Commercial truckers who regularly cross the U.S. border as essential workers are increasingly worried about COVID-19 risks. Many are saying they want regular rapid testing and faster access to vaccines.
Commercial truckers who regularly cross the U.S. border as essential workers are increasingly worried about COVID-19 risks. Many are saying they want regular rapid testing and faster access to vaccines.
Former President Donald Trump has clashed again with his Republican Party, demanding that three Republican groups stop using his name and likeness for fundraising, a Trump adviser said on Saturday. The adviser, confirming a report in Politico, said lawyers for Trump on Friday had sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Campaign and National Republican Senate Campaign, asking them to stop using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise.
TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 990 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths linked to the virus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region.Today's data is based on 57,829 completed tests.The province also reports a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday's update.A total of 860,412 doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far.Ontario says that 1,152 more cases were resolved since the last daily update.There have been 306,997 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, including 289,735 classified as resolved and 7,052 that have resulted in death.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
A formal farewell to Walter Gretzky, the famed Canadian hockey patriarch, focused on his faith, his family and his love of the game during a pandemic-adjusted funeral service held in his hometown of Brantford, Ont., on Saturday afternoon. "He was a remarkable man who loved life, loved family," his son, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, said Saturday, as he paid tribute to his late father inside St. Mark's Anglican Church. "We'd be a way better world if there were so many more people like my dad." Walter Gretzky, died on Thursday at the age of 82. He left behind his five adult children and 13 grandchildren. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mourners wore masks at the service, which was limited to family and located just a few blocks from the home where Gretzky and his late wife, Phyllis, raised their family. WATCH | A look back at the life of Walter Gretzky: Canada and hockey Walter Gretzky's parents were immigrants, and Wayne Gretzky said his father, who was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, grew up to be a very patriotic individual. "I don't think I've ever met a prouder Canadian than my dad," he said. Walter Gretzky, seen here watching a Leafs-Kings game in 1988, died last Thursday at age 82.(Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press) But Walter Gretzky also loved hockey — so much so that the game wove its way into family history in many ways, including when Wayne Gretzky's brother Brent, a fellow future NHLer himself, was born. Wayne recalled that his father, who played minor and Junior B hockey, missed Brent's birth due to a hockey tournament out of town. "On a Friday night, we were going to the tournament, and my mom said to him: 'Walter, we're going to have this baby this weekend,''" Wayne Gretzky said, recounting the tale during the service. "And he said: 'It's OK, you can wait till we get back.'" Brent Gretzky was born the next day, and Walter Gretzky took a lot of ribbing about having missed his delivery — and he had one comment to make after one too many people chided him for what happened. "He was so mad," Wayne said. "He stood and he grabbed the trophy and he goes, 'Yes, but we got the trophy!"' 'We're all going to miss Wally' Tim Dobbin, the religious official delivering the homily at the service, described Gretzky as a gregarious and generous man who always made time for others. "This is a painful day for us, another chapter in our lives is drawing to a close," Dobbin said. "We're all going to miss Wally." People gathered along the sidewalk to pay their respects as the funeral procession for Walter Gretzky passed by in Brantford, Ont., on Saturday afternoon.(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press) Hockey Night in Canada fans would recognize the theme that was briefly played on the church organ as the funeral came to an end, and the casket with Gretzky's body was carried outside. An interment ceremony was to take place at the Farrington Burial Ground, according to an online obituary. As the funeral cortege left the church, people on the street — some wearing hockey jerseys — gathered along the sidewalk and gently tapped hockey sticks in tribute to Gretzky. Hundreds of people were there, according to a report from The Canadian Press. 'A profoundly sad day' Prior to Saturday's funeral service, Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis called Gretzky's passing "a profoundly sad day for all those who knew and loved Walter," saying the hockey patriarch's impact on his community extended beyond the ice. WATCH | Walter Gretzky, Canada's hockey dad: Glen Gretzky told the Brantford Expositor that his father had dealt with a series of health issues over the years. He said family had gathered at his father's Brantford home to be with him in his final hours. "We always said he's had nine lives," Glen said. "But he was unbelievable. He just wouldn't stop and nothing would keep him down." The backyard rink It was in Brantford that Walter Gretzky famously built a backyard rink where Wayne, who would go on to be known as the Great One, honed his hockey skills from an early age. "His birthday falls in January, so it was the winter that he turned three that he had skates on," Walter Gretzky said, when recalling Wayne's early days during a conversation with CBC back in 1982, as his eldest son was playing in the NHL playoffs. Hockey sticks, cards and flowers are seen on a snowbank beside Walter Gretzky's reserved parking spot at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., on Friday, following news of Walter's death. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press) That support continued throughout Wayne Gretzky's pro hockey career, something that the people who shared the ice with No. 99 noticed. "We all know that the relationship between Wayne and Walter was incredible," Mark Messier — the Hall of Fame hockey player who won four of his six Stanley Cups playing alongside Wayne during his Edmonton days — told CBC News recently. "I think it's something to be emulated, the way he nurtured Wayne." Wayne Gretzky is hugged by his father, Walter, after being presented with a car during the pre-game ceremonies for Gretzky's last game in the NHL, as a New York Ranger, on April 18, 1999.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) That included supporting his famous son when a controversial trade sent Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. "If Wayne is going to be happy there and he enjoys it, then certainly I won't regret it," his father said at the time. Walter Gretzky was also on hand for the day his son became the NHL's all-time points leader. A woman places flowers at the foot of a statue depicting Walter Gretzky outside the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., following news of his death.(Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)
A rise in hate crimes in B.C. over the past year shows an urgent need to take action against racism, says B.C.'s first parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives. The province is in the process of drafting anti-racism legislation and Rachna Singh says communities and grassroots organizations will be consulted on their unique needs during that process. "The past 12 months have shown to us that we need to do more to address systemic discrimination and hatred in this province," said Singh, who is also NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers. "This legislation ... won't end racism, but it is the next step toward creating the society that we are striving for." There has been a surge in anti-Asian crimes in the past year and online radicalization is on the rise. Data from the Vancouver Police Department shows the number of anti-Asian hate crimes rose from a dozen incidents in 2019 to 98 in 2020. The federal Liberal government has identified the rise of right-wing extremism and hate as a major threat to Canada. There are at least 130 active far-right extremist groups in Canada, a 30 per cent increase since 2015. And in November, former children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a report with evidence that Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by systemic racism in B.C.'s health-care system. B.C. Premier John Horgan has called for violence against people of colour to be treated as a hate crime, and Singh says he is making anti-racism a priority. Singh's mandate includes focusing on lasting reconciliation efforts, having equity and anti-racism inform policy and budgetary decisions and reviewing anti-racism laws in other jurisdictions. Rachna Singh says her goal as says her goal as B.C.'s first Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives is to bring B.C. closer to becoming a more socially just and equal society.(Doug Kerr/CBC) She says her years spent working as an addictions counsellor and support worker for women facing domestic violence helped her understand the importance of speaking up for those who can't advocate for themselves. "I always liked to look beyond the medical point of view, or what things looked on the surface, to know exactly what it is that has brought a person to a situation," she said. "It could be the result of intergenerational trauma or systemic racism." Critics have raised concerns about how effective this role will be when it comes to real change. The B.C. government has been criticized for not providing data showing how COVID-19 is affecting racialized communities. Last fall, B.C.'s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner said the government could better address systemic racism in the province by collecting and using disaggregated demographic data. The commissioner called for new legislation to make that happen. Protesters are pictured during a rally against racism in Vancouver in 2020.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Singh acknowledges change won't happen overnight. She believes the upcoming legislation will put words and actions into law, and says her goal is to bring B.C. closer to becoming a more socially just and equal society. "I want to see that everybody has the right to live with dignity, with respect, and whatever we can do to break those barriers," she said. "I think the introduction of B.C.'s first anti-racism act will reinforce our goals to combat racism throughout B.C. and ... ensure that everybody is treated equally, regardless of their race or skin colour."
The Dalai Lama, who is 85, was administered the first shot of the coronavirus vaccine on Saturday at a hospital in the north Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
TORONTO — Ontario's New Democrats say they would create a new cap-and-trade carbon pricing system if elected in 2022. The official Opposition made the promise in an environmental policy plank of their election platform, released today at a morning news conference. Party leader Andrea Horwath says the province needs the carbon pricing system to help fight climate change. She says the system would generate $30 billion in revenue, and the NDP would raise another $10 billion through the sale of "green bonds", over four years. The NDP says that cash would be used to pay for green building retrofits, to ramp up electric vehicle sales, and to plant a billion trees by 2030. The platform also promises to give each household in the province $600 to add an electric car charging station. Ontario's Progressive Conservative government scrapped the province's cap-and-trade system in 2018, a regime introduced by the previous Liberal government. Horwath said the NDP carbon pricing system will ensure polluters pay for their emissions and promised it will not add costs to low and middle income Ontarians. The party says the plan would help Ontario reach a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. "I think more and more people have come to the realization that we must tackle the climate climate crisis," Horwath said. "A just transition means we will really look after our people while we look after our climate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
As a child, Percy Farwell would sit in the international lounge at the Gander International Airport and watch people pass by. Farwell wondered where they were coming from or going on his perch near Arthur Price's Wandering Birds’ sculpture in the centre of the lounge. He and his friends were regulars at the airport. On many summer days, they’d hop on their bikes and head for the lounge. It was their way to pass time in the central Newfoundland town. There, they’d find the best ice cream in Gander, pop quarters into the helicopter game found at the bottom of the escalator and just enjoy the space. “It is important from a heritage perspective,” said Farwell, now the mayor of Gander. “The lounge and the airport have been recognized around the world.” Opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II, the international lounge at the airport is undergoing renovations as a part of a planned revamp of the historic space. It is not a restoration of the space back to its original look — tenants would have to be moved to accommodate that — but the authority is giving it a treatment that will bring it back to how people remember it. While that work has been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport continues to work toward knocking things off the list. Work was recently completed to remove the glass passenger tunnel known locally as the birdcage. “It is a bit behind where we’d like it, but we are committed to making it happen,” said Gander International Airport Authority CEO Reg Wright. “I’d like to make happen at least some of the key components by the summer.” Like Farwell, Wright was another son of Gander who spent time at the "Wandering Birds" watching people come and go. He remembers the texture of the sculpture, which has since become smooth from passengers touching it for good luck en route to their next flight. The project is meant to breathe some new life into a space that has remained largely unchanged since then. The renovation will produce a better utilization of the almost 9,000-square-foot lounge. There is also a desire to place interpretive boards around the lounge, install a theatre that will show aviation-themed films and create a gallery. Work is scheduled to start on a new bar for the lounge. “From our perspective, less is much more,” Wright said of the authority’s plan to keep the look and feel of the lounge as close to vintage as possible. “Wherever we can, we want to preserve it in the current form. If there is anything that is obtrusive and modern, the birdcages would be an example, we’re trying to remove that.” He added the authority is trying to do a treatment of the lounge as people remember it. The renovation plan was announced in 2019, and the airport authority received $1.5 million in funding for the project. That money came from the airport authority, the provincial government and the federal government through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The project aims to highlight and preserve the airport as an important historical structure to the history of Gander and the industry. It is something striking the right note with the Gander Airport Historical Society, a group dedicated to preserving the town’s aviation history, which has been working with the airport authority on panels and other aspects of the project. “We’re happy about the whole situation,” said the Gander Airport Historical Society’s Jack Pinsent. Perhaps an understated part of the renovation process is the airport authority’s plan to allow the public to enjoy the lounge by opening it up to them. The lounge is already a tourist destination, and Wright wants to see it become a hub for the community. That would allow the public to enjoy the space again, which includes the impressive "Flight and its Allegories" mural by artist Kenneth Lochhead. It has been closed to the public since the late 1970s, when security measures were heightened. “As much as we envision it as being able to welcome guests from away, really we want to make it a place where Gander can gather again,” said Wright. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
YANGON, Myanmar — Security forces in Myanmar again used force Saturday to disperse anti-coup protesters, a day after a U.N. special envoy urged the Security Council to take action to quell junta violence that this past week left more than 50 peaceful demonstrators dead and scores injured. Protests were reported Saturday morning in the country's biggest city, Yangon, where stun grenades and tear gas were used against demonstrators. On Wednesday, 18 people were reported killed there. Protests also took place in several other cities, including Mandalay, the second-biggest city, Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin, Myeik in the far south, where police fired tear gas at students, and Dawei in the southeast, where tear gas was also used. Demonstrators in the city of Monywa poured cans of beer over their feet and those of passers-by to show their contempt for the brewery’s owners — the military. Myanmar Beer is one of a number of business concerns in the country that are linked to the generals and has seen its sales plummet in the weeks following the coup. It’s also lost its Japanese partner, Kirin, which announced it was pulling out of the joint venture as a result of the power grab. Officials are believed to have exhumed the body of a young woman who was killed during Wednesday’s suppression of protests in Mandalay. The woman, Kyal Sin, had been photographed taking part in the protests before her death, and images of her on the front lines have made her a high-profile martyr. Security forces on Friday night sealed off the cemetery where she was buried, and when residents visited in the morning, her grave was freshly plastered over and shovels and other evidence of digging were found at the site. There was no official explanation of the incident, but media close to the military had earlier reported that the authorities had questioned the conclusion that she had been shot dead by police, and intended to investigate. The escalation of violence has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on Feb. 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015, and with an even greater margin of votes last year. It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention. Large protests have occurred daily across many cities and towns, and security forces have responded with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests. At least 18 protesters were shot and killed last Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office. More than 1,000 have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said. U.N. special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said in her briefing to Friday’s closed Security Council meeting that council unity and “robust” action are critical “in pushing for a stop to the violence and the restoration of Myanmar’s democratic institutions.” “We must denounce the actions by the military,” she said. “It is critical that this council is resolute and coherent in putting the security forces on notice and standing with the people of Myanmar firmly, in support of the clear November election results.” She reiterated an earlier appeal to the international community not to “lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime that has been forcefully imposed, and nothing but chaos has since followed.” The Security Council took no immediate action. Council diplomats said Britain circulated a draft presidential statement for consideration, a step below a legally binding resolution. Any kind of co-ordinated action at the U.N. will be difficult because two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it. Earlier in the week, Schraner Burgener warned Myanmar’s army that the world’s nations and the Security Council “might take huge, strong measures.” “And the answer was, ‘We are used to sanctions, and we survived those sanctions in the past,’” she said. When she warned that Myanmar would become isolated, Schraner Burgener said “the answer was, ‘We have to learn to walk with only a few friends.’” A decree issued by the junta and published in state media Friday increased the potential costs of opposition, declaring that members of a self-styled alternative government formed by elected lawmakers whom the army barred from taking their seats were committing high treason, which is punishable by death. The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Myanmar’s Parliament, wants foreign countries and international organizations to recognize it instead of the junta. It also claims to have won the loyalty of local bodies inside Myanmar. The junta’s announcement said that people who collude with the committee would be subject to seven years’ imprisonment. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies urged immediate protection for all Red Cross volunteers and health workers. The statement came after video from a surveillance camera that was circulated widely on social media showed members of an ambulance crew in Yangon being savagely beaten after they were taken into custody by police on Wednesday. “We express profound sadness that Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been injured while on duty providing lifesaving first aid treatment to wounded people, in line with fundamental principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Red Cross volunteers should never be targeted," the federation said. The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Historical Society is honouring several scholars and groups, including a commission that designed a new state that voters adopted in November. The society presented awards during its annual meeting Friday. The lifetime achievement award went to retired professor Alferdteen Harrison, who co-founded a Black history museum in the capital city of Jackson. She was honoured for her scholarly research and preservation of Mississippi history, the society said in a news release. Harrison was president of the society in 1991 and is former director of the Margaret Walker Alexander Center at Jackson State University. She helped found the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center and is now working to preserve the Scott-Ford House in Jackson’s Farish Street Historic District. Awards of Merit were presented to several groups, including a commission that designed a new state flag that features a magnolia surrounded by stars and the phrase, “In God We Trust.” The commission was created when legislators voted in June to retire the last state flag in the U.S. that featured the Confederate battle emblem. The award for the best Mississippi history book of 2021 went to “Steeped in the Blood of Racism: Black Power, Law and Order, and the 1970 Shootings at Jackson State College,” by Nancy Bristow. She is a professor and chairwoman of the History Department at the University of Puget Sound. Robert Luckett, historian and current director of JSU's Margaret Walker Alexander Center, received the Journal of Mississippi History article of the year award for “James P. Coleman (1956-1960) and Mississippi Poppycock." It was published in the journal's spring/summer 2019 issue. The Woodville Civic Club received the Outstanding Local Historical Society Award for work preserving its community. Theresa Moore, who teaches fifth and sixth grades at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hattiesburg, received the Teacher of the Year award. The Associated Press
There are two new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday, both are in the Eastern Health region and are contacts of previously known cases. The new cases, a male and a female, are in their 40s. Another 28 people have now recovered — all in the Eastern Health region, except for one in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region — meaning there are now 87 active cases in the province. Three people are in hospital due to the virus. Two of those are in intensive care. To date, 114,480 people have been tested. That's an increase of 269 since Friday's update. Meanwhile, the Department of Health says its investigation to determine the source of the positive case in a health care worker at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony is ongoing. The case was first reported on Tuesday. The health department said more information will be provided as it becomes available. Appointments available for asymptomatic testing During Friday's provincial COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Eastern Health is offering a COVID-19 test to anyone who wants one — even if they aren't showing any symptoms. "This surveillance will help us determine whether there are any pockets of COVID-19 that have gone undetected. It will also help us in our decision in easing restrictions further," Fitzgerald said. Testing centres in Mount Pearl, St. John's, Burin, Harbour Grace and Clarenville are taking appointments. Additional mobile testing clinics will take place in Trepassey, Bonavista, Placentia and downtown St. John's next week. In an email to CBC News, Eastern Health said these clinics will use PCR tests, rather than rapid tests, and asymptomatic people won't have to isolate while awaiting the results of their test. People must still use the online assessment tool for booking an appointment and select both of these options: "I do not have symptoms" and "Yes, I require a test due to a recent advisory." Booking a test through 811 is also still available. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 10:30 a.m. Ontario is reporting comparatively low COVID-19 case figures today, logging 990 new infections and six virus-related deaths over the past 24 hours. Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region. Two of those long-standing hotspots, Toronto and Peel, are due to rejoin the province's COVID-19 response framework at the grey lockdown level starting on Monday. The province is also reporting a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday's update. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a massive expressway on the edges of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws that they say will devastate their income. Farmers stood on tractors and waved colorful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage. Thousands of them have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by Parliament last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture, but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations. Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Joint Farmers’ Front, said the blockade would last five hours. “It is not our hobby to block roads, but the government is not listening to us. What can we do?” said Satnam Singh, a member of the group. The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But they could soon run into problems. For 100 days, Karnal Singh has lived inside the back of a trailer along a vast stretch of arterial highway that connects India’s north with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was under the grip of winter and smog. Now the city is bracing for scorching summer temperatures that can hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). But Singh, like many other farmers, is unfazed and plans to stay until the laws are completely withdrawn. “We are not going anywhere and will fight till the end,” Singh, 60, said Friday, as he sat cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck. The mood at the Singhu border, one of the protest sites, was boisterous on Friday, with many farmers settling into their surroundings for the long haul. Huge soup kitchens that feed thousands daily were still running. Farmers thronged both sides of the highway and hundreds of trucks have been turned into rooms, fitted with water coolers in preparation for the summer. Electric fans and air conditioners are also being installed in some trailers. Farmers say the protests will spread across the country soon. The government, however, is hoping many of them will return home once India’s major harvesting season begins at the end of the month. Karanbir Singh dismissed such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbours back in the villages, would tend to farms while he and others carried on with the protests. “We’ll help each other to make sure no farm goes unharvested,” Singh said. But not all farmers are against the laws. Pawan Kumar, a fruit and vegetable grower and ardent Modi supporter, said he was ready to give them a chance. “If they (the laws) turn out to not benefit us, then we will protest again,” he said. "We will jam roads, and make that protest even bigger. Then more common people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be beneficial for us, we will keep them.” Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal. The legislation is not clear on whether the government will continue to guarantee prices for certain essential crops — a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help India shore up its food reserves and prevent shortages. Farmers also fear that the legislation signals the government is moving away from a system in which an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces. They worry that will leave them at the mercy of corporations that will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price anymore. ___ Associated Press videojournalist Rishabh R. Jain contributed to this report. Neha Mehrotra And Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums. After labouring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature. “We tell the American people, help is on the way," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Citing the country's desire to resume normalcy, he added, “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.” The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year. Saturday's vote was also a crucial political moment for Biden and Democrats, who need nothing short of party unanimity in a 50-50 Senate they run because of Vice-President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. They also have a a slim 10-vote edge in the House. A small but pivotal band of moderate Democrats leveraged changes in the bill that incensed progressives, not making it any easier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to guide the measure through the House. But rejection of their first, signature bill was not an option for Democrats, who face two years of trying to run Congress with virtually no room for error. The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance. The package faced solid opposition from Republicans, who call the package a wasteful spending spree for Democrats’ liberal allies that ignores recent indications that the pandemic and the economy could be turning the corner. “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Of Democrats, he said, “Their top priority wasn't pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.” The Senate commenced a dreaded “vote-a-thon” — a continuous series of votes on amendments — shortly before midnight Friday, and by the end had dispensed with about three dozen. The Senate had been in session since 9 a.m. EST Friday. Overnight, the chamber was like an experiment in the best techniques for staying awake. Several lawmakers appeared to rest their eyes or doze at their desks, often burying their faces in their hands. At one point, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, at 48 one of the younger senators, trotted into the chamber and did a prolonged stretch. The measure follows five earlier ones totalling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring and comes amid signs of a potential turnaround. Vaccine supplies are growing, deaths and caseloads have eased but remain frighteningly high, and hiring was surprisingly strong last month, though the economy remains 10 million jobs smaller than its pre-pandemic levels. The Senate package was delayed repeatedly as Democrats made eleventh-hour changes aimed at balancing demands by their competing moderate and progressive factions. Work on the bill ground to a halt Friday after an agreement among Democrats on extending emergency jobless benefits seemed to collapse. Nearly 12 hours later, top Democrats and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the chamber's most conservative Democrat, said they had a deal and the Senate approved it on a party-line 50-49 vote. Under their compromise, $300 weekly emergency unemployment checks — on top of regular state benefits — would be renewed, with a final payment made Oct. 6. There would also be tax breaks on some of those payments, helping people the pandemic abruptly tossed out of jobs and risked tax penalties on the benefits. The House's relief bill, largely similar to the Senate's, provided $400 weekly benefits through August. The current $300 per week payments expire March 14, and Democrats want the bill on Biden's desk by then to avert a lapse. Manchin and Republicans have asserted that higher jobless benefits discourage people from returning to work, a rationale most Democrats and many economists reject. That agreement on jobless benefits wasn't the only move that showed the sway of moderates. The Senate voted Friday to eject a House-approved boost in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, a major defeat for progressives. Eight Democrats opposed the increase, suggesting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other progressives pledging to continue the effort in coming months will face a difficult fight. Party leaders also agreed to restrict eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks that will go to most Americans. That amount would be gradually reduced until, under the Senate bill, it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000. Those amounts were higher in the House version. Many of the rejected GOP amendments were either attempts to force Democrats to cast politically awkward votes or for Republicans to demonstrate their zeal for issues that appeal to their voters. These included defeated efforts to bar the bill's education funds from going to schools closed for the pandemic that don't reopen their doors, or that let transgender students born male to participate in female sports. One amendment would have blocked aid to so-called sanctuary cities, where local authorities balk at helping federal officials round up immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Friday's gridlock over unemployment benefits gridlock wasn't the bill's lengthy delay. A day earlier, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., forced the chamber's clerks to read aloud the entire 628-page relief bill, a wearying task that lasted nearly 11 hours. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
A new study shows the behaviour and reproduction of ground-nesting bees, like those that pollinate squash and pumpkins, is severely impacted when farmers treat the soil with neonicotinoid insecticide at the time of planting. While other studies have looked at the impacts neonicotinoid insecticide, or neonics, have had on honey bees and bumblebees, this study from University of Guelph researchers is the first to look at ground-nesting bees. It's crucial to understand how these particular bees are impacted, because they're often the ones pollinating those very crops, says Guelph professor and researcher Nigel Raine. "We know that they nest in farm fields so the likelihood is that they might be exposed to pesticides if they're applied to those crops," said Raine, who also holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation. The research was led by student Susan Chan over a three-year period. The researchers grew squash plants and applied three treatments: a neonicotinoid insecticide called imidacloprid applied to the soil, a neonicotinoid called thiamethoxam that coated the seeds of the plants and a chlorantraniliprole spray applied when the plant had five leaves, but before they flowered. There was also a control group. Each treatment had three hoop houses dedicated to each treatment and the control group. Eight bees were introduced to each hoop house when the plants started to flower. "We didn't know which treatments were assigned to which hoop house but boy, oh boy, you could quickly tell something was going on in three of those hoop houses," Chan said. "The extent of it was quite surprising. Shocking, as a matter of fact." Raine said the most significant impact was in bees where the neonics were applied as a soil treatment. "We found that those bees initiated 85 per cent fewer nests, so they dug fewer nests, they collected much less pollen, they left more than five times as much pollen … unharvested on the male flowers in our hoop houses and over the three years of the experiment, we found they produced 89 per cent fewer offspring than the untreated controls," he said. The researchers set up hoop houses to grow squash plants, applied pesticides, then introduced the bees into the hoop houses just as the plants were beginning to flower. The testing was blind, so researchers didn't know which treatments were in which hoop houses, but researcher Susan Chan says it became clear pretty quickly that bees were negatively impacted by one particular treatment.(Nigel Raine/University of Guelph) Information farmers need While educating the public on how neonics impact bees is important, Chan says she hopes her research reaches regulators, such as the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, as well as farmers. "This is really information that farmers need to have and I totally trust farmers to make good decisions once they have good information and often they're not given good information," she said. Regulators, she added, "haven't paid attention to the idea that bees could be exposed to pesticides in soil." Chan says previously, farmers who have been made aware of her research have changed the way they use insecticides. "It won't surprise me at all if they make changes," she said. Raine says regulators tend to look at risk assessments involving honey bees, but honey bees are not representative of most bee species. About 75 per cent of bee species are solitary, ground-nesting bees while honey bees will live in a hive or other opening above ground. He added farmers are in a difficult position: They need to grow crops, they need to control pests, but they rely very heavily on squash bees to pollinate those crops. "They don't want to be doing unintended harm to their pollinators so being able to pass out the information that certain pesticides may be more detrimental to those pollinators than others, then that may be informing their choices," he said. Regulatory review Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge, a spokesperson at Health Canada of which the Pest Management Regulatory Agency is part of, says they are aware of the study and are reviewing the research conducted by Chan and Raine. Health Canada began a special review in 2014 of three neonicotinoids: thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid. In 2019, Legault-Thivierge said the agency re-evaluated the three neonics. "Health Canada cancelled the soil uses of these pesticides on cucurbits [gourd crops], which the research article identified as posing a risk to the bees. The seed treatment uses did not pose a significant risk to squash bees in the Guelph research or in Health Canada's 2019 pollinator re-evaluation decisions," he said. He noted pesticides are registered for use in Canada "only if the science-based assessments indicate that they do not pose risks to human health or the environment." When there are "reasonable grounds" to believe the pesticides may pose a risk to the environment or human health, they can initiate a special review. Chan and Raine's research was published in the journal Scientific Reports in February.
PLAINS OF UR, Iraq — Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade. In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. Afterward, he said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defence of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, and his rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. He is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. Later in the day, the pope met with Iraqi religious leaders in the shadow of a symbol of the country’s ancient past — the 6,000-year-old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Such interfaith forums are a staple of Francis’ international trips. But in strife-torn Iraq the televised gathering of figures from across the country’s religious spectrum was nearly unheard of: From Shiite and Sunni Muslims to Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians and tiny, lesser known, ancient and esoteric faiths like the Kakai, a sect among ethnic Kurds, Mandaeans and Sabaean Mandaeans. Missing from the picture was a representative of Iraq’s once thriving, now nearly decimated Jewish community, though they were invited, the Vatican said. Together, the day’s two main events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. It is a message he hopes can preserve the place of the thinning Christian population in the tapestry. Still, it faces a tough sell in a country where every community has been traumatized by sectarian bloodshed and discrimination and where politicians have tied their power to sectarian interests. In al-Sistani, Francis sought the help of an ascetic, respected figure who is immersed in those sectarian identities but is also a powerful voice standing above them. Their meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home, the first ever between a pope and a grand ayatollah, was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly negotiated beforehand. Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, travelling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. He then walked the few meters (yards) down an alley to al-Sistani’s home. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. He emerged just under an hour later, still limping from an apparent flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that makes walking difficult. A religious official in Najaf called the 40-minute meeting “very positive.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honour. The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water. Al-Sistani and Francis sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting, the official said. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public or even on television, wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock. The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh last year, looked tired. After the meeting ended, Francis paused before leaving the room to have a last look, the official said. In a statement issued by his office afterward, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.” Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said. Iraqis cheered the meeting, and the prime minister responded to it by declaring March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Cooexistence in Iraq. ”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is a historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.” Iraq’s Christians, battered by violence and discrimination, hope a show of solidarity from al-Sistani will help secure their place in Iraq and ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community. Al-Sistani’s voice is a powerful one, often for moderation. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, his opinions forced American administrators to alter their transition plans, and his approval opened the way for Iraq’s Shiites to participate in force in post-Saddam Hussein elections. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. But his word is not law. After 2003, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by Sunni extremists. Yet brutal Shiite reprisals against Sunni civilians fed a years-long cycle of sectarian violence. His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group helped ensure the extremists’ defeat. But it also swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran and now blamed for discrimination against Sunnis and Christians. Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah. “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.” The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain. Ali Thijeel, a Nasiriyah resident who attended the event, said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage investment in the area to attract pilgrims and tourists. “This is what we were waiting for,” he said. “This is a message to the government and politicians. They should take care of this city and pay attention to our history.” Francis’ visit — his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Iraq. Despite concern about infections, Francis celebrated Mass in a packed, stuffy Chaldean Catholic Cathedral later Saturday in Baghdad that featured chanted Scripture readings and a maskless choir singing hymns. “Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus,” Francis told the faithful, who did wear masks. ___ Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed. Nicole Winfield And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
A Northwest Territories Power Corporation employee is in hospital after sustaining an injury at the Jackfish Lake generating plant in Yellowknife. In an email, a power corporation spokesperson confirmed the incident happened Friday afternoon. "Our thoughts are with our employee and his family. We will provide them with whatever support we can at this difficult time," read a statement by Noel Voykin, the president and CEO of the power corporation. The power corporation is not providing any further information about the identity or condition of the employee at this time. An update is expected early next week, the spokesperson says. The power corporation said the incident has been reported to the Workplace Safety and Compensation Commission.
The widow of a mariner who died on B.C.'s North Coast is looking for answers and closure surrounding the circumstances of her husband's death. Judy Carlick-Pearson is asking the Canadian Coast Guard to raise the tugboat Ingenika, which sank Feb. 11 while pulling a large barge in the Gardner Canal just south of Kitimat. Carlick-Pearson's husband, Troy Pearson, and crew member Charley Cragg were both killed in the accident. A third crew member, Zac Dolan, was rescued after washing ashore. "Honestly, it's minute by minute, second by second some days," said Carlick-Pearson in an interview with CBC Daybreak North host Carolina DeRyk. "My son and I take turns being the cheerleader in the house to try and get through a moment." Stalled efforts at recovery It's now been more than three weeks since the Ingenika sank, but neither the Canadian Coast Guard nor the RCMP have been able to retrieve the vessel. Carlick-Peason says they have given up the search even though there could still be answers on the boat, and the boat still contained fuel, which could be harmful to the marine environment. "We feel that the tug will not only answer questions, but give us some closure as well," she wrote in a petition launched March 2. "If they recover the tug, they may find out why that tugboat sank, as tugboats aren't known to sink." The petition has received more than 6,600 signatures as of Saturday. In a written statement to CBC, Transport Canada extended their condolences to the families of Pearson and Cragg, but said the suspected depth of the vessel would make any attempts at recovery difficult and dangerous. "The coast guard continues to monitor the situation and work with the owner, the RCMP, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada as partners in the response," the statement says. "An investigation into the sinking of the tug Ingenika will be conducted by the Transportation Safety Board." Call for greater oversight The Feb. 11 incident has sparked calls for better protection of mariners operating vessels. The International Longshore Workers Union Local 400 Marine Section sent out a news release on Feb. 23 asking Transport Canada to require formal safety management systems for undersized and undermanned fleets operating along the coast. ILWU Local 400 president Jason Woods said approximately 12 tugboats have sunk in the past two years on the West Coast. Woods said these tugboats are often undermanned and underweight for the size of vessel they are pulling. "The only reason people haven't died is because of luck," Woods said. "We've been saying this for years, that there will be a fatality, it's going to happen, and here we are." Woods said he would like to see every commercial vessel inspected by Transport Canada regardless of its weight, and procedures in place to ensure they are appropriately manned.
Britain's Prince Charles paid tribute to the courage shown throughout the Commonwealth in response to coronavirus in a broadcast that will air on Sunday, hours before Prince Harry and Meghan talk about stepping down from royal duties on U.S. television. The prince was joined by other royals, including his elder son and heir Prince William, in talking about the impact of COVID-19 in messages recorded for a programme marking Commonwealth Day dedicated to the countries, mainly from the former British empire, that maintain links with Britain. "The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish," Charles said in the message.
Charlottetown's winter festival was put on ice this week due to COVID restrictions, but will be extended six days to make up for the pause. Organizers behind the Ice City Festival, a "distant cousin" of the Jack Frost Festival normally held pre-pandemic, say the past week has been a whirlwind. The festival was supposed to have events throughout the city last week, but the circuit-breaker restrictions instituted Feb. 27, followed by red-phase restrictions early this week, put the festivities on pause. The province had announced a two-week stop to indoor dining as part of the bid to stop the sudden jump in cases. But at a pandemic briefing on Wednesday, Premier Dennis King announced restaurants could reopen Thursday. The current rules limit 50 patrons in a restaurant, no more than six at a table and the establishment must close by 10 p.m. With in-room dining allowed again, Ice City organizers could restart the festivities, which include outdoor activities as well as food. "Skating and stuff could have still carried on, but definitely with the in-room dining, a lot of our restaurant partners are having micro-events at their restaurants," said Heidi Zinn, executive director of Discover Charlottetown. "And certainly, you know, one of the reasons we're doing this is to bring people downtown and get them into the restaurant.... We're super excited to have the programming back." Charlottetown's Ice City Festival began on Feb. 12 and was slated to run until March 14. Now because of the pause it'll run until March 20.
Police are now patrolling Brazil's most famous beach after its many stalls were closed on Friday.View on euronews