Brossy Meowington chills out in a knitted cat hat and matching outfit. Hilarious!
Brossy Meowington chills out in a knitted cat hat and matching outfit. Hilarious!
(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP - image credit) Two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden met to set a new tone for Canada-U.S. relations, the Biden administration official whose decisions may affect Canada's economy the most sat for three hours of questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee Thursday. Some cabinet confirmations become partisan wrestling matches. By the end of her appearance, the confirmation of Katherine Tai as the next United States Trade Representative felt more like a collective laying on of hands. The chair, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, called her a "superb choice." All ranking Democrats and Republicans from not only the Senate but also the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee applauded the depth of her skills and experience with a long list of complimentary adjectives. Representative Richard Neal from Massachusetts, appearing as a guest Democratic chair of the House committee, told senators he considers Tai to be like family after her seven years as legal counsel for his committee. Tai played a critical role in crafting and negotiating bipartisan support for endgame revisions that ensured Congressional approval of the revised North American trade agreement by delivering more environmental and labour protections. "There is one issue that all of us in this room agree upon: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement of these trade agreements," Neal said, praising Tai's "understated grit." Biden's pick was endorsed by leaders from the environmental, business and labour communities, Neal said. Tai accompanied Neal on a critical trip to Ottawa in November 2019 to persuade Canada to agree to amend the new NAFTA so it could get through Congress. The Trudeau government had thought its negotiations with the Trump administration were over. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, came to know Tai well as Canada's lead negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. She said she remembers having lunch with her that day and their "vibrant conversation" with the assembled politicians about how international trade can benefit domestic workers — a focus the Biden administration now embraces. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, far right, joined her then-minister Chrystia Freeland as Representative Richard Neal met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 6, 2019. House Democrats asked Canada to agree to amendments they were making to secure Congressional approval for the renegotiated NAFTA. "I think that's just telling on where some of the priorities may well lie," Hillman told CBC News earlier this winter. "She has specific expertise in that area." Fortunately for the Trudeau government, Tai's vision for "expanding the winner's circle" of beneficiaries of international trade lines up with the beliefs of Canadian Liberals like Chrystia Freeland who have spoken about making deals work for small businesses and middle class workers — not just corporations. Winning with win-wins During Thursday's hearing, Tai said she wants to move away from negotiations that pit one sector's workers against another. It's a sharp contrast with the zero-sum style of the Trump administration, which was more focused on scoring targeted political wins than mutually-beneficial gains. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." - USTR nominee Katherine Tai While that could come as a relief for trading partners like Canada, Tai's hearing also revealed several priorities to watch carefully. For example, will Tai continue Robert Lighthizer's push to "re-shore" as many commodities in as many supply chains as possible, to repatriate jobs for American workers? "There's been a lot of disruption and consternation that have accompanied some of those policies," she said — without specifically calling out Trump administration tactics like using national security grounds to slap tariffs on foreign steel. "I'd want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner." And what about the critical product shortages the U.S. is facing, especially during the pandemic? President Biden signed an executive order this week to strengthen U.S. supply chains for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors. "A lot of the assumptions that we have based our trade programs on [have] maximized efficiency without regard for the requirement for resilience," Tai said. Rethinking the China strategy Between 2011-14, Tai was the USTR's chief counsel for trade enforcement with China. On Thursday, she told senators the U.S. needs a "strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its state-directed economics." The government must have "a united front of U.S. allies," she added. "China is simultaneously a rival, a partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we'll also need to address certain global challenges," she said. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, himself a former USTR during the George W. Bush administration, pushed her to explain how the U.S. could compete with the "techno-nationalist" approach China takes on semiconductors — which he said are subsidized by up to 40 per cent, allowing the Communist regime to dominate the global market. "We can't compete by doing the things China does, so we have to figure out how we can compete by marshalling all the tools and resources that we have in the U.S. government," Tai said. Later she described how the Chinese state is able to conduct its economy "almost like a conductor with an orchestra," while Americans trust the "invisible hand" of the free market. The U.S. government may need to revisit this, she said, "knowing the strategy and the ambition that we are up against." Fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown asked Tai whether she'd make it a top priority to crack down on imports that trace back to China's forced labour program, which human rights investigators believe abuses potentially millions from China's minority Uighur and Turkic Muslim population to pick crops like cotton. "Yes," she said. "I think the use of forced labour is probably the crudest example of the race to the bottom." 'Laser-focused' on Huawei Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who also sits on the Senate intelligence committee, urged Tai to form a "coalition of the willing" to compete with the Chinese "authoritarian capitalism" model that's enabled the rise of tech giants like Huawei. Trade negotiations have to protect the security of digital infrastructure, he said, and the U.S. should consider asking trading partners to prohibit certain Chinese technologies. "If we keep Huawei out of American domestic markets but it gets the rest of the world, we're not going to be successful," Warner said. Sen. Tom Carper, left, greets Katherine Tai, Joe Biden's nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, and meets her mother, right, at Tai's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. Tai agreed with him, and said the U.S. government should be "laser-focused" on this, and not just in trade negotiations. To counter China's influence, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper asked whether it would be a "fool's errand" to rejoin partners like Canada in the Pacific Rim trading bloc — which was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left it in 2017. Tai said the thinking behind the CPTPP remains a "solid equation" but the world in 2021 is "very different in important ways" to the climate in 2016, when Congress failed to approve the TPP. Carper also asked how trade policy is affected by the Biden administration's renewed multilateral approach to climate change. "The rest of the world is coming up with its own climate solutions, and that means that as other countries and economies begin to regulate in this area, climate and trade policies become a part of our competitive landscape," she said. 'Digging in' on dairy Tai also promised to work closely with senators who raised issues about commodities important to their states — and Canada. But the veteran trade diplomat didn't tip her hand too much on what Canada should expect. Idaho's Mike Crapo was assured she'll work on "longstanding issues" in softwood lumber. She told Iowa's Chuck Grassley she's aware of the "very clear promises" Canada made on dairy as part of concluding the NAFTA negotiations, and how important they were to win the support of some senators. Some of these Canada-U.S. issues "date back to the beginning of time," she said, adding she was looking forward to "digging in" on the enforcement process her predecessor began in December. Several senators pushed for more attention to America's beef, of which Tai said she was a "very happy consumer." South Dakota Sen. John Thune expressed frustration with the World Trade Organization's ruling against the cattle industry's protectionist country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules, prompting a commitment from Tai to work with livestock producers on a new labelling system that could survive a WTO challenge. One of the toughest questioners Thursday proved to be former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who slammed the lack of transparency in past trade negotiations and told Tai her administration needs to "take a hard line." Warren called for limiting the influence of corporations and industries on advisory committees and releasing more negotiating drafts so the public understands what's being done on their behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Wyden asked Tai to send her ideas for improving the transparency of trade processes to the committee's bipartisan leadership within 30 days. Katherine Tai bumps elbows with Congressional leaders following her Thursday confirmation hearing on Capital Hill. Throughout the hearing, senators described Tai's confirmation as "historic." She's the first woman of colour and first Asian-American (her parents emigrated from Taiwan) to serve as USTR. Pennsylvania's Bob Casey asked if she'd commit to working on women's economic empowerment and participation in trade laws. She answered with just one word: "Yes."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is struggling to beat back his biggest political challenge in years from a protest movement which began with disgruntled farmers travelling to New Delhi on tractors and is now gaining wider support at home and abroad. Simmering in makeshift camps housing tens of thousands of farmers since last year, the movement has seen a dramatic growth in recent weeks, getting backing from environmental activists, opposition parties and even A-list Western celebrities. At its heart are three new farm laws passed by the government last September, thanks to the majority Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enjoys in the lower house of parliament.
(CFSEU-BC - image credit) Drug fugitive Khamla Wong was arrested arriving at Vancouver International Airport Wednesday, according to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia. Wong was wanted for his connection to the cross-border cocaine and ecstasy trade going back to 2008. Charges of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of a loaded prohibited firearm were laid against him in 2012. CFSEU-BC said the investigation spanned from B.C. to California, Mexico and Peru, and resulted in the seizure of tens of millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs, including: Aug. 21, 2008 — 23 kilograms (117,000 pills) of ecstasy seized in Princeton, B.C. Dec. 20, 2008 — 121 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. Dec. 24, 2008 — 97 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. The drugs were hidden inside a commercial transport truck carrying bananas. May, 2009 — 10 kilograms of cocaine seized in Burnaby. In June 2009, seven search warrants were executed at residences in Chilliwack, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Lake Country in the Okanagan. A number of firearms were seized including a restricted .44-calibre Magnum pistol, along with a prohibited .357-calibre Magnum revolver, .38-calibre semi-automatic pistol and .40-calibre semi-automatic pistol. "Time and time again we have sought out individuals living abroad to hold them accountable and face justice in Canada. Those who remain on the run from CFSEU-BC should know that we will not stop until we find you," said Supt. Duncan Pound, CFSEU-BC acting chief officer in a statement. Wong remains in custody.
If you're coming to “ Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry ” hoping for a primer on the music sensation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Filmmaker R.J. Cutler’s two hour and 20-minute documentary about the “Ocean Eyes” singer and songwriter is not biography or reportage. It’s a verite-style plunge into her life, her home, her concerts, her process, her Tourette’s, her brother’s bedroom where they famously write all their songs and even her diary in the year in which she became a star. It is raw and filled with music — over 20 of her songs are played over the course of the film, including live performances, like her extraordinary Coachella showing in 2019. Some are shown in full. It is also very, very long. Cutler, who also did “The September Issue” and “Belushi,” cited seminal verite rock docs “Gimme Shelter” and “Dont Look Back” as inspiration. But both of those came a few years and albums into The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan’s superstardom. Eilish’s ascent is extraordinary and yet she is still in the early part of her artistic and actual life. Fans will certainly disagree, as is their right, but it is an enormous amount of unfiltered space to give to an artist who is still getting started. There's no right or wrong way to make a documentary like this, but for the Eilish curious and not the Eilish die-hards, it's initiation by fire without any context. Clearly someone in Eilish’s camp had an eye toward legacy when they invited Cutler to her family home to see if he wanted to follow the then-16-year-old during her breakout year, during which she and her brother Finneas wrote, recorded and released her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Eilish is funny and sullen and charismatic and moody, just as you’d want and expect a teenage artist to be. She gets dreamy and protective of her followers, saying “they’re not my fans, they’re like part of me” and complains that for her, writing songs is “torture.” And she breaks the fourth wall occasionally (she’d told Cutler that she wanted it to be like “The Office”) to let the audience knows that she knows they’re there. Her brother is the driving force a lot of the productivity in their cozy family home in the Highland Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles (he’s since moved out). Their parents homeschooled them and music was always part of their life, with mom, Maggie Baird, teaching them how to write songs and dad, Patrick O’Connell, teaching instruments. It is interesting to see her and Finneas riff about lyrics and test things out — he has anxiety about having to produce a hit and she couldn’t care less — and the juxtaposition of her glamorous appearances and performances with the modest normalcy of their home life. There are some terrific moments that Cutler caught out on the road: In one instance, she meets Katy Perry who introduces Eilish to her fiance — “a big fan.” It’s only later that Eilish realizes that was Orlando Bloom. Her brother reminds her he is “Will Turner from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies.” She wants a redo. “I thought he was just some dude,” she says. Another is her first meeting with Justin Bieber. She talks about her longstanding obsession in an interview, he gets in touch three days before her album release about wanting to collaborate. (She tells her manager that “he could ask me to kill my dog and I would.”) Then at Coachella he appears as she’s greeting a hoard of her fans. She freezes and becomes a fan herself. Later she’ll sob over a heartfelt message he sends her. And there are some incredibly vulnerable moments too, showing the performer exhausted and annoyed. Eilish remains as unique and enigmatic as she seems from a distance, but also is presented very much like a normal Los Angeles teenager, getting her driver's license, dreaming of a matte black Dodge Challenger and texting with a largely absent boyfriend. Fans will eat up every morsel of this documentary and wish for more. For newcomers, however, it might benefit from watching in installments, which is one of the benefits of the film debuting on Apple TV+. There’s even an intermission to help take the guesswork out of where to hit pause. This does not come across as a vanity project that’s been intensely controlled by the star or the machinery around her, either. It’s refreshing. It's also probably one of the last times we’ll all be invited into her life in this way. “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry,” an Apple TV+ and Neon release out Friday, has not been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 140 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone addressed concerns about how vaccinations are rolling out in the province during a media availability on Thursday. Livingstone explained that the province is still working on strengthening processes and communication around availability. “We are committed to a vaccine distribution process that is fast, fair, transparent and safe. As you have seen, we are making great strides in getting our infrastructure up quickly to manage higher volumes of vaccine as they arrive,” Livingstone said. There have been as many as 4,000 vaccines delivered in a single day and he is confident Saskatchewan can deliver more that. “As an example, out of those 4,000 vaccines that were delivered on the weekend, on Saturday, 3,300 were in rural and northern Saskatchewan and were not using our large vaccination capabilities in either Regina and Saskatoon,” Livingstone said. In recent weeks, the process for notifying individuals 70-years-old and over has been a hot button issue for the SHA. Livingstone explained that in phase one of the rollout vaccines are distributed at community long-term care and personal care home residents and certain prioritized healthcare workers as a priority group. “After those populations are vaccinated, local public health officers or officials will be establishing clinics for residents 70 plus. To fill these clinics, we are contacting eligible recipients wherever possible by phone based on their age and location until all available appointments are filled,” Livingstone said. The subject of vaccination in Prince Albert was addressed during the regular councillor’s forum at the end of the city council meeting on Monday by Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick. He used part of his time in the forum to let the public know that public health was contacting people to get vaccinated in the city. “So just for people that are watching, make sure you answer your phone when you see that unknown number because that is your chance to get vaccinated. And I thank the health district and public health for actually making it a lot easier for seniors to get vaccinated rather than posting it on social media and you have to phone in and hope to heck that you are one that gets in there and a lot of those seniors don’t have access to technology,” Ogrodnick said. Priority sequencing continues in phase two as the oldest residents are contacted first and then descending ages are contacted. “Note that the appointment availability is driven by vaccine availability. At this time there isn’t a clinic in the province that is able to receive enough vaccines to immunize all residents eligible in phase one. Once these appointments are filled, the clinic must be suspended until more vaccines are made available to the province,” the province said. Livingstone explained that shifting vaccine availability creates challenges for residents who are aware of clinics but have not been contacted and for public health officials who have to shift each week because of lack of consistent supplies. “We are currently looking at many ways to improve the booking process, not just for phase one but also phase two in the province and you will see some important changes very soon,” Livingstone said. In the future, the system will be moving to residents contacting health authorities to choose a local vaccination site and vaccination time which will improve the process. “It will still be hampered by a lack of vaccine supply — until that vaccine starts flowing in a consistent manner,” Livingstone said. Livingstone explained that a website and phone number with this information will be available in the next 10 days. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
New Zealand's government said on Friday that it was backing a new project that uses drone technology to understand and protect the endangered Māui dolphins in the country. Maui dolphins live in a small stretch of ocean off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island and current estimates suggest that only 63 dolphins older than one year remain, raising concerns that they may soon become extinct. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is capable of finding and tracking Māui dolphins using artificial intelligence.
WASHINGTON — The Senate parliamentarian dealt a potentially lethal blow Thursday to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Senate Democratic aides said. The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, means Democrats face an overwhelmingly uphill battle to boost the minimum wage this year because of solid Republican opposition. Their proposal would raise the federal minimum gradually to $15 hourly by 2025, well above the $7.25 floor in place since 2009. President Joe Biden was “disappointed” in the outcome but respected the parliamentarian's ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The Senate has a long tradition of obeying the parliamentarian's decisions with few exceptions, a history that is revered by traditionalists like Biden, a 36-year Senate veteran. “He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty,” Psaki said. Democrats are pushing the massive coronavirus relief measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate filibuster by Republicans, a tactic that Democrats would need an unattainable 60 votes to defeat. But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. MacDonough said the minimum wage provision didn't pass that test, according to aides who described her decision on condition of anonymity because it hadn't been released. MacDonough's decision forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats “are not going to give up the fight” to raise the minimum wage to $15. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, hailed MacDonough's decision. He said it shows the special procedure that Democrats are using to protect the relief bill “cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change — by either party — on a simple majority vote." Republicans solidly oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs. They also oppose the overall relief bill, saying it’s too expensive, not targeted enough at the people and businesses that most need it and a grab bag of gifts for Democratic allies. In the wake of the decision, Democratic leaders were likely to face unrest from rank-and-file lawmakers, who have long had differences over the federal minimum wage. They can afford little dissension: Democrats have just a 10-vote edge in the House and no votes to spare in the 50-50 Senate. Progressives seeking to maximize Democratic control of the White House and Congress have wanted party leaders to push aggressively on the issue. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who leads the near 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Senate Democrats should include the wage increase in the relief bill anyway and not be stopped by “the advisory opinion of the parliamentarian and Republican obstructionism.” But Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the minimum wage hike in the relief bill, and other moderates have expressed concerns, too. Even so, MacDonough's decision might actually make passage of the overall relief bill easier because efforts to find a minimum wage compromise among Democrats could have been contentious. Democrats have said they could still pursue a minimum wage boost in free-standing legislation or attach it to legislation expected later this year that is to be aimed at a massive infrastructure program. But they’d still face the challenge of garnering 60 Senate votes, a hurdle that has upended Democratic attempts to boost the minimum wage for over a decade. Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a chief sponsor of the minimum wage effort, blamed “archaic and undemocratic" Senate rules for the setback. He said he'd try amending the overall relief package to erase tax deductions from large corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide incentives to small businesses to raise wages. The parliamentarian's decision came to light the night before Democrats were set to push through the House an initial version of the $1.9 trillion relief legislation that still includes the minimum wage boost. “House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the" bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. The overall relief bill is Biden’s first legislative priority. It is aimed at combating a year-old pandemic that’s stalled much of the economy, killed half a million Americans and reshaped the daily lives of virtually everyone. Despite their paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders were hoping that House approval of the package would be followed by passage in the Senate, where changes seem likely. Democrats are aiming to get the legislation to Biden’s desk by mid-March. The relief bill would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children. In a study that’s been cited by both sides in the clash, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the $15 minimum wage would increase pay for 27 million workers and lift 900,000 people out of poverty by 2025, but also kill 1.4 million jobs. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have state minimum wages that exceed the federal $7.25 hourly floor, with only the District of Columbia currently requiring a $15 minimum. Seven states have laws putting their minimums on a pathway to $15 in a future year, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself Thursday, hours after being charged with turning his Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train and then abusing them. John Geddert faced 24 charges that could have carried years in prison had he been convicted. He was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing, but his body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, according to state police. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. Nessel earlier announced that Geddert was charged with a bushel of crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise. The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison. Geddert, 63, wasn't arrested and transported to court. Rather, Nessel's office allowed him to show up on his own. “We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his co-operation,” Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said. Calls seeking comment from attorney Chris Bergstrom weren't immediately returned. Geddert was head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym. Among the charges, Geddert was accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him involved his gym in Dimondale and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him. The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, said Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark. Geddert was charged with using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human trafficking by making money through the forced labour of young athletes. “The victims suffer from disordered eating,” Nessel said, “including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault. “Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behaviour to this day,” the attorney general said. Nessel acknowledged that the case might not fit the common understanding of human trafficking. “We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves ... but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.” Geddert was suspended by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring. USA Gymnastics said in a statement late Thursday that news about the charges against Geddert would “lead to justice through the legal process.” “With the news of his death by suicide, we share the feelings of shock, and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as they grapple with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the organization said. On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in Michigan gymnastics history.” He said his Twistars teams won 130 club championships. But Geddert was often portrayed in unflattering ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018. Some insisted he was aware of the doctor's abuse. Sarah Klein, a gymnast who trained under Geddert for more than 10 years and was assaulted by Nassar, said the coach's death was an “escape from justice” and “traumatizing beyond words.” “His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see,” said Klein, a lawyer. Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who stepped forward against Geddert. “So much pain and grief for everyone," she said on Twitter after his death. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.” ___ White reported from Detroit. Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Anna Liz Nichols And Ed White, The Associated Press
Australia said on Friday it would lift a near two-year ban on flights involving Boeing Co 737 MAX planes, becoming among the first in the Asia-Pacific region to do so. "We ... are confident that the aircraft are safe," Graeme Crawford, acting chief of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, said in a statement. The regulator has accepted comprehensive return-to-service requirements set by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the 737 MAX, he added.
Rapid testing for COVID-19 will be expanding in the province in the near future. The rapid test kits allocated by the federal government will now be available in available in a variety of settings to test asymptomatic individuals. Saskatchewan has created a strategy to deploy more than 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests received through a federal government allocation. The tests will be used in a variety of settings including walk-in or drive-thru sites, mobile testing and pop-up testing sites. In media availability on Thursday, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone explained that testing is an important part of the strategy in maintaining offensive work around containing, mitigating and delaying the virus spread. “These are simple tests, are readily available and some of the new sites that will be included in this expansion include personal care homes, group homes, detox facilities, emergency shelters and schools. Rapid tests will also be made available to ambulance, police and fire services as well as pharmacy and dental offices for staff that work within those areas to insure that we are screening essential workers in those areas,” Livingstone said. The tests are already available at over 150 long-term care facilities and over 100 areas in acute care. Livingstone explained that the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations have been amended to exempt point of care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites from requiring a laboratory license when those sites have entered into an agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He explained that the lab license was a barrier and was lifted because the test is simple and safe. “These changes give us the ability to move swiftly to expand testing options,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a release. “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” Many of these sectors may not have the capacity to use these tests on their own, so the Ministry of Health is working with SaskBuilds and Procurement to develop a Request for Pre-Qualifications (RFPQ) tender for third-party providers to deliver testing to these locations. This will enhance the number and variety of venues where rapid testing is offered. Livingstone explained that one example of why the RFPQ tender was in place was for ambulance, fire and police and participating pharmacies and dental offices. “This is going to take a little bit of time but we are committed to using these tests widely across many venues in the province as soon as possible. There are still some operational and logistic details to sort out but there is hope that the delivery and support for the expanded venues can happen over the next few weeks,” Livingstone said. Livingstone stated that the program could move quicker in schools because they have existing public health infrastructure with public health staff to do testing. The SHA is also looking at pop-up point of care testing sites and the ability for health care workers to carry out weekly surveillance testing on themselves. The Ministry of Health and SHA will work with various sectors and provider groups to ensure training and support is in place to use these testing resources to their full potential. Any rapid point-of-care tests that return a positive result will need to be retested to confirm the result using a PCR test with the Saskatchewan Health Authority labs. However, negative tests do not need to be retested for confirmation, which is expected to reduce pressure on provincial lab resources. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
TORONTO — The head of Canada's largest pension fund received a COVID-19 vaccination while on a "very personal" trip to Dubai, he told staff in an email Thursday night. Mark Machin disclosed the information in an internal memo after the Wall Street Journal reported he flew to the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, where he received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is awaiting the second dose. Machin said in the email viewed by The Canadian Press that he remains in Dubai with his partner "for many reasons, some of which are deeply personal." "This was a very personal trip and was undertaken after careful consideration and consultation," the memo reads. CPP Investments did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday evening. The federal government is actively discouraging Canadians from travelling abroad and recently implemented strict quarantine measures for those returning home. Machin told staff he followed all travel protocols related to his role as head of the pension fund while on the trip. "This trip was intended to be very private and I am disappointed it has become the focus of public attention and expected criticism," he wrote. Several politicians and health-care officials have become high profile flashpoints of public anger in recent months for leaving the country despite public health advice to the contrary. Among them, the former CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre is now embroiled in litigation after his travel to the U.S. prompted the hospital to terminate his contract. Rod Phillips, Ontario's former finance minister, resigned from his post in late December after taking a personal trip to St. Barts. CPP Investments, which had $475.7 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, invests money on behalf of retired and active employees covered by the Canada Pension Plan. A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that while CPPIB is an independent organization, the revelation is "very troubling." "The federal government has been clear with Canadians that now is not the time to travel abroad," Katherine Cuplinskas said in an emailed statement. "We were not made aware of this travel and further questions should be directed to the CPPIB on this matter." Machin, who has been in his current role since 2016, joined CPP Investments in 2012. Prior to joining the pension fund manager, he spent 20 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he assumes security authorities signed off on an arrangement to allow a company owned by a Chinese police force to run Canada's visa application centre in Beijing. Blair says he can only make assumptions because the arrangement was put in place in 2008, under the previous Conservative government. Still, he says he's been assured by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that the personal information provided by visa applicants is secure. He says the information is handled according to Canada's privacy laws, that no application or biometrically collected data is stored at the centre and that all databases containing personal information are located in Canada. Questions have been raised about the centre since The Globe and Mail reported earlier this month that its operation has been subcontracted to Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. Opposition MPs questioned Blair about the possibility that visa applicants' personal information could be relayed to the Chinese government and cause negative repercussions, particularly for dissidents trying to flee the country's repressive Communist regime. Bloc Quebecois MP Stephane Bergeron and New Democrat MP Jack Harris pressed Blair to explain which of Canada's national security agencies signed off on the subcontract to the Chinese police. "I have some difficulty frankly answering your question Mr. Harris about the origins of this contract," Blair told the special committee on Canada-China relations Thursday. "It was signed in 2008. So it's been in place for 12 years now and so its origin and who actually authorized this contract predates me or my government and frankly my knowledge." Blair said there are "normal procurement processes" in place for contracting out services and he assumes they were followed in this case. "I want to make sure that it's clear. I'm only able to make an assumption that those processes were in fact followed because it did take place 12 years ago." "That's not much comfort, I have to say," Harris responded. Blair acknowledged that IRCC is not a security agency but he said it does have an information technology specialist department that has provided assurances that the visa information is secure. He said inspections and audits are regularly conducted to ensure there is no privacy breach of sensitive information and there has been no evidence of a problem. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A headline on a previous version said Bill Blair testified a Conservative government authorized the contracting-out of visa services in Beijing specifically to a company owned by Chinese police.
Winnipeg has posted an abysmal score on climate change policy, when compared to its Canadian peers. Climate Reality Project (Canadian arm of the environmental non-governmental organization created by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore) carries out annual rankings of the nation’s municipalities to measure progress on a number of metrics. According to its newly released 2020 National Climate League report, Winnipeg overall ranks middle of the pack at best, and dead last in many categories, in the large city category (more than 600,000 residents). One positive for the city, says Susan Lindsay, who works with Winnipeg not-for-profit Climate Change Connection and is regional manager for Climate Reality Project: there is much room for improvement. “The standings give us like a clear indication of our city’s priorities — that climate and sustainability isn’t one of our city’s priorities,” Lindsay said Wednesday. Transportation is the second-largest contributor to national greenhouse gas emissions (after the oil and gas industry) and there are a number of indicators that consider policy progress towards low-emissions transportation. In the NCL report, Winnipeg ranked last in nearly all of related categories, including kilometres of bike lanes, cyclist and pedestrian safety, number of electric vehicle chargers, number of transit trips, and number of car-share vehicles available to residents. Winnipeg has 307 km of bike lanes, compared to Calgary, which had the most (1,290 km). The city logged 97.7 injuries and deaths of cyclists/pedestrians per 100,000 residents, compared with the second-worst performing large city: Calgary (58.7). Winnipeg has nine EV chargers per 100,000 people, compared to Montreal at 96. Sixty-seven transit trips were logged per capita in Winnipeg, compared with 236 in Montreal. The 2020 report gathered some information on household expenditures on gas and diesel fuels, but statistics were only available for a handful of cities of any size. In Winnipeg, the average household spends $3,102 on fuels per year. Buildings are another key source of emissions in cities, principally from heating them. Winnipeg was in the middle of the pack when it comes to the number of sustainable buildings, with 1.6 that qualify under one of the international sustainability certification programs per 100,000 people. Vancouver topped the large cities at 8.6. The average Winnipegger is responsible for approximately 670 kilograms of garbage going to landfills each year, the report says. The Manitoba capital ranked second worst in this category. Edmonton was last at 680 kg; best in class was Toronto (430 kg). In smog days per year, Winnipeg came in at 18; Calgary was worst-in-class with 69. Winnipeg had previously been tops in the category but fell substantially in the rankings. “Over the last two years, the city of Winnipeg has experienced an increase in number of days with a rating of 4 or over on the Air Quality Health Index. In the (prior) two years, they rarely experienced days where the Air Quality Health Index was above 4. The increase in poor air quality days can be attributed to the increase in frequency and severity of forest fires in the region, and Winnipeg was affected quite harshly in 2019 (the year we last have data for). We can expect to see a decrease in air quality across the entire country as forest fires continue to rage more intensely as the years go on,” the report reads. The report also touches on some seemingly unrelated indicators, such as the cost of housing. It explains the importance of such a measure in reference to climate change by saying: “Affordable housing that is located within urban centres, close to people’s place of work and that incorporates green infrastructure will make more efficient use of land, transportation systems, and energy resources.” On this measure, Winnipeg experienced a 2.47 per cent increase in the average annual increase in the cost of housing. Only Vancouver and Toronto had housing costs rise faster. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
A plan to expand the Crescent Acres neighbourhood took another step forward with the approval of a plan begin to begin annexing a portion of the neighbouring municipality. City councillors voted unanimously Monday to annex 44 acres of land from the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert. The motion to support the boundary changes was moved by Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick who, along with Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards, was pleased to see the report before council. The other part of the motion would see administration meet with representatives of the RM to negotiate both the annexation settlement and agreement. Ogrodnick explained that at community meetings a north access to Crescent Acres was a major issue for residents. The eventual expansion would ease congestion at 15th Avenue and Muzzy Road as well as on Olive Diefenbaker drive. “Once that north access comes into play and gets built, it will help the eastern parts of both of our wards. This is a good agreement as long as we are able to build this and it is something that the residents of both of those wards badly want and are happy that our director is moving forward with this,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski also voiced his approval of the eventual north access to the neighborhood as a great step in the development of Prince Albert and saluted the work done on the file. “It is not only an issue in that area but in terms of traffic flow throughout our whole city because you absolutely avoid that area of town at certain times of the day. Well done let’s move on,” Zurakowski said. Mayor Greg Dionne thanked the city manager and both the previous and current council for their work. “I have been on council for 19 years and boy there was lots of talking but I have got to thank this council and the council before for bringing this forward,” Dionne said during the meeting. After the meeting, Dionne explained that opening up another access point on Crescent Acres will also benefit development. “We are having more and more development there on Hadley and other streets in the back there and that’s where our new lots are. So before we get them all open let’s get the traffic out to the highway,” he explained. The land to be annexed has already been bought by the city. They hope to extend Byars Street and add another highway junction at Highway 302. Once the Byars Street extension is done, the city plans to later extend Olive Diefenbaker Drive. The city purchased 80 acres in 2020. Development of the rest of the land, which remains within the RM’s boundary, will be up to the RM council. “It is up to them to plan for, but we want to be proactive and be a partnership to how that land is developed, Guidinger said. The planned construction is part of a larger Transportation Master Plan and a future Crescent Acres Neighborhood Plan. The extension of Byars Street was already included in the 2021 budget by public works. The cost is $200,000 for required engineering design and geotechnical work with $700,000 expected to be added for construction in the 2022 budget. The proposal was initially presented at an in camera session on Feb. 1 and presented to RM council on Feb. 11. The RM was receptive, and only had a few questions about taxation and timing. The process of land annexation is when land is transferred from one municipality to another neighbouring municipality. There are a number of steps in the process, including consultation with the municipality in question, negotiation of a payment for the land in question and the annexation agreement and public notice. The first steps in annexation were completed with the presentation to the RM of Prince Albert. Once there is a complementary resolution from the RM, the city and RM can enter into negotiations to negotiate a purchase cost. The city intends to propose a financial settlement similar to those in the past. The value of the settlement will be directly connected to the current agricultural tax rate applied to the land multiplied by a 22.5 years. Other costs will come from issuing public notice and other legal items such as preparation of the agreement itself among others. Once the annexation price and terms of agreement have been negotiated, city administration will report back to council. The annexation team will included the directors of planning and development and public works, planning manager and capital projects, city solicitor’s office, city clerk’s office, director of the Prince Albert and District Planning Commission, Reeve Eric Schmalz and administrator Roxanne Roy of the RM of Prince Albert. -with files from Peter Lozinski, Prince Albert Daily Herald Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
“We must do everything we can,” Dr. Shahab said, in trying to and make sure that transmissions of the variants of concern is minimalized. Two individuals in Regina who tested positive for the variant B117, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, could not be linked to any personal travel.As seen in other jurisdictions, the first cases of the new variants could all be linked to travel and then it shows up as community transmission. The presence of these variants is cause for concern, because they present as having a higher rate of transmission. Samples of tests from Regina are going to be sent off for further testing since Regina is presently seeing an uptick in cases while the rest of the province is trending downward. Dr. Shahab reiterated the importance of people staying home at the first sign of any symptoms and seek a test. More importantly perhaps, is to continue to stay home even if the test results are negative but symptoms continue. People need to not assume that they are free of the virus, a second test should be done to confirm that in cases where symptoms persist. SHA CEO, Scott Livingstone, admitted at the Thursday, February 25, 2021 press conference that the present system of contacting people is not effective. The lists that are being generated through eHealth and vital statistics are not necessarily finding all those individuals in the 70+ age group to put on the list in the first place and utilizing public health personnel to man the phones is not an effective use of manpower. The online appointment booking system and telephone call-in centre which were originally planned to be utilized once Phase 2 vaccinations began will now be utilized for those individuals 70 years of age and over and thereby reducing the stress and concern expressed by those who have not received a telephone call when there was a clinic in their vicinity. These should be up and running within roughly ten days. This will also serve as a bit of a trial run for the Phase 2 rollout. The limited amount of vaccine is also compounding the problems with the vaccine rollout. Dr. Shahab expressed the hope that once vaccine supplies become stabilized there will be a large uptake of the opportunity to be vaccinated and this will take the sharp edge off the pandemic. Those at high risk are still awaiting vaccination and therefore it remains crucial for the rest of the population to stay vigilant in mitigating the spread to protect them. It comes back again to testing. More people need to get tested sooner. Some people still appear to be waiting to get tested and this could get the province into a bad situation quickly with the variants of concern in the province. Last summer Premier Moe set a goal of 4000 COVID-19 tests being done every day, yesterday about 2100 were processed and about 3100 today. Also included in the announcements today was the distribution of 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests. Until now the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations required a laboratory license for any site collecting specimens or conducting testing. Health Minister Merriman stated earlier today that the Regulations have been amended to exempt point-of-care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites which now allows these so-called rapid tests to be used in more sites around the province. Merriman said, “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with the variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” The rapid tests will be available ambulance, fire, police, dental offices, schools, shelters, detox facilities, and group homes as well as at long-term and personal care homes and participating pharmacies. Scott Livingstone stated that since some of these may not have the capacity to use the tests on their own, the SHA and the Ministry of Health are working on a tendering process for third-party providers to deliver testing at these locations and ensure that training and support is in place to “use these testing resources to their full potential.” Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
(Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit) The Saskatchewan government says a booking system is coming to allow people to make their own appointments for COVID-19 vaccination. The province announced the change on Thursday, one day after saying the government would reach out to those eligible for vaccinations. The CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority said Thursday the government will instead transition to self-booking for seniors eligible under Phase 1 of the province's vaccination plan in a couple of weeks. Those 70 years old and older eligible for a vaccine are being contacted by age according to government vital statistics and health information. That will continue until the new system is up and running, health authority CEO Scott Livingstone said. Both online and phone booking will be available. On Wednesday, Minister of Health Paul Merriman released a statement and Premier Scott Moe wrote about Phase 1 vaccination plans on social media. Neither indicated the government would be changing its booking system. Livingstone said the decision to move to the self-booking system was made this week. "We had been using lists that have been generated through vital statistics and health card registration, and one thing we found out is those lists aren't complete," he said. "We're not going to miss people. We will make sure that we don't and once you are qualified, you qualify for vaccination throughout the entire time frame, including Phase 2."
Canada’s newly appointed Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Art McDonald has stepped aside from the post over an allegation of sexual misconduct. McDonald had been in the post a month replacing Gen. Jonathan Vance, who faces allegations of inappropriate conduct.
The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the army seized power on Feb. 1 and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party had won. The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Myanmar's streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
VICTORIA — Police in Victoria are asking for help from the public who may know something about the beheading of a royal statue and a recent rash of graffiti in the city. There were numerous acts of spray-paint vandalism on Tuesday which targeted businesses and public and city-owned property. Police say in a statement that the graffiti specifically references Beacon Hill Park, the site of a long-running tent encampment. They're also asking for help recovering the head removed from a statue of the Queen located in the same park. Officers were called to the area near the park's petting zoo on Wednesday for reports of the damaged statue. Despite both being acts of vandalism, police say the two incidents have not been linked. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Colin White had two goals as the Ottawa Senators earned a 6-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. The win was the third straight for Ottawa (7-14-1) -- a first this season -- while Calgary (9-10-2) lost for the fifth time in six contests. Drake Batherson, Erik Gudbranson, Connor Brown and Erik Brannstrom also scored for Ottawa as goaltender Matt Murray stopped 29 shots. Batherson ran his goal-scoring streak to four games. Milan Lucic replied for Calgary, which was playing for the third time in four nights. Still, the Flames came in having won three of the previous four meetings with Ottawa. It was the first of three straight games between the two teams in Ottawa. They meet again Saturday afternoon before finishing up Monday night. Batherson opened the scoring at 7:45 of the first. David Rittich made the save on Tim Stutzle's shot but Batherson fired the rebound past the Flames goaltender for his sixth of the season. Gudbranson made it 2-0 with his first of the year at 9:27 as Ottawa outshot Calgary 13-5. Lucic pulled Calgary to within 2-1 with his fifth 1:41 into the second. But Brown restored Ottawa's two-goal lead at 4:39, intercepting a pass deep in the Flames zone and beating Rittich on the backhand unassisted for his fifth. Brannstrom put Ottawa up 4-1 at 7:24. He blasted a rolling puck from outside the blue-line past Rittich, his second of the year and second in as many games. Shortly afterwards, Calgary made the goaltending change as Artyom Zagidulin got into his first NHL game replacing Rittich, who allowed four goals on 20 shots. White slid the puck under Zagidulin at 4:55 of the third, for his third. He added his fourth at 14:46. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb, 25, 2021. The Canadian Press