Federal government and health officials are reluctant to make wearing a mask mandatory in Canada, citing a focus on education and issues with enforcement.
Federal government and health officials are reluctant to make wearing a mask mandatory in Canada, citing a focus on education and issues with enforcement.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry described outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo,” spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing. “In our view, Pompeo’s so-called designation is a piece of wastepaper. This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century," Hau said. Pompeo’s announcement Tuesday doesn’t require any immediate actions, although the U.S. must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability. The U.S. has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labour. Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under U.S. sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose. Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric. China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labour as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority. The Associated Press reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uighurs last year, including the mass sterilization of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China's dominant Han ethnic group. China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labour has been linked by reporting by the AP to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors. James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe in Melbourne, Australia, said international pressure appears to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions. “So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new (Joe Biden) administration on holding China to account," Leibold said in an interview. “And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese government," he said. ___ Associated Press journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report. The Associated Press
MULGRAVE – When the Town of Mulgrave prepared its budget for 2020/2021, several issues stood out; in particular, the rising cost of policing, housing and education. At that time, and in the intervening months, Mulgrave’s CAO Darlene Berthier Sampson has been in contact with the RCMP and the Department of Justice about the cost of policing in the town. In September, council was informed that a policing review was slated to begin that month. At Monday night’s regular council meeting (Jan. 18), Department of Justice liaison Donna Jewers met with council to discuss the policing issue. Mayor Ron Chisholm told The Journal that the meeting was very informative and that the town expected to receive further communications from Jewers on the matters discussed. In other business, Mulgrave continues to wait for acceptance of the CAO job offer that was made in December. Mayor Chisholm said they expect an answer in the coming week. The current CAO has completed her contract obligations and doesn’t wish to extend her time in the CAO’s chair. Technical difficulties and the pandemic have meant that recent council meetings have neither been open to the public nor live streamed. Mayor Chisholm said they plan to have one of these options available before the next council meeting in February. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
A newly released study suggests university students are eating worse, are less active and are drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic than they were before. Gordon Zello, a professor in nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan, was one of the head researchers on the study, which has been published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. "There's certainly been some research out there that suggested that the COVID epidemic made university students and vulnerable groups have poor diets and less physical activity," Zello said. "But the problem with a lot of these studies is they didn't have a pre-COVID analysis." The study took a survey about the student's pre-pandemic lifestyles in the spring of 2020, so the University of Saskatchewan researchers had a frame of reference for the new data. Zello said the findings show university students, especially those most vulnerable — people who live independently, or with roommates or partners but are responsible for buying and preparing their own food — need to be targeted for interventions. The four-month study surveyed 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were considered vulnerable. Worsening habits weren't surprising, Zello says, but the study found students ate less of the foods typically eaten in the spring — like fruits and vegetables. Similarly, "with physical activity going into summer months, you would expect people to be more physically active. So to actually see things get worse during COVID was a bit surprising," Zello said. The study found students weren't getting the vitamins and nutrients they needed, that hours of sedentary behaviour rose dramatically from three hours to 11 per day, that students ate less meat, and that their alcohol consumption significantly increased. "Remember, these students were not those which had a big [social] bubble, if you like," he said. "So they're going to be more isolated and [that] probably led to more things like screen time or sedentary behaviours." Keely Shaw, a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, was another of the study's authors. She knew university students don't always have the best habits during normal times, let alone during a pandemic. "If it's their first or second year being away from home, they might not have the skills to cook food. They might rely a lot on eating out or ready-made meals," Shaw said. Combined with recommendations to avoid going out to restaurants, "there's a lot more strain put on the individual," she said. But Shaw says the increased alcohol consumption wasn't expected, because pre-pandemic, people typically drank more with their peers than when alone. Shaw was also surprised by the decrease in meat consumption. "I feel like in Western culture, we kind of structure our meals around the meat. So I would almost have expected that to be a little bit more stable across the board, but our research showed otherwise," Shaw said. Zello said he hopes the impacts from this study are remembered for the next waves of the pandemic and any future pandemics. He said there's been more focus on family units instead of isolated people and fostering positive habits. "These lifestyle changes are hard to change again," Zello said. "So the longer this epidemic goes on and the longer people are not physically active, the longer they're eating poor diets. To change them back to what they were before becomes also difficult." Shaw hopes university students read the research and consider their own habits, she said. She suggests walking around the block, eating as healthy a diet as a person's budget allows, and carrying any positive habits forward into a post-pandemic world. "Hopefully from there they can really understand the importance of maintaining a super well-balanced, rich in fruits and vegetables diet, and trying to really ensure that they're limiting their sedentary behaviour," Shaw said. Shaw and Zello conducted the research with co-authors Leandy Bertrand, Phil Chilibeck, research assistant Jongbum Ko and undergraduate summer student Dalton Deprez.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's leader on Wednesday assured relatives of 62 people killed in a Sriwijaya Air plane crash that they will be compensated. President Joko Widodo visited the command centre at Jakarta’s international container terminal where tons of plane debris hauled by divers from seafloor were collected for an investigation into what caused the Boeing 737-500 to nosedive into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on Jan. 9. He also witnessed the first three relatives of the victims receiving money from the compensation fund. Sriwijaya Air offered relatives an insurance payout of 1.25 billion rupiah ($89,100), in line with the Indonesian law that stipulates compensation must be offered within 60 days of a crash. In addition, state-owned insurance company Jasa Raharja has provided 50 million rupiah ($3,560) to each family of the victims. “I assure you that all compensation will be completed immediately for all victims,” Widodo said. A search is still ongoing for the crucial memory unit of the cockpit voice recorder. The device apparently broke loose from its exterior and officials have said the underwater locator beacons attached to both crash-proof black boxes became dislodged due to the impact. The flight data recorded was recovered three days after the crash. The 26-year-old Boeing had been out of service for almost nine months last year because of flight cutbacks caused by the pandemic. Indonesia’s aviation industry grew quickly after the nation’s economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. Safety concerns led the United States and the European Union to ban Indonesian carriers for years, but the bans have since been lifted due to better compliance with international aviation standards. ____ Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report. Fadlan Syam, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s Defence Ministry on Wednesday reported the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, the second from the tiny Western Balkan country to die during the international peacekeeping mission. The soldier, identified only by the initials Xh. J., died Tuesday night at 1810 GMT (1:10 p.m. EST), the ministry said in a statement. It didn't specify the location or give any details about the circumstances. The ministry said that the Albanian military was assisting an investigation by the command of the Resolute Support Mission operation in Afghanistan, made up of around 16,000 troops from 38 countries. Albania, a NATO member since 2009, has been part of the international mission since 2010. The country currently has 99 troops in Afghanistan, located at two bases in Herat and Kabul. The ministry expressed condolences to the family and “assure the personnel in the mission and their families of continuous support in the successful accomplishment of their mission.” The Associated Press
A Saskatoon woman says she's honouring her sister's dying wish. Regina mom Cheryl Kay was admitted to a Regina hospital in December following a series of seizures related to low electrolytes. She was eventually placed on life support, and died Christmas Eve. In the days before she fell into the coma, she asked her sister Rachel Smith to care for her children if she didn't survive. Kay's youngest child is now with their birth father. Smith has welcomed the other six into her Saskatoon home. They joined Smith, her husband and their own five kids. Smith said the first priority was to let the kids know they are loved, and that they have a home. Then she called all her friends and family, who came together to buy Christmas presents for the children. Smith, a graduate of Nutana Collegiate who's worked at both the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, is also busy running her own take-out restaurant, Bannock Express. Smith said she never considered turning the kids away. "I didn't think twice. Being the way I grew up, I was a ward of the government since I was 13 years old. I grew up in residential schools, group homes, foster homes. I just couldn't let this happen to the children. They've been through so much already," she said. An online fundraising campaign has been set up for Kay's funeral expenses and for the children. Smith said they need everything from diapers to laptop computers for school work. The campaign has raised nearly $5,000. "Basically, everyone rallying and coming together has meant so much to my family in the memory of my sister. I feel her spirit is strong right now," Smith said. She and her husband are planning to home-school the kids until the end of this year to minimize the chance of bringing COVID-19 into their expanded household. She's in the process of applying for permanent guardianship.
History has been made in the United States with the swearing-in of Kamala Harris as vice-president. She is the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to ever hold the job.
Swedish telecom operators are planning to cover almost the entire country with 5G in the next two to three years after a spectrum auction by the country's telecom regulator PTS. The auction between four bidders, which had been delayed for a security review and by a lawsuit filed by Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei, finally took place on Tuesday. Bidders were units or joint ventures of telecom operators Telia, Tele2, Telenor and Tre.
Thousands of fake Canadian government websites, emails and apps that take advantage of the pandemic to try to mine personal data or steal money have been taken down in the last few months, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. The centre leads the federal government's response to cyber-security events, defends Ottawa's cyber assets and provides advice to Canadian industries, businesses and citizens about how to protect themselves online. Evan Koronewski, a spokesperson for the centre, said in email the fraudulent websites are impersonating the government of Canada to "deliver fake COVID-19 exposure notification applications, designed to install malware on users devices." Koronewski said those programs were created to steal personal information or money. Since March 15, the centre has helped remove more than 4,000 such fraudulent sites or email addresses, he said. In some cases the sites were pretending to be the Public Health Agency of Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency. "This work continues each and every day as we identify and remove more of these fraudulent domains," said Koronewski. He couldn't say how many Canadians have been taken in by these particular scams. But the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a separate federal organization, said between March 6, 2020, and Jan. 10, 2021, there were 8,583 Canadian victims of a wide range of COVID-19 fraud. Those included everything from people buying fake vaccines and COVID test kits, to identity theft and ransomware attacks. In total, COVID-19 fraud has cost Canadians $7 million, according to the anti-fraud centre's website. The government of Canada's actual COVID Alert app started to be rolled out in July in Ontario, and went online in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick later in the summer. Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Quebec signed on in the fall. Alberta and British Columbia are the only provinces that haven't adopted the app. In Nova Scotia, for instance, the app allows users who test positive for COVID-19 to enter a code supplied by the Nova Scotia Health Authority. It then sends an alert to any phone with the app that has been in close contact with the person who tested positive. But no matter how fast the government works, scammers continue to pump out fake, malicious websites and COVID-19 apps. At the beginning of the pandemic many app stores contained these fake apps, said Florian Kerschbaum, an associate professor in the school of computer science and director of the University of Waterloo's cybersecurity and privacy institute. App store administrators like Apple and Google were quick to crack down and remove the offending apps. "Still, there are a lot of COVID apps which make false promises and basically just try to abuse your information and do strange things," said Kerschbaum. The scammers who make the apps are looking to steal people's personal information and then sell it on the dark web, according to Arash Habibi Lashkari, an assistant professor and research co-ordinator at the University of New Brunswick's Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity. Information like a person's credit card number, full name and home address are valuable commodities, he said. That information could be used for a range of purposes including being sold to adware producers. It could also be used to steal someone's identity or put ransomware on their phone, encrypting it until the scammer is paid off. Lashkari said people need to carefully review the terms and conditions of an app before they install any app. People should avoid the app if the terms seem odd. And people should consider what systems an app wants permission access on their phone or computer, and determine if that matches up with what the app is supposed to do. If you download photo editing software, for instance, and it wants access to your telephone contact list, that should raise some red flags, he said. Even if people are vigilant, installing an app from a questionable publisher comes with risks. "There are, I don't know, thousands [of] methods that they can hide their abnormal activity from the user," said Lashkari. Anyone looking to download the government of Canada's COVID Alert app should only do it from trusted app stores, said Kerschbaum and Koronewski. Kerschbaum also said if people don't recognize the publisher of a COVID app then they shouldn't download it. Any Canadians who believe they may have received a fraudulent message via email or text is encouraged to report the activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said Koronewski "Rely again on the recommendations by the app store and by the government and you will be safe. But don't install ... every COVID app that's out there," said Kerschbaum. MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
THE LATEST: As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 465 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. There are currently 4,331 active cases of the coronavirus in B.C. 329 people are in hospital, with 70 in the ICU. 92,369 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. There are no new health-care facility outbreaks. The number of cases linked to the Big White Mountain community cluster has grown by 28. B.C. health officials confirmed 465 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and said 12 more people had died of the disease. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 329 people, 70 of whom are in intensive care. A total of 1,090 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. B.C. recorded no new outbreaks in health-care facilities. Interior Health also confirmed there are now 28 additional cases of COVID-19 linked to the Big White Mountain community cluster — bringing the total to 203 since the cluster was declared. Of the 28 new cases, 22 reside and work at Big White. B.C.'s current health restrictions are in effect until at least Feb. 5 at midnight. The current orders include a ban on gatherings with people outside of one's immediate household. Henry said in a news conference on Monday that if B.C.'s case count continues to trend downward, there is a possibility some restrictions could be lifted by the Family Day weekend in mid-February. A non-existent flu season Health officials in B.C. have not detected a single case of influenza circulating in the community since flu season began, continuing an "exceptional" nationwide trend. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) confirmed the non-existent seasonal flu numbers to CBC News on Monday. "It's still a big goose egg in terms of influenza detection provincially. It's really quite exceptional how low the influenza activity is," said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, the lead for influenza and emerging respiratory virus monitoring at the BCCDC. B.C. 'prepared' for vaccine delays The federal government on Friday announced Pfizer is temporarily reducing shipments of its vaccine in order to expand manufacturing capacity at a facility in Belgium. The move means there will be fewer shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccing coming to Canada until at least March. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday he's still confident the country is on track to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by September. Henry called the delay a "setback" that will temporarily slow the province's delivery of the vaccine to at-risk people. But she said the province is working to ensure the highest number of people are immunized. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 9 p.m. PT on Tuesday, Canada had reported 719,465 cases of COVID-19, and 18,266 total deaths. A total of 71,055 cases are considered active. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
CANSO – Maritime Launch Services (MLS) will not get liftoff as early as the company had hoped. Just more than four years ago, in Oct. 2016, MLS was formed in Nova Scotia to create a spaceport in Canso. In some of the earliest press releases about the proposed project, MLS stated the estimated timeline for first launch capability was 2020. And, although COVID-19 has created a Groundhog Day effect, time has continued to move forward – the calendar has turned to a new year, and MLS has yet to break ground on the Canso Spaceport facility. MLS CEO Steve Matier told The Journal on Monday (Jan. 18) that the delay could be attributed to several causes including, most recently, the wrench the global pandemic has put in every plan – be it business or personal. In addition, Matier said the original 2020 launch date was based on getting shovels in the ground in 2018. That wasn’t possible, as it took until June of 2019 to get the Environmental Assessment (EA) approved by the Department of Environment. And, he said, “There’s the whole land lease issue working with [Nova Scotia] Lands and Forestry; that takes time as well.” At this point, the company is working to meet the terms and conditions in the 2019 EA document, which include associated activities involved with designs for roads and buildings; plans for erosion and settlement control; analysis of potential impacts to watercourses and existing water users; environmental monitoring plans and more. “Within that approval (EA) was the rather lengthy list of compliance pieces that we need to get to them to review,” Matier told The Journal, adding that no construction could take place until the information supplied by the company was accepted by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment. Matier said he hoped they could move to breaking ground on the project in six months’ time, but “it’s hard to predict exact dates,” due to the time it takes for review and approval. Given that the Department of Lands and Forestry accepted the company’s draft survey for the lease of Crown land required for the project just before Christmas, the wheels of government can be seen to move forward. Once the project moves past approvals, and on to groundbreaking, Matier said it could be another two years before the first launch. “We require about 18 months of construction activities and six of commissioning before you can get to an actual launch.” While there have been delays, Matier told The Journal the company has potential clients lined up and waiting. “We have a fairly extensive set of letters of intent and MOUs with satellite developers and aggregators already, but these don’t turn into formal launch contracts until the point when we can tell them what that actual launch date is. Once we break ground, we’ll be in a much better position to project what the launch date is and start to turn those letters of intent into launch contracts.” Progress on the project has been slow this past year, and there has been little to report, which may have pleased some people in the Canso/Hazel Hill area who are opposed to the spaceport. Matier said, while the company is aware of the opposition, MLS would not have selected the site without support from the majority of community members. “We really started this initiative by working with the community, first and foremost,” he said, adding that the company has held open information sessions and met with stakeholder groups like the Municipality of the District of Guysborough and the Fishermen’s Association. “We have sought input and will continue to do so. We’re not about to ram this through … we have been open and honest about everything we are planning to do,” Matier said. The Environmental Assessment Approval, dated June 4, 2019 states that work must commence on the project within two years of the approval date; beyond that time, a written extension must be granted by the provincial environment minister. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Irving Oil Ltd. is blaming petroleum price regulation in New Brunswick for failing to keep up with industry costs and pushing it to request "urgent" price increases, even though it twice refused requests from the Energy and Utilities Board to help improve wholesale margins. In written evidence submitted to the board earlier this month, Irving Oil marketing president Darren Gillis said that regulated markets "have become disconnected from non-regulated markets over time and do not provide for adequate recovery of costs." That has "eroded industry's ability to continue to supply regulated markets and remain competitive across our regions," Gillis said. Irving Oil applied on Jan. 5 to increase the margins wholesalers can earn on gasoline, diesel and furnace oil sales by 4.13 cents per litre, including an "immediate" increase of 3.5 cents. This week, it revised that request downward to 4.09 cents for gasoline and diesel and 3.02 cents for furnace oil. If that request is granted, that will increase the cost to consumers by a total of $60 million more per year. Irving Oil, others declined to help EUB update margins In evidence submitted with the application, Gillis said the last increase in wholesale margins was awarded by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) in 2013, based on 2011 cost data. Since then, he said, industry expenses have escalated significantly without matching increases in revenue. Irving Oil's claim that petroleum regulation has caused wholesaling margins in New Brunswick to grow stale comes after two major Energy and Utility Board attempts to keep them current were thwarted by a number of companies, including Irving Oil. In 2016, three years after the last margin adjustment, the board wrote to every New Brunswick petroleum wholesaler asking for help to update margins to cover changing costs. "It is important to remember that the Board can only change the margins if it has sufficient evidence to support such adjustments," it noted in asking for the companies' cooperation, and the review had to be abandoned. But four months later, the consultant the board hired to conduct the analysis, Gardner Pinfold of Halifax, reported back that no companies would cooperate with it. Review abandoned in 2019 after second attempt "Gardner Pinfold sent a letter to each petroleum wholesaler on December 15, 2016 to invite companies to participate in the review," it told the Energy and Utilities Board at the time. "No wholesaler expressed an interest in participating in the review and none provided data. Due to a lack of data, Gardner Pinfold is unable to provide a recommendation to change the current wholesale margin." The board tried again in 2019. Petroleum wholesalers again declined to provide any information to Gardner Pinfold about the adequacy of margins, prompting comment from then Energy and Utilities Board chair Raymond Gorman. "I would point out that this technically is a review of the wholesale margin, but Mr. Gardner didn't get any evidence," Gorman said during hearings in September 2019. "Nobody filed any evidence, so again we are in that situation where we have no data in order -- you know, to be able to deal with it." Following the hearing in November 2019, the board announced it could not increase margins for New Brunswick petroleum wholesalers because none of them would provide information, even in confidence. The board noted that a consultant "made initial and follow-up requests to wholesalers" to provide data on certain specified costs, including maritime freight, working capital, receivables, and terminal costs. "No data was submitted by the wholesalers. In the absence of sufficient evidence of changes to those factors, or other factors, an adjustment to the maximum wholesale margin for motor fuels cannot be justified," the board wrote, concluding the matter and taking no action. Irving Oil did not respond to a request for an interview about why it did not ask for margin increases in 2017 or 2019, when the board was asking for its help to reset them. But the company is pointing to margins not increasing in those years, combined with sudden demand reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence regulation is not working. "Petroleum pricing regulations in New Brunswick were created 15 years ago. They did not contemplate the challenges of the last several years and were not designed to react to a global pandemic," said Gillis. "Unregulated markets, however, respond as required to ensure supply at reasonable cost recovery levels. This is not the case in regulated markets."
Planning is important in this province’s tourism industry, and with only a short window to make things happen, operators must be ready and on schedule to welcome visitors at peak times during the tourism season. That was disrupted last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the province was cut off to outside visitors. The importance of having a plan heading into the 2021 season is paramount as the tourism sector stares down the barrel of a second season limited by the pandemic. “It is important that the plan is being worked on,” said Hare Bay Adventures owner Duane Collins, who is also with the Shore Tourism Association. “I think it is important that it is relayed to the industry broadly … and then it lets us communicate that to our guests and to the companies we work with.” The pre-election announcement of a tourism action group was a welcome one for operators across the province and seen as a good start, Collins said. On Jan. 15, the government announced the 14-member Premier’s Advisory Council on Tourism. The government pledged to spend $1.12 million over three years to support Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador as it prepares the tourism and hospitality sector for a post-pandemic recovery. That money is coming through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Development Agreement. That means the industry wasn’t overlooked at the time, but there is still a question of how the group will look or operate in the wake of the election on Feb. 13. “I want to hear about a plan on how we open the province back up,” said Collins. “Not saying any particular date, because that is beyond our control, frankly.” For Collins, clarity and transparency will be important as that plan continues to evolve. There must also be an effort to work with the industry, he said. Janet Davis had conversations last summer with plenty of people who had never before been to her home of New-Wes-Valley. The owner of Norton’s Cove Studio and Café in the Brookfield part of the community, Davis found those conversations usually included a line about having little knowledge of her part of the province. “The staycation has been really good for my business,” Davis said of what brought those people to her door. As the election campaign begins to ramp up, how the next provincial government is going to help tourism operators in the future is at the top of a lot of operators' minds. For some, like Davis, want to continue to push people to explore their province as they did last summer through the Stay Home Year 2020 campaign. “Keep promoting our own,” said Davis. “It’s great to have your own people supporting you. “We have to keep promoting our own people.” Deborah Bourden says the number of people who will explore their own province next summer is just a fraction of what is needed to keep the tourism sector going. There also must be an effort to maintain the tourism department’s current pot for marketing initiatives, she says. That means having the next government maintain the current level of funding being put into marketing initiatives, both locally and abroad. “We don’t want to see any less in marketing,” said Bourden, who is the co-owner of the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites in Twillingate. If things start to open back up to national and international travel next fall, then a part of the tourism plan will need to look at how best to get those people into the province, she says. “We have to be prepared so we can come out of the gate strong next year this time,” said Bourden. “We have to be thinking about what we need, and we need to be prepared for that.” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
MOSCOW — Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader said Wednesday that his forces have killed six suspected militants, including a warlord accused of organizing a 2011 suicide attack at a Moscow airport. Ramzan Kadyrov, the regional leader of Chechnya, said that troops under his command had tracked down the suspects in the village of Katar-Yurt and killed all of them on the spot. Kadyrov claimed that the raid marked the elimination of the last group of militants that remained in the region. “All underground bands in Chechnya have now been eliminated,” Kadyrov said on his blog. He added that the security sweep had been planned long ago and followed two previous unsuccessful attempts to hunt down the militants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Kadyrov, who personally took part in the security sweep. Kadyrov said that those killed included warlord Aslan Byutukayev, whom Russian authorities accused of involvement in the January 2011 suicide bombing at the arrivals area of Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37. Byutukayev appeared in a video alongside top Chechen warlord Doku Umarov and the suicide bomber. Umarov, who also claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Russia, was killed in a security raid in 2013. After Umarov's death, Byutukayev became the leader of militants in Chechnya and swore allegiance to the Islamic State group. He has been on the Russian wanted list for his involvement in the 2011 airport bombing and other attacks. The Kremlin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars in the 1990s and the early 2000s and has provided generous subsidies to help rebuild the region. International human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of rampant rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings by his feared security forces. Despite Kadyrov’s relentless crackdown on suspected extremists, some of whom have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, militants have continued to launch sporadic attacks in Chechnya and other regions in Russia’s North Caucasus. The Associated Press
BEIJING — China’s capital Beijing recorded another seven coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. The Associated Press
After the large windstorm that hit Saskatchewan last week, Dallas Ostrom has a tough decision. His property includes the iconic Bents grain elevator, which has been featured in thousands of photos long after Bents became a ghost town. It was in decent condition until the wind storm. Now the elevator has been severely damaged and the top roof is expected to fall off soon. "I've had all sorts of people telling me not to burn it down," he said. "But I don't want anybody going in the elevator and getting hurt. "So I guess I'm wrestling with either burning it down in the wintertime here before the snow leaves or getting a company in to tip it over and see if we can maybe salvage some of the big timbers and stuff out of it. But that gets a little costly." Ostrom looked at the grain elevator every day when growing up because his parents' farm was right across the road. It's located about 94 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon. Ostrom came to possess the elevator after the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool decommissioned it and turned it over to the landowner. He said it wasn't usable even then, and he enjoys seeing people stop by. "We've had people come from all over the world to photograph that elevator," he said. "Like from Qatar, Montreal, all over the States.… It was kind of a sense of pride for me to have one that was so popular and so photographed. "It's a great iconic structure in Saskatchewan. It's too bad that time hasn't been a friend, and this last winter storm the other day kind of was the final straw. So it's a sad day for me." Because he doesn't want to pay the hundreds of thousands to fix it, he needs to decide the next steps. If he doesn't demolish it, he worries someone may get hurt, then sue. "Most people are good people, and they'll stop and ask permission," he said. "But there are a handful of people that come out there and steal stuff out of it and vandalize it and cause trouble. "I don't want to end up broke because somebody sued me for trespassing on my property when they got hurt." Other landmarks damaged in the storm Ostrom's grain elevator isn't the only historic landmark damaged in the storm. The Ogema firewall was destroyed and the Pangman grain elevator was badly damaged. Allan Spriggs, a hobby drone photographer, captured the damage done to the Pangman elevator, about 95 kilometres south of Regina. During the storm, he was concerned about property damage and wasn't planning to take out the drone for the aftermath, but was inspired to check it out after seeing some ground-level images on social media. "My first thought was, 'Wow.' It was incredible to see it ripped apart like that, with portions of the walls completely opened up from the wind, yet the shell of the structure and top of the elevator still standing," Spriggs said. "It looked like it could collapse any minute. "It really gives you a sense of the destructive power of the Prairie wind." Spriggs said people have a real attachment to their small-town elevators, which are part of the cultural identity of the province. "It's sad to see them slowly disappear. It's like seeing a part of our heritage become forgotten," he said. Spriggs hopes to capture more through drone photography before it's too late, and hopes the Pangman elevator will be repaired. He also hopes the old grain elevators will be maintained as heritage sites.