Wildberries, one of Russia's largest shopping sites said on Wednesday it was entering France, Italy and Spain. The Moscow-based company now operates in 13 countries, branching out into the European Union last year with the opening of a distribution centre in Warsaw, Poland. The retailer, which offers about 4 million products from 40,000 brands, said that items will be delivered using logistics partners, with thousands of partner pickup points in France and Spain.
SAN FRANCISCO — Fry's Electronics, the go-to chain for tech tinkerers looking for an obscure part, is closing for good. The company, perhaps even more well known for outlandish themes at some of its stores, from Aztec to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland," said Wednesday in an online posting that the COVID-19 pandemic had made it impossible to continue. Fans immediately took to Twitter to post images and memories (good and bad). The chain was concentrated on the West Coast, but had 31 stores in nine states. It was founded 36 years ago. The pandemic has done heavy damage to retailers, but Fry's was already getting hammered by online competition and a battle between heavy-hitters Best Buy and Amazon.com. Fry's Electronics Inc. said its operations have ceased and the wind-down of locations will begin immediately. Customers with electronics being repaired in-store store are being asked to pick them up. The stores online presence appears largely to have been shut down. The Associated Press
(Julia Page/CBC - image credit) Regina city council will now require ride-hailing drivers to have yearly criminal record and vulnerable sector checks. The change comes after hearing from Regina's Capital Cabs and a representative from Uber on a review of ride-hailing in the city. In 2019, ride-hailing vehicles took up about 15 per cent of the transportation-for-hire business in Regina, with taxis taking up the other 85 per cent. In 2020, taxis took 79 per cent of the sharing in trips and ride-hailing took 21 per cent, according to administration. Council voted unanimously to require criminal record and vulnerable sector checks before drivers can start, then again on a yearly basis. Council also talked about requiring cameras in ride-hailing vehicles, but stopped short of voting on it and instead will review ride-hailing again in two years. Glen Sali, owner of Capital Cabs, spoke to council. He said he wanted a more level playing field, as taxi drivers are required to have cameras. Sali said GPS on an app cannot replace the security of a camera. "It's safety not just for the driver but also for the customer," Sali said. "So we need to have safety for both to eliminate any issues." The Regina Police Service received no complaints from the public about Uber drivers since their operations started in Regina, according to city administration. Yanique Williams, the public policy manager for Western Canada at Uber, spoke to council as well. She said cameras would be an issue in ride-hailing vehicles as many vehicles are used for personal use and professional use. While taxis are solely used for professional uses. Williams said ride-hailing and taxis need to be treated differently because they are different industries. She said cameras should be required in taxis as they operate on street hails and accept cash but that the app and issue reporting in the app keeps Uber passengers safe. $250,000 Efficiency review program approved by council City council also approved an efficiency review program, with its first phase expected to cost $250,000. The review will look at six to eight city services and make recommendations for how to improve or adapt them. Phase one will hire an independent consultant to review the services. They will report on an ongoing basis to city council. "I think that COVID-19 has provided us the opportunity to transform in some respects," Mayor Sandra Masters said during an executive committee meeting. The final report for Phase 1 is anticipated to come before council at the end of 2021. Council will also discuss allowing the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Corporation to increase its debt financing to $60 million for a plant renewal project. The plant provides treated water to Regina and Moose Jaw. The plant board said this renewal is needed for the aging facility.
After a long hiatus, Mississauga councillors returned to their budget document with a flurry of last minute requests on Monday. During the final budget meeting of the season, a series of ideas were thrown into the mix to reduce the property tax increase in 2021. With each suggestion, staff grew more determined to illustrate the impact cuts could have on Mississauga’s long-term growth. “[It] depends on how quickly and how great... you want to make the city, I suppose,” Jeff Jackson, director of finance and treasurer, told councillors. He was responding to various suggestions, including scrapping a vital two-percent infrastructure levy or cancelling the stormwater charge in its entirety for a year. In the end, councillors passed a budget with only symbolic savings. All twelve members of council agreed to forgo a 1.75-percent salary increase and reduced their car allowance by 33 percent. They pushed ahead with salary increases for non-union staff, citing their hard work during the pandemic. Commissioners in Mississauga earn north of $200,000 per year. In 2019, former City Manager Janice Baker earned $325,864.23. A spokesperson confirmed the move would have “an impact” on the property tax, but said it was not large enough to change the percentage increase of the budget. The City’s 2021 budget will increase 2.7 percent, with a property tax impact of 1 percent once it is blended with the Region of Peel budget and an unchanging provincial education levy. As staff outlined, the increase will equate to a $56 dollar increase on the City’s portion of the property tax for a home assessed at $730,000. The tone for the meeting was set early with a presentation from the Mississauga Board of Trade (MBOT). Repeating a request he had unsuccessfully made at the Region of Peel 10 days earlier, Brad Butt, MBOT’s vice president of government and stakeholder relations, asked councillors to freeze taxes for the year to offer some relief to small businesses. Unlike his presentation to the Region, where the request was quickly dismissed, councillors sounded more willing. “We’re going to try our best,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie promised, while Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito said she agreed with Butt. “This is a very difficult year,” she said. Then Jackson arrived, armed with a sobering slide deck. The focus of his presentation was the City’s two-percent infrastructure levy. Every year, this budget line feels the pinch when councillors look to cut. Faced with a bleak pandemic picture, elected officials, particularly Karen Ras (Ward 2) and Saito, were keen to explore dropping the levy for a year. In total, the two-percent levy accounts for almost three quarters of the City’s budget increase in 2021. Staff rallied together to discourage the move. Dropping the levy for even one year would cost the City $90 million across the next decade, Jackson warned. Some councillors were not to be deterred. What would happen if the stormwater charge — which taxes residents based on the footprint of their property to pay for drainage infrastructure — was dropped for a year, Saito wondered. “You would basically wipe the reserve out,” Gary Kent, commissioner of corporate services and chief financial officer, said. As councillors, particularly Saito and Ras, looked to find savings, staff warned the financial picture is only going to get worse. Despite brutal losses to transit and recreation revenue, 2021 could be a comparatively rosy memory for the City when the next budget season rolls around. In 2022, City Hall will face the same inflationary and infrastructure replacement-based pressures that have pushed budgets up every year, along with at least two other significant challenges. Next year, Mississauga will feel the impact of reduced passenger volumes at Toronto Pearson Airport. Instead of contributing property tax to the City, the airport is bound by payments in lieu of taxes (PILTs). These take the form of a fee per passenger capped at a five percent increase annually and without a downward limit. (Read more about that story here). Dramatically reduced airline traffic during the pandemic means the City is expecting a hit of at least $22 million next year as PILTs plummet, reflecting grounded planes and cancelled holidays. If the upward cap (which limits PILT increases to five percent per year) was removed, staff believe it would still take five to seven years to return to pre-COVID-19 revenue levels. If, as the Province has indicated, the five percent cap remains in place, it will take Mississauga 35 years to return to pre-COVID-19 revenues from the airport. Staff told councillors the provincial response to their pleas for a more equitable agreement with the airport had been “disappointing” with no changes planned for the upcoming budget at Queen’s Park. The City and airport have been told to work together on a solution. The blow means the 2022 budget will have to account for a $22 million dollar hole, while capital needs pile up in the rapidly developing city. Neglected fire infrastructure, which will likely cost at least $30 million to repair, is on the urgent to-do-list for councillors in the coming months. “It always comes down to pay now or pay more later,” Ward 7 Councillor Dipika Damerla said during the budget discussions, taking a new position. In previous budgets, Damerla has been a keen advocate for low taxes, willing to sacrifice capital needs, but 2021 budget discussions at the City and Region have seen her staunchly defend infrastructure levies. “I don’t think next year will be any easier,” she said. During the discussion, staff repeatedly told councillors that reductions could cost Mississauga its future. In his presentation, Jackson twice alluded to the climate emergency councillors declared in 2019, saying significant funding would be required to see the elected officials deliver on that promise. He also offered the ambitious waterfront transformation and rapid transit expansion plans as other promises that could be at risk if cuts took place. “We have $3 billion in unfunded capital over the next 15 to 20 years,” City Manager Paul Mitcham said, voicing his own concern. It was a typical display – many councillors concerned about the impact of a tax increase on voters, and staff reminding them that city building is impossible without required revenues to make good on council’s own promises. In the end, two motions to reduce costs were brought forward. Saito and Ras combined to put both on the floor. The first, unanimously approved, froze councillors' salaries and reduced their car allowance of $17,304 by a third. “We have made a symbolic gesture,” Crombie said after, suggesting the move showed council’s support for residents. The second motion asked to drop the infrastructure levy by 0.5 percent, despite the grave warnings of staff. The move failed, with only Ras, Chris Fonseca (Ward 3) and Saito in support. Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Dasko complained about the motions, saying they were “not well thought through” and pushed back against “last minute bartering”. Ward 11 Councillor and Mississauga veteran George Carlson agreed. “We sure as hell can’t do this on the eve of a budget being approved,” he said. The finalized budget, with most staff recommendations left intact, will be approved at a special council meeting Wednesday morning. In the background, staff have already begun work on the unenviable task of absorbing a $22 million loss from the airport and continuing to run a city in the middle of a pandemic. “I've been around long enough in the municipal world to know that these low increases, ultimately, are reflected in service levels or larger tax increases in the future,” Jackson said, referring to zero percent budget increases passed in nearby cities including Brampton. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
BANGKOK — Three Cabinet ministers in Thailand were forced to leave their posts Wednesday after a court found them guilty of sedition for taking part in sometimes-violent protests in 2013-2014 against the government then in power. The Criminal Court in Bangkok found Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam guilty along with about two dozen other defendants in a case that was launched in 2018. The verdicts can be appealed to a higher court but under the law the Cabinet ministers must relinquish their jobs immediately. Another prominent person convicted Wednesday was Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who helped found the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which led the demonstrations against the elected government of then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Instability caused by the street protests led to the Thai army staging a coup in 2014 and keeping power until 2019. Suthep and the Cabinet ministers each received prison sentences ranging from five to about seven years. The Associated Press
Which would you prefer? In Serbia, people can select any of four jabs: the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, China’s Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V and Oxford-Astrazeneca's.View on euronews
French actor Gerard Depardieu strongly contests rape and sexual assault charges leveled against him, his lawyer said on Wednesday, and asked that the associated investigation be allowed to proceed away from the public eye. Depardieu, one of France's most famous and prolific actors, was placed under formal investigation on charges of rape and sexual violence in December last year, a judicial source told Reuters on Tuesday. Depardieu, 72, has starred in some 170 movies, gaining international recognition with leading roles in the English language comedy "Green Card", and in "Cyrano de Bergerac".
Les villes de Dunham et de Sutton pourront profiter d’une subvention de 13 800 $ remise à chacune pour mettre à jour leur plan d’action Municipalité amie des aînés (MADA). Dunham a adopté sa première politique Familles et Aînés en 2017, tandis que Sutton a une telle politique depuis 2012. Les sommes ont été consenties à la suite d’un appel de projets dans le cadre du programme de soutien de la démarche. L’argent et le programme servent à favoriser l’émergence d’environnements bâtis et sociaux propices au vieillissement actif. «C’est une bonne chose, se réjouit le maire de Dunham, Pierre Janecek. Ça va être bien pour la population vieillissante. C’est très apprécié.» Depuis 2017, la municipalité a lancé un club de marche pour les 50 ans et plus. Avant la pandémie, entre 15 et 20 personnes y participaient. Des ateliers d’initiation à l’informatique ont également été organisés, de même que différents ateliers et conférences à la bibliothèque. Dunham a aussi travaillé sa règlementation afin de permettre les maisons bigénérationnelles dans son cœur villageois. Aussitôt qu’il sera possible de se rassembler, la Municipalité prévoit consulter sa population pour la mise à jour de la politique et du plan d’action. Le maire de Sutton, Michel Lafrance, remercie la ministre responsable des Aînés et des Proches aidants, Marguerite Blais, de croire en leur projet. «Notre projet démontre que la Ville a une vraie préoccupation pour la qualité et les saines habitudes de vie des aînés et des proches aidants», dit-il. Sutton prévoit faire une présentation publique des résultats du dernier plan d’action 2017-2020. «Les projets soutenus dans le cadre de ce programme témoignent de l’engagement des villes de Dunham et de Sutton à promouvoir le mieux-être des aînés de leurs municipalités, et nous pouvons en être fiers, commente par communiqué Isabelle Charest, députée caquiste de Brome-Missisquoi. De telles initiatives sont à la fois rassembleuses et porteuses pour nos communautés et elles auront un effet positif considérable sur la qualité de vie des personnes âgées, favorisant par le fait même leur épanouissement, et ce, de manière durable.» Cynthia Laflamme, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix de l'Est
SUDBURY, Ont. — Public health officials in Sudbury, Ont., have dismissed students and staff from two schools following five confirmed cases of COVID-19. Lasalle Secondary School and Cyril Varney Public School were closed today. All five cases have been identified by Public Health Sudbury & Districts as variants of concern. The afternoon route of elementary bus N100 is also affected. "These measures were taken as a precaution to protect the school communities and to reduce the spread of the virus," said a statement from Public Health Sudbury & Districts. Staff and students at the two schools and on the bus route are being advised by public health officials to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19. Officials say there is no evidence the virus was acquired or spread within the school communities, so no outbreak has been declared. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
TOKYO — Japan’s communications ministry punished 11 senior officials on Wednesday for accepting lavish dinners paid for by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s eldest son and fellow executives at a satellite broadcaster, the latest embarrassment for Suga’s already scandal-laden government. The case surfaced after weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun reported that Seigo Suga and other executives from satellite broadcaster Tohokushinsha Film had entertained the officials at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, which regulates communications business. On Wednesday, the ministry announced penalties including salary cuts and reprimands for the 11 ministry officials for accepting the expensive dinners and gifts in violation of the ethics code. Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda told reporters it was regrettable that the case led to the loss of public trust in the government. Takeda said he is taking a three-month salary cut himself and ordered the ministry to set up an investigative panel to look further into the case. A ministry internal investigation found that the ministry officials received dinners and gifts totalling about 600,000 yen ($5,700) on around 40 occasions from 2016 to 2019. It also found one of Prime Minister Suga's public affairs officials, Makiko Yamada, also accepted an expensive steak dinner when she was at the ministry in 2019. Suga apologized over his son’s entertaining of the officials. He, however, denied any involvement in his son’s business activity or knowledge of his entertaining of the officials. "I'm very sorry about my son's involvement that led to illegal activity, and I would like to apologize to the people,(asterisk) Suga said. The National Public Service Ethics Law prohibits government officials from accepting treats, gifts or entertainment from individuals or companies seeking favourable treatment. Opposition lawmakers alleged that the officials met with executives of the broadcaster because of its affiliation with Suga's son and raised questions about whether they gave the company favourable treatment. The scandal could be a further setback for the prime minister, whose approval ratings have been on the decline, with poll respondents saying he was too slow to act on coronavirus measures when infections were surging to new highs in late December. A vice education minister in Suga's Cabinet was dismissed after he and two other senior governing party lawmakers acknowledged partying at an expensive hostess bar last month, defying a state of emergency, even though the measure is a non-binding request for bars and restaurants to close early and for people to avoid dining out. A former farm minister resigned as lawmaker in December after allegations he took bribes from an egg farm. Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press
A long career in municipal affairs that began in 1980 for Charles Barton, the CAO, clerk and deputy treasurer of Nipissing Township, has ended with his retirement. Barton's last day of work at the township office was Feb. 16. The retirement is actually Barton's second farewell from the municipal office. He took an early retirement in 2001 after his wife passed away from cancer in 1994 at the age of 42. At the time of her death, Barton's son and daughter were teenagers, and several years later he came to the conclusion that “life's too short” not to enjoy it. But he was coaxed back by the mayor in 2008 after Nipissing carried out a study of its operations and decided it should have a chief administrative officer. “They wanted me to work full time, but I said no and we settled on three days a week,” says Barton, 71. Barton studied business administration at Canadore College when it was still a campus of Sudbury's Cambrian College before becoming an independent institution in 1972. Born and raised in Nipissing Township and after graduating from college, Barton began working at the Bank of Nova Scotia's main branch in North Bay in 1971. He spent nine years as a Scotiabank employee and, during that time, he and his family moved eight times. “I liked working for the bank, but I didn't like moving all the time. And when the kids started to get into school, they didn't want to keep moving either,” Barton recalls. When he was growing up, Barton knew the type of work he wanted to do. He liked three careers, namely becoming a bank manager, a township clerk or a church minister. He ended up in banking, and when the financial sector took him to Sault Ste. Marie, he played the organ at the church the Barton family attended. It was then he got a phone call from the then reeve of Nipissing. Barton recalls the conversation. “He said 'The clerk's job in Nipissing is coming up, You better apply,'” Barton recalls. “I said 'OK,' applied and got the job. So I guess with me now finally retiring I won't become a minister.” LONE OFFICE EMPLOYEE Barton first started at the township office on May 5, 1980, as the municipality's clerk, treasurer and tax collector. At the time, he was the only office member, although the township had a roads superintendent who also was in charge of the landfill. “I looked after the office, cemetery and recreation,” Barton recalls. Since those early days in 1980, Barton has seen several major changes and he had input in bringing them about. For example there was no zoning bylaw or official plan, which he helped create. Also, there was no fire department. Several portable pumps are what the township used to fight fires. Barton recalls one of the pumps was stationed at the township office, another was in Commanda Township, a third in Nipissing and one pump was in place for the island properties. The former Ministry of Natural Resources would help Nipissing Township in the event of a forest fire. And if there was a structure fire too large for the community to fight on its own, Callander would send its firefighters. Although a group of volunteers built the township's first fire department on Wasi Road, Barton says the community wouldn't see a full fire department until the late 1980s. When Barton agreed to return in 2008, he assumed the roles of chief administrative officer and clerk, and a little later he was named deputy treasurer. With Barton's latest departure, town council has named Kris Croskery-Hodgins the interim CAO-clerk-treasurer. Prior to the appointment, Croskery-Hodgins was the treasurer and deputy clerk. It was during Barton's second life with the township that the office personnel began to expand. He says Croskery-Hodgins was hired as was John-Paul Negrinotti, who looked after issues such as zoning bylaws, minor severances and variances in his role as the municipal planning official. 'LONG SUCCESSION PLAN' Over the succeeding years, Barton trained both of the new employees calling what he was doing a “long succession plan. “They're trained, ready to take over and it was time for me to retire,” he says. Over his two stints at the township hall, Barton worked with 13 town councils, speaking highly of the elected officials. “I never had a bad council in all those years,” he says. Barton says he enjoyed going to work every day over the decades, adding “you never knew what was going to happen.” Nipissing Township has a core, year-round population of 1,700 people, but swells to more than 3,000 residents during tourist season. Barton says he could always expect a call of some sort almost daily. Barton originally intended to retire last year, but when COVID-19 struck he agreed to stay on a little longer. But after that additional year, Barton says the time to leave is now. Council, he says, is in the third year of a four-year term and he didn't want to leave during an election year or leave when the new council is elected. “That was at the back of my mind,” he says. “But now with me gone, they can hire a new person who can be trained for next year's election.” 'GOOD' RESERVES Barton says he's leaving the township in excellent financial shape adding “our reserves are good.” He most recently helped bring about a new official plan and last December the zoning bylaw was updated. Barton personally hopes council sees its way to make Croskery-Hodgins the permanent CAO. “I hope council sees Kris would be the logical choice if they do advertise for a chief administrative officer,” he says. Barton lives on a 170-acre property and in the same home where he was born. His daughter lives next door to him in Nipissing and his son about one kilometre away. He has four grandchildren, one great-grandchild and a female companion in the Burk's Falls area. With his municipal career over, Barton says he now has more time for recreational activities like snowmobiling on his land, and come this summer he can golf on a nine-hole course he put on his land. He also recently bought a piano. “So I have lots to do,” he says. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Tiger Woods will not face criminal charges in the car crash that left him with serious injuries, the Los Angeles County Sheriff said on Wednesday, as the golf great recovered from extensive surgery to repair his fractured right leg and shattered ankle. Investigators were still trying to determine what caused Woods, 45, to lose control of the gray Genesis sport utility vehicle he was driving on Tuesday morning. Woods was negotiating a curved, downhill stretch of highway that authorities said was notoriously dangerous when the luxury SUV he was driving veered across the opposite lanes, collided with a road sign and rolled several times before coming to rest.
ROME — Italy on Wednesday pressed the United Nations for answers about the attack on a U.N. food aid convoy in Congo that left a young ambassador and his paramilitary police bodyguard dead. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told lawmakers in Rome that Italy has asked both the U.N. and the U.N. World Food Program to open an investigation into the security arrangements for convoy, which was attacked two days earlier. The minister said Italy also will spare no effort to determine the truth behind the killing of Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci. A WFP Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack. “We have formally asked the WFP and the U.N. to open an inquest that clarifies what happened, the motivations for the security arrangements employed and who was responsible for these decisions,” Di Maio said. The trip was undertaken at the U.N.’s invitation, according to Di Maio. The two Italians had “entrusted themselves to the protocol of the United Nations,” which flew them on a U.N. plane from Kinshasha to Goma, 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) away, Di Maio said. The Italian embassy in Kinshasha, Di Maio noted, has two armoured vehicles at the ambassador's disposal for moving around the city and the country. But for Monday's mission, to visit a WFP school food project in Rutshuri in eastern Congo, Attanasio was travelling in U.N. vehicles. Only hours earlier, Di Maio, flanked by Premier Mario Draghi, met the arrival of the bodies of the two Italians at a Rome military airport. Autopsies are scheduled for Wednesday and a state funeral for both men was set for Thursday in Rome. A special team of Carabinieri investigators, dispatched by Rome prosecutors, arrived Tuesday in Congo on what Di Maio said would likely be multiple missions to determine what happened. Attanasio, 43, who leaves a widow involved in volunteer projects in Congo and three young children, "was in love with his profession, with Africa and his family,'' Di Maio said. He noted that the Carabiniere was nearing the end of his security detail in Congo and was soon due back in Rome. The World Food Program, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its efforts to feed refugees and other malnourished people worldwide, is headquartered in Rome. "For this reason, I immediately asked WFP in Rome and the United Nations, involving directing the Secretary General (Antonio) Guterres, to supply a detailed report on the attack on the convoy,'' Di Maio said. WFP has said the road had been previously cleared for travel without security escorts. U.N. security officials based in Congo usually determine road safety. On Tuesday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York that the U.N. had launched an internal review concerning the “security around the incident.” Di Maio said the attackers numbered six, had light arms and apparently spread obstacles on the road and fired shots in the air to stop the convoy. “The noise of the shooting alerted soldiers of the Congolese Armed Forces and the rangers of Virunga park, less than a kilometre (half-mile) away, headed to the place of the incident.” Di Maio quoted the local governor as saying that to force the victims to go into the bush, they killed the WFP driver. When the ranger patrol arrived, Di Maio said, citing the Congolese interior minister’s account, the attackers “fired upon the Carabiniere, killing him, and at the ambassador, gravely wounding him.? Attanasio died of his wounds shortly afterward. Italy will reinforce its commitments to aid Africa, Di Maio said, calling that the “best way to honour the memory? of the two slain Italians. "A policy that puts Africa at the centre of Italian diplomatic, European and international attention, this is the commitment Luca believed in and in which we believe in,'' the foreign minister said. Frances D'Emilio, The Associated Press
The company, whose Chief Executive Officer Michael Saylor is one of the most vocal proponents of bitcoin, bought the cryptocurrency in cash at an average price of about $52,765 each. MicroStrategy, the world's largest publicly traded business intelligence company, spent last year steadily amassing bitcoin after making its first investment in August. Bitcoin's price has recently scaled record highs as major firms, such as BNY Mellon, asset manager BlackRock Inc and credit card giant Mastercard Inc, backed certain cryptocurrencies, with Tesla Inc investing $1.5 billion in bitcoin.
Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson says if another shutdown were to happen, people would cope with a “fair amount of difficulty.” Bisson held a virtual town hall Tuesday night to discuss how his constituents have been dealing with the pandemic. Some of the topics raised by community members at the meeting were related to vaccines, education, paid sick leave, electricity rates and the federal gun bill. “One of the things we’ve been saying is there are certain things the government could’ve done to mitigate the amount of infections we have and with this new variant out there, there’s a risk (a shutdown) might happen,” Bisson said. “Am I worried about it? You bet I’m worried about it. And people are going to cope with it with a fair amount of difficulty.” The town hall participants also had a chance to vote in a poll that asked how they’ve been coping with the pandemic and whether people felt reopening the economy was the right thing to do or not. The final poll results will be available Wednesday. During the telephone meeting, a South Porcupine resident asked how people will be notified where and when to get the vaccine. Bisson said the vaccination rollout is currently in phase one where the priority is given to people living in retirement, long-term and alternate care homes. Bisson added people have the right to refuse the vaccine and nobody will be forced to take it. “I would highly encourage you to take the vaccine but that is a personal choice and people have the right to make that decision themselves,” he said. Locally, the second doses of Moderna vaccine are starting to roll out in the Porcupine Health Unit region this week. Talking about education, Bisson said schools in Timmins are open to students who choose to study in-person. He said it was a parental choice to send their kids to classes and he thinks parents should keep their children at home until more people are immunized. Another community member asked how she can get a refund from Air Canada since her trip got cancelled and she was offered only vouchers. Bisson said the federal government has not moved anything to force airlines to give people a refund. He noted NDP MP Charlie Angus raised the issue a few times. “The reality is there will be a lot of people at the end of this who are not going to be able to afford to take that trip that they planned over a year ago. And they’re going to be trying to make up finances that they’ve got to deal with as the result of what they’ve experienced through shutdowns,” he said. “To me, the right thing for them to do would be to make sure you get your refund. But at this point, the federal government hasn’t moved in that direction.” Bisson also spoke about the proposed Bill 239, the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act. He said there needs to be legislation in place to allow people to take 14 days of paid sick leave if they have to deal with COVID-19 and wait for testing results. The bill would ensure people, who have symptoms but can’t afford to stay home, will not infect others if they show up at work, he said. “That would not cost an employer more money because it will be funded by the province and it will be another health measure to try and stop the spread of the disease,” Bisson said. Another speaker expressed her objection to lifting pandemic electricity rates. Bisson agreed that having an off-peak pandemic rate would make “some sense.” “And, quite frankly, the government should keep their promise they made in the last election of lowering electricity rates by 14 per cent and doing it away with these particular differences in rates that are currently in place,” he said. Bisson also talked about how the government doesn’t have the capacity and the system to properly respond to both addiction and mental health issues. He said it has gotten worse during the pandemic and there are no extra services to provide support to people dealing with those issues. In response to a question when sports events and concerts will happen again, Bisson said because of recommendations from health officials, the government is reluctant to hold large events until there’s herd immunity. Bisson also shared his thoughts on the federal gun bill, C-21, saying there are many responsible gun owners in Northern Ontario, but there have to be measures put in place to make sure the guns “don’t go to the wrong hands.” Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
President Joe Biden proposed multiple “free college” measures while on the campaign trail. Do any of them have a real shot? Some experts think so. “The issue is bipartisan in its appeal, economically effective and supported by the leadership in today’s Congress and administration — that’s (a) pretty good triple play,” says Morley Winograd, president of The Campaign for Free College Tuition. Others are skeptical now is the time to move forward on free college. “I have a really hard time seeing any sort of four-year free college program passing at this point,” says Douglas Webber, associate professor of economics at Temple University. The first glimpse of a formal proposal will most likely be in Biden’s upcoming budget, experts say. Here’s what to look for. TUITION-FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE IS MOST LIKELY “Free college” really means free tuition. Students would still have to pay for room and board, along with other costs of attendance such as transportation, books and supplies. The average cost for room and board is $11,386 at a four-year school and $7,636 at a two-year school, according to federal data. President Biden’s free college proposals include: —Four years tuition-free at public colleges for those whose family income is under $125,000. —Two years of free tuition for low- and middle-income students attending minority-serving institutions. —Tuition-free public community colleges. That last one is the easiest sell, experts say. “We’ve seen how much free community college has become more popular,” says Wesley Whistle, senior advisor for policy and strategy with the Education Policy program at New America, a public policy think-tank . “It became a drum and you hear it and that helps it pick up over time.” The primary blocker for any tuition-free program is the cost, experts say, as any such program would likely be funded through a federal-state partnership. Community college is the cheaper bill to foot: The cost to fund tuition at public two-year schools is around $8.8 billion compared with about $72.5 billion at four-year public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. HOW ‘FREE’ COLLEGE MIGHT WORK There’s already a blueprint for tuition-free programs: Currently 15 states have a program in place, while several others have extensive scholarship programs. Some cities do, too. Most state programs, such as Tennessee Promise and the Excelsior Scholarship in New York, which both offer four years of tuition-free public college, are last-dollar. That means students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and accept all need-based federal and state aid before the tuition-free benefit kicks in. Most experts say a federally enacted program would likely be first-dollar, covering tuition costs before any other aid is applied. That could increase the per-student impact of scholarships and state funding, says Edward Conroy, associate director of institutional transformation for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. “If we get a federal program that says we’re going to make tuition free and you can still receive any state or federal grants on top of that, that would be a robust program,” Conroy says. In that case, additional aid could go toward paying for additional expenses. PELL GRANT EXPANSION MAY BE EASIER There’s another path toward tuition-free college, though it doesn’t have “free” in the name: the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant program provides students who have demonstrated need with free aid; for 2021-22, it’s up to $6,495. Though the Pell was meant to cover most college costs, it hasn’t kept up — the average tuition and fees at four-year public schools is $9,212, according to the most recent federal data. Most experts say doubling the maximum Pell Grant would effectively create free tuition and in some cases cover additional expenses. Biden has called for this, along with expanding eligibility to cover more middle-income students. Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, says expanded Pell would be easier to pass than tuition-free college since the grant program already exists. Free college proposals are simultaneously blasted for not being generous enough and being too generous to students without demonstrated need, experts say. These criticisms make it more difficult to attain approval among both lawmakers and the public. Expanding the existing Pell Grant program could work to provide free tuition, but it lacks the appeal of a new and “free” program. “From a messaging perspective, saying the Pell (Grant amount) is going up by, say, $2,000 might not have the same impact on students as ‘Your tuition is covered,’” Kelchen says. HOW STUDENTS CAN CUT COSTS Tuition-free college policy could take a long time to pass through Congress — if it can at all — so students and parents may not see this benefit for many months or years. But there are a few existing strategies for getting a degree at a lower cost: —Find out if your state already has a tuition-free program. —Consider a public college unless a private school offers you more aid. —Attend a two-year school, then make a plan to transfer credits and complete a four-year degree. —Compare college cost, graduation rates and typical student loan payments using the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. —Submit the FAFSA and accept all need-based federal and state aid. —Find scholarships using search tools. The U.S. Department of Labor has one. —If your family’s finances have changed, request a professional judgment to appeal your aid award. ________________________________ This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Anna Helhoski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski. RELATED LINKS: NerdWallet: States with Free College Programs http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-free-college U.S. Department of Labor: CareerOneStop Scholarship Finder https://www.careeronestop.org/Toolkit/Training/find-scholarships.aspx U.S. Department of Education: College Scorecard https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/ Anna Helhoski Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
(Laura Meader/CBC - image credit) P.E.I.'s Kings and Prince counties face some serious challenges for economic recovery following the pandemic, according to a study released Wednesday morning by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. The report examined a variety of factors — including the presence of vulnerable industries, population growth, average age, education levels, and average income — for 47 counties and divisions in Atlantic Canada, including the three counties in P.E.I. It was commissioned by the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce. Kings County was found to have the third highest vulnerability in the region, and Prince County the ninth. Queens County was found to have a vulnerability close to the national average. The factors that increased vulnerability in Kings and Prince were largely the same: a large percentage of residents working in primary industries for relatively low pay, and a relatively low percentage of the population with some post-secondary education. During the pandemic, low-wage, low-skilled workers have been disproportionately affected. Queens County is expected to benefit from a more diverse mix of employers Wages and education levels are about average. Education levels in Queens County are at about the national average. Population growth was a positive sign in Queens and Kings counties, as a general indication of economic vibrancy, but high numbers of immigrants were a concern, because immigrants have also been more likely to suffer economic hardship during the pandemic. More from CBC P.E.I.
MULGRAVE – One might say it was an ambitious plan, to create a meal delivery service to support older, vulnerable adults in Guysborough County experiencing challenges related to food security during the pandemic. Given that the county is geographically large and has a population of whom half are more than the age of 55, the idea took some planning to get off the ground. But with government funding – from the federal New Horizon Program, N.S. Dept. of Communities, Culture and Heritage Program and N.S. Department of Seniors – the board of directors of the Mulgrave and Area Medical Centre and a project advisory committee got Community Food Connections on the road delivering meals free of charge to the kitchens of more than 160 program participants. The original program funding was expected to last until the end of February, but last week Medical Centre Board Chair Al England told The Journal that funding had been secured to keep the program running until the end of June, which “will allow for a greater impact with respect to those that are utilizing the program – or there may be others that may be in need as well that could find some benefit in signing up for the program. “We are really happy with that aspect of it, really grateful to our provincial and federal partners in respect to the overall funding of the project … the extension will allow us to exhaust the funds that were provided … There’s still a lot of concern, a lot of caution; people are fearful and anxious,” said England noting that along with providing quality meals, the program also offers a chance to socialize for people who may be reluctant or unable to leave their homes. The program started delivering meals to homes across Guysborough County – District of St. Mary’s, Municipality of the District of Guysborough and the Town of Mulgrave – in November. England said they have delivered more than 4,100 meals; mainly to program participants identified by project advisory committee members who work with older adults and suggested the names of those who would benefit the most from the program. To be eligible for the program, participants had to be 55 or older, a resident of Guysborough County and have difficulty getting to a grocery store due to health or transportation challenges, mobility issues, financial concerns, or other barriers and difficulties. Brent Lundrigan is the program coordinator and spends a lot of time on the road delivering meals from the hub location in Mulgrave to areas as far afield as Liscomb and Canso. He delivers frozen meals to program participants and manages intake of people eligible for the program. Since November, Lundrigan, a native of Mulgrave, has become familiar with a lot of back roads and brought smiles to many as he made his deliveries across the county. For more information about the Community Food Connections program, call Lundrigan at 902-777-5685. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
TORONTO — Hydro One Ltd. reported its fourth-quarter profit fell compared with a year earlier as the power utility faced higher costs related to the pandemic. Hydro One says it earned net income attributable to common shareholders of $161 million or 27 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $211 million or 35 cents per diluted share a year earlier. In addition to COVID-19 related expenses, the company says it saw a reduction in insurance proceeds, higher depreciation and asset removal costs and higher taxes. Revenue for the quarter totalled $1.87 billion, up from $1.72 billion. On an adjusted basis, Hydro One says it earned 27 cents per diluted share, down from 35 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2019. Analysts on average had expected a profit of 29 cents per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:H) The Canadian Press
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) THE LATEST: Health officials announced 456 new cases and 2 more deaths on Wednesday. There are 4,668 active cases of novel coronavirus in B.C. 237 people are in hospital, including 64 in intensive care. To date, 1,338 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. out of 78,278 confirmed cases. 230,875 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 62,608 second doses. Another 456 cases of COVID-19 have been added to B.C.'s pandemic numbers, along with two more deaths, health officials announced Wednesday. The latest figures mean that there are now 4,668 active cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C. Of those, 237 people are in hospital, including 64 in intensive care. To date, 1,338 people have died of the disease out of 78,278 confirmed cases. There have been no new outbreaks, and the outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon has been declared over after two people there died of COVID-19. Meanwhile, B.C. is preparing to ramp up its COVID-19 immunization program, bringing more health professionals into the workforce, as it sets the stage for mass vaccination clinics. As of Wednesday, 230,875 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 62,608 second doses. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday that she has issued a new public health order that allows health-care professionals including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians and retired nurses to participate in vaccination. Health officials say they will reveal more details next week about plans to vaccinate everyone over the age of 80. At the same time as the vaccination program is expanding, however, case counts and test positivity rates are starting to climb again, causing concern for health officials. "We're in a period of vaccine hope and pandemic reality," Henry said Tuesday. As of Wednesday, just under seven per cent of tests for the novel coronavirus are now coming back positive across the province, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 dashboard. In the Northern Health region, more than 13 per cent of tests are now positive. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 6 p.m. PT Tuesday, Canada had reported 852,269 cases of COVID-19, with 30,677 cases considered active. A total of 21,762 people have died. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep at least two metres away from people outside your bubble. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.