Freddie Prinze Jr. shared an important “life lesson” he learned after the untimely death of former co-star Paul Walker: Don’t take friendships for granted.
Freddie Prinze Jr. shared an important “life lesson” he learned after the untimely death of former co-star Paul Walker: Don’t take friendships for granted.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
REGINA — A former truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash has submitted paperwork with reasons why he should not be sent back to India when he gets out of prison. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu is now waiting for the Canada Border Services Agency to write a report that will recommend whether he be allowed to stay in his adopted country or be deported. A grieving father of one of the hockey players killed will be waiting, too. Scott Thomas said he aches every day for his 18-year-old son, Evan, but submitted a letter in support of Sidhu. “I know for a fact that he’ll never drive a semi again. I know for a fact that if he could take back what happened that day he would in a heartbeat. He would trade places with any one of those boys," said Thomas. Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the April 2018 collision that killed 16 people and injured 13. Court was told that Sidhu, a newly married permanent resident, had missed a stop sign at a rural Saskatchewan intersection and driven into the path of the Broncos bus carrying players and staff to a junior hockey league playoff game. The lawyer for the then-30-year-old Sidhu noted during sentencing arguments that jail time would mean the commerce graduate wouldn't be allowed to stay in Canada, where he has lived since following his partner who had come over in 2013. A criminal conviction that carries a sentence of more than six months makes a permanent resident ineligible to remain in the country. An immigration lawyer says Sidhu's bid has the makings of other cases where deportation was avoided. “ I do think this is one of those types of cases where (border services) could choose to exercise their discretion … given the exceptional circumstances," said Erica Olmstead, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, who's not representing Sidhu. But some other parents do not support Sidhu's attempt to stay in Canada.Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon died in the crash, said he intends to send a letter to the Canada Border Services Agency asking for the deportation to go ahead. Joseph said he doesn't want the world to think that all of the families support Sidhu."I don't think the rules should be bent again for him to allow him to stay in the country," Joseph said. "I don't doubt that he lives with regret every single day. I'm not sure that his staying in Canada is best for him."Michelle Straschnitzki and her husband Tom have a constant reminder of the accident. Their son Ryan is paralyzed from the chest down as a result of the crash."I'm not in any way trying to be punitive but absolutely the law is the law and it's not special for anybody else," she said. "I wish I could be more forgiving but we never want this to happen again and there's got to be consequences. I do feel sorry for his family."Sidhu's lawyer, Michael Greene, acknowledges his client's crime had catastrophic consequences but his actions weren't malicious. Greene notes Sidhu wasn't impaired, has a low likelihood to reoffend, and deporting him would also mean deporting his wife. "This offence was more of a tragedy than it was a crime," Greene said Wednesday. He said he has been overwhelmed with letters in support of Sidhu, including from a retired judge, some of which he submitted to border services. “The main thing we’re up against is the perception that ... it would be offensive to the victims and their families and/or the Canadian public to allow him to stay given the magnitude of the tragedy.” “We want to show that ... the Canadian public is not hell-bent on giving him further punishment." Thomas said he's more concerned about regulations that allowed the inexperienced truck driver, three weeks on the job, to get behind the wheel. “We just always felt that the deportation part of it shouldn’t necessarily apply. He’s a broken man. He’s broken psychologically and spiritually, and to deport him now would just add to the suffering to him and his family." Thomas forgave Sidhu in court and has kept in touch with his wife, who shared their emails with her husband. Thomas realizes Sidhu's desire to remain in Canada is divisive. “There’ll be a lot of families that would never support this and there are going to be some that do, too.” Greene said support has come from some other Broncos families, but they asked to remain anonymous so as not to upset others. Olmstead said the deportation policy is there to protect Canada's security, but she has seen orders avoided when someone is guilty of a single offence as in Sidhu's case. "But on the other hand, you’ve got this terrible tragedy where there were so many victims." She explained that a border officer considers community connections and someone's chance of reoffending when writing a report, which could take months, and decides whether there are "exceptional circumstances" that would allow a person to remain in Canada. "It’s quite rare for people to not then still get referred for a removal order.” The Immigration and Refugee Board then holds a hearing to consider the report and is responsible for issuing any deportation order. A permanent resident can appeal the board's decision on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but not if a sentence, like Sidhu's, is longer than six months. “This is the end of the road for him," Olmstead said. Sidhu could seek a review before a Federal Court, but would first need to be granted leave to do so, she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 -- With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Lani Muller doesn’t have to visit a doctor’s office to help test an experimental COVID-19 vaccine — she just climbs into a bloodmobile-like van that parks on a busy street near her New York City neighbourhood. The U.S. is rightly fixated on the chaotic rollout of the first two authorized vaccines to fight the pandemic. But with more vaccines in the pipeline — critical to boosting global supplies — scientists worry whether enough volunteers will join and stick with the testing needed to prove if they, too, really work. Those studies, like earlier ones, must include communities of colour that have been hard-hit by the pandemic, communities that also voice concern about the vaccination drive in part because of a long history of racial health care disparities and even research abuses. To help, researchers in more than a dozen spots around the country are rolling out mobile health clinics to better reach minority participants and people in rural areas who might not otherwise volunteer. Muller, who is Black, said her family was worried about the vaccine research so she didn’t mention she’d signed up to test AstraZeneca’s shot. “The legacy of African Americans in science in these sort of trials hasn’t been great and we haven’t forgotten,” said Muller, 49, a Columbia University employee whose participation in some prior research projects made her willing to get a test injection earlier this month. Muller knows more than 20 people who have gotten or died from COVID-19. “I’m much more afraid of the disease than the vaccine trial," she said. From the beginning, the National Institutes of Health was adamant that COVID-19 vaccines be tested in a population about as diverse as the nation's — key to building confidence in whichever shots proved to work. In studies of the Pfizer and Moderna shots so far cleared for widespread U.S. use, 10% of volunteers were Black, and more were Hispanic. Diversity is an even tougher challenge now. The high-risk volunteers needed for final testing of other vaccine candidates have to decide if they want to stick with an experimental injection — one that might be a dummy shot — or try to get in line for a rationed but proven dose. AstraZeneca, with about 30,000 volunteers so far, didn't release specific numbers but said the last weeks of enrolment are focusing on recruiting more minorities and people over age 65. Another maker, Novavax, just began recruiting for its final testing last month. Studying the vaccines in diverse populations is only one step in building trust, said Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, a historically Black university in the nation's capital. Howard's hospital shared video of Frederick and other health workers getting vaccinated as a public service announcement encouraging African Americans to get their own shot as soon as it's their turn. Frederick, a surgeon who's also at high risk because of diabetes and sickle cell disease, said he's dismayed to get emails espousing conspiracy theories such as that vaccination is “an experiment on African Americans.” “There is misinformation that does require all of us to be in the forefront of getting involved and challenging it," he said. But efforts to build confidence in the vaccines could be undermined if, once there's more supply to go around, hard-hit minority communities get left behind. “The equity issue is absolutely important,” said Stephaun Wallace, a scientist at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center who also is part of the NIH-created COVID-19 Prevention Network that helps with vaccine research and education. “It's important that we ensure that the vaccine is getting to the people, and that is an access issue." Using vans to reach at-risk communities has long been a staple of fighting HIV, another illness that has disproportionately struck Black Americans. And as more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrive, mobile clinics are expected to help expand COVID-19 vaccination access, especially in rural areas. But the NIH program has a different focus, offering RV-sized mobile clinics from Matrix Medical Network to help improve the diversity of ongoing vaccine studies. Officials say they've been used at a Lakota reservation, at chicken-processing plants with a largely Hispanic workforce, and in cities like Washington where Howard University is recruiting volunteers for the new Novavax study. “I don’t think we can sit in the ivory towers and hope that people come to us. I think that would be a mistake,” said Howard's Frederick. Researchers from the New York Blood Center regularly park their lab-on-wheels in parts of Queens and Brooklyn with large Black, Asian and Hispanic populations, so that even after study enrolment ends the participants can pop in for required check-ups. They also make a point of standing outside to answer questions from passersby confused about COVID-19 vaccination in general. It's "building trust and rapport,” said Dr. Jorge Soler, who helps study the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the blood centre's Project Achieve. “I’m Latino and I’m a scientist. To be able to say that to people means something.” Soler sometimes has to dispel fears that getting vaccinated might mean being “injected with a chip," or having information collected for surveillance purposes. He stresses that the Pfizer and Moderna shots now being used cannot give someone the coronavirus — that's biologically impossible as neither is made with the actual virus. And over and over, people wonder how these vaccines appeared so quickly. Soler’s simple explanation for how to speed research without cutting corners? “This is what happens when the world is invested in something. You build a car faster with 20 people than you do with two.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Joseph B. Frederick, The Associated Press
WALTHAM, Mass. — The man who designed some of the world’s most advanced dynamic robots was on a daunting mission: programming his creations to dance to the beat with a mix of fluid, explosive and expressive motions that are almost human. The results? Almost a year and half of choreography, simulation, programming and upgrades that were capped by two days of filming to produce a video running at less than 3 minutes. The clip, showing robots dancing to the 1962 hit “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours, was an instant hit on social media, attracting more than 23 million views during the first week. It shows two of Boston Dynamics' humanoid Atlas research robots doing the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse or truck. Boston Dynamics founder and chairperson Marc Raibert says what the robot maker learned was far more valuable. “It turned out that we needed to upgrade the robot in the middle of development in order for it to be strong enough and to have enough energy to do the whole performance without stopping. So that was a real benefit to the design,” Raibert says. The difficult challenge of teaching robots to dance also pushed Boston Dynamics engineers to develop better motion-programming tools that let robots reconcile balance, bouncing and doing a performance simultaneously. “So we went from having very crude tools for doing that to having very effective rapid-generation tools so that by the time we were done, we could generate new dance steps very quickly and integrate them into the performance,” Raibert says. The quality of the robots’ dancing was so good that some viewers online said they couldn't believe their eyes. Some applauded the robots’ moves and the technology powering them. Others appeared to be freaked out by some of their expressive routines. Others added that what they were seeing was probably computer-generated imagery, or CGI. Not so, Raibert says. What was on display was a results of long, hard work fueled by a determination to program the robot to dance to the beat, he says. “We didn’t want a robot doing robotlike dancing. We wanted it to do human dancing and, you know, when a human dances, the music has a beat and their whole body moves to it — their hands, their body, their head,” he says. “And we tried to get all of those things involved and co-ordinated so that it, you know, it was ... it looked like the robot was having fun and really moved with the music. And I think that had a lot to do with the result of the production.” Teaching robots to dance with fluid and expressive motions was a new challenge for a company that spent years building robots that have functional abilities like walking, navigating in rough terrain, pick things up with their hands and use attached advanced sensors to monitor and sense many things, Raibert says. “You know, our job is to try and stretch the boundaries of what robots can do, both in terms of the outer research boundary, but also in terms of practical applications. And I think when people see the new things that robots can do, it excites them,” he says. The advanced Atlas robot relies on a wide array of sensors to execute the dance moves, including 28 actuators — devices that serve as muscles by converting electronic or physical signal into movement — as well as a gyroscope that helps it to balance, and three quad-core onboard computers, including one that processes perception signals and two that control movement. Still, the fact that video of the dancing robots has fired up the public imagination and inspired a sense of awe was gratifying, Raibert says. “We hoped ... that people would enjoy it and they seem to. We’ve gotten calls from all around the world,” Raibert says. “We got a call from one of the sound engineers who had recorded the original Contours performance back in the '60s. And he said that his whole crew of Motown friends had been passing it around and been excited by it.” Rodrique Ngowi, The Associated Press
COVID-19 conspiracy theories – even recycled ones from previous epidemics – fill an information void, empower and impart belonging, and build vaccine hesitancy. In the study, Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy, McGill University and University of Toronto researchers tracked Canadians’ views of the COVID-19 vaccine from April until the end of November. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they intended to get a vaccine; 15 per cent were unwilling, and 20 per cent were unsure. Of those who said no to the vaccine, 77 per cent cited safety and efficacy concerns. Yet, when presented with scenarios where the vaccine would be 90 per cent effective with minimal side effects, their views remained unchanged. Whereas the unsure group were more willing to get vaccinated after learning about the effectiveness and safety attributes of the vaccine. After surveying 40,000 Canadians and reviewing 277 million social media posts on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook, the study concluded distrust of experts was the strongest determinant of vaccination hesitancy. Conspiratorial thinking came second. People who lack social power are especially susceptible to conspiracy theory, said Suffolk University folklore professor Dr. Jon Lee, who specializes in conspiracies and narratives during epidemics. “It provides a voice for them that gives them power.” Conspiracies can also convey identity and belonging, said Lee, who wrote the book An Epidemic of Rumors. Such as when Trump supporters banded together and stormed the U.S. capital buildings this month in an attempt to stop congress from ‘stealing’ the presidency from the candidate who lost the election. “Believing in the conspiracy theory gives someone a sense that other people are believing the same thing I do,” said Lee. Some of the most enduring conspiracies throughout history imply government deception, political intrigue and misconduct. For Interim B.C. Liberal Leader Shirley Bond, truth, data, and transparency are the solutions. “People need a real sense of certainty, they need to know that there’s a plan,” she said. “If you give people the information, it helps make the why clearer to them, and it helps inform their personal decision.” A conspiracy theory can flourish in an information void. “The distance between the time a pandemic arises and the time that science or medicine can give an answer is sometimes enormous, and the public wants information now, so conspiracy theories are an easy thing to turn to,” he said. “When people can’t easily access reliable information around vaccines and when mistrust in actors and institutions related to vaccines is high, misinformation narratives rush in to fill the vacuum,” according to a report by First Draft, an international non-partisan network that helps build resilience against harmful disinformation on social media. The challenge for information providers – reporters, fact checkers, governments, health bodies – is to find the data deficits, prioritize them, and act fast, the report stated. “It's really hard for somebody who doesn't trust the government and the experts, to listen to what I'm going to say,” said National Advisory Committee on Immunization Chair Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, a pediatric infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital. A popular anti-vaccine conspiracy posits that Big Pharma, in collusion with government, is pushing the vaccines to make money. “I have no ties with industry. The only reason I'm for the vaccine is that I look at the data,” said Quach-Thanh. “I think if we are able to stop this pandemic, it will be due to the vaccine.” Getting ahead of a conspiracy isn't easy; stopping it after it’s out the door, is pretty much impossible. "Fake news spreads more quickly and more easily than the virus, and can be just as dangerous," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last February. Conspiracies have been around as long as humans. In 1832, German writer Heinrich Heine was in Paris during the devastating cholera outbreak when rumours circulated that the death and sickness weren’t from a randomly transmitted disease but rather due to men who were deliberately poisoning the water and food sources. “Men who seemed suspicious were searched and woe to them when any doubtful objects were found on them. The mob threw themselves like wild beasts or lunatics onto their victims.” wrote Heine. Ultimately, six suspected poisoners were literally torn apart by crowds before a newspaper article later set the facts straight: there was no poisoning, no poisoners; the deaths were all from cholera. Lee called that the ‘deliberate infector’ narrative or, in modern lingo, the super spreader. “People who purposely spread the disease either because they have it themselves, or because they're trying to kill other people,” he said. Some narratives repeat from epidemic to epidemic, such as those with racist undertones, said Lee. Asian people were implicated in SARS; with H1N1, it was Mexicans, and in 2020, it was the Wuhan or China Virus. “We keep having these same things that we return to, over and over again,” Lee said. “It's almost like you take the narrative from a previous outbreak, take out the name of the disease, and just plug in the name of the (new) disease, and circulate.” Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
For the first time in more than a decade, Republicans are waking up to a Washington where Democrats control the White House and Congress, adjusting to an era of diminished power, deep uncertainty and internal feuding. The shift to minority status is always difficult, prompting debates over who is to blame for losing the last election. But the process is especially intense as Republicans confront profound questions about what the party stands for without Donald Trump in charge. Over the last four years, the GOP's values were inexorably tied to the whims of a president who regularly undermined democratic institutions and traded the party's longstanding commitment to fiscal discipline, strong foreign policy and the rule of law for a brash and inconsistent populism. The party now faces a decision about whether to keep moving in that direction, as many of Trump's most loyal supporters demand, or chart a new course. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the few Republican elected officials who regularly condemned Trumpism, evoked President Ronald Reagan in calling this moment “a time for choosing.” “We have to decide if we’re going to continue heading down the direction of Donald Trump or if we’re going to return to our roots,” Hogan, a potential 2024 White House contender, said in an interview. “The party would be much better off if they were to purge themselves of Donald Trump,” he added. “But I don’t think there’s any hope of him completely going away.” Whether the party moves on may come down to what Republicans like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz do next. Cruz spent weeks parroting Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, which helped incite the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Republican elections officials in several battleground states that President Joe Biden carried have said the election was fair. Trump’s claims were roundly rejected in the courts, including by judges appointed by Trump. Cruz acknowledged Biden's victory on Wednesday, but he refused to describe it as legitimate when pressed. “He won the election. He is the president. I just came from his inauguration,” Cruz said of Biden in an interview. Looking forward, Cruz said Trump would remain a significant part of the political conversation, but that the Republican Party should move away from divisive “language and tone and rhetoric” that alienated suburban voters, particularly women, in recent elections. “President Trump surely will continue to make his views known, and they’ll continue to have a real impact, but I think the country going forward wants policies that work, and I think as a party, we need to do a better job winning hearts and minds,” said Cruz, who is also eyeing a White House run. In the wake of the Capitol riot, a small but notable faction of high-profile Republicans are taking a stronger stance against Trump or distancing themselves from him. The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said on the eve of the inauguration that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was “provoked by the president.” Even Mike Pence, Trump's vice-president and long considered his most devoted cheerleader, skipped Trump’s departure ceremony to attend Biden’s inauguration. Trump retreated Wednesday to his south Florida estate, where he has retained a small group of former White House aides who will work out of a two-story guest house on the Mar-a-Lago grounds. In addition to advisers in Washington, Trump will have access to a well-funded political action committee, the Save America PAC, that is likely to inherit tens of millions of dollars in donations that flooded his campaign coffers after his election loss. Those close to Trump believe he will lay low in the immediate future as he focuses on his upcoming impeachment trial for inciting the riot. After that, he is expected to reemerge, likely granting media interviews and finding a new home on social media after losing his powerful Twitter bullhorn. While his plans are just taking shape, Trump is expected to remain politically active, including trying to exact revenge by backing primary challenges against Republicans he believed scorned him in his final days. He continues to leave the door open to another presidential run in 2024. Some friends believe he might even flirt with running as a third-party candidate, which would badly splinter an already fractured GOP. Trump issued an ominous vow as he left the White House for the last time as president: “We will be back in some form." Many in the GOP’s die-hard base continue to promote conspiracy theories, embrace white nationalism and, above all, revere Trump’s voice as gospel. Trump loyalists in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wyoming expressed outrage and disappointment in the 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach Trump last week. One of them, Michigan Rep. Pete Meijer, said he bought body armour to protect himself from a wave of threats from Trump supporters. In Montana, state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne raised the possibility of secession this week and criticized Rep. Liz Cheney, another Republican who backed Trump's impeachment, pledging continued loyalty to Trump. “The Republican National Committee views President Trump as our party leader into the future... The (state party) agrees,” Eathorne said, noting that Trump “represents the timeless principles” that the state and national GOP stand for. Trump left office with a 34% approval rating, according to Gallup — the lowest of his presidency — but the overwhelming majority of Republicans, 82%, approved of his job performance. Even as some try to move on, Trump's continued popularity with the GOP's base ensures he will remain a political force. Despite the GOP's many challenges, they're within reach of retaking one or both chambers of Congress in next year's midterm elections. Since the 2006 midterms, the party in the White House has lost on average 37 House seats. Currently, Democrats hold a 10-seat House majority and they’re tied with Republicans in the Senate. Hogan, the Maryland governor, said that the GOP may be at one of its lowest points ever, but noted that Reagan reclaimed the White House for Republicans just six years after President Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace. “Obviously, (Trump) still has got a lock on a pretty good chunk of the Republican base, but there are an awful lot of people that were afraid to speak out for four years — unlike me —who are now starting to speak out," Hogan said. Still, there are plenty of hurdles ahead. Primary challenges could leave the party with congressional nominees next year who are even further to the right, potentially imperiling the GOP's grip on races they might otherwise win. More immediately, Senate Republicans, including McConnell, are wrestling with whether to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanours as outlined in last week's House impeachment. The Senate could ultimately vote to ban Trump from ever holding office again. “I hope that Republicans won’t participate in this petty, vindictive, final attack directed at President Trump,” Cruz said. “We should just move on.” ___ Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Meade Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, contributed to this report. Steve Peoples, The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two Florida men, including a self-described organizer for the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, were arrested Wednesday on charges of taking part in the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, authorities said. Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in central Florida and faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, entering a restricted on the groups of the U.S. Capitol and disorderly conduct. According to an arrest affidavit, Biggs was part of a crowd on Jan. 6 that overwhelmed Capitol Police officers who were manning a metal barrier on the steps of the Capitol. The mob entered the building as lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden’s election win. Biggs appeared to be wearing a walkie-talkie during the storming of the Capitol, but he told FBI agents that he had no knowledge about the planning of the destructive riot and didn’t know who organized it, the affidavit said. Ahead of the riot, Biggs told followers of his on the social media app Parler to dress in black to resemble the far-left antifa movement, according to the affidavit. Biggs had organized a 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon, in which more than 1,000 far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators faced off. The Proud Boys are a neofascist group known for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies. During a September presidential debate, Trump had urged them to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator. An online court docket did not indicate whether Biggs has an attorney who could comment. Jesus Rivera, 37, also was arrested Wednesday in Pensacola. He faces charges of knowingly entering a restricted building, intent to impede government business, disorderly conduct and demonstrating in the Capitol buildings. Rivera uploaded a video to Facebook showing himself in the U.S. Capitol crypt, authorities said. The five-minute video ends with Rivera starting to climb out a window at the Capitol, according to an arrest affidavit. An online court docket also did not list an attorney for Rivera. The cases are being handled by federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia. More than a half-dozen other Floridians have been charged in relation to the Capitol assault. Associated Press, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has given the Oval Office a slight makeover. Biden revealed the new décor Wednesday as he invited reporters into his new office to watch him sign a series of executive orders hours after he took office. A bust of Cesar Chavez, the labour leader and civil rights activist, is nestled among an array of framed family photos displayed on a desk behind the new president. Also represented in sculptures are civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Benjamin Franklin peers down at Biden from a portrait on a nearby wall. Biden brought a dark blue rug out of storage to replace a lighter colored one installed by former President Donald Trump. One office feature remains: Biden is also using what’s known as the Resolute Desk because it was built from oak used in the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute. Trump used that desk, too. The Associated Press
A phenomenon first noticed in the spring of 2020 seems to have held, and health officials are crediting the public’s observance of pandemic measures and advice. Influenza has not shown up in Newfoundland and Labrador since it first dropped off the charts in March of last year. “On the whole, in the country, we’ve only had a little over 50 cases reported, and I think on average over the past six years, at this point in time in the flu season, I think it’s somewhere around 14,000 cases that we usually see, or are usually reported,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday. Fitzgerald was flying solo on the COVID-19 live update for the first time since the early days of the pandemic. Health Minister Dr. John Haggie and Premier Andrew Furey are on the campaign trail. The lack of flu cases means the Department of Health hasn’t had to update its surveillance data online since last March. A graph from that period showed an unprecedented decline in flu cases around the time that pandemic measures came in. “I think a lot of that has to do with the measures that are in place for COVID,” Fitzgerald said. “Of course, all those things that cause the transmission of COVID also cause the transmission of flu. “It’s not just the flu not spreading across Canada. It’s the flu not spreading across the world,” she added. Fitzgerald also credited the uptick in flu vaccinations this year, the result of a more focused campaign launched last fall. As of Jan. 19, 232,292 people in the province have received the flu shot. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
THULASENDRAPURAM, India — With chants of “Long live Kamala Harris,” fireworks and prayers, residents of a tiny Indian village celebrated her inauguration as U.S. vice-president. People flocked to the village and its Hindu temple in southern India, to watch Harris, who has ancestral roots in the village, take her oath of office on Wednesday in Washington. Groups of women in bright saris and men wearing white dhoti pants watched the inauguration live as reporters broadcast the villager's celebrations to millions of Indians. The villagers chanted “Long live Kamala Harris” while holding portraits of her and blasted off fireworks the moment she took the oath. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Harris becoming U.S. vice-president a “historic occasion. Looking forward to interacting with her to make India-USA relations more robust." Earlier, the villages adorned their temple with flowers, offering special prayers for Harris' success. Her maternal grandfather was born in the village of Thulasendrapuram, about 350 kilometres (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai “We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice-president of America,” said teacher Anukampa Madhavasimhan. At the prayer ceremony in Thulasendrapuram, the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, was washed with milk and decked with flowers by a priest. Then the village reverberated with the sound firecrackers as people held up posters of Harris and clapped their hands. Harris made history Wednesday as the first Black, South Asian and female U.S. vice-president and what made her special for the village is is her Indian heritage. Harris' grandfather was born more than 100 years ago. Many decades later, he moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Harris’ late mother was also born in India, before moving to the U.S. to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man, and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for “lotus flower.” In several speeches, Harris has often spoken about her roots and how she was guided by the values of her Indian-born grandfather and mother. So when Joe Biden and Harris triumphed in the U.S. election last November, Thulasendrapuram became the centre of attention in entire India. Local politicians flocked to the village and young children carrying placards with photos of Harris ran along the dusty roads. Then and now, villagers set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering. Posters and banners of Harris from November still adorn walls in the village and many hope she ascends to the presidency in 2024. Biden has skirted questions about whether he will seek reelection or retire. “For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said G Manikandan, who has followed Harris politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris. On Tuesday, an organization that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success. In the capital New Delhi, there has been both excitement — and some concern — over Harris' ascent to the vice presidency. Modi had invested in President Donald Trump, who visited India in February last year. Modi’s many Hindu nationalist supporters also were upset with Harris when she expressed concern about Kashmir, the divided and disputed Muslim-majority region whose statehood India’s government revoked last year. Rishi Lekhi And Aijaz Rahi, The Associated Press
People working in Vancouver coffee shops are calling on the city to step up and provide public washrooms for the homeless, saying COVID-19 has forced the young people who often work in them to be front-line workers as the pandemic stretches on. Julian Bentley, 32, has worked at JJ Bean for 10 years and now manages the location at East 14th Avenue and Main Street in Vancouver. He said he's dealt with verbal abuse, assault, and just this week, a burning log thrown at his storefront. But the worst came when a person took their own life in the coffee shop's bathroom. "I think it's something that's just escalating ... and I have compassion that there are just less resources for those that are unfortunate enough," said Bentley. "For my staff I think it's unfair for someone who's 18 years old and paid $14 an hour, and then they have to come to work and handle dirty needles and face mental abuse. It's not good for their mental health." The issue isn't new for Vancouver — in a city with a growing homelessness crisis, fast-food restaurants and coffee shops have long served as makeshift drop-in centres for people trying to stay warm and dry. In 2018 there was public outcry after a 74-year-old man named Ted died in a Tim Hortons location on Broadway, and wasn't noticed for several hours. Since then, the pandemic and an increasingly toxic street drug supply have only worsened the issue. City 'grateful' for businesses providing bathroom access In a statement, the City of Vancouver acknowledged COVID-19 has complicated access to public bathrooms and said it was grateful to all businesses who have kept them open. "The closure of public facilities during COVID-19 has led to many people not having safe access to washrooms. This can lead to an increased risk of overdose and violence, as well as a loss of dignity as many people are forced to use alleys and other public and private spaces as washrooms, increasing sanitation concerns," the statement read in part. "We are committed to expanding washroom access and are currently finalizing details of new initiatives that will provide immediate action on this issue." The city says it's working on increasing access to essential resources like washrooms, but for now is focusing on hotspots like the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona Park. Mayor Kennedy Stewart, speaking to CBC's On The Coast, asked businesses for patience, saying more support is coming. But John Neate, the owner of JJ Bean, which has 21 locations, said he's concerned for his staff and feels caught between the police and the city. He said the city should at minimum create a hotline for staff to call when a situation escalates. "When we phone the police for such issues, those are considered non-emergency. I have asked a number of times for public washrooms, but I never know who to ask. There seems to be misdirection. It's a city thing, it's a provincial thing," he said. "But nobody wants to put in a public washroom that the city would need to maintain." Const. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department said he understands the frustrations of business owners like Neate, and that police respond and open a file when behaviour is considered criminal. "They're justifiably frustrated by it. I should say that homelessness isn't a crime in the city and the vast majority of people who are homeless in the city, we don't hear from," he said. "Some of them are criminal issues — but we're also dealing with issues that are beyond the scope of the police department, we're dealing with issues of homelessness, mental health poverty and drug addiction." Bill MacEwan, lead psychiatrist with Vancouver's Downtown Community Court mental health team, said he understands the frustration as well, but said some of that is due to "very little support from the health, or civic, or police resources that are available" when people see someone in need. He said when officials respond to a situation where someone is struggling with myriad socio-economic and health issues, it is better to use the opportunity to talk about what supports they need, rather than entangle them in the justice system over petty crimes. "Everything seems to be falling through the cracks here," said MacEwan on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.
Everyone wants a PET scanner, but not everyone knows what they do. In a nutshell, they pinpoint problem spots in a patient's body so a specialist can consider treatment options. While they are used for heart or neurological anomalies, they are most commonly used in seeking out cancerous tumours. Unlike a CT (computerized tomography) scanner, which uses X-rays to produce a 3-D image of the body, a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner detects tiny “particles” of light, or protons, that are emitted by a radioactive substance injected into the body. The substance used for PET scans emits positrons, which are no bigger than electrons. The amount of radiation is very low and safe. In fact, when they combine with electrons in the body, they are destroyed and give off the tiny specks of light that the machine picks up. The positrons injected are often attached to molecules of sugar called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). Why sugar? Because cancer cells are more aggressive and grow at a faster rate, consuming sugar in the process. The radioactive sugar tends to accumulate around these cells. The result is an eerie glow that shows up on the screen, and the intensity of that glow can even indicate how aggressive the cancer is. Often, a PET scan is done in conjunction with a CT scan and the two merged through computer software. This gives a better framework to pinpoint the glowing tumour. Similar to a PET scanner is a SPECT scanner (ingle-photon emission computerized tomography), except the isotopes used in this case emit gamma rays. Their purpose is to show how a patient's organs are working. They can show how blood flows to the heart and which areas of the brain are more active or less active. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Washington couldn’t turn the page quickly enough from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden. Trump's voice faded from the capital he had animated and antagonized since 2017 as he flew to private life in Florida, with his last trip on Air Force One tuned in to Biden's inauguration on television. And quite suddenly, at least for the moment, the old ways were back: reverence of custom, rituals dating back two centuries, scenes of grace, calls for unity. Four years after Trump’s dark portrayal of “American carnage,” Biden set out his intent on the same platform of the flag-bedecked Capitol to write “an American story of hope." Masked in the Oval Office, as he'd been all day except when speaking, the new president began writing that story with his pen. He signed executive orders chipping away at Trump's legacy. One put the U.S. on track to rejoin the Paris climate accord. As night fell, Biden leaned on Hollywood and the entertainment industry, led by Tom Hanks, to produce a television show that gave a high gloss to the president’s regular Joe persona. The programming was a pandemic-induced, no-crowd necessity that allowed the president to keep attention focused on his vision for the days ahead instead of his predecessor’s unfounded grievances about election wrongs. Bruce Springsteen kicked it off, standing at the Lincoln Memorial and looking out with his guitar over the distant, illuminated Capitol across the National Mall. He sang “Land of Hope and Dreams." He had stood there in January 2009, too, then before a vast crowd lining the Reflecting Pool, to serenade the incoming President Barack Obama with “The Rising.” The noon-time ascension of the 46th president came with poetry, trumpets, Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, Garth Brooks singing “Amazing Grace" and keen memories of the insurrection on these grounds by Trump supporters only two weeks earlier. “Democracy has prevailed,” Biden said in his sober remarks, adding, “We must end this uncivil war.” “Modest, austere, grave, calming, cleansing, inspiring,” historian Michael Beschloss said of Biden’s speech. The bigger names may well have been upstaged by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, whose poem spoke of a country “Where a skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother, can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.” Trump didn't summon a poet for his inauguration in 2017; not all presidents do. Biden emerged from Blair House, the president's official guesthouse, to open his day just as Trump vanished inside the big plane at Joint Base Andrews, as if their footsteps had been choreographed. But the outgoing president was not one to co-ordinate anything with the incoming one. Trump never conceded the election, declined to attend the inauguration and upended the tradition of sending a government plane to bring the president-elect to Washington. Nor did he invite the Bidens to the White House for morning coffee and tea, as the Obamas had done for the Trumps in 2017. He hewed to one tradition, leaving a letter to his successor — a “very generous” one, Biden said without disclosing its contents right away. Biden opened his presidency acknowledging former presidents on the platform, Republican and Democrat, and Trump's vice-president, Mike Pence, who attended the ceremony and acknowledged Biden's victory in ways Trump never did. Biden did not offer a personal acknowledgment of the man he defeated, nor did Trump mention him. Under threat of conviction from the Senate on an accusation of inciting insurrection, Trump departed with a perfunctory nod to those who have died from the coronavirus, an obligatory wish of “luck” to the next administration without mentioning Biden’s name, a premature claim on any success Biden might have reviving the economy, and the cloudy threat of a return. “Have a nice life,” Trump said in remarks to well-wishers upon his departure. As Air Force One flew low along the coast, Biden’s inauguration played on Fox News on television aboard the flight. Trump’s family was on board. He spent some of the flight with flight staff who went up to him to say goodbye. Rituals of the republic went on without him, though in a way never before seen. Washington got on with things, this time with masks on everyone (except Brooks), people taking care to distance from each other and some 25,000 National Guard troops and police deployed to keep the peace. In a striking tableau at the Capitol, three former presidents and first ladies of different parties mingled as though at a cocktail party. And again, in hushed moments at Arlington National Cemetery, where Biden and Harris led a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and spouses watched. It was among the inaugural events where a new president and his successor normally come together but Trump had decided to skip the day's proceedings and Biden had said that was fine with him. The inauguration crowds were sparse by design, with invitation-only guests at the immediate scene and 200,000 small flags standing in place of however many citizens would have come if the capital’s core hadn’t been under military lock and key and if no pandemic had been sweeping the country. The parade to the White House in late afternoon had all of the usual pageantry and military pizazz but none of the crowds that would be normally lining the route. Biden, a famously tactile politician, had little to touch other than the hand of his wife, Jill, when he and his family walked the last leg to their new home. He darted away a few times to the sidewalk approaching the White House, saying hello to Washington's mayor, Muriel Bowser, at one point and giving weatherman Al Roker a fist bump as they stood among the officials and journalists in the secure area. Earlier more than 100 people waited in the cold waiting to get through a security checkpoint to reach Pennsylvania Avenue, where they hoped to catch a glimpse of the procession. Many had to watch on their phones. “We’ve turned the page,” said Vernal Crooms, who attended Howard University when Harris studied there but didn’t know her. He was happy to see the Trump era end. “Light prevailed,” he said, "and the lie didn’t last.” Raelyn Maxwell of Park City, Utah, came with an American flag, a poster board sign reading “Dear Women of Color, thank you” and a bouquet of roses she hoped to toss to Kamala Harris if she could somehow get close enough to the new vice-president. “I protested 45’s inauguration,” she said of Trump, the 45th president, “and I wanted to be here when he left. “And I wanted to celebrate the new president.” She also carried Champagne to toast the occasion with friends here from France. Biden, the second Roman Catholic president, attended a morning mass at St. Matthews Church with at least three Baptists — Harris and Republican leaders Mitch McConnell from the Senate and Kevin McCarthy from the House — and the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish. It was one of those bipartisan, not to mention multi-faith, events that Washington is known for, coexisting with searing political division. St. Matthew, patron saint of civil servants, was a tax-collector and, on the brighter side, an apostle who spread the gospel exhorting people to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” according to the church’s teachings. There were at least stirrings of that Wednesday. ___ Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Jill Colvin and Lynn Berry contributed to this report. Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press
SYDNEY — People travelling to Australia from most other countries will need to test negative for the coronavirus before they depart, as of Friday. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said Thursday that he has signed orders that require international travellers to have a negative test within three days of leaving for Australia. All internationals passengers will also have to wear masks on their flights. New Zealand and a handful of Pacific Island countries are exempt from the new rules. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Britain hits another record daily virus deaths. Ontario's leader asks Biden for 1 million vaccine shots due to Pfizer shortfall for Canada. India to start delivering Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to neighbouring countries. Expert panel says both China and the WHO should have acted faster to prevent the pandemic. Surging infections give Spain’s new emergency hospital in Madrid a chance for use. Italy ponders suing Pfizer for vaccine delays. __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 ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: TOKYO — Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp. says it is using its refrigerator technology to develop special boxes for storing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, which must be kept at ultracold temperatures. The company said Thursday that samples will be ready in March, with a product to follow a month or two later. The box will use dry ice to maintain the temperature at the minus-70 degrees Celsius required for the Pfizer’s vaccine. It does not need to plug in. Japan’s government has deals with various drug companies, including one with Pfizer for enough vaccine to inoculate 72 million people this year. That is more than half the nation’s population. Japan is pushing a vaccine rollout after a surge in coronavirus cases, including a more than doubling of its pandemic death toll in the last three weeks to more than 4,600. ___ BEIJING — China is imposing some of its toughest travel restrictions yet as coronavirus cases surge in several northern provinces ahead of the Lunar New Year. Next month’s festival is the most important time of the year for family gatherings in China, and for many migrant workers it is often the only time they are able to return to their rural homes. This year, however, travellers must have a negative virus test within seven days of departure, and many local governments are ordering quarantines and other strict measures on travellers. A national health official had this message Wednesday for Chinese citizens: “Do not travel or have gatherings unless it’s necessary.” Officials are predicting Chinese will make 1.7 billion trips during the travel rush. That is down 40% from 2019. ___ MEXICO CITY — Mexico has had a second consecutive day of COVID-19 deaths surpassing 1,500. Officials reported 1,539 such deaths Wednesday, a day after 1,584 deaths were listed. There was also a near-record one-day rise in new virus cases of 20,548. Mexico has seen almost 1.69 million confirmed coronavirus infections and over 144,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. With the country’s extremely low testing rate, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. Mexico City is the current epicenter of the pandemic in the country, and 89% of the capital’s hospital beds are in use. For the nation as a whole, 61% of hospital beds are filled. ___ TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s surgeon general is urging the federal government to increase allotments of coronavirus vaccine to states like his where large concentrations of seniors face the greatest risk of illness and death from COVID-19. But Dr. Scott Rivkees added Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press that Floridians will eventually get their turns at vaccination. In his words, “The message is this: We will get to you.” It will be many months before all Floridians can be vaccinated. With 21.5 million people, Florida is the country’s third most populous state, and the state has vaccinated at least 1.1 million people so far. Since the pandemic began, the state has recorded about 1.6 million coronavirus cases and had more than 24,500 deaths — 83% of them 65 or older. ___ O’FALLON, Mo. -- Missouri's governor says the state plans to have mass vaccination sites by the end of the month in an effort to get more protection against the coronavirus to more people. Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that he will activate the National Guard to help with new vaccination sites in each of the nine Missouri State Highway Patrol regions. Specific dates and locations for the sites were not announced. Each will be capable of administering up to 2,500 doses per day. The state also plans to send “targeted vaccination teams” to St. Louis and Kansas City, where they will work with clergy to help get vaccinations to “vulnerable populations” in the two cities. State officials say at least 250,000 Missourians have been vaccinated so far. The state’s initial doses have been for people such as health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and those at high-risk of serious illness. ___ FRANKFORT, Ky — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is warning his state that although it is ramping up its vaccination effort, demand continues to outpace supply. He says that “the supply that we’re going to get next week is already 30,000 doses underneath our ability of what we can put in someone’s arm in just a seven-day span.” As of Wednesday, Kentucky has administered around 60% of doses designated for its state immunization program and roughly a third of doses in the Long Term Care Facilities Program. While Kentuckians age 70 and up are now eligible for the vaccine, many are having to wait for more appointments to become available due to the limited supply. ___ LONDON — An arthritis drug tried in patients with severe COVID-19 showed no benefit in a study that was stopped early because of safety concerns. The study was published Wednesday in the British journal The BMJ. The drug tocilizumab hadn’t been recommended outside a clinical trial, but some less rigorous research had suggested it could help. The study found more deaths in patients who received the drug. The deaths were attributed to COVID-19 related breathing problems or organ failure. The drug is sold by Switzerland-based Roche as Actemra and RoActemra for treating rheumatoid arthritis and some other diseases. It lowers inflammation by tamping down a protein called interleukin-6 that’s often found in excess in COVID-19 patients. The study involving 129 patients at nine hospitals in Brazil found no benefit for those who got the arthritis drug along with standard care. Two weeks later, 11 patients who received the drug had died, against two in the other half who didn’t. ___ ATLANTA — Judges say Georgia’s court system could take years to dig out of a backlog of jury trials delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton told lawmakers during hearings Wednesday that it could take one to two years to catch up. Superior Court Judge Wade Padgett estimated it could be more like three years. Under state law, Melton has been renewing a declaration of judicial emergency every 30 days, limiting what court cases can happen in person. He says he’s eager to resume jury trials as soon as possible. For a period late last year, Melton allowed some jury trials to go ahead. But Melton says rising infection rates forced another shutdown. ___ SACRAMENTO — California reported its second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths Wednesday but also a dip in hospitalizations below 20,000 for the first time since Dec. 27. The California Department of Public Health has reported the total of 694 new deaths is second to the record 708 reported on Jan. 8. Hospitalizations stood at 19,979. California officials are pinning their hopes on President Joe Biden as they struggle to obtain coronavirus vaccines to curb a coronavirus surge that has packed hospitals and morgues. Doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been arriving haphazardly as they make their way from the source to counties, cities and hospitals. ___ COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health has said a pharmacy responsible for distributing the coronavirus vaccine to Ohio nursing homes failed to document storage temperatures for leftover shots, resulting in 890 doses being wasted. The agency said on Wednesday that it suspended SpecialtyRx in Columbus from the distribution system and ordered it not to administer any of the wasted doses. Officials said SpecialtyRx received an initial 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine late last year for distribution to eight nursing homes and had 890 leftover. The state said the company failed to properly record the minimum and maximum refrigerator and freezer temperatures for the leftover doses each day during transportation. Department spokesperson Melanie Amato said the doses are considered wasted because the monitoring wasn’t done properly. An official with New Jersey-based SpecialtyRx said Wednesday she wasn’t aware of the problem but promised a company response. ___ NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he expects the state to exhaust its supply of vaccine available to people receiving their first dose within two or three days. “What’s clear now is we’re going to be going from week to week and you will see a constant pattern of basically running out, waiting for the next week’s allocation, and then starting up again,” the Democrat said. He urged health care facilities to be careful not to schedule appointments to give away vaccine they haven’t been allocated yet, “because we don’t know what we’re going to get next week and we don’t know where we’re going to distribute it next week.” ___ OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Wednesday that it is seeking volunteers to help at vaccination sites in the state. The department’s Medical Reserve Corps said Wednesday that both medical and non-medical volunteers are needed to give vaccinations, handle registration and other tasks. The volunteers work at points of dispensing sites at more than 50 locations in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Oklahoma has administered 242,093 vaccinations, including 30,919 to people who have now received the required two doses of vaccine. The CDC reported the state has received 455,275 doses thus far. According to Johns Hopkins University, Oklahoma had the fourth highest number of new cases per capita in the nation Wednesday with 1,270 per 100,000 residents during the past two weeks. The health department reported 1,986 new cases Wednesday and 48 more deaths due to the virus. ___ TOPEKA, Kan. — The top health official in Kansas has told lawmakers that the state will likely see a small uptick in immediate supply of the COVID-19 vaccine with the change in presidential administrations. In a joint hearing Tuesday before Senate and House health panels, Dr. Lee Norman, head of the state health department, said he has been told the state will probably get a 1% or 2% increase in its vaccine supply in the short run. The federal government allocates vaccines to states based on population. Kansas, with its population of 3 million, receives 1% of the nation’s allocated vaccines, he said, adding that the state has at times been shorted as much as half of its anticipated supply. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout prioritizes health care workers and nursing homes in its first phase, which is almost complete. About a third of the state’s population will be covered in the second phase, which covers people ages 65 and older, those in congregate settings such as prisons, and high-contact critical workers. ___ MADRID — Spain’s government is resisting calls by regional health authorities to let them impose earlier curfews amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. Spain’s hospitals are filling up again after a third rise in infections since the start of the pandemic. Another 464 people were reported dead on Wednesday, increasing the confirmed death toll to 54,637. Some regions want the government to allow a change of the curfew to 8 p.m., instead of the current 10 p.m. allowed under a state of emergency. Health Minister Salvador Illa says the ministry would “evaluate” the request, even though he insisted it wasn’t needed because of current measures. Spain registered another 41,000 cases on Wednesday in the midst of rolling out its vaccination program. Despite the recent hiccups in the shipments the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Spain broke 1 million vaccines administered on Wednesday. Spain has 2.4 million confirmed cases, eighth in the world. It has registered more than 54,000 deaths, 10th globally. ___ The Associated Press
TORONTO — A mouth-watering matchup featuring some of hockey's most gifted players fell far short of expectations Wednesday. And that suited the Oilers just fine. Leon Draisaitl scored the winner on a third-period power play as Edmonton defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on a night where two offensive juggernauts largely cancelled each other out. "Sometime the boring games are the most solid," Draisaitl said after burying his first of the season to help snap a two-game slide. "We were very solid for 60 minutes ... that's a huge win. "That's more the way we want to play." Kailer Yamamoto was credited with the opening goal for the Oilers (2-3-0), who were coming off consecutive home losses to the Montreal Canadiens, when the Leafs fumbled the puck into their own net in the first. Mikko Koskinen made 25 saves to get the win, while Josh Archibald scored into an empty net with 1:06 left in regulation. Auston Matthews replied for Toronto (3-2-0), which got 19 stops from Frederik Andersen. Correctly billed as a battle of superstars between Matthews and Oilers captain Connor McDavid, one of the only positives from a neutral's perspective was the fact no fans paid for tickets inside an empty Scotiabank Arena because of COVID-19 protocols. "I think both teams watched the pre-scout and were just trying to key in on the top guys," Matthews said. "It was a pretty uneventful game. Not really much going on. "Not really expected, but we've got to do a much better job creating." Edmonton and Toronto will go back at it again Friday in the second of nine North Division meetings between the clubs in the NHL's 56-game abbreviated schedule. Matthews said while the Leafs mostly contained McDavid and Draisaitl — no slouch himself as the reigning Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner — at 5 on 5, that shouldn't mean sacrificing their own offensive identity. "Obviously we key in on those two guys," said the Leafs centre, who spent some of the off-season training with McDavid in Arizona. "They're extremely dangerous — two of the top players in the world — but we can't get away from our game. We've got to go out there and play our game and try to produce offence. We've got to play to win, not play to contain two guys. "We were just too safe." Draisaitl snapped a 1-1 tie on the man advantage at 9:12 of the final period with Jake Muzzin in the penalty box for tripping when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' initial shot hit Edmonton's Jesse Puljujarvi in front. The goal snapped an 0-for-12 streak for a power play that led the league with a success rate of 29.5 per cent in 2019-20 before the season was halted by the pandemic. "Maybe that's the bounce that we needed," Draisaitl said. "Maybe that's one we deserved." Toronto wasn't able to do much in response before Archibald fired his first into an empty net. "We're frustrated with the way we started the season," Draisaitl added. "That's a very good team over there — very skilled, very dangerous. Letting up one goal against a team like that, that's always a success." Trailing 1-0 through 40 minutes, the Leafs evened things up at 6:44 of the third when Matthews outmuscled Zack Kassian in the corner before firing shortside for his second on Koskinen. Toronto once again dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, but was left with just 10 skaters up front when Joe Thornton took a hit from Archibald and headed to the locker room with what looked like an arm or wrist injury early in the period. Head coach Sheldon Keefe said post-game it appears the 41-year-old "will definitely miss some time." The Leafs came in feeling good about themselves after consecutive victories over the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets, while the Oilers were in a different frame of mind following those losses to Montreal to close out their four-game homestand to open the season. Playing its first road contest since March 5, Edmonton grabbed a 1-0 lead at 10:42 of the first on a strange own goal. After the Leafs couldn't get out of their zone, Yamamoto fed a pass from behind Andersen's net that Toronto winger Jimmy Vesey intercepted before accidentally firing a clearing attempt in off Muzzin for Yamamoto's second of the campaign. The Leafs held the Oilers to just three shots in the period, but Andersen had to be sharp with a pad save on Alex Chiasson late to keep the deficit at one. Edmonton's power play — which went 0 for 10 and gave up two short-handed goals in those losses to Montreal — got two chances in the second, but continued to struggle with former Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie quarterbacking the first unit in place of the injured Oskar Klefbom. Toronto blue-liner T.J. Brodie then blasted a one-timer late in the period that hit Koskinen, struck William Nylander in front and dribbled just wide. The Leafs got their second man advantage off that sequence when McDavid, who scored a highlight-reel goal that even brought Wayne Gretzky out of his seat to put a bow on Edmonton's 6-4 victory in Toronto last January, was whistled for hooking. Wayne Simmonds fired a shot looking for a tip from Mitch Marner that hit the post before Matthews flubbed one attempt and saw Koskinen snag another with his glove inside the empty rink. "It was a strange game," Keefe said. "It was the first game that felt like a game with no fans. "Being on the bench, it just felt like one of those nights where you try and get something going. We didn't feel like we ever really got there." Notes: Puljujarvi's assist on the winner was his first NHL point since Jan. 19, 2019, after spending all of last season in Finland. ... The Oilers head to Winnipeg for two following Friday's game before hosting the Leafs on Jan. 28 and 30. ... Toronto opens a four-game Alberta road trip Sunday and Tuesday in Calgary. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. ___ Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Some days, hours go by without a single customer coming into Renaissance Coffee at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. "We have never seen or experienced anything like this, it has been very devastating for us and the staff who have been with us for 20 or 15 years. Now they're all sitting at home waiting for things to improve," said owner Parminder Parhar. He has laid off nine staff and is running the coffee shop with his wife, just like the old days. They started the business 25 years ago and have three locations at the Burnaby Mountain campus, but only one is open right now. Most post-secondary institutions are offering online classes and have shut down lecture halls, leaving campuses empty. "Right now, it seems like a ghost town," said Parhar. The lack of foot traffic has put a serious dent in revenue. "We probably only do, best case scenario, five per cent of what we did before ... or even less," he said. But he believes the university has taken the right approach by limiting the number of people on campus. He keeps the one location open to serve the few people that do come by. "Whoever is here in the community, we are here to serve and we have been part of this community for many years, around 25 years, so we still like to be part of that. Another thing is nothing to do sitting at home, so better to do something meaningful," he said. Even businesses not located directly on campus are feeling the hit. Rice Burger is less than three kilometres from the University of British Columbia and heavily marketed to university students. "Our strategy was about 60 to 70 per cent university kids. We took a hit for sure," said co-owner Jackson Uppal about the arrival of pandemic restrictions last spring. Uppal and his best friend from high school, Austin Chen, started the concept four years ago. There's a giant graffiti wall, blasting R&B hits and a unique menu offering kimchi fries. Plus the 99 B-Line is just steps away. "It was a little bit of a kick to the groin at first, because we have invested so much in student life and when not that many students are on campus, we had to MacGyver. How do we get back?" They've pivoted and started focusing more on drawing in families through various promotions and marketing strategies. Food delivery apps have also been a saviour — the apps are now 70 per cent of their business. University budgets impacted, too Universities and colleges have also seen serious impacts to their budgets due to the pandemic. The University of British Columbia is projecting a $100-million deficit this fiscal year, which is $125 million lower than initially expected, due to "strong student demand," it says. The number could still change in February. Simon Fraser University says it also has lost revenue due to pandemic restrictions, but says it is no longer forecasting the $9-million shortfall projected in its 2020 budget. "Losses have been offset by stronger than anticipated undergraduate enrolments this past year. Our non-endowment investment income is also projected to be much stronger than anticipated," the university said in a statement. Universities have lost revenue for a variety of reasons. From reduced occupancy at student residences so that proper safety measures can be carried out, to lost parking revenue, cancelled conferences and the closing of food establishments, museums, galleries. There have also been additional costs. "We increased expenditures to support online instruction, additional cleaning, and student financial assistance," read a statement from Peter Smailes, UBC's vice-president of finance. Smailes said the university has undertaken "a range of mitigating strategies including travel restrictions, a hiring chill, and the reduction in discretionary spending." Recovering from the deficit will be a multi-year project for the university. While, SFU is also looking to identify administrative saving opportunities and minimize hiring where possible.
Our panel of U.S. politics experts break down Wednesday’s inauguration, from the traditions to the speeches and the first actions by President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
The number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Fort Liard, N.W.T., now stands at six. That's according to a 9 p.m. news release from the territory's chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola. Kandola says she's "cautiously optimistic" that the situation in that community is now under control. "However, we do still expect to see some more infections in the community in the coming days — and things can change very quickly." The release confirms no other cases were detected in the territory Wednesday, including in Yellowknife, where last week a case surfaced with no known origin. The news release again suggests that the positive wastewater signal detected in Hay River was linked to the Fort Liard cluster, and not to Hay River. A vaccination clinic planned in Fort Liard Thursday will go ahead as planned. It will run from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Information on who will get vaccinated and how will be available at the Fort Liard health centre Thursday morning. Additional clinics will run Friday and Saturday. The territory has now given out 1,893 vaccinations, according to the N.W.T. government.
JUNEAU, Alaska — President Joe Biden's administration announced plans Wednesday for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich'in. The plans, along with other executive actions, came on Biden's first day in office. Issuing leases had been a priority of the Trump administration following a 2017 law calling for lease sales, said Lesli Ellis-Wouters, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Alaska. The agency held the first lease sale for the refuge's coastal plain on Jan. 6. Eight days later, Ellis-Wouters said, it signed leases for nine tracts totalling nearly 685 square miles (1,770 square kilometres). The issuance of leases was not announced publicly until Tuesday, President Donald Trump's last full day in office. Ellis-Wouters said by email Wednesday that she has not “received anything on executive orders that pertain to the ANWR lease sales.” E. Colleen Bryan, a spokesperson for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, said the state corporation, which was issued seven leases and was the main bidder in the lease sale, “can’t speculate what may happen with the new administration.” Biden has opposed drilling in the region, and drilling opponents hope the executive action is a step toward providing permanent protections, which Biden called for during the presidential campaign. His order cites “alleged legal deficiencies" underpinning the oil and gas lease program in calling on the Interior secretary to, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, place a temporary moratorium on all activities of the Federal Government” related to implementing the program. The order also calls on the secretary to review the program and potentially conduct a “new, comprehensive" environmental review. Pending lawsuits challenge the adequacy of the environmental review process undertaken by the Trump administration. The fight to open the coastal plain to drilling goes back decades, with the state’s Republican congressional delegation hailing the issuance of leases as “significant and meaningful for Alaska's future.” They criticized on Wednesday the planned moratorium. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a statement that Americans did not give Biden “a mandate to kill good-paying jobs and curry favour with coastal elites.” U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said “significant progress” has been made in the past month, with the lease sale and issuance of leases. “The Biden administration must faithfully implement the law and allow for that good progress to continue,” she said in a statement. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, said the state “does responsible oil and gas development in the Arctic better than anyone, and yet our economic future is at risk should this line of attack on our sovereignty and well-being continue.” Oil has long been the economic lifeblood of Alaska, and drilling supporters have viewed development as a way to boost oil production that is a fraction of what it was in the late 1980s, and to generate revenue and create or sustain jobs. Drilling critics have said the area off the Beaufort Sea provides habitat for wildlife including caribou, polar bears, wolves and birds — and should be off limits to drilling. The Gwich'in have raised concerns about impacts on a caribou herd on which they have relied for subsistence. "It is so important that our young people see that we are heard, and that the president acknowledges our voices, our human rights and our identity," Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, said in a statement. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press