Mikey discovers the new robotic pool cleaner and gives it a good talking to... from a safe distance!
Mikey discovers the new robotic pool cleaner and gives it a good talking to... from a safe distance!
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
When the current lockdown here in Ontario came into effect on Dec. 26, not much changed for some of the libraries in the area, specifically the South Algonquin Public Library with branches in Whitney and Madawaska, the Gilmour Library in Tudor and Cashel Township, and the Carlow Mayo Public Library in Hermon. The head librarians of these libraries give updates on how the lockdown has affected their operations. With the exception of the South Algonquin library branches, which have closed for the duration of the lockdown, they are continuing to offer curbside pickup of their materials for patrons to enjoy as they try to navigate this current lockdown due to COVID-19. Charlene Alexander is the CEO and head librarian at the South Algonquin Public Library and supervises both branches in Whitney and Madawaska. She gives an update on what’s going on there with the lockdown. “Both branches will be closing and staff are moving to work from home until the restrictions are lifted. We had been [before the lockdown] working towards providing in person services in addition to curbside pickup. This includes policy planning, barriers installed at the circulation desks, a maximum of three people at a time in the library, one public computer in use at a time, and one work area where patrons could use their own devices. During lockdown, library staff will focus on professional development and any projects that can be completed at home,” she says. Leanne Golan is the CEO and head librarian at the Gilmour Library in Tudor and Cashel Township and gives the following update on their lockdown status. “With the new lockdown, we are continuing to offer contactless curbside pickup only. There are no new initiatives at this time,” she says. Carrie McKenzie is the CEO and head librarian at the Carlow Mayo Public Library, and says that they are still operating curbside, and that nothing is changing for them in that regard. “Our hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” she says. While continuing to operate their curbside pickup, they have some new items in their inventory for patrons to check out. “We are updating our adult non-fiction with personal hobbies such as free motion quilting and macrame hangers. We are also adding more non-fiction about becoming more self-sufficient by homesteading. Lots of canning and gardening,” she says. “If we are going to be at home we might as well enjoy it with healthy and engaging activities!” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
TORONTO — Another Ontario COVID-19 official has resigned over foreign travel. Premier Doug Ford's office says he has accepted the resignation of Linda Hasenfratz as a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Task Force.Ford's office says she stepped down after it was brought to his attention that she travelled outside the country in December.No other details were released other than that she has apologized.Earlier this month, Dr. Tom Stewart resigned from a group of experts that help guide the provincial government's response to COVID-19 after travelling to the Dominican Republic over the holidays.At the time, Stewart said he regretted the non-essential travel and recognized that everyone should be avoiding non-essential trips.Stewart later stepped down as chief executive officer of the Niagara Health System and the St. Joseph's Health System.Ford's office gave a brief statement Tuesday about Hasenfratz's resignation."Thanks to the efforts of all Ontarians, we are starting to see early signs of progress in bending the curve," reads the statement. "Now is not the time to let up. We continue to urge everyone to stay home." Last week, Dr. Paul Woods, the CEO of a hospital network in London, Ont., was ousted from his post after concerns were raised about his international travel during the pandemic.Woods travelled to the U.S. five times since March, including during the December holidays, the London Health Sciences Centre said.Last month, Rod Phillips, Ontario's former finance minister, resigned from his post after it was revealed he travelled to St. Barts for a December vacation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 The Canadian Press
Power has been restored to thousands of homes across northern B.C. and throughout the Interior after powerful wind gusts swept the area on Tuesday. The wind knocked out power to roughly 10,000 people at the peak of the day, mostly in Prince George and Burns Lake. Around 1,000 people in the Summit Lake, Prince George, McLeod Lake, Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Fort St. James areas remain in the dark Wednesday. "Crews will be working around the clock on restoration efforts but at this point we anticipate some customers ... to be without power overnight," BC Hydro said in a notice posted early Wednesday. Prince George Airport recorded a wind gust of 91 km/h on Tuesday afternoon. The wind brought trees down on a number of homes and streets. The strongest winds were expected to ease by the evening, but gusty winds from the west continued through the night in some areas. Weather warnings for both regions have been rescinded.
Kelowna Regional RCMP say a massive amount of cocaine that landed in Okanagan grocery stores in 2019 was shipped in banana containers, and likely ended up in the stores by accident. According to a written statement from police, several bricks of cocaine were found on Feb. 24, 2019, after a local grocery store reported finding what it believed to be illicit drugs. Later that day, West Kelowna RCMP also received a call from a grocer after they uncovered what they suspected to be drugs in their banana shipment. In total, police seized 21 packages of cocaine, weighing around one kilogram each. The statement from RCMP says the drugs were likely not destined for Kelowna. The drug section of the Kelowna RCMP worked with the Canada Border Service Agency to determine that the shipments had originated in Colombia. "Our investigation leads us to believe these illicit drugs were not meant to end up in the Central Okanagan, and arrived here in the Okanagan Valley as a result of a missed pickup at some point along the way," Cpl. Jeff Carroll of the Kelowna RCMP Drug Section said in the statement. The statement said that, according to experts, the shipments of pure cocaine, once cut with other agents, would have introduced upwards of 800,000 doses of crack cocaine into the Canadian illicit drug market.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's trailblazing Black food writer Dorah Sitole's latest cookbook was widely hailed in December as a moving chronicle of her journey from humble township cook to famous, well-travelled author. The country's new Black celebrity chefs lined up to praise her as a mentor who encouraged them to succeed by highlighting what they knew best: tasty African food. Now they are mourning Sitole's death this month from COVID-19. She was 65. In “40 Years of Iconic Food,” Sitole engagingly described how she quietly battled South Africa's racist apartheid system to find appreciation, and a market, for African cuisine. Her book became a holiday bestseller, purchased by Blacks and whites alike. Sitole's career started in 1980 at the height of apartheid when she was hired by a canned foods company to promote sales of their products by giving cooking classes in Black townships. She found that she loved the work. In 1987, Sitole became the country's first Black food writer when she was appointed food editor for True Love, one of the few publications for the country's Black majority. The magazine, and its competitor Drum, were known for giving Black writers, photographers and editors the freedom to write about the Black condition and experience. With stories that were about much more than food, Sitole described how traditional African dishes brought pleasure to families and communities in troubled times. She was known for her distinctive takes on well-known recipes and tips on how to make them on a budget. She won an avid readership and became a household name, even as South Africa's townships were roiled by anti-apartheid violence. When apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, Sitole found new opportunities. She trained as a Cordon Bleu chef and got a diploma in marketing. She travelled across Africa to learn about the continent's cuisine, producing the book “Cooking from Cape to Cairo.” In interviews, she pointed out her East African fish dish with basmati rice that she developed while travelling through that region, and the seafood samp recipe, which is basically a paella using chopped corn kernels instead of the traditional rice. In 2008, Sitole's success was acknowledged when she was appointed True Love's editor-in-chief. Sitole's warmth and generosity is credited with opening doors for many Black chefs, food writers and influencers who are thriving in South Africa today. “Mam (mother) Dorah’s approach to food was a mixture of things. First, it was something that was driven by her background, she was very true to who she was," said Siba Mtongana, one of South Africa's brightest new chefs, who started out as food editor for Drum magazine and now has a television series and cookbooks. “She would take what we grew up eating and add a twist to them, and add flavours that we would not ordinarily have thought of putting together,” said Mtongana who has opened a restaurant in Cape Town, featuring food from all over Africa. She said Sitole imbued her with a passion for exposing the world to Africa's many cuisines saying she loved describing to her readers what others enjoy eating across Africa, and around the world. Another chef who credits Sitole for assisting her is Khanya Mzongwana, a contributing editor for food retailer Woolworths’ Taste magazine. “Mam Dorah wore so many hats — she was a writer, a creator, a mother, a friend, a real artist. I remember just how awesome it was to see a Black woman blazing trails in food media. Nobody was doing that," said Mzongwana. “What made Mam Dorah the best was definitely how she could fill a space with pleasantness," said Mzongwana. “She was so generous with her resources and wanted to see all of us — her daughters — win. Paying it forward in meaningful ways is something I saw Mam Dorah do first," she said. “She loved and respected everybody and made what seemed like such a wild dream appear so reachable and normal. She was one of the most impactful Black women in the food world.” Sitole received numerous awards for her contribution to South African culture. In one of her last interviews, Sitole said the highlight of her four-decade career was her trip across the continent. “I had always wanted to travel through Africa and I had no clue what to expect," she said on Radio 702. "It was almost like you don’t know what you are going into, and then you find it. I loved every moment and every country that I went to, I loved the food and the experience." Sitole is survived by her children Nonhlanhla, Phumzile and Ayanda. Mogomotsi Magome, The Associated Press
A fourth COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Windsor Regional Hospital Tuesday evening. The hospital's 6N unit is the latest area of the organization experiencing an outbreak, with four positive patients and no positive staff. This news comes after the hospital announced three outbreaks in the last two weeks. "We expect to experience these situations as COVID-19 continues to spread in our community," said Karen Riddell, WRH Chief Nursing Executive and Chief Operating Officer, in a news release. "We continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that we have the correct infection prevention and control guidelines and precautions in place to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus." In a news release Tuesday, the hospital provided an update on each of the other three outbreaks: 4M at the Ouellette Campus has 10 positive patients and five positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 6. 6E at the Ouellette Campus has 10 positive patients and six positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 8. 4N at the Met Campus has one positive patient and 11 positive staff. Declared in outbreak Jan. 14. The hospital said that admissions to the units continue, but it keeps COVID-19 patients cohorted. Transfers into units experiencing an outbreak are required to be approved by the hospital's Infection Prevention and Control department, the hospital said, adding that testing will continue. Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare is also experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared on Tuesday. The hospital said in a news release Sunday that two staff and three patients tested positive on the 3N unit of the Dr. Y. Emara Centre for Healthy Aging and Mobility.
Jasper Municipal Council directed administration to implement a paid parking pilot project in the 2021 budget year during its Jan. 19 regular meeting. Administration will also present project and public engagement plans before implementing paid parking. Chief administrative officer (CAO) Bill Given said this will allow administration to consider how paid parking will impact the 2021 budget and assist in the preparation of the budget too. “The concept of a pilot project… would give administration and council an opportunity to work with the community, including affected businesses, residents and other stakeholders on the best way to move forward,” Given said. “Administration is aware of concerns about overflow into residential areas, impact on… closely neighbouring businesses and the impact on our reserves, along with council’s priority on establishing fiscal equity and ensuring visitors are (paying) their fair share of the load of the cost of services in the municipality.” “It’s important to emphasize that the point of bringing together a pilot project is so we can adjust as we go on,” added Coun. Paul Butler. Bernie Kreiner, a “non-resident,” sent a letter to council indicating his strong support for paid parking in the commercial areas of the Municipality of Jasper. He acknowledged moving in this direction will require some courage because of “the likelihood of parking shifting to nearby residential streets” and “some business concern that this might reduce visitors.” “However, as one such customer, I will put a coin in a parking meter and still stop to get a cinnamon bun at the Bearpaw before or after enjoying a day in Jasper’s Nature,” Kreiner wrote to council. “Be bold, and do the right thing for the long term (sic) wellness of your community.” Asbestos removal Council approved a $20,000 capital budget project for asbestos removal in the Multipurpose Hall chair storage room. The Multipurpose Hall renovation capital project was under budget by $15,500, which is available in restricted reserves, and will be applied to the project. Yvonne McNabb, director of culture and recreation, told council the asbestos was detected in November. When it was tested, administration was told it would take a week or two to get approval to remove the asbestos. In addition to getting approval, McNabb said there’s the removal process itself and then replacing the gyprock. “There’s quite a few steps,” she said. “That’s why I thought it was best to get this project going in the event we open our facilities.” Coal development policy Coun. Jenna McGrath urged a letter be sent from council about the province’s decision to rescind a coal development policy, originally published in 1976, to West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, Premier Jason Kenney and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon. McGrath said the letter needs to emphasize the importance of protecting the environment and the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. “I believe it’s important for our water supply and the future generations of Albertans to stand up today,” she said. “Go back to the drawing board and encourage reinstating the coal policy.” Effective June 1, 2020, the rescission stated, “Former category 1 lands will continue to be protected from coal leasing, exploration and development of public lands but will not infringe on private lands or freehold mineral rights. “This will support critical watersheds, biodiversity… as well as recreation and tourism activities along the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Leasing outside of these areas will be subject to the same land use planning and management rules that apply to all other resources and industrial uses.” Councillors Scott Wilson, Butler and Bert Journeault said such a letter is not in the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Jasper. Coun. Helen Kelleher-Empey noted she would like for council to return to this matter after she did her own research. Coun. Rico Damota added a formal discussion is needed before a letter comes from council. Mayor Richard Ireland wants to check out the facts first. The matter was deferred to the Feb. 2 regular council meeting. Skating surfaces McGrath suggested skating surfaces in town would be a great idea. The consensus was to keep it simple at first. Wilson said he’s talked with members of the Volunteer Fire Brigade who have looked into it. “It might be prudent to chat with them as well,” he said. “Let’s just start with a small project, a place where most kids can walk to,” Journeault added. “Let’s keep it simple and let it grow. This is a good year to (do it).” Ireland urged a “high key but low cost” approach. Council directed administration to return to a committee of the whole meeting with a report about options for a low cost, high profile, easily-accessible outdoor skating options that can be implemented this winter season. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
A local business owner is starting a fundraising and donation drive for tenants ousted from their homes by the fire at Town Park Apartments C-block. More than 25 people are out of their homes while officials assess damage, including lots of school-aged kids, toddlers and babies. Michelle Lau just opened All In Family Support Services business, and wants to help people who have lost access to their personal items for the time being. At worst, their stuff might be damaged beyond recovery. The fire started late Sunday night and was under control by 2:30 a.m. Monday morning. A few people were injured by jumping out of windows to escape the blaze, but no one was left in the building. At present, tenants are not allowed back into their homes, even to retrieve personal items. Firefighters can retrieve essentials such as medication. Emergency Support Services jumped into action as the fire was still being put out. Local coordinator volunteer Susan Bjarnason said the initial 72-hour support period has already been extended for another three days. Long-term plans are unknown. READ MORE: ‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months ESS volunteers fear that many tenants did not have renters insurance, and could need to replace a lot of personal belongings, such as furniture, clothes, toiletries and electronics. Lau is accepting cash donations, gift cards, clothing and food for the tenants. She’ll keep everything in her storefront, allowing families to come one by one to get what they need. In less than a day of accepting donations her front room has two tables full of donations of clothes, baby supplies, some snack food, bedding and even some kitchenware. Lunch and breakfast food for school-aged kids are especially needed. The community has been particularly concerned about a dog that was injured in the commotion. Dex, a 65-lb cain corso-black Lab cross broke his forepaw when he was thrown out of a second story window in the panic. He was taken to the vet in Port Hardy, who determined surgery would be needed. The dog was sent to Campbell River for treatment on Tuesday. The vet estimated a cost of $2,000 or more. Lau is accepting donations to help with that bill as well. All In Family Support Services is located at #5-7035 Market St, Port Hardy. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.com Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Deng Pravatoudom played the Lotto Max numbers her husband dreamt of 20 years ago and won a $60M jackpot. Video by Shibani Gokhale
Global equity benchmarks rose to new record highs and oil prices rose on Wednesday as investors moved into riskier assets in anticipation of further U.S. stimulus under the new Biden administration to mend the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. President Joe Biden, who was sworn into office on Wednesday, last week laid out a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal to boost the economy and speed up the distribution of vaccines. U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen urged lawmakers to "act big" to save the economy and worry about debt later at a confirmation hearing Tuesday.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Burr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has told him it will not prosecute him over stock sales made during the coronavirus pandemic, ending an insider trading investigation that led him to at least temporarily step aside from a powerful committee chairmanship last year. Prosecutors had investigated for months whether the North Carolina Republican and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee had exploited advance information when he unloaded as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the coronavirus caused markets to plummet. “The case is now closed,” Burr said in a statement. "I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.” His lawyer, Alice Fisher, described the investigation as a “thorough review” and said Burr, who has said he will not seek reelection after his term ends in 2023, would remain focused on “the safety and security of North Carolinians and the United States as a whole.” A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. The New York Times was first to report on the decision to not bring charges. The investigation escalated in May when the FBI obtained a search warrant to seize a cellphone from Burr. The day after that action became public, Burr said he would step aside as Intelligence Committee chairman while the FBI investigation was ongoing. It is unclear whether he will retake the role as the panel’s top Republican now that he has been cleared. Democrats are set to take control of the Senate on Wednesday, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner will become the panel’s chairman. Burr, who was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee as it conducted its own investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing in the well-timed stock sales. His lawyer has said he had actively co-operated with the investigation. Senate records show that he and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to dive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels. Burr has acknowledged selling the stocks because of the coronavirus but said he relied “solely on public news reports,” specifically CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of Asia, to make the financial decisions. The Justice Department last year separately closed without charges investigations into stock trading by multiple other senators, including Dianne Feinstein of California, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, according to people familiar with notifications sent to the senators. They, too, had come under scrutiny for transactions made in the weeks before the coronavirus sent markets downhill. ____ Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report. Eric Tucker And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says health officials may also have to rebook vaccination appointments for those getting the required second dose. Hinshaw made the announcement just hours after the federal government said there will be no shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and reduced shipments for about three weeks after that. The slowdown is due to Pfizer retrofitting its Belgium-based plant in order to ramp up production down the road. Hinshaw says Alberta has 456 new cases of COVID-19, with 740 patients in hospital. There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died. “This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a release Tuesday. "We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible. And we will continue to inform Albertans of any changes to our vaccination plans.” Alberta recently finished giving first doses of vaccine to all residents in its 357 long-term care and supportive living facilities. “These are absolutely the highest-risk locations, and people who live in these facilities are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes,” Hinshaw told a virtual news conference. “Two-thirds of all our (COVID-19) deaths have been in long-term care and supportive living facilities.” Alberta has given 90,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to those in the high priority cohort: those in the care homes and front-line health-care workers. Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just over 171,000 this week and nothing the following week. Both vaccines require two doses weeks apart for full effectiveness. The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing the next phase of priority cases: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older. Alberta remains under strict lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres remain shuttered. The province relaxed some measure slightly on Monday. Outdoor gatherings can have 10 people maximum. Personal care services, like hair salons, manicure and pedicure salons and tattoo shops, can open by appointment only. Hinshaw said it’s not clear when further restrictions can be lifted. “Our health system is still under severe strain,” she said. “This continues to impact our ability to deliver care, not only for COVID-19 but all the other health needs Albertans have.” There were 11,096 active COVID cases Tuesday, about half the number recorded at its peak in mid-December. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
ATLANTA — Paul McDonough has returned to Atlanta United as vice-president of soccer operations. The MLS team announced the rehiring of McDonough on Tuesday after he spent two years as Inter Miami's sporting director. McDonough returns to the role he held in Atlanta from 2016-18, becoming a key player in the club's dynamic entry into MLS. United set numerous attendance records and captured the MLS Cup championship in just its second season in 2018. McDonough left after the championship to lead Inter Miami's entry into MLS as an expansion team this past year. The club went 7-13-3 and made the MLS playoffs in its pandemic-affected debut season. Atlanta United, meanwhile, fell on hard times in 2020. The club fired coach Frank de Boer and missed the playoffs for the first time. “Paul was a key part of our team as we built Atlanta United and we’re delighted to have him back in the organization,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in a statement. “Paul brings a vast knowledge of the game, but more importantly he is a great cultural fit who complements our front office." McDonough will report to technical director Carlos Bocanegra and take a leading role in managing the salary cap. McDonough previously worked with Orlando City, helping the club transition to its inaugural season in MLS. He began his career in college coaching, serving as an assistant at Wake Forest, South Carolina and UConn. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Some Yukon snowmobilers are stuck in the White Pass area south of Whitehorse, after heavy snowfall and avalanches closed the South Klondike Highway — their only road home. They're not complaining much, though. Darren Domkosky of Whitehorse says they're safe, and making the best of it. "Just sledding, burning some gas. And it's nice weather," he said over the phone from a highway maintenance camp at Fraser, near the Canada-U.S. border, on Tuesday morning. Domkowsky and some friends drove to the area on Monday after a fresh snowfall. "So we were like, 'oh, we'll go hit up that new snow before everyone hits it.' So we came up, started sledding, and it was a wicked day," he recalled. When they came back to their vehicles, they found a note from a highways crew telling them the road was closed, and they should head to the nearby highway camp. Domkowsky said the local workers gave them beds for the night and fed them. "They're the best people around ... it's amazing," Domkowsky said. He's not sure when the road might open again, but he hopes it will be soon. On Tuesday afternoon, he said he was told it might happen on Wednesday, or possibly Thursday. Yukon highways officials confirmed that there had been avalanches in the area, and the government's website 511Yukon refers to drifting, blowing snow and low visibility. Officials said about 60 centimetres of snow fell on the area between Carcross, Yukon, and the border camp at Fraser, B.C. Domkowsky said he's doing his best to enjoy himself while waiting. By Tuesday afternoon, he was out of gas for his snowmobile. "My family's at home waiting for me to get home, but what can you do, right? Just make the best of what you have." WATCH — Acting Skagway Police Chief Jerry Reddick shared this video of avalanches on the South Klondike Highway:
Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. He has pledged to "heal" the country as it grapples with an ongoing pandemic, economic uncertainty and deep political divisions. Extra security measures will be in place following the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as rioters sought to stop Congress from certifying the president-elect's win over outgoing President Donald Trump. Attendance will be further limited because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed 400,000 Americans. CBC News will have comprehensive coverage before, during and after the official swearing-in of Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris at noon ET. Here's how to tune in. Online CBCNews.ca, the CBC News app and CBC Gem will carry the live special CBC News Special: The Inauguration of Joseph Biden, Jr., hosted by Adrienne Arsenault, starting at 10 a.m. ET. You can view the live stream right here on this page beginning at that time. CBCNews.ca and the CBC News app will also have news and analysis throughout the day. On television Coverage begins at 6 a.m. ET on CBC News Network (also streaming on CBC Gem) with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live. Starting at 10 a.m. ET, viewers can watch the live special CBC News Special: The Inauguration of Joseph Biden, Jr., hosted by Adrienne Arsenault, on CBC News Network and CBC TV. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Andrew Nichols and Suhana Meharchand will co-host live coverage of the events in Washington following the official swearing-in of Biden and Harris, as well as reaction in Canada and around the world, on CBC News Network (also streaming on CBC Gem). On radio Listeners can tune into special live coverage of the swearing-in on CBC Radio and CBC Listen from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, hosted by Susan Bonner and Piya Chattopadhyay.
WASHINGTON — In one of his final acts as majority leader, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is pressuring Democrats to keep the filibuster — the procedural tool that liberals and progressives are eager to to do away with so President-elect Joe Biden's legislative priorities can be approved more easily over GOP opposition. McConnell has told Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that retaining the legislative filibuster is important and should be part of their negotiations for a power-sharing agreement in the narrowly divided Senate. Schumer and McConnell met Tuesday to begin hammering out the details of organizing the chamber, which will be split 50-50, with Democrats holding the majority once three new senators are sworn in Wednesday and Kamala Harris is inaugurated as the vice-president. “Leader McConnell expressed his long-held view that the crucial, longstanding and bipartisan Senate rules concerning the legislative filibuster remain intact, specifically during the power share for the next two years,” McConnell spokesman Doug Andres said. Andres said discussions on “all aspects” of the arrangement will continue. Normally, a divided chamber would produce a resolution to equally share committee seats and other resources. But McConnell is driving a harder bargain by inserting his demand that Schumer keep the filibuster procedure in place. Schumer’s office did not respond immediately for comment. The Democratic leader faces pressure from the progressive flank to end the filibuster, but he has not committed to doing so. The group Fix Our Senate criticized McConnell for trying to prevent procedural changes. The group said in a statement that McConnell wants to keep the filibuster because he knows it is “the best weapon he has” to prevent Democrats from delivering on Biden's priorities. "Senate Democrats must swat away this absurd attempt to undermine their majority and kneecap the Biden agenda before it even has a chance to get started,” the group said in a statement. The modern filibuster rules essentially require a super-majority threshold, now at 60 votes, to cut off debate in the Senate and bring legislative bills or other measures to a vote. The practice was changed as a way to wind down long-running speeches and debates, notably during the start of World War I, but quickly became a tool employed by minority factions to halt legislation that had majority support. McConnell gutted the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017, a breathtaking move that enabled the Senate to easily confirm the first of three justices that President Donald Trump nominated to the high court with simple majority votes. It's unclear the Democrats would even have support from their ranks to undo the legislative filibuster, which would require a vote in the Senate. But McConnell is not willing to take any chances and is forcing Schumer into a negotiation that could delay organizing the Senate. The Republican leader has also been talking privately with Republican senators about the importance to resolving the issue now, as part of the power-sharing talks with Democrats. McConnell sent an email Monday to senators outlining his concerns, as first reported by National Review. Without agreement on this and other matters, the Democrats' ability to control committees and other aspects of Senate business may also be delayed as talks between McConnell and Schumer drag on. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Online storytelling company Wattpad Corp. says it will be acquired by South Korean internet conglomerate Naver for US$600 million. The Toronto-based company says the acquisition is a cash and stock transaction that was unanimously approved by its board of directors earlier today. Under the terms of the deal, Wattpad will keep its Canadian headquarters and remain under the leadership of co-founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen. Wattpad has been running a self-publishing platform since it was founded in 2006, but in recent years managed to reach deals to get some users' books printed or made into movies. Wattpad says the acquisition will accelerate the company's international growth and expand its audience because Naver owns digital comics platform Webtoon. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of the company's fiscal year and is subject to regulatory approvals. This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2020. The Canadian Press