With Tyler Hamilton.
With Tyler Hamilton.
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is considering a second firing of its moon rocket engines after a critical test came up short over the weekend, a move that could bump the first flight in the Artemis lunar-landing program into next year. The space agency had aimed to launch its new Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket and an empty Orion capsule by the end of this year, with the capsule flying to the moon and back as a prelude to crew missions. But that date could be in jeopardy following Saturday’s aborted test. “We have a shot at flying it this year, but we need to get through this next step," said Kathy Lueders, head of NASA's human spaceflight office. All four engines fired for barely a minute, rather than the intended eight minutes, on the test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The countdown rehearsal for the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage — made by Boeing — included the liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanks, as well as the all necessary computers and electronics. On Tuesday, NASA attributed the automatic shutdown to the strict test limits meant to protect the core stage so it can be used on the first Artemis flight. The hydraulic system for one engine exceeded safety parameters, officials said, and flight computers shut everything down 67 seconds into the ignition. Two other engine-related issues also occurred. NASA said it can adjust the test limits if a second test is deemed necessary, to prevent another premature shutdown. Engineers will continue to analyze the data, as managers debate the pros and cons of proceeding with a second test firing at Stennis or shipping the rocket straight to Florida's Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations. Some of that Kennedy work might be able to be streamlined, Lueders said. This core stage can be loaded with super-cold fuel no more than nine times, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Tuesday evening. A second full-blown test firing would reduce the remaining number of fill-ups. The Artemis program is working to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024, a deadline set by the Trump administration. It's uncertain how the incoming White House will approach that timeline. In its annual report Tuesday, the Aereospace Safety Advisory Panel urged NASA to develop a realistic schedule for its Artemis moon program and called into question the 2024 date for returning astronauts to the lunar surface. On the eve of his departure from NASA, Bridenstine, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, stressed that key programs like Artemis need to encompass multiple administrations, decades and even generations. It's crucial , he said, that "we've got buy-in and support from all of America and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.” ___ 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. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he won't grant a curfew exemption for Montreal's homeless population, telling reporters Tuesday he has confidence that police will use their good judgment in dealing with cases. Legault told reporters during a COVID-19 briefing in Montreal that altering the government's decree to exclude the homeless from the provincial curfew would be used as a loophole by others to flout the measure. Montreal's mayor had made the formal request just an hour earlier, calling on Quebec to relax the COVID-19 measure on the city's most vulnerable population. "What I'm say is right now, the police are doing a very good job. They use their judgment," Legault said. "If we change the rules and say that you can't give a ticket to someone who is saying they're homeless, you may have some people that will pretend to be homeless." Mayor Valerie Plante's appeal followed the weekend death of Raphael "Napa" Andre, a 51-year-old Innu man found dead in a portable toilet not far from a shelter he frequented. Andre often spent time at a day centre for the homeless called The Open Door, which was forced to close its overnight service last month following a COVID-19 outbreak. He visited the centre Saturday evening and was found dead Sunday morning, not far from the shelter, which had to send him out at 9:30 p.m. The coroner is investigating Andre's death. Plante said there's evidence the curfew is causing problems for the homeless and those who work with them. "What we've been seeing in the past week is that it created a lot of stress — not only for the homeless population itself but also the workers," Plante told reporters outside Montreal City Hall. "The curfew just adds to that and creates a sense of insecurity for a lot of users and we don't want that.... I want people to feel safe in the streets." Plante says the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew — which began Jan. 9 and is scheduled to last at least until Feb. 8 — is creating an untenable situation for the city's most vulnerable. Legault said police aren't there to ticket homeless people, but direct them to homeless shelters. Plante agreed Montreal police have shown compassion, noting they had helped at least 400 homeless people find shelter. The mayor says on most nights the city's overnight shelters are at least 95 per cent full. While she wants the rules relaxed to relieve the pressure, she doesn't want people sleeping on the street. "I want people to have access to a bed, a place where it's warm, where there's food, where there's services for them," she said. Plante said a 100-bed facility is set to open in the coming days. Legault said the province has added 800 beds and it stands ready to add more as needed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian 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.
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EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says health officials may also have to rebook vaccination appointments for those getting the required second dose. Hinshaw made the announcement just hours after the federal government said there will be no shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and reduced shipments for about three weeks after that. The slowdown is due to Pfizer retrofitting its Belgium-based plant in order to ramp up production down the road. Hinshaw says Alberta has 456 new cases of COVID-19, with 740 patients in hospital. There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died. “This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a release Tuesday. "We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible. And we will continue to inform Albertans of any changes to our vaccination plans.” Alberta recently finished giving first doses of vaccine to all residents in its 357 long-term care and supportive living facilities. “These are absolutely the highest-risk locations, and people who live in these facilities are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes,” Hinshaw told a virtual news conference. “Two-thirds of all our (COVID-19) deaths have been in long-term care and supportive living facilities.” Alberta has given 90,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to those in the high priority cohort: those in the care homes and front-line health-care workers. Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just over 171,000 this week and nothing the following week. Both vaccines require two doses weeks apart for full effectiveness. The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing the next phase of priority cases: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older. Alberta remains under strict lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres remain shuttered. The province relaxed some measure slightly on Monday. Outdoor gatherings can have 10 people maximum. Personal care services, like hair salons, manicure and pedicure salons and tattoo shops, can open by appointment only. Hinshaw said it’s not clear when further restrictions can be lifted. “Our health system is still under severe strain,” she said. “This continues to impact our ability to deliver care, not only for COVID-19 but all the other health needs Albertans have.” There were 11,096 active COVID cases Tuesday, about half the number recorded at its peak in mid-December. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Supreme court has overturned a man's bank robbery conviction because of a prosecutor's reference to a classic horror movie. During closing arguments in the case against Damon Williams, the prosecutor showed jurors a photo from the movie “The Shining” depicting a character played by Jack Nicholson telling his terrified wife and son, “Here’s Johnny!” moments after breaking through a door with an axe. The reference was meant to illustrate that actions can speak louder than words, and to support the prosecutor's contention that Williams should be convicted of a more serious offence even though no threatening words were spoken to the bank teller in Camden County in 2014. The jury convicted Williams of second-degree robbery, which requires the use of force or the threat of force, rather than the less serious crime of third-degree theft. Prosecutors argued that Williams' conduct before and after passing a note to the teller supported the more serious charge. Williams is currently serving a 14-year term. A unanimous Supreme Court disagreed Tuesday, writing that prosecutors “must walk a fine line” when comparing a defendant with “an individual whom the jury associates with violence or guilt.” “The use of a sensational and provocative image in service of such a comparison, even when purportedly metaphorical, heightens the risk of an improper prejudicial effect on the jury,” Justice Lee Solomon wrote. “Such a risk was borne out here." The Camden County prosecutor's office, which tried the case, declined to comment on the ruling Tuesday. The Associated Press
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
ALMA – An underground propane storage proposal is officially dead as the Local Planning and Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) case on the matter has been closed. In a letter from the LPAT sent to the Township of Mapleton, the municipality that would have hosted the site, states applicant Core Fuels Ltd. has withdrawn their appeal on a Mapleton council decision to deny their proposal. The proposal was to bury four propane tanks that would hold nearly one million litres in total at the Core Fuels location on Wellington Road 7 just outside of Alma. Mapleton council unanimously voted against this at a September meeting citing an overwhelmingly negative response from nearby residents. Alma residents formed the Concerned Citizens of Alma (CCA) as an opposition group to the development. The group presented a petition opposed to the development with 210 signatures, representing nearly every household in Alma, CCA were concerned over a possible explosion and the ability of the volunteer fire hall to respond to any issues and the proximity to a residential area as major reasons it would not be the right fit for the area. Core Fuels later appealed the decision to LPAT with the first hearing scheduled for March 17. This hearing has been cancelled because of the applicant withdrawal and the case is listed as closed on the LPAT website. “We’re glad that the township has turned it down unanimously and we’re pleased to see it withdrawn from the LPAT,” said Amanda Reid, Alma resident and CCA spokesperson. “Am I happy that it is not going to go in our residential area? Yes absolutely.” Reid noted that Core Fuels could still bring another proposal forward but underground bulk propane storage appeared to officially be squashed for Alma. “I’m sure that during COVID it wouldn’t have been very fun anyways to have dealt with LPAT,” Reid said. “I do wish Core Fuels well in their business but I know our group is happy to know they have withdrawn their appeal.” Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
TORONTO — Few things have lifted Rojhan Paydar’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like a Netflix watch party.Isolated inside her home, the Toronto resident is too often short on social opportunities and long on streaming options. So like many people, she’s recreated the experience of watching Netflix with friends through an unofficial web browser application called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party.It’s been an opportunity for Paydar to gather with pals on a virtual couch while they gasp over the twists of true crime series, “Unsolved Mysteries." Even more often, she's used the app with her boyfriend for date nights watching the dysfunction unfold on “Tiger King" and other bingeable series.“Sometimes we’d eat dinner and set up our webcams to see each other,” she said.“Knowing he was there and we were doing something in real-time — it felt really good and made me less lonely."Not long ago, viewing party technology was a tool reserved for unique situations: a long-distance couple or fans of a niche TV series searching for like-minded people.But a year into the pandemic, weekly rituals have evolved, and online watch parties have proven many of us are desperate for some semblance of connection.As the winter months stretch on, and strict stay-at-home orders grip large parts of the country, observers say the watch party, and apps that help make it happen, are due for a second wave of popularity.“I think we may have seen a cultural shift,” suggested Daniel Keyes, associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia.“The pandemic and the fact we had to self-isolate totally accelerated it. It made it more mainstream.”For younger generations raised on YouTube and Twitch, watch parties are already part of the zeitgeist. Everyone else, including streaming giants themselves, seem to be playing cultural catchup.Last year, as the pandemic wore on, Amazon Prime Video introduced group chat elements into the laptop version of its platform. Disney Plus took a more restrained approach with a feature that allows up to seven people to sync their screens, but only communicate through emojis.Other streamers, such as Netflix and Crave, have so far chosen not to launch social elements on their platforms. That move could be strategic as the companies observe a sea change in how some viewers consume television, suggested Carmi Levy, director at technology advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group."It's almost as if the snow globe has been shaken and companies like Netflix are waiting for everything to settle down before they decide where to place their bets," he said."Social TV is a thing and it isn't going anywhere. It's very much like remote work: considered the exception before the pandemic, but now the rule."Levy said the entertainment industry couldn't have predicted how quickly the change took hold with casual viewers. For years, upstart tech companies launched second-screen watch party innovations, and most of them failed miserably.That's left the door open for the latest generation of alternatives to capitalize on filling the void, among them TwoStream, a paid monthly watch party option, and Syncplay, which is free.One of the most ambitious newcomers is Scener, a venture-funded operation out of Seattle that currently supports the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Vimeo and horror platform Shudder. In a few clicks, viewers can react to a show through their webcam or type out thoughts on their keyboard.Co-founder Joe Braidwood said replicating the in-person experience, in particular, “the laughter, the screams and the horror,” was a goal of his company long before the pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy getting others to see the value.“Two years ago I would talk to investors about social TV and they would laugh at me,” he recalled over a Zoom chat.“They told me, ‘People don't want social experiences when they're watching television.’ But all you need to do is look on Twitter.”Even before the pandemic, he said, people were engaging over social media platforms about their favourite shows. Now, since everyone's holed up in their homes, Scener's growth has been exponential. Cumulative weekly minutes of programming watched grew nearly 42,000 per cent from March 2020 to January 2021 (57,785 minutes versus 24.2 million minutes), according to data provided by the company.“People who haven't hung out with their best friend while watching ‘The Flight Attendant’ or shared a family Christmas while watching an old classic movie on Scener, they just don't know what this feels like,” he added.“There's this real texture to it... it's warm engagement with people that you care about.”Hoovie, a Vancouver-based virtual watch party service, aims to bridge the gap between art house cinema outings and the comfort of a living room chat.Hosts can dive into the company’s independent film catalogue and book ticketed showings for small groups, typically in the range of 10 to 20 people. After the movie, they’re encouraged to engage in a webcam conversation on the platform that’s inspired by the film’s themes.Co-founder Fiona Rayher describes Hoovie as a platform meant to evoke those experiences outside the cinema where groups of people – sometimes strangers – would passionately discuss what they’d just watched and maybe head to a nearby restaurant for drinks."You’d meet new people and you’d stay connected," she said. "It was all serendipitous."Hoovie plans to debut a "book club for movies" early this year that'll build on connecting movie fans. Every month, subscribers will gather for online screenings that include a post-film conversation with members, filmmakers and critics. Each film will be rounded out with a wine pairing sent by mail.Selling nostalgia for the pre-pandemic days may sound appealing in lockdown, but the question remains on how attractive watch parties will be once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.It's a question Paydar said she thinks about often as she logs onto a watch party for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries.""Whenever someone asks, 'If COVID ended right now, where would you go?' the first thing I say is, 'I'd like to go to a movie theatre,'" she said."There's something about being in a physical theatre and going with a group of friends...Those end-of-the-night goodbyes, getting late-night eats with my friends.. (we're) creating memories I get to hold on to forever," she said."I don't think that can be replaced."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
ATLANTA — Paul McDonough has returned to Atlanta United as vice-president of soccer operations. The MLS team announced the rehiring of McDonough on Tuesday after he spent two years as Inter Miami's sporting director. McDonough returns to the role he held in Atlanta from 2016-18, becoming a key player in the club's dynamic entry into MLS. United set numerous attendance records and captured the MLS Cup championship in just its second season in 2018. McDonough left after the championship to lead Inter Miami's entry into MLS as an expansion team this past year. The club went 7-13-3 and made the MLS playoffs in its pandemic-affected debut season. Atlanta United, meanwhile, fell on hard times in 2020. The club fired coach Frank de Boer and missed the playoffs for the first time. “Paul was a key part of our team as we built Atlanta United and we’re delighted to have him back in the organization,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in a statement. “Paul brings a vast knowledge of the game, but more importantly he is a great cultural fit who complements our front office." McDonough will report to technical director Carlos Bocanegra and take a leading role in managing the salary cap. McDonough previously worked with Orlando City, helping the club transition to its inaugural season in MLS. He began his career in college coaching, serving as an assistant at Wake Forest, South Carolina and UConn. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
A year ago, Dr. Lawrence Loh could not have predicted how 2020 would play out. At the time, Loh was serving as associate medical officer of health for the Region of Peel under Dr. Jessica Hopkins. She was responsible for environmental health programs, immunization records and working with chronic disease and injury prevention. That mandate evolved rapidly. In March, just as the pandemic’s first wave formed, Hopkins departed the Region to take up a role as a deputy chief with Public Health Ontario, leaving Loh with big shoes to fill as a global crisis landed at his feet. By July, he dropped the ‘interim’ label from his title and was officially named Peel’s medical officer of health. Any new job is a challenge; Loh’s baptism by fire was heated further by the learning curve faced by all public health units. In particular, the rapidly evolving spread of COVID-19 meant experts, the media and public heard about new developments almost simultaneously. Loh found himself in front of the cameras at least twice per week at press conferences, presenting councillors and the public with updates and advocating to the Province for policy considerations such as paid sick days. Infectious diseases themselves are not new to public health officials, but COVID-19, and the novel coronavirus that causes it, has constantly confused even seasoned epidemiologists. The approval by Health Canada of two vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) means the path toward immunity has been opened. After a year of unfamiliar territory, Loh and his team at Peel Public Health find themselves on slightly more familiar ground. The logistics involved in vaccine distribution on its current scale are new to public health units, but the basics are not. Every year, local health professionals oversee flu vaccine campaigns. Loh himself has experience at the federal level as a medical specialist in vaccine safety between 2012 and 2013. “Immunization is bread and butter public health,” Loh told councillors at the Region Thursday, saying lessons had been learned in the past. “This is something that we’ve done year in and year out.” The pandemic complicates matters, meaning Peel Public Health is balancing its roles in contact tracing, communication, outbreak management and testing with the plans to vaccinate. The task may be simpler than managing a pandemic blind, but it remains no small feat. The goalposts of vaccine rollout have been set by the federal government, the order and eligibility decided at the provincial level and, in Ontario, local public health units are in charge of making it happen. In Peel Region, long-term care has been identified by the Province as a particular priority, with a deadline of January 21 to inoculate the most vulnerable. Ashleigh Hawkins, a spokesperson for Peel Public Health, confirmed “all consenting residents” at 28 long-term care and 15 at-risk retirement homes in the region have received their first dose of vaccine. In its first phase, Peel is concentrating on a few select groups. Long-term care residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers, including paramedics, and adult recipients of chronic home health care are among the first to receive their vaccines in Peel. Around March, when the supply of vaccines is expected to pick up, the second phase will begin. It will offer access to seniors who live in the community, teachers and some essential frontline workers, including those who work in food processing, many of whom live and work in Peel. The third and final stage of the rollout will inoculate anyone who wants to be vaccinated. It is voluntary. Peel Region is completing a rollout plan to submit to the Province by Wednesday. Janice Baker, the Region’s CAO, told councillors the task will require around 700 people to deliver the full vaccine rollout. “Council [must] understand the enormity of the task,” she said, saying active recruitment was ongoing and that Peel, “really will be mobilizing an army to get this done”. A key to the vaccine rollout in Peel will be community clinics. The first will open at the Region’s large Service building at 7120 Hurontario Street (Mississauga) and its headquarters at 10 Peel Centre Drive (Brampton) with more to follow between February and April as public health scales up. Brampton and Mississauga are weighing which facilities they can offer for vaccination efforts to expand access and get needles in arms as quickly as possible. “It is anticipated that these sites will be able to vaccinate thousands of people per day, as supplies allow, over as many hours as possible,” a Region of Peel press release explains. “Additional community clinics will be set up once vaccine becomes readily available.” It is unclear how recent delays to the Pfizer vaccine delivery in Canada could affect Peel’s plan. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, with the support of her Brampton and Caledon counterparts, has been pushing for the Province to greenlight a mass vaccination centre in Peel. The first such space opened in Toronto Monday to pilot the approach before it is rolled out across Ontario. “We know that Toronto is getting a vaccination centre with their 230 cases per 100,000, so it is only fair that our region, with 261 cases per 100,000, also has a mass vaccination centre,” she said at a press conference last Wednesday. “Mississauga and all of Peel Region has suffered greatly from this pandemic and I am doing everything I can to make sure we move past this COVID nightmare as soon as possible.” A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health acknowledged a request for comment Monday, but did not respond in time for publication. One unique discrepancy in Peel Region is among firefighters. In Mississauga, they’re a frontline group, but in Brampton firefighters will have to wait longer. Brampton Regional Councillor Rowena Santos pointed out the difference at regional council last week, saying she had “some concerns”. A Christmas COVID-19 outbreak within the Mississauga Fire and Emergency Service, which led 90 firefighters to isolate, means staff have been bumped into the first phase. Mississauga has been sending 20 to 25 firefighters per day to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for roughly the last week, according to Shari Lichterman, commissioner community services. “There was a concern — a public safety concern — that was identified by the prioritization team and so that is why Mississauga Fire was prioritized… recognizing, of course, that if they didn’t have that outbreak, they would be probably waiting the same way the rest of the fire services in the region are,” Loh explained. Peel Public Health will also demonstrate the lessons it learned testing residents for close to a year by planning drive-thru and mobile vaccination clinics as well. “Our team is working day and night,” Baker added. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump might argue the calendar is his friend when it comes to a second impeachment trial. Trump's impeachment last week by the House of Representatives for his role in inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol set up his trial in the Senate. But there's one potential wrinkle. In 2019, the last time Trump found himself impeached by the House, he had nearly a year left in his presidency. But on Wednesday, with the inauguration of Joe Biden, Trump will be out of office by the time any Senate trial gets started. Some Republican lawmakers argue it's not constitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president, but that view is far from unanimous. Democrats for their part appear ready to move forward with a trial. On Tuesday, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she doesn’t think a post-presidency impeachment trial is constitutional. But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wasn’t so sure. “I think there’s serious questions about it,” he said. Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, meanwhile, said it was “bogus” that a trial after Trump leaves office wouldn't be constitutional, noting that the Senate has held impeachment trials of federal judges after they’ve resigned. “So whether somebody resigns, or runs out the clock it makes no difference. They can still be held accountable and there’s nothing in the spirit, or the letter of the impeachment provisions in the Constitution that argues against it,” he said. Some questions and answers about whether a former president can be impeached. WHY IS THIS OPEN TO DEBATE? The Constitution says: “The President ... shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” But the Constitution says nothing about the impeachment of a former president. The question has also never come up. The only other two presidents to be impeached, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, were tried while still in office. WHAT DO SCHOLARS AND HISTORY HAVE TO SAY ON THE TOPIC? A recent Congressional Research Service report for federal lawmakers and their staffs concluded that while the Constitution's text is “open to debate,” it appears most scholars agree that a president can be impeached after leaving office. One argument is that state constitutions that predate the U.S. Constitution allowed impeachment after officials left office. The Constitution's drafters also did not specifically bar the practice. Still, the text of the Constitution could be read to suggest impeachment only applies to current office holders. In the early 19th century, one influential Supreme Court justice, Joseph Story came to that conclusion. One powerful suggestion that post-office trial is acceptable, however, comes from history. The Congressional Research Service report cites the 1876 impeachment of Secretary of War William Belknap. Belknap resigned over allegations he received kickbacks. The House impeached him after his resignation, and while Belknap objected to being tried in the Senate because he'd left office, the Senate heard three days of arguments on the topic and then deliberated in secret for over two weeks before concluding Belknap could be tried. He was ultimately acquitted. COULD TRUMP CHALLENGE A CONVICTION? Courts are unlikely to want to wade into any dispute over impeachment. In 1993, in a case involving an impeached former judge, the Supreme Court ruled it had no role to play in impeachment disputes because the Constitution says the “Senate shall have sole Power to try any impeachments.” DOES AN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL OF A FORMER PRESIDENT PRESENT OTHER LEGAL ISSUES? One other issue is who would preside at the impeachment trial of an ex-president. The Constitution says it's the chief justice's job to preside at the impeachment trial of a president. But scholars offer differing views about whether that's Chief Justice John Roberts' job if Trump's trial begins after he's out of office. The choices for who would preside appear to be Roberts, Kamala Harris, who by then will be vice-president, or Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will be the Senate’s president pro tem once the Democrats take control of the Senate. WHAT'S THE POINT OF IMPEACHING SOMEONE WHO IS OUT OF OFFICE? The consequence the Constitution sets up for a president who is impeached and convicted is removal from office. That's not really a concern for a former president. Still, conviction would send a message about Trump's conduct. Moreover, if the Senate were to convict, lawmakers would presumably take a separate vote on whether to disqualify Trump from holding future office. Some lawmakers believe that's appropriate. "We need to set a precedent that the severest offence ever committed by a president will be met by the severest remedy provided by the Constitution — impeachment and conviction by this chamber, as well as disbarment from future office," incoming Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said Tuesday. ___ Associated Press reporter Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
Health experts have determined that the high rates of COVID-19 in First Nation communities are due to younger adults being in contact with each other during the holidays and underlying conditions are also a complicating factor. According to Dr. Michael Routledge, medical advisor at Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc., the transmission of the virus happened mostly during Christmas and New Year. Additionally, challenges in terms of housing and access to clean drinking water within the First Nation communities have also contributed to the high number of hospitalizations as well as those in the intensive care units (ICU). “What we have seen in the last week or two is a fairly significant increase of activity in the North which is impacting some of our Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) communities. It is a mixed bag; some are seeing low transmissions but others are having quite severe outbreaks,” said Routledge, speaking during a press conference on Tuesday. Routledge added that KIM had expected to see these high rates due to the holidays, and it was of no surprise to them either that some First Nations were not able to protect themselves from the pandemic because of their housing situation and issues with their drinking water advisories. As of Monday, Manitoba Indigenous people make up approximately three-quarters of active cases in the province and 62% of the new cases. There are 60 First Nations patients currently hospitalized along with 13 in ICU. Some communities had tremendous feedback regarding the Moderna vaccine. Over 90% of Elders over the age of 70 have accepted the vaccine along with the benefits it could bring to their communities. “I think it is important to communicate the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout in our First Nations. It has given us a renewed sense of hope and optimism, and I believe we have reached a pivotal point of our journey through this pandemic,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “It (the vaccine) gives our people the chance to have the protection they need for their families, so this is a good day for us as we now have the opportunity to bring safety and wellness to our First Nations.” This week, the first batch of vaccine has arrived in the Misipawistik Cree Nation (MCN) and the Chemawawin Cree Nation (CCN). It was reported on Tuesday that there is 35 positive cases, with over 200 people who have been in direct contact with a positive case in MCN. Vaccination in the MCN is expected to begin this Thursday. “The way I look at it, our great-grandparents recognized the value of medical science to help our people, and that’s why healthcare is in our treaties, and we have a treaty right to the vaccine,” said MCN Chief Heidi Cook. “I plan on getting it myself whenever I am eligible, that may not be for a while, but I believe we need to protect more of our Elders and those with health conditions first.” Chief Clarence Easter from CCN said he received his Moderna vaccination on Monday after an Elder had cancelled their appointment. His community received 40 doses on Saturday, and the rollout started Monday morning. Other than the soreness in his arm, he said that he felt fine and encouraged other Elders to take it as well. Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
Global equity benchmarks rose to new record highs and oil prices rose on Wednesday as investors moved into riskier assets in anticipation of further U.S. stimulus under the new Biden administration to mend the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. President Joe Biden, who was sworn into office on Wednesday, last week laid out a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal to boost the economy and speed up the distribution of vaccines. U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen urged lawmakers to "act big" to save the economy and worry about debt later at a confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Robbie Fowler is doing his best to keep his name and the sport of soccer in the news in cricket-mad India. The legendary striker for Liverpool and former England international has made more headlines and waves since his arrival as a coach in the Indian Super League (ISL) than his more experienced counterparts on the subcontinent. The 45 year-old Fowler, who scored over 180 goals for Liverpool, took over East Bengal in October and has taken fans of one of India’s biggest and oldest clubs for a roller-coaster ride so far. On the field, after collecting just a single point from the opening five games, the Kolkata team is now unbeaten in seven matches to raise hopes of a top-four finish and a place in the playoff finals series. Off it, Fowler has not missed an opportunity to make controversial points. The latest came after Monday’s 0-0 draw against Chennaiyin in which Fowler was less than happy about a first-half red card for Ajay Chhetri. It was, Fowler said, just the latest in a long line of bad decisions. “It is bordering on the disgraceful, some of the decisions by the referee,” Fowler said on Indian television after the game. “I am mentally exhausted because I am fighting battles with the referees every single game. It’s an absolute joke. We can’t keep doing this, having arguments with the referees as they are spoiling the game.” Fowler declared that the next fixture, against Mumbai City, leader of the 11-team league that came into existence in 2014 and, in 2020, became India’s top tier, will be more of the same. “We know what to expect as we won’t be getting any decisions again because that’s what it’s like. Some of the decisions are awful. I’m not calling them cheats or anything like that but it is bordering on the cheating for us and it’s not right.” It is not the first time that Fowler, who had mixed results in his previous coaching spells in Thailand with Muangthong United and Brisbane Roar in Australia's A-League, has made headlines for controversial comments. After a 3-0 loss in the second game of the season to Mumbai, Fowler caused controversy in post-match comments about local players. “We will coach the players because in all fairness few of them have probably never been coached before and that is what we are doing,” Fowler said. “We will try and make our Indian players better and that takes good coaching and I don’t think they had that in the years gone by,. He later said his remarks had been taken out of context. There is a long history of British influence in Indian football but coaches and players from another European country can be found in much greater numbers in the Indian Super League. Just four of the 11 teams at the start of the 2020-21 season did not have Spanish coaches and there are over 20 Spanish players in the league. At the moment, the top four are all under Iberian influence with the three British-coached teams in the bottom half of the table. If Fowler can get a win against Mumbai then he may start to change that and make headlines for other reasons — his results on the field. ___ More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports John Duerden, The Associated Press
A fourth COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Windsor Regional Hospital Tuesday evening. The hospital's 6N unit is the latest area of the organization experiencing an outbreak, with four positive patients and no positive staff. This news comes after the hospital announced three outbreaks in the last two weeks. "We expect to experience these situations as COVID-19 continues to spread in our community," said Karen Riddell, WRH Chief Nursing Executive and Chief Operating Officer, in a news release. "We continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that we have the correct infection prevention and control guidelines and precautions in place to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus." In a news release Tuesday, the hospital provided an update on each of the other three outbreaks: 4M at the Ouellette Campus has 10 positive patients and five positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 6. 6E at the Ouellette Campus has 10 positive patients and six positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 8. 4N at the Met Campus has one positive patient and 11 positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 14. The hospital said that admissions to the units continue, but it keeps COVID-19 patients cohorted. Transfers into units experiencing an outbreak are required to be approved by the hospital's Infection Prevention and Control department, the hospital said, adding that testing will continue. Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare is also experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared on Tuesday. The hospital said in a news release Sunday that two staff and three patients tested positive on the 3N unit of the Dr. Y. Emara Centre for Healthy Aging and Mobility.
OTTAWA — Conservatives were torn Tuesday over a decision by party leader Erin O'Toole to try to expel an MP from their ranks over a donation from a known white nationalist. The party's 121 MPs are set to vote via secret ballot Wednesday morning on whether Derek Sloan ought to be removed, with a simple majority required to oust him. While Sloan has courted his fair share of controversy for months, the idea he should be booted from caucus specifically because of a donation he said he had not realized he'd received wasn't sitting well with some MPs and party supporters. And the move prompted backlash from some anti-abortion groups, who had been firmly in Sloan's corner during the leadership race he lost to O'Toole almost six months ago. The group Right Now urged backers to contact MPs to voice their displeasure. "We feel that this an attempt to discourage pro-lifers from engaging within the Conservative Party of Canada, specifically at the upcoming policy convention," Right Now's email said. "If those officials in the Conservative Party of Canada who do not share our values were not threatened by us taking our rightful and democratic place within the party, then they would not attempt such a brazen and obviously desperate effort such as this." The controversy over the $131 donated by Paul Fromm, a longtime political activist with links to neo-Nazi causes, erupted late Monday. O'Toole declared the donation — made under the name "Frederick P. Fromm" — meant Sloan could no longer be a Conservative MP, citing an intolerance for racism within the party. O'Toole promptly kick-started the process of getting him removed from the Conservative caucus. Some MPs publicly voiced their approval on social media, but privately concerns were immediately raised about the bar O'Toole was setting. The party prides itself on collecting donations from hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters. Vetting them all against an unclear standard would be challenging, if not outright impossible. Sloan was first elected in the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington in 2019 and stunned many of his fellow MPs by running to lead the party not long after. He has sparked several controversies during his relatively short political life. He's been accused of racism for questioning the loyalty of the country's chief public health officer, a charge he denied. He's also suggested being LGBTQ is not a matter of science and compared a ban on therapy designed to force a person to change their gender or sexual identity to child abuse. During the leadership race, O'Toole urged MPs not to kick Sloan out of caucus over the remarks he made about Dr. Theresa Tam, even buying ads on social media trumpeting that position. The fact that a donation was the thing that finally turned O'Toole against Sloan raised some eyebrows. "That (Sloan) plays silly-bugger word games that homosexuality is a choice should have disqualified him. But kicking him out over a donation from a racist who disguised his identity? So many good reasons to kick him out. Not sure this is one," wrote longtime Conservative operative and strategist Chisholm Pothier on Twitter. "Glad he’s gone. But ends justifying the means is easy, principled politics is hard." The Liberals have been calling for months for O'Toole to eject Sloan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he's s pleased O'Toole is showing leadership. "Political parties need to remain vigilant, particularly in the wake of what we see in the United States, from the infiltration or the active presence of fringe or extremist or violent or unacceptable or intolerant elements," Trudeau said at a news conference. "And that's something that we constantly need to work towards as all politicians in Canada." Trudeau, however, did not address whether Fromm's organizations would also see money they received in COVID-19 supports clawed back as well. Fromm has been connected to Holocaust-deniers and other white nationalist groups for years. Sloan cited Fromm's use of his first name to make the donation in saying he was unaware of the source of the funds. Sloan has said he'll fight efforts to expel him. He noted he told the party to return Fromm's donation as soon as he was made aware of it, and wasn't sure what more he could have done. Fromm is a member of the party, voted in the leadership race, and had applied to attend the virtual convention the party is holding in March, none of which had raised red flags before Monday's revelation. Late Tuesday, the party said Fromm's membership will be revoked and he will not be allowed to participate in the convention. In an interview, Fromm said he's never met Sloan, and while Sloan's policies did appeal to him, to suggest his money, membership or desire to participate in the convention taints Sloan or the party is ridiculous. "I think basically, somebody is out to get Sloan and are prepared to use just about anything," he said. O'Toole won the leadership last year thanks in part to Sloan's supporters, whom he'd courted. Ever since, he has faced questions about how he'll broaden the appeal of the party, given the strength of its social-conservative wing. That faction was already gearing up to try to play an outsized role at the party's policy convention in March, organizing to advance several socially conservative positions through policy motions and ensuring they had enough delegates to make them pass. Their efforts were spurred on by Sloan, who had been pushing people to sign up as delegates, a move viewed within caucus as challenging O'Toole. Late Tuesday, Sloan urged his supporters not to shy away from their push to "be a presence at convention." "It should now be very evident just how important it is that we have a strong presence at the upcoming convention. If we do not, the types that wish to send me packing will do our party great damage," he wrote in an email. The party has been fielding complaints about Sloan's use of the membership list, and of robocalls, to encourage members to sign up for the convention. The latter could be seen as a violation of government telecommunications rules that forbid the use of robocalls for solicitation purposes, the party said. They've launched investigations into both, but spokesman Cory Hann said Sloan isn't co-operating. "We take this seriously and expect all caucus members and candidates to fully comply with all rules, regulations and laws," Hann said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
The B.C. government should tighten restrictions on travel from other Canadian provinces to curb the spread of COVID-19, a global health expert said Tuesday. The province announced last Thursday it was investigating the legality of such a move. Kelley Lee, the director of global health studies at Simon Fraser University, says she is working with researchers from across Canada, the United States and Hong Kong to document travel restrictions adopted by governments around the world. The researchers use genomic sequencing to see how the virus is spread. Lee says travel restrictions, when they're quickly implemented, are effective at containing highly infectious diseases, like COVID-19. "It's really important when an outbreak like COVID-19 occurs that you act early," she told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South. "The countries that did that very quickly were more effective." Over the past several weeks, health officials have identified coronavirus variants in B.C. that were first seen in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Lee says this is why immediate action is required. "There's a short time window really to prevent more of those imported cases from coming into the province," she said. "We really cannot afford to have those new strains of the virus establishing themselves in the community." On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is recommending against non-essential travel, but there is no public health order prohibiting it. Lee says while no jurisdiction can completely shut its borders to essential travellers, it's important to have systems in place to monitor them. "What we can do is [to] make sure that those travellers are travelling in a way that is safe for the rest of the population, that there may be an argument to vaccinate them," she said. Last year, In the early stages of the pandemic, a number of provinces set up checkpoints on their boundaries to restrict traffic. Tap the link below to hear Kelley Lee's interview on Daybreak South:
TORONTO — Online storytelling company Wattpad Corp. says it will be acquired by South Korean internet conglomerate Naver for US$600 million. The Toronto-based company says the acquisition is a cash and stock transaction that was unanimously approved by its board of directors earlier today. Under the terms of the deal, Wattpad will keep its Canadian headquarters and remain under the leadership of co-founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen. Wattpad has been running a self-publishing platform since it was founded in 2006, but in recent years managed to reach deals to get some users' books printed or made into movies. Wattpad says the acquisition will accelerate the company's international growth and expand its audience because Naver owns digital comics platform Webtoon. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of the company's fiscal year and is subject to regulatory approvals. This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2020. The Canadian Press