Speedy the emu feels very comfortable and safe around Thorin the gentle German Shepherd. Best friends forever!
Speedy the emu feels very comfortable and safe around Thorin the gentle German Shepherd. Best friends forever!
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — One name missing in President Donald Trump's flurry of pardons is “Tiger King” Joe Exotic. His team was so confident in a pardon that they'd readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas. But he wasn't on the list announced Wednesday morning. Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed. Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019. In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued that he was “railroaded and betrayed” by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that “he will likely die in prison” because of health concerns. Maldonado-Passage's legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” The Associated Press
NEW DELHI — India began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries on Wednesday, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India's Foreign Ministry said the country would send 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. It added in a statement late Tuesday that regulatory clearances were still awaited from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius. India's ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, said Wednesday that New Delhi would supply Nepal with 1 million doses free of charge, with the first to arrive as early as Thursday. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government would ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet India's domestic needs as it supplies partner countries in the coming months. “India will continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines. This will be calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations,” he said. Indian regulators gave the nod for emergency use to two vaccines earlier this month: the AstraZeneca vaccine and another one by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech. India kicked off its own massive vaccination drive on Jan. 17, with a goal of inoculating 300 million of its nearly 1.4 billion people. These vaccines being sent to neighbouring countries are being sent as grants and India’s Foreign Ministry said the vaccines were not part of COVAX, the U.N.-backed global effort aimed at helping lower income countries obtain the shots. With nations making their own plans and not waiting for COVAX, some experts fear that India’s gesture of goodwill may inadvertently undermine the struggling initiative, which has yet to deliver any of the promised 2 billion vaccines to poor countries. Although COVAX has announced new deals to secure vaccines in recent weeks, it has only signed legally binding deals for a fraction of the needed shots. WHO said earlier this week it hopes vaccines bought by another global initiative started by the Gates Foundation, GAVI, might start being delivered to poor countries later this month or next. The U.N. health agency’s Africa chief, however, estimated that the first COVID-19 vaccines from that initiative might only arrive in March and that a larger roll-out would only begin in June. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses being produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the shots that’ll be used by developing nations. ___ Associated Press journalists Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press
When David Bernhardt joined the Inuvik fire department as an 18-year-old volunteer in 1980, he never dreamed that he would still be part of the team 40 years later. "I got surprised," said Bernhardt. "I didn't think I'd go this far." Not only has he gotten this far, he's being recognized for his 'significant contributions' to firefighting in the territory with this year's N.W.T. Fire Service Merit Award. The annual award honours individual firefighters or fire departments based on nominations from the public, according to the Department of Community and Municipal Affairs. This year, Bernhardt, who is Inuvik's longest serving firefighter, was the sole recipient. Last year Bernhardt received the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Municipal Long Service award, which recognizes achievements of long-serving volunteer firefighters in communities across the nation. Mentor In a statement from Inuvik Fire Chief Cynthia Hammond, she said Bernhardt has had multiple roles in the fire department over the years including firefighter, lieutenant, captain, and deputy fire chief. In 2013, Bernhardt had a heart attack, so he is no longer on the front lines but he still plays a communication role with the department and helps out the rookies during orientation. Hammond wrote that Bernhardt shares "his history and knowledge as a mentor to novice firefighters." He continues to show up to fire practice every Wednesday where he is part of the support platoon. Hammond said Bernhardt is "ensuring exterior operations run efficiently and more importantly, maintains a calm, steady presence with a watchful eye." 'They are like family to me' Bernhardt, who is originally from Cape Dyer on Baffin Island, Nunavut, has lived in Inuvik since the early 1960s. He said he believes Hammond nominated him for the award and he is thankful to her, the other firefighters on the Inuvik fire department, the fire marshal and the public. "We call each other brothers and sisters in the fire department and I'd like to thank them … they are like family to me ... it's good to see new equipment, new gear, new people." Bernhardt said he thinks he'll be in the department for a couple more years, and he's got some advice for anyone thinking of joining. "I always say the door is always open for you young guys. If you want to learn, it's a good choice," said Bernhardt. "Don't be scared of fire. I know fire burns you but you can also put it out."
P.E.I.'s rotational workers will likely be the first to see an easing of isolation requirements once they've received their vaccinations, a standing committee on health and social development heard Wednesday. The Charlottetown Islanders' games this weekend against the Cape Breton Eagles have been cancelled due to travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Islanders haven't played since the Atlantic bubble was suspended in November, and it's uncertain when they'll play again. The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce is asking Islanders to shift 10 per cent of their annual spending to support locally owned and operated businesses during the next phase in the Love Local P.E.I. campaign. About 2,000 Holland College students are back in the classroom, some for the first time since March. A P.E.I. judge is wrestling with how to sentence a P.E.I. man who failed to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. Some Prince Edward Islanders are not self-isolating as they are legally required to and are putting others at risk, Morrison also said at the briefing. The organizers of The Spud hockey tournament in Charlottetown say they had no choice but to cancel the event this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Twenty-one senators from the Maritimes are urging the federal government to provide financial assistance to an inter-city bus service that they say is in financial peril because of the pandemic. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported on P.E.I. is 110, with seven still active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. New Brunswick announced 21 new cases on Wednesday There are now 317 active cases in the province. Nova Scotia reported three new cases, with 23 active. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms 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.
BANGKOK — Thai officials on Wednesday filed criminal charges against a popular former politician, accusing him of defaming the monarchy by broadcasting criticism of government efforts to secure supplies of coronavirus vaccines. The action against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit came just a day after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters that that his government will prosecute anyone who shares false information about coronavirus vaccines. Thanathorn, former leader of the dissolved Future Forward Party, accused the government of acting too slowly in procuring the vaccines. He also pointed out that the government’s main contract for vaccine supply was made with a Thai company owned by the royal palace. The government and the company deny any wrongdoing. “What Thanathorn said is not true at all. The monarchy has nothing to do with the vaccines and they are not in the position to respond to him in the public,” said Thosaphol Pengsom, a vice minister attached to the prime minister’s office. Vice Minister of Digital Economy and Society Newin Chochaiyathip said at a news conference that anyone who shares Thanathorn’s broadcast or distorted information about vaccines and monarchy judged to be distorted would be prosecuted. Thanathorn’s office said he had no immediate comment. The government has increasingly used the law against defaming the monarchy to crack down on critics. The law, widely know as Article 112, makes insulting King Maha Vajiralongkorn or his family punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Thanathorn has long been a thorn in the side of Prayuth’s government. His party, critical of the army, a pillar of the country’s establishment, made a strong third-place showing in the 2019 general election, but he was forced out of Parliament when a court ruled that he had broken an election law. His party was later dissolved on a similar technicality. He has faced a number of legal cases which supporters charge are politically motivated. Also Wednesday, six activists from Thailand’s pro-democracy movement reported to police to acknowledge Article 112 charges against them. Their appearance at a central Bangkok police station was the latest skirmish between Thailand’s royalist establishment and the youth-led protest movement that caught fire last year with a series of well-attended rallies around the country calling for major political reforms, including of the country’s influential monarchy. The six protesters were charged by police with insulting or expressing malice toward the king in connection with a December protest at a Bangkok shopping mall. The charge sheet offers no details. According to a member of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who asked for anonymity because she was not authorized to release information, police explained that the charges were related to wearing short cropped T-shirts at their protest to make fun of the king and his queen. Two minors were not accused of wearing inappropriate attire but of having signs or making hand gestures supporting the protest. Photographs of the king casually wearing cropped T-shirts have circulated widely on social media and have been published overseas, but not in Thai mass media, which does not publish undignified photos of the royal family. The monarchy is revered by many Thais and until recently was almost universally treated as an untouchable institution. But the protest movement charges that monarchy is unaccountable and wields too much power is what is supposed to a democratic constitutional monarchy. From November to January this year, about 50 people have been charged with lese majeste — though none has yet gone to trial. Most if not all cases were based on statements made at public rallies or posted on the internet. Critics says the law can easily be abused because anyone — not just royals or authorities — can lodge a complaint. After Vajralongkorn took the throne in 2016, he informed the government that he did not wish to see the law used. But the escalating criticism of the king late last year prompted Prayuth to declare that the protesters had gone too far and could now expect to be prosecuted for their actions. ——- Associated Press video journalist Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report. Grant Peck And Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
A small Nova Scotia First Nation is poised to start collecting property taxes in April from non-Indigenous businesses located on land it purchased for commercial development in the Annapolis Valley. Chief Sidney Peters of the Glooscap First Nation says it's about self-reliance. "It's just another way of trying to bring in a few extra dollars of revenue to help the community out," Peters said. The 400-member band currently pays a little over $20,000 a year in property taxes to the Municipality of the County of Kings for Glooscap Landing, which is home to a gas station and Tim Hortons on 11 hectares it owns on Highway 101 near Hantsport. Passed motion last month To get its hands on that money, Glooscap band council passed a motion last month to create its own taxing authority under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. The band says initially it is likely to charge the same tax rate as the neighbouring municipality. Peters said the "biggest thing" is to have the money come back to the band. The band is also pressing the federal government to designate the 11 hectares part of its reserve, the other key step that will enable it to exercise taxing authority. Peters said he expects to have the reserve addition in time for April. This will not impact federal or provincial taxes. Band members won't be charged property taxes because they are exempt. Millbrook pioneered band tax collection in N.S. Glooscap is not the first to go down this road in Nova Scotia. The Millbrook band pioneered property tax collection under late Chief Lawrence Paul. It has been levying property taxes at its Power Centre outside Truro for years. According to financial records, taxation generated $711,000 in revenue for Millbrook in 2019. Eskasoni, in Cape Breton, also collects property tax, according to data from the First Nations Tax Commission that helps bands across Canada set up tax regimes. Paqtnkek, near Antigonish, is also looking at creating its own property tax regime. Taxing across Canada The First Nations Tax Commission says 152 First Nations collected $96 million in property tax across the country in 2020. About $1.25 million was collected by bands in Atlantic Canada. "Communities are looking for more ways to become more independent of government and to exercise their own self-governance through their own institutions. And taxation is a fundamental governmental power," said Manny Jewels, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission. About 80 per cent of First Nation tax regimes in place across Canada are under the authority of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, which came into force in 2006. The remainder are under the Indian Act. 'Legislation is working' In addition to strengthening First Nations' property taxing power, it also created the First Nations Financial Authority, a non-profit corporation used by bands to raise money. It bankrolled the blockbuster $250-million loan to the Membertou band to pay for its share of the purchase of Clearwater Seafoods. "It tells you very clearly that the legislation is working," said Jewels. "It's the most successful legislation for First Nations in Canadian history. We were working, quite frankly, with over 50 per cent of the communities right across the country." MORE TOP STORIES
The fire department in Summerside, P.E.I., has a new pumper truck, and they marked its arrival with a tradition that is new to the city, but is centuries old in fire departments across the continent. Firefighters gathered Sunday to push the truck back into its new home. "In the early 1800s when they used to pull the steam engines or the hand pumpers with horses, the horses can't back them into the building. That's where the tradition started," said Chief Ron Enman. "Right across North America it's been a tradition. I just thought it would be something we'd start here and we had a lot of fun with it." Identical setups The new pumper replaces a 25-year-old truck that had reached the end of its life span Apart from being new, Enman said the new truck also will make work a little easier for firefighters because it is the same model as the other two pumpers at the station. "They're identical and they're set up identical," he said. "So if you're looking for a hydrant wrench on engine one or engine two, engine three, it doesn't matter what truck you're on when you go to that truck." The new pumper truck cost $681,000. More from CBC P.E.I.
The owner of Canada's biggest stock exchanges is seeking to attract more Asian derivatives investors, aiming to boost the share of its overall revenues from outside the country to half from one-third currently. TMX Group, which operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSX Venture Exchange and the Montreal Exchange, plans to extend derivatives trading to 23 hours in the second half of 2021 from 14-1/2 hours now to attract Asia-Pacific institutional investors, Chief Executive John McKenzie told Reuters in an exclusive interview. McKenzie said TMX hopes both to expand outside Canada and beyond its traditional equities trading operations, which already accounted for less than a tenth of revenues in fiscal 2019, half the level of a decade earlier.
A man from the Bathurst area is dead after a motor vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon. The accident happened just before 4 p.m. on Route 11 near Petit-Rocher and was a head-on crash. A 22-year-old man died and a 45-year-old truck driver was injured. Traffic was rerouted for several hours.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China’s capital, Beijing, recorded seven more coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia, and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz on Wednesday unveiled the EQA, a new electric compact SUV as part of plans to take on rival Tesla Inc and offer more emission-free vehicles to consumers to meet targets in Europe and China. The EQA, the first of several electric models Mercedes-Benz plans to launch this year, will initially have a range of 426 kilometres (265 miles), with a 500km model coming later, the premium brand carmaker said in a video presentation.
The UK has historically had a special relationship with the US, but will British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s friendship with Donald Trump undermine his relationship with the new president? And what role will the UK's divorce from the EU play in transatlantic relations?View on euronews
As Labrador hunkers down under an ongoing blizzard, the south-east portion of the province is waiting for its first major storm of the season. The latest forecast from CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler calls for 30 to 40 centimetres of snow and gusts up to 90 km/h for much of the Avalon peninsula and the Bonavista area on Thursday. While Labrador will see its blizzard conditions peter out early Thursday, Brauweiler said just hours later a new weather system will move in. She expects snow to start falling on the island around mid-day. Brauweiler also has her eye on another storm system that could dump more snow on the island Saturday, but says it's too early to tell how much it will bring. "It is going to be unsettled — a very busy weather pattern over the next little bit," she said Wednesday evening. Her forecast echoes Wednesday morning's predictions from Veronica Sullivan, an Environment Canada meteorologist based in Gander. "For the next few days … it's going to be quite active, especially for eastern Newfoundland, the northeast coast and the Great Northern Peninsula, and also Labrador," Sullivan said. The Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas are under a winter storm warning, with Environment Canada predicting between 20 to 35 centimetres of snow as of Wednesday evening, and possibly higher amounts for the Avalon's easternmost points, including the St. John's area. That weather system could also affect the island's northeast coast and Northern Peninsula, said Sullivan, although that uncertain track means it's too soon to say how much snow will fall later on Thursday night. Blizzards, and a busy weekend Meanwhile, a storm is already pushing through Labrador's north coast with the entire area under a blizzard warning Wednesday. Heavy snow and high winds are reducing visibility to zero, according to Environment Canada, which predicts between 15 to 25 centimetres of snow and possibly more in certain areas by Thursday morning. However, much of Labrador can expect more snow on the way for the weekend, Sullivan said. That snow "could persist for many days," although it is too early to firm up that forecast. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
GUYSBOROUGH – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) launched an initiative last year to reduce the amount of lost fishing gear, also called ghost gear, in Canadian and international waters. In a news release issued earlier this month (Jan. 7), DFO stated that early estimates show this initiative has helped to remove almost 63 tonnes of ghost gear; 80 per cent of which was retrieved from the Bay of Fundy and coastal waters off Nova Scotia, including the waters surrounding the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) – Lobster Fishing Areas 31 A and 31 B. The overwhelming majority of gear type retrieved was lobster and crab pots (86 per cent). Nets and longline from various fisheries comprised 14 per cent of gear retrieved. And 3.2 km of rope was removed from coastal waters in Atlantic Canada. Gear was retrieved by projects supported through DFO’s $8.3 million Ghost Gear Fund, self-funded third-party projects authorized by DFO to collect gear, fishery officer patrols and fish harvesters. In MODG, all retrieved gear was collected by harvesters who previously lost their fishing gear in these areas. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
In his first official acts as president, Joe Biden is signing executives orders on a broad range of issues, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change and immigration, to fulfil campaign promises. Highlights of actions Biden is taking Wednesday: THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC MASK REQUIREMENT: Biden is requiring the use of masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors. Consistently masking up is a practice that science has shown to be effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain. He is challenging all Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration. That’s a critical period, since communities will still be vulnerable to the virus even as the pace of vaccination increases in pursuit of Biden’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Biden also is directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization, which Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this year after accusing it of incompetence and bowing to Chinese pressure over the coronavirus. Symbolizing Biden’s commitment to a more prominent global role, White House coronavirus co-ordinator Jeff Zients announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci will deliver a speech Thursday to the WHO as head of a U.S. delegation. Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, will lay out how the administration intends to work with the WHO on reforms, supporting the coronavirus response and promoting global health and health security ___ CLIMATE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD: Biden will sign an executive orders to rejoin the Paris climate accord, fulfilling a campaign pledge to get back into the global climate pact on Day One. Trump, a supporter of oil, gas and coal, had made a first priority of pulling out of global efforts to cut climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions. It will take 30 days for the U.S. to officially be back in. REVIEWING TRUMP ROLLBACKS: Biden’s Day One plans also include a temporary moratorium on new Trump administration oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, moving to revoke a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline and reviewing a Trump administration freeze on vehicle mileage and emissions standards. Biden also is setting in motion an evaluation of another Trump move that cut boundaries and protections for some national monuments. Agencies will be directed to consider impact of climate change on disadvantaged communities and on future generations from any regulatory action that affected fossil fuel emissions, a new requirement. ___ IMMIGRATION ENDING BAN ON MUSLIM Travellers: Biden is ending what is variously known as the “travel ban” or the “Muslim ban,” one of the first acts of the Trump administration. Trump in January 2017 banned foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries from entry into the country. After a lengthy court fight, a watered-down version of the rule was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in 2018. The new administration says it will improve the screening of visitors by strengthening information sharing with foreign governments and other measures. BORDER WALL: Biden is immediately ending the national emergency that Trump declared on the border in February 2018 to divert billions of dollars from the Defence Department to wall construction. He also is halting construction to review contracts and how wall money might be redirected. Despite Trump's repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Americans have committed $15 billion for more than 700 miles (1,120 kilometres). It is unclear how many miles are under contract and what penalties the government would have to pay for cancelling them. The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments Feb. 22 on the legality of Trump’s diverting Defence Department funds for counter-narcotics efforts and military construction projects to wall construction. DACA: Biden will order his Cabinet to work to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country as young children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012. Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017, triggering a legal challenge that ended in June when the Supreme Court ruled that it should be kept in place because the Trump administration failed to follow federal rule-making guidelines in undoing it. But DACA is still facing legal challenges. In his presidential proclamation, Biden is calling on Congress to adopt legislation that gives DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to citizenship. There are currently about 700,000 people enrolled. DEPORTATIONS: Biden is revoking one of Trump’s first executive orders, which declared that all of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally are considered priorities for deportation. The Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of enforcement priorities. Biden’s campaign site says deportations will focus on national security and public safety threats. The order says nothing about a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden promised during the campaign. Susan Rice, who is tapped to run the White House Domestic Policy Council, says any decision on moratoriums would come from Homeland Security. CENSUS: Biden is reversing a Trump plan to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the 2020 Census. The once-a-decade census is used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. Biden’s team says the new administration will ensure the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate count for each state and that the apportionment is “fair and accurate.” ___ STUDENT DEBT Biden is asking the Education Department to extend a pause on federal student loan payments through at least Sept. 30, continuing a moratorium that began early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of January. Borrowers, who owe a collective $1.5 trillion, would not be required to make payments on their federal student loans, their loans would not accrue any interest, and all debt collection activity would halt through September. Congress paused student debt payments last March as part of a virus relief package, and the Trump administration extended it twice. Biden's order does not include the type of mass debt cancellation that some Democrats asked him to orchestrate through executive action. He has said that action should come from Congress. ___ HOUSING FORECLOSURES Housing foreclosures and evictions would be delayed until at least March 31, 2021. Almost 12% of homeowners with mortgages are late on their payments, while 19% of renters are behind, according to a Census Bureau survey of households. The federal moratoriums would ensure that people could stay in their homes even if they cannot afford their monthly bills. Biden is also calling on Congress to extend assistance to renters. While the moratoriums have aided several million Americans during the pandemic and helped to contain the disease, they have also meant that billions of dollars in housing costs have gone unpaid. ___ Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ellen Knickmeyer, Ben Fox, Elliot Spagat, Matt Lee and Josh Boak contributed to this report. The Associated Press
GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner. In a report issued to the media Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities" to adopt basic public health measures as early as possible. “What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” it said. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying disputed whether China had reacted too slowly. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions,” she said, pointing out that Wuhan — where the first human cases were identified — was locked down within three weeks of the outbreak starting. “All countries, not only China, but also the U.S., the U.K., Japan or any other countries, should all try to do better,” Hua said. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them, including the new virus' genetic sequence. The story noted that WHO didn't have any enforcement powers. At a press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson Sirleaf said it was up to countries whether they wanted to overhaul WHO to accord it more authority to stamp out outbreaks, saying the organization was also constrained by its lack of funding. “The bottom line is WHO has no powers to enforce anything," she said. “All it can do is ask to be invited in." Last week, an international team of WHO-led scientists arrived in Wuhan to research the animal origins of the pandemic after months of political wrangling to secure China's approval for the probe. The panel also cited evidence of COVID-19 cases in other countries in late January, saying public health containment measures should have been put in place immediately in any country with a likely case, adding: “They were not.” The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency — its highest warning for outbreaks — sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. “One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said. WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents, meeting WHO’s own definition for a flu pandemic. As the coronavirus began spreading across the globe, WHO's top experts disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu and that people without symptoms only rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and that a significant proportion of spread is from people who don't appear to be sick. Over the past year, WHO has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the response to COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the U.N. health agency for “colluding” with China to cover up the extent of the initial outbreak before halting U.S. funding for WHO and pulling the country out of the organization. The U.N. health agency bowed to the international pressure at the annual assembly of its member states last spring by creating the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The WHO chief appointed Johnson Sirleaf and Clark — who both have previous ties to the U.N. agency — to lead the team, whose work is funded by WHO. Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread (of COVID-19) internally and internationally,” it did not name specific countries. It also declined to call out WHO for its failure to more sharply criticize countries for their missteps instead of commending countries for their response efforts. Last month, the author of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response said he warned his bosses in May that people could die and the agency could suffer “catastrophic” reputational damage if it allowed political concerns to suppress the document, according to emails obtained by the AP. To date, the pandemic has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. ___ AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from Toronto. Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Maria Cheng And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press