Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany, where he spent months recovering from nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany, where he spent months recovering from nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Canada added a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to its pandemic-fighting arsenal on Friday, approving Johnson & Johnson's product a week after it was authorized in the United States. That gives Canada four distinct vaccines — along with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and it adds flexibility to the country's plan to immunize the majority of its residents by September. Health Canada includes a fifth vaccine, Covishield, which is a separate brand name for doses of the AstraZeneca product made at the Serum Institute of India. The U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use on Feb. 27. Canada has already secured 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through previous negotiations with the company, with the option to buy another 28 million. The 10 million pre-purchased doses will be delivered before September, but they're not expected to start flowing into Canada until at least April. Here's what we know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT? Johnson & Johnson announced promising results from its Phase 3 clinical trials at the end of January, suggesting its vaccine reduced severe COVID-19 disease by 85 per cent, and prevented 100 per cent of COVID-related hospitalization or death. The vaccine had a 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID infections after 28 days in the company's U.S. trials. The efficacy dropped to 66 per cent when averaging in results from other global trials, including a South African study that factored in more transmissible variants of the COVID virus. An FDA report last month said the vaccine was 64 per cent effective in preventing infection in South Africa about a month after the vaccines were administered. Pfizer and Moderna showed 95 per cent efficacy in their respective trials, but those were both tested against previous dominant strains of the virus and didn't account for the variants that have popped up since. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca also had zero hospitalizations and deaths in their trials. The FDA report said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was similarly effective across age, race and people with comorbidities. The agency added that effectiveness appeared to be lower (42.3 per cent after one month) in people over 60 with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS VACCINE? The potential ease of distribution offered by a one-and-done shot, and its ability to be stored in a regular fridge are among its biggest strengths. Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all require two doses. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine can be stored in a regular fridge for up to three months, the company says. Pfizer's vaccine initially required ultra-cold storage temperatures between -60 C and -80 C, though Health Canada said this week it could be stored in a regular freezer for up to 14 days. Moderna's vaccine can also be stored at regular freezer temperatures while AstraZeneca can be stored in a fridge. WHAT KIND OF VACCINE TECHNOLOGY IS USED? Unlike the mRNA technology used in Pfizer and Moderna's products, Johnson & Johnson is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine similar to AstraZeneca's. That means it uses a different harmless virus, which can't copy itself, as a vector to give our cells the instructions they need to make the coronavirus's spike protein. The immune system recognizes the protein and makes antibodies, which then allow us to fend off attack from the same virus if exposed in the future. WERE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS NOTED? No specific safety concerns were identified in participants of the trials, regardless of age, race and comorbidities. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said in a press conference Friday that almost 20 per cent of participants in the Johnson & Johnson trials were 65 years of age and older, and "no differences in safety or efficacy were seen compared to the younger groups." The FDA said the most common reported side effects were headache and fatigue, followed by muscle aches, nausea and fever. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
NASA's Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab's picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of a massive crater, mission managers said on Friday. The six-wheeled, car-sized astrobiology probe put a total of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) on its odometer on Thursday during a half-hour test spin within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars. Taking directions from mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled 4 meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backward another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).
Toronto's former police chief has been appointed special adviser to the province for its redevelopment of Ontario Place. The government says Mark Saunders will offer input on plans for the former waterfront theme park in Toronto. The province closed the park to the public in 2012 due to falling revenues and tight finances. The current Progressive Conservative government has said it wants to make the space that first opened in 1971 an impressive attraction. A government news release says Saunders will consult with the City of Toronto, local stakeholders and Indigenous communities. Saunders faced criticism in his tenure as police chief from both the LGBTQ and Black communities over his handling of various cases. He retired from the police force last year, and the search for his permanent replacement is ongoing. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday sued AT&T Inc and three executives for allegedly disclosing nonpublic information to research analysts to avoid falling short of quarterly expectations in 2016. AT&T allegedly learned in March 2016 that a steeper-than-expected decline in first quarter smartphone sales would leave the company falling short of analysts' estimates, so the phone company's chief financial officer directed investor relations employees to "work the analysts" to get them to lower their estimates, the SEC said in a court filing. The SEC said investor relations executives Christopher Womack, Michael Black, and Kent Evans made private, one-on-one phone calls to analysts at approximately 20 firms, disclosing material nonpublic information in violation of securities laws.
Selling Girl Guide cookies is never hard, except during a global pandemic when Simcoe County is in lockdown. However, the Beeton Girl Guides are determined to continue their community outreach tradition of bringing a little brightness – and mint – into the lives of seniors at Simcoe Manor. “In the before times, we’d do a campfire sing-a-long,” said Guide leader Melissa Pasqua. “We were initially worried – how are we going to sell all these cookies?” When they received a large order for cookies, and had very little means to sell them, Pasqua and her Guide partner Shannon Morse looked to a B.C. group, which had raised funds by asking its community to donate a box of cookies to a local seniors’ home. The sale of Girl Guide cookies is each unit’s main fundraiser each year. A $5, $10 or $15 e-mail transfer donation to the Beeton guiding group will send boxes of mint cookies to Simcoe Manor, or into your kitchen, if you arrange pick up or delivery (on local orders). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further Girl Guide cookie information. Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
VANCOUVER — Two people have been transported to hospital in serious but stable condition after a helicopter crash on Bowen Island, B.C. B.C. Emergency Health Services says in a statement that they received a call at about 10 a.m. Friday morning for reports of a downed helicopter on the island off the coast of West Vancouver. Ground paramedics as well as an air ambulance responded to the call. Emergency Health Services says two patients have been airlifted to hospital. Capt. Chelsea Dubeau with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre says a helicopter was initially sent to help in the rescue, before the call was cancelled. She says the incident has been turned over to the RCMP for investigation and co-ordination. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
LONDON — The timing couldn’t be worse for Harry and Meghan. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will finally get the chance to tell the story behind their departure from royal duties directly to the public on Sunday, when their two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey is broadcast. But back home in Britain, events have conspired to overshadow the tale of a prince and his American bride. On top of the pandemic and record economic slump, Prince Philip, Harry’s 99-year-old grandfather is now recovering from a heart procedure. CBS announced the program Feb 15. The next day, Philip was admitted to hospital. “Harry and Meghan are hugely popular,’’ Pauline Maclaran, a professor of marketing and author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture,” told The Associated Press. “But I think that some people who might otherwise have supported them will find this just a little bit distasteful, that they’re drawing all this attention to themselves … just at this time when Prince Philip appears to be quite seriously ill.” Though it is the choice of CBS when to air its pre-recorded interview, critics are already lining up to deride it as a brand-building exercise by the pair, who left Britain saying they wanted to live a normal life but have been accused of continuing to use their royal status to open doors and make money. The sit-down with America’s queen of celebrity interviews is a chance for the couple to explain what led them to quit royal life, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. A book about their departure, “Finding Freedom,” also alleges that senior royals had little respect for Meghan, a biracial former actor, and that courtiers treated her badly. Pre-released clips have already shown Harry talking about his fears that history would repeat itself after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash while pursued by paparazzi. In another clip from the interview, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don’t know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” the duchess replies. “The firm” is a nickname for the royal family, sometimes used with affection and sometimes with a note of criticism. In another pre-released clip, Meghan told Winfrey how “liberating” it was to have a conversation with the television host without the input of royal minders. Ahead of the broadcast, relations with the palace are increasingly strained. First there was Queen Elizabeth II’s decision to strip Harry and Meghan of the handful of royal patronages they had retained in the one-year trial period following their departure last year. The couple responded with a terse statement promising to live a life of service — a move many in the U.K. saw as disrespectful to the queen, as she usually has the final word. Then on Wednesday, the palace said it was launching a human resources investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had accused Meghan of bullying staff in 2018. One of the authors of “Finding Freedom,’’ Omid Scobie, compared the recent commentary about Harry and Meghan in the British media to the Salem Witch Trials, while noting Americans have had more sympathy them. His tweet linked to a discussion on the U.S. television program “The View,’’ including comments from Meghan McCain, a conservative columnist and daughter of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. “I think we can’t ignore the elephant of the room that there’s probably a racial angle to this,’’ McCain said. “There’s a lot of racism directed at this woman, in a lot of different ways she threatens a lot of people in the patriarchy. ... It just looks like they are bullying her in the press.’’ It was all supposed to be so different. At the time Harry started dating Meghan, the British public seemed smitten with the beautiful young woman who starred for seven seasons on the U.S. television drama “Suits.” When they married in 2018, newspapers were filled with optimistic stories about how the energetic couple would help make the monarchy relevant for a new, multicultural Britain. But less than two years later they decamped to North America. After a brief stay in Canada, the couple settled in Meghan’s home state of California, buying a house in the exclusive Santa Barbara County enclave of Montecito that reportedly cost more than $14 million. Among their neighbours: Oprah Winfrey. Then came deals with Netflix and Spotifiy, reportedly worth millions. The commercial deals and headline-grabbing amounts are uncomfortable for the royal family, which has devoted itself to public service as a justification for its wealth and privilege. The queen, among the richest people in Britain, has spent her life supporting charities, cutting ribbons at hospitals and travelling the world to represent her country. “The main thing that the royal family is so good at is serving the nation, serving the nation and the Commonwealth, basically serving us rather than serving themselves,’’ royal historian Hugo Vickers told ITV News. “And I’m sorry, if you’re sitting in an $11 million mansion in California and making fantastic deals, that is trading in on your royal heritage. And it’s all wrong, frankly.” Others are concerned that the interview will include damaging revelations about the royal family. The royals rarely grant interviews, and when they do the questions are usually narrowly focused on specific issues. For instance, Harry and his brother, William, have tried to remove the stigma from mental health problems by talking about their own struggles after the death of their mother. More free-ranging interviews have often gone badly. Interviews with Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Harry and William’s parents, around the time of their divorce led to embarrassing revelations about infidelity. More damaging for the palace was the interview Prince Andrew, Harry’s uncle, did with the BBC in 2019. Andrew tried to address rumours about his links with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, but he was forced to give up royal duties after failing to show empathy for Epstein’s victims. “I think it’s a bigger danger than the Prince Andrew car-crash interview,’’ Maclaran said of the Oprah interview, “because I think that Meghan is going to get a lot of sympathy, particularly from American audiences, about her position being untenable.” Regardless of what’s actually said, the interview is a threat to the stature of the monarchy because it further blurs the line between celebrity and royalty — tarnishing the royal mystique, Maclaran said. Late night chat show host James Corden underscored the threat to the royal brand during a tongue-in-cheek segment with Harry broadcast last week in which Corden suggested the prince and his wife might move into the mansion that provided the backdrop for the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” “If it was good enough for the Fresh Prince, it’s good enough for a real prince,” Corden said. The line put Harry, whose father and brother will be king one day, on the same footing as a TV character who fled west Philadelphia for a posh life in Southern California. Royal watchers wonder what could possibly be next. “It’s just such a mess,” said Penny Junor, who has written several books about the royals, including a biography of Harry. “I don’t think there are going to be any winners in it.” Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — Dentists, teachers and bus drivers are among the essential workers who hope to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British Columbia, as a provincial committee determines who should be prioritized for the shot. BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring says her members should be included in the plan expected to be released by the B.C. Immunization Committee by March 18. Mooring says teachers have put in the second-highest number of COVID-19-related claims to WorkSafeBC, behind only health-care workers, and have faced difficult conditions in schools with some of the most lax mask policies in Canada. The BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely, they work in very close proximity to the mouth and often use aerosol-generating procedures. Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, says his members should receive the vaccine because passengers come very close when they enter and exit the bus. BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle, meanwhile, says he represents both long-haul truckers and local drivers who return home every night, so he wants to hear from the province about where the COVID-19 hot spots are in the transportation system. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Friends and fans remembered Chris Schultz as a gentle giant, who became a respected TV and radio analyst after a successful playing career with the Dallas Cowboys and Toronto Argonauts. Schultz, a native of Burlington, Ont., died Thursday after suffering a heart attack. He was 61. At six foot eight and 277 pounds during his playing career, Schultz was hard to miss on and off the field. The former offensive tackle was a big man with a grip to match. "He was a genuine personality. He was himself," said TSN broadcaster Rod Smith, a longtime friend and colleague. "There was no pretence to him. "He could be gentle with people. He always asked about my family. But at the same time, he was strong, he was imposing. And oh that handshake. It was the most crushing handshake — and I've got big hands — that I've ever experienced in my life. "I think of him right now and I just think of shaking his hand. You always had to be ready." In an era when a Canadian in the NFL was something special, Schultz turned heads when he was drafted by America's Team in 1983. Taken in the seventh round (189th overall) after a college career at the University of Arizona, Schultz played 21 games for the Cowboys from 1983 to 1985 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry before returning home to play for the Argonauts in 1986. Toronto had selected Schultz in the first round (seventh overall) of the 1982 CFL draft. Schultz played for Toronto from 1986 to 1994 and was named a CFL all-star twice (1987 and '88) and East all-star three times (1987, '88 and '91). He was named to the Argonauts all-time team in 2007. "Chris Schultz was made to play football, or football was made for Chris Schultz," Argonauts GM Michael (Pinball) Clemons said in a statement." Either way it was a symbiotic relationship … His passion reverberated on radio, television, coaching kids or walking the dog. He was always willing to talk football. "I'm disappointed because he had more to give, and my fervent hope is he knew how much he was loved," he added. Clemons, Schultz and quarterback Matt Dunigan, who joined Schultz as a TSN analyst, combined to win the 1991 Grey Cup for the Argos, capping a season to remember under the ownership of Wayne Gretzky, John Candy and Bruce McNall. Schultz also played in the 1987 Grey Cup, which saw the Argos lose on a last-second Edmonton field goal. After his playing career, Schultz moved into radio before spending 20 years as an analyst for TSN. He spent the last two seasons as colour commentator on the Argos' radio broadcasts. Smith recalls interviewing him back for a broadcast position in 1998. "I remember doing this audition with him and immediately being impressed by not only his knowledge and his passion but just his presence. He was a big man with a big presence," he said in an interview. "And I could tell instantly how good he was going to be on television." Schultz got the job and became a fixture on TSN's CFL panel. Bell Media senior vice-president Stewart Johnston called Schultz "a gentle giant who brought passion, dedication, and energy to his coverage of the game. “Chris was a unique voice in Canadian football broadcasting, and an iconic figure to fans across the country." "A big bear of a man but so funny, warm and welcoming," added TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie, who shared the same seat as Schultz when football turned to hockey in the network's studio. Schultz took his broadcast duties seriously. Part of a panel that could occasionally take a comedic detour, he would look to stick to football and ensure everyone had their say. "He was a real student of the game," said author/CFL historian Paul Woods. Schultz would be one of the last Argos to leave the locker-room, staying to work out or watch film. It would serve him well in his role as analyst. Woods is author of "Bouncing Back: From National Joke to Grey Cup Champs," which tells the story of the Argos in the early '80s. He interviewed Schultz for his next book, expected out this year, which focuses on the years around the '91 Grey Cup victory. Woods, a former Canadian Press reporter and manager, says while the 1991 Argos were a relaxed bunch who liked to have fun during their pre-game walkthroughs, Schultz was all business. He told Woods he had to operate on the field as a robot, in a zone. "He was an intense guy," said Woods, noting Schultz was once ejected from a pre-season game after getting into a fight with several Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Away from the job, Schultz was a private man. Mike Hogan, who shared the Argo radio booth with Schultz, called his friend a "complex" person who "liked to separate work life from real life." On the job, he shone brightly. "We called Chris Schultz the Big Man for so many reasons beyond the obvious," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who played with Schultz with the Argos, said in a statement. "He had a big personality. He could make you think as easily as he could make you laugh. "He had a big presence on CFL on TSN, breaking down each game with incredible passion, insight and joy … But most of all, my teammate and friend had a big heart. It was oversized even for his frame." Schultz started his football career in the Burlington Minor Football Association and played for the Aldershot Lions during high school. While he also played basketball, he looked south of the border for football opportunities, travelling by bus to Michigan State and Syracuse to gauge interest. He earned a scholarship at the University of Arizona, where he started life as a defensive lineman before switching to the offensive line as a senior. His played for the Wildcats from 1978 to 1982, appearing in the 1979 Fiesta Bowl. Football took a toll on Schultz's body. The big man walked with a shuffle, paying the price for past knee injuries. Away from football, he made the Purolator Tackle Hunger program a cause close to his heart. "When he spoke publicly about working at and with food banks, and what it meant to him and to families in need, Chris’s sincerity and empathy moved everyone," said Ambrosie. "Those moments not only made the program stronger. They made everyone who experienced them want to be better, to be more like Chris." Schultz was inducted into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. "The CFL is filled with countless men and women who make it spectacular, and we lost one of them (Thursday)," said Blue Bombers coach Mike O'Shea. --- Follow NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Some of the most active companies traded Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Toronto Stock Exchange (18,380.96, up 255.24 points.) Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Up five cents, or 7.69 per cent, to 70 cents on 27.7 million shares. Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Up 93 cents, or 3.46 per cent, to $27.82 on 17.1 million shares. Baytex Energy Corp. (TSX:BTE). Energy. Up 15 cents, or 11.11 per cent, to $1.50 on 13.3 million shares. Athabasca Oil Corp. (TSX:ATH). Energy. Up 10 cents, or 21.74 per cent, to 56 cents on 13.1 million shares. The Supreme Cannabis Co. Inc. (TSX:FIRE). Health care. Down one cent, or 3.85 per cent, to 25 cents on 11.4 million shares. Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB). Energy. Up 24 cents, or 0.54 per cent, to $44.83 on 11.1 million shares. Companies in the news: Martinrea International Inc. (TSX:MRE). Down $1.50, or 9.9 per cent, to $13.70. Frustrations stemming from COVID-19 travel restrictions boiled over during a conference call Thursday when top executives at auto parts manufacturer Martinrea derided the health measures, saying it's "time to move on" and recognize the "good things happening," despite employee deaths from the novel coronavirus. "Everything is getting better, except for the government policy that we're seeing. It is just absolutely outrageous," said chief financial officer Fred Di Tosto, on the call. Deanna Lorincz, global director of communications and marketing at Martinrea, said Friday that Di Tosto meant "it is time to move on, lessen the restrictions on the border and continue to open up the economy." Ensign Energy Services Inc. (TSX:ESI). Up eight cents, or 6.8 per cent, to $1.26. Drilling company Ensign Energy Services Inc. says oilpatch activity in its Canadian and U.S. operations is staging a slow recovery from a deep slump in 2020. The Calgary-based company says it earned net income of $3.1 million or two cents per share on revenue of $201 million in the last three months of 2020, compared with a net loss of $71.6 million on revenue of $375 million in the year-earlier period. Analysts had expected a net loss of $57.9 million on revenue of $197 million, according to financial data firm Refinitiv. Revenue slumped 43 per cent in Canada compared with the same period in 2019, by 52 per cent in the U.S. and by 36 per cent in its international arm, which operates in South America, the Middle East and Australia. Recipe Unlimited Corp. (TSX:RECP). Unchanged at $18.57. Recipe Unlimited Corp. saw system sales fall more than 30 per cent in its most recent quarter as the pandemic continued to cause dining room closures and seating restrictions at its restaurant chains across Canada. The Vaughan, Ont.-based company says system sales in its fourth quarter totalled $611.3 million, down 31.8 per cent from $895.8 million in the same quarter the previous year. Still, the company, which operates brands like Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, St-Hubert and The Keg, saw off-premise system sales for the 13 weeks ended Dec. 27 of $150.4 million, a 66.6 per cent increase compared to $90.3 million in the same period of 2019. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
COVID-19. Les plus récentes données sur l'évolution de la COVID-19, au Québec, font état de 798 nouveaux cas pour la journée d'hier, pour un nombre total de 291 175 personnes infectées. Parmi celles-ci, 273 430 sont rétablies. Elles font également état de 10 nouveaux décès, le nombre total de décès s'élève à 10 455. Le nombre total d'hospitalisations a diminué de 9 par rapport à la veille, avec un cumul de 617. Parmi celles-ci, le nombre de personnes se trouvant aux soins intensifs a diminué de 4, pour un total actuel de 111. Les prélèvements réalisés le 3 mars s'élèvent à 27 685. Finalement, 18 234 doses de vaccin ont été administrées dans la journée d'hier, pour un total de 510 479. Jusqu'à maintenant, 638 445 doses ont été reçues. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
NEW YORK — A new national study adds strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study Friday. “All of this is very consistent,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing on Friday. “You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining.” The study was released just as some states are rescinding mask mandates and restaurant limits. Earlier this week, Texas became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a movement by many governors to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials. “It’s a solid piece of work that makes the case quite strongly that in-person dining is one of the more important things that needs to be handled if you’re going to control the pandemic,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University expert on disease dynamics who was not involved in the study. The new research builds on smaller CDC studies, including one that found that people in 10 states who became infected in July were more likely to have dined at a restaurant and another that found mask mandates in 10 states were associated with reductions in hospitalizations. The CDC researchers looked at U.S. counties placed under state-issued mask mandates and at counties that allowed restaurant dining — both indoors and at tables outside. The study looked at data from March through December of last year. The scientists found that mask mandates were associated with reduced coronavirus transmission, and that improvements in new cases and deaths increased as time went on. The reductions in growth rates varied from half a percentage point to nearly 2 percentage points. That may sound small, but the large number of people involved means the impact grows with time, experts said. “Each day that growth rate is going down, the cumulative effect — in terms of cases and deaths — adds up to be quite substantial,” said Gery Guy Jr., a CDC scientist who was the study's lead author. Reopening restaurant dining was not followed by a significant increase in cases and deaths in the first 40 days after restrictions were lifted. But after that, there were increases of about 1 percentage point in the growth rate of cases and — later — 2 to 3 percentage points in the growth rate of deaths. The delay could be because restaurants didn't re-open immediately and because many customers may have been hesitant to dine in right after restrictions were lifted, Guy said. Also, there's always a lag between when people are infected and when they become ill, and longer to when they end up in the hospital and die. In the case of dining out, a delay in deaths can also be caused by the fact that the diners themselves may not die, but they could get infected and then spread it to others who get sick and die, Hanage said. “What happens in a restaurant doesn't stay in a restaurant,” he said. CDC officials stopped short of saying that on-premises dining needs to stop. But they said if restaurants do open, they should follow as many prevention measures as possible, like promoting outdoor dining, having adequate indoor ventilation, masking employees and calling on customers to wear masks whenever they aren't eating or drinking. The study had limitations. For example, the researchers tried to make calculations that accounted for other policies, such as bans on mass gatherings or bar closures, that might influence case and death rates. But the authors acknowledged that they couldn't account for all possible influences — such as school re-openings. “It's always very, very hard to thoroughly nail down the causal relationships,” Hanage said. “But when you take this gathered with all the other stuff we know about the virus, it supports the message” of the value of mask wearing and the peril of restaurant dining, he added. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — With Merrick Garland poised to be confirmed as attorney general as early as next week, one of the first major questions he is likely to encounter is what to do about Rudy Giuliani. A federal probe into the overseas and business dealings of the former New York City mayor and close ally of former President Donald Trump stalled last year over a dispute over investigative tactics as Trump unsuccessfully sought reelection and amid Giuliani’s prominent role in subsequently disputing the results of the contest on Trump’s behalf. But the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has since returned to the question of bringing a criminal case against Giuliani, focusing at least in part on whether he broke U.S. lobbying laws by failing to register as a foreign agent related to his work, according to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with the inquiry. The officials weren't authorized to discuss the ongoing case and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The arrival of a new leadership team in Washington is likely to guarantee a fresh look at the investigation. No matter how it unfolds, the probe ensures that a Justice Department looking to move forward after a tumultuous four years will nonetheless have to confront unresolved, and politically charged, questions from the Trump era — not to mention calls from some Democrats to investigate Trump himself. The full scope of the investigation is unclear, but it at least partly involves Giuliani's Ukraine dealings, the officials said. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, was central to the then-president's efforts to dig up dirt against Democratic rival Joe Biden and to press Ukraine for an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter — who himself now faces a criminal tax probe by the Justice Department. Giuliani also sought to undermine former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was pushed out on Trump's orders, and met several times with a Ukrainian lawmaker who released edited recordings of Biden in an effort to smear him before the election. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people who lobby on behalf of a foreign government or entity to register with the Justice Department. The once-obscure law, aimed at improving transparency, has received a burst of attention in recent years, particularly during an investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller that revealed an array of foreign influence operations in the U.S. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan pushed last year for a search warrant for records, including some of Giuliani's communications, but officials in the Trump-era Justice Department would not sign off on the request, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation who insisted on anonymity to speak about an ongoing investigation. Officials in the deputy attorney general's office raised concerns about both the scope of the request, which they thought would contain communications that could be covered by legal privilege between Giuliani and Trump, and the method of obtaining the records, three of the people said. The Justice Department requires that applications for search warrants served on lawyers be approved by senior department officials. “They decided it was prudent to put it off until the dust settled, and the dust has settled now,” said Kenneth F. McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who represents Ukrainian clients relevant to the inquiry and has been in contact with federal authorities about the investigation. McCallion declined to identify his clients, saying he had not been authorized to do so. He previously has represented former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Giuliani's attorney Robert J. Costello told The Associated Press he has “heard nothing” from federal prosecutors concerning Giuliani. It is possible that Giuliani could try to argue that his actions were taken at the behest of the president, as his personal attorney, rather than a foreign country, and therefore registration would not be required under federal law. Giuliani wrote in a text message Thursday to the AP that he “never represented a foreign anything before the U.S. government.” "It’s pure political persecution,” he said of the investigation The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. McCallion said federal authorities were asking questions concerning a wide range of Giuliani’s international business dealings, and that “everything was on the table” as it pertained to his work in Ukraine. He said the inquiry was not entirely focused on Ukraine, but declined to elaborate. The investigation of Giuliani's lobbying first came to light in October 2019, when The New York Times reported that federal prosecutors were investigating Giuliani's efforts to oust Yovanovitch, who was recalled amid Trump’s bid to solicit dirt from Ukraine to pressure Ukraine into helping his reelection prospects. Federal prosecutors also have investigated Giuliani as part of a criminal case brought against his former associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born business partners from Florida who played key roles in Giuliani’s efforts to launch the Ukrainian corruption investigation against the Bidens. Parnas and Fruman were charged in a scheme to make illegal campaign donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states to try to win support for a new recreational marijuana business. Giuliani has said he had no knowledge of illegal donations and hadn’t seen any evidence that Parnas and Fruman did anything wrong. ___ Tucker and Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report from New York. Jim Mustian, Eric Tucker And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California officials are allowing people to attend Major League Baseball games and other sports, go to Disneyland and watch live performances in limited capacities starting April 1. The rules announced Friday coincide with baseball’s opening day. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics all have home games scheduled for April 1. California divides its counties into four colour-coded tiers based on the spread of the coronavirus. Attendance limits are based on what tier a county is in. Theme parks will be allowed to open at 15% capacity in the red tier, the second-highest risk level, and only people who live in California can buy tickets. Pro sports are limited to 100 people in areas where the spread of the virus is higher. Adam Beam And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
Michael Parker is relieved that a temporary overdose prevention site has been given approval to open up in Regina as the city grapples with a "startling increase" of drug related fatalities. "We need to get started... it's been a lot of waiting," said Parker, the executive director of the Nēwo Yōtina Friendship Centre — which will house the site. "We are hoping to start operating the overdose prevention site within hopefully about two weeks." The temporary overdose prevention site will have a separate entrance leading into the space, which can accommodate two people — following physical distancing protocol — using drugs. There will be support workers and sterile supplies on site, as well as overdose prevention measures, like Naloxone, on the ready. "It's overdoses that don't result in a fatality," Parker said. "Longer term, it means those folks whose lives have been saved are able to access a kind of the services that they need. You can't go to rehab if you're dead." There were 103 people who are confirmed to have died from overdose in Regina last year according to Saskatchewan Coroners Service data. Regina police said they knew of at least 1,060 overdoses in the city. Parker said they applied to the province in December, requesting to run an "urgent public health needs site." They received approval to move forward this week. Six people are confirmed to have died in Regina so far this year from overdoses, but the numbers are likely much higher. There's been 75 suspected fatal overdose deaths between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, 2021. Suspected cases are still under investigation by the coroner. Site meant to be a temporary fix Parker said the centre seemed like a good fit to set up the site because it already offers housing and mental health supports to the community. It provides support in areas like education, workforce preparation, life skills, parenting and wellness. The site will operate Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and it won't accommodate minors or first-time users. "The purpose is not to encourage use," he said. "It's about safety and trying to reduce the harm and potential risk so that people can at some point access services." He said the overdose prevention site is technically different from a federally approved supervised consumption site like the one operated in Saskatoon out of Prairie Harm Reduction. They require extensive consultation, he said, adding the Regina site is meant to be a temporary fixture in the midst of a crisis. He said there could be conversations in the future about whether a permanent site is needed in Regina, and if the centre is the right location. "Those things take time and we've already taken six months just to get to where we are now, so this is not meant to be a permanent solution. It's part of a spectrum of responses." Parker said they were able to scrape together enough money to renovate the facility in preparation for opening and then open for a few months. But he said it's not sustainable and they will be looking to the public and the province to keep running and potentially expand hours. He said the provincial government needs to take leadership on handling the overdose and addictions crisis.
Edmonton students have a choice again this fall as school divisions are offering online and in-person learning starting in September. Pre-enrolment for Edmonton Public Schools begins Monday and runs until April 15, during which time students may choose which school they wish to attend. Between June 21 and Aug. 12, public school students will be asked to specify whether they want to learn remotely from home or attend classes in person. Kathy Muhlethaler, assistant superintendent of operations and learning services, said options are important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and people's comfort levels change. "There are families that are feeling really confident that yes, now I want to go back to in-person learning, we've been online all year," Muhlethaler said during a news conference Friday. 'I got to tell you, teachers want their kids back' - Kathy Muhlethaler, Edmonton Public Schools Some families aren't ready for that yet, Muhlethaler acknowledged. "We want to honour that choice for families and that has been such an important part of our reentry plan." After the Aug. 12 deadline, families will not be free to change their minds, the division noted. The first semester runs from Sept. 2, to Jan. 28. While online learning will continue to be an option into 2022, the division is aiming to bring the majority of students back for in-person classes by February. "I got to tell you, teachers want their kids back," Muhlethaler said. "You walk into your school and you feel the energy of the school environment." Of the district's 103,000 students at 214 schools, about 30 per cent have opted to learn remotely since last September. Many are thriving in the online environment, Muhlethaler said, while others are missing their friends and in-person interaction. If the province continues to require strict safety protocols into 2022 because of COVID-19, the school division will readjust. "[If] parents feel, based on the information from Alberta Health, that they're a little nervous about that option, then we will open up choice again for the second half for parents to choose either online or in-person learning." Families who've already decided that they want to take classes exclusively online for the entire year are directed to enrol with the public schools' Argyll Centre. Argyll Centre runs teaching-at-home programs, online programming, the K-9 Caraway Program and summer classes. Edmonton Catholic Schools is holding early registration with parents and students asked to specify their preference for in-person or online instruction by March 22. "Your cooperation is critical as this is a significant step in the preparations and planning necessary at the respective school level," the website says. Families will be able to make a final decision before the beginning of the school year and the division will give notice of the official deadline. However, when school starts, families are asked to stick with their choice of online or in-person. @natashariebe
Mourners left flowers and hockey sticks outside the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., on Friday. The city is mourning Walter Gretzky, a fixture in the community, who died Thursday at age 82.
The Municipality of McDougall discussed its 2021 budget at its March 3 council meeting. Some key infrastructure projects listed in the draft budget were the Nobel Community Hall, Henvey Road rehabilitation and asset management software. Here are the top six budget considerations for 2021: 1. Listed under transportation, asphalt on Lake Forest Drive was the highest dollar value at $440,000. 2. A replacement grader was also listed under transportation needs at $220,000. 3. Rehabilitation for Henvey Road comes in at $110,000. 4. Under parks and recreation, the Nobel Community Hall project is budgeted at $100,000. 5. The landfill shop project is budgeted at $350,000. 6. Asset management software is listed under general government and has an estimated cost of $56,522. Capital budget revenue streams for the Municipality of McDougall in 2021 include: • The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund will see $548,534 go to McDougall. • The Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund will provide $149,179. • Federal Gas Tax accounts for $163,937 in revenue for the municipality. • The Investing in Canadian Infrastructure Project COVID-19 stream will grant $100,000. • The Federation of Canadian Municipalities municipal asset management grant will allocate $44,000. • The Municipality of McDougall currently has $685,522 in reserves. • Other revenue highlights include a proposed 2 per cent residential property tax rate increase for an additional tax revenue of $90,000. • The Henvey Inlet Community Benefit grant also provides an additional $50,000. The entire 2021 draft budget for McDougall can be found on page 107 of the March 3 council agenda. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
YANGON, Myanmar — Demonstrators defied growing violence by Myanmar security forces and staged more anti-coup rallies Friday, while the U.N. special envoy for the country called for urgent Security Council action, saying about 50 peaceful protesters were killed and scores were injured in the military's worst crackdowns this week. The escalation of violence has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on Feb. 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Large protests against military rule have occurred daily in many cities and towns. Security forces escalated their crackdown with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests. At least 18 protesters were shot and killed Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office. More than 1,000 have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said. Protests continued in the biggest cities of Yangon and Mandalay and elsewhere Friday. They were met again with force by police, and gunfire was heard. In Mandalay, Zaw Myo was fatally shot as the 26-year-old and other residents sought to protect a march by a group of engineers. U.N. special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said in her briefing to a closed Security Council meeting that council unity and “robust” action are critical “in pushing for a stop to the violence and the restoration of Myanmar’s democratic institutions.” “We must denounce the actions by the military,” she said in her briefing, as released by the U.N. “It is critical that this council is resolute and coherent in putting the security forces on notice and standing with the people of Myanmar firmly, in support of the clear November election results.” Schraner Burgener reiterated an earlier appeal to the international community not to “lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime that has been forcefully imposed and nothing but chaos has since followed.” She urged council members to hear “the voices of the people of Myanmar” and support Kyaw Moe Tun, the country’s U.N. ambassador who was terminated by the military after denouncing the coup in a dramatic speech to the General Assembly. The military appointed his deputy, who resigned a day later and Tun has said he remains Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N. The Security Council took no immediate action. Council diplomats said Britain circulated a draft presidential statement for consideration, a step below a legally binding resolution. Any kind of co-ordinated action at the U.N. will be difficult because two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it. Schraner Burgener, a veteran Swiss diplomat, said she hopes to visit Myanmar and use her “good offices” to find a peaceful solution through dialogue. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said Friday that the government has taken action to prevent Myanmar’s military from improperly accessing more than $1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the United States. And YouTube removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its guidelines and said it is watching for any further violations. It earlier pulled dozens of channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a co-ordinated influence campaign. The decision by YouTube followed Facebook’s earlier announcement that it has removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and Instagram, which it owns. Many cases of targeted brutality by security forces in the streets have been captured in photos and videos that have circulated widely on social media. Videos have showed security forces shooting people at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators. The U.S. called the images appalling, the U.N. human rights chief said it was time to “end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar,” and the world body’s independent expert on human rights in the country, Tom Andrews, urged Security Council members to watch the videos. While many abuses are committed by police, there is even greater concern about military forces being deployed in Myanmar's cities that are notorious for decades of brutal counterinsurgency tactics and human rights abuses. In Yangon, members of the army's 77th Light Infantry Division have been deployed during protests of the coup. The 77th was also deployed in Yangon in 2007 to suppress anti-junta protests, firing on protesters and ramming them with trucks, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The 99th Light Infantry Division also has been deployed, including in Mandalay. It is infamous for its counterinsurgency campaigns against ethnic minorities, including spearheading the response that led to a brutal crackdown that caused more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh. It also has been accused of war crimes in Shan state, another ethnic minority area, in 2016 and early 2017. A leader of barred lawmakers who say they are the legitimate representatives of the country released a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging the Security Council to help end the violence and restore the ousted government. The letter asked for outside parties to help prevent human rights violations, sanctions on military leaders and military-linked businesses, a total arms embargo and penalties for perpetrators of atrocities. The letter is signed by Dr. Sasa, who uses one name, on behalf of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Myanmar’s Parliament, which the military has barred from convening. The lawmakers want foreign countries and international organizations to recognize them instead of the junta. Schraner Burgener said earlier this week she warned Myanmar’s army that the world’s nations and the Security Council “might take huge, strong measures.” “And the answer was, ‘We are used to sanctions, and we survived those sanctions in the past,’” she said. When she also warned that Myanmar would become isolated, Schraner Burgener said, “the answer was, ‘We have to learn to walk with only a few friends.’” The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has urged a halt to violence and the start of talks on a peaceful solution in Myanmar. The 10-member regional group, which includes Myanmar, is constrained from enacting serious measures by a tradition of acting by consensus and reluctance to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. However, one member, Singapore, was outspoken Friday in criticizing Myanmar’s coup. “It is the height of national shame for the armed forces of any country to turn its arms against its own people,” Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament. But he also warned that the approach favoured by some Western nations of pressuring Myanmar’s generals with sanctions would not be effective. The U.S., Britain and several other countries have already started to use that approach. “Despite all our fervour and earnest hopes of reconciliation ... the keys ultimately lie within Myanmar. And there’s a limit to how far external pressure will be brought to bear,” he said. The Associated Press
UPDATE: Adds quotes from Councillor and MP, and info on how to attend online meeting. Local residents are upset over the city’s modular housing proposal at Trenton Avenue and Cedarvale Avenue citing concerns of appropriateness of the area and community safety regarding the future occupants of the building. The concerns have prompted an online community meeting on the evening of Monday, March 8. The project is part of the City of Toronto’s Housing Now initiative to make use of city-owned lands to address the lack of affordable housing. The modular housing proposal for Trenton and Cedarvale in East York aims to create a three-storey building with 64 studio apartments, self-contained with a private kitchen and bathroom each. It’s designed to help individuals who are exiting homelessness, and will be administered by a local non-profit housing provider under an agreement with the city. It’s not unlike the modular housing proposal at 11 Macey Ave. in southwest Scarborough that includes 56 studio apartments. That building – also designed to assist people exiting homelessness – opened on Dec. 19, 2020, eight months after city council approval. The “modular” part of the term essentially means pre-fabricated components of the building arrive onsite ready to construct. This allows the city to build the affordable units within the span of months, and not years. The Macey Avenue building had its own local opposition – several area residents, including the West Oakridge Neighbourhood Association wrote letters to the city, elected officials, planners, and media expressing concerns with “social problems associated with vagrancy and public intoxication” from people experiencing homelessness being moved into one area. With the Trenton Avenue site, a number of residents are also speaking in opposition. Global News was on the scene of a local protest at the parking lot near the Trenton site in late February, where residents referred to the lot as a community “hub.” Resident Steve Bland told Global News he’s not against providing affordable housing, but noted that increasing the population density in the area by adding the Trenton site “may not be the appropriate place” for “people going through the most troubling and difficult times of their lives with addiction and mental health issues.” The city-wide initiative to construct modular housing for people exiting homelessness is being released in phases. The Macey Avenue site was included in the project’s Phase 1, and now Trenton – which was approved just a few weeks ago – is part of Phase 2. In a letter to Beach Metro News, local resident Lars Bot, expressed concerns about the building’s proximity to Parkside Public School and Stan Wadlow Park, which are across the street. “The simple fact that a homeless shelter is planned across from a public school and park… shows how poor this program is planned,” he wrote. Local elected officials, including Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford and Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have also received a flurry of correspondence from residents. They both reminded residents that the modular housing buildings are housing and not shelters. “I want to acknowledge that the engagement with the community did not start well enough,” Bradford said regarding the Trenton site. “The proposed Phase 2 sites were announced with the positive and significance that it deserved for an effort like this to house our city’s most vulnerable.” “But the city was too slow to have information ready for residents to understand the process and what it all meant,” he added. Even the signs at the site informing residents of the project were delayed, Bradford said. It’s why a community meeting was scheduled for March 8, in addition to the March 17 meeting that was scheduled prior. “With the strong response, I quickly realized that was too far away,” Bradford said. “I’m encouraging anyone who has questions, concerns, and feedback to attend. There are lots of valid questions that need answering.” Bradford stressed he supports affordable housing but says there are real impacts regarding parking in the busy area and traffic congestion. The Trenton site was chosen from a list of 40 city-owned land plots. Bradford moved a motion at the most recent Planning and Housing Committee meeting that final recommendations come forward only after community consultations. He also asked a Community Liaison Committee to be set up to “improve lines of communication.” But he reminds residents that the city is in the midst of both a pandemic and a housing crisis. “We have to move ahead,” Bradford said. “We have people in encampments – we have people dying on our streets. We need to stop building shelters and start building housing.” Erskine-Smith has also responded publicly on Twitter to residents’ concerns. “I strongly support the city’s modular housing initiative,” he wrote. “Too many people are on the streets or in the shelter system. Permanent solutions require stable homes.” The federal government’s homelessness strategy includes $203 million coming to Toronto from its Rapid Housing Initiative. Erskine-Smith reiterated that these modular buildings are “real homes, not shelters.” In addition to the studio apartments, the building offers 24/7 support for its residents via administrative offices, program space, a common room, and a dining room. Erskine-Smith added that through his conversations with local charity The Neighbourhood Group, these modular sites “are a great model” and “many other experts have called for an expansion of these initiatives.” There will be two community meetings planned in March regarding the modular housing building at Trenton Avenue. The first meeting takes place March 8 at 7 p.m., residents are asked to register for the virtual meeting at https://bit.ly/38dRac5 Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News