Kim Kardashian West is at a crossroads in her marriage to Kanye West. According to multiple sources, the reality star is on the verge of filing for divorce from her husband of more than six years but hasn’t officially pulled the trigger.
Kim Kardashian West is at a crossroads in her marriage to Kanye West. According to multiple sources, the reality star is on the verge of filing for divorce from her husband of more than six years but hasn’t officially pulled the trigger.
Any members of the U.S. Congress who helped a crowd of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the Capitol should face criminal prosecution, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday. The unprecedented Jan. 6 attack on the seat of Congress left five dead and led the House to impeach Trump a second time, for a fiery speech that day in which he urged thousands of his followers to fight Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Democratic Representative Mikie Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, has accused some Republican lawmakers of helping Trump supporters, saying she saw colleagues leading groups on "reconnaissance" tours on Jan. 5.
BEIJING — President Xi Jinping is asking former CEO Howard Schultz of Starbucks to help repair U.S.-Chinese relations that have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid a tariff war and tension over technology and security. A letter from Xi to Schultz reported Friday by the official Xinhua News Agency was a rare direct communication from China's paramount leader to a foreign business figure. Schultz opened Starbucks' first China outlet in 1999 and is a frequent visitor. Xi wrote to Schultz “to encourage him and Starbucks to continue to play an active role in promoting Chinese-U.S. economic and trade co-operation and the development of bilateral relations,” Xinhua reported. No text of the letter was released. Xinhua gave no indication whether the letter reflected an initiative to ask American corporate leaders to help change policy after President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week. Economists and political analysts say Biden is likely to try to revive co-operation with Beijing over North Korea and other political issues. But few changes on trade are expected due to widespread frustration in Washington over China's human rights record and accusations of technology theft. The Cabinet press office didn’t immediately respond to questions about what Xi wanted Schultz to do and whether he contacted other American business leaders. Schultz, who was Starbucks CEO until 2017 and chairman until 2018, led an aggressive expansion that made China its biggest market outside the United States. Starbucks says it has more than 4,700 stores and 58,000 employees in almost 190 Chinese cities. Schultz said in 2019 that he was considering running for president as an independent but later dropped that. Xinhua said Xi was responding to a letter from Schultz that congratulated the Chinese leader on “the completion of a well-off society” under his leadership, Xinhua said. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
A collection of children's drawings made during the pandemic illustrates the mental toll the pandemic is taking on Canadian youth, says the researcher behind a project analyzing their artwork. Many of the submissions by kids and teenagers on childart.ca depict people alone, haunted by shadowy spectres, or worse, their own thoughts. Collectively, the images paint a stark picture of how the trials of young life under lockdown could shape the next generation, says Nikki Martyn, program head of early childhood studies at University of Guelph-Humber. While the study is still underway, Martyn said initial observations suggest that coming of age during the COVID-19 crisis can create an emotional maelstrom during a critical period of adolescent development. Being a teenager is tough enough at the best of times, she said, but finding your place in the world while stuck at home has left many young people feeling like they have no future to look forward to. "The saddest part for me ... is that kind of loss of not being able to see through to the other side," she said. "There's so much pain and so much struggle right now that I think needs to be shared and seen, so that we can support our youth and make sure they become healthy adults." Since September, Martyn's team has received more than 120 pieces from Canadians aged two to 18, submitted anonymously with parental permission, along with some background information and written responses. Martyn marvelled at the breadth of creative talent the project has attracted, with submissions ranging from doodles, sketches, digital drawings, paintings, pastels, photos and even one musical composition. Researchers circulated the call for young artists at schools and on social media. While the collection includes a few tot-scribbled masterpieces, Martyn said the majority of contributors are between the ages of 14 and 17. As the submissions trickled in, she was struck by the potent and sometimes graphic depictions of adolescent anxiety, despair and isolation. Recurring themes include confined figures, screaming faces, phantasmic presences, gory imagery and infringing darkness. Some images contain allusions to self-harm, which Martyn sees as a physical representation of the pain afflicting so many of the study's participants. Just as unsettling are the words that accompany the images. Some artists transcribed the relentless patter of pandemic-related concerns that pervade daily life, while others expressed sentiments like "I'm broken," "this is too much" and "what's the point?" Martyn said many participants wrote of struggling to keep up in school, while some were dealing with family problems such as job loss, illness and even death. Many of these feelings and challenges are common across age groups, Martyn noted. However, while adults are more accustomed to the ups and downs that life can bring, young people are less likely to have fostered the coping skills to help them weather a global crisis. A coalition of Canadian children's hospitals has warned that the pandemic is fomenting a youth mental-health crisis with potentially "catastrophic" short- and long-term consequences for children's wellbeing and growth. This would be consistent with research from previous outbreaks suggesting that young people are more vulnerable to the negative psychological impacts of quarantine, including increased risk of post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and behavioural problems, according to an August report by Children's Mental Health Ontario. An online survey of 1,300 Ontario children and young adults last spring found that nearly two-thirds of respondents felt that their mental health had deteriorated since COVID-19 hit, with many citing the abrupt end of school, disconnection from friends and uncertainty about the future as significant stressors. Lydia Muyingo, a PhD student in clinical psychology at Dalhousie University, said when she looks through the images in the childart.ca gallery, she can see how these concerns are confounding the typical turmoil of being a teenager. Adolescence is a time for young people to figure out who they are through new experiences, interests and social interactions, said Muyingo. This transition tends to bring about intense emotions, she said, and the pandemic has exacerbated this upheaval by replacing familiar anxieties about fitting in with fears about mortality. Muyingo said she's encouraged to see that the childart.ca project is giving young people an outlet for these difficult feelings they may not even be able to put words to. She encouraged adults to keep an eye out for children's silent struggles, perhaps setting an example by sharing their own vulnerabilities. "I think parents are sometimes scared of talking about dark themes, but the reality is that kids know a lot more than we think," she said. "I think art like this can be used as a tool to communicate that it's OK to feel this way." Martyn said the study has given her hope for what a future led by the quarantined generation could look like, because while pain pervades many of the illustrations, there are also symbols of resilience, connection and compassion. "One of my visions from the very beginning of this was to have this as an art exhibit in a gallery, and to be able to go and be enveloped by it, have it around us and fully experience that lived idea of what children in Canada experienced." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
After months of “abnormal” economic uncertainty, early projections for 2021 show Canadian employers are beginning to relax cost-cutting measures in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s not good news for everyone yet, and certainly not for smaller organizations. According to figures from a new compensation report, at least seven per cent of all companies expect to freeze salaries this year — a figure well below the nearly one-third which axed wages in 2020, and much less than the 20 per cent projected for 2021. At the same time, data from the report by consulting firm Normandin Beaudry suggest, salary-freezing has increased significantly for smaller companies and remains above the pre-pandemic levels of three per cent overall. About 16 per cent of organizations with 50 to 100 employees said they won’t be increasing wages this year, compared to four per cent in 2020. And 30 per cent of companies with fewer than 50 employees said the same, compared to 12 per cent last year. “Salary freezes wouldn’t exactly be the biggest measure to look at market outlooks in a normal economic climate,” explains Diane White, principal of compensation at Normandin Beaudry. “But I haven’t seen wage-freezing represent such a large chunk for our companies in around 25 years of my career. And that’s why, right now, it’s probably the most important figure to factor in when showing how the economics are playing out.” In terms of salary increases, forecasts show only 2.6 per cent of companies will do so this year (excluding any freezes). The decrease has been partly attributed to around 35 per cent of organizations expecting to allocate a budget less than previous plans. The pandemic continues to be the reason for causing these shifts to compensation, White told the Free Press Wednesday, and it’s not just affecting salaries — even bonuses are being diminished. More than a quarter of all organizations expect not to pay any bonuses in 2021, mainly because financial results from last year did not meet their set objectives. For those that do plan to pay bonuses, however, close to half will make payments that are less than 20 per cent of what they’d initially planned to give out as a reward for good performance. Low levels like this have rarely been seen for such a high number of organizations, said White, adding it will force a “massive” number of employers to look at permanently overhauling their pay bump and bonus programs. “It’s mass volatility which is causing these trends to kind of be all over the place,” said Bram Strain, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba. “The shock of COVID is settling down after the summer when we had no idea how things were looking, but it seems to be somewhat still lingering.” “Certainly though, whether things are looking well for you or not, the results are definitely affecting some industries more than the other,” he said. In summer 2020, Normandin Beaudry believed more than 10 per cent of organizations in the manufacturing sector would freeze salaries in 2021. Barely six months later, the consulting firm says none of those organizations expect to pause their wages. White said any “good changes” like that after 2020 are likely the result of a “continued war for talent.” “It’s good to know that there’s still demand for talent, which is likely why projections are better this time around,” she said. “But I think it’s going to need quite a bit of patience before things normalize or settle down to what they looked like before the pandemic.”Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The Rideau Canal Skateway will open this winter to give Ottawans another opportunity for physical exercise during the current stay-at-home order, the National Capital Commission (NCC) says. Some were perplexed when the federal agency announced Wednesday that the skateway — a prominent symbol of the nation's capital, and a powerful winter tourist draw — would open at the same time the Ontario government was telling people to stay indoors for all but essential activities. But according to Dominique Huras, strategic communications adviser for the NCC, the commission will keep all its assets open for "exercise and active use" "It's very important during this pandemic to be able to get outside," Huras said Thursday. "We're also counting on the co-operation of users to comply with the newly issued public health measures, as well as those that we've all practised for many months." 'Some sort of trap?' After the NCC revealed its plans yesterday afternoon for the skateway — which include maintaining the ice surface but not opening skate rental kiosks or concession stands — people chimed in on social media. Many, but not all, couldn't understand the rationale. Late Wednesday night, the province issued the official stay-at-home order, which outlined the acceptable reasons people could be out in public between now and Feb. 11. Exercise is among them. Huras said the NCC hoped people would abide by the provincial rules while also not venturing too far from home to use the skateway, once it eventually opens. No opening date has yet been set, she added. NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday it could happen next week, weather permitting. "Physical and mental health is a very important aspect right now, and we're trying to do our part to promote that ... to get outside, exercise, get some fresh air," Huras said. The NCC is expecting people to wear masks while skating on the canal, and will also install sanitation stations where space allows. The NCC will also block a stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicular traffic to give people another option to stay active outdoors during the current lockdown. Nussbaum said that would likely happen when the Skateway opens.
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
YEI RIVER, South Sudan — First, the soldiers stole their belongings. Then they took their food. On their third and final visit, the woman said, the soldiers raped her and her daughter-in-law until they were unable to walk. What sets these assaults in South Sudan apart from many other rapes by soldiers in the troubled country is this: The women brought the men to court and won. Ten years after South Sudan gained its independence and two years after its own deadly civil war ended, large-scale fighting has subsided but clashes continue between communities and between the government and groups that did not sign the peace deal — and the use of rape as a weapon remains rampant. Justice is exceedingly rare, but the September conviction has raised hopes that such crimes will increasingly be prosecuted. “I was traumatized,” the older of the two women, a 48-year-old mother of eight, told The Associated Press in Yei, a town in the southern state of Central Equatoria where she now lives. The AP does not typically identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they grant permission, and the woman said she continues to fear for her safety and is too afraid, for instance, to return to her home village of Adio. She said she has found some solace in seeing her two attackers convicted and sent to prison after she reported the rape in May to South Sudan's army chief when he visited her village. A new army chief of staff, responding to growing frustration with such crimes, sent military judges from the capital, Juba, to oversee the case and those of 10 other women and girls who also came forward. In the end, 26 soldiers were convicted, some for rape but others for offences including looting. It was the first time soldiers had been convicted of rape since the 2016 rampage at the Terrain Hotel, where five international aid workers were gang-raped and a local journalist was killed. The army hopes the trial will be a warning to its troops. “We apologize, we won’t let it happen again, and we’ll arrest people who do it,” said Michael Machar Malual, head of civilian-military relations for the army in Central Equatoria state. A government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The woman hopes the verdict will encourage more survivors to speak up in a country where sexual assault is a scourge. Some 65% of women and girls in South Sudan have experienced sexual or other physical violence, the United Nations children’s agency said in 2019. Between July and September, the U.N. reported an 88% increase in conflict-related sexual violence from the previous quarter even as overall violence dropped. It said there were more than 260 “violent incidents” in total during the period, but it did not specify how many involved sexual violence. The villages around Yei have been hit hard as fighting continues between government forces and the National Salvation Front, which did not sign the peace deal. Civilians say they are caught in the middle, with women often accused by soldiers of supporting the rebels — and assaulted — especially if their husbands aren’t around. In February, three women and a 14-year-old girl were raped by soldiers about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Yei, according to a report by the independent body charged with overseeing the implementation of the peace deal. One woman was gang-raped while held at gunpoint, the report said. When the AP visited Yei in December, civilians and soldiers said the situation was improving and there had been fewer reports of sexual violence since the trial. The once-bustling town and nearby villages are slowly returning to life after the war. Yet some residents said they feel as unsafe as ever. A group of women walking home from the market said they hide their food in the bushes, worried that hungry soldiers will steal it from their homes. An economic crisis in South Sudan fueled by a drop in oil prices and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic means soldiers haven’t been paid in months — and experts are warning of famine. Rights groups have hailed the recent case as important — but only a first step — and are pushing the government for more accountability. “This should be a lesson for those with power, especially those with guns, to know that they are not above the law,” said Riya William Yuyada, executive director of Crown the Woman South Sudan, an advocacy group that has pressed the government for accountability. A hybrid court is meant to be established as part of the peace deal to try people accused of committing wartime atrocities, but implementation is slow. Nyagoah Tut Pur, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, noted that those convicted of such crimes are often lower-level officers, and senior leaders should be held responsible. She added that accountability must also include compensation and services for survivors. Some women brutalized by soldiers have taken matters into their own hands. In 2017, Mary Poni said she watched soldiers decapitate her father and gang-rape three of her sisters until they died, before she was assaulted herself. She has written a book about her experience in the hope that it will be a small step toward reconciliation in her country. “I want the civilian population to be confident in the army, and the army to be able to protect our women and girls,” Poni said. “Women are living in silent fear, not able to open up about things they went through.” ___ Associated Press writer Maura Ajak in Juba, South Sudan, contributed to this report Sam Mednick, The Associated Press
In the week since a mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol, the House has impeached President Donald Trump. Dozens of people have been arrested nationwide over participation in the riots. Politicians and business leaders are loudly condemning the violence. Twitter and other social media sites have banned Trump and thousands of other accounts. Yet amid all the noise, a Capitol Police officer hailed as a hero for confronting the insurrectionists and leading them away from Senate chambers has remained silent. Officer Eugene Goodman isn't saying whether he thinks he saved the Senate, as many of the millions who've viewed the video believe. In fact, Goodman isn't saying anything at all publicly — not to reporters, not on social media. And he's asked the force's union, bosses, family and friends to help him maintain his privacy and not publicly discuss the events of Jan. 6. But the video speaks volumes. Goodman, a Black man facing an overwhelmingly white mob, is the only officer seen for a full minute of the footage, shot by reporter Igor Bobic of HuffPost. Goodman stands in front of the rioters, walks backward until he reaches a collapsible baton lying on the floor, and picks it up. “Back up ... back it up!” he yells, keeping his eyes on the mob. He turns and runs upstairs, waving the baton, as the group follows. Goodman calls “second floor” into his radio, then takes a brief glance and half a step to his left at the top of the stairs. Two chairs sit on either side of an entrance to the U.S. Senate chamber, just a few steps away. Dozens of rioters are right in front of him, no other officers to be seen. Goodman shoves one of the rioters and walks to the right, away from the chamber. The mob follows, and Goodman leads them to a room where other officers wait. The time on the video is 2:14 p.m. The Senate stopped its proceedings to begin clearing the chamber at 2:15 p.m. Five died in the riots, including one of Goodman's fellow officers. Legislative offices were trashed, gallows were built outside, and a video showed a woman shot dead while journalists, Congress members and staff hid. The images of Goodman spread via social media and news sites, a foil to the bloody and messy scenes elsewhere at the Capitol. People called him brave, impressive, effective. They dissected the video, guessing about his strategy and decision-making. But not all the commentary has been kind. Backing up and running away is weak, some said. It was a staged photo op, others alleged. Goodman has been silent. He didn't respond to text messages and phone calls The Associated Press left at potential numbers for him. The head of the Capitol Police union said only that Goodman didn't want to talk to reporters. Spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the Capitol Police isn't giving interviews or discussing Goodman’s actions. Public records shed a little light on Goodman. He served in the Army as an infantryman for more than four years, leaving with the rank of sergeant in December 2006 after a year in Iraq. He has worked for the Capitol Police since at least mid-2009. But that's about it. Goodman's friends, family, buddies he would have known from the military, members of Congress and force colleagues all begged off interviews about him. They say he wants to maintain his privacy. Online and in much of the public eye, Goodman is a hero. Plenty of people, famous and not, suggested he has earned the Medal of Honor. A Republican and two Democrats in the U.S. House introduced a bill Thursday to give him the Congressional Gold Medal. “If not for the quick, decisive, and heroic actions from Officer Goodman, the tragedy of last week’s insurrection could have multiplied in magnitude to levels never before seen in American history," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri. But the representatives didn't respond to messages asking if they met with Goodman. In a tweet promoting the bill, they show not a formal photo of Goodman in uniform, but an image of him facing the mob — his eyes wide open, mask down below his nose, baton behind him. ___ AP news researcher Randy Herschaft contributed. ___ Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press
The public health authority in York Region, north of Toronto, is reporting three cases of a new and highly contagious coronavirus strain that have no link to international travel, sparking concern that community spread is underway. The strain, known as B117, was first identified in the United Kingdom and led to a rapid surge in cases. Modelling released by the Ontario government this week predicted that community spread of the variant could cause COVID-19 infections to double every 10 days by March. Currently, the doubling time is between 35 and 40 days. "There is evidence of community transmission occurring in York Region," medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji told CBC Toronto. 14 confirmed cases in Ontario On Thursday, Ontario reported 14 confirmed cases of the new variant. The number may seem low, given the supercharged transmissibility of the variant, but not many COVID-19 patients are being tested for it. According to guidelines established by Public Health Ontario, only in a small number of circumstances, including those connected to travel, are samples scanned for B117. As a CBC investigation found, the first known cases of the variant in Canada, in a couple from Durham Region, were discovered by fluke. Currently, Public Health Ontario is testing between 500 and 600 samples per week for the variant. Ontario reported 3,326 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. "We are continually watching for cases … and our lab system is developing specific tests that are utilized for identifying the U.K. variant as soon as possible," Ontario's chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, said Thursday. Is contact tracing keeping up? The new strain has been proven to spread to others at a much higher rate, but it appears its arrival has not moved Ontario to adopt a new strategy for contact tracing. A spokesperson for Toronto Public Health said that "there are currently no changes that have been made to the case and contact management process based on virus strain type." The statement said Toronto Public Health follows direction from the provincial government for contact tracing protocol. Ontario's Ministry of Health did not respond to questions. Dr. Michael Warner, director of critical care at Toronto's Michael Garron Hospital, said authorities should be doing everything they can to find out more about new strains of the virus. At this point, Warner said it's difficult to determine how severe community spread is based on limited testing. "We're not testing enough people genomically to know how many variants there are," Warner said in an interview. If community spread is under control, Warner said the government could close borders and restrict international travel in order to keep further cases of the new variant from coming into the country.
Mariana Turkenich had heard about a new kebab shop named after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, but she says actually seeing his face hanging over the sidewalk in her Moscow neighbourhood made her nauseous. "I feel it's just as if you were in Berlin and had a 'Hitler doner' or a 'Göring kebab' or maybe a 'Dr. Mengele pita,' " said Turkenich, 43, as she took a photo to share on social media. "I want to cry. I'm very upset." She said the matter-of-fact way that the image of a man responsible for the deaths of millions of Russians in the last century is being used to sell fast food is a terrible sign that modern-day Russia is forgetting the oppression of its Communist past. The chief cook and creator of Stalin Doner views it differently. Stanislav Voltman, 27, opened his storefront in the middle of the Russian new year holiday last week and celebrated a vigorous first day serving more than 200 customers. "It was a stunning success," he told CBC News in an interview. Customers appeared to be especially drawn to his "double Stalin burger," followed closely by a kebab named after Stalin's henchman, Lavrentiy Beria. All of the food was served up by Voltman and other workers dressed in uniforms of the NKVD, Stalin's secret police who would later become the KGB. "Hitler for me is obvious evil," said Voltman, explaining why a store using Hitler's image to sell food would be different from one emblazoned with Stalin. He suggested Stalin wasn't the only Russian leader who employed violence to stay in power. "Under Boris Yeltsin, [people] died, too, and disappeared — and during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great — all of this happened in history." Stalin's "ambiguous" nature makes him an interesting figure to build a business around, Voltman said. "You can't just definitively say he's all good or all bad." Putin tries to reconcile 2 sides of Soviet past Stalin was a dictator who sent millions of Russians to their deaths in remote prison camps and had countless others executed over three decades. Under his totalitarian leadership, between 1929 and 1953, as many as 10 million Soviet citizens, including Russians, Ukrainians and ethnic minorities, were killed via executions, forced labour or famine, making him one of history's worst tyrants. Opponents were eliminated, dissent was suppressed and history books were rewritten to his liking. But he was also the Soviet leader whose armies defeated Nazi Germany in the Second World War and later transformed Russia into a superpower. Over the 20 years of President Vladimir Putin's rule, the Kremlin has struggled to reconcile both realities. On the one hand, Putin himself opened a Wall of Grief in a prominent location off a busy Moscow boulevard intended to commemorate Stalin's victims. Yet on the other hand, Putin's government has been attempting to rewrite the history books to portray Stalin as a victim of deceitful Western leaders at the start of the Second World War, effectively trying to absolve him for any blame in signing a pact with Nazi Germany. "For Russian youngsters, Stalin is a figure from the distant past. His appearance ... doesn't shock anyone," scholar Andrei Kolesnikov wrote in a 2019 article for Moscow's Carnegie Center where he attempted to explain how Stalin's complicated past plays into current Kremlin politics. "Even Putin's closest allies readily admit that Stalin was a cruel tyrant. But thanks to the Kremlin's well-crafted propaganda efforts, the dictator is once again becoming a symbol of Russian pride and military and industrial glory." Hours of questioning by police The Levada Center, the only independent polling agency in Russia, has noted Stalin's image has consistently improved during Putin's long rule, with roughly 70 per cent of Russians surveyed now saying he played a positive role in the country's history. Still, it appears Moscow authorities would prefer Voltman's food stand would simply go away. The day after the opening, police showed up and told him he needed to change the name or close down for good. After Voltman refused to do either, he said they unplugged his refrigerator, spoiling his food, and took him in for hours of questioning and "humiliation." "I would have pangs of conscience if I had put up slogans about the gulag and the deaths of people … but I'm not hurting anyone with this." Voltman posted a video on his Instagram account of a man taping a red hand print — symbolizing blood — to his window, with the words "Stalin and Beria were executioners." Someone else had walked by and spit on the front window, where it had then frozen. "My family was repressed," said Geliya Tagirova, 82, who stopped to talk to CBC News. "For people who lived through repressions and are still alive, this is painful. It's disrespectful to them." "In our country, unfortunately, there are people who are not as negative towards Stalin as I am," said Yevgenny Smoslky. "Morally speaking, I do not think this is right." While Voltman's kebab shop is closed for the moment, he said he hopes it won't be for long. He said his three workers quit after the opening day fearing more harassment from police, but he's expecting to hire more people and reopen soon. "If you don't like it, you can keep walking by," he said. "If you think it's OK, come in and buy something. No one is forcing you to do anything."
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
GAZA, Palestinian Territory — With a chainsaw in his car, Ahmed Abdelal tours the Gaza Strip, asking around for people wanting to cut down trees, regrow orchards or make way for construction. One of the few remaining woodcutters in the Palestinian territory, Abdelal, who learned woodcutting from his father, is struggling to scratch out a living in a traditional job that is less and less in demand. Job opportunities are rare in this Palestinian enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, and so are green spaces. Rapid population growth — more than 2 million people are crammed in a 360-square-kilometre (140 square mile) strip — comes at the expense of arable land. Israel maintains a 300-meter (330-yard) wide buffer zone along its frontier with Gaza. At the the height of the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, its military bulldozers levelled large swaths of citrus groves in the border areas. In more recent years, Gaza has suffered under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant Hamas group seized control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from upgrading its weapons. The Palestinian Authority, or PA, holds sway in the West Bank. The blockade and the rift between Hamas and the PA have weakened Gaza's energy sector. As a result, residents are put on a rotating electricity schedule of eight-hours on, followed by an eight-hour blackout. Here, woodcutters like Abdelal find an opportunity. The unreliability of the power supply drives up the demand for wood in winter. So Abdelal and other Gaza woodcutters look to expand their clientele from the traditional buyers of logs, residents of rural areas who bake bread on woodfire ovens and tribal councils who keep the Arabic coffee pots warm near a woodfire. Among Abdelal’s favourite clients are small kitchens that cook food in ovens dug under the ground. In these pits, the wood is burnt to coal before chicken, lamb shoulders and shanks are tossed in and left to cook for hours. The cooking technique is getting popular. The olive and citrus wood logs also go to a burning site in east Gaza City where they are turned into charcoal. Abu Ashraf al-Hattab, who has been a charcoal burner for decades, says the business has declined in recent years because the local supplies of wood have shrunk and people have turned to cheaper, imported charcoal. In his gift shop, Muhanad Ahmed wanted to offer environmentally friendly items and drop the excessive amount of plastic that's seen on the shelves of other shops, he says. So, he buys the logs and shapes them into wood sculptures. Abdelal says that as long as he can find customers, he will continue. “Cutting the wood is an old profession for us, and despite development and modernity, it still exists,” he said. Wafa Shurafa And Fares Akram, The Associated Press
Canadian researchers are concerned about the impact climate change will have on drinking water quality, as warmer temperatures lead to less ice cover on lakes. The paper, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was led by York University science Prof. Sapna Sharma. The research found, across the northern hemisphere, by 2100, 5,700 lakes are likely to stop freezing during the winter. Of those, 179 lakes will lose ice cover by 2030. “We need ice on lakes to curtail and minimize evaporation rates in the winter,” Sharma said. “Without ice cover, evaporation rates would increase, and water levels could decline. We would lose freshwater, which we need for drinking and everyday activities. Ice cover is extremely important both ecologically and socio-economically.” While water freezes after temperatures reach 0 C, it must be colder still for lakes to have ice cover. The researchers found air temperature needed to be below -0.9 C for most lakes to freeze. The larger or deeper the lake, the colder it needs to be; some need temperatures as low at -4.8 C to freeze. “It is quite dramatic for some of these lakes, that froze often, but within a few decades they stop freezing indefinitely,” said co-author and postdoctoral fellow Alessandro Filazzola. “It’s pretty shocking to imagine a lake that would normally freeze no longer doing so.” Examining the data, Filazzola found no Manitoba lakes on the list of bodies of water expected to stop freezing altogether. Most of the lakes that are expected to remain open year-round are in the southern and coastal regions of the Northern Hemisphere. However, Manitoba lakes will still be affected. “Large lakes, such as Lake Manitoba, Winnipeg, Winnipegosis, and Cedar will each probably experience an increase in ice-free years in the future. I just have no data to support by how much and by when,” Filazzola said. The research shows Lake Superior and Lake Michigan could permanently become ice-free by 2055, if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, or by 2085 with moderate changes. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
TORONTO — The province's police watchdog says it is investigating after a Toronto police officer shot a 31-year-old man.The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened in the city's east end at about 8 p.m. Thursday. It says officers located a vehicle of interest in the parking lot of Church's Chicken, a restaurant in the area.The SIU says that when officers tried to block in the vehicle, it rammed into their cruisers.An officer discharged his firearm, the SIU says, which struck the 31-year-old man, sending him to hospital.Two officers were also taken to hospital for treatment of injuries. The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials that may have resulted in death, serious injury and sexual assault.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
With two young children enrolled in special education classes, Adriana Ferreira-Legault wrestles with a dilemma every morning over in-person schooling for her children. Her son Samuel, a five-year-old with Down syndrome and autism, attends a Toronto school for children with disabilities. It's remained open amid Ontario's latest state of emergency declaration. Her daughter Sophia, a four-year-old with autism, attends kindergarten "in a special class within a regular school," said Ferreira-Legault. However, that school has now shifted to remote learning and her youngster has been unable to participate. "The children don't look at the screen. They don't pay attention. They don't follow what's going on. They don't know that there's another person on the other side of the screen talking to them. It's just a disaster," said the Toronto mother, who believes online learning is simply not meant for children who require special education. She knows how vital it is that Samuel continue in his face-to-face class, yet she's also juggling concerns about safety amid Ontario's stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Thursday. "I send him every morning and I feel: 'Am I doing the right thing?'" The current closure of in-person schools in southern Ontario COVID-19 hot spots has been extended until at least Feb. 10, but spring 2020's widespread shuttering of schools underlined why face-to-face learning is critical for many students in special education classes, some of whom cannot be accommodated appropriately through virtual or remote learning. Still, some are questioning whether it's safe for these students, their teachers and other staff supporting them to be in classrooms at this point of the pandemic. Classrooms give access to therapy It's important to heed the instructions we're receiving from public health officials about the communities surrounding schools, says developmental pediatrician Dr. Ripudaman Singh Minhas. "But a lesson that I hope we've learned from the first wave as we go and confront this second wave is that special education classrooms really should be the last to close and the first to open." Special education schools and classes have expressly trained instructors and staff. They might feature smaller staff-to-student ratios, include specialized equipment or have more space to move around in — the specifics vary based on the needs of the students within them, he said, but they're much more than simply classrooms and chalkboards. "For students that have developmental disabilities or exceptional learning needs, they're a place where they access therapy — speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work support, psychology support," said Minhas, who works with children with developmental disorders or delays, intellectual disabilities and learning disorders. "These learning programs that we've created for them are therapeutic in so many ways and the classroom is the therapy setting." Earlier pandemic closures that halted these tailored supports and therapies caused much upheaval, with families reporting students regressing, losing skills and suffering declining mental health, he said. "The research shows us that these therapies are most effective early on and need very specific windows of development when the brain is solidifying its architecture. And so for children that have difficulties in certain areas, being able to deliver these therapies in their classroom setting is so vital," said Minhas, also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto and director of pediatric research at St. Michael's Hospital and Unity Health Toronto. "For students who need hand-over-hand instruction, who need one-to-one support, for those who are not able to attend to a screen ... it's hard to transfer these really elaborate in-depth programs to an online format." This message was echoed by the Ontario government this week, in explaining why it is permitting school boards to keep special education classes open for in-person learning if they deem them required. "A key recommendation of experts in the special education community was to ensure the most vulnerable kids who cannot participate in remote learning, can continue to benefit from routine and consistency in-class, coupled with the continuation of strong health and safety measures," Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, said in a statement. "We have followed that advice, supported by the chief medical officer of heath, to ensure a small number of the most exceptional children can receive the care they desperately need." Union flags ongoing safety concerns Yet that directive doesn't take into account ongoing safety concerns flagged by special education teachers, educational assistants and specialists working inside these classrooms, according to Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. LISTEN | Concerns about in-person classes for special education amid wider lockdown While some concerns overlap with those shared by educator peers — staff-to-student ratio or adequate ventilation, for instance — others are unique to their situation, he said. "[Students in special education classrooms] need the kind of support that just requires up-close physical contact. The students, in some cases, just aren't able to keep masks on. They certainly don't understand... hygiene and physical distancing protocols," Bischof said. "In limited circumstances, with appropriate safety protocols in place, we were prepared to support the idea of having some of those students return to face-to-face situations. We can't maintain that call anymore. Some school boards have completely failed to to implement any kind of criteria when it comes to which of those students should be returning." Bischof is critical of what he considers sparse planning thus far in addressing special education classrooms. "These are things that ought to have been resolved by a ministry of education, by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce taking command of this issue back in the summer and not waiting until now to start putting the appropriate supports in place," he said. WATCH | Parents decry school reopening plans as COVID-19 cases spike: Ferreira-Legault remains torn about sending Samuel to school or opting to keep him at home. Having no family living nearby to help support them — her husband's family is in Montreal, while hers is in Brazil — complicates their situation. "I want to keep [my kids] safe, of course, and I want to keep the teachers safe and the educational assistants safe. But at the same time, Samuel and Sophia need so much support and they've been regressing so much since the start of the pandemic," she said, noting that Samuel had reverted to aggressive behaviour, throwing things and slipped backward in his toilet training. "Both children are at the age where it's really, really important that they have all the encouragement and all the stimulus that they need to develop," said Ferreira-Legault. "I don't want to jeopardize their future. This is a crucial time of their lives."
WASHINGTON — Chuck Schumer is used to drinking from a firehose. But the incoming Senate majority leader has never taken on such a torrent of challenges, with the opening days of both the Biden administration and Democratic control of the Senate coming at the very moment an impeachment trial gets underway. A 38-year veteran of Congress who first came to the Senate during President Bill Clinton's impeachment, Schumer is a 70-year-old bundle of energy with one overriding mandate: Help Joe Biden become a successful president. To do so, he’ll have to leverage the narrowest possible majority — a 50-50 Senate with the incoming vice-president, Kamala Harris, delivering the tiebreaking vote. It's a tough assignment. It's far easier, though often unsatisfying, to be a minority leader equipped with the tools of obstruction than it is to be a majority leader armed mostly with persuasion. But the goodwill Schumer enjoys with key members, and his careful management of the party's constituencies, could help ease the way. “Chuck Schumer has done a remarkable job as our caucus leader the last four years holding our caucus together," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., as he entered the Senate chamber during last Wednesday's Electoral College count, speaking just before a mob of violent supporters of President Donald Trump assaulted the Capitol and the situation turned dire. Then Schumer appeared. “What did I just give a quote about? Our capable majority leader!" Coons said. “Again!" a jubilant Schumer exclaimed. “More adjectives! More adjectives!" Less than an hour later, Schumer was in peril, under the protection of a Capitol Police officer with a submachine gun standing between him and GOP leader Mitch McConnell as the mob breached the building. The ransacking of the Capitol has brought impeachment to the Senate's door again and set Republicans on their heels. And it's put a spotlight on whether the polarized, diminished chamber can process Biden's agenda. Take the installation of Biden's Cabinet. The Senate has traditionally tried to confirm a batch of the most important nominees on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, and the days thereafter. But to do so requires the co-operation of the entire Senate. Democrats slow-walked many of Trump's Cabinet picks four years ago after a crushing election loss, but there's a palpable sense that Republicans may be more co-operative now, at least when confirming national security nominees and picks like Janet Yellen to run the Treasury Department. Schumer seeks — and is used to operating in — the spotlight, whether he’s helping run the unwieldy, increasingly divided Senate, micromanaging his beloved Democratic caucus or crisscrossing New York. Any of these is a full-time job. And they don’t always point him in the same direction. For instance, Biden is preaching bipartisanship, and Schumer wants to help, but tensions are inevitable with ardent progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an ambitious Bronx Democrat whom Schumer allies are watching closely as he runs for a fifth term in 2022. Schumer was a force in Biden's decision to “go big” on Thursday with a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus bill that was bigger than earlier Biden drafts. Progressives hailed the measure. Meanwhile, the prospect of an impeachment trial in the opening days of Biden's term adds a huge degree of uncertainty. Senate rules are unforgiving, but Schumer and McConnell are hoping to establish a dual-track process to confirm nominations even as the trial unfolds. McConnell and Schumer have a tortured, tense relationship after years of bruising political battles and fights over Supreme Court nominees. They rarely talk spontaneously and have no hesitation in slinging barbs that earlier generations of leaders managed to avoid. But Biden and McConnell are long-standing friends, and the Kentucky Republican — pondering a “guilty" vote in Trump's second impeachment trial and still absorbing the disastrous Senate losses in Georgia — appears inclined to help Biden as best he can. The events of the past week, as damaging and unsettling as they were for the country, seem likely to assist Biden and Schumer. What is more, Democratic control of the chamber comes with filibuster-proof treatment of Biden's nominees, with only a simple majority needed, though Republicans could easily force delays. McConnell and his Republican caucus want to “reasonably co-operate on the national security nominations,” said Hazen Marshall, a former McConnell policy aide. “His view has traditionally been that presidents deserve their staff, unless their staff are crazy or criminals." But GOP senators are sure to drag their feet on less urgent Cabinet posts given the experience under Trump, when even former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., had to endure delays. But with the economy slipping and the public appalled by the melee in Washington, GOP resistance to Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package or his slate of Cabinet picks may not be as resolute. “There's a lot to do, but Democrats are on the right side of all of it," said former Schumer strategist and confidant Matt House. “These are good problems to have." Amid the dizzying pace, Schumer also tends to New York. A Brooklyn native, Schumer makes a visit to each of the state's 62 counties every year. And his spur-of-the-moment visits to local events like high school graduations and, more recently, unannounced drop-ins on community Zoom calls are the stuff of legend. Last Thursday, little more than 24 hours after the Capitol riot, Schumer hopped on a call with a community board in Sunnyside, Queens. He spent the opening minutes thanking board members. “You guys and gals do a great job — I know what it’s like," Schumer said, according to the Sunnyside Post. “When things go bad you hear about it; when things are great you hear nothing.” And after Trump's impeachment Wednesday, Schumer heaped praise on local New York media members in a call with publishers and broadcasters thanking him for steering stimulus dollars to struggling news outlets, according to an account by the Syracuse Post Standard. But he had to jump. “Pelosi has called me and Biden, so I won’t be able to be on for too long," Schumer said. Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Recent heavy rainfall and flooding have caused rubbish and debris to be carried into Bulgaria's waterways.View on euronews
A towering stainless steel monolith set up along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta comes with a message. The three-metre-tall structure, which reflects its surroundings, is one of many that have been found around the world in recent months. Monoliths have been discovered on a California trail, a Utah desert and at sites across Canada. Many have popped up without explanation, but the woman who built the one in southern Alberta says she wanted to draw attention to the threats the area is facing as the province moves to open a vast stretch of the mountains to open-pit coal mining. "This land holds the bones and dreams of our ancestors. This soil remembers the thunder of buffalo hooves and ... still fosters wild grasses. These mountain-fed waters are the lifeblood of southern Alberta," Elizabeth Williams wrote in an Instagram post on her wildstonestories page earlier this month. "They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat," she wrote. "The shiny beacon is not the focal point, but the land, which it reflects." Williams, who couldn't work as a massage therapist during COVID-19 restrictions, said she's been watching some of the provincial government's recent decisions. "I felt compelled to take action," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. Williams is most concerned about the potential for mining along the eastern slopes and the reallocation of water rights in the area. "It's staggering to me so few Albertans are aware that this is happening," she said. She wanted to do something to inspire others to pay attention and take action. Similar concerns were raised this week by Alberta country singer Corb Lund, who criticized the plan for an area that contains the headwaters for freshwater on which millions depend. Coal mining can release selenium, a highly toxic element already poisoning watersheds downstream of coal mines in British Columbia. Paul Brandt, another country music star from Alberta, added his voice to protest the coal mines Thursday. Williams, who hopes her monolith adds to the growing conversation in Alberta, said she built it after talking to an artist, ordering the stainless steel and borrowing a welding shop. She installed it with the help of volunteers after getting permission from private landowners to put it on their property. "I thought, 'If I make this to last, if I make this extra beautiful and I get it on private land, it can stay and it can become a beacon for the curious.'" The monolith, which was installed in early January, has come with challenges. Williams broke her hand as she and some volunteers were installing it on a windy day where the Oldman River meets Highway 22, known as the Cowboy Trail. And her creation was vandalized by a man who pulled his big truck over at a pullout along the highway and tried to take the monolith apart. "I have it all on camera," said Williams, who noted people are keeping a close eye on the area. Others have expressed intrigue and interest after spotting it on the landscape. "It looked a little bit startling to see it where it hadn't been before," said Kevin van Tighem, a conservationist and author who owns property in southern Alberta. "It's really beautiful. It's a real work of art. "It's really striking how it reflects so much of the landscape and by doing that moves us into thinking about reflecting on the landscape." He said he hopes it draws attention to the natural beauty of the eastern slopes, which he believes are under serious threat as companies start exploring for coal. "Things are happening out of sight and out of mind," said van Tighem. "This thing stands up like a giant reflective beacon that says we can't leave these things out of sight and out of mind. "We have to reflect on who we are and where we're going. We're on the cusp here. This is leading us to permanent change and permanent loss. "We cannot not be paying attention." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021 Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Pooria Behrouzy was honoured to be offered a full-time job as a COVID-19 vaccine support worker at Trillium Health Partners last month. The international student in health informatics at George Brown College was already on staff at the Mississauga, Ont., hospital network after working on an IT project, and he was eager to contribute to the rollout of the vaccine that’s brought hope during the pandemic’s increasingly grim second wave. But a roadblock stopped Behrouzy from accepting the full-time shifts offered: as an international student, he can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session or he risks losing his study permit and legal status in Canada. Behrouzy, who is now working part time at the hospital, said it’s disappointing that he can’t contribute fully. “I can work and I can help against this COVID ... why (am I) not able to do that?” said the 42-year-old, who is from Iran. “It's very sad that I'm not fully available.” His colleague Passang Yugyel Tenzin had a similar experience. Tenzin, a 26-year-old graduate of health informatics currently studying in another IT program, was working on the same project at the hospital as Behrouzy before he received an offer to work on the vaccine support team as well. The non-medical role involves providing scheduling support to ensure all available doses are administered and other administrative tasks that keep the process running smoothly. Tenzin, who is from Bhutan, signed on for the job in a part-time capacity but noted that the 20-hour limit would make scheduling 12-hour shifts a challenge. Working full time would be beneficial for his own education and for the health-care system that's struggling to keep up with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and other important services, he said. “We can learn more and on top of that, we can contribute more to this situation currently, because they actually need a lot of people,” Tenzin said in a phone interview. “We can contribute a lot if we were given the opportunity to work full time.” Ottawa temporarily lifted the restriction on international students’ work hours last April, saying the change was aimed at easing the staffing crunch in health care and other essential workplaces. The measure expired on Aug. 31, 2020, and has not been reinstated. The press secretary for the office of the federal immigration minister said the government is grateful for the role newcomers have played in Canada's pandemic response. "As more students returned to regular studies in the fall of 2020, the work hour restriction was reinstated at the request of provinces, territories and educational institutions, due to concerns about students working full time while also completing a full course load," Alexander Cohen said in a statement. Behrouzy said he doesn't understand why the limit on work hours was reinstated while the pandemic is still ongoing and hospitals need more support than ever. “I'm available to work and all the schools, the universities and colleges are remote now, so why not extend this exception again?” he said. “It’s really disappointing.” Trillium Health Partners said in a statement that it's continually assessing staffing needs at its COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and international students currently work on its vaccine team in administrative functions. "THP supports and accommodates international students within the federal government requirements," it said. Sarom Rho, who leads the Migrant Students United campaign with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the pandemic is an opportunity to ditch the restriction on work hours that advocates have long fought to remove. Rho said she’s spoken with students in other health-care fields like nursing who are also eager to work more but are hindered by the limit on their hours. "This kind of unfairness is totally based on status," Rho said. "The fact that they are migrants is what is causing the limitation and the restrictions of how they can work, where they can work and when they can work, and how that work will be valued." Migrant Students United also wants Ottawa to make work hours done in essential jobs count towards permanent residency applications. Rho said it's time to consider how work done by people on study permits is valued in Canada. "Respecting the labour is fundamental," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
MADRID — While most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders, authorities in Spain insist the new coronavirus variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for a sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up. The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020, the last time Spain could claim victory over the stubborn rising curve of cases. Infection rates ebbed in October but never completely flattened the surge from summer. Cases started climbing again before the end of the year. In the past month, 14-day rates more than doubled, from 188 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 10 to 522 per 100,000 on Thursday. Nearly 39,000 new cases were reported Wednesday and over 35,000 on Thursday, some of the highest daily increases to date. The surge is again threatening intensive care unit capacity and burdening exhausted medical workers. Some facilities have already suspended elective surgery, and the eastern city of Valencia has reopened a makeshift hospital used last year. Unlike Portugal, which is going on a month-long lockdown Friday and doubling fines for those who don't wear masks, officials in Spain insist it will be enough to take short, highly localized measures that restrict social gatherings without affecting the whole economy. “We know what we have to do and we are doing it,” Health Minster Salvador Illa told a news conference Wednesday, ruling out a national home confinement order and advocating for "measures that were a success during the second wave.” Fernando Simón, the government's top virus expert, has blamed the recent increase in cases on Christmas and New Year's celebrations. “The new variant, even if it has an impact, it will be a marginal one, at least in our country," he said this week. But many independent experts disagree and say Spain has no capacity to conduct the widespread sequencing of samples to detect how the new variants have spread, and that 88 confirmed and nearly 200 suspected cases that officials say have largely been imported from the U.K. are underestimating the real impact. Dr. Rafael Bengoa, former director of Healthcare Systems at the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press the government should immediately enact "a strict but short” four-week confinement. “Trying to do as little as possible so as not to affect the economy or for political reasons doesn’t get us where we need to be,” said Bengoa, who also oversaw a deep reform in the Basque regional health system. The situation in Spain contrasts starkly with other European countries that have also shown similar sharp leaps in cases, increasingly more of them blamed on the more contagious variant first detected in the U.K. The Netherlands, which has been locked down for a month, has seen the pace of infections starting to drop. But with 2% to 5% of new COVID-19 cases from the new variant, the country is from Friday requiring air passengers from the U.K., Ireland and South Africa to provide not only a negative PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure but also a rapid antigen test result from immediately before takeoff. France, where a recent study of 100,000 positive tests yielded about 1% of infections with the variant, is imposing curfews as early as 6 p.m., and Health Minister Oliver Veran has not ruled out a stay-at-home order if the situation worsens. Existing lockdowns or the prospect of mandatory confinement have not been questioned or turned into a political issue in other European countries. Ireland instituted a complete lockdown after widespread infections were found to be tied to the new variant. Italy has a colour-coded system that activates a strict lockdown at its highest — or red — level, although no areas are currently at that stage. In the U.K., scientific evidence of the new variant has silenced some critics of restrictions and spurred Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose measures that are strict but slightly milder than the nation's first lockdown. People have been ordered to stay home except for limited essential trips and exercise, and schools have been closed except for some exceptions. In Germany, where the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has recently shot up to 26 per 100,000 people, many high-ranking officials are arguing that the existing strict confinement order needs to be toughened and extended beyond its current end-of-January expiration. Nordic countries have rejected full-on mandatory lockdowns, instead instituting tight limitations on gatherings and certain activities. Residents have been asked to follow specific recommendations to limit the spread of the virus. In Sweden, the issue is both legal and political, as no law exists that would allow the government to restrict the population's mobility. While urging residents to refrain from going to the gym or the library, Swedish Prime Stefan Lofven said last month, “we don’t believe in a total lockdown,” before adding, “We are following our strategy.” Policymakers in Spain seem to be on a similar approach, although it remains to be seen if the results will prove them wrong. On Thursday, they insisted that vaccinations will soon reach “cruising speed.” But Bengoa, the former WHO expert, said vaccinations won't fix the problem immediately. “Trying to live with the virus and with these data for months is to live with very high mortality and with the possibility that new variants are created,” he said, adding that the new variant of the virus widely identified in the U.K. could make the original version start to seem like "a good one.” Dr. Salvador Macip, a researcher with the University of Leicester and the Open University of Catalonia, says the combination of spiraling infections and the uncertainty over the new variants should be enough for a more restrictive approach, but that pandemic fatigue is making such decisions more difficult for countries like Spain, with polarized politics. “People are fed up with making sacrifices that take us nowhere because they see that they will have to repeat them," Macip said. —- Associated Press writers across Europe contributed. —- Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Aritz Parra, The Associated Press