WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A majority of Conservative MPs have voted to remove Derek Sloan from the party's caucus, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly about caucus business. The vote follows revelations Sloan accepted a donation to his leadership campaign from a white nationalist. Party leader Erin O'Toole initiated the caucus removal process late Monday after news of the donation surfaced. Sloan did not dispute he received the money but has said he was unaware of it, and it was unfair to expect him to scrutinize the backgrounds of all donors. Sloan was first elected to the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington in 2019 and unsuccessfully ran for leadership of the party last year. His socially conservative views have been a thorn in the party's side and O'Toole had faced pressure for months to kick him out to prove the Tories are the moderate party the leader claims. More Coming... The Canadian Press
QUEBEC — The Quebec government is inviting high schools to collect the disposable medical masks being distributed to students so they don’t end up in landfills. About 500,000 blue masks are being used daily by students across the province. Quebec announced that high school students and teachers would be given two procedural masks a day when classes resumed Jan. 18, but the province didn't say what would happen to the 85 million masks expected to be used before the end of the school year. Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said Tuesday that expenses for the recovery and recycling of the masks will be covered by the provincial government. Genevieve Cote, a spokeswoman for Roberge, said young people are very sensitive to environmental issues, and the government is confident the masks won't end up polluting the environment. "Companies, many of which are from Quebec ... offer the recovery and treatment of disposable masks," Cote said. The federation representing Quebec school administrations says the recovery effort could have been organized before students returned to class. Only some schools have boxes available to collect soiled masks, Nicolas Prevost, the federation’s president, said. And many students are not comfortable discarding them in the trash. “We would have liked that we could set up the distribution (of the masks) and the recovery at the same time,” Prevost said. “It would have been simpler and, above all, more beneficial for the planet.” A Liberal member of the legislature, Frantz Benjamin, estimated the mask recovery operation would cost between $30 million and $35 million, and school commissions would need financial help to recoup the costs. In May, environmental groups sounded the alarm about disposable masks becoming a source of pollution. One group focused on waste management said Tuesday that aid announced by the province must be contingent on demonstrating the masks are being recycled. Denis Blaquiere, the president of the organization, said the majority of companies involved in recovering disposable masks send them out of province to be incinerated, although it is possible to recycle the main components of the mask in the province. Disposable masks are typically made from a mixture of synthetic fibres and cellulose, a rubber band and a piece of metal. Environmentalists say they can endanger wildlife and, like wipes, clog pipes in city wastewater treatment systems. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press
CHICAGO — The brother of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher has been pardoned of federal charges that he recruited for a multimillion-dollar illegal offshore gambling ring, Casey Urlacher, the mayor of the tiny Chicago suburb of Mettawa, was among those pardoned in the final hours of President Donald Trump’s term as part of a flurry of clemency action that benefited more than 140 people. Casey Urlacher, 41, was charged last February and pleaded not guilty the next month. He also played football but with limited success, having played at Lake Forest College and in the Arena Football League before becoming mayor of the village of fewer than 550 people in 2013. Brian Urlacher has supported Trump, contributing to Trump's campaign shortly after his brother was indicted and visiting the White House and presenting the president with a No. 54 Chicago Bears jersey days after his brother pleaded not guilty. In a statement announcing the pardon early Wednesday, the White House said that Casey Urlacher “has been committed to public service and has consistently given back to his community,” adding that his mayoral position is unpaid and that he "is a devoted husband to his wife and a loving father to his 17-month old daughter.” The Associated Press
COMMUNAUTÉ. C’est finalement un montant de 40 235 $ qui aura été amassé via Gofundme afin de créer une bourse d’études pour Jacob, le fils de l’urgentologue Karine Dion. «Je suis vraiment émue. Je pensais faire une petite campagne pour mon hôpital, mais c’est tout le Québec qui est solidaire pour aider Jacob et honorer la mémoire Karine», constate avec reconnaissance la Dre Geneviève Simard-Racine qui s’était d’abord fixé un objectif de 10 000 $ à recueillir pour créer une bourse d’études pour le fils de son amie. «Il y a eu aussi le 13 janvier, en soirée, un parcours commémoratif dans l’hôpital de Granby. Nos gens pouvaient se recueillir et déposer une étoile dans un cadre. Il y avait également un livre qui sera remis à David, le conjoint de Karine, où l’on pouvait laisser un mot», rapporte-t-elle. À son tour, la Dre Simard-Racine a invité «les aidants à accepter de se faire aider». Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
MONTREAL — Students at Montreal's Westmount High School spent Wednesday morning watching a former graduate ascend to one of the highest political offices in the world, with Kamala Harris's new post as U.S. vice-president sending a message that nothing is beyond reach."When we stay in the same high school for five years, it can make the world seem quite small," Ava Oxilia, a Grade 10 student at the school, said in a video call organized by the board."To know that she was in a very similar place to a lot of our students here, and then she reached one of the highest positions in the U.S. government, it's just incredible to believe anyone of us could obtain such a high position."Harris, 56, moved briefly to Montreal at age 12, attending Face and later Westmount High School before graduating in 1981.It was in those halls that Wanda Kagan, a good friend to Harris during her time in Montreal, met the new U.S. vice-president and even ended up living with her for a time. How many people can say they bunked with a vice-president, Kagan asked with a laugh on Wednesday as she said she was elated for her friend.“Anyone can make history, but only a great woman can write history, and that’s what she’s going to do,” Kagan said in an interview.Kagan said the pair became close friends, two children from biracial families navigating a bigger high school. “We were just trying to find our way, fitting in, and we just fit in together,” she said.Kagan would confide in Harris during those school years that she was being abused at home, and Harris’s late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, insisted she come live with them. “They just treated me like family. I just hung out with Kamala in her room listening to music, doing homework,” Kagan said. “They instilled a lot of my values that I carried on later in life.”After reconnecting in the mid-2000s, Kagan said Harris told her that helping her friend during their high school years inspired her legal career defending women and children from abuse.Kagan said she had no doubt Harris and her family helped shape her life. “But to know that I impacted hers was huge,” Kagan said. “She was a trailblazer back then, fighting for my rights, my dignity, my humanity.”The school has been paying close attention as Harris's political career took off, and on social media Wednesday it congratulated its illustrious alumna on her swearing-in as the 49th U.S. vice-president.Students streamed the inauguration during second period, with Grade 10 student A.J. Itovitch later describing the pride felt in seeing someone who walked the same halls rise to such heights."The energy has been absolutely palpable over the past few weeks at the school, and it's just so difficult to wrap our head around the fact that the 49th vice-president came ... right out of Montreal," the 15-year-old said. "We have been doing all we can just to take in all of this."Principal Demetra Droutsas said Harris's rise has been inspirational. "I want our students to really retain they should dream big, they should never limit themselves and they can do anything they set their minds to," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
A 46-year-old Pictou County, N.S., man has been charged with multiple firearms offences after police say his attempt to euthanize his dog with a handgun ended up injuring another man. According to an RCMP news release, police responded to a complaint of a firearms discharge resulting in injury at 8:19 p.m. on Jan. 16. The release said the man was outside his Bigney, N.S., home when he tried to shoot his dog, which had bitten several people, but missed. The bullet struck a 21-year-old man inside the house. A subsequent search of the home resulted in the seizure of 29 long guns and nine handguns, according to police. The man was arrested and later released on conditions. The victim was taken to hospital and released with minor injuries. The dog is alive and was seized by animal control. The man is scheduled to appear virtually in Pictou provincial court on March 29 to answer to multiple firearms charges. MORE TOP STORIES
A Saskatoon intensive care unit doctor doesn't think the province needs more COVID-19 restrictions — just a few tweaks and better enforcement of those already in place. "I agree with [Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer] Dr. Saqib Shahab that these restrictions, if everybody followed them, would be sufficient. But the reality is not everyone is following them," Dr. Hassan Masri said. In November, the provincial government issued an order that all bars must stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. and be closed by 11 p.m. Masri noted flouting the rules creates real consequences — from difficulties in contact tracing to a shortage of hospital beds. That's why he's calling on the government to close all bars, pubs and nightclubs to curb that temptation to break the restrictions. "Those places are there for social interaction and physical interaction. It is virtually impossible to have a bar or a pub open and ask people to be alone or be away from everyone. That defeats the whole purpose of going to these places," Masri explained. Should the government not adjust these restrictions, he said, there needs to be a stronger push for people to follow them. "The current restrictions are not being enforced to the fullest of the law and it makes people more likely to break the law," he said. "It really makes the laws themselves really ineffective." On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said it's time to take action against those breaking the law. "We don't need to punish all of those that are following the public health orders, but to those establishments and even all those people who are flagrantly operating outside of what the public health orders are, they do need to be punished," the premier said during a provincial COVID-19 update on Tuesday. He said he's asked public health if there are other enforcement options, in addition to fines, that could include "closing these bad actors indefinitely to ensure that we are having compliance in our communities." That would allow the opportunity for the businesses that are following public health orders to stay open and operate safely, Moe said. Set thresholds for restrictions: psychiatrist Saskatoon psychiatrist Dr. Tamara Hinz agrees that more enforcement of public health orders is needed. "I know I'm not supposed to text while I drive, but we still have police officers watching out for that kind of thing," she said. "We can't have a conversation about rule compliance without enforcement." Hinz said it would help if people start thinking of the pandemic as a group effort. "People have to come together to work together," she said. "If we have large segments of the population that are not carrying their weight on the project, then the rest of us suffer." Hinz noted one way the province could get more compliance with COVID-19 measures is to be more transparent about thresholds, and identifying a specific mark for the number of cases that must be reached before restrictions would either loosen or tighten. "I think transparency from our health and government leaders could go a long way," she said. "Rules need to be straightforward, they have to make sense to people — and they need to be clearly laid out by people who are leading by example." More public awareness campaigns about COVID-19 — especially featuring those most impacted by the illness — could also be effective, Hinz added, noting it may help "personalize the crisis and unify us." In a worst-case scenario, Masri said the rule breakers could send the province spiralling into an unwanted lockdown. "Regardless of what people want and don't want, if the numbers continue to rise to the point that it's unmanageable, a full lockdown will take place," he said. "I've never advocated for that, but I've always been very clear that the virus will advocate for itself if we don't listen very clearly."
While there were no crowds allowed to gather due to COVID-19 restriction, Biden’s inauguration did look similar to Trump’s in many ways.
OTTAWA — A new study links the fitness level of Canadian children to that of their parents. The StatCan analysis suggests a child's aerobic fitness, muscular strength and flexibility all correlate to that of their parent. But there were differences when it came to the sex of each parent and child involved. Boys whose parent had "excellent" cardiorespiratory fitness had better cardiorespiratory fitness than boys whose parent had a "poor" cardiorespiratory fitness level. Girls whose parent had "excellent" flexibility had higher flexibility than girls whose parent had "poor" flexibility. But the correlation in cardiorespiratory fitness was only seen significantly in mother-and-son pairs; while a significant flexibility correlation was only seen in mother-son and father-son pairings. Grip strength was associated in all duos except father-son pairings. The study was based on data from the ongoing Canadian Health Measures Survey, and draws from a sample representative of children aged 6 to 11 years and their biological parents. Previous research also found associations between parents and children in obesity, physical activity and sedentary behaviour. StatCan notes the results should be interpreted with some caution since the aerobic test used by the study is only meant for adults. Researchers allow that it's possible the sample represents "a slightly healthier" subset of children. Researchers also note that analysis was limited to data where a birth parent also responded to the survey. These adults were more likely to be younger, have a bachelor's degree or higher education, come from a smaller household size, and have a household income of more than $100,000 than respondents to the ongoing survey who were not the birth parent. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
Inmates at the North Slave Correctional Complex in Yellowknife and the Fort Smith Correctional Complex wanting the COVID-19 vaccine were able to receive it Wednesday. Inmates at the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre in Hay River are scheduled to receive their shots Friday. The jail clinics are part of specific vaccine clinics being offered to vulnerable populations in the territory, a spokesperson for the N.W.T. Health Authority told CBC. Teams held vaccine clinics at homeless and day shelters in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Hay River over the weekend and early this week. The Department of Health says people experiencing homelessness in other N.W.T. communities will have access to the public clinics which have been taking place this month. The territory received its first shipment of 7,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 28. On Dec. 31, the N.W.T. immunized 130 residents and staff at two long-term care facilities, one in Yellowknife and one in Behchokǫ̀. According to the territorial government's COVID-19 information website, 1,893 dose of the vaccine have been given in the N.W.T. so far. When the territory gets its final shipment in mid-March, it expects it will have received 51,000 doses, enough to immunize 75 per cent of the adult population.
The Nova Scotia Police Review Board is looking into claims from convicted murderer Christopher Garnier's family that accuse Cape Breton Regional Police officers of conducting an illegal arrest and seizure of evidence in 2017. Garnier was taken into custody for breaching bail conditions after failing to present himself to the municipal force at his mother's basement door in Millville, N.S. during a compliance check His mother, Kim Edmunds, said she does not believe police were at her home as they have stated. "I honestly don't think they were," Edmunds told members of the board's three-person panel. "When somebody knocks on the door, it wakes me up." Alleged breach In February 2017, while awaiting trial for murder, Garnier took a trip to Cape Breton, where his mother lives. He was allowed to live at his father's house in Bedford or at his mother's residence in Millville as part of his bail conditions. Garnier was to submit to regular compliance checks from either members of the CBRP and Halifax Regional Police. Before his trip, Garnier called a Halifax police answering service to advise he was going to stay at his mom's place, although he did not leave his cell phone number with the service at that time. A CBRP officer testified under oath at a bail revocation hearing that he went to the Millville home in the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 2017, but Garnier did not present himself at the door. A Supreme Court judge later ruled Garnier did not intentionally breach his conditions, as he was likely asleep. That same year, Garnier was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of off-duty Truro police officer Catherine Campbell. Complaint launched Christopher Garnier's father, Vincent Garnier, is representing himself as a complainant at the police hearing into the actions of four officers. The men accused of misconduct are Const. Steve Campbell, Const. Gary Fraser, Const. Dennis McQueen and Const. Troy Walker. Each officer is represented by a lawyer, while a member of Cape Breton Regional Municipality's legal team is acting on behalf of the police organization. "We'll dig deep into the practices of the [CBRP] which I believe violate the constitution, violate the charter and violate aspects of the criminal code. Those are the informations I would like to bring forth over the next two weeks," Vincent Garnier said during a break in the proceedings. "The police, without a warrant, and without any consent of the property owners, accessed private property, walked into a private residence and placed a person under arrest." The board heard that photographs of the property were taken without the knowledge of the homeowner. Hearing continues Vincent Garnier said his family incurred more than $35,000 in legal fees as a result alleged breach. After his son's arrest, he filed a complaint with CBRP. An internal investigation found that if a breach had occurred, it was only minor. Members of the police review board, Hon. Simon J. MacDonald, Stephen Johnson and chair Jean McKenna are hearing arguments on both sides of the case at a Sydney hotel. Police will have a chance to explain their actions on the weekend in question once Vincent Garnier finishes calling witnesses. In total, 14 people are expected to testify at the hearing that is slated to run over two weeks. So far, the board has heard from Christopher Garnier's mother and stepmother, his uncle, and his former common-law partner. MORE TOP STORIES
Two large studies give a much sharper picture of which inherited mutations raise the risk of breast cancer for women without a family history of the disease, and how common these flawed genes are in the general population. Doctors say the results published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine can help women make better decisions about screening, preventive surgery or other steps. Although this sort of genetic testing isn’t currently recommended for the general population, its use is growing and many people get it from tests sold directly to consumers. The new work shows that the risk conferred by some genes “is very high,” Mary-Claire King wrote in an email. King, a University of Washington scientist, had no role in the new studies but discovered the first breast cancer predisposition gene, BRCA1. “The lives of many women could be saved if all women were offered the opportunity to learn if they carry mutations in these genes before they are diagnosed with cancer,” she wrote. The American Cancer Society estimates that 276,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the United States last year. The new work suggests that at least 13,800 of them occur in women with inherited gene mutations that raise their risk of developing the disease. Until now, what’s been known about inherited risk largely has come from studies of women with a family history of breast cancer or unusual situations such as getting it at a very young age. There also has been little work on specific mutations in these genes and how much each affects the odds of developing disease. The new studies fill some of those gaps. One was led by Fergus Couch, a pathologist at the Mayo Clinic and included researchers from the National Institutes of Health, which sponsored the study with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They looked for any mutations in 12 genes that have been tied to breast cancer in more than 64,000 women, about half with the disease and half without it, pooling results from studies throughout the United States including some in specific minority groups such as Blacks. They found troublesome mutations in about 5% of women with the disease and in 1.63% of the comparison group. “Now we realize that 2% of the women walking around in the United States might have mutations in these genes,” Couch said. There were no differences among racial groups in the odds of having a mutation overall, but certain mutations were more common in certain groups. For example, Black women were more likely to have ones linked to “triple negative” cancers -- tumors that are not fueled by estrogen or progesterone, or the gene that the drug Herceptin targets. The study also found having a mutation in the BRCA1 gene raised the risk of developing breast cancer nearly eightfold, and in the BRCA2 gene, more than fivefold. Conversely, another gene has been thought to be very concerning but “what we found is that it’s really low risk ... people really shouldn’t be acting on it,” Couch said. Actions could include more frequent mammograms or other screening tests, having breasts or ovaries removed, having family members tested or other steps. With the new work, “we’re providing more accurate risk estimates” to guide such decisions, Couch said. The second study led by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England, looked at 34 genes in women throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and Asia -- about 60,000 with breast cancer and 53,000 similar ones without it. “They found what we found” -- increased risk from certain genes and a similar prevalence of them in the general population, Couch said. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
MANCHESTER, England — Bernardo Silva finally broke Aston Villa’s resistance by scoring off Manchester City’s 36th effort at goal before Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty sealed a 2-0 victory on Wednesday that extended the winning run of the Premier League’s form team to six matches. An end-to-end match in which City lost Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injuries looked to be heading for a draw, despite the home team’s dominance, when Silva received a pass from Rodri and smashed home a shot from the edge of the area in the 79th minute. The goal was contentious because Rodri was returning from an offside position when he dispossessed Villa defender Tyrone Mings before releasing Silva. No offside was given, though, with the officials seemingly feeling a new phase of play had started when Mings controlled the ball on his chest before being picked off by Rodri. Villa manager Dean Smith was sent off for protesting against the awarding of a goal he described as “farcical” and “pathetic.” “I said to the fourth official, David Coote, ‘Did you get juggling balls for Christmas?’" Smith said, explaining when he was shown a red card by referee Jonathan Moss. “I don’t think any other manager would get sent off for that.” Gundogan wrapped up the win in the 90th minute by converting a spot kick after Matty Cash raised his hand to block a goalbound header from Gabriel Jesus. City moved above Leicester to the top of the league, although Manchester United can reclaim first place by beating Fulham later Wednesday. It was Villa’s first league match since Jan. 1, after which there was a coronavirus outbreak in the squad that led to the training ground being closed. Villa reported that nine players contracted COVID-19 in that period but Smith was able to field a full-strength lineup against City, with the squad only back in training since Sunday. Villa, however, was on the back foot for the entire match, which was played in driving rain, only holding on thanks to a series of last-ditch blocks and some fine goalkeeping from Emi Martinez. City is in its best form of the season, having won nine straight games in all competitions. Pep Guardiola's team in unbeaten in 15. “No one else has won five, six in a row but it’s still the first leg of the season," Guardiola said. "A lot of games to do but the important thing is that the feeling is good.” Walker was substituted with an apparent leg muscle injury in the 27th minute, while De Bruyne hobbled off in the 59th shortly after being fouled by Jack Grealish. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
DAMASCUS – The cows are coming home to the virtual classroom as a Wellington North farm looks to engage young students with a connection to agriculture. Operators of Pfisterer Farm in Damascus, near Arthur, have created Farm School, which provides short one-minute educational videos about farm life geared towards Grades 1 to Grade 3 students. Jess Pfisterer, who runs the farm with husband Ryan, said she heard from parents and educators that online learning has been challenging especially when it comes to keeping children engaged. One of the farm’s mandates is to share knowledge, which Pfisterer said would mean visits to the farm. Of course this hasn’t been able to happen. She was partly inspired by the popularity of TikTok videos. “I kind of took that idea and mashed it with the Heritage Minute idea and thought why don’t we just come up with little minute snippets and post it online for educators and parents,” Pfisterer said. The videos are completely free for use and Pfisterer explained they tie into the Ontario School Curriculum for early elementary grades. “For Grade 1 that’s something along the lines of understanding the needs for animals, so that they need food, shelter and water,” Pfisterer said. Videos will be going up on Jan. 25 but a sample video provides a good example. Pfisterer introduces two cows, Elle and Red, and gives some facts about where they come from and the foods they eat. “It’s pretty basic, I mean we’re talking grades 1 to 3,” Pfisterer said. “That material was already going to be covered right? We just wanted to make sure that it lined up for easy consumption.” Farm School isn’t on any particular app or platform so it can be used anywhere by anyone. Pfisterer said making them on-demand and not live makes it easier for teachers to incorporate them into busy days. The Pfisterers have also offered to answer up to five classroom questions in video responses which furthers engagement between students and farmers. She noted her own experience of growing up in Guelph and only seeing farms on field trips as creating a bit of a disconnect of where food comes from and how it was raised. “There is an opportunity for us to kind of bridge that gap,” Pfisterer said. “I think as farmers we have an obligation to kind of share this, if that’s something we want to promote – local food, local farms.” Pfisterer also said she looks forward to eventually having groups once again visit the farms but these videos are a way to tell their story for the time being. The Pfisterer Farm School videos will be available starting Monday. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
European leaders described the 46th President's inauguration speech as "inspiring" and said it was time to bring "conviction and common sense" to help rejuvenate their relationship with the US.View on euronews
Lundi, l’Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) a lancé une campagne afin de contrer l’intimidation dont sont victimes les élus. Le maire de Matane, Jérôme Landry, a profité de l’occasion pour révéler qu’il a reçu plusieurs lettres anonymes contenant des menaces d’agression physique. L’UMQ constate une « dégradation du climat politique dans de nombreuses municipalités ». Les réseaux sociaux sont notamment pointés du doigt par sa présidente Suzanne Roy comme vecteurs d’intimidation. Il n’est en effet pas nécessaire de chercher bien longtemps sur Facebook pour trouver des messages consternants dans lesquels se mêlent méchanceté gratuite, fausses accusations et insultes à l’endroit des maires et conseillers municipaux. Certains élus ont toutefois remarqué que cette campagne ne faisait pas le tour de la question. C’est le cas de Virginie Proulx, conseillère municipale de Rimouski représentant le district du Bic. « C’est important de valoriser le respect. Les attaques personnelles, ça n’a sa place nulle part, en politique comme ailleurs. Mais j’ai l’impression qu’il manque une partie dans leur campagne de sensibilisation, c’est celle qui touche les élus entre eux », note-t-elle. Par le passé, Mme Proulx a évoqué à plusieurs reprises l’intimidation dont elle aurait été victime lors de séances de travail du conseil municipal, tenues à huis clos, « où il n’y a aucun témoin, il n’y a pas de procès-verbaux, personne n’est filmé, il n’y a même pas d’ordre du jour public. Dans ces séances-là, il y a de l’intimidation qui se fait partout au Québec. » Elle a finalement été exclue de ces rencontres en mai dernier suite à un échange de courriels avec un citoyen Dans les derniers mois, la mairesse de Sainte-Luce Maïté Blanchette Vézina et l’ex-maire de Saint-Paul-de-la-Croix Simon Périard ont également affirmé que les réunions derrière les portes closes menaient parfois à de l’intimidation entre élus municipaux. « Tu comprends pas » Quelle forme prend cette intimidation? Personne ne le dira clairement, car si un élu victime d’intimidation rapporte des propos insultants ou menaçants qui lui ont été adressés par un de ses collègues, il brise la confidentialité des échanges et s’expose à des poursuites! À Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Annette Rousseau a été suspendue pendant 10 jours de ses fonctions de conseillère municipale. La raison? Elle a répondu à une question d’un citoyen concernant les projets d’aréna dans la ville, alors que le conseil municipal voulait que ses intentions (discutées dans des rencontres à huis clos) restent inconnues de la population. Suite au référendum qui a finalement réglé cette question en novembre dernier, Mme Rousseau a démissionné. Sonnée par la défaite (elle défendait le non), elle ne supportait plus non plus l’ambiance autour de la table du conseil municipal, où elle se faisait régulièrement narguer et où elle constatait un manque de respect envers la population de son quartier, Notre-Dame-du-Lac. « Je me faisais dire des choses comme "Bon, elle s’en souvient plus…" ou "Non Annette, tu comprends pas" », se souvient-elle. Ces petites remarques ont fini par lui pourrir la vie. « C’était rendu qu’à partir du jeudi, je pensais aux réunions du lundi soir et je dormais mal. C’est quoi que je n’ai pas compris? Pourquoi je suis tout le temps une deux de pique? C’est parce que j’étais contre eux autres! » Tendre la main aux citoyens? Sans excuser les dérapages des citoyens fâchés, Virginie Proulx aimerait que les élus fassent un effort pour comprendre pourquoi la population est parfois frustrée. La pandémie et ses contraintes plombent assurément l’ambiance, mais ce n’est pas tout selon la conseillère du Bic : « Je suis convaincue que le manque de transparence peut choquer les citoyens. On le voit, la CAQ se fait attaquer là-dessus en ce moment. Les gens ont maintenant accès à tellement d’informations, vraies ou non, qu’on ne peut plus juste leur dire "Voici la vérité, avalez-la". Ils veulent avoir un peu plus accès à ce qui se passe. » D’autres élus arguent plutôt que si les débats du conseil municipal avaient lieu en public, cela nourrirait encore plus la machine à sortir les propos de leur contexte que sont les réseaux sociaux – le conseiller de Sacré-Cœur Sébastien Bolduc a notamment défendu cette position. Il existe également des craintes que des personnes se retournent contre un conseiller qui aurait voté contre leurs intérêts. Virginie Proulx n’est pas en désaccord. « Effectivement, dans certains cas, on peut avoir peur de représailles, par exemple d’un promoteur dont le projet a été rejeté. Ça peut alors être justifié de proposer un huis clos. » « Le problème, c’est que la totalité est à huis clos, poursuit-elle. Ça laisse une image d’opacité qui fait en sorte que les citoyens ont l’impression que quand ils apprennent la nouvelle, il est trop tard pour donner son avis. » À plus long terme, cela n’incite pas ces mêmes citoyens à se lancer en politique municipale, pense-t-elle également. En mettant l’accès sur les messages que les citoyens envoient aux élus, la campagne de l’UMQ ne risque pas de mener à un débat en profondeur. Elle élude également un autre aspect de l’intimidation : celle que des élus font parfois subir aux citoyens sous la forme de menaces de poursuites. Par exemple, à Saint-Vianney, le maire a déjà envoyé une mise en demeure à un groupe de résidents du village qui a créé une page Facebook pour surveiller les activités du conseil municipal.Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
OTTAWA — The head of the Ontario Medical Association says dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is spreading on social media among all age groups. The association's analysis of more than 65,000 recent online posts in Ontario shows that conspiracy theories about the origin of the novel coronavirus and fears that vaccines are dangerous and untested run particularly rampant among people under the age of 35. Dr. Samantha Hill says any delay to vaccinating Canadians will cost lives, whether it stems from untruths that dissuade people from getting a shot in the arm or current issues slowing down delivery of doses to Canada. Canada's small supply of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech will shrink even more over the next four weeks as the company slows production while upgrading its facility in Belgium. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn't doing enough to pressure Pfizer to limit the effect on Canada and is urging him to get company CEO Albert Bourla on the phone right away. A Trudeau spokesman says they will not confirm who Trudeau has spoken to about the matter, and will not negotiate in public. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
When it gazes into the mirror, the United States does not generally see a land of process and procedure. It sees what it has wanted to see since the beginning — a place of action and results and volume. The bold, splashy storylines that Americans crave, and have used to construct their nation, don't always play well with repetition and routine. Then comes a day like Wednesday. Two weeks after the peaceful transfer of power was so nearly upended, ritual took centre stage. And it turned out, after four years of a loud and splashy presidency, that there can be comfort — inspiration, even — in the performance of process and procedure that sends a resounding message to the idealistic and the disaffected alike: The United States continues. The republic still stands. At no juncture in the past 150 years, perhaps, has such an expected and routine process of transition — a moment that Ronald Reagan, while experiencing it, called both “commonplace” and “nothing less than a miracle” — felt more necessary. Or, for that matter, more tenuous. “We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” freshly minted President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address. More than 400,000 Americans are dead in a pandemic that has devastated the economy. We are two weeks out of an insurrection aimed at subverting an election. A departing president vigorously shredded the norms of his office, alienating many millions and unsettling millions more even as he thrilled his most ardent followers. And so a moment of intricately scripted pomp — albeit one that unfolded against the jittery backdrop of a locked-down landscape and thousands of armed military personnel guarding against mayhem — became, once more, a national glue. “Have we become too jaded, too accustomed to the ritual of the passing of the torch of democracy to realize what a blessing, what a privilege it is to witness this moment? I think not.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in opening the inaugural ceremony. The American playbook has taught us that significant transitional moments — “inflection points,” as it has become fashionable to call them — tend to favour the loud. That ignores the mechanics, which is natural: As long as the car’s working and gets you there, you’re probably not thinking much about what's under the hood. That's an incomplete view, though. “America is a process. It’s not an end product,” says Susan Schulten, a professor at the University of Denver who specializes in 19th- and 20th-century U.S. history. It was process personified Wednesday when American leaders who did their jobs and went home — from Dan Quayle all the way to Barack Obama, and now including Mike Pence — strode down the steps and took their seats to watch. It was process incarnate when the same oath handed by the Constitution to George Washington 231 years ago was uttered by Biden. It was process expressed in music when Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem. It was process, too, when Jennifer Lopez sang “This Land Is Your Land,” an American ode written by Woody Guthrie, a man who painted these words on his guitar: “This machine kills fascists.” It was part of the process and procedure, and something incredibly fresh and new as well, when 22-year-old Amanda Gorman took to the mic as the youngest poet ever to read at an inaugural. She even gave a nod to it in her poem, “The Hill We Climb”: “Somehow,” Gorman said, “we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” The process of inauguration held its contradictions, of course, given that two weeks ago many Americans wondered if any of it would even take place at all — and if it did, whether it would be relocated, sequestered and neutered in the interest of preventing insurrection. There was the contradiction of holding a ceremony about democracy’s renewal at a building constructed with slave labour. There was the contradiction of convening that ceremony about freedom in a locked-down part of the open-plan national capital, with thousands of heavily armed Americans in uniform guarding the perimeter from saboteurs. There was the contradiction that, because of both security and coronavirus concerns, the multitudes of Americans who normally turn out to see a new president take office weren’t allowed anywhere near the place. “I wonder how that’s going to effect how Americans see this inauguration,” said Thurston Clarke, author of “Ask Not, ” a book that unpacked the inaugural of John F. Kennedy in 1961. “I think it diminishes it.” And there was, foremost, the contradiction of Donald Trump’s self-chosen absence, which subverted a fundamental step in the power-transfer process by excising the transferrer from the equation. For a few hours Wednesday morning after he made his early exit from the White House and the capital, Trump’s absence created a lightheaded (and not necessarily in a good way) feeling of something that was in the process of becoming something else. While he remained president until noon, and there was no power vacuum, the sense of vulnerability that accompanies any political in-betweenness descended — intensified, no doubt, by the vulnerability that Washington actually faced in the wake of the Capitol insurrection. “There’s usually a sense of closure there,” says Robert J. Thompson, director of the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “This time around, any sense of closure, any sense that this story has at any point ever had some sense of completion, has been broken into a million little pieces.” In his address, Biden kept talking about “the American story,” and rightly so: The United States is held together by the stories it tells. But the stories that become national myths do not come from nowhere. They coalesce. They grow. They marinate. And they do that incrementally, until the small becomes the epic. That's where process, procedure and ritual come in. Together, they can bog down the most exciting of endeavours. But together, too, they can foster continuity and stability. Many progressives who say change is overdue, and want it fast, may not like that. The MAGA base, it has become clear, does not endorse such a notion either. But the tumult of the past four years, a good chunk of it intensified by the upending of norms and processes, suggests that incrementalism has its place in American society as well. And that for every deafening moment that lurches the nation forward, there are countless procedural ones that inch it along. “It drives home how much institutions matter,” Schulten says. The fabric of the American republic has been yanked, pulled taut, bloodied, stretched like seashore-town taffy by leaders and followers alike. What’s ahead is uncertain, as always — and will be distasteful to many and comforting to many others. But on Wednesday, for one moment, any American carnage was elsewhere. For one moment, whatever kind of American you are, whatever you’re upset about and however you voted, this land was incontrovertibly your land. For one interlude on a sunny January day in 2021, in the middle of what Biden called “this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” the state of the union — if not strong, precisely — was intact. The republic, for the moment, still stood. ___ Ted Anthony, director of digital innovation at The Associated Press, has been writing about American culture since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anthonyted Ted Anthony, The Associated Press