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WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Ontario’s Ministry of Education says the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will not lose nearly $15.2 million due to a student enrolment decline as anticipated, reducing fears of a budget deficit that all but assured cuts to future student programming. Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a “stabilization fund” for schools facing budget shortfalls due to low student enrolment — something the HWDSB has advocated for in recent weeks. The funding is “to help alleviate some of the impacts of unexpected enrolment declines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” and would “provide flexibility for school boards to address a range of unanticipated funding issues,” the province said. Though the province did not initially indicate how much of the funding shortfall it would cover, ministry spokesperson Caitlin Clark told The Spectator on Monday that the board would receive the funding it had lost due to enrolment decline. The HWDSB announced in late October that it would lose a whopping $15.2 million from the province’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program because it was short 1,756 students from what it had projected last spring. The shortfall was the primary contributor to a budget deficit that board staff have said could amount to $18 million by the end of the year. With the province agreeing to cover the lost $15.2 million, the board will now face a more manageable deficit of roughly $2.8 million. “This funding will positively contribute to the reduction of our budget deficit and mitigate the financial impact of the unexpected enrolment decrease we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HWDSB chair Alex Johnstone in a statement. “Staff will review these measures and share revised financial statements with trustees.” Early in November, in response to the initial funding shortfall, the HWDSB moved to surplus teachers and curb spending across the board in an effort to reduce its deficit by the end of the fiscal year. A report present at the board’s finance committee suggested the board could find savings by reducing teaching staff, self-contained classes, part-time educational assistants, school budgets, funding for governance and more. The board has not indicated if any of these cuts will be reinstated now that the province has agreed to foot the shortfall. Either way, the board will also be tasked with eliminating the remaining deficit in order to balance the budget by the end of the year — a task that is mandated by the province. Running a school board budget deficit is illegal, according to the Ontario Education Act, though Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has relaxed the rules during the pandemic to allow school boards to run marginal deficits. The ministry said in October that it would accept budget deficits that comprise no more than two per cent of a board’s entire budget, which for the HWDSB is roughly $11.2 million. With an $18-million deficit, the board would exceed the two per cent threshold by approximately $6.8 million, but with a $2.8 million deficit the board would be well within the province’s limit. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
MONTREAL — Organizations representing doctors and nurses in Quebec say they're increasingly worried as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb heading into what is normally one of the busiest times of the year for the province's hospitals.“In a normal year, there's a surge of activity at the beginning of January,” Dr. Hoang Duong, the president of Quebec's association of internal medicine specialists, said in a phone interview.“The first wave, it’s left its scars,” he added. “Our staff, nurses especially, are very tired.”Many nurses are on sick leave, Duong said, leaving the health-care system short-staffed. “We have to divert staff to take care of COVID patients, which makes even less staff available,” he said.The deteriorating situation in the province's hospitals was cited Tuesday by Premier Francois Legault as a factor that could force him to cancel a plan to allow multi-household gatherings over Christmas. On Wednesday, as the province reported more than 1,500 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time since the pandemic began, deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault announced measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.As of Friday, stores will have to adhere to new limits on the number of people allowed inside or risk fines of up to $6,000. The province says enforcement, including ensuring proper distancing and the wearing of masks, will fall to mall owners and store owners.Guilbault cited images of packed shops and malls as the reason behind the decision to regulate capacity as the busy holiday shopping season begins. She said the measures were necessary as the province reported a record 1,514 new COVID-19 cases and 43 additional deaths linked to the virus.The number of people in Quebec hospitals with COVID-19 rose by 21 Wednesday for a total of 740, including 99 in intensive care.Nathalie Levesque, the vice-president of Quebec’s largest nurses union, said Quebec already faced a shortage of nurses. With the pandemic, thousands of nurses are currently on medical leave or can’t work for preventive reasons. Levesque said she’s “very, very concerned” about the coming weeks, a period when hospital emergency rooms often see higher numbers of patients with colds, flu and stomach infections. Hospital emergency rooms in Quebec were already frequently over capacity, she said.Last week, she said, nurses in the Montreal area were asked to volunteer to work in other parts of the province that have been particularly affected by the pandemic. In some regions, private seniors residences have asked public health authorities to provide them with nurses to assist with COVID-19 outbreaks.Levesque said she’s worried this will leave some health-care facilities without enough staff, adding that she hopes administrators are being careful when they agree to transfer staff. Duong, who works at a hospital diabetes clinic, said nurses he works with have transferred to a new department dedicated to COVID-19. “I understand that, because we do have to take care of COVID patients," he said. "But that also means that diabetic patients, are not going to get, at least for now, the care that they usually do."Quebec hospitals still haven't recovered from the almost total cancellation of non-emergency surgeries and medical imaging during the first wave of the pandemic, the province's Health Department confirmed Wednesday."All hospitals in Quebec have been forced to delay surgeries," Robert Maranda, a department spokesman wrote in an email, adding that the waiting list is continuing to diminish.Dr. Matthew Oughton, who specializes in infectious diseases at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, said there's "little resilience" in Quebec's health-care system. As the number of hospitalizations in a region rise, it reduces flexibility and the ability to provide services, putting more pressure on other hospitals.Duong said he was relieved to hear Quebec Premier Francois Legault say Tuesday that the province is rethinking its plan to allow gatherings of up to 10 people for four days around Christmas. As a doctor, he said, he wants every precaution taken to prevent the spread of the virus, though he understands that people want to get together this time of year."It's a hard choice to make," he said, adding that he believes public health authorities will make the right decision.Meanwhile, the Retail Council of Canada said it welcomed the province's new measures on store capacity, noting they were largely in line with its own recommendations to retailers.“We understand that the government must give itself the tools to intervene with certain less collaborative retailers," the council's Quebec representative Marc Fortin said in a statement. "The health and safety of employees and consumers remain the priority of our retailers."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.Jacob Serebrin and Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
He's also releasing a Muskoka-scented candle.
Food blogger Rebecca Coleman has seen a sharp uptick in the number of restaurant businesses approaching her over the last month, and she says it’s all because of TikTok. “These restaurants that are reaching out to me, they have websites, they have Instagram, but very few of them have TikTok,” Coleman says. TikTok is still a new enough social media platform that businesses haven’t yet fully embraced it, she says, but influencers have. “And they’re taking full advantage of that,” says Coleman, who is an Instagram and TikTok food blogger and a full-time instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where she teaches social media marketing for business. The pandemic led to the shutdown of businesses as well as widespread layoffs affecting the food and beverage industry as a whole. According to a Restaurants Canada survey, Canada’s April food service sales were the lowest in more than two decades. However, when restaurants reopened for business, owners began to turn to influencers to help attract new customers both for in-house and takeout dining. “I think that the potential is limitless,” says Sophia Hu, a Vancouver digital creator who goes by the username sopheats on TikTok and Instagram and has more than 21,000 followers combined. “As more restaurants see the power, the impact and the reach of social media as a new way, new-age marketing, they're going to be using food bloggers and content creators all the time.” Hu says restaurants will favour influencer marketing over conventional methods because it’s more personable, engaging and authentic. “We are real people and we actually love food. We go to the restaurants and we try it. I engage (with) my audience like they're my friends. And I'm just sharing genuinely what I love,” she says. Content creator Ceci, who has around 10,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram and goes by the username purplearchives, says restaurants in Vancouver have adapted well to this style of marketing. After the initial lockdown was lifted and restaurants shifted to a takeout program, she saw they needed help with promotion. Restaurants tried to lure influencers by sending them food packages to taste and review, she explains. “I think the ones that were able to cultivate a good relationship with influencers have been able to do quite well,” she says. In provinces like B.C., where restaurants remain open to in-house dining, restaurateurs have invited influencers and food bloggers to visit, which sends a message they are open for business and operating safely. Influencer marketing is also a relatively low-cost option for business owners with funding constraints. While many food bloggers don’t get paid for their promotions and reviews, they do get to taste the food for free and make content for their audience. For Coleman, who goes by the username findbex on TikTok, it is also an opportunity to build her brand. Promotional videos are an opportunity for content creators to raise awareness around issues and businesses they want to support, she says. To keep her reviews fair, Ceci is upfront with restaurants when they invite her in to talk about their food. “I'm going to write what I think about your food. If I don't like it, I just post about it,” she says. “But I do usually give them feedback, first, if it's really bad.” Although all three content creators began their journey on Instagram, their audiences are now shifting to TikTok. “There’s a place for everything on TikTok,” says Coleman, who has almost 40,000 followers on TikTok and around 4,300 on Instagram. What has made the platform so popular in the past few months? Both Coleman and Ceci attribute TikTok’s wider reach to its share feature. “If I'm on TikTok, and I see a video, and I like that, I can share that video to my Instagram Stories effortlessly,” Coleman says. The application allows users, including restaurants, to send videos across platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, email, Snapchat and Messenger. It also allows them to save the video and react to it by making duets. Hu transitioned to TikTok when she realized she could repurpose content she had already secured for her Instagram and use it to engage in a different way. “It's fast and it's also casual,” she says, adding that unlike Instagram, TikTok does not require high-definition photos or footage. Priya Bhat / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverPriya Bhat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Good Spirit School Division (GSSD) held their regular meeting of the board for November via Zoom on Thursday, November 19th. All Trustees were in attendance at the meeting including Bob Simpson, Chairperson, Jaime Johnson, Vice-Chairperson, Trustees Jade Anderson, Chris Balyski, Gilda Dokuchie, Gord Gendur, Shannon Leson, Jan Morrison, Lois Smandych, Nicole Pohl and Steve Variyan. Division office staff in attendance included Assistant to the Director Heather Morris, Director of Education/CEO Quintin Robertson, Chief Financial Officer Keith Gervais and Deputy Director of Education Donna Kriger. Some highlights of the meeting are provided below and the full highlight report can be found at www.gssd.ca Audited Financial Statement for 2019-20 Chief Financial Officer, Keith Gervais, presented the 2019-20 Audited Financial statement to the Board of Education. He discussed the audit which was completed by Gary Kreklewich of Miller Moar Grodecki Kreklewich & Chorney. The notes from the school boar state, “The verbal report from the auditor indicated that the audit went very smooth and staff were prepared and enjoyable to work with.” All reports were filed with the Ministry of Education on time and the financial report details can be found online. Advocacy Session Advocacy groups were represented at the meeting including Karla Sastaunik, President of the CUPE 4784 local. The GSSD meeting notes stated she “began the session by sharing her appreciation for the work done at the division level during the COVID-19 pandemic. Karla referenced her conversations with CUPE members from across the province and country and expressed her gratefulness for the communication and involvement GSSD has shown to her and her members regarding the planning around the pandemic. Karla highlighted the excellent relationship that CUPE 4784 has with the leadership team of GSSD and that in many ways this was unique from other CUPE locals and their employer. Karla credited the extraordinary amount of work invested by Director Quintin Robertson, Assistant to the Director, Heather Morris and other members of the senior leadership team in keeping employees safe and in ensuring timely communication is shared across the school division.” Next, the report mentions Susan Avramenko, who made a statement representing the Deer Park Employees Association (DPEA). The highlights mentions “some of the challenges that bus drivers were experiencing regarding the failure to use proper personnel protective equipment (PPE) by a small percentage of the student ridership. Director Quintin Robertson and the Board of Education expressed their commitment to ensuring that PPE was being worn consistently and properly to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to both students and drivers.” It was then stated that “Good Spirit Teachers Association (GSTA) President, Stuart Wilson, and LINC Chair, Ron Lutz, shared their appreciation for the measures put in place to ensure the safety of staff and students in schools. Stuart and Ron both identified that teachers are at times struggling with balancing the additional responsibilities and stresses that accompany life during a pandemic. Ron Lutz would have brought forth concerns regarding the many newly introduced technology platforms during the 2020-21 school year and asked that consideration be given to providing teachers with additional support with mastering the technology. Both Stuart and Ron expressed their genuine appreciation to Director Quintin Robertson, his leadership team and the Board of Education for the planning and communication that employees across the division have experienced since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.” New Business Assistant to the Director Heather Morris shared that the first draft of the non-financial portion of the 2019-20 Annual Report was submitted to the Ministry for review on October 19, 2020; a second review of the draft was not required. Next, the completed financial reporting sections will be included so the annual report can be submitted and reviewed again. The approved report will then be submitted to the Ministry to be presented in the legislature and will finally be posted on the GSSD website. Organizational Meeting The Board of Education conducted its organizational meeting for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Bob Simpson was named Board Chairperson and Jaime Johnson was named Board Vice-Chair through acclamation. Committees of the Board were decided. Board indemnities and remuneration will remain unchanged for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Director’s Report Service Recognition and Sea Star Awards The Board of Education engaged in discussion regarding the presentation and awarding of the GSSD annual service recognition awards and Sea Star awards. The Sea Star awards are an annual acknowledgement of the staff throughout GSSD. Financial Update Chief Financial Officer, Keith Gervais, presented the Board of Education with an updated financial report for the current operational year. Utilizing GSSD Communiques with SCCs Director/CEO Robertson led the Board through a discussion regarding the six main roles of School Community Councils (SCC). Some of these highlighted roles included, “SCCs should have a community profile that describes the economic, social and health conditions of their community, that also identifies the community’s needs and aspirations related to children and youth learning and well-being...The purpose of SCCs is encouragement and support the involvement of parents and the community as partners to improve student learning and well-being. SCCs are an important part of the governance of the school division and a critical connecting link between both the school and community.” The report mentions how Robertson ended his discussion by sharing the many ways that GSSD has communicated with School Community Councils, endeavouring to keep them apprised of the ever-evolving business within the division. GSSD Remote Learning Donna Kriger, Deputy Director of Education, updated the Board on the GSSD Distance Learning School. The report mentioned approximately 380 students are enrolled to date in the K-12 Distance Learning School. The services of 18 full-time equivalent teachers are available to the program, along with Educational Assistants, Administrative Assistant, Interventionist, School Counselor, and Speech Pathologist, their time has been reassigned to the online school. Val Ruf (Student Services Coordinator), Mark Forsythe (Superintendent of Education) and Donna Kriger (Deputy Director) will oversee the services and operations for the program. Edsby and MySchool Sask Heather Morris, Assistant to the Director, gave a background, as well as an update regarding MySchoolSask (MSS) and Edsby; these are two new platforms that staff are using to manage student information and how they report grades. Morris allotted to what each platform is capable of accomplishing, and that the implementation of the platforms has brought some challenges. She is confident that they will bring overall improvement to the security necessary for student information, reporting student grades and increasing communication through an improved parent portal. Transportation Scan Cards The Board of Education was given an update that involves a pilot project where eight GSSD buses will use student scan cards to track ridership. The scan card project will allow the Transportation Department to track students on boarding and disembarking of division buses. The report stated that this “will allow the division to make informed decisions regarding out of attendance area requests, courtesy ridership and future fleet requirements. Most importantly, the real-time data provided by the scan cards would supply important information in the event of a lost child or bus accident. Communication will be sent to families who will be affected by the new technology. Cards will be handed out to students at the school in which they attend.”Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
Internal U.S. Census Bureau documents indicate that it will be unable to meet a year-end deadline for handing in data used for allocating congressional seats as it deals with irregularities found in the numbers-crunching phase of the count, according to a Wednesday letter from the chair of the U.S. House committee that oversees the bureau. The letter from Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accuses Republican President Donald Trump's administration of “a dangerous pattern of obstruction" in withholding documents about state population totals required to reallocate seats in the House. Maloney wrote that the Commerce Department — which oversees the Census Bureau — missed a Nov. 24 deadline to give the documents to the committee. However, the committee has received internal bureau documents from an unnamed source that indicate that addressing the data anomalies “impacts overall end date by 20 days” and anticipates that the population count will not be complete until between Jan. 26 and Feb. 6, the letter said. Those dates are significant because they would come after the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, likely leaving crucial decisions about the apportionment of congressional districts in the hands of a Democratic administration. Maloney threatened a subpoena if “a full and unredacted set” of the requested documents are not given to the committee by Dec. 9. The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. “By blocking the production of the full set of documents requested by the Committee last month, the Trump Administration is preventing Congress from verifying the scope of these anomalies, their impact on the accuracy of the Census, and the time professionals at the Census Bureau need to fix them,” the letter said. “Your failure to co-operate with the Committee’s investigation appears to be part of a dangerous pattern of obstruction with the Census.” Missing the Dec. 31 deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers would be a blow to Trump’s unprecedented efforts to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the numbers used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets and how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau switched its deadline for wrapping up the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident from the end of July to the end of October. It also extended the deadline for turning in apportionment numbers from the end of December to the end of next April, giving bureau statisticians five months to crunch the numbers. However, in late July and early August, officials at the Commerce Department announced field operations would finish at the end of September and the apportionment numbers would stick to a congressionally-mandated deadline of Dec. 31. The Census Bureau already was facing a shortened schedule of two and a half months for processing the data collected during the 2020 census — about half the time originally planned. The bureau has not officially said what the anomalies were or publicly stated if there would be a new deadline for the apportionment numbers. In a Nov. 19 statement, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham said processing anomalies have occurred in past censuses and he was directing the bureau to use all resources available to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. One of the internal documents cited by Maloney is a Nov. 19 presentation for senior bureau officials that describes 13 anomalies that affect more than 900,000 census records. They include a problem related to duplicate non-response follow-up records in every state, a data error from the count of group quarters that affects more than 16,000 records, and a coding error affecting about 46,000 records in nine states. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case about Trump’s move to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count. Federal courts in California, Maryland and New York have ruled that Trump’s plan violates the Constitution, which provides that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.” A fourth court, in Washington, D.C., held this past week that a similar challenge to the administration plan was premature, an argument that also has been made to the high court Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Amanda Sully had tried to get pregnant for six years, but she's grateful that her "miracle" son arrived six days after Ontario became the only province to start a newborn screening test that revealed he had a progressive and irreversible disease.In January, Aidan Deschamps became the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as part of a new test added to Ontario's newborn screening program.Sully said she and her husband, Adam Deschamps, were surprised to get a call from Newborn Screening Ontario advising them that their son, who was 10 days old at the time, had tested positive for the genetic neuromuscular condition, which is the most common cause of death in childhood due to an inherited condition."If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different," Sully said Wednesday on a Zoom call from the family's home in Ottawa as Aidan squeezed out of his mom's arms before his dad took over and tried to keep up with the energetic child."As terrible as the news was we were so fortunate to find out early because delaying treatment would have meant long-term irreversible consequences for him," Sully said.Sully said she was initially worried that her baby may not be able to roll over if he had the illness, but at 10 months, Aidan is healthy and quite the dancer who loves to throw and chase balls after starting early treatment.The couple had never heard of spinal muscular atrophy but the morning after the call they were in the office of Dr. Hugh McMillan, a neurologist at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, a pediatric health and research centre based in Ottawa.Adam Deschamps said he and his wife held their breath a few days later as their little boy was given an injection of the drug Spinraza just below his spinal cord. The first medication to treat children with spinal muscular atrophy administered through repeated spinal taps was approved by Health Canada in 2017.McMillan said the drug, which is paid for to varying degrees in different provinces, increases the amount of an essential protein in order to keep motor neurons and motor nerves alive and without it the progression of the disease is irreversible.He also applied for and was granted use of a gene replacement therapy on compassionate grounds for Aidan when the boy was five weeks. The one-time intravenous treatment worth millions of dollars is one of two medications that Health Canada is considering for approval, with an announcement expected in the coming weeks, said McMillan, who is also a clinical investigator at the CHEO Research Institute.It's too early to tell what the little boy's future holds but he is meeting all of his developmental milestones, McMillan said.Dr. Pranesh Chakraborty, chief medical officer of Newborn Screening Ontario, said the province started the program, which tests for 28 conditions, in 1965 and includes all babies born in Ontario and most of Nunavut.Chakraborty said each province decides on its own whether to screen for certain conditions but the cost for the test that helped Aidan was low because Ontario already had the technology to add it to its existing program."I can say from speaking with my colleagues across the country that every province is looking at this and we're hoping that they'll be making decisions soon," he said.The severity of spinal muscular atrophy depends on when symptoms appear and some children may start showing signs early on when they cannot roll over. British Columbia's newborn screening program tests for 24 disorders, a spokeswoman at the Provincial Health Authority said.The provincial Health Ministry did not respond to requests on whether it would include testing for spinal muscular atrophy as part of its newborn screening program.Susi Vander Wyk, executive director of Cure SMA Canada, said the organization is working to get all provinces to test for the condition and that Aidan's story based on Ontario's lead should compel all jurisdictions to act.\-- By Camille Bains in VancouverThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
Island groundwater supply is running strong despite extreme drought and record-low groundwater levels this summer and some dry wells this fall. “We benefit from a really generous groundwater supply,” said Bruce Raymond, manager of the Water and Air Monitoring section of PEI’s Department of Environment and Water. He said it would take a consistent long-term drought for years on end to see a problematic decrease in the Island’s groundwater levels. “It’s a bit of a good news story,” he said. On the other hand Keith Reynolds, with Reynolds Well Drilling in Lower Montague, is seeing more dry wells than usual. “I’ve had about half a dozen calls about wells going dry this fall,” he said. This is more than usual but most of the calls were from clients with older wells. Mr Raymond said older or weak wells going dry this time of year is normal. “In talking to the drillers recently they’ve reported a few have gone dry, but most were weak shallow wells not quite up to standard.” Some old wells are more shallow than the current standard or have other defects that would lead to water not making it to the kitchen sink. A pump placed too high or sediment at the bottom of a well are two of many factors that can cause water stoppages. Mr Raymond said most of the province’s observation wells did show record low groundwater levels this summer. The water table, which varies but can often hold 100 or 200 metres of water, might have lowered by a metre or a few this year depending on the location. The average Island well is 30 to 60 metres deep or deeper again, depending on the location. “Most people have wells that have been drilled well into the water table,” Mr Raymond said. A few meters won’t usually be enough to cause standard wells to go dry. Precipitation for September and October seems to have been fairly normal, according to Environment Canada data. Mr Raymond said a drought as long as it was this year shouldn’t affect groundwater levels. He said, according to a recent study performed by a hydrologist in his department, through climate change, seasonality will change. Considering predicted average precipitation amounts, length of recharge seasons and other factors, groundwater levels and the streams that shoot off from groundwater should stay relatively steady on the Island.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A noontime boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena.Witnesses across the area reported hearing the boom or seeing a fireball in the sky shortly after noon on Wednesday, said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in Geneseo. By 5 p.m., the organization had recorded 90 reports of the fireball seen in Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Virginia.Police agencies and fire departments around central New York received 911 calls reporting a boom that shook windows, but clouds prevented sightings in much of the area. Since most reports of the boom were around Syracuse, that's likely where the meteor blew to bits, Lunsford said.On the society's website, an observer in western New York reported the fireball was bright white with shades of yellow. An observer in Hagerstown, Maryland reported a fireball with red and orange sparks, smoke and a persistent train. A report from Welland, Ontario, described a long, bright green train.“Sunny day so it looked like a gold metallic flash against the blue sky,” said a report from Winchester, Virginia.“Astonishing, amazing, still get goosebumps talking about it,” wrote an observer in Port Dover, Ontario. “The train was flaming white, wide and long, no smoke.”“We tend to notice fireballs more at night because they stand out better, but it's not terribly unusual for very bright ones to be noticed during the day. It happens several times a year over populated areas,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, a member of the Meteor Physics Group at Western University in London, Ontario.All fireballs, which are bright meteors, produce sound waves, sometimes detectable only by sensitive microphones, Campbell-Brown said by email. A large one may produce a thunderlike sonic boom with possible extra bangs from fragmentation, she said.The Associated Press
Purolator has teamed up with emerging Canadian artists to help spread a little holiday cheer this year. The shipping company has selected 13 artists from across the country – one from each province and territory – to design a unique and festive shipping box that will be made available at Purolator shipping centres and Michaels craft stores for anyone looking to send a little extra cheer along with their gifts to their friends and families this holiday season. With the country boasting a population of more than 37 million people, choosing one artist from each province and territory in Canada could have proved to be quite daunting, but Patrick Hunter, a Two Spirit Ojibwe artist, said he thinks the online community he has already amassed helped to secure him the spot as Ontario's representative. “I have a pretty nice following of people on Instagram, and I think that's how they reached out when they were trying to find diverse artists to be a part of this project,” Hunter explained. “It was a quick turnaround to get the project off the ground, I think we started in November or the end of October, but with really cool emails like that, 'Purolator wants to work with you on such-and-such,' it's a pretty quick response. I think it took me all of ten seconds to say 'yes, I'm in.'” While he is currently working out of Toronto, Hunter is originally from Red Lake. His art in the Woodland style takes inspiration from his hometown and the work of famed Woodland artist Norval Morrisseau, and he brought the same sensibilities he brings to his painting to the art he was inspired to create for Purolator's box, along with his own wishes for the holiday season. “It's all digital artwork, so you have to know how to use some graphic design-y programs,” Hunter explained. “We were given a template to work within the edges and back and top sides. Why I chose the imagery I chose, which is Ojibwe florals, is because it's a holiday season, it's one of my favourite gifts to give, and one of the best gifts First Nations folks give their friends are beaded moccasins or gloves, so my hope for these boxes is when someone gets a box that they have that feeling of 'oh my god, beautiful box' but then 'what's inside?'” Being chosen by Purolator to be the representative for Ontario also carries added heft for Hunter. Knowing the boxes have the potential to wind up almost anywhere in the world, Hunter said that it was like a personal responsibility to answer Purolator's call for his art. “I'm a First Nations gay man from Red Lake, Ontario,” he explained. “When things like this come along you have an obligation to the people that are coming behind you to try and illuminate the path. So my goal with this is to show other First Nations kids and gay artists can have opportunities like this too and not be afraid of them. As well, to bring some visibility. I don't think First Nations culture is always put in the forefront in a mainstream way and Purolator has done a good job of asking not just me but other diverse people in Canada to come up with box designs.” Laurie Weston is the director of retail for Purolator who was on the team searching for artists to take part in the campaign. She noted that part of trying to find emerging artists to design a box was ensuring they were a good fit for both where they came from and the peoples and cultures they represented. “What's really interesting about this is we actually went grassroots and we scoured social media,” Weston explained. “We went through social media and we narrowed it down to the ones that we felt their artwork represented not only the province but their culture. I think with Patrick, we were so incredibly lucky he wanted to do this with us because I think his floral motif and his indigenous background and what it represents for Ontario is pretty special. So it resonated with us. So that's why we picked him.” In a year when the shipping company expects far more packages to be delivered over the holiday season – Weston said their busy season began in August this year, when it usually starts to pick up in November – the drive to showcase original Canadian art on special holiday boxes was to help spread that sense of community and Christmas spirit that might otherwise be hard to come by in 2020. “People are not able to travel, and what's happened with us is the increase in shopping online, but people are coming in and shipping packages to loved ones,” Weston explained. “They're not able to travel and see their loved ones this holiday season so we really wanted to share some of the Christmas spirit from a Canadian lens. Purolator does support small businesses and entrepreneurs, but this is a different evolution of that. We just really wanted to showcase these new artists.” As part of Purolator's partnership with Michaels craft stores, the companies are also holding a Design-A-Box Sweepstakes. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Michaels website in order to download a box template they can then design, photograph and submit for the chance to win a $1,000 Michaels gift card and free shipping with Purolator for a year. Hunter has been doing his work professionally for the past six years, and in the near future he's also looking at moving out of Toronto to be a little bit closer to home, and begin producing more items in his line of houseware products. He noted the opportunity to be a part of Purolator's holiday campaign helped to confirm in his mind that pursuing the career path he did was a good choice and hopefully help to spread awareness of Indigenous artists even further abroad. “It makes me feel like I'm on the right path and I did choose a good career in graphic design,” he said. “To have [the art] put on these boxes in such a public way, it means a lot and I'm so thrilled just to be a part of the project, but then to have this kind of message of like 'hey, we're Indigenous people, we haven't gone anywhere, we're still here' I think it's great to illuminate the path for people to ask questions.” For more information on Purolator's holiday boxes visit their website and to take part in the Design-A-Box sweepstakes, visit the Michael's website. For more information on Patrick Hunter and his artwork, visit his website at patrickhunter.ca or follow him on Instagram @patrickhunter_artKen Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
Dianne Dunn, 86, grew up in a music-loving family. She enjoyed going to operas, tried her hand at piano (though she says she’s not very good at it), and listened to the greats like Frank Sinatra. She believes in the power of music to help people grow. “That’s a good outlet in many ways, socially and physically, and just matures them,” she said. “It’s so beautiful to be able to know what music is about.” That’s why she volunteered to participate in McMaster University’s “Music, Health, and the Community” course which teaches students about music’s impact on the brain, with a focus on older adults. The placement course brings youth and seniors together through music. Previously, the health sciences course saw students work with local elementary school students to share music with residents in long-term care and retirement homes. But due to the pandemic, the course moved online this year and connected high school students and older adults virtually across Canada. The program wraps up its virtual go this week. McMaster students were divided into groups to facilitate Zoom sessions with up to three high school students and one or two older adult volunteers. Through 45-minute calls, they participated in ice breakers and activities connected to music. The program culminates in a virtual musical performance by the high school students, which Dunn attended Monday. “It was really so beautiful to see these young people playing this instrument, it meant so much,” said Dunn. The Mountain resident also learned more about what the kids are listening to — even though the music doesn’t always appeal to her. “It always amazes me that these young people know every word to every song that you hear on the radio or you see on TV and that’s terrific, but I can’t even understand those words,” she said. But Dunn added the students were open to her perspective. “I never once was made to feel that I was so much older than them and that my views were a little bit crazy,” she said. Chelsea Mackinnon, one of the course instructors, said the program teaches youth about working with older adults while also allowing the seniors to give back. “Our kids today are the first generation that will grow up where there is more older people than there are young people, so we feel it’s really important to normalize the aging process,” she said. The course is also intended to help build relationships across generations. “A lot of children, unless it’s their own family, have almost no experience spending time with older adults,” said Brad Haalboom, also a course instructor. “We find that retirement homes and long-term care homes are often ... cut off from society. We’re trying to bridge those gaps.” Mackinnon added there is a phenomenon called “generativity,” where as a person ages, they want to give back. “It’s providing this sense of purpose and meaning for the older adults who are participating, who can give advice, share meaningful moments, and feel like they’re actively contributing to society,” she said. Hannan Minhas, one of the McMaster facilitators who worked with Dunn, said music’s ability to inspire emotion allowed participants to connect on a more personal level. “Music is universal. Everyone likes some sort of music,” said the fifth-year student. Minhas added the sessions were something to “look forward to” especially since it wasn’t possible to see friends regularly this year. It also taught Minhas about the similarities between youth and older adults. “What surprised me is there were so many things we had in common,” Minhas said. “Even though we had different music tastes ... our values were similar.” The instructors are seeking new volunteers aged 65 and over to participate in the next semester. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org.Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
OTTAWA — The federal government says it will not meet a marquee pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lift all boil-water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021.Indigenous Services Canada says at least 22 long-term water advisories in 10 First Nations communities will remain in place beyond that deadline, which was set following an ambitious 2015 Liberal election promise to lift them all within five years."What communities want is not an Ottawa-imposed deadline," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday during a news conference in Ottawa."It’s a long-term commitment to access to clean water."The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into efforts to upgrade water systems and carry out on-site training, with supply chains snarled and construction put off as some reserves opted to restrict travel, the department said at an earlier briefing."COVID has really changed everything," Miller said. “Because of COVID, many projects lost a full construction season."The complexity of projects, which can include infrastructure overhauls and depend on increasingly unreliable winter roads, contributed to the delay even before the pandemic, he said. Hiring and retaining qualified operators for water and wastewater treatment plants on remote sites has posed another challenge.Miller, who has held the Indigenous services portfolio since November 2019, sought to shield Trudeau from blame for the failed goal."Ultimately, I bear the responsibility for this, and I have the responsibility and the duty to get this done," he said, calling the continued lack of access to reliable drinking water "totally unacceptable."The department says 97 boil-water advisories have been lifted since 2016, while 59 remain in place — about three-quarters of them in Ontario — in 41 communities.In late October, about 250 residents of Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario, which has had a boil-water advisory in place for 25 years, were evacuated from their homes following the discovery of an oily sheen in its reservoir.Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday he was frustrated but not surprised by Ottawa's shortfall."First Nations have good reason to be disappointed by the federal government’s announcement that after more than five years in office, it will miss its own target to provide safe drinking water to all Indigenous communities across Canada," he said in a statement."While there has been significant progress in recent years, it clearly is not enough."Miller acknowledged that initially, communities were not “sounded” out on whether the March 2021 target was reasonable.He said he hopes up to 20 more advisories will be lifted by year's end, but expects at least a dozen communities will still not have access to potable water by the spring."You come down to about 12 or a few more communities, some of whom have seen serious delays due to COVID — and they’re working hard to clear them — and others that have priorities that they want addressed before they lift their water advisories," he said, noting that communities make the call on whether to lift advisories, not Ottawa."I think we didn’t appreciate the state of decay of water systems when we came into power in 2015," he added, pointing to "decades of neglect."Opposition parties slammed the federal government for falling short of its goal."We weren't totally surprised by this, but at the same time, there's a pretty significant disappointment in it being actually acknowledged and outright spoken ... by the minister today," Conservative MP Gary Vidal, his party's critic for Indigenous services, said in an interview.In a separate statement, Vidal called for a more commercially driven approach that draws on the "brightest business minds and entrepreneurs" to get taps flowing safely.NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the problem "disgusting" and "inexcusable.""Imagine Minister Miller going to his riding in Montreal: 'I apologize, but we missed our deadline to get you clean drinking water.' Would he ever think it was appropriate?" Singh asked at a news conference.“This is not a broken promise. This is a betrayal of trust, and it sends a message that Indigenous people don't matter."In its fall economic statement Monday, the Liberal government pledged to invest $1.5 billion this year to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, on top of $2.1 billion already committed since 2016.More than $1.65 billion of that has already flowed to 626 water and wastewater projects, including 348 that are now completed, according to Indigenous Services.The beefed-up funding reflects a long-term commitment, particularly to operations and maintenance, so that communities can continue to tap into clean water indefinitely, Miller said.Under current funding policies for operations and maintenance on reserves, Ottawa typically provides about 80 per cent of the cash while First Nations have to float the remaining 20 per cent.Miller said Indigenous Services is still hammering out a policy adjustment, "but my full expectation is that will move to 100 per cent."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.— with files from Maan AlhmidiChristopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Growing up in Canada as a young woman from India, Sheetal Vemannagari struggled with embracing her name. The now 20-year-old Ivey Business School student went through what thousands of Canadians experience when their name is deemed "tough" to pronounce for the average anglophone — from accepting a shortened version to trying to anglicize it in an attempt to avoid embarrassment."I hated the way that my culture hindered me from sort of connecting with my peers, especially my name, because I feel like everyone would just call me just 'shit-all' ... [When mispronounced], my name sounds harsh, kind of unfeminine and so that further dissociated me from my identity."In Hindi, Vemannagari's name, pronounced as 'SHEE-thul,' means 'cool breeze' and was chosen by her grandmother.It wasn't until a trip to India two years ago when Vemannagari started to reclaim her name after receiving many compliments for it. The remaining challenge is getting people to pronounce it correctly, but Vemannagari is hopeful that a new online tool will help with that problem, at least in the classroom setting.Western University's Ivey Business School in London, Ont. is one of four Canadian post-secondary institutions, along with Ryerson University, the University of Guelph and Simon Fraser University, to adopt NameCoach, according to the company's CEO Praveen Shanbhag .The auto-name pronunciation tool allows people to make an audio recording of their name which is then made available on their academic profile, allowing classmates and professors to play the recording and learn how to pronounce the person's name correctly.Why it's important to get names right"The name is really a symbol of your identity. It's a kind of stand-in for the person, so if I'm calling your name, I'm really calling you ... so getting it right has to do with that level of respect for the person," said Karen Pennesi, a linguistic anthropologist and associate professor at Western University. Pennesi said people with uncommon names tend to have different relationships with their names throughout their life, including changing it and then coming back to it at a later point in life, but regardless of where people are at it's important to get their preferred name right."It's a kind of a challenge to their sense of self [when you start anglicizing or shortening their name]. That makes them not be in control of their own identity, their own self." For marginalized people the mistreatment of their name can have long-term implications, Pennesi added. "They're constantly being made to feel that they don't belong or that they shouldn't be here and that their contributions aren't worthwhile."After reclaiming her name, trying to ensure it was pronounced right caused Vemannagari frustration, embarrassment and even made her feel like she was asking for too much."I didn't want to make a big deal of it, especially in a class, but one day I corrected my professor. Ever since I did that, every time they called on me, I don't think they meant to do this, but they just made it a really big deal and would be like, 'oh, wait, what's your name?,' 'It'll be the end of the year and I still have to pause to say your name' ... It made me feel like I was being demanding." Vemannagari said her professor eventually stopped asking for her input and it led to her not wanting to try to participate either, which impacted her mark at the end of the term.It was feedback similar to Vemannagari's experience that prompted Ivey to make a $10,000 annual investment in NameCoach this October, said Stephanie Brooks, the school's chief administrative officer."It matters that we get the most personal aspect of a student right, which is how to pronounce their name. When you take the time to get it right it confirms to a student that they matter and that they belong here. When you don't, it's easy to see how it can unintentionally signal the opposite," she said. Respect for a person's name an important step toward inclusivity, students sayWestern University's Ethnocultural Support Services (ESS), a group that advocates for the appreciation of different cultures on campus, highlighted the issue of the mispronunciation of names at the beginning of the school year through its own social media campaign."We've heard from an overwhelming influx of students speaking about the importance and significance of their name and how it connects them to their culture, their heritage and their ancestors," said Matthew Dawkins, a second-year student and the ESS coordinator. "I think if we started to view names as this badge of honour, then I think we can go along with respecting that a lot more and to make the conscious effort to pronounce it right and to learn it right." > It's these little things about cultural and racial sensitivity that teaches other students and staff how to be cognizant of people who are from different backgrounds. \- Mubasshira Khalid, Ivey Business School Master's student.Allan Muriuki, the third-year student who led the campaign, said getting a person's name right is one of the first steps to creating an inclusive campus."When we talk about inclusively we talk about using the correct pronunciation of people's name because we know those names mean something to people," he said. "Not using their name correctly leads them to feel belittled or not included when going about their lives." Mubasshira Khalid, a Master's student at Ivey who is often asked by people if they can shorten her name, said that while institutions often look for radical ways to address racism and discrimination, it's meaningful and necessary to address smaller items like names."Often it's these little things about cultural and racial sensitivity that teaches other students and staff how to be cognizant of people who are from different backgrounds, so I think addressing the need to get names right is an excellent step forward."
NEW YORK — The dramatic conclusion to “The Undoing,” HBO's whodunit starring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, proved how it's still possible to bring people together in today's fragmented television world.Three million people tuned in Sunday to find out who really killed the girlfriend of Grant's adulterous character in one of three showings on HBO and on the streaming service HBO Max, the Nielsen company said.That's likely to be a fraction of who eventually sees it, given how television is consumed today. The premiere of the six-episode series was seen by 1.4 million people the night it first aired, and by now has been seen by 9 million and counting.“It's a good example of how you can still have a water-cooler hit,” said Casey Bloys, HBO Programming president. “I will always point to good acting, writing and directing. It was a good story.”It was the most-watched night for HBO since the finale of “Big Little Lies” last year, which also featured Kidman and creator David E. Kelley.HBO also said it was the first time in network history that each episode of a series was seen by more people than the previous one, a powerful signal of how people were drawn into the mystery.“The Undoing” has generated more conversation on social media than any other new scripted television series this year, Nielsen said. Coupled with the streaming-only series “The Flight Attendant,” HBO Max had its biggest week since the service was launched.“The Undoing” was always designed as a limited series, but it attracted the type of interest that would make any television executive naturally wonder if the story could be extended in some way.“I don't know,” Bloys said. “I do think these things are lightning in a bottle. It could always be difficult to try that again.”But he pointed to the network's productive relationship with Kidman and Kelley.“We'll find something great to do,” he said. “Who knows what it will be?”In other ratings news, CNN finished November with its most-watched month in the network's 40-year history, showing growth in the aftermath of the election compared to rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC.NBC was the top-rated broadcast network in prime time for Thanksgiving week, averaging 3.64 million viewers. CBS had 3.55 million, ABC had 2.4 million, Fox had 1.6 million, Ion Television had 930,000, Univision had 890,000 and Telemundo had 530,000.ESPN was the most-watched cable network, averaging 2.95 million viewers. Hallmark hit 2.53 million, Fox News Channel had 2 million, MSNBC had 1.59 million and CNN had 1.41 million.ABC's “World News Tonight” led the evening news ratings race with an average of 9.5 million viewers. NBC's “Nightly News” had 8.8 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.3 million.For the week of Nov. 23-29, the 20 most-watched programs in prime time, their networks and viewerships:1\. NFL Football: Chicago at Green Bay, NBC, 16.48 million.2\. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 13.78 million.3\. “NFL Pregame” (Sunday), NBC, 13.32 million.4\. NFL Football: L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay, ESPN, 13.14 million.5\. “The Masked Singer,” Fox, 11.42 million.6\. “NFL Post-Game” (Sunday), Fox, 11.11 million.7\. “Football Night in America” (Sunday, 7:55 p.m.) NBC, 10.78 million.8\. “NCIS,” CBS, 10.16 million.9\. “FBI,” CBS, 8.4 million.10\. “Football Night in America” (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.), NBC, 7.38 million.11\. “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 7.08 million.12\. “The Voice” (Tuesday) NBC, 7.07 million.13\. “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 6.42 million.14\. “Monday Night Kickoff,” ESPN, 6.22 million.15\. “I Can See Your Voice,” Fox, 6.07 million.16\. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 5.66 million.17\. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 5.46 million.18\. “Bob Hearts Abishola,” CBS, 4.9 million.19\. “Bull,” CBS, 4.68 million.20\. “The Bachelorette,” ABC, 4.49 million.David Bauder, The Associated Press
VIENNA — Austria will allow skiing to start on Dec. 24, but will limit the capacity of ski lifts and keep restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January, officials said Wednesday. It also will require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17 and are due to expire on Sunday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said a limited curfew that has applied around the clock will be eased, and from Monday will apply only between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.Schools will be reopened next week, except for older students, as will nonessential shops, museums, libraries and some other businesses. But restaurants will remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as will bars, and hotels will remain closed except to business travellers.Austria has been hard hit by the resurgence of coronavirus infections in Europe, though its infection rate has declined over recent weeks. It currently is recording 335 new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days, down from around 600 last month — but still more than twice as many as in neighbouring Germany, which is in a milder partial shutdown.Kurz said that progress over recent weeks, and the expectation of more before Christmas, allows “cautious” reopening steps. But he said the tourism and catering sectors won’t start reopening until Jan. 7.That will effectively mean that, over the holiday season, skiing is possible in most cases only on day trips for those Austrian residents who live fairly close to the Alps. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said there will be mask-wearing and distancing requirements, and the capacity of cable cars will be limited.Kurz said that allowing skiing for locals but keeping the catering sector closed is “absolutely justified.”“Skiing is a sport that takes place in the open air, an individual sport, so epidemiologically it must be assessed differently from catering, where we know that there can time and again be infections,” he said.Kurz added that he, as a resident of eastern Austria, won't benefit but “for a large part of our population it will then be possible to go skiing at least for the day.”France and Germany, which has closed its ski resorts, are pushing for similar measures to be taken in other European countries, like Italy and Spain, for the Christmas season. Ski resorts are already open in neighbouring Switzerland, which has allowed skiing.Kurz rejected suggestions that Austria's limited reopening was a response to pressure from abroad.“We decide according to our infection situation, and our expectation is that we can push down our infections very, very strongly by Christmas,” he said.Austria also plans tougher border controls and quarantine rules in an effort to dissuade people from travelling abroad over the Christmas period. Austrian residents' summer trips to see relatives in the western Balkans, in particular, were blamed as a significant source of the resurgence of infections this fall.The quarantine rules will be imposed by mid-December and will apply “if you're coming from a country that exceeds a certain limit of infections,” Kurz said. Authorities set the limit at 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, an infection rate which the vast majority of European countries currently surpass.The requirement will be for new arrivals to go into quarantine for 10 days, which they can cut short by taking a test after five days, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___Geir Moulson reported from Berlin.Geir Moulson And Philipp Jenne, The Associated Press
As students in Nunavut’s COVID-19 hot spot of Arviat continue to learn from home, the territory’s education minister says his department hasn’t yet been able to deliver computers to students to help with remote learning. “We’re still dealing with the logistics of deploying to the affected communities,” said Education Minister David Joanasie on Monday about delivery of computers to students. Schools in communities other than Arviat are reopened to varying degrees today, following the end of a two-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Nunavut has 800 electronic devices — computers and tablets — for students to do homework on, Joanasie said. “I don’t have a breakdown of how many [students] will be able to have access [to computers and internet] as of Wednesday,” Joanasie said. The department “dropped the ball” on preparing teachers, parents and students to continue learning while schools on are shut down, said James Arreak, chairman of the Nunavut Coalition of District Education Authorities. The department ordered teachers to prepare learning packages for students in September in case schools had to close. But Arreak said there have been problems with teachers communicating to parents how to give lessons to their children at home. Right now teachers are trying to communicate through email, and not all parents have computers or access to the internet. Arreak also said instructions shouldn’t just be given in English, but in Inuktut. “It’s one thing to have learning resources prepared, but it should be done with a bit more practicality,” Arreak said. He asks why the department couldn’t use communication methods that people are familiar with and have access to, like local radio. The department is forcing teachers, parents and students to adapt to it, instead of the department adapting to local circumstances, Arreak said. The coalition’s role is to be partners with the department to help develop and deliver education. “At this point, the government is doing it all [on] their own,” he said. “It’s evident the department lost focus,” Arreak said. “Maybe they’re tired.” Most of Nunavut ends its COVID-19 lockdown on Wednesday, with the exception of Arviat, where the highest number of people are infected, and there are signs of community transmission. The community has 854 students. Public health restrictions there will be reassessed on Dec. 16. There are also people sick with COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, but the virus is thought to be contained there, so schools have reopened. Elementary students are going to class three days a week, and high school students two days a week, as per Nunavut’s school reopening plan. “Remote learning doesn’t necessarily mean computer, computer, computer,” Joanasie said, in response to questions about why his department wasn’t more prepared for a community being locked down for an extended period of time. Teachers have been creative in getting learning packages to students during the lockdown, he said. For example, in Pangnirtung learning packages were dropped off and picked up at the post office, Joanasie said. In Whale Cove, the RCMP have been dropping off homework at students’ homes. But Arreak said what really matters is that teachers are coping, able to communicate to parents and students, and that their instructions are understood, so students can learn. He also said it’s key for teachers to be able to enter schools so they can prepare learning packages and use the internet to communicate with parents. On Wednesday, Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said he was fine with teachers in Arviat using their classrooms to prepare materials. But he didn’t know if the Department of Education or the local DEA was allowing it. The federal government has committed funding to Nunavut, some of which is to buy computers and to expand internet capacity. There are 1,500 more computers on the way to Nunavut, and the department plans to buy 2,192 more. The department also bought a licence for an online learning platform called Edsby, which isn’t yet available. In Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, where there are people with COVID-19 but no signs of community transmission, all students are doing a combination of remote and classroom learning. In the rest of the territory elementary students are back to class full time, and middle and high school students will go two to three days a week with staggered schedules. Nunatsiaq News asked to speak to a teacher or principal from Arviat, but the Education Department has yet to respond to the request. It also reached out to the Arviat DEA and has yet to hear back.Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
SaskPower is warning the public about potential scam artists who are collecting information from its customers.On Tuesday, the company rolled back customers' power bills by 10 per cent, fulfilling a campaign promise by the Saskatchewan Party.The rebate is automatic and nobody has to fill out an application.However, SaskPower says they've been told about people going door-to-door in Regina telling customers that they have to apply."One scammer has been described as wearing a blue uniform with no logos, a name tag, and wearing a mask," the company said in a news release.Although there's no money changing hands, SaskPower thinks the scammers want to use the information for illegal purposes.They say if anybody encounters one of these people, they should call SaskPower customer service (1-888-757-6937) or the police.Rebate will last for a yearThe provincial government says the rebate will continue for a year and will cost $262 million.The money will come out of the general revenues, rather than from SaskPower.Customers with Saskatchewan's two municipal utilities, Swift Current Light and Power and Saskatoon Light and Power, will receive the same rebate.
The number of continuing care facilities in Alberta with COVID-19 outbreaks of two or more cases has more than tripled in three weeks, causing advocates to sound the alarm.In three weeks, the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta care homes has shot to 123 from 40.As of Wednesday morning, 351 residents of long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites have died of COVID in the province since the pandemic began, according to the government.That's 64 per cent of the 551 reported COVID deaths in Alberta."It's very challenging and quite frankly it's a situation in our province of our own making," said Mike Conroy, CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs a number of Calgary care homes.At one of them, Clifton Manor in southeast Calgary, an ongoing outbreak has led to 74 COVID-19 cases and three deaths.For months, Conroy has been calling for dedicated contact tracing and testing at Alberta continuing care facilities.The care homes that he's in charge of conduct asymptomatic testing every three days during an outbreak.And as recently as last week, Conroy had to wait three days for a batch of swab results — eight of which came back positive."My expectation, and I've been trying to secure a commitment, is that we should get those results in 24 hours, because it's information … the sooner we have the results, the sooner we can take action," he said.Staffing shortages more dire than in springStaffing is another major challenge for care homes as they battle through the second wave, said Lorraine Venturato, a nursing professor at the University of Calgary. "It's kind of coming in like a tsunami and there hasn't been as much attention being focused on continuing care as there was in the first wave and yet the situation is probably more dire now," she said.Venturato said continuing care centres may need to look to other industries — perhaps recruiting laid-off restaurant workers — for help with non-medical jobs."Meals need to be delivered to rooms if a site's in lockdown, so they may need extra people in the kitchen, extra people for delivery, extra people for cleaning," she said.20 hospitals also battle outbreaksCurrently, 20 Alberta hospitals are also now battling COVID-19 outbreaks.According to information published by Alberta Health Services, there are more than 190 COVID cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now, and at least 20 deaths have been linked to the outbreaks.Hospitals across the province are working to dedicate 2,200 beds for COVID patients, as they did last spring, Premier Jason Kenney said in the legislature on Monday. At Tuesday afternoon's provincial update, Alberta reported 1,307 new cases, with a provincial positivity rate of 8.4 per cent. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases a day for nearly two weeks, and ICU and hospital numbers continue to hit record highs.The total number of active cases was 16,628, an increase of 174 from the day before.Conroy adds to calls for 'circuit-breaker' style lockdownFor his part, Conroy says the province's restrictions aren't working and he thinks it's time for a so-called "circuit-breaker" style lockdown.A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.Kenney's UCP have fielded repeated calls from doctors and others for a circuit-breaker lockdown in past weeks.Among them, the Alberta government has received letters from groups of hundreds of physicians and three major health-care unions in the province urging the government to institute a "circuit-breaker" targeted lockdown.The retiring head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, also called for up to a 28-day "circuit breaker" lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season.