FFL Flash Alert - Liz Loza explains why the Falcons RB deserves a spot in your starting lineup.
FFL Flash Alert - Liz Loza explains why the Falcons RB deserves a spot in your starting lineup.
'Significant growth' in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) could help keep taxes down while increasing the cash available for the town to spend in 2021. TBM will be finalizing its 2021 budget in early February, which currently proposes a 1.3 per cent tax rate increase. “The actual tax levy is increasing by 5.2 per cent. However, because we've seen significant growth, we are going to receive an extra $635,988 in tax revenue. So, the end result is that there's a 1.3 per cent tax rate increase,” stated Ruth Prince, director of finance and IT for TBM. “The town has been in a very fortunate position.” The proposed budget outlines an average residential property tax bill of $5,466 based on an assessment of $620,000. Of the $5,466, 17.4 per cent or $949 would be filtered to the education tax; 41.3 per cent or $2,256 is allocated to Grey County and $2,256 or 41.4 per cent remains in TBM. Assessments for 2021 have been frozen at the 2020 assessment rate level in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “So, what does that mean for an average town tax bill? If your assessment is that $620,000, you may see the town portion increased [from 2020] by $31,” Prince said. In the proposed budget, the town’s capital budget totals $23.6 million with 13 per cent of the funding coming from development charges and the remaining funds being drawn from long-term debt, property owners and reserves. Capital projects outlined for 2021 include the Camperdown Wastewater Extension, upgrades to Jozo Weider Boulevard, replacement of two bridges, as well as replacing an aerial pumper in the fire department's fleet. “We are being prudent, but we are trying to do a lot,” stated TBM Mayor, Alar Soever. TBM has outlined four studies that are expected to be completed in 2021 – the town’s density/intensification study, the Leisure Activity Plan, a compensation review and the Fire Master Plan. Town staff and council have also suggested additions to the base budget, including several new staff positions: an administrative assistant to committees; a communications assistant; a communications coordinator; a fire prevention inspector; an additional landfill operator; a contract building inspector; permit and inspection assistant; lot development technologist; and a development reviewer. In addition, TBM has outlined plans to pursue the creation of a dog park in Craigleith, installation of EV charging stations, adding a parks vehicle to its fleet and has also diverted funds into the communications department for additional advertising. The base budget additions total $917,550, with $496,680 being drawn from taxation. Four departments in TBM – water, wastewater, harbour and building departments – are funded through user fees, not taxation. “In terms of water and wastewater rates, there is no change to the water consumption, but there is a two per cent proposed increase to the wastewater consumption charge, and that would see an increase of approximately $6 a year,” Prince said. The draft budget also proposes several changes to the fee structure at the Thornbury Harbour, including a $2-per-foot increase to the Seasonal Mooring fees. Town staff have been actively working on the draft budget since June and TBM council held budget deliberation meetings on Dec. 2, 7 and 9, as well as a public meeting on Jan. 11. Comments received at the public meeting included concerns around the Camperdown Wastewater Extension project, affordability for seniors on a fixed income, and housing concerns. “Young families are effectively being precluded from living in the area as they simply cannot afford to live here. Home prices [are] rising at an alarming rate and [there is] alack of housing inventory available,” stated Katie Bell, in a letter to council. “The town deferred 2020 tax bill payment by one month in an effort to help residents meet the payment indicating the council acknowledges the difficult economic environment. Now, instead of continued support to the constituents, council will introduce a tax hike,” Bell continued. The Blue Mountain Ratepayers Association (BMRA), which has its own budget review committee, performed an analysis of the TBM draft budget and presented a deputation to TBM council on Dec. 8. In its deputation to council, the BMRA applauded the town for their continued efforts in remaining fiscally responsible while addressing the needs of the community through the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the group drew some concerns around the town’s ability to complete capital projects in a timely manner. “Depreciation is greater than new capital builds and has been for some time,” stated Brian Harkness, chair of BMRA's budget review committee in the deputation to council. The BMRA is also continuing its efforts in trying to find justification in the large percentage of tax dollars that is allocated to the county, in comparison to other lower-tier municipalities in the region. “BMRA is concerned about the increasing amount of municipal tax assessment dollars directed to the county and not available for the town to spend on needed capital projects, such as a modern community centre,” Harkness continued. Currently, 41.3 per cent of the tax dollars collected from TBM residents is allocated to Grey County. In 2020, the average TBM resident paid $2,268 in tax dollars to Grey County, which is the highest paid by any resident of all nine Grey County municipalities. The Municipality of Grey Highlands held the second-highest contribution rate in 2020, contributing, on average, $1,483 per resident. Comments from the public meeting will be presented to council in a staff report on Jan. 26, where council members will take one final look at the proposed draft budget. “We're now at 1.37 [per cent increase], but we're going to be meeting to fine tune things once a public meeting where everybody will have a chance to provide some more comments,” Soever said, adding that council members hope to reduce expenditures further to reach a zero per cent tax increase. The budget bylaw will appear before council for final approval on Feb. 8. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
New Brunswick's largest long-term care home is working on a proposal that could see family members help take care of their loved ones as well as other residents in the event of a staffing shortage during a COVID-19 outbreak. Under the province's current COVID-19 rules, family members are not allowed into a long-term care facility when there is even one confirmed case, which constitutes an outbreak. But the York Care Centre in Fredericton contends family members who are part of its designated caregiver program and have been trained in COVID-preventive measures could "bring a lot of value to the response rather than being locked out," said president and CEO Tony Weeks. "We obviously don't have any approvals to actually implement something like that because we're committed to following Public Health directions like everybody else," he said. "And so what we want to do is be able to influence government thinking to allow that to happen." York Care Centre and its research company, the Centre for Innovation and Research in Aging, are preparing a report for the provincial government on a low-staff simulation exercise conducted at the home in December to demonstrate the role designated caregivers could play. Weeks expects to submit the report within the next month. He thinks the centre's program could serve as a model for long-term care homes across the province and across the country, not just during a COVID staffing shortage but in any emergency or evacuation. The Department of Social Development did not respond Friday to a request for comment. Started in the summer The designated caregiver program at York Care Centre started last summer. It links residents with a family member who can assist with care on a set schedule, said Lori McDonald, vice-president of care and research services. Unlike regular visitors, who are accountable only for "being safe when they're here and having that needed togetherness with their loved one," designated caregivers commit to interaction that improves their loved one's health, she said. The type of interaction is different for everyone, said McDonald. "One person might be helping to feed their mother. Another person might be helping walk their father, or someone else might be in just for social engagement because they're at risk for depression." The designated caregivers also receive training in infection control, proper hand washing, the use of personal protective equipment, and safe practices to reduce the risk of bringing any virus into the facility, said McDonald. "So it's quite a robust education program," she said, but a voluntary one. 100 trained so far "We're not approaching them and asking them if they want to be part of this program. They're approaching us, saying, 'We want to be in your facility to care for our loved one, just like we always did [before the pandemic], but in a safe way.'" Of the centre's 218 residents, 100 now have a trained designated caregiver. General visitors are barred from the centre when the Fredericton region is at the more restrictive orange or red levels of COVID-19 recovery, as it is now, but designated caregivers are allowed in no matter the level — as long as there's no outbreak. To date, York Care Centre has not had any positive cases of COVID-19. In the event of an outbreak, "it's a very real possibility that we'll have staff who are sick or maybe scared to come to work," said McDonald. They've told us they want to be here. - Lori McDonald, York Care Centre During earlier outbreaks at other long-term care homes, some staff left or didn't show up for work, and the government had to seek volunteers from other parts of the province. McDonald said family members "bring quite a bit to the residents' lives … And they've told us they want to be here." Residents, meanwhile, have said they "feel lonely and they feel isolated when their families are not here," she said. "So we're looking to bridge that gap … by using our [designated] caregivers." Some of the designated caregivers might also be willing to assist with the social support or quality-of-life issues of residents they're not related to, said McDonald, noting many develop friendships after years of visiting. "There's absolutely no pressure," she added, and the consent of all parties would be required. This was not the program's original "initial target," but is now a "byproduct," said McDonald. "It's something we're looking at." Simulation 'held back' staff In December, the centre ran a simulation to see how it could respond to an emergency that resulted in a significant reduction of its 350 full-time equivalent staff, and determine what role the designated caregivers could play now that they're familiar with the organization and trained, said Weeks. "We couldn't actually run with short staff [and risk compromising care], so all we could do is hold back," he said, adding residents and families were advised in advance of the two-day simulation being conducted by two teams of staff on a couple of different units. "Team A was basically doing all of the functions in a short-staffed scenario, and then they let out some of the B team folks to support it when things got in a pinch. "So similar to if it was a real scenario, resources would become available as we're able to get them. And so that was the examination, to see what impact would that have on the care that we provide. "What impact would it have on the stress on the employees? How would it impact the residents? And again, as a byproduct, what role could designated caregivers play?" One of the scenarios being assessed was, if multiple residents were pressing their call bell at the same time, what was the centre's ability to respond to those call bells in a safe manner, said Weeks. Another example was if a resident required some extra attention that tied up a nurse while something else happened, what impact would it have if the nurse couldn't respond. In addition, the simulation looked at how many of the functions taking place might be considered non-urgent but still quality-of-life issues, such as social interaction or getting people to activities, which designated caregivers might be able to help with, said Weeks. He acknowledged there may be some people who would argue they pay for the care their loved ones are supposed to receive, and they shouldn't have to volunteer. But he said none of the York Care Centre families have made any such comments. "When we told them about this initiative, they were all quite excited to know that it's going on because they understand it provides another level of safety," he said. "Remember, we're talking about people that even before the pandemic, they were coming in here on their own because they have strong connections with their loved ones, and they want to be part of their lives."
For much of 2020, the COVID-19 story in British Columbia was a tale of two pandemics: the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths were in the Lower Mainland, with the rest of the province only seeing intermittent outbreaks. Not anymore. For the last month, active cases have plunged in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and risen everywhere else. Adjusted for population, the biggest hot spots in the province are now places like Fort St. John, Terrace, Burns Lake and Revelstoke. There's 10 months of data to show what happens if outbreaks aren't dealt with quickly, if people don't self-isolate, if firm measures aren't taken. Which is why some of the conversation by local leaders in the Interior is how to — or whether to — ignore the small minority advocating for the opposite approach. "It's been rough. It's not been good," said 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, who says his community and the surrounding area now have more than 60 cases. Campsall estimates only one or two per cent of the community are attending anti-mask rallies or blatantly ignoring provincial health guidelines. But says it does have an impact. "I'll be blunt. We live in a me, me, me world. It's all about me, it's not about the community … people have got to get the right information." 'We know what has to be done' While the term "COVID fatigue" is often used in the Lower Mainland, beyond Hope there's a concern of COVID complacency — communities that haven't seen the same level of transmission or hospitalizations, who may be slow to respond to the moment. "We know what has to be done. You just have to be very careful, you've got to keep your bubble very small," said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming. At the same time, his own council passed a motion pushing the province to reopen places of worship, over Cumming's opposition. "There's clearly people within the community finding this not something they truly back or believe in … but the science is clear." Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has seen his community become the centre of large rallies against health orders in recent months and struggles with whether criticizing those folks only amplifies their message. "I don't think it's going to stop people from doing this behaviour," he said. "All I would say is I'd rather speak to the vast majority of people who believe in science, who believe this is real, and who have done their best to stop the spread." And with thousands of people being vaccinated every day, Basran hopes people can see light at the end of the tunnel. "Everyone is really frustrated. Unfortunately, we're going to have to keep the fight up," he said. "We are so close to the end here." Deaths still happening in care homes That end, however, will come too late to people like Chris Ashburn in Vernon. His father John died Jan. 5 in the Heritage Square long-term care home, where seven people have passed away since an outbreak was declared in late December. "His only symptoms they had noticed at [first] were a runny nose," said Ashburn, who was grateful for the efforts of health-care workers and said his dad had "led a very robust, great life." As more and more communities across British Columbia deal with large outbreaks, Ashburn is optimistic the vaccine will bring stability. But he also has a message for people downplaying the effects of the virus. "It's unfathomable to me that we're basically a year into this, and they still find a platform for an opinion that this isn't real," he said. "I hope for the sake of them, they don't have to go through what we went through." With files from Brady Strachan and Daybreak South
At least five people have died at a nursing home in Italy from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, local media and officials said on Saturday. Seven people, including two health workers, are being treated in hospital for symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning, the ANSA news agency said. "It's a tragedy," Interior Ministry Undersecretary Carlo Sibilia wrote in a Facebook post.
Greece kicked off COVID-19 vaccinations among the elderly on Saturday, after first inoculating tens of thousands of frontline workers to fight the spread of the coronavirus. More than 75,000 healthcare workers and nursing home residents and carers have received the shot of the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech since Greece rolled out the plan along with other EU countries last month. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday that Greece aims to have 2 million people inoculated by March.
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden is proposing a $1.9 trillion plan to expand coronavirus vaccinations, help individuals and jump-start the economy. The plan, which would require congressional approval, is packed with proposals on health care, education, labour and cybersecurity. On Friday, he outlined a five-step approach to getting the vaccination to the American people, and to ensure that it is distributed equitably. “Equity is central to our COVID response,” he said. Here's a look at what's in Biden's plan: CONTAINING THE VIRUS — A $20 billion national program would establish community vaccination centres across the U.S. and send mobile units to remote communities. Medicaid patients would have their costs covered by the federal government, and the administration says it will take steps to ensure all people in the U.S. can receive the vaccine for free, regardless of their immigration status. — An additional $50 billion would expand testing efforts and help schools and governments implement routine testing. Other efforts would focus on developing better treatments for COVID-19 and improving efforts to identify and track new strains of the virus. THE VACCINATION PLAN — Working with states to open up vaccinations beyond health care workers, including to people 65 and older, as well as essential front-line workers. — Establishing more vaccination sites, including working with FEMA to set up 100 federally supported centres by the end of his first month in office . He suggested using community centres, school gymnasiums and sports stadiums. He also called for expanding the pool of those who can deliver the vaccine. — Using pharmacies around the country to administer the vaccine. The Trump administration already has entered into agreements with some large chains to do that. — Using the Defence Production Act, a Cold War-era law to “maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country.” — A public education campaign to address “vaccine hesitancy” and the refusal of some to take the vaccine. He called the education plan "a critical piece to account for a tragic reality of the disproportionate impact this virus has had on Black, Latino and Native American communities” INDIVIDUALS AND WORKERS — Stimulus checks of $1,400 per person in addition to the $600 checks Congress approved in December. By bringing payments to $2,000 — an amount Democrats previously called for — the administration says it will help families meet basic needs and support local businesses. — A temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures would be extended through September. — The federal minimum wage would be raised to $15 per hour from the current rate of $7.25 per hour. — An emergency measure requiring employers to provide paid sick leave would be reinstated. The administration is urging Congress to keep the requirement through Sept. 30 and expand it to federal employees. — The child care tax credit would be expanded for a year, to cover half the cost of child care up to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more for families making less than $125,000 a year. Families making between $125,000 and $400,000 would get a partial credit. — $15 billion in federal grants to help states subsidize child care for low-income families, along with a $25 billion fund to help child care centres in danger of closing. SCHOOLS — $130 billion for K-12 schools to help them reopen safely. The money is meant to help reach Biden's goal of having a majority of the nation's K-8 schools open within his first 100 days in the White House. Schools could use the funding to cover a variety of costs, including the purchase of masks and other protective equipment, upgrades to ventilation systems and staffing for school nurses. Schools would be expected to use the funding to help students who fell behind on academics during the pandemic, and on efforts to meet students' mental health needs. A portion of the funding would go to education equity grants to help with challenges caused by the pandemic. — Public colleges and universities would get $35 billion to cover pandemic-related expenses and to steer funding to students as emergency grants. An additional $5 billion would go to governors to support programs helping students who were hit hardest by the pandemic. SMALL BUSINESS — $15 billion in grants to more than 1 million small businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic, as well as other assistance. STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT — $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local and territorial governments to help front-line workers. — $20 billion in aid to public transit agencies. CYBERSECURITY — $9 billion to modernize information technology systems at federal agencies, motivated by recent cybersecurity attacks that penetrated multiple agencies. — $690 million to boost federal cybersecurity monitoring efforts and $200 million to hire hundreds of new cybersecurity experts. The Associated Press
New Brunswick writer Richard Vaughan's life and legacy is now being celebrated through a virtual art exhibition. The acclaimed author, poet and playwright died in Fredericton in October. He was 55. Known as Cut. Paste. Resist. Redux, the multimedia exhibition consists of film strips created from collages. Those images are paired with voiceovers of friends and colleagues reading various excerpts from his poetry, chat books and novels. Marie Maltais, director of the UNB Arts Centre, helped organize the project and described Vaughan as "a shining star of New Brunswick's cultural scene." She said the exhibit is a way to "bring back the genius" of the writer. "He was an advocate, he was someone who was very down to earth, you could approach him," Maltais said. Vaughan was born in Saint John, but lived and worked in Montreal, Toronto and Berlin before returning to his home province last year to work as writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick. He wrote under the name R.M. Vaughan. He is remembered as a pioneer for LGBTQ artists and a talented writer who could address many subjects. The new exhibit was inspired by a collage project Vaughan organized with Ken Moffatt, the Jack Layton chair at Ryerson University, early last year. They put out a call for submissions from community members focused on the theme of resistance. More than 200 collages came in from around the world, and were displayed as part of the Cut, Paste, Resist art show at UNB. That initial show has evolved into the project presented online this month in Vaughan's memory. Maltais reached out to Moffatt shortly after Vaughan's death to collaborate on the project. It is being held virtually on the centre's website because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recorded readings from 17 different people will be released throughout the month. The response to the show has been positive, with people sharing fond memories. Maltais said she remembers Vaughan as someone who really cared about his students and the cultural community. "I have spoken to a few people that were mentored by him, and it is really a terrible loss," she said.
Dougie just can't contain his excitement as he runs and plays in the first snowfall of 2021. Hilarious!
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Pakistan, the health minister said on Saturday, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to get the green light for use in the South Asian country. Pakistan, which is seeing rising numbers of coronavirus infections, said its vaccines would be procured from multiple sources. "DRAP granted emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine," the health minister, Faisal Sultan, told Reuters.
Filmmaker Sayda Habib turned lockdown blues into an inspirational project. Sayda Habib was pursuing a project on long-term care homes in Canada for her masters in journalism at the University of Regina when COVID-19 hit. "Originally, I wanted to create a documentary portraying the abuse in the Canadian seniors homes. I wanted to work on this project because the number of seniors suffering from abuse in nursing homes has tripled in the last few years. The documentary was to be named Care in Jeopardy," Sayda said. Weeks into the pandemic, however, it became clear to Sayda and her supervisor that she would have to course-correct. Many of her key characters were restricted from receiving guests and the logistics for getting a camera anywhere became incredibly difficult. "I knew I had to change my plans," Sayda said. "Most nursing homes were restricted to visitors already at that time which meant I had to change my project to a more attainable one." Although it was disheartening to change course late in the academic year after investing so much time and effort into her research, Sayda decided to make a documentary about the cause of the change. Pandemic Minds was born. The documentary finds Sayda following the lives of different characters from different parts of the world to explore how they are adjusting to the strange new world. Assisted by clinical psychologist Syeda Batool Najam, Sayda examines how the various personalities perceive the global pandemic and why. "Pandemic Minds investigates human behaviour in a global crisis through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. This documentary explores five factors of human behaviour through the stories of ordinary people," Sayda said. "The factors that were mentioned in the documentary were denial, self-interest, fear/anxiety, adaptation and solidarity." Sayda raced against the clock to finish her documentary. As she was essentially starting a brand new project, she had to act quickly and find creative solutions to whatever hurdles were thrown her way. This proved to be a long process. "I can say it took me about three and half months to write, record and edit this documentary. But the whole process at that time seemed like a decade," Sayda said. Sayda faced challenges creating the documentary, from finding characters to co-ordinating them. "The biggest challenge was to be able to get at least 20 participants who were willing to record themselves one whole day. Not everyone was comfortable recording themselves and even when they agreed, some of the participants did not follow the instructions while recording," Sayda said. "I also had a hard time getting the materials online. This is because I had participants from different countries and not everyone was able to send me the files through the shared drive." Sayda was able to come through shining on the other side, regardless of the challenges. She said she especially learned the importance of patience and perseverance. Moving forward, she would like to make a documentary series inspired by Pandemic Minds. "The psychological explanations in the documentary would be very detailed yet simple to understand. To give you an example, one episode can solely be on the increase in domestic violence during a pandemic or this specific pandemic," Sayda said. "What is the psychological reason behind that? What goes through the mind of the perpetrator and what can be done about it?"
“I am very much encouraging my 92-year-old mom to get in line as soon as (a COVID-19 vaccine) is available in her community and she’s all ready and excited about it as well,” said Leila Gillis. She is acting chief nursing officer and director general primary health care with the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). Gillis was speaking on Jan. 14 on the weekly virtual town hall hosted by the First Nations Health Managers Association. “Many communities are currently managing active outbreaks and had such a challenging Christmas period. I worked through it all. And there’s still evidence of community transmission in many, many jurisdictions across the country,” said Gillis. According to figures posted on the ISC website of coronavirus activity on First Nations reserves, as of Jan. 14 ISC “is aware of” 12,071 confirmed positive cases; 4,581 active cases; 7,377 recovered cases and 113 deaths. Worst hit are reserves in the prairie provinces with Alberta numbering 3,944 confirmed positive cases, Manitoba with 3,201 and Saskatchewan with 3,084. British Columbia is next with 1,081 confirmed positive cases. “We’re still working hard to prevent COVID spread in our continued and longstanding public health measures and we can’t lose sight of that while we’re also working to organize and support one of the biggest vaccine administration campaigns in this country’s history,” said Gillis, who spent time reassuring Indigenous viewers and listeners of the safety of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Some First Nations and Inuit communities or members of those communities have been prioritized in the first phase of the vaccine rollout. The vaccines have been “rigorously tested” and the benefits far outweigh the risks, said Gillis. Valerie Gideon, senior assistant deputy minister with FNIHB, said in a national news conference on Jan. 13 that having Indigenous health professionals involved in the process is significant in addressing suspicion from the Indigenous population. “There are a lot of amazing Indigenous health professionals that are speaking very proactively about the vaccine and supporting that understanding that the (ISC) Minister (Marc Miller) is speaking to and I think that makes a significant difference. “They are such influential decision makers with respect to the vaccine planning and administration process, not only within their communities, but overall in the context of supporting First Nations and others across the provinces,” said Gideon. Still some members of the Indigenous population have approached the vaccine with wariness. “The hesitancy comes sometimes with good reason,” said Miller. “You see that hesitancy that is based on perhaps experiences … So it’s based on reality.” He pointed out that Indigenous peoples were the target of medical procedures and experiments in the 1950s and 1960s and they continue to experience mistreatment in today’s healthcare system. Miller also talked about the need to have information available in Indigenous languages as well as the need to build trust with health officials who come into communities to deliver the vaccinations. “One (way) that works best is when you engage local communities to get that information out there, tell people there’s an informed choice, and let them make the choice. It makes for more work but it makes for better vaccination strategies,” said Miller. “We’ve heard a lot more request for the vaccine to arrive than we’ve heard hesitancy… That’s at the leadership level. We will see in the numbers of uptake,” said Gideon. Miller said 75 per cent of the adult population in the territories are expected to have received their second dose of the vaccine by the end of March. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. Rollout of the vaccine to urban Indigenous population – a larger number than live on reserve – will require “coordination amongst partners, provinces and territories. Efficient and effective roll out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration and partnership,” said Miller. He said figures weren’t available for how COVID was impacting Indigenous people living in cities, although he did say that those living in Montreal and Winnipeg had been “really hit.” “Our government is working with all provinces and territories to encourage full inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples,” he said. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is filling out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signalling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump. A transition official said Biden intends to nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively. They were expected to be the 11 department appointees that Biden was announcing Saturday to serve under his pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, the official said. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the appointments before the announcements and spoke on condition of anonymity. Among the others joining the Biden team are: —longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management. —former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively. —Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counsellor. —former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, as director of policy planning. —Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken's chief of staff. —Ned Price, a former Obama administration National Security Council staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman. —Jalina Porter, communications director for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is leaving Congress to work in the White House, will be Price's deputy. Price and Porter intend to return to the practice of holding daily State Department press briefings, officials said. Those briefings had been eliminated under the Trump administration. Jeffrey Prescott, a former national security aide when Biden was vice-president, is Biden's pick to be deputy ambassador to the United Nations, He would serve under U.N. envoy-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Five of the 11 are either people of colour or LGBTQ. Although most are not household names, all are advocates of multilateralism and many are familiar in Washington and overseas foreign policy circles. Their selections are a reflection of Biden's intent to turn away from Trump's transactional and often unilateral “America First” approach to international relations. “These leaders are trusted at home and respected around the world, and their nominations signal that America is back and ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," Biden said in a statement. “They also reflect the idea that we cannot meet this new moment with unchanged thinking or habits, and that we need diverse officials who look like America at the table. They will not only repair but also reimagine American foreign policy and national security for the next generation.” Sherman led the Obama administration’s negotiations leading to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Trump withdrew, and had engaged in talks over ballistic missiles with North Korea during President Bill Clinton's second term. Nuland served as assistant secretary of state for European Affairs during the Ukraine crisis.. Sherman, McKeon, Nuland, Jenkins and Zeya will require Senate confirmation to their posts while the others will not. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Toronto Mayor John Tory has congratulated Nick Mantas on winning the Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt byelection. Preliminary results show Mantas won a narrow victory Friday night to replace former Toronto city councillor Jim Karygiannis in Ward 22. Tory said the byelection happened at a crucial time for the city. "As mayor, it is my job to work with every member of city council," Tory said in a statement. "I look forward to working with councillor-elect Mantas on the issues that are important to him and the residents of Ward 22. "This is a crucial time for our city as we continue to face the challenge of COVID-19. I know councillor-elect mantas is committed to helping our efforts as a city government to confront this virus and make the residents and businesses of Scarborough-Agincourt get through these extremely tough times," Tory added. Tory said he also looks forward to working with Mantas on the prudent management of the city's finances and on the maintenance of strong partnerships with the other governments. He thanked voters who cast their ballot in the byelection either by mail or in person. "Your commitment to making sure your voice is heard as part of our democratic process is so important and has helped make sure Ward 22 will continue to be represented at Toronto City Hall," he said. Mantas, who was the former chief of staff to Karygiannis, was considered one of the more high-profile candidates among the 28 running in the byelection for Scarborough-Agincourt. According to the city's unofficial results, Mantas had a total of 3,261 votes with all 41 polls reporting. He won by a margin of just 223 votes over his nearest rival, Manna Wong, who garnered 3,038 votes. The results are deemed unofficial until the city clerk can declare a winner, according to a tweet from Toronto Elections. Karygiannis was removed as city councillor in September 2020 due to a campaign spending violation in the 2018 municipal election.
Hopes are high for Woodmere Stealdeal, as he heads into the 2021 racing season on the heels of a perfect 13-0 record. The P.E.I.-bred and Nova Scotia-trained gelding not only went undefeated on the Maritime harness racing circuit in 2020, he also set records at every track where he raced. "He's a real smart horse. He gets lots of speed. That's why I like him," said trainer Danny Romo, who has spent a lifetime teaching horses how to race. He was impressed by Woodmere Stealdeal's positive attitude and good manners. "Any time we train him, he goes as fast as we wanted him to go," he said. "You felt like he wanted to do it." They call him Steal for short, and Romo said from the start the horse was a natural that stood out from the rest. Steal reminds him of another impressive horse he trained in the early 2000s, Firms Phantom, who wracked up an impressive 28 straight wins as a two- and three-year old. Good genes The son of Steelhead Hanover and Very Ideal Hanover, Stealdeal was bred at Woodmere Standardbreds in Marshfield, P.E.I. Operator Bruce Wood attributes Steal's success to good training, but also good rearing and good genes. Steal's mother was an impressive horse too, he said, often pacing in the 1:53 range. She was "a real kind-hearted mare," said Wood, adding that Steal had a similar disposition, along with being "a really smart yearling and very athletic looking." Even when the race is over, he'll never let anyone pass him. — Bruce Wood, Woodmere Standardbreds After acquiring Steal in 2019, it didn't take long for owners Bob Sumarah and Kevin Dorey to realize they had something special on their hands. "After the first race, he looked fantastic," said Sumarah. Romo trains Steal at Romo Stables in Truro, N.S., and said this horse didn't require much pushing and seems to have a drive to win. His career debut was July 9 in Summerside, P.E.I., finishing in 1:57.1 and taking the Atlantic Sires Stakes A event. After winning that first race, he continued to lead the pack, and continued to shave time off his finishes, ending the season with 1:54.1 times at both Red Shores Charlottetown and the Truro Raceway. Woodmere Stealdeal was driven by Marc Campbell and Clare MacDonald in 2020. "He's had an incredible season," said Dorey. "He went 13 for 13. He raced at five tracks and he set five track records. And I can't recall any two-year-old in Atlantic Canada ever accomplishing that feat." "He's a fast, fast horse. And he loves to pass horses," said Dorey. "He loves attention. He loves people." Wood is pleased and proud of Steal's success and hopes it continues. "We follow them like they're our kids once they start their racing career," said Wood. He's not always able to catch the races in person, but when he can't he always watches them later online. "It's pretty neat to see him break record after record." The impressive season drew $68,646 in earnings, according to Standardbred Canada, including the Atlantic Breeds Crown, Joe O'Brien Memorial and the Maritime Breeders Championship. When the racing season starts in May, Steal will be competing as a three-year-old. And hopes are high that he'll continue to set records in 2021. Wood said Woodmere Stealdeal's desire to win is clear. Even when he wins a race by lengths, instead of slowing down and cooling off right away, he continues to run. "Even when the race is over, he'll never let anyone pass him." More from CBC P.E.I.
Suicide rates in Japan have jumped in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women and children, even though they fell in the first wave when the government offered generous handouts to people, a survey found. The July-October suicide rate rose 16% from the same period a year earlier, a stark reversal of the February-June decline of 14%, according to the study by researchers at Hong Kong University and Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology. The early decline in suicides was affected by such factors as government subsidies, reduced working hours and school closure, the study found.
January is typically when the holiday lights and Christmas trees begin to come down, as the festive season ends. However, Michael Fabijan, an Inuvik, N.W.T., resident of 33 years, is keeping his unique Christmas tree up to continue to spread some cheer. What was once a blank white wall that separated his living room and kitchen is now donned with a hand-painted tree decked in ornaments crafted by family friends. Fabijan came up with the idea to paint the tree there, and enlisted friends to help spruce it up. "Going away all the time, you never have to decorate for Christmas because you are going to someone else's house. But now I'm here, so I have to decorate," said Fabijan. "And that's where this came from." I'm surrounded by a great crowd of people. - Michael Fabijan Like many, Fabijan spent his Christmas away from family, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 66-year-old said that although this is one of the first holidays he's stayed in Inuvik, the tree ended up bringing a lot of joy and a smile to his face. Every night for about three weeks, four close families in Inuvik would come on different nights to Fabijan's home and spend time decorating the tree with him. "I asked everyone to paint their names somewhere on the board," said Fabijan. Cecile Bleakney, a family friend of Fabijan's, said he is like family, and decorating the tree was like a little celebration every night. "I was amazed about the talent that went in there," she said. "[Almost] everything is handmade… very heartfelt." Sometimes just his friends' kids would come over and paint or add something unique to the tree. A couple of the ornaments feature photos of Fabijan with the children when they were younger. The only two ornaments that aren't handmade are one Fabijan has from childhood, and another he has from his mom. Tree wall may be preserved for future holidays Bleakney and Fabijan have been friends for about 27 years. Bleakney said she felt like the Christmas tree was a great way to bring Fabijan's Inuvik family together. "Because of COVID, the group of us can't all get together," she said. "So that was our way and his way of getting together and spending time with Michael." Fabijan said it helped make the holidays special. "I'm lucky to have friends that will do this. I can't believe it. Everyone I know here that are close friends put something on this tree," said Fabijan. "I'm surrounded by a great crowd of people and the tree is hilarious…. It's just a good family tree," he added. "This made my Christmas and it motivated me." He said he also documented the progress of the tree for family members down south. Fabijan said he always intended to renovate and tear down the wall where the Christmas tree is now painted. But instead, he's decided to try to find a way to keep the wall and bring it out during the holidays. "It's gonna be hard to take down," he said. "To me, it's bringing my local family together at Christmas."
Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Saturday fired long-range ballistic missiles into the Indian Ocean on the second day of a military exercise, state media reported. The drill, which comes in the waning days of high tensions with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, was conducted in the country's central desert region. "One of our most important defence policy goals is to use long-range ballistic missiles against enemy warships, including aircraft carriers and warships," state media quoted Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami as saying.
NASA's deep space exploration rocket built by Boeing briefly ignited all four engines of its behemoth core stage for the first time on Saturday, cutting short a crucial test to advance a years-delayed U.S. government program to return humans to the moon in the next few years. Mounted in a test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the Space Launch System’s (SLS) 212-foot tall core stage roared to life at 4:27 p.m. local time (2227 GMT) for just over a minute — well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket's first launch in November this year. "Today was a good day," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a press conference after the test, adding "we got lots of data that we're going to be able to sort through" to determine if a do-over is needed and whether a November 2021 debut launch date is still possible.
It's tough to control the spread of information online, but health officials in the Northwest Territories have been trying to tackle the gossip, mistruths and questionable sources around COVID-19 and the vaccine one comment at a time. Mike Westwick has been managing the N.W.T. government's communications response to COVID-19 through most of the pandemic and tries to "flood the zone" with good information. He says people have become better informed throughout, but his team still spends a fair bit of time combating misinformation. "Folks are understandably scared and a little bit frantic during a pandemic," Westwick said. "And our job as communicators is to help them feel a little bit more at ease and get them the information that they need to protect themselves and others." He says the sources of misinformation can vary, from discredited websites to word of mouth — people playing the "telephone game." In the N.W.T., he says the most common misinformation is generally related to the level of threat northerners are facing, "phantom cases" of COVID-19 that never actually existed, or that the territory isn't testing enough. In those cases, he says his team offers quantitative data to dispel the mistruths. "There have been many occasions where we've taken to social media directly to combat those rumours in order to give people, you know, an accurate idea of what the risk is and the current state of COVID-19," Westwick said. Northerners open to conversations Westwick says it's a risk communicator's job to "directly, rapidly and empathetically" combat misinformation. "Social media has opened up all kinds of opportunities for misinformation to spread," he said. "But it's also opened up unprecedented opportunities to actually join those conversations as communicators." Westwick says that, by and large, northerners are open to having those conversations and appreciate hearing from someone with helpful information. "I would just really applaud northerners for ... being receptive to that information and taking the right actions that have led us to the point that we're at today in a very successful pandemic response," he said. That response will be changing hands though. Westwick has taken on a new role in communications for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He says it's been an "intense" year, but quite a ride, and he's looking forward to the new challenge. How to spot misinformation Nadya Bliss, the executive director of the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University, says people spreading misinformation online are often doing it unintentionally and "tapping into a sense of belonging." Bliss says there are several red flags and things to consider as you scroll through social media feeds. Does the content create an overly emotional response, or make a broad claim? "We're living through a number of overlapping crises. And in crises, people tend to want to share information faster," Bliss said. "You're just nervous, you're worried and you want to share something." Broad claims from unofficial sources should be cross-checked with a trusted source, Bliss said. If you're seeing similar posts or stories, remember — it's the algorithm. Social media algorithms prioritize what they think you will be most interested in, and will amplify posts from your social circle, said Bliss. "If you are getting information from your group of peers or friends, a lot of the time the reason you see it is because you clicked on something similar," she said. "And that is not a way to get trusted scientific information." There is a financial motive behind sharing the information. The best information comes from groups without a profit incentive, like government sources or reliable journalistic sources, because they're focused on "integrity" rather than driving clicks, said Bliss. The post is out of date or has a false information flag. Facebook and Twitter now explicitly label false information, so look out for those. Also make sure the information is current by checking the date.
A study in Janvier, Alta., is trying to find out what happened to the local population of Arctic grayling, a once prominent freshwater fish. Arctic grayling, a member of the salmon family, is classified as a species of special concern with the Alberta Endangered Species Conservation Committee, meaning without human intervention, the species may be under the threat of extinction. Chief Vern Janvier of Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, 400 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, said when he was a growing up in the 1970s, he would fish in a local creek for Arctic grayling, considered a delicacy. A few years later those fishing trips stopped, because the fish were no longer around, Janvier said. "We really wanted to know if there was any fish left," Janvier said. "It's a fish that we used to eat that we haven't had for a long time. We haven't been able to catch them." He'd like to see the population bounce back, as "it'd be a good thing for my grandchildren to experience the fish." Water samples show evidence of fish Now the First Nation has teamed up with a consultant to study the over-winter habitat of the Arctic grayling, to see where they live, and what could be behind the population's decline. The study uses eDNA, which is DNA collected from environmental samples like water. It's a process that can tell researchers where the fish is found, without having to use potentially harmful practices like electrofishing. The researchers take water samples and get them tested to see if Arctic grayling are present in the water body. Last winter, samples of eDNA were collected from locations identified by elders. The fish were found in three out of four of the areas. Janvier said he was excited by the discovery and the research. "For me, as a chief, it shows ... you can put some basis on scientific knowledge. But the ability to mix the Indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge is probably the biggest success and we need to do more of that," he said. Study in 3rd year Lead researcher Sarah Hechtenthal, owner of Owl Feather Consulting, said she used western science and traditional knowledge to craft the study. The project is in its third year of funding, having received a total of $228,600 since 2018 from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Researchers will be back out this winter to sample other potential habitat locations, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. The study is now using data loggers in the water, to help Hechtenthal understand what made the rivers and creeks in the area ideal habitat for Arctic grayling in the first place. Stuart Janvier, industry relations coordinator for the First Nation, said this information will be helpful for future industrial development in the area such as oilsands projects. "We want to make sure our traditional lands and the wildlife and the environment it's going to remain intact," he said. "We are the protectors of the environment."