Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet talks about the importance of adjusting to game officials and the areas Toronto could have defended better.
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet talks about the importance of adjusting to game officials and the areas Toronto could have defended better.
China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year.
NEW YORK — Stephen King spoke recently to The Associated Press recently about his new novel, “Later,” but he also covered topics ranging from the famous people who have turned up at his readings to what happens when he looks up his own name on the Internet. And he think he has a good idea for a novel about the pandemic. Some excerpts: —- SEARCHING FOR ‘STEPHEN KING’ “I have Googled my own name, and I love to see all the sorts of stuff that comes in. It’s a popular name in Australia, and there a lot of people with that name there who have been doing crimes: Stephen Kings who have set houses on fire and Stephen Kings who are bank robbers. That sort of thing. What I (also) see more and more are obituaries where so and so died at age 89 and he was a ‘big fan of Stephen King novels.’” —- SPECIAL GUESTS —- “Jill Biden showed up at a public event that I did. She was in the crowd, and she came backstage and had a couple of books she wanted signed for her and Joe. One time, I’m doing a reading in Seattle, and I’m looking at the crowd, 70-80 people. And I’m looking at this guy in the front row and he’s wearing workout pants, with a stripe down the side, and sneakers. And I’m thinking, ‘That guy looks really familiar.’ He was the lead singer of Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder)." —- MAGIC CHILDREN “When I was writing ‘It,’ there was a 5-year-old kid, he was on my street in Bangor. He was sitting on the edge of the street and he had a stick and he was drawing in the dirt and talking to himself. And it looked like a kid who might be unconsciously summoning demons. And I thought to myself, ‘If I did that, if I sat down in the dirt with sticks and drew, the men in the white coats would come and take me away.’ We allow kids to be crazy. We allow kids to see whatever it is they see.” —- PANDEMIC FICTION — STORY IDEA “(What about) an alien invasion where the aliens seem to look like us, but have these tentacles and other metal things — and the masks would cover them up?” Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The economy grew at a 4.1% pace in the final three months of 2020, slightly faster than first estimated, ending a year in which the overall economy, ravaged by a global pandemic, shrank more than in any year in the past seven decades. The influx of new government stimulus efforts and accelerated vaccine distribution could lift growth in the current quarter, ending in March, to 5% or even higher, economists believe. The 4.1% gain in the gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic health — is a slight upward revision from 4% growth in the first estimate released a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The revision does alter the nation's annual GDP which shrank 3.5%, the largest decline since 1946 when the U.S. demobilized after World War II. As bad as 2020 was, it's set the nation up for what economists believe will be a very strong rebound. Many project a growth rate of 5% or more in the current quarter or more, with 9% growth the headline in some forecasts. For all of 2021, economists are forecasting the GDP could grow by 6%. That would be the fastest annual GDP growth since the economy expanded 7.2% in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was president. Fueling optimism about an economic comeback is a sharp decline in new COVID-19 infections, and recent surging sales in the beleaguered retail sector. “You have massive government stimulus, low interest rates from the Fed and the vaccine supply is growing,” said Sung Won Sohn, finance and economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “The economy is beginning to fire on all cylinders.” The upward revision to the nation's quarterly GDP reflected stronger housing construction, a bigger increase in business inventories, and a smaller decline in state and government spending than first estimated a month ago. These gains offset a slightly slower increase in consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. The new report showed consumer spending growing at a 2.4% rate, slightly lower than the 2.5% gain initially estimated. Housing construction, the star performer for the economy last year, grew at a 35.8% rate in the fourth quarter following a 63% surge in the third quarter. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Almost one year later, there has been little progress in the case against a man accused of holding a girl against her will at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin. There have been numerous adjournments and delays in the case against Aaron Gardiner, 42, since his arrest in April 2020 because he has gone through about five lawyers. Gardiner has either fired the lawyers or they have withdrawn from representing him. He had another appearance scheduled in Meadow Lake Provincial Court Feb. 22 and the matter was adjourned to March 1. Gardiner remains in custody and is charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Gardiner allegedly held a girl captive for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake. A specialized RCMP tactical unit was flown to the isolated cabin by two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters to rescue the girl and arrest Gardiner. Three months after his arrest, police added more charges after more alleged victims came forward. In July 2020, police additionally charged Gardiner with four counts of sexual assault, three counts of forcible confinement, uttering threats, assault, reckless discharge of a firearm, use of a firearm in commission of an offence, obstruction and breach of an undertaking. The charges against Gardiner haven't been proven in court. Île-à-la-Crosse is about 380 kilometres north of Prince Albert. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was full of uncertainty. Almost a year later, people and businesses have found ways to adapt and help each other in the community. In March 2020, local teen Ray Calder created the Rainy River District COVIDelivery group on Facebook, that aimed to help deliver essential groceries and supplies to those unable to go out themselves due to self-isolation or being part of a high risk group. “I think we had around 25 volunteers the first time around probably late March or the first part of April last year, right when things were just starting to shut down and a lot of people were returning from travels and having to quarantine for 14 days. We had quite a few requests in the early days because of that,” said Lisa Brockie, who handles calls and messages for the Rainy River District COVIDelivery. The initial response was overwhelming because many people were self-isolating after returning from trips and many seniors could not risk leaving their homes, Brockie said, adding that since then, requests have decreased. Brockie got involved with the service as a volunteer and later came on board to help Calder when the requests were too overwhelming to handle on his own, but they have not had any requests this month. Brockie said they did just over 100 deliveries in total from March until now. There were not many requests in June so they decided to suspend the service, Brockie added. “We thought that was the end of it and then we got a handful in January,” Brockie said. “A lot of our volunteers who were off work last year are now back so we had a smaller group of volunteers sign up to help and then all of a sudden, we didn’t get any more calls.” Brian Cawston, owner of Einar’s Foods in Fort Frances, has quite a popular grocery delivery service. Cawston said the service was busy because of the pandemic but has now gone back to its usual flow. Cawston said he is happy that the delivery service which runs twice a week, has been steady. He said that more people are opting for it or for curbside pickup. “We have some people who do more curbside,” Cawston said. “A lot of people phoning in and we get ready for them and then they just come in and pick it up.” Brockie said she thinks one of the reasons the demand for the COVIDelivery service dropped was because stores were pivoting to curbside pickup and that many people were able to get family members to buy their necessities. “Overall I think it was really positive, especially back when there weren’t really many options for people and there was a lot of fear when we didn’t know much about the virus, how it was spread and who was most at risk,” Brockie said. “There was a lot of gratitude from the people who were getting the delivery to know that they didn’t have to put their health at risk or go without their necessities.” Brockie said the service is currently running but they are in discussion of whether to continue it. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
(AHS - image credit) More than 100,000 newly eligible Alberta seniors had scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations by early Thursday afternoon and several thousand had received their first doses, according to the province, with many saying they looked forward to being able to safely visit family and friends someday soon. Meanwhile, Alberta Health Services promised it had fixed the issues that caused its system to crash repeatedly the previous day while tens of thousands tried for hours to book vaccinations — while at least one expert said it never needed to happen. The province said earlier in the week that about 230,000 Albertans would be newly eligible when the system opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday to all those born in 1946 or earlier. Seniors who are residents of public long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities had already received the vaccine. With 100,000 appointments already booked, that means more than 40 per cent of those newly eligible had booked their shots by calling 811 or through the online booking tool by 2 p.m. on Thursday — less than 30 hours after the system opened up to them. Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold was among the 2,000 or so seniors who had received their first dose by the end of day Wednesday. "I'm very fortunate to be Canadian," Pasutto told AHS staff as he received his first dose of the vaccine in Red Deer. "I'm looking forward to my retirement and enjoying life. I'm very happy to be alive." As more seniors received the vaccine on Thursday, AHS staff shared quotes and photos from behind the scenes. Arlene Jones, who got the COVID-19 vaccine in Rocky Mountain House, was one of several thousand Albertans born in 1946 or earlier who have been vaccinated so far after bookings opened up Wednesday to everyone in that age range. 'I haven’t seen my nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren since September,' she told AHS. Arlene Jones, who was getting her first shot in Rocky Mountain House, said she can't wait to be with family again, especially since she has a new grandchild coming soon. "I haven't seen my nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren since September," she said. 'I’m excited to finally get my vaccine,' Richard Wright, 75, told AHS staff. He received his first dose of the vaccine Wednesday in Grande Prairie. 'I’m hoping to be able to safely visit friends and family this summer.' Richard Wright, 75, who received his first dose in Grande Prairie on Wednesday, said he was excited to finally get it. "I'm hoping to be able to safely visit friends and family this summer." 'I think it’s important so we can stop the spread of COVID,' Elizabeth Findlay, 75, told AHS after getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Lethbridge. 'It’s good for myself and it’s good for everyone I know.' Elizabeth Findlay, 75, who got her first dose in Lethbridge, said she thinks it's important. "It's good for myself and it's good for everyone I know." Barry McCaughey, 76, told AHS he has spent most of the past year hibernating. 'I very seldom go out.' He received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and looks forward to camping one day soon. Barry McCaughey, 76, who got his first dose Wednesday, said he has spent most of the past year hibernating but looks forward to hopefully camping one day soon. AHS says online booking tool fixed, phone line improved On Wednesday, many people who called Health Link at 811 reported not being able to get through on the lines at all, or being disconnected — often repeatedly — after making it part way through the booking process, while the AHS website repeatedly went down or booted people out mid-registration as they tried for hours to book an appointment. By noon Wednesday, a trio of Edmonton brothers had figured out the problem on the website and posted a solution on Twitter to help others sidestep the now-fixed glitch. By evening, the website had started to show a message letting people know how many were ahead of them in line and how long the wait would be. At about 7 p.m., users were being told they faced waits of an hour or more with about 10,000 people ahead of them in the queue. By end of day, Alberta Health Services said 43,000 people had managed to book but many others had not. Thousands of people trying to log on to Alberta Health's website to register for COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, when it opened to people born in 1946 and older, faced long waits. As of 7 p.m., users were getting a message saying that they faced a wait of at least an hour with about 10,000 people ahead of them in the queue. On Thursday, AHS promised it had fixed its online system. "The online booking tool has stabilized since launch on Wednesday morning. We very much appreciate everyone's patience, and we understand the frustration," AHS tweeted. AHS also said improvements were made to its 811 phone line to give callers a choice to route their calls to book a COVID-19 immunization appointment or reach a registered nurse for medical concerns. As of about 10 a.m. Thursday, the bookings for the first dose of the vaccine were being scheduled for the second week of March and some people reported waiting no more than 10 to 15 minutes before being able to book online. Still, AHS urged patience, saying it continued to anticipate a wait time to get through on the online booking tool or Health Link in the days ahead. The province also pointed out eligible Albertans can book a COVID-19 immunization through some local pharmacies listed online by Alberta Blue Cross. Some Albertans frustrated by additional issues Though many ran into issues with online booking tools, other Albertans said technical glitches weren't the only headaches along the way. Janet Wees finally got through to book a COVID-19 vaccine online, but discovered the only available appointment was in Canmore — posing a problem, as Wees is from Calgary. "It's confusing, and I don't think it's because we're seniors," Wees said. "I think anybody of any age would be frustrated and confused." And while some felt panicked to accept an appointment located far away not knowing if they would miss out, others were frustrated they couldn't register as spouses. Stephanie Pollock's mother-in-law secured a vaccine appointment. However, the 81-year-old was turned away at the appointment and told she needed a doctor's note to get the vaccine because of medicine she takes that suppresses her immune system. "To have that lack of clarity and lack of readiness to handle some of these things is what frustrated me," she said. AHS said in some areas, travel may be required to get the shot, and that it is still working through some additional issues. Vaccine booking system was preventible, expert says Tom Keenan, an adjunct professor of computing science at the University of Calgary, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday that the province could have easily and inexpensively prevented the website from becoming overwhelmed by installing queue management software. He said Denmark-based Queue-it — which sells systems to cope with website traffic congestion by directing visitors to a queue where they can wait until bottlenecks clear — could have provided AHS with a solution for $30,000 to $100,000. And it would have taken about 20 minutes to install the fix, Keenan said. Keenan said that after making a few inquiries with Queue-it regarding how AHS could have used its services, a company official seemed to confirm the province had now contracted with the firm. "An hour ago, I got an email from the co-founder of Queue-it in Denmark and — breaking news, breaking news — she said, 'this is/will be a Queue-it customer,'" he said Thursday morning.
Some talents come naturally, whether that is sports, singing, helping others, or in Cher Pruys’ case, hyperrealism painting. If you have ever seen Pruys’ paintings, you are sure to have done a double take, easily mistaking it for a photograph. Cher Pruys was born in Regina and has lived in many places across Canada from Saskatoon to Ottawa, Fort Frances and now Devlin where she lives with her husband, four dogs and two cats. She is also a musician, playing both the piano and guitar, and has been teaching music for 35 years. Pruys began drawing when she was three. Over the years she has worked with pencil, charcoal and ink but it wasn’t until she was 35 that she began painting. “I just decided to pick up some paints one day and see what the difference was between them and drawing and it was just great,” Pruys said. “It just came natural and it was even nicer than drawing everything out.” Pruys started out with oil paints but she said it gave her a headache and with a tendency to lick her paint brushes to get a precise point, oil paints did not taste great either. Pruys found her chosen mediums in acrylic, water colour and gouache. Diving into the world of hyperrealism art was a gradual process for Pruys. She's dabbled in abstract art, but found that she enjoyed painting what was in front of her more. Hyperrealism is an art form that resembles high resolution photography. This art form includes sculptures and paintings that focus on detail to look like real life. Looking at Pruys’ work you would have expected her to have taken years of classes, but she is self-taught. Her work has been juried into 132 international exhibits as well as numerous non juried shows and has earned her 115 awards for her work at the International Juried Exhibits. Included in these awards, the first recipient of a major Canadian National Award, The Mary Pratt Crystal Award of Excellence at the 2014 SCA Open Juried Exhibition and The Gold Medal recipient for Figurative Painting in The Mondial Art Academia’s International 2018 Competition. Pruys has had 14 solo exhibits and her work has adorned the covers of three books, 21 magazines, and has been featured in over 84 international publications. Her works have found a permanent home in private and public collections worldwide. Hyperrealism is not for the impatient. Pruys said the least number of hours she’s spent on a painting was 60 and some can take up to 250 hours, but the end result is worth every tiny brush stroke. “I’m a stickler for detail but it’s just a whole lot of time and patience,” Pruys said. “You can’t rush it, it’s just layer on layer and also you have to be able to draw to do realism in order to the perspective and everything right.” Pruys said the process before painting can require a lot of research. “If I’m doing a portrait, even if there’s a particular photo that somebody wants me to paint, I like to have a number of photos so I can get a feeling of their personality,” Pruys said. “It goes beyond just making it look like the person, is has to capture some of the person’s personality in there.” Pruys said now that she is semi-retired, she has more time to paint and has been enjoying the process more. Pruys said she loves to paint reflections and shiny surfaces, which can be the most difficult details to paint. Pruys said she likes a challenge and what others might dread painting, she enjoys the most. Painting makes it possible to recapture the magic of a memory or a feeling, Pruys said, adding that it is her motivation and reason for being. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
(Submitted by The Front Yard Flower Co. - image credit) Flower vendors are worried B.C.'s COVID-19 rules for farmers' markets could lead to greenhouses full of blooms going to waste. Farmers' markets are considered an essential service and have been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic. However, non-food vendors like potters, jewelry and soap makers and flower sellers are excluded from in-person sales. This rule was lifted for a time last summer before being reinstated in December. Flower farmers plan months ahead, ordering seeds and growing plants throughout the winter, said Rachel Ryall, who owns River and Sea Flowers in Ladner. "We planted the current flowers that will be blooming over the next month back in September and October, assuming things would be alright to sell them again," Ryall said. "I can't stop them from flowering. They're coming." Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition urging non-food vendors be allowed back. She has sold her flowers at the Vancouver Farmers Market for years and says the market has maintained strict rules throughout the pandemic to keep visitors and vendors safe. Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and she's worried about lost sales and wasted blooms — she says she's not equipped for large-scale delivery across the Lower Mainland. "I feel like maybe we've been forgotten, because we're not vegetable farmers, we're kind of a smaller segment of vendors," Dykstra said. Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition asking that non-food vendors be allowed back. Laura Smit, executive director of Vancouver Farmers Market, says although she is grateful the province has permitted markets to continue operating, it's never been made clear why non-food vendors aren't allowed. The farmers' market has been working since December to bring back non-food vendors, and she says if the rule is not overturned, it will have a big impact on the bottom line for flower vendors in particular. "Their product is absolutely seasonal," Smit said. "It's not something that is shelf-stable and can sit around to be sold later on in August. Literally the spring time is when these flower farmers are planning for, preparing for, and they don't understand why they can't come to market and we don't either." Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and Rose Dykstra is worried about lost sales and wasted blooms if she can't bring them to the market. In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the rule is in an effort to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission down, and added that non-food vendors can do online sales and pick-up orders. "The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers' markets are essential food and agriculture service providers," a spokesperson said. "The B.C. government will continue to listen to feedback from the community and stakeholders and adjust our response to support businesses as needed." Soap also not allowed — during a pandemic It's not just flower farmers who are concerned. Shea Hogan hopes he will be able to sell his natural bar soap at farmers' markets again this spring. The owner of PoCo Soap Co. says farmers' markets used to be a big part of his business and a way to build relationships with customers. He says it's ironic that, as a non-food vendor, he can't sell soap in a pandemic. He believes buying items from an outdoor farmers' market is among the safest ways to shop. "It was frustrating because other than being arbitrary and general, we're being told to wash our hands with soap and water," Hogan said. "And as a maker and seller of soap, to not be allowed to sell soap somewhere seems ... extra weird."
OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic appears set to force a modernization of Canada's justice system. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced a bill the government says will make targeted and permanent changes to the Criminal Code to give courts flexibility. Among them are clarifying the law to allow the accused to appear remotely in certain criminal proceedings and providing for remote participation for jury selection.The government says that even with the proposed changes, in-person proceedings would remain the norm, but the new provisions would ensure a remote approach remains an option. Canada's justice system was already wrestling with case backlogs in the courts when the pandemic hit last year, closing courthouses and pausing many trials.Courts were forced to look at different ways of working and accelerate steps toward modernization that many felt were long overdue.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Après avoir omis d’appliquer sa propre Loi sur les espèces en péril (LEP) dans le dossier du chevalier cuivré en 2012, le gouvernement fédéral a corrigé la situation la semaine dernière. Mais parallèlement, Ottawa serait tout de même sur le point de donner son aval au projet d’agrandissement du terminal à conteneurs du Port de Montréal dans sa forme actuelle, et ce, malgré les risques que ce dernier pose pour la survie du poisson en danger d’extinction. Ciblé par une action légale intentée par des organismes voués à la protection de l’environnement, dont la Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada (SNAP), Ottawa a publié vendredi un projet d’arrêté ministériel afin d’officialiser l’obligation de conserver intact l’habitat essentiel du chevalier cuivré. Ce dernier se limite à une portion du fleuve Saint-Laurent et de la rivière Richelieu. En vertu de la LEP, Ottawa aurait dû poser ce geste dans les 180 jours suivant le dépôt du texte définitif du programme de rétablissement du chevalier cuivré dans le registre public des espèces en péril, dépôt qui a eu lieu le 20 juin 2012. Une action concrète aurait donc dû être posée avant le 17 décembre 2012, mais pour une raison toujours inexpliquée, cette démarche n’a pas eu lieu plus tôt. Quoique tardive, une telle décision devrait, selon toute logique, avoir des conséquences sur l’agrandissement du terminal à conteneurs du Port de Montréal à Contrecœur. Or, les représentants fédéraux ont également annoncé « qu’on ne s’attend pas à ce qu’un promoteur de projet ait à supporter une charge administrative accrue à la suite d’un arrêté du conseil sur l’habitat essentiel », une remarque qui a de quoi laisser perplexe les électeurs préoccupés par la protection de l’environnement et la transparence de leurs représentants. Le gouvernement libéral a par ailleurs réitéré que le décret ne devrait pas avoir de répercussions considérables sur l’examen du projet présenté par l’Administration du Port de Montréal (APM) pour son terminal de Contrecœur. Rappelons que ce projet de plus de 750 millions de dollars a reçu l’appui du gouvernement fédéral via un investissement de 300 millions de dollars de la Banque de l’infrastructure du Canada. On peut donc se demander à ce stade comment l’administration Trudeau parviendra à respecter son engagement environnemental et sa promesse faite aux administrateurs du port. « Ça semble arrangé à l’avance avec le gars des vues », a affirmé Alain Branchaud, directeur général de la Société pour la nature et les parcs (SNAP) lors d’un entretien accordé à La Presse. Le décret couvre tout l’habitat essentiel. C’est solide, ça correspond à ce qu’on s’attend. Mais en même temps le gouvernement dit à l’avance qu’il va autoriser le projet de Contrecœur avant même qu’on lui ait fait la demande! » Le biologiste met par ailleurs en doute la validité du plan proposé afin de compenser la perte d’habitat du chevalier cuivré. « On dit qu’on va compenser, mais on n’a aucune expertise scientifique pour le chevalier cuivré, a poursuivi M. Branchaud. Ce n’est pas sérieux! On est dans une crise de biodiversité et on fait encore des niaiseries comme ça, ça n’a pas de bon sens. » Steve Martin, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
Out on a walk with his dog Taiga, Dorset resident Ryan Morin took the path he regularly does along Kawagama Lake Road and up toward the Nordic Inn. Morin, an ecologist, likes to explore the area there, where he often finds rare plants. It was on his way up Nordic Inn Road where he found hogweed, an uncommon but growing sight along the border where the Township of Lake of Bays meets the Algonquin Highlands. “This one is just getting humungous and almost coming out to the road,” said Morin, who counts this as the third location he has spotted the plant currently growing. Hogweed is a common name used for multiple kinds of the genus, Heracleum. The plant can grow up to 14 feet in height and, in late summer, blooms a white flower. However, its stems are home to prickly red particles and full of toxic sap because they contain chemical compounds called, furanocoumarins. When exposed to UV rays, Phytophotodermatitis occurs — an inflammation of the skin that leads to blistering, burns and in extreme cases, blindness. “It’s obviously a big human safety issue if you happen to not know what it is,” Morin said. Complicating matters further is that hogweed is often mistaken for cow parsnip and vice versa, because of their similar appearance. “It takes a bit of a plant eye to be able to tell the difference,” he said. From an ecological perspective, Morin said the hogweed doesn’t seem to be invading the habitat, despite spotting it in multiple locations. It’s kind of a unique thing, at least to me, to have in Dorset,” he said, because to his knowledge, it is more prevalent in southern Ontario. “Obviously, there is something that’s brought it here.” The Township of Lake of Bays does keep an eye out for hogweed, said public works superintendent Steve Peace. If found in the road allowance, the municipality takes care of removing or treating it, but also encourages people to report it directly. “We see the odd little bit in Lake of Bays,” Peace said. Between the township, the district and the Ministry of Natural Resources, he said, “everybody is doing what they can to stay on top of it.” Morin said he has warned his neighbours and made phone calls to both townships to report the hogweed and some has been removed as a result. At the time of this writing, Kristyn Anthony was a Local Journalism Initiative reporter, funded by the Government of Canada. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
(Dave Irish/CBC - image credit) Lionel Desmond struggled to transition to civilian life, at times reporting that he drank upward of 70 beers a week and ate fewer than 600 calories a day, the first psychologist who saw him after leaving the military testified Thursday. Dr. Mathieu Murgatroyd first met the veteran in June 2015. Desmond spent about a year in his care at the Occupational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, a Veterans Affairs facility geared toward rehabilitating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. But Murgatroyd testified that he and Desmond accomplished little in terms of therapy. Instead, the psychologist said he felt he sometimes took on the role of a case manager. In part, that's because Desmond was grappling with other issues: finding purpose outside the military, ongoing conflict in his marriage and isolation from his family. He also told his psychologist at one point that his financial situation was so poor that he might have to go to the food bank. CBC reporter Laura Fraser is live blogging the hearing: A stressful transition Those concerns are not unique to soldiers once they retire from the Canadian Forces, the psychologist said. In fact, Murgatroyd noted the usual stress of leaving the structure and camaraderie intrinsic to military life can worsen an underlying mental health issue. "We're talking about individuals that have several mental health issues and challenges, PTSD, depression ... which can lead to poor coping strategies," he testified. The inquiry seeks not to lay blame, but to examine the various institutions that came in contact with Desmond and his family before he fatally shot his wife, Shanna; his daughter, Aaliyah; and his mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself on Jan. 3, 2017 at a home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. Shanna Desmond worked as a registered nurse in Antigonish, N.S. Inquiry Judge Warren Zimmer is seeking answers about whether changes to public policy connected to those institutions can prevent future deaths. While the inquiry unfolding in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., is provincial in nature — and the mandate does not technically extend to the Canadian Forces or Veterans Affairs — the need for better support during a time of transition has surfaced in testimony from multiple witnesses at the second session. Inquiry counsel Shane Russell asked Murgatroyd on Thursday whether Desmond might have benefited from other supports to help him navigate the stress associated with the transition to civilian life, including a caseworker who could arrange marital counselling or check on the status of his pension and finances, or someone to drop by his home. The psychologist agreed that, in hindsight, that support would have been helpful. Lionel Desmond is seen with his mother, Brenda, and his daughter, Aaliyah. Other roadblocks to treatment But another roadblock to Desmond's treatment seemed to be that he just wasn't showing up. He split much of his time in the year after his release between his house in New Brunswick and his family home in Nova Scotia. The evidence underscores an issue faced by freshly released veterans: the potential for transience and the barriers that can create when accessing mental health services. In Desmond's case, after his first two appointments with Murgatroyd in July 2015 — when he reported having "homicidal thoughts without intent" — he cancelled his third visit over the phone, saying he was in Nova Scotia. They wouldn't see one another until October 2015. That pattern of intermittent visits continued until May 2016, when Desmond was accepted into an in-patient psychiatric program at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec.
Facebook Inc on Thursday launched a campaign to explain to users how small businesses depend on personalized advertising, ahead of upcoming plans by Apple Inc to prompt iPhone users to allow apps to use their data for ads. The campaign called "Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found" highlights several advertisers that have grown their business on Facebook and Instagram, such as Houston-based fashion brand House of Takura. A commercial will air on TV, including during the Golden Globe Awards this Sunday, Facebook said.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Better Call Saul,” the prequel spinoff to the hugely successful series “Breaking Bad,” will begin production in New Mexico on its sixth and final season beginning in March. White Turtle Casting officials told the Albuquerque Journal that production will begin in the second week of March and the agency is looking for stand-ins for the series. Pre-production is currently underway, and the crew is being quarantined and tested for the upcoming start, the Journal reported Wednesday. Production originally was set for March 2020, but it was moved because of the pandemic. There will be 13 episodes in the final season, although no air date has been confirmed. “Better Call Saul” has been shot in New Mexico since 2015. The production has given nearly $178,000 to the state’s film programs. The Associated Press
Three New Jersey State Troopers rescued a 14-year-old boy who was stuck waist deep in frigid water in a marsh in Alloway Township, Salem County. On Sunday, February 21, at approximately 11:28 p.m., Sergeant Carl Scowcroft, Trooper Matthew Hess, and Trooper Thomas Rheault were dispatched to the report of a 14-year-old boy who ran away from his residence and got stuck in a marsh near Sawmill Road. When troopers arrived to the area, they entered the water and discovered the trapped boy, who was breathing slowly and was unresponsive. Due to the frigid temperature of the water, Sgt. Scowcroft made a determination that he needed to take immediate action to save the boy’s life, so he quickly made his way through the mud as Troopers Hess and Rheault kept their flashlights trained on the victim. Sgt. Scowcroft pulled the boy out of the marsh and began to carry him towards the shoreline. At the time of the rescue, the victim exhibited signs of hypothermia. A short time later, members of the Alloway Township Fire Rescue arrived and entered the water to assist. Troopers Rheault and Hess then secured the boy to a backboard and carried him up the embankment. Alloway Township EMS evaluated the victim and transported him to Salem Memorial Hospital where he was expected to make a full recovery. Check out this video clip of the rescue. Video credit New Jersey State Police
OTTAWA — A new estimate suggests the move to a hybrid Parliament could save as much as $6.2 million a year. The system — which sees some MPs and senators participate in person and most others logged in remotely — has been in place since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the nuances of how MPs and senators participate have changed since then, the parliamentary budget officer's report suggests the primary driver of savings is reduced travel. The report notes that a decrease in travel also has the effect of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by about 2,972 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. The budget watchdog says the financial savings offset the increased costs of running a hybrid model, which include the required technology and a major increase in interpreters' services. The provision of those services has been a sore spot in recent weeks as some parties say not enough resources have been allotted to ensure enough interpreters are available and can work safely. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Many people dream of their retirement day, and finally find time to pick up new hobbies or travel but for Dr. Robert Lidkea, it is the last thing on his mind. Lidkea was born in North Bay and came to Fort Frances after he graduated from university. He said he would have stayed in North Bay but there were no openings for an optometrist and he was forced to find a job elsewhere. Lidkea came to Fort Frances in 1952 to become part of the Fort Frances Clinic. At the time the clinic only had two M. D’s, a dentist, an optometrist who was looking to retire and a pharmacy. In 1952 Lidkea was the youngest practicing optometrist in Ontario and now in 2021, he is the oldest optometrist at 90. He graduated as a registered optometrist in 1952 from the College of Optometrists in Toronto and in 1957, he returned for his post graduate studies and earned his doctor of optometry. Lidkea said jokingly he continues to work because he needs the money, but in reality he said he could not stay home all day. Lidkea said he officially retired on Jan.1 and went back to work on Jan. 21. “I just enjoy doing what I’m doing, that’s all,” Lidkea said. “I’m happy to come to work.” It may only be for one day a week, but Lidkea said he always looks forward to it. Lidkea was president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists from 1975 to 1976. He was accepted as a fellow in the American Academy of Optometrists in 1983 and was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo in 1987. Lidkea said when he first began practicing, an eye exam was $3. “It’s quite a long stretch since then,” Lidkea said. “A lot of knowledge and a lot of changes, knowledge and training, everything’s changed.” Lidkea said he has been learning all his life as the training never stops. “When I graduated there was not even such a thing as calculator so it’s been a very long learning process but it’s not all at once, it’s been very gradual,” Lidkea said. He adds that is has been helpful working with his son Bruce who has been able to coach him through all the new technology. Bruce is now the primary practitioner. Lidkea has also been an active member in the community, through clubs and volunteer work. He has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Fort Frances since he came in 1952 and has 60 years of perfect attendance. He became president of the club in 1961 and was elected Lt. Governor in 1973. He has now been the secretary for many years. Lidkea was also elected to town council for two terms and has served on many local boards. In 2004, Lidkea was honoured with the Ontario Association of Optometrists 2004 Milenium Award for Public Service. The award recognizes a member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists who has performed extraordinary public service in either a professional or non-professional capacity. In 2007, Lidkea received the Fort Frances Citizen of the Year award. Lidkea said his favourite part of the job is interacting with people in the community, adding that in some families, he has cared for five generations. “It’s been an interesting life,” Lidkea said. “My wife and I have been blessed with good health and we’re getting by quite well.” Lidkea said he gets to see his two sons quite often and has coffee with his friends every morning at 10 a.m. sharp. The secret to a long career, according to Lidkea, is being passionate about what you do. “If you’re eager to get to work in the morning, you’ve got the right job,” Lidkea said. “If you aren’t happy going to work, you got the wrong job.” Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus will reopen high schools, gyms, pools, dance academies and art galleries on March 1 in a further, incremental easing of the country’s second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the government said Thursday. Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said easing the six-week-old lockdown should proceed “slowly, cautiously and in a controlled manner.” He warned that the situation could easily get out of hand again as the country’s infection rate remains slightly above safety limits set by the European Union’s disease prevention agency. According to Ioannou, the number of infections now stands at 164.3 per 100,000 people. Middle school students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 8, Ioannou said, signalling the reopening of all schools after weeks of online instruction. Primary schools are already holding in-person classes. But the minister made it clear that twice-daily excursions requiring SMS approval and a 9:00pm-5:00am curfew will remain in effect. “We'll do without certain things for the next two or three months, some measures will carry on until there's (sufficient) vaccination coverage which is estimated to happen by June," Ioannou said. A ban on public gatherings also continues to apply despite growing public fatigue that culminated with thousands demonstrating last weekend in the capital to protest the restrictions, alleged police heavy-handedness and corruption. Police didn’t intervene in that protest, but used a water cannon, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse a much smaller group of left-wing demonstrators a week earlier. One young woman required surgery for an eye injury following a blast from the water canon. The force’s actions triggered a public outcry and prompted a probe to determine whether riot police used disproportionate force. On Wednesday, Amnesty International urged Cypriot authorities to lift what it called “an unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban” on demonstrations. Amnesty International Greece and Cyprus official Kondylia Gogou said police made “unnecessary and excessive use of force" during the earlier protest. She said the violence was also part of a “deeply worrying pattern" in Cyprus where “human rights are coming under sustained attack." ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
BALA — When Linda and Jack Hutton opened Bala’s Museum nearly 30 years ago, they never dreamed the year a pandemic occurred would be good for business. Bala’s Museum — with memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery is tucked away on Maple Avenue, but for a slew of new and returning customers this summer, its location is on Facebook. Adapting to a digital-friendly operation during the COVID-19 lockdown has turned a stressful year into a record-breaking one thanks to worldwide sales from a converted home office. The museum has always had a loyal following on social media, said Linda, who — stocked up on memorabilia for the museum’s gift shop — turned to the social platform to see if there might be interest in purchasing items there. On the heels of the cancellation of the biennial Lucy Maud Montgomery conference held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, messages from fans and collectors started pouring in. “All of a sudden they have some extra money and they were really willing to support our museum because they realized what a tenuous situation we were in,” Linda said. Because the museum is such an interactive experience — visitors can dress in costume, participate in re-enactments from Anne of Green Gables and children’s games — coronavirus was a real cause for concern. As well, the Huttons are seniors and more vulnerable to the virus. With the help of their son, who taught them how to read Facebook’s analytics, Linda began posting items for sale. Buyers have appeared from as far away as Argentina, Australia, the Philippines and Poland. “They all realized how vulnerable we are since we don’t get any government money and never have,” Linda explained. “Every single sale, whether it’s just five dollars and I have to mail it, it’s another five dollars in the pot.” International connections are nothing new for the museum, it is outfitted with Japanese translation and the Huttons have welcomed more than 120,000 guests from 30 different countries over three decades. Still, the transition to e-commerce has been a “huge learning curve” said Linda, as she manages international shipping and how to gauge the growth of the business through Facebook. Jack admits he was skeptical at first, unsure at just how many bites they would get online. According to stats he compiled, the museum’s Facebook page saw a 459 per cent jump in likes during May. Before coronavirus the average post reached 400 people; it now reaches an average of 700 users. “We had the best financial return we have ever had for the month of May thanks to Linda’s idea,” he said. As for the museum, the Huttons anticipate opening by appointment only when COVID restrictions lift. There have been disappointments, including a group of women from Arkansas unable to cross the closed border. “I’m very thankful,” Linda said. “I feel very blessed and very honoured that people who have known about our museum are looking in on us every day. It is a huge help.” Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Queen’s Park is set to appoint a third party to investigate allegations of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination at the Peel Children’s Aid Society (CAS). The office of Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues, confirmed to The Pointer that the wheels are in motion to facilitate an operational review. “In October last year, the ministry became aware of a report regarding anti-Black racism towards staff at Peel CAS,” Hannah Anderson, director of communications for Dunlop’s office, told The Pointer. “The report raised concerns about the society’s leadership and workplace culture. Since receiving a copy of the report, the ministry has been working closely with the society to understand their plans to address these concerns.” The move comes after a report last year written for the union, CUPE 4914, described a culture of fear within the organization, where Black staff, who described their marginalization, raised concerns over the impacts of systemic discrimination within Peel CAS. It is an organization responsible for providing care to some of Peel’s most vulnerable residents, in a region that is overwhelmingly non-white. Recent findings of widespread anti-Black racism were particularly disturbing for an organization that in 2019 was duty-bound to look after a large number of Black children – 39 out of 189 children in care at Peel CAS were Black, according to data provided by the organization in December. That was 21 percent of all children in the organization’s care a little over a year ago. The fear of widespread discrimination running through an organization that has to work with schools, police and, ultimately, families in the community, to ensure potentially traumatic decisions are made with the utmost of care and consideration, in a framework grounded in equity and safety, has now led to the Province’s intervention. In the union report, staff describe a divide between management and leadership. The CUPE 4914 document references nepotism within the organization and says Black staff see senior leadership as “untrustworthy” when handling their concerns. The report articulates management “has no picture of what is happening to or being experienced by Black staff.” After positioning itself as a leader and making anti-oppression a primary goal, some think the current leadership is dining out on past success, when a former employee led a range of progressive initiatives. “As much as Peel is part of a very diverse environment and culture and the agency has done a lot of work in previous years to support diversity, equity and inclusion, a lot of that stopped,” one staff member told The Pointer last year. Employees asked to not be identified. “We did the great work, we became great leaders and we stopped the things that made us leaders.” When Peel CAS was contacted by The Pointer last year about the concerns raised by staff and the union report, it did not respond to questions about the Province's One Vision One Voice initiative, which addresses the over-representation of Black children in Ontario's child-welfare system and the range of discriminatory attitudes within institutions such as education and policing that often lead to over-reporting on Black children. The lack of concern around these potentially destructive biases raised questions about whether the agency is aware of best practices in the sector to minimize the potentially harmful impact of systemic, institutionalized stereotypes and other attitudes entrenched within referring organizations. A failure to root out referrals based on racial prejudice lands hardest on Black frontline staff, employees told The Pointer in December. Unable to decline work from a manager, they find themselves aligned with police or principals in a situation they may not think merits child-protection services. Without open communication between managers and frontline workers — a professional environment where everyone feels they can speak their mind — staff can find themselves stuck. “We [Peel CAS] are not actively challenging the school board and the police, we are kind of just going along with them,” one staff member said. “We’re going along with the nonsense, so we are part of the problem. We pretend we are good for the community and then we don’t understand why the community can’t stand us. But we are aligned with the same processes that oppress them.” It can have a serious impact on people’s mental health. “You need your management to be behind you because, at the end of the day, we’re not decision making staff,” one of the employees added. “We need people in decision making positions who can help us. I cannot just push back against the principal without my supervisor’s support. Half the time, it’s me stuck between the school board and my supervisor.” To begin to solve the problem, staff and the authors of the CUPE 4914 report asked for clear policies to be put in place. The alarming union report was produced after a series of conversations facilitated by Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness, which focused on the experiences of Black staff. Concerns raised by staff during those meetings were aggregated and compiled, alongside recommendations and analysis to complete the report. The recommendations in the CUPE 4914 report were wide-ranging and included an audit of the organization by a third party, a review that would go beyond the interviews undertaken by Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness. At the end of 2020, senior leaders at Peel CAS said they would use the report as “a guide” but staff and union representatives feared they would commission their own favourable report that risked erasing the blunt assessments captured in the disturbing CUPE 4914 document. Unable to come to a solution together, and with little trust on either side, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services will now step in. The government will appoint a third party to review Peel CAS for workplace issues, policies and practices that may contribute to systemic racism within the organization. It will also assess if Peel CAS remains in compliance with its legislated duties to children in the region. The Province’s move has been acknowledged and welcomed by Peel CAS’ directors, who appear to have read the findings in CUPE 4914’s report differently. “We became aware of staff experiences related to systemic racism and anti-Black racism in our workplace and have recognized that we are not immune from systemic bias and racism,” Juliet Jackson, president of the board of directors, wrote in a statement. She did not allude to the serious concerns about senior leadership raised by staff and echoed by the Province. Rav Bains, CEO of Peel CAS, who has authority over senior leadership and staff, has not released a public statement. When the union work around issues of systemic discrimination was launched, Bains and senior staff at Peel CAS said they were also launching their own review, and claimed their move was done independently and proactively. Speaking to The Pointer late last year in response to the CUPE 4914 report’s revelations about the organization he runs, Bains admitted failings and claimed steps had been taken to address them. But he could not name any. He acknowledged systemic issues that needed to be addressed without offering a detailed understanding or explicit plans to address the situation. Staff told The Pointer late last year that a number of progressive actions by former employee Kike Ojo-Thompson, who spearheaded a range of effective initiatives to eradicate systemic barriers, were sidelined by Bains shortly after she left the organization in 2015. In December, some members of CUPE 4914 expressed concern Peel CAS was trying to also sideline their report by commissioning a more favourable investigation of their own. “Unfortunately, Peel CAS statements regarding their commitment to tackle anti-Black racism are performative, corporate, unilateral and reflect their consistent top-down approach,” the union said at the time. “It's self serving at best and there is a large discrepancy between the information Peel CAS relays to the media/public about their commitments and action plans and how they try to suppress, silence and control the Black voices internally.” Bains disagreed. He did not directly answer a question about a specific recommendation in the union report (to review senior staff performance with an equity lens) and if it would be followed, but said a new report would “not replace anything”. Chima Nsitem, Peel CAS director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the report senior staff planned “is going to be used as a guide”. In a 55-minute interview with The Pointer in December, confronted with the findings of the union report and experiences of staff, Bains and Nsitem admitted shortcomings but also deflected many questions: they acknowledged the organization has work to do, but said they’re not alone on this front. Achievements were lauded alongside an acceptance that work is incomplete. “Bullying, racism, anti-Black racism have no place in our organization,” Bains said in December. “Does that mean we don’t have more work to do? Like every institution, there’s more work to do, including the media, including all the other systems. So we’ve said that up front.” The union report highlighted concerns raised by staff that leadership consistently deny any problems around systemic racism or other forms of discrimination within the organization. “We don’t want to give you the impression of either being defensive or somehow we’ve got a perfect system or that we have everything buttoned down,” Bains said. “I think that would be a mistake for us. There’s always work to be done.” He did not lay out what this work would be or provide any details of a specific strategy to address the issues raised in the union report. Under Bains’ leadership, a watchdog group (the Board Diversity Monitoring Committee) was disbanded and allyship sessions, designed to help non-Black staff to understand their role in fighting anti-Black racism, were discontinued. Bains defended dissolving the committee and suspending the allyship programs, which Peel CAS has promised to bring back. He said they were “thoughtful” and “gentle” decisions, designed to “integrate diversity and equity into everything we do”. The union has been steadfast in its assessment of Bains and his leadership, describing his claims of being an ally as “performative”. Now, the Province is stepping in. But concerns have already been expressed about who will do the third-party review under the guidance of the ministry. A spokesperson for Peel CAS did not respond to specific questions, including who requested the external review, if a vendor had been selected or how long they expect the process to take. “It is important that the review be allowed to run its course,” the spokesperson said. Information provided by Queen’s Park suggests a deadlock between union and senior leadership led the government to step in. “As the society and the union have been unable to reach an agreement on the path forward, the ministry is now proceeding with an operational review,” Anderson explained. “We want to work with both parties and have them actively engaging in the process. This is key to meaningful, sustainable change. Ensuring all voices are heard is critical to an open and transparent process.” No timeline is yet available for the work. A final decision on which organization will complete the review has not been made. One organization already armed with experience in this area is Agree Incorporated, the group that completed a review of York CAS at the end of 2020. The review, announced after significant public backlash over reports detailing widespread problems within York CAS, came to several damning conclusions. “Based on its findings, Agree Inc. recommended that a new leadership direction and approach must be put in place quickly, and that actions must be taken to create engagement toward a better workplace culture that is respectful, healthy and collaborative,” the report said. The review of York CAS was conducted over roughly three months. The process was announced by the ministry on July 31 and then a vendor was selected, with Agree Inc. publishing its findings on November 13 last year. “We welcome the review and are confident that the results will lay the foundation for ongoing organizational improvement and development,” Jackson wrote on behalf of the Peel CAS board. “We recognize the need to work together to chart a path forward and believe that an independent process that is transparent and open is a critical element to that undertaking.” The Province confirmed a timeline will be published when a private-sector organization has been selected to conduct the investigation of Peel CAS. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer