After telling social media followers on Sunday that she had “said my piece” about claims she’s pretended to be Spanish despite hailing from Boston, HIliara Baldwin is giving her first interview about the controversy to the New York Times.
After telling social media followers on Sunday that she had “said my piece” about claims she’s pretended to be Spanish despite hailing from Boston, HIliara Baldwin is giving her first interview about the controversy to the New York Times.
WASHINGTON — It's taken only days for Democrats gauging how far President Joe Biden's bold immigration proposal can go in Congress to acknowledge that if anything emerges, it will likely be significantly more modest. As they brace to tackle a politically flammable issue that's resisted major congressional action since the 1980s, Democrats are using words like “aspirational” to describe Biden's plan and “herculean” to express the effort they'll need to prevail. A cautious note came from the White House on Friday when press secretary Jen Psaki said the new administration views Biden's plan as a “first step” it hopes will be “the basis" of discussions in Congress. Democrats' measured tones underscore the fragile road they face on a paramount issue for their minority voters, progressives and activists. Immigration proponents advocating an all-out fight say Democrats' new hold on the White House and Congress provides a major edge, but they concede they may have to accept less than total victory. Paving a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the centerpiece of Biden's plan, is “the stake at the summit of the mountain,” Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice, said in an interview. He said proponents may have to accept “stepping stones" along the way. The citizenship process in Biden's plan would take as little as three years for some people, eight years for others. It would make it easier for certain workers to stay in the U.S. temporarily or permanently, provide development aid to Central American nations in hopes of reducing immigration and move toward bolstering border screening technology. No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said in an interview this week that the likeliest package to emerge would start with creating a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers. They are over 1 million immigrants who’ve lived in the U.S. most of their lives after being brought here illegally as children. Over 600,000 of them have temporary permission to live in the U.S. under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Former President Barack Obama created that program administratively, and Durbin and others want to protect it by enacting it into law. Durbin, who called Biden's plan “aspirational,” said he'll push for as many other elements as possible, including more visas for agricultural workers and others. “We understand the political reality of a 50-50 Senate, that any changes in immigration will require co-operation between the parties,” said Durbin, who is on track to become Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. He said Senate legislation likely “will not reach the same levels” as Biden’s proposal. The Senate is split evenly between the two parties, with Vice-President Kamala Harris tipping the chamber to Democrats with her tie-breaking vote. Even so, passing major legislation requires 60 votes to overcome filibusters, or endless procedural delays. That means 10 Republicans must join all 50 Democrats to enact an immigration measure, a tall order. “Passing immigration reform through the Senate, particularly, is a herculean task,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who will also play a lead role in the battle. He said Democrats “will get it done” but the effort will require negotiation. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who's worked with Democrats on past immigration efforts, said “comprehensive immigration is going to be a tough sale” this year. “I think the space in a 50-50 Senate will be some kind of DACA deal,” he said. Illustrating the bargaining ahead, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate who’s sought earlier immigration compromises, praised parts of Biden's plan but said she wants changes including more visas for the foreign workers her state's tourism industry uses heavily. Democrats' hurdles are formidable. They have razor-thin majorities in a House and Senate where Republican support for easing immigration restrictions is usually scant. Acrid partisan relationships were intensified by former President Donald Trump's clamourous tenure. Biden will have to spend plenty of political capital and time on earlier, higher priority bills battling the pandemic and bolstering the economy, leaving his future clout uncertain. Democrats also must resolve tactical differences. Sharry said immigration groups prefer Democrats push for the strongest possible bill without concessions to Republicans' demands like boosting border security spending. He said hopes for a bipartisan breakthrough are “a fool’s errand” because the GOP has largely opposed immigration overhauls for so long. But prevailing without GOP votes would mean virtual unanimity among congressional Democrats, a huge challenge. It would also mean Democrats would have to eliminate the Senate filibuster, which they may not have the votes to do, or concoct other procedural routes around the 60-vote hurdle. “I'm going to start negotiating" with Republicans, said Durbin. He said a bipartisan bill would be better “if we can do it" because it would improve chances for passage. Democrats already face attacks from Republicans, eyeing next year's elections, on an issue that helped power Trump's 2016 victory by fortifying his support from many white voters. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Biden’s proposal would “prioritize help for illegal immigrants and not our fellow citizens.” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who heads the Senate Republican campaign committee, said the measure would hurt “hard-working Americans and the millions of immigrants working their way through the legal immigration process." Democrats say such allegations are false but say it's difficult to compose crisp, sound-bite responses on the complex issue. It requires having “an adult conversation” with voters, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said in an interview. “Yeah, this is about people, but it's about the economy" too, said Spanberger, a moderate from a district where farms and technology firms hire many immigrants. “In central Virginia, we rely on immigration. And you may not like that, but we do." Alan Fram, The Associated Press
The takeover in 2016 by right-wing extremists of a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon. A standoff in 1992 between white separatists and federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. Right-wing extremism has previously played out for the most part in isolated pockets of America and in its smaller cities. The deadly assault by rioters on the U.S. Capitol, in contrast, targeted the very heart of government. And it brought together, in large numbers, members of disparate groups, creating an opportunity for extremists to establish links with each other. That, an experts says, potentially sets the stage for more violent actions. “The events themselves, and participation in them, has a radicalizing effect. And they also have an inspirational effect. The battle of Capitol Hill is now part of the mythology,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert and senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation think-tank . Mary McCord, a former acting U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, said the climate for the insurrection had been building throughout the Trump presidency. She cited the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that killed one person, aggressive demonstrations at statehouses by armed protesters railing against COVID-19 public health safety orders and mass shootings by people motivated by hate. “All have led to this moment,” McCord, now a visiting law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said in an email. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors U.S. extremists, has recorded a 55% increase in the number of white nationalist hate groups since 2017. Among those who participated in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol were members of the Oath Keepers, which often recruits current and former military, police or other first responders; the Proud Boys neo-fascist group; followers of QAnon, which spreads bizarre conspiracy theories; racists and anti-Semites; and others with nearly blind devotion to then-President Donald Trump. “January 6th was kind of a Woodstock of the angry right,” Jenkins said in an interview. “The mere fact those groups were coming together, mingling, sharing this anger, displaying this passion — it is going to have effects.” But what happens next? Will Jan. 6 be a high-water mark for right-wing extremists, or lead to other attacks on America's democracy? Right now, the movement — if it can be called that — seems to be on pause. Supposedly planned armed protests at all 50 state capitals and Washington this past week that the FBI issued a nationwide warning about drew virtually no one. That could indicate the groups are demoralized, at least temporarily. Donald Trump is no longer president and his social media reach has been severely curtailed, with Twitter banning him. The extremists had come together in Washington on Jan. 6 because of their fervent belief in Trump's lies that the presidential election had been stolen, and in response to Trump's tweeted declaration that the protest in Washington “will be wild.” But now, some are clearly angry that Trump disassociated himself with the very insurrection that he stoked. They're upset that he failed to come to the rescue of rioters who were arrested while he was still president and are still being detained and charged. Online, some people associated with the Proud Boys, which adored Trump, appear to have dumped him. “No pardons for middle class whites who risked their livelihoods by going to ‘war' for Trump," a Telegram channel associated with the group said after Trump issued many pardons, but none for the insurrectionists. Another posting on the channel said: “I cannot wait to watch the GOP completely collapse. Out of the ashes, a true nationalist movement will arise.” Believers in QAnon are also reeling after Trump left office without fulfilling their baseless belief that he would vanquish a supposed cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals, including top Democrats, operating a child sex trafficking ring. Among them was Ron Watkins, who helps run an online messaging board about QAnon conspiracy theories. “We gave it our all. Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able,” Watkins wrote on Telegram after President Joe Biden was sworn in and Trump flew off to Florida. Jenkins said the next phase for the extremist groups and people who saw Trump as a saviour could transform into a broader national movement in which factions co-ordinate and combine their assets. Or the widespread condemnation of the insurrection could cause the movement to shrink, leaving more determined elements to strike out on their own and launch attacks. Jenkins recalled the 1970s, when some anti-Vietnam War militants hardened into the Weather Underground, which launched a bombing campaign. Among places targeted were the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, but the only people who died were three militants who accidentally blew themselves up. “I think given the events of this past year, and especially what we’ve seen in the last couple of months, this puts us into new territory," Jenkins said "And you don't put this back in the box that easily." ___ Associated Press writers Amanda Seitz in Chicago and Garance Burke in San Francisco contributed to this report. ___ Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky Andrew Selsky, The Associated Press
Germany expects British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to deliver 3 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in February despite the company's latest production problems, Health Minister Jens Spahn told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. AstraZeneca informed European Union officials on Friday it would cut deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year due to production problems, a senior official told Reuters. The decrease deals another blow to Europe's COVID-19 vaccination drive after Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech slowed supplies of their vaccine to the bloc this week, saying the move was needed because of work to ramp up production.
TORONTO — Health officials say a U.K. variant of COVID-19 is behind a deadly outbreak at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., north of Toronto. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says genome sequencing on six COVID-19 samples from Roberta Place Retirement Lodge have been identified as the highly contagious variant. The local health unit announced earlier this week that they had found a variant at the home and were conducting tests to determine what it was. Known variant strains of the virus were first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. An outbreak at Roberta Place was first declared on Jan. 8. A news release says as of Friday, 124 of 127 residents, and 84 staff were positive for the virus, resulting in 29 deaths. The health unit, in partnership with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, says it accelerated its immunization program on Friday and vaccinated all eligible residents and staff. Officials say they're also immunizing residents at the other retirement homes throughout Simcoe Muskoka this weekend. As of Jan. 16, eligible residents of all long-term care facilities in Simcoe Muskoka have also received their first dose of immunization against COVID-19. "The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all," Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said in a statement Saturday. "Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread." Ontario reported 2,359 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 52 more deaths related to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 708 new cases in Toronto, 422 in Peel Region, and 220 in York Region. She said there were also 107 more cases in Hamilton and 101 in Ottawa. Nearly 63,500 tests have been completed in Ontario over the past 24 hours. The province reported that 11,161 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the province's last report. A total of 276,146 doses have been administered in Ontario so far. Since the pandemic began, there have been 252,585 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. Of those, 222,287 have recovered and 5,753 people have died. Saturday's numbers were down from Friday's figures of 2,662 new cases and 87 more deaths. Meanwhile, the Ontario government has announced it's expanding its "inspection blitz" of big-box stores to ensure they're following COVID-19 guidelines this weekend. The workplace inspections, which started in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas last weekend, will now stretch out to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham regions. Officials want to ensure workers and customers at the essential businesses are properly protected from COVID-19 during the provincewide shutdown. The blitz was developed in consultation with local health units and also includes a variety of other workplaces, including retail establishments and restaurants providing take-out meals. The province's labour ministry says more than 300 offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, will conduct the inspections. Corporations can now be fined $1,000, and individuals can be fined $750 or charged for failing to comply with the orders. Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the province is confident that the majority of workplaces in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham are following orders. "However, if we find that businesses are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, our government will not hesitate to take immediate action," McNaughton added in a statement Saturday. "The only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and end the provincewide shutdown is for everyone — owners, customers and staff alike — to follow the proper guidelines." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
HONOLULU — People following a violent movement that promotes a second U.S. civil war or the breakdown of modern society have been showing up at recent protests across the nation armed and wearing tactical gear. But the anti-government “boogaloo” movement has adopted an unlikely public and online symbol: the so-called Hawaiian shirt. The often brightly colored, island-themed garment, known in Hawaii as an aloha shirt, is to people across the world synonymous with a laid back lifestyle. But in Hawaii, it has an association with aloha — the Native Hawaiian spirit of love, compassion and mercy. The shirts are being worn by militant followers of the boogaloo philosophy — the antithesis of aloha — at demonstrations about coronavirus lockdowns, racial injustice and, most recently, the presidential election. Boogaloo is a loosely affiliated far-right movement that includes a variety of extremist factions and political views. The name is a reference to a slang term for a sequel -- in this case, a second civil war. “You have everyone from neo-Nazis and white nationalists to libertarians,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S. "And while ideologically there might be some differentiation among people who identify with the movement, what unites them is their interest in having complete access to firearms and the belief that the country is heading towards a civil war.” Miller said those who follow boogaloo, sometimes referred to as “Boogaloo Bois,” believe that "people need to rise up against the government, which they see as tyrannical and essentially irredeemable, and that the only solution to righting what they see as their perceived grievances is to overthrow the state.” Those adhering to the philosophy often target law enforcement, Miller said, because the police are the most accessible symbol of the government at public gatherings. People affiliated with the movement have been linked to real-world violence, including a string of domestic terrorism plots. The movement has also been promoted by white supremacists, but many supporters insist they’re not truly advocating for violence. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach people associated with the movement were unsuccessful. “If you look at their online spaces, their rhetoric is extremely violent," Miller said. "A lot of it is kind of under this veneer of irony and humour, but there’s something very real to all of it.” When social media sites began banning the use of the word “boogaloo” and those associated with the movement, followers started using different terms to mask their online identities and intentions. “They’ll adopt a slogan that sounds benign in order to evade scrutiny, in order to evade bans. And so with the boogaloo, what you got is sort of variations of that term showing up in online spaces," Miller said. “One of them was ‘big luau,’ and that is then what led to using Hawaiian imagery and then the Hawaiian shirts.” Miller added that she doesn't believe “they’re really thinking about the meaning of the symbols that they’re using.” "For them, it’s a reference to show that they’re in the know that they’re part of this culture, that they can identify each other at public gatherings like this. And I think that’s really how it functions. It is creating kind of a sense of camaraderie.” But to those who live in Hawaii, especially Native Hawaiians, the aloha spirit attached to the commercialized patterns on the shirts has deeper meaning. “The aloha shirt is one thing but aloha itself is another, and the principles of aloha are deeply rooted in our culture,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, a Native Hawaiian activist who has led peaceful protests against the building of a telescope on a Hawaii peak indigenous people consider sacred. “The principles of aloha are based on love, peace, harmony, truth.” "It creates the space for compassion to come into our heart, rather than the contrary of that, which would be hate, loathing, anti-Semitism, you know, racism,” Pisciotta said. Many Native Hawaiians share a sense of frustration with U.S. and state government because of the way the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown. They have long fought against the exploitation and commercialization of their land by large corporations and government entities, but in a mostly peaceful way. “Hawaiians are facing desecration of our burials ... of our sacred places. But it’s in our choice of how we want to respond and address the powers that be," Pisciotta added. "If you want the end result to be based in peace, then you have to move in peace and move in aloha.” "Aloha is about also reducing suffering, reducing, deescalating anger,” she added. "It’s human to become angry, it's human to feel frustrated. It’s human to want to lash out. But but it’s also human to find compassion.” Dale Hope, whose parents owned a garment factory in Honolulu that he went on to run and create quality aloha shirts with an eye toward detailed and authentic Hawaiian imagery, said the imagery being used at protests among extremists is misguided. “I don’t think they really understand the value and the meaning of what these shirts represent,” he said. “I think they’re an easy way for them to stand out in the crowd and to get a lot of attention. But I don’t I don’t think they have a clue as to what the meaning and the virtues of aloha are with love and compassion and sharing.” Hope wrote the book “The Aloha Shirt" about the early days of the textile industry in Hawaii and the meaning behind the aloha symbolism. Aloha shirts first emerged in Hawaii in the 1930s and became accepted business wear locally in the 1960s. They often feature island motifs such as native plants, ocean waves and other scenes that play a prominent role in Native Hawaiian legends and hula chants. Some also show Chinese calligraphy or Japanese carp, reflecting the many cultures that have shaped modern Hawaii. Hope said some designers in Hawaii go out and chant and ask Hawaiian gods for respect before they begin the process of making the symbols on the shirts. “We’ve always tried to do things with respect and honour, whatever the subject is that we’re trying to portray on a piece of textile," Hope said. “I think the aloha shirt is a representation of your passion and your love for this wonderful place that we call home. Hawaii is a unique, wonderful group of islands out in the middle of the Pacific." Caleb Jones, The Associated Press
Houses of worship in Quebec are now allowed to reopen, but with strict limits on the number of people that can show up. Two weeks into the province's latest round of restrictions, which include an overnight curfew, the government has changed course. It's now possible for a place of worship to host a maximum of 10 people for religious gatherings. All places of worship were ordered to close earlier this month, except for funeral ceremonies. The changes come by way of a government decree published on Thursday, and provide exceptions to public health rules put into place Jan. 9, which ban all gatherings — indoors and outdoors — across Quebec. "By limiting the number to 10 people, it allows people to continue practicing their religious rites in a secure space, because with 10 people, social distancing can easily be respected," said a spokesperson with the province's Health Ministry. The rules may have been softened, but religious community leaders are expected to show "exemplary rigour" and encourage their members to respect physical standing rules, wear masks, wash their hands when entering and exiting the building, and refrain from singing, the spokesperson said. A registry of the people who attend ceremonies will also be mandatory, in order to help trace them in the event of an outbreak. The decree maintains the maximum size of gatherings for funerals at 25 people. "Places of worship cannot serve as a refuge," the Health Ministry spokesperson said. "However, if a person needs to get in touch with a representative of a place of worship to find support or comfort, it will be allowed to do so inside the place of worship, outside of the usual ceremonies."
The Northwest Territories RCMP's Major Crimes Unit says it has arrested a 28-year-old man for allegedly making "statements made towards an employee of GNWT (government of the Northwest Territories) Public Health." The man was taken into custody after police investigated, according to a news release sent late Friday. No further details were offered, such as the community where this occurred, though the release was sent by Yellowknife staff. "NT RCMP takes any comments that could be perceived as a threat to an employee in the public health service very seriously," said Superintendent Jeffrey Christie, criminal operations officer in charge, in the news release. "We want the public and those who serve the public to know that we will investigate and hold accountable, to the fullest extent of the law, anyone who makes statements that contain material that may be viewed as a threat."
More than a month after the crew of a scallop dragger from Nova Scotia disappeared on the Bay of Fundy, the RCMP are calling off their search for the five men suspected of going down with the vessel, citing "significant" risk to the lives of divers. The body of one crew member was found the day the boat was last seen. The loved ones of missing crew members received a glimmer of hope last weekend when the sunken boat was located on the ocean floor, about two kilometres from Delaps Cove and more than 60 metres below the surface. The RCMP said at the time that their crews were not equipped to dive to the necessary depths to look inside, but they said they were studying their options. On Saturday, they announced in a news release that those options had been exhausted. Too risky for Canadian Armed Forces divers "The RCMP approached the Canadian Armed Forces to determine whether their divers may be able to assist," the RCMP news release said. "Upon conducting a thorough risk analysis, the CAF determined that the risk to the lives of their divers was too significant and unfortunately, were unable to support the request." With that, the RCMP said they were putting an end to all search operations, but they will continue to support investigations by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the provincial Department of Labour. In a statement, the TSB said it is conducting a Class 3 investigation into the incident. According to its website, this kind of investigation would result in a detailed report, which could include some recommendations. These investigations would usually be completed within 450 days. "This investigation is ongoing. It is too early to draw conclusions," the emailed statement said. "In this particular investigation, we have been able to collect significant information without access to the vessel itself. Should the vessel be recovered at a future date, we would examine the wreckage for additional information." The statement said the TSB is not responsible for wreckage recovery or search and rescue missions. "The TSB investigation team is mindful of the families who want answers rapidly. Throughout the investigation, we will be in direct contact with the next of kin," it said. The province's Department of Labour did not immediately respond to CBC's request for comment about the status of the investigation. Family members grapple with end of search The Chief William Saulis was last seen early on Dec. 15 heading toward shore after a week-long fishing trip. No mayday call was issued by the six-man crew, but an automated emergency beacon sounded at about 5 a.m. in the same area where the boat would eventually be found. An extensive search of the shoreline and water was mounted that day, which led to the discovery of two empty life-rafts and the body of one crew member — Michael Drake of Fortune, N.L. Family and friends of the other five crew members — Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes, Eugene Francis and the captain, Charles Roberts — have said they suspect the men were asleep in their bunks when something catastrophic caused the vessel to sink. Laura Smith, the sister and next of kin of Gabriel, said she's satisfied that the RCMP have done everything in their ability to find the men, but she thinks some other government entity should continue the search. She said no expense should be spared, "providing it's safe enough that we don't lose any other men doing the search.... I don't want to lose anybody else's family member trying to bring mine home." Smith said she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life wondering if her brother might eventually wash up on shore. The RCMP have not been able to confirm that the missing fishermen are inside the vessel, but Lori Phillips — the mother of crew member Cogswell — said she's confident they are. She feels there must be some way to bring them up. "They can send divers down to the Titanic to bring up artifacts ... realistically I'm having a hard time comprehending it. I think it comes down to the almighty dollar," Phillips said. But even if there is a way to recover the men, Phillips said she's torn about whether it should be done. "Right now you've got five people who are obviously together in their final resting place, all doing what they love doing. We [would be] bringing them up for our own selfish reasons." The company that owns the Chief William Saulis, Yarmouth Sea Products, has been raising money for the families, including through a GoFundMe campaign that as of Saturday had amassed more than $73,000. Phillips said there's been some talk among the families about putting that money toward an independent recovery effort. "Personally I'm torn, again. I know Aaron is where he would want to be. And the money that could be spent doing that could be put into trust funds for the nephews and nieces that he loved so much and give them a better chance at life so they don't have to go out and risk their lives out on the ocean," Phillips said. Nova Scotia RCMP said they'll continue to offer support and updates to family of the crew.
Yulia Navalnaya was taking part in a protest to demand the release of her husband when she was taken into a police vehicle.
The Winnipeg Jets acquired forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Columbus landed forwards Patrick Laine and Jack Roslovic in the deal. Winnipeg will also retain 26 per cent of Laine's salary. Dubois, 22, had a goal in five games this season after leading Columbus last year in points (49) and assists (31). This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Inside the White House, President Joe Biden presided over a focused launch of his administration, using his first days in office to break sharply with his predecessor while signing executive orders meant as a showy display of action to address the historic challenges he inherited. But outside the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., there are signs everywhere that those crises are as deep and intractable as ever. The coronavirus pandemic surges, the economy teeters and Republicans in Congress have signalled objections to many of Biden’s plans. Biden is looking to jump-start his first 100 days in office with action and symbolism to reassure a divided and weary public that help is in the offing. He also knows that what a president can do on his own is limited so he is calling for Congress to act while he is being candid with Americans that dark days are ahead. “The crisis is not getting better. It’s deepening,” Biden said Friday about the impact of pandemic. “A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted again. Job losses are mounting. We need to act.” “The bottom line is this: We’re in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency,” he said. Biden’s first moments as president were meant to steady American democracy itself. He took the oath just before noon Wednesday in front of a Capitol that still bore scars from the insurrection that took place precisely two weeks earlier and was aimed at stopping Biden’s ascension to power. The violence underscored the fragile nature of the peaceful transfer of power and led to the historic second impeachment of Donald Trump. Biden resisted calls to move the inauguration to a more secure indoor setting. He was intent on preserving the usual inauguration trappings as a signal that normalcy could be achieved even though there were signs everywhere that things were far from normal: a military presence that resembled a war zone, guests on the dais wearing masks, a National Mall filled with 200,000 American flags standing in for the American people who were asked to stay away because of the pandemic. Biden was plain-spoken and direct about the confluence of crises the nation faces. More than 410,000 Americans have lost their lives to the pandemic, millions are out of work and the aftershocks of a summer reckoning with racial justice are still felt. “You can hear this collective sigh of relief that Trump is gone, but we have no time for a sigh of relief because of the cascading crises,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the department of African American studies at Princeton University. “We don’t want to assume that the election of Biden solves everything. The scale of the problems is immense and the question for us is do we respond at scale.” The changes within the White House have been swift. After Trump’s departure, his final staffers cleared out and a deep clean began. The White House had been the site of multiple COVID-19 outbreaks and, in a physical manifestation of a new approach to the virus, plastic shields were placed on desks and scores of new staffers were told to work from home. New pictures were hung on the West Wing walls and the Oval Office received a fast makeover. Gone were a painting of Andrew Jackson and the Diet Coke button of the desk; in came images of Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez. But the most important symbol, the clearest break from the previous administration, came from the president himself. When Biden sat down at the Resolute Desk to sign his first batch of his executive orders on Wednesday, he was wearing a mask. Trump had resisted wearing one, putting one on only occasionally and instead turning mask-wearing into a polarizing political issue Biden urged all Americans to wear a mask for the next 100 days and used his platform to model the same behaviour, one of several ways he tried to change the tone of the presidency in his first few days. Daily press briefings returned, absent the accusations of “fake news” that marked only sporadic briefings in the Trump era. Biden held a virtual swearing-in for hundreds of White House staffers, telling them to treat each other with respect or they would dismissed, a marked change from the contentious, rivalry-driven Trump West Wing. Calls to the leaders of Canada and Mexico were made without drama. The executive actions Biden signed during the week were a mix of concrete and symbolic actions meant to undo the heart of Trump’s legacy. Biden halted construction of the border wall, rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord and bolstered the means for production for vaccines. But the might of the executive actions pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that he requested from Congress. Biden has not ruled out asking Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to push it through by tactics requiring only Democratic support. But the president, who spent decades in the Senate, hoped to persuade Republicans to support the measure. “Leaning on executive action makes sense at the start, you can get things going and show momentum right away without waiting for Congress,” said Robert Gibbs, former press secretary for President Barack Obama. “But this is going take a while. Like it was for us in 2009, change doesn’t come overnight." "Everything he inherited is likely to get worse before we see improvement,” Gibbs said. “One thing you learn on January 20th is that you suddenly own all of it.” Just two Cabinet nominees were confirmed by week's end, to the frustration of the White House. But with the Friday night announcement that Trump’s impeachment trial will not begin until the week of Feb. 8, Biden aides were optimistic that the Senate would confirm more before then. The trial looms as an unwelcome distraction for the Biden team. But while Trump will shadow the White House, Biden aides have noted that the former president commands far less attention now that his Twitter account is gone. They have expressed confidence that the Senate can balance the impeachment proceedings with both Cabinet confirmations and consideration of the COVID-19 relief bill. Biden has made clear that steering the nation through the pandemic will be his signature task and some Republicans believe that Trump’s implosion could create an opening to work across the aisle on a relief deal. “There is a very narrow permission structure for congressional Republicans who want to move past the Trump era and want to establish their own political identities,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Romney is now a Utah senator. “There is an old saying: ‘Make the main thing the main thing.’ And the Biden White House knows that’s the main thing,” Madden said. “If they can improve the pandemic response in the next 100 days, then they can move on to other priorities, they’ll have the capital for legislative fights. But they need to get it right.” ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — Residents of British Columbia's south coast are being urged to prepare for a blast of wintry weather this weekend. Environment Canada warns that snow is in the forecast for parts of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast. The federal weather agency expects snowfall to begin on Saturday night and continue Sunday morning on Vancouver Island and in the southwest area of Metro Vancouver, including Richmond and Delta. It says two to four centimetres of snow are forecast in Richmond and Delta, while on the island, amounts could range from two centimetres on the coasts to five to 10 centimetres inland. By Sunday afternoon, the snow is expected to become mixed with rain in many areas. Meanwhile periods of snow are anticipated Saturday night through Monday morning in the Fraser Valley, including Chilliwack and Hope, with the potential for significant snowfall Sunday night. Environment Canada warns that wet and slushy snow may make for a messy commute in the valley Monday morning and power outages are also possible if heavy, wet snow accumulates on trees. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
People are turning to different coping mechanisms during life amid the pandemic, but for some coastal-dwelling British Columbians, dipping into icy cool water has been a source of relief and respite this winter. Craig Stewart, president of the Vancouver Open Water Swim Association, says there's nothing like swimming outside under open skies. "I usually compare it to cycling in a gym versus cycling outside. For me, there's no comparison. I want to be outside. I want to be in nature and swimming is no different," Stewart said. The waters around B.C. can dip to a frigid 6 C or 7 C. The water itself can be quite opaque in the winter, Stewart said, and it can be unnerving to not see to the bottom. But Stewart says the challenge is part of the draw. "Part of the draw is it's like an inoculation. You are choosing to suffer a little bit and then endure it, and you feel good for having done that," he said. Deborah Calderon of Powell River is part of a local swimming group — the Powtown Popsicles — who go for a socially distanced swim or dip every day. "Everybody's got a completely different reaction," Calderon said. "When I get out [of the water], I get calm, which is what I need." She says the activity has been a huge source of comfort during the pandemic. "It's probably the biggest thing I've done to reduce isolation, to make sure I get outside with a bit of a purpose, to feel that kind of rush and then come out and then on with your day," Calderon said. Tips for open water swimming Like any new activity, Stewart says it's important to be prepared and do your research. Here are some other tips if you want to try cold water swimming. 1) Don't swim alone. It's always good to go with other people so that you can look out for one another, said Stewart. This is especially important if your body temperature plunges after coming out of the water and you need help. 2) Take it slowly. "The worst thing you can do is to jump into cold water and think you're going to be fine. No, that gives you cold water shock," Stewart said, noting the last time he went cold water swimming, it took him 10 minutes to get used to the cold water. Getting slowly acclimatized is important to help your body adjust to the conditions. Wearing proper gear — like layering on a swim cap and a wetsuit — can also help you stay warm in the water. 3) Know your water. "Don't jump into water you don't know. You don't know how deep it is, you don't know where the currents are," said Stewart, noting that ocean currents in particular can be very, very strong. 4) Listen to your body. It's important post-swim or post-dip to make sure you refuel and have hot beverages on hand. "It gives your body fuel because you've just been spending at an incredible rate. And have layers of warm clothing," he said. Finally, Stewart said, learn about the sport and try it out with people who are experienced. "It's inherently rewarding. You feel good. You feel tough. But joyful."
South Africa jazz trombonist and composer Jonas Gwangwa, whose music powered the anti-apartheid struggle, died on Saturday aged 83, the presidency said. President Cyril Ramaphosa led the tributes to the legendary musician who was nominated for an Oscar for the theme song of the 1987 film "Cry Freedom". "A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest," Ramaphosa said.
Italy reported 488 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, up from 472 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections fell further to 13,331 from 13,633. Italy has now registered 85,162 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak came to light last February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. The total number of intensive care patients was little changed at 2,386, against 2,390.
Genome sequencing has confirmed that a variant of COVID-19 first detected in the United Kingdom is present at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., according to the local public health unit. This variant is considered highly contagious and can be transmitted easily. In a news release on Saturday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said the testing done on Friday has determined that six samples taken from the Roberta Place Long Term Care Home are of the variant that is known as the B.1.1.7 variant. The home is north of Toronto. On Wednesday, preliminary testing of the six cases at the home had shown a high likelihood of that they were of this COVID-19 variant. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, said in the statement that the development is of great concern. "The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all," Gardner said. "Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread." Public health unit concerned about further spread The public health unit added in the release: "This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion." In a media briefing on Saturday, Gardner said 127 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, all but two of the residents at the home. Six residents are currently in hospital. Eighty-four staff members have tested positive for the virus, which Gardner says account for nearly half of the home's staff. Gardner also said there have been 32 deaths at the home, as of Saturday. The outbreak was declared on Jan. 8. He said he is "very concerned about potential impact with spread into the community." Garder said the variant has spread to 21 household members of staff at the home and other people who have entered the home. "This progressed so rapidly," he said. "I'm very concerned it'll make it a challenge in future outbreaks in other LTC facilities." Two essential visitors and three others have tested positive. The Canadian Red Cross was deployed to the home on Jan. 17 to help stop the ongoing outbreak. As of Jan. 16, eligible residents of all long-term care facilities in the region have received their first dose of immunization. Officials said they planned to immunize residents at the other retirement homes throughout Simcoe Muskoka over the weekend. Known variant strains of the virus were first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. In an email on Saturday, the Ontario health ministry expressed concern. "The province continues to determine the impact the delay in shipments from the federal government will have on the province's vaccine rollout," ministry spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said. "We continue to vaccinate our most vulnerable and remain committed to vaccinating long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents as quickly as we receive vaccines from the federal government."
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The developer of the Pebble Mine in Alaska has filed an appeal with the Army Corps of Engineers that asks the agency to reconsider the developer's application to build a gold mine upstream from Bristol Bay. The Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership's application in November on the grounds that the mine would not comply with the Clean Water Act. The proposed mine was to be built on state land, but dredging and filling in federal waters and wetlands requires a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska Public Media reported. Pebble CEO John Shively said the Corps' decision was rushed and came only days after the company filed its final document. Opponents to the proposed mine have said the project would pose a threat to important salmon spawning streams and could ruin the area's sport and commercial fisheries. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy had announced two weeks ago that the state would appeal the permit rejection. Dunleavy said the decision endangers the state’s right to develop its own resources. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec is reporting 1,685 new COVID-19 cases Saturday as daily counts continue to decline. The province is also reporting 76 new deaths attributed to COVID-19, for a total of 9,437. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped by 43 to 1,383. The drop in case numbers comes after the Quebec government implemented an 8 p.m. curfew province-wide on Jan. 9. Premier Francois Legault attributed the decline to the curfew, but has said hospitals are too full to lift the new restrictions as scheduled on Feb. 8. As of Saturday, at least 225,245 people in Quebec have recovered from COVID-19. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
Two airlines serving Saskatchewan's north have announced they're consolidating their operations under a new name. West Wind Aviation and Transwest Air will consolidate under one air operating certificate, and will rebrand as Rise Air. The consolidation is "going to allow us to survive," Stephen Smith, president and CEO of the West Wind Group of Companies, said in an interview with CBC. "There is no question that COVID-19 put a lot of strain [on us] because a lot of people canceled meetings, which we would provide flights for. The people stop traveling out of northern communities." The slowdown of the uranium market and mines shutting down also had an effect, he said, with operations down by about 50 per cent. Transwest Air was already a wholly owned subsidiary of West Wind Aviation, after being purchased by the company in 2016, according to the Transwest website. Until now, however, West Wind Aviation and Transwest Air each had their own operating certificates, said Smith. "There's a duplication of people in one company to have two operating certificates," he said. "The new cost structure will allow us to not only survive but hopefully look to potentially grow in the future." According to Smith, the business is now right-sized for the marketplace. "The employees that we have now are fine, in terms of we don't have to consider reducing anymore." Ticket prices won't be affected: CEO The rebranding process will start within the next few weeks, once the regulatory requirements have been completed, the carriers said in a media release. Ticket prices won't be affected by the consolidation, Smith said, and the number of aircraft will remain the same. The company picked Rise Air as its new name after receiving 140 different recommendations from employees, said Smith. Another staff member submitted a sketch for the new logo. "Because we're bringing together two different companies that both have their own cultures and histories, we wanted something new and fresh but also wanted to preserve the legacy of both organizations," he said in a media release. Until the rebranding process is completed, people will see three different logos, he said. "We are OK with being patient during this process." West Wind Aviation, which is First Nations and employee-owned, operates from bases in Saskatoon and La Ronge, and has satellite locations in northern Saskatchewan, according to the company's website. The West Wind Group of Companies owns Snowbird Aviation Services, Northern Shield Helicopters, and Transwest Air, soon doing business as Rise Air, said Smith.
Spain's top general resigned on Saturday after allegations he had received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of priority groups, one of a number of public officials who have sparked public anger because of reports they have jumped the vaccination queue. Defence Minister Margarita Robles had asked General Miguel Angel Villaroya, chief of defence staff, for explanations after media reports on Friday that he had received the vaccination.