Mikey sees a Happy Birthday Balloon for the first time. He has great fun bouncing, trying to catch the balloon!
Mikey sees a Happy Birthday Balloon for the first time. He has great fun bouncing, trying to catch the balloon!
WASHINGTON — The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice-president. The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden's inauguration last week. “The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.” The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major's journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised. Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream," the association said. The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline's arrival was shared on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House. Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR. “Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House. Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens' decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt. President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived. Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman's advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.” ___ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
Britain will announce on Tuesday whether it will bring in mandatory quarantine in hotels for some or all arrivals, the country's coronavirus vaccination minister said as he warned the public not to book summer vacations. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he was looking at the option of introducing quarantine hotels for those coming to Britain to prevent the risk of "vaccine-busting" new coronavirus variants entering the country. Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for the rollout of the United Kingdom's COVID-19 vaccination programme, said details would come later on Tuesday.
The Iranian and Panamanian-flagged vessels seized by Indonesian authorities for suspected illegal oil transfers are making their way to dock at Batam island in the country's Riau Islands Province for further investigation, a Indonesia coast guard spokesman told Reuters. The two supertankers, with crew members from Iran and China, were seized on Sunday in Indonesian waters near Kalimantan island. The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, had a total of 61 crew members onboard.
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 26 ...What we are watching in Canada ...A new report on billions of dollars the federal government has sent to provinces to help safely reopen the economy suggests much of the money is sitting unused.Today's report also suggests that federal efforts to stretch the financial impact of those dollars is falling short as many provinces have bucked cost-matching requests.The analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says six out of 10 provinces haven't spent all the money the federal government has sent their way, including for things like personal protective equipment.Author David Macdonald says some of the money may yet be spent, but notes the longer it remains unspent, the less likely it ever will be spent.Macdonald's analysis is based on a review of provincial and federal spending announcements, reconciling duplications, as well as provincial spending documents.Federal and provincial governments are allocating hundreds of billions in direct spending and liquidity support to help workers, families, front-line workers and businesses make it through the pandemic.The federal treasury has managed the lion's share of COVID-19 spending — accounting for about $8 in every $10 of aid, according to the federal Finance Department's math.---Also this ...Critics are asking why Alberta Environment has been sitting on years worth of data about pollution from coal mines while the government considers a dramatic expansion of the industry."It raises some important questions about our ability to trust what's going on," said New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt. "The fact (Alberta Environment) hasn't reported publicly is extremely concerning."On Monday, The Canadian Press reported on analysis of coal mine contamination in the Gregg and McLeod Rivers and Luscar Creek near Jasper, Alta., dating back to the 1990s. It found toxic levels of selenium many times over the amount considered safe for aquatic life. The Gregg and Luscar Creek mines closed in the early 2000s. Selenium levels from both declined, at best, only gradually over more than 15 years of remediation.In the case of the Cheviot mine on the McLeod River, levels gradually grew between 2005 and 2017. The operation closed last June. The data also shows the provincial government knew about the levels for at least 15 years and did not report anything after 2006. The information was available in raw form, but Schmidt said it isn't enough to simply collect information."There are numbers and then there are the numbers that the stories tell. That's the piece that's missing."---What we are watching in the U.S. ...Donald Trump is adding another South Carolina attorney to his impeachment legal team, according to a trial lawyer group in the state.In an email sent to South Carolina members of the American College of Trial Lawyers, group chairman Wallace Lightsey wrote that Deborah Barbier — a former federal prosecutor-turned-defence attorney who specializes in white-collar crime — had been hired to join Butch Bowers in crafting a defence for Trump's unprecedented second impeachment trial, set for the week of Feb. 8.“Regardless of one's personal view of Mr. Trump, it says a great deal about Debbie's skill and reputation as a trial lawyer that she was chosen for this task,” Lightsey wrote in the email, obtained by The Associated Press. “We know you will acquit yourself well (even though some of us may be hoping that your client is not).”Neither Lightsey nor Barbier returned messages seeking comment late Monday.In Barbier, Bowers — an ethics and election lawyer picked last week to lead the team — has a co-counsel who spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor and who now, in private practice, specializes in white-collar defence. Barbier, a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, was an assistant U.S. Attorney in South Carolina for 15 years, working on both criminal and civil cases and ultimately serving as chief of the civil division.After leaving the office in 2012, Barbier went into private practice. Her clients have included Republican political consultant Richard Quinn, who had at times counted former President Ronald Reagan and Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham among his clients. Conspiracy and illegal lobbying charges in connection with a wide-ranging legislative corruption probe were dropped in 2017 when Quinn’s son, then-state Rep. Rick Quinn, agreed to plead guilty to misconduct in office and resign.Barbier also in 2016 served as defence attorney for a friend of the man convicted of shooting nine Black parishioners to death at a historic Charleston church. Joey Meek, Barbier's client, was later sentenced to more than two years in prison for telling people not to share the shooter's identity with authorities.---What we are watching in the rest of the world ...Groups of youths confronted police in Dutch towns and cities Monday night, defying the country's coronavirus curfew and throwing fireworks. Police in the port city of Rotterdam used a water cannon and tear gas in an attempt to disperse a crowd of rioters who also looted shops.Police and local media reported trouble in the capital, Amsterdam, where at least eight people were arrested, Haarlem, where vandals set a large fire in a street, The Hague and other towns before and after the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew began.It was the second night of unrest in towns and cities across the Netherlands that initially grew out of calls to protest against the country's tough lockdown, but degenerated into vandalism by crowds whipped up by messages swirling on social media.“Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same things as last night,” police chief Willem Woelders told Dutch current affairs show Nieuwsuur. He said around 70 rioters had been arrested and police had used tear gas in the western city of Haarlem as well as Rotterdam.Rotterdam police said youths took to the streets “seeking a confrontation with police.” Riot officers attempted to break up the violence and made a number of arrests, before firing tear gas. Police warned people to stay away from the area. National broadcaster NOS showed video of police using a water cannon and reported that some shops had been looted.Police in the southern city of Den Bosch said that a shop was looted there and riot police were attempting to restore order.---On this day in 1980 ...Prime Minister Joe Clark said Canada would boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow if Soviet troops were not out of Afghanistan by Feb. 20. Canada skipped the Games.---In entertainment ...Dance your cares away, "Fraggle Rock" fans — the fluffy-haired creatures are back in Canada for a new show.The Jim Henson Company says production has officially started in Calgary on a reboot of the original 1980s children's puppet series, which was filmed in Toronto.Last April a new U.S.-shot limited series of shorts called "Fraggle Rock: Rock On!" debuted on Apple TV Plus, with guests including Canadian singer Alanis Morissette.But the Jim Henson Company says that summer, with the pandemic in full swing, they wanted to find a new home where they could produce an entire series of full-length episodes. A spokesperson says the new series will also stream on Apple TV plus and is shooting at the Calgary Film Centre.Chris Lytton, chief operating officer of The Jim Henson Company, says Calgary was "the obvious choice" because of Alberta's production rebate structure.Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city also has a talented film sector and a "reputation as a world leader in the art of puppetry." ---ICYMI ...Officials with the Yukon government have confirmed the identities of a couple from Vancouver who allegedly travelled to a remote community last week to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine amid media reports that the former president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. was one of those charged with breaching the territory’s Civil Emergency Measures Act. Tickets filed with a court registry in Whitehorse last Thursday show 55-year-old Rodney Baker and Ekaterina Baker, who is 32, were each charged with one count of failing to self-isolate for 14 days and one count of failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in Yukon.The tickets were issued on Thursday under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act and both face fines of $1,000, plus fees.The allegations against them have not been proven in court and the tickets indicate the couple can challenge them.Great Canadian Gaming Corp. president and chief executive Rodney Baker resigned on Sunday and media reports say he is the same person charged in Whitehorse.Rodney Baker and Ekaterina Baker could not be reached for comment and The Canadian Press could not independently confirm their identities, including that they are married and that Ekaterina is an actress.Great Canadian Gaming Corp. spokesman Chuck Keeling says in a statement that the company does not comment on personnel matters.The statement also says the company complies with guidelines from public health authorities in all the jurisdictions where it operates.---This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 26, 2021. There are 753,011 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 753,011 confirmed cases (62,447 active, 671,326 resolved, 19,238 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,630 new cases Monday from 35,801 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. The rate of active cases is 166.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 37,939 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,420. There were 144 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,118 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 160. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 51.18 per 100,000 people. There have been 17,086,340 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 398 confirmed cases (eight active, 386 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Monday from 186 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 78,319 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Monday from 226 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 88,633 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,571 confirmed cases (15 active, 1,491 resolved, 65 deaths). There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 1.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,424 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,151 confirmed cases (349 active, 788 resolved, 14 deaths). There were 27 new cases Monday from 1,071 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 44.93 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 178 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 25. There was one new reported death Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people. There have been 136,180 tests completed. _ Quebec: 254,836 confirmed cases (16,428 active, 228,887 resolved, 9,521 deaths). There were 1,203 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 193.61 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,488 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,498. There were 43 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 434 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 62. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.73 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 112.21 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,695,925 tests completed. _ Ontario: 256,960 confirmed cases (23,620 active, 227,494 resolved, 5,846 deaths). There were 1,958 new cases Monday from 33,192 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 162.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16,596 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,371. There were 43 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 413 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 59. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.41 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 40.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,978,001 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 28,810 confirmed cases (3,542 active, 24,464 resolved, 804 deaths). There were 113 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 258.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,181 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 169. There were five new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 31 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.32 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.71 per 100,000 people. There have been 448,638 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 22,416 confirmed cases (3,272 active, 18,890 resolved, 254 deaths). There were 239 new cases Monday from 992 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 24 per cent. The rate of active cases is 278.6 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,854 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 265. There was one new reported death Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 35 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.43 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.63 per 100,000 people. There have been 330,694 tests completed. _ Alberta: 121,535 confirmed cases (9,339 active, 110,622 resolved, 1,574 deaths). There were 742 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 213.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,224 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 603. There were 25 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 127 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,061,844 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 64,828 confirmed cases (5,843 active, 57,831 resolved, 1,154 deaths). There were 346 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 115.22 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,381 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 483. There were 26 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 76 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 22.76 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,044,931 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Monday from 13 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,229 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 31 confirmed cases (seven active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 15.62 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 9,064 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 282 confirmed cases (17 active, 264 resolved, one deaths). There were two new cases Monday from 121 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 43.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,382 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
A giant mass of rubbish that clogged a dam has finally been cleaned up in Bulgaria. Nearly 600 tonnes of garbage and debris were removed from the Iskar river near the capital Sofia.View on euronews
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed a million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity. Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468. The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesian launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country's 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world's fourth most populous country. Officials have said that Indonesia will require almost 427 million doses, taking into account the estimate that 15% of doses may be wasted during the distribution process in the vast nation of more than 17,000 islands, where transportation and infrastructure are limited in places. Jakarta continues to be hardest hit city in Indonesia, confirming more than 254,000 cases as of Tuesday, including 4,077 deaths. Only 8.5% of a total 8,066 hospital beds in the city were left for new patients as of Tuesday, while beds with ventilators were filled. Niniek Karmini And Edna Tarigan, The Associated Press
It's not the SHIELD you're probably thinking of — the one with the super-spies and flying battleships from Marvel comics and movies. In fact, the SHIELD at the centre of the upcoming evolution of NORAD — the six-decade-old North American defence pact — shares nothing with its fictional counterpart but the acronym. But those trying to sell pandemic-weary, deficit-swamped governments on the proposed Strategic Homeland Integrated Ecosystem for Layered Defense may be hoping for a little reflected glamour for their multi-billion-dollar idea. The current Liberal government committed to the renewal of NORAD early on; it was the top item in the first meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and now-former U.S. president Donald Trump in 2017. The proposal now presents a host of thorny political and financial problems for Canada. The SHIELD concept is not your grandfather's version of NORAD — which was simply a chain of radar stations across the North primed to warn of approaching Russian bombers and missiles. A NORAD for now The new strategy was first sketched out last fall in a paper written for the Wilson Center's Canada Institute by the former U.S. NORAD commander, retired general Terrence O'Shaughnessy, and U.S. Air Force Brig.-Gen. Peter Fesler, the current deputy director of operations at the U.S. air defence headquarters. Fesler and O'Shaughnessy argued that, faced with a variety of new and improved weapons — everything from hypersonic glide vehicles to next-generation cruise missiles — North America needs a defence surveillance system that knits together space, air and land-based surveillance in real time. Such a system "pools this data and fuses it into a common operational picture," said the paper, published last September. "Then, using the latest advances in machine learning and data analysis, it scans the data for patterns that are not visible to human eyes, helping decision-makers understand adversary potential courses of action before they are executed." What they're talking about is predictive analysis and artificial intelligence. The SHIELD concept envisions a "global sensing grid" that can sniff out threats as they develop by drawing on data from "traditional and nontraditional sources," such as civilian air traffic control grids. To an extent, the SHIELD concept is being put to work already by NORAD through operational testing of a cloud-based data fusion system called Project Pathfinder. A hard sell The U.S. Air Force signed off on the Pathfinder prototype and has ordered a production model through an $8 million US contract, according to Air Force Magazine. The NORAD refurbishment was never costed in the federal government's 2017 defence policy and it presents a host of challenges and tough decisions for the Liberal government now, ranging from the fiscal to the political to the military. The arrival of the Biden administration in Washington seems to have made government-to-government negotiations more politically palatable in Ottawa. Many in Canada's defence community were convinced there was little appetite among federal officials to haggle with Trump over NORAD after the bruising experience of re-negotiating the NAFTA trade deal. One of the first challenges for government officials will be to present the NORAD renewal project to a Canadian public and political establishment overwhelmed by the pandemic, said one defence expert. An economic argument "If you try to quickly sell this in the context of 'the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming,' that is politically problematic, I think, particularly for this government," said James Fergusson, deputy director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. Framing it in economic terms — highlighting the opportunities for innovation and high-tech jobs — likely would help, he said, but the overall cost will be an issue given the damage done to the economy and government balance sheets by the pandemic. Estimates of the cost of NORAD's renewal range between $11 billion and $15 billion. Whatever it ends up costing, Canadian taxpayers would be on the hook for 40 per cent of the total. The price tag is "the elephant in the room," said Fergusson, adding that he's skeptical about the assurances he's heard from senior government officials that the money for NORAD will be in addition to already-promised defence policy funding. Belt-tightening and BMD He said he attended a conference in Ottawa a year ago that heard a senior Department of National Defence (DND) official state that the department had "been promised we're going to get extra money for NORAD ..." "No, you're not," Fergusson added. He said he believes it's more likely that DND will be asked to cover Canada's NORAD contribution within its existing budget — forcing the department to make cuts elsewhere. The NORAD project also promises to drag a reluctant federal government back into a political debate over ballistic missile defence (BMD). The recent Liberal defence policy reaffirmed the 2005 decision by Paul Martin's government to remain on the sidelines of any continental BMD effort, despite pleas from both the Senate and House of Commons defence committees to reconsider joining. BMD is a non-starter for New Democrats and for some experts in the defence community who argue that missile defence merely contributes to the arms race. Fergusson said recent advances in technology and military doctrine may force the government's hand. "The United States is moving very quickly to integrate air and missile defence into single units, rather than have them separated," he said. "So that has big implications for us. We can't simply do air defence without having to work with or having to do missile defence." And embedded in the concept of a "global sensing grid" is the expectation that threats — once identified — would be taken out. Instead of focusing on the missiles — the "arrows," to use NORAD parlance — the expectation is that a defensive network would focus its response on the "archers," or the launch platforms. Russian bombers circling far outside of North American airspace, for example, would be targeted under the SHIELD strategy. "That will be unpalatable to the Canadian government," said Fergusson, pointing out that the Canadian military doesn't have the long-range capability to conduct those kinds of defensive operations. It's a conversation Canada can't avoid for much longer, he said, because much of the existing North Warning System reaches the end of its operational life by 2024. "The United States cannot defend itself without Canada and we can't defend ourselves without the United States."
COVID-19 might be partly to blame for a spike in cooking fires in Charlottetown over the past month, says a fire inspector with the capital city. Kent Mitchell said over the past 24 days, Charlottetown firefighters have responded to 10 cooking fires. Damage has ranged from a burned-out pot to extensive kitchen damage. Mitchell believes the spike in fires could be connected to people being home more because of the pandemic. "We've had five since Friday, and we've had 10 incidents in the last 24 days so we're certainly concerned about it," Mitchell said during an interview from Charlottetown Fire Station 1 in the city's downtown. 'They just leave for a few minutes' "They just leave for a few minutes and come back and find themselves with a bit of a fire," he said. Four people were forced out of their home during the latest cooking fire, which happened Saturday morning, said Mitchell. Firefighters were called to a four-unit apartment building on St. Peters Road in Charlottetown. One of the units sustained extensive damage, he said, with the fire originating from a pot of oil on the stove. "There was quite a bit of damage to the kitchen," said Mitchell. 'Injuries occur when people are trying to put out the fire' "It got into the cupboards and impinged on the ceiling some so there's quite a bit of soot damage and some fire damage done to the kitchen." There were no damages to the other three units in the building. Mitchell said when a kitchen fire happens, it's best to contain it with a pot cover or a cookie sheet to reduce the flow of oxygen which fuels the fire. If that's not easily doable, he said to call 911 and evacuate the home immediately. "Half the household injuries occur when people are trying to put out the fire," he said. The spike in kitchen fires appears isolated to Charlottetown. CBC News contacted Summerside, North River and Crossroads fire departments. None of them reported an increase in kitchen fires. 'No way of controlling that temperature' Mitchell said cooking fires are the most common firefighters have to deal with. The fire inspector said it's important to keep a close eye on what is being cooked and ensure nothing combustible, like an oven mitt or towel, is close to the stove. He also cautions against cooking with a pot of oil, sometimes used to deep fry french fries. Use a proper deep fryer, he urges. "We are still seeing open pots of oil," he said. "The risk is it can overheat and there's no way of controlling that temperature so if you turn your burner on maximum and you do leave for a few minutes it's going to be unattended and that could risk bursting into flames." More from CBC P.E.I.
OTTAWA — In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered. Socio-economic and health inequities have made some people more vulnerable COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego. "The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions," Strathdee said. In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people. Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services. "In my sister and mother's region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it's very, very difficult to get a doctor," she said. "What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn't going to be the last pandemic we see." University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age. "Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID," she said. She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death. Canada's division of health-care responsibilities is inefficient The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He's the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada's COVID-19 therapeutics task force. For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication. He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes. "Quebec is screaming they want money but they're refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care," he said. He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic. "There should be a time when it's all hands on deck and we don't play games," he said. "That didn't happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying." Centralized decision-making in health care stifles innovation Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can't be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic. "During a new disease like a pandemic, when we're learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto," he said. He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely. "The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold." Sheppard said there's no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs. "The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we're doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything ... therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we're doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority," he said. "That's the mentality, and it's just killed innovation in the health-care setting." Lack of coordination stymied research The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said François Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke. He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination. "There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped," he said. He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials. "This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies." Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country's national health system. "It's not something that happens in a silo. It's part of the (National Health Service)," he said. "This led them to build the infrastructure ... And then there's an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly." He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada. "This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of 'us' — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination." Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate. "The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system," he said. Good messaging and communication matter Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines. "We need for people to understand that science and medicine don't have all the answers all the time, that we're learning just like everybody else," she said. Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that's what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission. She said government officials should be trained in health literacy. John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons. "We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence," he said. Strathdee said it's critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by "making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course." She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk. She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS. "We have to make sure that we don't unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we've learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020 ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
A suspicious package left last week at Cape Breton University for the school's president turned out to be nothing more than some 350-million-year-old rocks. Police were called to investigate the green reusable Sobeys bag that had David Dingwall's name on it. Geology professor Jason Loxton said the rocks are older than the coal fields of Cape Breton and were formed at a time when the land in Nova Scotia was still underwater. "They're not scientifically super-duper important, but they are a really neat, unique set of Nova Scotia history," Loxton told CBC's Mainstreet: Cape Breton. He was the second person officials telephoned after police. "The security guard immediately meets me and says, 'Just the man I was looking for,' which is not a thing you really want to hear from security," Loxton said. He said he immediately knew the rocks were limestone and there was a fossil of a rugose coral, otherwise known as horn corals. Loxton said this was his first time he saw this in Cape Breton. He said the person who left the package knew what they were doing when they found the rocks. "They noted the exact geographic locality down to actual lat-long co-ordinates and wrote it on the rock," said Loxton. "I was able to quickly throw that into a map and confirm not only exactly where it came from, but confirmed my suspicions on the age of it as well." Loxton said the rocks will remain in the geology lab, and Dingwall is welcome to check out the package that was intended for him. Loxton is looking for the person who dropped the rocks off. He hopes they can have a chat. MORE TOP STORIES
Cape Breton Regional Municipality's elected representatives have not met in the civic centre's council chamber since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, and it's unclear when that will change. They were scheduled to meet in person today, but the recently renovated chamber was unable to overcome public health restrictions. Mayor Amanda McDougall said she was more than disappointed when Nova Scotia's chief public health officer and the Emergency Management Office rejected the municipality's plan to meet at city hall. "I was a little angry. I won't lie," she said. "It's hard when you see staff do such a tremendous job of planning and looking at chambers. We've also put some financial investment into the council chambers as well, so you want to be able to use that." Council met in person recently at the Centre 200 arena, where councillors were able to spread out at a safe distance. For the most part, however, CBRM council meetings have been online since last year. John MacKinnon, deputy chief administrative officer, said staff have been working hard to get councillors back inside the civic centre. "We looked at the possibility of being able to have them in different locations within the council chamber, but because of the horseshoe shape of the council chamber, it was almost impossible to be able to create a setup that would provide enough social distancing to allow it to happen," he said. Staff recently installed plastic shields between seats and thought that would work. But according to the rules, public meetings cannot exceed 10 people — even with distancing — despite low numbers of new infections in the province. "We used our own staff to do the installation and I think we did a pretty darn good job so hopefully, once things get lifted a little, [meetings] will be in the council chamber," said MacKinnon. As of Monday, there were 15 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. No new cases were announced Monday. MacKinnon said the renovations, which cost about $2,000, will likely help whenever restrictions on gathering limits ease. For now, council will simply go back to meeting online until restrictions are lifted, said McDougall. "We can do our jobs and do our jobs well from anywhere, but being in this room, it's a significant part of that title of being a councillor and making decisions for the community," she said. "Being eager to get back into council chambers is for me a personal thing, and I know for the new councillors as well, they're eager to get in here and actually be able to use the technology instead of using pens and paper ... but we'll get here soon enough." MORE TOP STORIES
OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals are eyeing changes to the law governing public service hiring to help make federal departments and agencies more diverse. They also plan to do further research on the makeup of the federal public service and will try to hire more senior leaders with varied backgrounds. Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos and his parliamentary secretary, Greg Fergus, are spelling out the priorities today to foster greater diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the public service. The government says while there has been some progress for Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and others who face racial discrimination in the workplace, too many public servants continue to face obstacles. The Treasury Board Secretariat has begun discussions about the framework for recruitment in the public service and is specifically looking at "possible amendments" to the Public Service Employment Act. The act is intended to ensure federal hiring is fair, transparent and representative. The move would complement a review of the Employment Equity Act planned by Labour Minister Filomena Tassi. The government recently released data that provides more detail about the composition of the public service. Duclos and Fergus say the annual public service employee survey will help the government identify more precisely where gaps remain and what is needed to improve representation. The government plans to increase diversity through promotion and recruitment, including introduction of the Mentorship Plus Program to allow departments to offer mentoring and sponsorship opportunities to high-potential employees who might currently face barriers. The government says although progress will take time, the public service can be a model of inclusion for employers across the country and around the world. "In time, we will build a public service that is the true reflection of our pluralism and diversity," Duclos said in a statement. Just last week, Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart issued a call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service, setting out federal expectations for current leaders. The government has also launched the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, supported by a budget of $12 million, to create an ongoing discussion about change. "There is much to do before all public servants can feel they truly belong in a public service that values inclusiveness and differences," Fergus said. "Outlining these key areas of focus is a key step in taking concrete action." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
A cinematic legend from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley passed away over the weekend. For nearly 50 years, Al Whittle was a mainstay of the Wolfville movie theatre that now bears his name. Whittle died on Saturday at the age of 91. "Al was a fabric of the community from the time he started working here and [he] rolled with all the punches of the changes of the industry, but constantly cultivated the people that came to watch film," said Bill Zimmerman, a co-founder of the Fundy Film Society who first met Whittle at the theatre. Whittle joined the Acadia Theatre full time in 1953. For the next 47 years, he worked all aspects of the business, serving for decades as manager. He told some of his story in a short film posted to the theatre's website. He stayed involved after the theatre was purchased by a non-profit co-operative. They renamed it the Al Whittle Theatre/Acadia Cinema Co-op in his honour. "He didn't just sit in his office and make the money roll in. He was out there taking tickets, selling concessions ... He was constantly feeling his audience. And I think if there's something that's carried forward, that has to be it," Zimmerman said. Whittle loved having a full house, he said, especially when the 1990s hit Titanic played to packed houses for a long run. He also brought in more obscure movies, too, and created teatime matinees on Sundays for film fans. The theatre is shut now due to COVID-19, but it will resume hosting live theatre, church services and a coffee shop when it reopens. "Our little theatre will be here for quite some time, hopefully screening movies and also live theatre and concerts and whatever we can do," said theatre manager Mary Harwell. "And this building will remain part of this community for a long time. And the theatre will be here with his name on it." MORE TOP STORIES
With shops boarded up and riot police out in force, it was relatively calm in Dutch cities on Tuesday night after three days of violence during which nearly 500 people were detained. In several cities, including the capital Amsterdam, some businesses closed early and emergency ordinances were in place to give law enforcement greater powers to respond to the rioting, which was prompted by a nighttime curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday when the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, rowdy crowds of youths gathered in Amsterdam and Hilversum, but were broken up without incident.
OTTAWA — A new report on billions of dollars the federal government has sent to provinces to help safely reopen the economy suggests much of the money is sitting unused.Today's report also suggests that federal efforts to stretch the financial impact of those dollars is falling short as many provinces have bucked cost-matching requests.The analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says six out of 10 provinces haven't spent all the money the federal government has sent their way, including for things like personal protective equipment.Author David Macdonald says some of the money may yet be spent, but notes the longer it remains unspent, the less likely it ever will be spent.Macdonald's analysis is based on a review of provincial and federal spending announcements, reconciling duplications, as well as provincial spending documents. Federal and provincial governments are allocating hundreds of billions in direct spending and liquidity support to help workers, families, front-line workers and businesses make it through the pandemic. The federal treasury has managed the lion's share of COVID-19 spending — accounting for about $8 in every $10 of aid, according to the federal Finance Department's math. "They are the ones spending the money, they're the ones creating the funds and to a large degree setting the agenda of where they would like those funds to go," Macdonald said.Included in the spending is $24 billion the federal Liberals sent to provinces in the fall under the "safe restart" agreement that was supposed to help make it safer for daycares, schools and businesses to reopen.The report notes that money is sitting idle from a fund aimed at topping up the wages of workers deemed essential like those in long-term care facilities and grocery stores. Provincial governments were supposed to chip in for part of the top-up.Macdonald says six out of 10 provinces haven't used the money available to them, with Alberta leaving the most on the table by far at almost $336 million.He also says some return-to-class money hasn't been spent, particularly in Quebec.Other provinces like Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick appear to have ignored a federal request to match funding to cash-strapped municipalities, Macdonald says.There is no immediate explanation for why, but Macdonald says it was possible that the federal government decided to give smaller provinces a break on the cost-matching requirements to ease the strain on their own finances. He notes that larger provinces did pony up matching dollars.Combined, the underspending and lack of cost-matching raise questions for the government about its plan to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over three years to prod an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.Macdonald says the stimulus bump from the planned spending could be diminished if provinces don't spend money sent to them, or don't match funding when asked.That may require the Liberals to put tight rules on forthcoming spending, he says."If provinces aren't willing to go along, there may well be provinces that would be left out of, say, new federal spending on child care and new federal spending on long-term care if they're unwilling to go along with federal priorities or federal standards," he said."Otherwise, the provinces are clearly going to call the federal bluff."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press