FFL Flash Alert - Ryan Tannehill vs Justin Herbert: which QB is the better play in Week 16?
FFL Flash Alert - Ryan Tannehill vs Justin Herbert: which QB is the better play in Week 16?
Law enforcement officers far outnumbered protesters at state capitol grounds on Sunday, as few Trump supporters who believe the president's false claim that he won the 2020 election turned out for what authorities feared could be violent demonstrations. More than a dozen states activated National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings following an FBI warning of armed demonstrations, with right-wing extremists emboldened by the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Vaccines from the West, Russia or China? Or none at all? That dilemma faces nations in southeastern Europe, where coronavirus vaccination campaigns are off to a slow start — overshadowed by heated political debates and conspiracy theories. In countries like the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria, vaccine skeptics have included former presidents and even some doctors. Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic was among those who said he did not want to be forced to get inoculated. False beliefs that the coronavirus is a hoax or that vaccines would inject microchips into people have spread in the countries that were formerly under harsh Communist rule. Those who once routinely underwent mass inoculations are deeply split over whether to get the vaccines at all. “There is a direct link between support for conspiracy theories and skepticism toward vaccination,” a recent Balkan study warned. “A majority across the region does not plan to take the vaccine, a ratio considerably lower than elsewhere in Europe, where a majority favours taking the vaccine.” Only about 200,000 people applied for the vaccine in Serbia, a country of 7 million, in the days after authorities opened the procedure. By contrast, 1 million Serbians signed up for 100 euros ($120) on the first day the government offered the pandemic aid. Hoping to encourage vaccinations, Serbian officials have gotten their shots on TV. Yet they themselves have been split over whether to get the Western-made Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Russia’s Sputnik V, more divisions in a country that is formally seeking European Union membership but where many favour closer ties with Moscow. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday greeted a shipment of 1 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, saying he will receive a shot to show that it is safe. “Serbs prefer the Russian vaccine,” read a recent headline of the Informer, a pro-government tabloid, as officials announced that 38% of those who have applied to take the shots favour the Russian vaccine, while 31% want the Pfizer-BioNTech version — a rough division among pro-Russians and pro-Westerners in Serbia. In neighbouring Bosnia, a war-torn country that remains ethnically divided among Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats, politics also are a factor, as the Serb-run half appeared set to opt for the Russian vaccine, while the Bosniak-Croat part likely will turn to the Western ones. Sasa Milovanovic, a 57-year-old real estate agent from Belgrade, sees all vaccines as part of the “global manipulation” of the pandemic. “People are locked up, they have no lives any longer and live in a state of hysteria and fear,” he said. Djokovic has said he was against being forced to take a coronavirus vaccine in order to travel and compete but was keeping his mind open. The top-ranked tennis player and his wife tested positive in June after a series of exhibition matches with zero social distancing that he organized in the Balkans. They and their foundation have donated 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for hospitals in Serbia. Serbian Health Ministry official Mirsad Djerlek has described the vaccine response as “satisfactory,” but cautioned on the state-run RTS broadcaster that “people in rural areas usually believe in conspiracy theories, and that is why we should talk to them and explain that the vaccine is the only way out in this situation.” A study by the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, published before the regional vaccination campaign started in December, concluded that virus conspiracy theories are believed by nearly 80% of citizens of the Western Balkan countries striving to join the EU. About half of them will refuse to get vaccinated, it said. Baseless theories allege the virus isn’t real or that it’s a bioweapon created by the U.S. or its adversaries. Another popular falsehood holds that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is using COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips in the planet's 7 billion people. A low level of information about the virus and vaccines, distrust in governments and repeated assertions by authorities that their countries are besieged by foreigners help explain the high prevalence of such beliefs, according to the Balkans think-tank . Similar trends have been seen even in some eastern European Union countries. In Bulgaria, widespread conspiracy theories hampered past efforts to deal with a measles outbreak. Surveys there suggested distrust of vaccines remains high even as coronavirus cases keep rising. A recent Gallup International poll found that 30% of respondents want to get vaccinated, 46% will refuse and 24% are undecided. Bulgarian doctors have tried to change attitudes. Dr. Stefan Konstantinov, a former health minister, joked that people should be told neighbouring Greece would close resorts to tourists who don't get vaccinated, because “this would guarantee that some 70% of the population would rush to get a jab.” In the Czech Republic, where surveys show some 40% reject vaccination, protesters at a big rally against government virus restrictions in Prague demanded that vaccinations not be mandatory. Former President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce critic of the government's pandemic response, told the crowd that vaccines are not a solution. “They say that everything will be solved by a miracle vaccine,” said the 79-year-old Klaus, who insists that people should get exposed to the virus to gain immunity, which experts reject. “We have to say loud and clear that there’s no such a thing. … I am not going to get vaccinated.” Populist authorities in Hungary have taken a hard line against virus misinformation, but rejection of vaccines is still projected at about 30%. Parliament passed emergency powers in March that allows authorities to prosecute anyone deemed to be “inhibiting the successful defence” against the virus, including “fearmongering” or spreading false news. At least two people who criticized the government's response to the pandemic on social media were arrested, but neither was formally charged. Romanian Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu said he is relying on family doctors to “inform, schedule and monitor people after the vaccine” and that his ministry will offer bonuses to medical workers based on the number of people they get onboard. Asked if such incentives would fuel anti-vaccination propaganda, Voiculescu said: “I am interested more by the doctors’ view on the matter than I am about the anti-vaxxers.” Dr. Ivica Jeremic, who has worked with virus patients in Serbia since March and tested positive himself in November, hopes vaccination programs will gain speed once people overcome their fear of the unknown. "People will realize the vaccine is the only way to return to normal life,” he said. ___ Associated Press writers Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria; Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic; Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary; and Vadim Ghirda in Bucharest, Romania, contributed. —- Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Dusan Stojanovic And Jovana Gec, The Associated Press
OTTAWA, Ill. — For a man who has devoted his life to promoting kindness, a diagnosis of advanced-stage cancer in his pancreas and liver might seem the unkindest cut of all. But Rabbi Reuven Bulka, often dubbed "Canada's rabbi," says he has no complaints. "In terms of having complaints to God or complaints that life isn't giving me a fair shake, that doesn't enter my mind," the 76-year-old beloved spiritual leader in Ottawa's Jewish community said in a telephone interview from New York City, where he has gone to be with his five children. "I really feel blessed in the life that I've lived." Over almost 50 years as rabbi and now rabbi emeritus at Ottawa's Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Bulka has spent countless hours at the bedside of dying people and consoling grieving family members. It's an experience he feels has prepared him to face his own mortality. "When you see it happening all around you, you know that nothing is forever." Indeed, Bulka thinks it's beneficial to embrace that reality early on in life because it shifts your focus from the pursuit of pleasure to thinking seriously about the meaning of life and how to make the most of whatever time you have. "It doesn't mean that we can't enjoy life but we shouldn't be obsessed with the pleasures without being totally also focused on the meaning and doing things which are important that actually enhance the human condition, that actually improve people's lives and have a lasting impact," he says. "However long we're destined to live, when we say goodbye, that's an indelible part of one's resume. Nobody really cares whether you've golfed 1,000 rounds or 1,500 rounds … It's how you impact others that really defines who you are." Bulka has spent nearly his entire life trying to improve the human condition, starting at 16 when he took over rabbinical duties at his father's New York synagogue after his father suffered a serious heart attack. He has championed causes like organ and blood donation, co-founded Kindness Week in Ottawa and spearheaded many events aimed at promoting tolerance and understanding among people of different faiths. He has imparted his wisdom in dozens of books, a weekly newspaper column and a weekly radio phone-in show. Ottawa has given him the key to the city and named Rabbi Bulka Kindness Park in his honour. He's also been awarded the Order of Canada. "He's really been a healer when there's been religious rifts in the city and he's respected by all faiths and people of no faith at all," says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. "He's just been a stalwart of our community for so, so long and we can do nothing now but pray for a miracle." On Monday, Congregation Machzikei Hadas will host a virtual "worldwide prayer rally" for Rabbi Bulka. "In Ottawa, we like to claim him as our own but certainly he's everybody's rabbi," says Rabbi Idan Scher, one of Bulka's successors at the synagogue. "The moniker Canada's rabbi … couldn't be more true." Indeed, Scher adds: "The people that he's touched live all over the world." Within a day of setting up a website last week (aprayerforrabbibulka.ca), Scher says about 2,000 people had registered to take part in the online rally. Former prime minister Stephen Harper and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty are among the dignitaries scheduled to speak at the event. Bulka is probably best known to Canadians outside the capital from the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial — a role he modestly suggests was given to him some 30 years ago because the government wanted to engage a local rabbi "on the cheap" rather than bring one in from Montreal. Watson marvels that Bulka delivers his Remembrance Day sermons without referring to notes, never repeating the same message twice and always managing to capture a countrywide audience with "his words, his wisdom, his humour." Former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, now Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, says Bulka has also been a national leader in "breaking down hatred and building greater religious understanding and embracing multiracialism and multi-faith work." He was among the first, Rae recalls, to reach out to Muslim groups when they faced a backlash following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey, pastor at Ottawa's Parkdale United Church, recalls working with Bulka to organize a multi-faith blood donor drive in response to a spate of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic graffiti spray-painted on houses of worship in Ottawa in 2016. "We were trying to make a statement that we basically support each other as human beings at the very level of blood," he says. Bulka practices what he preaches, says Andrew Bennett, director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute and former ambassador for religious freedom during the Harper government. "He is certainly a kind man, he really lives by that. But he lives it in a way that's not sort of superficial kindness, it's not sort of a Walmart-greeter kindness. It comes from a very deep place." Christians and Jews alike believe that human beings "bear the image and likeness of God," adds Bennett, a deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. "And it's very easy for me to recognize that image and likeness in Rabbi Bulka." Bulka, like any human, says he thinks about things he should have or could have done. "I would say a person who lives a life without regrets is probably living in La-La land," he says. Still, he's grateful for everyone's "showing of appreciation and all their good wishes." "We'll do our best. With God's help, hopefully we'll be able to live a little bit longer." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $5 million jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw. However, the draw's guaranteed $1 million prize went to a ticket holder in Ontario. The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Jan. 20 will be approximately $6 million. The Canadian Press
Susan Walsh isn't a documentarian nor an experienced renovator of historic homes, but in the last few months she has become both — and if her Facebook posts are a testament, she's pretty darn good at them. Walsh and her husband own and run a mixed farm of beef cattle, poultry and grains in Burnt Point, P.E.I., near Georgetown. She's also a part-time librarian. When their long-time neighbour's farm property became available for sale this summer, they decided to buy it, including the more than 120-year-old house. "Originally, we didn't even know what we would do — keep the land and then resell the house? I took a walk through its extensive grounds and the house itself, just an old house, great bones and great atmosphere and I went, 'No, I think we need to keep this house,'" Walsh said. It's called the Mair homestead, and was last owned by Colin (Collie) Mair, who died this past June at age 87. He'd grown up in the home with his six brothers and sisters. Many Mair descendants are still living, and Walsh has invited them and anyone else who is interested to watch and weigh in on renovations as she documents them on a Facebook page, Mair Homestead. My cousins and I are very happy to see the house we spent so much time in as children being restored by loving hands. — Jayne Ings "There was an older house on the farm that burned, this house was built around 1890," said descendant Jayne Ings, whose mother Connie grew up in the house. "James and Margaret Allen Mair were the first Mairs on the farm. She was from Boughton Island. Their son George married my grandmother, Doris Hearn, who emigrated from England in 1925," Ings said. Their children were Connie, Allen, George Keith and Anna Rosemary (George and Anna were nicknamed Jack and Jill because they were twins), Charles (Tim), and Colin. Doris Mair died in 2003. 'A very personal thing' Walsh is happy to have an ongoing conversation with the Mair descendants, she said. "It's really awesome, it just really makes the house — it brings it back to life," Walsh said. "That was a big thing right from the beginning, when we decided to purchase the house and the land, was to speak to the extended family just to make sure that they were OK that we were going to do some work, out of simple respect ... it was a very personal thing for me." Walsh grew up in neighbouring Nova Scotia and her parents only recently decided to sell the farm that had been in her family for 170 years, so she said she has a tender spot for historic family homes. "It was almost like losing one special old home and gaining another," Walsh said. "We just saw the potential in it." Walsh said it's important to her to respect and honour what the house stood for and the Mair family "who loved that house for over 100 years." While updating things like wiring, plumbing and insulation, Walsh said they are trying to keep the renovation authentic in look and spirit, keeping "the heart and the spirit of the house intact." 'I think it's wonderful' Ings has fond memories of visiting the Mair homestead and her grandparents George and Doris over the years. "My cousins and I are very happy to see the house we spent so much time in as children being restored by loving hands. We can also go visit!" Ings said, adding the Walsh family has a long history of farming and friendship with the Mair family, as both spent several generations there. I've had lots of people follow along and lots of people with really good ideas! — Susan Walsh Ings follows the renovations on Facebook, commenting on Walsh's posts about people whose names turn up written on layers of old wallpaper or on handwritten letters found in the walls. "I think it's wonderful," Ings said of the ability to see and comment on the renovations. 'I'm all about the sharing' The sale to the Walshes went through in September, and they began renovations shortly thereafter. With the help of a couple of hired hands and helpful friends along the way, Walsh has been actively tackling the renovation herself, including swinging a sledge hammer and putting on a proper mask for removing fibreglass insulation mixed with decades of dust. What else would you expect from a woman who climbed partway up Mt. Everest in Nepal a couple of years ago? "I just had a maul and crowbar and started gutting it," she said. "We've just kind of been winging it." Walsh decided to document the home's journey on Facebook, sharing with friends and strangers far and wide — New Zealand, the U.S. and Europe, as well as all over Canada — and also as a sort of personal journal of the work and the transformation, she said. "I know a lot of people enjoy that kind of thing — I thought, why not share this journey?" she said. "I've had lots of people follow along and lots of people with really good ideas! "It's just made it lots of fun, and I'm all about the sharing." With people unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, connections like this are even more important, Walsh said. Stripping 8 layers of wallpaper Walsh said she also wants to show that saving an old house isn't that difficult. One man from the U.S. who used to come to visit the area every summer and was friends with Collie Mair has joined in the page's discussion. He used to take Mair for drives, and said Mair was dismayed when he'd see old Island homesteads falling to ruin, and said he hoped that never happened to his house. Walsh said if she hadn't started the page, she wouldn't have known that. So far, they've trimmed hundreds of trees on the property to enhance the sightline to the Northumberland Strait and hung an outdoor swing. The house's classic exterior white clapboard and black shutters will remain largely the same for now, Walsh said. Inside the house, most rooms have been demolished to the studs, wallpaper stripped and plaster and lath (thin wood strips that held plaster in place) removed, then spray-foam insulated and drywalled. Ceilings and floors have been removed, and plywood sub-floor laid. A wall was removed in the kitchen to expand it, and upstairs three small bedrooms have become two larger ones, with ceilings removed to allow light from attractive original third-floor windows. Beams that once supported the attic are now exposed for a rustic touch in the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom. The one piece of furniture that remained in the house, a vintage pump organ, has pride of place in the front formal parlour where the Mairs would have entertained the local minister or ladies' groups. With its wooden mantelpiece, the room will likely become a quiet library, Walsh said. They are saving all of the hand-hewn beams that were removed from the house, as well as the laths — Walsh said they plan to repurpose them into furniture and other creations. They've also saved bits of patterned linoleum flooring, and wallpaper — eight layers in one room — and plan to frame some of the pretty, historic pieces. 'Just to show respect' During demolition, Walsh and her crew have discovered a treasure trove of P.E.I. history in the walls and hidden under floorboards. She has documented the many finds, including coins dating back more than 100 years, silver spoons, handwritten letters, cigarette packages, pieces of furniture, magazines and many old glass bottles. The biggest thing is just to be very present in the moment with a project like that — you can't look at the big picture. — Susan Walsh There was even a book from 1916 that in its dedication spelled the name Miar rather than Mair, which a descendant commented on Facebook may have been the original spelling back then. Walsh has placed some of the finds on the parlour mantel, along with offerings of fresh flowers and candy to honour the Mair ancestors. "I know some people think that's a bunch of hogwash, but for me it was just a nice thing to be able to do," she said. "Just to show respect." 'Super overwhelming' Walsh said she is not sure what exactly they plan to do with the house and grounds, which include many large shade trees, a view of the Northumberland Strait, and a large barn from the 1940s which they'd also love to restore someday. They might rent it out as a venue for events like weddings, or keep it in their family— they have three children — for when guests come to visit. Walsh said she and her husband might move into it too. They're planning for the renovations to be complete in the spring or summer, but she's not rushing anything. "For me the biggest thing is just to be very present in the moment with a project like that — you can't look at the big picture, because it becomes super overwhelming," Walsh said. She said she considers one project at a time, like painting a room, and tries to enjoy it. More from CBC P.E.I.
The debate about the U.S. Electoral College pits those who think the president should be chosen via popular vote versus those who believe the interests of small and large states must be balanced.
NAIROBI, Kenya — From “emaciated” refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens the survivors of more than two months of fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The first humanitarian workers to arrive after pleading with the Ethiopian government for access describe weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers. Shops were looted or depleted weeks ago. A local official told a Jan. 1 crisis meeting of government and aid workers that hungry people had asked for “a single biscuit.” More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region's entire population, need emergency food, participants say. At their next meeting on Jan. 8, a Tigray administrator warned that without aid, “hundreds of thousands might starve to death” and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press. “There is an extreme urgent need — I don’t know what more words in English to use — to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response because the population is dying every day as we speak,” Mari Carmen Vinoles, head of the emergency unit for Doctors Without Borders, told the AP. But pockets of fighting, resistance from some officials and sheer destruction stand in the way of a massive food delivery effort. To send 15-kilogram (33-pound) rations to 4.5 million people would require more than 2,000 trucks, the meeting's minutes said, while some local responders are reduced to getting around on foot. The spectre of hunger is sensitive in Ethiopia, which transformed into one of the world's fastest-growing economies in the decades since images of starvation there in the 1980s led to a global outcry. Drought, conflict and government denial contributed to the famine, which swept through Tigray and killed an estimated 1 million people. The largely agricultural Tigray region of about 5 million people already had a food security problem amid a locust outbreak when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Nov. 4 announced fighting between his forces and those of the defiant regional government. Tigray leaders dominated Ethiopia for almost three decades but were sidelined after Abiy introduced reforms that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. More than 50,000 have fled into Sudan, where one doctor has said newer arrivals show signs of starvation. Others shelter in rugged terrain. A woman who recently left Tigray described sleeping in caves with people who brought cattle, goats and the grain they had managed to harvest. “It is a daily reality to hear people dying with the fighting consequences, lack of food,” a letter by the Catholic bishop of Adigrat said this month. Hospitals and other health centres, crucial in treating malnutrition, have been destroyed. In markets, food is “not available or extremely limited,” the United Nations says. Though Ethiopia's prime minister declared victory in late November, its military and allied fighters remain active amid the presence of troops from neighbouring Eritrea, a bitter enemy of the now-fugitive officials who once led the region. Fear keeps many people from venturing out. Others flee. Tigray’s new officials say more than 2 million people have been displaced, a number the U.S. government’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance calls “staggering.” The U.N. says the number of people reached with aid is “extremely low.” A senior Ethiopian government official, Redwan Hussein, did not respond to a request for comment on Tigray colleagues warning of starvation. In the northern Shire area near Eritrea, which has seen some of the worst fighting, up to 10% of the children whose arms were measured met the diagnostic criteria for severe acute malnutrition, with scores of children affected, a U.N. source said. Sharing the concern of many humanitarian workers about jeopardizing access, the source spoke on condition of anonymity. Near Shire town are camps housing nearly 100,000 refugees who have fled over the years from Eritrea. Some who have walked into town "are emaciated, begging for aid that is not available,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Thursday. Food has been a target. Analyzing satellite imagery of the Shire area, a U.K.-based research group found two warehouse-style structures in the U.N. World Food Program compound at one refugee camp had been “very specifically destroyed.” The DX Open Network could not tell by whom. It reported a new attack Saturday. It's challenging to verify events in Tigray as communications links remain poor and almost no journalists are allowed. In the towns of Adigrat, Adwa and Axum, “the level of civilian casualties is extremely high in the places we have been able to access,” the Doctors Without Borders emergency official Vinoles said. She cited the fighting and lack of health care. Hunger is “very concerning," she said, and even water is scarce: Just two of 21 wells still work in Adigrat, a city of more than 140,000, forcing many people to drink from the river. With sanitation suffering, disease follows. “You go 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the city and it’s a complete disaster,” with no food, Vinoles said. Humanitarian workers struggle to gauge the extent of need. “Not being able to travel off main highways, it always poses the question of what’s happening with people still off-limits,” said Panos Navrozidis, Action Against Hunger’s director in Ethiopia. Before the conflict, Ethiopia’s national disaster management body classified some Tigray woredas, or administrative areas, as priority one hotspots for food insecurity. If some already had high malnutrition numbers, “two-and-a-half months into the crisis, it’s a safe assumption that thousands of children and mothers are in immediate need," Navrozidis said. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, funded and managed by the U.S., says parts of central and eastern Tigray are likely in Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine. The next few months are critical, John Shumlansky, the Catholic Relief Services representative in Ethiopia, said. His group so far has given up to 70,000 people in Tigray a three-month food supply, he said. Asked whether combatants use hunger as a weapon, one concern among aid workers, Shumlansky dismissed it by Ethiopian defence forces and police. With others, he didn’t know. “I don’t think they have food either, though,” he said. Cara Anna, The Associated Press
The demonstrations in Siliana and other cities began after a video posted on social media showed a police officer shouting and pushing a shepherd whose sheep entered the local government headquarters.View on euronews
When Masjid Toronto first agreed to host seminars on addiction back in 2015, organizers weren't sure anyone would show up. "When we started off, there was skepticism," said Mohsin Syed, then the assistant manager of the downtown Toronto mosque. In fact, the subject was considered so delicate that participants were not told what the specific topic being discussed would be. To Syed's surprise, as the seminar series continued, the number of attendees grew and grew. In fact, "we were ... so packed in that basement that our air conditioning was not enough," he told CBC Toronto. Masjid Toronto was one of nine GTA mosques that hosted the seminar series, which aimed to tackle misconceptions and reduce stigma around addiction in Muslim communities. "After each seminar, we would get a lineup of people asking for resources, or discussing their cousin, their family, their friends," said Dr. Ahmed Hassan. Hassan, an addiction psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, spearheaded the events and then wrote about them in a study published this month in the Community Mental Health Journal. He lists several reasons why stigma around addiction can be prevalent in Muslim communities, including belief that addiction is sinful and shameful. "We wanted to address the stigma through this psycho-educational program," said Hassan of the 90-minute sessions. "We would dig deep in the content, and integrate Islamic teachings." For Syed at Masjid Toronto, that integration of a religious lens was critical. "Because these acts are already a sin — people are very afraid to talk about it," he explained. By having religious leaders participate in the seminars, Syed said, it "created a sense of comfort for the community. This is not just coming from a medical doctor who wants to do a diagnosis." Study hopes to inspire more outreach Religious teaching "agrees with science. And then [participants] see it more as a disease rather than a sin," said Hassan. According to his study, the approach was successful, resulting in a "significant reduction" of stigma. Post-seminar, nearly half of participants said they were interested in learning more about addiction science, and two-thirds felt more motivated to help family and friends dealing with substance-use disorder. Hassan hopes the study could open the door to more outreach inside of mosques, potentially tackling an even wider range of topics. "Trauma, PTSD ... I don't think [those issues] have been openly discussed in the community," said Hassan.
The old saying holds that only fools and the dead never change their minds. Health Minister Christian Dubé is neither of those things. Eighteen days ago, at a news conference about Quebec's COVID-19 vaccination plan, Dubé insisted his hands were tied by Pfizer's requirements that second doses of the two-dose protocol be held back to observe the prescribed 21-day interval between shots. A course correction followed a few days later and this week, he announced second doses would be delayed up to 90 days. "This is the best strategy," he said, citing the urgency of the situation. On Dec. 29, Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda sat next to Dubé at a news conference and alluded to the possibility that Pfizer could reduce its supply to Quebec if the province didn't follow the recommendations, a prospect since echoed by federal officials. Dubé this week: "We're not asking permission." The reversal was sudden, it also represents an unusually aggressive move by a government whose response to the pandemic has been typefied by cautious decision-making. Going it largely alone on delaying doses for months suggests, above all else, that the Legault government is pushing its entire stack of chips onto the square marked "vaccines." The decision is based on the advice of experts from the province's vaccine committee, the Comité sur l'immunisation du Québec, which studied clinical evidence. And it runs counter to guidelines from Pfizer and the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations. A high-stakes gamble The contrast with other major decisions made since the turn of the year is informative. In the same week Dubé announced his department was going full bore on vaccination, it also announced an easing of restrictions on rapid testing. And, last week, the province highlighted the portion of an expert panel's report on air purifiers and filters in schools that confirmed the devices won't interrupt the main causes of disease transmission — mainly, proximity of students — rather than the part indicating they help lower the number of viral particles in the air. Take, as well, the provincial curfew that went into effect a week ago, which in effect relaxes a series of previously existing measures and does little to tackle what provincial statistics indicate are a key venue for transmission: workplaces, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sector. The rationale has been that shutting down those industries on a large scale could imperil supply of essential goods. It's true there are few easy policy choices in the middle of a raging pandemic. Why the unusual forcefulness and speedy action on vaccines, then? Perhaps because there is no discernible Plan B. Still more that could be done Many experts believe the new restrictions that went into place last Saturday won't be enough — and argue more needs to be done in a number of areas including testing and contact tracing, stronger measures in schools and in the many workplaces that remain open. The headline grabber of early 2021 is the curfew that requires people to stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Non-essential retailers, as well as non-essential offices, restaurants, bars and gyms, were ordered to remain closed, while manufacturing and construction sectors — both major sources of new outbreaks — were allowed to stay open, unhindered. "If the manufacturing industry is accounting for ongoing community transmission, which I suspect that it is, then there needs to be more control to ensure public [health] measures there," said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre who is also a science advisor for the federal COVID-19 therapeutics task force. Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet issued a statement Friday suggesting they may finally crack down. In a follow-up interview with Radio-Canada, he said inspectors will be "vigilant." "We won't hesitate when there are violations of the health guidelines to hand out fines," he said, though they have only handed out 21 at construction sites in the past week. Schools, too, have been allowed to reopen. While the benefits of keeping them open are clear, Vinh said the government could still do more to get a handle on transmission, including a clearer stance on ventilation. "If internally within schools there could be stricter public health measures, I think that would be helpful," he said. Premier François Legault has defended the measures by saying the curfew is a way to seize the public's attention and to limit exposure to older people while they await the vaccine. He has pointed out, repeatedly, that 80 per cent of those hospitalized are over the age of 65. But, it remains unclear whether the curfew, and the other measures in place, will be effective on that front. Testing, testing Then there's the question of interrupting the contagion in the community. As Eastern Townships Public Health Director Dr. Alain Poirier said this week, the virus "is everywhere." Quebec has been reluctant to more widely employ rapid tests as a way to better understand exactly where the virus is spreading. On Thursday, after 200 Quebec scientists published an open letter calling on the province to make more use of rapid tests, Dubé retreated from comments on Monday that the tests were unnecessary. Based on a report from a panel of internal experts issued that same day, Quebec will start using rapid tests to bolster its regular testing capacity on a limited basis, in highly specific circumstances. Is the change of heart enough? Not in the view of Dr. David Juncker, a testing expert who is chair of bioengineering at McGill University and a scientific adviser to Rapid Test and Trace Canada, which advocates for a large-scale implementation of the technology. "It's a step in the right direction … but it's a little bit too little, too late," Juncker told CBC's Quebec AM. "That's the real risk, that we're trapped in cycles of too little, too late here." He likened the government's approach to rapid testing — which it plainly views as unreliable and a major drain on human resources — to the discussion surrounding face masks in early 2020. Provincial public health officials initially opposed masks, before realizing they could be a key tool in preventing the spread of the virus. The National Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, which issued its first report Friday, suggests rapid antigen tests could be exactly another useful tool, given the ability to test frequently and obtain instant results. In a technical briefing this week, officials with Quebec's Health Ministry defended their approach to rapid tests, saying the current testing regime is perfectly adequate, and that, in any event, they don't have enough people to deploy them at scale. What's frustrating to experts like the signatories of the open letter is there doesn't appear to be a plan to develop that capacity any time soon. 'We need to kickstart now' Frontline doctors remain concerned about the coming weeks, with intensive care wards in Montreal at risk of being overwhelmed. Even if hospitals are able to hang on until Feb. 8, when the measures are set to lift, the province isn't expected to begin vaccinating older people outside care until the middle of the month. Vinh said Quebec's situation is rendered "tricky" by the fact vaccine procurement and supply are out of its control. The announcement from Pfizer on Friday that it would temporarily reduce shipments of its vaccine to Canada due to issues with its supply chain underscored the risks involved in the Legault government's plan. The pharmaceutical giant is pausing some production lines at its facility in Puurs, Belgium, in order to expand long-term manufacturing capacity. The move means Quebec will receive 8,775 doses instead of the 46,800 originally scheduled for the week of Jan. 25, and 39,000 of the 82,875 doses expected the following week. The disruption is far from catastrophic, given the doses will be replaced in later deliveries and Quebec is also receiving tens of thousands of vaccines from Moderna. But it will have an impact. That was the week the province was supposed to begin vaccinating in private retirement homes. In a statement, a spokesperson for Dubé said the supply chain hiccup merely reinforces Quebec's decision. "The strategy remains the same: we need to kickstart now and vaccinate as many vulnerable people and health-care workers as possible, as quickly as possible," reads the statement.
This workweek will kick off with what's fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history.Experts say Blue Monday may be a little more than a marketing gimmick, but the pseudo-scientific concept speaks to the real struggles weighing on Canadians between the doldrums of winter and the pandemic's second wave.But the national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association says one of the best salves for this contagion-fuelled seasonal slump is as simple as getting up on your own two feet."Our physical well-being really impacts our mental well-being," Margaret Eaton said. "There is a very well documented connection showing that increasing your physical activity definitely impacts your mood."There's no evidence to support the notion that the third Monday of January is the glummest date on the calendar, but Eaton said the concept of Blue Monday may especially resonate this year.In a spring survey of more than 1,800 participants, 84 per cent of Canadians reported that their mental health had worsened since the outbreak hit, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.Eaton suspects that moods haven't improved as the COVID-19 crisis has dragged on, and with the onset of seasonal affective disorder, she said many Canadians are contending with a potent confluence of psychological stressors.The weather is getting colder. The holidays are over, and bills are coming due. Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts. It's been nearly a year since people have been able to safely socialize with their friends.And forget about those New Year's resolutions to go to the gym. That's not even an option in many parts of the country. Some people are also indulging in "temporary fixes" such as food and alcohol to distract themselves from the dolor of the pandemic, Eaton said, rather than engaging in diversions that have been proven to lift people's spirits."Canadians are not turning to physical activity to help with their mental health," said Leigh Vanderloo, an exercise scientist with non-profit Participaction. "There seems to be a disconnect. We know it helps, but we don't necessarily do it."According data collected by Participaction, Canadians are more likely to cope with the anxieties of life under lockdown through sedentary activities, such as increased screen time, rather than by getting active.But research suggests that all it takes is a single bout of physical activity to release neurochemicals that lift one's mood, Vanderloo said.You don't have to commit to an intense training routine or invest in expensive equipment to see the benefits of exercise, she said. The key is to find an activity you enjoy, whether that's a stroll outdoors or a brief dance break.Vanderloo said it's also important to spend a few minutes moving for every hour you spend sitting. She encouraged desk dwellers to find ways to sneak in steps during the workday, such as pacing while on phone calls.The key is consistency, said Vanderloo, and in such uncertain times, an exercise routine can offer some much-needed structure."It might take a little bit of trial and error. But there's certainly an activity out there for everyone."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2020. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Small groups of right-wing protesters — some of them carrying rifles — gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday, outnumbered by National Guard troops and police brought in to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. As darkness fell, there were no reports of any clashes. Security was stepped up in recent days after the FBI warned of the potential for armed protests in Washington and at all 50 state capitol buildings ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. Crowds of only a dozen or two demonstrated at some boarded-up, cordoned-off statehouses, while the streets in many other capital cities remained empty. Some protesters said they were there to back President Donald Trump. Others said they had instead come to voice their support for gun rights or decry government overreach. “I don’t trust the results of the election,” said Michigan protester Martin Szelag, a 67-year-old semi-retired window salesman from Dearborn Heights. He wore a sign around his neck that read, in part, “We will support Joe Biden as our President if you can convince us he won legally. Show us the proof! Then the healing can begin.” As the day wore on with no bloodshed around the U.S., a sense of relief spread among officials, though they were not ready to let their guard down. The heavy law enforcement presence may have kept turnout down. In the past few days, some extremists had warned others against falling into what they called a law enforcement trap. Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said he hoped the apparently peaceful day reflected some soul-searching among Americans. “I would love to say that it’s because we’ve all taken a sober look in the mirror and have decided that we are a more unified people than certain moments in time would indicate,” he said. The security measures were intended to safeguard seats of government from the type of violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when far-right Trump supporters galvanized by his false claims that the election had been stolen from him overran the police and bashed their way into the building while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote. The attack left a Capitol police officer and four others dead. More than 125 people have been arrested over the insurrection. Dozens of courts, election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have all said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the presidential race. On Sunday, some statehouses were surrounded by new security fences, their windows were boarded up, and extra officers were on patrol. Legislatures generally were not in session over the weekend. Tall fences also surrounded the U.S. Capitol. The National Mall was closed to the public, and the mayor of Washington asked people not to visit. Some 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country are expected to arrive in the city in the coming days. U.S. defence officials told The Associated Press those troops would be vetted by the FBI to ward off any threat of an insider attack on the inauguration. The roughly 20 protesters who showed up at Michigan’s Capitol, including some who were armed, were significantly outnumbered by law enforcement officers and members of the media. Tensions have been running high in the state since authorities foiled a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year. At the Ohio Statehouse, about two dozen people, including several carrying long guns, protested outside under the watchful eyes of state troopers before dispersing as it began to snow. Kathy Sherman, who was wearing a visor with “Trump” printed on it, said she supports the president but distanced herself from the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol. "I’m here to support the right to voice a political view or opinion without fear of censorship, harassment or the threat of losing my job or being physically assaulted,” she said. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he was pleased with the outcome but stressed that authorities "continue to have concerns for potential violence in the coming days, which is why I intend to maintain security levels at the Statehouse as we approach the presidential inauguration.” Utah's new governor, Republican Spencer Cox, shared photos on his Twitter account showing him with what appeared to be hundreds of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers standing behind him, all wearing masks. Cox called the quiet protests a best-case scenario and said many ”agitating groups" had cancelled their plans for the day. At Oregon's Capitol, fewer than a dozen men wearing military-style outfits, black ski masks and helmets stood nearby with semiautomatic weapons slung across their bodies. Some had upside-down American flags and signs reading such things as “Disarm the government.” At the Texas Capitol, Ben Hawk walked with about a dozen demonstrators up to the locked gates carrying a bullhorn and an AR-15 rifle hanging at the side of his camouflage pants. He condemned the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and said he did not support Trump. “All we came down here to do today was to discuss, gather, network and hang out. And it got blown and twisted completely out of proportion,” Hawk said. At Nevada's Capitol, where demonstrators supporting Trump have flocked most weekends in recent months, all was quiet except for a lone protester with a sign. “Trump Lost. Be Adults. Go Home,” it read. More than a third of governors had called out the National Guard to help protect their capitols and assist local law enforcement. Several governors declared states of emergency, and others closed their capitols to the public until after Biden's inauguration. Some legislatures also cancelled sessions or pared back their work for the coming week. Even before the violence at the Capitol, some statehouses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters during the past year. Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to object to coronavirus lockdowns. People angry over the death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer's knee vandalized capitols in several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Last last month, crowds in Oregon forced their way into the Capitol in Salem to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures. Amid the potential for violence in the coming days, the building's first-floor windows were boarded up and the National Guard was brought in. "The state capitol has become a fortress,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat. “I never thought I’d see that. It breaks my heart.” ___ Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio; Gillian Flaccus in Salem, Oregon; Mike Householder and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Sam Metz in Carson City, Nevada; Marc Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report. David A. Lieb And Adam Geller, The Associated Press
When people think of addiction and drug use in Canada, their minds might turn to cities like Vancouver, Toronto, or even Halifax. But small towns in Nova Scotia have their own struggles when it comes to addressing addiction and overdoses. In 2020, 96 people in Nova Scotia died due to drug toxicity — 10 more than in 2019 — according to monthly reports from the Nova Scotia Health Authority that have not been made available to the public. While the central health zone, which covers Halifax and the surrounding areas, had the highest rates of opioid mortality since December 2019 — 3.9 per 100,000 people — the other health zones weren't far behind. The western zone had a rate of 3.5, and the northern and eastern zones had rates of 3.3 and 3, respectively. The report doesn't break down the number of drug deaths not related to opiods by health zone. Since July, at least two people in the northern health zone have died because of drugs. One of the deaths was due to an overdose. Another was as a result of sores related to levamisole, a livestock dewormer that has been reportedly combined with cocaine in the Pictou County area. Albert McNutt, founder of the Northern Healthy Connections Society, said his biggest concern isn't the numbers, but the people behind them. "When we're looking at stats, we're looking at a bigger picture, but we're forgetting the small picture, which is that individual, that one person that is making headway in their life and moving forward even though they're living with an addiction," he said. "They're forgetting that individual who took their own life because they no longer had a purpose to go to, a program." The society, based in Truro, N.S., started in 1996 as a program for people with HIV and AIDS. It later expanded to work in drug harm reduction and is one of three organizations in the province that runs a free needle exchange program. It also runs mobile outreach services around the province's northern health zone and distributes "emergency bags" containing syringes, tourniquets and other safe use items to pharmacies in small communities for people who may have missed their outreach services in Truro. When the society began to focus on people who use drugs, McNutt said it had difficulty bringing people in. While drug use is pretty much stigmatized everywhere, it can be especially amplified in small communities. "We started out with very few people accessing services because a lot of stigma's attached to it, discrimination's attached to it, fear of being known in a small rural community," he said. "That's one of the biggest things that we deal with in the northern zone because it's primarily rural and everybody knows everybody, and so you keep it very much secret." Addiction 'not easy to hide' in rural N.S. Many factors play into why people may use drugs, such as socioeconomic situations, lack of affordable housing, and access to mental health and addictions programs. "It's not like these folks woke up one morning and said, 'Hey, I want to be addicted to drugs,'" said McNutt. "They turn to drugs to feel good. They turn to drugs to deaden the pain they're feeling ... and it's so easy to hide that in a big city, but it's not easy to hide that in a small community." McNutt said his program has seen people "from all walks of life," and making assumptions about who uses drugs can be harmful. "They could be someone who has been an honour student in school. They could be somebody who didn't go very far in school. They can be business people who get hooked on the medication," he said. "It is something that people just don't realize. There's so much of it going on." The Nova Scotia drug report identified Pictou and Antigonish as having among the highest rates of rates of pharmacy distribution for naloxone, the drug that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose. McNutt said that's actually a good thing. "They know that the drugs are being tainted with other substances, and so by arming themselves with naloxone kits and getting the training, I think that that's really showing a positive response and a proactive response," he said. "I think once somebody loses someone to an overdose death due to drugs, they want to be prepared to prevent the next one. And naloxone is a pretty effective way to do that." In recent weeks, there have been multiple reports of contaminated drugs in Nova Scotia. The northern zone and the eastern zone, where Antigonish is located, also have the highest rates of substance-related emergency calls. More programs needed While the Ally Centre in Cape Breton — another organization that runs a free needle exchange program — is run out of Sydney, N.S., it offers services throughout the eastern health zone, including Antigonish. In an email, Ally Centre executive director Christine Porter said there are four pharmacies in the small town that take part in its brown bag program, each taking approximately 20 bags each month. The centre also provides safe supplies to the opioid recovery program. "I don't believe our Naloxone trainer traveled to Antigonish to train and give kits, so most likely, that distribution is coming from the pharmacies and [the opioid recovery program]," she said. Aside from the three needle exchange programs — run by the NHCS in the northern zone, the Ally Centre in the eastern zone and Mainline in the central and western health zones — there are a number of smaller groups around the province dedicated to doing outreach and educating people about harm reduction. But they don't exist everywhere. "There's not enough harm reduction programs," said Kimm Kent, the founder of the Peer Outreach Support Services and Education Project, or POSSE, in an email. POSSE works out of Windsor, Sipekne'katik and Lower Sackville and trains people between the ages of 15 and 30 to be peer support outreach workers. They then work with members of their communities to teach harm-reduction strategies for safe drug use. "POSSE has had requests to expand to many places … but first we require sustainable funding for what we have," Kent wrote. "So many needs for so many people. I sure wish there was more equity in the world." McNutt agreed. He said the province needs not only harm-reduction programs, but more programs in general where people who use drugs can learn skills, connect with others and find purpose and compassion. He said the Northern Healthy Connections Society used to have a program where women would make reusable cloth bags. After that program was cut due to funding, he said one of the group's members died from an overdose. 'A little bit of funding would go a long way' That was "very, very hard on us," he said. "It seemed like while the program was running, she had a place to go, she had a purpose. She felt like she was actually going to work again," he said. "People feel lost sometimes when they don't have something to go to or be involved with." McNutt said he submitted an application to Truro town council asking for funding to recreate the program. "I am hoping that they will really consider the fact that engaging the population and talking about in a positive way, in a proactive way, is far more important than turning your back on them," he said. "A little bit of funding would go a long way to change someone's life." MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, a history-making event in which the first Black, South Asian and female vice-president will take her oath of office from the first Latina justice. Harris chose Sotomayor for the task, according to a person familiar with the decision. She’ll also use two Bibles for the swearing-in, one of which belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice. ABC News first reported the latest details of Harris’ inauguration plans. Harris has expressed admiration for both Sotomayor and Marshall. She and Sotomayor share experience as prosecutors, and she once called Marshall — like Harris, a graduate of Howard University — one of her “greatest heroes.” The vice-president-elect said in a video posted to Twitter that she viewed Marshall as “one of the main reasons I wanted to be a lawyer,” calling him “a fighter” in the courtroom. And this will be the second time Sotomayor takes part in an inauguration. She swore in President-elect Joe Biden as vice-president in 2013. Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
Britain's government hopes to ease some lockdown restrictions in March as it presses ahead with Europe's fastest rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday. "What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible," Raab told Sky News television. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the oldest age groups, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers - roughly 14 million people - by the middle of February.
Maddi Pond remembers the moment she knew her message had taken root in her young students. Pond, who runs Amp It Up dance studio in Salisbury, had brought her charges to the ballet, a magical experience she hoped would leave them enchanted and inspired. When the performance was over, quite a few of the students said the same thing: "I didn't see anyone up there who looks like me." They were so accustomed to Pond's unique school of thought that the fact that all of the dancers were "very tall and very, very thin" struck them as unusual. And as something that they'd like to be a part of changing someday. "A lot of the students don't realize how inclusive we are, because we're one of the first studios they've been to," Pond said. "So they just think it's normal. And I think that's awesome." Pond's school, which opened just over a year and a half ago, is a trailblazer in a world of rigid traditions. There are no height restrictions. There are no weight restrictions. There are no gender specifications. The focus is solidly on inclusivity and acceptance, an "everyone is welcome" philosophy that has set it markedly apart in the world of dance schools. Banishing the stigma of negative body images Pond grew up in the world of competitive dancing. It's a world she has loved, and says her own experience at Dieppe's Academy of Classical Ballet was extremely positive. But she says it's no secret there's a "huge stigma" around the expectations of what dancers should look like, and she has seen what that pressure can do to children and young adults. The world of competitive dance can be a high-pressure one, where eating disorders and anxieties are not uncommon. "When I travelled for competitions, I'd see it," Pond said. "Even though it might be an underlying requirement, you'd see all the girls and boys are very, very small in preparation before competitions, where you definitely don't eat what you should be eating." Pond said she was troubled by the fact that the sport she loved seemed to have a more negative impact on body image than a positive one. "So it was just really important to me that when people walk into this studio, they see all shapes and sizes," and they feel acceptance, at every turn. Kids encouraged to 'put their own twist' on things When a student signs up at Amp It Up, she said, "We don't need to know if you're male, female, or other. We don't use pronouns until the person states what he, she or they want to be used for a pronoun." Students are also encouraged to put their own stamp on the choreography, particularly in recreational classes. "When I was growing up, they would give you the choreography and you would follow it exactly," Pond said. "Here, we really try to push the fact that everybody is unique … so they're encouraged to put their own little twist on things." The cumulative effect of these consistent, ingrained daily messages of support and affirmation has been a joy to witness, Pond said. "We've had amazing feedback from the community and from parents," who sometimes message Pond privately to say they're astonished by how inclusive the school is, and how much they appreciate it. The school's numbers also speak volumes. Just one and a half years in, and in the midst of a cresting pandemic and orange phase restrictions, the fledgling school has about 110 students — and a waiting list. "We thought we would take a hit [because of COVID-19]," Pond said. "But we're in the middle of winter registration and it's our biggest season yet." The internship program that made it possible Pond didn't set out to own a pioneering dance school. She's in her fourth year of an English literature major at Mount Allison University and figured full-time studies would be more than enough to keep her busy. But in her second year, she heard about the university's Reisman internship program. The program provides coaching support and up to $15,000 funding for students' entrepreneurial ideas. Pond applied for the program, pitching her idea for a dance school focusing on inclusivity and was accepted. Mount Allison's Krista Steeves, the university's director of experiential learning and career development, said Pond's application stood out as a clear front-runner. "We loved her idea," Steeves said. "What mother wouldn't want to send her child to a dance camp that focuses on positivity instead of body image, a camp where no one's going to measure their waist?" Pond also had years of teaching experience — she's taught dance camps since she was 14 — and a solid business model, Steeves said. "When she brought her project to us, we thought, OK, she's ready to go." Plans to graduate, teach – and open more studios Amp It Up opened in May 2019, and pretty much hit the ground running. The Reisman program provided $15,000 in funding, as well as training, economic guidance and a dedicated coach. Pond was able to hire staff who could help teach and run the school when she was busy with studies. The town's Lions Club has also been supportive, Pond said, welcoming the studio into their building and giving her dancers "a safe place to be during COVID." As for what's ahead, Pond said she has a one-year plan, a "three-year plan" and a longer-term plan. And Amp It Up has a place in all of them. Pond will graduate from Mount Allison this term, then plans to get her education degree. There's also a production of Alice in Wonderland to get onto the stage, "and I just hired three new staff members, so now we're a staff team of six." Her next big goal, she said, is to open another studio. Eventually, she'd like to have three or four studios, all of them spreading the same message of inclusivity. "I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love, and to see others enjoying it too," Pond said. "This will definitely be my second job for years to come."
Lebanon's top Christian cleric has urged President Michel Aoun to set up a reconciliation meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri to form a cabinet and end the country's political deadlock. The country's fractious politicians have been unable to agree on a new administration since the last one quit in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion, leaving Lebanon rudderless as it sinks deeper into economic crisis. Tensions between Aoun and Hariri, who publicly traded blame in December after failing to agree a cabinet, came to a head last week when a leaked video showed Aoun apparently calling Hariri a liar.
India's COVID-19 vaccination drive was still facing some delays on Sunday after it hit a bump on the first day due to glitches in an app used to coordinate the campaign, according to officials in some states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched on Saturday what his government has described as the "world's largest vaccination programme". It aims to vaccinate around 300 million people to curb the pandemic in India, which has reported the second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States.
Federal Defender Shawn Nolan sipped beer as he waited for his colleagues in Philadelphia to patch together the four or five points needed for a last-ditch court filing aimed at delaying Higgs’ execution by lethal injection. If it went ahead, the federal execution would be the 13th and final one scheduled under U.S. President Donald Trump.
BEIJING — The coronavirus was found on ice cream produced in eastern China, prompting a recall of cartons from the same batch, according to the government. The Daqiaodao Food Co., Ltd. in Tianjin, adjacent to Beijing, was sealed and its employees were being tested for the coronavirus, a city government statement said. There was no indication anyone had contracted the virus from the ice cream. Most of the 29,000 cartons in the batch had yet to be sold, the government said. It said 390 sold in Tianjin were being tracked down and authorities elsewhere were notified of sales to their areas. The ingredients included New Zealand milk powder and whey powder from Ukraine, the government said. The Chinese government has suggested the disease, first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, came from abroad and has highlighted what it says are discoveries of the coronavirus on imported fish and other food, though foreign scientists are skeptical. The Associated Press