Jaleel White talks to Yahoo Entertainment and looks back on 'Do the Urkel' 30 years later. White also teases his pitch for a Family Matters reboot and explains why a modern day Steve Urkel could not exist today.
Jaleel White talks to Yahoo Entertainment and looks back on 'Do the Urkel' 30 years later. White also teases his pitch for a Family Matters reboot and explains why a modern day Steve Urkel could not exist today.
Former President Donald Trump has clashed again with his Republican Party, demanding that three Republican groups stop using his name and likeness for fundraising, a Trump adviser said on Saturday. The adviser, confirming a report in Politico, said lawyers for Trump on Friday had sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Campaign and National Republican Senate Campaign, asking them to stop using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister: She wept as she told him two of his nephews may have been shot in broad daylight as they left a bar in Portland, Oregon. He drove there as fast as he could. An officer told him one of his nephews was heading to the hospital and the other, Tyrell Penney, hadn't survived. “My sister, Tyrell’s mom, was on the phone; I just said, ‘He’s gone.’ And I just heard the most horrific scream that you could ever imagine,” Yarborough said. When Penney was killed last summer, unrest was roiling liberal Portland as protesters took to the streets nightly to demand racial justice and defunding police. At the same time, one of the whitest major cities in America was experiencing its deadliest year in more than a quarter-century — a trend seen nationwide — with shootings that overwhelmingly affected the Black community. Responding to the calls for change in policing, the mayor and City Council cut several police programs from the budget, including one Yarborough believes could have saved his nephew. A specialized unit focused on curbing gun violence, which had long faced criticism for disproportionately targeting people of colour, was disbanded a month before Penney, a 27-year-old Black man visiting from Sacramento, California, was killed on July 25. Yarborough and some other families wonder if ending the unit is partly to blame for Portland's dramatic spike in shootings, but officials and experts attribute increased gun violence in cities nationwide to the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment, economic anxiety and stress on mental health. “Without a doubt, I think it is a possibility that my nephew could still be alive if (the Gun Violence Reduction Team) was not dissolved,” said Yarborough, a crisis response volunteer for Portland police who responds to shootings to support victims’ families. “I cannot say for sure if he would, but what I will tell you is had it not been my nephew that was saved, it probably could have saved the life of someone else,” he said. More people died of gunfire last year in Portland — 40 — than the entire tally of homicides the previous year. The number of shootings — 900 — was nearly 2 1/2 times higher than the year before. The spike has continued this year, with more than 150 shootings, including 45 people wounded and 12 killed so far. Police had warned of possible repercussions of ending the unit, pointing out cautionary tales in other cities that had made a similar choice. Portland police quoted former Salinas, California, Police Chief Kelly McMillin: “Not to be overly dramatic, but if you lose the unit which focuses on removing firearms from the hand of violent offenders, people will die. It’s really just that simple.” Stockton, California, began disbanding and defunding police units dedicated to gun violence in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, the city’s homicide rates reached record highs. After the city restored the units, homicides significantly declined, according to data reported by police. While policing has been refocused in Portland, experts and officials say it's unlikely those changes caused spikes in gun violence. “I believe if (the Gun Violence Reduction Team) were (around) today, we would still see a substantial, if not identical increase, in shootings in Portland,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in January. “This is clearly part of a larger national trend.” Wheeler, who is also police commissioner, announced the unit's disbanding last June and reassigned its 34 officers to patrol. He described it as an opportunity to reimagine policing and redirected $7 million in police funds toward communities of colour. The push was led by Jo Ann Hardesty, the first Black woman elected to the City Council. She cited a 2018 audit showing nearly 60% of people stopped by the gun violence team were Black — though they make up less than 6% of the city’s population. Nearly half of the 55 total homicide victims in 2020 were people of colour, many of them from Portland's historically Black neighbourhoods, according to city statistics. So far this year, there have been 17 homicides — a concerning number considering there had only been one homicide in the same period in 2020. Among the people of colour shot to death last year were a 23-year-old Iraqi refugee stopping to pick up an Uber fare; an 18-year-old recent high school graduate; and a 53-year-old woman caught in gang crossfire and killed in front of her husband. The violence has left leaders and community members scrambling for solutions. Some say the loss of the unit’s seasoned detectives has hurt the city, while others push for new approaches. Last month, police launched a squad of 15 officers and six detectives focusing on gun violence investigations. Officials say it's only part of the solution, as leaders partner with community groups, work to increase transparency and use proactive approaches that don't rely on the stop-and-frisk tactic. That’s little solace to Penney’s three children, the friends he was visiting in Portland or his family, who moved to California when he was child to avoid the exact reason he died — gun violence. Yarborough, Penney's uncle, was a gang member in the 1990s and had been arrested by officers with Portland's gun violence team. Despite that, he described the unit as "the CIA” of the police department and said they often stopped shootings before they happened because of their deep community knowledge. “They built relationships with gang members and knew who the perpetrators were,” Yarborough said. “They ... were able to band together to stop it, or at least refer people impacted to programs to help change their lives.” ___ Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Sara Cline, The Associated Press
Charlottetown's winter festival was put on ice this week due to COVID restrictions, but will be extended six days to make up for the pause. Organizers behind the Ice City Festival, a "distant cousin" of the Jack Frost Festival normally held pre-pandemic, say the past week has been a whirlwind. The festival was supposed to have events throughout the city last week, but the circuit-breaker restrictions instituted Feb. 27, followed by red-phase restrictions early this week, put the festivities on pause. The province had announced a two-week stop to indoor dining as part of the bid to stop the sudden jump in cases. But at a pandemic briefing on Wednesday, Premier Dennis King announced restaurants could reopen Thursday. The current rules limit 50 patrons in a restaurant, no more than six at a table and the establishment must close by 10 p.m. With in-room dining allowed again, Ice City organizers could restart the festivities, which include outdoor activities as well as food. "Skating and stuff could have still carried on, but definitely with the in-room dining, a lot of our restaurant partners are having micro-events at their restaurants," said Heidi Zinn, executive director of Discover Charlottetown. "And certainly, you know, one of the reasons we're doing this is to bring people downtown and get them into the restaurant.... We're super excited to have the programming back." Charlottetown's Ice City Festival began on Feb. 12 and was slated to run until March 14. Now because of the pause it'll run until March 20.
The Dalai Lama, who is 85, was administered the first shot of the coronavirus vaccine on Saturday at a hospital in the north Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
Two people died in a fire at an apartment building Saturday morning in in Hilden, N.S. RCMP say they responded to a report of a fire on Truro Road at 6:55 a.m. A media release stated that local fire departments were able to extinguish the fire. No other details were provided. The cause of the fire is being investigated by Colchester District RCMP, the Northeast Nova Major Crimes Unit and the Office of the Fire Marshal. The RCMP does not believe the fire is suspicious, according to the release. The Red Cross tweeted that the building had 22 units and that 46 tenants are displaced. It has set up a comfort centre at the Hilden fire hall to assist anyone from the apartment building with emergency needs. MORE TOP STORIES
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 10:30 a.m. Ontario is reporting comparatively low COVID-19 case figures today, logging 990 new infections and six virus-related deaths over the past 24 hours. Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region. Two of those long-standing hotspots, Toronto and Peel, are due to rejoin the province's COVID-19 response framework at the grey lockdown level starting on Monday. The province is also reporting a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday's update. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canadian internationals Evelyne Viens and Vanessa Gilles both scored in French league play Saturday. Viens' 90th-minute goal closed out the scoring in Paris FC's 4-1 win at Stade Reims. The 24-year-old from L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que., is on loan from Sky Blue FC, which selected the University of South Florida forward fifth overall in the 2020 NWSL draft. Gilles' header off a 19th-minute corner opened the scoring in Girondins Bordeaux's 2-0 victory at Dijon. The 24-year-old centre back from Ottawa is coming off an impressive performance for Canada against the U.S. at the SheBelieves Cup. Viens made her debut for Canada at the SheBelieves Cup. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021 The Canadian Press
A rise in hate crimes in B.C. over the past year shows an urgent need to take action against racism, says B.C.'s first parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives. The province is in the process of drafting anti-racism legislation and Rachna Singh says communities and grassroots organizations will be consulted on their unique needs during that process. "The past 12 months have shown to us that we need to do more to address systemic discrimination and hatred in this province," said Singh, who is also NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers. "This legislation ... won't end racism, but it is the next step toward creating the society that we are striving for." There has been a surge in anti-Asian crimes in the past year and online radicalization is on the rise. Data from the Vancouver Police Department shows the number of anti-Asian hate crimes rose from a dozen incidents in 2019 to 98 in 2020. The federal Liberal government has identified the rise of right-wing extremism and hate as a major threat to Canada. There are at least 130 active far-right extremist groups in Canada, a 30 per cent increase since 2015. And in November, former children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a report with evidence that Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by systemic racism in B.C.'s health-care system. B.C. Premier John Horgan has called for violence against people of colour to be treated as a hate crime, and Singh says he is making anti-racism a priority. Singh's mandate includes focusing on lasting reconciliation efforts, having equity and anti-racism inform policy and budgetary decisions and reviewing anti-racism laws in other jurisdictions. Rachna Singh says her goal as says her goal as B.C.'s first Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives is to bring B.C. closer to becoming a more socially just and equal society.(Doug Kerr/CBC) She says her years spent working as an addictions counsellor and support worker for women facing domestic violence helped her understand the importance of speaking up for those who can't advocate for themselves. "I always liked to look beyond the medical point of view, or what things looked on the surface, to know exactly what it is that has brought a person to a situation," she said. "It could be the result of intergenerational trauma or systemic racism." Critics have raised concerns about how effective this role will be when it comes to real change. The B.C. government has been criticized for not providing data showing how COVID-19 is affecting racialized communities. Last fall, B.C.'s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner said the government could better address systemic racism in the province by collecting and using disaggregated demographic data. The commissioner called for new legislation to make that happen. Protesters are pictured during a rally against racism in Vancouver in 2020.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Singh acknowledges change won't happen overnight. She believes the upcoming legislation will put words and actions into law, and says her goal is to bring B.C. closer to becoming a more socially just and equal society. "I want to see that everybody has the right to live with dignity, with respect, and whatever we can do to break those barriers," she said. "I think the introduction of B.C.'s first anti-racism act will reinforce our goals to combat racism throughout B.C. and ... ensure that everybody is treated equally, regardless of their race or skin colour."
TORONTO — Ontario's New Democrats say they would create a new cap-and-trade carbon pricing system if elected in 2022. The official Opposition made the promise in an environmental policy plank of their election platform, released today at a morning news conference. Party leader Andrea Horwath says the province needs the carbon pricing system to help fight climate change. She says the system would generate $30 billion in revenue, and the NDP would raise another $10 billion through the sale of "green bonds", over four years. The NDP says that cash would be used to pay for green building retrofits, to ramp up electric vehicle sales, and to plant a billion trees by 2030. The platform also promises to give each household in the province $600 to add an electric car charging station. Ontario's Progressive Conservative government scrapped the province's cap-and-trade system in 2018, a regime introduced by the previous Liberal government. Horwath said the NDP carbon pricing system will ensure polluters pay for their emissions and promised it will not add costs to low and middle income Ontarians. The party says the plan would help Ontario reach a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. "I think more and more people have come to the realization that we must tackle the climate climate crisis," Horwath said. "A just transition means we will really look after our people while we look after our climate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
Quebec is reporting 749 new cases of COVID-19 today along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus. The province also says it administered 19,865 doses of vaccine on Friday as its vaccination campaign ramps up. The latest vaccination figures, the highest the province has reported in a single day so far, come as Quebec opens vaccine eligibility to more people. To date, provincial figures show 532,012 doses of vaccine have been administered out of a total of 638,445 that the province received. Quebec reported 601 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 today, a decrease of 16 from the day before. The number of people hospitalized includes 109 people in intensive care, down by two. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 990 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths linked to the virus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region.Today's data is based on 57,829 completed tests.The province also reports a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday's update.A total of 860,412 doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far.Ontario says that 1,152 more cases were resolved since the last daily update.There have been 306,997 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, including 289,735 classified as resolved and 7,052 that have resulted in death.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
OBERSTDORF, Germany — Canadians Katherine Stewart-Jones and Cendrine Browne posted top-30 finishes Saturday in the women's 30-kilometre classic-ski race at the world nordic ski championships. Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., was 23rd while Browne, of Saint-Jerome, Que., finished 27th. Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse ended up 34th. "It was a good day," Canadian team head coach Erik Braten said. "Katherine went for it from the start but was really tired and did not have it in her today (but) she showed her mental strength by hanging in there. "Cendrine is showing she can also be strong in classic. A top-30 in classic in conditions like this is impressive. Dahria also had a very smart race, pacing herself and holding steady speed all the way through.” Stewart-Jones posted a time of 1:31:02.0. "I'm happy with my race," she said. "I went for it from the start, hoping I had a top-15 in me, but I wasn’t able to hold on. "I'm proud of myself for being gutsy even if I didn't quite get the result I was looking for. I'm happy with my improvement this year, and knowing that I'm able to make that kind of jump gives me confidence going into the Olympic year." Browne registered her third top-30 finish with a time of 1:32:53.9. "I'm so happy (with result)," she said. "I had no expectations for today because I didn’t know how my body would react after so many hard races, but I still had some energy after all. "It was a good hard fight. It’s by far my best world championships, having top-30 results in every distance race." Beatty's time was 1:34:57.3. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
KABUL — A suicide car bombing killed the Afghan intelligence directorate’s chief prosecutor Saturday, an official said, amid an increase in violence in the war-ravaged country. Sayed Mahmood Agha was on his way to his office in the southern city of Lashkargah when an attacker driving a car full of explosives targeted Agha's convoy, killing him, said Attaullah Afghan, provincial council chief for Helmand province. One of Agha's bodyguards was also killed and eight others, including two civilian passersby, were wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan is experiencing a nationwide spike in bombings, targeted killings, and other violence as peace negotiations in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government continue. The Islamic State group’s local affiliate has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but many go unclaimed, with the government putting the blame on the Taliban. The insurgents have denied responsibility for most of the attacks. In another incident at the Sheikh Abu Nasre Farahi crossing in Afghanistan’s western Farah province on the Iranian border, at least three terminals storing diesel fuel caught fire, causing a massive blaze that consumed at least two trucks carrying natural gas and fuel, according to Afghan officials and Iranian state media. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire. Taj Mohammad Jahid, Governor of Farah told The Associated Press that the Afghan first responders did not have the means to put out the huge fire and had requested firefighting support from Iran, which helped extinguish the blaze. It was the second massive fire on on the Afghan-Iranian border in the past three weeks. ——— Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran contributed to this story. Tameem Akhgar, The Associated Press
Trials have been set for two alleged street gang members accused of shooting at police who were pursuing them on Onion Lake Cree. A four-day trial will run in Lloydminster Provincial Court July 5-8, 2021, for thirty-seven-year-old Glynnis Larene Chief. Chief has been in custody at Pine Grove Correctional Centre for women in Prince Albert since her arrest New Year’s Day. She was denied bail in January and North Battleford Crown Prosecutor Oryn Holm continues to oppose her release. Chief and four others (Twaine Derek Buffalo-Naistus, Danny Lee Weeseekase, Tyler Ryan Wolfe, and Melissa Lee McAlpine) were arrested after allegedly shooting at the RCMP during a pursuit on Onion Lake Cree Nation Jan. 1, 2021. Chief is charged with discharging a firearm with intent to endanger life, being an occupant of a vehicle knowing there was a firearm, careless use of a firearm, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, possession of a prohibited weapon, and assault of a police officer with a weapon. Holm said he expects there to be 14 witnesses. North Battleford legal aid lawyer Cameron Schmunk represents Chief. A trial will be held in Lloydminster Provincial Court Aug. 9 – 12, 2021, for thirty-eight-year-old Weeseekase. He is charged with breach of recognizance for possessing a weapon, discharging a firearm with intent to endanger life, being an occupant of a vehicle knowing there was a firearm, careless use of a firearm, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, possession of a prohibited weapon, and assault of a police officer with a weapon. Weeseekase also remains in custody. When police searched the black SUV the five were in they found two SKS rifles, a sawed-off shotgun, a sawed-off 22-caliber rifle and ammunition. RCMP say the five were identified as street gang associates. North Battleford RCMP General Investigation Section took over the investigation. Onion Lake state of emergency The North Battleford RCMP gang unit, called the Crime Reduction Team (CRT), continues to help Onion Lake RCMP combat gang activity. RCMP CRT members collaborate with communities and partner agencies to reduce gang violence and activity. There are two CRTs operated by the RCMP in Saskatchewan; one is in North Battleford and the other is in Prince Albert. Onion Lake Cree Nation declared a state of emergency in January 2020 after a string of drug and gang-related violence threatened the safety of the community. If you are associated with a gang and want to leave it, contact STR8 UP in northern Saskatchewan at 306-763-3001, STR8 UP in central Saskatchewan at 306-244-1771, or Regina Treaty Status Indian Services in southern Saskatchewan at 306-522-7494 to get assistance. If anyone has any information that could assist investigators, please contact Onion Lake RCMP at 306-344-5550. Information can also be submitted anonymously to Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submitting a tip online at www.saskcrimestoppers.com. Onion Lake Cree Nation borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
NEW DELHI — Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a massive expressway on the edges of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws that they say will devastate their income. Farmers stood on tractors and waved colorful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage. Thousands of them have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by Parliament last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture, but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations. Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Joint Farmers’ Front, said the blockade would last five hours. “It is not our hobby to block roads, but the government is not listening to us. What can we do?” said Satnam Singh, a member of the group. The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But they could soon run into problems. For 100 days, Karnal Singh has lived inside the back of a trailer along a vast stretch of arterial highway that connects India’s north with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was under the grip of winter and smog. Now the city is bracing for scorching summer temperatures that can hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). But Singh, like many other farmers, is unfazed and plans to stay until the laws are completely withdrawn. “We are not going anywhere and will fight till the end,” Singh, 60, said Friday, as he sat cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck. The mood at the Singhu border, one of the protest sites, was boisterous on Friday, with many farmers settling into their surroundings for the long haul. Huge soup kitchens that feed thousands daily were still running. Farmers thronged both sides of the highway and hundreds of trucks have been turned into rooms, fitted with water coolers in preparation for the summer. Electric fans and air conditioners are also being installed in some trailers. Farmers say the protests will spread across the country soon. The government, however, is hoping many of them will return home once India’s major harvesting season begins at the end of the month. Karanbir Singh dismissed such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbours back in the villages, would tend to farms while he and others carried on with the protests. “We’ll help each other to make sure no farm goes unharvested,” Singh said. But not all farmers are against the laws. Pawan Kumar, a fruit and vegetable grower and ardent Modi supporter, said he was ready to give them a chance. “If they (the laws) turn out to not benefit us, then we will protest again,” he said. "We will jam roads, and make that protest even bigger. Then more common people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be beneficial for us, we will keep them.” Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal. The legislation is not clear on whether the government will continue to guarantee prices for certain essential crops — a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help India shore up its food reserves and prevent shortages. Farmers also fear that the legislation signals the government is moving away from a system in which an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces. They worry that will leave them at the mercy of corporations that will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price anymore. ___ Associated Press videojournalist Rishabh R. Jain contributed to this report. Neha Mehrotra And Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press
A COVID-19 outbreak at Bowness High School in northwest Calgary is causing all grades to transition to online classes starting Monday. The Calgary Board of Education sent a letter to parents Friday detailing that the school was placed on outbreak status for the provincial COVID-19 map. According to the provinces' website, an outbreak refers to schools with five to nine cases. The CBE said classes will be held online until March.16 and will impact around 1,184 students in grades 10-12. Students will continue their coursework through a variety of virtual classroom programs but will not be able to transfer to Hub online learning, the CBE said in the letter. The province considers an outbreak investigation completed when there have been no new confirmed cases in the school for 28 days.
Britain's Prince Charles paid tribute to the courage shown throughout the Commonwealth in response to coronavirus in a broadcast that will air on Sunday, hours before Prince Harry and Meghan talk about stepping down from royal duties on U.S. television. The prince was joined by other royals, including his elder son and heir Prince William, in talking about the impact of COVID-19 in messages recorded for a programme marking Commonwealth Day dedicated to the countries, mainly from the former British empire, that maintain links with Britain. "The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish," Charles said in the message.
WASHINGTON — An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums. After labouring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature. “We tell the American people, help is on the way," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Citing the country's desire to resume normalcy, he added, “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.” The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year. Saturday's vote was also a crucial political moment for Biden and Democrats, who need nothing short of party unanimity in a 50-50 Senate they run because of Vice-President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. They also have a a slim 10-vote edge in the House. A small but pivotal band of moderate Democrats leveraged changes in the bill that incensed progressives, not making it any easier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to guide the measure through the House. But rejection of their first, signature bill was not an option for Democrats, who face two years of trying to run Congress with virtually no room for error. The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance. The package faced solid opposition from Republicans, who call the package a wasteful spending spree for Democrats’ liberal allies that ignores recent indications that the pandemic and the economy could be turning the corner. “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Of Democrats, he said, “Their top priority wasn't pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.” The Senate commenced a dreaded “vote-a-thon” — a continuous series of votes on amendments — shortly before midnight Friday, and by the end had dispensed with about three dozen. The Senate had been in session since 9 a.m. EST Friday. Overnight, the chamber was like an experiment in the best techniques for staying awake. Several lawmakers appeared to rest their eyes or doze at their desks, often burying their faces in their hands. At one point, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, at 48 one of the younger senators, trotted into the chamber and did a prolonged stretch. The measure follows five earlier ones totalling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring and comes amid signs of a potential turnaround. Vaccine supplies are growing, deaths and caseloads have eased but remain frighteningly high, and hiring was surprisingly strong last month, though the economy remains 10 million jobs smaller than its pre-pandemic levels. The Senate package was delayed repeatedly as Democrats made eleventh-hour changes aimed at balancing demands by their competing moderate and progressive factions. Work on the bill ground to a halt Friday after an agreement among Democrats on extending emergency jobless benefits seemed to collapse. Nearly 12 hours later, top Democrats and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the chamber's most conservative Democrat, said they had a deal and the Senate approved it on a party-line 50-49 vote. Under their compromise, $300 weekly emergency unemployment checks — on top of regular state benefits — would be renewed, with a final payment made Oct. 6. There would also be tax breaks on some of those payments, helping people the pandemic abruptly tossed out of jobs and risked tax penalties on the benefits. The House's relief bill, largely similar to the Senate's, provided $400 weekly benefits through August. The current $300 per week payments expire March 14, and Democrats want the bill on Biden's desk by then to avert a lapse. Manchin and Republicans have asserted that higher jobless benefits discourage people from returning to work, a rationale most Democrats and many economists reject. That agreement on jobless benefits wasn't the only move that showed the sway of moderates. The Senate voted Friday to eject a House-approved boost in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, a major defeat for progressives. Eight Democrats opposed the increase, suggesting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other progressives pledging to continue the effort in coming months will face a difficult fight. Party leaders also agreed to restrict eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks that will go to most Americans. That amount would be gradually reduced until, under the Senate bill, it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000. Those amounts were higher in the House version. Many of the rejected GOP amendments were either attempts to force Democrats to cast politically awkward votes or for Republicans to demonstrate their zeal for issues that appeal to their voters. These included defeated efforts to bar the bill's education funds from going to schools closed for the pandemic that don't reopen their doors, or that let transgender students born male to participate in female sports. One amendment would have blocked aid to so-called sanctuary cities, where local authorities balk at helping federal officials round up immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Friday's gridlock over unemployment benefits gridlock wasn't the bill's lengthy delay. A day earlier, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., forced the chamber's clerks to read aloud the entire 628-page relief bill, a wearying task that lasted nearly 11 hours. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
PLAINS OF UR, Iraq — Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade. In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. Afterward, he said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defence of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, and his rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. He is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. Later in the day, the pope met with Iraqi religious leaders in the shadow of a symbol of the country’s ancient past — the 6,000-year-old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Such interfaith forums are a staple of Francis’ international trips. But in strife-torn Iraq the televised gathering of figures from across the country’s religious spectrum was nearly unheard of: From Shiite and Sunni Muslims to Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians and tiny, lesser known, ancient and esoteric faiths like the Kakai, a sect among ethnic Kurds, Mandaeans and Sabaean Mandaeans. Missing from the picture was a representative of Iraq’s once thriving, now nearly decimated Jewish community, though they were invited, the Vatican said. Together, the day’s two main events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. It is a message he hopes can preserve the place of the thinning Christian population in the tapestry. Still, it faces a tough sell in a country where every community has been traumatized by sectarian bloodshed and discrimination and where politicians have tied their power to sectarian interests. In al-Sistani, Francis sought the help of an ascetic, respected figure who is immersed in those sectarian identities but is also a powerful voice standing above them. Their meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home, the first ever between a pope and a grand ayatollah, was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly negotiated beforehand. Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, travelling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. He then walked the few meters (yards) down an alley to al-Sistani’s home. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. He emerged just under an hour later, still limping from an apparent flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that makes walking difficult. A religious official in Najaf called the 40-minute meeting “very positive.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honour. The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water. Al-Sistani and Francis sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting, the official said. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public or even on television, wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock. The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh last year, looked tired. After the meeting ended, Francis paused before leaving the room to have a last look, the official said. In a statement issued by his office afterward, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.” Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said. Iraqis cheered the meeting, and the prime minister responded to it by declaring March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Cooexistence in Iraq. ”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is a historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.” Iraq’s Christians, battered by violence and discrimination, hope a show of solidarity from al-Sistani will help secure their place in Iraq and ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community. Al-Sistani’s voice is a powerful one, often for moderation. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, his opinions forced American administrators to alter their transition plans, and his approval opened the way for Iraq’s Shiites to participate in force in post-Saddam Hussein elections. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. But his word is not law. After 2003, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by Sunni extremists. Yet brutal Shiite reprisals against Sunni civilians fed a years-long cycle of sectarian violence. His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group helped ensure the extremists’ defeat. But it also swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran and now blamed for discrimination against Sunnis and Christians. Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah. “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.” The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain. Ali Thijeel, a Nasiriyah resident who attended the event, said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage investment in the area to attract pilgrims and tourists. “This is what we were waiting for,” he said. “This is a message to the government and politicians. They should take care of this city and pay attention to our history.” Francis’ visit — his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Iraq. Despite concern about infections, Francis celebrated Mass in a packed, stuffy Chaldean Catholic Cathedral later Saturday in Baghdad that featured chanted Scripture readings and a maskless choir singing hymns. “Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus,” Francis told the faithful, who did wear masks. ___ Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed. Nicole Winfield And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
The widow of a mariner who died on B.C.'s North Coast is looking for answers and closure surrounding the circumstances of her husband's death. Judy Carlick-Pearson is asking the Canadian Coast Guard to raise the tugboat Ingenika, which sank Feb. 11 while pulling a large barge in the Gardner Canal just south of Kitimat. Carlick-Pearson's husband, Troy Pearson, and crew member Charley Cragg were both killed in the accident. A third crew member, Zac Dolan, was rescued after washing ashore. "Honestly, it's minute by minute, second by second some days," said Carlick-Pearson in an interview with CBC Daybreak North host Carolina DeRyk. "My son and I take turns being the cheerleader in the house to try and get through a moment." Stalled efforts at recovery It's now been more than three weeks since the Ingenika sank, but neither the Canadian Coast Guard nor the RCMP have been able to retrieve the vessel. Carlick-Peason says they have given up the search even though there could still be answers on the boat, and the boat still contained fuel, which could be harmful to the marine environment. "We feel that the tug will not only answer questions, but give us some closure as well," she wrote in a petition launched March 2. "If they recover the tug, they may find out why that tugboat sank, as tugboats aren't known to sink." The petition has received more than 6,600 signatures as of Saturday. In a written statement to CBC, Transport Canada extended their condolences to the families of Pearson and Cragg, but said the suspected depth of the vessel would make any attempts at recovery difficult and dangerous. "The coast guard continues to monitor the situation and work with the owner, the RCMP, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada as partners in the response," the statement says. "An investigation into the sinking of the tug Ingenika will be conducted by the Transportation Safety Board." Call for greater oversight The Feb. 11 incident has sparked calls for better protection of mariners operating vessels. The International Longshore Workers Union Local 400 Marine Section sent out a news release on Feb. 23 asking Transport Canada to require formal safety management systems for undersized and undermanned fleets operating along the coast. ILWU Local 400 president Jason Woods said approximately 12 tugboats have sunk in the past two years on the West Coast. Woods said these tugboats are often undermanned and underweight for the size of vessel they are pulling. "The only reason people haven't died is because of luck," Woods said. "We've been saying this for years, that there will be a fatality, it's going to happen, and here we are." Woods said he would like to see every commercial vessel inspected by Transport Canada regardless of its weight, and procedures in place to ensure they are appropriately manned.