Nursing homes around Florida began inoculating patients and staff Wednesday against COVID-19 with doses of the first U.S.-approved vaccine against the disease that has killed more than 20,000 people in the state. (Dec. 16)
Nursing homes around Florida began inoculating patients and staff Wednesday against COVID-19 with doses of the first U.S.-approved vaccine against the disease that has killed more than 20,000 people in the state. (Dec. 16)
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 capital, Beijing, recorded seven more 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. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday it was "outrageous" that hundreds of thousands of police records had been deleted due to a human coding error with the Police National Computer. A piece of software to weed out records from the database that the computer had no legal right to hold went haywire because of faulty coding and began to automatically delete hundreds of thousands of other records, the Home Office said. "Of course it is outrageous that any data should have been lost but at the moment ... we're trying to retrieve that data," Johnson told parliament, adding that the Home Office (interior ministry) hoped to restore the deleted information.
When David Bernhardt joined the Inuvik fire department as an 18-year-old volunteer in 1980, he never dreamed that he would still be part of the team 40 years later. "I got surprised," said Bernhardt. "I didn't think I'd go this far." Not only has he gotten this far, he's being recognized for his 'significant contributions' to firefighting in the territory with this year's N.W.T. Fire Service Merit Award. The annual award honours individual firefighters or fire departments based on nominations from the public, according to the Department of Community and Municipal Affairs. This year, Bernhardt, who is Inuvik's longest serving firefighter, was the sole recipient. Last year Bernhardt received the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Municipal Long Service award, which recognizes achievements of long-serving volunteer firefighters in communities across the nation. Mentor In a statement from Inuvik Fire Chief Cynthia Hammond, she said Bernhardt has had multiple roles in the fire department over the years including firefighter, lieutenant, captain, and deputy fire chief. In 2013, Bernhardt had a heart attack, so he is no longer on the front lines but he still plays a communication role with the department and helps out the rookies during orientation. Hammond wrote that Bernhardt shares "his history and knowledge as a mentor to novice firefighters." He continues to show up to fire practice every Wednesday where he is part of the support platoon. Hammond said Bernhardt is "ensuring exterior operations run efficiently and more importantly, maintains a calm, steady presence with a watchful eye." 'They are like family to me' Bernhardt, who is originally from Cape Dyer on Baffin Island, Nunavut, has lived in Inuvik since the early 1960s. He said he believes Hammond nominated him for the award and he is thankful to her, the other firefighters on the Inuvik fire department, the fire marshal and the public. "We call each other brothers and sisters in the fire department and I'd like to thank them … they are like family to me ... it's good to see new equipment, new gear, new people." Bernhardt said he thinks he'll be in the department for a couple more years, and he's got some advice for anyone thinking of joining. "I always say the door is always open for you young guys. If you want to learn, it's a good choice," said Bernhardt. "Don't be scared of fire. I know fire burns you but you can also put it out."
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.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has released current and former members of his administration from the terms of their ethics pledge, which included a five-year ban on lobbying their former agencies. The ethics pledge was outlined in one of Trump’s first executive orders, signed on Jan. 28, 2017, as part of his campaign pledge to “drain the swamp.” It required Trump’s political appointees to agree to the lobbying ban, as well as pledge not to undertake work that would require them to register as a “foreign agent” after leaving government. Trump signed the one-page revocation of the order on Tuesday, and it was released by the White House shortly after 1 am Wednesday, hours before his term ends. The Associated Press
Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz on Wednesday unveiled the EQA, a new electric compact SUV as part of plans to take on rival Tesla Inc and offer more emission-free vehicles to consumers to meet targets in Europe and China. The EQA, the first of several electric models Mercedes-Benz plans to launch this year, will initially have a range of 426 kilometres (265 miles), with a 500km model coming later, the premium brand carmaker said in a video presentation.
NEW DELHI — India began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries on Wednesday, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India's Foreign Ministry said the country would send 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. It added in a statement late Tuesday that regulatory clearances were still awaited from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius. India's ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, said Wednesday that New Delhi would supply Nepal with 1 million doses free of charge, with the first to arrive as early as Thursday. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government would ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet India's domestic needs as it supplies partner countries in the coming months. “India will continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines. This will be calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations,” he said. Indian regulators gave the nod for emergency use to two vaccines earlier this month: the AstraZeneca vaccine and another one by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech. India kicked off its own massive vaccination drive on Jan. 17, with a goal of inoculating 300 million of its nearly 1.4 billion people. These vaccines being sent to neighbouring countries are being sent as grants and India’s Foreign Ministry said the vaccines were not part of COVAX, the U.N.-backed global effort aimed at helping lower income countries obtain the shots. With nations making their own plans and not waiting for COVAX, some experts fear that India’s gesture of goodwill may inadvertently undermine the struggling initiative, which has yet to deliver any of the promised 2 billion vaccines to poor countries. Although COVAX has announced new deals to secure vaccines in recent weeks, it has only signed legally binding deals for a fraction of the needed shots. WHO said earlier this week it hopes vaccines bought by another global initiative started by the Gates Foundation, GAVI, might start being delivered to poor countries later this month or next. The U.N. health agency’s Africa chief, however, estimated that the first COVID-19 vaccines from that initiative might only arrive in March and that a larger roll-out would only begin in June. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses being produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the shots that’ll be used by developing nations. ___ Associated Press journalists Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press
The mayor of Norman Wells, N.W.T., says that for months, he's held the lease to five empty houses in which town residents could isolate after travel, but the territorial government hasn't given him permission to use them. "There's no cost to the town to use these units," said Frank Pope. "We are willing to meet aircraft bringing people in ... we're willing to look after their needs for groceries, or for whatever they need." Despite having furniture for the houses, and staff trained in COVID-19 safety protocols, said Pope, "we're still not making any progress with the government to use these units." Northwest Territories residents who travel outside the territory must isolate for 14 days upon their return in either Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River or Inuvik. On Jan. 5, the territorial government stopped paying the hotel bills for people who travel for reasons it deems non-essential. The government will still pay the hotel costs for medical travellers, returning N.W.T. students who are studying outside the territory, and others in "exceptional" circumstances. Policy change This policy change may be no big deal to people who live in one of the four larger communities and can isolate at home, but everyone else could face a hefty self-isolation bill. Pope said Norman Wells's five, three-bedroom houses belong to Imperial Oil. He said the town got the lease to them at the start of the pandemic, and renewed it in December for another six months. Pope said the town likely wouldn't charge residents to stay in the houses. Imperial Oil is covering utilities, he said, so isolators would just have to pay for food and other supplies. The oil and gas company is "trying to help us out to meet some of our needs," said Pope. Whether their travel is essential or not, some residents just want to be able to isolate in their home community, said Pope. "We have a couple of families I'm aware of where they have had to isolate every time they go for treatment for medical issues down in Edmonton. Every time they come back, it's two weeks in Yellowknife," he said. "They're getting sick of that and they're sick enough at the best of times. We're trying to help them to overcome that problem as well." However, in an email from government spokesperson Mike Westwick to CBC News, the territory says there has been a number of discussions with Mayor Pope and officials from Norman Wells on self-isolation for residents, but at this time, it isn't going to be expanding the list of hub communities. "While the discussion about expanding self-isolation location options was ongoing over the fall, the situation in Canada has since changed considerably — and for the worse," the email reads in part. "The Public Health Orders currently define the self-isolation hubs as Fort Smith, Yellowknife, Hay River, and Inuvik. Until that shifts, establishing isolation centres in another community would not be on the table." The territory also says it is "absolutely open" to keep discussing and re-evaluating in the future. 'So much more comfortable at home' Norman Wells couple Doug and Sandy Whiteman can sympathize with those having to isolate after medical travel. Doug was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago and may soon have to travel to Edmonton for treatment. "Radiation is probably going to irritate the hell out of me, and I can imagine sitting in a hotel room in Yellowknife for two weeks trying to get through this when I'd be so much more comfortable at home," he said. Sandy, who has isolated in Yellowknife hotels on two separate occasions, said the stays can be difficult, especially when you're travelling alone. She wants residents to know they have options. The Whitemans said they've gotten special approval from the territorial government to isolate at home in Norman Wells. People are just more at home in a home atmosphere rather than a hotel room. - Doug Whiteman, Norman Wells resident But Doug said surely there are others in the Sahtu region in a similar situation to his who can't isolate at home. He said for them, isolating in a house in Norman Wells, even if it's not their own, is likely preferable to a hotel room in Yellowknife. "People are just more at home in a home atmosphere rather than a hotel room," he said. Lise Dolan, a 30-year resident of Norman Wells, said she's of two minds about allowing isolation in town. She sees how it could be good for people who have to travel for medical reasons, but she's also worried about the potential for a local COVID-19 outbreak. "Arviat and Whale Cove are prime examples of what could happen," she said, citing two Nunavut communities that saw a combined 245 COVID-19 cases in less than two months. "I have an 88-year-old mother living with me, so that makes me even more concerned." CBC asked Paulie Chinna, the minister of Municipal and Community Affairs and the Sahtu MLA, whether she'd advocate for converting the Imperial Oil houses into isolation units. She said the decision is up to the chief public health officer.
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 — 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
The owner of an RV campground in Pouch Cove is crying foul after tax changes have left him holding a projected bill that's nearly eight times what he paid last year. Dave Snow, who owns Marine Park, says a complex array of municipal tax changes last month have left him fuming. "From $10,000 a year ago, the campground business alone will go up to over $78,000," he said. "Not counting the RV, the propane, the self storage — none of those included. It's substantial." Snow says two things are at play. The taxes jumped because the municipal assessment agency split his one business into four, and determined his business is about more than just camping. So, the town is now taxing him at a much higher rate — his campground mill rate alone goes from 14 mils to 70. "We had some disagreements and miscommunications with the municipality," he said, noting that the province sided with him after the town objected to families staying at the park year-round during the pandemic. WATCH | The CBC's Cec Haire speaks with business owner Dave Snow and Pouch Cove Mayor Joedy Wall: "I don't know if this is a form of retribution or punishment … but it's certainly punishing, and after two-and-a-half decades it really feels like we're being singled out and persecuted, and fairly maliciously at that." Snow took over the day-use picnic park from the province 24 years ago. It now boasts 450 campsites, a propane refill station, a convenience store, self-storage, RV sales and an outdoor tool dealership. Council did not foresee impact on business Mayor Joedy Wall denies any ill intent, and told CBC News council didn't realize how the changes would affect Snow when they passed the town's budget. Wall said it wasn't clear, at the time, how much Snow's business had grown through renovations and additions. "He has a large business, there's no doubt," Wall said. "It has grown leaps and bounds the last couple of years." Wall said council last met on Dec. 7, when they tabled and passed the town's budget for 2021. He added that council set the rate while waiting on a reassessment for Snow's property, which came a week later. "It was then when we realized that there was such an exponential jump in his assessment for Marine Park at that time," Wall said. "We couldn't do anything about it. It was our last meeting for the year, and we knew that we would deal with this issue in the new year." The mayor says he understands Snow's frustration, and stresses that council wants to work with Snow, but says there's also pressure on council from mom-and-pop businesses wondering about their tax rates compared to larger companies. "We have to be logical and reasonable when we do all our taxation ... taking into consideration the smaller business owners, who said 'How can you tax me the same at this large business owner?'" Snow told CBC he's appealing the town's mill rates and assessment by the municipal assessment agency. Wall, meanwhile, says he's confident council can find a solution. "I'm very proud this business is in our town," Wall said. "It's a huge draw." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Researchers in Washington state have found that the impact nearby boats have on endangered southern resident killer whales isn't equal between males and females. A study published in the latest edition of the journal Frontiers in Marine Science shows that female orcas are more likely to stop foraging for food when vessels are close — a finding that raises further concerns about the dwindling southern resident population's ability to find the required food to reproduce. "I was surprised to see a bigger effect in females, but when you think about it more, it kind of makes sense," said Marla Holt, lead author on the paper and research wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Holt reasoned that female orcas have smaller bodies and less capacity for deeper dives, and they're more likely to be associated with younger orcas, which have even less ability to make deep dives. Holt and her team carried out the study from 2010 to 2014, using multi-sensor tags temporarily attached to orcas by suction cups. The tags used accelerometers and magnetometers to track movements and dives, as well as hydrophones to record vessel noise and the sounds killer whales use to track their prey. Identifying the different types of sounds the animals make when they hunt helped the researchers determine whether they were using echolocation to find possible prey in the water below, or whether they were nearing the fish and capturing them — a behaviour that includes such rapid clicks that it sounds like a buzz to the human ear. "Both males and females actually made fewer dives, and they spent less time in dives involving deep foraging and prey capture," said Holt, adding that "nearby" vessels included any that were within 400 yards (366 metres). But that effect was more significant in females. "The fact that we're finding when vessels are close to females, that they forgo foraging, is very significant, because those lost calories can have cascading effects on a female's ability to support reproductive efforts," she said. In the waters off southern B.C., an interim order bans boats within 400 metres of killer whales. Holt said according to Washington state law, vessels must stay 274 metres away from the sides of orcas and 366 metres away if they're in front of or behind them. U.S. federal law only requires 183 metres from an orca's side. According to Holt, one of the goals of this research is to provide a scientific basis for clear rules in the different jurisdictions that people can easily follow. The total number of southern resident killer whales, which live in the Salish Sea in B.C. and Washington state, is believed to be 74, after two new calves were born in September. Holt says the primary factors affecting the recovery of the endangered group are contaminants, the availability of prey like chinook salmon, and disturbances by vessels. Do you have more to add to this story? Email email@example.com Foillow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker
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.
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.
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
Devices designed for improving customer marketing and sports performance are now being used in the fight against COVID-19 as companies deploy their technologies to meet new needs during the pandemic. Hitachi-LG Data Storage originally developed its 3D LiDAR People Counter sensor for retail stores to track shoppers' movements and analyse data in order to improve sales and customer satisfaction. The company, a joint venture between Japan's Hitachi and South Korea's LG Electronics, has now paired the application with a heat detection and camera app that takes customers' temperatures and checks if they are wearing a mask with a facial detection system.
The UK has historically had a special relationship with the US, but will British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s friendship with Donald Trump undermine his relationship with the new president? And what role will the UK's divorce from the EU play in transatlantic relations?View on euronews
CAIRO — A fire, followed by an explosion at an ammunition warehouse at a naval academy in western Libya killed three people, including two officers, a Libyan spokesman said Wednesday. It was not clear what caused the overnight blaze at the academy in the town of Janzur, about 24 kilometres (14 miles) west of the capital of Tripoli, said Masoud Abdal Samad, the spokesman of the Libyan navy. Four people were also wounded in the incident. Samad said the dead included Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ayoub, the head of the academy, and Brig. Gen. Salem Abu Salah, who ran the naval college. The third person who died was not identified. Video footage that circulated online following the incident shows firefighters and ambulances rushing to the site where a building is engulfed in a huge fire. Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed the country’s longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich country is now ruled by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east. Eastern-backed forces had fought a months-long offensive to capture Tripoli but the campaign ended in failure last year. The Associated Press
Almost every hospital in New Brunswick is either over its target occupancy rate for the orange level of COVID-19 recovery, or very close to it, figures from the two regional health authorities show. This is with only one COVID-19 patient in the province hospitalized, as of Tuesday. Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network did not respond to a request from CBC News for red-level occupancy rate targets, but five of the 15 hospitals are operating at overcapacity for any phase, with one as high as 150 per cent. The Moncton region, Zone 1, Saint John region, Zone 2, and Fredericton region, Zone 3, have all been bumped back to the more restrictive red level from orange, as of midnight Tuesday. Premier Blaine Higgs announced the decision Tuesday afternoon, after one more death and 31 new cases of the respiratory disease were confirmed in New Brunswick, pushing the total active cases to 316. "We're simply not making enough progress with the current measures that are in place," Higgs said during the COVID-19 news briefing. "We know there are more cases in these zones that exist but have not yet tested positive. And we cannot take the risk of potentially overwhelming our hospitals." "We don't want to be too late in reacting and look back and say, 'Only if.'" Even a small number of new admissions can have a ripple effect throughout our health-care system. - Geri Geldart, Horizon Health Network The Horizon hospitals in the three largest cities in these zones all have inpatient occupancy rates hovering around the orange-level target of between 85 per cent and 90 per cent. The Moncton Hospital is at 87 per cent capacity, the Saint John Regional Hospital, 96 per cent, and the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, 92 per cent. "Even a small number of new admissions can have a ripple effect throughout our health-care system, as we continue to balance high inpatient occupancy rates with limitations on staffing resources," Geri Geldart, vice-president clinical, said in an emailed statement prior to the announcement to move the three zones to red. "Our priority is to ensure as many surgeries as possible can continue while also preserving ICU and other beds in the event of a COVID-related surge." Horizon closely monitors its inpatient occupancy rates daily and makes decisions surrounding patient discharge on a case-by-case basis to ensure it has capacity in each hospital to admit any COVID-positive patients, she said. Vitalité's Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital Centre in Moncton is operating at nearly 94 per cent capacity, as of Monday afternoon. Its orange-level target is 80 per cent. Vitalité president and CEO Dr. France Desrosiers was unavailable Tuesday for an interview. The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has been at the red level since midnight Sunday. One of its hospitals is over its orange-level target occupancy, while the other two are close behind, according to figures provided by Vitalité on Monday. The Grand Falls General Hospital is at 90 per cent capacity. The target for the 20-bed hospital is 85 per cent. Edmundston Regional Hospital, which has 169 beds, is operating at 69 per cent, just below its 70 per cent target. Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph de Saint-Quentin is not far from reaching its 85 per cent target either. The six-bed facility is currently operating at 83 per cent. That's down from 100 per cent on Friday. Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte did not respond to a request for comment about what might explain the high occupancy rates, given the sole hospitalized COVID-19 patient in the province, who is in a Horizon hospital, whether the rates are unusual, or what steps are being taken to ensure the hospitals will be able to admit future COVID patients. Daily discussions 'around the risks' Public Health is having daily discussions with both regional health authorities "around their capacity, around the risks," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, told CBC News. The health-care system's ability to respond to COVID-19 patients is one of the triggers considered for moving to another phase of recovery. "We are looking at the ages of the people that are diagnosed with COVID-19 every day and projecting, you know, whether or not they would need hospitalization," Russell said. If the government hadn't acted "swiftly and decisively" to roll Zones 1, 2 and 3 back to red on Tuesday, Russell predicted the province would "soon see dozens, perhaps even hundreds of new cases every day." "We would see a flood of gravely ill patients that would inundate our hospitals and overwhelm our doctors, nurses and paramedics. We would see more deaths and disruptions and sorrow," Russell said. "We need to continue to protect our health-care system and our health-care workers, not only to provide care in the health-care system, but to be there to vaccinate our population. We need to continue to protect our most vulnerable and we need to protect our social determinants of health." Russell said a combined total of 76 health-care workers are off work from Horizon and Vitalité either because they tested positive for COVID-19 or they're isolating as a precaution. This has also had an impact on some services, she said. The Vitalité Health Network said more than 100 of its surgeries were cancelled between Jan. 4 and Jan. 14, including 55 in the Moncton region, two in the Edmundston region, 35 in the Campbellton region and 14 in the Bathurst region. The Horizon Health Network had 37 surgeries cancelled last week alone. Those include 26 in the Moncton region, eight in the Saint John region, two in the Fredericton region, and one in the Miramichi region. 5 over 100 per cent Of Vitalité's other hospitals, Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, in Zone 1, has the highest occupancy rate at 150 per cent. Its orange target is 85 per cent. The three other overcapacity hospitals are all in the Bathurst region, Zone 6. They include: Hôpital de l'Enfant-Jésus RHSJT in Caraquet: 133.3 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 per cent. Lamèque Hospital, 116.7 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 per cent. Tracadie Hospital,101.7 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 per cent. Horizon also had an overcapacity hospital: Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, Zone 3, 102 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 to 90 per cent The overall hospital occupancy rate for Vitalité is 82.5 per cent, said Lizotte. "We're aiming [for] 80 per cent," he said in an email. The other Vitalité hospitals include: Campbellton Regional Hospital, Zone 5, 74.6 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 60 per cent. Chaleur Regional Hospital, Zone 6, 62.1 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 70 per cent. The remaining Horizon hospital is: Miramichi Regional Hospital, Zone 7, 87 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 to 90 per cent. "During the very early stages of the pandemic, Horizon was able to successfully discharge a number of alternate level of care (ALC) patients to more appropriate care settings — such as a nursing home or adult residential facility — to build additional capacity within our hospitals," said Geldart. Compared to other jurisdictions, New Brunswick has also been "relatively successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19," she said. Because of this, Horizon hospitals have not had to care for large numbers of COVID positive patients at a single time. "It's important to note, however, this situation can change at any time, and because of this we remain on high alert," Geldart said.