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.
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.
Ontario’s justice system will continue to push forward and modernize beyond the rapid transformations forced by the pandemic, Attorney General Doug Downey told the Empire Club of Canada on Thursday. During the lunchtime virtual meeting, Downey talked about some of the advancements made in the province's justice system since emergency measures were enforced in March to ensure it could operate safely. “It wasn’t long before capacity was expanded to conduct 100 per cent of proceedings involving a person in custody” and advancing to remote hearings, said Downey, who is also the local MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. “Behind the scenes, we were making targeted investments to update technology in a sector where fax machines were still an acceptable way of doing business.” The initiatives included remote court access, the new use of digital signatures and service by email, all of which are now becoming permanent staples of the system. As a result, he said, the system has become stronger by becoming more accessible and more resilient. “We really did rely on fax machines, millions of pages of paper, and technology that was just slightly better than Morse code to share information,” he said, adding that just two days ago the word 'telegram' was replaced by 'email' in a civil rule. Within months, the old paper-based system has been modernized to allow for online filing of more than 450 different documents. As a result, 95 per cent of civil proceedings are filed online and more than 70 per cent of family matters. Information about court cases are now available online, meaning people don’t have to line up at the courthouse to gain access. And a platform to power online and in-person hearings was also adopted. Last June, the changes allowed 20,000 people to log into an online Superior Court hearing to witness a judge deliver a sentence in a high-profile case. In September, the Superior Court reported 50,000 hearings had been conducted virtually. The lesson, Downey said, was to not just address yesterday’s issues, but to look at solutions for tomorrow’s sustainability and resilience and to not be afraid of change. He also suggested adopting a design for a courthouse implementing some of the customer service elements available in an airport. Or creating an app that allows the user to schedule a court appearance from a cellphone. “The pandemic showed us, in stark terms, how far behind Ontario’s justice system had fallen,” he said. “Now we know better, and we’ll do better. In this new approach, justice accelerated means justice delivered.” During a question period, he pointed to Ontario’s tribunals, which were largely shut down after the COVID-19 crisis and prevented normal interaction. Downey said he’s struck a deal with British Columbia’s attorney general to adopt its four-year-old online tribunal system for $1, provided Ontario takes care of the updates.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
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: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
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
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
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
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
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
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison has confirmed that all COVID-19 test results have come back negative for the close contacts of a positive case at Charlottetown Rural High School. The number of men in jobs on P.E.I. in November was virtually the same as it was in January, but working women have made no progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels since the summer.An annual free Christmas dinner in Souris has received the green light from public health to do a takeout version Dec. 25. Island comedian Sandy Gillis shared how keeping people laughing has been keeping up his own spirits during the pandemic. P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.Several P.E.I. appliance stores are dealing with a shortage of products to sell because COVID-19 is affecting the manufacturers of fridges, stoves, washers and dryers.One additional COVID-19 case was confirmed in P.E.I. Thursday, a man in his 20s who is a rotational worker and recently travelled to the Island from outside the Atlantic region. P.E.I. currently has five active cases, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. The province currently has 117 active cases. New Brunswick reported eight new cases Friday and is dealing with 111 active cases.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
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.
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
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."
A new tenants rights group in the province hopes to help renters navigate the rules and regulations of renting, and work to change those rules."New Brunswick is far behind as compared to other provinces in terms of what kinds of protections are afforded to tenants," said one of the group's organizers, Aditya Rao. The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights was formed by a group of renters. "Tenants in New Brunswick have far fewer rights than almost anywhere else in the country. We've seen this to be quite clear over the last several weeks with stories about rent increases and evictions," said Rao. The coalition is currently calling for a moratorium on all evictions during the pandemic.In Thursday's news conference, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked about the number of evictions renters have faced this year. "They're currently lower than in previous years," he said.While Service New Brunswick has received 1,525 eviction requests in the first 10 months of this year (2,518 in 2019 and 1,688 in 2018), it doesn't track lease terminations, which are used in many cases to remove a tenant, for reasons such as renovations. Rao said it's a practice he's been hearing is used often. The group wants to institute regulations that would ensure inspections are done regularly at rental properties. "So that they cannot get to the point that they're so dilapidated that tenants need to be unhoused in order for the apartment to be fixed," he said.Higgs said his government is in talks with landlords in an effort to understand the rental situation in the province. Low housing availability has become a big problem in the province's three major cities, with Fredericton's vacancy rate at about 1.4 per cent. "We know that there are new buildings going up," said Higgs. "We know that renovations are going on in apartments. But we're being told by the landlords that … the rental rate increases are low. We will pursue to understand that before we act on a policy that may have been necessary somewhere else, and may, or may not be necessary here."Rao said the coalition will be launching policy proposals over the next few weeks. "We're calling on the government to significantly overhaul the Residential Tenancies Act with a view to protecting tenants rights, including by instituting rent control, of course, but also by creating an eviction prevention program, among other things." On its website, the group is asking people to write their MLA's to add some of these reforms to the Act.
Acclaimed director Spike Lee launched his Amazon movie "Chi-Raq," starring Wesley Snipes and John Cusack. (Dec. 4)
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
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.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he's pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue. That's made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic, which has killed more than 275,000 Americans. The president-elect has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a “patriotic duty" and during the campaign floated the idea of instituting a nationwide mask mandate, which he later acknowledged would be beyond the ability of the president to enforce. Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper, Biden said he would make the request of Americans on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. “On the first day I'm inaugurated, I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction” in the virus, Biden said. The president-elect reiterated his call for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a coronavirus aid bill and expressed support for a $900 billion compromise bill that a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced this week. “That would be a good start. It's not enough,” he said, adding, “I'm going to need to ask for more help.” Biden has said his transition team is working on its own coronavirus relief package, and his aides have signalled they plan for that to be their first legislative push. The president-elect also said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration, “in the exact same role he's had for the past several presidents,” as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation's top infectious-disease expert. He said he's asked Fauci to be a “chief medical adviser” as well as part of his COVID-19 advisory team. Fauci told NBC's “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot.” Regarding a coronavirus vaccine, Biden offered begrudging credit for the work Trump's administration has done in expediting the development of a vaccine but said that planning the distribution properly will be “critically important.” “It’s a really difficult but doable project, but it has to be well planned, " he said. Part of the challenge the Biden administration will face in distributing the vaccine will be instilling public confidence in it. Biden said he'd be “happy” to get inoculated in public to assuage any concerns about its efficacy and safety. Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have said they'd also get vaccinated publicly to show that it's safe. “People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden said, adding that “it matters what a president and the vice-president do.” In the same interview, Biden also weighed in on reports that Trump is considering pardons of himself and his allies. “It concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice," Biden said. Biden committed that his Justice Department will “operate independently” and that whoever he chooses to lead the department will have the “independent capacity to decide who gets investigated.” “You're not going to see in our administration that kind of approach to pardons, nor are you going to see in our administration the approach to making policy by tweets," he said. In addition to considering preemptive pardons, Trump has spent much of his time post-election trying to raise questions about an election he lost by millions of votes while his lawyers pursue baseless lawsuits alleging voter fraud in multiple states. Republicans on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, have largely given the president cover, with many defending the lawsuits and few publicly congratulating Biden on his win. But Biden said Thursday that he’s received private calls of congratulations from “more than several sitting Republican senators" and that he has confidence in his ability to cut bipartisan deals with Republicans despite the rancour that’s characterized the last four years on Capitol Hill. Trump aides have expressed skepticism that the president, who continues to falsely claim victory and spread baseless claims of fraud, would attend Biden’s inauguration. Biden said Thursday night that he believes it's “important” that Trump attend, largely to demonstrate the nation’s commitment to peaceful transfer of power between political rivals. “It is totally his decision," Biden said of Trump, adding, “It is of no personal consequence to me, but I think it is to the country.” Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
For more than three decades, CBC Vancouver's annual Open House and Food Bank Day has raised money for those in need, and the tradition continues Friday — with a safety-promoting twist.This year, the fundraising festivities have been adapted so you can watch special broadcasts, meet your favourite CBC British Columbia hosts virtually, and donate to Food Banks B.C. all from the comfort of your home.The day's programming has ended, but you can continue to donate through the night and all weekend.So far, the event has already raised $1,892,710.To donate now, visit www.FoodbanksBC.com and click on the CBC Open House in Your House image.In 2019, over $1 million was raised, bringing the 33-year total to $10 million — and this year, the need is greater than ever.Since the start of the pandemic, over 50 per cent of provincial food banks have reported an increase in demand.Many of us have been affected financially by the pandemic, limiting us in ways we might traditionally contribute. But there are many opportunities to spread generosity and kindness aside from making monetary donations.New for 2020, in addition to raising funds for local food banks, CBC Vancouver will be encouraging acts of kindness in the community to spread goodwill and cheer during an especially challenging holiday season.For ideas and inspiration for your generous act, go here.You can also visit the Food Banks B.C. website to find your local food banks and learn about volunteer opportunities available in your community.
THE LATEST: * Health officials announced 711 new cases Friday, as well as 11 more deaths. * There are now 9,050 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C. * 338 patients are in hospital, with 76 in intensive care. * 492 people in B.C. have died of the disease since the pandemic began. * There are two new health-care facility outbreaks.As British Columbians head into a weekend that would typically see the beginning of holiday parties, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging everyone to "stay small and stay local" to slow the spread of COVID-19."We can still be festive, we can still have fun, but let's ensure it is only with our immediate household," Henry said.On Friday, she announced 711 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths. There are 338 patients in hospital with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 76 of whom are in intensive care.Two new health-care facility outbreaks were announced, one at Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in White Rock, the other at Richmond Hospital. The outbreak at Youville Residence is over.Snowboarder finedOn Friday, a snowboarder who broke Canada's quarantine rules early to try to go to Whistler, B.C., was fined $1,150 under the Quarantine Act , according to police.West Vancouver police said the man was caught driving north on the Sea-to-Sky Highway Monday. An officer on patrol noticed his Audi had California plates with expired tags. The officer called public health officials and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and confirmed the man still had two days left on his 14-day quarantine.Party hosts ticketedMeanwhile, five different Burnaby, B.C., party hosts were slapped with tickets for violating the COVID-19 Related Measures Act during the month of November, according to police, including one with 58 people in their apartment and another who was ticketed for a second time.And new data released Friday shows families with children and adults aged 18-29 reported being hardest hit by the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.While seniors aged 70 and older experienced the most severe health effects, younger adults and parents of young children reported the pandemic taking a higher economic, mental and emotional toll, according to the provincewide COVID-19 Survey on Population, Experience, Action and Knowledge conducted in the spring and funded by the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health.Adults aged 18-29 were nearly twice as likely to be out of work due to the pandemic, with 27 per cent of respondents of this age group affected, compared to16 per cent for the province overall.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaAs of 3 p.m. on Friday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 401,859, with 70,008 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,485.Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, also warned Friday that daily new cases could top 10,000 by January. Alberta announced Friday its positivity rate for COVID-19 is now 10.5 per cent, which the province's chief medical health officer called a "grim milestone."Meanwhile, federal officials are making plans for how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.Eventually, there will be 205 "points of issue" locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer it.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.