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Looking for investment ideas? Here's what you want to know about Bictoin now.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Tuesday's Games NHL Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 3 (OT) New Jersey 4 N.Y. Rangers 3 Philadelphia 3 Buffalo 0 Florida 5 Chicago 4 (OT) Pittsburgh 5 Washington 4 (OT) Detroit 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Colorado 3 Los Angeles 2 Dallas at Tampa Bay — postponed Carolina at Nashville — postponed --- NBA Denver 119 Oklahoma City 101 Utah 118 New Orleans 102 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alphabet Inc's Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. Axios, which first reported the latest investigation around a member of Google's AI team, said Margaret Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru, a former employee in the AI team who was fired. Gebru, who is Black, was a top AI ethics researcher at Google and was fired in December.
More than 100 British musicians, from Ed Sheeran, Sting and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to classical stars like conductor Simon Rattle, have said tours of Europe by British artists are in danger because of Brexit. In a letter to The Times newspaper published on Wednesday, the musicians said the government had "shamefully" broken a promise to negotiate a deal allowing musicians to perform in the European Union without the need for visas or work permits. "The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be: everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment," they wrote.
South Korea's LG Electronics said on Wednesday it was considering all options for its loss-making mobile division, which analysts said could include shutting its smartphone business or selling off parts of the unit. LG said in a statement that 23 consecutive quarters of losses in its mobile business had totalled around 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) amid stiff competition. "In the global market, competition in the mobile business including smartphones has gotten fiercer," LG said in the clearest sign yet that it could be considering a winding down of the troubled business.
Jessica Henwick may be known to fantasy and sci-fi nerds, but she's about to breakout onto the mainstream.
Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, offering a message of unity and restoration to a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans. Standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the building, Biden called for a return to civic decency in an inaugural address marking the end of Trump's tempestuous four-year term. The themes of Biden's 21-minute speech mirrored those he had put at the center of his presidential campaign, when he portrayed himself as an empathetic alternative to the divisive Trump, a Republican.
Thirty-five homeowners in the small B.C. community of Old Fort — just south of Fort St. John — are suing the province and BC Hydro after two landslides they claim were caused by Site C dam construction rendered their properties worthless. On Monday, the group filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court saying the excavation activities carried out by BC Hydro on the $10-billion dam project have destabilized the soil that supports their properties. The first landslide, which happened in September 2018, damaged the only road that provides access in and out of Old Fort and put the entire community under evacuation for a month. Another landslide damaged the same road in June 2020. The homeowners also accuse Deasan Holdings of causing soil instability with mining activities near Old Fort. Malcom MacPherson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the families involved cannot sell, mortgage or insure their homes because there is no property value. He says they support industrial development but don't feel they should pay for it with their homes' worth. "They shouldn't be de facto subsidizing the broader wealth creation, which is good for the whole province," he said. "It's not fair that they have to unreasonably bear that burden." In October, the B.C. government posted a report saying despite geotechnical assessments, the root cause of the slide in 2018 remains "inconclusive." The report doesn't address the slide in 2020. In 2018, BC Hydro said there was no evidence the slide was related to the Site C project. Last week, Premier John Horgan said Site C dam construction would continue while his office awaits geotechnical reports written by experts from outside B.C. The lawsuit names the province and the Peace River Regional District for approving the construction work of BC Hydro and Deasan Holdings. They are also suing the City of Fort St. John for operating a sewage lagoon they claim has led to soil instability in the Peace River community. None of the five defendants has responded in court. CBC News has contacted the City of Fort St. John, the Peace River Regional District and BC Hydro. The municipality didn't respond, and the other two parties declined to comment.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls for an inquiry into his government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday as the country's death toll neared 100,000 and his chief scientist said hospitals were looking like war zones. There have been calls for a public inquiry from some doctors and bereaved families into the management of the crisis. As hospital admissions soared, the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said there was enormous pressure on the National Health Service with doctors and nurses battling to give people sufficient care.
New York-listed Best Inc, a Chinese logistics firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is considering a sale as part of a strategic review, six people with knowledge of the matter said. With the endorsement of Alibaba, its biggest shareholder, Best has tapped financial advisers to explore options as its shares have been underperforming and are worth a fifth of its IPO price in 2018, two of the people involved in the discussions said. Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba, which owns 33% of the firm, as well as Best founder and CEO Johnny Chou, who has a 11% stake on a fully diluted basis, could both end up selling their stakes, five of the people said.
LEICESTER, England — Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said he expects his position to come under heavy scrutiny after the team lost 2-0 to Leicester on Tuesday for a fifth loss in the last eight games in the Premier League. Chelsea, which spent nearly $300 million on new players ahead of this season, dropped to eighth place and Lampard acknowledged he is under pressure to keep his job. “It intensified for me a while ago,” said Lampard, who is one of Chelsea’s greatest ever players and all-time top scorer. “Because the expectations at this club, whether they are right or wrong, are always high. “I know we are in a different position with our squad — if you look at our squad today and the age in our squad and look at the composition of our squad, it’s a mixture of a young squad, a lot of players, some new players. I keep talking about a transition but when you perform like that, it’s normal people will ask questions.” Asked whether he was confident the club’s Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, would show patience with him, Lampard said: “It’s not my decision. That’s something that will always be there. ”When I came into this job, the job of management, you understand some things are beyond your control.” Lampard said he was “worried” about his team, which was outplayed in all departments by a Leicester side that climbed to the top of the league, and he was concerned that his players didn’t do the “basics.” “From the form we were in, to get so quickly into the form we’re now in … we should be better than that. Five losses in eight isn’t where we want to be,” Lampard said. “It takes character to turn from that - I went with quite a young team today so they won’t be feeling nice. I’m not against the lads in the dressing room because they’re disappointed. They learned a lesson from a team playing well and we were that team a month ago.” “There are moments,” Lampard added, “you have to dig in and do the basics, and the bare minimum is to run and cover ground. Many of our players didn’t do it.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — For more than two centuries, the top ranks of American power have been dominated by men — almost all of them white. That ends on Wednesday. Kamala Harris will become the first female vice-president — and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the role. Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary will fall away, expanding the idea of what's possible in American politics. But it's particularly meaningful because Harris will be taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities. Those close to Harris say she'll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the incoming administration. “In many folks' lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States," said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world." Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard." Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first went to Washington as a senator from California, where she'd previously served as attorney general and as San Francisco's district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump's victory quickly scrambled the nation's capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars. Her swearing-in comes almost two years to the day after Harris launched her own presidential bid on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019. Her campaign fizzled before primary voting began, but Harris' rise continued when Joe Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer. The inauguration activities will include nods to her history-making role and her personal story. She'll be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of colour to serve on the high court. She'll use two Bibles, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, a longtime family friend who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris' alma mater, Howard University, will join the presidential escort. She'll address the nation late Wednesday in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War and two weeks after a largely white mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the election results. “We’re turning the page off a really dark period in our history,” said Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, a Harris ally. As Democrats celebrate the end to Trump's presidency, Garcia said he hopes the significance of swearing in the nation's first female vice-president isn't overlooked. “That is a huge historical moment that should also be uplifted,” he said. Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity. “I was raised to not hear ‘no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'" she recalled during a “CBS Sunday Morning” interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.'" While Biden is the main focus of Wednesday's inaugural events, Harris' swearing-in will hold more symbolic weight than that of any vice-president in modern times. She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All." People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn about what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school. They will have to understand Harris' traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Jones said. “Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said. Her election to the vice presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election. “We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said. Kathleen Ronayne And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
A city councillor in Revelstoke is on leave after allegations of sexual assault against a minor at a school in Langley seven years ago. A lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday alleges that in the spring of 2014 Cody Younker volunteered to be a chaperone at Walnut Grove High School in Langley. Younker, who lived in Langley at the time, volunteered with a program called Harrison Hike Experience that led Grade 10 students on overnight and day hikes. The notice of civil claim states Younker met a 15-year-old student who was struggling with mental health issues and had suicidal thoughts. It's alleged Younker asked for the teen's phone number after the third group hike and began texting her immediately. He offered to help her with her homework and started to pick her up from school, according to the notice of claim. Not long after, the alleged sexual assault took place. The teen reported the alleged assault to the school board and Langley RCMP, which conducted two investigations, but charges were never laid. Dan McLaughlin, spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service, said in an email to the CBC that the matter was submitted to Crown prosecutors twice — once in 2014 and again in 2019. "After reviewing, the file charges were not approved as the B.C. Prosecution Service concluded the charge assessment standard for proceeding with criminal charges was not met," he wrote. The Langley School District and an employee are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. The alleged victim, who is now 22, says a school board employee interviewed her at home shortly after she reported the matter, but the woman defended Younker and accused the teen of lying. The school district said in a statement it is aware of the lawsuit, and is looking into the allegations. Younker moved to Revelstoke in 2015 and was elected to city council two years ago. He is now on a leave of absence. Younker has not yet responded to the allegations and they have not been tested in court.
NEW YORK — Testimony by Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend about her sexual experiences with consenting adults can remain secret when a transcript is released next week, a judge said Tuesday. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska in Manhattan pertained to a July 2016 deposition of Ghislaine Maxwell in a civil lawsuit brought by one of Maxwell's accusers that has since been settled. “Although the prurient interest of some may be left un-satiated as a result, Ms. Maxwell’s interest in keeping private the details of her sexual relationships with consenting adults warrants the sealing of those portions of her testimony,” Preska said at a hearing conducted electronically because of the coronavirus. Lawyers for the 59-year-old British socialite had objected to the transcript being made public on the grounds that it could damage her chance at a fair trial on charges that she recruited three underage girls in the 1990s for Epstein. Preska said Maxwell's lawyers had failed to show how the unsealing of the deposition transcript will jeopardize a trial that isn't slated to begin until July or why publicity about the document cannot be overcome through a fair jury selection process. The judge also ordered the release in eight days of dozens of other documents sought by the Miami Herald. A message seeking comment was left with a lawyer for Maxwell. Epstein, a wealthy financier and convicted sex offender, killed himself in a Manhattan jail in 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial. Maxwell, who is held without bail at a Brooklyn federal lockup, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she recruited girls for Epstein and sometimes joined in the abuse of them. The hearing Tuesday was briefly interrupted when the judge was told that audio of the proceeding was being aired online. “Whoever is doing it, you are operating against the law. I suspect there is a way to find out. So I will ask you, most respectfully, to stop doing it. We have had enough of lack of the rule of law around here. Let’s try to observe it,” Preska said. The audio was online on a page that included comments by individuals who seemed to embrace QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory. Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said vaccination numbers for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are improving after a holiday slowdown. Pfizer recently announced that doses would be slowed due to a situation at a factory and Moe reiterated a point made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a press conference earlier in the day. “I think Premier Ford made some comments about what he would urge the Prime Minister to do and that was to find someone if not the CEO of Pfizer and maybe light a firecracker up his yin-yang I believe was the words that I heard. He did say that … if the Prime Minister was able to do that there would be a lineup of premiers behind and I would bring a lighter,” Moe said. Moe gave credit to healthcare workers for and policy changes for the improvement in vaccination numbers. “In the past week we have administered vaccines in long term care facilities in a number of communities throughout the province and to many other people aged 70 and over in those very same communities. As a result we were able to deliver about 15,000 vaccination shots this past week,” Moe said. He explained that Saskatchewan is currently second on a per capita basis to Prince Edward Island on delivery of vaccinations. “In fact, if Saskatchewan were a country our pace of vaccines delivered would now be in the top ten among all countries worldwide. So that is very good news. And we will continue to deliver vaccines as safely and as quickly and as efficiently as possible just as soon as we are able to receive them from the federal government.” The provincial NDP took issue with the way vaccines have been rolled out. During a press conference Tuesday, they cited a situation at a Regina assisted living resident where leftover vaccines were divvied up by drawing names from a hat. NDP deputy leader Nicole Sarauer said it’s a sign of a wider problem of a confusing and disorganized vaccine roll-out. Administrator of the Qu’Aappelle House in Regina, Bev Desautels, doesn’t see it that way. She told the Regina Leader-Post she requested enough doses to vaccinate all 75 residents and staff at the facility on Tuesday. But public health alerted her that morning they wouldn’t be vaccinating 15 assisted-living residents. The vaccine was only for those in long-term care, a higher level of care. Yet there was enough vaccine left in vials already opened to make up six doses. Public health nurses didn’t want to waste the precious fluid, so they asked Desautels to pick six assisted-living residents to get the shot, she recalls. She’d have to leave nine unvaccinated and still at risk. “They asked me to choose, and I said, no, I’m not going to choose,” she recalls. “So I put the names in a hat and the nurses pulled out names.” The SHA said that the incident will be reviewed, but applauded staff for their ingenuity. The slowdown of Pfizer shipments will mean only 2,925 more doses of the vaccine are delivered next week. “Those doses will be delivered to Regina to Fort Qu’Appelle and to North Battleford. Where they will be administered to residents and staff in long term care as well as personal care homes. At the pace we are going and with the slowdown in deliveries from Pfizer we expect that Saskatchewan will run out of vaccines over the course of the next few days,” Moe said. For the next month, the province will be receiving 17.5 thousand doses from Pfizer which is over half of what was expected. “We did almost that many shots this past week alone. And just this morning Major General Fortin said that Canada is expecting more deliveries from Pfizer next week. So we are in the process of seeking clarification if that will further impact Saskatchewan’s total supply of vaccines over the course of the next four weeks,” Moe said. According to Moe, the province will have to revise their vaccine rollout plan and needs the federal government to pick up the pace on deliveries as well as negotiations with Pfizer. Moe expects life to return to normal after a significant portion of the province has received both doses of any of the vaccines available. “I would encourage everyone to sign up to get vaccinated as soon as it is your turn and to continue in the meantime to follow all of the public health orders and the guidelines that are in place. We will get through this as we get more of our population vaccinated yes, but until then I am asking everyone to keep following all of these public health orders that are in place. Keep yourselves safe and keep those around you safe and keep your family safe,” Moe said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The City of Toronto has closed its new COVID-19 immunization clinic downtown after it was told to do so by the Ontario government due to a shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In a news release on Tuesday, the city said it was ordered to "pause" the clinic, located at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, when appointments on Tuesday came to an end at 8 p.m. The clinic has now shut its doors. The province had originally directed the city to close the clinic on Friday. It opened on Monday and was in operation only two days. The city said the closure follows a federal announcement on Tuesday that Canada has COVID-19 vaccine supply shortages. "Everyone is disappointed at the vaccine supply chain issues. The City looks forward to re-establishing vaccine clinics once supply becomes available," Alex Burke, city spokesperson, said in an email on Tuesday. Burke said the clinic administered the Moderna vaccine and the province is reallocating the Moderna supply. Earlier this week, the city said the clinic had been established with the aim of vaccinating up to 250 people a day. It was not open to the public, but was set up to provide vaccinations for select health-care workers "directly involved in the front-line response to COVID-19." Those workers included shelter, harm-reduction and Streets to Homes staff who work with some of Toronto's most vulnerable residents. All appointments made for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week have now been cancelled. In an email later on Tuesday, the city said eight health-care workers, who were not supposed to get vaccinated as part of an initial group of workers, did get doses because they registered. "It was confirmed today that eight health-care workers outside that group received vaccine. We took immediate measures to course correct and everyone vaccinated today met the criteria," the city said. The city noted that the federal government is responsible for securing the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, while the provincial government is responsible for distributing them and identifying which groups get them first under its framework. As for the city, it is responsible for supporting the administration of the vaccine in keeping with provincial priority lists and scheduling. "The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said. When the city opened the clinic on Monday, it lit the Toronto sign in pink, the colour of the bandaids that are emblematic of the city's immunization campaign. Toronto residents told to be patient Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, told reporters on Monday that vaccination plans often don't roll out smoothly, but she urged Toronto residents to be patient and optimistic. "While we want the flow of vaccine to be swift, uninterrupted and high volume, the fact of the matter is this is the first time a vaccination campaign on this scale has ever been designed and implemented — and the whole world needs their share of vaccines," she said. "Public health has years of experience in the delivery of mass vaccination programs. And from experience, I can tell you that even with the best plans there are bumps in the road." De Villa noted that the province has decided it's best to reallocate the available supply of vaccine to ensure it is administered to residents in long-term care facilities and high-risk retirement homes and to deliver second doses to people who have received their first dose. "My understanding is that deliveries of Pfizer vaccine are expected to catch up through February and March," she added. Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to resume this month Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics for the federal government, said Canadians should expect only 50 per cent of the promised Pfizer-BioNTech doses the government was promised for the remainder of January. Fortin said Canada will get only 82 per cent of the vaccine doses it expected this week, and no deliveries at all from Pfizer-BioNTech next week, before shipments resume in the last week of January.
WASHINGTON — Stop. Stabilize. Then move — but in a vastly different direction. President-elect Joe Biden is pledging a new path for the nation after Donald Trump’s four years in office. That starts with confronting a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and extends to sweeping plans on health care, education, immigration and more. The 78-year-old Democrat has pledged immediate executive actions that would reverse Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and rescind the outgoing president's ban on immigration from certain Muslim nations. His first legislative priority is a $1.9 trillion pandemic response package, but there are plans to send an immigration overhaul to Capitol Hill out of the gate, as well. He's also pledged an aggressive outreach to American allies around the world who had strained relationships with Trump. And though one key initiative has been overshadowed as the pandemic has worsened, Biden hasn't backed away from his call to expand the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a public option, a government-insurance plan to compete alongside private insurers. It's an unapologetically liberal program reflecting Biden's argument that the federal government exists to help solve big problems. Persuading enough voters and members of Congress to go along will test another core Biden belief: that he can unify the country into a governing consensus. What a Biden presidency could look like: ECONOMY, TAXES AND THE DEBT Biden argues the economy cannot fully recover until the coronavirus is contained. He argues that his $1.9 trillion response plan is necessary to avoid extended recession. Among other provisions, it would send Americans $1,400 relief checks, extend more generous unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and boost businesses. Biden also wants expanded child tax credits, child care assistance and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — a provision sure to draw fierce Republican opposition. Biden acknowledges his call for deficit spending but says higher deficits in the near term will prevent damage that would not only harm individuals but also weaken the economy in ways that would be even worse for the national balance sheet. He also calls his plan a down payment on his pledge to address wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans. He plans a second major economic package later in 2021; that's when he'd likely ask Congress to consider his promised tax overhauls to roll back parts of the 2017 GOP tax rewrite benefiting corporations and the wealthy. Biden wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% — lower than before but higher than now — and broad income and payroll tax increases for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. That would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years, money Biden would want steered toward his infrastructure, health care and energy programs. Before Biden proposed his pandemic relief bill, an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that Biden’s campaign proposals would increase the national debt by about $5.6 trillion over 10 years, though that would be a significantly slower rate of increase than what occurred under Trump. The national debt now stands at more than $25 trillion. ___ CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC Biden promises a more robust national coronavirus vaccination system. Ditching Trump’s strategy of putting most of the pandemic response on governors’ desks, Biden says he’ll marshal the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to distribute vaccines while using the nation's network of private pharmacies. As he said as a candidate, Biden plans to invoke the Defence Production Act, aimed at the private sector, to increase vaccine supplies and related materials. The wartime law allows a president to direct the manufacture of critical goods. Much of Biden’s plans depend on Congress approving financing, such as $130 billion to help schools reopen safely. Beyond legislation, Biden will require masks on all federal property, urge governors and mayors to use their authority to impose mask mandates and ask Americans for 100 days of mask-wearing in an effort to curb the virus. Biden also promises to deviate from Trump by putting science and medical advisers front and centre to project a consistent message. Meanwhile, Biden will immediately have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. The incoming White House has tried to manage expectations. Biden said several times in recent weeks that the pandemic would likely get worse before any changes in policy and public health practices show up in COVID-19 statistics. ___ HEALTH CARE Biden wants to build on President Barack Obama's signature health care law through a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans. He'd also increase premium subsidies many people already use. Biden's approach could get a kick-start in the pandemic response bill by expanding subsidies for consumers using existing ACA exchanges. The big prize, a “public option,” remains a heavy lift in a closely divided Congress. Biden has not detailed when he'd ask Congress to consider the matter. Biden estimates his public option would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. It still stops short of progressives' call for a government-run system to replace private insurance altogether. The administration also must await a Supreme Court decision on the latest case challenging the 2010 health care law known as “Obamacare.” On prescription drugs, Biden supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for government programs and private payers. He'd prohibit drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation for people covered by Medicare and other federal programs; and he'd cap initial prices for “specialty drugs” to treat serious illnesses. Biden would limit annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees, a change Trump sought unsuccessfully in Congress. And Biden also wants to allow importation of prescription drugs, subject to safety checks. ___ IMMIGRATION Biden plans to immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain as legal residents. He's also planning an Inauguration Day executive order rolling back Trump’s ban on certain Muslim immigrants and has pledged to rescind Trump's limits on asylum slots. Additionally, Biden will send Congress, out of the gate, a complex immigration bill offering an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. As a candidate, Biden called Trump's hard-line policies on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and promised to “undo the damage” while maintaining border enforcement. Notably, the outline of Biden's immigration bill doesn't deal much, if at all, with border enforcement. But his opening manoeuvr sets a flank with plenty of room to negotiate with Republicans. Biden also pledged to end the Trump's “public charge rule,” which would deny visas or permanent residency to people who use public-aid programs. Biden has called for a 100-day freeze on deportations while considering long-term policies. Still, Biden would eventually restore an Obama-era policy of prioritizing removal of immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally and have been convicted of crimes or pose a national security threat. Biden has said he would halt all funding for construction of new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. ___ FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY Biden's establishment credentials are most starkly different from Trump in the area of foreign policy. Biden mocked Trump's “America First” brand as “America alone” and promises to restore a more traditional post-World War II order. He supports a strategy of fighting extremist militants abroad with U.S. special forces and airstrikes instead of planeloads of U.S. troops. That's a break from his support earlier in his political career for more sweeping U.S. military interventions, most notably the 2003 Iraq invasion. Biden has since called his Iraq vote in the Senate a mistake. He was careful as a candidate never to rule out the use of force, but now leans directly into diplomacy to try to achieve solutions through alliances and global institutions. Biden calls for increasing the Navy’s presence in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia. He joins Trump in wanting to end the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but thinks the U.S. should keep a small force in place to counter militant violence. Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken is Biden's longest-serving foreign policy adviser and holds essentially the same worldview. Both are strong supporters of NATO. Biden and Blinken warn that Moscow is chipping away at the foundation of Western democracy by trying to weaken NATO, divide the European Union and undermine the U.S. electoral system. Biden believes Trump's abandonment of bilateral and international treaties such as the Iran nuclear deal have led other nations to doubt Washington’s word. Biden wants to invite all democratic nations to a summit during his first year to discuss how to fight corruption, thwart authoritarianism and support human rights. He claims “ironclad” support for Israel but wants to curb annexation and has backed a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. He says he'd keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after Trump moved it from Tel Aviv. On North Korea, Biden criticized Trump for engaging directly with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave legitimacy to the authoritarian leader without curbing his nuclear program. Biden also wants to see the U.S. close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Obama pushed the same and never got it done. ___ ENVIRONMENT Beyond immediately rejoining the Paris climate agreement, Biden has proposed a $2 trillion push to slow global warming by throttling back the burning of fossil fuels, aiming to make the nation’s power plants, vehicles, mass transport systems and buildings more fuel efficient and less dependent on oil, gas and coal. Parts of his program could be included in the second sweeping legislative package Biden plans after the initial emergency pandemic legislation. Biden says his administration would ban new permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, though he says he does not support a fracking ban. Biden’s public health and environmental platform also calls for reversing the Trump administration’s slowdown of enforcement against polluters, which in several categories has fallen to the lowest point in decades. That would include establishing a climate and environmental justice division within the Justice Department. Biden says he would support climate lawsuits targeting fossil fuel-related industries. ___ EDUCATION Biden has proposed tripling the federal Title I program for low-income public schools, with a requirement that schools provide competitive pay and benefits to teachers. He wants to ban federal money for for-profit charter schools and provide new dollars to public charters only if they serve needy students. He opposes voucher programs, in which public money is used to pay for private-school education. He also wants to restore federal rules, rolled back under Trump, that denied federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debts and unable to find jobs. Biden supports making two years of community college free, with public four-year colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000. His proposed student loan overhaul would not require repayment for people who make less than $25,000 a year and would limit payments to 5% of discretionary income for others. Among the measures in his COVID-19 response plan, Biden calls for extending current freezes on student loan payments and debt accrual. Long term, Biden proposes a $70 billion increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools that serve underrepresented students. ___ ABORTION Biden supports abortion rights and has said he would nominate federal judges who back the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. He's also said he'd support a federal statute legalizing abortion if the Supreme Court's conservative majority strikes down Roe. Biden committed to rescinding Trump’s family planning rule, which prompted many clinics to leave the federal Title X program providing birth control and medical care for low-income women. In a personal reversal, Biden now supports repeal of the Hyde Amendment, opening the way for federal programs, including his prospective public option, to pay for abortions. ___ SOCIAL SECURITY Biden's proposals would expand benefits, raise taxes for upper-income people and add some years of solvency. He would revamp Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by linking it to an inflation index tied more directly to older Americans' expenses. He would increase minimum benefits for lower-income retirees, addressing financial hardship among the elderly. Biden wants to raise Social Security taxes by applying the payroll tax to earnings above $400,000. The 12.4% tax, split between an employee and employer, now applies only to the first $137,700 of a worker's wages. The tax increase would pay for Biden’s proposed benefit expansions and extend the life of program’s trust fund by five years, to 2040, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute. ___ GUNS Biden led efforts as a senator to establish the background check system now in use when people buy guns from a federal licensed dealer. He also helped pass a 10-year ban on a group of semi-automatic guns, or “assault weapons,” during the Clinton presidency. Biden has promised to seek another ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Owners would have to register existing assault weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would also support a program to buy back assault weapons. Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one and would require background checks for all gun sales with limited exceptions, such as gifts between family members. Biden would also support prohibiting all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts. As with his public option plan for health insurance, it's not clear how Biden will prioritize gun legislation, and the prospects of getting major changes through the Senate are slim, at best. ___ VETERANS Biden says he'd work with Congress to improve health services for women, the military’s fastest-growing subgroup, such as by placing at least one full-time women’s primary care physician at each Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical centre. He promises to provide $300 million to better understand the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposures, hire more VA staff to cut down on office wait times for veterans at risk of suicide and continue the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to stem homelessness. ___ TRADE Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. That, and some of his policy pitches, can make Biden seem almost protectionist, but he's well shy of Trump's approach. Biden, like Trump, accuses China of violating international trade rules by subsidizing its companies and stealing U.S. intellectual property. Still, Biden doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs worked. He wants to join with allies to form a bulwark against Beijing. Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing with $400 billion of federal government purchases (including pandemic supplies) from domestic companies over a four-year period. He wants $300 billion for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before any new international trade deals. He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice-president. ___ TRUMP Biden won't escape Trump's shadow completely, given the many investigations and potential legal exposures facing the outgoing president. Biden said as a candidate that he wouldn't pardon Trump or his associates and that he'd leave federal investigations up to “an independent Justice Department.” Notably, some of Trump's legal exposure comes from state cases in New York. Biden will have no authority over any of those matters. ___ Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ben Fox, Deb Riechmann, Collin Binkley and Hope Yen contributed to this report. Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Months-old embers from a deadly California fire were blown back to life Tuesday by powerful winds that raked the state and prompted safety blackouts to tens of thousands of people. Firefighters chased wind-driven blazes up and down the state, trees and trucks were toppled, Yosemite National Park was forced to close and two coronavirus vaccination centres were shut down. South of San Francisco, the state’s firefighting agency said it responded to 13 vegetation fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 12 hours, and isolated evacuations were ordered for a total of 120 homes near two of them. The fires were small, with the largest no more than a couple dozen acres, and by nightfall were “creeping" rather than racing, according to state fire website descriptions. Two were within the area burned by last year's CZU Lightning Complex inferno. “Fires within the CZU Lightning Complex burn area were regenerated by high winds,” the local unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted. The complex started Aug. 16, 2020, during a barrage of lightning strikes. Separate fires merged, torching 1,500 buildings across 135 square miles (350 square kilometres) in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. One person died. The Santa Cruz Mountains have a thick layer of “duff,” dead vegetation under heavy timber in which deep smouldering embers can be revived by the wind, said Cecile Juliette, a Cal Fire spokeswoman. Cal Fire received nonstop reports of toppled trees and branches during the windstorm, Juliette said. Small fires blazed throughout the state, though most were quickly stopped from spreading and posed no serious threat to homes. The largest, near Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, burned about 1 square mile (2.77 square kilometres) but was mostly surrounded. In both the north and south, residents were blacked out by utilities to prevent downed or damaged power lines from sparking blazes. Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 78,000 homes and businesses in seven counties and was considering blacking out well over a quarter-million more. Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to more than 5,000 customers. Most of California is experiencing drought conditions and the remainder is considered abnormally dry. Winter snowfall and rain have largely been woeful. Gusts howled at speeds up to 95 mph (152.8 kph) in the Mayacamas Mountains to the north of San Francisco Bay, and winds raised clouds of ash and dust from wildfire burn scars across Monterey County, the regional National Weather Service office said. High wind warnings were posted in the Sierra Nevada and adjacent foothills. “People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches,” the Hanford weather office wrote. “If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows. Use caution if you must drive.” Yosemite National Park closed for the day, citing the winds and downed trees that smashed trucks and at least one building. In Southern California, the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were ramping up, making travel hazardous for big rigs. Some were blown over. One gust hit 86 mph (138.4 kph) in northern Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service said. The wind forced closure of a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley. Another site at a Disneyland parking lot was closed in advance of the gusts. The city of Los Angeles instituted its program of restricting parking in hilly neighbourhoods where narrow, winding streets can be difficult for fire engines to manoeuvr. Downtown Los Angeles has had only 1.95 inches (4.95 centimetres) of rain since the Oct. 1 start of the “water year,” nearly 4 inches (10.16 centimetres) below normal. The Associated Press
The Columbian Centre seniors living complex in Prince Albert has been taken out of lockdown. The senior’s living complex was put under lockdown after public health detected five COVID-19 cases among residents on Dec. 23. After further testing was completed on Jan. 2, no further cases were detected and the lockdown was lifted just two days later. “The rest of us all tested negative so they lifted our lockdown on Monday, Jan. 4,” facility manager Rob Fahlman said. “Everybody in here was patient they persevered and they also recognized that the regulations during COVID have to be followed and it was Public Health and we had to do our part to curb the COVID,” The news came as a great relief to residents. “We were all very happy to hear that and very thankful. And we just attribute it to of course the Public Health looking after us and the tenants themselves being obedient” he explained. “A lot of our tenants are praying too, oh yes they were praying hard and they told me so and I believe them. Through Public Health’s assistance we were able to nip it in the bud.” According to Fahlman, after an initial positive test was confirmed on Dec. 23, public health informed Columbian Centre that seniors were not allowed to leave their rooms and visitors were not permitted. All residents were tested on Christmas Eve and the other four positive results were returned in late December. The province, in the official listings on the province’s online dashboard, listed the outbreak as declared on Dec. 27. An outbreak is declared when there are at least two active cases in a location. Things have returned to relative normalcy in the building since the lockdown was lifted. “For two weeks now people have been going about their business. They missed some time with their families of course over Christmas and New Year’s but I think most of them made up for it after within the confines of the COVID restrictions. They have reunited with their families in some way,” Fahlman said. “My hat is off to these people because they have been through a lot already. And in this time of their life family is huge for them. It was quite a sacrifice for them.” Last Friday, public health offered vaccinations to residents. Fifty took part. Still, the building isn’t taking any chances. “I tell them that from my understanding this vaccination isn’t going to kick in for another couple of weeks so there is no letting down on the masks and sanitizing that we do in the building. There is no letting down in anything so we just keep on doing what we have been doing,” Fahlman said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald