Max the Husky really wanted playtime, but he'll have to settle for nap time instead!
Max the Husky really wanted playtime, but he'll have to settle for nap time instead!
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Divers found parts of the cockpit voice recorder on Friday as more personnel joined the search for wreckage and victims from an Indonesian plane that crashed last weekend in the Java Sea with 62 people on board. The aerial search for the crashed Sriwijaya Air jet was being expanded as well, said National Search and Rescue Agency mission co-ordinator Rasman, who uses one name. More than 4,000 search and rescue personnel are supported by 14 airplanes, 62 ships and 21 inflatable boats. They are using an underwater metal detector and remotely operated vehicle to search for human remains, the cockpit voice recorder and more wreckage. Divers narrowed the search for the cockpit voice recorder after finding some of its parts. “We have found the casing, the beacon and the CVR batteries. We need to search for the memory unit,” the commander of the navy's First Fleet Command, Abdul Rasyid, said Friday. “We hope it will be not far from them,” he said. Investigators have downloaded information from the plane's flight data recorder, which was recovered earlier this week. “There are 330 parameters and everything is in good condition. We are learning about it now,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Committee. Families of those on board have been providing DNA samples to help identify them. National Police spokesperson Rusdi Hartono said 12 of the 62 victims had been identified as of Thursday, including a flight attendant and an off-duty pilot. The committee has said the crew did not declare an emergency or report any technical problems before the plane plunged into the sea minutes after taking off from Jakarta in heavy rain. They said it broke apart upon impact with the water, ruling out a midair explosion, because the debris field is concentrated and engine parts indicate it was running until impact. The 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 was out of service for almost nine months last year because of flight cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The airline and Indonesian officials say it underwent inspections, including for possible engine corrosion that could have developed during the layoff, before it resumed commercial flying in December. Indonesia’s aviation industry grew quickly after the nation’s economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. Safety concerns led the United States and the European Union to ban Indonesian carriers for years, but the bans have since been lifted due to better compliance with international aviation standards. Edna Tarigan And Fadlan Syam, The Associated Press
RESTAURATION. Québec solidaire dénonce tant les frais pouvant aller jusqu’à 30% imposés par des applications de livraison de repas que le refus du gouvernement Legault d'imposer une limite à Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash. Le député de Rosemont Vincent Marissal voudrait qu’on impose un plafond de 20% comme l'ont fait l'Ontario et la Colombie-Britannique. «Nos restos de quartier ferment à gauche, à droite, et tout ce que la CAQ trouve à faire, c'est de demander gentiment aux applications de réduire leurs frais abusifs. Quel aveu d'impuissance! Le gouvernement Legault a pris assez de retard. Aujourd'hui, il doit choisir entre les profits de Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash et la survie pure et simple de nos restaurants de quartier. Le milieu de la restauration est déjà accablé par des mois de fermeture et l'indifférence du ministre Fitzgibbon. Des frais de 30%, c'est la goutte de trop», plaide le responsable solidaire en matière de justice fiscale. Pour Québec solidaire, le gouvernement doit éviter de répéter les erreurs commises avec le projet de loi sur les taxis. «En donnant à Uber un beau projet de loi fait sur mesure, on a fait entrer le loup dans la bergerie. Bien maintenant, le loup a fait le tour de la bergerie et il est entré dans le resto du village! Tout le monde commande plus souvent depuis le début de la pandémie, c'est normal. Ce qui est moins normal, c'est qu'on laisse les applications de livraison fixer les règles du jeu. Alors que les restaurants et les clients paient des frais qui coûtent les yeux de la tête, les livreurs touchent des salaires dérisoires. S'il n'est pas encadré, le modèle économique de Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash est ruineux pour le Québec», martèle Vincent Marissal. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
The Township of Seguin and the other six municipalities that make up west Parry Sound have signed off on a letter, dated Dec. 1, to Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks. The letter states that they would like the ministry to reconsider the transition of the blue box from 2025 to 2024. What exactly is the blue box transition program? The Blue Box Transition program is being legislated by the Province of Ontario and means the responsibility of collecting and processing recyclable products will be on the manufacturers who make the items. What that means is the duty of recycling is being shifted to the manufacturers who produce the material rather than society. Will this effect how I put out my recycling? The government says there shouldn’t be any change of service. You may have to go to a different location to drop off your recycling, if rural, or you may have a new company that picks up your curbside blue box materials. When is this supposed to come into effect? For the municipalities that make up west Parry Sound — Parry Sound, Archipelago, Seguin, McKellar, McDougall, Carling and Whitestone — the change is supposed to come into effect in 2025; however, all seven municipalities have signed a letter to Minister Jeff Yurek requesting the transition take place in 2024. Why? The District of Muskoka is transitioning in 2024 and, currently, the west Parry Sound municipalities process blue box materials in Bracebridge. They are concerned about issues that may happen if the transition happens at a different time than Muskoka. Another concern is the fact the Greater Toronto Area is transitioning in 2023 and the expanded list of recyclables there will differ from what is offered in west Parry Sound for a time. Residents who migrate north for the summer may expect to recycle the same list of items, which may cause contamination in waste systems. Will this transition raise my taxes? Once the producers and manufacturers take over the recycling process, it’s going to save the taxpayers; however, prices for products may go up to pay for the manufacturers’ cost of processing the recycling. The Township of Seguin said at its Jan. 11 council meeting that the mayors from the seven municipalities would follow up on the letter once a response was received. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
OTTAWA — Harvest Meats is recalling a brand of Polish sausages due to undercooking that may make them unsafe to eat. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the recall affects customers in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario and Saskatchewan. It covers Harvest brand Polish sausages in 675-gram packages with a March 15 best before date. Customers are advised to throw away or return the product. The agency says no illnesses have been reported. A food safety investigation is ongoing. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
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
South River and Machar residents should have a better idea over the next few weeks what will happen to the ice at their arena in the wake of the province's 28-day stay-at-home order. South River council will discuss the issue at its Jan. 25 meeting. South River clerk-administrator Don McArthur says the municipality developed COVID-19 protocols for the arena's four user groups that were working prior to the latest lockdown. The arena was used by the Junior A Spartans, boys' minor hockey, girls' minor hockey and figure skating. The protocols were explained to the users last fall and McArthur says when the arena opened in October, everything “worked wonderfully. “We really felt comfortable with the protocols and with the cooperation of the groups where they took on a lot of the responsibilities,” McArthur says. “They looked after their own contact tracing and what we did was buy disinfectant and sanitized the equipment.” This approach worked well, he says, and the municipality didn't have to put any extra staff at the arena. It would have been a different story had council opened the arena to public skating. “If we allowed public skating, protocols like who's coming and going would have to have been done by us,” McArthur says. “So the staffing level would have gone up considerably in order to police and look after all that information flow.” That would have become too expensive for the municipality, he says. The protocols the municipality has in place are good and “everyone feels confident that we can operate safely. “But we don't have that option (to operate) under the lockdown,” McArthur says. The South River-Machar Community Centre and Arena has been closed since Dec. 21. Assuming there's a reopening in the near future, the user groups will operate under the same protocols in place prior to Dec. 21. McArthur says staff and council are looking at various scenarios depending on when the latest lockdown ends. In the best-case scenario, the lockdown could be lifted earlier in the North, in which case “if we're delayed only two to four weeks then maybe we can add that time and run the season a little later into March or to the end of March. “Council's challenge is we don't know if or when we'll get a green light,” McArthur says. “So at what point does it become too late or no longer economically feasible for us and the user groups?” This is now a waiting game and it's not easy as options are weighed. “The big cost, beyond wages, at the arena is maintaining the ice,” he says. “If there isn't going to be anyone using it and no revenue coming in, then how long do we maintain that ice for?” McArthur adds the arena isn't only used for winter activities. It's also used for a hockey opportunity camp during the summer. In fact, the arena is at its busiest during the eight to 10 weeks of the hockey camp. The facility is only without ice from mid April to mid June. When the lockdowns first started last March, McArthur says the hockey camp “was one of the first (activities) to take a direct hit.” With the arena in shutdown mode, staff were able to carry out considerable maintenance at the site that normally would not be achievable. But with the arena down for the entire summer, it meant no revenue to the municipality. McArthur says 2020 saw the arena lose about $40,000 over and above its normal expenses. McArthur says the province's safe restart agreement helped offset part of the arena loss and council is grateful for that. Council also was able to offset the remainder of the loss by reducing the number of capital projects it had scheduled for 2020. One of those projects involved a compressor rebuild at the arena. So, while the village will still have a balanced budget for 2020, it comes at a cost because it now has to delay some of the scheduled capital projects into the future, McArthur says. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
New modelling released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests the number of daily COVID-19 cases could more than triple to 30,000 if people increase their contacts during a time of widespread community transmission. The report also projects that if Canadians simply maintain their current levels of contact with people outside their households, case counts will still rise to roughly 13,000 a day from 7,900 now. The modellers said that, based on current case counts, Canada "remains on a rapid growth trajectory," with roughly 2,000 more people expected to die over the next 10 days as the country approaches a death toll of 20,000. As many as 100,000 more people could contract the virus over the next week and a half, PHAC said. "Quick, strong and sustained measures are needed to interrupt rapid growth and maintain COVID-19 control," PHAC said in its report. "Reducing COVID-19 activity is urgently needed as rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines begins." Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told a news conference that the vaccine rollout, which is now protecting priority groups of high-risk Canadians, will not have a big impact on the numbers in the short term. WATCH / Dr. Theresa Tam on the impact of vaccine on COVID-19 transmission: "In terms of the national projections and the transmission in communities, you're not going to see that in the initial months, which is why I think our message ... is [to] absolutely get on with the public health measures," she said. "Do all of those things, don't do non-essential travel. All that really counts. It works. And when you can suppress that projection, the vaccines have a longer runway." Data to determine impact of vaccine rollout Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said government and external experts are working to determine the impact of vaccine rollouts on the numbers mid- and long-term. "But at the present time, it's really difficult to say. There are so many factors involved. Even today, we're seeing issues in terms of vaccine supply, how vaccines are being rolled out across the country," he said. "There's other factors in terms of the increasing rates of infection in various parts of the country. So there are many different factors in play." Right now, Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec are the provinces reporting the highest infection rates per 100,000 people. Rise in cases post-holidays Tam said many provinces, including some that had been on a downward trajectory, saw a sharp rise in daily case numbers after the holidays. That's likely due to people having more contacts over the holidays and reduced testing during those weeks, she said. Since the holidays, stronger community level public health measures have been adopted across Canada and some areas are showing that public health measures are working to slow growth. "However, we have yet to see the widespread and sustained declines in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control nationally," she said. Some 10 months into this pandemic, long-term care homes continue to report hundreds of daily cases. There are now more than 400 outbreaks nationwide — a situation which is expected to push hospitalization rates higher still. Alberta and Manitoba are reporting the highest rates of hospitalization per 100,000 people. PM calls LTC deaths 'tragic' During a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the outbreaks now occurring in long-term care homes in Ontario and across the country are "tragic." "Our parents and grandparents built this country. They raised us. And they deserve so much better," he said. "It is vital that we continue to get vaccines to vulnerable people as quickly as we can. And that's exactly what we're focused on. But remember – no one is invincible. Even if you're young and healthy, this virus can be very dangerous. And that's why we all have to keep doing our part." Trudeau said that while vaccines are rolling out across the country, Canadians must reduce their in-person contacts. "For the moment, that's the only way to get these numbers down," he said. "Since yesterday, Ontario is now under a stay-at-home order. This is the kind of tough but necessary decision that provincial governments are having to make." PHAC said COVID-19-related deaths are steadily rising and may soon exceed levels seen during the first peak. Calling the new modelling "alarming," NDP health critic Don Davies called for stronger federal measures to reduce the spread of the virus. "The numbers released today paint a very sobering picture," he said. "COVID-19 is claiming the lives of 145 Canadians every single day and the situation is getting worse. Clearly, what we've been doing isn't working. PHAC's forecast shows that a stronger response is necessary to slow the alarming spread of COVID-19."
Firefighter Morrison was able to break a path through the ice out to the dog while safely secured by ropes. Just before he got to the dog, it gave out a crying type howl and as soon as he grabbed it, it went completely limp from exhaustion. Video credit Alpena City Firefighters
The Magnetawan First Nation, north of Parry Sound, was recently declared COVID-free, but the territory’s chief said he really wants to see the vaccine given to his community members as soon as possible. Chief William Diabo said that the Magnetawan First Nation was declared free of the coronavirus on New Year’s Eve. Nine members had been diagnosed with COVID-19 during December and all recovered, the last one being declared free of the virus and out of isolation on Dec. 31. That number represents almost 10 per cent of the community’s population of about 115 residents. Diabo had imposed a voluntary lockdown and a state of emergency when the virus first hit the territory in December. He said those orders have been lifted; however, he added that the territory is now covered by the Ontario-wide, province-imposed state of emergency and the restrictions that come with it, including a stay-at-home order. Diabo said that he is expecting a COVID vaccine rollout in the territory in the coming weeks. But he added that he understands they will have to wait their turn as front-line health-care workers, and residents of seniors’ residences, are vaccinated first. He added that he is still frustrated by some community members who are refusing the follow the COVID protocols. “I have a couple of people on my First Nation who are still not complying. One of them posted the damn thing on social media during the lockdown that they were having a gathering with people from four other households who were coming for breakfast over the holidays,” Diabo said. “That’s the worst thing, when you are a small community of 50 homes. You are best to stay in your own home. Don’t go to someone else’s — don’t let them come to yours.” Diabo said he is also frustrated by what he thinks is a lack of will by some police services to enforce the lockdown on First Nations territories. He said there are jurisdictional issues whereby he feels OPP and RCMP are reluctant to come onto the territory to issue tickets. The chief added that even if a person gets a ticket for having too many people in their home, there are no measures in place to keep them from repeating the infraction. As far as the vaccine rollout is concerned, Diabo believes Indigenous communities should follow seniors’ homes on the priority list. “That’s what I’ve been told. It’s a matter of getting the vaccine distributed. It’ll happen — I hope no later than the end of February but I hope sooner than that,” Diabo said. He added that the pace at which the vaccine is being rolled out is a concern, but he said that only when, and if, it appears the territory is not being given the priority it was promised will he begin to kick up dust and complain to officials. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in December that Indigenous communities would be given priority for vaccination after front-line health-care workers and other vulnerable people, including seniors. In an email, Parry Sound Muskoka MPP Norm Miller said he can understand the concerns of Indigenous leaders like Diabo. “Adults in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations where infections can have disproportionate consequences, including those living in remote or isolated areas, will be among the first to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks,” Miller stated. “Given the previous case numbers in certain First Nation communities within the riding, I agree actions need to be taken as quickly as possible, and I have shared these concerns with the ministry. It is an unfortunate reality that the vaccine is now a finite resource which is why it is important to prioritize high risk areas first. I will continue to advocate on behalf of all high-risk populations in Parry Sound-Muskoka as we move forward.” John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
A local area plan is in the works for a 460-square-kilometre regions near Łu Zil Män—known in English as Fish Lake—west of Whitehorse. Much of the area is comprised of Kwanlin Dun First Nation settlement lands. The First Nation and the Yukon government are partnering to come up with a vision meant to designate certain uses for certain lands, and identify areas for growth. KDFN land resource planner Roy Neilson said the plan has been a priority for the First Nation for many years. "What we're hearing from Kwanlin Dun citizens is they're very concerned that lands and waters in the Fish Lake area are not being respected," he said. Neilson said activity in the area is increasing and KDFN citizens are concerned. "Some of those activities can have detrimental effects on the landscape by disturbing fish and wildlife and habitat," he said. "There are also a number of important cultural sites and heritage sites in the area that can potentially be disturbed from these types of activities if they're taking place in an unmanaged way." First area to undergo new planning process of KDFN's Lands Act Fish Lake is the first area to undergo the planning process laid out in KDFN's Lands Act, which took effect last October. A joint news release from the Yukon government and First Nation says KDFN has a "large amount" of settlement land in the area. The Ta'an Kwächän Council also has a parcel of land within the plan boundary. Indigenous use of the area dates back as much as 8,000 years. Michelle Sicotte, a community land use planning manager with the Yukon government, said the plan will be an advisory document and, ideally, zoning regulations will follow. Sicotte said the local area planning process will involve looking at the issues and coming up with options. "Basically, the steering committee and the government will work together to really understand what the issues are in the area and come up with options and eventually draw up the plan." The two governments are recruiting members for a steering committee until Feb. 15. The aim is to finish the plan within two years.
The United States announced sanctions on Friday against six Hong Kong or Chinese officials it blamed for implementing a new security law in Hong Kong, following the mass arrests of pro-democracy activists this month. Hong Kong police arrested 53 people on Jan. 5 in the biggest crackdown on the democracy movement since China last year imposed a security law which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony. "This action by Hong Kong authorities is yet another stark example of Hong Kong's freedoms and democratic processes being fundamentally undermined," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Two-year-old Yesmin Anayeli Perez died this week of illnesses linked to malnutrition, the third small child to die from similar causes in an impoverished mountain village in eastern Guatemala within weeks, residents and health officials said. Residents of the indigenous Mayan village, La Palmilla, and other parts of a region known as the Dry Corridor sunk deeper into poverty last year when economic damage wrought by droughts and two devastating hurricanes was compounded by the coronavirus lockdown. The situation in La Palmilla is a stark example of the depth of the crisis in Central America, where governments are hoping for a rapid restoration of U.S. aid under incoming president Joe Biden to stem a new migration wave.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A partnership with the Trump administration has reduced disparities in Alaska Native access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and protective equipment, tribal health care leaders said. The administration’s coronavirus initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday. Operation Warp Speed, as the initiative is known, designated vaccine doses for tribes in the same manner as for the Department of Defence, Veterans Health Administration and Bureau of Prisons. The federal government distributed more than 35,000 doses to Alaska tribes, in addition to 78,000 doses to Alaska’s state government. More than 250,000 doses were dedicated to tribes nationwide through the Indian Health Service. “It’s something to celebrate,” Alaska Native Health Board CEO Verné Boerner. “When you embrace tribes and tribal sovereignty, you can bring so much more to the state.” Tribal shipments have afforded broad vaccine access for rural and Indigenous Alaskans and expanded availability of doses beyond older people. Providers acknowledge part of their ability to offer expanded access is because about a third of health care workers and older residents have declined to immediately take vaccines. While tribal providers are vaccinating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, state and Native leaders said there is a legal basis for separate shipments because of longstanding recognition of tribes as sovereign governments. Officials said the decision also is appropriate from a scientific and medical standpoint because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Alaska Native people and the dynamics in many rural communities that make the virus difficult to control. Factors include crowded, multi-generational homes, lack of running water and sewer and distance from advanced medical care. “It’s never been about equal distribution of the vaccine. It’s about equitable distribution,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. chief of staff. “The congregate living settings that exist in most of our villages are a setup for the virus to just spread like wildfire, and there’s no defence against that.” For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
Russia announced on Friday it was pulling out of the Open Skies treaty, saying that the pact, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, had been seriously compromised by the withdrawal of the United States. The move, announced by Russia's foreign ministry, comes days before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration amid fears of a burgeoning arms race. Moscow's last major nuclear arms pact with Washington is set to expire next month.
Chinese technology firm Huawei plans to establish a flagship store in Riyadh, the largest such store outside China, the Saudi government said on Friday. Huawei has signed a leasing contract with Saudi Arabia's Kaden Investment for the store that will allow the Chinese company to have direct access to consumers amid rising demand for digital products and services in the kingdom, the statement said, without giving a date for the opening. Saudi Arabia expects internet usage in the kingdom to increase from covering 82.6% of the population in 2022 from 73.2% in 2017, the Ministry of Investment statement said.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500 by Friday, a drawdown that appears to violate a last-minute congressional prohibition. “Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” the acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller, said in a written statement, adding that 2,500 troops is enough to continue countering extremist groups in Afghanistan and training Afghan government forces. “Continued fulfilment of these two complementary missions seeks to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbour those who seek to bring harm to the United States of America,” Miller said. President Donald Trump, who ordered the reduction in November, said Thursday that troop levels in Afghanistan had reached a 19-year low, although he did not mention a troop number. Last February his administration struck a deal with the Taliban to reduce American troop levels in phases and to go to zero by May 2021. It is unclear how the incoming Biden administration will proceed. President-elect Joe Biden, who has advocated keeping a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan as a way to ensure that extremist groups like al-Qaida are unable to launch attacks on the United States, faces a number of questions on Afghanistan. One is how and whether to proceed with further troop cuts. Trump in his brief statement alluded to his longstanding desire to get out of Afghanistan entirely. “I will always be committed to stopping the endless wars,” he said, referring to U.S. wars that have dragged on in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq for much of the period since 2003. Although senior military officials had cautioned against speedy troop reductions in Afghanistan, Miller announced on Nov. 17 that he was implementing Trump's order. As a result, military commanders scrambled to pull more than 1,500 troops out of the country in the last few weeks. At Trump's order, commanders also cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq to 2,500 from about 3,000 in the same period. The Afghanistan decision was seen by some as unnecessarily complicating the decision-making of the incoming administration. Trump at the time had refused to acknowledge that he had lost the election and would be ceding to Biden on Jan. 20. Some in Congress, including fellow Republicans, opposed Trump's decision. Under the National Defence Authorization Act passed by Congress two weeks ago, the Pentagon was explicitly forbidden to use money from this year’s or last year’s budget on reducing the number of troops below 4,000 — or below the number that was in the country the day the bill was finalized, which was Jan. 1. Trump vetoed the measure, but both the House and Senate voted to override his veto. In his statement Friday, Miller made no mention of this statutory prohibition. He said the Pentagon is planning for additional troop reductions to zero by May, adding that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions based.” The Pentagon has not yet fully explained how it squares its continued drawdown with the legal prohibition. In response to questions about this, the Pentagon issued a written statement saying, “DoD will adhere to all statutory provisions of the FY21 National Defence Authorization Act, to include those in Section 1215 that impact the ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan.” It said it has been working with the National Security Council “on the most efficient means to ensure consistency amidst an anterior drawdown already occurring across Afghanistan, and in a manner that continues to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel.” The defence legislation provides two conditions under which the Pentagon could get around the prohibition -- a presidential waiver or a report to Congress assessing the effect of a further drawdown on the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan and the risk to U.S. troops there. As of Thursday the Pentagon had met neither of those conditions. The prohibition on completing the drawdown put the Pentagon in a bind, coming weeks after it had begun the drawdown, which involved a large logistical effort to remove equipment as well as troops. Because of less-than-transparent military procedures for counting troops in Afghanistan, it is possible that the 2,500 figure may be fudged. The main reason for concern about a too-quick troop withdrawal is what the Pentagon sees as continued high levels of Taliban violence against the Afghan government. Some U.S. officials have questioned the wisdom of fully withdrawing, in accordance with the February 2020 agreement with the Taliban, if violence remains high. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was aimed at overthrowing the Taliban regime, running al-Qaida out of the country and laying the groundwork for a global “war on terrorism.” It turned into something more ambitious but less well-defined and became far more costly in blood and treasure. During Biden's time as vice-president, the U.S. pushed U.S. troop totals in Afghanistan to 100,000 in a failed bid to compel the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. When Trump took office four years ago there were about 8,500 troops in the country, and he raised it to about 13,000 that summer. Last month, when he met with Afghan officials in Kabul and with Taliban representatives in Qatar, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he emphasized to both sides that in order to give fledgling peace talks a chance, they must rapidly reduce levels of violence. “Everything else hinges on that,” Milley told reporters. During Milley's visit, Army Gen. Scott Miller, the top commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, told reporters that the Taliban had stepped up attacks on Afghan forces, particularly in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, and against roadways and other infrastructure. Robert Burns And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
Star conductor Simon Rattle, who this week announced he was cutting short his tenure at Britain's leading orchestra to return to Germany, said on Friday he had applied for German citizenship after Brexit. The Liverpool-born musician, 65, lamented the barriers thrown up by Britain's departure from the European Union to the careers of young musicians who had grown used to performing freely to the continent's music-hungry public. "My passport is on the way," Rattle told a news conference when asked if he had followed many EU-based Britons in applying for the citizenship that will let them continue to work freely around the bloc.
ATLANTA — The coronavirus vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the U.S., but four states in the Deep South have had particularly dismal inoculation rates that have alarmed health experts and frustrated residents. In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, less than 2% of the population had received its first dose of a vaccine at the start of the week, according to data from the states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As in other parts of the country, states in the South face a number of challenges: limited vaccine supplies, health care workers who refuse to get inoculated and bureaucratic systems that are not equipped to schedule the huge number of appointments being sought. But other states have still managed — at their best — to get the vaccines into the arms of more than 5% of their populations. Though it’s not clear why the Deep South is falling behind, public health researchers note that it has typically lagged in funding public health and addressing disparities in care for its big rural population. "When you combine a large percentage of rural residents who tend to be the hard-to-reach populations and have lower numbers of providers with trying to build a vaccine infrastructure on the fly, that’s just a recipe for a not-so-great response,” said Sarah McCool, a professor in public health at Georgia State University. In Georgia, the state’s rural health system has been decimated in recent years, with nine hospital closures since 2008, including two last year. Local health departments have become the primary vaccine providers in some locations, as officials work to add sites where doses can be administered. “If we’re the only game in town, this process is going to take a long time,” Lawton Davis, director of a large public health district that includes Savannah, said at a news conference on Monday. The district had to stop taking appointments in the face of an onslaught of requests after Georgia opened up the vaccine to people over 65. Other health districts in the state saw their websites crash. Alabama and Mississippi have also been hit hard by rural hospital closures. Seven hospitals have shut down in Alabama since 2009 and six in Mississippi since 2005, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Sheps Center. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi ranked in the bottom five of U.S. states in their access to health care, according to a 2020 report from a not-for-profit foundation connected to insurance giant UnitedHealth. But overall, experts say it's too early in the vaccine rollout to draw conclusions about the region's shortcomings, and they can't easily be attributed to a particular factor or trend. “We’re sort of building this plane as we’re flying, and there are going to be missteps along the way,” said Amber Schmidtke, a microbiologist who has been following vaccine dissemination in the South. Officials in the individual states have cited a number of challenges, but have also acknowledged shortcomings. “We have too many vaccines distributed that are not in arms yet,” said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who noted that some hospitals in the state are not using their vaccine doses. He said that practice “has to stop.” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp cited a similar challenge and warned providers holding on to vaccines that the state would take their unused doses even if that required “firing up” his pickup truck and doing it himself. But in South Carolina, hospital officials say it is the state that has moved too slowly to expand access to the vaccinations, leaving them with unused doses. The state recently did offer the vaccine to those 70 and older. Mississippi's Reeves said one of the biggest weaknesses in the state’s vaccination system is the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations in long-term care facilities. The pharmacy chains have been slow in hiring enough people to do the work in Mississippi, the governor said. CVS Health said in a statement that it has “the appropriate resources to finish the job" at long-term care facilities. Walgreens did not respond to an email. During an online forum hosted by Jackson State University in Mississippi on Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is Black, noted the reluctance of many African Americans to be vaccinated. He cited a general mistrust of medical systems stemming back to a now-defunct government study that started in the 1930s and left Black men untreated for syphilis for decades. So far, only 15% of COVID-19 vaccinations in Mississippi have gone to Black people, who make up about 38% of the population, state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during the forum. Officials in all four states also said some health care workers — among the first groups eligible for a vaccine — are choosing not to get inoculated. And some stressed that states were dealing with limited supplies and high demand and implored people to be patient. “Yes, the phone lines will be busy. Yes, the websites will certainly crash,” Kemp said Tuesday. “There are simply vastly more Georgians that want the vaccine than can get it today.” Mississippi officials said the state's website and telephone hotline were overwhelmed after the governor announced Tuesday that vaccinations were available to people 65 or older or people who have underlying medical conditions. Liz Cleveland, a 67-year-old retired state employee who lives in Jackson, waited hours on the website using her cellphone, computer and tablet only to encounter unknown errors. “It’s like gambling. You may hit or you may bust,” Cleveland said. About 2 a.m. Wednesday, she was finally able to book appointments for herself and her husband next week in Hattiesburg, which is 90 miles (145 kilometres) away. Mississippi officials said Thursday that they will open an additional drive-thru site for vaccinations soon in the state's largest county. Alabama officials also have been inundated with requests for appointments since announcing the state will begin vaccinations for people over 75 next week. A state hotline received more than a million calls the first day it was open. Celia O’Kelley of Tuscaloosa said she couldn’t get through to anyone to get an appointment for her 95-year-old mother. “I am scared because Tuscaloosa is a hot spot,” she said. ___ Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; and Michelle Liu in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report. Sudhin Thanawala, The Associated Press
SaskPower says the rural areas of the province still without power from this week's storm should see their lights back on by Friday afternoon. Wide swaths of the province have been without electricity in the wake of the blizzard and high winds this week. Areas still without power Friday morning include southwest of Elrose, including Beechy, Saskatchewan Landing, White Bear, Lucky Lake and areas south of Weyburn. SaskPower said power has been restored to areas near Glenavon and for customers east of that community with power lines down. Saskpower spokesperson Scott McGregor said the areas still without power suffered major damage to the power infrastructure. "That's really what's keeping the power off, is that some larger transmission lines have been damaged and we're just working on getting those fixed," McGregor said. That will be good news for Natalie Braun and other residents of Beechy, who have been without power since Wednesday afternoon. "I don't know what our wind got to, but our visibility was zero [Wednesday] late afternoon and went on into the evening," Braun said. "I mean, it was crazy." Braun said they have a generator that has helped them cook meals and stay warm, though even it wouldn't work at the height of the storm. The generator was plugged in at the back of the house and she said the night of the storm the snow and wind kept freezing up the generator. Braun said others in the community who don't have generators are still in the dark and cold. "We have gotten quite accustomed to having power outages," she said, adding that's many people have generators. "But there's definitely a lot without. And it's yeah, it's been a long go. Thankfully, it's not freezing freezing cold." She said community organizations have arranged to drop off hot meals to some elderly residents and that the community hall, which has a generator, is open to residents to come warm up. "It's amazing how a small community can really come together," Braun said. "Yesterday we witnessed a lot of people just going out of their way, checking in on the elderly people in our community. And it just is pretty amazing how everybody, especially in these circumstances and obviously going through this in a pandemic there, it takes it to a whole new level." McGregor said a transmission line went down in the Beechy area. "We're still working in that area and [power] should be up around noon, maybe two o'clock at the latest," he said. "I know that it's been it's been out for a long time over two nights ... and we appreciate everyone's patience while we all get through this." More than 100 communities have had power outages because of the storm and roughly 78,000 people were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. McGregor said high winds and blowing snow continued to hamper crews trying to restore power to some communities. Since the storm began, SaskPower recorded more than 780 outages affecting more than 100,000 customers. McGregor said there could be a few people that remain without power if more problems arise. "We're still taking inventory of a lot of the damage out there," he said. McGregor said it's like clearing a major highway after a snowstorm. "You have the highway reopened, but then you have to deal with the side streets. Same with a transmission line being damaged and then re-energise," he said. "They can repair the transmission lines, but then once that is energized, then other problems coming off of that at the distribution level become evident and then we can work on those.." Braun said while the power outage has been stress for the adults, her two children, aged six and three, have been having a blast. "Our street was impassable yesterday so they were loving seeing all the commotion around. And they love all the snow," she said. Coincidentally the kids got a pair of head lamps in the mail a few days ago and are putting them to good use. "We don't run our generators through the night so in the mornings, they're hiding under the blankets with the head lamps on."