Eve Lindley opens about how it feels to be in a leading role as a trans actress in the new AMC series, "Dispatches From Elsewhere." She goes on to share that it's great that her character gets to exist as just a person in the story.
Eve Lindley opens about how it feels to be in a leading role as a trans actress in the new AMC series, "Dispatches From Elsewhere." She goes on to share that it's great that her character gets to exist as just a person in the story.
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
A giant mass of rubbish that clogged a dam has finally been cleaned up in Bulgaria. Nearly 600 tonnes of garbage and debris were removed from the Iskar river near the capital Sofia.View on euronews
OTTAWA — A new report on billions of dollars the federal government has sent to provinces to help safely reopen the economy suggests much of the money is sitting unused.Today's report also suggests that federal efforts to stretch the financial impact of those dollars is falling short as many provinces have bucked cost-matching requests.The analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says six out of 10 provinces haven't spent all the money the federal government has sent their way, including for things like personal protective equipment.Author David Macdonald says some of the money may yet be spent, but notes the longer it remains unspent, the less likely it ever will be spent.Macdonald's analysis is based on a review of provincial and federal spending announcements, reconciling duplications, as well as provincial spending documents. Federal and provincial governments are allocating hundreds of billions in direct spending and liquidity support to help workers, families, front-line workers and businesses make it through the pandemic. The federal treasury has managed the lion's share of COVID-19 spending — accounting for about $8 in every $10 of aid, according to the federal Finance Department's math. "They are the ones spending the money, they're the ones creating the funds and to a large degree setting the agenda of where they would like those funds to go," Macdonald said.Included in the spending is $24 billion the federal Liberals sent to provinces in the fall under the "safe restart" agreement that was supposed to help make it safer for daycares, schools and businesses to reopen.The report notes that money is sitting idle from a fund aimed at topping up the wages of workers deemed essential like those in long-term care facilities and grocery stores. Provincial governments were supposed to chip in for part of the top-up.Macdonald says six out of 10 provinces haven't used the money available to them, with Alberta leaving the most on the table by far at almost $336 million.He also says some return-to-class money hasn't been spent, particularly in Quebec.Other provinces like Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick appear to have ignored a federal request to match funding to cash-strapped municipalities, Macdonald says.There is no immediate explanation for why, but Macdonald says it was possible that the federal government decided to give smaller provinces a break on the cost-matching requirements to ease the strain on their own finances. He notes that larger provinces did pony up matching dollars.Combined, the underspending and lack of cost-matching raise questions for the government about its plan to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over three years to prod an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.Macdonald says the stimulus bump from the planned spending could be diminished if provinces don't spend money sent to them, or don't match funding when asked.That may require the Liberals to put tight rules on forthcoming spending, he says."If provinces aren't willing to go along, there may well be provinces that would be left out of, say, new federal spending on child care and new federal spending on long-term care if they're unwilling to go along with federal priorities or federal standards," he said."Otherwise, the provinces are clearly going to call the federal bluff."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed a million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity. Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468. The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesian launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country's 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world's fourth most populous country. Officials have said that Indonesia will require almost 427 million doses, taking into account the estimate that 15% of doses may be wasted during the distribution process in the vast nation of more than 17,000 islands, where transportation and infrastructure are limited in places. Jakarta continues to be hardest hit city in Indonesia, confirming more than 254,000 cases as of Tuesday, including 4,077 deaths. Only 8.5% of a total 8,066 hospital beds in the city were left for new patients as of Tuesday, while beds with ventilators were filled. Niniek Karmini And Edna Tarigan, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The pandemic has its prints all over Canada's winter TV season. While some shows affected by lockdowns last March were able to resume production in the summer and air in the fall, many were held up by restrictions, a lack of COVID-19 insurance, and the development of expensive health and safety protocols with officials and unions. The result is a January and February slate packed with new programming shot over the past few months with much testing, distancing, sanitization and personal protective equipment. The Canadian Press spoke with talent behind some Canadian shows about production challenges, and how positive cases were dealt with on set. "KIM'S CONVENIENCE" ON SHOOTING UNDER DURESS Star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays patriarch Appa on the family sitcom, says the pandemic pushed the start of production on the new season in Toronto from last May to September. Writers modified some storylines and used fewer guest actors, while the whole team was "fastidious" about their COVID protocols. Away from the set, everyone limited their contact to those in their immediate household, realizing that "like dominoes, if one goes, everything sort of goes." "Mission accomplished," Lee says. "We shot season five under duress, the worst circumstances, but we didn't have one case, knock on wood." Simu Liu, who plays Appa's son Jung, was in Australia shooting Marvel's upcoming film "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" when the pandemic hit and couldn't get back to Toronto to shoot "Kim's Convenience" until near the end of production. The protocols made the shooting process "very piecemeal" and put pressure on the cast to "nail a scene and move on" so they could stay on schedule, Lee says. "Otherwise, it's like a big train wreck: one delay at the beginning makes it a mess at the end. So that was really difficult to do." Lee cites a host of other challenges, including the safety risk of acting without a mask, and not being able to communicate as well while wearing PPE during rehearsals. But he was happy to be working and it all made him "appreciate that much more the professionalism and the quality of the crews." "Every step of the way, I felt safe," Lee says. "Personally, I felt safer on set than anywhere else outside of my home." (Fifth season debuted Jan. 19 on CBC) --- "CORONER" ON INTIMATE SCENES Masks are already a common sight on this show about a coroner in Toronto, but even more so in the new season as it's set during the COVID-19 pandemic. Showrunner Morwyn Brebner says when the pandemic hit, they'd already done a month's worth of writing but realized they would have to "reinvent the season" to address the new reality. "A few of us were really concerned: 'Will we not have a problem with COVID by the time we start to air it? Will it feel a little bit like old news?' Ha! Were we wrong," adds lead director/executive producer Adrienne Mitchell. The writing team penned the new scripts together via video conferencing, limiting the amount of stand-ins and background performers on set. Shooting began in the fall with protocols including daily temperature checks and weekly COVID testing. Departments worked different shifts to limit the amount of people in spaces, which made shooting more time-consuming. Filming took place outside where possible. Actors not in the key cast were distanced from the stars when shooting scenes indoors. With so much separation on set, scenes of intimacy "felt really significant," says Brebner. Eye acting and body movement become more important in scenes where the characters wore masks. "You start to shoot a little looser so you can see body language, because body language adds a lot of information," Mitchell says. While the production had "a few issues" with COVID-19 cases, "they weren't on set and they were easily contact-traced," says Mitchell, noting they didn't have to shut down. "We have had no community spread, and what we had was very little." (Third season debuts Feb. 3 on CBC) --- "HEARTLAND" ON CHANGING THE SCRIPT Star Amber Marshall says the storylines for the new season of the Alberta-shot family ranch story were already written depicting spring and summer vistas when the pandemic hit. When filming was pushed from last April to September, writers had to alter scripts to reflect the fall and winter seasons that would be seen onscreen instead. "There were a lot of things that sprung up on us, even throughout shooting, such as we had certain actors written into certain stories and then they weren't able to travel (to set)," Marshall says. "So of course there this mad scramble of, 'How are we going to continue this story without that character here?'" The "Heartland" set inherently allows for distancing, since many scenes are filmed outdoors. For indoor shoots, each department was put into a certain "zone" that would only work with each other. Producer Tom Cox says COVID didn't ever reach the set. (14th season debuted Jan. 10 on CBC) --- "PRETTY HARD CASES" ON WORKING WITH A SKELETON CREW Catherine Lang, COVID supervisor for the new buddy-cop series in Toronto, says she and the producers pored over scripts to try to minimize risky contact between actors. They also checked with the cast on whether they were comfortable in various scenarios, and held daily morning safety meetings with the whole team. The crew and the cast were "very onside" with their COVID protocols, "because nobody wanted to shut down." "We had debriefs with our department heads just last week, and everyone said that they actually felt safer at work than they did out in public," says Lang. "We had no incident of anyone contracting COVID-19 in our workplace," she adds, noting there were two positive cases that were contracted outside production, caught through testing and had no community spread. Stars Adrienne C. Moore and Meredith MacNeill say the hardest thing was not being able to see people's faces while putting together a brand-new show, especially crew members, whom they view as their collaborators. Moore says she tried to have special moments with the crew and express her gratitude to them, while everyone worked as a team. "In those morning meetings, if there was a problem, if somebody was afraid of something or wanted to do something, no one was afraid to talk about it," says MacNeill. (Debuts Feb. 3, on CBC) --- "PRIVATE EYES" ON DEALING WITH POSITIVE CASES Producer Alex Jordan says the pandemic interrupted the prep period for season 4 of the private-detective show in March and they couldn't start production until August. Filming took place in studio for the first couple of weeks to ensure protocols were solid before shooting outside, which was limited to as many single locations as possible and with fewer background performers. Each department was podded together and had their own bathrooms. Town hall meetings took place in a parking lot. "Our COVID team grew from a handful to a small army," Jordan says, rhyming off a long list of team members specifically dedicated to the protocols, including two medics. The stars and crew who worked directly with actors were known as "the red zone" and tested for COVID more frequently. "Through the testing we caught five positives, but we had no community spread and none reached the floor (of production)," Jordan says, noting they suspected two of the positive cases were a result of viral shedding from people who'd had COVID a while ago and had been cleared by government to return to work. Insurance-wise, "Private Eyes" was considered an "at-risk production," meaning if the show had to shut down, all of those costs would have been on production company eOne. "Entertainment One was very nervous, I was stressed out for the entire shoot until the very last day," Jordan says. "It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done." But they "had zero shutdowns" during the whole production, he adds. "It was nail-biting but we did it." (Fourth season airing on Global) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went to the presidential palace Tuesday to offer his resignation after a key coalition ally pulled his party’s support over Conte’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Conte is hoping to get President Sergio Mattarella’s support to form a new coalition government that can steer the country as it battles the pandemic and an economic recession and creates a spending plan for the 209 billion euros ($254 billion) Italy is getting in European Union recovery funds. Conte met with his Cabinet early Tuesday and headed to the presidential palace at around noon. A government statement said Conte had opened the Cabinet meeting by telling ministers that he would resign. Conte’s coalition government was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when a junior party headed by ex-Premier Matteo Renzi yanked its support. Conte won confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute majority in the Senate, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation. Mattarella, Italy's largely ceremonial head of state, can ask Conte to try to form a broader coalition government, appoint a largely technical government to steer the country through the pandemic or dissolve parliament and call an election two years early. The current coalition of the 5-Star Movement, Democratic Party and smaller Leu party are all hoping for a third Conte government. Conte's first government starting in 2018 was a 5-Star alliance with the right-wing League party led by Matteo Salvini that lasted 15 months. His second, with the Democrats, lasted 16 months. Salvini and centre-right opposition parties are clamouring for an early election, hoping to capitalize on polls prior to the government crisis that showed high approval ratings for the League and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party led by Giorgia Meloni. Salvini has blasted the “palace games and buying and selling of senators” of recent days as Conte has tried to find new coalition allies, claiming that Conte is incapable of leading Italy through the crisis. “Let’s use these weeks to give the word back to the people and we’ll have five years of a serious and legitimate parliament and government not chosen in palaces but chosen by Italians,” Salvini said Monday. Democratic leader Nicola Zingaretti says an early election is the last thing the country needs. He tweeted Monday: “With Conte for a new clearly European-centric government supported by an ample parliamentary base that will guarantee credibility and stability to confront the challenges Italy has ahead." Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
In the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan, a bright pink artificial tree stands out against the muted browns and greens. Through a trail camera, Jeff Meldrum watches as bears pull at the tree. Whitetail deer giving it a smell as they walk by. "I've just sort of always been interested in the animals of the forest. They're kind of mysterious," Meldrum said. "I thought it would be interesting to document how the animals are reacting to the sculptures." The pink tree is part of an ongoing project by Meldrum called Art for Animals. Meldrum has now self-published a book showcasing his project with a humorous take. The project started off simply, Meldrum said. In 2017, he had some friends that wanted to move a sculpture they were holding onto. Meldrum said he has some property outside of Choiceland in northern Saskatchewan and suggested they take it up there. "From there I started building my own sculptures as well and getting a little bit more in tune with the technology and the sort of grew from there," Meldrum said. The Regina-based artist said he likes to see what the animals can get up to when isn't at his northern property. "I think that they do a lot more when I'm not around, I think my presence at least sort of inhibits their actions," he said. "Maybe in a way, it kind of allows them to explore and play a little bit more." Meldrum said to people concerned about him disturbing natural habitats that it's naive to think animals aren't being disrupted by humans and his land is a type of safe haven, especially for bears. "I don't hurt bears and if they're coming to my property, they're possibly staying away from areas where people are hunting them," he said. Meldrum said he was surprised to see the bears appreciate the sculptures so much. They seem to have a sense of play, especially with a sculpture that was a rigid yellow tree, he said. "The veracity in which they destroyed that was pretty surprising. It went from being this like, quite beautiful sculpture … to existing in shambles in about 20 minutes," he said. He said the bears also critique his work in a way, by showing what they're interested in and not interested in. Meldrum wanted to use his book to address the good and bad of the contemporary art world. "Using a satirical voice in the book made it easy to make fun of things, make fun of myself, and make fun of different ideas within the art world," he said. Meldrum said he printed 100 copies for friends and family and they sold out right away. He then printed more and sold them at the Penny University Bookstore and Mortise and Tenon in Regina. "I hope that people learn not to take themselves so seriously and just to recognize that animals are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for," Meldrum said. "It's less about elevating animals to the status of humans, and it's more about trying to diminish our viewpoint of ourselves." Sometimes humans put themselves on a pedestal compared to animals, Meldrum said. He hopes people look at the animals on their own, rather than comparing them to people. Meldrum said he intends to create more sculptures for the animals and hopes to share his work in a gallery one day.
Officials are debating whether additional public health measures are needed to rein in a coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom that is now spreading in Ontario. Premier Doug Ford said he is so concerned about the threat posed by the more transmissible mutation that he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt all non-essential travel by foreigners into Canada. Ford said Monday he would like mandatory testing at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, which he plans to visit on Tuesday. "We have to test every person that comes into Pearson and any other crossing. It's absolutely critical. We need to put barriers up every which way we can," Ford told reporters. "I can't emphasize enough: close down our borders and make sure anyone that's coming in gets tested." Ontario has confirmed at least 34 cases of the variant that was first identified in the U.K., some among people who have not travelled outside of the province. Dr. Vanessa Allen, chief of microbiology and laboratory science at Public Health Ontario, told reporters on Monday that the province will analyze every COVID-19-positive sample from one day last week to learn just how prevalent the variant is. Allen said the strain is considered more contagious and there is evidence that it causes more severe disease in some people. This particular strain has been found in more than 60 countries, she said. Asked if the variant can actually be contained at this stage, she said: "We don't know yet, but we will be finding out in the days to come." Public Health Ontario is deploying tests to find possible cases of the "variants of concern" before sending them up for genomic screening, which can take days, Allen said. The screening test is focusing on cases considered "high-risk" for the mutations, such as aggressive outbreaks known as "superspreader events" and cases affecting known travellers. "The goal based on the data right now is to do everything we can to contain every single case we find and increase our capacity to find them, recognizing that we still don't have the full picture because we have not tested everybody to date," Allen said. 'Very much on top of it' Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said he is not convinced of the need to ban travel. "Our existing public health protocols, such as physical distancing, wearing masks, ventilation, all these types of things, still work to prevent the variant from infecting you," Chakrabarti said. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province is testing samples to look for three new variants — separate strains that first emerged in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil — to determine where they are and how they spread. So far, only the variant first detected in the U.K. has been found in Ontario. Cases have been confirmed by public health units covering Toronto, Ottawa, York, Durham and Peel regions, as well as Simcoe Muskoka, Middlesex-London and the Kingston area as of Monday. Elliott said the province had tested more than 9,000 samples for the new variants as of Monday, and is aiming to assess 1,500 samples per week starting next week. "We are very much on top of it and we are detecting it very quickly so that we'll know how to deal with different geographic areas where it may show up," Elliott told reporters. Deadly outbreak The new variant is deemed to have caused a deadly outbreak at Roberta Place Long Term Care Home in Barrie, Ont., that has infected more than 200 people. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said it was investigating whether the variant was also a factor in an outbreak at the Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury. The health unit, which has confirmed seven cases of the variant, announced a strategy on Monday to curb spread. Measures include more frequent testing for residents, visitors and staff at care homes dealing with outbreaks where the variant is suspected. The variant has been confirmed by Simcoe Muskoka health officials as "the causative agent" in the outbreak at Roberta Place, in Barrie, Ont., after six cases were confirmed in samples. The seventh individual with a confirmed case of the new strain was a close contact of someone infected in another outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community. Public health officials were still investigating the link on Monday. The public health unit said 44 residents at Roberta Place had died from COVID-19, and the outbreak had infected 127 residents and 86 staff. Five other people assisting with the outbreak had been infected, the health officials said Monday, including two essential caregivers. One of the caregivers had died from the illness. Toronto Public Health has also reported 10 cases of the variant.
A Canadian clothing line is helping transgender kids feel confident at the beach or pool with bathing suits designed to maximize comfort without compromising style. Jamie and Ruby Alexander are the Toronto father-daughter duo behind Rubies, a fledgling fashion business that specializes in form-fitting clothing for trans and non-binary girls. Ruby says she's proud to see how the brand is allowing other trans kids to take part in the same activities as their friends without worrying about what they're wearing. "A lot of trans kids just stopped doing what they love to do, because they don't feel comfortable," Ruby, 12, said in an interview. "We wanted to change the kids' lives, and we're happy to do that." Since Ruby came out as transgender at nine years old, Jamie Alexander said fashion has been an important part of how she expresses her identity. But it hasn't always been easy to balance style against concerns for her safety. At first, Ruby wore baggy boardshorts and sweatpants to athletic activities such as swimming, gymnastics and dance, Alexander said. Eventually, Ruby wanted to wear a bikini like her friends, so they got her one at a department store. But as they were getting ready for a vacation in Central America in 2019, Alexander started to worry about what Ruby should wear to the beach in a place where there may not be the same cultural awareness of transgender identity. He looked online for a swimsuit that would allow her to safely have fun in the sun, but the limited options he could find didn't seem age-appropriate. Alexander knew that other families must be dealing with similar struggles, so he set out to launch a company that would offer a solution. He teamed up with Ryerson University's Fashion Zone to design prototypes for bathing suit bottoms that uses a soft compression to provide a worry-free fit. After getting in touch with other parents online, Alexander biked around Toronto to deliver samples, so transgender kids could try them on and give feedback. Some families said their kids hadn't had much exposure to other transgender children, Alexander said, and it soon became clear that Ruby had a gift for connecting with customers. "To say, 'hey, there's someone else out there just like you that understands you and understands what you're going through' is a really powerful thing," Alexander said. "It's really touching to hear the impact Ruby and I can have with these families." Alexander partnered with a Toronto clothing manufacturer to gear up for a launch last spring, but production was set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Rubies has managed to sell roughly 1,000 swimsuits in its first year, Alexander said. Ruby writes a personal message to accompany every shipment, which for some customers seems to be just as valuable as the product itself, said Alexander. "We've gotten feedback that said some kids will put these postcards under their pillows, like it's this special treasure," he said. Alexander also launched a crowdfunding campaign so Rubies could donate swimsuits to families who many not be able to spend $57 on bikini bottoms. The brand has also expanded its offerings to include T-shirts, and recently started accepting preorders for a line of underwear. Alexander said Ruby has been involved in every step of getting the business off the ground, helping her father keep up with the latest trends on top of the usual demands of homework and chores. While it can be hard to juggle her duties as Grade 7 student and fashion maven, Ruby said it's worth it to see the impact that Rubies is having on kids like her across the globe. "There's other trans kids in the world who need help, and I'm happy to see them smile, and I'm proud to be the person who I am," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Critics are asking why Alberta Environment has been sitting on years worth of data about pollution from coal mines while the government considers a dramatic expansion of the industry. "It raises some important questions about our ability to trust what's going on," said New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt. "The fact (Alberta Environment) hasn't reported publicly is extremely concerning." On Monday, The Canadian Press reported on analysis of coal mine contamination in the Gregg and McLeod Rivers and Luscar Creek near Jasper, Alta., dating back to the 1990s. It found toxic levels of selenium many times over the amount considered safe for aquatic life. The Gregg and Luscar Creek mines closed in the early 2000s. Selenium levels from both declined, at best, only gradually over more than 15 years of remediation. In the case of the Cheviot mine on the McLeod River, levels gradually grew between 2005 and 2017. The operation closed last June. The data also shows the provincial government knew about the levels for at least 15 years and did not report anything after 2006. The information was available in raw form, but Schmidt said it isn't enough to simply collect information. "There are numbers and then there are the numbers that the stories tell. That's the piece that's missing." The New Democrats were in power for four of those years. Schmidt said sitting on the information is worse now because Alberta is going through a wrenching debate over the present government's plans to expand the industry by opening up the Rocky Mountains to open-pit, mountaintop coal mines -- an option that did not exist under the NDP. "This data's relevance is more important now," he said. Alberta Environment has pointed out that the raw data has always been public. Spokesman John Muir promised the province would soon release its own report on water downstream of coal mines. Lack of action shows that monitoring often promised by industry and government as new projects are considered isn't enough, said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "On those rivers we're seeing that monitoring hasn't been enough to actually control selenium. We just continue to promise monitoring. We didn't see action to bring those selenium numbers down." A 2006 provincial report found that selenium was already harming fish. As well, a 2005 published study co-authored by provincial scientists found rainbow trout were suffering facial and skeletal deformities from selenium. The province has recently sold about 1.4 million hectares of coal exploration leases. Hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of new roads have already been permitted on previously unmined mountainsides. One new coal mine, Benga Mining's Grassy Mountain project in the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta, is before a joint federal-provincial review. The information on the old coal mines shows what's at issue for new ones, said Morrison. "Those stakes are really high. (Selenium release) has been happening other places and they have not been able to get the selenium under control." Benga says a new method should allow the mine to treat 99 per cent of its selenium. As well, the mine has been designed to minimize contact between water and selenium-bearing rocks, the company says. Morrison said that treatment is still unproven. She said if its efficiency falls to even 90 per cent, selenium levels in nearby streams will cross thresholds safe for aquatic life. Morrison said her group produced expert testimony at the Benga hearings suggesting the company doesn't have a convincing long-term plan for controlling selenium long into the future. "We have not seen that technology work at the scale that we'll need it to or with the amount of selenium we're likely to see." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 -- Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is being used by the West to try to destabilise Russia, a prominent hardliner and ally of President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, saying he must be held to account for repeatedly breaking the law. Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days last week after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning. Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council, called for Navalny to face the full force of the law in comments that offered a glimpse into the mood inside Russia's security establishment after tens of thousands of Navalny's supporters protested against his jailing on Saturday.
The European Union will seek to create a bio-defence preparedness programme in the form of a public-private partnership, to prepare against the next big health crisis, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said. Von der Leyen said the programme would seek to prepare the EU before the next pandemic hits by seeking to discover and prepare for known and emerging pathogens, and then developing and manufacturing vaccines at scale to respond to them. The scheme would secure long-term and predictable funding and bring together cutting-edge tech-companies and blue-chip manufacturers, as well as regulators such as the European Medicines Agencies or the European Commission.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 26, 2021. There are 753,011 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 753,011 confirmed cases (62,447 active, 671,326 resolved, 19,238 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,630 new cases Monday from 35,801 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. The rate of active cases is 166.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 37,939 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,420. There were 144 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,118 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 160. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 51.18 per 100,000 people. There have been 17,086,340 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 398 confirmed cases (eight active, 386 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Monday from 186 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 two 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 78,319 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Monday from 226 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 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 two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 88,633 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,571 confirmed cases (15 active, 1,491 resolved, 65 deaths). There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 1.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,424 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,151 confirmed cases (349 active, 788 resolved, 14 deaths). There were 27 new cases Monday from 1,071 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 44.93 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 178 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 25. There was one new reported death Monday. 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 1.8 per 100,000 people. There have been 136,180 tests completed. _ Quebec: 254,836 confirmed cases (16,428 active, 228,887 resolved, 9,521 deaths). There were 1,203 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 193.61 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,488 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,498. There were 43 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 434 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 62. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.73 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 112.21 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,695,925 tests completed. _ Ontario: 256,960 confirmed cases (23,620 active, 227,494 resolved, 5,846 deaths). There were 1,958 new cases Monday from 33,192 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 162.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16,596 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,371. There were 43 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 413 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 59. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.41 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 40.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,978,001 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 28,810 confirmed cases (3,542 active, 24,464 resolved, 804 deaths). There were 113 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 258.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,181 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 169. There were five new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 31 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.32 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.71 per 100,000 people. There have been 448,638 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 22,416 confirmed cases (3,272 active, 18,890 resolved, 254 deaths). There were 239 new cases Monday from 992 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 24 per cent. The rate of active cases is 278.6 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,854 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 265. There was one new reported death Monday. 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 0.43 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.63 per 100,000 people. There have been 330,694 tests completed. _ Alberta: 121,535 confirmed cases (9,339 active, 110,622 resolved, 1,574 deaths). There were 742 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 213.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,224 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 603. There were 25 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 127 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,061,844 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 64,828 confirmed cases (5,843 active, 57,831 resolved, 1,154 deaths). There were 346 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 115.22 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,381 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 483. There were 26 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 76 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 22.76 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,044,931 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Monday from 13 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 6,229 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 31 confirmed cases (seven active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 15.62 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 zero per 100,000 people. There have been 9,064 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 282 confirmed cases (17 active, 264 resolved, one deaths). There were two new cases Monday from 121 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 43.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,382 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
With shops boarded up and riot police out in force, it was relatively calm in Dutch cities on Tuesday night after three days of violence during which nearly 500 people were detained. In several cities, including the capital Amsterdam, some businesses closed early and emergency ordinances were in place to give law enforcement greater powers to respond to the rioting, which was prompted by a nighttime curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday when the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, rowdy crowds of youths gathered in Amsterdam and Hilversum, but were broken up without incident.
OTTAWA — In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered. Socio-economic and health inequities have made some people more vulnerable COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego. "The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions," Strathdee said. In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people. Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services. "In my sister and mother's region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it's very, very difficult to get a doctor," she said. "What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn't going to be the last pandemic we see." University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age. "Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID," she said. She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death. Canada's division of health-care responsibilities is inefficient The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He's the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada's COVID-19 therapeutics task force. For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication. He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes. "Quebec is screaming they want money but they're refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care," he said. He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic. "There should be a time when it's all hands on deck and we don't play games," he said. "That didn't happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying." Centralized decision-making in health care stifles innovation Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can't be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic. "During a new disease like a pandemic, when we're learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto," he said. He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely. "The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold." Sheppard said there's no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs. "The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we're doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything ... therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we're doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority," he said. "That's the mentality, and it's just killed innovation in the health-care setting." Lack of coordination stymied research The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said François Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke. He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination. "There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped," he said. He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials. "This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies." Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country's national health system. "It's not something that happens in a silo. It's part of the (National Health Service)," he said. "This led them to build the infrastructure ... And then there's an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly." He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada. "This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of 'us' — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination." Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate. "The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system," he said. Good messaging and communication matter Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines. "We need for people to understand that science and medicine don't have all the answers all the time, that we're learning just like everybody else," she said. Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that's what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission. She said government officials should be trained in health literacy. John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons. "We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence," he said. Strathdee said it's critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by "making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course." She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk. She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS. "We have to make sure that we don't unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we've learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020 ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
It's not the SHIELD you're probably thinking of — the one with the super-spies and flying battleships from Marvel comics and movies. In fact, the SHIELD at the centre of the upcoming evolution of NORAD — the six-decade-old North American defence pact — shares nothing with its fictional counterpart but the acronym. But those trying to sell pandemic-weary, deficit-swamped governments on the proposed Strategic Homeland Integrated Ecosystem for Layered Defense may be hoping for a little reflected glamour for their multi-billion-dollar idea. The current Liberal government committed to the renewal of NORAD early on; it was the top item in the first meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and now-former U.S. president Donald Trump in 2017. The proposal now presents a host of thorny political and financial problems for Canada. The SHIELD concept is not your grandfather's version of NORAD — which was simply a chain of radar stations across the North primed to warn of approaching Russian bombers and missiles. A NORAD for now The new strategy was first sketched out last fall in a paper written for the Wilson Center's Canada Institute by the former U.S. NORAD commander, retired general Terrence O'Shaughnessy, and U.S. Air Force Brig.-Gen. Peter Fesler, the current deputy director of operations at the U.S. air defence headquarters. Fesler and O'Shaughnessy argued that, faced with a variety of new and improved weapons — everything from hypersonic glide vehicles to next-generation cruise missiles — North America needs a defence surveillance system that knits together space, air and land-based surveillance in real time. Such a system "pools this data and fuses it into a common operational picture," said the paper, published last September. "Then, using the latest advances in machine learning and data analysis, it scans the data for patterns that are not visible to human eyes, helping decision-makers understand adversary potential courses of action before they are executed." What they're talking about is predictive analysis and artificial intelligence. The SHIELD concept envisions a "global sensing grid" that can sniff out threats as they develop by drawing on data from "traditional and nontraditional sources," such as civilian air traffic control grids. To an extent, the SHIELD concept is being put to work already by NORAD through operational testing of a cloud-based data fusion system called Project Pathfinder. A hard sell The U.S. Air Force signed off on the Pathfinder prototype and has ordered a production model through an $8 million US contract, according to Air Force Magazine. The NORAD refurbishment was never costed in the federal government's 2017 defence policy and it presents a host of challenges and tough decisions for the Liberal government now, ranging from the fiscal to the political to the military. The arrival of the Biden administration in Washington seems to have made government-to-government negotiations more politically palatable in Ottawa. Many in Canada's defence community were convinced there was little appetite among federal officials to haggle with Trump over NORAD after the bruising experience of re-negotiating the NAFTA trade deal. One of the first challenges for government officials will be to present the NORAD renewal project to a Canadian public and political establishment overwhelmed by the pandemic, said one defence expert. An economic argument "If you try to quickly sell this in the context of 'the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming,' that is politically problematic, I think, particularly for this government," said James Fergusson, deputy director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. Framing it in economic terms — highlighting the opportunities for innovation and high-tech jobs — likely would help, he said, but the overall cost will be an issue given the damage done to the economy and government balance sheets by the pandemic. Estimates of the cost of NORAD's renewal range between $11 billion and $15 billion. Whatever it ends up costing, Canadian taxpayers would be on the hook for 40 per cent of the total. The price tag is "the elephant in the room," said Fergusson, adding that he's skeptical about the assurances he's heard from senior government officials that the money for NORAD will be in addition to already-promised defence policy funding. Belt-tightening and BMD He said he attended a conference in Ottawa a year ago that heard a senior Department of National Defence (DND) official state that the department had "been promised we're going to get extra money for NORAD ..." "No, you're not," Fergusson added. He said he believes it's more likely that DND will be asked to cover Canada's NORAD contribution within its existing budget — forcing the department to make cuts elsewhere. The NORAD project also promises to drag a reluctant federal government back into a political debate over ballistic missile defence (BMD). The recent Liberal defence policy reaffirmed the 2005 decision by Paul Martin's government to remain on the sidelines of any continental BMD effort, despite pleas from both the Senate and House of Commons defence committees to reconsider joining. BMD is a non-starter for New Democrats and for some experts in the defence community who argue that missile defence merely contributes to the arms race. Fergusson said recent advances in technology and military doctrine may force the government's hand. "The United States is moving very quickly to integrate air and missile defence into single units, rather than have them separated," he said. "So that has big implications for us. We can't simply do air defence without having to work with or having to do missile defence." And embedded in the concept of a "global sensing grid" is the expectation that threats — once identified — would be taken out. Instead of focusing on the missiles — the "arrows," to use NORAD parlance — the expectation is that a defensive network would focus its response on the "archers," or the launch platforms. Russian bombers circling far outside of North American airspace, for example, would be targeted under the SHIELD strategy. "That will be unpalatable to the Canadian government," said Fergusson, pointing out that the Canadian military doesn't have the long-range capability to conduct those kinds of defensive operations. It's a conversation Canada can't avoid for much longer, he said, because much of the existing North Warning System reaches the end of its operational life by 2024. "The United States cannot defend itself without Canada and we can't defend ourselves without the United States."
The city of Saint John is hoping to jump-start its economy by offering an hour of free on-street parking to motivate people to shop local. David Dobbelsteyn, Saint John's manager of population growth, presented the parking subsidy plan to city council Monday evening. Dobbelsteyn said loss of tourism because of COVID-19, and the regular winter pedestrian decline, caused foot traffic to decrease by 50 per cent, which in turn has had a big impact on local businesses. "Think about if you're a restaurant and you're used to having a lot of folks for lunch, and local businesses are having their staff work remotely, which is a safe thing to do, but it means that those businesses are struggling even more," he said. Councillors voted unanimously to approve a proposal to spend up to $35,000 to subsidize the first-hour of parking until the end of March. The approval coincided with the province's decision to return Saint John to the orange phase at midnight Tuesday night. The Saint John has been in the more restrictive red phase for the past week. The pilot will be run through the HotSpot parking app, which will count the first hour for free automatically. Dobbelsteyn said he hopes that more people will use HotSpot, which will help people find parking easier and avoid tickets. "We anticipate approximately $30,000 will be returned to the city as parking revenue," he said. Uptown Saint John is in charge of running and marketing the program. Nancy Tissington, the executive director of Uptown Saint John, said the organization has run a similar program after a hard-hitting snowstorm in 2015, and on Black Friday and Valentine's Day. She said during all those days, the app has shown an uptick in people using it. "There has been quite a struggle here," she said. "And January, February and March is typically a hard time of the year. It's even more so now. We're pretty excited about the fact that orange is coming back." She said uptown Saint John can have this program up and running in five to seven days. The parking program will be financed through the Municipal Economic and Community Recovery Program, which was set up as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.