A woodpecker carves a deep hole into a tree in Quebec.
A woodpecker carves a deep hole into a tree in Quebec.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Christian Siriano opened his second show of the pandemic Thursday with two ladies in bed, models who emerged flawless in black one-pieces, then dressed for all to see before hitting the runway. It was a dreamy, colour-saturated show during a tough time for fashion inspiration, Siriano said. He created an alternate reality inspired by a recent jaunt to Aspen, Colorado, to visit family for the first time in a year. While most designers have gone fully digital during an expanded New York Fashion Week that has stretched the traditional calendar, Siriano remains committed to the runway. “If you take this away, and the glamour, then it's like I'm just at the office talking about money all day, and that's not what I want,” he told The Associated Press after the fall-winter show attended by about 75 in-person guests. “I wouldn't want to do this job if I couldn't have this world.” In this world, shared on Instagram Live, there were looks for hidden parties and cocktail hours in the Colorado mountains, and silky evening dresses in fuchsia and chartreuse. There were cutouts, and ruffles and lace for ombre and peekaboo impact. And there was Siriano muse Coca Rocha camping it up for the cameras in a voluminous black gown with a plunging neckline — after she woke up to start the show. Siriano included two thrifted pieces he previously designed and found on the site thredUP, including a black fringe coat he made about seven years ago. He was pleasantly surprised it held up, both esthetically and through its well-worn years. The other look was a plunging silk crepe dress in fuchsia washed many times. “You shouldn't do that because it's silk, but it looked so cool. It looked worn but new. Hopefully it will show people we can do this in fashion,” Siriano said of the growing reuse movement. He partnered with thredUP after creating the universal logo for thrift, in the shape of a coat hanger. As for his newly created clothes, there was an “homage to the lodge” in plaid lames and cashmeres, melting into sunset-drenched oranges and pinks inspired by his Colorado vacation. He threw in some creams in a snakeskin print and bright winter whites, including a white jacket worn with loose fuchsia trousers for day. Siriano carried his check lame print from a trouser set to a strapless cocktail gown to a loose, long-sleeve top with a plunge. There were psychedelic swirls of orange and brown in a pantsuit and an evening dress with a high slit. What if, heaven forbid, he's forced to design a third collection in a pandemic come the September show cycle, trying to wrangle staff working remotely while sourcing materials. “Honestly, I don't know," Siriano said, "because I love doing this but it's very hard to do in a pandemic. The logistics are a challenge, but we're just going to move on and hope for the best.” Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
(Doug Husby/CBC - image credit) A B.C.'s babysitter's conviction in the 2011 death of a toddler may have been the result of a miscarriage of justice, according to a special prosecutor appointed by the province. Tammy Bouvette's Charter rights may have been breached by the non-disclosure of documents rejecting a medical examiner's conclusion that the injuries to 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple were intentional, Vancouver defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford has found. "There is a strong case to be made that Ms. Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant, relevant materials," a news release from the B.C. Prosecution Service states. "Her conviction may, accordingly, represent a miscarriage of justice." Sandford has recommended that the case undergo an appeal to determine what happened. Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder in the toddler's death, but pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in order to avoid an automatic life sentence and was sentenced to a year in prison with credit for time served in 2013. The charges stem from May 2011, when Bouvette was caring for Iyanna in a Cranbrook home. She found the little girl unresponsive in a bathtub and called 911. Iyanna was airlifted to Calgary for treatment, but she could not be saved. Iyanna was found face down in a bathtub on May 26, 2011, while being babysat by Bouvette, who was 28 at the time. Last year, a retired B.C. Mountie told CBC's The Fifth Estate that investigators originally considered the death a tragic accident. Bouvette told police that she had left the child to attend to a spill in another room. But medical examiner Dr. Evan Matshes told prosecutors there was "no benign" explanation for some of the injuries on the toddler's body and identified bruising that was "typical of child abuse," according to court documents obtained by CBC. 'Unreasonable' conclusions about injuries An investigation by The Fifth Estate found that three forensic pathologists were later asked to review the autopsy in response to concerns about some of Matshes's other findings. The panel of medical experts stated in their report that the comments Matshes made to the prosecutor about "intentional injuries" on the body and prior abuse were "unreasonable." Bouvette's lawyer, Jesse Gelber, has said he never received a copy of that review. By law, prosecutors must provide defence counsel with all relevant documents in a criminal case. In an interview last year, Bouvette told CBC that the conviction has had a profound effect on her life, and she cannot forgive anyone responsible for withholding potentially exonerating material. "I am not a baby-killer.… People just look at me differently like I was some type of monster and I'm not," she said. "I'm a loving person and a loving mom." Sandford was appointed to review the case in January 2020 in response to CBC's inquiries about the apparent lack of disclosure in the case. She has now recommended that Bouvette's legal team be provided with all of the evidence uncovered during her investigation. The prosecution service says that if Bouvette applies to the B.C. Court of Appeal for an extension to file an appeal and the right to file fresh evidence, the Crown will not oppose those applications.
“We must do everything we can,” Dr. Shahab said, in trying to and make sure that transmissions of the variants of concern is minimalized. Two individuals in Regina who tested positive for the variant B117, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, could not be linked to any personal travel.As seen in other jurisdictions, the first cases of the new variants could all be linked to travel and then it shows up as community transmission. The presence of these variants is cause for concern, because they present as having a higher rate of transmission. Samples of tests from Regina are going to be sent off for further testing since Regina is presently seeing an uptick in cases while the rest of the province is trending downward. Dr. Shahab reiterated the importance of people staying home at the first sign of any symptoms and seek a test. More importantly perhaps, is to continue to stay home even if the test results are negative but symptoms continue. People need to not assume that they are free of the virus, a second test should be done to confirm that in cases where symptoms persist. SHA CEO, Scott Livingstone, admitted at the Thursday, February 25, 2021 press conference that the present system of contacting people is not effective. The lists that are being generated through eHealth and vital statistics are not necessarily finding all those individuals in the 70+ age group to put on the list in the first place and utilizing public health personnel to man the phones is not an effective use of manpower. The online appointment booking system and telephone call-in centre which were originally planned to be utilized once Phase 2 vaccinations began will now be utilized for those individuals 70 years of age and over and thereby reducing the stress and concern expressed by those who have not received a telephone call when there was a clinic in their vicinity. These should be up and running within roughly ten days. This will also serve as a bit of a trial run for the Phase 2 rollout. The limited amount of vaccine is also compounding the problems with the vaccine rollout. Dr. Shahab expressed the hope that once vaccine supplies become stabilized there will be a large uptake of the opportunity to be vaccinated and this will take the sharp edge off the pandemic. Those at high risk are still awaiting vaccination and therefore it remains crucial for the rest of the population to stay vigilant in mitigating the spread to protect them. It comes back again to testing. More people need to get tested sooner. Some people still appear to be waiting to get tested and this could get the province into a bad situation quickly with the variants of concern in the province. Last summer Premier Moe set a goal of 4000 COVID-19 tests being done every day, yesterday about 2100 were processed and about 3100 today. Also included in the announcements today was the distribution of 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests. Until now the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations required a laboratory license for any site collecting specimens or conducting testing. Health Minister Merriman stated earlier today that the Regulations have been amended to exempt point-of-care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites which now allows these so-called rapid tests to be used in more sites around the province. Merriman said, “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with the variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” The rapid tests will be available ambulance, fire, police, dental offices, schools, shelters, detox facilities, and group homes as well as at long-term and personal care homes and participating pharmacies. Scott Livingstone stated that since some of these may not have the capacity to use the tests on their own, the SHA and the Ministry of Health are working on a tendering process for third-party providers to deliver testing at these locations and ensure that training and support is in place to “use these testing resources to their full potential.” Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
OTTAWA — The Canadian Judicial Council says a Quebec judge has resigned after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his appeal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner says Michel Girouard's decision to step down from the Quebec Superior Court "narrowly avoids his removal from office by Parliament." A 2012 complaint alleged that Girouard, while he was still a lawyer, had bought illegal drugs from a client. An inquiry committee rejected the allegations but cited contradictions and implausibilities in Girouard’s testimony. A second complaint about Girouard’s credibility during the initial proceedings led a majority of judges on the council to recommend he lose his job. The Federal Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed Girouard's attempts to overturn the recommendation, prompting his application to the Supreme Court. In a news release Thursday as chairperson of the judicial council, Wagner said Girouard's resignation "is the last chapter in a prolonged saga that has undermined expectations of access to justice and has cost Canadians millions of dollars." Wagner said Canada benefits from outstanding judges who demonstrate the highest ethical integrity but the Girouard matter shows that the disciplinary process that deals with instances of judicial misconduct must be re-examined. "In the matter of Michel Girouard, proceedings have been going on for eight years now. Throughout this entire period, Michel Girouard has continued to receive his full salary despite not sitting, and he will now receive a pension for life, all at the expense of Canadian taxpayers," said Wagner. Earlier Thursday, Justice Minister David Lametti said he would seek parliamentary approval to remove Girouard from the bench. Lametti said Thursday on Twitter that as the "lengthy process has unfolded, I have made it clear that I fully intended to act if Justice Girouard exhausted his avenues of appeal and the revocation decision was upheld. That moment has arrived." Lametti said he intended to proceed with Girouard's removal by seeking the necessary approval of the House of Commons and Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Colin White had two goals as the Ottawa Senators earned a 6-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. The win was the third straight for Ottawa (7-14-1) -- a first this season -- while Calgary (9-10-2) lost for the fifth time in six contests. Drake Batherson, Erik Gudbranson, Connor Brown and Erik Brannstrom also scored for Ottawa as goaltender Matt Murray stopped 29 shots. Batherson ran his goal-scoring streak to four games. Milan Lucic replied for Calgary, which was playing for the third time in four nights. Still, the Flames came in having won three of the previous four meetings with Ottawa. It was the first of three straight games between the two teams in Ottawa. They meet again Saturday afternoon before finishing up Monday night. Batherson opened the scoring at 7:45 of the first. David Rittich made the save on Tim Stutzle's shot but Batherson fired the rebound past the Flames goaltender for his sixth of the season. Gudbranson made it 2-0 with his first of the year at 9:27 as Ottawa outshot Calgary 13-5. Lucic pulled Calgary to within 2-1 with his fifth 1:41 into the second. But Brown restored Ottawa's two-goal lead at 4:39, intercepting a pass deep in the Flames zone and beating Rittich on the backhand unassisted for his fifth. Brannstrom put Ottawa up 4-1 at 7:24. He blasted a rolling puck from outside the blue-line past Rittich, his second of the year and second in as many games. Shortly afterwards, Calgary made the goaltending change as Artyom Zagidulin got into his first NHL game replacing Rittich, who allowed four goals on 20 shots. White slid the puck under Zagidulin at 4:55 of the third, for his third. He added his fourth at 14:46. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb, 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Ahuntsic-Cartierville - Malgré le lancement imminent de la campagne de vaccination de masse contre la COVID-19, les autorités de la santé à Montréal affichent un optimisme prudent à l’approche de la semaine de relâche alors que la transmission de variants progresse rapidement, principalement en milieu scolaire. Aux dernières nouvelles, aucun cas de variant n’avait encore été rapporté dans les écoles d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville. Le Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) rapporte par ailleurs une baisse de près de 50 % du nombre de cas confirmés dans les écoles du quartier cette semaine avec 31 élèves et 3 membres du personnel infectés en date du 23 février. Il s’agit du niveau le plus bas depuis la fin novembre. Cette baisse reflète le ralentissement de la transmission communautaire observée dans l’arrondissement depuis maintenant six semaines. Dans son plus récent bilan, la Direction régionale de la santé publique (DRSP) fait état de 166 nouveaux cas dans la dernière semaine pour un taux d’incidence de 123,65 nouveaux cas par 100 000 habitants, soit un taux pratiquement identique à celui observé à la fin novembre. Pour la première fois depuis la mi-novembre, on ne rapporte d’ailleurs aucun nouveau décès dans Ahuntsic-Cartierville. L’arrondissement demeure toutefois sensiblement plus chaud que l’ensemble de Montréal, où le taux d’incidence était de 116,48 cas/100 000, et seuls deux secteurs apparaissent encore sur la liste des voisinages ayant les taux d’incidence les plus élevés dans la métropole, sont Ahuntsic (9 cas, 171,59 cas/100 000) et Saint-Sulpice-Ouest (21 cas, 216,72 cas/100 000). Les variants sous la loupe La directrice de la santé publique de Montréal, docteure Mylène Drouin, a souligné que 100 % des résultats de tests positifs sont désormais soumis au criblage, une technique qui permet de détecter les cas associés à des formes mutées du virus, dont la souche B.117, aussi appelée le variant britannique. Elle prévient que le variant britannique, plus contagieuse et plus virulente, pourrait devenir la souche dominante dès la fin mars, si la semaine de relâche donne lieu à une augmentation des contacts sociaux et à un relâchement des mesures sanitaires dans la population. Le variant pourrait également compliquer la gestion des éclosions en milieu fermé, comme celle en cours depuis deux mois à la prison de Bordeaux. Au Centre de détention de Montréal, il ne reste plus qu’une vingtaine de cas actifs liés à l’éclosion, mais la transmission n’est toujours pas entièrement sous contrôle, avec de nouveaux cas déclarés cette semaine dans la population carcérale, mais aussi principalement chez des membres du personnel. Freiner la transmission dans les écoles Après avoir reconnu récemment que la contamination en milieu scolaire jouait un rôle dans la transmission communautaire du virus, Mylène Drouin a indiqué que c’est en milieu scolaire qu’on observait la plus forte contamination avec le nouveau variant. Elle explique que l’objectif premier de la Santé publique est de retarder autant que possible la progression des variants le temps que la campagne de vaccination ne prenne son envol. C’est d’ailleurs dans l’espoir de freiner la transmission du variant dans les écoles que le gouvernement du Québec a décidé d’imposer le port du masque de procédure en classe à tous les niveaux (sauf au préscolaire) dès le retour de la semaine de relâche. Coup d’envoi de la campagne de vaccination C’est donc dans une véritable course contre la montre que s’entame l’opération de vaccination de masse qui débute avec les personnes âgées de 85 ans et plus vivant dans la communauté. Depuis la mi-décembre, 14 200 doses de vaccin ont ainsi été administrées sur le territoire du CIUSSS. L’impact de cette première phase de vaccination se fait d’ailleurs déjà sentir. Éclosions en baisse, hospitalisations sur un plateau descendant En date du 24 février, on ne rapportait en effet plus aucun cas actif dans les CHSLD et résidences privées pour aînés d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville qui ont été aux prises avec des éclosions majeures le mois dernier. Bien que les hospitalisations soient nettement moins élevées qu’il y a un mois, la baisse semble se faire sur un plateau descendant en pente assez lente. Il y avait encore, en date du 24 février, 57 personnes alitées dans les unités COVID des trois centres hospitaliers du Nord de l’Île, soit huit de moins que le 13 février. Par contre, le nombre de personnes aux soins intensifs demeure stable depuis environ un mois, soit autour de 17 cas en moyenne. La Santé publique espère que la vaccination massive des groupes les plus vulnérables permettra de continuer cette tendance à la baisse sur les hospitalisations et limiter le nombre de décès. Pas de solution magique Elle souligne qu’il peut prendre jusqu’à trois semaines à faire effet chez les personnes âgées et que s’il semble assez efficace pour prévenir les formes sévères de la maladie, il est encore trop tôt pour dire s’il réduit de façon significative la transmission. La vaccination n’offrira « pas une protection d’immunité collective du tout » à court terme, précise-t-elle. La couverture vaccinale est actuellement évaluée à 3,5 % de la population montréalaise et à 18% chez les 80 ans et plus. Il faudra donc vraisemblablement plusieurs mois pour atteindre le seuil d’immunité collective de 70 %. Le JDV visitera vendredi l’une des cliniques de vaccination du CIUSSS qui doit ouvrir la semaine prochaine et reviendra prochainement sur les détails concernant l’opération de vaccination. Simon Van Vliet, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal des voisins
CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017. Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash. "I would describe this offence in two words -- tragic and senseless," Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday. "Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It's exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved." Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man's "precarious medical condition." "In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all ... he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years. The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release. "If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy," Neufeld said. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come." On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it's a matter of "life and limb.'' This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. -- Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Another mutated version of the coronavirus has popped up in New York City, and experts reacted to the the news with a mixture of caution and concern. The new variant first appeared in the New York area in late November, and has since cropped up in neighbouring states, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, one of two teams to share their work this week. But how problematic the variant may be isn’t known yet. Viruses are constantly mutating — or making typos in their genetic code — as they spread and make copies of themselves. “Most are not of particular concern,” said Francois Balloux, director of the University College London’s Genetics Institute. However, he added, “Noticing them early, flagging them, raising concern is useful." That's because some genetic tweaks can be worrisome, especially if they help the virus spread more easily, make it more deadly or curb the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists use genome sequencing and other research to figure out which are a potential problem. New York City health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday sought to tamp down worries about the new variant, emphasizing that the new research is preliminary and little is known about the variant. “Some variants are just that, they’re variants.” said Dr. Jay Varma, senior health adviser to the mayor. WHAT DID THEY FIND IN NEW YORK? Two research groups — at Caltech and Columbia University in New York — released papers this week describing their findings about the new variant. Neither paper has been published or reviewed by other scientists. The Caltech researchers found that the new variant showed up in about a quarter of the 1,200 virus sequences they looked at this month. The variant has also shown up in New Jersey and Connecticut and has made “isolated appearances across the country,” said CalTech's Anthony West, a co-author of the paper. On Thursday, Columbia University researchers released their research that scrutinized about 1,100 virus samples from patients treated at the university's medical centre, dating back to November. During the second week of February, the new variant was identified in 12% of the samples, they reported. They also found patients infected with the mutated virus were more likely to be older and have been hospitalized. Both groups noted that the new variant has a mutation that could potentially weaken the effectiveness of vaccines — a mutation seen in other worrisome variants. “There is clearly something to keep an eye on,” Balloux said. HOW MANY OTHER VARIANTS ARE THERE? New variants have been showing up throughout the pandemic, but three are considered the most worrisome — they've been designated “variants of concern." They were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries. The one identified in the U.K. late last year has since been found in 45 U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain is concerning because it has so many mutations, nearly two dozen. Some are on the spiky protein that the virus uses to attach to and infect cells — and that current vaccines and antibody drugs target. One of the spike protein mutations is seen in the variants discovered early on in Brazil and South Africa, and, now, the new variant in New York. A variant that has been spreading in California is also getting attention. It's been found in 40% to 50% of samples examined by the Los Angeles Count Department of Public Health, according to Director Barbara Ferrer. But there isn't enough rigorous research to determine what, if any, effect its mutations might have. WHAT'S NEXT? After what many described as a slow start, the federal government in recent weeks has ramped up its genetic sequencing to look for and study virus variants to figure out which ones might be a problem. In the meantime, Ana S. Gonzalez Reiche, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, urged caution. “Without evidence, we don’t need to alarm ourselves about every variant detected,” she said. Studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a variant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions. In response, drug companies are already figuring out how to modify their vaccines. Experts say that in the meantime, public health measures like social distancing and masks will reduce opportunities for the coronavirus to continue mutating and run rampant. “Emerging of variants will occur," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC on Thursday. "The trick is when they do occur, to prevent them from spreading.” ___ 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. Marion Renault, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Less than a month after excoriating Donald Trump in a blistering floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he would “absolutely” support the former president again if he secured the Republican nomination in 2024. The Kentucky Republican told Fox News that there's still “a lot to happen between now" and the next presidential election. “I've got at least four members that I think are planning on running for president, plus governors and others,” McConnell said. “There's no incumbent. Should be a wide open race.” But when directly asked if he would support Trump again were he to win the nomination, McConnell responded: “The nominee of the party? Absolutely.” McConnell's remarks underscore an awkward balancing act he sought to maintain since Trump lost the election, reflecting the reality that McConnell’s own path back to power in the Senate hinges on enthusiasm from a party base that still ardently supports Trump. McConnell's comments come before an annual gathering of conservative activists that this year is expected to showcase Trump's vice grip-like hold on the GOP base. Trump, along with most other leading 2024 presidential prospects, are set to address the Conservative Political Action Conference, which will be held in Orlando this year due to coronavirus restrictions. McConnell, a regular at the annual conference, will not be on the program following his condemnation of Trump. The 36-year Senate veteran had an expedient relationship with Trump while he was in office. He made a habit of saying little about many of Trump’s outrageous comments. But together they secured key Senate victories such as the 2017 tax cuts and the confirmations of three Supreme Court justices and more than 200 other federal judges. Their relationship soured after Trump’s denial of his Nov. 3 defeat and relentless efforts to reverse the voters’ verdict with his baseless claims that Democrats fraudulently stole the election. It deteriorated further last month, after Republicans lost Senate control with two Georgia runoff defeats they blamed on Trump, followed by the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. The day of the riot, McConnell railed against “thugs, mobs, or threats” and described the attack as “this failed insurrection.” Still, McConnell likes to pride himself on playing the “long game,” which was the title of his 2016 memoir. And his comments on Thursday may yet prove prescient. Recently, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a longtime Trump opponent, predicted the former president would win the nomination if he ran again. “I don't know if he'll run in 2024 or not but if he does I'm pretty sure he will win the nomination,” Romney said during an online forum hosted by the New York Times. Brian Slodysko, The Associated Press
City councillors discussed the merits of new public murals at this week’s parks, recreation and cultural services committee meeting. Six mural projects were recommended through the city’s public art community mural program. The budget of the program is $30,000, and this year’s projects are also being funded by other sources. The proposed projects are as follows: • Lehigh Hanson, a construction manufacturer on Mitchell island, is anticipated to cost $12,000, of which $6,000 will come from the mural program and $6,000 from a grant that supports the city’s environmental stewardship work on Mitchell Island) • McMath secondary is anticipated to cost $17,000 of which $8,000 will come from the mural program funding and $9,000 from the school. • Thompson elementary is anticipated to cost $6,200 of which $6,000 will come from the mural program funding and $200 from the school. • Homma elementary is anticipated to cost $10,000 of which $5,000 will come from the mural program funding and $5,000 from the school. • Westwind elementary is anticipated to cost $5,000 all from the mural program funding. • Gateway Theatre is anticipated to cost $20,000 all funded by the theatre itself. This project was highly rated but due to its costs was only deemed feasible after Gateway said they could finance the mural with funds from a show cancelled due to the pandemic. Several Richmond artists are being recommended to work on these projects: Fiona Tang at Thompson, Atheana Picha at Homma and Dawn Lo at Westwind (in collaboration with a second artist). Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
People on reserve have received the coronavirus vaccine at a rate of six times higher than Canadians, yet Dr. Evan Adams said he is still fielding questions about whether or not people should be signing up for injections. “People are so suspicious that we’re trying to do something bad to them, when we’re trying to do something good for them… I find it sad that some people don’t trust. In a way, of course, it’s understandable we don’t trust particular things, but I hope there are somethings that you would trust and I hope you would trust, say, an Indigenous physician like me, who says, ‘Let me help. I’m very interested and very concerned about you and your family and your knowledge keepers and your community’,” said Adams, deputy chief medical officer of Public Health, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). Adams, who was speaking today on the weekly edition of the First Nations Health Managers Association’s (FNHMA) virtual town hall, said he was grateful that science offered such an efficient method to protect against COVID-19. “I’m looking forward to having a vaccine. If I get a sore arm, if I feel a little bit tired, I’ll probably just smile through all of that because … the vaccine is teaching my body to fight off the natural virus,” he said. FNHMA CEO Marion Crowe, who hosts the town hall, said it was important that First Nations people were able to hear such information from a First Nations physician. “I’m grateful to have an Indigenous physician here with us … so that we know to trust in the words that you speak, the inherent knowledge that you share, and the wisdom of your experiences and education… while understanding that some of us are a little bit mistrusting when it comes to any government initiative,” said Crowe. She added that mistrust has stemmed from a health system that continues to prove itself to discriminate systemically and from history where Indigenous people were test subjects. Adding levity to the serious discussion, Crowe said she was willing to be a “guinea pig.” “This is one time I’m happy that I’ll be a guinea pig because I’m right in there with all the front line – police, ambulance, doctors, nurses, … (personal support workers), long term care folks. If we’re going to wipe out everyone, that’s the group we’ll be with, so we’re not going to do that. So just having confidence in the science is going to be so welcoming and evidence-based,” said Crowe. Evans said the impact of the virus is beginning to lessen on reserves thanks to the vaccine coupled with other measures such as handwashing, physical distancing and masking. But statistics to this point have been sobering and demonstrate that First Nations people in community, and Indigenous people in general, contract COVID-19 at a rate 1.67 higher than Canadians. However, hospitalization rates (at 0.6 times Canadians) and fatality rates (at 0.42 times Canadians) are lower because COVID is hitting more First Nations youth and less Elders. As of Feb. 24, ISC is aware of 222 deaths on reserve. While there are new variants of the coronavirus appearing throughout Canada, none have been officially reported on reserves. “We expect that one day we will hear about cases on reserve because that’s the nature of how viruses work … so we will eventually see more and more cases of that variant and probably will start to see it in communities,” said Evans. Evans offered reassurance, though, saying that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were “excellent” for the UK variant and offered “partial” coverage for the South African variant. Evans said that when people were tested for the virus, further screening followed to indicate if a variant was involved. The variant was confirmed by testing in a provincial or national lab. Although ISC is not in charge of the vaccination roll-out, which falls into the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, Evans said his department would still provide support where needed. “The provinces are supposed to speak to Indigenous leadership and confirm with them that the plans that they’re making for their communities are acceptable, are well organized, are giving priorities where they should be,” said Evans. He pointed out that depending on the community and leadership, the vaccine will be rolled out differently. However, he said, that roll-out must be “evidenced-based,” which means it would comply with the latest National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidelines. Those guidelines have “adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences” recommended for Stage 1. NACI also acknowledged that in urban settings where poverty, systemic racism and homelessness were factors, “these populations may be considered for immunization concurrent with remote and isolated Indigenous communities if feasibly identified within jurisdictions, understanding that these are traditionally hardly reached populations for immunization programs.” Evans said it has been “nerve-racking” waiting for the vaccine because of production issues experienced by manufacturers, but the shipment of both vaccines will be ramping up. He said while people are waiting for their vaccines, they “should be happy” for the Elders and others who have received theirs. “If you are relatively well, you shouldn’t mind having to wait. And those of you with the most risk, yes, you should be prioritized. Let’s keep speaking up for those amongst us who are most at risk and help them get vaccinated,” said Evans. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
(Google Street View - image credit) An argument over physical distancing in a Nanaimo mall parking lot quickly escalated into a stabbing late Wednesday afternoon. RCMP say a 50-year-old man, his wife and daughter were standing at their car outside the Dollarama in the Port Place shopping centre on Terminal Avenue, when the suspect walked in front of them. The wife reported to police that her daughter, 25, told the suspect he was too close to them and should maintain a six-foot separation, according to a police statement Thursday. "The suspect took exception to this comment and yelled some obscenities at her," the statement says. RCMP say the suspect then struck the father with a metal cup, and when a struggle began, the father was stabbed. He was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The suspect managed to run away but was spotted about an hour later on Gabriola Island where he was arrested at his home, the statement says. The suspect, whose name police are not releasing, is expected in Nanaimo Provincial Court on May 25, to face a charge of assault with a weapon.
The Peace River Regional District will issue a letter of support for a plan by Telus to expand LTE connectivity in the region. The company is applying to the federal Universal Broadband Fund and is under the wire after its original Feb. 15 deadline was pushed to March. PRRD directors expressed mixed opinions at their board meeting Thursday, with some saying the company has failed to properly communicate with them. Hudson’s Hope Mayor Dave Heiberg said he was initially skeptical, but was convinced of the benefits after a conversation with Telus’ Northern Alberta and BC Interior General Manager Brian Bettis. "This is what the fibre working group was trying to achieve, to get that last mile,” said Heiberg of PRRD’s connectivity committee. “And if the intent is to provide these areas with service to premise, that is a large part of what our goal was, in my mind.” Telus is proposing to expand connectivity in Bear Flat, Bear Mountain, East Pine, Farmington, Farrell Creek, Fort St John, Goodlow, Moberly Lake, Mount Wabi, Pouce Coupe, Prespatou, Rose Prairie, Septimus, Taylor, and Tupper. Heiberg noted the company is also looking at fibre optic and cellular upgrades around Canyon Drive and a portion of Beryl Prairie in Hudson's Hope. But director Leonard Hiebert says the company has backed out meetings scheduled with electoral area directors about their plans. “Considering they’re a communications company, they don’t communicate very well,” said Hiebert. “I can’t justify supporting this if they’re not going to communicate with us in the areas that they’re trying to do this work in." "They expect us to support them blindly," he said. Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille says the district's questions to Telus about its plans have also gone unanswered. "To this day, I haven’t got a response to what they were going to give us in terms of fibre. I would not support this,” said Courtoreille. Director Dan Rose said Telus is the most likely to complete any cellular upgrades in the region, but said it has not improved its communications with the PRRD. “We met with Brian Bettis when he was first appointed into this new role, and he guaranteed us that we would see a big change in how they communicated. And we have, they’re even worse,” said Rose. “People who adjudicate these applications probably place a fair amount of weight in to what kind of support they’re getting from the community. This is not nearly enough information for me, after the way we’ve been left hanging.” Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman agreed that Telus is the only choice for connectivity, and supported writing a letter of support. “Connectivity is a topic on absolutely every bloody call that we have with every minister, regardless of what their mandate letter contains," Ackerman said. "Putting in this infrastructure is extremely expensive.” Director Karen Goodings noted there are a number of other connectivity initiatives already underway. “We’re getting this again from too many directions, and not being able to ascertain what ones are actually going to be able to support the people,” said Goodings. Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said connectivity is a problem in rural areas, pointing to areas around Prespatou and Buick Creek. “It’s very spotty in terms of being able to have any access to anything," Bumstead. "This is a good thing if we can increase capacity." Telus representative Bettis said the company is spending $10 million dollars on the plan, and that the federal grant would only cover a portion of its infrastructure costs. He said says some new LTE towers will be installed, while others will be upgraded to enhance existing service. "It's been a particular challenge getting back in front of the PRRD for a proper meeting," he said of the directors' criticisms. "Universal broadband fund is a significant initiative, and we wanted to make sure that every municipality elligible was able to be engaged." Scheduling has been an issue, he said. "With that comes the fact that we're dealing with multiple municipalities across different areas, and trying to co-ordinate meetings. Most councils meet on similiar days," he said, adding he met with directors shortly after Christmas, providing background and maps on the proposed LTE upgrades. Bettis says he's reached out to arrange another meeting with the regional district. firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
The United States carried out air strikes authorised by President Joe Biden against facilities belonging to Iranian-backed militia in eastern Syria on Thursday, in response to rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq, the Pentagon said. Syria did not immediately comment, but state-owned Ekhbariya TV said the strikes were conducted at dawn against several targets near the Syrian-Iraqi border. Biden's decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq, at least for now, gives Iraq's government some breathing room as it investigates a Feb. 15 attack that wounded Americans.
Le programme d’un coût de 7 millions de dollars utilise la technologie satellitaire « pour localiser et suivre les navires dont les dispositifs de transmission de la localisation ont été éteints, parfois dans le but d’échapper au suivi, au contrôle, et à la surveillance. » Il s’agit de collecter et d’analyser des données satellitaires en direction des petits États insulaires et des États côtiers du monde où la pêche illicite, non déclarée et non réglementée (INN) affecte les économies locales, la sécurité alimentaire, et la santé des stocks de poissons. C’est le cas des îles Galapagos. « Avec nos partenaires, nous sommes impatients d’aider ces pays à braquer les projecteurs sur les navires qui choisissent d’opérer en dehors de la loi et de mettre en péril la santé de nos stocks mondiaux de poissons », a expliqué la ministre des Pêches, des Océans et de la Garde côtière, Bernadette Jordan. Pêches et Océans Canada a ficelé des partenariats avec l’Agence des pêches du Forum qui représente 15 petits États insulaires de la région du Pacifique, l’Autorité maritime de l’Équateur et la Direction nationale des espaces aquatiques chargée de la surveillance et du contrôle dans le domaine maritime équatorien. Les îles Galapagos sont l’une des principales victimes de cette pêche illégale. Le financement de ce programme mis en œuvre avec la collaboration du ministère de la Défense nationale, Affaires mondiales Canada et la société MDA, est issu d’une enveloppe globale de 11,6 millions de dollars destinée à a santé des océans selon un communiqué. « De leur point de vue unique dans l’espace, les satellites d’imagerie comme RADARSAT-2 sont un outil clé pour relever ce défi mondial. Les Canadiens devraient être fiers du patrimoine profond et du leadership de notre pays en matière de satellites radar et d’imagerie spatiale », a souligné le président-directeur général de MDA, Mike Greenley. Avec 26 millions de tonnes de poisson capturé chaque année pour un coût annuel de plus de 23 milliards de dollars pour l’économie mondiale, la pêche illégale représente environ 30 % de toutes les activités de pêche dans le monde, avec « une incidence particulièrement négative sur les populations rurales côtières dans les zones vulnérables. » Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
The harmless puppy just wanted to play around! How cute is that?
Canada's ministry of finance called a media report that the head of the country's largest pension fund had traveled to the Middle East and received a COVID-19 vaccination "very troubling". Mark Machin, the 54-year-old chief executive of the C$475.7 billion ($377 billion) Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), received a Pfizer Inc vaccine shot after arriving in the United Arab Emirates with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Le ministre de la Justice, David Lametti, a déposé un projet de loi visant à modifier le Code criminel et la Loi sur l’identification des criminels pour alléger les procédures et adapter le système de justice pénale aux obstacles posés par la pandémie. Le projet de loi a prévu de mettre en œuvre « un mécanisme permettant aux accusés de comparaître à distance, par vidéoconférence ou audioconférence, pour la plupart des procédures pénales, et ce, sur consentement, à la discrétion du tribunal et en prenant les mesures de protection qui conviennent. » Il s’agit de favoriser le meilleur accès à la justice pendant et après la pandémie en donnant aux tribunaux plus de souplesse dans la conduite des procédures sans compromettre la sécurité et les droits et libertés des justiciables et des acteurs selon un communiqué. En effet, le ministère fédéral redoute le risque que la pandémie entraîne d’autres délais et plombe l’efficacité du système de justice pénale. « Les Canadiens s’attendent à ce que leurs tribunaux traitent des affaires criminelles en temps opportun, afin que les droits des accusés soient respectés et que les victimes voient que justice est rendue », a souligné le ministre de la Justice, David Lametti. Ottawa a proposé d’élaborer des règles pour soutenir les accusés non représentés, et non pas seulement les accusés représentés ou encore pour faire recours à la technologie pour la pige des noms de candidats-jurés lors du processus de sélection du jury. Il a également prévu de revoir le processus relatif aux télémandats en vue d’offrir aux agents de la paix un plus vaste éventail d’ordonnances d’enquête pouvant faire l’objet d’une demande à distance. La prise d’empreintes digitales des accusés pourrait être reportée à « une date ultérieure, en particulier dans le cas où les tentatives antérieures ont échoué en raison de circonstances exceptionnelles, comme celles de la COVID-19. » Dès le début de la pandémie en mars 2020, le ministre de la Justice et procureur général du Canada a mobilisé les ministres provinciaux et territoriaux au sujet de l’impact de la Covid-19 dans les tribunaux de juridiction criminelle. Il ne reste plus qu’à obtenir le soutien à la Chambre des communes. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français