Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
NEW DELHI — A chilly breeze whirls through New Delhi in the mornings and the sun is partly obscured by toxic haze, a marker of another winter in the Indian capital. But along the city's borders, this year is visibly and viscerally different.The perpetually busy arterial highways that connect most northern Indian towns to this city of 29 million people now pulse to the cries of “Inquilab Zindabad” — “Long live the revolution.” Tens and thousands of farmers with distinctive, colorful turbans and long, flowing beards have descended upon the city's borders, choking highways in giant demonstrations against new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation.For more than a week, they’ve marched toward the capital on their tractors and trucks like an army, pushing aside concrete police barricades while braving tear gas, batons and water cannons. Now, on the outskirts of New Delhi, they are hunkered down with food and fuel supplies that can last weeks and threatening to besiege the capital if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government doesn't meet their demands to abolish the laws.“Modi wants to sell our lands to corporates,” said one of them, Kaljeet Singh, 31, who travelled from Ludhiana city in Punjab, some 310 kilometres (190 miles) north of New Delhi. “He can’t decide for millions of those who for generations have given their blood and sweat to the land they regard as more precious than their lives.”At night, the farmers sleep in trailers and under trucks, curling themselves in blankets to brave the winter chill. During the day, they sit huddled in groups in their vehicles, surrounded by mounds of rice, lentils and vegetables that are prepared into meals at hundreds of makeshift soup kitchens, in enormous pots stirred with wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles.Anmol Singh, 33, who supports his family of six by farming, said the new laws were part of a larger plan to hand over the farmers' land to big corporations and make them landless.“Modi wants the poor farmer to die of hunger so that he can fill the stomachs of his rich friends,” he said. “We are here to fight his brutal decrees peacefully.”He paused, then reconsidered: “Actually, let him and his ministers take us on. We will give them a bloody nose.”Many of the protesting farmers hail from northern Punjab and Haryana, two of the largest agricultural states in India. An overwhelming majority of them are Sikhs. They fear the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices. Many activists and farming experts support their demand for a minimum guaranteed price for their crops.The new rules will also eliminate agents who act as middlemen between the farmers and the government-regulated wholesale markets. Farmers say agents are a vital cog of the farm economy and their main line of credit, providing quick funds for fuel, fertilizers and even loans in case of family emergencies.The laws have compounded existing resentment from farmers, who often complain of being ignored by the government in their push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.The government has argued the laws bring about necessary reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers say they were never consulted.With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Modi’s administration and allies. His leaders have scrambled to contain the protests, which are fast resembling last year’s scenes when a contentious new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims led to demonstrations that culminated in violence.Those demonstrations were much bigger in scale, but the farmers' rumblings are growing fast and gaining widespread support of ordinary citizens who have started joining them in large numbers.Modi and his allies have tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws while dismissing their concerns. Some of his party leaders have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national,” a label often given to those who criticize Modi or his policies.The government is holding talks with the farmers to persuade them to end their protests, but they have dug in their heels.On Friday, a group of 35 leaders of the farmers called for a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday and said the protests would continue until the laws are revoked.Farmer Kulwant Singh, 72, said that when he left his home in Haryana for the protests, he gave his wife a garland of flowers for two possible scenarios.“Either I return victorious and she places it around my neck in celebration, or I die here revolting and the same garland is put on my body when it reaches home,” Singh said.Such passions run deep among the protesters who have found social, economic and generational barriers tumbling during the demonstrations.Singh isn't the only one from his family who travelled to New Delhi for what he called “Qilah Fatehi," an Urdu term that translates to “laying a siege.” His son and grandson also accompanied him.“It's a fight for my generation too,” said Amrinder Singh, 16.As demonstrations grow, the protesters have also started to drive a political message home.Not satisfied with Modi's federal policies, many of which have attracted widescale resentment from his critics and minorities, protesting farmers say it's time he stops what they call his “dictatorial behaviour.”“India is in a recession. There are hardly any jobs and our country's secular fabric is in tatters,” said Gurpreet Singh, 26, a biotechnology student who comes from a farming family. “At a time when India needs a healing touch, Modi is coming up with divisive, controversial laws. This is unacceptable and defies our constitutional values.”Modi's second term in power since May 2019 has been marked by several convulsions. The economy has tanked, social strife widened, protests have erupted against discriminatory laws and his government has been questioned over its response to the pandemic.The farmer protests present a new challenge for the government.The protesters' desire to stand up to Modi and his policies extends to a sexagenarian farmer couple who drove 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Chandigarh city in a hatchback Sunday to participate in the demonstrations.Dharam Singh Sandhu, 67, and Vimaljeet Kaur, 66, are spending nights in their car parked near the protest site. In the morning, they share breakfast at a makeshift soup kitchen. The latter part of the day is spent taking part in the demonstrations.“Our land is our mother. If we can’t protect it then we have no right to live," Sandhu said about the protests.His wife spoke passionately of a larger purpose as she made her way to the protest site through a stream of vehicles honking incessantly to get past congested traffic.“Our country is like a bunch of flowers, but Modi wants it to be of the same colour. He has no right to do that. I am here to protest against that mindset," Kaur said.As Kaur walked hand in hand with her husband, a great cry emerged from one of the vehicles: “Inquilab Zindabad.”The crowd turned and followed their gaze toward a young man with a black beard who held up his fist through the car's window.The protesters, including Kaur, roared back: “Inquilab Zindabad!"Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press
MADRID — Spain's Supreme Court has revoked a less restrictive prison status awarded to nine Catalan political figures previously sentenced to jail for their part in a secession attempt in Catalonia. The status would have allowed them almost daily release.The court said Friday that such a measure was “premature” given that none of the nine had served half their sentence and most not even a quarter of it. The sentences ranged between nine and 13 years.The nine were convicted in 2019 of sedition and misuse of public funds following the failed independence bid two years earlier. After they were transferred to prisons in the northeastern region, the pro-independence Catalan regional government granted them third-grade status last July. meaning they could leave prison during the day to carry out certain activities.The July measure was quickly suspended following appeals by prosecutors.The new court ruling comes as the leftist Spanish government is considering possible pardons and a reform of the sedition law that would favour the nine.The nine include the former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and five ex-regional cabinet members.Former regional president Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium and is still sought by Spanish authorities.Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the secession push in Catalonia was Spain’s most serious crisis in decades. Polls have long shown the wealthy region’s 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence. Spain’s constitution says the country is indivisible.The Associated Press
CBC Toronto's wonderful audience has already donated more than $418,000 to support those facing food insecurity Friday, as our annual fundraiser Sounds of the Season gets underway.The big jump comes from a generous donation from several major banks headquartered in the city, as well as a donation-matching offer from the Toronto Foundation. There are also a number of challenges worth bidding on, including a chance to win a script from Kim's Convenience. It's different this year due to COVID-19, no doubt, but Metro Morning got the day started by playing some classic holiday tunes and there will be more special programming throughout the day.For more on Sounds of the Season or to donate, click here.
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years.Buried amidst the ongoing COVID confusion and controversy this week in Alberta came a bit of unusual news: the UCP government and NDP opposition agreed on something.It wasn't exactly a Kumbaya moment but the two battling political parties that have turned the legislature's daily question period into a form of trench warfare finally see eye-to-eye on an issue.They're both unhappy with the announcement on Monday from federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland involving much-anticipated changes to the fiscal stabilization program that provides money to provinces experiencing a significant drop in revenue year-over-year.Alberta, of course, has been experiencing chronic revenue drops year-over-year-over-year. Because of a series of bad years topped off by a COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's revenue ride is less like a roller coaster and more like the Drop of Doom.The fiscal stabilization program wasn't designed for that kind of multi-billion-dollar collapse in revenues.In 2016, for example, the Alberta government under the NDP complained that it lost $6.5 billion in revenue because of low oil prices but only received $250 million from the stabilization program that was capped at $60 per provincial resident.After forming government in 2019, the United Conservative Party took up the fight and this year demanded $4 billion instead of the $266 million offered. Not only that, the UCP wanted the higher stabilization payments to be retroactive to 2015.On Monday, Freeland announced the cap is being hiked to $170 per capita, meaning the province is now entitled to receive $750 million this year. But the payments will not be retroactive."[I am] very disappointed that the caps weren't lifted entirely," said Finance Minister Travis Toews. "It really doesn't go far enough."For her part, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sounded like a clone of Toews: "I would continue to advocate for the removal of the cap and I would also suggest that this should be retroactive to when Alberta deserved a fair fiscal stabilization formula in the first place."But the fight to remove the cap completely has gone from difficult to impossible because of the pandemic.WATCH | Alberta politicians unhappy with federal stabilization changesThis year, every province will probably be applying for aid under the stabilization program. Ottawa, already neck-deep in pandemic debt, would be swamped with billions of new claims under a sky's-the-limit fiscal stabilization program.And, besides, premiers who had been supporting Jason Kenney's call for a capless program will likely be happy enough to receive almost triple the amount of money than was available under the old formula.Change of heartBut Kenney's disappointment with Ottawa on Monday shifted to satisfaction on Wednesday.He performed such a sudden change in direction he might need a neck brace for whiplash. But that's the kind loopy politics you get during a pandemic.On Monday, the issue was money.On Wednesday, it was a COVID-19 vaccine."We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year," said Kenney, putting the kind of faith in the federal government apparently not shared by federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole.Setting a firm timeline for a vaccine rollout is not particularly risky for Kenney. If the plan works, great. Albertans might be happy enough that Kenney sees his approval ratings start to rise after a year of steady decline. If the vaccines don't arrive on time, Kenney can blame Ottawa yet again for Alberta's problems.Of course, a third scenario is Ottawa delivers the vaccine as promised but Alberta has trouble with the logistics of getting Albertans vaccinated.To that end, Kenney has called in the military — sort of. He has appointed Paul Wynnyk, the deputy minister of municipal affairs and a former general in the Canadian Forces, to lead the province's vaccine task force.In the meantime, as Alberta continues to lead the country in COVID cases, playing in the background is a plan to call on the federal government and Red Cross to set up emergency hospitals should the virus overwhelm our health-care system.Kenney is still trying to spin a positive tale out of the distressing pandemic reality, still trusting that Albertans will take personal responsibility to flatten the curve, still insisting there is "light at the end of the tunnel."But that light might just be a Red Cross truck coming with a field hospital to house Alberta's ever growing number of pandemic patients.
Unseasonably warm temperatures so far this month are causing Northwest Territories residents some problems.In Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., Chuck Gruben's truck wasn't having it."I started to back out of the driveway and I started going sideways," he told Wanda McLeod on CBC's Northwind.The thermostat hit zero degrees in the hamlet on Thursday, balmy for this time of year, when the average high is around -20 C. But Tuktoyaktuk's temperatures were frigid compared with other communities in the territory.Norman Wells hit a tropical 11.1 C — smashing its previous record-high for December of 5.7 C, set in 1985. Wrigley also hit 11 degrees Thursday, while Fort Simpson, Sambaa K'e and the South Slave region all saw temperatures above zero. "It's not normal," said Gruben, commenting on the heavy rain he was seeing in Tuktoyaktuk. He said conditions were slippery and many people stayed home."Even to get down your steps, it's pretty scary," he said. "My wife, she went out to her work truck this morning. She had to sit on the steps and go down each step on her bum." The unusually warm weather may be even harder on the animals."For any animals or birds that forage out there, it's going to be hard to dig for food once it freezes," said Gruben.While temperatures in Tuktoyaktuk are forecasted to descend into the minus-teens and twenties over the weekend, these recent days of rain and warmth might not be forgotten by the caribou. "These are the kind of winters that we dread for the caribou," said Gruben, especially considering how animal numbers are declining. "This just contributes to make it worse for them," he said. "Going to see a lot of skinny caribou."
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Paula and Anthony Hunter spun off their catering service into a restaurant serving Italian food with a “touch of soul” right before the coronavirus hit. Soon, both Louisville businesses slammed to a halt, and the couple relied on federal relief to help stay afloat.They improvised to keep income flowing in, navigating a maze of food delivery mobile apps and prepping boxed lunches for health care workers toiling long hours at local hospitals.Now, hit with a recent statewide order closing restaurants to indoor dining until mid-December, the couple is hoping for another round of federal aid to hang on until a vaccine arrives.“Just a few more months, you know, get us through this,” said Paula Hunter, who owns the Black Italian restaurant along with her husband.Kentucky's senior senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is at the centre of congressional negotiations on another relief package. Kentucky voters didn’t punish McConnell for the long-stalemated talks, awarding him a lopsided victory as he secured a seventh term in last month’s election. He spent the campaign boasting about the money he delivered for the Bluegrass State in the massive federal relief package passed early in the pandemic.While reports of hardship are growing in Kentucky, much of the political pressure there is focused not on McConnell but on the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear.Beshear is under fire from business owners and state GOP leaders who think the virus-related restrictions he’s imposed on daily life in Kentucky have gone too far. Emboldened by gains they made in the November elections, GOP legislative leaders are expected to push to rein in Beshear’s authority to take emergency measures when the legislature convenes next year.Beshear says he's focused on saving lives but Congress must do its part and pass more aid.“We need people to not be Democrats or Republicans but to be human beings and do the right thing," the governor said in an interview. “People out there are dying, People out there are hurting. This is the time to invest in our people and in their safety.”With COVID-19 surging across the country, a group of Senate centrists has offered a $908 billion federal relief package aimed at breaking the monthslong logjam. McConnell hasn’t budged so far from a $550 billion plan that failed twice this fall but said Thursday that “compromise is within reach” as bipartisan talks gained momentum in the Senate.“There is no reason why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle,” McConnell said in a Senate speech this week.In his home state, anxiety is rising along with deaths, infections and hospitalizations.In a region already reeling from the decline of coal mining, eastern Kentucky pastor Chris Bartley has heard an unprecedented chorus of pleas for help from people whose lives have been shattered by the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19.“You hear the desperation in the phone calls: ‘I have to pay my rent today. I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve offered to rake leaves or mow grass or anything I can do.’ They’ve lost their job or the stimulus has run out,” said Bartley, associate pastor at a Methodist church in Pikeville, Kentucky.Along with prayers for divine guidance, Bartley hopes to see more relief from Congress.Beshear, meanwhile, delivers daily doses of grim news of the state's virus cases and deaths and presses for another economic lifeline for struggling businesses, the unemployed, and state and local governments.“We saw the first round of CARES Act funding really flow through our economy in a positive manner," he said. “People needed the dollars. They spent the dollars. We saw businesses lifted up by those dollars. We were able to use funds to help people stay in their homes with an eviction-relief fund. Pay their utility bills so they didn’t end up in debt."Beshear has carefully avoided calling out McConnell or President Donald Trump as the impasse drags on. Republicans dominated federal and state elections last month in Kentucky.The governor has fought his own battles as his restrictions on businesses, gatherings and schools have drawn opposition from GOP lawmakers, business operators and the state's Republican attorney general.Kentucky's Supreme Court last month upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related mandates, but Beshear is now embroiled in another legal fight over his recent virus-related suspension of in-person classes at religious schools.Some restaurant operators vow to reopen their dining rooms to 50% capacity later this month, regardless of whether Beshear chooses to extend his current order closing restaurants and bars to indoor dining until Dec. 13. Beshear said Wednesday he doesn't expect to extend the order. The governor set aside $40 million in federal aid to help bars and restaurants reeling from the restrictions, but many say it will cover only a small portion of the revenue they're losing.Publicly, Beshear shrugs off the pushback from his detractors.“I’m willing to take whatever blame some people want to heap out there," he said. “If it means that their relatives are still around for Christmas this year and Christmas next year, I’ll take it.”Meanwhile, Beshear this week announced the release of an additional $50 million in federal relief funding to reimburse hard-hit city and county governments for coronavirus-related expenses.Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones welcomed the influx of money but warned that without another federal relief package, the hardships will intensify for city and county governments faced with increasing demands from constituents amid shrinking tax revenues.He's hoping any new federal package includes another round of Paycheck Protection Program subsidies for struggling businesses and an extension of supplemental federal unemployment programs.“There’s no question if there’s not an extension of the unemployment benefits and another round of PPP funding, it will have a catastrophic impact on local revenues,” Jones said.Bartley sees the damage being inflicted on families firsthand.“I'm dealing with more mental health issues than I ever have in 20 years," he said.At his church's food pantry, demand fell after Congress passed the massive aid bill months ago, but now more and more people are showing up for bags of groceries.“It’s almost as much as we can do to keep up again," Bartley said.Congress, he added, needs to “get past all of the politics” and provide more aid to those in need.“I don’t know a whole lot about the political scheme of all this, but it seems like we’ve got to do something for the betterment of our country," Bartley said. “I don’t know how or what that could be. But it feels like something has to happen, or it’s like the dam is going to break.”___Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Bruce Schreiner And Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, The Associated Press
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president says he would get vaccinated against the coronavirus to set an example for his country's citizens.“There is no problem for me to get vaccinated,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after Friday prayers in Istanbul. “It is necessary to take this step as an example for our citizens.”The Turkish government plans to buy multiple vaccines, Erdogan said.Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, and the first shipment is due to arrive Dec. 11. The government also is talking with Russia about securing the vaccine developed there.Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told the official Anadolu news agency that he would work to convince people to get immunized by getting the Chinese shot himself as soon as Turkish authorities approve its use.Turkey also has ordered 1 million doses of the vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. Erdogan said he spoke with BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin, who is of Turkish descent.Turkey is experiencing a surge in infections with confirmed cases hovering above 30,000 per day on a 7-day average. The country's death toll since March has reached 14,316. A weekend lockdown, the first since the end of May, is set to begin Friday evening.The Associated Press
Europe is racing to vaccinate its citizens but the UN has warned damage from the coronavirus pandemic will last for years, vaccine or no vaccine.View on euronews
Climate activists piled up giant cardboard delivery boxes outside the finance ministry in Paris on Friday, protesting against Amazon's expansion in France as the online retailer launched a delayed "Black Friday" sales drive. Gathered in the ministry's cobbled courtyard, the protesters from three groups - ANV-COP 21, Attac and Amis de la Terre - rolled out a banner on the building's facade bearing the slogan "change of owner" and featuring the faces of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and French President Emmanuel Macron.
OAKVILLE, Ont. — A driver has been charged in the death of a woman who was struck while walking her dog in Oakville, Ont. Halton Regional Police say the fatal collision happened Thursday afternoon. The 51-year-old and her dog were pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators determined the victim was walking her dog on a path when they were hit by the vehicle that had left the roadway. After hitting the pedestrian and her pet, police say the driver struck a stone post before the vehicle came to rest in the road. The driver, a man in his 50s from Oakville, has been arrested for impaired operation and dangerous driving causing death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
LONDON — Britain’s announcement that it has become the first Western country to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine has sparked debate about whether officials emphasized speed over safety. The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gave temporary authorization for people to receive a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. The agency made the decision under rules allowing regulators to sign off on medicines more quickly during public health emergencies. The move made the United Kingdom the world's first country to OK a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine. The British public is now seeking more information about the vaccine and the immunization timetable as authorities try to find an equitable way to distribute the limited number of doses that initially will be available. WHO WILL GET THE VACCINE FIRST - AND WHEN? Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said vaccinations would begin “within days.” The exact date the shots start will depend on how fast regulators can complete safety checks that must be done on each batch. A panel of independent experts that advises the British government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, has set out priorities for vaccinating the most vulnerable people first. The highest priority goes to older people living in nursing homes and their caregivers, but logistical difficulties in shipping smaller quantities of vaccine to reach a limited demographic group might cause a delay to this group. People over age 80 and healthcare workers have the second-highest priority. From there, priority access is based roughly in order of age until a vaccine has been offered to everyone over the age of 50, which is almost 40% of the U.K. population. Younger people with health conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 also will take precedence. DID BREXIT HELP THE UK AUTHORIZE A VACCINE FIRST? Health secretary Hancock sparked controversy when he said Wednesday morning that British authorities couldn’t have moved so quickly if the U.K. were still a member of the European Union. That drew a rebuke from the EU, which pointed out that Britain is still governed by the bloc’s rules. While the U.K. formally left the EU on Jan. 31, it remains bound by European Union regulations until a transition period designed to cushion the shock of Brexit ends on Dec. 31. EU rules permit individual member countries to give temporary authorization for the national use of medicines during a public health emergency. But U.K. regulators may have been able to move faster than the 27-nation EU because they are no longer assessing products intended for the entire bloc, Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said. “Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said. However, any speed advantage the U.K. might have had is likely to disappear starting Jan. 1, when British regulators will become responsible for reviewing all applications for new drugs and vaccines to be authorized in the U.K. "It will have to do work that previously would have been shared among all the other ... member states,” Evans said. DID UK REGULATORS MOVE TOO FAST? Dr. June Raine, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency's, said people should be absolutely confident that “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine's use, she said. But that doesn't mean regulators take the same approach everywhere. American immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Fox News that British regulators didn’t review the data as carefully as their counterparts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, potentially fueling concerns of individuals who are hesitant about getting the vaccine. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA,'' Fauci said. “The U.K. did not do it as carefully. They got a couple of days ahead. I don’t think that makes much difference. We’ll be there very soon.'' Evans said there is only one major difference between the approach taken by British regulators and those in the U.S. The FDA often reanalyzes raw data to verify the findings of drugmakers. Virtually no other regulatory entity regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with EU and U.K. regulators. “The processes carried out by the FDA and the MHRA are basically very similar,” he said. “We may well see differences in interpretation of the data between a regulator and a company, but this type of difference is regularly seen by all regulators, whether they reanalyze the data or not.” WHAT DOES THE EU SAY? The European Medicines Agency has said it expects to make a decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by Dec. 29. The regulator said it is taking more time because it is considering granting the vaccine a different type of green light, known as a conditional marketing authorization. The process requires more data, but will result in the vaccine being authorized for use in all 27 EU member nations, rather than a single country. The agency said its procedure is “the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency.'' The debate comes at a particularly sensitive moment as Britain and the EU reach the final phase of talks over their post-Brexit relationship. More than four years after people in the U.K. voted to leave the bloc, negotiators have just days to reach a trade deal before the end of the transition period. One of Britain’s goals has always been to wrest control of its rules and regulations from EU bureaucrats. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN DELIVERING THE VACCINE? First, the Pfizer/BioNTeach vaccine must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) until a few hours before it is administered. Storage and shipment therefore requires specialized equipment that can maintain such ultra-cold temperatures. Also, the U.K.'s emergency use authorization sets out strict conditions to ensure vaccine supplies aren’t damaged or wasted. The vaccine is shipped in packages containing 975 doses. “You can't, at this point, distribute it to every individual GP surgery, as we normally would for many of the other vaccines available on the NHS,'' National Health Service CEO Simon Stevens said. More broadly, vaccinating a large percentage of the country’s population in a few months is an unprecedented challenge. Because of this, most vaccinations will take place at a relatively small number of sites that can handle large numbers of people. WHERE WILL THE VACCINATIONS TAKE PLACE? Vaccinations will start at 50 hospital hubs, which will offer vaccines to care home residents and people over 80. Those who are going to receive the vaccine will be notified by the hospital, so there is no need to schedule an appointment. As the National Health Service receives additional supplies of the vaccine, the shots will also be offered at about 1,000 community vaccination centres. Local GPs will invite their patients to be vaccinated in order of priority. ___ Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
ROME — Qatar's foreign minister said Friday that his country remains committed to the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, and that progress on that front would need to be “at the core” of any agreement to normalize relations with Israel.“Right now, I don't see that the normalization of Qatar and Israel is going to to add value to the Palestinian people,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said at Italy’s annual Mediterranean Dialogue.There was speculation that Qatar — which already co-operates with Israel in providing aid to the Gaza Strip — might be the next Arab country to normalize relations after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan established diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this year.But the foreign minister said Qatar remains committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which Arab countries would recognize Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.The foreign minister noted that his country has a “working relationship” with Israel to provide aid to Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.“But for the full normalization, I believe that the (Palestinian issue) needs to be at the core of any agreement of normalization between Qatar and Israel,” he said.The wealthy Gulf country's aid to Gaza has provided a lifeline to the territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power. It has also been a key element in a shaky, informal truce that has prevented any major outbreaks of fighting in recent years. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars — the most recent in 2014 — as well as countless smaller skirmishes.The normalization agreements with Israel, brokered by the United States, were widely seen as a breakthrough in Mideast diplomacy. But the Palestinians condemned the agreements as a betrayal because they marked a major erosion in Arab support for their cause, a key source of leverage in any future peace talks.The Associated Press
Both the mayor of Charlottetown and the president of the Federation of Prince Edward Island Municipalities want time to consult their constituents about the possibility of lowering the provincial voting age.Green MLA Karla Bernard introduced a private member's bill to the P.E.I. Legislature last month to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Mayor Philip Brown said the city should be consulted. "The changes will not only affect the Election Act for the province, but also the Municipal Government Act," Brown said."There is a duty to consult here, and I think that has to be taken into account."The bill had its second reading in the legislature on Nov. 26 and has gone to committee. Brown expressed concern with the part of the bill stating that even if the voting age is lowered to 16, the age when someone could run as a candidate would still be 18. "If we're trying to encourage young people or the youth to be involved, well, you know what? If you can vote, you can also run as a candidate," said Brown. "It's like getting your car licence at 16, but you're not going to be allowed to drive until you're 18." On Monday, Charlottetown council passed a motion to send the proposed voting age amendments to the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities to gauge its feedback. Federation wants discussion "Before anything like this happens, I believe the federation should be consulted, and we haven't been so far," said Bruce MacDougall, the organization's president and a Summerside councillor."It's a very important topic and I believe all our municipalities should have a say in it."MacDougall said he could reach out to each of the 59 municipalities in the federation to ask for opinions on the issue, but he would rather bring it up at the federation's AGM, which he said is "not for a while now." "I think there should be some real good discussion around this and I believe our AGM is our best option."In the meantime, MacDougall said the federation will be sending a letter to the leaders of the provincial Progressive Conservative, Green and Liberal parties to let them know where the organization stands on the issue. More from CBC P.E.I.
Community advocates in Toronto say they fear hundreds of people will lose their homes due to an onslaught of evictions that has left residents, who are often essential workers, with little relief.They say many who are facing eviction or have already been pushed out of their homes have struggled to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic due to reduced hours, layoffs or having to stay home with no paid sick days after falling ill. Advocacy groups are urging the Ontario government to impose a moratorium on evictions as the city is in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 that has seen the highest case counts Toronto has ever reported.They are also asking for landlords and tenants to come to agreements they deem as more fair, that won't cause tenants earning minimum wage to plunge into more debt due to owed rent, even as the pandemic subsides. Front-line workers facing eviction: advocate"Everyday we're contacted by someone in our community who's worried about losing their home," said Chiara Padovani, a member of an organization called the York South-Weston tenant union. In March, Premier Doug Ford announced at a press conference that the province will "make sure no one gets evicted." But that moratorium on evictions was lifted at the end of August.By that point, Padovani says an ongoing housing crisis due to COVID-19 had already manifested.York South-Weston saw 170 eviction hearings in the month of November. This fall, the city said the riding accounted for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases compared to other areas in Toronto.That's because many tenants are front-line workers who are facing higher rates of exposure to the virus and receive lower wages than more affluent parts of the city, said Padovani."They're the same people who have been celebrated as front-line workers, as heroes during this pandemic, but aren't given the respect or the rights that they deserve," she said. WATCH | Why advocates say evictions need to be banned during COVID-19:Kicking people out of their homes will see them either be forced to live on the streets or crowd in with family members, which are both health risks due to COVID-19, she added. Low-income tenants have trouble accessing hearings: legal clinicThe Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) has scheduled thousands of evictions hearings between November and January, said Kenneth Hale, the legal director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.The centre provides legal help to low-income tenants and resources to those facing eviction. Hale said that once the eviction ban was lifted, the board began ramping up evictions and slotted in "dozens and dozens" of hearings per day, all done by video conference.There's been no support for those who don't have proper access to technology — a frequent issue for low-income tenants, he said. "We've heard of people having to conduct hearings from payphones, and sitting out in their car in the parking lot and wondering whether their minutes were going to run out before they get a chance to present their side of the story," said Hale. Suze Morrison, NDP MPP for Toronto Centre, says she's heard similar experiences around eviction hearings for tenants in the last few weeks."We're hearing of tenants who've been evicted who didn't even know they had a hearing date because the board sent their notice to the wrong email address, or got caught up in spam filters," she said. Many have had to drive to access free Wi-Fi from their cars, as they do not have internet at home, she added.Morrison said the Ontario government seems focused on fast-tracking a backlog of evictions, rather than ensuring those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 remain housed. Community organizing to support neighbours facing evictionIn a statement to CBC Toronto, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said that Toronto has received $158 million from the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) launched by the province in response to COVID-19.That flexible funding allows the city to "expand local rent and utility banks, and create long-term housing solutions," the ministry said. The ministry also said they have partnered with the federal government to launch the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit that has provided direct rental assistance to 5,200 families so far.Additional legislation was also passed to required the LTB to consider whether landlords attempted to negotiate repayment plans with tenants, before resorting to eviction, the ministry added.But some of those payment plans are "unbearable" and remain impossible to keep up with for many tenants, said Bryan Doherty, a member of the advocacy group Parkdale Organize. On Tuesday, Parkdale tenants organized as "solidarity strikers" to withhold their rent until a settlement is reached to ensure their neighbours facing eviction can keep their homes, according to a news release from the group.Tenants of MetCap, a property company with several buildings across the country, also gave a letter with 400 signatures to management requesting to negotiate a "reasonable settlement." That settlement would include no evictions, no rent increases and rent forgiveness for tenants who are struggling the most. The hope is to determine a long-term solution, rather than waiting on the government, said Doherty. Residents need the relief as soon as possible, he said. "They are still reporting for whatever shifts they have available, in long-term care, as personal support workers, as child-care workers," he said. "They have been running on fumes and running out of money for 9 months now ... a reality that should be dealt with now."
For the second time in the past five days, Niagara Region Public Health has advised District School Board of Niagara that one individual at Port Colborne High School has tested positive for COVID-19. The first case was confirmed on Nov. 29. As a result of the two COVID-19 cases, three classrooms have been closed. Local school boards will not identify the individual who tested positive. However, the provincial online database that tracks school-related COVID-19 cases does identify the Nov. 29 case as staff member. Today’s case will not be immediately known as the provincial database lags behind school boards in its reporting. In a media release, DSBN said, “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual have been contacted and told by NRPH to stay home and self-isolate.” Provincial guidelines indicate “an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection.” Public health has not indicated if it will declare an outbreak at Port High. Preventative COVID-19 practices that Port Colborne High School has been following since classes started, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue, DSBN said. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Marco Arop believes it's the best he's ever felt through 600 metres of a race. But near the home stretch of a men's 800 event in August, the Canadian runner sensed his lead slipping away, felt the shoulder of American Donavan Brazier brush against his and panicked. Arop's body tightened up while Brazier, the world's top-ranked 800 runner, accelerated on the outside down the straightway at a sun-drenched Stockholm Olympic Stadium to another victory in a pandemic-shortened season. "Sometimes in a race, if you push too hard it ends up slowing you down," Arop said over the phone this week from Starkville, Miss. "No matter how comfortable I am, when I see someone pass me, I have to stay comfortable and not be too reactive. "Since my first collegiate season, there have been a lot of races when I would have a good 600 metres and the final 100 would get me. I was always told if I had a strong base [of a training program] I would be able to finish stronger." To that end, Arop has worked on improving his physical strength the past three months with Mississippi State University head track and field coach Chris Woods, with weekly 13-kilometre runs, weight training and circuits — sets of 400 to 1,000-metre runs in combination with other exercises. WATCH | Marco Arop places 2nd behind reigning 800m world champ: Arop has emphasized more volume in his workouts and a greater focus on recovery at the rest stage to prevent injury. For example, if he does repeat runs of 1,000, Arop might swim the next day for recovery and follow that with a 20 to 40-minute fartlek — a period of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. For his Saturday long runs on a grass field or gravel trail, the 22-year-old has started at a six-minute 40-second pace per mile and gradually increased his speed to clock a 6-flat pace at the halfway mark ahead of a strong finish. "Before, I'd probably start at 6:40 and go slower towards the end, finishing at around a 7:30 [pace]. I'm now able to pick up the pace," said the six-foot-four Arop, who trains six days a week and has added five pounds to his regular racing weight of 175. "My body is holding up well. I feel stronger and more fit to run faster for longer periods of time." Beating higher-ranked opponents Woods, who also coached Arop before the three-time All-American announced last December he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility to turn pro, has been encouraged by the runner's consistency in training. "I am excited to see what he is capable of doing once we start doing things more specific to his race," Woods said. "He's been in this sport for such a short time and there's several things we haven't been able to get to because we don't want to rush his growth and potentially get injured." I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet and I hope we can showcase that during the [Tokyo] Olympic Games. — Chris Woods, Mississippi State University head track and field coach Still, the 15th-ranked Arop, who didn't start running seriously until he was 17 in his final year of high school in Edmonton, was able to get out strong in races in 2020, take the lead against Brazier and beat top-six runners Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich of Kenya, Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Puerto Rico's Wesley Vázquez. "They're amazing runners and to be in the same conversation as them does give me a lot of confidence going into next year," Arop said. "I'm hoping to surprise [Brazier] in the upcoming season. I do respect him as a runner and I want to give him my best shot when the time comes." Arop also shaved four seconds off many of his early 2019 performances to a personal-best 1:44.14, a time that falls below the 1:45.20 Tokyo Olympic standard and one he feels could have been lowered by "maybe" another second. WATCH | Arop sets personal-best time in Monaco: The Business Information Systems major understands he's now among the sport's elite, which includes world No. 4 and Canadian record holder Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont. Early in 2019, the Sudan-born Arop recovered from a hamstring injury and enjoyed a breakout season that featured a Pan Am gold medal and seventh-place finish in his world final debut last October in Doha, Qatar. 'The sky is truly the limit for this young man' Right now, Woods said, there isn't a ceiling to the 2018 Canadian champion's potential. "I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet," he said, "and I hope we can showcase that during the Olympic Games [next summer]. Not to be cliché, but the sky truly is the limit for this young man." At the insistence of his parents and four brothers, all of whom contracted the coronavirus in September, Arop will stay in Mississippi through the Christmas holiday season to build upon the momentum of his fall training. "They know how important it is for me to have a training period through the winter [entering an Olympic year]. I went home a year ago and got the flu which put a stop to my training for about two weeks and the next month was spent regaining my fitness," he said. "It's very common for my mom to have a cold and she was the most at-risk [for COVID-19] having diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm just thankful they all came out of it fine. "It was a reflective time for me, to not take little moments for granted. It was a reminder to make sure when I talk to them to tell them how I feel and check in with them as much as I can."
The mayor of San Francisco on Friday ordered new lockdowns and business restrictions across the Bay Area in the face of the COVID-19 surge, as political leaders nationwide ramp up pressure on Americans to stay home until vaccines can be distributed. The new measures announced by Mayor London Breed, a first-term Democrat, apply across five Bay Area counties and are among the harshest of any major U.S. city, closing all personal services, outdoor dining and most public gatherings. California Governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, said on Thursday he would impose similar stay-at-home orders statewide, to take effect region-by-region as intensive care beds reach capacity.
The European Union has not yet won over countries seeking more cash and conditions in exchange for committing to sharper emissions cuts, as it tries to strike a deal on on its new climate target by the end of the year. The EU has promised to make a tougher emissions-cutting target this year under the Paris climate accord, a move U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said is "essential" to global efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto the bloc's next budget, which could freeze the cash they and other countries say they need to curb their emissions.
TORONTO — Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after police shot and injured a man in the west end of Toronto. The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened Thursday afternoon after 4 p.m. A news release says witnesses had reported a screaming man holding a sharp object in Etobicoke. Toronto police officers arrived at the scene and the agency says one of them shot the man. The 30-year-old was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. Four investigators and two forensic investigators are assigned to the case and the watchdog has identified one subject officer and one witness officer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press