Smaller and regional Texas hospitals have started to receive COVID-19 vaccine shipments from drugmaker Moderna. (Dec. 22)
Smaller and regional Texas hospitals have started to receive COVID-19 vaccine shipments from drugmaker Moderna. (Dec. 22)
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced on Thursday, Jan. 21, that there would be no change in the current public health restrictions at this time. Dr. Hinshaw had reported that there were 726 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 119 in intensive care. After completing 14,000 tests, Alberta's positivity rate was 4.8% at that time. After praising Albertans for their sacrifices and community spirit in bringing down the number of positive cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rate in the province, Dr. Hinshaw reminded them that they were not in the clear yet. While there had been significant progress in reducing the province's number of positive cases and hospitalizations, Alberta had just as many current hospitalizations for COVID-19 as there had been when the most restrictive public measures were put in place on Dec. 8, 2020. Alberta had the second-highest number of active cases in the country as of Jan. 21, ahead of Ontario and Quebec. A decision had not been made as to how long the public health restrictions would stay in place. Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro held a joint press conference with Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Jan. 25. Minister Shandro began by describing two new variants of COVID-19 that have now been found in Alberta. One variant was first identified in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), and the other was first identified in South Africa (501Y-V2). Of particular concern, the new variants appear to be between 30 and 50% more infectious than the current dominant strain of COVID-19. Fortunately, evidence does not seem to indicate that they cause more severe illness or increase the risk of death. Evidence also suggests that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will still be effective with the new variants. So far, 20 cases of the UK variant have been discovered in Alberta and 5 cases of the South African variant. Almost all of the new variant cases are directly linked to international travel, but one case of the UK variant doesn't appear to be travel-related. This may indicate that the variant has entered the community. Minister Shandro presented projections of the impact that these variants could have on Alberta's population. In one scenario starting with 250 active cases and assuming that there were no health measures in place, in six weeks there would be a projected 2,217 new cases diagnosed every day with the current strain of COVID-19 compared to an astounding 10,217 new cases diagnosed every day with the UK variant. A second scenario began with similar assumptions to the previous scenario; after eight weeks, 1073 hospitalizations were projected with the current strain of COVID-19 compared to 3611 hospitalizations with the UK variant. The province is increasing its capacity to complete genetic testing to identify new cases of the new variants. Minister Shandro announced some changes to the border pilot program. The Border Testing Pilot Program allowed eligible international travellers at select airport and border crossings to reduce the amount of time they had to quarantine on arrival if they presented proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. Previously, participants could leave isolation after their first negative test upon arriving at the airport, provided that they sought a second test around six or seven days later. Now participants will have to remain in quarantine until their second negative test comes back. They cannot return to childcare, out of school care, schools, post-secondary institutions, or workplaces outside of their homes for a period of 14 days. Any current program participants must immediately return to quarantine if they have not received a second negative test result. Travellers returning from the UK or South Africa are no longer eligible to participate in this program. All of the COVID-19 tests conducted as a part of this program will be tested for the UK and South African variants. The current public health restrictions will continue to remain in place. Dr. Hinshaw reported 362 new cases that day and 25 more deaths. So far, there have been 1,574 deaths related to COVID-19 in Alberta since last March. Alberta's COVID-19 positivity rate is 5%. Six hundred thirty-seven people were hospitalized due to the virus on Jan. 25, with 113 in intensive care. Almost 99,500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Alberta as of Jan. 24, including more than 9,870 people fully immunized with both of the required doses. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
OTTAWA — A field of 35 teams will compete in the Canadian mixed doubles curling championship this season, Curling Canada said Tuesday in a release. The March 18-25 competition will be held at Calgary's Markin MacPhail Centre. It will be the third of six straight curling events to be played in a so-called bubble setting at the Canada Olympic Park venue. Teams will be split into five pools of seven for round-robin play. From there, 12 teams will advance to the playoffs. The winner will represent Canada at the 2021 world mixed doubles championship. Specifics on that event have yet to be released by the World Curling Federation. Provincial and territorial representatives will account for 14 entries in the Canadian championship, Curling Canada said. National mixed doubles rankings and results from last season will be used to determine the other 21 teams. Qualifying teams are being notified this week and the field will be announced at a later date, the federation said. The winning team will earn $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse. The runner-up duo will receive $30,000. The 2020 Canadian mixed doubles championship was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant won the 32-team 2019 event in Fredericton. The world mixed doubles championship will serve as an Olympic qualifier for the 2022 Beijing Games. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
FCSS Hosts Free Tax Clinic in Swan Hills Beginning in March, Swan Hills Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) will be offering a free tax clinic to assist eligible individuals to complete their 2020 income tax return. FCSS provides this service all year round and can assist with returns from up to two years ago but can not complete returns for deceased individuals. This service is offered as part of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), a cooperative partnership between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and community organizations that began in 1971. To qualify for the CVITP, individuals have to have a modest income and a simple tax situation. According to the information on the CRA website, eligible individuals for this program include: · Indigenous Peoples · Newcomers and refugees · Persons with disabilities · Seniors · Youth/Students · Homeless and housing insecure individuals · Individuals with a modest income The information on the CRA website defines a simple tax situation as one where the individual has no income, or if they derive their income from: · Employment · Pension · Benefits (Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Disability Insurance, Employment Insurance, and Social Assistance) · Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) · Support Payments · Scholarships, Fellowships, Bursaries, or Grants · Interest (under $1000) More information about free tax clinics offered through the CVITP is available at www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/community-volunteer-income-tax-program.html. Swan Hills FCSS’s tax clinic will be available by appointment. Two appointments will be necessary to complete an individual’s tax return. The first appointment will take about 15 minutes to go through the individual’s tax documents and collect any required information to complete the individual’s tax return. The second appointment, also about 15 minutes, will be for the individual to pick up and sign their completed tax return. Last year, Swan Hills FCSS completed 38 income tax returns for their free tax clinic clients. Please contact Swan Hills FCSS for more information or to make an appointment at (780) 333-4119. Visit the Swan Hills FCSS Facebook page for the latest news about their programs and services. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
Haisla Nation duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids are leading nominees at the first-ever International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards Show. The celebration will stream online on May 23 from Winnipeg, this year's host city, with the winners of all 20 categories selected by the public. The Rez Kids are contending for four awards, including hip hop single of the year for "Where They At" and album of the year for "Born Deadly." David Strickland, a Mi’kmaw and Cree producer, is up for three awards, among them single of the year for "Turtle Island," featuring Supaman, Artson, Spade, JRDN and Whitey. Other categories span an array of elements tied to hip hop music. Two are devoted to R&B songs, while music videos, DJs and clothing lines all have their own awards. An international hip hop single category includes artists hailing from the United States, Australia and India. Organizers say nominees were narrowed down by a group of music judges and industry players, such as DJs, producers and other professionals. The winners will be selected through a public vote running until April 30 on the event's website. The Indigenous hip hop awards are being led by four organizers: MCs Miss Christie Lee and Jon C, as well as Indigenous artist and motivational speaker Paul Sawan and entertainment marketer Chris Sharpe. The idea came about when Sawan and Sharpe began discussing their excitement around the burgeoning Indigenous hip hop community. "I really do consider it to be the new underground," Sharpe said in a phone interview. "We would love (the awards) to be one of the premier events that really showcases the Indigenous artists across Canada, with the hope that a lot more investment will go into helping artists develop in these communities." The awards will be preceded by a virtual music industry trade show on May 22. Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A former senior civil servant accused of embezzling $11 million in Ontario COVID-19 relief money betrayed his own family, according to his wife and two sons. In sworn affidavits, the wife of Sanjay Madan and their two adult sons disavow any knowledge of his alleged scheme, which is now the subject of an unproven civil action against them all. According to his affidavit, Chinmaya Madan said he became suspicious of his father around June last year after discovering unexplained money in his bank accounts, some of which he didn't know existed. Only after repeated questioning did his father admit to having "diverted" money and promise to return it, the affidavit states. "I felt betrayed by my father," Chinmaya Madan said in the document filed in Superior Court. "I was and remain absolutely shocked by the allegations." The Ontario government's unproven civil claim names Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop a computer application for the COVID-19 benefit for families with children. Also named are his sons Chinmaya Madan and Ujjal Madan, and his wife of 28 years, Shalini Madan. The claim alleges the Madan family, who all worked for the government in information technology, defrauded the province of at least $11 million. No criminal charges have been filed. The claim asserts the family and others illegally issued and deposited cheques under the program aimed at defraying the cost of children learning at home. The province alleges the Madans opened hundreds of accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May 2020, then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants. Sanjay Madan had always been "controlling and secretive" about money and managed the family's finances, his wife said in her court filing. However, the actions alleged against him were totally out of character, she said, adding she learned of 1,074 Canadian bank accounts in her name, only three of which she said she had opened. "I am at a complete loss to understand why Sanjay would risk everything in the manner he did. We needed nothing. It all makes no sense to me," Shalini Madan says. "The Sanjay the plaintiff describes is like a completely different person than the man who is my husband and the father of our children." In a statement Tuesday, the Madan family's lawyer called the wife and children "victims not villains." "The Sanjay Madan who is alleged to have behaved so inappropriately is not the man they have known," Christopher Du Vernet said. "They are still struggling to understand what prompted him to act as he did, and especially to have used his own family when doing so." The children claim they were the victims of identity theft. They say in their court filings that they believed their father was returning the "diverted" money and was making things right, but also say they wonder if he was just stringing them along. Du Vernet said last week Sanjay Madan had returned more than the $11 million the government alleges he misappropriated. He said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his mental health. His family, Du Vernet said, could only conclude Sanjay Madan had long suffered from a mental disorder that profoundly distorted his judgment. "Mr. Madan’s wife and children are learning that Mr. Madan has actually had two sides to him: the dedicated husband and father they saw, and the miscreant they never saw." The lawyer also said none of Sanjay Madan's family had spent any of the money he allegedly took. In his affidavit, Ujjawal Madan said he never had any reason to suspect any wrongdoing by his father. "As long as I have known him, he has been a conservative spender," he said. The government, which fired Madan in November, has a court order freezing the family's assets, which included properties in Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
A prospective COVID-19 vaccine touted as a made-in-Canada response has begun human clinical trials in Toronto, and the company says it's already preparing a follow-up that will target more infectious variants. Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says if all goes well, it could start manufacturing millions of doses of its first prospective vaccine by the end of the year, guaranteeing a Canadian stockpile that wouldn't be subject to global supply pressures or competition. That's if the formulation proves safe and effective, of course. Among the challenges of developing a vaccine amid a raging pandemic is the uncertainty of how more infectious variants now emerging will complicate the COVID battle. Even if successful, by the time Providence Therapeutics releases its vaccine hopeful much of the country could be in the throes of a more infectious virus that does not respond to this formulation, allowed company CEO Brad Sorenson. "We don't believe that this is going to be resolved by a single vaccine," said Sorenson, whose biotech also produces a personalized mRNA-based vaccine against cancer. It's a challenge now facing Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have each said its products appear to respond well to the variant initially identified in the United Kingdom, and to a lesser degree, the variant first detected in South Africa. Moderna said earlier this week it plans to test two booster vaccines aimed at the variant associated with South Africa. Sorenson said Providence is already internally testing a vaccine candidate that targets the variants, and he hoped to begin clinical trials by the end of the year. "We believe that there's going to be a need to be in a position of readiness to be able to respond as these variants are coming up, and to be able to make sure that we have that capacity." That doesn't mean Providence is changing production runs just yet. Sorenson said the immediate focus is to establish the safety and efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B and designed in the early days of the pandemic last March. It uses messenger RNA technology and focuses on the spike protein located on the surface of a coronavirus that initiates infection, similar to the Pfizer and Moderna products. The trial involves 60 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 25 who will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected in February. The subjects are divided into four groups of 15, three of which will get three different doses. The fourth group gets a placebo. Sorenson said immediate pandemic efforts should be focused on the novel coronavirus currently devastating many parts of the country. "It's a matter of capacity. Right now these variants are there, they're concerning, and we're keeping a close eye on it, but that's not predominantly what the needs of the population are," said Sorenson. "Right now the needs of the population are still tied to the primary spike protein virus that's out there and is ravaging around the world." Sorenson said his next vaccine candidate takes a broader approach by attempting to elicit a T-cell response, thereby creating a longer-term vaccine "and cover what we believe would be a lot more variants." "We have to prove it out but we believe that if we are successful that it will allow for a much more durable immunity and a much broader immunity." The other goal is to prepare for large-scale manufacturing in Calgary, if all goes well with the trials and approval process. Sorenson said doses for the Phase 1 trial are being made in Toronto but the plan is to commercially manufacture the completed vaccine through a contract with the Calgary-based Northern RNA Inc. That won't be up and running by the end of the year, Sorenson allowed, so the short-term plan is to send raw materials made in Canada to a plant in the United States that would make the commercial product. Eventually, the whole process would be completed in Canada, he said. "We're building the entire chain within Canada so we're not going to run into a problem where this particular input into the vaccine is unavailable," he said. Much of this also depends on financial support from the federal government, Sorenson added. While the National Research Council of Canada has backed Phase 1 trials, Sorenson said he's awaiting word on further support. He'd also like Ottawa to back Providence's efforts to address the new COVID variants. "They've already recognized the importance of mRNA technology. What they don't realize is the power of mRNA technology to be responsive to these challenges that are coming up," he said. "Hopefully the politicians and the people that cut the cheques and write the policies that give direction to the bureaucrats will hear that and we'll start seeing a more concerted approach that looks at a fuller picture." Pending regulatory approval, Sorenson said a larger, international Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people, followed by an even broader Phase 3 trial. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
MADRID — Barcelona rescheduled its presidential elections to March 7 and members will be allowed to vote by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic, the club said Tuesday. The elections had been originally scheduled for Jan. 24 but Barcelona was forced to delay the vote because of mobility restrictions imposed by the Catalan government during the pandemic. Voting will take place at six polling stations and by mail after the Catalan government made a change in the legislation “to allow for postal voting for sporting bodies,” Barcelona said. Members who are over 65 will be allowed to vote from home. Polling stations outside Catalonia, with the exception of Andorra, will not be used as originally planned because of the restrictions prompted by the pandemic. The club reiterated that “the elections are affected by the exceptional circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and for that reason they will be organized following at all times the recommendations of the health authorities in order to protect the health and safety of the voters.” “During this period the club will continue to work closely with the Catalan government and the health and local authorities to best organize the elections so that they can be carried out in the best conditions possible,” Barcelona said. The three presidential candidates are Joan Laporta, Víctor Font and Toni Freixa. Barcelona has been led by a caretaker board since former president Josep Bartomeu resigned in October. He faced the possibility of being ousted in a no-confidence motion supported by thousands of club members furious at the team’s poor performances and the club’s financial situation. Barcelona lost to Bayern Munich 8-2 in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in August, and its soaring debt forced the club to practically give away veterans like Luis Suárez to slash its salary burden. Lionel Messi later asked to leave the club but had his request denied. Barcelona plays against second-division club Rayo Vallecano in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. It trails Spanish league leader Atlético Madrid by 10 points and is three points behind second-place Real Madrid entering the second half of the season. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
A group of doctors and advocates are calling on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to address what they call a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in long-term care homes by bringing the military back for support and embarking on hiring and training drives.
Within hours of being inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, President Joseph R. Biden effectively cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline project (KXL) with an executive order. Section six of the "Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis" revoked the existing Presidential permit that had allowed for the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the pipeline on the border between Canada and the United States. President Biden's decision to cancel the pipeline followed through on one of his campaign promises leading up to the November 3 Presidential election. The move to cancel this massive energy project is a stunning blow to Alberta's already beleaguered oil and gas sector. In the days since this decision, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been calling for Canada's federal government to take concrete measures to protect the country's economic interests, including the possibility of economic retaliation against the United States. With the announcement of the pipeline's cancellation, TC Energy (the company that is building the pipeline) says that about 1,000 construction workers in Alberta and the US have been, or will be, laid off. Last year the Alberta government under Jason Kenney made a considerable investment in the KXL, to the tune of $1.5 billion in equity and up to $6 billion in loan guarantees. Critics of this deal have called it short-sighted in light of the already existing uncertainties at the time about the project's future. The Alberta NDP, the official opposition party, has called for a Public Accounts Committee meeting to request that the UCP government release the full risk analysis and all of the financial documents related to the KXL deal. The UCP has previously refused to release these details. It seems highly unlikely that the United States government will reverse the decision to cancel the KXL, and unfortunately Canada does not appear to have much in the lines of options to change their minds. The full impact of this decision still remains to be seen. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
The first fully battery-electric bus line in Metro Vancouver will be up and running in 2022, according to TransLink, thanks to a $16 million investment from Canada's gas tax fund. In a joint announcement, the federal government and TransLink said the money will be used to purchase 15 battery-electric buses from Canadian manufacturer Nova Bus. the vehicles will run on the No. 100 route through New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver. Outgoing TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the acquisition of the buses will more than quadruple the company's current fleet of four battery-electric buses. "Our plan is to continue to replace diesel buses being retried… with all zero-emission battery-electric buses," he said. Each zero-emission bus is expected to save 100 tonnes of greenhouse gases and $40,000 in annual fuel costs compared to a conventional diesel bus. Martin LaRose, general manager of Nova Bus, said the vehicles being sold to TransLink will have a battery range of around 350 to 450 kilometres. The buses can be charged in approximately five minutes at charging stations while picking up passengers. Nova Bus is based in St. Eustache, Que., and is a division of Swedish-owned Volvo Buses. Almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, said Desmond.
THUNDER BAY — A new pilot project launched earlier this month by the Thunder Bay Police Service, CMHA Thunder Bay Branch and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre hopes to provide better and immediate services to individuals dealing with mental health crises in the community. The details of the Integrated Mobile Police Assessment Crisis Team (IMPACT) were announced through a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The pilot project is an expansion of the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team initiative which launched in June 2018. “The goal of the pilot is to reduce police time in the emergency department, divert individuals from having to attend the emergency department while providing supports for individuals in the community,” Insp. Derek West of the Thunder Bay Police Service said Tuesday. The new initiative launched on Jan. 4 and has so far had encounters with 71 individuals. Of the 71 encounters, 33 people have been diverted from the emergency department already, West said. The pilot team is comprised of one police officer and one crisis worker who will work together to respond to all mental health-related calls for service that the police service receives or are referred to on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis. Jennifer Hyslop, CEO of CMHA Thunder Bay Branch said during Tuesday’s news conference the pilot program will help reduce unnecessary encounters with law enforcement and unnecessary emergency department visits for individuals. “As we know provincially and in our community, police should not be the first responders to a mental health crisis,” Hyslop said. “If we look at the evidence in Thunder Bay and all communities across Ontario we have had to over-rely on police managing mental health issues.” Lisa Beck, director of Trauma, Emergency Department and Critical Care at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said if an emergency department visit is required, the IMPACT team will support the individual at the hospital as well. The pilot program is different from the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team in the sense that both the police officer and crisis worker respond to calls together. “In the past there were many instances where the crisis worker arrives separately from the officer,” Beck said, adding having both police and crisis staff responding in unison is a great improvement for the patient. Another difference is the team will operate out of the police station. For the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team, crisis staff were dispatched separately from the CMHA crisis office, Hyslop said. “We designed the IMPACT team to be able to respond more quickly and swiftly and hopefully will demonstrate this model of care is maybe even more critical than the way we were running our joint mobile project before,” she said. CMHA also plans to implement five safe beds at the end of February as another diversion pathway for individuals who need extra support but do not need to attend the hospital. The IMPACT team will have direct access to these beds where individuals can be stabilized and stay up to 30 days. Due to COVID-19 and finalizing staff members, there has been difficulty opening the beds, Hyslop said, but expects everything to be in place for the end of next month. All police officers and crisis workers in the program participated in crisis intervention training, West said. An analysis of the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team which will continue to operate its two-person crisis response team seven days a week from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. found that there were significant barriers and not enough coverage for mental health calls within a 12 hour period, Hyslop said. Beck added the city’s emergency department was receiving patients with mental health concerns during all times of the day and night. Hyslop said she expects to see more interactions regarding mental health in the community with project IMPACT. “These numbers we have seen in the first few weeks are higher than what we expected,” she said. “With this new model, we are going to see interaction with individuals go up significantly.” Currently, there are four full-time positions for crisis staff filled. The CMHA is currently recruiting for two part-time crisis workers' positions to be filled. The project is scheduled to last a year. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
WARSAW, Poland — A Polish man who has been at the centre of an international life-support dispute has died at a British hospital, officials said. The middle-aged man, identified only as R.S., was repeatedly put on and off life support treatment during weeks of wrangling at British and European courts over whether continuing the treatment was in his best interests. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told reporters Tuesday evening that the man died. He said Poland’s authorities have been taking every effort to save his life. Poland’s government took steps last week to bring him to the country for specialized treatment. The man, a British resident for years, was hospitalized in a coma in Plymouth, England, on Nov. 6 after suffering cardiac arrest. Doctors said his brain had been severely and permanently damaged. The man’s wife and children said he should be allowed to die, but his mother, sisters and niece argued that the man’s Roman Catholic faith meant he wouldn’t have wanted his life terminated. Polish news agency PAP said Tuesday it has been informed by family members that the man died after his condition deteriorated Monday night. The Associated Press
In response to residents’ concerns about construction plans in Small’s Creek Ravine, Metrolinx is meeting with the community in a series of workshops and is also hosting a public online open house on Feb. 3. Metrolinx’s rail corridor expansion plans include expanding the railway from three to four tracks in a segment that runs through Small’s Creek, which is in the Woodbine Avenue to Coxwell Avenue and Gerrard Street East area. The proposed construction would remove 268 trees and other environmental impacts that prompted residents to organize a campaign called Save Small’s Creek. The campaign gathered almost 6,000 signatures in an online petition, from residents across the neighbourhood, eager to see a better construction plan in which a high number of trees would not be removed. Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford is also hosting a stakeholder meeting with the city’s Urban Forestry department this week to determine the steps necessary to minimize tree loss, his office confirmed. Metrolinx will host its virtual open house on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the Lakeshore East Corridor Expansion Project. Residents can participate by visiting www.metrolinxengage.com/en/lakeshore-east-live-event The open house will feature a presentation from Capital Projects Group executive vice president Stephanie Davies and vice president of pre-construction services Jason Ryan. A question and answer session will follow. For more on the plans for Small’s Creek, please see Beach Metro News’ earlier story at https://www.beachmetro.com/2021/01/04/save-smalls-creek-group-formed-to-protest-metrolinx-plans-to-cut-down-trees-build-new-culvert-for-railway-track-expansion/ Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change. Two people with knowledge of Biden’s plans outlined the proposed moratorium, which will be announced Wednesday. They asked not to be identified because the plan has not been made been public; some details remain in flux. The move follows a 60-day suspension of new drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters announced last week and follows Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change. The moratorium is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate. Environmental groups hailed the expected moratorium as the kind of bold, urgent action needed to slow climate change. “The fossil fuel industry has inflicted tremendous damage on the planet. The administration’s review, if done correctly, will show that filthy fracking and drilling must end for good, everywhere,'' said Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has pushed for the drilling pause. Oil industry groups slammed the move, saying Biden had already eliminated thousands of oil and gas jobs by killing the Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office. "This is just the start. It will get worse,'' said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma. "Meanwhile, the laws of physics, chemistry and supply and demand remain in effect. Oil and natural gas prices are going up, and so will home heating bills, consumer prices and fuel costs.'' Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in Western states, said the expected executive order is intended to delay drilling on federal lands to the point where it is no longer viable. "The environmental left is leading the agenda at the White House when it comes to energy and environment issues,'' she said, noting that the moratorium would be felt most acutely in Western states such as Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota. Biden lost all three states to former President Donald Trump. The drilling moratorium is among several climate-related actions Biden will announce Wednesday. He also is likely to direct officials to conserve 30% of the country’s lands and ocean waters in the next 10 years, initiate a series of regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and issue a memorandum that elevates climate change to a national security priority. He also is expected to direct all U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based decision-making in federal rule-making and announce a U.S.-hosted climate leaders summit on Earth Day, April 22. The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030, part of Biden’s campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming. Under Trump, federal agencies prioritized energy development and eased environmental rules to speed up drilling permits as part of the Republican’s goal to boost fossil fuel production. Trump consistently downplayed the dangers of climate change, which Biden, a Democrat, has made a top priority. On his first day in office last Wednesday, Biden signed a series of executive orders that underscored his different approach — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, revoking approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and telling agencies to immediately review dozens of Trump-era rules on science, the environment and public health. A 60-day suspension order at the Interior Department did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, meaning activity would not come to a sudden halt on the millions of acres of lands in the West and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where much drilling is concentrated. The moratorium also is unlikely to affect existing leases. Its effect could be further blunted by companies that stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump’s final months to allow them to keep pumping oil and gas for years. The pause in drilling is limited to federal lands and does not affect drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states. Oil and gas extracted from public lands and waters account for about a quarter of annual U.S. production. Extracting and burning those fuels generates the equivalent of almost 550 million tons (500 million metric tons) of greenhouse gases annually, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a 2018 study. Under Trump, Interior officials approved almost 1,400 permits on federal lands, primarily in Wyoming and New Mexico, over a three-month period that included the election, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. Those permits, which remain valid, will allow companies to continue drilling for years, potentially undercutting Biden’s climate agenda. The leasing moratorium could present a political dilemma for Biden in New Mexico, a Democratic-leaning state that has experienced a boom in oil production in recent years, much of it on federal land. Biden's choice to lead the Interior Department, which oversees oil and gas leasing on public lands, is New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland. If confirmed, she would be the first Native American to lead the agency that oversees relations with nearly 600 federally-recognized tribes. Haaland, whose confirmation hearing has been delayed until next month, already faces backlash from some Republicans who say expected cutbacks in oil production under Biden would hurt her home state. Tiernan Sittenfeld, a top official with the League of Conservation Voters, called that criticism off-base. “The reality is we need to transition to 100% clean energy” in order to address climate change, she said Tuesday. "The clean energy economy in New Mexico is thriving,'' Sittenfeld added, citing gains in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The Biden administration has pledged to spend billions to assist in the transition away from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, and Biden has said creating thousands of clean-energy jobs is a top priority. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — Two Virginia police officers charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington earlier this month have been fired, a town official announced Tuesday. Rocky Mount Town Manager James Ervin announced the firings in a statement, but did not provide any additional details on the firing of former Sgt. Thomas “T.J.” Robertson and former Officer Jacob Fracker, The Roanoke Times reported. The town had no precedent to refer to for how to deal with this situation, Ervin wrote. “The events of the past few weeks have been challenging for our town, as they have been for the entire nation. The actions by two have driven our beautiful town into the national spotlight in ways that do not reflect our whole community and the people who call Rocky Mount home.” Ervin said in the statement. Robertson had told the newspaper he and Fracker received letters of termination from the town Friday, offering them the opportunity to resign before the firing took effect. Fracker, reached via text message, declined to comment Tuesday. Federal authorities have charged Robertson, 47, and Fracker, 29, with a misdemeanouroffence of knowingly entering a restricted building without authority to do so to engage in conduct that disrupts government business. They also face a petty offence of engaging in disruptive conduct in the Capitol in order to interfere with a session of Congress. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanour is a year in jail. The maximum penalty for the petty offence is six months. In a selfie Fracker took inside the Capitol Crypt on Jan. 6, Fracker is making an obscene gesture. Robertson is pointing at Fracker while holding a wooden pole. Both officers have repeatedly said they did nothing illegal and did not participate in any of the violence that unfolded Jan. 6. The Associated Press
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan's autocratic leader has established a national holiday to honour the local dog breed, media reports said Tuesday. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ordered the holiday praising the Alabai, the Central Asian shepherd dog, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of April when the ex-Soviet nation also marks the day of the local horse breed, according to the daily Neutral Turkmenistan. The Central Asian nation of 6 million prides itself in horses and dogs, honouring its centuries-old herding traditions. Berdymukhamedov has ruled the gas-rich desert country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq," or protector. The Turkmen leader has extolled the Alabai for years. He published a book and wrote a song about the breed and presented Russian President Vladimir Putin with a puppy in 2017. In 2019, Berdymukhamedov also handed an Alabai puppy to then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Last year, Berdymukhamedov inaugurated a 15-meter (nearly 50-feet) gilded statue honouring the dog in the Turkmen capital. Berdymukhamedov's son, Serdar, who heads the international Alabai association, reported to the president that the holiday will feature a beauty contest and agility competitions. The Associated Press
From a clog-dancing world champion to a Cuban shark hunter, the people who live in the world's many Prestons have some interesting tales to tell. And a performance arts group in the U.K. is on a mission to collect them all. Preston Calling — a project to unite people who call Preston home and help keep the loneliness of the pandemic at bay — was launched last year by Derelict, a non-profit arts organization based in Preston, Lancashire. "Now that we've been able to connect with people all over the world, it's made people feel much more included in the world and it's giving people much more hope," project co-ordinator Philip Sykes told CBC Radio's Information Morning. "It's been a bit of a hopeless time, I have to say, for us anyway in the U.K." When his group had to shelve many of its projects last year, it decided to turn to the telephone instead. "We liked the idea of calling someone," Sykes said. "You know, we could say, 'Hello, this is Preston' and they could say 'Hello, we're Preston, too.'" So far, Preston Calling has found 60 villages, towns and cities that share the name, most in English-speaking Commonwealth countries, including the Prestons in Nova Scotia. The historic Black communities on the outskirts of Halifax are made up of neighbouring North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook. "I thought it was the most cool thing in the world, like, I thought maybe there might have been a couple of other Prestons … but I had no idea there were 60," said Tara Taylor, a playwright from East Preston who contributed to the project. She shared some of her favourite memories and spaces from her hometown, which have been collected on the group's website. "My favourite place out here is our river next to the church and we actually — way back in the day — used to baptize people in the river," Taylor said. The popular story that the Prestons were named after Rev. Richard Preston, who escaped slavery in the U.S. and became a leader in the African Nova Scotian community, isn't actually true, Taylor said. "He actually came here in search of his mother and it was already called Preston, so he took the name on as Preston," she said. "So we commonly think that it was named after him for coming here, but it's actually the opposite way around." Taylor is now trying to find out more information about the name Preston and where it came from. In addition to the submissions from Preston residents that are compiled online, Preston Calling is also releasing a podcast with conversations with people from around the world. So far Sykes has met a store owner in Preston, Kentucky, who used to be the world's clog-dancing champion and performed in venues in the U.K. and U.S. He also met a woman from Preston, Cuba with a very impressive grandfather. "She's actually got my favourite story, which is that there was a particularly troublesome shark in Preston, Cuba, called Don Pepe and her grandfather was actually able to track it down and caught the shark — so some really, really amazing stories," said Sykes. For Taylor, reflecting on what she loves about her hometown has her feeling a special bond with all the other Prestons out there. "I want a tour," she said. "I want to go visit all of them and I want us to all bring the beautiful sights from each one of our towns." MORE TOP STORIES
Présentation du cadre théorique d’une étude intitulée « Comprendre la dynamique des écosystèmes apprenants au service des transitions en Afrique ».
CALGARY — Enerplus Corp. is increasing its bets on the Bakken light oil region in North Dakota with the purchase of a private rival for US$465 million, despite a legal fight that could shut down a major oil pipeline there. The Calgary-based company said Tuesday it has agreed to buy Bruin E&P HoldCo, LLC, which has current production of about 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. “With immediately adjacent acreage offering strong operational synergies, Bruin’s assets are highly complementary to our existing tier 1 position in the Bakken," said Enerplus CEO Ian Dundas in a statement. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a federal appeal court decision Tuesday to uphold the ruling of a district judge who last year ordered a full environmental impact review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Following a complaint by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the district judge ruled last spring that the review conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the 1,886-kilometre pipeline that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border was incomplete. He ordered the pipeline shut down, but that order was reversed. The ruling Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is a setback for the pipeline but also does not require it to stop operating or be emptied of oil while the environmental review is done. In its news release, Enerplus said it expects to achieve an average 2021 Bakken oil price that's discounted by about US$3.25 per barrel below benchmark West Texas Intermediate, an improvement credited to better pipeline access compared with 2020, when the discount was expected to be US$5 per barrel. "In the event DAPL (Dakota Access) is required to cease operations, Enerplus expects Bakken oil price differentials to widen reflecting rail economics ... (to) US$6 per barrel below WTI, assuming 10 months of wider differentials if DAPL cannot operate," it said. The Dakota Access pipeline was the subject of months of sometimes violent protests in 2016 and 2017 during its construction. The tribe continued its legal challenges against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois in June 2017. Enerplus reported fourth-quarter production of 86,200 boe/d on Tuesday and said that is expected to rise to an average of about 106,000 boe/d in 2021 on capital spending of between C$335 million and C$385 million if the Bruin deal goes through by early March as expected. Enerplus says it will fund the purchase of Bruin with a new US$400-million term loan and a C$115-million equity financing. It says it will not assume any of Bruin's debt. It says most of Bruin's production and development prospects are located in the Fort Berthold area near Enerplus's main property. The company produces oil in Canada, but most of its output comes from the U.S., with oil and gas wells in North Dakota and Montana and natural gas production in the northeastern United States. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:ERF) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press