WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
Irving Oil Ltd. is blaming petroleum price regulation in New Brunswick for failing to keep up with industry costs and pushing it to request "urgent" price increases, even though it twice refused requests from the Energy and Utilities Board to help improve wholesale margins. In written evidence submitted to the board earlier this month, Irving Oil marketing president Darren Gillis said that regulated markets "have become disconnected from non-regulated markets over time and do not provide for adequate recovery of costs." That has "eroded industry's ability to continue to supply regulated markets and remain competitive across our regions," Gillis said. Irving Oil applied on Jan. 5 to increase the margins wholesalers can earn on gasoline, diesel and furnace oil sales by 4.13 cents per litre, including an "immediate" increase of 3.5 cents. This week, it revised that request downward to 4.09 cents for gasoline and diesel and 3.02 cents for furnace oil. If that request is granted, that will increase the cost to consumers by a total of $60 million more per year. Irving Oil, others declined to help EUB update margins In evidence submitted with the application, Gillis said the last increase in wholesale margins was awarded by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) in 2013, based on 2011 cost data. Since then, he said, industry expenses have escalated significantly without matching increases in revenue. Irving Oil's claim that petroleum regulation has caused wholesaling margins in New Brunswick to grow stale comes after two major Energy and Utility Board attempts to keep them current were thwarted by a number of companies, including Irving Oil. In 2016, three years after the last margin adjustment, the board wrote to every New Brunswick petroleum wholesaler asking for help to update margins to cover changing costs. "It is important to remember that the Board can only change the margins if it has sufficient evidence to support such adjustments," it noted in asking for the companies' cooperation, and the review had to be abandoned. But four months later, the consultant the board hired to conduct the analysis, Gardner Pinfold of Halifax, reported back that no companies would cooperate with it. Review abandoned in 2019 after second attempt "Gardner Pinfold sent a letter to each petroleum wholesaler on December 15, 2016 to invite companies to participate in the review," it told the Energy and Utilities Board at the time. "No wholesaler expressed an interest in participating in the review and none provided data. Due to a lack of data, Gardner Pinfold is unable to provide a recommendation to change the current wholesale margin." The board tried again in 2019. Petroleum wholesalers again declined to provide any information to Gardner Pinfold about the adequacy of margins, prompting comment from then Energy and Utilities Board chair Raymond Gorman. "I would point out that this technically is a review of the wholesale margin, but Mr. Gardner didn't get any evidence," Gorman said during hearings in September 2019. "Nobody filed any evidence, so again we are in that situation where we have no data in order -- you know, to be able to deal with it." Following the hearing in November 2019, the board announced it could not increase margins for New Brunswick petroleum wholesalers because none of them would provide information, even in confidence. The board noted that a consultant "made initial and follow-up requests to wholesalers" to provide data on certain specified costs, including maritime freight, working capital, receivables, and terminal costs. "No data was submitted by the wholesalers. In the absence of sufficient evidence of changes to those factors, or other factors, an adjustment to the maximum wholesale margin for motor fuels cannot be justified," the board wrote, concluding the matter and taking no action. Irving Oil did not respond to a request for an interview about why it did not ask for margin increases in 2017 or 2019, when the board was asking for its help to reset them. But the company is pointing to margins not increasing in those years, combined with sudden demand reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence regulation is not working. "Petroleum pricing regulations in New Brunswick were created 15 years ago. They did not contemplate the challenges of the last several years and were not designed to react to a global pandemic," said Gillis. "Unregulated markets, however, respond as required to ensure supply at reasonable cost recovery levels. This is not the case in regulated markets."
BANGKOK — Thai officials on Wednesday filed criminal charges against a popular former politician, accusing him of defaming the monarchy by broadcasting criticism of government efforts to secure supplies of coronavirus vaccines. The action against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit came just a day after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters that that his government will prosecute anyone who shares false information about coronavirus vaccines. Thanathorn, former leader of the dissolved Future Forward Party, accused the government of acting too slowly in procuring the vaccines. He also pointed out that the government’s main contract for vaccine supply was made with a Thai company owned by the royal palace. The government and the company deny any wrongdoing. “What Thanathorn said is not true at all. The monarchy has nothing to do with the vaccines and they are not in the position to respond to him in the public,” said Thosaphol Pengsom, a vice minister attached to the prime minister’s office. Vice Minister of Digital Economy and Society Newin Chochaiyathip said at a news conference that anyone who shares Thanathorn’s broadcast or distorted information about vaccines and monarchy judged to be distorted would be prosecuted. Thanathorn’s office said he had no immediate comment. The government has increasingly used the law against defaming the monarchy to crack down on critics. The law, widely know as Article 112, makes insulting King Maha Vajiralongkorn or his family punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Thanathorn has long been a thorn in the side of Prayuth’s government. His party, critical of the army, a pillar of the country’s establishment, made a strong third-place showing in the 2019 general election, but he was forced out of Parliament when a court ruled that he had broken an election law. His party was later dissolved on a similar technicality. He has faced a number of legal cases which supporters charge are politically motivated. Also Wednesday, six activists from Thailand’s pro-democracy movement reported to police to acknowledge Article 112 charges against them. Their appearance at a central Bangkok police station was the latest skirmish between Thailand’s royalist establishment and the youth-led protest movement that caught fire last year with a series of well-attended rallies around the country calling for major political reforms, including of the country’s influential monarchy. The six protesters were charged by police with insulting or expressing malice toward the king in connection with a December protest at a Bangkok shopping mall. The charge sheet offers no details. According to a member of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who asked for anonymity because she was not authorized to release information, police explained that the charges were related to wearing short cropped T-shirts at their protest to make fun of the king and his queen. Two minors were not accused of wearing inappropriate attire but of having signs or making hand gestures supporting the protest. Photographs of the king casually wearing cropped T-shirts have circulated widely on social media and have been published overseas, but not in Thai mass media, which does not publish undignified photos of the royal family. The monarchy is revered by many Thais and until recently was almost universally treated as an untouchable institution. But the protest movement charges that monarchy is unaccountable and wields too much power is what is supposed to a democratic constitutional monarchy. From November to January this year, about 50 people have been charged with lese majeste — though none has yet gone to trial. Most if not all cases were based on statements made at public rallies or posted on the internet. Critics says the law can easily be abused because anyone — not just royals or authorities — can lodge a complaint. After Vajralongkorn took the throne in 2016, he informed the government that he did not wish to see the law used. But the escalating criticism of the king late last year prompted Prayuth to declare that the protesters had gone too far and could now expect to be prosecuted for their actions. ——- Associated Press video journalist Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report. Grant Peck And Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul, The Associated Press
Alphabet Inc's Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. Axios, which first reported the latest investigation around a member of Google's AI team, said Margaret Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru, a former employee in the AI team who was fired. Gebru, who is Black, was a top AI ethics researcher at Google and was fired in December.
Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz on Wednesday unveiled the EQA, a new electric compact SUV as part of plans to take on rival Tesla Inc and offer more emission-free vehicles to consumers to meet targets in Europe and China. The EQA, the first of several electric models Mercedes-Benz plans to launch this year, will initially have a range of 426 kilometres (265 miles), with a 500km model coming later, the premium brand carmaker said in a video presentation.
The UK has historically had a special relationship with the US, but will British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s friendship with Donald Trump undermine his relationship with the new president? And what role will the UK's divorce from the EU play in transatlantic relations?View on euronews
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Canada's first chamber of commerce dedicated to serve Black-owned businesses has overhauled its leadership team following a tumultuous several weeks that saw the departure of its president and allegations of poor management from disgruntled former volunteers. The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC) announced the changes last week, though factions within the organization disagree on what exactly triggered the upheaval. Andria Barrett, the CBCC's former president, has accused the chamber of operating for years with insufficient accountability and transparency. She said those concerns created a significant and irreconcilable divide between the chamber's board of directors and its volunteer operations team. "I think it's important for everyone to realize non-profit organizations should not be run like private businesses," said Barrett in an interview. "There are rules and regulations that need to be followed." Barrett says she resigned from her position on Monday, Jan. 11, though the CBCC insists its board of directors voted to fire her in a meeting a day earlier because they say she had made false accusations. Pamela Gordon, the chamber's former director of communications who was fired in late December, pinned the blame directly on the CBCC's founder and former chair of the board. "I would say the organization was being run as a dictatorship by the chairman Michael Forrest," Gordon said. Forrest announced his resignation from the chamber's board of directors last week, citing a desire to divert unwanted attention from the organization. He vehemently denies the allegations of mismanagement. "I felt it was important to step aside and ensure that this negative personal attack on myself does not reflect on the chamber," Forrest told CBC Toronto. The CBCC said board member Everett Russell was unanimously appointed chair following Forrest's resignation. Funding and support has surged since summer of 2020 The CBCC was formally created in April 2019 after years of development by a group of founding members. It charges its members $250 annually for access to services, including advertising, marketing and networking. Concerns over the chamber's financial management and accountability have escalated since the summer of 2019, when the CBCC received newfound attention following the global Black Lives Matter protests and subsequent calls to better support Black-owned businesses. Since July 2020, the chamber has announced new funding from numerous private donors, including a $500,000 donation from Facebook, in addition to partnerships with other large corporations, including Uber and Sobey's. The chamber is also said to be applying for additional funding through the federal government's $221-million Black Entrepreneurship Program announced in September 2020. But former volunteers on the CBCC's operations team say the chamber was never set up to properly handle such large donations and partnerships. Barrett says the chamber has never crafted a proper constitution and does not regularly make information such as the minutes from its meetings or financial statements available to its paying members. "[Forrest] does what he wants to do," added Gordon. "He runs it like it's his own business." Chamber a safe place for donors and members, founder says "The allegations are utterly false," said Forrest in response to those concerns. "Basically, it's a disgruntled former volunteer, the past president, who is definitely trying to malign the chamber." Forrest said he will no longer serve on the board of directors, but will remain a member of the chamber and retain his title as founder. The CBCC says its restructured leadership group will ensure the organization is accountable to both donors and members. "We understand the distraction that this is posing," said Christelle Francois, the CBCC's public relations lead. "We're really focused on moving forward for the community and our partners." Chedwick Creightney, a CBCC member and Ajax business owner, said organizations that support Black-owned businesses are badly needed, especially given the disproportionate financial effects of the pandemic. He lamented the departures of Barrett and Gordon, describing them as "the heartbeat of the chamber," but said he intends to remain a member while the transformation takes place. "There's such a crucial need for it," Creightney said. "It's something that has to go on and we have to find out what the heck is going on." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
The owner of Canada's biggest stock exchanges is seeking to attract more Asian derivatives investors, aiming to boost the share of its overall revenues from outside the country to half from one-third currently. TMX Group, which operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSX Venture Exchange and the Montreal Exchange, plans to extend derivatives trading to 23 hours in the second half of 2021 from 14-1/2 hours now to attract Asia-Pacific institutional investors, Chief Executive John McKenzie told Reuters in an exclusive interview. McKenzie said TMX hopes both to expand outside Canada and beyond its traditional equities trading operations, which already accounted for less than a tenth of revenues in fiscal 2019, half the level of a decade earlier.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's leader on Wednesday assured relatives of 62 people killed in a Sriwijaya Air plane crash that they will be compensated. President Joko Widodo visited the command centre at Jakarta’s international container terminal where tons of plane debris hauled by divers from seafloor were collected for an investigation into what caused the Boeing 737-500 to nosedive into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on Jan. 9. He also witnessed the first three relatives of the victims receiving money from the compensation fund. Sriwijaya Air offered relatives an insurance payout of 1.25 billion rupiah ($89,100), in line with the Indonesian law that stipulates compensation must be offered within 60 days of a crash. In addition, state-owned insurance company Jasa Raharja has provided 50 million rupiah ($3,560) to each family of the victims. “I assure you that all compensation will be completed immediately for all victims,” Widodo said. A search is still ongoing for the crucial memory unit of the cockpit voice recorder. The device apparently broke loose from its exterior and officials have said the underwater locator beacons attached to both crash-proof black boxes became dislodged due to the impact. The flight data recorded was recovered three days after the crash. The 26-year-old Boeing had been out of service for almost nine months last year because of flight cutbacks caused by the pandemic. Indonesia’s aviation industry grew quickly after the nation’s economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. Safety concerns led the United States and the European Union to ban Indonesian carriers for years, but the bans have since been lifted due to better compliance with international aviation standards. ____ Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report. Fadlan Syam, The Associated Press
GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner. In a report issued to the media Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities" to adopt basic public health measures as early as possible. “What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” it said. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying disputed whether China had reacted too slowly. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions,” she said, pointing out that Wuhan — where the first human cases were identified — was locked down within three weeks of the outbreak starting. “All countries, not only China, but also the U.S., the U.K., Japan or any other countries, should all try to do better,” Hua said. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them, including the new virus' genetic sequence. The story noted that WHO didn't have any enforcement powers. At a press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson Sirleaf said it was up to countries whether they wanted to overhaul WHO to accord it more authority to stamp out outbreaks, saying the organization was also constrained by its lack of funding. “The bottom line is WHO has no powers to enforce anything," she said. “All it can do is ask to be invited in." Last week, an international team of WHO-led scientists arrived in Wuhan to research the animal origins of the pandemic after months of political wrangling to secure China's approval for the probe. The panel also cited evidence of COVID-19 cases in other countries in late January, saying public health containment measures should have been put in place immediately in any country with a likely case, adding: “They were not.” The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency — its highest warning for outbreaks — sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. “One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said. WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents, meeting WHO’s own definition for a flu pandemic. As the coronavirus began spreading across the globe, WHO's top experts disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu and that people without symptoms only rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and that a significant proportion of spread is from people who don't appear to be sick. Over the past year, WHO has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the response to COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the U.N. health agency for “colluding” with China to cover up the extent of the initial outbreak before halting U.S. funding for WHO and pulling the country out of the organization. The U.N. health agency bowed to the international pressure at the annual assembly of its member states last spring by creating the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The WHO chief appointed Johnson Sirleaf and Clark — who both have previous ties to the U.N. agency — to lead the team, whose work is funded by WHO. Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread (of COVID-19) internally and internationally,” it did not name specific countries. It also declined to call out WHO for its failure to more sharply criticize countries for their missteps instead of commending countries for their response efforts. Last month, the author of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response said he warned his bosses in May that people could die and the agency could suffer “catastrophic” reputational damage if it allowed political concerns to suppress the document, according to emails obtained by the AP. To date, the pandemic has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. ___ AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from Toronto. Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Maria Cheng And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Leaders of a Somali organization in Ottawa say their relationship with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has been severely damaged after the department rejected its funding application by arguing it's not Black enough. "At this day and age, to come across something like that was very, very, very shock[ing] and somewhat uncalled for," said Mohamoud Hagi-Aden, one of the founders of the Somali Centre for Family Services. The centre is among hundreds of organizations the government rejected, claiming they failed to meet its Black leadership criteria. Hagi-Aden said he was in disbelief when he read the rejection letter, which claimed his organization was not sufficiently led by Black people. The centre's founders, management and board are all of Somali background, according to the centre. "The people who have been making these decisions [are] either from another planet, or they're not from the [Black] community," he said. The letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants for funding was completely unacceptable. - Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen Executive director Abdirizak Karod applied last summer for the federal funding, called the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, after learning it was for Black groups looking to improve their work and community spaces. He said he wanted to use the funding to buy laptops for clients so they can access services and training remotely, as well as refurbishing the organization's 28-year-old office building. The funding guidelines say the groups must be focused on serving Black communities, and that at least two-thirds of the leadership and governance structure must be made up of people who self-identify as Black. "I got an email saying our organization is not a Black-led organization," Karod said. "I didn't believe that what I [saw]. And believe me, I read it three times." A letter to the centre dated Jan. 12 states that "information provided did not meet this eligibility criteria or was insufficient to clearly demonstrate that the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black." A second letter was sent the next day to correct the first letter. It said the group was rejected because "ESDC did not receive the information required to move forward with your application." "They never tell us why we got rejected. They never tell us anything," Karod said, explaining how he answered all the questions on the application. "How we can trust this department again?" he asked. "I can't trust them.... It was not an honest mistake." Letter 'completely unacceptable': Minister ESDC declined an interview with CBC News, pointing instead to the minister's Twitter thread. "The letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants for funding was completely unacceptable," Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen tweeted. "As soon as it was presented to me, I quickly demanded a retraction and met with my officials to discuss how such a mistake could have happened in the first place." Hussen, who was born in Somalia, said he will "make sure it never happens again," and vowed to work with Black-led organizations to improve. But the statement isn't good enough, according to Hagi-Aden. "How will [ESDC] repair the damage they've done to the Black community? We have so many barriers and so many difficulties," he said. "The trust that we had in the system has been so severely damaged."
P.E.I.'s rotational workers will likely be the first to see an easing of isolation requirements once they've received their vaccinations, a standing committee on health and social development heard Wednesday. The Charlottetown Islanders' games this weekend against the Cape Breton Eagles have been cancelled due to travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Islanders haven't played since the Atlantic bubble was suspended in November, and it's uncertain when they'll play again. The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce is asking Islanders to shift 10 per cent of their annual spending to support locally owned and operated businesses during the next phase in the Love Local P.E.I. campaign. About 2,000 Holland College students are back in the classroom, some for the first time since March. A P.E.I. judge is wrestling with how to sentence a P.E.I. man who failed to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. Some Prince Edward Islanders are not self-isolating as they are legally required to and are putting others at risk, Morrison also said at the briefing. The organizers of The Spud hockey tournament in Charlottetown say they had no choice but to cancel the event this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Twenty-one senators from the Maritimes are urging the federal government to provide financial assistance to an inter-city bus service that they say is in financial peril because of the pandemic. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported on P.E.I. is 110, with seven still active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. New Brunswick announced 21 new cases on Wednesday There are now 317 active cases in the province. Nova Scotia reported three new cases, with 23 active. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. There are 719,751 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 719,751 confirmed cases (71,055 active, 630,430 resolved, 18,266 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,679 new cases Tuesday from 67,775 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 6.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.03 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 45,281 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,469. There were 146 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 989 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 141. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,710,272 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 396 confirmed cases (eight active, 384 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 271 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 76,762 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Tuesday from 606 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of seven new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 87,077 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,561 confirmed cases (22 active, 1,474 resolved, 65 deaths). There were four new cases Tuesday from 1,199 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.26 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 27 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 197,918 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,004 confirmed cases (317 active, 674 resolved, 13 deaths). There were 31 new cases Tuesday from 712 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 40.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 187 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 27. There was one new reported death Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 129,708 tests completed. _ Quebec: 245,734 confirmed cases (19,017 active, 217,575 resolved, 9,142 deaths). There were 1,386 new cases Tuesday from 6,480 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 21 per cent. The rate of active cases is 224.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13,110 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,873. There were 55 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 362 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.61 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 107.74 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,670,614 tests completed. _ Ontario: 242,277 confirmed cases (27,615 active, 209,183 resolved, 5,479 deaths). There were 1,913 new cases Tuesday from 33,402 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,254 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,893. There were 46 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 380 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 54. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 37.61 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,705,969 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 27,740 confirmed cases (3,088 active, 23,869 resolved, 783 deaths). There were 111 new cases Tuesday from 1,362 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 225.49 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,203 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 172. There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 35 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.18 per 100,000 people. There have been 442,786 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 20,871 confirmed cases (4,156 active, 16,490 resolved, 225 deaths). There were 309 new cases Tuesday from 1,246 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 25 per cent. The rate of active cases is 353.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,097 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 300. There were six new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 21 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.26 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 19.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 323,677 tests completed. _ Alberta: 117,767 confirmed cases (11,096 active, 105,208 resolved, 1,463 deaths). There were 456 new cases Tuesday from 10,114 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 253.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,024 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 718. There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 118 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,020,119 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 61,912 confirmed cases (5,723 active, 55,099 resolved, 1,090 deaths). There were 465 new cases Tuesday from 11,781 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 112.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,359 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 480. There were 12 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 71 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.2 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,033,692 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 10 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,185 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 30 confirmed cases (six active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Tuesday from 348 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.57 per cent. The rate of active cases is 13.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 8,671 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 244 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,018 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
China's central bank has proposed stepping up antitrust measures for companies in the non-bank payments industry, such as Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent's WeChat Pay. Under draft rules proposed on Wednesday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) can advise the state council's antitrust committee to stop companies abusing their dominant position or even break up a non-bank institution if it "severely hinders the healthy development of the payment service market".
WASHINGTON — Stop. Stabilize. Then move — but in a vastly different direction. President-elect Joe Biden is pledging a new path for the nation after Donald Trump’s four years in office. That starts with confronting a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and extends to sweeping plans on health care, education, immigration and more. The 78-year-old Democrat has pledged immediate executive actions that would reverse Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and rescind the outgoing president's ban on immigration from certain Muslim nations. His first legislative priority is a $1.9 trillion pandemic response package, but there are plans to send an immigration overhaul to Capitol Hill out of the gate, as well. He's also pledged an aggressive outreach to American allies around the world who had strained relationships with Trump. And though one key initiative has been overshadowed as the pandemic has worsened, Biden hasn't backed away from his call to expand the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a public option, a government-insurance plan to compete alongside private insurers. It's an unapologetically liberal program reflecting Biden's argument that the federal government exists to help solve big problems. Persuading enough voters and members of Congress to go along will test another core Biden belief: that he can unify the country into a governing consensus. What a Biden presidency could look like: ECONOMY, TAXES AND THE DEBT Biden argues the economy cannot fully recover until the coronavirus is contained. He argues that his $1.9 trillion response plan is necessary to avoid extended recession. Among other provisions, it would send Americans $1,400 relief checks, extend more generous unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and boost businesses. Biden also wants expanded child tax credits, child care assistance and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — a provision sure to draw fierce Republican opposition. Biden acknowledges his call for deficit spending but says higher deficits in the near term will prevent damage that would not only harm individuals but also weaken the economy in ways that would be even worse for the national balance sheet. He also calls his plan a down payment on his pledge to address wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans. He plans a second major economic package later in 2021; that's when he'd likely ask Congress to consider his promised tax overhauls to roll back parts of the 2017 GOP tax rewrite benefiting corporations and the wealthy. Biden wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% — lower than before but higher than now — and broad income and payroll tax increases for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. That would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years, money Biden would want steered toward his infrastructure, health care and energy programs. Before Biden proposed his pandemic relief bill, an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that Biden’s campaign proposals would increase the national debt by about $5.6 trillion over 10 years, though that would be a significantly slower rate of increase than what occurred under Trump. The national debt now stands at more than $25 trillion. ___ CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC Biden promises a more robust national coronavirus vaccination system. Ditching Trump’s strategy of putting most of the pandemic response on governors’ desks, Biden says he’ll marshal the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to distribute vaccines while using the nation's network of private pharmacies. As he said as a candidate, Biden plans to invoke the Defence Production Act, aimed at the private sector, to increase vaccine supplies and related materials. The wartime law allows a president to direct the manufacture of critical goods. Much of Biden’s plans depend on Congress approving financing, such as $130 billion to help schools reopen safely. Beyond legislation, Biden will require masks on all federal property, urge governors and mayors to use their authority to impose mask mandates and ask Americans for 100 days of mask-wearing in an effort to curb the virus. Biden also promises to deviate from Trump by putting science and medical advisers front and centre to project a consistent message. Meanwhile, Biden will immediately have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. The incoming White House has tried to manage expectations. Biden said several times in recent weeks that the pandemic would likely get worse before any changes in policy and public health practices show up in COVID-19 statistics. ___ HEALTH CARE Biden wants to build on President Barack Obama's signature health care law through a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans. He'd also increase premium subsidies many people already use. Biden's approach could get a kick-start in the pandemic response bill by expanding subsidies for consumers using existing ACA exchanges. The big prize, a “public option,” remains a heavy lift in a closely divided Congress. Biden has not detailed when he'd ask Congress to consider the matter. Biden estimates his public option would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. It still stops short of progressives' call for a government-run system to replace private insurance altogether. The administration also must await a Supreme Court decision on the latest case challenging the 2010 health care law known as “Obamacare.” On prescription drugs, Biden supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for government programs and private payers. He'd prohibit drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation for people covered by Medicare and other federal programs; and he'd cap initial prices for “specialty drugs” to treat serious illnesses. Biden would limit annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees, a change Trump sought unsuccessfully in Congress. And Biden also wants to allow importation of prescription drugs, subject to safety checks. ___ IMMIGRATION Biden plans to immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain as legal residents. He's also planning an Inauguration Day executive order rolling back Trump’s ban on certain Muslim immigrants and has pledged to rescind Trump's limits on asylum slots. Additionally, Biden will send Congress, out of the gate, a complex immigration bill offering an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. As a candidate, Biden called Trump's hard-line policies on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and promised to “undo the damage” while maintaining border enforcement. Notably, the outline of Biden's immigration bill doesn't deal much, if at all, with border enforcement. But his opening manoeuvr sets a flank with plenty of room to negotiate with Republicans. Biden also pledged to end the Trump's “public charge rule,” which would deny visas or permanent residency to people who use public-aid programs. Biden has called for a 100-day freeze on deportations while considering long-term policies. Still, Biden would eventually restore an Obama-era policy of prioritizing removal of immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally and have been convicted of crimes or pose a national security threat. Biden has said he would halt all funding for construction of new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. ___ FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY Biden's establishment credentials are most starkly different from Trump in the area of foreign policy. Biden mocked Trump's “America First” brand as “America alone” and promises to restore a more traditional post-World War II order. He supports a strategy of fighting extremist militants abroad with U.S. special forces and airstrikes instead of planeloads of U.S. troops. That's a break from his support earlier in his political career for more sweeping U.S. military interventions, most notably the 2003 Iraq invasion. Biden has since called his Iraq vote in the Senate a mistake. He was careful as a candidate never to rule out the use of force, but now leans directly into diplomacy to try to achieve solutions through alliances and global institutions. Biden calls for increasing the Navy’s presence in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia. He joins Trump in wanting to end the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but thinks the U.S. should keep a small force in place to counter militant violence. Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken is Biden's longest-serving foreign policy adviser and holds essentially the same worldview. Both are strong supporters of NATO. Biden and Blinken warn that Moscow is chipping away at the foundation of Western democracy by trying to weaken NATO, divide the European Union and undermine the U.S. electoral system. Biden believes Trump's abandonment of bilateral and international treaties such as the Iran nuclear deal have led other nations to doubt Washington’s word. Biden wants to invite all democratic nations to a summit during his first year to discuss how to fight corruption, thwart authoritarianism and support human rights. He claims “ironclad” support for Israel but wants to curb annexation and has backed a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. He says he'd keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after Trump moved it from Tel Aviv. On North Korea, Biden criticized Trump for engaging directly with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave legitimacy to the authoritarian leader without curbing his nuclear program. Biden also wants to see the U.S. close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Obama pushed the same and never got it done. ___ ENVIRONMENT Beyond immediately rejoining the Paris climate agreement, Biden has proposed a $2 trillion push to slow global warming by throttling back the burning of fossil fuels, aiming to make the nation’s power plants, vehicles, mass transport systems and buildings more fuel efficient and less dependent on oil, gas and coal. Parts of his program could be included in the second sweeping legislative package Biden plans after the initial emergency pandemic legislation. Biden says his administration would ban new permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, though he says he does not support a fracking ban. Biden’s public health and environmental platform also calls for reversing the Trump administration’s slowdown of enforcement against polluters, which in several categories has fallen to the lowest point in decades. That would include establishing a climate and environmental justice division within the Justice Department. Biden says he would support climate lawsuits targeting fossil fuel-related industries. ___ EDUCATION Biden has proposed tripling the federal Title I program for low-income public schools, with a requirement that schools provide competitive pay and benefits to teachers. He wants to ban federal money for for-profit charter schools and provide new dollars to public charters only if they serve needy students. He opposes voucher programs, in which public money is used to pay for private-school education. He also wants to restore federal rules, rolled back under Trump, that denied federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debts and unable to find jobs. Biden supports making two years of community college free, with public four-year colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000. His proposed student loan overhaul would not require repayment for people who make less than $25,000 a year and would limit payments to 5% of discretionary income for others. Among the measures in his COVID-19 response plan, Biden calls for extending current freezes on student loan payments and debt accrual. Long term, Biden proposes a $70 billion increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools that serve underrepresented students. ___ ABORTION Biden supports abortion rights and has said he would nominate federal judges who back the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. He's also said he'd support a federal statute legalizing abortion if the Supreme Court's conservative majority strikes down Roe. Biden committed to rescinding Trump’s family planning rule, which prompted many clinics to leave the federal Title X program providing birth control and medical care for low-income women. In a personal reversal, Biden now supports repeal of the Hyde Amendment, opening the way for federal programs, including his prospective public option, to pay for abortions. ___ SOCIAL SECURITY Biden's proposals would expand benefits, raise taxes for upper-income people and add some years of solvency. He would revamp Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by linking it to an inflation index tied more directly to older Americans' expenses. He would increase minimum benefits for lower-income retirees, addressing financial hardship among the elderly. Biden wants to raise Social Security taxes by applying the payroll tax to earnings above $400,000. The 12.4% tax, split between an employee and employer, now applies only to the first $137,700 of a worker's wages. The tax increase would pay for Biden’s proposed benefit expansions and extend the life of program’s trust fund by five years, to 2040, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute. ___ GUNS Biden led efforts as a senator to establish the background check system now in use when people buy guns from a federal licensed dealer. He also helped pass a 10-year ban on a group of semi-automatic guns, or “assault weapons,” during the Clinton presidency. Biden has promised to seek another ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Owners would have to register existing assault weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would also support a program to buy back assault weapons. Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one and would require background checks for all gun sales with limited exceptions, such as gifts between family members. Biden would also support prohibiting all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts. As with his public option plan for health insurance, it's not clear how Biden will prioritize gun legislation, and the prospects of getting major changes through the Senate are slim, at best. ___ VETERANS Biden says he'd work with Congress to improve health services for women, the military’s fastest-growing subgroup, such as by placing at least one full-time women’s primary care physician at each Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical centre. He promises to provide $300 million to better understand the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposures, hire more VA staff to cut down on office wait times for veterans at risk of suicide and continue the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to stem homelessness. ___ TRADE Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. That, and some of his policy pitches, can make Biden seem almost protectionist, but he's well shy of Trump's approach. Biden, like Trump, accuses China of violating international trade rules by subsidizing its companies and stealing U.S. intellectual property. Still, Biden doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs worked. He wants to join with allies to form a bulwark against Beijing. Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing with $400 billion of federal government purchases (including pandemic supplies) from domestic companies over a four-year period. He wants $300 billion for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before any new international trade deals. He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice-president. ___ TRUMP Biden won't escape Trump's shadow completely, given the many investigations and potential legal exposures facing the outgoing president. Biden said as a candidate that he wouldn't pardon Trump or his associates and that he'd leave federal investigations up to “an independent Justice Department.” Notably, some of Trump's legal exposure comes from state cases in New York. Biden will have no authority over any of those matters. ___ Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ben Fox, Deb Riechmann, Collin Binkley and Hope Yen contributed to this report. Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Pediatric and mental health experts say pandemic stress is driving a spike in eating disorders among adolescents and teens, pointing to school disruptions, social isolation and infection fears as destabilizing factors that could have long-term physical and mental health effects. Doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, Ottawa's pediatric hospital and research centre CHEO and the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary are among those noting a significant jump in admissions and demand for outpatient treatment. Dr. Ellie Vyver of the Alberta Children's Hospital says admissions more than doubled at her hospital between July and September last year and continue to rise. Colleagues across the country are reporting similar signs of despair. "What we have been seeing in Alberta and at SickKids is not unique. It's happening in B.C., it's happening in other centres in Ontario outside of SickKids, it's happening in Montreal. It's something that's happening across across the country," says Vyver, who said the illness tends to have the highest prevalence around age 14. At the same time, children who struggle are displaying more severe mental and physical problems, adds the director of CHEO's mental health program, who says his eastern Ontario hospital can only treat the "tip of the iceberg." "The supply and demand is so off-kilter right now that it is overwhelming the system," says David Murphy. The cutoff for admission to CHEO is a heart rate below 45 beats per minute. CHEO says there were 67 admissions between April 1 and Oct. 31 last year – a 63 per cent jump from the same period in 2019. Christina Bartha of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health points to increased isolation, school disruption, social media exposure and stress as fuelling unhealthy eating and exercise habits. Compared to last year, Bartha says yearly admissions at her Toronto hospital are expected to jump as much as 30 per cent to 170 (from 128), while the number of referred outpatients is heading towards a 50 to 60 per cent increase with 245 cases (versus last year's 154). The cases primarily involve restrictive eating, including anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which is similar to anorexia but does not involve stress over body shape or size. Dr. Debra Katzman, senior associate scientist at SickKids and co-founder of its eating disorders program, also says children are in more acute physical and mental distress than past cases. That could be because of delayed assessments if some families feared contracting COVID-19 by visiting a hospital early in the pandemic, she says. Meanwhile, virtual care has made it more difficult for some recovering patients to maintain health goals. "We're seeing kids who are at significantly low weights, are extremely malnourished and have all kinds of medical and psychiatric comorbid complications," says Katzman. Although SickKids is still collecting and analyzing its data, she and Bartha expressed little doubt that pandemic-fuelled turmoil has played a key role in driving up youth anxiety. "These young people are so used to having a routine that they engage in every day – waking up, going to school, coming home, et cetera – and now they have no routine. And they're quite disconnected from their peers. That's a huge thing, especially during adolescence," says Katzman. "(And) they're not with their teachers or their coaches who are able to identify these very life-threatening disorders quite early." Sterling Renzoni of Orangeville, Ont., believes social media, isolation and disrupted care were key factors in a "mini-relapse" he says he experienced during the lockdown last spring. The 18-year-old says he was discharged early from a southern Ontario residential treatment program for anorexia in the early days of the pandemic. No longer forced to follow a strict daily routine, under less supervision and unable to see his friends, Renzoni says he began fixating on exercise. "It was challenging to figure out how I was going to keep myself busy," admits Renzoni, who says he stopped obsessing with the help of virtual care and by redirecting focus to his long-term goal of attending university in the fall. "I had more time to just be on social media (and) it was still filled with a lot of unhelpful accounts, unhelpful information and unhelpful people that I was following... but I realized that after already having a mini-relapse." Now a Trent University freshman, Renzoni says if it hadn't been for the pandemic, he likely would have stayed in residential care for three months instead of one, and would have been more physically and mentally able to withstand pandemic restrictions when discharged. Aryel Maharaj, outreach and education co-ordinator with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, says social media has played a large role in driving fat-phobic messages around the so-called "Quarantine 19" in recent months, while repeated lockdowns ignited grocery sprees and encouraged food hoarding. These all make it difficult for anyone struggling with food issues, he said. "It just makes it a lot harder if food is your primary means of coping and now you're surrounded by it and you're stressed out," says Maharaj. Maharaj says NEDIC's anonymous helpline has seen a 43 per cent overall increase in calls, and more than double the number of calls from those aged 11 to 19. The head of the Adolescent Medicine Program at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John's, N.L., says admissions are up there, too. Dr. Anna Dominic says the wait-list for assessments of medically stable patients is now seven months, when it's typically two to three months. Over at CHEO, Murphy says the hospital would not turn away anyone approaching its 45 bpm threshold, but he says the very fact they require such a stark cutoff – introduced before the pandemic – speaks to how dire the situation is. Demand is so high, CHEO also denies 73 per cent of referrals — up from 49 per cent from the year before. Murphy admits that means many very sick and starving youngsters are forced to look elsewhere for help, and risk deteriorating further while seeking care. He knows of at least two community-based services with 18-month wait-lists. Maharaj says eating disorders thrive in isolation and so it's important for struggling youngsters to know they are not alone and can turn to a growing number of remote resources. He says hospitals, community groups, therapists, dietitians and others have embraced online options to reach more people. "It's so easy to fall into this pit of despair, of hopelessness, if you think that it's never going to change and there's nothing out there for you," says Maharaj. "There are virtual ways that we can try to connect and provide some kind of support so you're not just sitting there spiralling on your own." Murphy says the issue has always been under-resourced, and the pandemic has highlighted that problem. "When we talk about mental health, we think of depression, suicide, schizophrenia. It's all of those acute mental illnesses, but then there's this thing called eating disorders," he says. "And the eating disorder population requires a specific level of training and expertise to be able to deal with, and we just simply do not have the capacity, the resources and the training to be able to deal with it as a community at large." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
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