Katie McGrath | NOT DONE: Women Remaking America
Katie McGrath | NOT DONE: Women Remaking America
ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
A police union on Thursday urged prosecutors to charge a Black music producer with resisting arrest, six days after President Emmanuel Macron said the arrest and beating of the man, which was caught on film, was unacceptable and shameful for France. The beating of Michel Zecler by police officers inside his music studio was captured on closed circuit television and mobile phone footage. It was circulated widely online and sparked new criticism over police violence in France.
Mario Roy a réalisé un rêve lorsqu’il s’est porté acquéreur il y a deux ans d’une propriété à Milan dans la MRC du Granit. Il y rêvait depuis l’âge de 12 ans. Mais ce rêve s’est déjà transformé en cauchemar à cause d’un seul élément : l’absence totale d’internet. « Quand j’ai acheté, je pensais que ça viendrait vite l’internet, ils en parlaient tout le temps, mais là mon rêve se transforme en cauchemar, souligne M. Roy. Je suis familial au coton et je ne vois plus personne. » La pandémie et le confinement ont frappé fort pour Mario Roy qui a beaucoup de difficulté à garder le contact avec ses quatre petits-enfants qui habitent à Sherbrooke. « On ne peut pas voir personne. Un moment donné ça attaque le moral. Je ne peux même pas voir mes petits enfants », mentionne-t-il visiblement submergé par les émotions. M. Roy commence même à penser à vendre sa propriété. Rien du tout M. Roy a fait venir des représentants de diverses compagnies, mais rien n’y fait. Il ne peut pas avoir accès à internet. Il a lu avec scepticisme dans La Tribune que la compagnie Xplornet voulait obtenir une subvention gouvernementale pour brancher quelque 2000 foyers en Estrie. « Xplornet ne rentre pas du tout, j’ai fait venir trois représentants et ils ont tous essayé, déplore-t-il. Je suis trop creux pour la tour LTE et par satellite je devrais couper plusieurs arbres pour recevoir le signal. Je vais briser mon terrain si je fais ça. » La fibre optique se rend jusqu’à un poteau sur son terrain, mais la connexion jusqu’à la maison est hors de prix. « J’ai achalé Câble Axion pour qu’ils me branchent et ils m’ont dit que ça allait me coûter 20 000 $, j’ai dit non. » « Juste le minimum » Mario Roy n’est pas le seul citoyen de Milan dans cette situation. Ils sont près d’une centaine dans la petite municipalité à n’avoir pas accès à internet haute vitesse selon le maire Jacques Bergeron. « C’est Câble Axion qui passe dans le village et les gens ont un excellent service, mais dans les rangs débrouille-toi, mentionne-t-il. La vitesse n’est pas acceptable par satellite. Il y a des journées où la liaison avec le satellite ne se fait pas. Tu attends ton tour. En 2020, ça n’a pas de bon sens. » Certaines zones sont même dangereuses selon lui parce que même le cellulaire ne capte pas de signal. « Tu as un problème de sécurité, tu es blessé ou tu as eu un accident et tu n’es même pas capable d’entrer en communication d’urgence, déplore le maire. C’est vraiment pauvre comme service.» Mario Roy pense aussi que le manque de réseau peut être très dangereux, surtout lors des pannes de courant. « J’ai manqué d’électricité quatre jours l’an passé durant la grosse tempête, résume-t-il. Je n’avais pas d’internet, pas de cellulaire et pas de téléphone. Si je passe au feu, je regarde ma maison brûler. » Mario Roy a interpellé le député François Jacques à ce sujet et espère que sa situation ouvre les yeux de la classe politique. « Ils diffusent du 5G dans les villes tandis que dans les campagnes, ce n’est même pas branché, résume M. Bergeron. C’est frustrant et choquant. On veut juste le minimum.»Simon Roberge, Initiative de journalisme local, La Tribune
LOS ANGELES — MTV Entertainment Group says it's making a $250 million commitment to spur reality production over the next three years by companies owned and operated by women and people of colour. ViacomCBS' MTV Entertainment, which includes MTV and VH1, will provide funding, staff and other support to foster new ideas that will “fuel the unscripted content needs" of now and in the future, according to an announcement Thursday. Advocates of increasing diversity in the entertainment industry say progress requires more women and people of colour in decision-making positions. The initiative builds on MTV Entertainment’s unscripted record, including early reality show “The Real World," by creating ownership opportunities “for its diverse partners,” the company said. Lashan Browning and Adam Gonzalez, reality producers who were tapped last year to steer the initiative, will form their own production ventures with a MTV Entertainment equity investment, according to the announcement. Browning was part of the start-up team for Oxygen and was a producer for “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” and “Cartel Crew.” Gonzalez was a producer on VH1’s “Teyana & Iman” and “America’s Next Top Model.” The Associated Press
SHEET HARBOUR – The Royal Canadian Legion Courcelette Branch 58 is hurting like other non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. During good times the legion was self-sufficient, sponsoring ongoing fundraisers – such as bingos, 50/50 draws, hall rentals, dances and darts – to cover operating costs and ongoing maintenance. After 10 months of an unprecedented pandemic affecting many aspects of the economy, legion members are looking at their budget and reaching out to the community for continued support. A member of the fundraising committee, Barby Cochrane has a message for residents who rely on the legion and the services it offers. “We need the community's help and support. When we open back up in two weeks, we need those who feel safe to come out on Friday night, even if it is just to have one drink or buy a strip of tickets [Chase the Ace]. We need those who cannot come out to reach out to us and we'll arrange to get tickets for you or you can support the 50/50 online,” says Cochrane. “Our numbers for Chase the Ace usually increase week by week, but this year they did not. We had our steady 30 or so participants weekly. “The legion is the only place in the community to gather and it would be a loss to the community, if we had to shut the doors permanently,” Cochrane tells The Journal in an email. “We'll continue to promote the 50/50. We'll hopefully get some of the Covid-19 relief funds from the government. Hopefully, we'll be able to open again after these two weeks, and we'll be able to start Chase the Ace again and community events. But, none of this will matter unless we get the support from our community,” Cochrane says. Past President Vance Thompson adds, “We have helped 25 different organizations within our community over the past few years with Chase the Ace – paying out more than $150,000. We also have a benevolent fund to help people in need – not only vets, but also community members…. The income is used to keep our aging hall going – roof repairs, plumbing repairs, new accessible washroom, new kitchen, new bar fridge, wheelchair ramps, general upkeep of exterior. All these help customers access the building and feel welcome.” Yearly dues are $40 per member, with the local legion receiving a small percentage of that income. Fundraising efforts are the main source of income, although the legion does rely heavily on grants. “We also support community groups, such as the Lions Club, Lily's Hill, GSAR, ATV club, HYGGE [Travel Club], the Sheet Harbour and Area Heritage Society and St. James Church by partnering with them for our Chase the Ace fundraiser,” Cochrane says. “In the past we have helped individual community members when we were able. We also provide rent free space to any and all fundraisers in the community. It is our way of contributing to the fundraiser.” The building is in need of a new roof. The expected expenditure will be in excess of $40,000. Cochrane says they have applied for grants to cover approximately $30,000, but the fundraising committee and legion members will need to work to raise the balance. “The pandemic has hit us hard,” Thompson says. “We had to close our hall in mid-March and we re-opened in mid-September – only now to be closed again for the next few weeks. All events and rentals we had going on are now cancelled until further notice.” There will be about $2,000 in lost income due to the cancellations. “Our membership is primarily made up of elderly residents who are now not able to visit our branch,” Cochrane says. “They cannot come out for Muffin Morning or Chase the Ace or bingo. The reduction in the number of people attending events has impacted our income substantially … yet the building must still be maintained and the expenses must still be paid.” The legion’s service officer supports veterans by providing a confidential service. The officer liaises with other organizations on behalf of the veteran to ensure that they receive everything to which they are entitled. “The branch provides a place for the veterans to gather, services to honour them, and a place where they can remember,” says Cochrane. “We support our veterans through our service officers and poppy campaign, helping them with any requirements they require. As for the community, the legion has always been there for them – even more now that we are the only hall open in the area,” Thompson says. The legion faces membership challenges as most branch members are elderly. “The legion won't continue to operate, if younger people in the community don't get involved. We have to hire maintenance, such as cleaning and sanitizing after events, and shoveling and snow clearing,” Cochrane says. Sometime after Dec. 7, a new Chase the Ace license will start and the Rafflebox 50/50 online draw will continue weekly. Bingo has been closed for the winter and the hall will be open to rentals or community fundraisers. Muffin Morning, dart league and pool will continue to be offered. “The government protocols allow half the normal allowance; 84 people can be accommodated downstairs, with 150 upstairs. Tables are arranged to allow for six-feet spacing. Masks are required and hand sanitizer is provided. We do have a sign-in procedure in case contact tracing is necessary,” says Cochrane.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
MADRID — The lower house of Spain's parliament approved a proposed 2021 budget Thursday in what was seen as a vote of confidence in the left-wing coalition government’s plans for increased spending on infrastructure, education, employment and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.A majority of 188 lawmakers in the 350-seat chamber voted to pass the budget plan. Representatives from the main conservative and right-wing parties voted against it.Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had to rely on support from myriad small and regional nationalist parties to get the spending plan through, leading to charges he is reliant on groups that aim to damage Spanish unity.But Sánchez's supporters said the variety of the lawmakers endorsing the budget showed strength and confidence."Never has a budget received the support of so many groups and so many parties,” said the Socialist Party's Congress of Deputies spokeswoman, Adriana Lastra. She said the vote indicated Sánchez's government would “be around for many years.”The vote was one of the biggest shows of support for Sánchez since he first took office in mid-2018.The government previously had to run the country with extensions to a budget drawn up by the previous conservative government, which severely curtailed social spending.The new budget must still be approved in the Senate before the end of the year but is not expected to face obstacles there.Spain is struggling to recover from the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic, which has raised unemployment and stymied economic growth.The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The rapper Casanova has surrendered to law enforcement following his indictment in a gang-related federal racketeering case, authorities said Thursday. The New York City rapper, whose legal name is Caswell Senior, was charged in an indictment unsealed against 18 members of the Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation gang, which authorities say operated in New York City and other parts of New York state. The gang is charged with a litany of crimes, including the killing in September of a 15-year-old in Poughkeepsie and defrauding programs meant for people suffering economic hardship because of the pandemic. Casanova, currently signed to Roc Nation, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and firearms possession. Emails were sent to Roc Nation and the rapper’s representative seeking comment. The Associated Press
Islanders who would like to donate reusable, non-medical masks can now drop off donations at all eight Access PEI locations across the province. And for Islanders who may need a reusable mask and can't afford one, free masks will now be available at 14 food banks and pantries around P.E.I. Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson made the announcement about both organisations in the legislature Wednesday. "For many Islanders, purchasing masks may not fall within their budget. Every Islander deserves access to protection against COVID-19," Hudson said as part of the announcement.> It's great to see that the government is kind of answering the call and getting up to the plate \- Alyssa MacKinnon, co-founder of Mask Central PEIAlyssa MacKinnon, co-founder of Mask Central PEI, said her group helped facilitate the mask donation drop-offs at Access PEI.Mask Central PEI is a Facebook group that helps connect people who want to donate masks with organizations looking for mask donations. MacKinnon said Premier Dennis King and his staff reached out to her group, wondering how they could help get masks out to Islanders as quickly as possible. "We're very excited and we're really overwhelmed with the support that we've been getting," said MacKinnon. "It's great to see that the government is kind of answering the call and getting up to the plate, and implementing getting these masks out to low-income Islanders where they need it the most."Islanders' generosity overwhelming MacKinnon said that since she helped launch the new group just eight days ago, the support and generosity they've gotten from Islanders has been overwhelming. She said that with donation drop-offs at Access PEI locations from Souris to Tignish, the Island is well-covered. "Those, I think, are amazing strides coming not only from us, but from the province and from Islanders to kind of address what low-income Islanders' needs are," said MacKinnon. The 14 food bank locations where people can pick up a donated mask also range across the province. You can see a full list of the food banks and the Access PEI locations on the Mask Central PEI Facebook page.More from CBC P.E.I.
We don’t know nearly enough about what the climate crisis will cost Canada — but what we do know is already troubling, and should inspire greater action. That’s the conclusion from the first of several sweeping reports on the economic, social and environmental costs of climate change in Canada by the independent, publicly funded Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. The institute pored over decades of data on the costs of weather-related disasters from both government relief and insurance industry payouts. Its findings make it clear that volatile weather events have already become more frequent, and more costly. But it also revealed how climate change-related costs are still barely understood today, and these unknown costs are likely to explode far beyond those that are known. “The lack of understanding of risk, plus the lack of tools to be able to address risk, create this dead zone, where it’s really hard to do anything,” said adaptation director Ryan Ness in an interview. “What we’re suggesting is, we have to act on the knowledge we have, and we have enough knowledge to move forward.” What is already known is stunning: the average cost per weather-related disaster has soared by 1,250 per cent since the 1970s, and the number of catastrophic events has more than tripled since the 1980s. In the nine years from 2010 to 2019, there was over $14 billion in disaster costs — the same amount as over the previous 40 years, save for the one-time $7-billion Eastern Canada ice storm in 1998. As the title of the Dec. 3 report, “Tip of the Iceberg,” indicates, these numbers are just the beginning. There are many more long-term impacts from climate change, such as an estimated $1.3-billion cost to dozens of communities across the Northwest Territories due to permafrost thaw. Such a cost will add to the stretched budgets of northern governments already coping with unaffordable food prices and other stressors such as long-term drinking water advisories. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the many impacts that are just not recorded at all in Canada — things such as the impact on health care that climate change is creating. “Canada lacks up-to-date evidence on the potential economic impacts of climate change,” reads the report. The institute said the last effort to “examine a broad range of costs at a national scale” was done in 2011, by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Over the next two years, it expects to publish further reports on health, infrastructure, macroeconomics and the North. Ness said there are many reasons why it is difficult to cost out climate impacts, but one main issue is that there are so many different ways that climate change affects Canada in the first place. Not only are disasters and extreme weather linked to death, disease and mental health challenges, for example, but there are a range of other consequences. Wildfire smoke harms lungs, for example, while extreme heat makes kids miss school. The Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016 was the “largest single weather-related insurance loss event in Canadian history,” the report states. Ocean warming and acidification will also likely impact fisheries, and therefore the food security and prosperity of First Nations that depend on them, while early heat waves can cause havoc for farmers depending on seasonal harvests. Then there are the economic impacts of extreme weather on Canadian small business operations, or the disruptions to household budgets, as well as the impact of climate refugees on domestic politics and international conflict. “Pick an economic sector, pick an infrastructure type, pick a health impact — each one of those is extremely complex to try and figure out what a changing climate means for those impacts, and then how those impacts play out in terms of costs,” Ness said. Another concern is how all these issues will interact with each other. Ness gave the example of how climate change could impact the electricity supply, causing power outages in the summer, at the same time as climate-driven heat waves drive up demand for air conditioning. “We don’t know how much the climate’s going to change in the end. We don’t know if there’s weird things that are going to happen in those systems ... we could see impacts that are way bigger than science might predict, because science is based on past climate and past behaviour,” he said. The institute said this all suggests that the debate over Canada’s progress in tackling climate change needs to broaden from its current focus on reducing carbon pollution to one that also addresses adaptation — or the ways that Canadians can adjust to account for the widening range of climate impacts. “Current adaptation policies and investments in Canada fall far short of what is needed to address the known risks of climate change, let alone those that are still unclear and unknown. This has to change,” the report states. Its three recommendations are for all orders of government to increase funding for adaptation, more closely co-ordinate their adaptation efforts and examine the current levels of transparency over climate risks. While the federal and provincial governments have come together previously over climate change, such as the Pan-Canadian Framework, Ness said more detail was needed over which authorities do what and how they work in unison. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Parents of students with special needs are struggling to adapt as states decide whether to close schools again as a second wave of COVID-19 hits the country. (Dec. 3)
MORRISBURG – Alight at Night may be open for the holidays, but don’t expect to see bus tours arriving this year. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission kicked off the 20th annual light event at Upper Canada Village on November 27th with limited numbers of people able to attend. Tickets are sold online only and limited to blocks in 30 minute intervals between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights it is open. Already, the SLPC reports that the first two weeks of tickets have been sold out. However there was concern from area residents that bus tour companies were bringing visitors from areas where higher levels of COVID-19 infection are located. Several tour companies have listings on their websites for bus trips to Alight At Night from previous years, or for 2021. No bus tour packages have been advertised for 2020. “For the 2020 season, group sales have been paused,” said SLPC spokesperson Rosalyn Gambhir. “Upper Canada Village does not have tour operators/companies or buses groups booked for our winter event Alight at Night.” She said that the SLPC has been working to ensure the event continues during the holiday season, even with the current pandemic situation. “This year, like our fall event Pumpkinferno, there are a limited number of tickets available each night and attendance has been drastically limited every half hour,” Gambhir said. “If needed, numbers will be adjusted based on COVID-19 protocols.” This July, the provincial government provided a $7 million funding infusion to the cash-strapped agency, to assist with operating during the pandemic. Two million of that funding was specifically for Upper Canada Village, which ran a shorter season for 2020 with fewer parts of the attraction open. The SLPC was able to run the popular Pumpkinferno event throughout October. Alight at Night runs on select nights until December 17th, then operates nightly except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until January 2nd.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
BRUSSELS — A senior legal adviser said Thursday that the European Union’s top court should reject Hungary’s attempts to overturn a European Parliament action aimed at holding the country to account for what lawmakers consider to be a breach of the bloc’s values.Advocate General Michal Bobek recommended that the European Court of Justice “dismiss Hungary’s action as unfounded.” Advocates General routinely provide legal guidance to the ECJ. Their opinions aren't binding on the Luxembourg-based court, but are followed in most cases.The EU parliament launched a procedure in 2018 to force Hungary’s EU partners to sanction the government in Budapest over concerns about the country’s constitutional and electoral systems, the independence of its judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, as well as fundamental rights concerns.The “Article 7” procedure was contained in a resolution that was adopted in a 448-197 vote, while 48 lawmakers abstained. Hungary argued that had the abstentions been taken into account, the vote wouldn't have achieved the required two-thirds majority.In Bobek’s opinion, a person who abstains from a vote asks to be counted as neither in favour nor against a proposition, and to be treated as if they weren't voting at all. He also said that EU lawmakers had been informed more than a day before the poll that abstentions wouldn't be counted as votes cast.It’s the first time the parliament has launched such a procedure. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has also taken similar action against Hungary. If four-fifths of Hungary’s 26 EU partners agree “there is a clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s values, Budapest could lose its voting rights.The EU’s treaty says the bloc “is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”The Associated Press
ESKASONI, N.S. — The provincial government announced Wednesday it was committing more than $700,000 to help with the transportation needs of multiple communities and as a result, Eskasoni First Nation will receive $117,685 for transit funding. “We’re excited, this is something the community members have been asking for and we got it,” said Chief Leroy Denny. In Eskasoni, the money will go toward purchasing a nine-passenger van for door-to-door service within the Mi’kmaq community and a 20-person bus offering routes to Sydney and Membertou First Nation. The province will contribute $67,685 for the van and $50,000 for the bus. Funding for the initiative was provided through the accessible transportation program and covers 75 per cent of the vehicle cost. Other funding announcements for Cape Breton communities includes: $17,353 for a five-passenger van for La Cooperative de Transport de Cheticamp; $55,385 for an eight-passenger van for Strait Area Transit, and $50,000 for a 16-passenger bus for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Denny says the transit service is something the community has advocated for in the past and the system will address some of the barriers the residents face. Eskasoni is about 44 km from Sydney and Denny says some community members on a fixed income must pay money for rides into town so the bus will be a cost-saving tool. Bus service will come at a small fee, but the price will not be fixed until bus drivers are hired and more is known about the operating fees. “Public transportation allows people to more fully participate in their communities and better access work, schools, shopping and important services,” said Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, minister of communities, culture and heritage in a news release. Denny expects the transit system to be operational in early 2021 but will adhere to strict safety guidelines as the province deals with the second wave of COVID-19. He believes reliable transportation may lead to more employment for some community members. “Transportation is very important if you want to get to school or work,” said Denny. In October, the Eskasoni health department launched a bus system to help ease transportation concerns when accessing health care. The recent announcement is separate from that initiative. But both are expected to help residents without vehicles travel around the large reserve. Eskasoni has more than 4,500 residents and spans more than 100 hectares of land. Denny says the population continues to grow and the transit system is another way to help the community. “It’s a really good thing and we’re excited for it,” said Denny.Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
MIAMI — Brad Six becomes Santa Claus, pulling his black boots over his red pants in the office of a Miami outdoor supply company. It's hot, so he forgoes the traditional heavy jacket for a lightweight vest and grabs his Santa hat.But before sliding it on, the gray-bearded 61-year-old dons a plastic face shield and then takes his chair positioned behind a plexiglass sheet."Getting paid is nice, but to get your battery recharged and to really get something lasting out of it requires interacting with the kids — you don’t get a lot of that this year,” said Six, who first portrayed Santa 35 years ago.This is Santa Claus in the Coronavirus Age, where visits are conducted with layers of protection or online. Putting hundreds of kids daily onto Santa's lap to talk into his face — that's not happening for most. The physical attributes that make the perfect Santa align perfectly with those that make COVID-19 especially deadly.“Most of us tick all the boxes: We are old, we are overweight, we have diabetes and if we don’t have diabetes, we have heart disease,” said Stephen Arnold, the president of IBRBS, an association formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.That has spurred creativity in Santa's workshops. Santas conducting in-person visits are using some combination of masks, the outdoors, barriers and distance for safety. Others are doing virtual visits, where children chat with Santa online for prices typically ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the length and extras, such as whether customers want a recording. Some Santas are taking the season off.“Santa safety is our No. 1 concern” and negotiated into every contract, said Mitch Allen, president of HireSanta, one of the nation's largest agencies. He said the pandemic initially dried up his business, but it bounced back, especially online.The average Santa makes $5,000 to $10,000 during a normal season, Allen said. That's a welcome bonus for men often retired on a fixed income, but many Santas say revenue is down as corporate parties and other lucrative gigs evaporated.Jac Grimes, a Santa in Greensboro, North Carolina, gave up home visits, about a third of his business. He did it not just for his own health, but to prevent becoming a superspreader, fearing he'd pass the virus from one family to the next.At a farmers market he annually works, Grimes and his wife dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and sit in a parking lot where they to talk to people who remain inside their cars. Some homeowners associations are moving their annual Santa-visitation parties outdoors; Grimes will arrive in his red convertible to greet the crowds from afar.One of the hardest adjustments Santas have made is wearing masks that hide their painstakingly grown beards.“Santa performers are fairly vain people — if they are good,” Grimes said.The virus has many Santas and parents turning to virtual visits, which are booked through each Santa's personal website or agencies like Allen's. That often has Santas turning to their children and others for help mastering the computer skills needed.“It has been a challenge,” said Christopher Saunders, a Santa performer in Tool, Texas, a small town near Dallas.But Saunders and others say virtual sessions are a good if imperfect substitute for in-person visits. Parents fill out questionnaires, allowing performers to personalize their patter, and a side benefit is that the sessions aren't rushed. Many Santa mall visits last no more than two minutes to keep the line moving.“You get a different energy,” Saunders said of the virtual visits. “You can see the child’s expressions, as pure as they are.”Jim Beidel, a Santa performer near Seattle, said knowing the children's personal stories, such as their friends and school, helps Santas sell their Christmas magic.“It really enhances the engagement, the suspension of disbelief, especially among the older children," he said.But even Santas with the best gigs are hurting. Howard Graham usually portrays Santa in the grand foyer of New York's Radio City Music Hall during its Christmas show featuring the Rockettes. That's gone, so he's doing virtual visits and five days with a historic railroad in Pennsylvania. Still, he's taking a financial and emotional hit.“I love what I do ... bringing them (children) a little bit of smiles and hope,” said Graham, who has played Santa at Radio City for eight years. “I am going to do what I can not to change that.”That was also Six's goal as he settled recently into Santa's throne for a three-hour shift at Miami's Bass Pro Shops.As families sat in front of the plexiglass for photos, Six tilted his head so his face shield didn't reflect the camera's flash. He cheerfully waved children around the plexiglass so they could tell him their wish list, keeping them 6 feet (1.8 metres) back. As he wished them a Merry Christmas, an elf swooped in with disinfectant, wiping the plexiglass and bench before the next group sat.Six said the arrangement is “a little easier physically on Santa's back because he doesn't have to pick anybody up, but it's not as enjoyable because Santa doesn't get the interaction he normally gets.”But for families, sitting with Santa, even if behind a shield, is a bit of normalcy in abnormal times.Paul and Sarah Morris and their children, 5-year-old Theo and Sophy, 4, were among the first to visit Six that night. An Air Force family visiting from Hawaii, the Morrises cajoled their children into hugging for their photo. “Stop wiggling,” Theo said, scolding his sister before each sibling told Santa their Christmas wish. Sophy wanted candy; Theo, a remote control Ford Mustang.“This is definitely different," Sarah Morris said of the setup, “but the kids are excited and that's what matters.”Terry Spencer, The Associated Press
NEW DELHI — Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth said Thursday he plans to launch his own political party in southern India in January, ending years of speculation by millions of his fans on his political future.He said in a tweet that he will make an announcement on Dec. 31, apparently in relation to legislative elections in Tamil Nadu state expected around June next year. He started taking an active part in politics in 2017.Rajinikanth, 69, is one of India’s most popular stars with more than 175 films since 1975, mostly in the Tamil and Telugu languages.“In the upcoming Assembly elections, the emergence of spiritual politics will happen for sure. A wonder will happen,” he tweeted. An announcement on matters connected to the party's launch will be made Dec. 31, he said.His political prospects appear bright following a vacuum created by the deaths of Jayaram Jayalalithaa, an actor-turned politician with the governing party in the state, and Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the leader of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party.Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians.C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi were scriptwriters who went on to become chief ministers. M.G. Ramachandran, a top actor-turned-politician, also had a strong following.Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth worked as a bus conductor for three years before joining an acting school. He started in small roles as a villain in Tamil cinema and worked his way up, landing roles in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan also tried his hand in politics as a member of India’s Parliament, representing the Congress party in support of his friend, then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in the 1980s. He resigned after three years following allegations that he accepted bribes in the purchase of artillery guns. His name was later cleared in the scandal.Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press
Leading up to her graduation from Dalhousie University, Fatou Secka had her eyes on the prize: to find a job in her field and get one step closer to permanent residency in Canada. “I was very hopeful of getting into the work field, getting more practical experience, applying myself ... and being part of an organization,” she told The Chronicle Herald. “I was really looking forward to that.” But after receiving a master's degree in civil engineering at the university in May, the international graduate from The Gambia has been job hunting nearly everyday to no avail. “(A few days) ago, my alarm went off and I felt so anxious and so nervous and worried that I would be unable to find work,” she said. Due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, thousands of international graduates in Canada like Secka are unable to find work and meet the requirements of their post-graduate work permits (PGWPs), according to Migrant Students United, an advocacy group for international students and graduates. International graduates are eligible for time-restricted PGWPs that allow them to remain in Canada post-graduation and gain work experience here. If they complete a minimum of 12 to 24 months of work in certain skilled positions, they can then qualify for permanent residency. While Secka has a three-year PGWP, some international graduates have shorter permits that are either set to expire before year’s end or have already expired, which has left them in a state of limbo, said Sarom Rho, an organizer for Migrant Students United. “With the second wave of COVID-19 related job losses spiking all over Canada and the economic shutdown and economic impact of this, most migrant student workers don’t have access to these jobs,” said Rho. “Even in the best of times, these jobs are difficult to get as migrant workers, but in the middle of a pandemic, when there’s a global economic shutdown, it’s nearly impossible.” The federal government has allowed people with work, study and visitor permits that expired before Jan. 30 to “restore their status” until the end of the year if they stayed in Canada. But PGWPs are currently non-renewable, said Rho, so international graduates are unable to do so. Migrant Students United delivered two petitions with thousand of signatures to federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office this week, calling for changes to Canadian immigration rules surrounding PGWPs. They’ve asked the federal government to make PGWPs renewable so former students can complete “realistic requirements” for permanent residency in the COVID-19 job market and to lower the threshold for gaining permanent residency by lowering points requirements and counting work that is part-time, in-school or in any occupation. Rho said international graduates have made multiple sacrifices and poured thousands of dollars into education in Canada only to be faced with COVID-19 setbacks at no fault of their own. During this “unprecedented crisis,” they’ve also contributed to Canada by working in the essential industries “that sustain our economy and our communities,” Rho added, but none of that work is counted toward their PGWPs. “You’ll see that it’s migrant students who are working overnight stocking shelves in grocery stores, handling packages in warehouses, working in food service and retail and delivery,” she said. John Paul Patrick Corpus is one of those international graduates. Corpus completed a diploma in business intelligence analytics from Nova Scotia Community College and received his PGWP, which is valid for one year, in July. He’s currently working as a sales associate at the Atlantic Superstore and as a data analyst with the federal government. Although his work with the federal government counts toward his PGWP, Corpus said only 30 hours of the 37.5 hours he puts in each week are counted. This means he has to work straight through to July 2021, which is when his PGWP expires, in order to achieve the 1,560 hours required to satisfy the requirements of the permit, he said. “It’s really pushed my work permit up to the very end,” said Corpus. Corpus is concerned that he may lose his job with the federal government during the pandemic. “I try to work as many hours as I can because you’ll never know if one day, all of a sudden, you lose your job and they don’t issue a permit or visa,” he said. At his grocery store job, Corpus said many of his coworkers are also PGWP holders that are stuck in a similar state of uncertainty. He said they all share the same sentiments: “Hopefully the government will give us at least another year once the pandemic stabilizes, because they should try to be reasonable. How can you find a job if there’s no job? Or how can you prove your work if there’s no grounds to prove your work?” “We just study here and all of a sudden we’re kicked out of the country because, OK, your post-graduate work permit is expired. That’s so sad,” Corpus added. As she continues to look for an engineering job, Secka said she’s trying her best to keep occupied by networking with people in her field and pursuing professional training to make herself “indispensable.” She’s also found work as a caregiver at the Shannex nursing home in Halifax and at the Dalhousie Writing Centre. Secka encourages other international graduates to do the same. “Although I have not been able to find work, I’ve been talking to people in my field and learning from them. So these are things you can do so you have something to look forward to in your day,” she said. The Chronicle Herald reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ask if the department is considering renewing expired or soon-to-expire PGWPs. In an email statement, IRCC spokesperson Rémi Larivière said that with COVID-19 causing "significant disruptions," the federal government has taken steps to support international students "and we hope to help more of them make the transition to permanent residency." This includes the government's "ambitious" 2021-2023 immigration levels plan that creates more opportunities through Canada's economic immigration programs, he said. According to Larivière, a person whose status will expire has "options to extend it before it does, and a period of time to restore their status if it does expire." He noted the period that temporary residents have to restore their status has been extended during the pandemic. Larivière said the federal government has also "made it easier for former PGWP holders who had to maintain their legal status in Canada as a visitor to quickly start working for a new employer when they find a new job, and for those with employer-specific work permits to be able to quickly switch and start working for a new employer while their new (work permit) application is processed, cutting the delay on working for a new employer from 10 weeks to 10 days." "We will continue to work closely with international students and the wider community to examine new ways to help international students thrive in this country," he added.Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
WASHINGTON — In the modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the U.S. military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbour but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections. The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China. Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation. The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more — including in foreign countries — to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets. The Defence Department has worked to highlight that more aggressive “hunt forward” strategy in recent years, particularly after Russia interfered through hacking and covert social media campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. American officials were on high alert for similar interference in 2020 but described no major problems on Nov. 3. “When we look at the threats that we face, from Russia or other adversaries, it really is all about the partnerships and our ability to expand really the scope, scale and pace of operations in order to make it more difficult for adversaries to execute operations either in the United States, Estonia or other places,” Brig. Gen. William Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, said in a conference call with a small group of reporters this week. Estonia, a former Soviet republic, was in some ways a natural fit for a partnership with Cyber Command because in years past it has been a cyber target of nearby Russia, including crippling attacks on government networks in 2007. Estonian officials say they have since strengthened their cyber defences, created a cybersecurity strategy and developed their own cyber command, which like the U.S. version is part of the country’s military. While nothing malicious was found on the networks during the exercise, “what we did learn is how the U.S. conducts these kinds of operations, which is definitely useful for us because there are a lot of kind of capability developments that we are doing right now,” said Mihkel Tikk, deputy commander of Estonia’s Cyber Command. Tikk added: “In some areas, it is wise to learn from others than having to reinvent the wheel.” Hartman declined to discuss specifics of the operation but said the networks in Estonia were “very well defended.” “I don’t want anyone to leave here with the impression that Estonian networks were full of adversary activity from a broad range of nation states” because that is not the case, he added. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has hinted at a more aggressive, proactive federal government approach to cyber threats. In an August piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, Nakasone wrote that U.S cyber fighters have moved away from a “reactive, defensive posture” and are increasingly engaging in combat with foreign adversaries online. Cyber Command has worked in past years with countries including Montenegro and North Macedonia on similar missions. Estonian officials say they believe the partnership could be a deterrent to countries such as Russia. “These kinds of operations, I think, they will continue,” said Undersecretary of Defence Margus Matt. But, he added, “I don’t know how much we will speak of them publicly.” U.S. officials say they think the risks of a proactive approach — a country could regard such an operation as a provocation toward a broader international cyber conflict — are outweighed by the benefits. “We believe that inaction in cyberspace contributes to escalation more than reasonable action in cyberspace,” said Thomas Wingfield, deputy assistant secretary of defence for cyber policy. Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Ontario reported 1,824 more cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and reached a key threshold when it comes to the number of patients in intensive care earlier than expected.As of Thursday, 203 patients with the illness are currently being treated in intensive care, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario. The number of patients in intensive care is notable because public health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated schedules and procedures may be postponed or cancelled to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients. Models detailed by health officials on Nov. 26 forecasted that the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs would not break 200 before next week, putting the province five days ahead of those projected scenarios."It is concerning that we are ahead of schedule," said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in the east end of Toronto. While some hospitals throughout Ontario have been largely unaffected by the second wave of COVID-19, those in hotspots are under increasing pressure, he added. According to Warner, 18 per cent of all ICU patients in Toronto hospitals have COVID-19. That figure rises to 24 per cent in both York and Halton regions.Furthermore, the Grand River Hospital in Waterloo Region paused elective surgeries this week after its intensive care unit reached capacity. And in Windsor-Essex, the Windsor Regional Hospital said high patient numbers were challenging the entire regional health-care system and had made it necessary to impose strict visitor restrictions in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus.Total admissions to intensive care during the first wave of the illness in the spring topped out at 270, Warner said, but hospitals were able to better cope because non-COVID-19 related procedures and care were cancelled.This time, he explained, that is not an option."There would be too much collateral damage," Warner told CBC Toronto. Similarly, the Ontario Hospital Association has urged the public to continue following public health guidelines in an effort to address capacity issues."Ontario hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain access to vital surgeries and procedures with COVID-19 cases rising," the organization said in a statement posted on social media."Hospitals are doing everything they can, but they need your support. Help stop the spread by making better practical choices every day."At the province's daily press conference Thursday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the number is a concern, and noted some hospitals have had to put procedures on hold.She said the province has increased the number of ICU beds in the province, but health experts have routinely said that staffing needs to increase in concert with that number.The province is also looking at a "regional approach to surgeries," Elliott said, which would essentially mean that surgeries be moved to hospitals that have capacity for them."We want to keep those surgeries and procedures ongoing," she said.592 new cases in Peel Region, 396 in TorontoNew cases reported today include 592 in Peel Region, 396 in Toronto and 187 in York Region. The Middlesex-London public health unit also recorded 127 additional cases, though the provincial health ministry said that, due to a processing error, that figure includes three days worth of case data.Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were: * Waterloo Region: 87 * Halton Region: 68 * Windsor-Essex: 62 * Durham Region: 57 * Hamilton: 56 * Ottawa: 41 * Niagara Region: 25 * Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 23 * Eastern Ontario: 19 * Thunder Bay: 13 * Simcoe Muskoka: 11Also included in today's new cases are 122 that are school-related: 94 students and 28 staff members. Some 755 of Ontario's 4,828 publicly-funded schools, or about 15.6 per cent, currently have at least one case of COVID-19, while five schools are currently closed because of the illness.The additional infections push the seven-day average of new daily cases to a record high 1,769.(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario health ministry's COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Thursday that the seven-day average is now at 1,769 cases, with 87 per cent of those since Monday coming from red and lockdown areas of the province. Williams said the province plans to make an announcement about the movement of regions within its colour-coded framework Friday."The trends continue to go up at this time," he said, noting that there has also been a 20 per cent increase in hospitalizations since last week.Questions remain on vaccine rolloutPremier Doug Ford said Thursday the federal government has told the provinces that the first supply of vaccines will be approved and available in early 2021."Initial supply will be very limited," Ford said, adding that he still has many questions — specifically which vaccines will be coming to Ontario, how many, and when they will land."These are three fundamental questions that I've been asking for several weeks now. They remain unanswered," Ford said.Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, meanwhile, said Wednesday: "We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4."Kenney said the province will have plans and its distribution network ready to go for when vaccines become available. Ford would not offer any details on Ontario's vaccination plan when pressed by reporters Thursday."What I can guarantee the people of Ontario is we will be ready," he said.Williams was also asked Thursday if the province would make vaccination mandatory."We can't force someone to take a vaccine. That's clear," he said. But what the province can do, he added, is make proof of a vaccine mandatory access to certain settings, such as long-term care facilities.Ontario's network of labs processed 52,873 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. Another 58,320 tests were added to the queue to be completed. The province reported 14 further deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the official toll to 3,712.There are currently outbreaks in 116 long-term care homes on Ontario, including at Sunnycrest Nursing Home in Whitby, where 111 of the 136 residents and 30 staff members have tested positive.
ATHENS, Greece — The body of a woman was recovered Thursday on the Greek island of Lesbos and identified as that of a woman reported missing after a migrant boat sank the previous day.The coast guard said the body was recovered from a rocky part of the coast, bringing the death toll from the sinking to two.Another 32 people, all from Somalia and including three children, had been rescued from the sea after the dinghy they had been travelling in from the nearby Turkish coast sank off Lesbos early Wednesday morning, Greek authorities said.Government spokesman Stelios Petsas accused the Turkish coast guard of refusing to help the migrants when they issued a distress call.“It is clear that the Turkish vessel, despite the request for help, didn’t help, didn’t rescue the passengers of the fatal boat while they were in Turkish territorial waters,” Petsas said Thursday. "On the contrary, it urged them to move forward, it carried out manoeuvrs against the boat so that it would continue its course toward Greek shores.”Petsas said smuggling gangs were knowingly endangering people’s lives by sending them out to illegally cross the European Union’s borders in unseaworthy vessels.“People who are not in danger on land, Turkey sends them into danger at sea, in boats that don’t fulfil any safety requirements and are driven by people without permits or knowledge of the rules of the sea,” he said, adding that turning a blind eye to such practices was a “usual practice” by neighbouring Turkey.Turkey's coast guard vehemently denied the allegation, saying in a statement that it dispatched a boat after the distress call but found the dinghy to be in Greek waters with a Greek coast guard boat close enough to help.“Due to the fact that the scene of said incident was within the Greek waters and there was no response to the calls in any manner, it had not been possible to intervene in the scene of incident; nevertheless, Turkish assets continued to stay and wait within the Turkish territorial waters," the Turkish statement said.The coast guard also provided a recording of a Turkish unit telling its Greek counterparts in a call that the migrants “need to be rescued immediately" or otherwise Greece would be responsible.Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing poverty and conflict in the Mideast, Africa and Asia. The vast majority make their way from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, often in unseaworthy and grossly overcrowded dinghies and boats.The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Mark Cuban, Anthony Anderson and Skylar Diggins-Smith will take part in a series of panel discussions on YouTube that are focused on racial justice. The video-sharing platform announced the lineup on Thursday for “Bear Witness, Take Action 2.” The two-hour special featuring the various panels and musical performances will premiere Saturday at 6 p.m. EST on the YouTube Originals channel. Common and Keke Palmer return as hosts of the forum, which will include sports figures, entertainers and activists. The first event took place in June. Patti LaBelle, Rapsody and SAINt JHN will perform. “I’m excited to return for the second installment to continue these necessary discussions centred around racial injustices in order to nurture, enhance and protect Black lives,” Common said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to the talented and intelligent people we have joining us this time around for more compelling and impactful conversations that we believe will lead to action.” The panels will venture into several topics including criminal justice reform, dealing with mental health during the pandemic and the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality. Some of the highlighted panels include a discussion between Cuban and New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. The Dallas Mavericks owner and Jenkins are expected to talk about what happens when a team owner holds a conversation with a player about white privilege, civil responsibility and political activism. Diggins-Smith will appear on panel with reporter Jemele Hill and activist Harry Edwards about athletes’ impact on today’s political movement. Famed author Isabel Wilkerson will talk with Soledad O’Brien about making society more equitable. “It is so important that we keep a dialogue about racial justice going beyond any particular moment,” Palmer said. “I want to encourage my peers to continue to have thoughtful and powerful conversations that will lead us to change. Let’s talk about it, take action, and see change realized.” Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press