Kurt Russell says he kept both his father's influence and his grandchildren's bragging rights in mind when he reprised his role as Santa Claus in upcoming holiday movie "The Christmas Chronicles 2." (Dec. 1)
Kurt Russell says he kept both his father's influence and his grandchildren's bragging rights in mind when he reprised his role as Santa Claus in upcoming holiday movie "The Christmas Chronicles 2." (Dec. 1)
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Pediatric and mental health experts say pandemic stress is driving a spike in eating disorders among adolescents and teens, pointing to school disruptions, social isolation and infection fears as destabilizing factors that could have long-term physical and mental health effects. Doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, Ottawa's pediatric hospital and research centre CHEO and the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary are among those noting a significant jump in admissions and demand for outpatient treatment. Dr. Ellie Vyver of the Alberta Children's Hospital says admissions more than doubled at her hospital between July and September last year and continue to rise. Colleagues across the country are reporting similar signs of despair. "What we have been seeing in Alberta and at SickKids is not unique. It's happening in B.C., it's happening in other centres in Ontario outside of SickKids, it's happening in Montreal. It's something that's happening across across the country," says Vyver, who said the illness tends to have the highest prevalence around age 14. At the same time, children who struggle are displaying more severe mental and physical problems, adds the director of CHEO's mental health program, who says his eastern Ontario hospital can only treat the "tip of the iceberg." "The supply and demand is so off-kilter right now that it is overwhelming the system," says David Murphy. The cutoff for admission to CHEO is a heart rate below 45 beats per minute. CHEO says there were 67 admissions between April 1 and Oct. 31 last year – a 63 per cent jump from the same period in 2019. Christina Bartha of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health points to increased isolation, school disruption, social media exposure and stress as fuelling unhealthy eating and exercise habits. Compared to last year, Bartha says yearly admissions at her Toronto hospital are expected to jump as much as 30 per cent to 170 (from 128), while the number of referred outpatients is heading towards a 50 to 60 per cent increase with 245 cases (versus last year's 154). The cases primarily involve restrictive eating, including anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which is similar to anorexia but does not involve stress over body shape or size. Dr. Debra Katzman, senior associate scientist at SickKids and co-founder of its eating disorders program, also says children are in more acute physical and mental distress than past cases. That could be because of delayed assessments if some families feared contracting COVID-19 by visiting a hospital early in the pandemic, she says. Meanwhile, virtual care has made it more difficult for some recovering patients to maintain health goals. "We're seeing kids who are at significantly low weights, are extremely malnourished and have all kinds of medical and psychiatric comorbid complications," says Katzman. Although SickKids is still collecting and analyzing its data, she and Bartha expressed little doubt that pandemic-fuelled turmoil has played a key role in driving up youth anxiety. "These young people are so used to having a routine that they engage in every day – waking up, going to school, coming home, et cetera – and now they have no routine. And they're quite disconnected from their peers. That's a huge thing, especially during adolescence," says Katzman. "(And) they're not with their teachers or their coaches who are able to identify these very life-threatening disorders quite early." Sterling Renzoni of Orangeville, Ont., believes social media, isolation and disrupted care were key factors in a "mini-relapse" he says he experienced during the lockdown last spring. The 18-year-old says he was discharged early from a southern Ontario residential treatment program for anorexia in the early days of the pandemic. No longer forced to follow a strict daily routine, under less supervision and unable to see his friends, Renzoni says he began fixating on exercise. "It was challenging to figure out how I was going to keep myself busy," admits Renzoni, who says he stopped obsessing with the help of virtual care and by redirecting focus to his long-term goal of attending university in the fall. "I had more time to just be on social media (and) it was still filled with a lot of unhelpful accounts, unhelpful information and unhelpful people that I was following... but I realized that after already having a mini-relapse." Now a Trent University freshman, Renzoni says if it hadn't been for the pandemic, he likely would have stayed in residential care for three months instead of one, and would have been more physically and mentally able to withstand pandemic restrictions when discharged. Aryel Maharaj, outreach and education co-ordinator with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, says social media has played a large role in driving fat-phobic messages around the so-called "Quarantine 19" in recent months, while repeated lockdowns ignited grocery sprees and encouraged food hoarding. These all make it difficult for anyone struggling with food issues, he said. "It just makes it a lot harder if food is your primary means of coping and now you're surrounded by it and you're stressed out," says Maharaj. Maharaj says NEDIC's anonymous helpline has seen a 43 per cent overall increase in calls, and more than double the number of calls from those aged 11 to 19. The head of the Adolescent Medicine Program at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John's, N.L., says admissions are up there, too. Dr. Anna Dominic says the wait-list for assessments of medically stable patients is now seven months, when it's typically two to three months. Over at CHEO, Murphy says the hospital would not turn away anyone approaching its 45 bpm threshold, but he says the very fact they require such a stark cutoff – introduced before the pandemic – speaks to how dire the situation is. Demand is so high, CHEO also denies 73 per cent of referrals — up from 49 per cent from the year before. Murphy admits that means many very sick and starving youngsters are forced to look elsewhere for help, and risk deteriorating further while seeking care. He knows of at least two community-based services with 18-month wait-lists. Maharaj says eating disorders thrive in isolation and so it's important for struggling youngsters to know they are not alone and can turn to a growing number of remote resources. He says hospitals, community groups, therapists, dietitians and others have embraced online options to reach more people. "It's so easy to fall into this pit of despair, of hopelessness, if you think that it's never going to change and there's nothing out there for you," says Maharaj. "There are virtual ways that we can try to connect and provide some kind of support so you're not just sitting there spiralling on your own." Murphy says the issue has always been under-resourced, and the pandemic has highlighted that problem. "When we talk about mental health, we think of depression, suicide, schizophrenia. It's all of those acute mental illnesses, but then there's this thing called eating disorders," he says. "And the eating disorder population requires a specific level of training and expertise to be able to deal with, and we just simply do not have the capacity, the resources and the training to be able to deal with it as a community at large." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
South Korea's LG Electronics said on Wednesday it was considering all options for its loss-making mobile division, which analysts said could include shutting its smartphone business or selling off parts of the unit. LG said in a statement that 23 consecutive quarters of losses in its mobile business had totalled around 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) amid stiff competition. "In the global market, competition in the mobile business including smartphones has gotten fiercer," LG said in the clearest sign yet that it could be considering a winding down of the troubled business.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. There are 719,751 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 719,751 confirmed cases (71,055 active, 630,430 resolved, 18,266 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,679 new cases Tuesday from 67,775 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 6.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.03 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 45,281 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,469. There were 146 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 989 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 141. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,710,272 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 396 confirmed cases (eight active, 384 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 271 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 76,762 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Tuesday from 606 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of seven new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 87,077 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,561 confirmed cases (22 active, 1,474 resolved, 65 deaths). There were four new cases Tuesday from 1,199 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.26 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 27 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 197,918 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,004 confirmed cases (317 active, 674 resolved, 13 deaths). There were 31 new cases Tuesday from 712 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 40.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 187 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 27. There was one new reported death Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 129,708 tests completed. _ Quebec: 245,734 confirmed cases (19,017 active, 217,575 resolved, 9,142 deaths). There were 1,386 new cases Tuesday from 6,480 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 21 per cent. The rate of active cases is 224.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13,110 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,873. There were 55 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 362 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.61 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 107.74 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,670,614 tests completed. _ Ontario: 242,277 confirmed cases (27,615 active, 209,183 resolved, 5,479 deaths). There were 1,913 new cases Tuesday from 33,402 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,254 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,893. There were 46 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 380 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 54. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 37.61 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,705,969 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 27,740 confirmed cases (3,088 active, 23,869 resolved, 783 deaths). There were 111 new cases Tuesday from 1,362 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 225.49 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,203 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 172. There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 35 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.18 per 100,000 people. There have been 442,786 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 20,871 confirmed cases (4,156 active, 16,490 resolved, 225 deaths). There were 309 new cases Tuesday from 1,246 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 25 per cent. The rate of active cases is 353.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,097 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 300. There were six new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 21 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.26 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 19.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 323,677 tests completed. _ Alberta: 117,767 confirmed cases (11,096 active, 105,208 resolved, 1,463 deaths). There were 456 new cases Tuesday from 10,114 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 253.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,024 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 718. There were 16 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 118 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,020,119 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 61,912 confirmed cases (5,723 active, 55,099 resolved, 1,090 deaths). There were 465 new cases Tuesday from 11,781 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 112.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,359 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 480. There were 12 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 71 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.2 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.49 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,033,692 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 10 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,185 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 30 confirmed cases (six active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were two new cases Tuesday from 348 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.57 per cent. The rate of active cases is 13.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 8,671 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 244 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,018 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 36,473 new vaccinations administered for a total of 651,139 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,718.078 per 100,000. There were 39,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 888,540 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 73.28 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 1,531 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 4,689 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,520 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 8.73 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 37.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 164,053 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.173 per 1,000. There were 24,375 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 220,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.38 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 14,346 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,134 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 15.259 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 17,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.891 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 1,957 new vaccinations administered for a total of 24,575 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.841 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.87 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,501 new vaccinations administered for a total of 92,315 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.971 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 91.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,023 new vaccinations administered for a total of 92,369 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.00 per 1,000. There were 15,600 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 404 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening Wednesday and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first . “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats complete a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won runoff elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID-19 relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. ___ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
More than 100 British musicians, from Ed Sheeran, Sting and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to classical stars like conductor Simon Rattle, have said tours of Europe by British artists are in danger because of Brexit. In a letter to The Times newspaper published on Wednesday, the musicians said the government had "shamefully" broken a promise to negotiate a deal allowing musicians to perform in the European Union without the need for visas or work permits. "The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be: everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment," they wrote.
The seemingly more transmissible variants of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil are called "variants of concern" by the World Health Organization. Viruses mutate or change all the time to try to gain a selective advantage over other variants or versions of the virus. What sets the variants of concern apart from run-of-the-mill mutations is they could help the virus to infect human cells more easily or transmit person to person. If so, the variant gains a competitive advantage to wrestle aside other versions of the virus. So far, there are no signs of the variants worsening severe outcomes from the disease directly. But the fear is they will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths by spreading much more easily to more people. Here's a look at what's driving the concern and calls for more precautions in Canada. Where are the variants found in Canada? Canada's national microbiology lab has to date reported 23 cases of the B117 virus variant first identified in the U.K. and two cases of the variant first reported in South Africa. Most provinces aren't testing all samples for the variants. Only Saskatchewan says all of its COVID-19 tests will detect the B117 variant. Health officials say when greater transmission results in more people testing positive, then more hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and eventually deaths will follow. And the more that a virus circulates — either worldwide or in a particular community — the more opportunities it has to mutate. How quickly and to what extent are the variants spreading? Virus and infectious disease experts say that to get a handle on how quickly the variants are spreading in Canada requires more surveillance. But genome sequencing is a research tool that is costly and time consuming to use clinically. That's why labs across the country are working to develop faster assays for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, noted Monday that some of the province's cases of variants don't have a travel history. "We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow, as there is evidence now of community transmission," Yaffe said. Last week, Yaffe called community transmission "a very serious concern that the vaccine will not be able to address quickly enough." Public health officials are on the lookout for variants showing community transmission because it means the source of an outbreak can no longer be traced back to travel abroad. At that point, an outbreak can quickly spiral, so time is of the essence. If the B117 variant spreads in the community, the doubling time for cases could drop to 10 days in March from every 35 to 40 days now, Ontario health officials estimated. What would experts like to see next? Art Poon, an associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Western University in London, Ont., develops computer methods to study the evolution of viruses, such as an app called CoVizu that's listed by the GISAID Initiative — an international non-profit project to share genome data on viruses. Poon said that the variants of concern show more mutations than scientists would expect. WATCH | New coronavirus variant emerges in Brazil: "I think, sadly, we're going to see increasing frequency of this particular [B117] variant and disproportionate growth of this in other countries," he said of what's been seen so far in Britain. Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is also looking for more surveillance of variants, as well as other precautions. Saxinger said she would like to see tighter controls at Canada's border with the United States, both by land and air. This includes checks to ensure international travellers obey requirements in the Quarantine Act and aren't carrying the infection unknowingly and spreading it, as well as possibly an interprovincial travel ban, which has been proposed by B.C. Premier John Horgan. "We don't want there to be multiple importations of these difficult mutations before we have an opportunity to detect and control them," Saxinger said. "We should probably try to keep a tight lid on things until we sort out what's what, if this is a big deal, where it's a big deal and how it might be controlled." Limiting importations of the variants means less fuel for the fire. "If you're not having that many potential sparks hitting your tinder, you have a much better chance of being able to control it," she said. Saxinger is one of the signatories to a petition released Tuesday calling on the federal government to immediately act to reduce opportunities for variant entry by restricting international travel to essential travel, as well as other precautions.
The City of Gatineau and two of its police officers have been ordered to pay $18,000 to a Black man who was deemed a victim of racial profiling by Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal. The ruling is about an incident in December 2013, when two Gatineau police officers, Éric Bélanger and Jason Bruneau, stopped, searched and arrested a man they suspected was involved in a domestic violence complaint. The officers were looking for a suspect identified by name and described as a Black man carrying a knife. He was also described as six-feet-one-inch in height, wearing a black coat and grey sweat pants, with long hair tied up. But the man they ended up stopping did not fully match the description, according to the tribunal's decision. The victim said he was leaving a convenience store when he was stopped and searched twice, even after identifying himself to police. With the exception of being Black, the victim was wearing different clothes: a grey hooded sweatshirt and faded blue jeans. His hair was also shaved. The man told officers during his arrest that he believed it was an act of racial profiling, states the tribunal's decision. Police ignored evidence: commissioner In her ruling, the commissioner said the officers changed the description of the suspect and ignored clear signs, like the man's short hair, that would confirm they were searching and arresting the wrong person. She also said that because officer Bruneau admits at one point that the man is not the suspect they were looking for, arresting him was unreasonable, as was a second search. The commissioner also questioned why a complaint the victim filed with the police ethics commissioner days later was dismissed. Recommendations The commissioner ruled that the city and the two police officers pay a total of $18,000 to the victim. In addition to the fine, the commissioner also had recommendations. She requested the city both train its police officers about the risks of racial profiling. She also said the city should create guidelines to identify and control racial profiling by police officers. In response, the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) said it wouldn't comment on the ruling because it may appeal the decision, but that there is zero tolerance for racial profiling from its members. It said in recent years, SPVG has taken several steps to counter racial profiling, including training for its members, making services more accessible for ethnocultural groups and that it is talking with those groups to identify the challenges they face during interactions with police.
Recent developments: Students in Ottawa will not return to the classroom Monday as planned. Five more people have died of COVID-19 in western Quebec. What's the latest? Ottawa is reporting 67 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday and two more deaths. During a virtual news conference Wednesday, Ottawa's Medical Office of Health Dr. Vera Etches told reporters there are several positive signs indicating Ottawa has turned a corner, including a decline in the city's test positivity rate. But Etches reminded residents to continue following public health advice to keep it that way. Also on Wednesday, Ontario released a list of public health regions where in-person learning can resume for both elementary and secondary students, starting Monday. Ottawa isn't on the list, but four public health units in eastern Ontario were given the green light: Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District; the Renfrew County and District; and Hastings Prince Edward. How many cases are there? As of Wednesday, 12,494 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 1,057 known active cases, 11,028 resolved cases and 409 deaths from COVID-19. Public health officials have reported more than 22,400 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 19,700 resolved cases. One hundred and seven people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario and 147 people have died in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Ontario says people must only leave home when it's essential to avoid more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Places such as Kingston have started to take patients from other regions struggling with hospital capacity. People who leave home for non-essential reasons can now be fined, though police won't be stopping people just for being outside. Travel within Ontario is not recommended. Residents who leave the province should isolate for 14 days upon returning. Private indoor gatherings are not allowed, while outdoor gatherings are capped at five. It's strongly recommended people stick to their own households and socializing is not considered essential. People who live alone are still allowed to interact with one other household. Outdoor recreation venues remain open. In-person shopping is limited to essential businesses. Others can offer pickup and delivery. Child-care centres remain open. The lockdown rules are in place until at least Feb. 11. In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it's essential and not see anyone they don't live with to ease the "very critical" load on hospitals and avoid more delayed surgeries. An exception for people living alone allows them to exclusively visit one other home. Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is now in effect, with fines of up to $6,000 for breaking the rules. The province has shut down non-essential businesses, but has brought students back to classrooms. Like in Ontario, travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. Those rules are in place until Feb. 8. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms. This means it's important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with — even with a mask on. Masks, preferably with three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Ontario and Quebec. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get friends and family to help with errands. Anyone returning to Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days. Air travellers have to show recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Symptoms and vaccines COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. COVID-19 vaccines have been given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in most of the region. Renfrew County expects its first doses in early February. Local health units have said they've given more than 29,200 doses, including about 22,000 in Ottawa and more than 6,700 in western Quebec. Ontario wants every long-term care resident and worker to have at least one shot by Feb. 15. That's already happened in Ottawa. That, and Pfizer temporarily slowing its vaccine production to expand its factory, means some areas can't guarantee people will get a second dose three weeks after the first. It may take four to six weeks. WATCH | The effects of Pfizer's factory work: Ontario's campaign is still expected to expand to priority groups such as older adults and essential workers in March or April, with vaccines widely available to the public in August. Ottawa believes it can have nearly 700,000 residents vaccinated by August. Quebec is also giving a single dose to as many people as possible, starting with people in care homes and health-care workers, then remote communities, then older adults and essential workers and finally the general public. It said before Pfizer's announcement people will get their second dose within 90 days. WATCH | Scientists racing to understand new COVID-19 variants: Where to get tested In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you've been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria. People without symptoms but part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Ottawa has 10 permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester. Its Alexandria and Casselman sites will reopen next week. People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic. Kingston's main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee. Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions. In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site. There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki, Fort-Coulonge and Petite-Nation. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: Akwesasne has had more than 130 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and five deaths. More than 240 people have tested positive across the community. Its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back and it has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Kitigan Zibi logged its first case in mid-December and has had a total of 18. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had its only confirmed case in November. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Jessica Henwick may be known to fantasy and sci-fi nerds, but she's about to breakout onto the mainstream.
Tuesday's Games NHL Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 3 (OT) New Jersey 4 N.Y. Rangers 3 Philadelphia 3 Buffalo 0 Florida 5 Chicago 4 (OT) Pittsburgh 5 Washington 4 (OT) Detroit 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Colorado 3 Los Angeles 2 Dallas at Tampa Bay — postponed Carolina at Nashville — postponed --- NBA Denver 119 Oklahoma City 101 Utah 118 New Orleans 102 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alphabet Inc's Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. Axios, which first reported the latest investigation around a member of Google's AI team, said Margaret Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru, a former employee in the AI team who was fired. Gebru, who is Black, was a top AI ethics researcher at Google and was fired in December.
Canada's first chamber of commerce dedicated to serve Black-owned businesses has overhauled its leadership team following a tumultuous several weeks that saw the departure of its president and allegations of poor management from disgruntled former volunteers. The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC) announced the changes last week, though factions within the organization disagree on what exactly triggered the upheaval. Andria Barrett, the CBCC's former president, has accused the chamber of operating for years with insufficient accountability and transparency. She said those concerns created a significant and irreconcilable divide between the chamber's board of directors and its volunteer operations team. "I think it's important for everyone to realize non-profit organizations should not be run like private businesses," said Barrett in an interview. "There are rules and regulations that need to be followed." Barrett says she resigned from her position on Monday, Jan. 11, though the CBCC insists its board of directors voted to fire her in a meeting a day earlier because they say she had made false accusations. Pamela Gordon, the chamber's former director of communications who was fired in late December, pinned the blame directly on the CBCC's founder and former chair of the board. "I would say the organization was being run as a dictatorship by the chairman Michael Forrest," Gordon said. Forrest announced his resignation from the chamber's board of directors last week, citing a desire to divert unwanted attention from the organization. He vehemently denies the allegations of mismanagement. "I felt it was important to step aside and ensure that this negative personal attack on myself does not reflect on the chamber," Forrest told CBC Toronto. The CBCC said board member Everett Russell was unanimously appointed chair following Forrest's resignation. Funding and support has surged since summer of 2020 The CBCC was formally created in April 2019 after years of development by a group of founding members. It charges its members $250 annually for access to services, including advertising, marketing and networking. Concerns over the chamber's financial management and accountability have escalated since the summer of 2019, when the CBCC received newfound attention following the global Black Lives Matter protests and subsequent calls to better support Black-owned businesses. Since July 2020, the chamber has announced new funding from numerous private donors, including a $500,000 donation from Facebook, in addition to partnerships with other large corporations, including Uber and Sobey's. The chamber is also said to be applying for additional funding through the federal government's $221-million Black Entrepreneurship Program announced in September 2020. But former volunteers on the CBCC's operations team say the chamber was never set up to properly handle such large donations and partnerships. Barrett says the chamber has never crafted a proper constitution and does not regularly make information such as the minutes from its meetings or financial statements available to its paying members. "[Forrest] does what he wants to do," added Gordon. "He runs it like it's his own business." Chamber a safe place for donors and members, founder says "The allegations are utterly false," said Forrest in response to those concerns. "Basically, it's a disgruntled former volunteer, the past president, who is definitely trying to malign the chamber." Forrest said he will no longer serve on the board of directors, but will remain a member of the chamber and retain his title as founder. The CBCC says its restructured leadership group will ensure the organization is accountable to both donors and members. "We understand the distraction that this is posing," said Christelle Francois, the CBCC's public relations lead. "We're really focused on moving forward for the community and our partners." Chedwick Creightney, a CBCC member and Ajax business owner, said organizations that support Black-owned businesses are badly needed, especially given the disproportionate financial effects of the pandemic. He lamented the departures of Barrett and Gordon, describing them as "the heartbeat of the chamber," but said he intends to remain a member while the transformation takes place. "There's such a crucial need for it," Creightney said. "It's something that has to go on and we have to find out what the heck is going on." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
For parents in eastern Ontario struggling to work from home while overseeing their grade-school children's at-home learning — or battling for bandwidth with their teenagers — Wednesday may be D-day. That's when Ontario's chief medical officer of health is expected to submit his recommendations on which regions should be allowed to resume in-class learning as of Jan. 25. Education Minister Stephen Lecce will make the announcement publicly — after cabinet approves the decision — either Wednesday or Thursday. Under the provincewide shutdown that began Dec. 26, elementary students were to return to class on Jan. 11, while secondary-school teens had to wait until Jan. 25. But with COVID-19 numbers on the rise over the holiday period, the government extended online learning for elementary schools until at least Jan. 25 — longer for hotspot zones in and around Toronto, as well as Windsor, Ont. 'Trickier' to reopen Ottawa schools Neither provincial nor local health officials would comment on the likelihood of local schools reopening later this month. But experts say the province will be looking at COVID-19 transmission numbers as a key indicator for whether students should go back to school. So while in-person learning could be returning for regions with relatively low ratios of spread — think Kingston, Prince Edward County, or Lanark — Ottawa's numbers mean it will be a "little bit trickier" to open schools in the capital, says one expert. Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen's University and medical director of infection prevention and control at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, said the province will likely be looking at how many new cases are being reported a week per 100,000 people in each region, to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community. We are still seeing a significant increase in the number of children and youth testing positive for COVID-19. - Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health "That's the classic metric that's being used," Evans told CBC. "Certainly where I am here in Kingston is going to look very good because that number is actually less than seven." In Ottawa, it's almost 82. Positivity up among children Another key statistic the province will study, according to Evans, is the proportion of children testing positive, which has risen in recent weeks. In a letter sent to parents of students in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Tuesday evening, Dr. Vera Etches warned that "we are still seeing a significant increase in the number of children and youth testing positive for COVID-19," even though there's been a significant decline the number of young people getting tested. Ottawa's medical officer of health wrote that the city is currently seeing a positivity rate of 21 per cent among children aged five to 12 who are tested for COVID-19. "We know there are likely many more undiagnosed infections in our community and unless we test more, we will not be able to identify them," she wrote. Etches pleaded for children with even minor symptoms to get swabbed because "refraining from testing is adding to the growing risk of community spread." She said that could lead to pressures on the health-care system, and "ultimately lead to an extension of the lockdown and other restrictions." Weighing numbers vs. social importance It's important to note that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in children is likely not due to spread in schools, as they've been closed since Dec. 17. According to Dr. Doug Manuel, a scientist with The Ottawa Hospital and a member of the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the province needs to consider whether school closures are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 faster. There have been 72 COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa schools since September — 45 of them in elementary schools. An outbreak is declared when it's reasonable for public health officials to conclude that two positive cases in a school are related. The vast majority of the outbreaks consisted of just a few people; 11 outbreaks involved five or more students or staff. While school outbreaks are certainly an area of focus for officials, Manuel points out that the transmission there isn't "as high as we expected going into the fall." "I think we can all agree that the teachers and the students and the custodial staff exceeded our expectations." Manuel, who says he'd feel comfortable sending his own grade-school aged children back to class in Ottawa, points to a number of promising signs that Ottawa is beginning to flatten the curve, including the receding daily count of new cases. Each person who tests positive is reporting an average of 1.3 close contacts, instead of seven just before the holidays. Also on Tuesday, Ottawa Public Health reported an effective reproduction rate — the average number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case — of 0.96. A rate below one suggests the spread is coming under control. "People often describe schools as the last place you want to shut down," said Manuel. "And I think that's a reflection of the importance for schools for kids." He suggested it can be possible for society to reduce COVID-19 levels while keeping schools open — like Ottawa did in October.
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Canadian companies that bid on American government contracts could be cut out of the procurement process if Joe Biden follows through on his Buy American plan after he becomes U.S. president today, according to business and trade experts. Manufacturers and exporters in Canada supply a vast range of equipment to public works projects in the U.S. from school buildings to wastewater treatment facilities. But Biden’s promise to prioritize U.S.-based suppliers and products made on American soil could hurt Canadian companies by blocking them from bidding for work, especially after he unveils an infrastructure plan next month.The Made-in-America endeavour could disrupt the Canada-U.S. supply chain and lead to significant trade tensions, experts say.Yet the hardest hit firms will be those directly involved in U.S. government contracts, they say. “If you're in the business of supplying government procurement projects like municipal infrastructure, those are the companies most at risk,” said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. Stricter Buy American rules for federal procurement could hurt manufacturing on both sides of the border, he said. “Manufacturers are so integrated across North America,” Darby said, noting that a lot of what Canadian companies make are the “bits and pieces” that go into the continental supply chain.“When U.S. manufacturers do well, so do Canadian manufacturers. We’re all part of the same supply chain.”The biggest losers in an era of greater U.S. protectionism are likely to be a broad cross-section of Canadian firms supplying products to American municipalities, rather than specific sectors, experts say. Companies that supply pumping equipment for municipal water facilities, pipes for new sewage lines, or play structures for new playgrounds could all suffer, they say.Meanwhile, both Canada the U.S. already have “buy national” provisions carved out of existing trade agreements. Military procurements, for example, exclude foreign suppliers. Donald Trump pursued his own Buy American policies but it’s unclear how much further Biden can expand these provisions without facing a legal challenge, said trade expert Lawrence Herman.“The question will be whether the expansion of the Buy American provision is permissible within the scope of the (World Trade Organization) agreement," said Herman, international trade lawyer at Herman and Associates.Yet the impact of the Buy American agenda on Canadian businesses could be widespread, he said. “There are a lot of Canadian companies that supply products to American municipalities,” Herman said. “They could all be affected.”Colin Robertson, one of the negotiators of the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and North American Free Trade Agreement, said Canada should come to the table with solutions. “If Biden goes through with this, you're going to hear from Canadian companies that feel they're being excluded from U.S. projects,” said Robertson, vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.“You’re almost better to deal with it on a one-by-one basis,” said the former Canadian diplomat. “If the guy who builds playsets in Ontario can’t bid on a new playground, what you want to do is try and get the province and state to work something out.”If Biden’s massive stimulus package is approved, the demand for construction materials – especially steel and aluminum – could be huge, Robertson said. But if the Buy American plan is ramped up and starts to affect materials from Canada, he said negotiators need to point out that ultimately they’ll get better value including materials produced in Canada.“If you want maximum value for these dollars, it’s better to open up bidding,” Robertson said. “The challenge with these sorts of Buy American programs is you can get cartels forming within your locality that drive up prices.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole wants Derek Sloan booted out of his party's caucus but it's not entirely up to him. Here's what needs to happen: Conservative MPs will have to vote on the matter, thanks to their decision to adopt a provision of the Reform Act, legislation introduced by one of their own, Michael Chong, and passed in 2015. Under the act, each party's caucus must vote at its first meeting after an election on whether to adopt the various provisions enshrined in the legislation, which is aimed at rebalancing power between MPs and their party leaders. Following the 2019 election, only Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs voted to give themselves the power to decide when to expel a caucus member. Consequently, in order to remove Sloan, 20 per cent of Conservative MPs — 24 of the party's current 121 MPs — had to sign a notice seeking a review of Sloan's membership in the caucus. The matter must then be put to a vote by secret ballot, which is set to take place Wednesday morning. A majority of MPs must support expulsion for Sloan to be ejected. O'Toole said Monday he wanted Sloan's fate decided as quickly as possible after learning that his former rival accepted a donation during the leadership race from a well-known white nationalist. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
As people seek new ways to enjoy themselves while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, some local sex shops are reporting a serious bump in sales. "It's always exciting managing a sex shop, but it's really been fascinating to watch," said Julia Bueneman, floor manager of Venus Envy Ottawa. The Centretown shop says sales have been on the rise since the pandemic began, with online sales tripling compared to the previous year. "That [rise in sales] has really continued during the pandemic, but it seems that every time there's a lockdown, there's a slightly higher bump," Bueneman said. In addition to returning customers seeking to replace exhausted toys or add to their collection, Bueneman said she's also noticed a jump in the number of first-time buyers. "A lot of folks are looking for new things and new forms of pleasure." Over at the Sensations Plus sex shop on boulevard Greber in Gatineau, owner Daniel Beaulé told Radio-Canada that at its peak, his store reached 200 online orders a day during the pandemic. On a national level, online retailer PinkCherry Canada is reporting a year-over-year growth of 81 per cent from 2019 to 2020. Auto-shutoff a popular feature So which sex toys are proving the most popular during the pandemic? According to Bueneman, parents whose kids are now home all the time prefer toys that automatically turn off when they're not in action. "If there's any sort of door opening or 'Oh no!' situation, you can just throw it to the side and it stops doing its thing," she said. Bueneman said she's also seeing a lot of interest in app-enabled toys that can be operated remotely, especially among couples separated by distance. Regardless of the toy, Bueneman has this advice for anyone entering the world of sex toys. "I always recommend exploring it by yourself first to really get comfortable with it." While sex toys can certainly help individuals and couples achieve pleasure, Gatineau sex therapist Martine Poirier warns the satisfaction may be superficial and short-lived. "Sexual pleasure is a very healthy thing," said Poirier. "The problem is, we also need to look at how we feel, because if it becomes a way of escaping our emotions and not dealing with our emotions, then it can harm us."