Blowing snow in the streelight as a storm hits Ladysmith, BC.
Blowing snow in the streelight as a storm hits Ladysmith, BC.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
The Nasdaq recovered as the bond rout retreated on Friday, but most other equity markets swooned around the world as data showing a strong rebound in U.S. consumer spending kept fears of rising inflation alive. Shares of Amazon.com Inc, Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc edged up after bearing the brunt of this week's downdraft to help the Nasdaq shake off its worst day in almost four months on Thursday. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.56% while the S&P 500 slipped 0.48% after a late-session surge failed to hold.
(CBC - image credit) A second worker from the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer has died after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. Henry De Leon, 50, worked at the plant for 15 years. His family told CBC News he died from COVID-19 on Wednesday night, after three weeks on a ventilator in an Edmonton hospital. A father of two adult children and grandfather of three, De Leon tested positive on Jan. 28, his family said and the company confirmed. He was hospitalized first in Red Deer, then transferred to Edmonton, where he died. His death has not yet been linked to the known outbreak at the plant, which ceased operations earlier this month in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The city of Red Deer hit a new record for COVID-19 cases this week, with 574 active cases as of Wednesday. Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak at the plant on Nov. 17. A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department has only been notified of one death linked to that outbreak, the Jan. 28 death of Darwin Doloque, 35. "If a second death is reported to Alberta Health, we will publicly report it," spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement. He was always happy De Leon's daughter described him as "the happiest and most caring guy," and said he was "the best dad we could ever ask for." Like Doloque and many other employees at Olymel, De Leon immigrated to Canada. He came from the Dominican Republic, and his friend and former neighbour, Patricia Marcado, said he dreamed of returning there in retirement. Marcado said his friend was full of joy and love for his family. "He was a very happy guy," she said. "He cooked, he cleaned. He did everything for his wife. He was the best husband ever, the best dad ever." Patricia Salazar worked with Le Deon for 15 years and spent lunch breaks with him at the same table with other friends — some Canadian, some from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. De Leon's wife, who also works at Olymel, would often join them. "We always sit together at the same table with his wife and other friends," Salazar said. "He was very, very happy all the time." She recalled De Leon showing off photos of his grandchildren, and said De Leon and his wife were "all the time together, wherever they go, in the plant or outside."
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.
The fence outside of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School is decorated with colourful cardboard signs bearing messages of support for the school, which is closed amid an outbreak of COVID-19. The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board reported a new case of the virus at the west Mountain school on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases at the school to 10 — six students and four staff. “Obviously, it has been a difficult time,” chair Pat Daly said. “Our staff have been working with the principal and our health and safety staff and others to make sure that everything is being done to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff.” An outbreak was declared at St. Teresa of Avila on Feb. 17 after five positive cases were found. The school is closed as a result of the outbreak — a first in the Catholic board. In-person learning is expected to resume on Monday. COVID-19 testing was offered to all staff and students at St. Teresa of Avila on Saturday. The HWCDSB said 60 tests were conducted — 23 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests among those self-isolating and 37 rapid tests for other staff and students. The HWCDSB said all 37 rapid tests came back negative. As of Feb. 24, the board was still waiting on the PCR test results. The HWCDSB is “thoroughly” investigating the outbreak, Daly said in a Feb. 19 interview with The Spectator. Daly said on Thursday there is “nothing confirmed” to explain how transmission at the school occurred. The Catholic board has two additional outbreaks: St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton and St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School in east Hamilton — each with three outbreak-related cases. There is also an outbreak at the public board’s A.M. Cunningham Elementary School, where two students are infected. As of Wednesday, there had been a total of 78 cases — 37 in the Catholic board and 41 in the public board — since students returned to school on Feb. 8. “We definitely expect to see cases occurring in the schools, and there are going to be instances where there is transmission that happens within a school,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, said at a media briefing on Tuesday. “The key piece is to keep these absolutely to a minimum as we go forward.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
“We must do everything we can,” Dr. Shahab said, in trying to and make sure that transmissions of the variants of concern is minimalized. Two individuals in Regina who tested positive for the variant B117, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, could not be linked to any personal travel.As seen in other jurisdictions, the first cases of the new variants could all be linked to travel and then it shows up as community transmission. The presence of these variants is cause for concern, because they present as having a higher rate of transmission. Samples of tests from Regina are going to be sent off for further testing since Regina is presently seeing an uptick in cases while the rest of the province is trending downward. Dr. Shahab reiterated the importance of people staying home at the first sign of any symptoms and seek a test. More importantly perhaps, is to continue to stay home even if the test results are negative but symptoms continue. People need to not assume that they are free of the virus, a second test should be done to confirm that in cases where symptoms persist. SHA CEO, Scott Livingstone, admitted at the Thursday, February 25, 2021 press conference that the present system of contacting people is not effective. The lists that are being generated through eHealth and vital statistics are not necessarily finding all those individuals in the 70+ age group to put on the list in the first place and utilizing public health personnel to man the phones is not an effective use of manpower. The online appointment booking system and telephone call-in centre which were originally planned to be utilized once Phase 2 vaccinations began will now be utilized for those individuals 70 years of age and over and thereby reducing the stress and concern expressed by those who have not received a telephone call when there was a clinic in their vicinity. These should be up and running within roughly ten days. This will also serve as a bit of a trial run for the Phase 2 rollout. The limited amount of vaccine is also compounding the problems with the vaccine rollout. Dr. Shahab expressed the hope that once vaccine supplies become stabilized there will be a large uptake of the opportunity to be vaccinated and this will take the sharp edge off the pandemic. Those at high risk are still awaiting vaccination and therefore it remains crucial for the rest of the population to stay vigilant in mitigating the spread to protect them. It comes back again to testing. More people need to get tested sooner. Some people still appear to be waiting to get tested and this could get the province into a bad situation quickly with the variants of concern in the province. Last summer Premier Moe set a goal of 4000 COVID-19 tests being done every day, yesterday about 2100 were processed and about 3100 today. Also included in the announcements today was the distribution of 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests. Until now the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations required a laboratory license for any site collecting specimens or conducting testing. Health Minister Merriman stated earlier today that the Regulations have been amended to exempt point-of-care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites which now allows these so-called rapid tests to be used in more sites around the province. Merriman said, “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with the variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” The rapid tests will be available ambulance, fire, police, dental offices, schools, shelters, detox facilities, and group homes as well as at long-term and personal care homes and participating pharmacies. Scott Livingstone stated that since some of these may not have the capacity to use the tests on their own, the SHA and the Ministry of Health are working on a tendering process for third-party providers to deliver testing at these locations and ensure that training and support is in place to “use these testing resources to their full potential.” Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as the province's pandemic indicators continue to improve. A set of proposed changes released Thursday includes doubling capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables would still be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services could operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent. Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks could reopen with capacity limits. The few facilities that would have to remain closed include theatres, concert halls and casinos. The cap on outdoor gatherings would rise to 10 people from five. And instead of households being permitted to only designate two people as visitors, the province could allow two-household bubbles so entire families could get together. "Manitoba's case numbers, test positivity rate (and) health-care-system admission rates continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer. The proposed changes could take effect as early as March 5 and are subject to public feedback before any final decisions are made, he said. Changes could also be phased in. Health officials reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday. Three cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 67. The province's case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the test positivity rate has dropped from 13 per cent to 4.3. The proposed changes could also mean big shifts for sports enthusiasts and players of video lottery terminals. VLTs would be allowed to operate again as long as they were two metres apart or separated by physical barriers. Indoor gyms and fitness facilities could offer group classes again, although with a 25 per cent capacity limit. Roussin said there is a risk in such indoor settings. "There is risk involved with all these things and we're weighing the benefit ... to having businesses open, the benefit for people (of) physical activity," he said. "It's very cautious and 25 per cent capacity, I think, gives us that ability to have people spaced out quite a bit." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
(Sylvia Gawad/Alfred Burgesson/CBC - image credit) A community organizer in Halifax wants Nova Scotia's new premier to work with the Black community to find justice for the community of Africville, pointing to the work done during the restorative inquiry into the Home for Colored Children. Alfred Burgesson, a member of the Prime Minister's Youth Council and founder of the Collective Action Movement, joined Sarah Dobson and Sylvia Gawad — two other politically engaged Nova Scotians — in speaking with CBC Radio's Information Morning this week about what they hope a new government will do. Premier Iain Rankin and 16 cabinet ministers were sworn in during a ceremony on Tuesday in Halifax. Rankin has said a priority of his government will be dismantling systemic racism. Burgesson said he was impressed with the process Rankin's predecessor Stephen McNeil started around the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, which took a different approach than a traditional inquiry. "Maybe that's something we need to explore with Africville as well," he said. "Creating a space for the community to heal and creating a space for the community to come forward with solutions that will be just for the generations." Africville was an African-Nova Scotian community expropriated and demolished by the city of Halifax in the 1960s, forcing hundreds from their homes. It wasn't until decades later, in 2010, the municipality formally apologized to the African-Nova Scotian families that lost their homes and their community. Burgesson, Dobson and Gawad also want to see more diversity in cabinet after the election, and for leaders to work with immigrant communities and find innovative ways to engage with youth. Dobson, an articled clerk at Cox & Palmer law firm, co-authored the book On Their Shoulders: The Women Who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics. She's happy Minister Kelly Regan has been named the new deputy premier, but said there's still something missing from cabinet. "If you look at the picture of the new cabinet, you'll notice it right away, lack of people of colour and lack of women," she said, "and that's something that really needs to be addressed and can only really be addressed in the upcoming election." Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Kelly Regan is also the province's new deputy premier. It will be up to all political parties to bring more diverse candidates into the fold ahead of the next election, she said. "There's many barriers, including societal perceptions and the expectations of women in homes and in families, but in the short term, I think this is something that all the political parties really need to be thinking about," Dobson said. Rankin hasn't said when the next election will happen. He told Information Morning this week that he's "not turned my mind to that possibility" as he prepares for his first throne speech. Ivany Report 2.0? Gawad, the innovation and immigration manager at Placemaking 4G, has done extensive work supporting newcomers to the province. She wants Rankin and his cabinet to implement an "Ivany Report 2.0" — referencing a plan to revitalize Nova Scotia's economy that includes a goal of increasing immigration — that would build off the first plan and rally communities and governments to come up with a blueprint going forward. "How can we have goals that are measurable, that are created by community for community and focused on what's called a good social policy, which is a mix of economic growth and social well-being," she said. Gawad said the province's unemployment rates have actually dropped below the national average during the pandemic. Still, she said with international immigration down due to COVID-19, the government needs to tap into the potential of immigrant communities. Iain Rankin was sworn in as Nova Scotia's new premier on Tuesday. The pandemic has shown the power of technology to connect people no matter where they live, she added. "How can we utilize that lever of technology and ensure that immigrants around the province have access to services that will help them connect to their communities and thus stay in those communities, which will hopefully increase our population into Nova Scotia," Gawad said. Burgesson said he'll also be looking to Rankin to keep his campaign promise of setting up a youth council that would help inform some of the government's decisions. "We could be launching different innovation challenges and different initiatives that will actually get young people involved," he said. 'We have real structural issues,' says premier Rankin said he's already making good on some of his campaign promises, including hiring people from underrepresented communities for deputy minister and senior management positions. He also pointed to the creation of a new government office to focus on equality and systemic racism that will be able to work across departments. "It's unacceptable that we don't have that voice at the table when we're making major policy decisions," he said. "We have real structural issues. Systemic racism permeates all of our departments and institutions, and that needs to change." Rankin said another focus of his government will be helping vulnerable Nova Scotians, which could include raising income assistance. "I think it is required at this juncture. We'll be looking at that," he said. "I haven't had a briefing yet, but we'll be looking at our programs and income assistance will be part of that." Implementing the Lahey report — which calls for a more sustainable approach to managing forests — within the next year is another priority, he said. MORE TOP STORIES
(Anja Sharma/Facebook - image credit) A Calgary judge offered compassion in sentencing a man with a potentially terminal brain tumour who killed a woman by driving after his doctor told him not to. James Beagrie lost consciousness while driving in May 2017, killing Anjna Sharma, 48, a beloved wife and mother of three who was out for a walk while on a break from work. Originally charged with criminal negligence causing death, Beagrie pleaded guilty last year to dangerous driving causing death. Earlier this week, prosecutor Kane Richards proposed a 2½-year prison term with a 7½-year driving ban. Defence lawyer Allan Fay argued for two years in custody and a five-year driving prohibition. "Justice without compassion is not justice at all," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld in handing down a 27-month sentence with a 7½-year driving ban. Just three months before Sharma was killed, Beagrie had blacked out and crashed while driving. He also told his doctor he'd recently lost consciousness at work three or four times. Still, Beagrie got behind the wheel of his Ford F-150 on May 23, 2017. At the sentencing hearing, victim impact statements from Sharma's husband and three children were read aloud. Sharma's husband of 23 years, Suneet Sharma, said he feels "battered and bruised" and would never feel whole again without her. "My heart suffers from the deepest wound — a wound from which I will never recover." Her children — who were 12, 15 and 19 at the time of the crash — described struggling with anxiety, depression and anger, as well as missing school. Neufeld addressed Beagrie directly Thursday afternoon. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life just as I truly hope it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family," said the judge. "Based on what I have learned from the victim, Mrs. Sharma, I think she would agree." Beagrie's health 'precarious' Beagrie had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in January 2013. In February 2017, Beagrie was in a car accident in Drumheller, Alta., after he blacked out while driving. He met with his family doctor twice and was required to fill out paperwork for Alberta Transportation. Over three months, Beagrie missed the deadline to file the paperwork twice and was advised by the department on May 12 that his licence would be suspended on June 6. Although benign, the tumour hasn't been checked since 2018. But if it continued to progress, survival rates are less than 12 months, Neufeld noted in his decision. Because of Beagrie's precarious health condition, Neufeld lowered what would be a 30-month sentence to 27 months. "A sentence of 2.5 years — I hope this is not the case — may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. "I do not accept that your life is over … I hope you will recover."
The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) is in the process of applying for a federal grant that may assist the municipality in creating additional parking lots near trailheads. “We discussed the trailhead parking and webcams and we felt it would be a good project to apply for this,” said Ruth Prince, director of finance and IT services for TBM. TBM will be applying for the Healthy Communities Grant Initiative, a $31 million investment from the federal government that was established to assist municipalities in transforming public spaces in response to COVID-19. Canadian municipalities are able to apply for grant funds, ranging from $5,000 to $250,000, under three streams – safe and vibrant public spaces, improved mobility and digital solutions. “We're going to apply for $250,000, which is the full amount, the maximum amount that we can apply for,” Prince added. TBM is looking to acquire the grant funds to help create additional parking near outdoor recreational areas, an ongoing problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. “Lack of parking at these areas pre-dates the onset of COVID-19 and staff anticipate that this capacity issue will continue into the future,” said Prince in a staff report to council. Town staff have identified four potential trailhead locations that require upgrades to parking: The grant application will look to specifically address the three town-owned properties at Pretty River Provincial Park and Loree Forest. According to Prince, a detailed budget has not been created for these projects. “However, as a benchmark the town budgeted $103,000 to extend the Metcalfe Rock parking lot and feel that the $250,000 would allow for some good improvements to the three locations,” Prince stated. In addition to creating new parking areas, the town is also looking to install webcams, which would allow individuals to check how busy the parking lots are before leaving the house. The deadline to apply is March 9 and application results are expected to be received by the end of April. If TBM receives the funding, the correlating projects must be completed by June 30. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Park Police on Thursday named Pamela Smith as its new chief, making her the first Black woman to lead the 230-year-old law enforcement agency. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the force, announced she would begin her term by establishing body-worn cameras for all Park Police officers. “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve,” Smith said in a statement, adding that body-worn cameras are “good for the public and good for our officers.” The camera program would begin in San Francisco within 90 days and spread to the rest of the country by the end of the year, the statement said. Smith inherits an extensive law enforcement agency that frequently finds itself under a spotlight at pivotal historical moments. The U.S. Park Police oversees national parks and federal property including the National Mall. Last summer, during tense protests over police brutality and racial inequity, Park Police was involved with violently clearing peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park near the White House so that then-President Donald Trump could pose in front of a church while holding up a Bible. The agency ended up embroiled in controversy over the tactics and munitions used against peaceful demonstrators. Smith's appointment follows that of Yogananda Pittman, who last month become the first Black person and first woman to be acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. She inherited an agency in turmoil after being overwhelmed in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former Canadian soldier who killed three family members and himself in 2017 received sporadic mental health treatment immediately after he left the military in 2015, a fatality inquiry heard Thursday. The provincial inquiry in Nova Scotia learned the Canadian Armed Forces had arranged for therapy to continue for Lionel Desmond after he was medically discharged. But the lack of structure outside the military created new challenges for the mentally ill veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Psychologist Mathieu Murgatroyd, who worked at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, was tasked with providing the former corporal with treatment from June 2015 to October 2016. The psychologist said there were problems from the start because Desmond, then 32, often cancelled appointments or didn't show up. Plans for therapy were derailed by the fact that Desmond spent much of his time travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where he was trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife, Shanna, and his young daughter, Aaliyah. "In terms of commitment and engagement, it was interfering with the therapy process," Murgatroyd testified. "We were concerned with this inconsistency." Murgatroyd said it was clear Desmond needed help. In 2011, while posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. That was four years after he served as a rifleman during a particularly violent tour of duty in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, mental health professionals contracted by the military told the inquiry that Desmond initially responded well to treatment, but that he suffered a relapse in May 2013 when military colleagues subjected him to racist comments about his African Nova Scotian heritage. Murgatroyd testified that Desmond appeared guarded and distant when they first met in June 2015 at the federally funded clinic, which receives referrals from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP. "Based on his presentation, the risk was more elevated in terms of spiralling down," Murgatroyd said. As well, he said Desmond made it clear his relationship with his wife, Shanna, was in turmoil. "There were moments when they seemed to be doing better, but for the most part, strained," he said, adding that Desmond had increased his alcohol consumption to deal with stress. Murgatroyd recalled that during their first treatment session, Desmond complained about nightmares, night sweats, daily intrusive thoughts, disturbed sleep, chronic pain and "homicidal thoughts without intent." "He hardly gets out of his house because of his paranoia," Murgatroyd noted after an early therapy session in 2015. Desmond said he had suffered a number of head injuries while serving in the military, and that he worried about a possible brain injury. The inquiry has heard the former corporal did not disclose this concern while he was in the military. Though Desmond was under Murgatroyd's care for 16 months, the psychologist said his therapeutic plan never got off the ground. "We were just putting out fires rather than working on any real intervention," he said. He said it appeared Desmond's source of psychological distress eventually shifted from his combat-related PTSD symptoms to an angry "fixation" with his wife's handling of their finances and concerns that she may be cheating on him. Murgatroyd said Desmond told him about gruesome nightmares he had that suggested his wife had been sleeping with another man, whose head was later found on the floor. The psychologist agreed when asked if Desmond's dreams were having an impact on his perception of reality. Murgatroyd said that helped explain why Desmond would later revoke his consent to allow the clinic to share information with his wife. Eventually, staff at the clinic decided therapy for Desmond wasn't an option until he was properly stabilized. They recommended he should take part in an intensive treatment program at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, which has an in-patient operational stress injury clinic. By April 2016, Desmond had agreed to go to Ste. Anne's, having recognized that his relationship with his wife was deteriorating amid talk of divorce, Murgatroyd said. The following month, Desmond reached "an all-time low," Murgatroyd said, adding that his patient was distressed about the state of his finances and the idea his wife was manipulative and could not be trusted. "With things spiralling down, he was looking for help." Desmond arrived at St. Anne's on May 30, 2016, but he left less than three months into a six-month program, even though he had reported he was enjoying his stay there, Murgatroyd said. The inquiry has heard that Desmond returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in August 2016. Evidence presented to the inquiry has shown Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Murgatroyd and Veterans Affairs Canada were making arrangements for treatment in Nova Scotia. Staff at Ste. Anne's had recommended Desmond receive an in-depth neuro-psychological assessment and more treatment, but that never happened. On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a semi-automatic rifle. Later that day, he fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in the family's home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Linda Thomas-Greenfield presented her credentials as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, officially taking on one of the most challenging jobs for the Biden administration of helping to restore the United States as a top multilateral player on the global stage after former President Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy. The longtime career diplomat thanked President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who swore her in on Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position” and said she was “thrilled” to be at the United Nations. “The United Nations is the world’s most important forum for bringing people and countries together,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters immediately afterward. “This administration knows that when America is at the table and acting in accordance with our values, the United States is an indispensable institution for the advancement of peace, security and collective well-being.” She said the Biden administration is “clear-eyed about the difficult work that needs to be done, from elevating human rights to reforming the U.N. itself to addressing conflicts old and new around the world.” Thomas-Greenfield reiterated what she said when she was nominated for the U.N. post: “Multilateralism is back and diplomacy is back and America is back and we’re ready to get to work.” The United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday and the new ambassador, who only arrived in New York on Thursday morning, said with a smile, “I not only had to hit the ground running, I’m actually hitting the ground sprinting.” Thomas-Greenfield, who rose to be U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs before retiring after more that 35 years during the Trump administration, will be the third African-American, and the second African-American woman, to hold the U.N. post. Her confirmation on Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at Biden’s return to multilateralism. At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield described China as “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake. The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield told reporters Wednesday that representing the United States as a diplomat around the world, “I found that diplomacy is about showing compassion, it’s about managing points of differentiation and it’s about bringing people together.” When she presented her credentials to secretary-general Guterres, she said coming to the United Nations “was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here.” Guterres served as the U.N.’s refugee chief before his election to the U.N. post and Thomas-Greenfield recalled working with him in the past on refugee issues. “So I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for,” he said. Guterres warmly welcomed Thomas-Greenfield, calling the United States “a fundamental pillar of the United Nations and of international co-operation" and telling her, “you are not only a very distinguished diplomat, but a very passionate citizen of the world," with a strong commitment to refugees. He then invited her for private talks. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with President Joe Biden’s administration -- but “it takes two to tango.” “We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he told a group of reporters Wednesday. “You can count on our most favourable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.” But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.” Nonetheless, Polyansky said the U.S. and Russia can work together but “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance." “But we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues,” he said. Thomas-Greenfield said at her Senate hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement to rein in their nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018 and Biden has indicated the U.S. will rejoin it, though how that might happen remains a major question. Polyansky said Russia welcomes the “positive developments” on the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. agreement to extend the START nuclear agreement, adding that Moscow is ready for serious and meaningful discussions “first and foremost in the area of strategic stability.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Two B.C. filmmakers are being featured at this year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, which runs March 4 - 14,2021. Jessie Anthony wrote and directed Brother, I Cry, a harrowing take on the demons of addiction and inter-generational trauma. Itpremiered last fall at the Vancouver International Film Festival where Anthony won the emerging filmmaker award. Established horror genre director Karen Lamhas has The Curse of Willow Song on the bill, a movie set in Vancouver that delvesinto stark socio-economic divide with a supernatural-horror lens. RELATED: Q&A with VIFF’s B.C. Emerging Filmmaker Award winner, Jessie Anthony The festival theme this year is Resilience. Challenge. Change. “I’m excited to share this year’s film program, which celebrates the complexity and diversity of ways girls and women choose tochallenge, overcome, and inspire—themselves, each other, their communities, and our world today,” said Marena Dix, FestivalProgramming Committee Chair. On the list are three feature documentaries, three feature dramas, and 26 short films that include animation, dance,documentary and comedy from around the world. All the films and events will be hosted online, making the festival accessible to all British Columbians. Single tickets are $10, $7for members and $5 for seniors and students. Full festival tickets are also available. Festival hosts have planned a series of free live-streamed events, including panels, workshops, artist talks and an awardspresentation. Women in Film and Television Vancouver that puts on the festival is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to addressbarriers to equality in screen-based media. This is the 16th annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. Tickets went on sale Feb. 25 through partner organization VIFF’s Connect program. Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the province isn't at a point where restrictions can be lifted due to concerns about the potential for rapid spread of COVID-19. Dr. Bonnie Henry says she understands the desire from B.C. residents to see restrictions lifted, such as the limit on social gatherings, but it can't happen yet. There are 395 more cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths. Henry says B.C. has seen its rolling seven-day average of cases rise, and there's potential to see rapid growth in the number of cases if residents "are not careful." On that front, B.C. is ramping its screening for variants of concern, with the aim to test 100 per cent of COVID-positive samples to see if they are likely variants that should be sent on for further testing. Henry also spoke of the challenges she's faced during the pandemic, including death threats and the impact they have had on her family and co-workers. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images - image credit) The P.E.I. city of Summerside has been placed on COVID-19 alert after the Island's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, confirmed a cluster of three new cases Thursday evening. The cluster consists of three males in their 20s. The cases are currently under investigation and contact tracing is underway, said a press release that also promised a public update Friday. Anyone living in Summerside who is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 is being urged to get tested Friday and self-isolate until results come back. The news release said there will be increased testing capacity available at the city's Slemon Park facility. Summerside has a population of about 15,000 people. Prince Edward Island now has six active cases of COVID-19, and has diagnosed a total of 120 cases since the pandemic began almost a year ago. Two of those active cases were announced Wednesday after two women travelled within Atlantic Canada. Upon their return, Morrison told CBC on Thursday, one of them visited the Toys R Us store in Charlottetown between 10 a.m. and noon AT. Investigation underway Morrison said an investigation is underway involving any public health orders that may have been violated. Since the Atlantic bubble closed in December, in the face of rising case counts in the other three provinces in the region, anyone who has been off the Island must self-isolate on return. There are a few exceptions, involving single-day travel for a limited number of reasons, where the people involved do not have to self-isolate if they remained masked at all times and observed physical distancing. The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
Environment Haliburton! (EH) attracted hundreds of people Feb. 9 for a discussion on blue-green algae blooms. Dr. Elizabeth Favot, an assistant lake stewardship coordinator with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, spoke to blooms and her research into how they form. The discussion also featured additional commentary from ecosystem management professor, Barb Elliot, and environmental scientist Dr. Norman Yan. Approximately 300 people registered for the session. Favot said blooms can be caused by several factors, including nutrient runoff such as phosphorus reaching lakes, shifting lake levels and climate change. She said more research is needed to account for some lakes experiencing blooms without many changes in nutrient levels. “Nutrients are of course critically important to support blooms, but in terms of the drivers or triggers, they are not always the entire story,” Favot said. The presentation comes after the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks confirmed blue-green algae blooms in six Haliburton lakes last fall, though none showed toxin levels above the drinking water standard. However, Favot said a precautious approach is normally used to assume they are producing toxins given some uncertainty around what conditions lead to toxins. The presentation highlighted every aspect of blue-green algae, more technically known as cyanobacteria. Favot discussed how blooms are becoming increasingly common in Ontario and how they can create toxins that are potentially deadly if consumed. Favot said although nutrient runoff is a significant factor, there are other reasons for the increase, such as climate change causing temperature and conditional changes in lakes which can help blue-green algae thrive. Her doctorate examined the causes of blooms in the approximately 26 per cent of lakes globally with a low phosphorus concentration. “Even if nutrients have not increased, blooms can still occur in a modern climate,” Favot said. “Climate change is lowering critical nutrient thresholds for blue-green algae blooms to occur.” But Favot said from a management perspective, people should utilize terrestrial plants to filter nutrient runoff. “What we can do to mitigate them is relatively straightforward,” Favot said. “We need to keep nutrient concentrations in lakes as natural as possible.” Elliott agreed. Speaking to a question about the importance of natural shorelines, Elliott compared them to a Jenga game, and how taking away natural parts from shorelines repeatedly can make them unstable. “I liken it to death by a thousand cuts,” Elliott said. “When we make those changes, it just creates the potential for there to be more impacts because of that activity. We have to try to keep it as natural as we can.” Although about 300 people registered, only 100 people watched live due to technical issues with Zoom, the online platform used. “It is a shame there was a wrinkle in our Zoom plans,” EH! President Susan Hay said. “I’m sorry for those who joined late because you couldn’t get in earlier.” The full presentation is available on the EH Youtube channel. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
OTTAWA — The Canadian Judicial Council says a Quebec judge has resigned after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his appeal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner says Michel Girouard's decision to step down from the Quebec Superior Court "narrowly avoids his removal from office by Parliament." A 2012 complaint alleged that Girouard, while he was still a lawyer, had bought illegal drugs from a client. An inquiry committee rejected the allegations but cited contradictions and implausibilities in Girouard’s testimony. A second complaint about Girouard’s credibility during the initial proceedings led a majority of judges on the council to recommend he lose his job. The Federal Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed Girouard's attempts to overturn the recommendation, prompting his application to the Supreme Court. In a news release Thursday as chairperson of the judicial council, Wagner said Girouard's resignation "is the last chapter in a prolonged saga that has undermined expectations of access to justice and has cost Canadians millions of dollars." Wagner said Canada benefits from outstanding judges who demonstrate the highest ethical integrity but the Girouard matter shows that the disciplinary process that deals with instances of judicial misconduct must be re-examined. "In the matter of Michel Girouard, proceedings have been going on for eight years now. Throughout this entire period, Michel Girouard has continued to receive his full salary despite not sitting, and he will now receive a pension for life, all at the expense of Canadian taxpayers," said Wagner. Earlier Thursday, Justice Minister David Lametti said he would seek parliamentary approval to remove Girouard from the bench. Lametti said Thursday on Twitter that as the "lengthy process has unfolded, I have made it clear that I fully intended to act if Justice Girouard exhausted his avenues of appeal and the revocation decision was upheld. That moment has arrived." Lametti said he intended to proceed with Girouard's removal by seeking the necessary approval of the House of Commons and Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Manitoba government is lookig at loosening many of its public health orders as its COVID-19 numbers improve. The province is seeking public feedback on a series of changes.