Inside Trump’s pardoning spree: How Fox News, friends and celebrities influence the president

John T Bennett
Donald Trump: Reuters

Donald Trump’s Tuesday pardoning spree was the product of a White House process that is quintessentially Trumpian, with names and pleas for mercy coming from multiple sources – including Fox News and celebrities.

The White House announced 11 full pardons or reduced sentences for a list of controversial figures, including a former Democratic governor who tried to trade a US Senate seat for campaign contributions, a “junk bond” guru sentenced for schemes to benefit himself and his clients, and individuals who made political donations that benefited Mr Trump.

Mr Trump and his top aides boast that he is not like other American presidents, and they make clear that the norms he blasts through almost daily are ones that his supporters have come to loathe as symbols of a political system and government they feel has forgotten them.

How he gathers names of convicted criminals who might receive presidential leniency is no different, according to a source with knowledge of the process and the president’s own words.

Take former Illinois governor Rod Blagovjeich, who until Tuesday was serving a 14-year sentence on corruption charges.

Mr Trump noted on Tuesday the former governor “was, for a short while, on The Apprentice, years ago,” referring to the business-based reality television show the president once hosted.

“Seemed like a very nice person,” Mr Trump said, with his usual qualifier for folks he isn’t sure help his image: “Don’t know him.”

But that personal connection might not have been enough to spring Mr Blagojevich from prison. Perhaps a Fox News hit or two would help.

“He served eight years in jail. That’s a long time,” Mr Trump told reporters under the wing of Air Force One. “And I watched his wife on television,” referring to Patricia Blagojevich, sometimes a guest on his preferred cable news network.

There was something else in the president’s unique metric: a personal grudge that linked he and Mr Blagojevich.

“It was a prosecution by the same people – Comey, Fitzpatrick – the same group,” Mr Trump said, referring to former FBI director James Comey and former US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, getting the latter’s name wrong. Mr Fitzgerald is close friends with Mr Comey, who was fired by the president and whom Mr Trump blames for the special counsel’s probe of his 2016 campaign and Russian election meddling.

All of that means the now white-haired former governer’s children, who Mr Trump noted “rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform”, have welcomed him home. “I saw that and I did commute his sentence,” the president said in a boastful tone.

Fox News isn’t the only place the president learns about convicted criminals he might pardon.

He also learns about some from the traditional White House-Justice Department process on which other chiefs executive have relied, said a source with knowledge of Mr Trump’s pardons. Those typically come in packets with information about each criminal’s case and possible reasons for nixing or lessening one’s sentence.

But, just as often, the president will get a tip from friends, lawmakers, White House guests or son-in-law Jared Kushner via his work on reforming the country’s criminal justice system, the source said.

“Jared hears about a lot of cases, sentences that seem a bit harsh, during the course of his work,” the source said. “Sometimes, he’ll take a name to the president.”

Mr Trump enjoys rubbing elbows with famous athletes, entertainers, GOP lawmakers and other celebrities. And, fittingly, all can be sources of candidates for pardons or sentence commutations, the source said.

He sent NFL legends Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley out to speak with reporters Tuesday to announce he had pardoned former San Francisco 49ers owner John Edward DeBartolo Jr.

A White House statement announcing all 11 sentencing moves was notably chock-full of celebrity name-dropping.

Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, big-dollar GOP donors, weighed in on behalf of Michal Milken, the aforementioned “junk bond” financier, as did Fox Business personality Maria Bartiromo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, New York Yankees president Randy Levine and other celebrities.

One might not consider country music superstar Charlie Daniels to be a legal expert. Yet, there was his name on the White House statement, explaining he endorsed a pardon Mr Trump handed out to Bernie Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner convicted on corruption charges. Also listed as a Kerik advocate: Fox News personalities Andrew Napolitano and Geraldo Rivera, as well as Newsmax executive Christopher Ruddy and retiring New York Rep Peter King, who has traveled with Mr Trump on Air Force One.

For both Milken and Kerik, there was a familiar name listed as having pleaded with the president for help: Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who was Mr Trump’s point person for Ukraine policy and became a focal point of House Democrats’ impeachment investigation and Senate prosecution.

Parts of Mr Trump’s process are unique to his unique presidency. For instance, the source said sometimes names given to him from non-government sources are vetted by the White House counsel’s office or the Justice Department.

“Sure, sometimes he’ll see something or hear about a case and tell his staff, ‘Here’s a name, go check it out’,” the source said. But other times, “he learns about something and he’s inclined to take action. ... He makes the final decision. It’s always his call in the end.”

No matter the source of a particular Trump pardon or commutation, Democrats see a president using a constitutional power in unprecedented and dangerous ways.

“This president, it seems like he’s never met a corrupt politician he didn’t like. It’s one thing about him that actually is bipartisan, is his fondness for corrupt politicians,” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Butitigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, said on Tuesday.

“And it’s just, to me, the absolute wrong direction to even think about that pardon power,” he added. “I would start with nonviolent drug offenders caught up in the racial disparities of the failed war on drugs.”

Read more

Sanders says Trump’s pardons are part of a ‘broken and racist’ system

Why Trump pardoned more controversial figures

Trump refuses to rule out commuting Roger Stone sentence

Trump pardons NFL executive despite corruption conviction

Trump refuses to rule out pardoning Roger Stone

  • Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador takes aim at Trump over medical supplies
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador takes aim at Trump over medical supplies

    Donald Trump's suggestion the United States could ban exports of medical supplies to Canada has infuriated the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.Dwight Ball made a point Sunday of reminding the president how the province helped thousands of stranded airline passengers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks."In 2001, our province stepped up in the biggest way possible," Ball told a news conference in St. John's, N.L."When the United States was in crisis ... Newfoundland and Labrador accepted with open arms thousands of people from around the world. With no questions asked, with no prompting, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians acted fast and did what was necessary."On Friday, American manufacturer 3M — one of the largest producers of N95 medical-grade face masks — said it had been told by the White House to stop exporting the equipment to Canada and Latin America — a charge the White House has denied.The White House later issued a statement that suggested its order was aimed at "wartime profiteers" who could divert protective equipment away from U.S. hospitals to foreign purchasers willing to pay significant premiums.Media reports suggest Trump had singled out 3M after a Fox News report accused the Minnesota-based company's American distributors of selling its masks to "foreign buyers" that were outbidding U.S. customers.In Newfoundland and Labrador, Trump's comments landed with an ugly thud, Ball said."To say that I'm infuriated with the recent actions of President Trump is an understatement," the Liberal premier said. "I cannot believe for a second that in a time of crisis that President Trump would even think about banning key medical supplies to Canada."Ball isn't the only premier to be critical of U.S. actions in recent days. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford also expressed their disappointment on the medical supply situation recently.Despite his anger, Ball said the province's population — renowned for its unqualified hospitality — would always be there to help those in need. "Newfoundland and Labrador will never give up on humanity," he said. "We would not hesitate for one second if we had to repeat what we did in 9/11. We would do it again."Ball's harsh words for Trump came as the province reported 14 new cases of COVID-19, which raised the province's total to 217 confirmed cases. Ten people remain in hospital and there were three in intensive care.The province reported the Atlantic region's first death related to novel coronavirus on March 30. The four provinces have not reported any deaths related to COVID-19 since then.However, three of the provinces reported a total of 83 new cases on the weekend. Prince Edward Island did not record any new cases on either Saturday or Sunday.In Nova Scotia, health officials reported 26 new cases on Sunday. The province's total now stands at 262 confirmed cases — the highest number in the region.With the virus now spreading in communities, Nova Scotia has ramped up testing at the province's main laboratory, where the processing of results is expected to become a 24-7 operation as of Monday.Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Sunday that police in Halifax had handed out dozens of tickets on the weekend to people violating emergency health orders aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.He repeated a warning he issued on Friday, which has since become a trending topic on social media."Stay the blazes home!" he said, acknowledging that his quaint Maritime turn of phrase is now being printed on T-shirts, coffee cups and all manner of kitschy memorabilia."On Friday, I told all of you to stay the blazes home," he said. "You had some fun with it and ... after all, we could all use a bit of humour now."However, the premier doubled down on his original message."People are still walking on beaches and in parks, having garage parties and gathering in large groups," he said. "But what the reckless and selfish don't get is that they are putting everyone else at risk ... This virus spreads, and it spreads fast. Just look at what's going on in Ontario and Quebec."In New Brunswick, health officials reported three new cases, bringing the province's total to 101 confirmed cases. Like Nova Scotia, most of the cases are travel-related, but five were the result of community spread."This is the time to be sensible, to be prudent and, more than anything, to be kind," Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement."But remember, you would not put someone else's oxygen mask on before your own. I urge you to think about your mental health the same way. Take care of yourselves so you can take care of others."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020.Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

  • 'There are risks' to going to rural areas and cottages, chief medical officer says
    News
    CBC

    'There are risks' to going to rural areas and cottages, chief medical officer says

    Hospital facilities, ambulance wait times and possibly spreading COVID-19 are a few things Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health says people should consider before deciding to open up their cottages or travelling to rural areas."We are a small province, in terms of trying to maximize our resources to help get us through this pandemic," she said. "There are risks for people to move around in that way and to go to those rural areas."Russell's national counterpart Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said last week people who live in urban areas should not travel to their camps or cottages or summer homes."Urban dwellers should avoid heading to rural properties, as these places have less capacity to manage COVID-19," Tam said.Health experts agree the best way to battle COVID-19 is to stay put, and that might mean keeping away from camps and summer homes.Expecting a lower turnoutKingston Peninsula store manager Ed Larsen says he was already concerned about cottage owners bringing the infection. He says this is a good recommendation, if it will help shorten the lifespan of this pandemic."We just want to do whatever the health department is recommending and try to do more if we can," he said. "We gotta flatten this curve and make it go away.""Would it affect us? It would, because a lot of folks come out here in the summer" he said. "But what we want to do is look after our folks that are out here, to keep everybody safe."Larsen's store is open every month of the year to serve locals who live on the peninsula year-round. He said some people aren't even getting on the ferry to the mainland out of fear of spreading the virus when they come back. Larsen said inter-provincial and international travel restrictions meant he was already preparing for a large decrease in the number of people he sees.Christine Burt runs a grocery store, restaurant and gas station in Jemseg near Grand Lake, where many people travel to spend their summers.She said the possibility of cottagers and tourists bringing the virus is "in the back of your mind" for sure, even before they land in the province."I make sure I keep my distance … step back while the customer pays their bill," she said.She said  it's going to be tough for anyone to be travelling for leisure if the restrictions don't get loosened by the summer. And if they do come, there might not be much to do."What are you going to do? Parks are closed, any amusement or entertainment, there's nothing going on," she said.She said she's already had to lay off some staff, and she's hoping this doesn't go on for much longer. "It's something we've never been through before and hopefully never have to go through again."

  • Death at home: the unseen toll of Italy's coronavirus crisis
    News
    Reuters

    Death at home: the unseen toll of Italy's coronavirus crisis

    It took Silvia Bertuletti 11 days of frantic phone calls to persuade a doctor to visit her 78-year-old father Alessandro, who was gripped by fever and struggling for breath. When an on-call physician did go to her house near Bergamo, at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, on the evening of March 18, it was too late. Alessandro Bertuletti was pronounced dead at 1:10 a.m. on March 19, 10 minutes before an ambulance called hours earlier arrived.

  • The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada
    News
    The Canadian Press

    The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

    The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 9:27 p.m. on April 5, 2020:There are 15,512 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada._ Quebec: 7,944 confirmed (including 94 deaths, 464 resolved)_ Ontario: 4,038 confirmed (including 119 deaths, 1,449 resolved)_ Alberta: 919 confirmed (including 23 deaths, 279 resolved), 331 presumptive_ British Columbia: 1,203 confirmed (including 38 deaths, 673 resolved)_ Nova Scotia: 262 confirmed (including 53 resolved)_ Saskatchewan: 249 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 67 resolved)_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 217 confirmed (including 1 death, 28 resolved)_ Manitoba: 187 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 17 resolved), 16 presumptive_ New Brunswick: 101 confirmed (including 28 resolved)_ Prince Edward Island: 22 confirmed (including 6 resolved)_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed_ Yukon: 6 confirmed (including 4 resolved)_ Northwest Territories: 4 confirmed (including 1 resolved)_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases_ Total: 15,512 (347 presumptive, 15,165 confirmed including 280 deaths, 3,069 resolved)This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Families of Flight 752 victims report threats, acts of intimidation — and blame Tehran
    News
    CBC

    Families of Flight 752 victims report threats, acts of intimidation — and blame Tehran

    Family members in Canada who have criticized Iran's government after losing their loved ones in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 say they're being targeted with threats and intimidation — and they blame Tehran.Global Affairs is aware of "reports" of victims' families "being approached in Canada in situations which have caused them concern," according to an email the department sent to families that was obtained by CBC News. A government task force has warned families to immediately call police if they feel unsafe.Iran has admitted its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 'mistakenly' shot down Flight 752, killing all on board, including 55 Canadian citizens. Canada is among the nations pressing for compensation for families of the victims.The email doesn't say whether authorities suspect anyone in particular is approaching family members — but multiple families tell CBC News they fear it's people close to the Iranian regime.Canada's new special adviser to the federal government on the aftermath of Flight 752, Ralph Goodale, said it's "critically important" that families report threats or acts of intimidation to police."Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Canada should not have reason to fear for their safety or the integrity of their very existence in this country," said Goodale, who was appointed by the prime minister earlier this week.'You are a traitor'Hamed Esmaeilion of Richmond Hill, Ont., has already gone to the RCMP. His wife and daughter were killed when Flight 752 was shot down on Jan. 8 shortly after it took off in Tehran. After the disaster, he said, he received a stream of hateful messages from a man whose Facebook account said he was located in Toronto. "He's asking me why I'm acting against the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. He said, 'You are a traitor to your homeland,'" said Esmaelion. "He was very insistent. He was doing that every day." After talking to other victims' families and learning he wasn't his unnamed persecutor's only target, Esmaelion contacted police.The RCMP says it can't comment on individual cases, but said it's "aware of allegations of intimidation of the grieving families of the PS752 and deplore any such actions."Across the country in Edmonton, the parents, younger brother and aunt of Amir Hossein Saeedina allege they were forced to flee Iran — first to Turkey, then to Canada in February — because of threats from Iranian authorities after they spoke out about his death on Flight 752.Intimidation from a distanceThe aunt claims agents of the Iranian regime detained her, abused her and warned her to keep her family silent. "The worst things that could happen to a person in those 24 hours ... they did to me," Fatemeh Latifi told CBC News through a translator on March 5.But even in Canada, where they're filing for refugee status, they claim Tehran hasn't forgotten about them. Reza Akbari of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton said government officials visited Saeedina's grandparents in Iran and asked them why their family was betraying their country. "And threatening them if they continue talking and speaking out ... they will detain all of their personal belongings," said Akbari. "That threat exists." Edmonton PhD student Javad Soleimani, who lost his wife in the disaster. said he got an hour-long phone call from someone claiming to be a high ranking official with the Iranian regime after he criticized the government online.'I don't want to stop'When he refused to take down an Instagram post criticizing Iran for keeping its commercial airspace open the night Flight 752 was destroyed, the regime contacted his family in Iran and put pressure on them, he said. "When someone from the government calls you and then two days after that puts pressure on my family, this is a threat," he said."I don't want to stop. I'm allowed to seek justice. I'm alive to actually talk about this catastrophe, to criticize the government. This is the motivation for the rest of my life. Nobody can scare me or stop me." Esmaeilion said he feels the same way. He's living in an empty house without his wife and daughter. Every day feels like the day he found out they were dead, he said. "I myself am not scared of anything," he said. "I have nothing to lose."Watch: Ralph Goodale talks about the search for answers on Flight 752

  • Quebec extends halt on non-essential activity to May 4, province approaches 8,000 cases
    News
    CBC

    Quebec extends halt on non-essential activity to May 4, province approaches 8,000 cases

    * The city has closed Île Notre-Dame and parking at Mont-Royal Park. * All business except dépanneurs, gas stations and pharmacies are closed today.The shutdown of non-essential economic activity in Quebec will last at least another month, and won't end on April 13 as the provincial government had initially hoped.Premier François Legault said given the continued rise in the number of new cases of COVID-19, Quebecers should expect businesses to remain closed until May 4. "If we relax our efforts, we'll just delay the moment when we'll be able to go back to our lives," Legault said Sunday at the government's daily news conference in Quebec City."The battle is far from over. In fact, we're entering the decisive phase of this battle."Public health officials announced Sunday there were 947 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec, bringing the total in the province to 7,944. Percentage wise, that's one of the lower daily increases of the past two weeks. Hospitalizations also appear to be increasing at a weaker rate than earlier in the crisis. But 19 more people have died from causes related to the disease, bringing the overall number of deaths in Quebec to 94.As long as the number of new cases is increasing, Legault said, the government's priority will remain protecting the public's health, even if it means enforcing measures that are painful for businesses.The province is likely still several weeks away from hitting its peak number of cases, Legault said. Only after that will his government consider relaxing its strict physical distancing policies. "We put all our effort in the public's health because we needed to allow the health-care system to get ready to handle the first wave," Legault said."I'm looking forward to getting over that peak. That's when we'll begin looking at which businesses and organizations to re-open."Businesses groups in the province met the news with mixed emotions. The Conseil du Patronat called the extension a "necessary evil."Veronique Proulx, head of the Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters Association, worried about the ground businesses in the province were losing to competitors in the U.S. and rest of Canada, where restrictions have been less severe. "Our concern is that SMEs (small and medium-sized enterpresies) in Quebec will lose contracts and market share," Proulx said.Preparing for the post-COVID economy  In an effort to ease the pain of a longer lockdown, the Quebec government revealed details of an ambitious buy-local program called Panier Bleu. Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, who joined Legault at Sunday's news conference, compared the initiative to an Amazon-style inventory that will allow Quebecers to search online for products made in the province and buy them directly from retailers."It's an approach to unite communication channels to allow our small businesses to compete with corporations that have huge marketing resources," Fitzgibbon said.The government has been indicating it wants to use the coming months to re-tool the Quebec economy in order to make it better suited to the post-COVID world.Legault and Fitzgibbon said they anticipate supply chains will remain unstable for years to come and that global trade will be hampered by protectionism.The government's long-term goal, they said, is to make the provincial economy more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports."I think the public-health crisis allowed us to realize to what point we needed an ambitious strategy for local businesses and e-commerce. We want to make that a priority," Fitzgibbon said. Legault pointed in particular to the need for making Quebec's health-care industry, which is struggling to find supplies abroad, and the agriculture sector, which is dependent on foreign workers, more autonomous.More powers for police to fine people, Île Notre-Dame closed The prospect of a longer shutdown, and continued physical distancing, will not be easy for many Quebecers to swallow, especially as the weather continues to warm. Scores of people flocked to Montreal's parks on Saturday to enjoy the sun and mild temperatures, despite public health directives against public and private gatherings. Montreal police had beefed up their presence in public spaces and reportedly fined people who were not respecting the physical distancing guidelines.Police informed City Hall that many of the people in Montreal's downtown parks were from suburbs on the north and south shore, raising concerns about the disease spreading further."That not what we wanted," Mayor Valérie Plante said Sunday. "We want people to stay close to their homes."As a result, the city announced it was closing one vast green space — Île Notre-Dame — and shutting the parking lot at another, Mount Royal Park.The measure was necessary, Plante said, in order to keep Montreal parks empty enough for Montrealers who live in apartment buildings or condominiums to be able to use them.Access to green space will be essential to allow people to cope with an extended period without bars, restaurants and municipal facilities, she said. But if public health directives aren't followed, she warned she would close other parks as well."It's a difficult time for everybody, that's for sure," Plante said. "My desire to keep public spaces and parks open is part of that."

  • Pope opens Holy Week amid pandemic; says now is the time to serve
    News
    Reuters

    Pope opens Holy Week amid pandemic; says now is the time to serve

    Pope Francis marked a surreal Palm Sunday in an empty St. Peter's Basilica, urging people living through the coronavirus pandemic not to be so concerned with what they lack but how they can ease the suffering of others. The service, kicking off Holy Week events leading to Easter, usually attracts tens of thousands of people to a St. Peter's Square bedecked with olive and palm trees. The service normally includes a long procession of cardinals, priests and faithful carrying palm fronds.

  • Hajdu brings anthropology, public health experience to COVID-19 fight
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Hajdu brings anthropology, public health experience to COVID-19 fight

    OTTAWA — Patty Hajdu "fell in love" with cultural anthropology at university.Now, as Canada's federal health minister in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she's playing a leading role in an existential battle against a virus that promises to change the course of human societies around the globe — the very thing cultural anthropologists spend their lives studying."There's a piece of me that's still an anthropologist at heart, if you will," Hajdu said in an interview.As she almost daily urges Canadians to hole up at home and keep physical distance between one another, the anthropologist in Hajdu can't help wondering: "How is this going to change the way that we relate to each other as humans? And this is global so how is it going to change the way the human species interacts with each other?"Hajdu also has a background in public health, having worked for nine years on the substance abuse and injury prevention program for the Thunder Bay District Public Health Unit, including spearheading the northern Ontario city's drug strategy.Her education and experience in public health before entering politics in 2015 would seem to uniquely position the silver-haired, 53-year-old for the lead role she's playing now in the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, she frankly admits nothing prepared her for this."As the health minister, obviously I'm focused on all of the things that I have to do in my job to help support this response. But as a citizen of Canada and a regular human being, I'm probably just as much in shock as every other person," she says."And there's that anthropology piece again but it's just hard to imagine that society could change so quickly, on a dime."When she first started at Thunder Bay's public health unit, in her early thirties, she recalls the emphasis on pandemic preparedness and conversations with the unit's epidemiologist who kept warning that the globe was due for "the big one.""I was like, 'Oh yeah, okay, fine.' Because there's an arrogance to humanity that we couldn't possibly be taken to our knees by a virus, like we know so much more than they knew a hundred years ago, right? And here we are."When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered her the health portfolio after last fall's election, Hajdu figured her priorities would be dealing with the opioid crisis and development of a national pharmacare program. Within a month of being sworn in, news of a novel coronavirus spreading in China popped up on her radar and within another month it had overtaken everything else.Liberal insiders are relieved to have Hajdu at Health Canada's helm during the crisis. She is widely perceived as one of the government's best communicators — smart and knowledgeable but plain spoken, someone who can deliver tough messages in a calm, down-to-earth way while still managing to convey compassion for people who are fearful or suffering — as she did when she choked up a couple of weeks ago as she urged Canadians to be kind to one another.But it's not just her Liberal colleagues who are impressed.NDP health critic Don Davies says Hajdu is "the most engaging and the most willing to reach out" of the three Liberal health ministers he's dealt with."It's clear to me that she cares and she's compassionate and she has a big heart ... That usually comes from people who have had, I think, life experiences that have shaped them in that way," he says.Hajdu gained her early life experiences at the school of hard knocks. She and her brother were raised by an aunt and uncle in Minnesota during their early years. She eventually moved back to Thunder Bay to be with her mother but left home at just 16. She declines to go into details, other than to say it was "a difficult story."She raised two sons, now adults, as a single mom and along the way earned an undergraduate degree from Lakehead University, with a major in cultural anthropology, and a Masters degree in public administration from the University of Victoria.After heading up Thunder Bay's drug strategy, Hajdu took on the job of running Shelter House, a homeless shelter which was employing the kinds of harm reduction practices she'd been advocating."It was a very needy place and she just pushed boundaries and made it better," says Ena DePeuter, Hajdu's former boss at the Thunder Bay District Public Health Unit. She adds that Hajdu has natural empathy for vulnerable people."I think she knew from the ground-level up because she's been in difficult places in her own past and she could relate to people very well."Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, was similarly impressed when he got to know Hajdu during her two-and-a-half-year stint as employment and labour minister during the Trudeau government's first mandate. He found her to be warm, open, willing to listen, and genuinely committed to trying to make life better for working people."When she came into the Labour program, she wasn't from labour but I think without a doubt everybody who worked with her over the period she was there ... really loved her and enjoyed working with her," Yussuff says."I think Canadians are quite fortunate to have her as the health minister during this crisis because I think she brings that experience from the community work she had done over the years to the cabinet table. And I think it's unique to have a minister who was in that reality, knowing what it's like to be in the frontlines with people who are struggling with the odds against them."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

  • Labrador Indigenous groups plan how to use federal COVID-19 relief
    News
    CBC

    Labrador Indigenous groups plan how to use federal COVID-19 relief

    Indigenous communities in Labrador are already planning on what to do with recently allocated federal funds for COVID-19 relief.Ottawa has earmarked $305 million to be shared among First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities around Canada. The money will be split up into four different sections: * $215 million will be given to each First Nation community and will be distributed based on population, remoteness, and community well-being; * $45 million will be given to the four different Inuit organizations, the funds will be distributed by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and regional Inuit land claims organizations; * $30 million for Métis Nation communities; * $15 million for regional and urban Indigenous organizations supporting their members who are living away from their respective communities.The money is still trickling down to Indigenous communities in Labrador, but governments are already planning on how to use the money.NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) is one of three Indigenous governments in Labrador and the president, Todd Russell says he's concerned about how much money they'll be able to access."We were not part of the $45 million that went to other Inuit in Canada and we are now finding ourselves having to compete in a much smaller envelope of funding — $15 million, Canada-wide," Russell told CBC's Labrador Morning.Despite having a smaller pot of money to pull from and even though the government never received any money, Russell adds that efforts are already being put in place to meet the needs of NCC members, starting with the community of Black Tickle."Airlifts of food, and water to make sure they're well provisioned — we also have three contracts where we have individuals hauling fuel wood and gas into Black Tickle," he said. "We can't have a community so isolated going through a health crisis without fuel, without heat, without gas." Community protection key, Sheshatshiu chief saysThe Innu Nation has also been been developing plans for the new funding. Sheshatshiu chief Eugene Hart is focused on keeping the community safe during the pandemic, and says the money will be a great help. "We're looking to get financial support for the security that we put in place to protect the community from COVID-19," Hart said."We are also looking for funding for supplying community members with enough cleaning supplies and food during our containment procedures."Hart added that they don't know how much money will be provided, but  community has a common focus. "Most members of the community have embraced the concern and want to keep themselves protected."In the northern Innu community of Natuashish, chief John Nui has been busy deciding what to do with the money, including some land-based projects. "At the same time we submitted a proposal for a crisis team for a hotline for our youth to call in," Nui said.The Inuit government of Nunatsiavut has also been busy in finding ways to help its residents cope with the impacts of the virus.Financial support will be provided to community food banks and freezer programs, and cleaning supplies have been provided to families.Various support packages with puzzles and games will be provided to promote mental wellness during self-isolation.A program is being developed to ensure wood and fuel is provided to those in need. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Ontario COVID-19 deaths jump past 100; caseload more than 4,000

    TORONTO — Another 25 people in Ontario have succumbed to COVID-19, bringing the provincial death toll for those who have tested positive for the virus to 119, health authorities reported on Sunday.The fatalities came as the overall known caseload jumped past the 4,000 mark with more than 400 new ones reported. More than 150 people were on ventilators.More than three dozen outbreaks have now been reported in nursing homes across the province. The frail elderly are at particular risk for the coronavirus, which can produce no or mild symptoms, but can also cause lethal pneumonia.In Bobcaygeon, Ont., another resident of Pinecrest Nursing Home died, bringing the virus death toll in the 65-bed facility to 23. It is one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus in the country. At least 24 staff members at the facility have also tested positive for COVID-19.Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who has urged people to stay home except for essential outings, had no public events on Sunday, nor did Mayor John Tory of Toronto, which has about half the cases in the province.Tory, however, did put out a short video in which he, too, urged people to stay home despite good weather."We're going to break the back of this virus if we do this," Tory said.The latest Toronto figures indicate 25 doctors, nurses and other health-care workers have been infected.Ontario has projected between 3,000 and 15,000 lives could be lost to the pandemic even with stiff stay-home restrictions.On Sunday, the union representing correctional officers said about 40 inmates of a large women's prison in southwestern Ontario were locked down due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Six inmates at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., were infected, Correctional Service Canada said.It's the only federal prison in Ontario to have reported an outbreak.Federal correctional authorities also confirmed at least 36 employees — including a guard at Grand Valley — have reported testing positive.The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said staff were being given protective equipment if they need to interact closely with inmates, the union said.The pandemic has prompted most businesses and public facilities to close down, causing financial havoc across the country.Ontario Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath called on the provincial government to spend up to $1.15 billion to help small and medium-sized businesses, charities and community-based non-profits survive."We not only want them to survive, we want them to be able to keep staff on the payroll as much as possible," Horwath said in a statement.The previously announced federal wage subsidy was welcome but simply not enough, Horwath said. The NDP proposal calls among other things for a 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy of up to $10,000 a month for three months and a freeze on utility payments.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday that people can start applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit on Monday. Direct-deposit applicants should get $2,000 a month starting within five days, while those using mail should see their money in 10 days, he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 5, 2020.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

  • What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Sunday, April 5
    News
    CBC

    What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Sunday, April 5

    Recent developments: * OC Transpo says one of its red-vested O-Train ambassadors who called in sick March 31 has tested positive for COVID-19. * An outbreak has been declared at both the Chartwell Willowdale and Chartwell Van Horne retirement residences in Smiths Falls, Ont., after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. * The Outaouais now has 109 confirmed cases of the virus, with the majority in Gatineau. * This weekend, Ottawa's municipal officials are crunching numbers to see how much the pandemic is costing the city.Here's what's happening this weekendOn Sunday night, OC Transpo said it had learned one of its red-vested ambassadors had tested positive for COVID-19.The employee called in sick March 31 and is currently in isolation at home, the transit agency said. They had worked shifts the previous two days at Lyon and Blair stations, while also taking the train to and from other stations on the Confederation Line.Need cannabis or hardware supplies? You'll have to order them online now, as the province has ordered those stores closed — part of its increasing efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.The decision to reduce the number of businesses in Ontario deemed essential came Friday after public health officials shared stark projections suggesting between 3,000 and 15,000 people could die over the course of the pandemic.The deadline to close was midnight.The Ottawa Hospital, meanwhile, is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 at its Civic campus. One patient is ill and is in isolation, hospital officials say.If you are an essential worker and need childcare, registration is underway this weekend for free daycares in both Ottawa and Kingston, Ont, for children between the ages of 18 months and five years old. Ottawa bylaw officers say after issuing dozens of warnings, they will start to fine people for breaking COVID-19 rules.Other communities such as Kingston, Ont. and Gatineau are in a similar boat.How many cases do we have?As of Sunday, there were 345 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and more than 640 in the region. The virus has killed four people in Ottawa.Confirmed cases are just a snapshot because of the limits of testing. There are likely thousands more.Distancing and isolatingPhysical distancing means avoiding non-essential trips, working from home, cancelling all gatherings and staying at least two metres away from others when out for a walk.WATCH: Here's what you can and can't do in Ottawa's parksTravellers who return to Canada must now self-isolate for 14-days: staying home and asking others to leave supplies at the door.Anyone who is older than 70, or who has a compromised immune system, or who has been in close contact with  someone who either has tested positive or has symptoms after recent travel should also self-isolate for 14 days.People who feel sick should self-isolate for 14 days or until their symptoms are gone for 24 hours, whichever is longer.How daily life is changingQuebec has banned non-essential travel into and through western Quebec, which police are enforcing with moving checkpoints.Ottawa is set to release more details this week on how the drop in revenues from physical distancing will affect the city's balance sheet. Parks are only open to walk through and authorities are watching for gatherings in many communities.WATCH: Ontario could have seen 100,000 COVID-19 deathsOntario and Quebec schools are closed until May and all non-essential businesses should be closed. Public transit authorities are scaling back service. Essential services like waste collection continue. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?They range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection. The most common symptoms include fever, fatigue and a dry cough.Older people, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious problems.WATCH: Ontario's ICU capacity at risk, says head of Ontario HealthThe coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.Ottawa Public Health says unless you need an N-95 mask for your job, only people with respiratory illnesses and those caring for sick people should wear them.Homemade masks may do little to stop the spread of the virus — aside from stopping people from touching their faces and muffling a cough or sneeze. Kingston General Hospital has banned staff from wearing them.The germs can also spread through close, prolonged contact, such as handshaking, and via surfaces such as door handles, phones and light switches.Most people with mild symptoms can self-isolate and get better. If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Where to get testedAnyone concerned they have COVID-19 in Ontario can fill out its online assessment tool. Ottawans who have a new or worsening cough or fever and have left the country — or have spent time with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days — should visit the COVID-19 screening centre at the Brewer Arena.The centre is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 151 Brewer Way. You don't have to call ahead.WATCH: At least 2,000 waiting to get tested for COVID-19 in OntarioStarting Monday a former school in Bells Corners will become a care centre for people with moderate symptoms from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.The assessment centre at the Kingston Memorial Centre at 303 York St. is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for anyone with symptoms.The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking people only call it at 613-966-5500 if they still have questions after the province's self-assessment.Same for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark's unit at 1-800-660-5853 extension 2499.It has testing sites by referral from a family doctor or the health unit only in Brockville, Almonte and Smiths Falls and a new home test service for people in care or with mobility challenges. Call the health unit to ask about one.There is a drive-thru test centre in Casselman, Ont. open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 872 Principale St. for people with worsening symptoms, like the test site at 750 Laurier St. in Hawkesbury, Ont., open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. No need to call ahead.There are others by appointment only in Winchester, Ont., by calling your family doctor or Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, and Cornwall, Ont. Call 613-935-7762 if you have worsening symptoms.Only people older than age 70 in that area or who have chronic health problems or compromised immune systems can call 613-933-1375 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to ask about a home visit from paramedics.Renfrew County is providing home testing under some circumstances.Call Telehealth, your health care provider or it at 613-735-8654 if you still have more questions.Anyone who doesn't have or can't reach a family doctor can call its new primary health-care centre at 1-844-727-6404 if they have any health questions.In western Quebec:Outaouais residents should call 819-644-4545 if they have a cough or fever, whether they've travelled or not. You could be referred to Gatineau's testing centre.If your symptoms require a trip to the ER, call ahead if you can to let them know your travel history.First Nations communitiesAkwesasne, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) and Pikwakanagan have declared states of emergency..With a confirmed case in the American part of Akwesasne, anyone returning from farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.Anyone in MBQ who has symptoms can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nursePikwakanagan's new council has ordered all businesses to close.Kitigan Zibi has scaled back non-essential services.For more information, visit:

  • Exclusive: Planned $1 billion U.S. aid cut would hit Afghan security force funds
    News
    Reuters

    Exclusive: Planned $1 billion U.S. aid cut would hit Afghan security force funds

    A planned $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan would come from funds for Afghan security forces, according to three U.S. sources, a step experts said would undercut both Kabul's ability to fight the Taliban and its leverage to negotiate a peace deal with them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the reduction on March 23 and threatened to slash the same amount next year to try to force Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah to end a feud that has helped stall U.S.-led peace-making efforts in Afghanistan.

  • 'There is some upside': Optimism in natural gas sector a result of oil industry's crisis
    News
    CBC

    'There is some upside': Optimism in natural gas sector a result of oil industry's crisis

    While record low oil prices are costing the vast majority of companies money on every barrel they produce, the natural gas sector is optimistic that 2020 could turn out to be a pretty good year.In short, all of the problems plaguing the oil industry — including a sharp drop in fuel demand and OPEC countries flooding the market with oil — could mean higher prices for natural gas.Much of the natural gas to hit the market in the U.S. is produced from oil wells. Companies pull oil from the ground, but some natural gas comes up with it.As many oil companies are now cutting back on oil production, there will likely be much less natural gas on the market. That could mean higher prices."Most of us are still needing our homes heated and so on, so demand isn't down much," said Jonathan Wright, the chief executive of Calgary-based NuVista Energy.About two-thirds of the company's production is natural gas, while the remainder is condensate, a very light type of oil.Wright said he has "no joy at all" at seeing oil prices so low, but he's optimistic about what it will mean for his company."The oil price is going to take some time to recover, in my best estimate, and that means with less gas being produced with it, there is some upside to natural gas," he said.Natural gas prices are likely to be volatile this summer, he said, as the repercussions of the COVID-19 virus have shifted demand for the energy source.So far this year, natural gas in Western Canada has averaged about $2 per million British Thermal Units, although the price now sits at about $1.60.Martin King, a Calgary-based commodities analyst with RBN Energy, expects the price to average about $1.90 for this year."For the summer and a good portion of the rest of the year, I think we could see respectable pricing for natural gas here in Canada and especially Western Canada," he said.King said there is also plenty of storage space available north of the border."If we keep producing at a reasonable level and there is a pullback in demand or exports to the U.S., we do have a place to put the gas," he said.Possible downside, tooConsidering how long the pandemic may last and how unpredictable the impacts will be of the virus, there is some concern the natural gas sector won't be immune.Rory Johnston, the managing director at Toronto-based market research firm Price Street, is cautious about predicting how the sector will perform for the rest of the year."There's a small silver lining there," he said of how reduced oil production should improve natural gas prices."Then again, you have such a demand drop in this. Power demand and commercial heating demand and other things that are all part of that COVID demand disruption story that are affecting oil," he said. "I think a lot of that could also batter natural gas."

  • Artist project to combat isolation turns loneliness on its ear during pandemic
    News
    CBC

    Artist project to combat isolation turns loneliness on its ear during pandemic

    The Hibernation Project was conceived as a weekly warm hug in an otherwise cold and snowy city.The 12-week project started in 2019. Artists Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett would welcome other artists into their Ramsay rental home and backyard."We were just trying to think about ways that we could sort of share our internal space or domestic space to make room for other artists to make work too," Brown said. "Every week, there's been a theme that the artists respond to."It's almost like a potluck of sorts but instead of just food and drink, Brown and Garrett's guests brought sculptures, prepared poems, songs and other preformative pieces. "And it kind of became more like a workshop space or a space for imperfect work," Brown said. "It's very imperfect, but it's also deeply charming and authentic … it's been a really lovely way of dealing with the winter for myself. I get so lonely in the wintertime."This year's Hibernation Project was in full swing when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit. So, Brown and Garrett had a decision to make: pull the plug, or plug in and find a way to continue the creative collective."What occurred to us is that really, at this moment in time, it's more important than ever, to make sure that we're making space as a community for togetherness," Brown said. "And so we've, we've created this transposition from real space into non-physical space."So they went digital. First, with an online dinner party and then with a public-access-style television program called the Hibernation Station. "The artists that were involved were creating typically live work," Brown said. "There was a couple of pre-recorded animations and there was a pre-recorded sound work that was a meditation piece. But most of the work was live."'The song just completely falls apart'Garret said one of his favourite segments was a live bake-along to make a birthday cake. At the very end, after the icing, it was time to sing."Because of all the digital delay … the song just completely falls apart," he said. "It's a really chaotic version of Happy Birthday, like it was kind of delightfully almost haunting."The following week's instalment was a virtual gallery with rooms for those logging on to visit. And finally, this year's project ends with an exploration of what's not possible in real life and what is only possible in-person — like trying to set the internet on fire."We just wanted to keep the momentum of the project going but, of course, respect the new reality that, you know, we should all be isolating and social distancing," Garrett said. "It's been fascinating to kind of explore digital space as a medium for connections and you know, see what some of the potential is there."

  • How to self-isolate when you don't live alone
    News
    CBC

    How to self-isolate when you don't live alone

    People arriving on the Island from anywhere outside the province are being ordered to self-isolate for 14 days, but that can be a big challenge for people who don't live alone.In a news release Thursday, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison re-emphasized the importance of self-isolation orders to contain the spread of COVID-19.Here are some tips.First of all, be mindful of the rules. You are restricted to your own property if you are under a self-isolation order. If you live in an apartment, you can go outside if you stay on the apartment property.You can't leave your property for any reason. Not to get groceries, not to get toilet paper. Breaking the self-isolation order can bring a $1,000 fine.Second, be mindful of why you are being asked to self-isolate.The idea is you may be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The rules are in place so that you don't infect anyone else.Self-isolation should start from the moment you arrive on the Island. If you arrive by plane, have a vehicle left for you so you can drive home alone. The interior of the vehicle should be cleaned before anyone else uses it.Plan ahead. Rooms should be set aside for use by you alone — a bedroom and a bathroom — and you should stick to them. Stay out of the kitchen. It is too easy for the virus to spread there. Someone should prepare food for you and leave it at your door.Observe physical distancing with others in the house, keeping at least two metres away. If you want to go out for a breath of fresh air, warn people to clear a path for you.You can visit with other people in the house by talking through the door, by video chat, and communicate by text.Spaces you pass through should be cleaned regularly, particularly any door handles or anything else you might touch.It is still important to wash your hands regularly, and especially if you are leaving your designated rooms.Morrison said if there is not sufficient space in the house to ensure the separation of the quarantined person from others, the entire household should self-isolate.COVID-19: What you need to knowWhat are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.What should I do if I feel sick?Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.How can I protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

  • Nova Scotia restaurants step in to help front-line workers
    News
    CBC

    Nova Scotia restaurants step in to help front-line workers

    Some Nova Scotia restaurants that made the decision to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now feeding front-line workers for free.For the past three weeks, Aaron Emery, owner of Old Road BBQ in Truro, N.S., has been delivering lunches to emergency room doctors and nurses at the local hospital.He said the idea came from his original business plan of "radical hospitality.""It's that idea of, 'What would your grandma do for you?' She wouldn't just make sure that she gave you the bare minimum ... She would do everything she could to make sure you left satisfied and comfortable," Emery said.Emery said he was thinking about ways to practise radical hospitality after the restaurant closed and that's when he got the idea to provide free meals to hospital workers.Now he's looking to do the same for truck drivers, grocery store workers and homeless shelters."What we do is provide good home-cooked meals, authentic southern barbecue stuff that kind of injects a little bit of humanity into the situation," Emery said.On Saturday, Emery was delivering brown bread and beans. He said security guards at the hospital are starting to recognize him, "so there's less confusion about what we're doing.""For the most part, it's been a positive surprise ... there's a handful of people who know that it's coming, but in general it catches everybody off guard. Anytime there is free food up for grabs, people are bound to be happy," he said.Emery said the local business community has been supportive, too, with businesses like Kare Kombucha and Laurie's Bake Shop donating to the cause.'These people are putting themselves in danger'In Shelburne, N.S., the owner of a pizza shop that made the decision to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic made a special delivery on Friday to his local Sobeys store, pharmacy, hospital and nursing home."Sobeys is a big company and it needs to be open," said Bill Chidiac, owner of A1 Pizza. "And these people are putting themselves in danger to wait on people and serve on them."I believe they deserved something and it broke my heart. Same with the people at the pharmacy, same with the people at the hospital and then the manor. Imagine how many people are walking in and out around the hour, sick."Chidiac made the difficult decision to close down A1 Pizza, a business that has been around since 1995, last month.He said he and his staff didn't feel safe to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with a family member who is considered a higher risk for severe illness.He discreetly delivered the pizzas on Friday. He doesn't want people to think his shop is open."Of course they put a smile on their face and showed appreciation for what I'd done, but this is not what I did it for. A smile on their face, it put a smile on my heart, it really did," he said.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Great Dane isn't too sure about his bunny rabbit ears
    Rumble

    Great Dane isn't too sure about his bunny rabbit ears

    Mikey wears these Easter bunny ears, for a few moments at least, before pawing them off. Too funny!

  • South Korean online trend helps GTA students recreate group study while physically distancing
    News
    CBC

    South Korean online trend helps GTA students recreate group study while physically distancing

    As the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered libraries and coffee shops, some Toronto students are turning to an online trend to overcome the loneliness of studying by themselves. It's called "Gong-bang," short for "gongbu bangsong" which translates to "study broadcast" — and it's a growing trend that originated in South Korea, where many students study for up to 18 hours every day to prepare for exams. Similar to the popular "meokbang" trend, also known as "mukbang" or "eating show," study broadcasts have also attracted a niche online community — one that includes University of Toronto student Rachel McKenna-Marshall, 24.She's been watching these videos daily since her classes shut down."With [these videos] and self isolating, you can recreate that feeling of being in the library and having people studying around you," said McKenna-Marshall, who's working towards her masters in architecture.She was already watching these videos once a week to help her study before public health officials mandated physical distancing across Ontario.While it may not be the most riveting content one can find online, these videos have accumulated millions of views on YouTube — with many channels now solely dedicated to videos of people studying in complete silence for several hours at a time.Flipping a page or the clicking of a keyboard is often all you can hear in a video. It's intended to mimic the environment of a library to help viewers concentrate on studying and nothing else.  Some videos play mellow music, while others have white noise in the background. Study broadcasts are often recorded live and streamed onto platforms like AfreecaTV, a Korean live-streaming platform, or Twitch, while others are uploaded as videos onto YouTube and are meant to be rewatched at any time. Studying in intervals McKenna-Marshall says she finds it hard to focus in her home, but the videos allow her to transform it into a study space.The pomodoro technique, a commonly used method in these "study-with-me" videos, consists of 30-minute ongoing intervals in which 25 minutes is dedicated to studying with a five-minute break at the end of each interval. It's intended to instill a sense of urgency and work with the time you have, while also taking a short break throughout. U of T graduate Nasir Kharma started his own YouTube channel Kharma Medic two years ago to share advice with other students considering applying to medical school. At first, I'll be honest, I found it a little bit of a strange concept ... \- Nasir KharmaNow studying medicine at King's College in London, the 24-year-old has grown his channel to 145,000 subscribers and amassed more than seven million views.Kharma says he had never heard of study-with-me videos until one of his viewers asked him to record one.He says he had to Google it. "At first, I'll be honest, I found it a little bit of a strange concept. I thought, 'Why would you want to watch somebody else studying if you are studying?"' Kharma said. His first "study with me" video got 170,000 hits, which was more than double the views on his other videos."Most of the feedback would be something along the lines of, 'I haven't been productive for a week and this really helped me sit down and actually do all the work that I needed to do,' or you know, 'I've got an upcoming exam and this is perfect,'" he said.The majority of the students watching his videos are from Canada, the U.S. and India.Kharma says this study method doesn't work for him but he understands why it works for his subscribers."If any students are struggling with sort of structuring their time or finding the discipline to sit down and work, then I think the study-with-me video would be a very powerful way to motivate them," he said.Connection in a time of physical distancingIt would not be surprising if more people began watching these videos because they "really do help create connection" in this time of physical distancing, said Michelle Cho, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto's department of East Asian Studies. Her research focuses on popular aesthetics in Korean film, media and popular culture.Any kind of live streaming that is filmed individually can capture a sense of "togetherness" that appeals to many, Cho said "If you can connect with other people and know that other people are out there doing the same thing, it creates a kind of sense of solidarity and accountability, even if you are still sitting in your room by yourself."

  • Anxiety lingers as N.L. officials trace bulk of COVID-19 cases to funeral home
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Anxiety lingers as N.L. officials trace bulk of COVID-19 cases to funeral home

    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — On a day off work in mid-March, Craig Dyer took some time to pay his respects at the funeral of a co-worker's brother. He stopped by Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's with some Canada Post colleagues to support their mutual friend.Now nearly three weeks later, that March 16 service has been linked to what provincial officials have dubbed "the Caul's cluster" after a person who attended a funeral at the home between March 15 and 17 tested positive for COVID-19.Contact tracing by public health officials had linked 143 known cases to the funeral home cluster as of Friday, about 75 per cent of the provincial total. Among them are health-care workers and mail carriers.A 78-year-old retired police officer became the first person to die from COVID-19 in the province last Sunday. His infection was linked to the funeral home, and when his death was announced Monday, the chief medical officer of health ordered a provincial ban on all funerals and wakes."It's absolutely scary," Dyer said this week. Seven of his co-workers have since tested positive for the illness, though he has shown no symptoms. "These are your friends. These are people that you've worked with for 10, 15, 25 years .... Now it's personal."Mail delivery was cancelled across St. John's and Mount Pearl for a week after the first Canada Post employee received a positive result following the funeral. The province ordered everyone in attendance at Caul's services from March 15-17 to self-isolate until April 1.Dyer said the news sent the workplace into shock. "Fear and anxiety kicks in," he said. "Was I in contact with him? Was I close to them? Did he touch this container?"He said the situation has exacerbated mistrust between employees and their employer, as people question how thoroughly the workplace was cleaned.Dr. Catherine Donovan, an associate professor of public health at Memorial University of Newfoundland, has worked on a number of contact-tracing investigations aimed at curbing infectious disease outbreaks.She said large groups and the behaviour of people within them are contributing factors to a disease cluster. "With something like a funeral or a wedding, they're very emotional events, so there's a lot of close personal contact that happens in that environment," Donovan said.Heightened levels of fear, speculation and stigma toward those infected are common responses, especially as people look for someone to blame, she said. But she noted that the first person in a known cluster is not always the actual source — just the first to come forward with symptoms.Donovan stressed that the large number of cases detected shows public health efforts to trace the disease are working. "Finding these numbers and finding the people in the cluster is a really good thing from a public health perspective," she said, "because it really does give us the opportunity to try and control it."Reverend Paul Lundrigan was in isolation until this week after presiding over the March 16 service at Caul's. On the day he conducted the funeral, Lundrigan said staff and guests appeared cautious and aware of the risks of COVID-19, though the province had not yet recorded any cases or issued orders about self-isolating after travel or limiting gatherings.Lundrigan observed the 50 attendees giving each other space in the chapel. He saw signs warning about the risks of the illness and said staff reminded guests about sanitizing their hands and keeping apart.But even with the best intentions, Lundrigan noted physical touch is an instinct that's hard to shake at a such events. When he arrived for a meeting with the deceased's family, a relative reached for a handshake, catching himself when Lundrigan declined as a precaution."Even if you're trying to be observant, it's easy to make a slight mistake," Lundrigan said."To lay your hand on the table where somebody, in fact, has just laid a hand … or put their hand on the kneeler there, in front of the casket. You (put) your hand there, then wipe away a tear with that same hand, and there you go. It's in your system.The days after the funeral were a jolt for Mike Meaney. He had been following news coverage about the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world, but it hit home when a member of his household came down with the virus after attending the March 16 funeral."It just shows you how people can leave the virus trace when they're in a room," he said from his Conception Bay South home.Meaney said another relative had already tested positive following the funeral, so when the person in his immediate family began to show symptoms, they called public health immediately.His family has been careful to sanitize the home, but he said there is still anxiety, especially for his elderly father who lives with him. A handful of Meaney's extended family members have since tested positive, and he was to be tested again this week after he began to experience symptoms.Meaney said if one good thing comes out of the cluster of cases, it will be people starting to take preventive measures seriously."I'm sure a lot of people in Newfoundland have a little bit of a connection to somebody with a case and are like, 'Wow, okay, happened to them,' " he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020.Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

  • UK coronavirus deaths could reach 7,000 to 20,000: Ferguson
    News
    Reuters

    UK coronavirus deaths could reach 7,000 to 20,000: Ferguson

    UK deaths from the coronavirus could rise to between about 7,000 and 20,000 under measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College in London who has helped shape the government's response, said on Sunday. "We had an exponentially growing curve of infections which we interrupted at a certain time," the epidemiologist told the BBC's Andrew Marr program.

  • News
    CBC

    Saskatoon religious organizations continue to innovate amid COVID-19 pandemic

    As the world settles into a new normal, religious institutions in Saskatoon are finding ways to bring people together and practice their faith while maintaining distance. Saskatoon Morning's Heather Morrison spoke with a Catholic priest, a Rabbi, a Minister and an Imam on how they are coping. On the menu: ConfessionFather Darryl Millette with Holy Spirit Family Church has created a website where he has compiled live streams of masses from the diocese around Saskatoon and added a playlist of homilies from around the city too. Another creative thing Millette did was set up a parking lot confession station. Confessions have to be in person. Millette set up some cones in the church parking lot where he would stand and more cones for where the people would stand. They were at least 10 to 12 feet away from each other and the lineup was mapped out via cones further back in the parking lot so no one could overhear confessions. "It was all done in person, outside, with the cones set up for physical distancing purposes," Millette said. "It worked out fairly well."Passover via Zoom Just like Millette with the need for confessions to be in person, other faith leaders were coming up against obstacles in their traditional models.According to Jewish law, you need 10 people under the same roof to do the most important parts of a service, including the reading of the Torah. Yet, the Jewish community has found a way to go ahead via online services, like most other faith organizations."All these restrictions in the past, they were pushing people to be together, to create community," Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky said. "Now we cannot do that because it's for our health ... and now online, we all read together."Passover is also coming up on April 9. Usually, people would gather together for Passover Seder, a special celebration with symbolic foods.But this year people will make their own Seder plates and video chat each other on Zoom. Jodorkovsky said he plans to connect with some of his family in Chile for the celebration as well. Mini congregationsImam Ilyas Sidyot from the Islamic Centre ran into a bit of a snag for his online preparations. He is able to do an Arabic sermon and the call to the prayer — which is a signal to members that it is time to pray. But Sidyot said people cannot follow an Imam in prayer in their home. They can listen to the sermon and the call to the prayer, but then someone in the home has to lead the prayer. "They can have their own little congregation in the home," Sidyot said. "I have received many, many messages from the community members that they were very happy and they did appreciate that we reached out to them and we kept them together."Virtual coffee meetupsMinister Karen Fraser Gitlitz from the Unitarian Centre is making a point of reaching out to the members of her church and focusing on the times when they can (virtually) be together on Sundays. She said they'll have reached out to every member of their church by this Sunday. "[We want to] see, what is it like for them and what are they dealing with to make sure that we're meeting people's needs and connecting with them and letting them know that we have people who volunteer to get groceries and stuff like that," she said. After their online Sunday services, the group breaks off into smaller groups via video to mingle together. People told Gitlitz they were connecting with people they never had before because of these groups. The Unitarian Centre is also offering phone tutoring for people who want to participate in the service but are less comfortable with technology to show them how these online platforms work.

  • News
    CBC

    Bus company looks to keep rolling in the face of COVID-19

    Mike Cassidy plans to keep rolling.Cassidy owns Maritime Bus and COVID-19 is hurting his business.Travel within the Maritimes has become increasingly restricted. There are physical distancing guidelines to follow.Many provinces have told residents to avoid any non-essential travel to help limit the spread of COVID-19.Maritime Bus, which normally serves the Maritimes and parts of Quebec, recently posted that services are now limited. Maximum capacity has been reduced to 50 per cent on all vehicles.Cassidy says no buses have come close to reaching that number in recent weeks."We are experiencing 20 per cent of our normal ridership this week," he said.Keeping the buses running during pandemicBut Cassidy believes it's important to keep his operation running during the pandemic."We know we're essential and your medical appointments [are] a very good example," Cassidy said. "People have an emergency surgery and they're called to Halifax. They have to get home."Last week, Air Canada announced layoffs, which resulted in the cancellation of flights between Halifax and Sydney. WestJet offers a daily flight between the two cities, but several have been cancelled in recent days.Cassidy said he hopes to keep his service running, even with decreased ridership."We are not operating seven days a week," he said. "If you fly into Halifax and you have to get to Sydney, we're the only option, perhaps, for you."A number of shuttle services have indicated they have ceased operations due to public health measures.According to a Nova Scotia government spokesperson, the province has not directed shuttles to stop operating, but many have decided to suspend service.Cassidy said he will continue to keep his buses on the road, even with reduced ridership, so other workers in essential services can get to where they need to go. MORE TOP STORIES

  • How public libraries are helping Nova Scotians — even with their doors closed
    News
    CBC

    How public libraries are helping Nova Scotians — even with their doors closed

    While the doors of South Shore Public Libraries are closed, the doors on the library's bookmobile are open.People may have seen a teal and navy bus rolling through communities in southern Nova Scotia this week, carrying dozens of books to be picked up while still keeping people a safe distance apart."We're more than just some reading material," said Troy Myers, chief librarian of South Shore Public Libraries. "So we want to do what we can to make sure those social connections are maintained."Either by phone or online, patrons make a request for books. Staff make sure the items are sanitized, sealed and only handled with gloves.The bookmobile makes a stop for two hours in each location. The books are placed on a trolley, so there's no contact between staff and people picking up their items.This is just one of many ways public libraries in the province are continuing to help their communities, even with the closures related to COVID-19."This public library belongs to all of us," said Åsa Kachan, chief librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries.Kachan said one of the first things they did after closing was loan tablets, gaming systems and board games to a youth home in Halifax."They contacted us and said, 'We have young people who are used to have some ability to roam through the day who aren't roaming anymore,'" Kachan said.From e-books to learning a new languageEvery day, library staff are adding new titles and more copies of e-books and audiobooks to their online collection, as well as offering access to systems like Rocket Languages, which teaches more than a dozen different languages.Kachan said Halifax Public Libraries has also negotiated to have PressReader, a digital newsstand with free access to 7,000 newspapers around the world, available to patrons remotely."Those daily newspapers from around the world come in a range of languages. So our newcomer community will be able to check in with what's happening at home," Kachan said.This week, Halifax Public Libraries is also rolling out a streaming services with over 30,000 films."People have been asking for that for many years, and we've been working toward launching it and we fast-tracked that to get that out. Because we know our community needs that more than ever," Kachan said.Virtual programmingSome libraries are curating lists of online resources, such as videos and activities that appeal to children."We're trying to make it easy for families to find some ways to help keep their kids entertained because they're home when they're usually in school," said Angela Reynolds, community engagement co-ordinator for Annapolis Valley Regional Libraries.Other libraries are even offering virtual programming. In Cape Breton, staff are using social media to read stories, sing songs, put on puppet shows and teach crafts while working from home."It's new territory for us, so there is a bit of a learning curve with technology there," said Lisa Mulak, regional librarian with Cape Breton Regional Library.But accessing online resources isn't an option for every Nova Scotians. Mulak said every public library in the province has left its internet on so people are able to swing by to use it from the outside.Myers said that digital divide was part of the reason for creating the bookmobile."We have folks that are considered most vulnerable. A quick example of that are seniors who are home-bound and require those reading materials or they're not tech savvy and can't download our e-books," Myers said.South Shore Public Libraries has also been helping people with government documents if they are unable to scan and send forms themselves.In Cape Breton, they've even set up a phone line for people who have questions or need help."We're willing to take any questions at all on that phone line. It doesn't have to be just downloading books," Mulak said."It could be, 'Can you help me get in touch with a government resource?' Or sifting through all that information that's out there right now. Because librarians have been trained for eons to answer those questions."Mulak also encourages any of their regular patrons who just want to reach out and have a chat to call."We recognize that these are challenging times and it's not easy," she said.'The library misses them too'Reynolds said in Annapolis Valley, they hear from people daily about how much they miss the libraries."They miss having the materials for sure, but they miss seeing people in the library. They miss coming there and having that social thing," she said."Some people have relationships with the library staff and it may be the only person they talk to every week. And that's really hard for us."Reynolds said they were hoping to be open sometime soon, but now that looks unlikely, so they're continuing to find ways they can engage with people in their area."I actually just had a conversation with another staff branch manager who said, 'I want to call people, I want to read stories to kids over the phone, whatever I can do.' It's in the backs of our minds," she said."The library misses them too."MORE TOP STORIES

  • How one Silicon Valley factory keeps running in the age of coronavirus
    News
    Reuters

    How one Silicon Valley factory keeps running in the age of coronavirus

    One customer is now rushing to build ventilators that might use printed circuit boards made by Green Circuits. "The defense customers were the first to let us know" that they had to keep producing, said Joseph O'Neil, the company's chief executive officer. The company, owned by the Dallas-based private equity firm Evolve Capital, always had the first and second shifts overlap for a half-hour.

  • Advice on how to be alone during COVID-19 from a former N.S. lighthouse keeper
    News
    CBC

    Advice on how to be alone during COVID-19 from a former N.S. lighthouse keeper

    The lighthouse on Cross Island, off Lunenburg, N.S., was semi-automated by the time Chris Mills landed by helicopter in February 1989.It meant he had a lot of time to kill."The next day a storm blew up and we were essentially isolated for the next couple of weeks. It was a real eye-opener for me," said Mills, who has worked at 11 different lighthouses and written two books about his experiences. Nova Scotians like Mills who work or live in remote areas of the province have become unofficial experts in how to not only endure, but enjoy, life in isolation. They were practising physical distancing long before it was mandated to limit the spread of COVID-19, and the activities that brought them solace then help quell the anxiety now.As a lighthouse keeper, Mills woke up early to record the weather, he radioed in important information and kept the buildings maintained. He also had to get creative to pass the many hours of down time."I wrote really bad poetry. I kept diaries. I'm looking at them now. I've got 700 pages of dairies that I kept over the years," said Mills, who lives in Ketch Harbour, N.S. His photographs and diaries (which he hopes to turn into a new book) offer a window into a way of life that's now gone in Nova Scotia. All the lighthouses in the province were de-staffed by about 1990, he said.Mills's career as a lighthouse keeper took him to other provinces, including B.C., and lasted from 1989 to 1997. He didn't realize it then, but it prepared him for living through a pandemic."There's so much anxiety piled on top of this isolation, and that's the most difficult part, and I feel that anxiety too," he said. "But I feel like I'm in a privileged position having had all that experience alone, and I'm finding it easier to deal with."Why not move things around?For Allen Shepherd, learning to be alone took practice. Before he became a fire tower operator in 2003 at Cape Chignecto Provincial Park near the Bay of Fundy, he was "the opposite of a loner."Then he moved into an 18-metre tower for eight hours a day where his only company was occasional radio chatter or a holler from a visitor down below."I would always have to be around people … and after that I became a lot more comfortable being by myself," said Shepherd.His first summer, he found mould growing by the windows of the two-metre-diameter room. He scrubbed the windows, painted the walls and laid down carpet, he said, so it "felt like I could get my shoes off and kind of sit back. I felt more at home instead of like you were on guard."Shepherd's advice for people forced to spend more time inside these days is to simply rearrange your living space. "It might go a long way toward breaking the monotony," he said.Shepherd quit working at the park in 2011 to start his own business, but to this day he misses the solitude of the job and the freedom it gave him to pursue interests he'd long forgotten.Even though he hadn't read a novel since high school, one summer in the tower Shepherd finished 104 books by western writer Louis L'Amour. "When we didn't used to have time to do those sorts of things, now we do," he said. "So take advantage of it."Learn to be flexible Residents of Pictou Island, located six kilometres off the coast in the Northumberland Strait, are used to being on their own.And they like it that way, said Nancy MacDonald, who has lived there for nearly 40 years. The island is essentially cut off from the mainland in the winter, except for a small plane that delivers groceries once a week. "It's funny, when the last boat goes in the fall people think that we're depressed or whatever, but we see it as going into a different season where we're more of an island and more settled," she said.MacDonad hasn't left the island since November when she stocked up on supplies for another winter. When people were busy clearing toilet paper off grocery store shelves, she had her usual three months' supply ready to go. MacDonald said the secret to spending time in isolation is to have a routine that keeps you busy, but to also be flexible.While the plane is supposed to land on the island every Tuesday with fresh fruit and veggies, the weather doesn't always co-operate."That's the reality of living on the island, is that you don't get things necessarily when they're scheduled to come," she said. Although his career as a lighthouse keeper is over, Mills still cherishes his time alone."I think it's really important that we learn to be happy on our own because there's so much input in the world now, and we seem to rely on input, whether it be music, or social media, or news or just noise," he said."And for me it doesn't do it. You have to get away from that so that you can let nature seep in."MORE TOP STORIES