Jennifer Nettles wore a white suit with a hot pink train to the CMAs on Wednesday night that read, “Play Our F****n Records. Please & Thank You,” to protest the lack of female voices heard on country radio. The back featured the words “Equal Play.”
Jennifer Nettles wore a white suit with a hot pink train to the CMAs on Wednesday night that read, “Play Our F****n Records. Please & Thank You,” to protest the lack of female voices heard on country radio. The back featured the words “Equal Play.”
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
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. There are 719,751 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 719,751 confirmed cases (71,055 active, 630,430 resolved, 18,266 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,679 new cases Tuesday from 67,775 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 6.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.03 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 45,281 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,469. There were 146 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 989 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 141. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,710,272 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 396 confirmed cases (eight active, 384 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 271 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 76,762 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Tuesday from 606 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of seven new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 87,077 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,561 confirmed cases (22 active, 1,474 resolved, 65 deaths). There were four new cases Tuesday from 1,199 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.26 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 27 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 197,918 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,004 confirmed cases (317 active, 674 resolved, 13 deaths). There were 31 new cases Tuesday from 712 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 40.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 187 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 27. There was one new reported death Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 129,708 tests completed. _ Quebec: 245,734 confirmed cases (19,017 active, 217,575 resolved, 9,142 deaths). There were 1,386 new cases Tuesday from 6,480 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 21 per cent. The rate of active cases is 224.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13,110 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,873. There were 55 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 362 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.61 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 107.74 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,670,614 tests completed. _ Ontario: 242,277 confirmed cases (27,615 active, 209,183 resolved, 5,479 deaths). There were 1,913 new cases Tuesday from 33,402 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,254 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,893. There were 46 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 380 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 54. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 37.61 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,705,969 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 27,740 confirmed cases (3,088 active, 23,869 resolved, 783 deaths). There were 111 new cases Tuesday from 1,362 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 225.49 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,203 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 172. There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 35 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.18 per 100,000 people. There have been 442,786 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 20,871 confirmed cases (4,156 active, 16,490 resolved, 225 deaths). There were 309 new cases Tuesday from 1,246 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 25 per cent. The rate of active cases is 353.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,097 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 300. There were six new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 21 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.26 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 19.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 323,677 tests completed. _ Alberta: 117,767 confirmed cases (11,096 active, 105,208 resolved, 1,463 deaths). There were 456 new cases Tuesday from 10,114 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 253.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,024 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 718. There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 118 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,020,119 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 61,912 confirmed cases (5,723 active, 55,099 resolved, 1,090 deaths). There were 465 new cases Tuesday from 11,781 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 112.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,359 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 480. There were 12 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 71 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.2 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,033,692 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 10 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,185 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 30 confirmed cases (six active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Tuesday from 348 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.57 per cent. The rate of active cases is 13.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 8,671 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 244 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,018 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
For parents in eastern Ontario struggling to work from home while overseeing their grade-school children's at-home learning — or battling for bandwidth with their teenagers — Wednesday may be D-day. That's when Ontario's chief medical officer of health is expected to submit his recommendations on which regions should be allowed to resume in-class learning as of Jan. 25. Education Minister Stephen Lecce will make the announcement publicly — after cabinet approves the decision — either Wednesday or Thursday. Under the provincewide shutdown that began Dec. 26, elementary students were to return to class on Jan. 11, while secondary-school teens had to wait until Jan. 25. But with COVID-19 numbers on the rise over the holiday period, the government extended online learning for elementary schools until at least Jan. 25 — longer for hotspot zones in and around Toronto, as well as Windsor, Ont. 'Trickier' to reopen Ottawa schools Neither provincial nor local health officials would comment on the likelihood of local schools reopening later this month. But experts say the province will be looking at COVID-19 transmission numbers as a key indicator for whether students should go back to school. So while in-person learning could be returning for regions with relatively low ratios of spread — think Kingston, Prince Edward County, or Lanark — Ottawa's numbers mean it will be a "little bit trickier" to open schools in the capital, says one expert. Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen's University and medical director of infection prevention and control at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, said the province will likely be looking at how many new cases are being reported a week per 100,000 people in each region, to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community. We are still seeing a significant increase in the number of children and youth testing positive for COVID-19. - Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health "That's the classic metric that's being used," Evans told CBC. "Certainly where I am here in Kingston is going to look very good because that number is actually less than seven." In Ottawa, it's almost 82. Positivity up among children Another key statistic the province will study, according to Evans, is the proportion of children testing positive, which has risen in recent weeks. In a letter sent to parents of students in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Tuesday evening, Dr. Vera Etches warned that "we are still seeing a significant increase in the number of children and youth testing positive for COVID-19," even though there's been a significant decline the number of young people getting tested. Ottawa's medical officer of health wrote that the city is currently seeing a positivity rate of 21 per cent among children aged five to 12 who are tested for COVID-19. "We know there are likely many more undiagnosed infections in our community and unless we test more, we will not be able to identify them," she wrote. Etches pleaded for children with even minor symptoms to get swabbed because "refraining from testing is adding to the growing risk of community spread." She said that could lead to pressures on the health-care system, and "ultimately lead to an extension of the lockdown and other restrictions." Weighing numbers vs. social importance It's important to note that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in children is likely not due to spread in schools, as they've been closed since Dec. 17. According to Dr. Doug Manuel, a scientist with The Ottawa Hospital and a member of the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the province needs to consider whether school closures are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 faster. There have been 72 COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa schools since September — 45 of them in elementary schools. An outbreak is declared when it's reasonable for public health officials to conclude that two positive cases in a school are related. The vast majority of the outbreaks consisted of just a few people; 11 outbreaks involved five or more students or staff. While school outbreaks are certainly an area of focus for officials, Manuel points out that the transmission there isn't "as high as we expected going into the fall." "I think we can all agree that the teachers and the students and the custodial staff exceeded our expectations." Manuel, who says he'd feel comfortable sending his own grade-school aged children back to class in Ottawa, points to a number of promising signs that Ottawa is beginning to flatten the curve, including the receding daily count of new cases. Each person who tests positive is reporting an average of 1.3 close contacts, instead of seven just before the holidays. Also on Tuesday, Ottawa Public Health reported an effective reproduction rate — the average number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case — of 0.96. A rate below one suggests the spread is coming under control. "People often describe schools as the last place you want to shut down," said Manuel. "And I think that's a reflection of the importance for schools for kids." He suggested it can be possible for society to reduce COVID-19 levels while keeping schools open — like Ottawa did in October.
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spent much of his long career casting Israel's Arab minority as a potential fifth column led by terrorist sympathizers, is now openly courting their support as he seeks reelection in the country's fourth vote in less than two years. Few Arabs are likely to heed his call, underscoring the desperation of Netanyahu’s political somersault. But the relative absence of incitement against the community in this campaign and the potential breakup of an Arab party alliance could dampen turnout — to Netanyahu's advantage. He might even pick up just enough votes to swing a tight election. Either way, Netanyahu's overtures have shaken up the Arab community. The Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties that secured a record 15 seats in the 120-member Knesset last March, is riven by a dispute over whether it should work with Netanyahu's right-wing Likud at a time when less objectionable centre-left parties are in disarray. Its demise would leave the community with even less representation as it confronts a terrifying crime wave, coronavirus-fueled unemployment and persistent inequality. But given the complexities of Israel's coalition system, a breakaway Arab party could gain outsized influence if it is willing to work with Netanyahu or other traditionally hostile leaders. The struggle was on vivid display last week when Netanyahu travelled to Nazareth, the largest Arab-majority city in Israel, his third visit to an Arab district in less than two weeks. Outside the venue, dozens of people, including a number of Arab members of parliament, protested his visit and scuffled with police, even as the city's mayor welcomed and praised him. “Netanyahu came like a thief to try to scrape together votes from the Arab street,” said Aida Touma-Suleiman, a prominent lawmaker from the Joint List. "Your attempt to dismantle our community from within won’t succeed.” Arabs make up around 20% of Israel's population. They have full citizenship, including the right to vote, and have a large and growing presence in universities, the health care sector and other professions. But they face widespread discrimination and blame lax Israeli law enforcement for a rising wave of violent crime in their communities. They have close familial ties to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and largely identify with their cause. That has led many Jews to view them as sympathetic to Israel's enemies, sentiments fanned by Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians. On the eve of elections in 2015, Netanyahu warned his supporters that Arabs were voting in "droves." During back-to-back elections in 2019, his campaign sent poll observers to Arab districts and pushed for cameras in voting booths, in what critics said was a ploy to intimidate Arab voters and whip up false allegations of election fraud. Those moves backfired spectacularly. The Joint List, an unwieldy alliance of Islamists, communists and other leftists, boosted turnout and emerged as one of the largest blocs in parliament. At times, it looked like it might help deny Netanyahu a majority coalition or even emerge as the official opposition. But last May, after three deadlocked elections in less than a year, Netanyahu formed a coalition with his main rival and the Joint List was left out in the cold. In the coming election, polls indicate a coalition of right-wing and centrist parties committed to ending Netanyahu's nearly 12-year rule would be able to oust him without the Arab bloc. No Arab party has ever asked or been invited to join a ruling coalition. In Nazareth, Netanyahu claimed his remarks in 2015 were misinterpreted — that he was merely warning Arab voters not to support the Joint List. “All Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, must vote," he said. In other Arab towns, he has visited coronavirus vaccination centres, boasting about his success in securing millions of doses and encouraging residents to get inoculated. Netanyahu's Arab outreach seems to have given a green light to centrist and left-leaning politicians to do the same, with less concern that their right-wing rivals will use it against them. Opposition leader Yair Lapid, Netanyahu's main centre-left opponent, said over the weekend that he was open to forming a government with external support from the Joint List. The Joint List is meanwhile showing signs of breaking up. Mansour Abbas, the head of an Islamist party, has expressed openness in recent months to working with Netanyahu to address issues like housing and law enforcement. An aide to Abbas declined requests for an interview. A full-scale breakup of the Joint List could further reduce turnout and potentially leave one or more of its four parties with too little support to cross the electoral threshold. Thabet Abu Rass, the co-director of the Abraham Initiatives, which works to promote equality among Jews and Arabs, says Netanyahu may attract a small number of Arab voters, but that far more of them would simply boycott the election. “They are waiting to see if there is going to be a Joint List or not, and if you ask me, it’s not going to happen,” he said. "There are a lot of deep differences this time.” A poll carried out in December forecast Arab turnout at around 55%, far lower than the 65% seen last March. Although Arab parties have historically performed worse on their own, some feel the parties might be more effective individually. In Israel's political system — which requires would-be prime ministers to assemble majority coalitions — small parties often wield outsized influence. “When we speak about the Palestinian community in Israel, we don’t speak about one bloc, we have different ideologies,” said Nijmeh Ali, a policy analyst at Al-Shabaka, an international Palestinian think-tank . “Sometimes you need to break up in order to gain power." Netanyahu appears to be focused on the margins ahead of a tight race that could determine not only whether he remains in office, but whether he secures immunity from prosecution on multiple corruption charges. With only a few seats, a pragmatic politician like Abbas could determine Netanyahu's fate. “This is the new thing in Arab politics," said Arik Rudnitzky, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “They are ready to hold direct negotiations with Likud.” He said it doesn't mean they will be part of a governing coalition, but they could offer outside support to secure benefits for the Arab public. “It might be a win-win situation," he said. ___ Associated Press reporters Areej Hazboun in Jerusalem and Ami Bentov in Nazareth, Israel, contributed to this report. Joseph Krauss, The Associated Press
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Long wait times are still affecting hundreds of immigrants applying to renew their visas here in New Brunswick. Rayanne Ribas says she and her family have prepared for a months-long wait to have their visas renewed. The Ribas family came to New Brunswick in 2019 and will make their third visa application under the Atlantic Pilot Program while they wait for permanent residency. The Ribas had to reapply for the visa last year, and have to do it again this year. By April of 2021, all of their visas will have expired. But according to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it could take 6 months to process the application. "I'm kind of shocked, to be honest, that I have to extend one more time," said Ribas, "and spend that much money one more time and be at the same situation like one more time." IRCC says the pandemic has complicated processes and led to the delays. In a statement, a spokesperson said IRCC has prioritized vulnerable people, family members seeking to reunite, and essential workers. It said it is also working to process more applications virtually. But Rayanne Ribas worries that because of the delays, she won't have her visa renewed before her current one expires and she or her husband will fall into "implied status" again. Under "implied status", people waiting for new visas lose their legal status in the country, said Ginette Gautreau, interim executive director for the New Brunswick Multicultural Association, making it harder to find employment, rent housing, and make any purchases requiring credit checks. It can also impact Medicare coverage. Last year, Ribas' husband Amauri had to have surgery while he was in implied status and didn't have coverage. The provincial government agreed to cover that bill. "The delays at IRCC and the impacts that it has on implied status and access to Medicare are continuing," said Gautreau. "They're looking at addressing those and hopefully trying to catch up. But there hasn't been -- I would say -- any significant progress from (last) year." The New Brunswick Multicultural Council estimated in October that there could be between 3,500 and 4,000 people living under implied status in the province. Gautreau said those numbers haven't changed much. She also said there's not much that can be done to help people in that situation. "But if there are emergency cases where people's lives are at risk or excessive costs related to access to medical support, we try to support where we can in terms of escalating those requests up," she said. Ribas said the provincial government is working to provide some medical coverage to people who fall under implied status, but CBC has been unable to confirm that. Ribas applied for permanent residency in 2019, but hasn't heard anything about her application since April 2020.
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
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
The seemingly more transmissible variants of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil are called "variants of concern" by the World Health Organization. Viruses mutate or change all the time to try to gain a selective advantage over other variants or versions of the virus. What sets the variants of concern apart from run-of-the-mill mutations is they could help the virus to infect human cells more easily or transmit person to person. If so, the variant gains a competitive advantage to wrestle aside other versions of the virus. So far, there are no signs of the variants worsening severe outcomes from the disease directly. But the fear is they will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths by spreading much more easily to more people. Here's a look at what's driving the concern and calls for more precautions in Canada. Where are the variants found in Canada? Canada's national microbiology lab has to date reported 23 cases of the B117 virus variant first identified in the U.K. and two cases of the variant first reported in South Africa. Most provinces aren't testing all samples for the variants. Only Saskatchewan says all of its COVID-19 tests will detect the B117 variant. Health officials say when greater transmission results in more people testing positive, then more hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and eventually deaths will follow. And the more that a virus circulates — either worldwide or in a particular community — the more opportunities it has to mutate. How quickly and to what extent are the variants spreading? Virus and infectious disease experts say that to get a handle on how quickly the variants are spreading in Canada requires more surveillance. But genome sequencing is a research tool that is costly and time consuming to use clinically. That's why labs across the country are working to develop faster assays for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, noted Monday that some of the province's cases of variants don't have a travel history. "We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow, as there is evidence now of community transmission," Yaffe said. Last week, Yaffe called community transmission "a very serious concern that the vaccine will not be able to address quickly enough." Public health officials are on the lookout for variants showing community transmission because it means the source of an outbreak can no longer be traced back to travel abroad. At that point, an outbreak can quickly spiral, so time is of the essence. If the B117 variant spreads in the community, the doubling time for cases could drop to 10 days in March from every 35 to 40 days now, Ontario health officials estimated. What would experts like to see next? Art Poon, an associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Western University in London, Ont., develops computer methods to study the evolution of viruses, such as an app called CoVizu that's listed by the GISAID Initiative — an international non-profit project to share genome data on viruses. Poon said that the variants of concern show more mutations than scientists would expect. WATCH | New coronavirus variant emerges in Brazil: "I think, sadly, we're going to see increasing frequency of this particular [B117] variant and disproportionate growth of this in other countries," he said of what's been seen so far in Britain. Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is also looking for more surveillance of variants, as well as other precautions. Saxinger said she would like to see tighter controls at Canada's border with the United States, both by land and air. This includes checks to ensure international travellers obey requirements in the Quarantine Act and aren't carrying the infection unknowingly and spreading it, as well as possibly an interprovincial travel ban, which has been proposed by B.C. Premier John Horgan. "We don't want there to be multiple importations of these difficult mutations before we have an opportunity to detect and control them," Saxinger said. "We should probably try to keep a tight lid on things until we sort out what's what, if this is a big deal, where it's a big deal and how it might be controlled." Limiting importations of the variants means less fuel for the fire. "If you're not having that many potential sparks hitting your tinder, you have a much better chance of being able to control it," she said. Saxinger is one of the signatories to a petition released Tuesday calling on the federal government to immediately act to reduce opportunities for variant entry by restricting international travel to essential travel, as well as other precautions.
TORONTO — Pediatric and mental health experts say pandemic stress is driving a spike in eating disorders among adolescents and teens, pointing to school disruptions, social isolation and infection fears as destabilizing factors that could have long-term physical and mental health effects. Doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, Ottawa's pediatric hospital and research centre CHEO and the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary are among those noting a significant jump in admissions and demand for outpatient treatment. Dr. Ellie Vyver of the Alberta Children's Hospital says admissions more than doubled at her hospital between July and September last year and continue to rise. Colleagues across the country are reporting similar signs of despair. "What we have been seeing in Alberta and at SickKids is not unique. It's happening in B.C., it's happening in other centres in Ontario outside of SickKids, it's happening in Montreal. It's something that's happening across across the country," says Vyver, who said the illness tends to have the highest prevalence around age 14. At the same time, children who struggle are displaying more severe mental and physical problems, adds the director of CHEO's mental health program, who says his eastern Ontario hospital can only treat the "tip of the iceberg." "The supply and demand is so off-kilter right now that it is overwhelming the system," says David Murphy. The cutoff for admission to CHEO is a heart rate below 45 beats per minute. CHEO says there were 67 admissions between April 1 and Oct. 31 last year – a 63 per cent jump from the same period in 2019. Christina Bartha of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health points to increased isolation, school disruption, social media exposure and stress as fuelling unhealthy eating and exercise habits. Compared to last year, Bartha says yearly admissions at her Toronto hospital are expected to jump as much as 30 per cent to 170 (from 128), while the number of referred outpatients is heading towards a 50 to 60 per cent increase with 245 cases (versus last year's 154). The cases primarily involve restrictive eating, including anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which is similar to anorexia but does not involve stress over body shape or size. Dr. Debra Katzman, senior associate scientist at SickKids and co-founder of its eating disorders program, also says children are in more acute physical and mental distress than past cases. That could be because of delayed assessments if some families feared contracting COVID-19 by visiting a hospital early in the pandemic, she says. Meanwhile, virtual care has made it more difficult for some recovering patients to maintain health goals. "We're seeing kids who are at significantly low weights, are extremely malnourished and have all kinds of medical and psychiatric comorbid complications," says Katzman. Although SickKids is still collecting and analyzing its data, she and Bartha expressed little doubt that pandemic-fuelled turmoil has played a key role in driving up youth anxiety. "These young people are so used to having a routine that they engage in every day – waking up, going to school, coming home, et cetera – and now they have no routine. And they're quite disconnected from their peers. That's a huge thing, especially during adolescence," says Katzman. "(And) they're not with their teachers or their coaches who are able to identify these very life-threatening disorders quite early." Sterling Renzoni of Orangeville, Ont., believes social media, isolation and disrupted care were key factors in a "mini-relapse" he says he experienced during the lockdown last spring. The 18-year-old says he was discharged early from a southern Ontario residential treatment program for anorexia in the early days of the pandemic. No longer forced to follow a strict daily routine, under less supervision and unable to see his friends, Renzoni says he began fixating on exercise. "It was challenging to figure out how I was going to keep myself busy," admits Renzoni, who says he stopped obsessing with the help of virtual care and by redirecting focus to his long-term goal of attending university in the fall. "I had more time to just be on social media (and) it was still filled with a lot of unhelpful accounts, unhelpful information and unhelpful people that I was following... but I realized that after already having a mini-relapse." Now a Trent University freshman, Renzoni says if it hadn't been for the pandemic, he likely would have stayed in residential care for three months instead of one, and would have been more physically and mentally able to withstand pandemic restrictions when discharged. Aryel Maharaj, outreach and education co-ordinator with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, says social media has played a large role in driving fat-phobic messages around the so-called "Quarantine 19" in recent months, while repeated lockdowns ignited grocery sprees and encouraged food hoarding. These all make it difficult for anyone struggling with food issues, he said. "It just makes it a lot harder if food is your primary means of coping and now you're surrounded by it and you're stressed out," says Maharaj. Maharaj says NEDIC's anonymous helpline has seen a 43 per cent overall increase in calls, and more than double the number of calls from those aged 11 to 19. The head of the Adolescent Medicine Program at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John's, N.L., says admissions are up there, too. Dr. Anna Dominic says the wait-list for assessments of medically stable patients is now seven months, when it's typically two to three months. Over at CHEO, Murphy says the hospital would not turn away anyone approaching its 45 bpm threshold, but he says the very fact they require such a stark cutoff – introduced before the pandemic – speaks to how dire the situation is. Demand is so high, CHEO also denies 73 per cent of referrals — up from 49 per cent from the year before. Murphy admits that means many very sick and starving youngsters are forced to look elsewhere for help, and risk deteriorating further while seeking care. He knows of at least two community-based services with 18-month wait-lists. Maharaj says eating disorders thrive in isolation and so it's important for struggling youngsters to know they are not alone and can turn to a growing number of remote resources. He says hospitals, community groups, therapists, dietitians and others have embraced online options to reach more people. "It's so easy to fall into this pit of despair, of hopelessness, if you think that it's never going to change and there's nothing out there for you," says Maharaj. "There are virtual ways that we can try to connect and provide some kind of support so you're not just sitting there spiralling on your own." Murphy says the issue has always been under-resourced, and the pandemic has highlighted that problem. "When we talk about mental health, we think of depression, suicide, schizophrenia. It's all of those acute mental illnesses, but then there's this thing called eating disorders," he says. "And the eating disorder population requires a specific level of training and expertise to be able to deal with, and we just simply do not have the capacity, the resources and the training to be able to deal with it as a community at large." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Commerzbank said on Wednesday that it would widen its partnership with Microsoft by putting a significant portion of its applications in the cloud over the next five years. The two companies have been working together since 2018, and Commerzbank has been trying to increasingly digitize its business in recent years. The announcement comes as Germany's No. 2 lender works on a strategic plan under a new chief executive officer, with details expected in the coming weeks.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 36,473 new vaccinations administered for a total of 651,139 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,718.078 per 100,000. There were 39,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 888,540 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 73.28 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 1,531 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 4,689 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,520 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 8.73 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 37.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 164,053 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.173 per 1,000. There were 24,375 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 220,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.38 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 14,346 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,134 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 15.259 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 17,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.891 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 1,957 new vaccinations administered for a total of 24,575 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.841 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.87 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,501 new vaccinations administered for a total of 92,315 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.971 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 91.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,023 new vaccinations administered for a total of 92,369 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.00 per 1,000. There were 15,600 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 404 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
As the snow deepens and temperatures drop, behavioural scientists say now's the time to promote recreation that's closer to home for Ottawans, so they're not tempted to cross into Quebec for a ski or snowshoe outing. Even before the lockdown measures came into effect on Boxing Day, Ontario had advised against crossing provincial borders unless for essential reasons. Now the province is recommending anyone who returns from a trip outside Ontario self-isolate for two weeks, even if they're only crossing provincial borders. Officials have clarified that recreation is not considered an essential reason for travel, nor is visiting a second home or chalet in another jurisdiction. The National Capital Commission (NCC), which oversees green spaces on both sides of the Ottawa River, also encourages people to stick to areas that are "closest to their homes." Despite that advice, the NCC sold a record number of passes to the Gatineau Park this year, many of them to Ontario residents. According to some local officials, the pandemic isn't stopping some people from crossing the Ottawa River into Quebec, just like they always have. Find substitutes for Gatineau Park Sasha Tregebov, director of Toronto-based Behavioural Insights Team Canada, which works with government and non-profits to apply behavioural science to public policy, said if Ontario really wants to stop interprovincial travel, the government should promote safe alternatives. "We found that substituting one behaviour for a similar one is much easier and more likely to build compliance than asking people to stop the behaviour all together," he said on Tuesday. "If people are habitually going into Gatineau [Park] to ski, what's the nearest thing on the Ontario side of the border that would enable the same activity?" Tregebov also suggests governments investigate why people are crossing the border for non-essential reasons: is it simple ignorance of the rules, or perhaps because they haven't fully bought into the reasoning behind the restrictions?. If it's the latter, Tregebov said it's important to explain to people exactly why their behaviour could put other members of their community at risk, and appeal to the conscience of the majority who generally wants to play by the rules. Communicate with joy and fun Laura Scrimgeour, a Gatineau-based behavioural scientist and co-founder of Strategic Bias, which consults for the government on environmental and health issues, also stresses the importance of emphasizing local options instead of threatening with rules and consequences. "All through this pandemic, a lot of health organizations and governments have been using what we call threat messages," she said on Monday. "But there's a whole other side to communicating — with joy and with fun." She suggests governments and public health organizations link to local Ottawa recreation trails so people who want to ski or snowshoe consider their own backyard first. That said, she acknowledged the unique difficulty facing officials in Ottawa and Gatineau, where many residents already cross the interprovincial border for essential reasons such as work, medical appointments and family obligations. "Thousands of people in this one city work north of the river and live south, or work south and live north. Crossing the river is something that many of us, myself included, do on almost a daily basis," she said. Avoiding the sledgehammer If behaviour doesn't change, and if stopping travel between the provinces to control COVID-19 becomes more imperative than it already is, Scrimgeour said fines and police enforcement might work, but warns such a "sledgehammer" response can have unintended consequences. In the spring, provincial border closures in Canada sparked lawsuits and criticism from civil rights advocates who called the measures unconstitutional. "If all you need to do is put in a finishing nail, you're probably going to do more damage with a sledgehammer," she said.
As of the third week of January, Holland College has brought most of its students back on campus, with some seeing it for the first time. The college got approval from P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office to bring students back after having to move many students to online learning because of COVID-19. "We're extremely excited, and it feels good to have the students back. They're learning in the method that we want them to learn in," said Michael Dimitroff, manager of recruitment and first-year advising at Holland College. "Our education is very hands-on and we couldn't go much longer with the online format, so we had to make the move," he said. "Online can only go so far." 'The class looks awesome' Logan MacKenzie, a culinary arts student, said it feels great to be on campus for the first time. "It's amazing to be here in person. The class looks awesome," said MacKenzie. MacKenzie is from Halifax and had to isolate before beginning in-person classes. He said the online learning "wasn't bad" but he prefers the in-class experience. "Been waiting a very long time for this," he said. "I'm like a kid on Christmas." He said most of his classes will be in a kitchen setting, and his group of eight must wear masks at all times. He said when he thinks about what's happening in many parts of Canada, he's grateful. "We're very fortunate that we're able to get out," he said. More productive in person Shumbusho Armel Gispain came from Rwanda to attend the business administration program. He also isolated before attending classes. "I think it will be pretty productive, now that we get to see people in person," he said. "We're really glad to be here." He said it's nice to be able to ask questions to instructors in person. "You can ask them questions, more than in an online setting. It's really hard — you're really kind of reserved," he said. "I'm getting to make new friends, a lot of great experiences so far." He said P.E.I. is handling COVID-19 really well. Gym and performance hall in use Holland College says it's following public health guidelines for social distancing and classes of 30 are using the gym or a large performance hall so students can be well spaced out. But many groups are much smaller. Dimitroff said the number of students on campus will also be much lower than a normal year, with certain programs only coming certain days. "They're likely not here every single day of the week," he said. Although some students have been following a blended format all along, he said almost half of the college programs started online last semester. "So far, so good," said Dimitroff. Holland College hopes to keep students on campus until the school year ends this spring. "Ideally we can get back to a closer normal in September," he said. More from CBC P.E.I.
Irving Oil Ltd. is blaming petroleum price regulation in New Brunswick for failing to keep up with industry costs and pushing it to request "urgent" price increases, even though it twice refused requests from the Energy and Utilities Board to help improve wholesale margins. In written evidence submitted to the board earlier this month, Irving Oil marketing president Darren Gillis said that regulated markets "have become disconnected from non-regulated markets over time and do not provide for adequate recovery of costs." That has "eroded industry's ability to continue to supply regulated markets and remain competitive across our regions," Gillis said. Irving Oil applied on Jan. 5 to increase the margins wholesalers can earn on gasoline, diesel and furnace oil sales by 4.13 cents per litre, including an "immediate" increase of 3.5 cents. This week, it revised that request downward to 4.09 cents for gasoline and diesel and 3.02 cents for furnace oil. If that request is granted, that will increase the cost to consumers by a total of $60 million more per year. Irving Oil, others declined to help EUB update margins In evidence submitted with the application, Gillis said the last increase in wholesale margins was awarded by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) in 2013, based on 2011 cost data. Since then, he said, industry expenses have escalated significantly without matching increases in revenue. Irving Oil's claim that petroleum regulation has caused wholesaling margins in New Brunswick to grow stale comes after two major Energy and Utility Board attempts to keep them current were thwarted by a number of companies, including Irving Oil. In 2016, three years after the last margin adjustment, the board wrote to every New Brunswick petroleum wholesaler asking for help to update margins to cover changing costs. "It is important to remember that the Board can only change the margins if it has sufficient evidence to support such adjustments," it noted in asking for the companies' cooperation, and the review had to be abandoned. But four months later, the consultant the board hired to conduct the analysis, Gardner Pinfold of Halifax, reported back that no companies would cooperate with it. Review abandoned in 2019 after second attempt "Gardner Pinfold sent a letter to each petroleum wholesaler on December 15, 2016 to invite companies to participate in the review," it told the Energy and Utilities Board at the time. "No wholesaler expressed an interest in participating in the review and none provided data. Due to a lack of data, Gardner Pinfold is unable to provide a recommendation to change the current wholesale margin." The board tried again in 2019. Petroleum wholesalers again declined to provide any information to Gardner Pinfold about the adequacy of margins, prompting comment from then Energy and Utilities Board chair Raymond Gorman. "I would point out that this technically is a review of the wholesale margin, but Mr. Gardner didn't get any evidence," Gorman said during hearings in September 2019. "Nobody filed any evidence, so again we are in that situation where we have no data in order -- you know, to be able to deal with it." Following the hearing in November 2019, the board announced it could not increase margins for New Brunswick petroleum wholesalers because none of them would provide information, even in confidence. The board noted that a consultant "made initial and follow-up requests to wholesalers" to provide data on certain specified costs, including maritime freight, working capital, receivables, and terminal costs. "No data was submitted by the wholesalers. In the absence of sufficient evidence of changes to those factors, or other factors, an adjustment to the maximum wholesale margin for motor fuels cannot be justified," the board wrote, concluding the matter and taking no action. Irving Oil did not respond to a request for an interview about why it did not ask for margin increases in 2017 or 2019, when the board was asking for its help to reset them. But the company is pointing to margins not increasing in those years, combined with sudden demand reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence regulation is not working. "Petroleum pricing regulations in New Brunswick were created 15 years ago. They did not contemplate the challenges of the last several years and were not designed to react to a global pandemic," said Gillis. "Unregulated markets, however, respond as required to ensure supply at reasonable cost recovery levels. This is not the case in regulated markets."
This time of year would normally be the height of flu season in Nova Scotia, but so far there have been no reported cases in the province. Health Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis confirmed the absence of influenza cases to CBC News and said there were 442 cases last season. Nova Scotia's experience is reflected in national influenza figures. A Jan. 15 report from Public Health Agency of Canada said there haven't been enough influenza cases to even declare the start of the 2020-2021 season in Canada. MacInnis said in an email that public health protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have had a similar effect on influenza in the province. "Masking, physical distancing and good hand hygiene are all measures that can not only reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, but other viruses such as influenza," she said. Statistics for the past six years show that by this time of year there would normally be an average of 14,811 influenza detections reported in Canada. So far this season there have been just 51 influenza cases reported. Twenty-seven of the 51 influenza detections reported to date this season are connected to people who received an attenuated influenza vaccine and do not represent community circulation of the flu virus. The agency's Flu Watch report for Jan. 3-9 said the percentage of positive tests for influenza in Week 1 of 2021 was 0 per cent, compared to 23.4 per cent during the past six seasons. There have been no laboratory confirmed outbreaks in Canada this season. The low circulation of the seasonal flu has meant that the National Microbiology Laboratory has been unable to test for influenza strain characterizations or antiviral resistance. MacInnis said the province ordered more doses of the flu vaccine this year than we ever before, but said many providers ran low because of demand. She said the province secured more influenza vaccine in December and has distributed these additional doses to providers. MacInnis said if someone still wants the vaccine and it is not available at their usual provider they may need to call around. Some experts predicted flu cases would tumble in the Northern Hemisphere based on Australia's experience with plummeting flu figures after it introduced COVID-19 measures. Australia's flu season coincides with Canada's summer. In October, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said it's possible to avoid a flu season. "We would expect and hope that as long as we all stick with the COVID protocols it'll have a significant positive impact on influenza as well," he said. "But that doesn't diminish the importance at all of having as many Nova Scotians as possible add another layer and the best way to protect influenza and that is getting a flu vaccine." In a normal year, the Public Health Agency of Canada said influenza causes 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in the country. MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — For more than two centuries, the top ranks of American power have been dominated by men — almost all of them white. That ends on Wednesday. Kamala Harris will become the first female vice-president — and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the role. Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary will fall away, expanding the idea of what's possible in American politics. But it's particularly meaningful because Harris will be taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities. Those close to Harris say she'll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the incoming administration. “In many folks' lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States," said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world." Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard." Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first went to Washington as a senator from California, where she'd previously served as attorney general and as San Francisco's district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump's victory quickly scrambled the nation's capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars. Her swearing-in comes almost two years to the day after Harris launched her own presidential bid on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019. Her campaign fizzled before primary voting began, but Harris' rise continued when Joe Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer. The inauguration activities will include nods to her history-making role and her personal story. She'll be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of colour to serve on the high court. She'll use two Bibles, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, a longtime family friend who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris' alma mater, Howard University, will join the presidential escort. She'll address the nation late Wednesday in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War and two weeks after a largely white mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the election results. “We’re turning the page off a really dark period in our history,” said Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, a Harris ally. As Democrats celebrate the end to Trump's presidency, Garcia said he hopes the significance of swearing in the nation's first female vice-president isn't overlooked. “That is a huge historical moment that should also be uplifted,” he said. Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity. “I was raised to not hear ‘no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'" she recalled during a “CBS Sunday Morning” interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.'" While Biden is the main focus of Wednesday's inaugural events, Harris' swearing-in will hold more symbolic weight than that of any vice-president in modern times. She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All." People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn about what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school. They will have to understand Harris' traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Jones said. “Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said. Her election to the vice presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election. “We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said. Kathleen Ronayne And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
Canadian companies that bid on American government contracts could be cut out of the procurement process if Joe Biden follows through on his Buy American plan after he becomes U.S. president today, according to business and trade experts. Manufacturers and exporters in Canada supply a vast range of equipment to public works projects in the U.S. from school buildings to wastewater treatment facilities. But Biden’s promise to prioritize U.S.-based suppliers and products made on American soil could hurt Canadian companies by blocking them from bidding for work, especially after he unveils an infrastructure plan next month.The Made-in-America endeavour could disrupt the Canada-U.S. supply chain and lead to significant trade tensions, experts say.Yet the hardest hit firms will be those directly involved in U.S. government contracts, they say. “If you're in the business of supplying government procurement projects like municipal infrastructure, those are the companies most at risk,” said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. Stricter Buy American rules for federal procurement could hurt manufacturing on both sides of the border, he said. “Manufacturers are so integrated across North America,” Darby said, noting that a lot of what Canadian companies make are the “bits and pieces” that go into the continental supply chain.“When U.S. manufacturers do well, so do Canadian manufacturers. We’re all part of the same supply chain.”The biggest losers in an era of greater U.S. protectionism are likely to be a broad cross-section of Canadian firms supplying products to American municipalities, rather than specific sectors, experts say. Companies that supply pumping equipment for municipal water facilities, pipes for new sewage lines, or play structures for new playgrounds could all suffer, they say.Meanwhile, both Canada the U.S. already have “buy national” provisions carved out of existing trade agreements. Military procurements, for example, exclude foreign suppliers. Donald Trump pursued his own Buy American policies but it’s unclear how much further Biden can expand these provisions without facing a legal challenge, said trade expert Lawrence Herman.“The question will be whether the expansion of the Buy American provision is permissible within the scope of the (World Trade Organization) agreement," said Herman, international trade lawyer at Herman and Associates.Yet the impact of the Buy American agenda on Canadian businesses could be widespread, he said. “There are a lot of Canadian companies that supply products to American municipalities,” Herman said. “They could all be affected.”Colin Robertson, one of the negotiators of the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and North American Free Trade Agreement, said Canada should come to the table with solutions. “If Biden goes through with this, you're going to hear from Canadian companies that feel they're being excluded from U.S. projects,” said Robertson, vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.“You’re almost better to deal with it on a one-by-one basis,” said the former Canadian diplomat. “If the guy who builds playsets in Ontario can’t bid on a new playground, what you want to do is try and get the province and state to work something out.”If Biden’s massive stimulus package is approved, the demand for construction materials – especially steel and aluminum – could be huge, Robertson said. But if the Buy American plan is ramped up and starts to affect materials from Canada, he said negotiators need to point out that ultimately they’ll get better value including materials produced in Canada.“If you want maximum value for these dollars, it’s better to open up bidding,” Robertson said. “The challenge with these sorts of Buy American programs is you can get cartels forming within your locality that drive up prices.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.