With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
An agreement to delay logging of an old-growth stand of British Columbia forest has given a one-year reprieve to one of Canada's most endangered species. But governments now have to come up with a permanent way to protect the vanishing spotted owl and other endangered species in the province, said Kegan Pepper-Smith of Ecojustice, which has been pushing the federal government on the issue. "We need to reimagine an approach that protects (species) and their habitat with legally enforceable measures." Just a tiny handful of spotted owls remain in the Canadian wild. Some estimates place the remaining population in the forests around Spuzzum in south-central B.C. as low as three. On Thursday, B.C., the federal government and the Spuzzum First Nation announced a deal to hold off logging that watershed for a year while the governments continue working on a recovery plan for the owls. It's part of a larger deal the two governments are developing to help the province preserve biodiversity. "These first pilot projects will strengthen habitat protection for the threatened species which depend on it, such as the Spotted Owl, and help build a systemic approach to protection of biodiversity,” B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said in a release. B.C. has a captive breeding program that now has 28 spotted owls whose offspring will be released into protected habitats. Pepper-Smith called the deal encouraging, but said both Ottawa and the province have a long way to go before the medium-sized, dark brown owl is fully protected. "(Critical) habitat has never been identified," he said. "How can they say they've protected habitat if they've never appropriately defined it?" B.C. claims about 281,000 hectares of protected spotted owl habitat. Pepper-Smith disputes that, saying much of that land is subject to logging. "The B.C. government's definition of protection is by no means sufficient," he said. Pepper-Smith said the one-year harvesting deferral should result in a clear plan. "We would like to see the updated recovery strategy published with a clear identification of the owl's critical habitat and measures in place on how to protect that habitat," he said. Ecojustice would also like to see progress on the so-called Nature Plan between the two governments, with clear identification of the most important habitats. Pepper-Smith points out that B.C. has more endangered species than any other province, adding Thursday's announcement is a good start. "There's some hopeful language," he said. "There's discussion of pilot projects and funding and moving forward on a pan-Canadian approach to transforming species at risk protection and conservation." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario had no updated plan for dealing with a pandemic when COVID-19 began cutting a deadly swath through the province last spring, a public commission was told. In testimony before the panel released on Thursday, the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, denied responsibility for the shortcoming. The province had developed a pandemic response plan in 2006 that was updated in 2013, but the process stalled after work started on a "Ready and Resilient" blueprint in 2016. "Do you have any knowledge about the "Ready and Resilient" plan and why it wasn't completed in four years before COVID?" commission co-counsel John Callaghan asked. "The process was in place, and they were doing reviews on it," Williams answered. "Why was it not done?" "Because it was not completed." The commission is delving into the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Ontario's long-term care homes. To date, coronavirus disease has killed 3,753 residents and 11 staff members. Williams said pandemic preparation drifted down the priority list because things had been relatively quiet for several years. Historically, he said, planning focused on influenza A, a situation that hadn't changed as late as 2019 when the World Health Organization said the world is not ready for a pandemic. "For seven years, you never felt the need to increase your pandemic plan, your influenza pandemic plan?" Callaghan asked. "We did quality work back in 2006," Williams said. "You are saying, in your opinion, it was your decision not to upgrade the 2013 plan?" "No, I was not asked to update the plan." Williams said he "took flak" over pushing more robust preparation for a major infectious disease outbreak because others saw the exercise as wasting time and resources for something that would never occur. "It is hard to keep that prevention thing always at the front table because the tyranny of the urgent always pushes things aside," Williams said. "It was to me disappointing to find the lack of depth and breadth of infection prevention and control expertise that was available out there." Williams said he was shocked to discover the poor situation at long-term care homes when it came to masks and other personal protective equipment. The purpose of the provincial stockpile, he said, was to equip front-line doctors and their offices, not long-term care facilities. Nursing homes, he said, were supposed to have their own supplies able to last between four and seven weeks. However, when the pandemic hit in earnest, he learned most of the protective equipment was made in China and global demand had outstripped supply. "That was startling and shocking to me that that had happened in there because it is something that I thought we had in-house; anyways in North America at least," he said. Constant staff turnover of key personnel in nursing homes hampered efforts to ensure adequate infection prevention controls were in place, he said. "The changeover was at times disconcerting," he said. Callaghan called it "vexing" the commission had received 217,000 pages of documents from Williams only in the week before he testified. The co-counsel also noted Williams had provided 2,000 pages of his redacted notes. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Williams' testimony made it "astoundingly clear" the government was trying to hide its response to COVID-19 in nursing homes. “The Ford government and Dr. Williams are taking great pains to hide, bury and cover up how they dealt with COVID-19 in long-term care homes,” Horwath said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
BRUSSELS — European Union leaders vowed Thursday to accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and pressed pharmaceutical companies to respect their delivery commitments, as concern mounts about the spread of new variants of the virus. However, the leaders could offer no prospect of short-term respite for curfew-weary, mask-wearing citizens, many of whom have often worked from home over the last year — if they have not lost their jobs. The leaders also said that restrictions, including on travel, should remain in place in many parts of the 27-nation bloc. COVID-19 has killed more than 531,000 people across the EU. “Our top priority now is speeding up the production and delivery of vaccines and vaccinations,” EU Council President Charles Michel said, adding a warning for vaccine makers: “We want more predictability and transparency to ensure that pharmaceutical companies comply with their commitments.” The European Commission has sealed deals with several companies for well over 2 billion vaccine shots — far more than the EU population of around 450 million — but only three have been authorized: jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. Officials say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be approved next month. But some seniors officials at the big pharmaceutical companies, a few of whom were grilled by EU lawmakers not far from where Michel was chairing the videoconference summit in Brussels, said it's no simple matter to build new vaccine production sites. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said production problems are inevitable as companies work around the clock to do in one year what normally takes 3-4 years. Most of the company chiefs said they expect an improvement in the second quarter. “Every time there is a human error, equipment breaking down... or raw material from one of our suppliers late by a day, you cannot start making the product because it will not be safe, you will not have the right quality,” Bancel said, explaining the technological issues facing producers. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said a big challenge is to improve yield — the number of doses that can be extracted from a litre of vaccine. He also rejected the idea that companies can simply open new production sites to solve the problem, saying that engineers must spend a lot of time training staff. “Our teams are absolutely stretched to the maximum. There’s no way they could train any more people,” he said. Soriot insisted that most companies developing vaccines probably face the same constraint. Soriot came under fire after he confirmed that the company would deliver less than half the vaccines it had committed to in the first quarter. The EU has partly blamed supply delays for lagging far behind nations like Israel, the United States and Britain when it comes to vaccinations. By early this week, 6.5% of the adults living in the EU had been vaccinated, compared to more than 27% in the U.K. Soriot said AstraZeneca would deliver 40 million doses to the EU in the first quarter, attributing the delay to complicated production issues, including “lower than expected output in our dedicated European supply chain.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted pointedly that in terms of companies honouring the delivery commitments in their contracts with Europe, “there is room for improvement” at AstraZeneca. Still, despite the slow vaccine rollout in Europe, delayed by almost a month compared to former member the U.K., von der Leyen said the bloc still aims to inoculate 70% of all adults — around 255 million people — by September. “This is a goal that we are confident we will reach,” she said. Border checks remain a sore point. Divisions among EU member countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic, on restrictions to stave off transmission has again raised the spectre of travel delays and long traffic backups in a bloc that prides itself on being a seamless market. Michel told reporters that “non-essential travel may still need to be restricted, but measures should be proportionate.” The leaders were also updated on the movement of fast-spreading new variants of the virus within Europe, with the so-called U.K variant now present in 26 member countries. The variant first detected in South Africa has been identified in 14, while the Brazilian type is known to be in 7. This means that restrictions could well continue through coming months. “There is a growing COVID fatigue among our citizens. It has been a very trying year, but we should not let up now,” said von der Leyen. Also debated was the issue of "vaccine certificates," which could help smooth a return to air travel and possibly avoid another disastrous summer holiday season, as the tourism industry and broader economies suffer from restrictions. Southern European countries dependent on tourism, like Greece and Spain, support such a system, but their northern EU partners, like Germany, doubt whether the certificates would work. Von der Leyen said it would be technically possible to develop a “green pass” using a minimum of data indicating whether a person has been vaccinated, tested negative, or is immune after contracting the disease, within about three months, but that many political issues must first be resolved. French President Emmanuel Macron insisted the EU nations should move in lockstep. “None of us will accept that to attract tourists, one country would have looser rules than another and would be taking risks by making people come from the other side of the world to fill up its hotels,” he said. “The most important question remains whether you can still transmit the disease. It is a crucial question,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters. He also raised concern about other issues, like the exclusion of those who have not been vaccinated, or cannot be. Rutte also said Europeans should consider whether the discussion on vaccination certificates should involve other international institutions such as the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Air Transport Association. “You have to be careful that by adding more weight to it, the whole thing does not collapse onto itself,” he warned. ___ Sylvie Corbet contributed from Paris, Frank Jordans from Berlin Lorne Cook And Raf Casert, The Associated Press
(Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit) Enforcement is now involved with the two latest cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island, a woman in her 20s and a woman in her 30s, says P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison. Wednesday, the province confirmed the new cases and said they were linked to travel in the Atlantic provinces. Officials would not say what province or provinces the women visited. There was also a public exposure at the Toys R Us store in Charlottetown Tues., Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, after one of the women shopped at the store upon returning to P.E.I. "Two women were travelling over the weekend and travelled for the weekend off Prince Edward Island and they were diagnosed on return to P.E.I.," Morrison said Thursday afternoon, while taping her regular weekly interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin. "Both were subject to the self-isolation requirements. "The matter actually has been referred to enforcement for investigation." Morrison said she could not say more because the matter is under investigation. 6 staff in isolation Six staff members at Toys R Us are now in isolation for 14 days due to possible exposure, Morrison said. Toys R Us in Charlottetown is closed for deep cleaning until Friday, after being exposed to COVID-19 on Tuesday morning. Public health was also expecting some customers from the store to come for testing Thursday, but Morrison did not have numbers, and noted the number was likely low because the weather was poor. Public health said all customers in the store between 10 and noon on Tuesday should not just monitor for symptoms, but self-isolate until they get a negative test. "We have to treat each one of these cases as a potential variant case — that's because of what we're seeing elsewhere in the region and across the country," Morrison said. "We are concerned but I'm hopeful at the same time we are able to contain and limit any transmission." Toys R Us regional vice-president Barb Hall said in an email to CBC News that all staff who were scheduled to work will be paid for their scheduled hours. "We take this situation very seriously," Hall said. "The store was closed [Wednesday] afternoon for the day, and will remain closed for the remainder of [Thursday] to ensure a thorough cleaning takes place which has already started." The store will reopen Friday, she said. Watch Louise Martin's complete interview with Dr. Heather Morrison tonight at 6 p.m. on CBC News: Compass. More from CBC P.E.I.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Thursday, stressing the importance of human rights and vowing to make the relationship between the two countries stronger and more transparent, the White House said. Biden "affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law," and the two leaders discussed the U.S. commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against attacks by Iran-aligned groups, the White House said.
OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada is launching an investigation and reviewing its practices after two returning travellers were allegedly sexually assaulted during their mandatory quarantine periods. A spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said allegations of assaults reported in the media this week are "really concerning." Cole Davidson said the public health agency would review its own procedures as well as those of its service providers to ensure the safety of travellers returning to the country. The response follows reports that a quarantine screening officer as well as a returning traveller have been charged in separate sexual assault cases that allegedly occurred last week. The Opposition Conservatives immediately demanded a suspension of the obligation for travellers to quarantine in hotels until better safety measures are in place, as well as an end to the use of security guards, who they say haven't been properly evaluated, to check on people quarantining at home. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says he doesn't necessarily believe the quarantine measures need to be suspended, but he wants to see improvements to ensure the safety of travellers under quarantine. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
MEXICO CITY — The number of monarch butterflies that showed up at their winter resting grounds in central Mexico decreased by about 26% this year, and four times as many trees were lost to illegal logging, drought and other causes, making 2020 a bad year for the butterflies. The government commission for natural protected areas said the butterflies’ population covered only 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) in 2020, compared to 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) the previous year and about one-third of the 6.05 hectares (14.95 acres) detected in 2018. Because the monarchs cluster so densely in pine and fir trees, it is easier to count them by area rather than by individuals. Gloria Tavera, the regional director of Mexico's Commission for National Protected Areas, blamed the drop on “extreme climate conditions,” the loss of milkweed habitat in the United States and Canada on which butterflies depend, and deforestation in the butterflies' wintering grounds in Mexico. Illegal logging in the monarchs wintering rounds rose to almost 13.4 hectares (33 acres), a huge increase from the 0.43 hectare (1 acre) lost to logging last year. Jorge Rickards of the WWF environmental group acknowledged the lost trees were a blow, but said “the logging is very localized” in three or four of the mountain communities that make up the butterfly reserve. In addition, wind storms, drought and the felling of trees that had fallen victim to pine beetles or disease, caused the loss of another 6.9 hectares (17 acres) in the reserve, bringing the total forest loss in 2020 to 20.65 hectares (51 acres). That compares to an overall loss of about 5 hectares (12.3 acres) from all causes the previous year. Tavera said the drought was affecting the butterflies themselves, as well as the pine and fir trees where the clump together for warmth. “The severe drought we are experiencing is having effects,” Tavera said. “All the forests in the reserve are under water stress, the forests are dry.” “The butterflies are looking for water on the lower slopes, near the houses,” she noted. Tavera also expressed concern about the sever winter storms in Texas, which the butterflies will have to cross — and feed and lay their eggs — on their way back to their northern summer homes in coming months. “This is a cause for worry,” Tavera said, referring to whether the monarchs will find enough food and habitat after the winter freeze. It was also a bad year for the mountain farming communities that depend for part of their income on tourists who visit the reserves. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, visits fell from around 490,000 last year, to just 80,000 in the 2020-2021 season. It was unclear whether the drop in tourism income contributed to the increased logging. Rickards said there has long been pressure on the area's forests from people who want to open land for planting crops. Felipe Martínez Meza, director of the butterfly reserve, said there have been attempts to plant orchards of avocados — hugely profitable crop for farmers in the area — in the buffer zones around the reserve. The high mountain peaks where the butterflies clump in trees are probably a bit above the altitude where avocado trees like to grow, Martinez Meza said. But the buffer zones provide protection and support for the higher areas, and he said more must be done to combat the change in land use. Frequently, illegal logging is carried out by outsiders or organized gangs, and not by the farm communities that technically own the land. Millions of monarchs migrate from the U.S. and Canada each year to forests west of Mexico’s capital. The butterflies hit a low of just 0.67 hectares (1.66 acres) in 2013-2014. Loss of habitat, especially the milkweed where the monarchs lay their eggs, pesticide and herbicide use, as well climate change, all pose threats to the species’ migration. While there was plenty of bad news for the butterflies — very few showed up to some historic wintering sites like Sierra Chincua — there was the welcome news that a new wintering site was discovered nearby, in a mountaintop near the Lagunas de Zempoala protected area, near Mexico City. Tavera said the wintering site had always been there, but was so difficult to reach that it wasn't discovered until earlier this month. Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press
Fisker Inc CEO said on Thursday that the electric vehicle startup is considering setting up a battery cell manufacturing facility with an unidentified major supplier in Europe or the United States, to secure stable supplies of the key component. Fisker, which was once a rival to Tesla Motors Inc in the nascent market for electric luxury cars, struggled with the recall of batteries made by its previous supplier, A123, which later filed for bankruptcy. "We did not want to take any risk on batteries," Henrik Fisker, chairman and CEO of Fisker, told Reuters.
The harmless puppy just wanted to play around! How cute is that?
An Onion Lake man currently serving time on charges from Saskatchewan has a bail hearing in Alberta on charges out of that province. Michael Patrick Hill, 23, was scheduled to enter a plea in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on Feb. 24 but an agent appearing on his behalf asked for an adjournment. The matter was adjourned until March 10 for a bail hearing. Hill is charged in Alberta in connection to an incident where an RCMP officer was injured while pursuing Hill. If Hill is granted bail at his upcoming hearing in Alberta, he will first have to finish his custodial sentence from a Saskatchewan court. On Feb. 9, 2021, in Lloydminster, Sask., Provincial Court, Hill was sentenced to six months for theft over $5,000 and two months consecutive for breach of a curfew. Hill has been in custody since he was arrested in Alberta on Jan. 19, 2021. Alberta RCMP say that Hill was involved in an incident in Vermillion, Alta., where a gun was allegedly pointed at someone. The suspects fled in a black SUV, which police located about an hour later near Edmonton. One of the RCMP officer’s pursuing Hill hit the ditch and the police cruiser rolled on Range Road 540 just outside of Edmonton. The officer was taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries. A second RCMP vehicle was able to stop the SUV near Township Road 534. Strathcona County RCMP and Fort Saskatchewan RCMP assisted Vermillion RCMP in the pursuit. Hill was charged with assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a vehicle, flight from a peace officer, pointing a firearm, operation of a motor vehicle while prohibited, possession of stolen property under $5,000, possession of stolen property over $5,000, and failing to comply with conditions. Alberta RCMP also arrested a twenty-one-year-old woman from Onion Lake Cree Nation who was with Hill. She was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on March 17. Alberta RCMP say they will release her name after she makes her first court appearance. Sherwood Park is part of Strathcona County and part of the greater Edmonton region. Onion Lake Cree Nation is about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster and borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The U.S. government is taking new steps to speed up releases of unaccompanied children to parents or other sponsors as the Biden administration grapples with a growing number of underage migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, earlier this month reversed a policy put in place by former Republican President Donald Trump that allowed U.S. authorities to rapidly expel migrant children caught at the border without their parents. In January, U.S. Border Patrol caught 7,300 unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally, the highest number of arrests in the month of January in at least a decade and up from 4,500 a month earlier.
(CBC - image credit) The provincial government is on the hook to pay 10 defence lawyers for their work defending 10 correctional officers charged in the death of Jonathan Henoche. CBC News has confirmed the province lost an arbitration hearing against the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, the public sector union representing the officers. A decision was sent to all parties on Thursday morning. NAPE notified the correctional officers via email, enclosing a snippet of the ruling, in which arbitrator James Oakley wrote, "The employer is required by Section 36 [of the officers' collective agreement] to pay legal fees incurred by the grievors until such time as there is a determination by the facts or the courts that the grievors have been deemed to have performed in a negligent manner." Section 36 deals with who pays legal fees when a person is charged or sued while acting in their role as a correctional officer. It says the province is responsible except in cases where officers are deemed negligent by "facts or the courts." Seven officers are charged with negligence causing death, and three are charged with manslaughter in the death of inmate Jonathan Henoche on Nov. 6, 2019. Henoche was facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Regula Schule, 88. He died after what sources told CBC News was an altercation with officers at Her Majesty's Penitentiary. Sources have told CBC News Henoche was involved in a physical altercation with officers in his cell. He was taken to the segregation unit and later died. His death was ruled a homicide by the province's chief medical examiner. The 10 officers' first court appearance was Feb. 11, when defence lawyers said they didn't have enough time to review all the documents handed over by the prosecution, and a second date was set for March 11. No facts have been proven by the court, but the province had refused to pay the officers' legal fees, while saying it was abiding by its interpretation of the collective agreement. NAPE disagreed, and filed a grievance. The hearing was held on Feb. 19. CBC News has yet to obtain a full copy of Oakley's decision. NAPE declined comment Thursday afternoon. Messages to representatives of the provincial government were not immediately returned. This story will be updated if the Department of Justice and Public Safety responds to a request for comment. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Sudbury's first ever COVID-19 mass vaccination event began Thursday at the Carmichael Arena on Bancroft Drive. It's a joint effort of Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Health Sciences North, Greater Sudbury Paramedics Service and the City of Greater Sudbury. The clinic is taking place Thursday and Friday this week. Members of the Sudbury media were ushered through the building Wednesday to see how the vaccinations will be carried out. Media will not be allowed in the building when patients are receiving vaccines. The arena's main area has been transformed into a large room filled with partitions, arrows pasted on the floor, tables and chairs and waiting areas where people will be gathered to get their first shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The target is to vaccinate 1,200 people a day. "So when people come to the arena, the most important thing is that it is by appointment only," said Karly McGibbon, the lead public health nurse assigned to the event. She said all those who are receiving vaccines have been contracted and given a time for when to visit the arena "Once the people are registered and checked in they will come here," McGibbon said at the entrance to the rink surface. "There will be staff members telling them where to go and then they will be sent to one of our twelve vaccine stations." Each person will be screened for any conditions such as allergies or other health matters before the vaccine is given. At each station, a nurse is on hand to swab each patient's arm and then give a needle with the vaccine. McGibbon said the actual needles are the same as the small-gauge sharps used for flu shots. The needles are considered relatively painless for anyone accustomed to getting a flu shot. Once the shot is complete, each patient will be directed to a waiting area to sit for 15 minutes to ensure they're feeling well. There is then a formal check-out area where each patient will be handed a printed receipt outlining the time and place of their first dose. The patients will then be moved out of the building through the back doors to ensure there is no mix up with people coming in the front doors. McGibbon said the entire process should take about 30 minutes. "People should plan to be here for half an hour," she said. "The vaccine itself will take maybe five minutes." She said anyone with a history of allergies might be asked to stay a bit longer so that the health-care staff can check them out before they leave. McGibbons said the target group at this event are priority workers who up until now have not been able to get their first dose of the vaccine. "The people coming this week, Thursday and Friday, are staff members and essential care givers from long-term care homes. So these are people that have been identified by facilities and so their place of work, or where they're an essential care giver, notified them to say, it's your turn. Please call this number and book your appointment." All the booking was done by the City of Greater Sudbury in collaboration with PHSD. Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will also be booked to take place in about one month's time, said McGibbon. McGibbon said there is no immediate word on future clinics beyond the one happening this week. "Well, we have the two clinics right here this week," said McGibbon. "We may move to other locations. It all depends on vaccine availability when the clinics can be booked. We may use a different venue. We may return to this venue. That hasn't been set up yet." McGibbon said the vaccines are being stored in extreme freezers at Health Sciences North. "What we'll do is pick it up in the morning. We'll bring it here. It has to thaw and then we have to mix it, so it is a little bit of a different process from Moderna," she said, referring to the other vaccine approved by Health Canada. McGibbon said all those who provide the vaccines are well-trained and experienced in giving the needles. "We are using a multitude of immunizers. We are using nurses from public health that have experienced immunizers, we are using nurses from other sectors, so we certainly have nurses from HSN coming, we have nurses from community centres, and we are also using community paramedics." Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
Loblaw Companies Ltd.'s discount grocery stores are starting to win back market share after consumers flocked to conventional supermarkets at the outset of the pandemic, the company's president said Thursday. Sarah Davis said COVID-19 restrictions prompted many consumers to opt for conventional grocery stores as they sought a more "complete shop" while they limited the number of times they shopped a week. "When the pandemic started, we saw a flight to conventional, which had a significant impact on our discount business," she told analysts during a conference call after Loblaw reported its fourth-quarter profit and revenue rose compared with a year ago. The trend positively impacted sales at the company's conventional grocery stores. But given Loblaw's food business breakdown is about 60 per cent discount stores and 40 per cent conventional, Davis said the company has been "working to win that market share back." The company's fourth-quarter results showed a "closing of the gap," she said. "We're seeing an improved trajectory." Loblaw said its food retail same-store sales grew 8.6 per cent, with its conventional division growing 10.6 per cent and its discount division growing 7.4 per cent. That's up from the discount division's growth of 4.7 per cent in the previous quarter. Davis said the "food divisional results" were more balanced in the fourth quarter than they have been since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting customers are returning to discount stores following a "short pandemic hiatus." "We're seeing a little bit of change in consumer patterns, maybe not just the one shop," she said. "We're seeing a few more shoppers doing more than one shop in a week, perhaps shopping in a few different banners as well." Loblaw has conventional grocery stores like Loblaws, Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer, Real Atlantic Superstore and Provigo, as well as a discount division, which includes No Frills and Maxi. Overall, the company said it earned net income available to common shareholders of $345 million or 98 cents per diluted share for the 13-week period ended Jan. 2, boosted in part by an extra week in the quarter. The result compared with a profit of $254 million or 70 cents per diluted share for the 12-week period ended Dec. 28, 2019. Revenue totalled $13.29 billion, up from $11.59 billion. Loblaw’s e-commerce sales spiked 160 per cent during the quarter as many provinces reinstated lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, Davis said the company is "ready to play a key role in the nationwide vaccination effort." She said the retailer's supply chain is able to deliver vaccines and begin administering the shots the day it receives them. The company's 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix drugstores across the country are within 10 minutes of most Canadians, Davis added. The company's pharmacies have administered seasonal influenza vaccinations for years and are well positioned to do the same with the COVID-19 vaccines, she said. Yet Davis said Loblaw has not been given the rollout strategy across all provinces or the timing yet. The company's pharmacists in Alberta will start offering the vaccine in some stores next week, she said. Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have all indicated the company will be part of the vaccination process, but Loblaw hasn't received more details such as the exact timing, Davis said. In British Columbia and Quebec, meanwhile, she said it appears pharmacists could play a role at the mass vaccination sites, but not within the drugstores themselves. However, Davis said the vaccine will likely be around for a long time and it's possible the scope of the pharmacy's role in some provinces could expand over time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:L) Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
(LaSalle Police Service/Facebook - image credit) A 74-year-old Windsor man working as a self-employed tutor faces sex charges, according to LaSalle police. In a news release Thursday, police said a local family issued a complaint to them this month, which launched an investigation. Police say the victim is under 18 years old and that the suspect "was in a position of trust" at the time of the incident. The man has been arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault and sexual interference. Police said the accused is a self-employed, private tutor who has advertised his services on local classified ads and buy and sell websites. He is also known by word of mouth. An investigation is still ongoing and police ask that anyone with information contact LaSalle police or anonymously on Crime Stoppers. More from CBC Windsor
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Linda Thomas-Greenfield presented her credentials as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, officially taking on one of the most challenging jobs for the Biden administration of helping to restore the United States as a top multilateral player on the global stage after former President Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy. The longtime American career diplomat thanked Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who swore her in on Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position.” “That was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here,” she told Guterres who served as the U.N.’s refugee chief before his election to the U.N. post. “I worked with you in the past on refugee issues so I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for.” Guterres warmly welcomed Thomas-Greenfield, calling her a “distinguished global citizen" with great compassion for refugees. Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres then moved to his private office on the 38th floor of U.N. headquarters overlooking New York’s East River for private talks. She will be jumping right into her new job, tackling global peace and security issues with Russia, China and a dozen other countries because the United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday. And she might even decide to attend a council meeting on Friday. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with President Joe Biden’s administration -- but “it takes two to tango.” “We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he told a group of reporters Wednesday. “You can count on our most favourable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.” Noting Thomas-Greenfield's decades as a U.S. diplomat, he said “it's always easier to interact with professionals." But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.” Nonetheless, Polyansky said, “there are a lot of things Russia and the United States can do together” and “we will judge the new administration by what it does.” “We’re in favour of co-operation,” he said. But “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance, but we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues.” Thomas-Greenfield, a retired 35-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who rose to be assistant secretary of state for Africa, resigned during the Trump administration. She will be the third African-American, and the second African-American woman, to hold the U.N. post. Her confirmation on Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented former President Donald Trump’s “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at President Joe Biden’s return to multilateralism. At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield called China “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake. The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield said at the hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement to rein in their nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018 and Biden has indicated the U.S. will rejoin it, though how that might happen remains a major question. Polyansky said Russia welcomes the “positive developments” on the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. agreement to extend the START nuclear agreement, adding that Moscow is ready for serious and meaningful discussions “first and foremost in the area of strategic stability.” Thomas-Greenfield stressed at the hearing that the U.S. will be reengaging internationally and promoting American values -- “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security.” Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thomas-Greenfield should promote human rights as “a top priority.” “She should abandon the Trump administration’s selective approach to human rights – enthusiastically condemning its enemies’ abuses while ignoring rights violations of allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But there’s room for continuity on China and Syria," Charbonneau said. “She should make expanding the coalition of nations willing to speak out against Beijing’s human rights abuses one of her chief goals at the U.N., above trying to bring African, Asian, and Latin American states into the fold. And she should continue to push for expanded humanitarian access to all parts of Syria.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Wall Street's GameStop saga won't stop. After weeks of going dormant, shares of GameStop have suddenly shot higher again, rising 18.6% Thursday after surging 75% in the last hour of trading Wednesday. Thursday's gain, which topped 101% before shrinking, came even as most stocks across Wall Street fell sharply on worries about rising interest rates. The moves are reminiscent of the shocking 1,625% surge for GameStop in January, when bands of smaller and novice investors communicating on social media launched the struggling video game retailer's stock. That initial supernova heightened questions about whether the broader market was in a bubble and whether a new generation of traders should be able to take full advantage of the free trades available on their phones. Global markets swooned momentarily; Congress held a hearing. No clear reason seems to be behind this most recent move, leaving market observers to grasp at what little news is out there, but it does demonstrate the increased power that regular investors suddenly have. One major piece that drove last month’s surge is not as big a player this time around: a huge build-up of what’s called “short interest,” or bets by investors that the stock is set to fall. After short-selling funds got badly burned by last month's sudden surge, many fewer GameStop shares are being sold short now. That means this pop may not reach last month's heights. “It’s like dropping a ping-pong ball on the table,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "The first bounce is the greatest while subsequent bounces are a bit more muted. We’re still getting a bounce, but it’s probably not going to drive up GameStop to $500 a share.” Here’s what we know: KITTY ROARS AGAIN — The most influential GameStop-backer may be Keith Gill, a colorful personality known for wearing a red headband and cat-themed T-shirts. He’s given regular updates of his GameStop holdings on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum, going back to when a share cost just 85 cents in 2019. A day after testifying in a Congressional hearing about GameStop last week, he indicated he added another 50,000 shares after Feb. 3, doubling his GameStop stock position. By Feb. 3, GameStop had dropped toward $90 after touching a momentary peak of $483 in late January. CFO EXIT — This is one of the few actual pieces of news. Late Tuesday, GameStop said its chief financial officer had agreed to leave the company and that he was entitled to the benefits due to him under his employment contract for a “good reason” resignation. Speculation rose that the departure was part of the company’s accelerating transformation from a struggling brick-and-mortar retailer to a digital seller better able to compete in an increasingly online business. But this information was known when trading began on Wednesday, and the stock didn't surge until hours later. THE ICE CREAM CONE — Ryan Cohen is a co-founder of the Chewy online pet-supplies company. He is also a big shareholder of GameStop and on its board of directors. GameStop backers see his involvement as a key reason to bet on a successful transformation for the company into a successful digital powerhouse. On Wednesday, an hour or so before GameStop shares spiked, Cohen tweeted a photo of an ice cream cone from McDonald’s, along with an emoji of a frog. Sounds fairly mundane, but nothing is normal in the GameStop saga. Market watchers and Reddit users tried to parse the cryptic image. Some focused on how the original photo seems to have accompanied an article about a person who created a website tracking whether McDonald’s ice cream machines are working ... a person whose past tweets indicate he may be a holder of GameStop stock. LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE — Some market watchers speculated that GameStop’s surprise reanimation was a reaction to critical comments from Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. “That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you get a whole lot of people who are using liquid stock markets to gamble the way they would in betting on race horses,” Munger said on Wednesday while speaking at the annual meeting of Los Angeles Daily Journal The remarks didn’t win Munger many admirers on WallStreetBets, where traders often see themselves in opposition to Baby Boomers, hedge funds and others. One Redditor posted a chart in the forum showing the spike in GameStop’s shares, adding: “TAKE THAT CHARLIE MUNGER.” TRADING FRENZY — The stock's movement were so wild that trading was temporarily halted four times on Thursday for volatility. Even though some novice investors suspected something nefarious, such halts are normal. There are rules that mandate a halt in trading when a stock rises or falls by a certain percentage within a certain time. Even so, GameStop shares changed hands more times by midday Thursday than for Apple, a company with a market value nearly 180 times the size of GameStop. REGULATORS REACT — The Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission are reviewing whether trading practices were consistent with “investor protection and fair and efficient markets.” At a hearing last week by the House Financial Services Committee, some lawmakers floated the possibility of crafting new rules requiring market players to disclose short-selling positions and restricting arrangements of payment for order flow, a common practice in the securities markets in which Wall Street trading firms such as Citadel pay companies like Robinhood to send them their customers’ orders for execution. Stan Choe And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press
Trois-Rivières – Alors que la semaine de relâche débute pour plusieurs, le Défi château de neige se poursuit encore pour environ deux semaines. Jusqu'à présent, ce sont 114 châteaux qui ont été érigés et enregistrés pour la compétition en Mauricie. La limite a été fixée au 8 mars. Pour participer, il suffit de construire un château de neige à l’endroit de son choix, de l’immortaliser en photo et de partager celle-ci en l’inscrivant sur le site www.defichateaudeneige.ca. L'organisation souligne qu'il est «évidemment important de respecter les mesures sanitaires en vigueur ainsi que les règles de sécurité associées à de telles constructions.» En Mauricie, ce sont six grands coffrets polaires - comprenant du matériel pour construire des châteaux - ainsi que 30 cartes-cadeaux dans des magasins offrant du matériel de loisir et de sport qui seront attribués au hasard parmi ceux et celles qui auront inscrit leur château. Le Défi château de neige n’est pas un concours visant à déterminer le plus beau château. C’est avant tout un programme qui a été mis de l’avant pour développer l’intérêt pour l’activité physique et les saines habitudes de vie auprès des enfants et des familles durant l’hiver. Il est présenté dans toutes les régions du Québec. Pour l’édition 2021, plus de 2715 châteaux ont déjà été enregistrés à l’échelle de la province, soit plus que le record des années précédentes. Marc-André Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nouvelliste
La Ville de Saint-Sauveur a acquis deux terrains par dons écologiques pour créer la réserve naturelle du Mont-Christie. Les travaux débuteront au printemps et les sentiers seront accessibles dès l’été 2021. Un nouveau projet parmi les nombreux autres de la Ville. Ces dons proviennent du promoteur Immo-Mc inc et de Madame Nancy Guillemette qui ont donné chacun une partie de leur terrain. Au total, cela représente 1,6 million de pieds carrés dans le domaine du Mont-Christie, en bas et à l’est de la montagne du même nom. Il s’agit d’un milieu humide et un lac se trouve également au centre. La création de la réserve permettra de préserver ce territoire naturel et d’y faire de l’interprétation. « Il s’agit d’un don écologique, car c’est un milieu humide et il n’est pas possible de toute façon de construire dans ce genre d’endroit », a précisé le maire de la Ville, M. Jacques Gariépy. La Ville profitera donc de ce territoire pour y installer des sentiers d’interprétation de la faune et du milieu naturel. « Dans ce coin, la faune est très diversifiée. Des écologistes vont d’ailleurs travailler avec nous pour développer cette partie. » Des passerelles en bois seront également construites pour que le terrain ne soit pas abimé, mais aussi parce qu’il s’agit d’un milieu humide, donc il y a souvent de l’eau. Comme il s’agit de dons, la Ville a eu moins d’investissements à faire, sauf pour les infrastructures de bois et l’aménagement. Dans le budget 2021, le montant est estimé à 600 000$. En été, les sentiers seront accessibles pour la randonnée pédestre et pour y faire de l’interprétation. En hiver, il sera possible d’y faire de la randonnée pédestre également, mais aussi de la raquette et du ski de fond. « On regarde pour peut-être permettre le fatbike à l’hiver », précise le maire. Il y aura également un belvédère avec une vue sur le lac et le terrain pour y faire de l’interprétation. « Les écoles et les camps de jour pourront également en profiter. Du point de vue académique, c’est très intéressant. » Il y aura deux accès pour entrer dans la réserve : un sur la rue de l’Église et un autre à l’extrémité du chemin Papineau. Des stationnements sont prévus aussi à ces endroits, mais il reste à la Ville d’acquérir ces deux terrains situés au nord et au sud. Selon le maire, il est aussi important de prendre en compte cet enjeu avant de lancer le projet. « Le problème qu’on a dans les sentiers des Pays-d’en-Haut, c’est que les gens se stationnent n’importe où dans les milieux résidentiels et dans les rues, car il n’y a pas assez de stationnements. » La Ville souhaite donc travailler en amont, et ouvrir la réserve lorsque des stationnements auront été prévus à cet effet. Cela fait déjà plusieurs années que la Ville de Saint-Sauveur travaille pour créer cette réserve. « C’est un long processus, autant du point de vue écologique qu’au niveau interne. Mais toutes ces étapes sont maintenant passées et nous sommes prêts à passer à d’autres choses », explique M. Gariépy. Dès le printemps, la Ville entamera l’aménagement des sentiers et des passerelles en bois et travaillera avec des écologistes pour le volet interprétation. Mais la réserve du Mont-Christie n’est pas le seul projet qui prendra forme cette année. En effet, grâce au don écologique de la famille De Volpi, la Ville a acquis un terrain de plus de 3 millions de pieds carrés. Ce dernier est situé près du Lac des Becs-Scies et de la municipalité de Mille-Isles. À cet endroit seront aménagés des sentiers de randonnée pédestre et de vélo qui seront accessibles dès cet été. Certains sont déjà en place, mais il restera à les baliser par la Ville. Dans les autres grands projets de Saint-Sauveur, il y a également l’acquisition du Cap Molson pour y faire des sentiers balisés et y construire un belvédère. « Nous sommes actuellement en procédure d’expropriation. Dans les prochaines semaines ou mois, la procédure devrait être finalisée. On devrait commencer les travaux prochainement. » La Ville souhaite principalement sécuriser les sentiers, comme ils sont déjà beaucoup utilisés. Les sentiers du sommet de la Marquise seront aussi accessibles dès cet été. Il reste à la Ville d’acquérir un terrain pour en faire un stationnement à l’entrée sud des sentiers pour empêcher les gens de se stationner dans les rues. Selon M. Gariépy, ces projets aboutissent presque tous maintenant, mais la Ville travaillait sur eux depuis des années. « Les projets étaient liés à des échéanciers écologiques, avec le ministère de l’Environnement notamment. Par exemple, pour les sentiers du Mont-Christie, on attendait des autorisations de leur part qu’on a eues. » Voyant l’engouement pour le plein air cette année en raison de la pandémie, ces projets s’inscrivent parfaitement dans le mouvement. « On n’avait pas prévu la COVID-19 il y a deux ou trois ans lorsqu’on avait commencé ces projets, mais la concrétisation de ces derniers tombe pile avec ce besoin. » Marie-Catherine Goudreau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès