Billy McFarland’s infamous Fyre Festival disaster had branded merchandise too. Baseball caps, clothes and even coins were seized by U.S. Marshals and are now available at an online auction.
Billy McFarland’s infamous Fyre Festival disaster had branded merchandise too. Baseball caps, clothes and even coins were seized by U.S. Marshals and are now available at an online auction.
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration at the news that Canada will not receive any new doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, though the general overseeing Ontario's vaccine rollout plan remains hopeful the distribution delay won't impede plans to immunize the general population by early August. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ford called the news that Canada will receive no new Pfizer vaccines next week "troubling" and "a massive concern." "Until vaccines are more widely available, please stay home, stay safe and save lives," he said. The news comes as the province recorded another 1,913 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with officials cautioning that Toronto Public Health — which consistently logs the most new infections each day — is "likely underreporting" its number of cases. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the artificially low total of 550 new cases reported by the city was due to a "technical issue," but did not provide any further details. For reference, over the three previous days, Toronto Public Health logged 815, 1035 and 903 cases, respectively. Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were: Peel Region: 346 York Region: 235 Durham Region: 82 Windsor-Essex: 81 Waterloo Region: 79 Middlesex-London: 73 Halton Region: 71 Hamilton: 63 Niagara Region: 52 Simcoe Muskoka: 48 Ottawa: 41 Huron-Perth: 37 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 31 Lambton: 28 Southwestern: 22 Eastern Ontario: 14 Chatham-Kent: 13 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.) Over 200,000 Ontarians vaccinated so far At a technical briefing for media Tuesday morning, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force offered a rough breakdown of which groups received a first dose of vaccine: About 83,000 long-term care residents, staff and caregivers. About 25,000 retirement home residents, staff and caregivers. More than 99,000 health-care workers in other sectors. With the more than 200,000 vaccines administered, Ontario has completed the first round of immunization at all long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — the four regions with the highest transmission rates of the virus. The first round of immunizations has also been administered at all long-term care homes in Ottawa, Durham and Simcoe-Muskoka. Still, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton cautioned, "The rise of community spread during the second wave is posing a serious threat to our long-term care homes." The province aims to finish vaccinating those at all remaining long-term care homes by Feb. 15. At Tuesday's technical briefing, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force also addressed how the province is responding to Pfizer's announcement last week that it was slowing down production of its vaccine, resulting in delivery delays for Canada. WATCH | An exasperated Premier Ford appeals to incoming U.S. president for vaccines: The impact in Ontario will vary week to week, officials said, with an 80 per cent reduction in the number of doses that were originally expected the week of Jan. 25; 55 per cent the week of Feb. 1; and 45 per cent the week of Feb. 8. In turn, the province will reallocate its available doses of the Moderna vaccine to more regions, while also extending the interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine in some situations to ensure that everyone who has had a first shot will have access to their second. Residents and staff at long-term care and high-risk retirement homes who have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a second dose in 21 to 27 days, the province says. All others who receive the Pfizer vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days after the first. For those who receive the Moderna vaccine, the 28-day schedule will remain in place. As for whether the province still expects to immunize the general population of Ontario by late July or early August, General Rick Hillier said that will come down to whether there are any further hiccups with vaccine availability, but that he remains optimistic. Toronto to halt operations at mass vaccination clinic Following the announcement of the delay, the province asked the City of Toronto late Tuesday to immediately stop operating a "proof-of-concept" mass vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The clinic, which began operating only on Monday, had aimed to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that was entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. People scheduled to receive the shot at the clinic over the next three days have had those appointments cancelled, Toronto Public Health said in a statement. "The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said. Just over 34,000 new tests processed Meanwhile, Ontario's network of labs processed just 34,531 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.8 per cent. Testing levels often fall over weekends, but there is capacity in the system for more than 70,000 tests daily. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,893, the lowest it has been since Jan. 4 this year. For the seventh time in eight days, the numbers of cases reported resolved outpaced new infections. There are currently about 27,615 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said there were 1,626 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 400 were being treated in intensive care, the most at any point during the pandemic, and 292 required a ventilator to breathe. Notably, a daily report generated by Critical Care Services Ontario and shared internally with hospitals puts the current number of ICU patients with COVID-19 at 418, with 303 still on ventilators. Public health units also recorded 46 additional deaths of people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 5,479. Twenty-nine of the further deaths were residents of long-term care. A total of 254, or just over 40 per cent, of long-term care facilities in Ontario were dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. The province said it administered another 14346 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, and that 224,134 people have been given a first dose. A total of 25,609 people in Ontario have gotten both shots.
Rank, Book Title by Author Name, ISBN, Publisher 1. Bridgerton Collection Volume 1 by Julia Quinn - 9780063045118 - (Avon) 2. Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - 9780062424105 - (Avon) 3. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - 9780062424037 - (Avon) 4. The Scorpion’s Tail by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child - 9781538747292 - (Grand Central Publishing) 5. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn - 9780062424075 - (Avon) 6. To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn - 9780062424112 - (Avon) 7. An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn - 9780062424082 - (Avon) 8. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn - 9780062424136 - (Avon) 9. Daylight by David Baldacci - 9781538761687 - (Grand Central Publishing) 10. The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher - 9781488076749 - (Graydon House Books) The Associated Press
About one-quarter of Dundalk fire department calls are in Melancthon, and that was the basis for costs proposed by Southgate in a new five-year fire contract. Operating costs to Melancthon will be $48,000 in year one and increasing through the term to $62,400 in 2025. When combined with capital contribution and the payment for the chief filling the role as Chief Fire Official, the total will be $80,000 in Year 5. Dundalk Fire Chief Derek Malynyk and Southgate CAO Dave Milliner were present online last Thursday to answer Melancthon councillors’ questions about the report. “I’m fully in support of moving us to a place where we’re paying for what it costs you,” said Mayor Darren White. He added that all members of council are members of various fire boards and now how expensive fire fighting has become with the steady increase in regulations that need to be met in all areas. Dundalk Fire Department has 35 firefighters. Significant for volunteer departments where members also have jobs, they get 14 firefighters responding to daytime calls, and more on evenings and weekends. For a structure fire in the evening, there may be 20 to 25. If more show up at the hall than are needed, they are paid for their response and sent home. But the numbers provide assurance of response, and also put the department in a good position to deal with unexpected turnover, as people move more often now than used to be the case. “It’s really satisfying to us that we can provide the needed suppression or respond to the medical call, whatever it is,” the chief said. The Chief also has duties as chief fire official in the area covered by Southgate which means an investigation in all fires. If the fire marshall’s office is involved this is one or two full days. He also carries out inspections as requested, as well as handling burn complaints. There is a separate payment, starting at $4,000 per year for that role. Melancthon contributes $7,000 to capital reserve, which will increase one thousand per year over the term of the contract. The fire chief gave sample costs such as new firefighting boots purchased in 2019 for $10,000, a pick-up for $75,000 and the new pumper tanker truck which will provide service in Melancthon at just under $700,000. M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s coronavirus contact tracing effort is rebounding after several months of hiring and several weeks of decreased daily cases, officials said. State officials said great improvements have been made since November, when the contact tracing corps was overwhelmed and people testing positive were asked to reach out on their own to those they may have infected, Anchorage Daily News reported Monday. Tim Struna, chief of Public Health Nursing for the Alaska Division of Public Health, said contact tracers can now investigate reports within a day after receiving notice of new virus infections. “It’s a profound change,” Struna said. Contact tracers call people infected with COVID-19 to learn who was close to them and then call those contacts. Public health experts have said the process is a crucial part of controlling the spread of the virus before vaccines become widely available. During the state's infection surge in the fall, a week or more could pass before people with positive results heard from a contact tracer, if at all, officials said. “In my mind it sort of shifted towards damage control,” Anchorage public health nurse and contact tracer Jordan Loewe said. The reinvigorated workforce includes a variety of organizations and groups. Nearly half of new contact tracers were placed through a partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage, Struna said. The university’s group grew from 60 people in September to 250 this week, project manager Annie Thomas said. The group working remotely includes former doctors, retirees, nurses, first responders, teachers, librarians and workers affected by closures in other sectors, she said. “It’s a fun, kind of ragtag group that really almost makes up the face of Alaska,” Thomas said. Sarah Hargrave, Alaska's Southeast regional public health nurse manager, said the remaining contact tracers include contracted workers, National Guard members, school nurses and state and municipal health department employees. There are now about 500 contact tracers, Hargrave said. That makes a difference because contact tracing helps break a “chain of infection,” while delays in reaching out to a potentially contagious person is a major impediment to stemming additional virus spread, Hargrave said. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is not entirely unexpected for COVID-19 vaccine makers to fall behind schedule given the speed at which the new drugs have been created. He says Canada has more options than just the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but is pushing the company to ensure Canada gets the doses it is supposed to.
LONDON — Norway’s appearance record holder, Hege Riise, will temporarily take over as coach of the England women’s national soccer team following Phil Neville's departure. Riise will lead England's February camp but the team is still without opposition to play due to the travel complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Riise is stepping up having already been due to work as an assistant coach at England alongside former Canada player Rhian Wilkinson until Sarina Wiegman takes charge of the 2019 World Cup semifinalists in September. But Neville's earlier than expected exit to return to men's soccer to coach Inter Miami has left a void with England until Wiegman leaves her job with the Netherlands after the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The English Football Association, which organizes the British women's Olympic team, also needs a coach for Tokyo having planned to give the role to Neville. Riise was the 1995 world player of the year, winning the World Cup, European Championship and Olympics as she scored 58 times in 188 appearances for Norway. She was nominated for FIFA's coach of the year award in 2019 after winning six successive Norwegian titles with LSK Kvinner. “I’m excited about the opportunity I’ve been given to work with England Women," she said. "This is a proud and ambitious team that I look forward to working with and I am confident of making a positive impact when I meet up with the squad in February.” She was an assistant coach with the United States during the team's run to the 2011 Women's World Cup final and Olympic glory in 2012. “Hege has done really well and she has had a fantastic career as both a coach and a player,” said compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Manchester United manager. “They’ve got a very good coach there and a very good human being.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Health officials in B.C. have not detected a single case of influenza circulating in the community since flu season began, continuing an "exceptional" nationwide trend even as the province sits in the thick of its regular flu season. The B.C. Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC) confirmed the non-existent seasonal flu numbers to CBC News on Monday. "It's still a big goose egg in terms of influenza detection provincially. It's really quite exceptional how low the influenza activity is," said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, the lead for influenza and emerging respiratory virus monitoring at the BCCDC. "I've been on the influenza beat for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this ... and that's not for lack of trying." The BCCDC has tested 30,000 samples for influenza this year. Only a dozen of those tests came back positive and all were linked to people who'd received a vaccine, which doesn't count as community spread. By comparison, the centre found 861 positive tests last year with roughly one-third of the testing. B.C.'s experience is reflected across the country. A report from the Public Health Agency of Canada on Thursday said there hasn't been enough influenza cases to even declare that the 2020-21 flu season has begun in Canada. The statistics have calmed fears of health experts across Canada who worried a second wave of COVID-19 would arrive just as seasonal flu infections began to spread, creating an overwhelming "twindemic" this winter. "We are trying to find that [influenza] virus, but so far, nothing — which is good news," said Skowronski. COVID-19 measures caused 'dramatic drop-off' The 30,000 tests run for the flu this year is four times the average number of tests B.C. has done over the past five flu seasons. The dozen positive results were all connected to people who'd received the "live attenuated" flu vaccine, which is made from weakened influenza virus and delivered by nasal spray. "It's not unusual to pick up the vaccine virus in the nose swab," Skowronski said. "What is unexpected is to find no influenza viruses otherwise at all in the province." Flu season typically peaks in B.C. in December and January. Skowronski said public health measures taken to slow COVID-19 — like handwashing, physical distancing, mask-wearing and reduced travel — are likely what's thwarted the regular flu. "We saw a dramatic drop-off in influenza activity almost as soon as we implemented those public health measures last March. We were experiencing an influenza epidemic then and as soon as those measures were in place, it was like influenza fell off a cliff ... and it's been like that ever since," she said. Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu comes from influenza viruses, while COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. As for whether the public health measures should remain in place to ease flu season even after COVID-19 is under control, Skowronski said it's an idea for health officials to consider. "I think it would be useful to take stock of the measures and what's worked, but it's a balance. Some of those measures are quite extreme and are put in place because, ultimately, the SARS-COoV-2 virus is not the influenza virus," she said. "It takes a much greater toll in terms of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths than typical influenza season virus does. "We'll have to weigh the benefits and the costs of those measures."
VANCOUVER — A man and woman have each been fined for pretending to cough on customers in a gym just steps from Vancouver police headquarters. A statement from police says the owner of the gym flagged down two passing constables outside the business Saturday night. He said a man and woman, who were not wearing masks and were not members of the gym, were inside coughing in the general direction of patrons and equipment. A 60-year-old man and his 25-year-old girlfriend told the officers they were only pretending to cough. Police say the couple claimed they reacted because gym members were staring at them. The police statement says both people left the business after being handed $230 tickets for violating the Emergency Program Act by failing to wear a face covering. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Few things have lifted Rojhan Paydar’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like a Netflix watch party. Isolated inside her home, the Toronto resident is too often short on social opportunities and long on streaming options. So like many people, she’s recreated the experience of watching Netflix with friends through an unofficial web browser application called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party. It’s been an opportunity for Paydar to gather with pals on a virtual couch while they gasp over the twists of true crime series, “Unsolved Mysteries." Even more often, she's used the app with her boyfriend for date nights watching the dysfunction unfold on “Tiger King" and other bingeable series. “Sometimes we’d eat dinner and set up our webcams to see each other,” she said. “Knowing he was there and we were doing something in real-time — it felt really good and made me less lonely." Not long ago, viewing party technology was a tool reserved for unique situations: a long-distance couple or fans of a niche TV series searching for like-minded people. But a year into the pandemic, weekly rituals have evolved, and online watch parties have proven many of us are desperate for some semblance of connection. As the winter months stretch on, and strict stay-at-home orders grip large parts of the country, observers say the watch party, and apps that help make it happen, are due for a second wave of popularity. “I think we may have seen a cultural shift,” suggested Daniel Keyes, associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia. “The pandemic and the fact we had to self-isolate totally accelerated it. It made it more mainstream.” For younger generations raised on YouTube and Twitch, watch parties are already part of the zeitgeist. Everyone else, including streaming giants themselves, seem to be playing cultural catchup. Last year, as the pandemic wore on, Amazon Prime Video introduced group chat elements into the laptop version of its platform. Disney Plus took a more restrained approach with a feature that allows up to seven people to sync their screens, but only communicate through emojis. Other streamers, such as Netflix and Crave, have so far chosen not to launch social elements on their platforms. That move could be strategic as the companies observe a sea change in how some viewers consume television, suggested Carmi Levy, director at technology advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group. "It's almost as if the snow globe has been shaken and companies like Netflix are waiting for everything to settle down before they decide where to place their bets," he said. "Social TV is a thing and it isn't going anywhere. It's very much like remote work: considered the exception before the pandemic, but now the rule." Levy said the entertainment industry couldn't have predicted how quickly the change took hold with casual viewers. For years, upstart tech companies launched second-screen watch party innovations, and most of them failed miserably. That's left the door open for the latest generation of alternatives to capitalize on filling the void, among them TwoStream, a paid monthly watch party option, and Syncplay, which is free. One of the most ambitious newcomers is Scener, a venture-funded operation out of Seattle that currently supports the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Vimeo and horror platform Shudder. In a few clicks, viewers can react to a show through their webcam or type out thoughts on their keyboard. Co-founder Joe Braidwood said replicating the in-person experience, in particular, “the laughter, the screams and the horror,” was a goal of his company long before the pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy getting others to see the value. “Two years ago I would talk to investors about social TV and they would laugh at me,” he recalled over a Zoom chat. “They told me, ‘People don't want social experiences when they're watching television.’ But all you need to do is look on Twitter.” Even before the pandemic, he said, people were engaging over social media platforms about their favourite shows. Now, since everyone's holed up in their homes, Scener's growth has been exponential. Cumulative weekly minutes of programming watched grew nearly 42,000 per cent from March 2020 to January 2021 (57,785 minutes versus 24.2 million minutes), according to data provided by the company. “People who haven't hung out with their best friend while watching ‘The Flight Attendant’ or shared a family Christmas while watching an old classic movie on Scener, they just don't know what this feels like,” he added. “There's this real texture to it... it's warm engagement with people that you care about.” Hoovie, a Vancouver-based virtual watch party service, aims to bridge the gap between art house cinema outings and the comfort of a living room chat. Hosts can dive into the company’s independent film catalogue and book ticketed showings for small groups, typically in the range of 10 to 20 people. After the movie, they’re encouraged to engage in a webcam conversation on the platform that’s inspired by the film’s themes. Co-founder Fiona Rayher describes Hoovie as a platform meant to evoke those experiences outside the cinema where groups of people – sometimes strangers – would passionately discuss what they’d just watched and maybe head to a nearby restaurant for drinks. "You’d meet new people and you’d stay connected," she said. "It was all serendipitous." Hoovie plans to debut a "book club for movies" early this year that'll build on connecting movie fans. Every month, subscribers will gather for online screenings that include a post-film conversation with members, filmmakers and critics. Each film will be rounded out with a wine pairing sent by mail. Selling nostalgia for the pre-pandemic days may sound appealing in lockdown, but the question remains on how attractive watch parties will be once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. It's a question Paydar said she thinks about often as she logs onto a watch party for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries." "Whenever someone asks, 'If COVID ended right now, where would you go?' the first thing I say is, 'I'd like to go to a movie theatre,'" she said. "There's something about being in a physical theatre and going with a group of friends...Those end-of-the-night goodbyes, getting late-night eats with my friends.. (we're) creating memories I get to hold on to forever," she said. "I don't think that can be replaced." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
BROCK: Brock Township councillors received an update on the township’s 2021 municipal budget process, at a meeting on Monday, January 11th. The update was requested by Ward 3 Councillor Walter Schummer, during the Finance Committee portion of the meeting. “The budget presentations will be based on departments, and we have a council draft sitting at a percentage somewhat higher than some members of council might like to see it at this point. I believe we are at just under seven and a half [percent] after growth. There are some mitigating factors in that number, which is part of the reason why our CAO wanted to have individual discussions with each department, so we can present what the issues are, and bring it all together towards the end of the month as a consolidated budget,” Treasurer Laura Barta told council members. Timing wise, the treasurer said the budget is currently “a little bit ahead of schedule” and expects, it would be possible, for council to “have a budget passed by the end of this month.” CAO Dean Hustwick explained what process staff will be following this week. “Each department is meeting with committee chair[people] to review the departmental draft budget, where it stands at this point. We are going to be reviewing the financials, the types of challenges, and various priorities, [and] having a preliminary discussion with the deputy mayor, finance chair and committee chair to get a sense of their feeling on where we are currently at,” he explained. By the end of the month, current treasurer Ms. Barta will be leaving the township to begin a new role. “Our Treasurer Laura Barta is leaving, as she has accepted a new role as the Treasurer of Township of Scugog. Her last day with the Township is on January 29th, 2021,” Clerk Becky Jamieson confirmed, in an email to The Standard. Ms. Barta is set to begin working with Scugog Township on February 1st. Dan Cearns, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Standard Newspaper
The ice skating season is over in the Sundridge region. In the words of Sundridge Coun. Steve Rawn, the ice in the Sundridge Strong Joly Arena is coming out “immediately.” The decision at an arena board meeting after the province announced further lockdown measures, which include arenas as it continues to fight COVID-19 outbreak numbers. Rawn says the original hope was the arena could be used by residents of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit area once the province's previous two-week lockdown of Northern Ontario ended. But Rawn says the board voted to remove the ice after the province invoked the stay-at-home order. Rawn says the latest lockdown would take the arena situation well into February and that's getting closer to the end of the regular ice season. In a statement, Rawn said “this last extension would be too long to keep the ice sitting and not be used.” In neighbouring Magnetawan, it's a different story. Although the lockdown has closed the community's outdoor skating rink, Mayor Sam Dunnett says it will reopen once the order ends. “We had people using it for public skating and they were in groups of no more than five people,” he says. The local Lions club was instrumental in creating the covered outdoor rink, which is appropriately named Lion's Pavilion. Dunnett doesn't know for certain how long the latest lockdown will last since the province could change the length at any time. And while this reason alone is enough for other communities to end the ice skating season, Dunnett says “we're not taking out our ice. “We'll continue to maintain it,” he says. Dunnett says the outdoor nature of the Magnetawan rink makes it easier to maintain compared to the indoor arena ice in surrounding towns. If COVID outbreak numbers can fall low enough, Dunnett believes the province “can start opening stuff back up a little like ice-skating rinks. “And if it does re-open, people can come out and enjoy themselves,” he says. “There will still be no hockey, but they can get some exercise.” Dunnett says the municipality will continue to maintain the outdoor ice until warmer spring temperatures arrive. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
LONDON — A collection of teeter-totters that briefly allowed children on both sides of the US-Mexico border wall to play together has won a prize from London’s Design Museum. The three hot-pink seesaws were installed through the slats of the wall, with one seat in the El Paso, Texas suburb of Sunland Park, New Mexico, and the other in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The artwork was put up on July 28, 2019, and removed from the politically charged border barrier after less than an hour. The Design Museum named the project Tuesday as the overall winner of the Beazley Designs of the Year competition for 2020, which considered 74 projects by designers from around the world. Teeter-Totter Wall was designed by California architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello with help from Colectivo Chopeke, an artists’ collective in Juarez. “It encouraged new ways of human connection and struck a chord that continues to resonate far beyond El Paso in the USA and Juarez in Mexico,’’ museum director Tim Marlow said in announcing the prize. “It remains an inventive and poignant reminder of how human beings can transcend the forces that seek to divide us.” The teeter-totters were installed amid the heated debate over U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the almost 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. “We thought this would be a moment to show to the world a very important reality of the border, which is that the border isn’t a desolate place where no one lives,” Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, told a university publication in 2019. “This is a world where women live and children live and that we can use play as a kind of vehicle for activism.” Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Translators say they are "riddled with auditory injuries" after nine months of interpreting parliamentarians online via fuzzy laptop mics and poor internet connections. The association representing some 70 accredited interpreters who translate English into French and vice versa on Parliament Hill says seven in 10 respondents to a new survey have experienced auditory issues that forced them to go on leave for recovery. The problem persists as MPs prepare to return virtually to the House of Commons next week, even as roughly 15 per cent of staff interpreters remain on leave and a growing number of freelancers also take time off from work. The strain of Zoom-based proceedings has also prompted shorter shifts and more requests for transfer to non-virtual assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a shrinking pool of available translators. Interpreter Nicole Gagnon says she has experienced some hearing loss due to a constant stream of low-quality sound and loud feedback loops, while her colleagues are coping with tinnitus, nausea and headaches. The federal translation bureau did not respond immediately to requests for comment on calls for better sound quality. Many Canadians grapple with the frustrations of daily video conferencing, but Gagnon says the clash of speaking constantly overtop of audio from high-decibel MPs adds a level of physical strain and mental stress that has pushed some to the breaking point. A study last fall found Canada ranked 13th out of 81 countries in the number of acoustic shock incidents suffered by interpreters, with six in 10 Canadian respondents having reported symptoms typical of the trauma. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Whether it's a slight cough or a scratchy, sore throat, some may be tempted to dismiss mild symptoms as "just the flu" amid a serious global pandemic. But experts say a drastic drop in the circulation of the influenza virus this season means signs of flu are more likely to be COVID-19 than another respiratory virus. A FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released last week shows laboratory-confirmed incidents of flu are exceptionally rare this season, despite "elevated testing" for it during the pandemic. Experts say a confluence of factors are playing a role in the abnormally light flu season, including public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 and the reduction of international travel. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says the low prevalence of flu underscores the need to get tested for COVID if people develop symptoms. "You can't tell by looking if somebody has influenza or COVID," he said. "And right now, depending on where they live, if someone has acute viral symptoms, the chances of it being COVID over other things is much higher." PHAC's report shows there have been 51 influenza detections in Canada to date this flu season — significantly lower than the nearly 15,000 cases averaged by this point in the past six seasons — and there were zero lab-detected cases (from 13,000 tests) over the first week of 2021. Chakrabarti expects there to be more cases of influenza than what PHAC's data shows, since not everyone with flu-like symptoms is tested for that virus. But in the segment of the population that is getting tested — typically older adults seeking medical care — influenza isn't coming up. People admitted to hospital with symptoms are given respiratory multiplex tests that can detect multiple viruses at once, Chakrabarti said. "And we've picked up very little in the way of other viruses. So if you're seeing a reduction in those cases, it suggests that the overall amount of flu in the community has dropped." While experts assumed public health measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing would also lessen flu prevalence, the level of drop-off has been surprising, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University. He believes travel restrictions have likely played a significant role. Whereas COVID-19 can continue to spread easily because the virus is already entrenched here, Chagla says influenza is usually brought in each winter from tropical climates. A population confined largely indoors due to cold weather helps it spread. "Border restrictions, quarantine rules, that probably limits the amount of influenza coming in in the first place," Chagla said. "And the odd case that does come in, it's harder to spread because people aren't congregating." Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, agrees that a reduction in international travel likely explains the light flu season more than just the implementation of public health measures. He says places in South America are also seeing dips in flu numbers even though mask-wearing hasn't been as widespread there. A level of immunity to influenza may also be contributing to the stifling of the virus, he added. "More people got a flu vaccine this year," Deonandan said. "That can't be underestimated." Chagla says other respiratory viruses also seem to have decreased this season. While there was an uptick in the common cold rhinovirus in the fall — usually correlated with children going back to school — PHAC data shows it's been dropping since. Hand-washing and sanitizing high-touch areas may be playing a role in controlling viruses that are more transmissible on surfaces, experts say. Chagla says cold or flu-like symptoms should raise a red flag for anyone right now, and he worries about people mistaking COVID signs for another virus. "In years past you could say: 'this is just a cold,' doctors would say: 'don't even come in,'" Chagla said. "And now we have to switch the mentality to say: 'actually, no, go get tested.'" Chakrabarti warns the "just the flu" mentality also diminishes the significance of influenza, which can lead to serious disease in vulnerable people too. So there's need for caution, even if symptoms are from the flu virus. "A lot of people say 'it's the flu, who cares? I get it all the time,'" he said. "This is going to sound familiar, but the reason it matters is because you can spread it to somebody else." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Pat Cowan, a Republican official in west Texas, would rather blow up her party than see it controlled by “weak” Republicans who increasingly are distancing themselves from President Donald Trump since the U.S. Capitol riots he is accused of inciting. “You can’t tell those Republicans from the Democrats!” she scoffed in an interview at her home in Levelland, Texas.
A local business owner is allowing young entrepreneurs to display their work on her shelves. Top Notch Custom Kreations owner Shannon Deveau is happy to encourage young Hatters to get creative and start their own businesses. “At the moment we have eight young entrepreneurs selling different stuff at the store,” she said. “All of them are between the age of six to 16. Each has their own shelf at the store, and they each have a little bio on their shelf that says a little about them.” There is a wide range of products being sold by the young entrepreneurs including jewellery, hoodies, beanies, spray paint canvases, toques, crayons and more. Deveau decided to offer the space as a way to keep kids busy during the ongoing pandemic. “I know a lot of kids have had their activities cancelled or postponed because of COVID,” she said. “I work with kids during the day and have heard from parents how bored some of the kids are. “I think this is a great way to encourage kids to make something and have fun with it. It’s even better because they can make a bit of money.” The entrepreneurs debuted their goods at the store earlier this month and Deveau says they are seeing success. “It’s a tough month to start this, but they’re doing well,” she said. “I know one of the girls who makes necklaces has sold 17 so far.” Deveau says products will be rotated on the store shelves every few months based on how much demand there is for space. She added that there are still a few spots open for young entrepreneurs to claim. Those interested can reach out to Top Notch Custom Kreations on Facebook or Instagram. Top Notch is located at 656 Third St. SE downtown. Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
RCMP in northern Cape Breton are still searching for a man wanted on multiple warrants who ran into the woods in Meat Cove, N.S., with a gun. An emergency alert was issued around 1:30 p.m. Monday warning residents in the small community that Perry MacKinnon was on the loose. People were advised to stay indoors and wait for updates from police. RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mark Skinner said Tuesday morning a "significant number" of RCMP resources are being used to look for MacKinnon, who is still believed to be in the Meat Cove area. Officers searched throughout the night, both on foot and using a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging cameras. Skinner could not say how many officers are on the ground looking for MacKinnon, or what type of gun MacKinnon has with him. Residents are still being asked to stay inside and await updates from RCMP. Skinner said since Meat Cove is a small community, officers would be able to go door to door to alert people if needed. If residents see MacKinnon, they should call 911 and not approach him, police say. Skinner said officers were approaching a house to arrest MacKinnon when he ran out from behind the building into the woods. Police have not specified the reason for the arrest warrant. MORE TOP STORIES
Sometimes there just seems to be things that don’t fit, recently at a town council meeting, the council decided on moving the big blue bike which the previous council had acquired through a donation by Bob Schmidt, the owner of the big blue bike. “When the bike first appeared, the public was unsure exactly what it was and felt it wasn’t quite the image they wanted for the community, according to public opinion“, replied Councillor Jody Antosh-Cusitar, after speaking to the general public about the bike. “Ken Mack the designer/developer of the bike should be very proud of his accomplishment of producing the World's Longest bike”, Councillor Antosh-Cuistar continued, “I as a council member have heard the public when they say, it has no significance to our community”. Ken Mack built the world’s largest bike with the assistance of Tom Mitschke in 1984 and it has made its rounds to several communities in the area until being donated to Churchbridge by Bob Schmidt. It was brought to Churchbridge where it was first placed by the Toonie monument. The bike has since been moved to the rest stop area in Churchbridge yet still doesn’t seem to fit based on the opinion of the community. “The bike should be highlighted at the Yorkton Heritage Center or a museum”, Jody continued. “It was a wonderful invention and Mr. Mack should be proud of it and all his accomplishments.” Ken Mack the designer has graciously taken ownership of the Worlds Largest Bike he made and will be taking it back to his farm. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal