Weather Network meteorologist Mark Robinson took in the stormy sights in Burlington's Spencer Smith Park.
Weather Network meteorologist Mark Robinson took in the stormy sights in Burlington's Spencer Smith Park.
Former President Donald Trump has clashed again with his Republican Party, demanding that three Republican groups stop using his name and likeness for fundraising, a Trump adviser said on Saturday. The adviser, confirming a report in Politico, said lawyers for Trump on Friday had sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Campaign and National Republican Senate Campaign, asking them to stop using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise.
MONTREAL — Brendan Gallagher scored twice in a four-goal second-period surge as the Montreal Canadiens finally found a way to beat Winnipeg, thumping the Jets 7-1 Saturday. Montreal (11-6-6) was coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg and had won just one of its last seven — a stretch that included three losses (two in overtime) to the Jets. Winnipeg (15-8-1) had won two straight and six of its last seven. But that form was not on display Saturday. Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Joel Armia, Paul Byron and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal. Gallagher (two goals and an assist) and Tomas Tatar (three assists) each had three-point nights. With Winnipeg trailing 7-0, Mathieu Perreault finally beat Carey Price with a power-play goal at 11:14 of the third. Connor Hellebuyck was pulled in the second period after the Habs' fourth goal. He stopped 15 of 19 shots. Winnipeg outshot Montreal 29-28. Returning after a three-game absence due to a lower-body injury. Anderson started on a line with Toffoli and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. After a cagey start, the game began to open up and Hellebuyck stopped Jonathan Drouin on a breakaway with less than six minutes remaining after a stretch pass from Gallagher. Anderson took advantage of a fortuitous bounce after Kotkaniemi, fighting for the puck in the Winnipeg end, fired the puck into the corner. Hellebuyck went behind the goal to corral the puck but it hit the entrance used by the ice cleaner and bounced back in front of goal. Anderson, Johnny-on-the-spot, knocked it into the empty net past defenceman Nathan Beaulieu at 15:29 for his 10th of the season. The Canadiens broke the game open in the second period with four goals in nine minutes two seconds. After Kotkaniemi won a faceoff in the Winnipeg end, Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman had a chance to clear but only sent the puck to the blue line. Shea Weber poked it back towards the slot where Toffoli's high wrist shot beat Hellebuyck for his 15th of the season at 7:03. Failure to clear the puck cost Winnipeg again less than four minutes later with Gallagher knocking Phillip Danault's no-look cross-ice pass into a gaping net. Gallagher, left alone on Hellebuyck's doorstep, then made it 4-0 at 14:25 with his 10th of the season after the Habs hemmed the Jets in their own zone. Laurent Brossoit took over in the Winnipeg goal and was promptly beaten by Armia's low wrist shot at 16:05 after a Montreal rush up the ice that drew hardly a challenge. Byron made it 6-0 at 4:20 of the third, backhanding a fat rebound home after Brossoit failed to handle a long-distance shot from Jake Evans. Seconds earlier Jets forward Trevor Lewis was hit on the hand by a Nate Thompson shot. Petry added to the Jets' pain at 8:20 with a wrist shot through traffic from the blue line. Saturday's game was the fifth under interim Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme, who is now 2-1-2 at the helm. Four of the games were against Winnipeg. "You kind of get sick and tired of battling the same guys," Montreal defenceman Brett Kulak, speaking before the game, said of playing the same team for the fourth time in 10 days. "We've played this team a lot right now. So yeah, there's a little bit of hatred for each other there, but I think it's good. And it brings the competitive level of the game up a little more," he added. Montreal starts a six-game road trip Monday with the first of two straight in Vancouver. The Jets, on a five-game road trip, open a three-game series in Toronto on Tuesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021 The Canadian Press
The widow of a mariner who died on B.C.'s North Coast is looking for answers and closure surrounding the circumstances of her husband's death. Judy Carlick-Pearson is asking the Canadian Coast Guard to raise the tugboat Ingenika, which sank Feb. 11 while pulling a large barge in the Gardner Canal just south of Kitimat. Carlick-Pearson's husband, Troy Pearson, and crew member Charley Cragg were both killed in the accident. A third crew member, Zac Dolan, was rescued after washing ashore. "Honestly, it's minute by minute, second by second some days," said Carlick-Pearson in an interview with CBC Daybreak North host Carolina DeRyk. "My son and I take turns being the cheerleader in the house to try and get through a moment." Stalled efforts at recovery It's now been more than three weeks since the Ingenika sank, but neither the Canadian Coast Guard nor the RCMP have been able to retrieve the vessel. Carlick-Peason says they have given up the search even though there could still be answers on the boat, and the boat still contained fuel, which could be harmful to the marine environment. "We feel that the tug will not only answer questions, but give us some closure as well," she wrote in a petition launched March 2. "If they recover the tug, they may find out why that tugboat sank, as tugboats aren't known to sink." The petition has received more than 6,600 signatures as of Saturday. In a written statement to CBC, Transport Canada extended their condolences to the families of Pearson and Cragg, but said the suspected depth of the vessel would make any attempts at recovery difficult and dangerous. "The coast guard continues to monitor the situation and work with the owner, the RCMP, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada as partners in the response," the statement says. "An investigation into the sinking of the tug Ingenika will be conducted by the Transportation Safety Board." Call for greater oversight The Feb. 11 incident has sparked calls for better protection of mariners operating vessels. The International Longshore Workers Union Local 400 Marine Section sent out a news release on Feb. 23 asking Transport Canada to require formal safety management systems for undersized and undermanned fleets operating along the coast. ILWU Local 400 president Jason Woods said approximately 12 tugboats have sunk in the past two years on the West Coast. Woods said these tugboats are often undermanned and underweight for the size of vessel they are pulling. "The only reason people haven't died is because of luck," Woods said. "We've been saying this for years, that there will be a fatality, it's going to happen, and here we are." Woods said he would like to see every commercial vessel inspected by Transport Canada regardless of its weight, and procedures in place to ensure they are appropriately manned.
Quebec is reporting 749 new cases of COVID-19 today along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus. The province also says it administered 19,865 doses of vaccine on Friday as its vaccination campaign ramps up. The latest vaccination figures, the highest the province has reported in a single day so far, come as Quebec opens vaccine eligibility to more people. To date, provincial figures show 532,012 doses of vaccine have been administered out of a total of 638,445 that the province received. Quebec reported 601 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 today, a decrease of 16 from the day before. The number of people hospitalized includes 109 people in intensive care, down by two. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Dalai Lama, who is 85, was administered the first shot of the coronavirus vaccine on Saturday at a hospital in the north Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
Two people died in a fire at an apartment building Saturday morning in in Hilden, N.S. RCMP say they responded to a report of a fire on Truro Road at 6:55 a.m. A media release stated that local fire departments were able to extinguish the fire. No other details were provided. The cause of the fire is being investigated by Colchester District RCMP, the Northeast Nova Major Crimes Unit and the Office of the Fire Marshal. The RCMP does not believe the fire is suspicious, according to the release. The Red Cross tweeted that the building had 22 units and that 46 tenants are displaced. It has set up a comfort centre at the Hilden fire hall to assist anyone from the apartment building with emergency needs. MORE TOP STORIES
TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 990 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths linked to the virus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region.Today's data is based on 57,829 completed tests.The province also reports a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday's update.A total of 860,412 doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far.Ontario says that 1,152 more cases were resolved since the last daily update.There have been 306,997 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, including 289,735 classified as resolved and 7,052 that have resulted in death.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
An Israeli-Canadian lobbyist hired by Myanmar's junta said on Saturday that the generals are keen to leave politics after their coup and seek to improve relations with the United States and distance themselves from China. Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli military intelligence official who has previously represented Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Sudan's military rulers, said Myanmar's generals also want to repatriate Rohingya Muslims who fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations says more than 50 demonstrators have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup when the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won polls in November by a landslide.
The total number of Toronto residents vaccinated against COVID-19 is now 124,868, the city said on Saturday. In a news release, the city said the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Toronto is now 197,155. Because some residents have received two doses of the vaccine, the total number of residents vaccinated is lower than the total number of vaccine doses administered, the city clarified in an email on Saturday. The city said in the release that several clinics are underway on Saturday to vaccinate hospital and community-based healthcare workers who are in Phase 1 priority groups. Clinics are being held at Unity Health Toronto, University Health Network, Michael Garron Hospital, Humber River Hospital, North York General Hospital, Scarborough Health Network and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The city said it expects to vaccinate upwards of 6,700 people across 15 clinics over the weekend. Canada approved the first single shot vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, on Friday. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recently recommended a longer maximum interval between first and second doses of the three two-shot COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada to increase the speed at which Canadians get vaccinated. Toronto's population is more than 2.9 million.
TORONTO — Ontario's New Democrats say they would create a new cap-and-trade carbon pricing system if elected in 2022. The official Opposition made the promise in an environmental policy plank of their election platform, released today at a morning news conference. Party leader Andrea Horwath says the province needs the carbon pricing system to help fight climate change. She says the system would generate $30 billion in revenue, and the NDP would raise another $10 billion through the sale of "green bonds", over four years. The NDP says that cash would be used to pay for green building retrofits, to ramp up electric vehicle sales, and to plant a billion trees by 2030. The platform also promises to give each household in the province $600 to add an electric car charging station. Ontario's Progressive Conservative government scrapped the province's cap-and-trade system in 2018, a regime introduced by the previous Liberal government. Horwath said the NDP carbon pricing system will ensure polluters pay for their emissions and promised it will not add costs to low and middle income Ontarians. The party says the plan would help Ontario reach a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. "I think more and more people have come to the realization that we must tackle the climate climate crisis," Horwath said. "A just transition means we will really look after our people while we look after our climate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alexandre Thibault était le quatrième garçon de la famille, le petit dernier. Un jeune mécanicien qui a tragiquement perdu la vie en juin dernier, suite à un sévère traumatisme crânien. Ayant signé sa carte de don d’organes, il a permis à 4 personnes d’avoir la chance de vivre une vie meilleure, et plus longue. Josée Tremblay a accepté de partager la pire épreuve de sa vie, soit celle de perdre son enfant dans un tragique accident, afin de sensibiliser les gens à l’importance d’apposer leur signature derrière la carte d’assurance maladie, afin d’autoriser un don d’organe lors d’un décès. « On a perdu gros, et eux, ont reçu un immense cadeau. Mon gars a fait un don de 4 vies meilleures. », partage la maman. Ayant signé sa carte de don d’organe, un soir sur le coin du comptoir avec son père, Alexandre aura permis à quatre personnes d’avoir l’opportunité d’avoir une meilleure qualité de vie. Deux d’entre-elles ont reçu chacune 1 poumon, une les 2 reins, et l’autre le foie d’Alexandre. « Par-dessus tout, je voulais partager mon expérience pour sécuriser les gens que tout est fait dans le respect du donneur et que malgré que nous sommes loin, c’est quelque chose de possible. », ajoute-t-elle. Trois deuils plutôt qu’un À son arrivée à l’hôpital le matin de l’accident de son fils, Mme Tremblay s’est fait annoncer la mort de son enfant. Alexandre a quitté immédiatement en avion ambulance pour Québec, afin de poursuivre les démarches pour de possibles transplantations. Josée, ne voulant pas abandonner son enfant lors de ces démarches, où il est tenu en vie artificiellement, s’est dirigée vers Québec en voiture. À son arrivée, elle a appris qu’Alexandre n’était pas décédé, son cerveau réagissait encore, malgré l’énorme traumatisme crânien qu’il avait subi. Un mince espoir qui a disparu rapidement, puisqu’Alexandre est malheureusement décédé de ses blessures dans la nuit, soit le 16 juin 2020. Sachant qu’Alexandre avait signé sa carte de don d’organe, le personnel hospitalier lui a servi un traitement 5 étoiles, rempli d’humanisme et de respect, durant les journées où il a été maintenu en vie artificiellement, afin de préserver ses organes, le temps de trouver des receveurs et de passer une batterie de tests. « Mon fils avait un infirmier attitré pour lui seul. Il a été traité comme un humain, pas comme un déchet. Tout le monde lui parlait, le soignait, je pouvais aussi le coller. », confie la dame, qui se souvient que tout le personnel a traité son fils avait le plus grand respect. Un don inestimable Mme Tremblay mentionne que chaque organe de son enfant a été récupéré par le médecin qui procédait à la greffe. Il s’est présenté lui-même, sur place, afin de venir chercher le don d’Alexandre, avant de partir en avion greffer le bénéficiaire. C’est là qu’elle a vécu son deuil final, sachant qu’elle ne verrait plus jamais son enfant. « Nous aurions tout de même pu revenir sur la décision d’Alexandre, et ils nous ont demandé à plusieurs reprises si nous étions certains d’honorer sa décision. Nous leur avons donné 5 jours pour trouver des receveurs, ce qui a fonctionné. », mentionne la mère. Mme Tremblay et son mari ont eu des nouvelles des personnes qui ont reçu les organes d’Alexandre. Ils ont alors su que les 4 personnes se portent bien actuellement, et devraient en avoir d’autres sous peu, afin de savoir si tout se passe encore bien. Alexandre n’est plus sur terre présentement, mais une partie de lui demeure toujours en vie et permet à des personnes privilégiées de vivre des jours meilleurs. L’empreinte de ses mains se retrouve parmi le mûr des personnes ayant, tout comme lui, accepté de faire don de leurs organes à l’heure de leur mort, dans l’entrée de l’hôpital l’Enfant-Jésus de Québec. « Aux personnes qui ont reçu des dons d’organes d’Alexandre, je leur souhaite une vie en santé, et que mon fils leur ait donné le goût de continuer, et d’en faire bon usage. », conclue la dame. Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
SHEFFIELD, England — Southampton shrugged off the disappointment of losing Danny Ings to another injury by beating last-place Sheffield United 2-0 to end its nine-match Premier League winless run Saturday. The England striker walked off the field in the 12th minute with an apparent right leg injury that was sustained off the ball and in seemingly innocuous circumstances at a free kick. Southampton overcame Ings’ absence as his replacement, Che Adams, scored from a fierce 25-meter shot in the 49th minute to add to a penalty converted by James Ward-Prowse in the 32nd. A first league win in more than two months moved Southampton 10 points clear of the bottom three and will alleviate fears that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team was being dragged into a relegation fight, despite a brilliant start to the season that saw it briefly in first place in November. Sheffield United was destined for demotion to the second-tier Championship even before this 22nd loss of the campaign, with the team 12 points from safety. Ings is set to spend a third spell on the sidelines because of injury this season. He has struggled with fitness issues in recent years, although managed to stay injury-free last season and finished second in the league’s scoring list. It remains to be seen how long this latest problem keeps him out, and Hasenhuttl will be happy fellow striker Adams got back scoring after a 16-match goal drought. It was a superb strike, too, as Stuart Armstrong chested down the ball after a clearance by Sheffield United was blocked and Adams thrashed a rising shot into the net from outside the area. Southampton had gone in front after Ethan Ampadu brought down Nathan Tella in the area. Ward-Prowse sent Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way from the spot. The defeat could have been much heavier for the hosts, with Ramsdale saving well from Adams and Takumi Minamino shooting wide when free 10 metres out. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums. After labouring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature. “We tell the American people, help is on the way," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Citing the country's desire to resume normalcy, he added, “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.” The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year. Saturday's vote was also a crucial political moment for Biden and Democrats, who need nothing short of party unanimity in a 50-50 Senate they run because of Vice-President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. They also have a a slim 10-vote edge in the House. A small but pivotal band of moderate Democrats leveraged changes in the bill that incensed progressives, not making it any easier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to guide the measure through the House. But rejection of their first, signature bill was not an option for Democrats, who face two years of trying to run Congress with virtually no room for error. The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance. The package faced solid opposition from Republicans, who call the package a wasteful spending spree for Democrats’ liberal allies that ignores recent indications that the pandemic and the economy could be turning the corner. “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Of Democrats, he said, “Their top priority wasn't pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.” The Senate commenced a dreaded “vote-a-thon” — a continuous series of votes on amendments — shortly before midnight Friday, and by the end had dispensed with about three dozen. The Senate had been in session since 9 a.m. EST Friday. Overnight, the chamber was like an experiment in the best techniques for staying awake. Several lawmakers appeared to rest their eyes or doze at their desks, often burying their faces in their hands. At one point, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, at 48 one of the younger senators, trotted into the chamber and did a prolonged stretch. The measure follows five earlier ones totalling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring and comes amid signs of a potential turnaround. Vaccine supplies are growing, deaths and caseloads have eased but remain frighteningly high, and hiring was surprisingly strong last month, though the economy remains 10 million jobs smaller than its pre-pandemic levels. The Senate package was delayed repeatedly as Democrats made eleventh-hour changes aimed at balancing demands by their competing moderate and progressive factions. Work on the bill ground to a halt Friday after an agreement among Democrats on extending emergency jobless benefits seemed to collapse. Nearly 12 hours later, top Democrats and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the chamber's most conservative Democrat, said they had a deal and the Senate approved it on a party-line 50-49 vote. Under their compromise, $300 weekly emergency unemployment checks — on top of regular state benefits — would be renewed, with a final payment made Oct. 6. There would also be tax breaks on some of those payments, helping people the pandemic abruptly tossed out of jobs and risked tax penalties on the benefits. The House's relief bill, largely similar to the Senate's, provided $400 weekly benefits through August. The current $300 per week payments expire March 14, and Democrats want the bill on Biden's desk by then to avert a lapse. Manchin and Republicans have asserted that higher jobless benefits discourage people from returning to work, a rationale most Democrats and many economists reject. That agreement on jobless benefits wasn't the only move that showed the sway of moderates. The Senate voted Friday to eject a House-approved boost in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, a major defeat for progressives. Eight Democrats opposed the increase, suggesting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other progressives pledging to continue the effort in coming months will face a difficult fight. Party leaders also agreed to restrict eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks that will go to most Americans. That amount would be gradually reduced until, under the Senate bill, it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000. Those amounts were higher in the House version. Many of the rejected GOP amendments were either attempts to force Democrats to cast politically awkward votes or for Republicans to demonstrate their zeal for issues that appeal to their voters. These included defeated efforts to bar the bill's education funds from going to schools closed for the pandemic that don't reopen their doors, or that let transgender students born male to participate in female sports. One amendment would have blocked aid to so-called sanctuary cities, where local authorities balk at helping federal officials round up immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Friday's gridlock over unemployment benefits gridlock wasn't the bill's lengthy delay. A day earlier, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., forced the chamber's clerks to read aloud the entire 628-page relief bill, a wearying task that lasted nearly 11 hours. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
Britain's Prince Charles paid tribute to the courage shown throughout the Commonwealth in response to coronavirus in a broadcast that will air on Sunday, hours before Prince Harry and Meghan talk about stepping down from royal duties on U.S. television. The prince was joined by other royals, including his elder son and heir Prince William, in talking about the impact of COVID-19 in messages recorded for a programme marking Commonwealth Day dedicated to the countries, mainly from the former British empire, that maintain links with Britain. "The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish," Charles said in the message.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister: She wept as she told him two of his nephews may have been shot in broad daylight as they left a bar in Portland, Oregon. He drove there as fast as he could. An officer told him one of his nephews was heading to the hospital and the other, Tyrell Penney, hadn't survived. “My sister, Tyrell’s mom, was on the phone; I just said, ‘He’s gone.’ And I just heard the most horrific scream that you could ever imagine,” Yarborough said. When Penney was killed last summer, unrest was roiling liberal Portland as protesters took to the streets nightly to demand racial justice and defunding police. At the same time, one of the whitest major cities in America was experiencing its deadliest year in more than a quarter-century — a trend seen nationwide — with shootings that overwhelmingly affected the Black community. Responding to the calls for change in policing, the mayor and City Council cut several police programs from the budget, including one Yarborough believes could have saved his nephew. A specialized unit focused on curbing gun violence, which had long faced criticism for disproportionately targeting people of colour, was disbanded a month before Penney, a 27-year-old Black man visiting from Sacramento, California, was killed on July 25. Yarborough and some other families wonder if ending the unit is partly to blame for Portland's dramatic spike in shootings, but officials and experts attribute increased gun violence in cities nationwide to the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment, economic anxiety and stress on mental health. “Without a doubt, I think it is a possibility that my nephew could still be alive if (the Gun Violence Reduction Team) was not dissolved,” said Yarborough, a crisis response volunteer for Portland police who responds to shootings to support victims’ families. “I cannot say for sure if he would, but what I will tell you is had it not been my nephew that was saved, it probably could have saved the life of someone else,” he said. More people died of gunfire last year in Portland — 40 — than the entire tally of homicides the previous year. The number of shootings — 900 — was nearly 2 1/2 times higher than the year before. The spike has continued this year, with more than 150 shootings, including 45 people wounded and 12 killed so far. Police had warned of possible repercussions of ending the unit, pointing out cautionary tales in other cities that had made a similar choice. Portland police quoted former Salinas, California, Police Chief Kelly McMillin: “Not to be overly dramatic, but if you lose the unit which focuses on removing firearms from the hand of violent offenders, people will die. It’s really just that simple.” Stockton, California, began disbanding and defunding police units dedicated to gun violence in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, the city’s homicide rates reached record highs. After the city restored the units, homicides significantly declined, according to data reported by police. While policing has been refocused in Portland, experts and officials say it's unlikely those changes caused spikes in gun violence. “I believe if (the Gun Violence Reduction Team) were (around) today, we would still see a substantial, if not identical increase, in shootings in Portland,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in January. “This is clearly part of a larger national trend.” Wheeler, who is also police commissioner, announced the unit's disbanding last June and reassigned its 34 officers to patrol. He described it as an opportunity to reimagine policing and redirected $7 million in police funds toward communities of colour. The push was led by Jo Ann Hardesty, the first Black woman elected to the City Council. She cited a 2018 audit showing nearly 60% of people stopped by the gun violence team were Black — though they make up less than 6% of the city’s population. Nearly half of the 55 total homicide victims in 2020 were people of colour, many of them from Portland's historically Black neighbourhoods, according to city statistics. So far this year, there have been 17 homicides — a concerning number considering there had only been one homicide in the same period in 2020. Among the people of colour shot to death last year were a 23-year-old Iraqi refugee stopping to pick up an Uber fare; an 18-year-old recent high school graduate; and a 53-year-old woman caught in gang crossfire and killed in front of her husband. The violence has left leaders and community members scrambling for solutions. Some say the loss of the unit’s seasoned detectives has hurt the city, while others push for new approaches. Last month, police launched a squad of 15 officers and six detectives focusing on gun violence investigations. Officials say it's only part of the solution, as leaders partner with community groups, work to increase transparency and use proactive approaches that don't rely on the stop-and-frisk tactic. That’s little solace to Penney’s three children, the friends he was visiting in Portland or his family, who moved to California when he was child to avoid the exact reason he died — gun violence. Yarborough, Penney's uncle, was a gang member in the 1990s and had been arrested by officers with Portland's gun violence team. Despite that, he described the unit as "the CIA” of the police department and said they often stopped shootings before they happened because of their deep community knowledge. “They built relationships with gang members and knew who the perpetrators were,” Yarborough said. “They ... were able to band together to stop it, or at least refer people impacted to programs to help change their lives.” ___ Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Sara Cline, The Associated Press
Charlottetown's winter festival was put on ice this week due to COVID restrictions, but will be extended six days to make up for the pause. Organizers behind the Ice City Festival, a "distant cousin" of the Jack Frost Festival normally held pre-pandemic, say the past week has been a whirlwind. The festival was supposed to have events throughout the city last week, but the circuit-breaker restrictions instituted Feb. 27, followed by red-phase restrictions early this week, put the festivities on pause. The province had announced a two-week stop to indoor dining as part of the bid to stop the sudden jump in cases. But at a pandemic briefing on Wednesday, Premier Dennis King announced restaurants could reopen Thursday. The current rules limit 50 patrons in a restaurant, no more than six at a table and the establishment must close by 10 p.m. With in-room dining allowed again, Ice City organizers could restart the festivities, which include outdoor activities as well as food. "Skating and stuff could have still carried on, but definitely with the in-room dining, a lot of our restaurant partners are having micro-events at their restaurants," said Heidi Zinn, executive director of Discover Charlottetown. "And certainly, you know, one of the reasons we're doing this is to bring people downtown and get them into the restaurant.... We're super excited to have the programming back." Charlottetown's Ice City Festival began on Feb. 12 and was slated to run until March 14. Now because of the pause it'll run until March 20.
GLASGOW, Scotland — Rangers’ players ran to a gap in the stands at Ibrox and celebrated in front of their jubilant fans after a 3-0 win over St. Mirren on Saturday that left the club on the verge of its first Scottish Premiership title in 10 years. Thousands of Rangers supporters had ignored lockdown rules by gathering outside the stadium in Glasgow ahead of the game to proclaim what will be a long-awaited return of the title, which has been in possession of fierce rival Celtic for nine straight years. The conduct of the fans was condemned by the Scottish government. Many of the fans had left by kickoff but some stayed on, hoping to catch a glimpse of the team through the gates at the east end of the Main Stand. Rangers did not let them down, with goals from Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos and Ianis Hagi earning a 28th win from 32 games and giving the team managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard a 21-point lead. The title will be clinched on Sunday if second-place Celtic fails to win away to Dundee United. If Celtic wins, Rangers can look forward to the dream scenario of finally putting an end to Celtic’s reign of dominance when the Old Firm rivals meet at Celtic’s Parkhead stadium on March 21. Winning the league — for a record-extending 55th time — would cap the revival of a team that was demoted to the bottom tier of the Scottish game because of a financial meltdown. Celtic has dominated since and was looking to win the title for an unprecedented 10th straight season, and for a 52nd time overall. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
KABUL — A suicide car bombing killed the Afghan intelligence directorate’s chief prosecutor Saturday, an official said, amid an increase in violence in the war-ravaged country. Sayed Mahmood Agha was on his way to his office in the southern city of Lashkargah when an attacker driving a car full of explosives targeted Agha's convoy, killing him, said Attaullah Afghan, provincial council chief for Helmand province. One of Agha's bodyguards was also killed and eight others, including two civilian passersby, were wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan is experiencing a nationwide spike in bombings, targeted killings, and other violence as peace negotiations in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government continue. The Islamic State group’s local affiliate has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but many go unclaimed, with the government putting the blame on the Taliban. The insurgents have denied responsibility for most of the attacks. In another incident at the Sheikh Abu Nasre Farahi crossing in Afghanistan’s western Farah province on the Iranian border, at least three terminals storing diesel fuel caught fire, causing a massive blaze that consumed at least two trucks carrying natural gas and fuel, according to Afghan officials and Iranian state media. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire. Taj Mohammad Jahid, Governor of Farah told The Associated Press that the Afghan first responders did not have the means to put out the huge fire and had requested firefighting support from Iran, which helped extinguish the blaze. It was the second massive fire on on the Afghan-Iranian border in the past three weeks. ——— Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran contributed to this story. Tameem Akhgar, The Associated Press
A power outage in southern Alberta on Saturday left over 8,300 customers without power for hours. Fortis, an electricity distribution utility which supplies power to people outside of major centres in Alberta, says Brooks, Alta. as well as Tilley, Newell County, Scandia, Dutchess, Chisholm, and the Westlock area had been impacted by large electrical outages. Fortis told CBC News that the cause of the outage was due to infrastructure damage and that technicians were needed to make emergency repairs. Altalink tweeted their control centre was alerted to the outage at the Brooks Substation at 7 a.m., where they identified the damaged equipment. The cause of damage is unknown at this time. According to Fortis' Twitter, power in the region should be restored by 12 p.m.
PLAINS OF UR, Iraq — Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric Saturday, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade. In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. The 90-year-old cleric, one of the most eminent among Shiites worldwide, afterward said Christians should live in peace in Iraq and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defence of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history, Later in the day, the pope attended a gathering of Iraqi religious leaders in the deserts near a symbol of the country’s ancient past — the 6,000-year-old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The joint appearance by figures from across Iraq's sectarian spectrum was almost unheard-of, given their communities' often bitter divisions. Together, the day’s events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. It is a message he hopes can preserve the place of the thinning Christian population in the tapestry. At a Mass the pope celebrated later in Baghdad, emotional worshippers sang hymns, ululated and shouted “Viva la Papa!,” or “Long live the pope” — a rare public moment of joy among a population weighed down by turmoil, economic woes and the coronavirus pandemic. Still, his message faces a tough sell in a country where every community has been traumatized by sectarian bloodshed and discrimination and where politicians have tied their power to sectarian interests. In al-Sistani, Francis sought the help of an ascetic, respected figure who is immersed in those sectarian identities but is also a powerful voice standing above them. Al-Sistani is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, deeply revered among Shiites in Iraq and worldwide. His rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. Their meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home, the first ever between a pope and a grand ayatollah, was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly negotiated beforehand. Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, travelling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. He then walked the few meters (yards) down an alley to al-Sistani’s home. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. A religious official in Najaf called the meeting “very positive.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honour. The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water. At one point in their 40-minute meeting, the pope gingerly cradled the ayatollah’s two hands in his own as al-Sistani leaned in speaking, according to footage aired on Lebanon’s LBC. They sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting, the official said. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public or even on television, wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock. The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh last year, looked tired. After the meeting ended, Francis paused before leaving the room to have a last look, the official said. In a statement issued by his office afterward, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.” Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said. Iraqis cheered the meeting, and the prime minister responded to it by declaring March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence in Iraq. ”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is a historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.” Iraq’s Christians, battered by violence and discrimination, hope a show of solidarity from al-Sistani will help secure their place in Iraq and ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community. Al-Sistani’s voice is a powerful one, often for moderation. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, his opinions forced American administrators to alter their transition plans, and his approval opened the way for Iraq’s Shiites to participate in force in post-Saddam Hussein elections. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. But his word is not law. After 2003, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by Sunni extremists. Yet brutal Shiite reprisals against Sunni civilians fed a years-long cycle of sectarian violence. His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group helped ensure the extremists’ defeat. But it also swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran and now blamed for discrimination against Sunnis and Christians. Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah. “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.” Such interfaith forums are a staple of Francis’ international trips. But its sectarian breadth was startling in Iraq: From Shiite and Sunni Muslims to Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians and tiny, ancient and esoteric faiths like the Kakai, a sect among ethnic Kurds, Mandaeans and Sabaean Mandaeans. The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain. Ali Thijeel, a Nasiriyah resident who attended the event, said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage investment in the area to attract pilgrims and tourists. “This is what we were waiting for,” he said. “This is a message to the government and politicians. They should take care of this city and pay attention to our history.” Francis’ visit — his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Iraq. Despite concern about infections, Francis celebrated Mass in a packed, stuffy Chaldean Catholic Cathedral later Saturday in Baghdad that featured chanted Scripture readings and a maskless choir singing hymns. “Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus,” Francis told the faithful, who did wear masks. ___ Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed. Nicole Winfield And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press