Asset quality remained stable and the bank did not build reserves for the first time in four quarters.
LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep roadway in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery. Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median shortly before 7:15 a.m., crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved. The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. Both of his legs were seriously injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odor of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and did not find any. They did not say how fast he was driving. The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to arrive at the wreck, told reporters that he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and has seen fatal crashes there. “I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said. Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club. Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019. He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport. The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event. Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time. He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter. During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he was feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities. He was not sure when he would play again. Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery. “I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.” Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away Tuesday afternoon. This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder. Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and five surgeries on his back. ___ Ferguson reported from Jacksonville, Florida. Stefanie Dazio And Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Fueled by Black turnout, Democrats scored stunning wins in Georgia in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Now, Republicans are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. GOP lawmakers in the once reliably red state are rolling out an aggressive slate of voting legislation that critics argue is tailored to curtail the power of Black voters and undo years of work by Stacey Abrams and others to increase engagement among people of colour, including Latino and Asian American communities. The proposals are similar to those pushed by Republicans in other battleground states: adding barriers to mail-in and early voting, major factors in helping Joe Biden win Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take the two Senate seats that gave Democrats control of the chamber. But one aspect of their plans, a proposal to eliminate early voting on Sundays, seems specifically targeted at a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign used by Black churches, referred to as “souls to the polls." It's led many to suggest Republicans are trying to stop a successful effort to boost Black voter turnout in Georgia, where they make up about a third of the population and have faced a dark history of attempts to silence their voices in elections. “It's a new form of voter suppression, the Klan in three-piece suits rather than white hoods,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which has participated in souls to the polls events. “They know the power of the Black vote, and their goal is to suppress that power.” In previous elections, souls to the polls campaigns were festive, with vehicles and people parading to election offices during early voting windows. Churches would sometimes playfully compete to see which could bring the most voters, said McDonald, who described the GOP legislation as “spiteful.” In Georgia and elsewhere, Republicans say proposals to tighten voting access are meant to bolster confidence in elections, though they have been some of the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the election was fraudulent. The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 165 bills in 33 states this year meant to limit access to voting. In Georgia, Republicans control state government and have introduced dozens of legislative measures that would restrict voting access. GOP state Rep. Barry Fleming is chief sponsor of a wide-ranging proposal that would ban Sunday early voting, require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit the time when an absentee ballot could be requested, restrict where ballot drop boxes could be placed and curb the use of mobile voting units, among other changes. In committee hearings, Fleming has cast the legislation as “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public in our election system.” He didn’t respond to an email or phone message requesting comment. Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project that Abrams founded in 2014, called the GOP measures a backlash “to our multiracial, multilingual progressive majority that is winning elections." Biden beat former President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win a presidential contest in Georgia since 1992. Biden received nearly double the number of absentee votes as Trump in a state that became a major target of Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. Biden's win there was confirmed in three separate counts, including one by hand. "These measures, in our opinion, are not based on any objective, data-driven, evidence-based assessment of the issue but solely with the intention to undermine Black voters and other communities of concern,” said Democratic state Rep. Michael Smith, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Policy Committee. Because Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, at least some form of their proposals are likely to become law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, has called for a photo ID requirement for absentee voting but has yet to back a specific proposal. His office said it was still reviewing the legislation. Republicans are trying to limit ways to vote that have been wildly popular. After states expanded access to mail-in and early voting during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 70% of all ballots cast nationwide came before Election Day. An estimated 108 million people voted by mail, early in person or by dropping off absentee ballots. In Georgia, over 4 million voters cast early or absentee ballots. “They realize if they continue to allow individuals to vote by mail, it is going to be an uphill battle for Republicans to win at the polls and maintain their position,” Democratic state Rep. Debra Bazemore said. At the federal level, Democrats are pushing for a sweeping overhaul of how Americans vote. House Democrats are expected to vote next week on a measure that would establish federal election standards like early voting periods, same-day voter registration and other policies that Republicans have dismissed as federal overreach. And they are expected to introduce another bill to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that had triggered federal scrutiny of election changes in certain states and counties with histories of discrimination. Georgia was among the states that previously had to get approval for voting changes. “If left to their own devices, Republicans will try to limit the ability of minority voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat co-sponsoring the bill on federal election standards. “It's open season on voting rights in Georgia,” he said. ___ Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. ___ Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Anthony Izaguirre And Ben Nadler, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law, Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
NORTH BAY, Ont. — Public health officials say a second person has died in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak at a North Bay, Ont., apartment building where a variant of the virus has been found. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says the person who died had tested positive for a variant of concern. The health unit says 42 people have contracted COVID-19 in the building outbreak, including 27 who have tested positive for a variant. The variant first detected in South Africa has been detected in one case, while the specific variant strains in the other cases have yet to be determined. The health unit announced the first death in the outbreak just a week after it was declared on Feb. 8. The district is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 variant cases, which the health unit says is particularly worrying because variants spread more easily. North Bay is one of only three regions in Ontario that remain under a stay-at-home order. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
A pre-trial conference will be held next month for a man charged in connection with a downtown stabbing death last summer. Last week, lawyers for the Crown and defence set March 8 for a pre-trial conference that will determine the length of a forthcoming preliminary inquiry in the case of Jason Holm. Holm, 37, is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 39-year-old Paul Samuel Whitten, who was stabbed to death on Aug. 1, 2020. Police said they were called to a home on Clarke Street in the West End, where Whitten was found with serious injuries. He later died and Holm was arrested a short time later. The Independent Investigations Office, B.C.’s arm’s-length police watchdog, is looking into the circumstances that led to Whitten’s death because Mounties had been looking for Holm before Whitten was killed. “On July 31, Kamloops RCMP received a call from a woman who was concerned about the mental health of a male relative,” the IIO said in a news release issued last summer. “Officers visited the man’s home, but reported being unable to locate him.” A preliminary inquiry lasting at least a week is expected, as it will also address issues with some of the witnesses raised by the defence, Crown prosecutor Tim Livingston told court. Holm had been expected to attend court via video conference last week to elect a mode of trial, but he refused to leave his cell. Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
Regina– Crop Insurance coverage is going up due to higher commodity prices, and rates are going up as well, but the premium cost per dollar of coverage continues to decline. There’s a new pilot program for vegetables, and changes for forage and chickpeas, too. On Canada Agriculture Day, Saskatchewan Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer and, through a press release, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced enhancements to the 2021 Crop Insurance Program. This year, Crop Insurance coverage will reach a record level due to higher commodity prices and increased yield coverage. “Farmers across Saskatchewan continue to step up despite all the challenges thrown their way during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bibeau said in a release. “These improvements to the Crop Insurance Program give Saskatchewan farmers more coverage they can count on. We will continue working with our provincial counterparts to ensure farmers have the risk management tools to help their stability and growth.” Asked if the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on crop insurance, Harpauer said, “None.” “For over 60 years, the Crop Insurance Program has supported Saskatchewan producers with reliable coverage and exceptional customer service,” Harpauer said. “We are committed to providing producers with the insurance programs they need and the enhancements announced today build upon the current suite of programs.” Coverage going up Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) said it “continues to provide high coverage as we enter a new growing season.” Coverage will reach a record level of $273 per acre due to higher commodity prices and increased yield coverage, up from $224 in 2020. This represents a 22 per cent increase in coverage. The average premium cost per dollar of coverage continues to decline. There was a 42 per cent reduction in average premium cost per dollar of coverage over the last 10 years. This includes a 20 per cent reduction directly resulting from the strong financial position of the program, SCIC said. However, due to the increased coverage for 2021, the average premium for producers will be higher than in 2020. The average premium per acre will be $8.59, up from $7.40. Harpauer said, “Establishment benefit values are reviewed annually. This year, the establishment benefit values for canola, lentils, chickpeas and corn have increased. Canola is now $70 per acre. Large green lentils are $50 per acre and red lentils are $30 per acre. Large Kabuli chickpeas are $65 per acre and Small Kabuli chickpeas are $45 per acre. Corn is $95 per acre.” New forage options New in 2021, producers growing tame hay will have additional options when insuring their hay acres. Crop Insurance customers now have the choice to insure their tame hay acres under the Forage Rainfall Insurance Program (FRIP) or the Multi-Peril Crop Insurance Program. Coverage options can be customized for each farming operation. Under FRIP, payments will be calculated based on rainfall levels, instead of overall yields. “Saskatchewan cattle producers face a lot of risks. It is good to see the programs they can access through SCIC continue to evolve,” Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association Chair Arnold Balicki said in a release. “Adding tame hay to the Forage Rainfall Insurance Program and extending the calf coverage deadline and hours of operation for Livestock Price Insurance are all positive. I encourage cattle producers to look into SCIC’s programs as there were many improvements in recent years.” “Forage producers will also see an increase in Native Forage Establishment Benefit coverage. The Native Forage Establishment Benefit provides coverage on newly seeded native forage acres. The coverage is increasing from $75 to $200. Other Forage Establishment Benefit prices seeing an increase includes tame hay to $90 per acre and sweetclover to $65 per acre,” Harpauer said. Forage producers are encouraged to review available coverage options through SCIC's Forage Option and Weather-Based Programs. Vegetable pilot program “In 2021, SCIC is also introducing coverage for large scale vegetable production. Commercial vegetable growers will now have access to the commercial vegetable pilot program, which will provide standalone coverage for damage to cabbage and pumpkin crops,” Harpauer said. SCIC has been working with the Saskatchewan Vegetable Growers' Association to develop programming for the growing commercial vegetable sector in Saskatchewan. The impact of a crop failure on vegetable operations could be significant as a relatively small number of acres has extremely high value. A minimum of eight acres is required to participate in the program. SCIC will continue to explore insurance coverage options for the Commercial Vegetable Program. Last summer, the Government of Saskatchewan made one of the largest announcements for agriculture in this province in years, laying out a plan for $4 billion in expansion of irrigation in central Saskatchewan, with an eye to growing different crops, including vegetables. Asked how this will impact Crop Insurance, Harpauer responded, “That’s a ways into the future. So I think it’s important that they’re doing the pilot this year. And we’ll see how that goes. As production increases in vegetables and other crops that benefit for irrigation, I think it’s been demonstrated, here in Saskatchewan, that Crop Insurance officials are very nimble in addressing the crops as they change. I know, myself, from when I was a producer, to today, the crops have changed significantly, and Crop Insurance had been there for all the changes.” Chickpeas Saskatchewan has also become a significant producer of chickpeas. SCIC is updating the base grade for large-seeded Kabuli chickpeas to reflect current production and marketing patterns. This increases the insured price and the quality coverage. Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, said, “I think the changes to the chickpeas base grade calculation just better reflects the size and the quality of the chickpeas that chickpea producers are producing these days. It’s simply a better reflection of the product the producers are producing, and should increase the overall level of coverage for producers.” Potts called it “a welcome development.” Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Board Chair Shaun Dyrland said, “This change should increase coverage levels for most of the 300 chickpea producers in the province.” Canola’s significance Asked if there were any trends with farmers moving towards a particular crop, or any move into a “Cinderella crop” in 2021, SCIC acting president and CEO Jeff Morrow responded, “One of the main crops in the province, and the main crops in terms of acres and liability for Crop Insurance programs is canola. That is certainly the most predominant crop. And I say our top three, other than canola, are wheat, duram and peas.” He said it’s up to producers to decide what they plant, but historically canola has been top. SARM reaction Ray Orb of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities said, “We're actually quite pleased about some of the enhancements, in particular, with the vegetable pilot program. We think that will be good to create more diversity into the province’s agriculture industry. “We're also pleased to be able to look at some of the things that they're also enhancing, Kabuli chickpeas in particular. “In general, we’re favorable, and always have been favorable, to uplifting and adjusting some of the weather based insurance programs. And we think that will help our livestock producers, as far as protecting their forage crops and things like that. “So generally, we're pleased. We see that there's an increase of about 22 per cent of the of the coverage, understanding at the same time, that will premiums will go up.” He said generally it has served the agriculture industry well to have more coverage. Deadline March 31, 2021, is the deadline to select insured crops and coverage levels or make additional changes to Crop Insurance contracts. Producers need to also apply, reinstate or cancel by this date. Crop Insurance is a business risk management program supported through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Under Crop Insurance, premiums for most programs are shared 40 per cent by participating producers, 36 per cent by the Government of Canada and 24 per cent by the Government of Saskatchewan. Administrative expenses are fully funded by governments, 60 per cent by Canada and 40 per cent by Saskatchewan. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
CALGARY — Athletes setting significant records in their sport are often too busy achieving those milestones to process their place in history at the moment. What helps Jennifer Jones wrap her head around a career 153 wins at the Canadian women's curling championship is seeing them through the eyes of people she loves. Jones became the career leader in wins at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts with a 6-5 win Tuesday over Newfoundland and Labrador's Sarah Hill. Jones arrived at the 2021 Tournament of Hearts two back of the 152 victories held by Colleen Jones. Jennifer Jones knows the record would have meant a lot to her late father Larry, who died two years ago at age 80. "My dad always loved the records," Jones aid Monday. "He always followed all the records. I know he would watching from above, (be) very, very proud. "It definitely means something to me. As you kind of approach the end of your career, just to be remembered for doing something that you love is pretty remarkable." The wins record is among many Jones holds in women's curling. If the six-time national champion prevails in Calgary, the 46-year-old from Winnipeg will be the only woman to win seven. Should daughters Isabella and Skyla take up curling, the record book provides a compelling argument that their mother is the best to ever play the game. "My kids do look at it. There's a book with my name in it with some records," Jones said. "I hope if anything it just shows them that if you work hard, that dreams are possible. I just want them to have the best possible life and if this can have any impact on that, it's absolutely incredible." Jones's first win in 2002 was an 8-4 victory over Prince Edward Island's Kathy O'Rourke, who is P.E.I's alternate in Calgary this year. Jones's 153rd wasn't a work of art as her team's shooting accuracy was 80 per cent, but it was one Jones and her Manitoba foursome needed to get to a 3-2 record. Sitting on 2-3 until their next game Wednesday wouldn't have felt uncomfortable. "We were grinding it out today," Jones said. "We really needed this win to stay kind of in there in the competition." Quebec's Laurie St-Georges topped Pool B at 4-1 ahead of Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt at 3-1. Manitoba was knotted at 3-2 with Chelsea Carey's Wild Card One. St-Georges downed Nunavut's Lori Eddy 7-5. Carey lost a second straight game, falling 7-5 to B.C.'s Corryn Brown. B.C., Newfoundland and Saskatchewan were even at 2-2. Saskatchewan's Sherry Anderson fell 7-6 to New Brunswick's Melissa Adams, who won her first game. Nunavut was winless in five games. Ontario's Rachel Homan and defending champion Kerri Einarson at 4-0 were the only undefeated teams in the tournament heading into Tuesday's Pool A draw. The top four teams from each pool of nine at the end of the preliminary round Thursday advance to the two-day championship round and take their records with them. The championship round's top three will be Sunday's playoff teams, with the No. 1 seed rewarded with a bye to that day's final. Jones has won everything there is to win in women's curling, including two world titles a decade apart in 2008 and 2018. Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen went undefeated en route to an Olympic gold medal in 2014. "I can't believe this is my 11th year with Jennifer and the girls," Lawes said. "I still feel like I'm the 21-year-old kid when I joined the team. "I was just so eager to learn from the best. I've always looked up to Jen. She's a role model and how special is it to be able to play with people that you're inspired by?" Jones and former second Officer own the record for most Hearts final appearances (9). Dawn McEwen, who is pregnant and sitting out this year, played lead for Jones in seven of them. Jones has appeared in the most playoff games (33) and shares the playoff win record (21) with Officer. "I've been so fortunate to have the best human beings as teammates that have supported me throughout I don't know how many years," Jones said. In her 16th Hearts appearance, Jones trails only Colleen Jones (19) for the most by a skip. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — She's guided the Senate through two impeachment trials, vexed Democrats and Republicans alike with parliamentary opinions and helped rescue Electoral College certificates from a pro-Trump mob ransacking the Capitol. She also does spot-on impersonations of senators including Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth MacDonough, an English literature major and the Senate's first woman parliamentarian, is about to demonstrate anew why she's one of Washington's most potent, respected yet obscure figures. Any day, she's expected to reveal if she thinks a federal minimum wage boost, progressives' most prized plank in Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, should fall from the bill. Her decision, a political minefield likely to elicit groans from whichever side she disappoints, will play an outsized role in deciding the wage increase's fate. It may not be definitive — majority Democrats might try overriding an opinion they don't like. “Elizabeth has a soul-crushing job, to which she brings an enormous amount of soul," said her predecessor, Alan Frumin, whom she replaced when he retired in 2012. Part of MacDonough's job, in which she's supposed to be nonpartisan, is enduring high-stakes lobbying from both parties when she's making pivotal decisions. But she’s found a home in the Capitol, where she’s spent most of the past three decades after starting as an assistant Senate librarian in 1990. “She knows the names of every police officer and janitor,” Frumin said. Sometimes, the pressure can be extraordinary. Frumin said that when the Senate was enacting former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law — which was opposed by Republicans and infuriated grassroots tea party conservatives — he had police protection at his home as a precaution. “And the political climate hasn’t gotten friendlier," he said. Even so, MacDonough, 55, has garnered high marks from both parties. Underscoring that, while she was initially appointed in 2012 by Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate majority leader at the time, she was retained by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., when he became majority leader in 2015. “She’s very solid. She listens to all the evidence,” Sanders, the independent Vermont senator and chief sponsor of the minimum wage proposal, said in a recent interview. “She is a brilliant lawyer, a thorough and fair referee and a walking encyclopedia of Senate precedent and procedure,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said Tuesday. She's also used the time to hone an ability to replicate the voices and cadence of several senators including Sanders, associates say. MacDonough's earned her reputation for fairness while helping steer the Senate through some of its highest-profile moments. Rulings she issued striking anti-abortion and other provisions from numerous failed GOP attempts to repeal Obama's health care law weakened their bills. She helped Chief Justice John Roberts preside over then-President Donald Trump's 2020 Senate impeachment trial, and was beside Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., for Trump's second trial this month. Trump was acquitted both times. And as Trump supporters fought past police and into the Capitol last month in hopes of disrupting Congress' certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, MacDonough and other staffers rescued those ballots and hustled mahogany boxes containing them to safety. MacDonough's office, on the Capitol's first floor, was ransacked and declared a crime scene. Raised by a single mother in the comfortable Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland, MacDonough graduated with an English literature degree from George Washington University. She began her Senate career in its library before leaving to get a law degree at Vermont Law School. She worked briefly as a Justice Department trial attorney before returning to the Senate in 1999, this time as an assistant in the parliamentarian’s office. Less than two years later, she helped Vice-President Al Gore preside over Congress’ certification of electoral ballots that sealed his own 2000 election defeat to George W. Bush. “It was very exciting and humbling,” MacDonough said in a Vermont Law School alumni profile. As Democrats begin pushing Biden’s sweeping relief package through Congress, they’re using a special procedure that shields the bill from Senate Republican filibusters, which require 60 votes to thwart. That's out of reach for Democrats in a 50-50 chamber they control with Vice-President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. But Senate rules require that items in such a bill must have a substantial budget impact that is not “merely incidental” to the language’s main intended purpose. MacDonough has been meeting with Democrats who've tried persuading her that their minimum wage provision meets that test, and Republicans who've told her it doesn't. Democrats want to raise the federal floor, fixed at $7.25 hourly since 2009, to $15 over five years. The Senate usually heeds the parliamentarian's advice, which is whispered to the senator presiding over the chamber. But the majority party will on rare occasion force a vote to overrule the parliamentarian. If MacDonough decides the minimum wage hike should remain in the bill, it would likely survive because GOP opponents would need an unachievable 60 votes to remove it. But at least two Democrats have expressed opposition to the $15 proposal, so it still could be amended or even dropped. If MacDonough says it should be stricken, Democrats would have no chance of garnering 60 votes to overrule her. But they might choose the rarely utilized, hardball tactic of having the presiding officer, presumably Harris, ignore her and announce that the minimum wage language meets the test to stay in the overall legislation. That would force Republicans to find 60 votes to strip the provision, which they'd fail to do. Such a tactic is called the nuclear option because Democrats would be using their majority to muscle through rules changes, enraging Republicans and inviting a future tit-for-tat retaliation. Majority Democrats overruled MacDonough in 2013, eliminating filibusters for executive branch and most judicial nominees. In 2017, Republicans extended that to Supreme Court picks. “It was a stinging defeat that I tried not to take personally,” she said during a 2018 commencement speech at her law school. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening.
SAN FRANCISCO — Poet, publisher and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who helped launch and perpetuate the Beat movement, has died. He was 101. Ferlinghetti died at his San Francisco home Monday, his son Lorenzo Ferlinghetti told The Associated Press Tuesday. The cause was lung disease. His father died “in his own room,” holding their hands "as he took his last breath, his son said. Lorenzo Ferlinghetti said his father loved Italian food and the restaurants in the North Beach neighbourhood where he made his home and founded his famous bookstore. He had received the first dose of the COVID vaccine last week and was a month shy of turning 102. Ferlinghetti was known for his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, an essential meeting place for the Beats and other bohemians in the 1950s and beyond. Its publishing arm released books by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and many others. The most famous release was Ginsberg’s anthemic poem, “Howl." It led to a 1957 obscenity trial that broke new ground for freedom of expression. The Associated Press
WABASCA-DESMARAIS, Alta. — RCMP have arrested a man on 15 sex charges in a remote northern Alberta community and say there could be more. Police say the allegations involve five women and took place between 2013 and 2018 in the Desmarais area, about 275 kilometres north of Edmonton. Mounties say they began investigating in December after receiving reports of sexual offences. Police say the suspect and the women know each other. Daniel Michael Balanger, who is 36, is charged with five counts of sexual assault, five counts of sexual interference and five counts of sexual exploitation. Balanger has been remanded in custody and is to appear in Desmarais provincial court on Thursday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021 The Canadian Press
(Bonnie Allen/CBC - image credit) The government of Saskatchewan says it will put up $15 million to fund VIDO-InterVac's pandemic research if the federal government commits to contributing funding. The province made the announcement on Tuesday. It said VIDO-InterVac — the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre — at the University of Saskatchewan is doing world-class research and is now working to secure funding for a Level 4 containment laboratory. Being a Level 4 facility would allow researchers to work with some of the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. The province said the only other Level 4 facility in Canada is the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. "Canada should be one of those vaccine producing nations and Canada should be a world leader in not only research, but also the development and production of new vaccines," Premier Scott Moe said at a news conference Tuesday. "And that should happen right here in Saskatchewan." Moe said production of various vaccines could begin at the new facility in 2022, with the ability to produce up to 40 million a year. The funding is contingent on the federal government committing funds to the facility, the province said. VIDO has already received a commitment of $250,000 from the City of Saskatoon and "significant contributions" from several private donors, the province said. VIDO is requesting $45 million in federal government support and ongoing operating funding for this project. A spokesperson for federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said he is aware of the proposal and following VIDO-InterVac's progress closely. "We are proud that the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization–International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) was one of the first projects supported by our government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the federal government has already given contributions of $46 million to help strengthen VIDO-InterVac's research and construction of a pilot-scale manufacturing facility. It said it welcomed the support from the province. VIDO-InterVac director Dr. Volker Gerdts said the research will help people, but also livestock. "This facility will focus both on human diseases as well as animal diseases, and thus have a huge impact on our lives and that of our animals. It will help us to prepare and be better prepared for future emerging diseases," Gerdts said Tuesday.
THUNDER BAY — A new website launched this week features various services and tools to support victims and survivors of local human trafficking, says the co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Thunder Bay has been identified as one of the top six hubs in Ontario for human trafficking says Kristal Carlson, human trafficking youth and transition worker at Thunder Bay Counselling and co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “This crime is rampant in Thunder Bay,” she said Monday, Feb. 22. The website was created to provide victims and survivors of human trafficking with access to free services and to also spread awareness and education in the community about the crime. “The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking created the website to help community members, potential survivors and business people alike to be able to acknowledge, identify and potentially intervene if they should see human trafficking in young peoples’ lives,” Carlson said, adding the crime is often under-reported. For women, only one in 10 will report and for men only one in 20 will report to police, Carlson said. “It is such an under-reported crime so any sex-based crime we know that only six per cent will ever end in conviction so it is really hard to convince people to come forward when there is not the likelihood that something will happen,” she said. And while groups such as the Thunder Bay Coalition To End Human Trafficking exist to support victims of the crime, it is important to note they do not classify themselves as a “rescuing people” group, Carlson said. “We support individuals to move forward when they are ready in the way that is going to best suit them in their current situation,” she said. Last year alone, through various programs across the Coalition more than 60 people were successful in leaving their current situation, Carlson said. The creators of the new website also hope to address misconceptions around human traffickers that are often presented in media and movies. “Human trafficking, more times than not, is somebody being exploited by the person they identify as their boyfriend, their best friend or somebody that they know so that happens in more than 85 per cent of cases,” she said. The other most common form of trafficking is the exploitation of young people by family members, extended family members, caretakers or guardians. “More times than not it’s happening by the person they believe to be their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend,” Carlson said. The website also teaches individuals how to identify signs and risk factors of human trafficking. “We also want to raise the education in the city of Thunder bay because we are identified as one of the top six hubs in the province of Ontario and Ontario makes up two-thirds of all human trafficking that takes place in our country,” Carlson said. Carlson also points out that coming forward doesn’t mean individuals have to report to the police. “The Thunder Bay Police have started to do some really amazing work in being able to meet survivors exactly where they are at and not needing to move forward with charges but to support them for when they are ready to do that if they are ever ready to do that,” she said. “We just want [survivors] to know they are not alone and that there are people to support you no matter where you are, whether you are currently at risk, entrenched, or you looking to exit, there are people here to support you.” For more information, visit Thunder Bay Coalition’s new website by clicking here. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
WASHINGTON — The Latest on congressional testimony about the Capitol insurrection (all times local): 2:45 p.m. A Senate hearing examining what went wrong with the law enforcement response to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has ended. House Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said afterward that “it’s clear action needs to be taken” after security officials who were in charge that day described confusion during the attack and intelligence failures that failed to predict the violence. Three of the four security officials, including the Capitol police chief, resigned immediately after the attack. Klobuchar said the next police chief should have “greater ability to make decisions” both leading up to and during a crisis. Five people died as a result of the violence. ___ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FORMER SECURITY OFFICIALS TESTIFYING ON THE CAPITOL INSURRECTION: Testifying publicly for the first time about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, former security officials say that bad intelligence was to blame for the disastrous failure to anticipate the violent intentions of the mob. That left them unprepared for the attack, which was unlike anything they had ever seen before. ___ HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 1:25 p.m. The former chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. House is denying allegations he didn’t want to call the National Guard before the Jan. 6 riot out of concern that it would look bad. Paul Irving resigned as House sergeant-at-arms after the deadly insurrection. He testified Tuesday that he met with then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund on Jan. 4 and that he believed they agreed not to ask for the Guard. Sund alleged that Irving denied his request for the Guard, citing “optics.” Said Irving, “I was not concerned about appearance whatsoever.” The hearing has renewed a remarkable breach between Sund and Irving about why there wasn’t more security at the Capitol. Irving was one of Sund’s superiors. Sund says he requested Guard help again at 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 6, as rioters were massing outside the building. Irving denies receiving a call at that time. ___ 12:20 p.m. Police officials who were tasked with protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6 say the FBI did not flag to them an internal report suggesting extremists were preparing for “war.” The report was issued a day before the riot by the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia, field office. Washington Metropolitan Police acting Chief Robert Contee says the report came via email and says he believes a warning of that level “would warrant a phone call or something.” Steven Sund resigned as Capitol Police chief the day after the riot. Sund testified before Congress on Tuesday he was unaware the department had received the report until weeks after the insurrection. Sund and Contee have criticized the intelligence they received from federal law enforcement about Jan. 6. Sund has called for a review of how the intelligence community studies domestic extremism and shares information across agencies. The head of the FBI’s office in Washington has said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning from the Virginia office, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies, including the Capitol Police. ___ 11:55 a.m. The key officials in charge of security at the U.S. Capitol disagree on why they didn’t seek National Guard help before the Jan. 6 insurrection. Steven Sund resigned as chief of the Capitol Police the day after the riot. Sund testified Tuesday that he requested the National Guard be called at 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 6. Paul Irving is the former House sergeant-at-arms and was one of Sund’s superiors. Irving says he didn’t receive a request until after 2 p.m. Irving says he did not remember Sund making a request at 1:09. Rioters breached the Capitol’s west side just after 2 p.m. Irving says he and other Capitol security leaders agreed before Jan. 6 that “the intelligence did not support the troops and collectively decided to let it go.” The result was Capitol Police officers were badly outnumbered by rioters who in many cases were better armed and prepared to try to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory over Donald Trump. ___ 11:45 a.m. A top security official has testified that he was “stunned” over the delayed response to a request for National Guard help during the mob riot at the Capitol. Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III told a joint Senate hearing Tuesday that the former U.S. Capitol Police chief was “pleading” with Army officials to deploy Guard troops as the violence rapidly escalated Jan. 6. The District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police officers had joined to help U.S. Capitol Police during the attack. Contee says police officers “were out there literally fighting for their lives” but the officials on the call appeared to be going through a ”check the boxes” exercise asking about the optics of stationing National Guard troops at the Capitol. Contee says there “was not an immediate response.” The officials are testifying in the first public hearing over the siege as a mob loyal to Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt Congress confirming Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden in the presidential election. ___ 11:30 a.m. The former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says he learned this week that his officers had received a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that forecast in detail the chances extremists could commit “war” in Washington the following day — the day of the Capitol insurrection. The head of the FBI’s office in Washington has said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning from the Virginia office, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the joint terrorism task force, including the Capitol Police. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified to Congress on Tuesday that an officer on the joint terrorism task force had received the FBI’s memo and forwarded it to a sergeant working on intelligence for the Capitol Police. But Sund says the information was not put forward to any other supervisors. Sund says he wasn’t aware of it. Sund says he did see an intelligence report created within the Capitol Police force warning that Congress could be targeted on Jan. 6. That report warned extremists were likely to attend and there were calls for people to travel to Washington armed. The Associated Press
SURREY, B.C. — Teachers marched today outside an elementary school in Surrey, B.C., where a confirmed case of a COVID-19 variant has been reported to demand more safety measures. Members of the Surrey Teachers Association dressed in red and also marched with their colleagues outside Woodward Hill Elementary in a physically distanced protest before classes began. Matt Westphal, the president of the Surrey Teachers Association, says the biggest concern is that students in elementary schools are not required to wear masks inside their classrooms. Earlier this month, the province changed safety protocols to require students in middle and secondary school, along with staff working in kindergarten through Grade 12, to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas of their schools, including while in their learning groups. Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said Monday there are no plans to make any changes to provincial guidelines on masks in schools. Seven schools in the Fraser Health region reported cases involving a COVID-19 variant of concern, with all of them linked to the strain first detected in the United Kingdom. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island announced the start of a COVID-19 testing pilot project Tuesday for travellers arriving in the province by air. Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison told reporters the four-week project will assess the feasibility of using rapid tests on travellers. Air travellers will have two swabs taken when they land on the Island: one for a rapid test and another that will be sent for confirmation at a provincial laboratory. Morrison said the test on arrival does not exclude travellers from the mandatory 14-day isolation period for people arriving from outside the province. She said authorities are looking to detect COVID-19 cases among travellers more quickly. Morrison said it would likely be at least six weeks before conditions in the Atlantic region are stable enough to allow for travel within the four-province bubble that existed until rising case numbers ended it in November. She said the province is looking closely at other jurisdictions as they loosen restrictions to monitor the spread of various variants of the virus. No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in P.E.I. on Tuesday, leaving just one active reported infection. The province has had a total of 115 cases since the pandemic began. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. — — — This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
The Township of Perry does not support looking into changes for the regional fire training funding model. After its Feb. 17 meeting, council discussed a resolution put forward by the Township of McMurrich/Monteith to the seven municipalities involved in the regional fire training. On Dec. 12, the regional fire services committee met to discuss and agreed upon a one-fifth funding model to secure the training services of Gary Courtice. This is the third three-year term that Perry, Kearney, McMurrich/Monteith, Magnetawan, Burk’s Falls, Armour and Ryerson have signed on for. Perry’s mayor Norm Hofstetter said that he had no intention of going back and trying to renegotiate the funding model. Here are key quotes from the conversation: “ … It seems to me that the wrench that’s thrown into this is (McMurrich/Monteith) gets a little upset that Ryerson, Armour and Burk’s Falls are sharing a fire department and (McMurrich/Monteith) seems to think they’re getting a benefit from it, but I don’t look at it as that,” said Hofstetter. “I’m not interested in going back and renegotiating — as far as they want to see invoices before an invoice is paid … they seem to think that the training officer has an open agenda to order whatever he wants but he works withing his budget the same as all other departments do and at the end of the year it’s all reconciled the same way we do with our budgets. So, where I’m coming from you kind of get tired of doing the same thing over and over and if we do this, we’re taking huge steps backwards in training our firefighters,” said Hofstetter. “I do know it was a huge challenge to get where we’re at and I think all of the councils thought it was finalized at that committee meeting,” said Beth Morton, clerk-administrator. “ … McMurrich/Monteith is behind the eight ball here. Some of their councillors are just not up to speed as to where we’re at with this regional fire (committee) they’re just behind and they refuse to be educated so Reeve MacPhail is going to their meeting in March to set the record straight, so to speak, because it’s the fire chiefs’ realm now and they’re working to get a resolution together for the final thing,” said Coun. Margaret Ann MacPhail. “As one of the councillors here, I would like to see us stay the course.” “It looks like a lot of time has been put in and I don’t understand how they’d see that of Mr. Courtice because I’ve seen nothing but professionalism and that’s why we chose him … I agree with Coun. MacPhail and stay the course,” said Coun. Joe Lumley. “I don’t want to play these games anymore, we have a system that’s working and this all boils down to saving $2,000 to $3,000 is what they’d save if we move to another funding model,” said Hofstetter. The Township of Perry said it would not support looking into changes in the regional fire training funding model and would prefer remain status quo with what was decided at the Dec. 12 regional fire services committee meeting. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
"Schitt's Creek'' is continuing its winning streak at the ACTRA Awards in Toronto. The Emmy-sweeping comedy took the Members' Choice Series Ensemble Award for a third year running at an awards show put on by the largest chapter of Canada's performers' union. Tamara Podemski won the prize for outstanding performance by a female for her turn on the CBC drama series "Coroner." Jesse LaVercombe earned a trophy for outstanding performance by a male for his role in the horror film "Violation." Being recognized for their vocal work are Bahia Watson in "Total DramaRama" and Cory Doran in "Doomsday Brothers." Multi-disciplinary artist Jani Lauzon won this year's Award of Excellence, which was presented by her daughter, Tara Sky, at Sunday's online ceremony. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Interior Department faced sharp questions from Republicans Tuesday over what several called her “radical” ideas that include opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Deb Haaland, a New Mexico congresswoman named to lead the Interior Department, tried to reassure GOP lawmakers, saying she is committed to “strike the right balance” as Interior manages oil drilling and other energy development while seeking to conserve public lands and address climate change. If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. Native Americans see her nomination as the best chance to move from consultation on tribal issues to consent and to put more land into the hands of tribal nations either outright or through stewardship agreements. The Interior Department has broad oversight over nearly 600 federally recognized tribes as well as energy development and other uses for the nation’s sprawling federal lands. “The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me,? Haaland testified. “Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans — moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.? Haaland's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday. Under questioning from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the panel's chairman, Haaland said the U.S. will continue to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas even as it moves toward Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The transition to clean energy “is not going to happen overnight,” she said. Manchin, who is publicly undecided on Haaland’s nomination, appeared relieved, saying he supports “innovation, not elimination” of fossil fuels. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was less impressed. He displayed a large chart featuring a quote from last November, before Haaland was selected to lead Interior, in which she said: “If I had my way, it'd be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands." If confirmed as Interior secretary, "you will get to have it your way,'' Daines told Haaland. She replied that Biden's vision — not hers — will set the course for Interior. "It is President Biden's agenda, not my own agenda, that I will be moving forward,'' Haaland said, an answer she repeated several times. While Biden imposed a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands — which doesn’t apply to tribal lands — he has repeatedly said he does not oppose fracking. Biden rejected the long-pIanned Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office. Haaland also faced questions over her appearance at protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota before she was elected to Congress in 2018. Haaland said she went there in solidarity with Native American tribes and other “water protectors” who “felt they were not consulted in the best way'' before the multi-state oil pipeline was approved. Asked by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., if she would oppose a renewal of the pipeline permit, Haaland said she would first ensure that tribes are properly consulted. She told Hoeven she also would "listen to you and consult with you.'' Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the GOP questions over oil drilling and pipelines revealed a partisan divide in the committee. “I almost feel like your nomination is this proxy fight about the future of fossil fuels," Cantwell said, adding that Haaland had made clear her intention to carry out Biden’s clean-energy agenda. She and other Democrats “very much appreciate the fact that you’re doing that, and that’s what I think a president deserves with his nominee,'' Cantwell said. In her opening statement, Haaland told lawmakers that as the daughter of a Pueblo woman, she learned early to value hard work. Her mother is a Navy veteran and worked for a quarter-century at the Bureau of Indian Education, an Interior Department agency. Her father was a Marine who served in Vietnam. He received the Silver Star and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. “As a military family, we moved every few years ... but no matter where we lived, my dad taught me and my siblings to appreciate nature, whether on a mountain trail or walking along the beach,'' Haaland said. The future congresswoman spent summers with her grandparents in a Laguna Pueblo village. “It was in the cornfields with my grandfather where I learned the importance of water and protecting our resources and where I gained a deep respect for the Earth,'' she said. Haaland pledged to lead the Interior Department with honour and integrity and said she will be “a fierce advocate for our public lands.” She promised to listen to and work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and ensure that decisions are based on science. She also vowed to “honour the sovereignty of tribal nations and recognize their part in America’s story.'' Some Democrats and Native American advocates called the frequent description of Haaland as “radical” a loaded reference to her tribal status. “That kind of language is sort of a dog whistle for certain folks that see somebody who is an Indigenous woman potentially being in a position of power,” said Ta’jin Perez with the group Western Native Voice. In an op-ed in USA Today, former Sens. Mark and Tom Udall said Haaland's record "is in line with mainstream conservation priorities. Thus, the exceptional criticism of Rep. Haaland and the threatened holds on her nomination must be motivated by something other than her record.'' Mark Udall is an ex-Colorado senator, while cousin Tom Udall just retired as a New Mexico senator. Tom Udall's father, Stewart, was Interior secretary in the 1960s. Daines called the notion of racial overtones in his remarks outrageous. “I would love to see a Native American serve in the Cabinet. That would be a proud moment for all of us in this country. But this is about her record and her views,” he said in an interview. National civil rights groups have joined forces with tribal leaders and environmental groups in supporting Haaland. A letter signed by nearly 500 national and regional organizations calls her “a proven leader and the right person to lead the charge against the existential threats of our time,'' including climate change and racial justice issues on federal lands. ___ Associated Press writer Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
(Yoskri Mimouna/Radio-Canada - image credit) In the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government spent at least $61 million to help public servants adapt to working from home, according to an analysis by Radio-Canada. The amount is likely higher because some departments including Global Affairs Canada haven't released their spending figures. According to Radio-Canada, the majority of the money that has been reported was used to equip workers with computers and office furniture needed to work from home. The spending doesn't include salaries. As one example, the Department of National Defence provided employees with 960 chairs, 9,896 laptops, 33,000 VPN connections and 110,000 accounts for Microsoft Office 365. The department also allowed each employee to spend $300 on smaller office items. By comparison, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a Crown corporation, granted its employees a monthly allowance of $80. "What worries us the most is whether there were duplicate or triplicate expenses," Renaud Brossard, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's director for Quebec, told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview. Brossard is concerned some of that money might have been spent on items that could have been picked up from the office, and said the government needs to keep tabs on all that equipment once the pandemic is over and workers return to their cubicles. Resources stretched thin: unions But Geneviève Tellier, a professor of political studies at the University of Ottawa, cautioned taxpayers to be understanding in these exceptional circumstances. "It is possible that there were mistakes, that we paid too much," Tellier said in French. But according to unions representing federal public servants, even with all the costs, resources for teleworkers are still stretched thin. "We are experiencing technical problems, such as VPNs failing," said the Public Service Alliance of Canada's Alex Silas. Stéphane Aubry of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said some departments "have not provided much equipment" to their employees. According to PIPSC, some 200,000 federal public servants are working from home during the pandemic. According to Radio-Canada's analysis, the government has also spent more than $26 million on safety measures for workplaces that have continued to function throughout the pandemic. The costs included installing signs and Plexiglas shields.