WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kincardine and District Dancing with the Stars fundraiser has been rescheduled to Aug. 19 and this year, will be held as a virtual event. The event welcomes local dance teams, composed of a local celebrity and a seasoned dancer, to compete against each other on the dance floor and raise money for BBBS. It was originally scheduled for April of 2021. The 2020 event was cancelled because of COVID restrictions. “Although we were hoping to be able to bring our community together for another exciting evening of in-person entertainment this year, we have made the decision for the health and safety of our volunteers, supporters and dancers to move to a virtual event,” said Yolanda Ritsema, executive director of BBBSKD. The first Dancing with the Stars event debuted in 2019, and was a huge success. Bill Pike and Jennifer White topped the podium, and the event raised $12,600. BBBSKD, along with many other not-for-profit groups, have felt the fundraising pinch since the beginning of the pandemic, when many events were cancelled because of stay-at-home and gathering restrictions. The groups have had to pivot and develop new means to raise much-needed funds. “The funds from Dancing with the Stars go to support our programs and services,” said Ritsema. “We serve 50 young people in Kincardine and area. Our mission is to enable life-changing mentoring relationships that ignite the power and potential of young people. We serve young people who face adversity and are in need of an additional supportive developmental relationship.” “With monies raised from our main fundraising programs, like Dancing with the Stars, we are able ignite the power and potential of young people by intentionally recruiting volunteers based on the needs of our community's young people; by matching young people with a professionally screened volunteer mentor; by monitoring and supporting that match with a professional caseworker; by training and supporting the mentor, the mentee and the family; and by building a Developmental Relationship between the mentor and the mentee that Expresses Care, Challenges Growth, Provides Support, Shares Power and Expands Possibilities.” Ritsema says that having a big brother or sister has a long term effect on their littles. Mentored youth are two times more likely to give back to their community and 81 per cent of mentored youth report having stronger financial literacy. Forty three per cent are less likely to conduct problems at school and 98 per cent believe they make better life choices. For every $1 invested in Big Brothers Big Sisters, $23 is returned to society. Ritsema says the volunteer team responsible for organizing the event has been hard at work creating a virtual experience everyone will enjoy. Besides the dance competition, the event will feature an online auction and an “early bird” raffle for Mother’s Day, featuring a pair of Canadian diamond earrings, donated by Gemini Jewellers in Kincardine. The dancing pairs, Alana Rozon and Murray Needham, Braden Prasad and Patty Coulter, Gord Dunbar and Sally Ballard, Sarah and Keith Foster and John Binnendyk and Karen Maliseni, will each perform two routines, which will be judged by Michael Rencheck, Jessica Brown and Taylor Pollard. John Low will serve as the master of ceremonies. “We have five wonderful dance couples who have been working so hard for several months to bring you an incredible night of performances,” said Linda Johnson, Dancing with the Stars team captain. “This event will still sparkle and thrill our audience as they watch from the comfort of their homes.” Updates and tickets for the event will go on sale in the coming months. More information can be found by visiting www.kincardine.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca and checking the social media page. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Denis Giles, the editor of a small Indian newspaper, received a phone call as he sat typing in his one-room office in Port Blair overlooking the languid waters of the Andaman Sea. The caller, Mohammed Siddiqui, was frantic and largely incoherent. Giles said he was about to hang up until he heard, in broken Hindi: "Please help me... Many people may die."
Cindy and Ray Brownlee are terrified for their daughter. Becky, who is 39, has Down syndrome, type 1 diabetes and asthma. Having Down syndrome means her immune system is compromised. She had to stop working as a Walmart greeter, a job she has held for more than 15 years and where she is much beloved by staff and customers alike. Unlike others with Down syndrome, she does not live in a congregate or group living setting — she lives with her parents — and is therefore not prioritized for the vaccine. This is despite the fact that people with Down syndrome have five times the hospitalization rate as compared to the general population due to COVID-19 and 10 times the mortality rate. "The province’s vaccination eligibility criteria is ever evolving as we work our way through this pandemic. At this time, Becky is not eligible as per vaccination eligibility," a provincial spokesperson stated by email. "Currently, Focused Immunization Teams are visiting congregate living facilities — several of which are home to individuals with either physical or intellectual challenges. Eligibility for general population was announced recently: 95 and over and adjusted on a regular basis pending appointment availability. First Nations eligibility began at 75-plus and is adjusted on a regular basis." According to the province’s vaccine queue calculator, there are 501,597 Manitobans ahead of Becky. Back when the pandemic reached Manitoba, Becky developed double pneumonia. Her parents were very concerned it might be COVID-19. That’s when her doctor told her to stop working as a greeter. He also said she couldn’t go anywhere. She can take walks, she can be in the car with her parents, and she can go to the doctor’s office. In an effort to secure Becky a vaccine, the Brownlees have written to Premier Brian Pallister, Health Minister Heather Stefanson and Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer. "All we got back was this standard form letter," said Cindy. Cindy is familiar with one other adult in Brandon with Down syndrome and very significant health issues who is living in their own home. "We’re familiar with lots of other people who have Down syndrome, but they’re living in congregate or group homes," she said. The Brandon Sun attempted to call the Manitoba Down Syndrome Society for relevant statistics, but the office is closed and the message said calls would only be returned on Thursday. Ray supports other vulnerable groups prioritized for early vaccination, such as First Nations and residents at personal care homes and congregate living and group settings. However, he believes it is wrong to exclude Becky and other vulnerable individuals. "Everything that comes into our house is wiped down with a disinfectant — groceries, anything. We had the plumber here not too long ago and the whole house was disinfected wherever he was. A lot of care and caution," said Ray. "It just seems to me that we’re doing our share, but we’re not getting consideration on the other end." Meanwhile, Brandon University professor Bruce Strang, whose teenage son Sean has Down syndrome, told the Sun on Tuesday that he’s filing a human rights complaint regarding the province not including people like his son in its vaccination plans. He also said research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 or die because of the virus than people without it, so Strang believes the province should place them and others with disabilities at a higher priority to receive their vaccinations. Strang previously filed a human rights complaint against the province and the Brandon School Division for not appropriately considering the needs of students with disabilities and health conditions when making their COVID-19 back-to-school plans. "The provincial government and the chief medical officer of health have, in my view, completely ignored disability issues in the vaccine rollout," he said. "The government is once again failing to live up to its duties under the Human Rights Code, and it’s discriminating against people with disabilities in the vaccine rollout." According to Strang, he has tried to reach officials at Manitoba Health to speak about the issue, but was told that no one would speak with him over the phone. Two weeks ago, he sent an email to the office of Health Minister Heather Stefanson, to which he said he has only received an automated reply. The email sent to Stefanson’s office said that if he does not hear a reply, he will make a complaint to the provincial Human Rights Commission. A copy of this email was provided to the Sun. The professor pointed to an online town hall that chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin participated in on Feb. 8, during which another Manitoba parent expressed concern about her daughter with Down syndrome and what could happen if she contracted COVID-19 as she gets sick easily. The Brownlees also participated in the town hall. The parent asked why people like her daughter are not being given vaccination priority. "When we look at the modelling, the best way to quickly protect the most vulnerable Manitobans is the age-based approach," said Roussin. "If we took a risk-based approach, we actually protect less Manitobans quickly who are at risk. (These) are the decisions we’re forced to make when we have extreme vaccine scarcity, but there’s no doubt that there’s going to be people who are at higher risk that don’t get vaccinated." Strang didn’t appreciate Roussin’s response. "The answer was essentially nothing," said Strang. "That they knew that people with Down syndrome who have greatly increased risk of medical issues and death due to COVID-19, but they were going to concentrate on rolling out the vaccine by age only to the general population. That to me is an astonishingly lazy answer." Additionally, the Brownlees said they are afraid that Becky will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine, which operates in a different fashion than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and is said to be less efficient. Strang and the Brownlees aren’t the only ones concerned about children and adults with Down syndrome. Canada as a whole is ignoring the issue, while other countries and some states in the U.S. have prioritized those with Down syndrome to be vaccinated. Cindy cannot understand why Roussin’s science is not the same as the science around the world. Parents in Quebec have launched a Canada-wide petition at bit.ly/3kCQT7r Ready for My Shot is another grassroots advocacy group and can be found at readyformyshot.ca ~ with files from Colin Slark Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Fingers crossed, residents and visitors to the area will be able to attend the Ripley Food, Art and Craft Show on Aug. 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Community Centre. The annual show is a showcase for local vendors, bringing them all together under one roof to connect with shoppers. Like so many other events scheduled last summer, the show had to be cancelled because of pandemic restrictions that prohibited large gatherings under one roof. “This past year has been tough on small businesses, local artisans and our residents,” said Maggie Young, who handles community services programming and administration for the Township of Huron Kinloss. “The Township of Huron-Kinloss and the Community Services Department are committed to providing a space and hosting an event to help showcase local artisans and food producers, as well as re-introducing events for the community to attend. Therefore, every effort is being made to host the 2021 Ripley Food Art Craft Festival, keeping in mind the safety and wellbeing of both the vendors and visitors.” Young said all protocols advised by public health will be followed, and may include masks if required, the number of people allowed in the building at one time and sanitizer will be available. If necessary, booths can be spaced two-metres apart and directional flow arrows will be placed on the floor. Young says community services will “go above and beyond” what restrictions are in place. Organizers also have a plan B ready, should it be decided that the event cannot be held on the arena floor. It can be moved outside, under tents, if necessary, and as a last option, held online with a marketplace and vendor focus. Registration is now open for vendors, which has in past years welcomed 40-50 small businesses. Information is available by calling 519-395-2909 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the event on Facebook @RipleyArtisansFestival for status updates. All money raised from the event is directed back to the Town of Ripley and Huron Kinloss. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Caleb shows the easy way to cook rice in an instant pot with perfect results. Enjoy!
Britain's Prince Philip, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth who is in hospital for tests for a heart condition and treatment for an infection, is "slightly improving", Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall said on Wednesday. Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has been in hospital for over two weeks since he was admitted having felt unwell, and on Monday moved hospitals to one specialising in cardiac treatment, for tests and observation for a pre-existing heart condition. On a tour of a vaccination centre in south London, Camilla, the wife of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, told a volunteer the Duke was "slightly improving" and that "we keep our fingers crossed".
Police in Moose Jaw have arrested two people and are searching for a third in connection with an attempted murder. Last Friday, police were told about an assault on Stadacona Street West, but could not find a victim or any suspects. Some time later, police located a man with serious head injuries who was taken to hospital. The man has since been released and sent home. Police returned to the scene on Stadacona Street with a search warrant and found some evidence. Now, two people have been charged with attempted murder in the crime, as well as robbery and possession of crystal meth. The accused made their first court appearance in Moose Jaw provincial court Tuesday morning. Police are searching for a third suspect, also wanted for attempted murder and robbery.
Britain is more than doubling to 100 pounds ($139.75) the limit on contactless payments made with debit or credit cards, the finance ministry said on Wednesday, as COVID-19 accelerates a shift to electronic payments from cash. The finance ministry said that while legally in force from Wednesday, the changes to limits from the current ceiling of 45 pounds will not happen in practice immediately, as firms will need to make the necessary systems changes. The banking industry is due to implement the new 100 pound limit later this year, it said.
ORLANDO, Fla. — “Trump needs you,” one fundraising email implored. “President Trump’s Legacy is in your hands," another pleaded. Others advertised “Miss Me Yet?” T-shirts featuring Donald Trump's smiling face. While some Republicans grapple with how fiercely to embrace the former president, the organizations charged with raising money for the party are going all in. The Republican National Committee and the party's congressional campaign arms are eager to cash in on Trump's lure with small donors ahead of next year's midterm elections, when the GOP hopes to regain control of at least one chamber of Congress. But there's a problem: Trump himself. In his first speech since leaving office, the former president encouraged loyalists to give directly to him, essentially bypassing the traditional groups that raise money for GOP candidates. “There’s only one way to contribute to our efforts to elect ‘America First’ Republican conservatives and, in turn, to make America great again," Trump said Sunday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. “And that’s through Save America PAC and donaldjtrump.com.” The comment was particularly notable because Trump is generally loath to ask for money in person. It amounts to the latest salvo in the battle to shape the future of the GOP, with Trump making clear that he holds no allegiance to the party's traditional fundraising operation as he tries to consolidate power. That could help him add to an already commanding war chest, aiding his effort to influence the party. Save America has more than $80 million cash on hand, including $3 million raised after the CPAC speech, according to a person familiar with the total. Some of that money could help Trump settle scores with incumbent members of Congress who have crossed him. In his Sunday speech, Trump read aloud the names of every Republican who voted against him and called for them to be defeated. He's already endorsed a Republican challenger to GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who voted to impeach him over the U.S. Capitol riot. “Trump’s call to give directly to him shows that the normal organs of the party ... are going to have to fight for relevance in the 2022 cycle,” said Dan Eberhart, a longtime Republican donor who has given large sums to all three as well as to Trump’s campaign. Bill Palatucci, a RNC member from New Jersey, called Trump's comments “unwelcome" and “counterproductive" and voiced concern that the GOP would suffer further losses, like Georgia' Senate runoff elections in January, if they don't work together. “Listen it’s a free country. Anybody can form a federal PAC or a super PAC and there's always lots of competition for dollars. But the crossing the line there is then to also tell people to not give to the important committees of the national party," said Palatucci. “There’s got to be a willingness on the former president to look beyond his own self-interest." The RNC and spokespeople for the House and Senate campaign committees declined to comment. But others sought to downplay the apparent tensions. They noted, for instance, that Trump is scheduled to speak at the RNC's spring donor retreat — a major fundraising source — in April in Palm Beach. And Trump told the party’s chair, Ronna McDaniel, in recent days that he wants to continue fundraising for the RNC, according to a person briefed on the conversation who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations. Before making his money pitch on Sunday, Trump's team quietly updated its fundraising filings. They converted his Save America leadership PAC to an entity that can also support other candidates, and turned his main Donald J. Trump for President campaign committee into the Make America Great Again, or MAGAPac. Money raised through Trump's website now goes to Save America JFC, a joint fundraising agreement between the two. While Trump left office as a deeply unpopular figure, he remains a powerful draw for small-dollar, grassroots donors, a reality that has been abundantly clear in fundraising appeals over the last week. Over the course of a single hour last Thursday, the RNC, both GOP congressional campaign committees and the Republican State Leadership Committee, which tries to elect Republicans to state office, blasted supporters with urgent fundraising appeals that included urgent references to Trump. And the National Republican Senatorial Committee warned this week that its “limited edition” T-shirts featuring Trump were almost sold out. Regardless of Trump's next move, the GOP is unlikely to remove him from its sales pitch anytime soon. “Our digital fundraising strategy is simple: raise as much money as possible," said Andrew Romeo, a spokesman for the RSLC. Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
The combined testimony of the mental health clinicians who saw Lionel Desmond reveals the fluctuating nature of mental illness — how the veteran who killed his family and himself changed over the years from a patient reportedly willing to take medication and engage in processing the trauma he witnessed in Afghanistan. Dr. Isabelle Gagnon, a psychologist at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec, first saw Desmond at an in-patient program for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in May 2016. She described him as a patient with borderline personality traits, including paranoia and a poor ability to trust others, who made only minor progress in his therapy. She agreed with Desmond's previous clinicians, however, in saying that she saw no warning signs of the violence to come. Gagnon testified that even after learning that Desmond had killed his wife, Shanna, his daughter, Aaliyah, his mother, Brenda, and then himself at a home in Guysborough County, N.S., on Jan. 3, 2017, it didn't change the way she does safety assessments. Instead, she testified Wednesday that Desmond seemed focused on the stress in his everyday life: having to sell his home, finding a job after leaving the military and becoming a "good husband and father." The CBC's Laura Fraser liveblogged the inquiry: She noted that while he kept repeating these goals, he would sometimes struggle to explain what they would look like in practical terms. He was rarely willing to discuss the traumatic events that had affected him, she said, nor was he willing to consider how they might be affecting his reaction to every day stress. "He would say that he had to focus on the future, not on the past," Gagnon said. Framed photos of Desmond's wife, Shanna, and daughter, Aaliyah, are displayed in the home of Shanna's parents. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC) Resistance to medication Testimony on Tuesday from Dr. Robert Ouellette, a psychiatrist at Ste. Anne's Hospital, also revealed Desmond's resistance to taking or changing medication. Ouellette testified that he felt the veteran's progress might stagnate without the right doses. Gagnon and Ouellette's testimony sounded very different than that of Dr. Vinod Joshi and Dr. Wendy Rogers, both of whom worked with Desmond from 2011 to 2015 at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick. It was there that Desmond first sought treatment for symptoms that Joshi would diagnose as complex PTSD and major depression, roughly four years after he returned from Afghanistan in 2007. Both Joshi and Rogers testified that their patient was someone who complied with the goals of treatment; he successfully completely prolonged exposure therapy with Rogers, retelling the trauma he'd witnessed until he could manage the distress it provoked, she testified. Desmond is seen in this family photo with his mother, Brenda, and daughter, Aaliyah. (Submitted by Cassandra Desmond) Desmond struggled to trust It's unclear what changed in terms of compliance with medication or Desmond's willingness to retell that trauma, though Gagnon noted it can also take time to develop a therapeutic relationship. She said that Desmond struggled to trust people, often believing that if others were laughing, it was directed at him. Desmond chose to leave Ste. Anne's in-patient program early, on Aug. 15, 2016. He reportedly left because he wanted to spend time with his 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, before she began school in Nova Scotia. Desmond was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2007. (Facebook/The Canadian Press) In his release report, the clinicians at Ste. Anne's noted Desmond had made only "minor progress" during his time there, and that he needed ongoing therapy within the community. They also recommended that he undergo neurological testing to see if he had a brain injury from the head injuries he'd reportedly sustained during his military service. Instead, he went months without seeing a therapist. It wasn't until he was in crisis and went to the emergency room in Antigonish, N.S., that he would meet with a psychiatrist in late October 2016. In late November, his Veterans Affairs case manager connected him with a community therapist, according to evidence already presented at the inquiry. The inquiry is charged with making recommendations to prevent future deaths. It is also charged with examining whether Desmond had access to the necessary mental health care, and whether his family had access to domestic violence intervention.
Britain's Prince Harry and American wife Meghan decided long ago they would not play the traditional royal media "game", and on Sunday they depart from the norms of engagement again with an in-depth interview with U.S. chat show host Oprah Winfrey. Smarting from sometimes critical tabloid headlines and press intrusion in Britain, they have already announced they will step down from official duties, move to California with young son Archie and cut off contact with Britain's biggest tabloids. Last month, Meghan successfully sued the Mail on Sunday for breaching her privacy by publishing parts of a letter she wrote to her father.
Consumers filed complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in record numbers in 2020, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit consumer advocacy group. Credit reporting issues were cited in 282,000, or 63%, of the complaints. The majority noted “incorrect information” on credit reports or “information belongs to someone else,” the report said. Not only did complaints about credit report errors lead the list of consumer grievances, but the three major credit-reporting bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — were the top three companies complained about. ERRORS CAN ENDANGER YOUR SCORE Accuracy matters since credit report errors can suggest identity theft or fraudulent activity on your accounts. And because credit report data provides the raw material for credit scores, errors can lower your score. Some of the volume of complaints may be an unintended consequence of payment accommodations mandated by the 2020 coronavirus relief bill and temporary concessions offered by lenders and credit card issuers. But credit report errors were common even before the pandemic, says Ed Mierzwinski, senior director of the advocacy group’s Federal Consumer Program and author of the report. Payment accommodations may have led more people to check their credit reports and find those errors, he says. Mierzwinski recommends that “any consumer with any credit account” check their credit reports. People who have common names may be at particular risk of a mix-up, he says. HOW TO GET YOUR FREE CREDIT REPORTS You can get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus by using AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll be asked to provide personal identifying information — your name, Social Security number, birthdate and address. You will also be asked security questions to verify your identity. Some of those can be tough. If you aren’t able to answer correctly, call 877-322-8228 to request your credit reports by mail. You can also download and mail a request form to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. HOW TO READ YOUR CREDIT REPORTS Your reports from the three bureaus won’t look exactly the same. Not every creditor reports to all three and the bureaus present information in different formats. But you can use a similar procedure for reading your credit reports. First, check your identifying information. Errors such as misspellings of a former employer are unimportant, but something like an address you’ve never lived at could suggest identity theft. Next, check account information. Each credit account you have (and some that are closed) should be listed and include: — Creditor’s name, account number and date opened. — Type of account (credit card, loan, etc.). — Account status and whether you’re current on payments. Accounts that were in good standing when pandemic-related payment accommodations began must continue to be reported that way until the accommodation ends. — Whether you are a joint account holder, primary user or authorized user. — Credit limit and/or the original amount of a loan. — There may be negative information, such as collections accounts or bankruptcy records. Be sure that you recognize it and that it is accurate. HOW TO DISPUTE ERRORS The Fair Credit Reporting Act holds both the creditor that reports to the credit bureaus and the credit bureaus responsible for making sure the information in your credit reports is accurate. If you spot an error in one credit report, check for it in the other two. Dispute the error with each bureau that’s reporting it. You can dispute by mail, phone or online — the credit report will include information on how to file your dispute. Credit bureaus must investigate and inform you of the result. You can also contact the business providing the incorrect information. It must inform the bureaus of the dispute and, if it finds the information was wrong or incomplete, ask the credit bureaus to delete it. If disputing doesn’t resolve the issue, Mierzwinski recommends filing a complaint with the CFPB and asking for an investigation. That can bring additional pressure to correct misinformation, he says. The CFPB’s acting director, Dave Uejio, has said one of his goals is “making sure that consumers who submit complaints to us get the response and the relief they deserve.” ______________________________ This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea. RELATED LINKS U.S. PIRG: Consumers in peril https://uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/consumers-peril NerdWallet: How to Get Your Annual Credit Reports From the Major Credit Bureaus http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-credit-reports AnnualCreditReport.com request form https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0093-annual-report-request-form.pdf NerdWallet: How to Read a Credit Report http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-report-reading NerdWallet: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-report-errors Bev O'Shea Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
As Amazon sets its sights on central and eastern Europe, the e-commerce giant will need to convince long-time Allegro shoppers like Elzbieta Modrakowska to click away from the region's leading online marketplace. While prioritising its expansion to other, bigger markets, Amazon has given companies such as Allegro the time to lay deep roots and prepare for its arrival - something the Polish firm has done with loyalty programmes, free delivery and other perks. "I don't think we will switch ... Allegro has set the bar very high," said Modrakowska, whose weekly shop spans everything from organic food to batteries.
SoftBank aims to double user numbers at its PayPay QR code payment app in the next three to four years, an executive at its domestic internet subsidiary Z Holdings told Reuters on Wednesday, as it seeks to extend its lead in cashless payments. PayPay has used SoftBank's sales network and aggressive rebates to attract 36 million users in the three years since launch, driving a shift to push Japanese consumers to digital payments away from their traditional preference for cash. "We want to double the user base during the investment phase," Z Holdings co-CEO Kentaro Kawabe said in a joint interview with fellow co-CEO Takeshi Idezawa.
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron has met with four grandchildren of an Algerian independence fighter to tell them that Ali Boumendjel had been tortured and killed by French soldiers in 1957. It was a further step in Macron's efforts to reconcile France with its colonial past while offering an outstretched hand to Algeria, which France occupied for 132 years. In a statement late Tuesday, the presidential Elysee Palace said Macron wants to give families of the disappeared on both sides of the Mediterranean “the means to learn the truth.” Macron is the first French president born after the end of Algeria's brutal seven-year war of independence in 1962, and had promised to reckon with colonial-era wrongs and, put an end to the two countries' still rancorous relationship. Algeria held a special place among France’s colonial conquests, becoming part-and-parcel of France like other French regions. While Algerians make up a large portion of immigrants in France, the North African country harbours enmity from the years of colonization that culminated in the war, its brutal secrets locked in archives that Macron said he is gradually trying to reopen. “No crime, no atrocity committed by anyone during the War of Algeria can be excused or left hidden,” the Elysee statement said. “They must be faced with courage and lucidity, with absolute respect for those whose lives were torn apart by them and whose destinies were broken.” France’s bid to seek reconciliation is part of a larger movement of reckoning with the dark past of nations, notably in the United States where Civil War-era statues honouring southern heroes who defended slavery are being torn down. Macron has said he is opposed to removing statues to erase history. He has also said he doesn’t want to apologize to Algeria — even though he surprised everyone when he said, while campaigning for the presidency he won in 2017, that France’s colonization was a “crime against humanity.” Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said last year that his country is still awaiting an official apology. A report commissioned by Macron from historian Benjamin Stora, considered France’s top expert on Algeria, said the “excesses of a culture of repentance” don’t contribute to facing the past. However, Stora also said that healing wounds demands improving understanding of what the colonial system entailed, including its daily reality and ideological goals and “how some in Algeria and France resisted this system of domination.” Among recommendations was recognition of the killing of Boumendjel. His wife Malika had spent a lifetime trying to uncover the truth of her husband’s death during the especially brutal Battle of Algiers when, the presidential statement said, “he was arrested by the French army, placed in a secret (location), tortured, then killed on 23 March 1957.” It said a French general, Paul Aussaresses, “admitted to have ordered one of his subordinates to kill him and cover the crime as a suicide.” Aussaresses was convicted in 2004 of defending torture. In 2018, Macron formally recognized the responsibility of the French state in the 1957 death of a dissident in Algeria, Maurice Audin, admitting for the first time the military’s use of systematic torture during the war. Macron wants to honour Gisele Halimi, a French feminist who supported Algeria’s independence and denounced the use of wartime torture. He hopes to have her reburied at the Pantheon monument in Paris, a resting place for some of France’s most distinguished citizens. ___ Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed. Elaine Ganley, The Associated Press
From models strutting inside an empty museum to designers absenting themselves from the catwalk calendar, this season's virtual fashion weeks have been re-styled with a new look many expect will endure when traditional runway shows resume. COVID-19 restrictions forced New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks to go virtual in the past year, with brands rethinking how to keep the buzz of catwalk shows online. While many are optimistic of a return to the events usually attended by buyers, editors and celebrities, digital presentations - which have opened up fashion week to a wider audience - are likely to stay on.
A wild rally in shares of Rocket Companies that saw the stock rise 70% in an apparent short squeeze has attracted fresh bets that the stock price will decline. Shares of Rocket, the parent of mortgage lender Quicken Loans, were down 31.7% to $28.43 in afternoon trading on Wednesday. The heavily-shorted stock had surged more than 70% on Tuesday in a move that analysts said was likely sparked by bearish investors unwinding bets against the stock as its share price surged.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s governing party pulled out of its conservative group in the European Union’s legislature on Wednesday following years of conflict over the rule of law and European values. The right-wing Fidesz party has held a two-thirds majority in Hungary’s parliament almost uninterrupted since 2010. It left the European People’s Party over the latter’s adoption on Wednesday of new procedures allowing for entire parties to be excluded from the group rather than just individual lawmakers. Fidesz officials, including Hungary’s prime minister and head of the party, Viktor Orban, had argued that the rule changes were “tailor-made” to sanction Fidesz, and threatened over the weekend to pull out of the EPP if the rules passed. The EPP backed the rule changes with an overwhelming majority: 148 in favour, 28 against and four abstentions. In a letter Wednesday to Manfred Weber, chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, Orban announced Fidesz’s decision to leave the group. “The amendments to the rules of the EPP Group are clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters ... This is anti-democratic, unjust and unacceptable. Therefore, the governing body of Fidesz has decided to leave the EPP Group immediately,” Orban wrote. Orban said the rule changes deprived Hungarian voters of their democratic rights and that Fidesz lawmakers would continue to represent Hungary in the European Parliament. A spokesman for the EPP Group, Pedro Lopez de Pablo, told The Associated Press that Orban pulling his party out of the EPP was “his own personal decision,” and that the group would not comment. Fidesz’s decision to leave the group could be the final note in a series of longstanding clashes with the EPP, the largest political family in Europe. The group suspended Fidesz’s membership in 2019 over concerns that it was eroding the rule of law in Hungary, engaging in anti-Brussels rhetoric and attacking the EPP leadership. In a tweet, Hungary’s minister for family affairs and a Fidesz vice-president, Katalin Novak, confirmed Fidesz’s decision to leave the EPP Group. “We will not let our MEPs be silenced or limited in their capacity to represent our voters. Tackling the pandemic and saving lives remains our number one priority,” Novak wrote. Justin Spike, The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is pushing ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite rising coronavirus infections, hoping to encourage the country’s dwindling number of Christians who were violently persecuted during the Islamic State's insurgency while seeking to boost ties with the Shiite Muslim world. Security is a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of rogue Shiite militias and fresh rocket attacks. Francis, who relishes plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armoured car with a sizeable security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds. Francis’ visit is the culmination of two decades of efforts to bring a pope to the birthplace of Abraham, the prophet central to Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, after St. John Paul II was prevented from going in 1999. “We can't disappoint this people a second time," Francis said Wednesday in urging prayers for the trip. The trip will give Francis — and the world — a close-up look at the devastation wrought by the 2014-2017 IS reign, which destroyed hundreds of Christian-owned homes and churches in the north, and sent tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities fleeing. The trip will include a private meeting with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in Iraq and beyond. ___ WHAT'S THE VIRUS SITUATION IN IRAQ? Iraq is currently seeing a resurgence of infections, with daily new cases nearing the height of its first wave. For months, Francis has eschewed even small, socially distanced public audiences at the Vatican, raising questions about why he would expose Iraqis to the risk of possible infection. Francis, the Vatican delegation and travelling media have been vaccinated, but few ordinary Iraqis have been given shots. The Vatican has defended the visit, insisting that it has been designed to limit crowds and that health measures will be enforced. But even then, 10,000 tickets have been prepared for the pope's final event, an outdoor Mass at a stadium in Irbil. Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the important thing is that Iraqis will be able to watch Francis on TV and “know that the pope is there for them, bringing a message that it is possible to hope even in situations that are most complicated.” He acknowledged there might be consequences to the visit, but said the Vatican measured the risks against the need for Iraqis to feel the pope's “act of love." ___ HOW WILL CHRISTIANS REACT TO POPE'S INTERFAITH MESSAGE? Before IS seized vast swaths of northern Iraq, the Rev. Karam Shamasha ministered to 1,450 families in his hometown of Telskuf, 20 miles (about 30 kilometres) north of Mosul. Today, the families of his Chaldean Catholic parish number 500, evidence of the massive exodus of Christians who fled the extremists and never returned. Shamasha says Francis will be welcomed by those who stayed, even though his message of interfaith harmony is sometimes difficult for Iraqi Christians to hear. They faced decades of discrimination and envy by the Muslim majority well before IS. “The first ones who came to rob our houses were our (Muslim) neighbours,” Shamasha told reporters ahead of the trip. Even before IS, when a Christian family built a new house, Muslim neighbours would sometime say “‘Good, good, because you’re building a house for us’ because they know or believe that in the end, Christians will disappear from this land and the houses will be theirs," he said. Francis is going to Iraq precisely to encourage these Christians to persevere and remain, and to emphasize that they have an important role to play in rebuilding Iraq. Iraqi Christians were believed to number around 1.4 million in 2003. Today there are about 250,000 left. Arriving in Baghdad, Francis will meet with priests, seminarians and nuns in the same cathedral where Islamic militants in 2010 slaughtered 58 people in what was the deadliest assault targeting Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. On Francis’ final full day in Iraq, he will pray in a Mosul square surrounded by four destroyed churches, and visit another church in the Christian city of Qaraqosh that has been rebuilt in a sign of hope for Christianity's future there. ___ WHY WILL FRANCIS MEET WITH GRAND AYATOLLAH? One of the highlights of the trip is Francis’ meeting with al-Sistani, the grand ayatollah whose 2014 fatwah calling on able-bodied men to fight IS swelled the ranks of Shiite militias that helped defeat the group. Francis has spent years trying to forge improved relations with Muslims. He signed a historic document on human fraternity in 2019 with a prominent Sunni leader, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning in Cairo. There are no plans to add the 91-year-old al-Sistani's signature to the document. But the fact that the meeting is happening at all is enormously significant, said Gabriel Said Reynolds, professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame. “It’s hard not to see this as accompanying his relationship with Ahmed el-Tayeb,” Reynolds said, noting al-Sistani's place as a revered figure of religious, political and intellectual influence in Iraq and beyond. “I think there would be a lot for them to speak about," he said. ___ WHAT ARE THE SECURITY CONCERNS? Security concerns were an issue well before twin suicide bombings claimed by IS ripped through a Baghdad market Jan. 21, killing at least 32 people. They have only increased after a spate of recent rocket attacks, including at least 10 Wednesday, resumed targeting the American presence in the country, attacks the U.S. has blamed on Shiite militias. Those same groups, strengthened after al-Sistani’s fatwa, are accused of terrorizing Christians and preventing them from returning home. Iraqi government and religious officials are concerned these militias could carry out rocket attacks in Baghdad or elsewhere to show their displeasure over al-Sistani’s meeting with Francis. Asked if this 33rd foreign visit was Francis' riskiest, Bruni replied diplomatically. “I wouldn’t get into a competition of riskiest journeys, but I would say this is certainly one of the most interesting.” Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press