WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
ORILLIA — Police across the province are reminding motorists of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol and drugs as the annual OPP Festive RIDE campaign kicks off this week. Ontario Provincial Police have received more than 21,000 calls related to suspected impaired drivers so far this year, according to a news release issued on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The seasonal campaign runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 3, 2021. “As Ontarians celebrate this physically-distanced holiday season, an important part of staying safe is ensuring you have a solid plan that prevents you and your family from driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in the release. “The OPP encourages citizens to continue reporting impaired drivers to the police. Combined with the dedication of our frontline officers, our collective efforts can significantly help keep you and your loved ones safe on our roads during the holidays and throughout the year.” Last year, OPP conducted more than 8,800 RIDE stops and charged more than 600 drivers with impaired driving. Police are reminding motorists that officers regularly conduct mandatory alcohol screening procedures with drivers who are lawfully pulled over and will be ramping up this measure including at RIDE stops throughout the campaign. OPP also praises proactive citizens for doing their part and calling in suspected impaired drivers. Nearly 3,300 calls were placed during last year’s Festive RIDE campaign. An officer with an alcohol screen device can demand a breath sample from any driver without having reasonable suspicion they have consumed alcohol, OPP said in the release. Officers also have drug screening equipment that detects cannabis and cocaine in a driver’s saliva. These devices are used to enforce provincial zero-tolerance sanctions which apply to drivers under the age of 21. “Impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death and injury on Ontario’s roads and these dangers remain a threat to our communities as we continue to face COVID-19 this holiday season. We all want a safe and happy holiday season and it is important to remind our friends and family to plan ahead and make alternative arrangements to get home safely. The decision to get behind the wheel impaired can be a matter of life and death,” Solicitor General of Ontario Sylvia Jones said in a statement. Forty-two people have died on OPP-patrolled roads so far this year in collisions involving alcohol or drug-impaired driving, according to OPP statistics.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Wednesday it will continue to hear arguments by telephone through at least January because of the coronavirus pandemic.The court’s announcement extended telephone arguments by a month.“The Court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans for the February argument session,” the court said in a statement.The justices last met in person to hear arguments in February of this year, but they closed the courthouse to the public in March because of the public health crisis and postponed arguments in March and April.The court first held arguments by telephone in May and made the audio available live, also a first for the tradition-bound court. After a summer break, the court resumed hearing arguments by phone and making the audio available live in October.The Associated Press
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La vérificatrice générale de l’Ontario n’a pas mâché ses mots à l’endroit du médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario, le Dr David Williams, dans son plus récent rapport sur les mesures prises par la province pour lutter contre la COVID-19. Le médecin hygiéniste en chef n’a pas dirigé l’intervention du gouvernement de l’Ontario face au coronavirus et n’a pas exercé pleinement ses pouvoirs en vertu de la Loi sur la protection et la promotion de la santé dans l’intervention face à la pandémie, a conclu Bonnie Lysyk dans son rapport, dévoilé mercredi matin. À LIRE AUSSI : Le gouvernement Ford a réagit plus lentement que les autres Le Dr Williams n’aurait pas émis de directives aux médecins hygiénistes locaux afin que leurs bureaux interviennent avec cohérence face à la pandémie, constate également la vérificatrice. Rappelons qu’en mai 2020, 34 médecins hygiénistes locaux ont signé un document indiquant qu’il fallait améliorer l’orientation et la cohérence régionale. Par exemple, c’est la province, et non le médecin hygiéniste en chef, qui a finalement émis un arrêté d’urgence au début d’octobre 2020 pour imposer le port du masque au grand public. La vérificatrice générale affirme aussi que Santé publique Ontario a joué un rôle « réduit » dans l’intervention globale de la province, et que même les structures d’interventions régionales n’étaient pas dirigées par des experts en santé publique. Le Bureau de Mme Lysyk a appris des médecins hygiénistes locaux que les conseils de santé publique donnés par les politiciens provinciaux à la place du Dr David Williams étaient une source de confusion à leurs yeux. Mme Lysyk juge également que la reconnaissance de la transmission communautaire de la COVID-19 s’est faite en retard, en province. Même si dès le 15 mars, plusieurs médecins hygiénistes régionaux, dont ceux d’Ottawa, de Toronto, de Simcoe Muskoka et de Halton, avaient déjà décelé des cas de COVID-19 qui découlaient d’une transmission communautaire, le Dr Williams a déclaré le 17 mars qu’il attendait de constater des exemples concrets. Malgré les preuves tangibles, le ministère de la Santé et le Dr Williams n’ont reconnu l’existence de la transmission communautaire que le 26 mars. Par ailleurs, la vérificatrice souligne à maintes reprises des soucis de communication chez le médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario. Par exemple, le Dr Williams a émis une note de service plutôt qu’une directive claire aux médecins hygiénistes locaux dans laquelle il recommandait « fortement » d’émettre eux-mêmes des directives pour réduire le risque de propagation du virus chez les travailleurs étrangers dans les fermes. Ce n’est que le 21 juin que cette note de service est parue, soit huit semaines après la première flambée de COVID-19 chez ces travailleurs en milieu agricole. Son contrat prolongé? Le gouvernement Ford, qui tente de prolonger le contrat du Dr Williams - dont la retraite était prévue en février 2021- jusqu’en septembre 2021, se heurte actuellement à l’opposition des différents partis politiques à Queen’s Park. « Est-ce que c’est le Dr Williams qui conseille le gouvernement Ford, ou est-ce le gouvernement Ford qui dicte au Dr Williams les recommandations qu’il doit faire? » Il s’agit là de la question que martèle le NPD depuis plusieurs semaines. Les néo-démocrates et les libéraux déplorent de ne pas avoir été consultés dans la prise de cette décision. Pourtant, le Dr David Williams avait été choisi comme médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario de concert avec tous les partis politiques, en 2016. Dans son rapport, la vérificatrice générale recommande de donner au médecin hygiéniste en chef et à Santé publique Ontario un rôle plus important dans la réponse à la pandémie, y compris le pouvoir de présider les réunions décisionnelles clés et de diriger la surveillance de la santé publique de la province.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
Brexit: Irish Prime Minister "hopeful" of deal but says "trust has eroded" - Euronews speaks to Taoiseach Micheál Martin in this week's Global Conversation.View on euronews
People are back in one of the pools at Charlottetown's Bell Aliant Centre on the UPEI campus.Starting Monday, some swim groups were able to use the leisure pool. A leak still has the competitive pool closed."It was really great to see people on the deck again and the few user groups that did get in here [Monday] night were ecstatic to be here," said general manager Sue Fraser."Everybody that was here was happy to be here and we're looking forward to being fully open in the not-too-distant future."Pandemic public health restrictions closed the centre in March, and the pools were drained for deep cleaning and painting. The pools were refilled in August in anticipation of reopening after Labour Day. That's when officials discovered the competitive pool was no longer holding water.It took some time to determine the problem was structural, not in the plumbing. Work on a new floor for the pool will start next week, Fraser said. If all goes well, the competitive pool will open in December.The leisure pool will remain open during the construction.More from CBC P.E.I.
TORONTO — A judge accused of lying about his involvement in a Black activist organization will face a disciplinary hearing starting next month, the Ontario Judicial Council has announced.The four-person panel will delve into whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians. McLeod was cleared in the earlier process and denies the current unproven allegations.If the complaints are proven, the panel could impose punishment up to suspension with or without pay. It could also recommend to the attorney general that McLeod be forced from the Ontario court bench.In its notice of hearing filed earlier this year, the council alleges the judge behaved in a manner "incompatible with the due execution of the duties of his office."The earlier hearing focused on McLeod's involvement with the non-profit federation, which advocates on legal and policy issues affecting the community. Key was his role in the group's advocacy related to a Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.In December 2018, the panel dismissed the complaint based on an agreed statement of facts and McLeod's evidence that he was no longer involved in Abdi advocacy. That wasn't true, the new complaint alleges.Among other things, McLeod is alleged to have either arranged or taken part in a meeting with then-refugee minister, Ahmed Hussen, on the federation's behalf. "Contrary to his evidence at the hearing, Justice McLeod was involved in (the federation's) efforts in this regard," the hearing notice states. "In light of the above, His Honour committed perjury and/or misled the hearing panel regarding his involvement in the Abdi case."Similarly, the notice alleges the judge resumed his leadership role during which time the federation sought funding from government and met various officials.It also says he spoke at a political summit in Ottawa in February 2019. At one point, a security guard ordered a group of Black attendees to leave the Parliament Hill cafeteria in an allegedly racist incident.McLeod, according to the notice, counselled two witnesses against speaking out about the incident which, the complaint asserts, amounted to giving legal advice or using his position to influence them.Overall, the complaint alleges, McLeod's conduct could undermine public confidence in the judiciary.In his response, the judge maintains his meeting with Hussen in January 2018 was not about Abdi. He also states the allegations are based on claims from people who did not directly witnesses the various events."The evidence will show Justice McLeod did not commit perjury or intentionally mislead the 2018 hearing panel," his response states. "(He did not) engage in impermissible advocacy or lobbying, or attempt to pressure or intimidate two youth delegates."McLeod says the earlier panel recognized that racialized judges "legitimately feel and act upon a moral obligation to serve as leaders and role models" in their communities.His return to the federation in a "limited capacity" was in line with the panel's decision and his advice to the youth delegates about the cafeteria incident was based on his personal experience as a Black man, he says. "The choice not to investigate this matter thoroughly led to a notice of hearing that contains unnecessary allegations," his response states.The hearing panel will comprise an Appeal Court and a Superior Court justice, a lawyer and a community member. The virtual hearing, scheduled for 20 days over three weeks, is set to begin Dec. 7 and will be open to the public.Several groups of Black Canadians have called for the misconduct charges to be dropped.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Après avoir été le théâtre de deux éclosions majeures dans les dernières semaines, la situation semble se stabiliser dans la péninsule gaspésienne, alors qu’on rapporte peu de cas dans les communautés au cours des derniers jours. Si la bataille n’est pas encore gagnée, la région est sur «la bonne voie», selon le directeur de la santé publique. En début de deuxième vague, la Baie-des-Chaleurs s’est rapidement retrouvée témoin d’une importante éclosion de COVID-19, touchant autant la communauté que les centres d’hébergement pour ainés, plaçant la zone en tête de liste des régions les plus infectées de la province. Quelques semaines plus tard, la Côte-de-Gaspé était à son tour touchée par une éclosion majeure, notamment au Manoir Saint-Augustin, où plus de 100 personnes ont contracté la maladie. Dans les derniers jours, le virus semble être moins virulent dans la péninsule, une vingtaine de cas ont été recensés, dont plusieurs dans des milieux fermés tels que le centre de détention de New Carlisle. Selon le directeur de la santé publique gaspésienne, le Dr Yv Bonnier-Viger, le travail de sensibilisation fait par les équipes de la santé publique a porté ses fruits. «Nos équipes ont beaucoup travaillé avec les milieux pour expliquer la notion de famille, qui n’est pas la même pour tous. Une ‘’famille’’, c’est un groupe de personnes vivant à la même adresse», note-t-il. Des fêtes sous haute surveillance La santé publique gaspésienne reste tout de même méfiante pour les prochaines semaines, notamment avec la période des fêtes. «Techniquement les gens ont le droit de fêter sans limites pendant quatre jours. Si on réfléchit en termes de droits plutôt qu’en prévention, ça peut être inquiétant», croit le Dr Bonnier-Viger, qui fêtera de son côté avec sa conjointe et une de ses filles, plutôt que la fête familiale habituelle rassemblant près de 70 personnes. Selon lui, le contrat moral proposé par le premier ministre était nécessaire, même s’il comporte certains risques. « Les gens ont besoin de se rencontrer. C’est un risque qu’on pouvait se permettre. De toute façon, on aime mieux mettre un certain cadre que d’opter pour un non catégorique où les gens se rencontreraient sans balises», conclut-il. Bilan quotidien Le CISSS de la Gaspésie rapportait 15 nouvelles infections de COVID-19, mercredi. «Mais plusieurs sont en milieu fermé», note la porte-parole de l’établissement, Clémence Beaulieu-Gendron. «Dans une petite région, c’est normal que ça varie d’un jour à l’autre, mais on est sur la bonne voie», soutient le Dr Bonnier-Viger. Les cas sont répartis un peu partout dans la péninsule, la MRC de Rocher-Percé ayant la plus forte hausse avec six nouveaux cas. Cinq infections s’ajoutent dans la Côte-de-Gaspé, deux dans Bonaventure et un seul en Haute-Gaspésie. Une personne supplémentaire est décédée de la COVID-19 dans la région, portant le total à 40 décès. Elle résidait au CHSLD Mgr-Ross de Gaspé, où cinq résidents et «moins de cinq» employés ont reçu des diagnostics positifs à la maladie. Sept personnes sont actuellement hospitalisées en Gaspésie et aux Iles, qui comptent 114 cas actifs. Il y a une semaine exactement, c’était 209 personnes qui étaient atteintes de la maladie dans la péninsule. Simon Carmichael, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Soleil
LATCHFORD – The Latchford arena will be closed to the public this winter. The decision on whether to open it or not was discussed at Latchford council’s regular meeting November 19. Councillor Perry Livingston noted that public works foreman Roger Clark had some questions for council in his report, one of them being whether or not they were going to open the arena this winter. Livingston expressed his concern that the town didn’t have any safeguards in place and that the hallway in the arena was “too congested to allow for social distancing.” Councillor Mike Brooks commented that the community is still safeguarding against COVID-19 and that with case numbers “moving in the wrong direction,” that it would be best to keep the arena closed to the public. Councillor Scott Green agreed with what both Livingston and Brooks said, adding “I would say no (to opening the arena) at this point. I mean, we have zero safeguards in place for this.” Green suggested Latchford could visit the idea of having an outdoor rink for the public to use come January instead. He also reasoned that if they were to open the arena, then residents would say, “you opened the rink, why don’t you open the gym?” Councillor Francine Blowe brought up the issue of keeping the bathrooms cleaned and sanitized, keeping in line with COVID protocols, which would put more pressure on town staff. Mayor George Lefebvre, who was participating in the meeting via teleconference, commented he didn’t feel opening the arena this winter would be feasible. “I would think that clearing a rink on the lake would be a much better option, but that’s just my thoughts,” he said. Livingston added that Clark had talked about creating an outdoor rink on the lake and having skating out there, which council agreed would be in the town’s best interest.Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
NEW YORK — “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding.A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But it’s not because new films haven’t been coming out. By streaming service, video-on-demand, virtual theatre or actual theatre, a steady diet of films have been released under COVID-19 every week. The Times has reviewed more than 460 new movies since mid-March.Yet until recently — with only a few exceptions — those haven’t been the big-budget spectacles Hollywood runs on. Eight months into the pandemic, that’s changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its fast-growing streaming service, Disney+ — where the Pixar film “Soul” will also go on Dec. 25. WarnerMedia last week announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” — a movie that might have made $1 billion at the box office in a normal summer — will land in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously next month.Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same afterward. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID-19 is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover and potentially reordering an industry that was already in flux.“I don’t think the genie will ever be back in the bottle,” says veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock.”Many of the pivots in 2020 can be chalked up to the unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term realignments around streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate that owns Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now run by Jason Kilar, best known as the former chief executive of Hulu. Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, the Robert Iger heir, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and “accelerate our direct-to-consumer business.”Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has pushed aggressively into video-on-demand. Its first major foray, “Trolls,” kicked up a feud with theatre owners. But as the pandemic wore on, Universal hatched unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the largest and third-largest chains, respectively, to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window (usually about three months) to just 17 days. After that time, Universal can move releases that don’t reach certain box-office thresholds to digital rental.While the nation’s second largest theatre chain, Regal Cinemas, has resisted such deals, there’s widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over. It’s something the studios have long sought for the potential benefit of covering both platforms with one marketing campaign. Many see the pandemic as accelerating a decades-long trend.“Windows are clearly changing,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount Pictures. “All this stuff that's going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half.”That condensed period of rapid change is happening at the same time as a land rush for streaming market share, as Disney+, HBO Max, Apple and Peacock wrestle for a piece of the home viewing audience dominated by Netflix and Amazon. With theme parks struggling and worldwide box office down tens of billions, streaming is a bright spot for media companies, and the pandemic may offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lure subscribers. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” are essentially very expensive advertisements for those streaming services.Each studio, depending on their corporate ownership and streaming positioning, is taking a different approach. Paramount, like Sony Pictures, doesn’t have a streaming service to offload films to. Both have held back their tentpole releases while selling more midsized films to streamers. For Paramount, “A Quiet Place: Part II,” “Top Gun Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7” are waiting for 2021 while “The Trial of the Chicago 7” fetched a reported $56 million from Netflix and Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America 2” went to Amazon Prime Video for a reported $125 million.HBO Max has had a bumpier rollout than Disney+, so “Wonder Woman 1984” is an especially critical gambit for WarnerMedia following the audacious release of “Tenet.” As the first tentpole to test theatres reopened with safety protocols and reduced capacities, it has made about $350 million worldwide -- a lot considering everything but far less than originally hoped for. Credit Suisse analyst Douglas Mitchelson called the “Wonder Woman” plans — which include rolling theatrical runs in China, Europe and elsewhere — “a grand experiment that could have-lasting implications if successful.”Director Patty Jenkins acknowledged the simultaneous release was a kind of sacrifice, not just to HBO Max but to families stuck at home. “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter.It can be easy to cheer such moves, even if their financial performance remain cloudy (no studio has been transparent about its viewership numbers or digital grosses) and their long-term viability uncertain. Can you replicate $1 billion in box office in new subscriptions? And for how long will the one-time bounce of a new movie (unlike a series staggered over weeks or months) drive subscribers once streaming services are closer to tapping as many homes as they can?“The whole thing is more complicated than people want it to be,” says Ira Deutchman, the veteran independent film producer and Columbia University professor. “The way movies are made and distributed, certainly at the studio level, has been really in need of change and hopefully this will bring it on. But when people hear that, it’s like: The pandemic is the straw that broke the camel’s back and now theatrical is dead. I personally feel that’s garbage.”Deutchman considers the idea that people, after a year of quarantines and lockdowns, won’t want to leave their living room “ludicrous.” But he does imagine continued mergers and acquisitions, and “a new equilibrium” for distributors and theatre owners.So what could that mean on the other side of COVID, if moviegoers are once again comfortable sitting in packed theatres on opening weekend? It will almost certainly mean the months-long runs of films like “Titanic” or “Get Out” are a thing of the past. It could mean variable pricing on different nights. It could mean an even greater division between the franchise films of the multiplex and the boutique art house, with everything in between going straight to streaming.But after decades of slow but steady decline in attendance, most think movie theatres will have to innovate in a way other than raising ticket prices.“The outlook is pretty dire in terms of being a major theatrical exhibitor,” says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. He imagines shortened windows will mean few films — even the Marvel releases — ascending to $1 billion in worldwide box office. He can see some studios, like Disney, operating their own theatres as “mini-theme parks” with merchandising stuffing the lobbies.In the meantime, theatres are hoping for much-needed relief from Congress. With the virus surging, about 40% of U.S. theatres are open; in New York and Los Angeles, they’ve stayed shut since March. Chains have taken on loans to stay afloat and avert bankruptcy. Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas (currently entirely closed) on Monday announced a deal for a $450 million rescue loan.It will be a very different holiday season — usually the most lucrative corridor in theatres — for the movie business. How different 2021 and beyond will be remains to be seen. Some things, though, may never change.“If you’re going to be in this business, no matter what you do or where it plays, whether it’s streaming or in cinemas, you’re going to make hits and you’re going to make flops," says Guber. "The idea is to make more hits than flops.”___Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAPJake Coyle, The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Some California counties are pushing ahead with plans to wind down a program that's moved homeless people into hotel rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic despite an emergency cash infusion from the state aimed at preventing people from returning to the streets in colder weather as the virus surges.Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced $62 million for counties to move hotel guests into permanent housing or to extend hotel leases that were part of “Project Roomkey," which he rolled out this spring as a way to protect some people experiencing homelessness from the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pick up 75% of the cost.But counties say that with federal relief funding expiring soon, it's time to transition residents from expensive hotel rooms to cheaper, more stable housing. Officials hope to offer a place to every resident leaving a hotel, though they acknowledge not everyone will accept it and affordable housing is difficult to find.California is one of several states, including Washington, that turned to hotels to shelter homeless people as the virus took hold. Homelessness has soared nationwide during the pandemic, and it was already at a crisis level in California because of an expensive housing market and a shortage of affordable options. The nation's most populated state has by far the highest number of people on the streets, though other places have a higher per capita rate.In San Francisco, advocacy groups and some officials are outraged by the mayor's plan to start moving hundreds of people out of hotels around the holidays. They say it’s ridiculous when thousands of people are still sleeping on sidewalks and in cars, and they don't believe the city can find enough virus-safe housing for 2,300 people living in more than two dozen hotels.“It makes absolute zero sense. It is outrageous, it’s irresponsible, and it basically tells people experiencing homelessness that you’re not a priority for the city,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said as she and other leaders announced proposed legislation to slow the move and ensure every resident is offered alternative housing.The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement that money from the state will provide “more flexibility and time” but would not say if San Francisco had changed its timeline. The department has said it plans to move homeless people out of all 29 hotels by June.“We will continue to work with city staff and our service providers to deliver on our commitment to get people housed and ensure no one in our hotels gets moved back on the streets," the statement said.An estimated 150,000 people experiencing homelessness live in California, and there are signs that number will only increase with an economy ravaged by the pandemic. Newsom has awarded $800 million to cities and counties to buy hotels and other properties to convert into housing, saying he didn't want to squander an opportunity to get more people indoors.At times, connecting homeless people to shelter, work, medical care and social services boils down to finding them in time, and the hotels have been a huge help, advocates say. They say hotel residents have flourished with regular checkups and meals.“If this were to be taken away from us at this time, it really would be like having a carpet pulled out from under us in a really major way,” said hotel resident Nicholas Garrett, who appeared with the San Francisco supervisors.Dr. Danielle Alkov spoke of one of her patients, a transgender woman who has blossomed after being brought indoors. But her hotel is scheduled to be among the first to close.“She’s thriving, she’s engaged in medical care, she’s very future-thinking for probably the first time in a long time, thinking about her career goals, her educational goals,” Alkov said. “The idea of her not having a stable place to go, and losing all the progress that she’s made, would be devastating.”In Los Angeles, the Homeless Services Authority said nearly 600 people have moved out of hotel rooms and into interim housing, with 62 others in permanent housing. About 3,400 people remain in hotel rooms, and while the agency has received funding from the city to extend leases at several hotels, it will keep moving people into other housing, spokesman Christopher Yee said.Alameda County, which includes Oakland, hopes to use state money for rental subsidies and to extend leases on hotel rooms but will continue with plans to close five of nine hotels between December and February. Over 1,000 people are in hotels there.It's much more cost-effective to use the money “for permanent housing with leases than to continue the hotel program indefinitely," said Kerry Abbott, director of the county’s Office of Homeless Care and Coordination. And while some people have chosen to return to a shelter, “our goal is to make sure everyone has a housing offer. Most people will take a housing offer."The hotels won't go away entirely. Abbott said the county plans to operate a 98-room quarantine and isolation hotel for six months next year and keep an additional 240 hotel rooms open through 2021 for residents who require the extra care.By year's end, Sacramento County plans to close trailers housing 46 people either recovering from the virus or awaiting test results. But county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said shelter hotels will stay open through early next year and nobody will be forced to leave without a place to go.Even though the program is ending, Abbott, of Alameda County, says people have benefited deeply, with some able to start addressing issues that have kept them out of stable housing.“Many people have been inside for the first time in a decade or longer, and have stayed inside, and have benefited from a place to stay, the services and the food and even the community our providers have put in place," she said.Janie Har, The Associated Press
While the Humboldt chapter of Junior Chamber International (JCI) has been disbanded for over a year, the service club’s impact on the city is still noticeable. Rob Muench, Larry Jorgenson, Roger Korte and Amanda Klitch were all members of the service organization. The club ran in the city from 1958 until 2019 and promoted leadership, volunteering, and community event planning for members ages 18 to 40. Many long-serving members of the club over the years made their mark by becoming city councillors and mayors and this still stands as four of the current council are former members of the organization. For Larry Jorgenson, going from the club to the council was a natural move, he said. It was a young person’s club, he said, so once a member hits 40, they are asked to step away. “You spend that time from when you're 20 years old to when you get to be 40 years old basically training to become a leader. Where else can a leader go but take the next step to the city council or to some other organization?” Having JCI members on council has been a tradition since the club’s founding, said Rob Muench, a former mayor and returning city councillor, considering the similarities of both organizations in improving the community. As part of the JCIs, members learn about Robert's Rules of Order, discussing concerns, and making decisions that are good for the community. The same goes for what happens around the council table. “It is part of [the JCI] mandate to make the world a better place and to build leaders. It starts out with 18-year-old people that want to get involved in the community and over the years it certainly has supplied a number of councillors to the City of Humboldt.” Being an international organization, JCIs have chapters all over the world so there are still opportunities for people to remain involved with the organization. While it would be nice to have the chapter back in Humboldt, Jorgenson said the club was not sustainable. “The club has been struggling to find volunteers and new members, and they just couldn't sustain themselves anymore… We'd love to have a chapter back in Humboldt but the people that were on it we're getting burned out, and they just weren't able to revitalize the clubs moving forward.” For more information, visit the Junior Chamber International website at jci.cc or the JCI Humboldt Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jcihumboldt.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Health officials have declared the latest Saskatchewan care home outbreak at Saskatoon's Oliver Lodge, a seniors' facility housing more than 100 residents.The Hudson Bay Park home was added to the province's list of active outbreaks on Tuesday, making it the 19th special care home, seniors residence, long-term care home or assisted living facility in the province currently dealing with two or more cases of the virus. According to a new weekly update from the province on COVID-19 cases in long-term and special care homes that launched on Wednesday, Oliver Lodge had only one infected person between Nov. 10 and Nov. 24. Most homes were dealing with fewer than five cases. Some had more, such as Parkside Extendicare in Regina and Providence Place in Moose Jaw, which had 14 and seven cases respectively. In total, health workers at 29 different homes navigated new working conditions spurred by 88 different positive cases. The data released Wednesday did not indicate the age of infected people nor how many of them were hospitalized. Nor is it known if the infected people were residents or workers. See the full list here.Staffing challengesOliver Lodge's website says the home has 139 residents. A 2019 inspection stated each room is private and has its own bathroom. The lodge is connected to an apartment building, Oliver Place, that offers assisted living, according to the inspection.Frank Suchorab, Oliver Lodge's executive director, said updates on the situation are being posted on the home's website.Suchorab declined to say how many residents have tested positive as of Wednesday, saying it wouldn't make a difference in terms of the home's response to the outbreak. The province only declares an outbreak if two or more cases are present. Residents in the home's south wing are isolating in their rooms, according to the update.Other care homes have said they're facing staffing challenges as some workers are required to self-isolate."I would say that we're not any different from the other sites," Suchorab said. "We all work together. We all have the same challenges. Rapid tests on orderLuther Special Care Home in Saskatoon, the long-term care home in the province dealing with the largest outbreak, reported to residents' family members on Tuesday night that the number of infected residents remained at 34 for the second day in a row. Operations lead Ivan Olfert also outlined the steps the home is taking to curb the spread of the virus. Staff working in the affected wing are not mingling with workers from other areas of the home. Supplies are being dropped off outside the complex, located in the city's Varsity view neighbourhood."On Sunday we applied for a medical laboratory licence in order to be able to bring an Abbott Panbio Point of Care testing device onsite, which will allow us to test individuals for COVID and have results in about 15 minutes," Olfert wrote.Olfert noted with concern that the number of staff working in the outbreak unit who are self-isolating continues to grow. "Other long-term care homes in the city, along with home care, have contacted us and are offering assistance in a variety of ways, including lending us staff on a temporary basis [and] supporting us in the recruitment and training of new employees to help bolster our ranks."Also, we have a couple of staff who have temporarily moved from Regina to help support our efforts."Moose Jaw home's outbreak numbers unknownHealth officials added Providence Place to the list of active outbreak sites on Tuesday. The home declined to specify how many staff members have needed to self-isolate."We are taking all the necessary and precautionary measures to ensure the ongoing health and safety of our residents and employees," said executive director Georgia Hutchinson. "The situation at Providence Place is evolving and we are not commenting on specific cases or case numbers at this time." Saskatchewan reported only three new COVID-19 cases among people aged 80 and older on Wednesday, compared to 12 on Tuesday, bringing to cumulative number of cases in that age bracket to 246.It's unclear how many of the cases among aged seniors are active.
During November, best friends and entrepreneurs Kara Anderson and Jewell-Ihea Jensen officially opened the doors to their enchanted beauty studio in downtown Belleville. On Tuesday, November 24th, city councillor Bill Sandison and executive director of the Belleville Downtown District BIA Marijo Cuerrier welcomed the new business at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Located at 1 Bridge St. East, Bewitched Beauty Studio is now open for clients seeking non-surgical beauty treatments and body modifications. This dynamic duo had a goal of opening a salon that makes body contouring services attainable for everyone, with pricing reflecting the attainable vision, and decided that the Downtown District in Belleville was the perfect place to plant their roots. “We choose downtown because it has a strong community of businesses and we feel very passionately about collaboration,” said Anderson. “We hope to work with other businesses downtown to support and promote each other.” After launching the business six months ago from their homes, Jensen and Anderson quickly experienced increasing demand and sought out a larger, professional space better fit for their clients’ needs. “We wanted to create a studio that offered affordable and attainable beauty treatments for all,” explained Jensen. “We knew there was a gap in the market for these types of treatments being accessible to a wider group of women, so it was important to us to make these enhancements accessible for women to feel good.” Anderson and Jensen are independent young women with a passion for helping other women love themselves, and are committed to continuing to expand their range of knowledge in the aesthetics field. The two entrepreneurs strive for professionalism and excellent customer service, offering an array of services including body contouring, teeth whitening, eyelash extensions, and jade healing treatments and facials. The studio performs non-surgical body modifications such as skin tightening, fat reduction, micro-blading, spray tan and butt lifting. Residents interested in learning more about Bewitched Beauty Studio can visit bewitchedbeautystudio.ca for more information about their services.Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
Sarah Nurse's new blue hockey jersey was paid for by a company. She wants to know when she can wear it in a game.Amid a spate of recent sponsorship announcements by the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association comes the corporate branding of a team.PWHPA players based in Toronto are now Team Sonnet. The digital home and auto insurance company has made "a significant six-figure commitment" to the PWHPA, according to Sonnet marketing vice-president Brian Long."They don't own them, but they will be branded as Team Sonnet," PWHPA operations consultant Jayna Hefford told The Canadian Press."Every team this season will be branded."PWHPA players are centralized in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Minneapolis and Hudson, N.H., training hubs with 25 players per roster.Among them are Canadian Olympians Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner and Nurse, as well as American counterparts Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight.Roughly 180 players, including Canadian and American national-team players, formed the PWHPA in the wake of the Canadian Women's Hockey League folding in 2019. Their goal is a league that pays them enough to be full-time professional players with the same competitive, medical and insurance supports the male pros get.The players refuse to join the U.S.-based NWHL, which has expanded into Canada this season with the Toronto Six. The NWHL announced Wednesday its sixth season will run in a bubble with no fans in Lake Placid, N.Y., Jan. 23 to Feb. 5.The PWHPA ran a series of showcase tournaments and exhibition games in 2019-20 under the banner of the "Dream Gap Tour."The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed a second tour. Hefford says up to seven tournaments are in the works for February and March."We're trying to work with NHL partners in each market so those conversations are happening," Hefford said. "One thing we're running into is waiting on the NHL schedule. It's hard for a club to commit to anything, it's hard for us to secure the ice time and venues we want to be in."Hefford has stated the best way for a women's pro hockey league to succeed is to align with the NHL in some way. Sonnet's announcement Wednesday follows a $1-million Secret deodorant sponsorship unveiled last month. The PWHPA declared it the most lucrative deal in women's pro hockey history.Canadian Tire came on board last week with discounts and supplies to defray player and league costs.In a span of two days earlier this month, Tim Hortons launched the sale of Poulin and Nurse Barbie dolls to raise money for female hockey and the vintner Noble Estates said it would provide championship bubbly to the PWHPA.Corporate investment when current COVID-19 restrictions across Canada barely allow the PWHPA players to practise is for Nurse both a validation of her hockey dreams and a signal to the NHL that a WNHL would have corporate legs to stand on."We haven't had big announcements like this in our sport ever," said the 25-year-old forward from Hamilton. "I think the NHL, which is ultimately a business, sees things like that and they see us going out and getting our own sponsorships and creating these partnerships by ourselves. It's that confidence that this can stand on two legs. It may just need a little bit of a push."Sonnet is a corporate partner of the NHL Players' Association, which is a PWHPA supporter. "We believe that it's all about the players right? The players are the ones that make this all happen," Long said."As we got to the evolution of that campaign and to getting to the next round, it was sort of saying, 'well, we're not including the whole community here.'"Hefford was incorporated in Sonnet commercials this year alongside NHL alumni Doug Gilmour and Mario Tremblay and current NHLers Morgan Rielly, Zach Hyman and Frédérik Gauthier."Seeing Jayna in those initial spots was the start of what the bigger conversations were going to be," Long said. "That's what sort of led us to now, obviously working with them in this series and sponsoring a team." Sonnet's commitment is for a 2021 Dream Gap Tour with the potential to continue the relationship, Long said."Our plans are not to just do this as a one off and go somewhere else," he said. "Ultimately, we would like to see this grow."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
This holiday season, The Station Belleville is getting into the festive spirit and is hoping to bring joy to families of the Belleville community. Located in the Bayview Mall, the Station is a cultural, recreational and educational centre for children from the ages of 6-14 that offers classes, after-school programs and private events. Described as a kids’ clubhouse for boys and girls to keep their minds and bodies active, The Station Belleville is encouraging families to take part in fun activities at the Station or to drop their kids off while they do holiday shopping. With his experience in the health care sector and understanding the restrictions and regulations put in place by COVID-19, owner Joe Tambasco assures residents that COVID-19 measurements are in place to ensure the safety of all staff, families and children visiting the centre. Visitors will have their temperature taken by a wall-mounted thermometer, questioned about potential symptoms, interactions or increased risk of COVID-19 and will be asked to use the provided hand sanitizer. Children are mandated to wear a mask while at The Station and hand sanitizing stations have set up throughout the facility. The QBOT gift cards make an excellent holiday gift and are good for 1 admission into the Quinte Belleville Obstacle Training (QBOT) area. The QBOT gift cards are easy to register online with the number on the back of the card, and kids can coordinate with their friends to schedule times to go together. QBOT Gift Cards are now available for purchase at The Station Belleville. Gift cards are $15 plus tax and are a great gift for children and their friends this holiday season. “It may be getting cold outside but everyone inside The Station is burning up with excitement from the activities we have to offer,” added Tambasco. The Station is available for booking online and will enforce COVID-19 policies and asks that residents showing any symptoms do not visit The Station. Residents looking for more information about The Station, programs, fees, waiver and booking times can visit thestationbelleville.com NoneVirginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
Prince Edward Island has one new case of COVID-19 and three potential exposure sites in Charlottetown.Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison made the announcement Wednesday during an unscheduled COVID-19 briefing.The case is a woman in her 20s who travelled to P.E.I. from within Atlantic Canada recently. She is experiencing mild symptoms and is self-isolating at home, Morrison said.Contact tracing is underway. So far, close contacts of the woman who have been tested have all received negative results. Visited grocery store, 2 restaurants Morrison said anyone who was at the Atlantic Superstore at 465 University Ave. in Charlottetown on Monday between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. should monitor themselves closely for symptoms and get tested if any develop.Other possible exposure sites include the Terra Rossa restaurant Saturday between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and the Gahan House between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. the same night. People patronizing those restaurants should also monitor for symptoms.> I don't think this is cause for alarm. — Dr. Heather MorrisonThe Gahan House quickly posted a message on its Facebook page about the exposure: "We have shared our contact tracing list with the CPHO and they are reaching out to all guests that need to be tested."As per the recommendation of the CPHO, all front of house team members who worked during those hours have been asked to self-isolate and are being tested."Heightened cleaning and sanitation measures are taking place throughout the restaurant above and beyond our regular increased cleaning and sanitizing protocols. In consultation with public health, we have been assured that no further action is needed at this time."Bill Pratt, CEO of Chef Inspired group of restaurants, which operates Terra Rossa, said in an email to CBC News that he had spoken with Morrison "multiple times" on Wednesday."All of our staff have gone for testing and will continue to follow directions from the health board," he added. CBC News has also reached out to managers at the Atlantic Superstore for comment. More new cases wouldn't be a surpriseMorrison said the new case is not surprising, and more cases should not be unexpected."I don't think this is cause for alarm," she said. "It's really a reminder for Islanders to continue doing what we need to do."Morrison reiterated that anyone who was at a bar or restaurant in Halifax after 10 p.m. in the last few weeks should get tested.On Monday, P.E.I. announced it would be leaving the Atlantic bubble due to a rise in cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.Testing hours to be expandedLineups for COVID-19 test procedures have been getting longer recently; at 4 p.m. Wednesday, dozens of vehicles were lined up at the drive-thru testing facility in Charlottetown.To cope with the demand, Morrison said Health PEI will be expanding testing hours across the province. Clinics at Slemon Park and Charlottetown will be open until 8 p.m.As well, a news release issued after the briefing said Islanders wanting tests "now have the option of booking their appointment online and receiving a scheduled test in Slemon Park in Summerside or at the Charlottetown testing clinic on Park Street." The release quoted Health PEI chief of nursing Marion Dowling as saying people using this option must wait for the COVID clinics to call or email them back with a specific appointment time. On Tuesday, Morrison urged people to cancel plans to travel over Christmas, warning that the rise in new cases in the other two Maritime provinces would likely mean more infections here as well. P.E.I. now has two known active case of COVID-19, out of the 70 diagnosed since the pandemic began. More from CBC P.E.I.
It's been a long time coming, but the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is building a hut in the Robson Pass area at the end of the Berg Lake trail. The site has been cleared and, if all goes to plan, the dorm-style hut will be built by next summer and usable by the fall. It will be open seasonally and accommodate 16 overnight guests: four bunks of four. Matt Reynolds, a professional mountaineer and president of the Jasper/Hinton section of the ACC, said the location is sought by "hikers and mountaineers alike”. "It's a really popular hiking destination for people who don't want to camp in the elements,” he said “It really will be quite a good thing for the community as a whole." The ACC got word of their permission to build the hut on Oct. 6 and the next day, a crew of ACC volunteers and two McElhanney survey technicians flew up to the site armed with chainsaws, fuel and other equipment to prepare and clear the area, which had already been marked with tape. Claire Levesque, a mountaineer and a Jasper/Hinton section member said she dropped everything when she found out the hut was a go-ahead and was happy to help. She said the crew worked all day. "There was a lot of work,” she said. The hut at Robson Pass will be the first one to be maintained by the ACC in B.C. Provincial Parks, though the club has had a presence in that area for more than 100 years - The first ascent of Mt. Robson was on an ACC camp. Lawrence White, ACC executive director in Canmore, and an avid mountaineer and backcountry skier, said the bid to get permission to build the hut started in 2005. The process was a three-way consultation between B.C. Parks, First Nations groups and the ACC. It's a World Heritage site. "We have a great partnership with B.C. Parks,” White said. “This seemed like the next natural step.” Next, the ACC will be working with the province and avalanche specialists to categorize the access route. The Jacques Lake cabin The ACC is now about a year into its 16-month trial agreement to manage the Jacques Lake patrol cabin, formerly managed by Parks Canada. As a not-for-profit operator, the ACC operates a number of cabins throughout the mountain national parks including four in Jasper. Steve Young, communications officer for Jasper National Park, said, "The addition of the Jacques Lake cabin provides an introductory level winter backcountry experience to novice visitors who may not otherwise experience Jasper’s backcountry at this time of year. The cabin offers visitors rustic accommodation along a moderate non-technical trail." Young said Parks Canada’s backcountry operations in Jasper National Park have changed over the years, reducing the frequency of use of patrol cabins such as Jacques Lake. The cabin was identified as a viable option to be used for public enjoyment as it is no longer required for operations during the winter months. Parks Canada retains ownership of the cabin while the ACC is responsible for the booking, management and maintenance of the cabin during the winter months. Established in 1906, the ACC head office is in Canmore and there are 25 local sections across the country, including the Jasper/Hinton section. The ACC promotes alpine experiences, knowledge and culture, responsible access and excellence in mountain skills and leadership. Currently there are 35 backcountry huts maintained by the ACC across the country.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
GENEVA — Swiss federal police said Wednesday a woman suspected of carrying out a knife attack that injured two other women and is being investigated as possible terrorism had formed a relationship online with a jihadi in Syria, and had attempted to travel there.The 28-year-old woman, a Swiss citizen, was arrested after Tuesday's attack in a department store in the southern city of Lugano. Police said the injuries weren't life-threatening.Fedpol, as the police agency is known, said investigations in 2017 revealed that the woman had been blocked that year by Turkish authorities while trying to cross Turkey's border to enter Syria. She was then returned to Switzerland, a rich Alpine country that was all but untouched by bouts of extremist attacks in Europe and beyond in recent years.“The woman was suffering from mental health problems at this time," fedpol tweeted. “After returning to Switzerland, she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic.”“Since 2017, the woman has not come to fedpol's attention in any investigations related to terrorist activities,” it added.Separately on Wednesday, the Swiss federal prosecutor's office said it had opened criminal proceedings against the woman, including on charges of attempted premeditated homicide, serious bodily harm and being in violation of a ban on extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. She was questioned for the first time after the attack.Swiss media reports said the attacker was apprehended by two shoppers, before police intervened.Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the “Islamist terrorist attack,” tweeting “We stand with Switzerland in these difficult hours.”Alluding to Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, Kurz added: “We’ll give a joint response to Islamist terrorism in Europe & defend our values.”The Associated Press
After expressing outrage, disgust and regret over reports of Coun. Rick Chiarelli's egregious conduct, Ottawa city council unanimously voted Wednesday to impose the harshest penalties available to them to sanction the veteran councillor.Council was united in its call for the College ward councillor to resign immediately, and to ask the minister of municipal affairs and housing to change the law to allow a councillor found to have committed serious misconduct to be removed from office.> There are not enough apologies to make the pain … go away. \- Mayor Jim WatsonMany council members appeared shaken by the details of integrity commissioner Robert Marleau's most recent report on Chiarelli's behaviour, which Marleau called "offensive and disreputable.""I know many of you share my concerns that the behaviour outlined in this report are repugnant and are completely inconsistent with what is expected of anyone in a position of power or trust," said Mayor Jim Watson. "There have clearly been a number of gross violations of the trust the public placed in this elected official."The mayor issued a formal apology to all the women who came forward, and to others who may have been harassed but didn't feel able to tell their stories."I know that there are not enough apologies to make the pain of these events go away, but I would like to publicly apologize and [offer a] sincere gesture of recognition that this should not have happened and that we have listened and heard you," Watson said.Many councillors joined the mayor in apologizing to the former staffers and job applicants.Coun. Diane Deans had many dealings with Chiarelli's College ward office because their wards are next to each other, and said she had met Chiarelli's staffers on numerous occasions."I just wanted to say to the women involved that I am sorry," she said, her voice breaking. "And I am sorry I did not see the signs."Pay suspended for 15 monthsTwo separate integrity commissioner reports found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking behaviour, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers, and commenting on their bodies.Marleau recommended council suspend Chiarelli's pay for a total of 15 months — 90 days for each of the five formal complainants — as well as remove him from any committees and take away his delegated authority to hire staff or spend his own office budget.Minister not changing lawBut Chiarelli's council colleagues did not believe the sanctions went far enough. They've been hearing from many people in the community that they'd like to see some sort of mechanism to remove the councillor from office."If I go home, my own wife will be asking, 'Is that all that you guys can do?' or, 'Can't you do more?'" Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said.Council passed a motion looking for changes to the Municipal Act that would include some sort of process "for the vacating of the seat of a member of council who has been found on clear and convincing evidence to have committed serious misconduct."But that doesn't seem in the cards right now.In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said "the ministry is not considering any changes to the Municipal Act ... however, I am taking the unprecedented move of, in the strongest terms possible, urging Councillor Chiarelli to resign his position."Chiarelli's access restrictedThey approved a motion by Coun. Jenna Sudds directing city staff to report back on ways to restrict the councillor's access to city property, including in council chambers when in-person meetings resume. "I ask that his seat at the council table be moved so that none of us have to sit beside him," Sudds said. "His actions as detailed in the report and the very lengthy appendix is enough to turn one's stomach. It is appalling, and no woman should ever have to deal with this type of behaviour."A number of councillors said their staff would be uncomfortable encountering Chiarelli in their workplace. Council also agreed to donate Chiarelli's suspended pay to a non-profit organization that deals with violence against women.Chiarelli going to court in JanuaryThe College ward councillor last year denied all allegations against him, and is challenging the jurisdiction of the integrity commissioner in provincial court. In fact, Chiarelli, who was present for the start of Wednesday's meeting, said a hearing date is set for Jan. 13, 2021.Chiarelli did not participate in the year-long inquiry, nor has he responded to the specific allegations against him, of which he was made aware in September 2019 by CBC News. Last December, the councillor had bypass surgery and some post-op complications, but did participate in a number of virtual council meetings in 2020.The mayor called his silence a further affront to the women involved."Stonewalling is just another form of the type of manipulation the integrity commissioner has identified in his detailed report to council," Watson said. "Coun. Chiarelli, I would like to say that your silence speaks volumes."Chiarelli's office respondsIn a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Chiarelli's office said the councillor will not resign."Councillor Chiarelli will not be resigning. He was democratically elected to serve a 4yr term and he intends to do so," the statement reads."This report is based on an investigation that only heard from one side of the story. Neither Councillor Chiarelli nor his lawyer were provided with information as to how witnesses were selected, their identities nor what testimony they gave which would only be natural justice in a fair forum. "This is important because Councillor Chiarelli was not medically able to participate following his open-heart surgery, and subsequent severe bacterial chest infection and stroke. The Integrity Commissioner refused to accommodate Councillor Chiarelli during his recovery despite having been provided with numerous medical notes."According to the statement, the divisional court hearing on Jan. 13 "will be the first time where both sides are heard in a fair and unbiased forum. Until then the Councillor has been advised by his legal team not to comment on the issue any further."