Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
Police have laid charges after once again attending Adamson Barbecue on Wednesday, a restaurant in Etobicoke that had been ordered to close after defying public health rules and allowing in-person dining despite a provincial lockdown order. Toronto Police Superintendant Dom Sinopoli said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that owner Adam Skelly and the restaurant face nine charges, including violating indoor dining rules, holding an illegal gathering and operating a business without a licence. Four of the charges were laid on Tuesday. When asked what police will do if Skelly decides to open again Thursday, Sinopoli said "tomorrow is another day" and they will take enforcement actions based on what happens.The restaurant closed around 1 p.m. after serving crowds of customers Wednesday morning. Skelly decided to close down after discussions with police, said Sinopoli.He said police are currently in discussions with "partners" about what their enforcement powers are when dealing with businesses that violate health orders. He did not elaborate on who those partners are.Protesters not chargedNo one who rallied outside the restaurant was charged or fined, he added.Crowds outside the establishment were told to leave Wednesday afternoon, though many also left as it began raining. Earlier Wednesday morning, more than a dozen officers arrived at the restaurant located on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard. Skelly was seen without a mask speaking with law enforcement indoors.A crowd of customers was gathered to eat inside the establishment as officers were present. As the doors opened at 11 a.m., cars came by the restaurant to honk in support and a rally of at least 100 people formed outside the establishment to protest current lockdown orders. One day after Monday's lockdown came into effect for Toronto and Peel region, Skelly vowed in an Instagram post that his establishment would remain open despite new health measures that prohibit in-person dining at restaurants for at least 28-days.The new rules were ushered in as the vast majority of the province's increase in COVID-19 cases stem from the regions covered by the lockdown.Coun. Mark Grimes told reporters at the scene Wednesday that Skelly has been charged for breaking public health orders on both Tuesday and Wednesday.Grimes said he's asking for a maximum fine of $100,000 to be laid.On Tuesday, Adamson Barbecue served a packed dining room of patrons who were pictured eating indoors and outdoors on benches, many without masks.The unabashed flouting of the rules resulted in Dr. Eileen de Villa , the city's medical officer of health, to order the business to close Tuesday evening. When that order came in, Skelly was already closing up shop.An illustration was posted to the restaurant's Instagram page Tuesday night of Skelly standing on a police vehicle with the caption, "Etobicoke. 11 a.m. to sold out. Dine-in." Skelly opened again Wednesday despite the city's order.City, police 'not satisfied' with initial enforcement response, Tory saysInsp. Tim Crone had told reporters Tuesday that due to the "sheer number of people" inside the restaurant, police didn't have the ability to go inside and remove anyone. Later Staff Supt. Mark Barkley acknowledged at the scene that it was a mistake not to act sooner. At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said that he was updated about the restaurant Tuesday and that he and police were "not satisfied" with law enforcement's initial response when the owner defied the lockdown. When reporters asked about his involvement in that response, he emphasized that it would be inappropriate for a politician to direct law enforcement and it's up to police to determine charges and enforce the law.However, he did say that he'd throw the book at business owners like Skelly, who choose to violate public health orders. Placing concrete blocks in front of the restaurant would be something he'd consider — but he again said he will not direct police. Barkley, who spoke on the phone at the news conference, said the response to the barbecue restaurant was a "complex situation" and police had to ensure they handled it in accordance with the law.He did concede that after reviewing the response there were "other opportunities" that officers could have pursued at the time. Barkley confirmed that charges were laid against the business. Ford calls owner 'irresponsible' and tells him to shut downDuring a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said he was not going to " start pounding on a small business owner when the guy's holding on by his fingernails." But he emphasized that guidelines have to be followed.But on Wednesday, he took a sterner tone toward Skelly and any other businesses that are considering defying public health orders."You need to shut down. You're putting people's lives in jeopardy," he said, in response to a question about the barbecue restaurant openings again for the second day in a row. "This guy is just totally ignoring public health officials. That's how this spreads.""People are dying, because of COVID-19. And he just wants to say 'forget it' and have everyone down there? It's absolutely irresponsible and ridiculous," he said. His statements came as reporters asked questions about why larger department stores like Walmart were allowed to remain open, while small businesses sometimes selling similar goods had to shutter. Spectacle outside eatery a 'distraction': restaurant ownerToronto restaurateur Nathan Hynes said he's concerned the opening of Skelly's eatery and the response from officials has distracted from real concerns small business owners have as they enter the first week of the new lockdown.The new rent subsidy from the federal government paid directly to tenants is coming too late, said Hynes, who owns The Auld Spot Pub on Danforth Avenue. "The support hasn't been good enough. And the big businesses kind of act on a different playing field," he said, adding that the province allowing big players like Walmart to remain open has been a blow.Hynes said he continues to owe fixed costs to banks and insurance companies that he cannot pay.He said he firmly disagrees with Skelly's decision to reopen, but added the sporadic approach by different levels of government in providing support for businesses has been a concern throughout the pandemic. "My creditors are knocking on my door looking for money that I can't pay them because I'm forced to close," he said."I don't want a sideshow like this to overwhelm ... the reality of the situation and distract from a real kind of change happening here."
Regina International Airport is coming under review as NAV Canada, Canada's air navigation service provider, considers cost-cutting measures at airports across the country. Regina is one of seven airports where air traffic controller jobs might be eliminated. According to James Bogusz, the CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, NAV Canada looks for a threshold of approximately 60,000 aircraft movements per year to justify having an aircraft control tower. Last year, Regina's airport came close, with 56,000 airport movements.Bogusz said he is concerned about how NAV Canada's decision might impact the community. "I simply cannot [let] our airport, and by extension our community and our whole region — which is all of southern Saskatchewan — diminish any operational capability we have," he said. NAV Canada is able to safely operate without a control tower on site — and does, at many airports — but doing so limits how much activity an airport can accommodate at any one time. With commercial flights, charters, military planes and the flight school all relying on Regina's airport, Bogusz said having a local air traffic control tower makes a major difference. "It's quite obvious that having boots on the ground, or, in this case, eyes in the tower, is far more efficient than trying to advise services from a city that cannot see what's going on in the airfield," he said. Doug McNair, president of the Regina Flying Club, said the NAV Canada air controllers based in Regina are a positive presence in the city's aviation community and have helped local flight students graduate better prepared to take on all sorts of aviation jobs."A lot of our students go on to get their commercial licenses and they move on to the airlines or air ambulance — they have a career in aviation," he said. "A lot of those types of jobs will take them into larger airports, and larger airports and airspace that has more traffic requires a lot more training and experience. "So in Regina here, by having the tower, we have all the benefits for our students of learning advanced procedures, taking direction from the air traffic controllers."Rebecca Hickey, a spokesperson for NAV Canada, said the review process will include a detailed study of the types and patterns of aircraft movement at the airport, as well as consultation with local stakeholders. While the option of closing or reducing the hours of the air traffic control is on the table, at this point in the process that is not a foregone conclusion."The outcome of our study could very well be status quo," Hickey said. "It's not determined, and it will be a number of months before it's concluded."
The Alberta government has brought in massive restrictions on social and public gatherings, which include businesses and services to churches and schools. Failure to follow them can come with a ticketed fine of $1,000 or a maximum court fine of $100,000. At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency as Alberta reported 1,115 new cases and 16 new deaths. Alberta now leads the country with more active cases than any other province. “If we do not slow the sharp rise of both hospitalizations and ICU admissions, they will threaten our ability to deliver health services that we all rely on,” said Kenney, who warned the Alberta health care system cannot handle the rate that COVID-19 is spreading. As of Tuesday, 348 Albertans were fighting the virus in hospitals, with 66 patients in intensive care units. “We believe these are the minimum restrictions needed right now to safeguard our health-care system, while avoiding widespread damage to peoples’ livelihood,” he said. The province won’t have “snitch line” to enforce rules, but the number of enforcement officers tasked with public health orders will increase. Kenney rejected calls for a widespread lockdown and economic shutdown, calling that option “an unprecedented violation of fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.” He also said this action would hurt small business owners and people living on low incomes. It was a “grave mistake” this past spring when the province tried distinguishing between essential and non-essential retailers, said Kenney. This allowed big box stores and online retailers to thrive, he said, while small businesses suffered. “I wish the people advocating that we go to that extreme at this point were perhaps a little more transparent about what we know from the data on the broader social impact, particularly for the vulnerable,” Kenney said. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com “Let me just be absolutely clear about this: social gatherings are the biggest problem,” said Kenney. “These gatherings in the home continue to be the largest source of transmission and so they must stop now.” “Our school system has done very well at limiting in-school transmission, Parents, teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard to keep kids safe,” said Kenney. However, the premier added the spread of COVID-19 from workplaces and social gatherings means the virus is finding its way into schools. Hinshaw said as of Tuesday, 13 per cent of all schools in Alberta had an active COVID-19 outbreak. “There’s very limited transmission within the schools but more community transition, affecting the schools and their ability to operate,” said Kenney. Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
The Town of Bay Roberts has awarded a tender in the amount of $316,277 to CanAm Platforms & Construction Ltd. for new ballfield lighting. There was some discussion on whether that tender price would include new dehumidifiers, as the tender was for ballfield lighting and stadium dehumidifier upgrades. “I’m 99 percent sure that’s just the ballfield lighting,” said councillor Dean Franey, who noted the Town had already awarded the dehumidifier upgrade. “I’ll have to check with the director, but I’m pretty sure councillor Franey is right,” agreed Chief Administrative Officer Nigel Black. “What happens is the project name was called Ballfield Lighting and Stadium Dehumidifier. It was all lumped into one project.” Councillor Silas Badcock raised a concern about the awarding of the tender. “This is the company that put up our building at the recreation complex, where we’re having trouble with the roof?” asked Badcock. Black confirmed it was. Badcock said it didn’t make sense to him to award the contract unless the roof was fixed first. Black replied that the company met all the requirements of the tender, which had been reviewed by Municipal Affairs and the Town’s consultant, Crosbie Engineering. “There’s no way in the world we can say, ‘Fix our roof before you get this contract?’” asked Babcock. Black said the roof is being fixed and there is no outstanding claim against the company. “There was an outstanding problem with the roof, and they’re fixing it,” said Black. Councillor Geoff Seymour asked how much interest there was in the tender, and Franey said that there were 10 bids— including one from a company from Nova Scotia. “There’s not much work out there, I’ll put it to you that way. So people are going after whatever they can get,” said Franey. Council voted to approve the tender for the ballfield lighting.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
In the face of what advocates say is a growing housing crisis that includes ballooning rent costs forcing people out of their homes, the Nova Scotia government is stepping in with a cap on increases and a ban on so-called renovictions."Too many Nova Scotians are struggling to afford a place they call home," Housing Minister Chuck Porter said Wednesday."Now is not the time for people to be worrying about keeping a roof over their heads or being forced to find a new home for their family, but unfortunately that is exactly the situation many people are in."Effective immediately, rent increases are capped at two per cent per year without exception. The change is retroactive to September 2020 and will remain in place until Feb. 1, 2022, or whenever the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted. Porter said anyone whose rent has already gone up within the defined time period would receive the difference as a future credit.Landlords will be banned from evicting tenants for the purpose of renovating their buildings. Porter said unless an eviction order has been issued by the residential tenancy board, it will not be enforceable, and that includes notices already provided.Marites Sumat was thrilled by the news."I'm so thankful," she said.Sumat recently received six months notice that the Clayton Park apartment she shares with her husband, three children and mother was going to see the monthly rent go up from $850 to $1,250, a 47 per cent increase that would have priced the family out of their home.The new cap is "a big help for renters," she said.COVID-19 has exerted a major toll on many people, said Sumat. While she's been fortunate not to have her hours reduced at work, she said the pandemic has made what was an already difficult situation for many people all the more challenging.She's still waiting to speak with her landlord, but under the rules announced today the increase scheduled for March 2021 would not be permitted.Change in tuneThe rent cap is a stark departure from previous assertions by Premier Stephen McNeil and his government that rent control is not an effective tool for combating housing challenges.For months, there have been a litany of stories about people being forced from their homes due to renovictions or rent increases as high as 90 per cent. Porter acknowledged it took time to arrive at Wednesday's announcement, but said the government was trying to find the most effective way to deal with the situation.Although he said the main problem is one of supply, the minister noted that cannot be addressed quickly."It is incumbent on us as government to enact something in the interim," said Porter.Two of the candidates vying to be the new Liberal leader and premier recently proposed forms of rent control. Porter, who has endorsed candidate Iain Rankin, said those plans had no bearing on Wednesday's announcement.Affordable housing commission struckWednesday's announcement also included the creation of the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, which is charged with making recommendations about affordable housing strategies and actions. Their first list of recommendations is due in six months.The commission includes: * Catherine Berliner, Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing (co-chair) * Ren Thomas, Dalhousie University (co-chair) * Chief Sidney Peters, Tawaak Housing Association * Karen Brodeur, Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada * Fred Deveaux, Cape Breton Community Housing Association * Jim Graham, Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia * Mike Dolter, Association of Municipal Administrators Nova Scotia * Jeremy Jackson, Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia * Alex Halef, Urban Development Institute * Gordon Laing, Southwest Properties * Kelly Denty, Halifax Regional Municipality * Michelle MacFarlane, Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services * Joy Knight, Department of Community ServicesRepresentation will also include people to be appointed from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the justice and health departments.Another measure Porter announced is $1.7 million to replace 30 beds removed from the homeless shelter system as a result of changes required by Public Health protocols for physical distancing.The minister said meetings are imminent with service providers to determine how to get as many people off the streets as soon as possible. Advocates estimate homelessness numbers in the Halifax Regional Municipality have more than doubled in the last year and Porter said the government is committed to finding ways to address the issue.Should have come soonerOfficials with the housing advocacy group ACORN issued a news release calling the government's decision "an overdue first step" that comes following prolonged lobbying."We would not have seen any movement on rent control if it were not for the tireless work of our members, tenants across Nova Scotia and activists who have been fighting for our communities for years — organizing works," said the release.NDP housing critic Lisa Roberts said her party has put forward multiple pieces of legislation in recent years intended to address the issue, none of which received support from the governing Liberals."This is good, but, frankly, it shouldn't have taken a global pandemic for us to recognize the housing crisis," she said.Roberts said she hopes the new commission spends time looking at rent control on a longer-term basis and helps bring in some kind of permanent check, be it through new legislation proposals or use of the existing Rent Control Act, which was passed in the 1990s.Industry concernsKevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said the size of the cap is a concern because it falls "well under" the operational cost of rental buildings.He predicted it would have the biggest effect on people who rent in older buildings, which make up the majority of housing stock in Halifax and are nearing "the end of their life cycle.""It will have an impact on operations," he said. "To what degree, that will be up to each individual landlord. It may put off some repairs and maintenance, it may affect other areas of operation."Russell said he's optimistic about the affordable housing commission and what it could do. Whatever changes come must be long term, he said."We've been trying to talk [about] affordable housing with the government for over 10 years and now it takes a crisis for everybody to come to the table. I guess that's how it works."MORE TOP STORIES
The Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. is holding a town hall this Friday to ask Black Islanders how it can help them.President Tamara Steele says the group is putting together a strategic plan and wants to make sure it represents the community, whether it's newcomers or people whose families have been here for generations."I think the biggest challenge we have right now is connecting with everyone, so we know that there are people that we're not reaching and just figuring out how to reach them," she said."I don't hesitate any more to just ask people if they've heard about the society and get involved if they want to."Steele said the group has identified three main themes to discuss at the town hall — financial security, mental health and community engagement.The event will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there is only room for 100 people. Pre-registration is required.For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.More from CBC P.E.I.
Après avoir été le théâtre de deux éclosions majeures dans les dernières semaines, la situation semble se stabiliser dans la péninsule gaspésienne, alors qu’on rapporte peu de cas dans les communautés au cours des derniers jours. Si la bataille n’est pas encore gagnée, la région est sur «la bonne voie», selon le directeur de la santé publique. En début de deuxième vague, la Baie-des-Chaleurs s’est rapidement retrouvée témoin d’une importante éclosion de COVID-19, touchant autant la communauté que les centres d’hébergement pour ainés, plaçant la zone en tête de liste des régions les plus infectées de la province. Quelques semaines plus tard, la Côte-de-Gaspé était à son tour touchée par une éclosion majeure, notamment au Manoir Saint-Augustin, où plus de 100 personnes ont contracté la maladie. Dans les derniers jours, le virus semble être moins virulent dans la péninsule, une vingtaine de cas ont été recensés, dont plusieurs dans des milieux fermés tels que le centre de détention de New Carlisle. Selon le directeur de la santé publique gaspésienne, le Dr Yv Bonnier-Viger, le travail de sensibilisation fait par les équipes de la santé publique a porté ses fruits. «Nos équipes ont beaucoup travaillé avec les milieux pour expliquer la notion de famille, qui n’est pas la même pour tous. Une ‘’famille’’, c’est un groupe de personnes vivant à la même adresse», note-t-il. Des fêtes sous haute surveillance La santé publique gaspésienne reste tout de même méfiante pour les prochaines semaines, notamment avec la période des fêtes. «Techniquement les gens ont le droit de fêter sans limites pendant quatre jours. Si on réfléchit en termes de droits plutôt qu’en prévention, ça peut être inquiétant», croit le Dr Bonnier-Viger, qui fêtera de son côté avec sa conjointe et une de ses filles, plutôt que la fête familiale habituelle rassemblant près de 70 personnes. Selon lui, le contrat moral proposé par le premier ministre était nécessaire, même s’il comporte certains risques. « Les gens ont besoin de se rencontrer. C’est un risque qu’on pouvait se permettre. De toute façon, on aime mieux mettre un certain cadre que d’opter pour un non catégorique où les gens se rencontreraient sans balises», conclut-il. Bilan quotidien Le CISSS de la Gaspésie rapportait 15 nouvelles infections de COVID-19, mercredi. «Mais plusieurs sont en milieu fermé», note la porte-parole de l’établissement, Clémence Beaulieu-Gendron. «Dans une petite région, c’est normal que ça varie d’un jour à l’autre, mais on est sur la bonne voie», soutient le Dr Bonnier-Viger. Les cas sont répartis un peu partout dans la péninsule, la MRC de Rocher-Percé ayant la plus forte hausse avec six nouveaux cas. Cinq infections s’ajoutent dans la Côte-de-Gaspé, deux dans Bonaventure et un seul en Haute-Gaspésie. Une personne supplémentaire est décédée de la COVID-19 dans la région, portant le total à 40 décès. Elle résidait au CHSLD Mgr-Ross de Gaspé, où cinq résidents et «moins de cinq» employés ont reçu des diagnostics positifs à la maladie. Sept personnes sont actuellement hospitalisées en Gaspésie et aux Iles, qui comptent 114 cas actifs. Il y a une semaine exactement, c’était 209 personnes qui étaient atteintes de la maladie dans la péninsule. Simon Carmichael, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Soleil
As Glenn Somers prepared to testify this week at the inquest into lumberjack Mario Roy's death in the woods at Saint-Quentin, he still didn't understand how the accident could have happened to someone with Roy's experience.Somers is the owner of maple syrup company TDG Somers, where Roy was cutting down trees with an electric saw when one of the cut trees fell and struck him on Sept. 7, 2018. Roy's friend and colleague André Bouchard found him with severe injuries to his face and chest. Roy died later that day.The inquest being held by coroner Jérome Ouellette began this week at the Edmundston Convention Centre. The jury is expected to make recommendations later Wednesday.Somers, whose company owns the woods, said he can't understand how a lumberjack like Roy could have made a mistake limbing trees. "The safety rule was established a long time ago," Somers told Radio-Canada. "There is no lumberjack who should ever continue limbing a tree after having cut one down that is resting on another tree."Despite his own questions, Somers said he believes the inquest is a waste of time and money, and thinks it will only open wounds about the tragedy. Roy's sister, Angèle Roy, hopes the inquest will allow her to mourn her brother. "He was experienced, so we don't understand," she said. She is optimistic the recommendations coming out of the inquest will lead to stricter safety guidelines for the maple syrup industry.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A mine in the Red Sea off Saudi Arabia's coast near Yemen exploded and damaged an oil tanker Wednesday, authorities said, the latest incident targeting the kingdom amid its long war against Yemen's Houthi rebels. The blast happened before dawn and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq, Saudi Arabia. “Their vessel was attacked by an unknown source,” a statement from the Agrari's operator, TMS Tankers Ltd., said. “The Agrari was struck about 1 metre above the waterline and has suffered a breach. It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries.” The ship was still floating off the coast and had been boarded by Saudi officials, the company said. Shuqaiq is some 160 kilometres (100 miles) north by sea from the Yemeni border. Ambrey, a British security firm, reported the blast and attributed it to a mine. It said the Agrari had cargo from Rotterdam, Netherlands, that it had discharged at the Shuqaiq Steam Power Plant. “The explosion took place in port limits and punctured the hull of the vessel,” Ambrey said. The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an information exchange overseen by the British royal navy in the region, acknowledged a ship had “experienced an explosion,” without elaborating. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, responsible for patrolling the waterways of the Mideast, said it was aware of the incident. Saudi state television later aired a report claiming a military coalition led by the kingdom destroyed a bomb-laden Houthi drone boat and that a merchant ship sustained light damage. The report offered no details and it wasn't immediately clear if the report was the same incident at Shuqaiq. Saudi-owned channels later aired reports about Houthi mining in the Red Sea. The explosion comes after a cruise missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck an oil facility early Monday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition reported Tuesday that it removed and destroyed five Iranian-made naval mines planted by the Houthis in the southern Red Sea, condemning the attempted attacks as posing “a serious threat to maritime security in the Bab al-Mandab strait.” The strait is some 585 kilometres (363 miles) south of Shuqaiq. The Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iranian-backed Houthis since March 2015. Houthi military officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but they've been blamed for other mining incidents during the course of the war. A United Nations panel in 2018 found the Houthis used both improvised and what appear to be Iranian-manufactured “bottom” mines, explosives that could be live in the water for as a long as a decade. “Sea mines are low cost, easy to deploy, tactically very effective, difficult to detect and thus are a potent threat to both naval and commercial vessels,” that report warned. "Relatively small quantities present a threat out of proportion to their numbers." Iran repeatedly has denied arming the Houthis, though experts say Iranian weapons ranging from small arms to missiles have been smuggled to the rebels. The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and the global energy supplies, making any mining of the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by the currents, which changed by the season in the Red Sea. The Red Sea has been mined previously. In 1984, some 19 ships reported striking mines there, with only one ever being recovered and disarmed, the U.N. panel said. ___ Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
"As a doctor, I see a lot of very distressed people coming into my office," he said. "The way the government and politicians talk about the virus is making people anxious and that's a big problem."View on euronews
NEW YORK — “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding.A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But it’s not because new films haven’t been coming out. By streaming service, video-on-demand, virtual theatre or actual theatre, a steady diet of films have been released under COVID-19. The Times has reviewed more than 460 new movies since mid-March.Yet until recently — with only a few exceptions — those haven’t been the big-budget spectacles Hollywood runs on. Eight months into the pandemic, that’s changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its fast-growing streaming service, Disney+ — where the Pixar film “Soul” will also go on Dec. 25. WarnerMedia last week announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” — a movie that might have made $1 billion at the box office in a normal summer — will land in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously next month.Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover and potentially reordering an industry that was already in flux.“I don’t think the genie will ever be back in the bottle,” says veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock.”Many of the pivots in 2020 can be chalked up to the unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term realignments around streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate that owns Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now run by Jason Kilar, best known as the former chief executive of Hulu. Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, the Robert Iger heir, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and “accelerate our direct-to-consumer business.”Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has pushed aggressively into video-on-demand. Its first major foray, “Trolls,” kicked up a feud with theatre owners. But as the pandemic wore on, Universal hatched unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the largest and third-largest chains, respectively, to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window (usually about three months) to just 17 days. After that time, Universal can move releases that don’t reach certain box-office thresholds to digital rental.There’s widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over.“Windows are clearly changing,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount Pictures. “All this stuff that’s going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half.”That condensed period of rapid change is happening at the same time as a land rush for streaming market share, as Disney+, HBO Max, Apple and Peacock try to wrestle for a piece of the home viewing audience dominated by Netflix and Amazon. With theme parks struggling and worldwide box office down tens of billions, streaming is a bright spot for media companies, and the pandemic may offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lure subscribers. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” are essentially very expensive advertisements for those streaming services.It can be easy to cheer such moves, even if their financial performance remain cloudy (no studio has been transparent about its viewership numbers or digital grosses) and their long-term viability uncertain. Can you replicate $1 billion in box office in new subscriptions? And for how long will the one-time bounce of a new movie (unlike a series staggered over weeks or months) drive subscribers once streaming services are closer to tapping as many homes as they can?“The whole thing is more complicated than people want it to be,” says Ira Deutchman, the veteran independent film producer and Columbia University professor.Deutchman considers the idea that people, after a year of quarantines and lockdowns, won’t want to leave their living room “ludicrous.” But he does imagine continued mergers and acquisitions, and “a new equilibrium” for distributors and theatre owners.“It could be about pricing," he says. "It could be about the way film rental is split between them. There are a lot of things that are potentially on the table.”So what could that mean on the other side of COVID, if moviegoers are once again comfortable sitting in packed theatres on opening weekend? It will almost certainly mean the months-long runs of films like “Titanic” or “Get Out” are a thing of the past. It could mean variable pricing on different nights. It could mean an even greater division between the franchise films of the multiplex and the boutique art house, with everything in between going straight to streaming.Some things, though, will stay the same.“If you’re going to be in this business, no matter what you do or where it plays, whether it’s streaming or in cinemas, you’re going to make hits and you’re going to make flops," says Guber. "The idea is to make more hits than flops.”Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — In a global push to end violence against women, activists held rallies Wednesday and world leaders called for action to stop the abuse, which has worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic this year.Protests from France to Ukraine were held on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to draw attention to domestic violence in what is an uphill struggle to protect millions of women killed or abused every year by their partners and close relatives.In Rome, the office of the prime minister was being lit in red and red banners tumbled from trade union offices in Florence to demand an end to violence against women. Italy was a hotbed for COVID-19 infections this year, forcing the government to impose lockdowns to keep the virus out. In an unintended consequence, domestic violence cases began to grow.“Because of the restrictions, we involuntarily created profound distress,” that led to increased episodes of domestic violence and femicide, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told a parliamentary discussion on Italy’s long-standing problem with violence against women.The Italian Health Ministry, citing data from national statistics agency ISTAT, said calls to domestic violence hotlines shot up during the lockdown, registering a 75% increase compared to the same period in 2019. Between March and June, calls and text messages to the anti-violence number more than doubled during the same period, to 119.6%Together with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Conte signed a joint declaration vowing to accelerate measures to stamp out violence against women, which they called “an invisible pandemic.”Even if detailed statistics were hard to come by, organizations and countries, from the United Nations to the European Union, France and Britain, all said that the pandemic had so far been an additional source for men to mistreat women.In Ukraine, the Femen feminist activist group staged a protest outside the president’s office with a brief topless protest.“We want to illustrate the situation with women’s rights in Ukrainian society — unprotected from any violence. We think the violence against women is a human rights violation, Femen activist Anya Alian said.U.N. agency UNAIDS said that “evidence shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant increases in gender-based violence in nearly all countries," especially for women trapped at home with their abuser.“Men’s violence against women is also a pandemic — one that pre-dates the virus and will outlive it,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the U.N. Women agency. “Last year alone, 243 million women and girls experienced sexual or physical violence from their partner. This year, reports of increased domestic violence, cyberbullying, child marriages, sexual harassment and sexual violence have flooded in,” she said.In Turkey, where at least 234 women were killed since the start of the year, according to government figures, riot police in Istanbul blocked a small group of demonstrators from marching to the city’s iconic Taksim Square to denounce violence against women. The government has declared the square off-bounds for demonstrations.Elsewhere in Istanbul, some 2,000 other women staged a peaceful demonstration calling on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to remain committed to a European treaty on combatting violence against women. Earlier this year, some officials from Erdogan’s Islam-oriented party had spoken in favour of reviewing the agreement to adapt it to Turkey's more conservative family values.Pope Francis marked the day by tweeting: “Too often women are offended, mistreated, raped and forced to prostitute themselves ... If we want a better world, a home of peace and not a courtyard of war, we all must do much more for the dignity of each woman.”France’s government sealed a deal with TikTok to encourage young people to report abuse through the social network. World soccer governing body FIFA announced an awareness campaign.France’s deal with TikTok is among multiple measures it has taken since a national reckoning over domestic violence last year prompted by an unusually high number of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or former partners. Activists say more needs to be done.France’s minister for equal rights, Elisabeth Moreno, said that reports of domestic violence registered with the government rose 42% during France’s first virus lockdown in the spring, and have risen 15% since a new lockdown was imposed nearly a month ago. Given that most people don’t report such abuse, the real rise is believed to be higher.In Britain, The Office for National Statistics said police recorded 259,324 domestic abuse offences between March and June, an increase of 18% compared to the same period in 2018. The charity Refuge said the number of people calling its domestic abuse hotline were 65% higher between April and June than in the first three months of the year, before lockdown.“These appalling statistics show endemic levels of domestic abuse,” Labour Party crime spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds said. “The COVID crisis didn’t create this scar on our society, but it has made the situation even worse."Europe largest human rights organization, the 47-nation Council of Europe, called on legislators throughout Europe to better protect women and girls.“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how fragile the protective safety-net for victims of violence really is, especially when it comes to domestic violence,” said Petra Bayr (SOC, Austria), Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). “The increase in violence during lockdown has been a shocking revelation in almost all our societies; it has put a magnifying glass on the harmful mindsets that still prevail.”___Angela Charlton reported from Paris. Nicole Winfield in Rome, Jill Lawless and Sylvia Hui in London, Barry Hatton in Lisbon and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.Raf Casert And Angela Charlton, The Associated Press
Le feuilleton du redécoupage électoral qui a occupé Rimouski pendant des mois vient de prendre fin, et son épilogue soulagera les résidents du Bic : la Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE) a décidé que ce district conservera ses limites actuelles, qui sont celles de l’ancienne municipalité annexée par Rimouski en 2009. Pour justifier sa décision, la CRE dit avoir considéré « les commentaires émis par les électeurs du district numéro 11 du Bic relatifs au sentiment d’appartenance à leur quartier ainsi qu’au respect et à la préservation de l’identité villageoise et patrimoniale du Bic ». L’éloignement entre Le Bic et le centre-ville de Rimouski a également joué dans la réflexion des deux commissaires Pierre Reid et Serge Courville. Si le caractère villageois du Bic a été largement évoqué tout au long des consultations sur la nouvelle carte électorale, les résidents du district voisin de Sacré-Cœur ont également fait valoir leur sentiment d’appartenance depuis le début de cette saga. Eux aussi peuvent souffler : la CRE considère que les districts de Sacré-Cœur et du Bic forment des communautés naturelles distinctes, et qu’on ne peut donc transférer une partie rurale du premier vers le deuxième. « Il a été démontré que les liens socioéconomiques des citoyennes et des citoyens du district numéro 1 de Sacré-Cœur sont davantage tournés vers les secteurs centraux de la Ville de Rimouski », écrit la CRE dans sa décision. Cette décision porte l’écart de population entre le district du Bic et la moyenne des autres districts de Rimouski à 34,4 %, bien au-delà de la limite de 15 % prescrite par la loi. Du côté de Sainte-Blandine/Mont-Lebel, autre district rural particulièrement affecté par le redécoupage, la CRE a entériné la proposition de la Ville de Rimouski. Celle-ci agrandit le territoire du district tout en lui conférant un statut d’exception, puisque l’écart de population avec la moyenne des autres districts est de 25,8 %. Défaite pour la Ville Avec cette décision, la CRE a infligé ce qui a toutes les apparences d’une défaite cinglante à la Ville de Rimouski, tant celle-ci s’est obstinée pendant des mois à défendre l’agrandissement du district du Bic en dépit de l’opposition des citoyens. De nombreux avis publics et présentations ont été produits pour défendre coûte que coûte ce projet alors qu’il ne s’est jamais trouvé aucun résident de Rimouski pour donner son appui aux différents redécoupages proposés. Cet épisode laisse surtout l’impression d’un gâchis de temps et de ressources, puisqu’on en revient à une situation très proche du statu quo en faveur duquel avaient voté deux conseillers début mai, Grégory Thorez (Sainte-Odile) et Virginie Proulx (Le Bic). La conseillère du Bic s’est réjouie de ce dénouement sur sa page Facebook ce matin, tout en félicitant les citoyens qui se sont mobilisés au cours des derniers mois. « C’est une victoire pour la démocratie, une victoire qui montre encore une fois la pertinence de consulter ses citoyens en amont des décisions au bénéfice de tous », écrit-elle. Mais il est clair que c’est aussi une victoire personnelle pour elle : elle fut la seule à s’opposer au règlement actant le redécoupage et le déplacement de la frontière Bic/Sacré-Cœur, tout comme elle fut la seule à informer de manière proactive les citoyens de son district sur les impacts du redécoupage et sur les manières de le contester. Incidemment, on peut conclure de la décision de la CRE qu’il existe bel et bien une corrélation entre le district électoral et le « district d’appartenance », contrairement à ce que prétendait le maire de Rimouski Marc Parent lors de la consultation publique de la CRE. « Lorsque les conseillers et les conseillères siègent au conseil municipal, c’est d’abord et avant tout pour la Ville de Rimouski qu’ils siègent, et non pas pour les électeurs qu’ils représentent dans leur district », avait même déclaré M. Parent, contredisant ce qui est écrit dans le Guide d’accueil et de référence pour les élues et les élus municipaux du gouvernement du Québec. Finalement, c’est peut-être cela que la saga du redécoupage aura permis de rappeler : le rôle d’un conseiller municipal est avant tout de représenter son quartier et ses habitants, avec leur diversité mais aussi leur histoire commune.Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
NASHVILLE — More than four decades ago, Lamar Alexander won a ticket to the governor's mansion after he walked more than 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometres) around Tennessee in a plaid shirt and hiking boots. He spent the night with 73 families and called his campaign headquarters from payphones.Alexander, who served two terms as the state's chief executive before heading to Washington, is finishing up his third and final U.S. Senate term in a nation increasingly divided by the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of racial injustice and law enforcement, and the vitriolic election season.In a recent interview with The Associated Press, wearing a facemask in the same red-and-black plaid he favoured as a young candidate, the 80-year-old Republican lawmaker discussed how he has navigated the presidency of President Donald Trump.Known as a dealmaker from a more co-operative, bygone era, Alexander has spent his final years, in part, deciding how and whether to react to what Trump is saying, doing and tweeting, without losing a partner in the White House who shares some of his own priorities.Alexander said many Democrats wish he would “spend more time criticizing President Trump’s behaviour,” while a lot of Republicans wish he “spent more time criticizing President (Barack) Obama’s liberal policies.”“President Lincoln, if he got mad, he’d write a hot letter and put it in the drawer,” Alexander said. “Today, if the president gets mad, he puts it out on a tweet to 72 million people and they put something out on their tweet. So, this drives a lot of division in the country. The blessings of an internet democracy — we’re somehow going to find a way to tolerate it and live with it if we want to unify the country and solve big problems in a way most of us can accept.”The former U.S. education secretary and two-time presidential candidate recently urged Trump’s team to begin the transition with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, citing the need to keep coronavirus vaccine distribution plans on track. Even before COVID-19, the Senate health committee chairman pushed back against anti-vaccine disinformation. This summer, he also pressed Trump to wear a mask more often to set an example for his followers.The attorney and businessman helped draw the auto industry to Tennessee as governor. He served as the University of Tennessee's president before his 2002 election to the Senate. Tea party-aligned opposition arose during his 2014 reelection, resulting in a tighter-than-desired GOP primary win of 9 percentage points.The legislative wins he touts most aren't really the kinds of accomplishments that put politicians in the limelight: A copyright law change to sort out pay for songwriters in the digital age; simplification of the federal college aid application; legislation to cut in half maintenance backlogs in national parks, national forests and other public lands; national laboratories funding; and an education law that gives states authority to decide how to use certain testing results to evaluate teachers and schools.But the spotlight shone brightly on Alexander during some particularly fraught moments in the administration — most notably, when the senator voted against allowing witnesses and to acquit Trump during his impeachment trial.“On the impeachment, I said I thought he did it," Alexander said. "That didn’t justify removing him from office.”Alexander is retiring at the end of his term in January. Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty ultimately won the open seat with Trump's endorsement and his pledge to support the president's priorities. Hagerty emerged from a rough primary in which he and another Republican traded fire over who was better aligned with Trump. Alexander said the jury's still out on how Hagerty will act in office, but he predicted he will be an "excellent senator."“A lot of things are said in campaigns, and they have been for a long time. They don’t have much to do with what happens after you get elected,” Alexander said. “So I think we need to wait and see.”Alexander, who served in the Senate with Biden, said his focus on unifying the country is “exactly the right message," but he said Biden should not veer too far left. Senate Republicans could aim to block Biden's priorities if they deem them too progressive. Thus far, key Senate Republicans have kept quiet on confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees.“He’s a person of good character,” Alexander said of Biden. “He’s well-liked in the Senate on both sides of the aisle. He listens well. He’s well-acquainted with leaders around the world. Those are his strengths. The difficulty he is going to have is with the radical left agenda of the Democratic national party.”As the U.S. nears a new presidency and a COVID-19 vaccine, Alexander says there are good reasons for Americans to reject disinformation about both the coronavirus and the election.He said the hand tally of votes cast in the presidential race in Georgia, for example, “should reassure the American people that the election is valid.”Additionally, Alexander said he hopes the high effectiveness rates and safety of COVID-19 vaccines will outweigh concerns. For people who don't buy into masks, he suggested talking to frontline workers.“When I stopped smoking was when my doctor showed me a picture of a lung of a person who died from lung cancer," Alexander said. "I think what might persuade people is if they talk to a nurse who has been dealing with people in a hospital who are dying from COVID.”Jonathan Mattise, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Jawan M. Jackson recently got to do something he's been yearning to do for months — sing and dance again with his Broadway cast.Jackson is one of the stars of “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations” and he reunited with castmates for the first time since theatres shuttered to prepare for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.“I was most happy with just seeing all my old friends I haven’t seen in months, some who flew in specifically for the show to do this,” he said. “It was different, but it was still great to do.”The pandemic, which shut down theatres in March, may have upended most traditions this holiday season, but the annual New York City parade will march on with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa — albeit heavily edited for safety.“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year's parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it's a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.The biggest change this year is that the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan has been scrapped in favour of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances have been pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.In addition to “Ain’t Too Proud," the parade will feature performances from the Broadway casts of “Hamilton,” “Mean Girls” and “Jagged Little Pill,” a musical built around the music of Alanis Morissette. The Broadway performances were taped days before the parade.Things felt a lot different for actor Derek Klena, who was in the 2017 parade as part of the cast of “Anastasia.” This year, he's Tony Award-nominated for his role in “Jagged Little Pill” and helped perform “You Learn” from the Tony-nominated show.The cast was quarantined for two weeks before taping and tested regularly for the virus. Cast members rehearsed in masks until the moment cameras started rolling and kept socially distant. They sang live this time instead of years past when casts lip-synched."Although the circumstances were much different, it was still so magical and fulfilling to get to share that experience with your fellow castmates after being distant for so long," said Klena.“I think it was important to everybody to find a way to still celebrate this event and celebrate the shows and the companies that all get to share in this amazing event.”Both Jackson and Klena said everyone adhered to the show's strict safety protocols — enforcing the 6-foot rule, frequent testing and requiring face masks plus face shields, as well as a fresh mask after their performance. “I’m appreciative of it because it is built to keep you safe,” said Jackson, though he noted “dancing in a mask is a tough feat.”This year's lineup of balloons includes Snoopy, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “The Elf on the Shelf,” Chase from "Paw Patrol," Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants and “Trolls.” New this time are “The Boss Baby” and Red Titan from “Ryan’s World.”The giant cartoon-character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 rope-pulling handlers assigned to each inflatable and will instead be tethered to specialized vehicles.Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jordin Sparks will perform, and there will be floats from “Blue’s Clues,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and Lego. There will be a New York City Ballet ballerina with a performance from “The Nutcracker,” an all-female samba drumline and acrobats from “The Big Apple Circus,” and the Rockettes will be out in force. The parade ends with an appearance from Santa Claus.Another change this year was the decision to spotlight many of the New York City parades that were cancelled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and NYC Pride March.“We’re going to be highlighting them, and we’re going to be really giving them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’re going to be able to see creativity in this entertainment come to life that has sort of been dormant for the past seven months.”For the Broadway performers, there's a silver lining to the changes this year. Usually on Thanksgiving Day, they'd be freezing in Midtown, having woken at dawn and been dancing and singing for hours. This year, they get to watch themselves from the warmth of their apartments, a job already well done.“It’s the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I either don’t have a show or I’m not taping something,” said Klena. “So in that way it’ll be kind of fun to just celebrate with some of my friends here in the city and my wife.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Some California counties are pushing ahead with plans to wind down a program that's moved homeless people into hotel rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic despite an emergency cash infusion from the state aimed at preventing people from returning to the streets in colder weather as the virus surges.Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced $62 million for counties to move hotel guests into permanent housing or to extend hotel leases that were part of “Project Roomkey," which he rolled out this spring as a way to protect some people experiencing homelessness from the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pick up 75% of the cost.But counties say that with federal relief funding expiring soon, it's time to transition residents from expensive hotel rooms to cheaper, more stable housing. Officials hope to offer a place to every resident leaving a hotel, though they acknowledge not everyone will accept it and affordable housing is difficult to find.California is one of several states, including Washington, that turned to hotels to shelter homeless people as the virus took hold. Homelessness has soared nationwide during the pandemic, and it was already at a crisis level in California because of an expensive housing market and a shortage of affordable options. The nation's most populated state has by far the highest number of people on the streets, though other places have a higher per capita rate.In San Francisco, advocacy groups and some officials are outraged by the mayor's plan to start moving hundreds of people out of hotels around the holidays. They say it’s ridiculous when thousands of people are still sleeping on sidewalks and in cars, and they don't believe the city can find enough virus-safe housing for 2,300 people living in more than two dozen hotels.“It makes absolute zero sense. It is outrageous, it’s irresponsible, and it basically tells people experiencing homelessness that you’re not a priority for the city,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said as she and other leaders announced proposed legislation to slow the move and ensure every resident is offered alternative housing.The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement that money from the state will provide “more flexibility and time” but would not say if San Francisco had changed its timeline. The department has said it plans to move homeless people out of all 29 hotels by June.“We will continue to work with city staff and our service providers to deliver on our commitment to get people housed and ensure no one in our hotels gets moved back on the streets," the statement said.An estimated 150,000 people experiencing homelessness live in California, and there are signs that number will only increase with an economy ravaged by the pandemic. Newsom has awarded $800 million to cities and counties to buy hotels and other properties to convert into housing, saying he didn't want to squander an opportunity to get more people indoors.At times, connecting homeless people to shelter, work, medical care and social services boils down to finding them in time, and the hotels have been a huge help, advocates say. They say hotel residents have flourished with regular checkups and meals.“If this were to be taken away from us at this time, it really would be like having a carpet pulled out from under us in a really major way,” said hotel resident Nicholas Garrett, who appeared with the San Francisco supervisors.Dr. Danielle Alkov spoke of one of her patients, a transgender woman who has blossomed after being brought indoors. But her hotel is scheduled to be among the first to close.“She’s thriving, she’s engaged in medical care, she’s very future-thinking for probably the first time in a long time, thinking about her career goals, her educational goals,” Alkov said. “The idea of her not having a stable place to go, and losing all the progress that she’s made, would be devastating.”In Los Angeles, the Homeless Services Authority said nearly 600 people have moved out of hotel rooms and into interim housing, with 62 others in permanent housing. About 3,400 people remain in hotel rooms, and while the agency has received funding from the city to extend leases at several hotels, it will keep moving people into other housing, spokesman Christopher Yee said.Alameda County, which includes Oakland, hopes to use state money for rental subsidies and to extend leases on hotel rooms but will continue with plans to close five of nine hotels between December and February. Over 1,000 people are in hotels there.It's much more cost-effective to use the money “for permanent housing with leases than to continue the hotel program indefinitely," said Kerry Abbott, director of the county’s Office of Homeless Care and Coordination. And while some people have chosen to return to a shelter, “our goal is to make sure everyone has a housing offer. Most people will take a housing offer."The hotels won't go away entirely. Abbott said the county plans to operate a 98-room quarantine and isolation hotel for six months next year and keep an additional 240 hotel rooms open through 2021 for residents who require the extra care.By year's end, Sacramento County plans to close trailers housing 46 people either recovering from the virus or awaiting test results. But county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said shelter hotels will stay open through early next year and nobody will be forced to leave without a place to go.Even though the program is ending, Abbott, of Alameda County, says people have benefited deeply, with some able to start addressing issues that have kept them out of stable housing.“Many people have been inside for the first time in a decade or longer, and have stayed inside, and have benefited from a place to stay, the services and the food and even the community our providers have put in place," she said.Janie Har, The Associated Press
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would not be allowed to visit the country until he apologized for “genocide” against Kosovo's population.Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla also posted on Twitter that no entry permission would be granted for Serb officials until Serbians are held accountable for “genocide” in an international court.“I repeat once again the only and permanent response to all future demands from Vucic and others: there is no permission for you to visit Kosovo if you do not apologize for the genocide committed on our people and until responsible persons of this genocide are held accountable,” she said.Vucic and other Serb officials have to ask Kosovo's permission before visiting ethnic Serb minority areas in the former Serbian province.Kosovo’s 1998-99 war, which ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign, left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Albanians.Haradinaj-Stublla reacted following Vucic' presence at the inauguration of a hospital in Belgrade where a mass grave of 744 ethnic Albanians killed in 1999 has been found.Several mass graves with the bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed by Serb troops during the 1998-99 war have been discovered in various parts of Serbia. Moving victims from Kosovo to Serbia was part of a coverup operation by Serbian authorities at the time to try to hide evidence of war crimes.Last week the European Union’s mission to ensure the rule of law in Kosovo said human remains that appear to be a mass grave of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have been found in a disused coal mine in Kizevak in southern Serbia.Vucic said on Tuesday that Haradinaj-Stublla had asked to be present at the Kizevak works “in order to create a political show.”Although several of its top military officers have been sentenced by a UN court for war crimes during the 1998-99 war, Serbia has never admitted committing atrocities in its former province.Meanwhile, an international court based in The Hague, Netherlands has indicted and arrested on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity the former Kosovo president and four other top ex-commanders of ethnic Albanian guerillas who fought for independence from Serbia.Last week Vucic asked to visit Kosovo but was denied permission by Pristina.Kosovo-Serbia relations remain tense despite EU-mediated talks on normalization of their ties and efforts from the United States too.Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized that.——-Semini reported from Tirana, Albania; Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade.Zenel Zhinipotoku And Llazar Semini, The Associated Press