talk. Trump has insisted that he's not against multilateralism, only global institutions that are ineffective. He has pulled out of more than half a dozen international agreements, withdrawn from multiple U.N. groups and trash talked allies and partners. Biden, on the other hand, says global alliances need to be rebuilt to combat climate change, address the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future epidemics and confront the growing threat posed by China. The national security and foreign policy staff that he has named so far are champions of multilateralism. His choices for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and foreign aid chief Samantha Power — all veterans of the Obama administration — underscore his intent to return to a foreign policy space that they believe was abandoned by Trump. “Right now, there’s an enormous vacuum," Biden said. “We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us.” Biden intends to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and co-operate again with the World Health Organization. He plans to smooth relations with Europeans and other friends and refrain from blasting fellow members of NATO, and he may return the United States to the Iran nuclear agreement. Still, many Americans will continue to espouse Trump's “America First” agenda, especially with the U.S. economy struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, civil strife in American streets over racism and the absence of civil political discourse. “Whether people liked it or not, Trump was elected by Americans in 2016,” said Fiona Hill, who worked in the Trump White House’s National Security Council and now is at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution. Trump’s election in 2016 and the tens of millions of votes he garnered in 2020 reflect a very divided nation, she says. “We have to accept that the electoral outcome in 2016 was not a fluke," Hill said. Steven Blockmans, research director at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Belgium, said Europeans should not kid themselves into believing transatlantic relations will return to the way they were before Trump. “In all but name, the rallying cry of ‘America First’ is here to stay,” he said. “Biden has vowed to prioritize investment in U.S. green energy, child care, education and infrastructure over any new trade deals. He has also called for expanded 'Buy American' provisions in federal procurement, which has long been an irritant in trade relations with the European Union.” Each part of the world holds a different challenge for Biden. CHINA Fear of China’s quest for world dominance started to mount before Trump came to office. Early on, Trump sidled up to China’s authoritarian president, Xi Jinping. But after efforts to get more than a first-phase trade deal failed, the president turned up the heat on China and repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic. He sanctioned the Chinese, and in speech after speech, top Trump officials warned about China stealing American technology, conducting cyberattacks, taking aggressive actions in the South China Sea, cracking down on democracy in Hong Kong and abusing the Muslim Uighurs in western China. Increasingly, Republicans and Democrats alike are worried about a rising economic and geopolitical threat from China, and that concern won't end when Trump leaves office. NORTH KOREA Resetting U.S. relations with Asia allies is instrumental in confronting not only China but also North Korea. Trump broke new ground on the nuclear standoff with North Korea with his three face-to-face meetings with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. But Trump's efforts yielded no deal to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief and security assurances. In fact, North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear capabilities. Biden might be forced to deal with North Korea sooner than later as experts say Pyongyang has a history of conducting tests and firing missiles to garner Washington’s attention around U.S. presidential elections. AFGHANISTAN Nearly 20 years after a U.S.-led international coalition toppled the Taliban government that supported al-Qaida, Afghan civilians are still being killed by the thousands. Afghan security forces, in the lead on the battlefield, continue to tally high casualties. Taliban attacks are up outside the cities, and the Islamic State group has orchestrated bombings in the capital, Kabul, including one in November at Kabul University that killed more than 20 people, mostly students. The U.S. and the Taliban sat down at the negotiation table in 2018. Those talks, led by Trump envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, eventually led to the U.S.-Taliban deal that was signed in February 2020, providing for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. Set on making good on his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. troops from “endless wars,” Trump cut troops from 8,600 to 4,500, then ordered troop levels to fall to 2,500 by Inauguration Day. The United States has pledged to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, just months after Biden takes office, but it's unclear if he will. MIDDLE EAST Trump opted to think outside the box when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relations with Arab nations. The Palestinians rejected the Trump administration's Mideast peace plan, but then Trump coaxed two Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to recognize Israel. This was historic because Arab nations had for decades said they wouldn't recognize Israel until the Palestinians' struggle for an independent state was resolved. Warming ties between Israel and Arab states that share opposition to Iran helped seal the deal. Morocco and Sudan also later recognized Israel. IRAN In 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, in which world powers agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran if it curbed its nuclear program. Trump said the deal was one-sided, didn't prevent Iran from eventually getting a nuclear weapon and allowed it to receive billions of dollars in frozen assets that it has been accused of using to bankroll terror proxies destabilizing the Mideast. Biden says exiting the deal was reckless and complains that Iran now has stockpiled more enriched uranium than is allowed under the deal, which is still in force between Iran and Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany. Deb Riechmann And Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Under the tentative deal, which is yet to be ratified by the union workers, GM has agreed to begin large-scale commercial production of EV600, an electric van, at its CAMI plant, Unifor said in a statement. The Detroit automaker said in a separate statement that work would begin immediately at the plant.
Nurses in Manitoba have been central to the pandemic response in the province and data from an Association of Regulated Nurses in Manitoba survey shows they have a lot to say about the impact COVID-19 has had on them and those in their care. That survey indicates the health-care system is at a breaking point due to its fragility and that the outdated organizational structures generally fail to recognize and value the professional expertise of nurses, according to the association’s news release. More than 1,100 nurses across various care settings responded to the survey. “Every day, nurses provide expert, quality and compassionate care to patients in Manitoba. In fact, it is often the nursing profession and nurses who have the most in-depth knowledge of patients, clients and populations,” said Cheryl Cusack, the association’s executive director. “This makes it extremely troubling that the survey findings show a massive disconnect between nurses and decision-makers as they express concern for clients, whether those individuals are in long-term care, acute care or the community.” The survey highlighted that there was a lack of provincial planning and preparedness as the second wave of the virus hit the province, resulting in patients and clients not receiving the level of care they need due to staff shortages, mandated overtime, increased patient needs, and nurses being redeployed to areas outside of their expertise. “Despite the fact that the second wave was highly predictable, the government failed to have a long-term pandemic plan for the people of Manitoba, which has hurt the people of Manitoba,” association president Jennifer Dunsford said. “Given our experience with the first wave, the government should have taken appropriate steps to increase contact tracing capacity, hire more staff and provide health-care workers with the resources they need in order to protect Manitobans and save lives.” When asked Wednesday if he had a response for the association regarding its concerns, Premier Brian Pallister said he had two. “First of all, this isn’t a time for union campaigns. This is a time to work together. Let’s be honest about it. This is a stressful time, and I have nothing but respect for our frontline workers, and especially our nurses working at risk to take care of people. This isn’t the time for union agitation. This is not the time for that. It’s not helpful,” said Pallister. “Secondly, we just created a new portfolio of mental health, specifically to work on mental-health issues. And we’ve focused as a government on these issues, making available, free to Manitobans, thousands of Manitobans, mental-health services. So I take the concerns that nurses raise very, very seriously.” He concluded by repeating it isn’t the time to use COVID as an agitation opportunity. Cusack clarified by email to the Sun that the association is not a union, but a membership-based organization representing almost 10,000 nurses with a mandate of providing the professional voice of nurses. That’s unlike the Manitoba Nurses Union, which is the union representing 12,000 nurses in Manitoba. The union has also been vocal about issues related to COVID-19. Cusack said the goal of sharing the survey is to work together, and to that end, the association shared the results of the survey with the provincial government in December. “Making visible the declining mental and physical health of (our) largest health-care workforce was not done to agitate. We felt an ethical responsibility to make public the very serious concerns our members have shared, most of which pertained to strained work environments and the resulting impacts for patient/client populations,” she said. In an interview with the Sun Wednesday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew called Pallister’s statement regarding the nurses association “unfortunate,” adding that if every Manitoban were surveyed, the result would be that most feel the government was unprepared for the second wave. “And if the premier is still surprised by that, then he’s probably not paying attention to a lot of the conversations going on around,” he said. “But the health and well-being of nurses is going to have a direct impact on our ability to beat the pandemic. I don’t think that the premier should be dismissing these concerns, because they are concerns that we’ve heard time and time again from the people on the frontlines of our health-care system. They need to be addressed.” Kinew has heard nurses say, “We’re thinking about quitting,” and “We’re at the end of our rope.” Nurses who responded in the survey – 96 per cent of whom are registered nurses – also expressed worry about impacts for their families, their own mental and physical health, and ultimately the long-term effects on the profession, including the potential for many to leave nursing altogether, the association stated. At a Thursday COVID-19 press briefing, chief nursing officer for Shared Health Lanette Siragusa said she hadn’t read the statement from the association, but she agreed the pandemic has taken its toll on most healthcare workers. “It’s been a real slog, trying to deal with the demand. We know that staff have been redeployed to different areas, working with different teams in areas that they may not be familiar with. We have done our best and we’ve been working with the nursing colleges, the union, to make sure that there was orientation,” she said. Siragusa also said there are supports available to nurses. “It’s hard,” she said. “It’s stressful. There’s no denying that. We’re looking forward to things continuing to stabilize and building up the workplace so that people can get back to some sense of normalcy.” Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Friday's Games NHL Washington 2 Buffalo 1 Tampa Bay 5 Chicago 2 Philadelphia 5 Pittsburgh 2 Ottawa 5 Toronto 3 Colorado 8 St. Louis 0 Dallas at Florida — postponed --- NBA Boston 124 Orlando 97 Cleveland 106 New York 103 Milwaukee 112 Dallas 109 Oklahoma City 127 Chicago 125 (OT) Utah 116 Atlanta 92 L.A. Clippers 138 Sacramento 100 L.A. Lakers 112 New Orleans 95 Washington at Detroit — postponed Memphis at Minnesota — postponed Golden State at Phoenix — postponed --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Washington increases security to prepare for potential violence leading up to Joe Biden's inauguration, while more ugly details emerge about the white nationalist mobs that rampaged Capitol Hill last week.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. There are 695,707 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 695,707 confirmed cases (76,068 active, 601,910 resolved, 17,729 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 6,812 new cases Friday from 133,443 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 202.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 51,358 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 7,337. There were 147 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 976 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 139. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.17 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,396,962 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 395 confirmed cases (eight active, 383 resolved, four deaths). There was one new case Friday from 194 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.52 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 76,022 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 104 confirmed cases (nine active, 95 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 436 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 5.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 85,412 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,550 confirmed cases (32 active, 1,453 resolved, 65 deaths). There were two new cases Friday from 1,168 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 193,733 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 884 confirmed cases (257 active, 615 resolved, 12 deaths). There were 25 new cases Friday from 1,008 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 33.08 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 149 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 21. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of three new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 126,091 tests completed. _ Quebec: 238,745 confirmed cases (21,873 active, 207,934 resolved, 8,938 deaths). There were 1,918 new cases Friday from 8,471 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. The rate of active cases is 257.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 15,639 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,234. There were 62 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 332 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 47. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.56 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 105.34 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,637,674 tests completed. _ Ontario: 231,308 confirmed cases (28,825 active, 197,194 resolved, 5,289 deaths). There were 2,998 new cases Friday from 74,248 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 197.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 22,914 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,273. There were 54 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 361 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.31 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,504,186 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 27,145 confirmed cases (2,907 active, 23,478 resolved, 760 deaths). There were 191 new cases Friday from 1,913 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 10 per cent. The rate of active cases is 212.27 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,182 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 169. There were five new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 55.5 per 100,000 people. There have been 436,236 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 19,715 confirmed cases (4,010 active, 15,495 resolved, 210 deaths). There were 382 new cases Friday from 1,466 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 26 per cent. The rate of active cases is 341.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,240 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 320. There were four new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 26 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.32 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 17.88 per 100,000 people. There have been 319,186 tests completed. _ Alberta: 115,370 confirmed cases (12,189 active, 101,779 resolved, 1,402 deaths). There were 785 new cases Friday from 39,788 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 278.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,718 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 817. There were 13 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 161 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 23. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.53 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.07 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,979,663 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 60,117 confirmed cases (5,955 active, 53,115 resolved, 1,047 deaths). There were 509 new cases Friday from 4,493 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 11 per cent. The rate of active cases is 117.42 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,485 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 498. There were nine new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 59 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is eight. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 20.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,017,546 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (two active, 67 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 115 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,256 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 25 confirmed cases (one active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday from 62 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.6 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.23 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been one new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 8,323 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 81 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,558 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to boost supplies of coronavirus vaccine and set up new vaccination sites to meet his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days. It's part of a broader COVID strategy that also seeks to straighten out snags in testing and ensure minority communities are not left out. “Some wonder if we are reaching too far,” Biden said Friday. “Let me be clear, I'm convinced we can get it done.” The real payoff, Biden said, will come from uniting the nation in a new effort grounded in science. Biden spoke a day after unveiling a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to confront the virus and provide temporary support for a shaky economy. About $400 billion of the plan is focused on measures aimed at controlling the virus. Those range from mass vaccination centres to more sophisticated scientific analysis of new strains and squads of local health workers to trace the contacts of infected people. “You have my word: We will manage the hell out of this operation,” Biden declared. He underscored a need for Congress to approve more money and for people to keep following basic precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and frequently washing their hands. Throughout the plan, there’s a focus on ensuring that minority communities that have borne the brunt of the pandemic are not shortchanged on vaccines and treatments. A key challenge for Biden and the nation: Vaccines are in too-short supply. Biden said he would use the Defence Production Act, a Cold War-era law, to boost vaccine supplies and work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up 100 vaccination centres around the country by the end of his first month in office. “Almost a year later, we’re still far from back to normal. The honest truth is this: Things will get worse before they get better," he said Friday, as U.S. deaths climbed closer to 400,000. The global toll has now reached 2 million. Biden seconded the Trump administration's call earlier this week for states to start vaccinating more seniors, reaching those 65 and older as well as younger people with certain health problems. Until now states have been focused on inoculating health care workers, and some are starting to vaccinate people 75 and older. Relatively few are providing shots to people between 65 and 75. Another carryover from the Trump administration plan: Biden said he intends to mobilize local pharmacies to administer vaccines. “Is it achievable?" he asked. "It’s a legitimate question to ask. Let me be clear. I’m convinced we can get it done.” In fact, Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician, said the president-elect should aim higher. “At this point, mass vaccination is our last and best chance to restoring normalcy,” she said. “There should be no expenses spared in the vaccine rollout. A hundred million in 100 days needs to be seen as only a start." Two medical groups, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Group, said Friday evening they “strongly support” the Biden plan. The strategy “will be vital to ending the impacts of COVID-19” in the U.S., the groups said. As Biden spoke, some governors blasted the Trump administration for what at least one said was “deception” in suggesting earlier this week that a reserve of vaccine doses was ready to ship, augmenting supplies. An administration official said states have still not ordered all of the doses allocated to them, and called it a problem with states' expectations. Biden committed to better communication with the states, to avoid such surprises. His plan calls for the federal government to fully reimburse states that mobilize their National Guards to help distribute vaccines. Biden's proposal comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. “We remain in a very dark winter,” he said. The political outlook for the legislation remains unclear, although a powerful business lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, welcomed its focus on controlling the pandemic. “This is not a political issue,” Biden said. “This is about saving lives. I know it’s become a partisan issue, but what a stupid, stupid thing to happen.” Biden has long held that economic recovery is inextricably tied to control of the coronavirus. Under Biden's multipronged strategy, about $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of some $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for setting up mass vaccination centres and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas. On Friday, he announced former FDA chief David Kessler as his chief science officer for the vaccine drive. Kessler has been advising Biden as a co-chair of his advisory board on the coronavirus pandemic. A pediatrician and attorney, he has emphasized a need to ease public concerns about the safety of the vaccines. With the backing of Congress and the expertise of private and government scientists, the Trump administration delivered two highly effective vaccines and more are on the way. Yet a month after the first shots were given, the nation’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start with about 12.3 million doses administered out of more than 31 million delivered, or 39%. About 10.6 million individuals have received first or second doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the American Hospital Association estimates that 246 million must be vaccinated to reach widespread or “herd” immunity by the summer. Vaccines currently available require two shots to be fully effective. Biden has called the vaccine rollout “a dismal failure so far." “We need to be getting to more than 3 million vaccinations a day, rapidly,” said Wen. Biden's plan also would provide $50 billion to expand testing, which is seen as key to reopening most schools by the end of the new administration's first 100 days. About $130 billion would be allocated to help schools reopen without risking further contagion. The plan would fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, to focus on encouraging people to get vaccinated and on tracing the contacts of those infected with the coronavirus. The Biden administration also plans to launch a public education campaign to overcome doubts about vaccination. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
INGERSOLL, Ont. — GM Canada says it has reached a tentative deal with Unifor that if ratified will see it invest $1 billion to transform its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., to make commercial electric vehicles. Unifor National President Jerry Dias says along with the significant investment the agreement will mean new products, new jobs and job security for workers. Dias says in a statement that more details of the tentative deal will be presented to Unifor Local 88 members at an online ratification meeting scheduled for Sunday. He says the results of the ratification vote are scheduled to be released on Monday. Details of the agreement were not released Friday night. A GM spokeswoman says in a statement that the plan is to build BrightDrop EV 600s -- an all-new GM business announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show that will offer a cleaner way for delivery and logistics companies to move goods more efficiently. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021 The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world's largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway. The country is home to the world's largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge. Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S and several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19. Health officials haven't specified what percentage of the nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally. The sheer scale has its obstacles. For instance, India plans to rely heavily on a digital platform to track the shipment and delivery of vaccines. But public health experts point out that the internet remains patchy in large parts of the country, and some remote villages are entirely unconnected. Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press
Businesses are beginning to prepare for what happens when employees return to the office after working from home since the start of the pandemic.