Snow storm makes a ghost town out of Saskatchewan town.
Snow storm makes a ghost town out of Saskatchewan town.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
Fueled by hatred, misogyny and transphobia, there is still a lot of gender-based violence says the Violence Is Preventable Committee in Williams Lake. This year’s Purple Ribbon Campaign is well-underway and aims to raise awareness on this very topic which has been occurring in situations where it was previously unheard of or with people nobody would have ever expected. This is due, in large part, to increased stress, according to Women’s Contact Society family law advocate Kelsey Borgfjord. “2020 has been an exceptional year for stress due to the once-in-a-lifetime event of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Early on, everyone was panicking due to the fear surrounding the unknown which has since morphed into stress and exhaustion as we enter nearly nine months since the state of emergency was declared.” Because of the novel coronavirus, there have been a lot of extra challenges for everyone. “For anyone in a stressful relationship, be it at home, at work, or in the schools, the uncertainty and changes in the way we are supposed to behave when in public can cause additional tension that turns into violence,” noted committee chair Tamara Garreau. To help support and increase awareness of this phenomenon, Garreau encourages everyone to support the campaign, which runs in Williams Lake from Dec. 1 to Dec. 10, by wearing a purple ribbon, noticing the banners, starting discussions on the topic and speaking out when one sees bullying or gender-based slurs. As the pandemic presses on, Borgfjord believes it is more important than ever to not only bring awareness to this cause but also mental wellness. “Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help,” she said, listing the Women’s Contact Society, Cariboo Friendship Society, Canadian Mental Health, Three Corners Health Services Society, RCMP Victim Services, Aboriginal Victim Services and Crisis Line as valuable resources.Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 19, 2020 South Simcoe Police officers are asking you for help identifying three suspects following thefts at an LCBO in Innisfil. Police say “numerous” bottles of alcohol were stolen from the Innisfil Beach Road store in Alcona. Officers believe the thefts were “orchestrated” by three male suspects between 1 and 2 p.m. Nov. 7. The suspects are described as: • Small build, 5'6'', 130 lbs, brown eyes, 25-30 years old, with black hair, wearing a mask, black jacket, blue jeans, large black backpack and a white ear piece. • Medium build, 5'11'', 175 lbs, brown eyes, 30-40 years old, with black hair, wearing a mask, grey sweater and jeans. • Small build, 5'6'', 125 lbs, brown eyes, 30-40 years old, black hair, wearing a mask, track pants with red stripe down the side, and a red ball cap. Anyone who recognizes these men or has any information about this occurrence is asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Crime Stoppers. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Chair and vice re-elected Area D Director Aimee Watson will lead the Regional District of Central Kootenay board for another year. In a vote held at the start of the November 19 board meeting, directors acclaimed Watson as the board chair for 2020-21, her third year holding the gavel. Area H Director Walter Popoff was also given unanimous endorsement to keep his position as vice-chair for a second year. The board selects its chair and vice-chair for the year each November. Zoning for Area D? Area D Director Aimee Watson reported to the board that zoning may be coming to some communities in her area. “In the last few years, several communities have had a variety of developments occur that have raised questions and requests for local land use regulations,” she wrote. While many parts of Area D would not benefit from zoning due to their density, Watson said other areas would. So she’s asked the RDCK to conduct an engagement process with Area D residents in 2021. “This process will begin with community discussions on ‘Zoning 101’: what is it? How does it work? What does it do and not do?,” she says. “Within these discussions, I hope to be able to identify which communities are interested in moving forward to develop zoning and those that are not. Only those communities who show a strong interest will continue in the discussions.” Kootenay Lake brochure RDCK staff reviewing how development takes place along the foreshore of Kootenay Lake will be borrowing an educational brochure from a similar group in the Okanagan. The brochure will be adapted for Kootenay Lake, thanks to $3,500 approved by the board to hire a Qualified Environmental Professional and the same graphic designer who created the Okanagan brochure. “The cost savings that could be realized by utilizing the Okanagan resource as a template provide a significant opportunity to create a high-quality education document at a fraction of what it would normally cost,” staff said. COVID help Like other local governments, the RDCK will be getting help from the federal and provincial governments to weather the financial storm created by the pandemic. The RDCK will get $760,000 under the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments. Caribou coalition The board received notes from a November 2 meeting held to investigate the formation of a ‘local government resource coalition’ in the Kootenay-Columbia-Shuswap. The purpose of the coalition would be to better deal with senior governments on caribou management and other resource issues. One of the organizers, Milt Hamilton, said there has been interest and steps to build a caribou coalition in Kootenays since 2018. Hamilton suggested that in the short-term, a coalition would deal with Herd Plans and issues such as: What is a viable population? How much habitat should be protected for what population and habitat targets? What are the socio-economic impacts and impacts on tourism and back country access? The meeting was attended by RDCK Directors Paul Peterson, Walter Popoff and Nakusp Mayor Tom Zeleznik. Chair Aimee Watson said the RDCK should wait for a formal request to join the coalition before diving in further. Ambassadors praised Two programs to promote safety and outdoor recreation, born out of necessity by the COVID-19 pandemic, will likely be back next year. Parks Ambassadors and Water Safety Ambassadors will be considered in the 2021 budget. FireSmart application The board endorsed applying for more than $700,000 from the 2021 UBCM Community Resiliency Investment Program to hire six FireSmart ‘mitigation specialists’ for seasonal outreach and education; protect critical local infrastructure like RDCK firehalls and community halls; work closer with Indigenous communities; and offer a rebate for homeowners to complete FireSmart work on their properties. Anti-racism policy The RDCK board has adopted an anti-racism policy for the organization. The policy applies to all employees, elected officials, contractors, volunteers, and students working or volunteering for the RDCK or providing professional services to it. While citizens aren’t covered by the policy, “the public is expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the values and principles outlined in this policy when accessing RDCK services or facilities.” In-house construction crew Critical work on failing water pipes in RDCK-owned water systems will soon be the job of an in-house construction crew. The board approved the hiring of a three-person crew, as well as the purchase of excavators, service trucks, safety equipment and other smaller items that will allow the crew to do their work. The RDCK will borrow $355,100 to purchase the equipment. A full-time supervisor will be hired in February at a total salary and benefit cost of $89,117. Two seasonal crew members will be hired from March to November for the next three years at a total salary and benefit cost of $46,612 each per year. The three positions will be paid through project-specific budgets – so if the crew is replacing a water main in a community, the whole project, including the staff time, will be paid for by the project budget. “The establishment of the work crew is anticipated to reduce cost for linear infrastructure replacement projects significantly,” says a staff report. “With the infrastructure deficits our water systems are facing, along with the limited funds, this is an attempt to find alternatives that allow us to close the gap between infrastructure needs and the difficult financial situation of many of our water systems.” The first water system on the list for attention from the new crew is Fauquier’s, to be addressed in 2021. Rural directors decline to bury soil bylaw After months of wrangling with a bylaw to govern the removal of topsoil from a property, directors on the RDCK’s Rural Affairs Committee arrived at a dead end, voting to do nothing to change the current bylaw. This has been a recurring subject for directors all year, since Area H Director Walter Popoff asked that his region (Slocan Valley) be added to the bylaw, which now only applies to Areas I and J (Castlegar area). Instead, staff had recommended repealing the bylaw altogether, calling it ‘ineffective’ in dealing with complaints the RDCK receives about rock quarries and soil removal from properties. They said they could deal with such complaints through other existing regulations, like Temporary Use Permits, health and safety regulations, water drainage rules, and other administrative tools. After first suggesting earlier this year that staff review the bylaw and give it sharper teeth, Area I director Andy Davidoff found himself trying to stop the bylaw from being repealed. “[You’re] repealing the only tool that exists in Area I for us to address people moving massive amounts of soil for purposes that are not in the public’s interest,” he said. “Let’s just leave this bylaw alone, where it sits, and how it applies.” In the end, the RAC committee decided to take no further action on repealing the bylaw. Noise bylaw • The RDCK is reviewing and potentially expanding its noise bylaw to include more areas, but one director wants to make sure it doesn’t cause problems for farmers. Andy Davidoff asked staff to investigate whether or not the Right to Farm Act could be used to protect farmers from unintended consequences of any noise bylaw. Chief Administrative Officer Stuart Horn said staff would certainly go over the Act to look at the possibilities. He told directors additions could be made to the RDCK’s noise bylaw to ensure small farm operations aren’t affected. John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice
Former Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall was sworn in to the House of Representatives on Thursday. Hall won a runoff election to briefly fill the seat in Congress of the late civil rights legend John Lewis. (Dec. 3)
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 20, 2020 Garry Hopkins received great news two days in a row. When you’re the CEO of a long-term-care facility in the middle of a pandemic, you can use all the good news you can get. First, a COVID-19 outbreak at IOOF Seniors Home in Barrie that began Nov. 5 when a staff member tested positive was declared over Nov. 19. “Even though we did have the one case, we are very pleased because nobody else contracted the disease, which indicates we are doing a good job with our (personal protective equipment), and our hand-washing and infection-control measures,” Hopkins told Simcoe.com. The second piece of good news came Nov. 20 when the provincial government announced it would invest $30 million in the facility to create 64 long-term-care spaces and renovate 66 existing spaces. IOOF is one of 29 projects across the province that will see 30,000 new spaces created over 10 years at a cost of $1.75 billion. There are 38,500 Ontario residents waiting to access a long-term-care space. The new spaces will be built with the current pandemic in mind by ensuring fewer residents per room. The first phase of the IOOF project — 62 new beds — should be ready in about two years, with the entire project complete by 2024. Hopkins said the IOOF facility does not have any rooms with four residents, even though it was built in 1980. “They were pretty forward thinking,” he said. “Many live in separated accommodations. They may share a washroom, but have their own bedroom spaces.” Hopkins said IOOF now has workers wearing face shields, as well as face masks, to further reduce the risk of infections. “We have to be alert all the time; you can’t let your guard down,” he said. “Of course it’s stressful because you know what the case numbers are and you worry. That’s why we are extra vigilant.” Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin made the project announcement outside the IOOF facility, saying the Conservative government is focusing on long-term care, including a recent provision to provide four hours of daily care per resident. “It’s not been an easy year during COVID, but, given our government was only elected two years ago, we have done as much as we can to put our best foot forward,” Khanjin said. “Stay tuned for more.”Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — A report from British Columbia's chief inspector of mines says the cause of a slow-moving landslide that has threatened a tiny B.C. community may never be determined. The steep slope above Old Fort slumped over several days in 2018, tearing out the only road and prompting evacuations in the community of about 150 just outside Fort St. John.The report, posted to the B.C. government website in October, says despite geotechnical assessments, the root cause of the slide remains "inconclusive."The first cracks in the earth were noticed in September 2018 at an active gravel pit at the top of the slope where work remains suspended after parts of it slipped 10 metres within hours.The study says it's not clear if a cause "will ever be determined with certainty," but that the pit's stockpile of gravel combined with natural slope instability and rain that was 44 per cent above average may all have been factors.The report makes four findings, including one calling on the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources to issue an alert aimed at improving industry awareness of geohazard risks at other B.C. gravel pits, reminding them to consider and plan for those risks.Owners of all but a handful of properties were allowed to return to Old Fort by late 2018, but slow-speed slumping resumed again this year, buckling the enclave's only road for a second time and prompting evacuation alerts.The ministry report does not address the latest slide. Whatever changes occurred before the 2018 Old Fort slide, the report says it was enough to change the condition of a marginally stable Peace River Valley slope, resulting in the slide. "Given the large volume of the slide, the small changes in topography that preceded it, and the lack of a clear and definitive event trigger, it is possible that if the slide had not occurred on September 29, 2018, it could have occurred at some future date — whether triggered by natural events or human activity," the report says.The Peace River Regional District said in June that information from technical specialists had determined "the risk to the community posed by the (2020) Old Fort slide movements is low.'' The district's website shows six properties, or parts of properties, remain evacuated due to the original slide, more than two years after it happened.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.The Canadian Press
The Commissioner of Yukon has announced this year's inductees to the Order of Yukon.In a news release sent Wednesday, Commissioner Angélique Bernard gave the names of the ten inductees from the territory who were chosen from nominations submitted to an advisory council. "2020 inductees were chosen for their demonstrated excellence and achievement and their outstanding contributions to the social, cultural or economic well-being of Yukon and its residents," the release states. This year's recipients include:Bess Cooley, who is known as a master of the Tlingit language, and has done significant work on the genealogy of the inland Tlingit. Keith Byram, known for being a big supporter of multiple community organizations and working with many local businesses in Yukon. Byram founded Pelly Construction and employs a large number of Yukoners.Doug Phillips, who served as an MLA from 1985 to 2000, and then as the territory's commissioner from 2010 to 2018. He lobbied to have the Taylor House in Whitehorse designated as Yukon's Government House. Philips has also been small-business owner, and a volunteer on many Yukon boards and committees. Jack Cable, a Liberal MLA from 1992 to 2000, and commissioner of Yukon from 2000 to 2005. He has also been involved in volunteer organizations including the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon and the Law Society of Yukon.William Klassen, who has worn many hats in his career, including as an RCMP officer in Teslin, a conservation officer, a wildlife biologist, and deputy minister with the Yukon government. He has also been involved with the Riverdale Baptist Church since the early 1970's, the Whitehorse Gun Club, Yukon Agriculture Association and the Salvation Army. Frances Woolsey, a respected Ta'an Kwäch'än elder and a leader in promoting Indigenous culture. Dr. Sally MacDonald, who has been a family physician in Whitehorse and several Yukon communities since 1980, delivering over 1,000 babies in the territory. She has also taken on the role of assisting people at the end of their lives. Gertie Tom, who has contributed to First Nations language revitalization throughout the territory. She used the details of her speech patterns to provide a basis for a practical writing system for the previously-unwritten Northern Tutchone language. From 1961 to 1965, she worked as a part-time translator and broadcaster for CBC Radio in Whitehorse.Agnes Mills, a Vuntut Gwitchin elder who has worked to advance the rights of Indigenous people as the National Elder of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, and was the First Nations elder at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The Honourable Ron Veale who was the first to have the title of Chief Justice of Yukon, and initiated the earliest civil actions about the abuses suffered by Indigenous children in residential schools. The commissioner's office says it will be posting a video recognizing this year's recipients on its Facebook page on Jan. 1.
American scholar and author Camilla Townsend has won a US$75,000 history book prize from McGill University. The professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey received the Cundill History Prize on Thursday for "Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs." The book draws from long-overlooked primary accounts of Indigenous people written in the language Nahuatl to challenge Eurocentric narratives about the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the 16th century. The jury hailed Townsend for recasting history "through the eyes of the Indigenous people themselves rather than those of their conquerors." The international Cundill prize, which is run by McGill University, recognizes non-fiction history writing in English. The runners-up, who each receive US$10,000, are Harvard University professor Vincent Brown and British historian William Dalrymple. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
While COVID-19 case numbers remain relatively low in the Arrow Lakes and Slocan Valley region, a community cluster in Revelstoke in late November demonstrated how quickly that situation can change. On November 25, officials with Interior Health reported that 29 people in the mountain town were diagnosed with COVID-19 – and they are bracing for more. “Cases at this time have an average age in the low 30s,” said a release from IH. “Additional cases are not unexpected as the public health investigation continues.” Overall numbers are creeping up in the Interior Health Region, which goes from the Alberta border to Kamloops and Kelowna. Besides Revelstoke to the north, Salmo in the south of the region also had a community cluster in November. That was last estimated at 24 cases about two weeks ago. On November 30, the Province reported 212 new cases over the weekend for Interior Health, for a total of more than 490 cases that are active and in isolation. Fifteen people are in Interior Health hospitals, and five are in intensive care – more than double in a week. Since the start of the outbreak, there have been 1,750 cases in the health region, and three deaths. Across the province, there were 8,855 active cases reported as of the weekend. More than 46 people died in the same time period. The cluster and rising numbers across the region demonstrate why the Province’s new restrictions are in place even in rural areas, Health Minister Adrian Dix said late last month. “We don’t associate COVID-19 up to now with Revelstoke, but you’re seeing that,” he said in a recent town hall. “And what that tells us is that it’s everywhere, and in every community, and that’s why some of the orders that were regional orders a couple weeks ago are provincial orders.” Interior Health – and the province as a whole – is asking people to limit all non-essential travel, including staying at home, or in your home community, “skiing at your own ski hill, only going to restaurants with your family bubble, as well as following all other public health safety precautions,” a release said. “People are taking the actions they need to, and that is extremely gratifying,” Chief Public Health Officer Bonnie Henry said last Monday. John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice
ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 19, 2020 A 51-year-old Innisfil woman is charged with impaired driving after her vehicle collided with two parked cars, then veered off the road into a ditch Nov. 17. She was not injured. South Simcoe Police say the vehicles sustained “significant” damage in the collision on 25th Sideroad at about 11:30 p.m. The driver was arrested at the scene and taken to the North Division station in Innisfil where she was charged. Her licence was suspended for 90 days and her vehicle impounded for seven days. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 19, 2020 Orillia OPP officers arrested two shoplifting suspects who fled a Murphy Road business in a stolen vehicle Nov. 18. Police tracked down the two men nearby after a loss prevention officer saw them fleeing in a grey Audi SUV at about 1 p.m. The two suspects were pulled over on Hwy. 12 and tried to escape on foot but were quickly apprehended. Police soon discovered the vehicle was stolen, with fraudulent licence plates attached. A 42-year-old Toronto man and a 32-year-old Brampton man are charged with theft-related offences and resisting a police officer. The 42-year-old suspect is also charged with two counts of disobeying a release order, operating a vehicle while prohibited and escape lawful custody. Both suspects were held in custody for a bail hearing and are set to appear in Barrie court Nov. 19. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct.28, 2020 An ATV driver riding along a Springwater road faces a fine after police stopped an adult with a two-year-old passenger on the back on Oct. 25. The ATV driver was pulled over during a patrol of Simcoe County Forest trails by OPP officers and Central Ontario ATV club trail wardens. Riding an ATV on a highway with a child under age eight as a passenger carries a $325 fine under the Highway Traffic Act. Police and trail wardens were also able to help a 33-year-old woman who had injured her arm when she crashed her dirt bike on one of the trails. She was taken to hospital with minor injuries. Four ATV drivers were fined $215 each for not having the required $103 permits to use trails designated for off-road use. Riding in undesignated areas also carries a $215 fine. Trail permits can be purchased from OFATV and OFTR. For details, refer to https://myoftr.ca or call 855-637-6387. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
NEW YORK — There's theatre on Broadway. You just have to adjust your sights.More than a hundred blocks north of Manhattan's shuttered theatre district but on that same famed thoroughfare, an actor recently read his lines from a huge stage.But there was no applause. Instead, all that was heard was a strange command for the theatre: “And cut!”Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays was performing multiple roles for a high-tech “A Christmas Carol” that was being filmed for streaming this month at the empty 3,000-seat United Palace.The one-man show is an example of how many who work in theatre are increasingly defying COVID-19 by refusing to let it stop their art, often creating new hybrid forms.“Because it’s such a roll-up-your-sleeves business, theatre people figure it out,” said Tony Award-winning producer Hunter Arnold, while watching Mays onstage. “Of everything I’ve ever done in my life, it’s the place where people lead from ‘how?’ instead of leading from ‘why not?’”The coronavirus pandemic shut down theatre and the TV/movie industries in the spring. Film and TV production have slowly resumed. Live theatre is uniquely tested by the virus, one reason it will be among the last sectors to return to normal. Props and costumes are usually touched by dozens each night, an orchestra is crammed into a pit, backstage areas are small and shared, and audiences are usually packed into seats. New ways are needed.Mays' “A Christmas Carol,” which was filmed on a high-tech LED set, veers much more filmic than most other streaming theatre options and is raising money for suffering regional theatres — one stage production helping others during the pandemic.Other green shoots include radio plays, virtual readings, online variety shows and drive-in experiences that combine live singing with movies. The cast of the musical “Diana” reunited on Broadway to film the show for Netflix before it opens on Broadway.The San Francisco Playhouse recently offered screenings of Yasmina Reza’s play “Art,” an onstage production captured live by multiple cameras, with a crucial wrestling scene reimagined to keep social distancing. A musical version of the animated film “Ratatouille” is being explored on TikTok.“We will conquer it. We are theatre people. By God, we will conquer it and get it done,” says Charlotte Moore, the artistic director and co-founder of the acclaimed Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City.Her company has put on a free streaming holiday production of “Meet Me in St. Louis” with a dozen cast members, each filmed remotely and then digitally stitched together. Moore directed it — appropriately enough — from St. Louis. Other theatre pros are calling to ask how she did it.The cast was mailed or hand-delivered props, costumes and a green screen. They rehearsed via Zoom and FaceTime. A masked and socially distant orchestra recorded the score, and the sets were beamed onto the actors' screens.“You learn minute by minute by minute along the way what works, what doesn’t, what to do, what not to do,” said Moore, who starred in the original Broadway run of “Meet Me in St. Louis” in 1989. “It’s torture and it’s thrilling — thrilling torture.”Like many other theatrical hybrids venturing into the digital world these days, it's not clear what to call it. It's not technically live theatre, but its soul is theatrical.“It’s not definable in our current vocabulary,” Moore said. “It has to have a new definition, truly, because it’s certainly unlike anything that has been done.”One of the companies to show the way forward was Berkshire Theater Group in western Massachusetts, whose “Godspell” in August became the first outdoor musical with union actors since the pandemic shut down productions.Artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire refused to entertain the notion that the company — established in 1928 — would have an asterisk beside 2020 that said no shows were produced that year.“We’re theatre makers, we’re creators, she said. ”We should be able to figure out how to create something.”So they used plexiglass partitions between each masked actor. The performers were tested regularly — at a cost of close to $50,000 — and had their own props and a single costume. Each was housed in their own living space — bedroom, living area and little kitchenette. In an open-air tent, they managed to pull off a crucifixion scene without any touching or lifting, itself a miracle.Audiences underwent temperature checks and were separated by seats. Staff were placed in three protective bubbles: artistic, production and front-of-house. And there was monitoring: Last year it was an intimacy officer; this year it was a COVID-19 one.Maguire thrashed out a 40-page agreement with the stage union Actor’s Equity Association. “We never had a positive test,” Maguire said. “We had five false positive tests,” which was “harrowing.”She thanked grants for allowing her to keep her staff on payroll, making the stress level tolerable. It was clear audiences were hungry for theatre: “I would watch people shoulders shaking as the show started because they were weeping,” she said. They're doing another outdoor show now — “Holiday Memories.”Since that first brave step, other theatre companies have plunged into the void. Play and musical licensor Concord Theatricals says theatre companies across the country are looking for flexibility in case of virus restrictions.“We’re seeing many groups applying for small cast, easy to produce, plays and musicals. They’re even seeking casting flexibility and asking for permission to perform with or without an ensemble,” said Sean Patrick Flahaven, chief theatricals executive.“There’s also a trend for groups to apply for both live performance and streaming rights. Many amateur theatres are producing single virtual performances to keep revenue flowing.”Playwright Natalie Margolin decided to write a new play during the pandemic but not a conventional one. She imagined what the world would look like when it was a given that all social life existed on Zoom.Hence “The Party Hop,” a play specifically to be performed on Zoom that's set three years into quarantine in which three college girls hit the town — online. It became her first published play, and she got stars such as Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein and Ashley Park to perform in an online version, currently on YouTube. She hopes high schools and colleges will be attracted to a play reflecting the era.“It was just exciting to take part in something where it wasn’t a placeholder or a replacement, and no one needed to imagine they were anywhere else than where they were to fully realize the piece,” she said. “It’s been exciting and heartwarming to see different ways theatre has reinvented itself during this time.”Theater makers have also leaned into the storytelling part of their craft, making The Broadway Podcast Network a hub for everything from audition advice to behind-the-scenes stories.Launched shortly before the pandemic with 15 podcasts, the theatre shutdown initially wiped out its revenue streams, advertising and sponsorship. The network has since righted itself and is growing with some 100 podcasts — from the likes of Tim Rice and Tonya Pinkins — plus benefits, show reunions and original programs, like the digital theatre-based frothy soap opera, “As the Curtain Rises” with stars Alex Brightman, Sarah Stiles and Michael Urie.“Even though we had lost all of our advertising, we just knew that this was important to our community, to keep our community connected and continue to tell stories," said Dori Berinstein, co-founder of the network and a four-time Tony-winning Broadway producer. “It’s not anything that will ever replace live theatre, but it’s an extension. It’s a different way of doing that.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II, outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said Thursday as the Trump administration ramps up anti-Chinese rhetoric to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to be tough on Beijing.“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Ratcliffe wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”“I call its approach of economic espionage ‘rob, replicate and replace,'" Ratcliffe said. “China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.”Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months, especially during the presidential campaign as President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the spread of the coronavirus . On the campaign trail, Trump warned that Biden would go easy on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.The Trump administration, which once boasted of warm relations with China's President Xi Jinping, also has been ramping up sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has moved against the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and sought restrictions on Chinese social media applications like TikTok and WeChat.China’s embassy in the U.S. did not respond to a request for comment on Ratcliffe’s op-ed, although China has routinely denied many of these allegations in the past.Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who has been accused of politicizing the position, has been the nation's top intelligence official since May. In his op-ed, he did not directly address the transition to a Biden administration. Trump has not acknowledged losing the election.Ratcliffe said he has shifted money within the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to address the threat from China. Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the U.S., which must be addressed, he said.“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge. Americans have always risen to the moment, from defeating the scourge of fascism to bringing down the Iron Curtain,” Ratcliffe wrote in what appeared to be call for action to future intelligence officials.Biden has announced that he wants the Senate to confirm Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, to succeed Ratcliffe as the next national intelligence director.“This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower," Ratcliffe wrote.He cited several examples of Chinese aggression against the United States:The Justice Department has charged a rising number of U.S. academics for transferring U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China.He noted the theft of intellectual property from American businesses, citing the case of Sinoval, a China-based wind turbine maker, which was convicted and heavily fined for stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based manufacturer formerly known as American Superconductor Inc. Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel hatched a scheme to steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology, causing the loss of almost 700 jobs and more than $1 billion in shareholder equity, according to the Justice Department.Ratcliffe and other U.S. officials have said that China has stolen sensitive U.S. defence technology to fuel Xi's aggressive military modernization plan and they allege that Beijing uses its access to Chinese tech firms, such as Huawei, to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten the privacy of users worldwide.Ratcliffe said he has personally briefed members of Congress about how China is using intermediaries to lawmakers in an attempt to influence legislation.Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Air Design location, Ballon Design et les Gâteaux MB se réuniront sous le même toit à compter de janvier. Une préouverture ponctuelle est prévue dès jeudi, afin de permettre aux gens de se procurer décorations et cadeaux juste avant le début du temps des Fêtes. Les trois entreprises voulaient, en se réunissant, offrir aux clients la possibilité de ne faire qu’un seul arrêt pour l’organisation de leur événement spécial. Selon Jennifer Fournier, propriétaire de Ballon Design, ce partenariat est unique dans la région et très rare dans la province. « On s’est rendu compte qu’avec des ballons, des jeux gonflables, des gâteaux et des petits cadeaux, ça faisait vraiment un beau ‘mix’. Le concept qu’on a voulu créer, c’est vraiment d’avoir tout pour un événement, sous un même toit », s’est réjouie la propriétaire de Ballon Design. En parlant avec Mélina Dubé-Boily, de Gâteaux MB, les deux femmes ont remarqué qu’elles partageaient beaucoup de clients en commun. L’ouverture est prévue jeudi. Pour débuter, le commerce n’ouvrira que ponctuellement. L’ouverture complète à temps plein avec l’arrivée de la pâtissière n’est à l’horaire qu’au retour des Fêtes. Jennifer souhaite tout de même ouvrir dès le début du mois afin de faire profiter les clients des cadeaux et des ballons pour les préparations du temps des Fêtes. Le commerce d’Air Design location est ouvert, et il est possible pour les intéressés de voir l’inventaire en ligne. Pour ce qui est des Gâteaux MB, même si l’arrivée de la pâtissière à temps plein n’aura lieu qu’en janvier, les clients pourront venir chercher leurs gâteaux précommandés sur place. De tout en boutique Chaque entreprise qui s’installera dans ce nouveau local situé au 1247 boulevard Ste-Geneviève, à Chicoutimi-Nord, dispose d’une impressionnante gamme de produits. Air Design location a dans son inventaire plus de 125 structures gonflables, de toute sorte. Pour Gateaux MB, on comptera évidemment des gâteaux, mais aussi de gros biscuits, des cupcakes, et bien plus. Ballon Design se spécialise dans les bouquets de ballons et les petits cadeaux. Son créneau est le ballon personnalisé. « Je voulais faire quelque chose de différent de ce qu’on retrouvait déjà. Avec les ballons personnalisés, je peux écrire des prénoms, des phrases ou même recréer des dessins sur des ballons, ce qui est vraiment apprécié des clients », souligne Jennifer. Elle est fière d’amener ce concept ici dans la région et encore plus à Chicoutimi-Nord. Impacts de la Covid Bien évidemment, les derniers mois ont été difficiles pour tous ceux qui oeuvrent dans l’événementiel. L’annulation des fêtes, des mariages, des partys de bureau a difficilement touché le commerce de Jennifer. La jeune femme de 30 ans a dû se réinventer. « Nous nous sommes vraiment tournés vers les livraisons. Nous sommes allés livrer des petites touches de bonheur chez les gens. Plus ça allait, plus les gens me demandaient si j’avais des petits items cadeaux, qu’on pouvait joindre aux ballons », explique-t-elle. C’est ce qui fait que depuis environ un mois, on retrouve dans la boutique en ligne des cadeaux de tout genre : jouets pour enfants, produits pour le corps, items pour la maison, et bien plus. Certaines de ces surprises peuvent même être mises dans des ballons ! Ces produits seront bien sûr mis en valeur dans la nouvelle boutique. Pour tout savoir sur les heures d’ouverture et sur les items que l’on retrouve en boutique, les personnes intéressées peuvent visiter le site Internet ou la page Facebook de Ballon Design.Myriam Arsenault, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
HAMILTON — Eighteen protesters from the Defund Hamilton Police group were arrested and charged for allegedly refusing to leave city hall on Wednesday, local police said.The group is calling for police funding to be redirected to social services like affordable housing and said Thursday that it continues to seek a public meeting with the mayor. Hamilton police said six members of the group began a sit-in at city hall on Wednesday afternoon, with more people joining them as the evening went on. Police said officers eventually arrested and charged 18 people with failing to leave premises when directed, which carries a $65 fine, and the individuals were later released. Sarah Jama, one of the group's organizers, said members of the Defund Hamilton Police group have been outside city hall since Nov. 23 and plan to remain there until their demands are met.Jama, who was among the 18 charged Wednesday, said the mayor had offered an indoor, private meeting with two people on the condition that the conversation was not recorded but the group wanted a public discussion. "We stayed and that amalgamated into eighteen of us being arrested. But we're still outside. We're still here," Jama said."We still want him to come talk to us. We still want the police to be defunded." The mayor's office said the offer to meet inside city hall was extended "to ensure that appropriate physical distancing could take place." "The demonstrators rejected the offer to meet indicating it was 'all of them or none of them,' a scenario that is not possible as it would violate public health orders," a statement from Mayor Fred Eisenberger's office said. Earlier this week, police said they were investigating after members of the group left a coffin filled with flowers and naloxone kits outside Eisenberger's home. Group members said the coffin was left to draw attention to homelessness and overdoses, and to respond to the earlier removal of their tents from outside city hall. Police also previously charged Jama with violating COVID-19 public health rules after saying a protest outside city hall that she was a part of exceeded limits on gatherings. Cara Zwibel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the nonprofit is monitoring the situation in Hamilton – in particular, officials citing public health rules when breaking up a demonstration that has a political demand.She noted that large protests against anti-Black racism in Canadian cities this summer largely did not see enforcement of pandemic rules that limit gathering sizes.The Hamilton Police Service's 2020 operating budget is approximately $171 million, an increase of 3.87 per cent from the previous year. Jama said that money, or at least the surplus, should go towards ensuring secure housing for residents during the winter months. "People need dignified housing, people need free housing, especially amidst this pandemic so nobody has to die," she said.In a statement Wednesday, Eisenberger's office highlighted available shelter options in the city and has said Hamilton “will continue to explore and implement strategies to improve housing affordability.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. - By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto The Canadian Press
FRANKFURT — OPEC and allied countries including Russia agreed Thursday to increase oil production by 500,000 barrels a day from January and will meet monthly to assess the situation, gingerly adding more crude to a market still suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.The decision followed days of wrangling over whether to increase output early next year at all after the pandemic sapped demand for energy and clouded the outlook for the industry.The OPEC members and a group of allies had made deep cuts in production last year to support prices as the pandemic sharply reduced demand for fuel. Analysts said simply extending the 7.7 million barrels per day in cuts was the course preferred by Saudi Arabia, which takes a leadership role among member countries, and also by Russia, the biggest of the non-members who have been co-operating with OPEC.But they faced pushback from countries including the United Arab Emirates, which opposed the extension and wanted countries that had overproduced their quotas to make compensatory cuts.Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that participants agreed that 2 million barrels a day needed to return to the market “at some point” but that any increase would be gradual. The monthly meetings could decide in either direction, up or down, he said.Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman alluded to hopes that the recent wave of lockdown restrictions on businesses “are not hampering demand as in the first wave” but cautioned that “the jury is still out” and that “we need to be cautious” about ramping up production.He said that at the monthly meetings “we could tweak upward, we could tweak downward, we could stay put... We elected to take the cautious approach."Oil producing countries face a dilemma: producing more increases their revenues but could send prices lower, especially given still-weak demand and uncertain prospects for the speed and timing of a post-pandemic economic recovery.Energy forecasters around the world, including those employed by OPEC, have been lowering their forecasts about how much oil will be needed. Airline travel, for example, has been dramatically reduced, and is not expected to rebound for several years.The U.S. benchmark for oil traded at $45.74 per barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 46 cents on the day. That is down from around $63 at the start of 2020. Gasoline prices for U.S. motorists have fallen during the pandemic to below $2 in some parts of the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration; the national average was $2.12 as of Nov. 30.A barrel of benchmark crude in the U.S. had been selling for around $40 for months, well below what most producers need to break even. It has risen in the past week but current prices still leave many oil producers struggling. In the past week, oil giants Exxon and Chevron both slashed their capital expenditure budgets for the coming year.Stewart Glickman, energy equity analyst at CFRA Research, said the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in many nations meant the original oil producing countries' plan - to raise production by some 1.9 million barrels per day from January - "might have sent crude prices tumbling further."He said crude inventories would be watched in coming months to see whether the “modest” production boost of 500,000 barrels per day is absorbed by markets or "whether oil demand remains too weak to sustain pricing” despite promising news regarding vaccine development.___AP Business Writer Cathy Bussewitz contributed from New York.David McHugh, The Associated Press