WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):7:50 p.m.British Columbia is reporting 656 new cases of COVID-19 today, with 8,796 active cases across the province.There have been 16 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 457 since the pandemic began.In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say 336 people are being treated in hospital for COVID-19, and 76 of them are in intensive care.Another 10,123 people are being monitored after they were exposed to a known case of the novel coronavirus.\---2 p.m.Nova Scotia is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19.Public health officials say all the new cases were found in the central zone, bringing the province's total active case count to 142.Rapid testing was administered at pop-up sites Monday in both Wolfville and Halifax and no cases were found at either site.A total of 4,138 COVID-19 tests were administered in the province Monday.\---1:50 p.m.Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting seven new cases of COVID-19 in the province Tuesday.Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says there are four new cases in the Saint John zone and three new cases in the Fredericton zone.There are currently 116 active cases in the province, and there have been 508 cases in New Brunswick since the pandemic began.There have been seven deaths and no one is in hospital.\---1:35 p.m.Manitoba is reporting 282 new COVID-19 cases and a record 16 deaths. The test positivity rate remains high at 13 per cent, and Premier Brian Pallister says restrictions on business openings and public gatherings may have to remain in place for some time.\---1:10 p.m.Quebec Premier Francois Legault says his government will decide in 10 days whether the province's COVID-19 situation will allow for multi-household gatherings at Christmas.He says an increase in hospitalizations is straining the health-care network, and some hospitals are nearing the limit of how many COVID-19 patients they can treat.The premier says the situation in hospitals and the toll on health-care workers will be the most important factors in determining the plan for Christmas, adding that things are not headed in the right direction.Legault had announced last month that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed between Dec. 24 and 27.\---1 p.m.Another measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 took effect in Yukon today, as masks are now mandatory in all indoor, public spaces.Yukon's chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley says everyone over the age of five who does not have a medical exemption will be required to wear a mask.The order imposed under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act carries a fine of up to $500 but Hanley says Yukon residents will first be given a chance to adapt before any enforcement begins.Premier Sandy Silver reports eight new cases of COVID-19 in the territory since the briefing last Tuesday, bringing the total number to 47 since the start of the pandemic.Seventeen cases are still considered active, but none related to community transmission.\---12:55 p.m.Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says when looking at people experiencing the most severe illness, older Canadians are more at risk than younger Canadians with pre-existing conditions.She says that suggests after the initial round of vaccines goes to people in high-risk living or work situations, like long-term care centres and hospital staff, the next round of immunizations should be done by age, with the oldest Canadians at the front of the line.\---12:52 p.m.Manitoba handed out 100 tickets to people not following public health orders last week.The provincial government brought in restrictions three weeks ago to deal with surging COVID-19 case numbers that set strict limits on public gatherings and require non-essential businesses to close.Two churches that held services recently are among the establishments that have been ticketed.\---12:50 p.m.Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.The case affects a man in his 50s who returned to the province from work in British Columbia.Health officials say the man is self-isolating and contact tracing is underway.Newfoundland and Labrador has 33 active COVID-19 cases, with 339 cases confirmed since the onset of the pandemic.\---12:35 p.m.Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says restrictions on public gatherings and business openings could continue into the winter.Pallister says with cold weather ahead, there's a risk of greater COVID-19 transmission as more people stay, and perhaps gather, indoors.Manitoba's daily rise in cases has levelled off somewhat after spiking last month, but health officials say it is still straining the health-care system.\---12:25 p.m.Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada was one of the first countries to sign a deal to get doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna.She says it was also the fourth to sign a deal with Pfizer, and the first country without the ability to mass produce the vaccine domestically to sign with AstraZeneca.Anand says there has been "significant misinformation" about the doses procured and when they will arrive.\---11:50 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is taking on billions of dollars in more debt to protect Canadians from having to do the same thing.Trudeau says the average credit card interest rate is more than 19 per cent, and that it makes more sense for Ottawa to shoulder more of the burden through the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn because it can borrow at rates now close to zero.The prime minister also says his government has no intention to start cutting spending at this time, saying now is not the time for austerity.The fall economic update released Monday proposed $25 billion in new spending to help Canadian businesses and workers make it through a COVID-19 winter promised tens of billions more to help the country recover once the pandemic passes.\---11:40 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is launching efforts to support two more northern communities that are struggling with COVID-19.The Canadian Red Cross is sending specialists to the predominantly Inuit community of Arviat in Nunavut, which has seen dozens of cases.The Canadian Rangers are also being deployed to Hatchet Lake First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, where Trudeau says they will provide health services and support elders.\---11:35 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says 80 per cent of the money spent to support and protect Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic has come from the federal government.The prime minister says that includes tens of millions of rapid tests that are starting to be distributed across the country, as well as billions of doses of yet-to-be-delivered COVID-19 vaccines.Trudeau says Canada is guaranteed to receive some of the first doses of the vaccine produced by U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna once it has been approved by Health Canada.The Moderna vaccine candidate is one of four currently being reviewed by the department.\---11:30 a.m.Prince Edward Island's chief health officer says she expects the COVID-19 vaccine to begin arriving in her province in January 2021.Dr. Heather Morrison says discussions are continuing between the federal and provincial governments around vaccine allocation, distribution, procurement and logistics.She says P.E.I. will be following the national recommendations for priority groups to be immunized, but all Islanders who want the vaccine will receive it over time.Morrison says it will take many months for all Islanders to be immunized.She said the arrival date and the actual number of doses will be made public once the details are known.\---11:05 a.m.Quebec is reporting 1,177 new cases of COVID-19 today and 28 additional deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.According to public health authorities, three of those deaths took place during the past 24 hours and the rest occurred earlier.The Health Department says 719 people are currently in hospital, an increase of 26 from the previous day. Of those, 98 people are in intensive care, an increase of four from the previous day.Quebec has reported 143,548 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and 7,084 deaths associated with the virus.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
DELTA, B.C. — A man has critical injuries after the vehicle he was driving plunged about nine metres from a BC Ferries exit ramp to the pavement below.BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall says the incident occurred Tuesday at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal as vehicles were leaving the vessel Coastal Renaissance, which had arrived from the Duke Point terminal near Nanaimo.She says the vehicle accelerated sharply after it left the vessel and crashed through a concrete barrier on the upper exit ramp, landing on its roof on the road below.A statement from BC Emergency Health Services says several paramedic crews were dispatched to the scene and the patient was transported to hospital in critical condition. Marshall says the man, who was driving a crew-cab pickup truck, was the lone occupant of the vehicle and no one else was hurt. Marshall says the man was conscious and talking after the incident. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
Brampton firefighters rescued a woman and child from a house fire on Tuesday night but both suffered significant injuries, Peel paramedics say. The woman was critically injured, while the boy was seriously injured. Both are listed in stable condition in hospital, according to Peel police. The boy is believed to be five years old, according to paramedics.Brampton Fire Chief Bill Boyes said the two are believed to be mother and son.Boyes said the two-alarm fire broke out in a house on Nevada Court, near Bovaird Drive East and Nasmith Street. Emergency crews were called to the house at about 7:50 p.m."On scene, when we arrived, we were notified of two patients in the basement. They were rescued quickly by crews, brought out and transported by Peel paramedics to hospital," Boyes said.Residents who live on the upper floor of the house were able to get out on their own, he said.Firefighters arrived within four minutes, he said. It began as a one-alarm fire but was quickly upgraded to a two-alarm fire. One-alarm means five fire trucks and a chief officer. Three more trucks and another chief officer arrived when it became two-alarm. Boyes said Brampton and Ontario residents need to keep fire safety top of mind and he urged people to make sure that they have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.Office of the Fire Marshal to investigate blazeAccording to police, investigators believe the fire began in the basement, where the woman and child were trapped. Const. Kyle Villers, spokesperson for Peel police, said firefighters had to battle the flames to reach them.The Office of the Fire Marshal and Brampton fire officials will investigate the fire and will try to determine the origin, cause and circumstances of the fire.Roads were closed in the area and police urged motorists to seek alternate routes on Tuesday night.
There are 383,468 confirmed cases in Canada._ Canada: 383,468 confirmed cases (66,369 active, 304,888 resolved, 12,211 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.There were 5,329 new cases Tuesday from 97,680 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 41,024 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,861.There were 81 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 593 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 85. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,573,322 tests completed._ Newfoundland and Labrador: 339 confirmed cases (33 active, 302 resolved, four deaths).There was one new case Tuesday from 324 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.31 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 16 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 62,844 tests completed._ Prince Edward Island: 72 confirmed cases (four active, 68 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Tuesday from 760 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three 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 60,683 tests completed._ Nova Scotia: 1,315 confirmed cases (142 active, 1,108 resolved, 65 deaths).There were 10 new cases Tuesday from 3,165 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.32 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 88 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 13.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 146,919 tests completed._ New Brunswick: 508 confirmed cases (116 active, 385 resolved, seven deaths).There were seven new cases Tuesday from 1,065 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.66 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 58 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 101,550 tests completed._ Quebec: 143,548 confirmed cases (12,264 active, 124,200 resolved, 7,084 deaths).There were 1,177 new cases Tuesday from 8,376 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 14 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,218 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,317.There were 28 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 197 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.33 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 83.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,194,452 tests completed._ Ontario: 118,199 confirmed cases (14,524 active, 100,012 resolved, 3,663 deaths).There were 1,707 new cases Tuesday from 33,508 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,689 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,670.There were seven new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 144 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 21. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,103,234 tests completed._ Manitoba: 17,107 confirmed cases (9,066 active, 7,713 resolved, 328 deaths).There were 282 new cases Tuesday from 2,201 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,549 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 364.There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 80 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.83 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 23.95 per 100,000 people. There have been 349,309 tests completed._ Saskatchewan: 8,745 confirmed cases (3,819 active, 4,875 resolved, 51 deaths).There were 181 new cases Tuesday from 1,444 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,862 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 266.There were four new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.34 per 100,000 people. There have been 262,262 tests completed._ Alberta: 59,484 confirmed cases (16,628 active, 42,305 resolved, 551 deaths).There were 1,307 new cases Tuesday from 27,600 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,948 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,421.There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. 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 0.19 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 12.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,473,584 tests completed._ British Columbia: 33,894 confirmed cases (9,663 active, 23,774 resolved, 457 deaths).There were 656 new cases Tuesday from 18,967 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,546 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 792.There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 99 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.28 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 802,376 tests completed._ Yukon: 47 confirmed cases (17 active, 29 resolved, one deaths).There were zero new cases Tuesday from 170 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,336 tests completed._ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Tuesday from 42 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 zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,397 tests completed._ Nunavut: 182 confirmed cases (93 active, 89 resolved, zero deaths).There was one new case Tuesday from 58 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 38 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,300 tests completed.This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
MADISON, Wis. — President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Wisconsin seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state's two most Democratic counties, a longshot attempt to overturn Joe Biden's win in a battleground state he lost by nearly 20,700 votes.Trump filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state's 10 Electoral College votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court, and order Evers to withdraw the certification.The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Evers until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit, an unusually tight deadline that speaks to how quickly the court is likely to decide the case.The state's highest court, controlled 4-3 by conservatives, also is considering whether to hear two other lawsuits filed by conservatives seeking to invalidate ballots cast during the presidential election. Separately, two Wisconsin Republicans filed a new federal lawsuit Tuesday that mirrors some of Trump's claims and asks a judge to declare him the winner in Wisconsin.Trump's lawsuit repeats many claims he made during a recount of votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties that large swaths of absentee votes were illegally cast. Local officials rejected his claims during the recount, and Trump is challenging procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.Trump is not challenging any ballots cast in conservative counties he won.Biden campaign spokesman Nate Evans called the lawsuit “completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground." Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said it was “without merit.”Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, noted that the lawsuit doesn't allege that anyone was ineligible to vote, but instead seeks to create a two-tiered election system where voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties are disenfranchised “under much stricter rules than citizens in the rest of the state.”Trump's Wisconsin attorney, Jim Troupis, said in a statement that voters "deserve election processes with uniform enforcement of the law, plain and simple.”Similar Trump campaign lawsuits have failed in other battleground states.In Phoenix, a judge has scheduled a Thursday trial in Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s lawsuit that seeks to annul Biden’s victory in the state. A judge is letting Ward’s lawyers and experts compare the signatures on 100 mail-in ballot envelopes with signatures on file to determine whether there were any irregularities. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office, which certified Arizona’s election results on Monday, said there was no factual basis for conducting such a review.Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14 and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.Trump's Wisconsin lawsuit seeks to discard 170,140 absentee ballots where there was not a written application on file and all absentee ballots cast in person during the two weeks before Election Day.People who vote in person early fill out a certification envelope for their ballot that serves as the written record. But the vast majority of absentee requests these days are made online, with a voter’s name entered into an electronic log with no paper record.Trump wants to toss 5,517 ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted. The practice has been in place for at least the past 11 elections, and the state elections commission told clerks it was OK.Trump also challenges 28,395 absentee ballots where a voter declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined” under the law. Such a declaration exempts voters from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it is up to individual voters to determine whether they are indefinitely confined, a designation used by nearly four times as many voters this year than in 2016 due to the coronavirus pandemic.Trump also alleges that Madison opened illegal voting sites when the city held events at parks where election workers accepted 17,271 completed absentee ballots from voters looking to avoid crowds and mail delays. City officials said the poll workers at the 220 parks served the same purpose as ballot drop boxes.The federal lawsuit came from Bill Feehan, the La Crosse County Republican Party chairman, and Derrick Van Orden, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress this year in western Wisconsin. Sidney Powell, a firebrand conservative attorney who was removed from Trump's legal team, is among the lawyers.Van Orden said after the lawsuit was filed that he had spoken with someone in Powell's office about the case but had not given permission to be named as a litigant. Van Orden said he tried calling Powell to ask that his name be removed but could not get through. Powell did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment.“Why they would want me on there, I'm not quite sure,” Van Orden said.The same lawsuit asks for 48 hours of security footage from the “TCF Center,” which is in Detroit, not in Wisconsin.Also Tuesday, Republicans on the Wisconsin Elections Commission asked the Democratic chairwoman to resign after she finalized election results on Monday. They argued the commission should have been involved with that process, while the chair, who refused to resign, said she was following state law and precedent.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
RCMP in southern Alberta are asking for the public's help in finding a missing 41-year-old woman and her three children. Police say Jessie Foyston and her children were last spoken to by a family member during the first week of November. Bow Island RCMP also say neighbours have not seen Foyston recently. They say she is new to the community of Bow Island and has no other connections to the area. Foyston is believed to be driving an older model white Chevy Suburban, but police say the licence plate is unknown. Police say she has a 12-year-old son and two daughters ages 10 and five. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19 over the weekend. An employee tested positive for the virus on Saturday, and has been in isolation at the mine since November 22. “This is the first positive COVID case we have experienced at Cigar Lake. Contact tracing for the individual was completed through the Northern Population Health Unit,” Cameco spokesperson Jeff Hryhoriw told the Prince Albert Daily Herald on Monday. “Cigar Lake continues to operate safely, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. We recognize developments around the pandemic are fluid, and will move quickly to adjust our plans should circumstances warrant.” Hryhoriw said that Cameco has maintained steady communication with employees throughout the pandemic and since the positive case was confirmed, to keep everyone well-informed. “The health and safety of our workers, their families and communities is Cameco’s top priority, and that certainly isn’t changing,” Hryhoriw said. A Cameco employee who works underground on the production team at Cigar Lake, was informed of the positive case by the company. He said he hadn’t heard of anyone else experiencing symptoms since. “We do have one case here. I think the individual flew in about a week ago. The health and safety team on site had isolated that individual into a separate wing that they opened up for people with potential symptoms,” the employee told the Prince Albert Daily Herald on Sunday. “We have an abundance of masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectants. There are stations set up throughout the whole mine site. Cleaning staff is constantly wiping tables, chairs and doing all they can do to help keep us safe and protected here on site. Masks are required boarding the plane and everywhere we go throughout this whole mine site.” Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine reopened in September along with partner Orano Canada’s McClean Lake mill, where uranium from Cigar Lake is processed. McClean Lake saw its first case of the virus on Sept. 20 not long after restarting production. “It’s a difficult situation, but our employees are handling this calmly and with the common good in mind,” said Jim Corman, President and CEO of Orano Canada. “We will get through this challenge, with lessons learned, and it’s a good reminder of why COVID safety protocols must be respected.” Cross-contamination between the two operations has not been identified as an issue and no further cases have been announced at McClean Lake. The mine and mill had temporarily stopped producing uranium in March in order to mitigate risks associated with employees living in close quarters while flying in and out of vulnerable communities during the pandemic. Roughly 50 per cent of 320 employees and another 240 contractors at Cigar Lake are from communities in northern Saskatchewan “These realities would greatly compound the problems a COVID-19 outbreak would present, so we need to take every precaution to ensure we don’t inadvertently become a point of transmission into these communities,” Hryhoriw said in March. The active workforce at Cigar Lake dropped to 75 during the closure and was reduced from 160 to 50 at McClean Lake. Meanwhile uranium stocks climbed globally because of the halt in production. “While health and safety are the primary considerations for the timing of our Cigar Lake mine restart decision, there were also commercial considerations, including market-related factors and the impact on our cost structure,” Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said in July, announcing plans to reopen. The mining giant reported a third quarter adjusted net loss of $78-million in November. “As expected, our results continue to be impacted by the pro-active operational decisions taken earlier this year,” Gitzel said. “We believe that the actions we have taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus are prudent and reflect our values – placing priority on the health and safety of our employees, their families and their communities. However, our decisions do come with near-term costs.” So far Hryhoriw said two others at Cigar Lake were found to be close contacts of the positive case. Both tested negative as of Tuesday morning. “We are following our Exposure Control Plan to prevent the risk of spread of infection to other personnel at Cigar Lake. This includes isolating the individual with a positive diagnosis in the designated isolation wing of the camp until public health authorities advise they can be released,” Hryhoriw said. “We also continue to follow the significant measures already in place at site, including screening for our inbound and outbound flights, and heightened controls on food service. We continue to stay in close contact with public health authorities and follow all government guidelines in order to limit the risk posed by COVID-19 across our facilities.” The employee who spoke to the Herald said that workers are being diligent to prevent the spread of the virus. “It’s up to the individuals here on site just to do their due diligence and to continue working together to make sure that we don’t experience an outbreak,” he said. Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Northern Advocate
After nine long months of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns people around the world are truly feeling the emotional and physical crunch. Humans are social creatures and this pandemic has succeeded in separating us from one another more than anything else in recent memory. In our desperate attempts to slow the spread of the virus throughout our communities, much of what we commonly experience together as communal acts of collective joy have become greatly restricted or shut down completely. One of the areas hardest hit is the live music industry. Venues have closed up, and over time we have seen repeated announcements in the news that many will not be able to ride out the storm and reopen in the future. Festivals both large and small were forced to go on hiatus this year sending out waves of financial crisis through the entire industry, from the producers at the top to the thousands upon thousands of musicians who rely more than ever on live performance engagements for their livelihood. In an attempt to utilize digital media to bridge the wide physical expanse, many organizations working in the music industry have turned to live streaming over the Internet to remain connected with their audiences. One organization operating as a music industry hub is the non-profit Canada's Music Incubator - Canada's Music Incubator (CMI). “We’re national. So we're based out of Toronto, but we also do a lot of our programming in the west as well in Alberta, out of the National Music Centre,” said CMI Live Events director Jesse Mitchell. The centre is a music performance venue located in Calgary. Much of the work that CMI does involves live music curation, as well as connecting musicians and managers with promoters and performance opportunities. But the organization also goes beyond that by producing music industry workshops and mentorships which serve to educate music creators and to invigorate the Canadian music landscape. Because of CMI’s success over their 10-year history, Mitchell and his associates were approached by representatives at the TD Bank, an organization with a long and prominent history of sponsoring and supporting many high profile music and cultural events across Canada. During these times of quarantine TD was seeking alternatives to sponsoring live events and approached CMI to spearhead a nationally-produced streaming performance program. Together the two partners came up with the Connected Music Series. Produced over the last few months and premiering on CMI’s YouTube channel, the Connected Music Series features 20 performances by Black, Indigenous and South Asian musicians. The artists selected were asked to stage their performances at venues in their community that held significance to that place. CMI also had a mandate to include local creators and media production crews to capture the performances. “The series has a focus on showcasing artists, but at the same time we’re interested in also showcasing significant spaces,” Mitchell explained. “But because this is online and it’s being videoed, we’re also highlighting media creators who work in these different communities.” The Connected Music Series features 20 prerecorded 30-minute musical performances airing between Nov. 19 and Dec. 20. The series hosts an incredible selection of Canadian talent, including many acclaimed Indigenous artists such as 2020 JUNO Indigenous Artist of the Year Celeigh Cardinal; Mi'kmaq Rapper Wolf Castle; two-spirit Mohawk singer Shawnee; Cree R&B; musician Sebastian Gaskin; Mohawk musician Logan Staats, and Dene singer-songwriter Leela Gilday. The venues chosen by the performers range from the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre and the Art Gallery of Alberta, both in Edmonton, and the Pabineau First Nation Band Hall in Bathurst, N.B., to intimate locations like The Garden Strathcona in Vancouver and community-minded retail spaces like hip hop fashion store Friday Knights in Winnipeg. “There's lots of beautiful and incredible places where I could have taped my performance, but it was already winter here,” said Gilday, who makes her home in Yellowknife. “So shooting a half-hour performance outside in winter here is not possible because I play guitar.” “I chose the Bullock’s Bistro, which is our local fish and chips place, and it's like an iconic Yellowknife location.” Gilday appreciates the Yellowknife restaurant’s attraction as a community and tourist hub, established over the past three decades, and how “it’s connected to the water in a very special way.” Owners “Renata and Sam Bullock get their fish fresh out of Great Slave Lake literally a hundred feet away.” For Gilday, that speaks to her deeply about “food security and that connection to the water.” Whether locked down within the vast urban landscape of a city like Toronto or tucked in for the winter in the remote communities of Northern Canada there’s no denying the significance of how much digital media is helping to keep everyone connected in these trying times. Many of the artists featured in the series would normally be touring and performing in various corners of the world. During the pandemic, however, sponsored streaming events have been adopted by many producers and promoters to serve as an antidote to the moratorium placed on public gatherings and live music events. The Connected Music Series returns Dec. 3, streaming dynamic performances from unique Canadian locations by acclaimed Canadian BIPOC musicians and creators right through until Dec. 20. Visit the Connected Music Series YouTube channel to view the recorded performances so far. Windspeaker.com By David Owen Rama, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
Two crew members on a container ship anchored in Vancouver's English Bay were seriously injured after a lifeboat unexpectedly plunged into the water during a drill on Tuesday.According to the Canadian Coast Guard, the accident happened at about 1:15 p.m. Both crew members were on the lifeboat when it was released from the ship, and it was sinking when rescuers were called.Coast guard officers, the Vancouver Police Department's marine unit and the Vancouver Port Authority all responded to the mayday call.A vessel from the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was on scene within 10 minutes, according to a spokesperson, and paramedics treated the two injured people for "significant injuries."According to B.C. Emergency Health Services, the patients were taken to hospital in serious condition, but they are both stable.
NEW YORK — Authorities on Tuesday announced the indictment of 18 people, including New York City rapper Casanova, in connection to a litany of gang-related crimes including racketeering, murder, drugs, firearms, and fraud offences.Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss and other law enforcement officials issued a statement accusing those named in the indictment of being part of the Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation gang, operating in New York City and part of New York state.Authorities said 17 of the 18 named in the indictment were in custody. The FBI’s New York office issued a tweet saying Casanova, whose legal name is Caswell Senior, was still being sought.“Members of Gorilla Stone committed terrible acts of violence, trafficked in narcotics, and even engaged in brazen fraud by exploiting benefits programs meant to provide assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Strauss said in the statement.One of those indicted was accused in connection with the Sept. 21 killing of a minor in Poughkeepsie, New York. The others were indicted in connection to charges including assault, drug distribution and weapons possession. Two people were charged with falsely using other people's identity information to file for COVID-19 unemployment benefits.Casanova, currently signed to Roc Nation, was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering; conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and firearms possession.Emails were sent to Roc Nation and the rapper's representative seeking comment.The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr has given extra protection to the prosecutor he appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, granting him authority to complete the work without being easily fired.Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel in October under the same federal regulations that governed special counsel Robert Mueller in the original Russia probe. He said Durham’s investigation has been narrowing to focus more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known by the code name of Crossfire Hurricane.Under the regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.The FBI in July 2016 began investigating whether the Trump campaign was co-ordinating with Russia to sway the outcome of the presidential election. That probe was inherited nearly a year later by special counsel Mueller, who ultimately did not find enough evidence to charge Trump or any of his associates with conspiring with Russia.The early months of the investigation, when agents obtained secret surveillance warrants targeting a former Trump campaign aide, have long been scrutinized by the president and other critics of the probe who say the FBI made significant errors. An inspector general report last year backed up that criticism but did not find evidence that mistakes in the surveillance applications and other problems with the probe were driven by partisan bias.Barr decided "the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Mueller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election," he said Tuesday.President-elect Joe Biden's transition team didn't immediately comment on the appointment.The current investigation, a criminal probe, had begun very broadly but has since “narrowed considerably” and now “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI,” Barr said. He said he expects Durham would detail whether any additional prosecutions will be brought and make public a report of the investigation’s findings.Durham's investigation has resulted in one prosecution so far: a guilty plea by a former FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email.In an Oct. 19 order, obtained by The Associated Press, Barr says Durham is authorized "to investigate whether any federal official, employee or any person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence or law enforcement activities” directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, anyone associated with the campaigns or the Trump administration.House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the appointment erodes trust in the Justice Department, and he questioned how it was allowed under the special counsel rules.“And we should not lose sight of the larger picture: in the waning days of the Trump administration, the attorney general has once again used the powers of his office to settle old scores for the president," Nadler said.The special counsel rules say the appointed person should be outside of government, but Barr pointed to specific provisions in his memo that would allow him to go around that rule.A senior Justice Department official told the AP that although the order details that it is “including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III,” the Durham probe has not expanded.The official said that line specifically relates to FBI personnel who worked on the Russia investigation before the May 2017 appointment of Mueller, a critical area of scrutiny for the Justice Department inspector general, which identified a series of errors and omissions in surveillance applications targeting former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.The focus on the FBI, rather than the CIA and the intelligence community, suggests that Durham may have moved past some of the more incendiary claims that Trump supporters had hoped would yield allegations of misconduct, or even crimes — namely, the question of how intelligence agencies reached their conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.Republicans lauded the appointment. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said it was “obvious the system failed” and he concurred with the appointment of a special counsel to continue the investigation.Michael Balsamo And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
B.C. health officials announced 656 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 16 more deaths.According to a written statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, there are now 8,796 active cases of infection from the novel coronavirus.There are currently 336 people in hospital, 138 more than two weeks ago, with 76 in intensive care. Henry and Dix said everyone, without exception, needs to follow public health orders and stop all social gatherings and community events in order to slow transmission of COVID-19."It is a time for all of us to pause, to think about the many people throughout our province, our nation and the world who have been impacted by COVID-19 and other global epidemics. It is also a time to think about what we can do to make a difference," they said."Let's be resilient in face of this surge. United and together, let's make an impact today through our own personal actions."With the latest deaths, the provincial death toll stands at 457. To date, 33,894 people have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C.A total of 10,123 are currently in isolation and under monitoring by public health workers because of exposure to the virus.The provincial update includes one new outbreak in long-term care at The Harrison at Elim Village in Surrey.2 new outbreaks in Vancouver Island hospitalsLate Tuesday, Island Health declared two outbreaks at hospitals on Vancouver Island. Five patients and a staff member have confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, where visitors are now being limited.One staff member and one patient at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni have tested positive for COVID-19, but health officials say the outbreak is confined to one unit and the rest of the hospital is operating as usual.Also on Tuesday, Northern Health revealed that 52 employees at the LNG Canada worksite in Kitimat have now tested positive for the virus in connection with an outbreak there. Of those, eight cases are still considered active.The health authority has also issued a warning about a potential exposure to the virus at The Key Resource Centre and the Cold Weather Shelter in Fort St. James between Nov. 12 and 25. Anyone who visited either facility on those dates has been asked to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.On Monday, Henry addressed the news that at least three churches in Langley and Chilliwack have held in-person services over the last two weeks, defying an order prohibiting all community and social gatherings.She said that most faith leaders have been supportive of public health measures, despite the "high-profile people who are trying to create some consternation" around the rules."Faith is not a building," Henry said Monday. "It is not about Sunday mornings, it is about every day. It's not about rights, it's about community."The current limitations on gatherings are in place until Dec. 7, 2020 at midnight.
British Columbia has seen more COVID-19 deaths over the past two weeks than the preceding two months because the virus has found its way back into nursing homes. And with long-term care workers exhausted and families frustrated, it's not clear what can be done.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California's governor was there. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo went to his parents' house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining there.All three local officials were on the hot seat Tuesday after various reports that they violated rules aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at a minimum, violating the spirit of the rules as they repeatedly urged others to stay home.Breed joined seven others at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry on Nov. 7 to celebrate the 60th birthday of socialite Gorretti Lo Lui, the mayor's spokesman confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. She dined in the same kind of partially enclosed indoor/outdoor room Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated in a day earlier.Newsom, who has appealed to Californians to “do your part" and stay home, apologized when the 12-person dinner was reported, then again when photos emerged showing him, his wife and others sitting close together at the same table without masks.Breed's spokesman, Jeff Cretan, called the mayor's French Laundry dinner a “small family birthday dinner." He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday inquiring whether the dinner involved more than three different households, which are prohibited under the state's rules.Before the Chronicle's story was posted Tuesday, Breed thanked residents for doing their part by limiting contact with others, saying on a live stream that “as someone who basically lives alone, it’s been a tough year for me personally."Earlier in the day, Liccardo apologized for attending a Thanksgiving get-together at his parents' home that included people from five different households.“I apologize for my decision to gather contrary to state rules, by attending this Thanksgiving meal with my family," Liccardo said in a statement. “I understand my obligation as a public official to provide exemplary compliance with the public health orders, and certainly not to ignore them. I commit to do better.”Liccardo said there were eight members from five different households and that they all dined outside at separate tables on the back patio, wearing masks when they were not eating.The outing was first reported by KNTV in San Jose.A day earlier, Liccardo tweeted that cases were spiking because people were letting their guard down with family members and friends. “Let’s cancel the big gatherings this year and focus on keeping each other safe," he wrote.Meanwhile, KTTV in Los Angeles reported that LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl enjoyed an outdoor meal at a restaurant just hours after voting last week to ban outdoor dining at the county’s 31,000 restaurants over coronavirus safety concerns.Kuehl was seen eating outside on Nov. 24 at Il Forno Trattoria near her home in Santa Monica, the station reported. Earlier in the day, Kuehl was among the supervisors who voted 3 to 2 to prohibit outdoor dining in Los Angeles County. Indoor dining has been banned for months during the pandemic.“She did dine al fresco at Il Forno on the very last day it was permissible," Kuehl’s office said in a statement Monday. "She loves Il Forno, has been saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue. She ate there, taking appropriate precautions, and sadly will not dine there again until our Public Health Orders permit."Los Angeles County imposed a new stay-at-home order for its 10 million residents effective this week as coronavirus cases surge across the state and country.During last week's Board of Supervisors meeting, Kuehl referred to outside dining as “a most dangerous situation” because of the possibility of virus transmission among unmasked patrons.“This is a serious health emergency and we must take it seriously,” Kuehl said.Juliet Williams, The Associated Press
L’Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ) a présenté à la mi-novembre sa 12e édition du Panorama des régions du Québec. Parmi les faits saillants pour la Côte-Nord, l’ISQ indique un déclin marqué de la population depuis 2016, la croissance du produit intérieur brut (PIB) et une baisse du taux de chômage. D’une part, la Côte-Nord est la région québécoise qui a enregistré le déclin le plus marqué de sa population entre 2006 et 2019 avec un taux de -7,3 pour mille. Qui plus est, des six municipalités régionales de comté (MRC) qui composent la région, aucune ne comptait plus d’habitants en 2019 qu’en 2016. Au cours de cette période, la Minganie est passée de 6592 à 6445 résidents. La démographie négative de la Côte-Nord se chiffre à environ 6000 individus qui ont quitté le territoire depuis 2006. Le rapport note une perte de population chez les 64 ans et moins, dont une perte accentuée chez les 0-19 ans (23 423 versus 19 134 personnes). La région connaît cependant une hausse du nombre de 65 ans et plus. En 2019, un Nord-Côtier sur cinq est âgé de plus de 65 ans. De plus, l’âge moyen est passé de 38,8 ans en 2006 à 43,3 ans en 2019. L’amalgame de ces données laissent entrevoir que la région est bel et bien vieillissante. D’autre part, l’ISQ constate une hausse significative du taux d’emploi pour le regroupement Côte-Nord/Nord-du-Québec avec + 7,5 points entre 2009 et 2019. Le regroupement des deux régions fait partie des territoires qui ont enregistré la plus forte hausse du taux d’emploi pour cette période. Par ailleurs, le taux de chômage pour le regroupement a baissé de moitié depuis 2009, passant de 10 % à 4,8 % (2019). Le revenu disponible par habitant de la Côte-Nord augmente régulièrement depuis 2015, pour atteindre 29 426 $ en 2018, tout juste sous la moyenne québécoise (29 924 $). À l’échelle de la province, c’est dans la MRC de Caniapiscau que le revenu disponible par habitant est le plus élevé avec 40 385 $. En Minganie, il s’élève à 30 335 $. Pour une seconde année consécutive, le PIB nord-côtier est en croissance. Après + 3,7 points en 2017, le rapport signale une hausse de 6,1 points en 2018. La Côte-Nord est notamment la région qui enregistre la plus forte augmentation du PIB par habitant pour la même année (6,9 %). La région se distingue également par sa croissance de 15,3 % de production dans l’industrie d’extraction minière, de l’exploitation en carrière et de l’extraction de pétrole et de gaz. À noter que l’activité minière provinciale se concentre principalement en Côte-Nord, en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (+ 13,8 %) et dans le Nord-du-Québec (+ 9,4 %). La Côte-Nord est d’ailleurs passée au second rang des régions administratives en termes de valeur des livraisons minérales avec 2,61 milliards de dollars, soit le quart de la valeur totale de la province (10,73 G$). La valeur des livraisons minérales nord-côtières a bondi de 41,2 % par rapport à 2017. En ce qui a trait à l’éducation, un tiers de la population de 25 à 64 ans du regroupement Côte-Nord/Nord-du-Québec (28,7 %) détient un certificat ou un diplôme d’une école de métiers comme plus haut niveau de scolarité en 2019. Un peu moins d’un quart possède un certificat ou est diplômé au niveau collégial, et 17,5 % sont des diplômés universitaires. Le rapport précise aussi que plus d’hommes que de femmes ont fréquenté une école de métiers (35,6 % vs 20,4 %), mais que plus de femmes que d’hommes ont un certificat ou diplôme universitaire (11,6 % vs 24,6 %). Le taux d’obtention du diplôme d’études secondaires (DES) est similaire entre les deux sexes : 15,4 % pour les hommes et 14,6 % pour les femmes. Le Panorama des régions du Québec de l’ISQ dresse chaque année un portrait socioéconomique des 17 régions administratives de la province et des MRC qui les composent.Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
LOS ANGELES — The captain of a scuba diving boat that caught fire and sank off the coast of California last year, killing 34 people who were trapped below deck, was indicted Tuesday on federal manslaughter charges for one of the deadliest maritime disasters in recent U.S. history.Jerry Boylan was charged with 34 counts of seaman's manslaughter for "misconduct, negligence and inattention" by failing to train his crew, conduct fire drills and have a roving night watchman on the Conception when fire broke out Sept. 2, 2019, the indictment said.“As a result of the alleged failures of Captain Boylan to follow well-established safety rules, a pleasant holiday dive trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and one crew member found themselves trapped in a fiery bunkroom with no means of escape,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.Boylan and four other crew members, who had all been sleeping, escaped from the flaming boat after he made a breathless mayday call. All 33 passengers and one crew member perished in the bunkroom.Some of the dead were found with their shoes on, leading to speculation they were trying to escape but were trapped by flames that blocked a stairwell and a small hatch that were the only exits to the deck above. All died of smoke inhalation, according to coroner's reports.The rare federal charges against Boylan were brought under a pre-Civil War law aimed at holding steamboat captains and crew responsible for watery disasters that were far more frequent at the time.Federal safety investigators faulted the owners of the vessel for a lack of oversight, but they were not charged with any crime.“I hate the term accident in this case because, in my opinion, it is not an accident if you fail to operate your company safely,” National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said at a hearing in October.The company that owned the boat, Truth Aquatics Inc., has filed suit in federal court under a provision in maritime law to avoid payouts to the families of the victims. The families of 32 victims have filed claims against boat owners Glen and Dana Fritzler and the company.The cause of the fire was been under investigation for more there a year and may be impossible to pinpoint. It began in an area on the main deck where divers had plugged in phones, flashlights and other items with combustible lithium ion batteries.The fire happened on the final night of a three-day Labor Day weekend scuba diving excursion near Santa Cruz Island off Santa Barbara.The 34 victims ranged from a new deckhand to scientists and engineers to parents with their teenage and adult children. They came from as far away as China, Singapore and India. Two passengers were celebrating birthdays.The sole crewmember who died, Allie Kurtz, 26, had previously worked as a cook on another Truth Aquatics boat and was thrilled with her promotion. Her family said she loved the water and had childhood aspirations of becoming a pirate.Marine biologist Kristy Finstad, who co-owned Worldwide Diving Adventures and chartered the Labor Day Weekend trip, first put on a dive tank at the age of nine and had done hundreds of dives in the rugged, wind-swept Channel Islands, off Santa Barbara’s coast.Five members of the Quitasol family took the trip to celebrate their father’s birthday. Sisters Angela, Nicole and Evan joined their father, Michael Quitasol, and their stepmother, Fernisa Sison. The family had been scuba diving together for at least a decade.Before the disaster, Boylan and Truth Aquatics had a good reputation with customers and the boating community in Santa Barbara, where the company had a fleet of three boats. The Conception had passed its two most recent Coast Guard safety inspections.But NTSB investigators condemned the company and captain for a litany of issues including failing to train the crew on emergency procedures.Ryan Sims, who had been working aboard the boat for just three weeks, told investigators he had asked the captain to discuss emergency plans the day before the fire.“When we have time," Boylan replied, Sims reported.“I didn’t know what the procedures were supposed to be,” Sims said, echoing what other crew members told investigators.The NTSB said the lack of a night watch allowed the fire to spread quickly and trap victims below deck. The agency also faulted the Coast Guard for not enforcing the night watch requirement, citing records showing no one cited for failing to provide one since 1991.Crew members told investigators they were asleep on the upper deck when the fire broke out below around 3 a.m.They said they made repeated attempts to reach those below deck. But the flames and heat kept them back and eventually forced them to jump overboard.Boylan made a mayday call at 3:14 a.m. saying, “I can’t breathe,” before abandoning ship.Sims, who has sued the boat's owners, broke a leg jumping from the boat.The crew climbed into a dinghy and motored to a yacht anchored nearby to call again for help.“One thing we never heard was any screams or banging or anything from the boat, both while we were on it or when we were close,” Cullen Molitor, the boat’s second captain, told investigators.Brian Melley And Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press
CHICAGO — A federal judge on Tuesday struck down two Trump administration rules designed to drastically curtail the number of visas issued each year to skilled foreign workers.The changes applying to the H-1B visa program announced in October include imposing salary requirements on companies employing skilled overseas workers and limits on specialty occupations. Department of Homeland Security officials deemed it a priority because of coronavirus-related job losses and estimated as many as one-third of those who have applied for H-1B's in recent years would be denied under the new rules.U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in California said the government didn't follow transparency procedures and its contention that the changes were an emergency response to pandemic job losses didn’t hold water because the Trump administration has floated the idea for some time but only published the rules in October.“The COVID-19 pandemic is an event beyond defendants’ control, yet it was within defendants’ control to take action earlier than they did,” White wrote.The U.S. issues up to 85,000 H-1B visas each year in sectors including technology, engineering and medicine. Usually, they’re issued for three years and renewable. Most of the nearly 600,000 H-1B visa holders in the U.S. are from India and China.The H-1B rules announced weeks before the election were part of President Donald Trump's wider agenda to curb nearly all forms of immigration. In June, he issued an order temporarily suspending the H-1B program until the end of the year.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and universities including the California Institute of Technology sued in California, arguing there wasn’t adequate notice or time for the public to comment on the changes. They also said the rules, particularly related to requiring a prevailing wage for visa-holders, would have a drastic impact on new hires and “sever the employment relationship of hundreds of thousands of existing employees in the United States."The University of Utah cited an example where an H-1B employee seeking renewal was paid an $80,000 salary but would have to be paid $208,000 under the new rule.The judge agreed that the federal government didn’t make a case for implementing the rules under the Administrative Procedure Act, which makes agencies accountable to the public by requiring a detailed process for enacting regulations.“Defendants failed to show there was good cause to dispense with the rational and thoughtful discourse that is provided by the APA’s notice and comment requirements,” White wrote.The rule on wages, proposed by the Department of Labor, took effect in October, while the Homeland Security rule on occupations and other issues was supposed to take effect Monday. It also would have placed limits on “offsite” firms that employ and contract out H-1B visa holders to other companies; their visas would have been limited to one year at a time."This is incredibly important decision to preserve the H-1B program,” said attorney Paul Hughes, who represented the plaintiffs. “This ruling enables those individuals to maintain their jobs and their families in the United States.”The Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that the ruling “has many companies across various industries breathing a huge sigh of relief,” with the visa changes having "the potential to be incredibly disruptive to the operations of many businesses.”Messages left Tuesday for spokespeople with the Labor and Homeland Security departments weren’t immediately returned.The wage rule has prompted at least two other federal lawsuits in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.___Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.Sophia Tareen, The Associated Press
New legislation that goes into effect in Alberta Tuesday means some impaired drivers will be slapped with stiff fines, rather than a criminal court trial. The UCP government has implemented legislation related to Bill 21 that includes changes to how impaired drivers are penalized and how things are handled during roadside stops. "The big takeaway is if you're a first time offender, they're not going to be putting you into the criminal justice system," said Const. Dan Kurz with the Calgary Police Service. "You'll be staying within the provincial transportation system." Kurz said for most first-time impaired drivers, the new rules can mean an immediate $1,000 fine, a 30-day vehicle seizure and mandatory impaired driving education, as well as existing measures such as a licence suspension. Criminal and repeat offenders will still face potential criminal charges and other penalties under the new legislation. "If we have cases where there's repeat offenders, if there's collisions, there's personal injury, there's minors in the vehicle, those are aggravating factors that basically say that driver is not eligible for the program," Kurz said. "And so they'll be diverted to the criminal side." The biggest change, Kurz said, is for first-time and non-criminal offenders. "So if you get pulled over and the officer deems you to be eligible to go into the provincial system, what will happen is you'll just get a piece of paper that has your information at the top of it, as well as a QR code," Kurz said, adding that offenders can then log into the Alberta Safe Roads system and address their file immediately, rather than waiting months to deal with it in court. "You can set up an appointment with an adjudicator right on your phone ... you can deal with your file, you can contest the file, you can request time to pay," Kurz said. "So all of that has been taken outside the court. The courts are overworked, they're overburdened. So this is a way to divert a lot of people out of the criminal justice system." The province says allowing police to issue tickets on the spot and impound vehicles for up to a month is a way to administer strict penalties, while freeing up court time and police resources. "Impaired driving files are very, very demanding on police resources. So even if it's just a simple impaired driving file, we've got to tie up maybe two police cars, a few different officers to do breath testing, to deal with tow trucks," Kurz said. "And then we have to deal with the offender for a number of hours, submit paperwork. And then when it comes time to court, we could spend hours in court. I've spent two days in court for a simple impaired driving file. So with this new program, we'll be able to deal with this stuff right at the roadside." But the move has sparked concern among criminal defence lawyers like Ian Savage in Calgary, who calls the new legislation alarming. Savage specializes in impaired driving cases, and says the right to a trial is essential in a democracy. "One would expect that you have the right to fight your case of appropriate circumstance and face your accuser. No, not under this legislation," Savage told the Calgary Eyeopener. "There's an adjudication process. The adjudicators by law are employees of the Government of Alberta. You cannot challenge your accuser so it's a bit of a farce." Savage says the Canadian legal system is based on the presumption of innocence — and that this legislation takes away that presumption. "It's now a presumption of guilt and not only that, your right to contest charges is removed," Savage said. "You're not allowed to subpoena the police officer to any adjudication hearing or cross-examine them. So essentially under their noses, we have become — and I hate to use drastic language — a fascist state." The province says people can pay fines, request more time to pay or request a review of their case online through SafeRoads Alberta. They can also seek judicial review in court. "The point here is that we fought hard from the Magna Carta forward in order to have this presumption of innocence in our legal system," Savage said. "And now the government, under the cover of COVID, under the cover of saving dollars, is taking that away from us in the areas in which people would most commonly come into conflict with the law — and people are just not aware that this is going on." Lowered stats in B.C. Transport Minister Ric McIver says similar measures have lowered impaired driving statistics in B.C. He added that repeat offenders will not be getting away with fines. "You won't be going home with your driver's license and you won't be going home with your vehicle, your vehicle will be seized for up to 30 days, you will get a fine up to $2,000, you'll have to go through a mandatory education program," McIvor said of repeat offenders. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has applauded the option for police to impound vehicles on the spot. "The immediate roadside sanction program option for certain impaired driving offenders provides a way to get them off the roads quickly, while ensuring they still face strong consequences for their actions," said MADD CEO Andrew Murie in an emailed statement. "Most importantly, these programs save lives. Similar measures introduced in British Columbia have helped reduce alcohol-related crash deaths by 50 per cent. That is hundreds of lives saved."
Hollywood has churned out plenty of war movies about conflict in the Middle East in the past two decades _ but none quite like "Mosul." (Dec. 1)