Any members of the U.S. Congress who helped a crowd of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the Capitol should face criminal prosecution, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday. The unprecedented Jan. 6 attack on the seat of Congress left five dead and led the House to impeach Trump a second time, for a fiery speech that day in which he urged thousands of his followers to fight Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Democratic Representative Mikie Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, has accused some Republican lawmakers of helping Trump supporters, saying she saw colleagues leading groups on "reconnaissance" tours on Jan. 5.
FLINT, Mich. — A new investigation of the Flint water disaster led to charges against nine people, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and key members of his administration, who are accused of various crimes in a calamitous plan that contaminated the community with lead and contributed to a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, authorities said Thursday. Nearly seven years after the doomed decision to use the Flint River, pipes at more than 9,700 Flint homes have been replaced and water quality has greatly improved. But prosecutors said it's not too late to pursue people responsible for one of the worst human-made environmental disasters in U.S. history. It’s the second time that six of the nine people have faced charges; their previous cases were dropped in 2019 when a new prosecution team took over. Snyder is the biggest new name in the bunch, though his alleged crimes are not as serious as others: two misdemeanour counts of wilful neglect of duty. Snyder’s former health director, Nick Lyon, and ex-chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2015 deaths of nine people with Legionnaires’. Authorities said they failed to alert the public about a regional spike in Legionnaires’ when the water system might have lacked enough chlorine to combat bacteria in the river water. “The Flint water crisis is not some relic of the past,” Fadwa Hammoud of the state attorney general’s office told reporters. “At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled upon their trust and evaded accountability for far too long.” The charges stemmed from evidence presented to Judge David Newblatt, who served as a secret one-person grand jury. All nine defendants pleaded not guilty during a series of brief court appearances. The indictment alleges that Snyder failed to check the “performance, condition and administration” of his appointees and protect Flint’s nearly 100,000 residents when he knew the threat. The Republican served as governor from 2011 through 2018. Wearing a mask, Snyder, 62, said little during his hearing, which was conducted by video. He replied, “Yes, your honour,” when asked if he was living in Michigan. A conviction carries up to a year in jail. Snyder has acknowledged that his administration failed in Flint. But his attorney, Brian Lennon, said a criminal case against him was a “travesty.” “These unjustified allegations do nothing to resolve a painful chapter in the history of our state,” Lennon said. “Today’s actions merely perpetrate an outrageous political persecution.” In 2014, a Snyder-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who was running the financially struggling, majority Black city, carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water, however, wasn't treated properly, a misstep that freed lead from old plumbing and into homes. Despite desperate pleas from residents holding jugs of discolored, skunky water, the Snyder administration, especially drinking water regulators, took no significant action until a doctor publicly reported elevated lead levels in children about 18 months later. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system and cause learning and behaviour problems. Flint’s woes were highlighted as an example of environmental injustice and racism. The city resumed getting water from a Detroit regional system in October 2015, though bottled water and filters were distributed for years. Former Mayor Karen Weaver, who was elected in 2015 after the disaster was recognized, said Snyder deserved more than misdemeanours. “Snyder got a slap on the wrist and Flint got a slap in the face. ... Not only did people lose their lives through Legionnaires', we know women who had stillbirths and miscarriages,” Weaver said. Authorities counted at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County during the 2014-15 water switch, including 12 deaths. Legionella bacteria can trigger a severe form of pneumonia when spread through misting and cooling systems. Defence attorney Chip Chamberlain said Lyon, the former health director, relied on the advice of experts when following the Legionnaires’ spike and forming policy as head of a sprawling agency. “This is a dangerous day for state employees,” Chamberlain said of the charges. Steve Tramontin — a lawyer for Wells, the ex-medical executive — called the allegations false and “unimaginable to anyone familiar with the level of dedication she has brought to her life’s work.” Prosecutors charged Earley and another former Flint manager, Gerald Ambrose, with misconduct. Rich Baird, a friend and close adviser to Snyder, was charged with extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct. Jarrod Agen, who was Snyder’s chief of staff, was charged with perjury. Attorney Charles Spies disputed the charge against Agen and said he co-operated “fully and truthfully” with investigators. The indictment accuses Baird, a Flint native, of making threats during a university-led investigation of the Legionnaires’ outbreak. He’s also accused of lying during an interview with Flint water investigators in 2017. “There are no velvet ropes in our criminal justice system,” Hammoud said. “Nobody — no matter how powerful or well-connected — is above accountability when they commit a crime.” Separately, the state, Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm have agreed to a $641 million settlement with residents. A judge said she hopes to decide by Jan. 21 whether to grant preliminary approval. Melodie Ingraham, 61, whose skin was irritated by the tainted water, said the criminal charges don't mean much to her. “It’s awful late in the day. They’re worried about the wrong thing," Ingraham said. "The issue is getting Flint back up and running, being safe again.” __ White reported from Detroit and Eggert reported from Lansing, Mich. David Eggert, Ed White And Corey Williams, The Associated Press
FORT WORTH, Texas — A retired Air Force officer who was part of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week carried plastic zip-tie handcuffs because he intended “to take hostages,” a prosecutor said in a Texas court on Thursday. “He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said of retired Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. without providing specifics. The prosecutor had argued that Brock should be detained, but Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton said he would release Brock to home confinement. Cureton ordered Brock to surrender any firearms and said he could have only limited internet access as conditions of that release. “I need to put you on a very short rope," Cureton said. “These are strange times for our country and the concerns raised by the government do not fall on deaf ears.” Brock appeared in court in a light green jumpsuit, a mask and with shackles at his hands and feet. Weimer did not detail a specific plan by Brock but noted “his prior experience and training make him all the more dangerous.” He also read in court social media posts from Brock, including one posted on the day of the Capitol riot that said: “Patriots on the Capitol. Patriots storming. Men with guns need to shoot their way in.” Brock was arrested Sunday in Texas after being photographed on the Senate floor during the deadly riot wearing a helmet and heavy vest and carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs. The 53-year-old is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Brock's attorney, Brook Antonio II, noted that Brock has only been charged with misdemeanours. Antonio said there was no direct evidence of Brock breaking doors or windows to get into the Capitol, or doing anything violent once he was inside. “It’s all talk. It’s all speculation and conjecture,” said Antonio, who noted Brock’s long service in the military, including being reactivated after Sept. 11 and his four tours in Afghanistan. Weimer said Brock will likely face additional charges. More than 100 people have been arrested in the Capitol riot, with charges ranging from curfew violations to serious federal felonies related to theft and weapons possession. The FBI has been investigating whether some of the rioters had planned to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage. Before his arrest, Brock told The New Yorker magazine that he found the zip-tie cuffs on the floor and that he had planned to give them to a police officer. “I wish I had not picked those up,” he said. There was no evidence presented that Brock had a firearm on the day of the Capitol riot. Antonio asked an FBI agent who was testifying whether it was possible Brock had just picked up the cuffs, and the agent acknowledged that was a possibility. Weimer read a termination letter from Brock’s former employer that said he had talked in the workplace about killing people of a “particular religion and or race.” Weimer also read social media posts in which Brock referred to a coming civil war and the election being stolen from President Donald Trump. Weimer said Brock’s posts also referenced the far-right and anti-government Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, a loose anti-government network that’s part of the militia movement. The Oath Keepers claim to count thousands of current and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members. The FBI agent though testified there was no evidence beyond the social media posts that Brock was involved with either of those groups. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and Attorney General William Barr has said there was no sign of widespread fraud. ___ Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report from Dallas. Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press
The Town of Gananoque will seek funding to develop an environmental action plan. In July 2019, Gananoque council declared a climate emergency, and in early 2020 created an environmental working group. Now, Coun. David Osmond, who sits on the working group, has proposed a motion to apply for funding to pay for an environmental action plan to be developed by a consultant. "I see this as a motion that's a follow-up to a promise we made when we declared a climate emergency, so we hand over the municipality in better shape than we received it," said Osmond, adding: "This climate crisis isn't going away, and it affects every resident and business in this community." Although there was some hesitation, the motion passed, and it authorizes staff to apply for funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities under the Green Municipal Fund for up to $40,000 to cover 50 per cent of the cost to develop an environmental action plan for the town. Osmond told council he had done some preliminary research and learned that a formal action plan by a qualified consultant could cost up to $80,000. "I feel this is an important issue, but to spend $80,000 on a consultant seems steep. We can put a plan in place in-house and it doesn't have to cost us anything," said Coun. Adrian Haird. His sentiments were echoed by Mayor Ted Lojko, but as the town's chief administrative officer Shellee Fournier explained, that would be a challenge. "We don't have anyone in-house with environmental expertise," said Fournier, adding that for staff to apply for the funding it would need to have a commitment from council for the other half of the money. "FCM won't consider the application unless council has committed the other piece of the funding," said Fournier. If the town's application is successful, council has committed to kicking in the balance of funds ($40,000) out of reserves, according to town treasurer Melanie Kirkby. It's not clear whether the town will forge ahead if the application fails to secure the funds, but the issue will come back to council. The idea of putting an action plan in place is to set clear objectives and provide the town with a starting point so staff can apply for green grants and start implementing environmental initiatives in town, said Osmond. "Just like the FCM grant we are going after to help cover 50 per cent of this plan, funding bodies require documentation to support applications' most if not all government grants want to know and see a municipality has a plan before they are considered for funding," said Osmond. The current environmental action group is made up of volunteers with a keen interest in the environment. "People and organizations can't sit back and wait, but we urge people to get involved, start something and reach out. It doesn't need to come from this working group to happen or even get support," said Osmond, adding that there is no formal membership for the group and people come and go as they please. At this time the group shares tips and stories through social media. Among its successes was the sharing of an easy way to build compost boxes which, according to Osmond, reached over 1,200 people. "Our site and members promote the green grant to help take-out restaurants switch to biodegradable containers. This got off to a slow start but as people become informed applications have increased significantly, which will have a real impact on waste reduction and keeping our town and rivers clean," said Osmond. The group was also behind setting up a Styro-bin so residents could drop packing grade Styrofoam to be sent to a Belleville company that recycles Styrofoam into solid blocks which eventually become picture frames and trim. "We have already filled one shipping container, which would have all gone to a landfill," said Osmond. There have been other initiatives brought forward by the group that the town has investigated but deferred for now.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
If you’re a diabetic, you probably know what it’s like to prick your finger to get a blood sugar reading. If you’re not, Canada may be calling you to let a little blood as a civic duty. The COVID-19 Immunity Task Force recently rolled out its latest wave of antibody home test kits in its effort to map the prevalence of COVID-19 in the country. This past week, 22,000 of the test kits were mailed to randomly selected Canadians. That’s in addition to 4,000 that were sent before Christmas. In total, 48,000 test kits will be distributed, and Newfoundland and Labrador’s share of that will be almost 3,600. Dr. Catherine Hankins, chair of the task force, says she hopes people realize the service they’re providing by participating. “There are two big reasons to participate,” she said this week. “One is you’re being called to serve, in a sense — to serve your province and your country by helping gather information that’s going to be useful to decision-makers … but also, you get to learn your own result, and I can tell you a lot of people are curious.” However, you can't volunteer to do the test unless you've received a kit. The daily count of COVID-19 cases that appears in the news only tallies those who have tested positive for the disease through PCR testing. That’s a genetic test that can detect even the smallest amount of virus in a person's airways. An antibody test is different. It detects the cells a person's body creates to combat the virus. They can linger for months, or even a year or more, long after a person has recovered. They will also be there even if a person didn’t know they had the disease. One advantage of the Canadian-made test the task force is using is that it can detect the difference between the antibodies that occur naturally to fight viral infection, and those that are induced by a vaccine. Commercially produced tests have not been able to do that until now. Michael Grant, an immunologist at Memorial University in St. John’s, says tests they conducted last year did not have that capability. In his study, Grant said, they recruited people who had COVID-19 or thought they might have it or been exposed to it. Out of 160 volunteers, they found only two cases of people who tested negative for the coronavirus but actually had the antibodies. One of them was someone who had quarantined during a cruise, and tested negative when they got back. However, Grant says he was encouraged by the fact some people still had antibodies in their system several months after being exposed. “It would suggest to me that the (infection) immunity is going to last at least as long as the vaccine-based immunity," he said. “That’s all we can say so far, because it hasn’t been that long a time.” Grant said the task force study will offer some important insights, and may even help inform who is best to vaccinate after the high-priority groups are covered. “Right now, the public health approach is that everyone should get the vaccine,” he said. But he adds that 48,000 tests will only tell so much. “They would have to get out a lot in order to cover the entire country and be able to get an accurate idea of prevalence in different regions,” he said. Hankins agrees the sample size won’t give a clear picture of specific regions of a given province, and tests aren’t being distributed to Indigenous reservations, military facilities or prisons. But the algorithm used by Statistics Canada ensures a representative cross-section of age and gender. That’s why she is hoping for a high participation rate. “You’re representing not just yourself,” she tells test recipients, “but everybody else your age, your sex and your province, so you’re really important.”Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — The Alberta government is easing public-health rules around funerals, outdoor gatherings and hair salons while warning residents to keep following other restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Starting Monday, personal and wellness services, including hair salons and tattoo parlours, can open by appointment only. Outdoor social gatherings, which were previously banned, will be allowed in groups of up to 10 people. And the limit on the number of people who can attend funerals is increasing to 20, although receptions are still prohibited. On Thursday, Alberta reported 967 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 additional deaths due to the illness. There were 806 people in hospital, with 136 of those in intensive care. "Alberta's hospitalizations and case numbers remain high and they pose a threat to our health system capacity," Health Minister Tyler Shandro told a news conference. "Today, we can't entirely ease up ... but we can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities." Back in November, the United Conservative government banned indoor gatherings and limited outdoor groups, along with funerals and weddings, to 10 people. In early December, as COVID-19 infections spiked to well over 1,000 a day, Premier Jason Kenney announced a strict lockdown similar to one in the spring during the first wave of the pandemic. In addition to banning outdoor gatherings, restaurants and bars were limited to delivery and takeout. Casinos, gyms, recreation centres, libraries and theatres were closed. Retail stores and churches were allowed to open but at 15 per cent capacity. He also imposed a provincewide mask mandate, making Alberta the last province in the country to have one. Those rules remain in place and need to be followed, said Shandro. Alberta's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said officials looked at the province's COVID-19 data along with research from other parts of the world about what settings were seeing the most transmission. Funerals, outdoor gatherings and personal service businesses show a lower level of risk, she said. Easing these rules now will act as a test case, she added. Case numbers will have to be lower before any other restrictions are loosened. "This is our opportunity to give Albertans a little bit more freedom and the ability to do a few more activities in a safe way," Hinshaw said. "This really is up to all of us to be able to meet those step-wise levels going down to be able to open additional things going forward." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021 The Canadian Press
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon and the five largest U.S. publishers, collectively called the 'Big Five', agreed to price restraints that cause consumers to overpay for eBooks purchased from them through a retail platform other than Amazon.com. The lawsuit comes a day after Connecticut said it was investigating Amazon for potential anti-competitive behavior in its business selling digital books. Amazon declined to comment.
How the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division educates students with intensive needs was a focus during the board’s meeting on Monday night. Superintendent Tom Michaud gave an accountability report on the division's recent performance. According to the report, Saskatchewan Rivers has significantly higher than average students per capita with intensive needs. According to Michaud's report, those students are succeeding with support from staff in the classrooms, at the division level and in specialized learning centers that do not exist elsewhere in the region. “It was really well received--really good information and good questions.... The inclusions around the health and wellness and our support for inclusive education and student services was a piece that was new to the report this year that hadn’t been in previous reports,” Sask. Rivers Director of Education Robert Bratvold said. Highlights of the report include the increase in educational support teachers, the support for English Language Learners and the capacity-building work done in the division to support students. In the division there are currently 48 emotional support teachers, six speech language pathologists, 10 school social workers, six English as additional language teachers, two educational psychologists and three Intensive Support consultants. Contracted service providers or partnerships include YWCA workers, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists through referral with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and SHA outreach workers. Staff changes in 2020-2021 show two full time occupational therapists under contract until the end of 2022-2023 school year, an additional full time social worker to respond to multiple schools, and a suspension of the school based physical therapists partnership with the SHA. Numbers that were not available in the report included enrolment numbers for alternative education in the Grade 9 to 12 category at Carlton. “There was a challenge and it was sort of an obvious thing.... There was data that we just couldn’t collect because of COVID,” Bratvold said. “It wasn’t unexpected. We knew that and the trustees knew that and so it actually in some ways was able to focus on some of the more qualitative aspects of our programming that isn’t always captured in the numerical data,” he explained The report also outlined mental health supports that exist in the division. Superintendent Tom Michaud gave an accountability report on the division's recent performance. According to the report, Saskatchewan Rivers has significantly higher than average students per capita with intensive needs. According to Michaud's report, those students are succeeding with support from staff in the classrooms, at the division level and in specialized learning centers that do not exist elsewhere in the region. “It was really well received--really good information and good questions.... The inclusions around the health and wellness and our support for inclusive education and student services was a piece that was new to the report this year that hadn’t been in previous reports,” Sask. Rivers Director of Education Robert Bratvold said. Highlights of the report include the increase in educational support teachers, the support for English Language Learners and the capacity-building work done in the division to support students. In the division there are currently 48 emotional support teachers, six speech language pathologists, 10 school social workers, six English as additional language teachers, two educational psychologists and three Intensive Support consultants. Contracted service providers or partnerships include YWCA workers, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists through referral with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and SHA outreach workers. Staff changes in 2020-2021 show two full time occupational therapists under contract until the end of 2022-2023 school year, an additional full time social worker to respond to multiple schools, and a suspension of the school based physical therapists partnership with the SHA. Numbers that were not available in the report included enrolment numbers for alternative education in the Grade 9 to 12 category at Carlton. “There was a challenge and it was sort of an obvious thing.... There was data that we just couldn’t collect because of COVID,” Bratvold said. “It wasn’t unexpected. We knew that and the trustees knew that and so it actually in some ways was able to focus on some of the more qualitative aspects of our programming that isn’t always captured in the numerical data,” he explained The report also outlined mental health supports that exist in the division. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Residents in small municipalities with water and sewer systems constantly feel the pain of ever-increasing rates, a problem the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands wants to take up with the province. Township council members are struggling to keep rates at a level that residents can afford, but with only 300 users on their system it’s a losing battle, unless they can successfully lobby the Ontario government. "The legislation is that rates must recover operation and capital costs of a water and wastewater system; it cannot come out of taxes,” said Kate Tindal, director of finance. Right now the township is looking to increase water and wastewater rates by 3.5 per cent, well below the 10 per cent annual increase recommended by the water and wastewater study completed by Watson and Associates in 2020. "These water and wastewater systems were put in by a very zealous (at the time) provincial government and the ultimate unintended consequence is in the magic word 'unaffordable' for small communities. I think we as a township have to knock on the provincial door and say 'you constructed this thing for us generously but didn't think it through' – how is a community of 300 households going to pay for a $20-million asset?" asked Coun. Brock Gorrell. As Tindal warned council at the outset, adopting lower than recommended rate increases will put the township behind in achieving full cost recovery as per the provincial mandate. "Ultimately rates are going to get beyond what our folks can afford. We have a policy issue that users have to pay for the system, so we should take the initiative to open the dialogue with the provincial government to see what remedies there might be in the mid-term," agreed Coun. Mark Jamison. Leeds and the Thousand Islands is not alone. There are numerous other small rural municipalities in the same boat. As things stand under the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act, there is an expectation that only users pay for the system. If there is a catastrophic failure within a system that needs to be addressed in a single year, a municipality would have to borrow money to pay for the repairs and then recover that outlay from the ratepayers. Water and Wastewater are not and cannot be tax-supported under provincial legislation. "The way the legislation is written, it's intended that the rates recover the money necessary to fund operating and capital operations, and yes it's going to be very challenging with the number of users on the system," said Tindal. Water and wastewater users in Lansdowne already pay on average $1,751 per year for the service. If the township adopted the Watson and Associates recommendation of 10 per cent increases per year for 10 years, those same ratepayers would have to pay $3,639 a year by the year 2030 – more than double what they're paying today. During budget deliberations last month, council members balked at such a hefty increase and opted for a much lower 3.5 per cent increase to be reviewed within two years once the asset management plan gets caught up with the projected needs of the system. But as the township gets ready to ratify the increase, councillors are realizing that user rates are not a reasonable solution for systems that cost tens of millions. "Perhaps we can do some outreach through AMO (the Association of Municipalities of Ontario) and see if they have a working group addressing this issue. I will undertake that," said township CAO Stephen Donachey.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
WASHINGTON — Chuck Schumer is used to drinking from a firehose. But the incoming Senate majority leader has never taken on such a torrent of challenges, with the opening days of both the Biden administration and Democratic control of the Senate coming at the very moment an impeachment trial gets underway. A 38-year veteran of Congress who first came to the Senate during President Bill Clinton's impeachment, Schumer is a 70-year-old bundle of energy with one overriding mandate: Help Joe Biden become a successful president. To do so, he’ll have to leverage the narrowest possible majority — a 50-50 Senate with the incoming vice-president, Kamala Harris, delivering the tiebreaking vote. It's a tough assignment. It's far easier, though often unsatisfying, to be a minority leader equipped with the tools of obstruction than it is to be a majority leader armed mostly with persuasion. But the goodwill Schumer enjoys with key members, and his careful management of the party's constituencies, could help ease the way. “Chuck Schumer has done a remarkable job as our caucus leader the last four years holding our caucus together," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., as he entered the Senate chamber during last Wednesday's Electoral College count, speaking just before a mob of violent supporters of President Donald Trump assaulted the Capitol and the situation turned dire. Then Schumer appeared. “What did I just give a quote about? Our capable majority leader!" Coons said. “Again!" a jubilant Schumer exclaimed. “More adjectives! More adjectives!" Less than an hour later, Schumer was in peril, under the protection of a Capitol Police officer with a submachine gun standing between him and GOP leader Mitch McConnell as the mob breached the building. The ransacking of the Capitol has brought impeachment to the Senate's door again and set Republicans on their heels. And it's put a spotlight on whether the polarized, diminished chamber can process Biden's agenda. Take the installation of Biden's Cabinet. The Senate has traditionally tried to confirm a batch of the most important nominees on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, and the days thereafter. But to do so requires the co-operation of the entire Senate. Democrats slow-walked many of Trump's Cabinet picks four years ago after a crushing election loss, but there's a palpable sense that Republicans may be more co-operative now, at least when confirming national security nominees and picks like Janet Yellen to run the Treasury Department. Schumer seeks — and is used to operating in — the spotlight, whether he’s helping run the unwieldy, increasingly divided Senate, micromanaging his beloved Democratic caucus or crisscrossing New York. Any of these is a full-time job. And they don’t always point him in the same direction. For instance, Biden is preaching bipartisanship, and Schumer wants to help, but tensions are inevitable with ardent progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an ambitious Bronx Democrat whom Schumer allies are watching closely as he runs for a fifth term in 2022. Schumer was a force in Biden's decision to “go big” on Thursday with a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus bill that was bigger than earlier Biden drafts. Progressives hailed the measure. Meanwhile, the prospect of an impeachment trial in the opening days of Biden's term adds a huge degree of uncertainty. Senate rules are unforgiving, but Schumer and McConnell are hoping to establish a dual-track process to confirm nominations even as the trial unfolds. McConnell and Schumer have a tortured, tense relationship after years of bruising political battles and fights over Supreme Court nominees. They rarely talk spontaneously and have no hesitation in slinging barbs that earlier generations of leaders managed to avoid. But Biden and McConnell are long-standing friends, and the Kentucky Republican — pondering a “guilty" vote in Trump's second impeachment trial and still absorbing the disastrous Senate losses in Georgia — appears inclined to help Biden as best he can. The events of the past week, as damaging and unsettling as they were for the country, seem likely to assist Biden and Schumer. What is more, Democratic control of the chamber comes with filibuster-proof treatment of Biden's nominees, with only a simple majority needed, though Republicans could easily force delays. McConnell and his Republican caucus want to “reasonably co-operate on the national security nominations,” said Hazen Marshall, a former McConnell policy aide. “His view has traditionally been that presidents deserve their staff, unless their staff are crazy or criminals." But GOP senators are sure to drag their feet on less urgent Cabinet posts given the experience under Trump, when even former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., had to endure delays. But with the economy slipping and the public appalled by the melee in Washington, GOP resistance to Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package or his slate of Cabinet picks may not be as resolute. “There's a lot to do, but Democrats are on the right side of all of it," said former Schumer strategist and confidant Matt House. “These are good problems to have." Amid the dizzying pace, Schumer also tends to New York. A Brooklyn native, Schumer makes a visit to each of the state's 62 counties every year. And his spur-of-the-moment visits to local events like high school graduations and, more recently, unannounced drop-ins on community Zoom calls are the stuff of legend. Last Thursday, little more than 24 hours after the Capitol riot, Schumer hopped on a call with a community board in Sunnyside, Queens. He spent the opening minutes thanking board members. “You guys and gals do a great job — I know what it’s like," Schumer said, according to the Sunnyside Post. “When things go bad you hear about it; when things are great you hear nothing.” And after Trump's impeachment Wednesday, Schumer heaped praise on local New York media members in a call with publishers and broadcasters thanking him for steering stimulus dollars to struggling news outlets, according to an account by the Syracuse Post Standard. But he had to jump. “Pelosi has called me and Biden, so I won’t be able to be on for too long," Schumer said. Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Hundreds of migrants hoping to reach the U.S. border gathered outside a bus station in this Honduran city Thursday despite continued signs from Mexico and other Central American governments that they would not be allowed through. Santos Demetrio Pineda was one of hundreds who showed up with little more than the clothes on their backs for the long, unlikely journey, made that much harder by the coronavirus pandemic. “We lost everything in the hurricane,” said Pineda, referring to two Category 4 hurricanes that hit Honduras in November. “We can't just sit around after what happened to us.” “We are going to leave the country, to ask for help wherever they receive us,” he said. Asked how they would make it past lines of police and immigration agents already preparing for them, Pineda said, “We are going to ask God to open the doors.” Earlier, 200 Honduran migrants walked and caught rides up a highway toward the border with Guatemala on Thursday, a day before a migrant caravan was scheduled to depart San Pedro Sula. That first group set out Wednesday but paused at night before reaching some 75 police officers, dressed in riot gear, who waited along the highway on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula. One officer said the intention was to stop the migrants from violating a pandemic-related curfew, check their documents and make sure they weren't travelling with children that were not their own. By Thursday, more migrants arrived at San Pedro Sula's bus terminal. The station has been the main departure point for caravans in the past and several hundred migrants could be seen around the terminal. Dolores Efrain Ortega, a bricklayer from the town of Cofradía, said he had travelled the route six times before. “Here there are no jobs. Even if you are a bricklayer, there is no work,” Ortega said, adding he was leaving “to get ahead, to have my own house.” But the migrants faced the additional challenge of governments that agreed earlier this week to enforce immigration laws at their borders. On Thursday, Mexico's National Immigration Institute posted videos showing hundreds of agents and National Guard members drilling on the southern border. It said the agents are “keeping vigilant in the states of southern Mexico ... to enforce the immigration law. " For weeks, a call for a new caravan departing Jan. 15 has circulated on social networks. But previous caravans have been turned back. Ariel Villega, from the town of Ocotepeque, was walking with his wife and 10-year-old son. Aware of the hurdles that awaited them, Villega said, “We’ve got everything, the passport and the COVID test.” Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Wednesday night decreed a “state of prevention” along the country's border with Honduras. The decree noted the threat of migrants entering without required documentation and without following pandemic-related screening at the border. Guatemala is requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The decree said more than 2,000 national police and soldiers would be stationed at the border. The Mexican government said Wednesday that it and 10 other countries in North and Central America are worried about the health risks of COVID-19 among migrants without proper documents. The statement by the 11-member Regional Conference on Migration suggests that Mexico and Central America could continue to turn back migrants due to the perceived risks of the pandemic. The group “expressed concern over the exposure of irregular migrants to situations of high risk to their health and their lives, primarily during the health emergency.” On Thursday, Mexican officials said they discussed migration with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and raised “the possibility of implementing a co-operation program for the development of northern Central America and southern Mexico, in response to the the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and the recent hurricanes in the region.” When hundreds of Hondurans tried to form a caravan last month, authorities stopped them before they even reached the Guatemala border. Other attempted caravans last year were broken up by Guatemalan authorities before they reached Mexico. Pressure to migrate has only been building. Central America was hit with two Category 4 hurricanes in November, devastating a region already struggling with the pandemic. The storms destroyed crops, shuttered businesses and displaced thousands. Migrants have also expressed hope that they could receive a warmer welcome at the U.S. border under the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office next week. ___ Associated Press writers Sonny Figueroa in Guatemala City and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report. MaríA Verza, The Associated Press
Jean-Pierre Morin a annoncé jeudi qu’il quittait ses fonctions de Pro et directeur général au Club de golf de Sept-Îles. Une première expérience enrichissante qu’il aura accomplie avec passion et dévouement. Il venait tout juste de terminer ses études et s’est présenté motivé, prêt à donner son maximum pour les membres. Au cours de ces 9 années, il aura réussi à accomplir sa mission et peut partir sans malaise, fier de ce qu’il a accompli. Il laisse en héritage un club en santé, plus inclusif, et plus diversifié. Le Club a fait la manchette jusqu’à Montréal, grâce à une vague de jeunesse incomparable qui s’est mise à la pratique du golf à Sept-Îles. Jean-Pierre part de la région pour se rapprocher de sa famille, mais également pour se remettre à sa passion qu’est le golf. Dans ses nouvelles fonctions, au Club de golf de Victoriaville, il quitte le chapeau de directeur, pour devenir simplement un Professionnel et pourra avoir davantage de temps pour jouer des tournois. La prochaine année s’annonce tout autant positive pour le Club de golf Sainte-Marguerite, juste à voir le nombre de certificats cadeaux qui ont été distribués lors de la période des Fêtes. Jean-Pierre Morin n’est pas inquiet de s’en aller, car il sait que l’équipe de bénévoles est solide et dévouée. Il encourage les membres à s’impliquer, afin que l’organisation continue à progresser.Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
A Russian entrepreneur has caused a stir by branding his fast food outlet around the murderous tyrant Joseph Stalin. Stalin Doner was visited by authorities and faced a staff walkout, but its very existence reflects the ambiguous view some Russians have of the late dictator.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has added her voice to those condemning businesses for denying Indigenous people entry due to COVID-19 fears, calling it racism. But the businesses — which include a restaurant, dentist's office and grocery store — claimed they were trying to stop COVID-19 from spreading from nearby Indigenous communities. The CBC has learned that Save-On-Foods in Powell River, the Glen Lyon Restaurant in Port Hardy, and a dentist's office in Duncan all refused service to Indigenous people, citing cases of COVID-19 in their communities as a reason. When Tla'amin Nation Councillor Brandon Peters learned that members of his Tla'amin Nation were denied access to the nearby Save-On-Foods, he was shocked. "That's infringing on our human rights, it's assuming every single First Nation person [in the community] has COVID," Peters said. The incidents come amid concerns that provincial data identifying the exact location of COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities is made public — often by First Nations themselves — while geographical data for municipalities and other regions of B.C. is not. In September, when the Tla'amin Nation was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak, the band issued a notice that members were to shelter in place. That's when stores including Save-On-Foods told Tla'amin residents they were not allowed in. "I was aware that some of the Tla'amin folks were being rejected, not just at Save-On, but at other stores as well," said Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa. "Just that it's easy to tell, they're Indigenous," he said. "I think that it was stereotyping, I don't know if it would be racism, they were just saying, 'Oh, the people from Tla'amin are are supposed to be staying home,'" Formosa said. The shelter-in-place order still allowed nation members to access essential services, but a Save-On-Foods representative said the message was confusing. "There was some confusion in the Powell River community about whether Save-On-Foods would be serving customers from the Tla'amin Nation during their voluntary community lockdown," a representative from Save-On-Foods told the CBC. 'Rejected again' Earlier this month, 80-year-old Fort Rupert resident Violet Bracic said she was told by the owner of the Glen Lyon Restaurant that she couldn't come in. The business is in Port Hardy, a 10-minute drive from her community. "I mumbled my discontent and said 'rejected again.' It is appalling. We're decent people," said Bracic, who is Kwagiulth and lives on the Fort Rupert reserve. Her daughter, who was with her at the time was also not allowed in. Another elder from Fort Rupert was also denied access. "I just feel like we're back in residential school days, you know, where they just think we're dirty Indians," said Jamie Hunt, another Fort Rupert resident who took to Facebook to express her outrage about the rejections. At the time, the community had one positive COVID-19 case, but the owner said he had heard there was an outbreak. "There was some misinformation and we are sorry. It was the wrong decision," said Glen Lyon Restaurant owner Jacob Bennett. He said he also denied entry to people from Port Hardy who he suspected had been in contact with a confirmed case. But Bennett noted he had little information to go on since the health authorities release little information about individual towns and cities. Many Indigenous communities in B.C. have chosen to go public with their positive cases. Racism is result of lack of data, says mayor North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring took to Facebook earlier this week to share his concerns about discrimination against Cowichan Tribes members, some of whom he says were rejected from big box stores and a local dentist. "I'm beyond extremely concerned," Siebring said in the Facebook post. When Cowichan Tribes member Barb Jimmy, 62, attempted to make an appointment with her dentist earlier this month she was asked only if she still lived on-reserve. She was not asked any of the standard COVID-19 screening questions. She told Victoria's CHEK News that when she said she lived on-reserve she was denied service. That dentist's office has since said they "feel terrible about the grave miscommunication ... and will make every effort to ensure it doesn't occur again." The Cowichan Tribes have a shelter-in-place order as they are grappling with an outbreak that has affected more than 90 people. But Siebring said while they are not the only ones testing positive for COVID-19, they are the only ones who seem to have access to data. "I, as mayor in North Cowichan and any other elected official municipality in B.C., doesn't know the rate of COVID in our communities — the health authorities are not sharing that," he said. "This is how [First Nations] are being rewarded for that transparency," he said. Siebring said it would make more sense if Dr. Henry and other provincial health officials were more transparent about the locations of all cases. In a statement to CBC News, Henry said being more transparent about the data would not help the situation. "This is sadly an issue of racism and I do not believe it has anything to do with provincial data releases. COVID-19 has illuminated longstanding inequities and in particular those faced by First Nations in B.C. I want to add my voice to the chorus who have condemned such behaviour."
Saskatchewan Rivers School Division trustees are continuing professional development despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually there are provincial gatherings to help trustees, but they've stopped since the start of the pandemic. Some discussion about that issue took place at the board’s regular meeting on Monday. Education director Robert Bratvold said they're really focusing on learning and development, even though the circumstances can make it challenging. The board will engage in a planning seminar on Jan. 15 and 16 to review and discuss a number of items related to effective governance and leadership. One topic of conversation will be a letter the board received from the School Community Council of Wild Rose School about their trustee representative in the school clusters. “It came as a correspondence item that the board was informed about and then further discussion about that will happen at the seminar,” Bratvold explained. The letter states that another meeting should be held between the parties on Jan. 19. “Obviously, there is some communication and some understanding of what the role of the school clusters are and what a role of a trustee is and those sorts of things, so (there are) lots of opportunities for communication,” Bratvold explained. Bratvold added that trustees will be participating in over 20 online modules scheduled in 90-minute blocks over the next month through the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA). He said these sessions will support new and returning trustees in their role as educational leaders and as effective voices in local government. “I know there are going to be over 20 sessions on everything from legal aspects of being a trustee to student support services to anything you can imagine to make them a better trustee. Our trustees are taking part in those sessions in a big way,” Bratvold said.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan Thursday to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden's goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic. “We not only have an economic imperative to act now — I believe we have a moral obligation,” Biden said in a nationwide address. At the same time, he acknowledged that his plan “does not come cheaply.” Biden proposed $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for. It would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September. And it shoehorns in long-term Democratic policy aims such as increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing tax credits for families with children. The last item would make it easier for women to go back to work, which in turn would help the economy recover. The political outlook for the legislation remained unclear. In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer praised Biden for including liberal priorities, saying they would move quickly to pass it after Biden takes office next Wednesday. But Democrats have narrow margins in both chambers of Congress, and Republicans will push back on issues that range from increasing the minimum wage to providing more money for states, while demanding inclusion of their priorities, such as liability protection for businesses. “Remember that a bipartisan $900 billion #COVID19 relief bill became law just 18 days ago,” tweeted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. But Biden says that was only a down payment, and he promised more major legislation next month, focused on rebuilding the economy. “The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there’s not time to waste," Biden said. “We have to act and we have to act now.” Still, he sought to manage expectations. “We’re better equipped to do this than any nation in the world," he said. “But even with all these small steps, it’s going to take time.” His relief bill would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to confront the pandemic. Aides said Biden will make the case that the additional spending and borrowing is necessary to prevent the economy from sliding into an even deeper hole. Interest rates are low, making debt more manageable. Biden has long held that economic recovery is inextricably linked with controlling the coronavirus. That squares with the judgment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful business lobbying group and traditionally an adversary of Democrats. “We must defeat COVID before we can restore our economy and that requires turbocharging our vaccination efforts,” the Chamber said in a statement Thursday night that welcomed Biden's plan but stopped short of endorsing it. The plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 385,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. And government numbers out Thursday reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims, to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers. Under Biden's multipronged strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to combating the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities. About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of some $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for setting up mass vaccination centres and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas. With the backing of Congress and the expertise of private and government scientists, the Trump administration delivered two highly effective vaccines and more are on the way. Yet a month after the first shots were given, the nation’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start with about 11 million people getting the first of two shots, although more than 30 million doses have been delivered. Biden called the vaccine rollout “a dismal failure so far" and said he would provide more details about his vaccination campaign on Friday. The plan also provides $50 billion to expand testing, which is seen as key to reopening most schools by the end of the new administration's first 100 days. About $130 billion would be allocated to help schools reopen without risking further contagion. The plan would fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, to focus on encouraging people to get vaccinated and on tracing the contacts of those infected with the coronavirus. There's also a proposal to boost investment in genetic sequencing, to help track new virus strains including the more contagious variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Throughout the plan, there's a focus on ensuring that minority communities that have borne the brunt of the pandemic are not shortchanged on vaccines and treatments, aides said. With the new proposals comes a call to redouble efforts on the basics. Biden is asking Americans to override their sense of pandemic fatigue and recommit to wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings, particularly larger ones. It's still the surest way to slow the COVID-19 wave, with more than 4,400 deaths reported just on Tuesday. Biden's biggest challenge will be to “win the hearts and minds of the American people to follow his lead,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician. The pace of vaccination in the U.S. is approaching 1 million shots a day, but 1.8 million a day would be needed to reach widespread or “herd” immunity by the summer, according to a recent estimate by the American Hospital Association. Wen says the pace should be even higher — closer to 3 million a day. Biden believes the key to speeding that up lies not only in delivering more vaccine but also in working closely with states and local communities to get shots into the arms of more people. The Trump administration provided the vaccine to states and set guidelines for who should get priority for shots, but largely left it up to state and local officials to organize their vaccination campaigns. It's still unclear how the new administration will address the issue of vaccine hesitancy, the doubts and suspicions that keep many people from getting a shot. Polls show it's particularly a problem among Black Americans. “We will have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated,” Biden said. Next Wednesday, when Biden is sworn in as president, marks the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States. ___ Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Alan Fram contributed to this report. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
Joanne Rogers, an an accomplished concert pianist who celebrated and protected the legacy of her husband, the beloved children's TV host Mister Rogers, has died in Pittsburgh. She was 92. Rogers died Thursday, according to the Fred Rogers Center. No cause of death was given. The centre called her “a joyful and tender-hearted spirit, whose heart and wisdom have guided our work in service of Fred’s enduring legacy.” Joanne and Fred Rogers were married for more than 50 years, spanning the launch and end of the low-key, low-tech “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which presented Fred Rogers as one adult in a busy world who always had time to listen to children. His pull as America’s favouriteneighbour never seemed to wane before his death in 2003. “I can’t think of a time when we’ve needed him so much,” Joanne Rogers told The Associated Press in 2018. “I think his work is just as timely now as it was when it came out, frankly.” An ordained Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers produced the pioneering show at Pittsburgh public television station WQED beginning in 1966, going national two years later. He composed his own songs for the show. It offered a soft haven for kids, in sharp contrast to the louder, more animated competition. The final episode of what his widow called “a comfortable lap” aired in August 2001. PBS stations around the country still air “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and some can be found on the PBS Kids video app. There are DVD collections on Amazon and episodes stream on Amazon Prime. The city of Pittsburgh, where the show was produced, tweeted that Joanne Rogers was one of Pittsburgh's “greatest neighbours.” It said the couple “forever changed our city.” Other tributes came from such varied fans as tennis star Billie Jean King to designer Kenneth Cole. Fred Rogers’ effect on popular culture was profound: Eddie Murphy parodied him on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s and one of Rogers’ trademark zip-up sweaters hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He’s had a category dedicated to him on “Jeopardy.” 2018, the 50th anniversary of when Rogers first appeared on TV screens, prompted a PBS special, a new postage stamp, the feature-length documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” and, a year later, the Tom Hanks-led biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Born Sara Joanne Byrd in 1928, Joanne Rogers met her future husband at Rollins College in Florida. After Fred Rogers’ death, she helped develop the Fred Rogers Center Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College in his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. “Joanne and Fred were Pennsylvania treasures committed to improving our communities and the lives of our children. We will never forget their legacy of kindness,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. She is survived by two sons, James Byrd Rogers and John Rogers. ___ Associated Press reporter Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report from Pennsylvania. Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Chris Boucher had 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench and the Toronto Raptors held on to beat the Charlotte Hornets 111-108. Fred VanVleet had 17 points, while Kyle Lowry added 16 for the Raptors (3-8), who nearly gave away another game over the dying minutes. Pascal Siakam chipped in with 15 points, while OG Anunoby had 13, and Norman Powell finished with 11. Terry Rozier had 22 points to top the Hornets (6-7), who were on a second night of a back-to-back, having lost 104-93 to Dallas on Wednesday. Toronto had an 18-point lead late in the third quarter, and was up 99-86 to start the fourth, but the Raptors, whose strength used to be strong finishes, have been fizzling down the stretch this season. The Raptors went scoreless for nearly five minutes to start the fourth, allowing the Hornets to pull within five points. The Raptors' hustle on the offensive glass made up for their poor shooting, and Boucher's rebound and tip-in with 4:03 gave Toronto an eight-point cushion. Rozier's basket had Charlotte within three, but Lowry found Boucher under the hoop for an easy dunk and a five-point lead heading into the final minute. After LaMelo Ball's big dunk sliced the difference to just three, the Hornets regained possession with 9.8 seconds to play, but Rozier's wide open three-pointer missed the mark, sealing the victory for Toronto. The Raptors were back at their temporary home base in Tampa after going 1-3 on a western road trip, losing their two previous games to Golden State and Portland by just one point in each. If there was a theme to the losses, coach Nick Nurse said his team needed to be better protecting leads. "I don't know if there's a point in the game where we could rev it up a gear when we've got a nice lead. When we've got a 10- or 12-point lead, can our shot selection improve? Can we get a little stingier and string up even more consecutive stops that got us that lead in the first place?" The Raptors offence was solid off the start. They shot 60 per cent from the field and 57 per cent from distance in the first quarter, and Boucher's sidestep three-pointer with 0.3 left in the frame gave Toronto a 35-34 edge to end the quarter. Toronto buckled down on the defensive end in the second, and when rookie Malachi Flynn pitched a long pass to Boucher for an easy basket midway through the quarter the Raptors went up by 15. VanVleet's three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left sent the Raptors into the halftime break with a 71-62 advantage. Stanley Johnson's three late in the third had the Raptors up 97-79, their biggest lead of the game. Centre Aron Baynes played for the first time since sitting three straight games, as Nurse continues to tinker with that position, but the big man had just two points in seven minutes, and Boucher started the second half in his place. The Raptors' other centre Alex Len missed the game due to personal reasons. The game was played in front of no fans at Amalie Arena. The Raptors had been one of the few teams in the league permitting a limited number of fans, but amid rising COVID-19 case numbers in western Florida, Vinik Sports Group which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning, announced that no fans would be allowed at NHL or NBA games at Amalie for at least the next few weeks. The Raptors play the Hornets again on Saturday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021. The Canadian Press
With less than a week until president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, security in Washington is ramping up as law enforcement prepares for potential violence before and after the Jan. 20.