SAG-AFTRA has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Gabrielle Union’s departure from “America’s Got Talent.”
SAG-AFTRA has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Gabrielle Union’s departure from “America’s Got Talent.”
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
EDMONTON — Shea Weber's goal held up as the game-winner as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 Monday night. Rookie Alexander Romanov and Arttuti Lehkonen also scored for Montreal (2-0-1), which beat Edmonton (1-3-0) for the second time in three nights. The Habs also trounced the Oilers 5-1 on Saturday. Goalie Jake Allen made 25 saves in his debut for the Canadiens Montreal’s penalty kill was key in the victory, shutting down Oilers snipers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on seven power plays. Mikko Koskinen stopped 31-of-34 shots for Edmonton. He conceded a short-handed goal 12:15 into the third period after Lehkonen broke up a pass in his own zone and sprinted up the ice with the puck on his stick. He put a quick snap shot past Koskinen for his first of the season, and put Montreal up 3-0. Edmonton clawed a goal back with just over two minutes to go, though, with Devin Shore popping a snap shot past Allen for a short-handed tally. Koskinen allowed one to get past earlier in the game on a Montreal power play with seconds to go in the second period. Edmonton had the man advantage when McDavid was called for hooking, leading to 1:20 of 4-on-4 hockey before the Habs got a 40-second power play to close out the frame. With about 11 seconds left on the clock, Montreal's Jeff Petry drove through the slot and Shore careened into Koskinen. Meanwhile, Weber launched a shot from the side of the net and Koskinen made the initial stop. He couldn't control the rebound, though, which bounced back out to Weber. The defenceman batted it in off Koskinen's back as he lay in the crease with Shore underneath him. The goal was instantly called off, with the official saying Petry caused goalie interference when he sent Shore crashing into his netminder. Montreal coach Claude Julien elected to challenge the call and, upon review, the officials agreed, giving Weber his first goal of the season and a 2-0 lead for Montreal. Montreal already had a first-period tally from Romanov, who opened the scoring 9:53 into the game with a shot from just below the blue line. The puck rocketed through traffic and past Koskinen stick side for the Russian rookie's first NHL goal. Montreal selected Romanov, 21, 38th overall in the 2018 draft. The Canadiens scored on one of its five power plays. Montreal had to kill off three penalties in the first period alone, including more than 30 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Edmonton had some promising opportunities across the stretch -- including a big shot from McDavid that ricocheted off the knob of Allen's stick -- but the Habs didn't surrender a goal. As a crucial part of the penalty kill, Weber played 9:10 in the first frame alone. Montreal will open a three-game series with the Canucks in Vancouver on Wednesday. The Oilers will be in Toronto the same night to battle the Leafs. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
TOLEDO, Ohio — An Ohio police officer was shot and killed after an hourslong armed standoff that resulted in gunfire Monday, police said. Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker, 24, died after the shooting that sent both him and the suspect to the hospital, Police Chief George Kral said at a Monday night news conference. Negotiators had tried for hours to get the suspect to surrender peacefully. Stalker leaves behind a fiancée and a child. He had joined the police department in July 2018. “Very sad day for the city of Toledo and specifically the Toledo police department,” Kral said. "He was an amazing police officer.” The suspect's condition wasn't disclosed. Kral said the standoff started at about 4 p.m. when officers noticed a man with warrants out for his arrest in connection to cathedral vandalism smoking outside a home in a residential neighbourhood. Officers approached the man, who fled brandishing a firearm and entered a nearby home. Police set up a barrier around the home and a SWAT team was called in, Kral said. After hours of unsuccessful negotiation, police used tear gas to force him out. He then exited holding two guns, firing. Police shot back, striking the subject. One of the suspect's shots hit Stalker, Kral said. Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said his city's department “has had to endure too many dark and terrible days in the last six months," with the July on-duty killing of 26-year-old Officer Anthony Dia and the unexpected death of an officer just a few weeks ago. “This has been a very difficult time,” Kapszukiewicz said. “It is a very difficult day for the city." Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. Police said they would provide an update on the standoff Wednesday. The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Authorities in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Veracruz said Monday that 12 men were killed and their bodies dumped on a roadside in what may have been a dispute between cattle ranchers. The killings occurred in the rural town of La Choapas, near the border with the neighbouring state of Tabasco. Veracruz Gov. Cuitláhuac Garcia wrote in a statement that “initial investigations suggest a division between ranchers and helpers from La Choapas and Uxpanapa.” He added that “abuses and threats between them led to this unfortunate outcome.” The region is south of the crime-ridden city of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The Associated Press
Health officials in the Northwest Territories have identified two more probable cases of COVID-19 in Fort Liard over the past 24 hours. On the weekend, three cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the community of about 500. Fort Liard was placed under a two-week containment order Saturday evening. According to a statement released Monday evening, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the N.W.T. stands at 28, with no hospitalizations and 24 cases listed as recovered. "Probable cases are treated the same as confirmed cases in an investigation," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said in the statement. "Contact tracing and isolation begins immediately while the samples are confirmed." According to the statement, all of the diagnoses are in the same cluster and connected to out-of-territory travel. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is asked to call the rapid response team at 867-695-1655. Health officials now believe the COVID-19 wastewater signal detected in Hay River was related to the cluster of cases in Fort Liard. Since Jan. 11, 189 people have come forward for testing related to the Hay River wastewater signal and none have tested positive for COVID-19. Yellowknife update No new cases of COVID-19 were identified at the Avens Manor in Yellowknife. A rapid response team had been testing there to identify the source of an infection in Yellowknife. Health officials will continue to monitor wastewater signals, but "it is highly likely that the source has passed their communicable period." "As time passes, if there are no detects, we will determine that widespread community transmission did not occur and that this was a single locally acquired case with no identified source," Kandola stated. People in the N.W.T. are asked to get tested at the first sign of any symptoms of COVID-19. "No matter where you are in the N.W.T., it is more important than ever for you to get tested for COVID-19 at the first sign of any symptoms," Kandola stated. "This will help identify new cases, new contacts who should be isolated, and prevent additional transmission."
HSINCHU, Taiwan — Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill Tuesday aimed at repelling an attack from China, which has increased its threats to reclaim the island and its own displays of military might. “No matter what is happening around the Taiwan Strait, our determination to guard our homeland will never change,” said Maj. Gen. Chen Chong-ji said, director of the department of political warfare, about the exercise at Hukou Army Base south of the capital Taipei. Chen said the exercise was intended as a show of Taiwan’s determination to maintain peace between the sides through a show of force. The drills are also meant to reassure the public the military is maintaining its guard ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year festival, when many troops take leave. Hukou base lies in Hsinchu county, a centre for Taiwan's high-tech industries that have thrived despite the constant threats of invasion by China, which considers the self-governing island democracy part of its own territory to be conquered by force if necessary. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sought to bolster the island's defences with the purchase of billions of dollars in weapons from key ally the U.S., including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both ships and land targets. She has also boosted support for the island's indigenous arms industry, including launching a program to build new submarines to counter China's ever-growing naval capabilities. China's increased threats come as economic and political enticements bear little fruit, leading it to stage war games and dispatch fighter jets and reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis toward the island of 24 million people, which lies 160 kilometres (100 miles) off China’s southeast coast across the Taiwan Strait. Along with world’s largest standing military, numbering around 2 million members, China has the largest navy, with approximately 350 vessels, including two aircraft carriers and about 56 submarines. It also possesses around 2,000 combat fighters and bombers and 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles, considered a key strategic and psychological weapon against Taiwan. Taiwan’s armed forces are a fraction of that number, with much of its ground force consisting of short-term conscripts, and its fleet numbers only around 86 vessels, roughly half of them missile boats for coastal patrol. The Associated Press
A grieving Vancouver mother wants answers after the shrine she maintained for years in her daughter's memory was removed without any notice. The shrine, near East 7th Avenue and St. Catherines Street in East Vancouver, was established near the spot where Marlene Thistle's daughter, Janice Nicole Bryant, 33, was shot and killed on May 23, 2017. Bryant's killer has not been found. "Someone took it upon themselves to remove the memorial, and dump it right there like it was garbage," said Thistle. "My daughter is not garbage." Thistle put up the memorial — which had flowers, statues of angels and a cross — just a few metres from where Bryant was shot. "She was a genuine human being. She had a huge heart, was very loving," Thistle said. "She'd give the shirt off her back to anyone in need." Thistle said the memorial was both a way of honouring her daughter and keeping a light on her unsolved case. The removal of the memorial has been devastating, she said. "When I witnessed it, it was like her being gone all over again, the moments of her being shot," Thistle said. "What if this memorial site was for your daughter, your sister or your mother? Really sit back and think about the impact of how you would feel as an individual to find a memorial destroyed like it was." In an email to CBC, both the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board say their staff were not responsible for taking down the memorial. City officials did note, however, that there had been several requests from the public to remove it due to its location and sight lines from the adjacent roads. Thistle said the memorial had taken years to build up, but she is committed to putting it back together for her daughter. "Until her murder case is solved, I will set it up again."
BEIJING — China is now dealing with coronavirus outbreaks across its frigid northeast, prompting additional lockdowns and travel bans. The country reported a total of 118 newly confirmed cases Tuesday — most of them in Jilin province, the Hebei region just outside Beijing and Heilongjiang province bordering Russia. A fourth northern province, Liaoning, has also imposed quarantines and travel restrictions to prevent the virus from further spreading, part of measures being imposed across much of the country to prevent new outbreaks during during February’s Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — Japan’s prime minister vows to hold the already postponed Olympics this summer as proof of victory over virus — Israel trades Pfizer vast troves of medical data for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine — Brazil approves two coronavirus vaccines, ones by Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca — China's economy grows in 2020 as it rebounds from virus, likely only major economy to expand — Britain vows to give all adults 1st shot of the virus by September — Tennis players find ways to keep fit even during hotel room quarantines in Australia __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: WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Travelers to New Zealand from most other nations will need to show negative coronavirus test results before boarding as of next Monday. New Zealand recently imposed the test requirement for travellers from the U.S. and Britain, and authorities said Tuesday that it is being extending to all other countries, with the exception of Australia and a handful of Pacific Island nations. Travelers returning from Antarctica are also exempt. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand has some of the strictest border measures in the world. There is currently no community spread of the virus in New Zealand, with all known infections among travellers who have been put into quarantine at the border. Most travellers are required to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival. ___ WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House press secretary says his administration does not intend to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K., Ireland and Brazil. The message from Jen Psaki came Monday evening after the White House said President Donald Trump had lifted the restrictions for those countries, effective Jan. 26. Psaki then tweeted: “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.” She added, “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” Trump imposed the travel restrictions early in the pandemic to slow the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S. They prevented most people without American citizenship or residency from travelling to the U.S. from the affected regions. ___ OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a plan to set up coronavirus vaccination sites statewide with help from the National Guard and others as part of an overall goal to vaccinate 45,000 people a day. Inslee said Monday that while the goal is currently higher than the current allotment of vaccine the state is receiving from the federal government, the state is working to get the infrastructure in place now for when the supply increases. He says the state is now vaccinating between 13,000 and 15,000 people a day. The governor also announced a public-private partnership with business, health care and labour entities on areas ranging from co-ordination of volunteer vaccinators to communications support. ___ JACKSON, Miss. — More than 100,000 people in Mississippi have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and officials are taking further steps to administer the state’s supply of shots more efficiently, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday. Inoculation rates in Mississippi have lagged far behind most of the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Reeves insisted Monday that health officials are making changes to speed things along. The state’s website for making vaccine appointments has been upgraded to handle increased traffic, and more people are answering calls from those booking by phone, he said. Meanwhile, state officials are working to free up more shots for the general population aged 65 and older by getting several thousand doses from nursing homes that received more than they need, Reeves said. ___ LOS ANGELES — California’s state epidemiologist is urging a halt to more than 300,000 coronavirus vaccine doses by Moderna because some people who received it needed medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions. Dr. Erica S. Pan is recommending that vaccine providers stop using one lot of the Moderna vaccine pending completion of an investigation. She says less than 10 people who were inoculated at a single vaccination site needed medical attention. But she also said serious reactions to vaccinations are extremely rare. The virus has claimed more than 33,000 lives in California. ___ MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Monday the state will open nine community sites this week to vaccinate adults over 65, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educators, school staff and child care workers. The program opens the state’s vaccine rollout beyond the first high-priority group that includes healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff. The nine sites will start inoculating people Thursday by appointment-only due to the small number of available doses. The announcement comes after the Democratic governor accused the Trump administration of “lying” when he and six other governors asked for permission to receive their states’ second doses from a national stockpile to ramp up vaccination efforts. The governors were told by federal officials that the administration would release the federal reserve of doses, but later learned the stockpile had already been exhausted. ___ BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota reported on Monday zero coronavirus deaths for the fifth time this month, although the fatality rate by population continues to be among the worst in the country. The state’s death count, which stands at a total of 1,384, is the sixth highest per capita in the country at 185 deaths per 100,000 people, according to John Hopkins University researchers. North Dakota’s 14-day rolling average of daily new cases has decreased by more than 27%, according to The COVID Tracking Project data. The state has experienced a steady decline in daily new cases since the virus case count peaked in mid-November. It now ranks 48th per capita in the U.S. for new cases over the last two weeks. A statewide mask mandate that was enacted in mid-November was allowed to expire Monday morning. ___ ST. LOUIS -- More than 172,000 people in St. Louis County have registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the the local health department so far has only received 975 doses, county Executive Sam Page said Monday. The county expects more doses to arrive Tuesday but it was unclear how many, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Page also urged residents to be honest about the information they use to register for vaccinations, saying some have falsely claimed to be health care workers or brought along family members who are ineligible at this time. A new inoculation phase began Monday in Missouri that allows older people and those with certain pre-existing conditions to be vaccinated. ___ PRAGUE — The fast-spreading coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. has been found in the Czech Republic, a health official said Monday. The National Institute of Public Health confirmed its findings after it announced over the weekend it was testing suspected samples. Health Minister Jan Blatny says the variant accounts for about 10% of all sequenced samples in in the country. No further details were provided. The country of 10.7 million has reported 891,852 confirmed coronavirus cases and 14,449 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The daily infection rate has been in decline since Jan 6., prompting the government to allow stores selling stationary and children’s clothes and shoes to reopen. The country still remains under a tough lockdown with a nighttime curfew. ___ MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry has confirmed 84,287 new known coronavirus cases since Friday amid a post-Christmas virus surge. The ministry also reported 455 deaths over the weekend. Monday’s figures brought the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 2.34 million and known deaths to 53,769. Spain’s 14-day incidence rate for 100,000 inhabitants rose to 689, from 575 on Friday. Coronavirus patients currently occupy 33% of ICU beds, up from 30% on Friday. Despite the substantial daily increases, Health Minister Salvador Illa on Monday insisted the measures taken by each of Spain’s 17 regions are enough to quell the increase, ruling out a total lockdown. Spain’s health emergency chief Fernando Simon said that the country could be at the peak of the latest surge or getting close to it. ___ ROME — For the first time in three weeks, Italy’s daily caseload of known coronavirus infections dropped below 10,000 on Monday. Health Ministry figures reported 8,825 additional cases since Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 2.4 million since the start of the pandemic. Sicily has the nation's highest daily caseload. Italy registered 377 deaths for a second straight day. The nation’s known COVID-19 death toll of 82,554 is the second highest in Europe. ___ MADRID — The tiny British colony of Gibraltar says it has lost more people to the coronavirus since the start of the year than from any other single cause in the past century. Gibraltar, with a population of some 34,000, has posted 38 deaths since Jan. 1. “Even in war, we have never lost so many in such a short time,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Monday. He said 21 people had died from the virus in the past three days, bringing the colony's total virus deaths to 45 since the start of the pandemic. Located on Spain’s southern coast, Gibraltar has recorded some 4,000 cases. It has been under lockdown since the beginning of January. ___ BERLIN — Swiss authorities say they have placed two hotels under quarantine and ordered all guests and employees to be tested after a new variant of the coronavirus was detected among them in the upscale skiing resort of St. Moritz. Local authorities said Monday they have also closed down skiing schools, regular schools and kindergartens. Officials did not reveal the names of the two affected facilities, but Swiss media said both were luxury hotels. In addition to tests at the hotels, all residents of St. Moritz were being asked to be tested on Tuesday. Authorities ordered all residents to wear protective masks, and asked people to reduce their contacts to prevent the further spread of the virus. “The health office is concerned,” authorities of the Graubuenden canton said in their statement. “The variant of the virus is clearly more contagious than the one that’s currently predominant globally.” Swiss media reported that the variant of the virus detected in St. Moritz was the one first found in South Africa. ___ MOSCOW -- Backers of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V say it has been approved in Turkmenistan, an ex-Soviet nation in Central Asia that hasn’t officially reported any infections so far. The Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the development of the shot announced Monday that health officials in Turkmenistan approved Sputnik V “under the emergency use authorization procedure.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether Russia would ship the vaccine to Turkmenistan any time soon. The vaccine is still undergoing advanced studies among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Nevertheless, the shot last month was rolled out in a large-scale vaccination campaign in Russia. It has also received regulatory approval in several other countries, and immunization with Sputnik V has started in Belarus and Argentina. Turkmenistan, a gas-rich nation of 5.9 million, hasn’t reported any coronavirus infections, but authorities have shut restaurants and non-food stores and recommended that the population wears masks to protect against dust and unspecified infectious agents. However, the British ambassador to the capital, Ashgabat, said last month that he had contracted the virus. The Associated Press
SANTIAGO, Chile — A powerful earthquake struck in northwestern Argentina near the border with central Chile just before midnight Monday, shaking people in parts of both countries. There were no reports of injuries or serious damage, though some power outages were reported in the quake area. The U.S. Geological Survey said the tremor had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4. Its epicenter was 27.6 kilometres (17 miles) southwest of the Argentine town of Porcito and struck at a depth of 14 kilometres (nearly nine miles). The quake was followed by a magnitude 5.0 aftershock about a quarter hour later and then at least five more strong aftershocks in the next hour ranging from magnitude 5.3 to 4.8, the USGS said. Argentine media said some houses reportedly were damaged in the small down of Media Agua and at least one road was said to have been disrupted, but there were indications of injuries. Electricity also failed in spots and some goods were shaken from supermarket shelves, the reports aid.. People in the quake zone reported there was panic when the initial quake struck and said they spent anxious hours as the aftershocks brought new shaking. Strong movement was felt in Chile's capital, Santiago, which is about 300 kilometres (186 miles) from the area hit by the quake. Chilean officials said there were no damage reported in that nation. The Associated Press
Three B.C. salmon populations will receive priority attention under proposed new laws formalizing the federal government’s obligation to protect and restore Canadian fisheries at risk. The draft regulations released Jan. 2 stem from the amended Fisheries Act in 2019 that included the formation of binding commitments on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to manage major stocks at sustainable levels and rebuild those at risk. “[These regulations] would strengthen fisheries management framework leading to better conservation outcomes for the prescribed stocks, more demonstrably sustainable fisheries, and compliance with the Fisheries Act,” reads a government statement accompanying the proposed regulations. “In addition, the proposed regulations would result in the increased transparency and accountability that accompanies regulatory oversight as compared with policy approaches.” DFO policy already steers toward the regulation’s goals, but critics complain the followthrough is often weak and drawn out. The new laws aim to cement government accountability by forcing the development of a rebuilding plan within three years of identifying a stock at risk, coupled with concrete timelines and thorough assessments of why they’re suffering. “The plan provides a common understanding of the basic ‘rules’ for rebuilding the stocks,” the statement continues. The proposed laws indicate that within five years DFO will prescribe all 177 major fish stocks with a limit reference point (LRP), the point at which a stock falls into serious harm. DFO will be required to develop rebuilding plans for those stocks below their LRP level. The first batch of 30 stocks include 17 below critical numbers, including Okanagan chinook and Interior Fraser Coho. Threatened stocks of west-coast Vancouver Island chinook and Pacific herring around Haida Gwaii are both on the path of receiving a rebuilding plan early this year. B.C.’s two populations of yelloweye rockfish are also below their LRP threshold and have already received completed rebuilding plans. Once threatened stocks grow above their LRP, the minister must implement measures to maintain them at or above the sustainable level. Despite the stated goals behind the proposed regulations, Oceana Canada wants to see “surgical fixes” to the proposed laws before they’re approved, as the current draft offers too many loopholes. The organization recommended three key improvements to the regulations: speeding up the process of assigning all critically low stocks with rebuilding plans; setting clearer targets within those plans; and establishing maximum-allowable timelines for targets and milestones. “They explicitly say … they don’t want to set a standard. They want to maintain full flexibility depending on the stock they’re looking at,” Andrew Wilson, Oecana Canada president said. “The regulations say there must be a target set, but surely, every policy already says they [DFO] must manage stocks up to a healthy level. So what are their definitions? This doesn’t define that. It just says set a target, any target, essentially. It also says they have to set a timeline, but that can be anywhere from one to 100 years.” Oceana Canada released a critical audit of Canadian fisheries last November that found only one-quarter of stocks are healthy, down 10 per cent since its first audit in 2017. Stocks of caution have risen from 16 to 19 per cent, while stocks in critical states have increased from 13.4 per cent to 17 per cent in the same time period. In B.C. the organization also highlighted troubling decreases in crustacean populations, the backbone of Canadian fisheries, and small forage fish that are vital prey for other commercially important fish. Oceana cautions Ottawa that consumers are increasingly demanding sustainably-caught fish, to which the adoption of robust regulations and global best practices are key to ensuring a successful Blue Economy Strategy currently under development. “Without changes, the draft regulations that are now open for public comment would squander this opportunity, depriving Canada of the economic and environmental benefits that come with rebuilt fish populations,” reads an Oceana statement. Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View
If you think the world of politics could do with more consensus making and working across the aisles (and at this point, really, who doesn’t), then a new series from TVO might be right up your alley. Political Blind Date returns Tuesday, Jan. 19at 9 p.m. ET on TVO, tvo.org, and the TVO YouTube channel. Each of the six half-hour shows matches two politicians with differing points of view and sends them out into the community on a “date.” There likely won’t be any hook ups…But hopefully they’ll find some common ground? Of particular interest to Sun Peaks Independent News readers is the Jan. 26 episode on pipeline politics. In it, Green Party MP Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) and Cathy McLeod, shadow minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Conservative MP (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, B.C) will unwrap the pros and cons of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and its impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across British Columbia. What does the building of a second parallel pipeline mean for those living along its route is among the issues that will be discussed. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
In the last month there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases in young people, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed today. She said most are related to household and small group transmission, and all children who were admitted to intensive care have now recovered. In response to a question, she confirmed that public health orders are legal orders. However, there continues to be no public health order requiring people not to travel. “We have strongly recommended that people not travel except for essential reasons, even with in BC and certainly inter-provincially as well right now,” said Henry. She also reported 1,330 new cases over the weekend: 584 from Friday to Saturday, 445 from Saturday to Sunday and a further 301 in the last 24 hours. Four of the cases over the weekend are epidemiologically linked and BC’s total has reached 61,447. Of the new cases, 281 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 548 in the Fraser Health region, 65 in the Island Health region, 257 in the Interior Health region, 166 in the Northern Health region and 13 people who normally live outside Canada. The majority of those people are temporary farm workers who entered B.C. in preparation for the coming season. There are 4,326 active cases and 343 people in hospital, 68 of whom are in critical care. A further 6,865 people are being monitored by public health, not including those in the Northern Health region. Sadly, 31 more people lost their lives due to COVID-19 over the weekend. Most were seniors or elders living in longterm care. Henry announced one new healthcare outbreak and declared four over, leaving 48 active outbreaks in longterm care or assisted living facilities and 10 in acute care facilities. Healthcare outbreaks are currently affecting 1,339 residents and 708 staff members. To date, 87,346 people have been vaccinated. Henry confirmed the province will experience a delay in delivery of around 60,000 Pfizer vaccine doses next week and the week after, which will temporarily slow the vaccination of at-risk populations. Moderna deliveries are still on schedule. The province’s plan continues to be starting second doses at day 35, which will begin next week. For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and to find a testing centre near you: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
Ethel Lockrey, 97, and a resident of Silver Fox Estate in Salisbury said people might be surprised at what she and some other seniors have come up with while under lockdown at their retirement residence: floor curling. The game bears some resemblance to regular curling, except there are little wheels under the stones, and of course the absence of ice, said another resident, Doug Sentell, 83, adding that a smooth surface is still important. "I think people would be surprised to know such a game exists. It's fantastic,” said fellow resident Glenna Brugess, 91, adding that she really enjoyed playing and thinks she could be good at it. This week, the seniors had a faceoff: women versus men, said Sentell. The women's team won, he said The women’s team’s most senior senior was certainly a big part of their success, though she is very humble, Sentell said. Lockrey, who many referred to in interviews as “Speedy Ethel” said she thinks “people would be surprised that at 97 years old I can play." "I like to curl. It exercises my whole body and I feel that's important,” she said. Sentell said this week’s game was only the second time he and his fellow residents have given the new game a shot, but noted their skills have improved considerably. “The first time we were flipping the stones upside down,” he said, sharing that his biggest tip would be not to push too hard initially. “We had 10 playing this time. The first time there were maybe four or five that tried, with more as spectators,” said Sentell, adding that people have been learning by watching. Jason Wilson, operator of Silver Fox Estate, said the home, which opened in May during the pandemic, has hired a full-time wellness coordinator, who has been organizing everything from curling to chair fitness. Residents can’t have visitors nor can they participate in off-site visits right now, he said. The home is their household bubble, he said. But while opening during a pandemic was a nightmare from a business perspective, Wilson said, the positive side has been really getting to know each resident slowly and watching residents grow closer to each other than they perhaps would have been otherwise. “They rely on each other. They take care of each other,” he said. From crib, to bingo, to chair exercises, they do activities together, said Wilson. And now, of course, they curl together. Sentell said he thinks as they get more players interested they could explore the possibility of a tournament. “I think this could take off,” he said. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
Calls for the Saskatchewan government to consider releasing as many prisoners as possible to protect them from COVID-19 have been rejected by Premier Scott Moe and his corrections minister. A petition calling for Saskatchewan's Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell to resign over the government's handling of COVID-19 outbreaks inside Saskatchewan correctional centres was delivered to the legislature Friday. It included recommendations for a government apology, a release of as many prisoners as possible — including those on remand or nearing release — and adequate supports for those released. In a tweet on Saturday, Moe stood firm on his position that the government would not be releasing "criminals that have been sentenced by a court of law." A statement from Tell echoed Moe's statement. It reads in part: "COVID-19 is not a get out of jail free card – It would be a disservice to victims and a breach of my duty to maintain public safety to grant leave to inmates who would not otherwise meet the stringent public safety criteria in place for early release... Similarly, the Ministry of Corrections and Policing is not able to release remanded inmates. The decision to remand inmates is made by the courts after discussion between prosecutors, defence counsel, the judiciary and any other necessary parties.... It is important to note that, on average, 87% of remanded inmates have been charged with a violent offence." Tell also said they would not "modify early release criteria to appease inmates or their advocates who see the pandemic as an opportunity for early release. To do so would minimize the experience of victims and be a serious breach in our duty to maintain public safety." When a person is on remand, they have either had their bail denied or they are consenting to be held in a jail, but they have not been convicted of the crimes they are currently charged with, and they are presumed innocent. There are 948 adults and 32 youths on remand in Saskatchewan right now. Brady Knight, a criminal defence lawyer based in La Ronge, Sask., said reasons people may have had their bail denied can be something as simple as not having the resources to put a landline in their home, or something more complex like not having a residence to go to if released. "At the end of the day, these are people too. We as a society have an obligation to treat individuals charged with crimes with dignity, with respect and in accordance with the Charter," he said. There are three sections the court looks at when they're deciding if someone will be released on bail, and the broad categories essentially weigh these concepts: Will the accused show up to court or are they a flight risk? What's the likelihood of this person offending if they were to be released on bail? Will they endanger the safety of the public? Will the release of this person have an impact on the public confidence in the justice system? Knight said he thinks the province can help by investing more money and resources. "Having financial security and having good social supports can go a long ways for a lot of these individuals, and I think would lead to situations where bail could be re-evaluated," he said in an interview. "There's still many individuals who are [in jail] and have been there for quite some time, and simply aren't able to be released because they don't have the privilege of having those resources in their life." Knight said the court is having a hard time during COVID too, because the coronavirus keeps the court from travelling to remote communities. That's causing more people to have to stay in remand longer. These problems can't be solved overnight, Knight said. People within the justice system can only do so much sometimes, he said. He echoed the calls of many Indigenous leaders in the North who have long called for more affordable housing and better mental health support for their residents. "While [these things] are present in some communities, [they] are certainly overwhelmed in many because there's so many individuals trying to access these sorts of services," he said. "It's those types of things that are going to assist people both in and out of custody."
(ANNews) – A coalition promoting harm reduction policies to manage the opioid poisoning crisis is calling on the Alberta government to restore funding for Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site after a police investigation found funds the United Conservatives said were missing. The AIDS Reduction Community Harm Education and Support Society (ARCHES), which operated the busiest supervised consumption site in North America, was forced to shutter at the end of August after a government-ordered audit reported that $1.6 million in funding was missing. This resulted in a police investigation, which found the money and no basis for criminal charges. In light of these developments, Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy — a coalition of advocates, healthcare workers and people who use drugs — has issued a release telling Associate Minister of Addictions and Mental Health Jason Luan to reverse his decision to close the site. On March 5, 2020, the government issued a report on supervised consumption sites, which was explicitly prohibited from discussing the efficacy of the sites in favour of examining their social and economic impact on surrounding residents and businesses. Its methodology was lambasted by experts. That same day Luan announced an audit of ARCHES, which the coalition says suggests it was politically motivated. “In July 2020, Jason Luan used the findings of this audit as a justification to defund and closed down supervised consumption services (SCS) in Lethbridge, a deliberate and ideological approach that led to individual and community harms at an alarming rate,” the release notes. In just the first three-quarters of 2020, Lethbridge had 42 opioid poisoning deaths, more than double the number in 2019. Additionally, Lethbridge had the highest opioid death rate out of 100,000 people of the province’s seven largest cities at 51.1. Red Deer was the second-highest with 39.1, according to provincial data released in December 2020. Dr. Susan Adelmann, a physician who works at the Blood Tribe Medical Clinic’s detox facility in Standoff, says Lethbridge’s rate is the country’s highest and possibly North America’s. “It is so inappropriate for them to have closed that place,” she said. Adelmann wrote an open letter to Luan, which was signed by three other doctors, prior to the conclusion of the police investigation, calling on the government to reconsider its closure. The letter cited the inadequacy of the mobile site that replaced it, which operates 20 hours a day and can serve three people at a time. ARCHES, by contrast, was open 24-7, and had 13 injection booths, as well as two inhalation rooms. There was an inverse relationship between use of the supervised consumption site on the one hand, and deaths and EMS calls on the other, reported independent journalist Kim Seiver. And according to a 2017 literature review in Canadian Family Physician, opioid treatment is “far more effective” than abstinence-only recovery. Indeed, Alberta Health Serves has an explicit policy in support of harm reduction. Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy says the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid crisis have exacerbated each other, which makes harm reduction all the more crucial. “We know that COVID-19 has pushed many at-risk of overdose into isolation and has made the current drug supply more volatile than ever before. Any disruption in existing services across this province is a death sentence to our most vulnerable Albertans,” the group says. “Lethbridge ARCHES clients have done nothing to deserve being cast out into the street during a dual health crisis.” Jeremy Appel is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Native News. Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
Justin Timberlake may just have had a second baby boy, but he's got an album about to pop, too!
After a successful competitive career, Montreal figure skater Elladj Baldé vowed to push back against the sport's traditions and explore his own style. The result? Newfound internet fame. The 30-year-old skater's videos, which show him performing unconventional routines punctuated by backflips, have garnered over 16 million views on TikTok and 13 million on Instagram. "I was shocked by how things were being received," Baldé said of his quick rise to internet celebrity. But to him, the attention just means he's moving in the right direction, trying to modernize and diversify the culture of a sport that remains traditional and "limiting" at the pro level, he said. "I feel the reason why they're going viral is because ... I'm completely diving into what I want to do and how I want to do it." WATCH | Baldé speaks about authenticity in his skating: The Russian-born, Montreal-raised athlete started figure skating at age six, and spent years in the Canadian and international competitive circuits. After two unsuccessful Olympic trials and even more concussions, Baldé made the decision to retire from competitive skating in May 2018, at 27. Since then, he's been a choreographer and judge on the live-competition skating series Battle of the Blades, gotten engaged and co-founded the Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance (FSDIA), a non-profit that aims to combat racial inequality in the sport. The alliance and videos are Baldé's way of reclaiming his artistry and authenticity after years of rigid competitive routines, he said. "Being a Black man in figure skating was a different experience," he said. "It's very much rooted in, you know, a white, European, elitist kind of mentality." "You have to fit within a certain box and a certain style in order to be successful," he added. The FSDIA is already working with Skate Canada to foster more diversity and inclusion in the sport environment. Baldé said he wants to address the financial barriers that keep Black, Indigenous and other people of colour from participating in sports like figure skating, and he wants to help create policy changes to help athletes and coaches of colour report racism and discrimination. "The culture of figure skating needs to change," Baldé said. "We're just really committed to bringing a new perspective to skating." That perspective shines through in his online routines, where he's been skating to the likes of Rihanna and James Brown on local outdoor rinks and scenic lakes during the pandemic. And he's not just attracting the attention of his fellow Canadians; American actress Jada Pinkett Smith reposted one of his videos on Instagram, where it racked up another nearly 8.5 million plays. Baldé said the viral fame shows him there's room to make figure skating cool again, as well as an appetite for more creative, diverse performances. "I would love to encourage people to pursue their passion, whatever that is," he said. "And hopefully, the next generation that comes into the sport will no longer have to deal with some of the things that us older generations ... had to experience." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
The Town of Hardisty, home to about 550 people in the rolling hills of the Alberta's Battle River Valley, was banking on doubling its population over the next decade. A large plot of land, with the oil terminal silos visible a few kilometres to the east, was set aside for an anticipated spike in new industrial and commercial business in the rural town 200 kilometres outheast of Edmonton. Property tax from the parcels of land was expected to generate over $100,000 annually, money that would help build roads and provide other services, says Hardisty's chief administrative officer Sandy Otto. But those visions of growth were built on the Keystone XL pipeline, which is now in jeopardy by U.S. president-elect Joe Biden's reported plans to cancel a key project permit. "We'll basically have to put our community on hold as to whether or not we can move forward," Otto said. "We'll be going at a snail's pace again if we can't get Keystone through." The pipeline, owned by TC Energy, originates at the Hardisty Terminal, a major storage and pipeline export hub for the Alberta oilsands, before snaking southeast to the Manitoba-North Dakota border and down to Nebraska. "When you're relying on other governments and their permitting processes and their visions, there's always uncertainty," Otto said. The Alberta government invested $1.5 billion last March, along with billions more in loan guarantees, to kickstart construction on the pipeline extension after it was given the green light by U.S. President Donald Trump. The project, first proposed in 2008 and rejected under President Barack Obama's administration, has long drawn the ire of environmental groups who are opposed to additional oilsands investments and wary of pipeline spills. The Alberta government expected Keystone XL to create 2,000 construction jobs over two years and generate $30 billion in revenue once it was complete. Now hundreds of those jobs are at risk, and local towns along the pipeline route set to miss out on the economic windfall in the near- and long-term. At the provincial level, Premier Jason Kenney said Monday he estimates the government could be on the hook for about $1 billion of its investment if the project is cancelled. 'A big difference' to a small village The village of Consort, home to just over 700 people a few hours east of Red Deer, was preparing to host a roughly 300-person work camp this spring as pipeline construction continued north along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. "That can be a big difference in additional economic impact for all the small businesses," said Mayor Michael Beier. "In the long term, half our community works in the oilpatch or is directly tied to the oilpatch in our area, so without that, there doesn't look like there'd be a whole bunch of growth unless we get another pipeline for export." About an hour south, the town of Oyen has been enjoying a mini-boom, with the arrival of nearly 1,000 workers during the 2020 construction season. Given the provincial and federal government's support for the project, Mayor Doug Jones was confident the pipeline would get built. "I was quite shocked," Jones said of the latest development. "I did not expect that." In abrogating the permit, former vice-president Biden will make good on a long-standing campaign promise to reverse Trump's approval of the project. Work camps were also being planned for Provost, a community about 300 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. Despite the grim news coming from Washington, Reeve Allan Murray is still hopeful construction will continue. "I was very disappointed," he said. "Money gets spent when people are around." Municipalities along the pipeline right-of-way are set to miss out on $4 million in property taxes if the project is cancelled. But back in Hardisty, the impact is bigger than just tax revenues. The pipeline was expected to bring 830,000 barrels per day through the local terminal. New jobs, from maintenance to metering services, would be needed to help support that demand, said Blake Moser, chair of the Hardisty and District Development Group. "The knock-on effects are something that you're not really able to measure," he said. "It's tough for everyone to take."
EDMONTON — Alberta has decided to cancel recently issued coal leases in the Rocky Mountains, as public opposition grows to the United Conservative government's plan to expand coal mining in the area. Late Monday afternoon, Energy Minister Sonya Savage issued a press release saying the sale of 11 recently purchased coal leases would be cancelled. Savage added that no further leases would be sold on lands that were protected from open-pit mines under a policy the government revoked last May. "We have listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thank those who spoke up with passion," she said in the release. “This pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected." She also said the move will have no impact on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review. The cancelled leases are a small portion of the coal exploration leases the government has issued since revoking a policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies — home to endangered species as well as the water source for millions downstream — since 1976. The decision came as more than 100,000 signatures had been collected on two petitions opposing increased mining on two related fronts. One, sponsored by environmental groups on Change.org, was addressed to the provincial government and had 77,000 signatures Monday afternoon — an increase of about 10,000 over the weekend. Another, sponsored by a private citizen and addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, had nearly 28,000 names opposing the Benga coal project in southern Alberta, which is undergoing a federal-provincial environmental review. As well, a Facebook site called Protect Alberta's Rockies and Headwaters has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000. The Benga review has received more than 4,000 statements of concern from members of the public, the vast majority opposing the project. Members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have sent more than 700 postcards to Wilkinson asking him to block coal development in the Rockies and another 2,000 have joined an online group to that end, said organizer Latasha Calf Robe. Edmonton New Democrat MP Heather McPherson has received hundreds of calls on the issue, a spokeswoman said. The Opposition New Democrats also started a petition that garnered nearly 2,900 names in a week. A spokesman said the number nearly doubles every day. New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension Monday, but said it raises more questions. "They're not committing to reinstating the coal policy, so they're not ruling out future development in these areas like people are demanding. It's a partial victory, but it's a clear signal that Albertans need to keep pushing to put permanent protections in." Schmidt asked if the cancellations create any financial obligations for the province. "How much are taxpayers on the hook for?" Neither Savage nor Alberta Energy staff were available to take questions on the issue. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021 Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
RCMP are now investigating two separate attacks linked to Mission-area schools in the same week. Cpl. Jason Raaflaub says the latest incident happened Jan. 13 on the grounds of Mission Secondary School. He says a 15-year-old girl and her mother contacted police after the teen was allegedly assaulted. The incident was caught on video. "The video shows a female standing over top of another female lying face up on the ground and the other female is seen punching and kicking the one on the ground," Raaflaub said. A 14-year-old girl was arrested Jan. 15 in connection with the incident. Raaflaub says the video is part of the submission being made to Abbotsford Crown counsel for a charge of assault. The 14-year-old has been released but is not allowed to contact the victim or go to Mission Secondary School. Second violent incident in one week The other alleged assault — also recorded on video — happened Jan. 11. The video was shared widely on social media and sparked outrage. A vehicle parade was organized Sunday in support of the alleged victim, with rally organizers describing the victim as a non-binary transgender teen. The video in this case shows the teen being punched and kicked by two girls on the school grounds of École Heritage Park Middle School. Two teen girls have been arrested and charges of assault are pending Crown approval. Tracy Loffler is the board chair for the Mission school district and says the recent incidents are concerning. "We are always concerned about violence in our community ... We are working as a district and with other agencies to ensure children in Mission have the safest school experience possible."