A southern Alberta pilot project using drones to transport medical supplies to remote facilities has attracted the attention of the World Health Organization. The project, which includes the University of Calgary, began testing last summer.
A southern Alberta pilot project using drones to transport medical supplies to remote facilities has attracted the attention of the World Health Organization. The project, which includes the University of Calgary, began testing last summer.
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
Tuesday's Games NHL Toronto 4 Calgary 3 Winnipeg 6 Edmonton 4 Buffalo 3 N.Y. Rangers 2 Philadelphia 5 New Jersey 3 Washington 3 N.Y. Islanders 2 Florida 4 Columbus 3 (SO) Boston 3 Pittsburgh 2 (OT) Los Angeles 2 Minnesota 1 Nashville 3 Chicago 2 (OT) Dallas 2 Detroit 1 (OT) Anaheim 1 Arizona 0 Colorado 7 San Jose 3 St. Louis 5 Vegas 4 (OT) --- NBA Atlanta 108 L.A. Clippers 99 Houston 107 Washington 88 Utah 108 New York 94 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Demand for Xiao's skills has soared since he graduated in 2014 with a computer engineering degree but now he just ignores the offers, having recently joined TikTok owner Bytedance after several years with Southeast Asia's Grab. Singapore is aiming to become a regional tech hub but faces a severe talent crunch as more firms move in, interviews with more than a dozen recruiters, companies and workers show. China's Tencent, Bytedance, U.S.-based Zoom Video Communications and unicorn Grab and Sea Ltd are among companies expanding in Singapore, fueling a war for tech talent in the city-state, where the jobless rate had reached a 16-year high due to a coronavirus-induced recession.
Canadians are "Angry Birds" when it comes to climate change, shows a survey the United Nations calls the largest ever taken on the issue. The mammoth survey, which drew respondents through the use of popular online games, ranked Canada seventh out of 50 countries in its perception of how important the problem is — and tops in the gap between men and women on the issue. "Canada was at the top end of the group of countries we surveyed in terms of the recognition of the climate emergency," said Steve Fisher, an Oxford University sociologist who helped run the survey on behalf of the United Nations Development Program. The novel survey found respondents through games such as Angry Birds and Dragon City. As people played the games, a questionnaire would pop up instead of an ad. Project director Cassie Flynn, who is with the UN program, said the idea came to her while riding the subway in New York. "Every single person was on their phone," she said. "I started looking over people's shoulders and the huge majority was playing games. I thought, 'How do we tap into that?'" Two years, 1.2 million responses (in 17 languages) and a great deal of innovative statistical thinking later came the People's Climate Vote. It is an attempt, said Flynn, to gauge the public's sense of urgency on climate change and how people feel about different policies. "The decisions (on climate) are going to affect every single person on the planet. What we wanted to do is to bring public opinion into that policy-making." As the federal Liberal government advances on its ambitious climate program, it seems Canadians are more concerned about the issue than most. Three-quarters of those surveyed agreed that climate change is an emergency compared with the global average of 64 per cent. That belief topped out at 83 per cent for respondents under 18. But, at 72 per cent, it wasn't much weaker among those over 60. The survey also found that Canadians who believed climate change is an emergency believed it strongly. Three-quarters said action should be urgent and on many fronts. They really liked solutions based in conservation. Support for nature-based climate policies was higher in Canada at 79 per cent than in any other countries with high carbon emissions from land use. They also wanted polluters to pay. Some 69 per cent favoured policies that regulate company behaviour. Only the United Kingdom, at 72 per cent, registered stronger among high-income countries. And, at 81 and 80 per cent respectively, respondents in the U.K. and Canada were virtually tied at the top in support of ocean and waterway protection. Canada also had the largest gap between men and women in their assessment of the importance of climate change. Canadian women and girls surveyed were 12 per cent more likely to rate it an emergency than men and boys. Globally, there wasn't much difference. Fisher, who researches political attitudes and behaviour, said climate change is a more partisan issue in Canada, the United States and Australia than elsewhere on the globe. "It is related to partisanship in those countries," he said. "Women are much more likely to vote for the more climate-conscious left parties." Fisher said the use of cellphone games gave researchers access to groups that are hard for pollsters to reach, such as young people. "It was kind of new to do the fieldwork in this way," he said. "It reached an awful lot of people." Each respondent was asked to complete the survey only once. The team used 4,000 different games, some popular with children, some with older people. Still, the sample skewed young. The statisticians had to adjust the sample to ensure all groups were given appropriate weight. The survey is considered accurate to within two percentage points, 19 times out of 20. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologised on Wednesday after lawmakers from his ruling coalition visited night clubs despite his government's call for people to avoid unnecessary outings to curb the spread of COVID-19. The news is another headache for Suga whose approval rating has tumbled because of dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, which critics have called too slow and inconsistent. "I'm terribly sorry that this happened when we are asking people not to eat out after 8 p.m. and to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings," Suga told parliament.
Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam's ruling Communist Party chief, has been nominated for a rare third term, a Party official said, according to several state media articles that were published on Wednesday then subsequently amended, removing the comments. On Monday, more than 1,600 delegates began nine days of mostly closed-doors meetings at the Party's five-yearly Congress, during which a new leadership team will be picked to bolster Vietnam's ongoing economic success - and the legitimacy of the Party's rule. Trong, 76, who is also Vietnam's president and architect of its anti-corruption campaign, had been widely tipped to continue as party chief despite health issues and old age - which should technically disqualify him for the position, although "special case" exceptions are granted.
Students at the University of British Columbia are reacting strongly to the administration's proposed tuition increase for the upcoming academic year. The suggested two per cent hike for most students — and four per cent hike for new international students — comes as classes continue online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "It was just upsetting to me. Like, everybody's going through a tough time right now, and as far as I know, everybody's kind of still paying the same amount of money that they would pay in a normal year," said Joshua Peng, a second year arts student. "It's just quite the bomb to drop on us, emotionally speaking," said Peng. The university sent students an email on Monday with links to a consultation website, but the idea of a consultation having any effect was quickly panned by some students on social media. Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs, declined an interview request from CBC News. Ramsey sent a written statement that said inflationary pressures are among the reasons UBC is proposing the increase. "If tuition increases are approved as proposed for 2021-22, UBC proposes to allocate all of this year's incremental credit tuition revenue resulting from the rate increase towards COVID-19-impacted key priorities," wrote Ramsey, adding that in total, the tuition increases would result in $19 million in incremental funds in 2021-2022. For Peng, who hasn't yet had a complete year of university unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the university experience has not been what he had expected, or hoped it would be. "It does suck for me, but I know friends who really don't want this [tuition increase]. They're not in the best environment right now," he said. Peng had hoped by this semester, classes might have returned to a hybrid format of online and in-person classes, but the number of COVID-19 cases in the province has remained high. He said he struggles to maintain attention during online lectures at home, and being in the lecture hall "just works better." Beyond the education, Peng said the social and networking aspect of university has been completely absent. When asked about the quality of education at UBC during the pandemic, relative to the cost, Ramsey sent a link to a public relations article posted in August titled Why tuition is not being reduced at UBC. It argues that a fee reduction isn't possible, in part, due to a projected $225 million deficit for the 2020-2021 academic year. In April, students launched a petition asking UBC to issue partial refunds to students during the pandemic. By late January, it had received nearly 9,000 signatures, but has had no success in decreasing tuition or generating refunds. Do you have more to add to this story? Email email@example.com Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker
Out of 99 new positive cases discovered in the Simcoe Muskoka Region, health officials say 97 are linked to a long-term care home in Barrie and all of those people are likely affected by the fast-spreading U.K. variant. There are concerns the highly contagious strain of the virus is more widespread than initially thought. Miranda Anthistle has the details.
Walmart Inc will add small robot-staffed warehouses to dozens of its stores to help fill orders for pickup and delivery, the company said on Wednesday, as Americans shift their spending online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The robots will work behind the scenes, picking frozen and refrigerated foods as well as smaller general merchandise items from inside the warehouses, or local fulfillment centers, that will carry "thousands of frequently purchased items." The world's largest retailer, which operates nearly 5,000 stores nationwide, did not say how many stores will have the new centers but said it was "planning dozens of locations, with many more to come."
Hockey Alberta has set a deadline to decide whether or not to continue planning league play for the 2020-21 minor hockey season.Hockey Alberta, in conjunction with its sanctioned minor leagues for male and female hockey, said in a statement Tuesday it is currently reviewing the sustainability of league play for the remainder of the season, and that if there is no new information from the Government of Alberta by Feb. 1, a decision will have to be made about its league play based on the current information available.Hockey Alberta says any decision regarding league play doesn't mean the end of hockey activity for the 2020-21 season, and that other potential ideas such as skill development programming and/or exhibition or mini-league games could be viable options with the required safety protocols in place.Hockey Alberta says it has met with Alberta Health and Government of Alberta representatives on several occasions, as recently as last week with discussions "focused on how hockey can be relaunched in a way that ensures the safety of all participants."Minor hockey across the country was put on hiatus in March due to COVID-19.Minor hockey associations came up with different solutions for a return-to-play program this season, blending guidelines from Hockey Canada and local public health authorities, in an effort to get back on the ice. But Alberta had to suspend all minor hockey activities in December after the Government of Alberta announced the temporary closure of all indoor recreation facilities, including arenas.This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
DEER LAKE, N.L. — Police in Newfoundland and Labrador said they arrested a man with a "large quantity" of knives in a parking lot outside an election candidate's office Tuesday.A spokeswoman for Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said his campaign has been advised he was likely the intended target."The police investigation is ongoing, but from what we know so far we’d like to thank the members of the public who stepped in to do what they could to prevent an unimaginable outcome, and all police officers who ensured the safety of the public," Furey spokeswoman Meghan McCabe said in a release Tuesday evening."This is a traumatic incident, for everyone working and volunteering in Newfoundland and Labrador’s election."In a news release, RCMP said they were notified Tuesday morning about a man behaving strangely, talking about guns and saying he was going to Deer Lake in western Newfoundland to stop the provincial election, which is set for Feb. 13. Deer Lake is in the Humber-Gros Morne electoral district, where Furey is running, though McCabe confirmed he was not there at the time of the incident.Police said they found the man driving a truck just outside of Deer Lake and tried unsuccessfully to flag him down. A high-speed chase ensued as the man drove through the town and finally stopped in a parking lot at a local business, in which a provincial election candidate maintains an office, police said. "The man was removed from the vehicle and was arrested in the parking lot. Officers located and seized a large quantity of various knives inside the vehicle," RCMP said in the release. "The truck was seized and impounded."The release did not name the candidate but McCabe said in a statement that Furey's campaign was told he was likely the target. "Our team is connecting with the leadership of the other political parties and connecting with our team members on the ground in Deer Lake to offer support," she said. She said Furey would release another statement as more details become available.Police said there is no longer a concern for public safety and that they anticipate the man will be charged with "a number of criminal and traffic offences." The investigation is ongoing, they said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — India has vaccinated 2 million health workers in less than two weeks and recorded 12,689 new coronavirus positive cases in the past 24 hours, a sharp decline from a peak level of nearly 100,000 in mid-September. The health Ministry said the daily new cases had fallen below 10,000 on Tuesday with 9,102 cases. The daily new positive cases were 9,304 on June 4 last year. India’s fatalities dropped to 137 in the past 24 hours from a peak level of 1,089 daily deaths in September. India’s total positive cases since the start of the epidemic have reached 10.6 million, the second highest after the United States with 25.43 million cases. India started inoculating health workers on Jan. 16 in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign. India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. Authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — Vaccine appointments cancelled in U.S. amid confusion over supply. — U.K. is first country in Europe to pass 100K deaths. — EU demands vaccine makers honour their commitments. — Virus variant brings new dimension to Europe’s pandemic fight. — Some hospitals near capacity in hard-hit areas as Indonesia hits 1 million virus cases. — Taiwan quarantines 5,000 people while looking for source of hospital cluster. — Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported new 559 cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily increase in 10 days, as health workers scrambled to slow transmissions at religious facilities, which have been a major source of infections throughout the pandemic. The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday brought the national caseload to 76,429, including 1,378 deaths. The agency said 112 of the new cases came from the southwestern city of Gwangju where more than 100 infections have so far been linked to a missionary training school. An affiliated facility in the central city of Daejeon has been linked to more 170 infections. Nearly 300 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where infections have been tied to various places, including churches, restaurants, schools and offices. The country throughout the pandemic has repeatedly seen huge infection clusters emerge from religious groups, including more than 5,000 infections tied to the secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus that drove a major outbreak in the southeastern region in spring last year. —- JUNEAU, Alaska -- Alaska has detected the state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant identified last year in the United Kingdom, officials said Tuesday. The infected person is an Anchorage resident who had travelled to a state where the variant had already been detected, the Alaska health department said. The person first experienced symptoms on Dec. 17, was tested three days later and received a positive result on Dec. 22. The resident lived with another person in Anchorage, who also became ill. Both isolated and have since recovered, officials said. It was not yet clear if the second person also was infected with the variant. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, said in a news release that the discovery of the variant is not surprising because viruses “constantly change through mutation.” He said this is one of several “variants that has been carefully tracked because it appears to spread more easily and quickly than other strains of the virus.” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said it is likely the variant will be detected again soon. ___ BOSTON — In his annual State of the Commonwealth address, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker defended his vaccine distribution plan, which some have criticized for being confusing and too narrowly focused at first. Baker said the state is prepared to distribute and administer all the vaccine shots delivered by the federal government and is rapidly expanding the number of vaccination sites. “Vaccinating 4 million adults in Massachusetts as the doses are allocated by the federal government is not going to be easy. But be assured that we will make every effort to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. “We can only move as fast as the federal government delivers the vaccines.” ___ SEATTLE - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday touted big improvements in distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but he also urged residents to remain vigilant as new, more contagious variants of the disease spread in the state. Inslee said more than 36,000 doses were administered in Washington on Sunday and 39,000 on Monday — a big jump from about 16,000 a week earlier, and on the way toward the state’s goal of 45,000 per day. The number of vaccines actually administered could be even higher, given lags in reporting, but as of Monday more than 500,000 doses had been administered statewide, with four mass vaccination sites due to open this week. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the federal government is boosting vaccine supplies to the states by 16% over the next three weeks, giving states more certainty about upcoming deliveries than the one-week notice the Trump administration had been providing. ___ ALABAMA — Alabama will receive an additional 10,000 first doses in its upcoming delivery, State Health Officer Scott Harris said, but supply remains the chief obstacle to getting more people vaccinating. The state which had been receiving about 60,000 first doses each week, but will see that jump to 70,000 in the coming week. Harris said he was happy to have the increase, although the state had been expecting 112,000 weekly doses based on initial conversations with federal officials last year. “Yes, it is less than the original 112,000 amount we had expected, but we are glad to see any increase at all,” Harris wrote in a message to The Associated Press. Harris said Friday that the state has approved nearly 900 pharmacies, doctors’ office and other locations to distribute vaccine, but 500 sites have not distributed any vaccinations because the state doesn’t have doses to give. “Every state had the idea that they were going to get much more vaccine than they ultimately got,” Harris told reporters during a Friday briefing. ___ RALEIGH, N.C. --- Health providers who have seen their coronavirus vaccine supplies substantially cut or temporarily halted because of the state’s abrupt shift favouring mass vaccination clinics will soon receive more doses, North Carolina’s top public health official said Tuesday. “This week is going to feel particularly tight, with many providers getting small or no allocations,” Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said at a news conference. “But we know that our providers need as much stability as we can give them in what is a very unstable environment.” As part of the department’s plan, the state will guarantee 84,000 new first doses of vaccines to counties each week based on population for the next three weeks. The remaining 36,000 weekly doses will be used to balance out distributions to counties and improve access for racial and ethnic minorities. Cohen and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have pinned the recent vaccine instability on the federal government. Local officials, in turn, have criticized the state for creating a distribution system it believes is ever-changing, poorly communicated and inequitable. President Joe Biden’s administration will raise the minimum weekly supply to states over the next three weeks from 8.6 million to 10 million, or by 16%. Cohen said on Tuesday afternoon that it’s not yet clear what North Carolina’s new supply count will be. But with nearly all supplies exhausted and more mass vaccination events forthcoming, thousands of North Carolinians with postponed appointments could see further delays. ___ TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would be very worrying if the European Union blocked Canada from getting COVID-19 doses from Europe. The EU has threatened to impose export controls on vaccines produced within its borders, and warned pharmaceutical companies that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU aid that it must get its shots on schedule. All of Canada’s vaccines come from Europe. Trudeau says he spoke to the chief executive of Moderna and he says it was “very clear” that the Canadian contract will be respected. Canada isn’t getting any deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine made in Europe this week, shipments are set to resume next week. Trudeau says he will work with European allies to ensure there are not any disruptions to the Canadian supply chain. ___ WASHINGTON — U.S. health regulators announced new steps Tuesday to block imports of Mexican-made hand sanitizers after repeatedly warning that many brands contain dangerous contaminants. The Food and Drug Administration said U.S. inspectors will now be able to stop any shipment of the products at ports of entry, under a nationwide import alert intended to protect U.S. consumers. Importers will be able to present documentation to show that the products meet U.S. standards The FDA said nearly 85% of alcohol-based sanitizers from Mexico sampled by agency scientists did not meet U.S. requirements for quality and safety. The FDA said Tuesday there have been reports of hospitalizations and death linked to the sanitizers reported to U.S. poison control centres and state health departments. ___ WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is announcing that the U.S. is purchasing an additional 100 million doses each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines for delivery this summer, with the government expecting to be able to deliver enough of the two-dose regimens to states this summer to vaccinate 300 million people. The additional purchases from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna come as the Biden administration is trying to ramp up vaccine production and states’ capacities to inject them into arms. Biden is also announcing that vaccine deliveries to states and territories will be boosted to at least 10 million doses per week over the next three weeks. Seeking to address concerns from state and local leaders that supplies have been inconsistent, prompting last-minute cancellations of booked appointments, the White House is also pledging to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks in advance of delivery to allow for accurate planning for injections. ___ LOS ANGELES — California is revamping its vaccine delivery system mid-stride, centralizing what has been a hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility for its 40 million residents. The state’s health agency on Tuesday said third-party administrators would take over ordering and distributing vaccine doses with a new state secretary in charge of logistics. The move comes after California faced criticism for a slow rollout as coronavirus cases soared and hospital beds filled up with patients in much of the state. Residents have been baffled by the varying systems as some counties will vaccinate people 65 and older while others are limited to the more restrictive 75 and up. ___ WASHINGTON — “Several hundred” White House staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as the Biden administration looks to create a safe workspace for the new president. Spokesman Kevin Munoz said the White House has provided the first of the two-shot vaccination to those who work on-site and is working toward vaccinating all staffers in the coming weeks. President Joe Biden completed the two-dose regimen a week before his swearing-in, and Vice-President Kamala Harris was given her second shot Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health. Both she and President Joe Biden got the vaccine live on television to help alleviate public resistance to the vaccine and reassure Americans of its safety. ___ RALEIGH, N.C. — An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are cancelling appointments because of vaccine shortages. States are expected to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccines on Tuesday. The White House plans to hold a call with governors to discuss the vaccine supply. Governors and top health officials have been concerned about inadequate supplies and the need for more reliable estimates of how much is on the way so that they can plan accordingly. On Tuesday, the CDC reported just over half of the 41 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. Some vaccination sites have cancelled appointments for first-dose shots. Many are likely holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second shot on schedule, three to four weeks later. ___ SAN DIEGO — Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park appear to be recovering weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus, including a silverback who received antibody treatment. The park’s executive director Lisa Peterson says the eight western lowland gorillas are eating, drinking and active after being exposed by a zookeeper who tested positive for coronavirus in early January. Peterson says fecal samples from the gorillas are no longer testing positive for the virus. She says some of the gorillas will get the COVID-19 vaccine from a supply made specifically for animals. ___ NEW YORK — Health officials say evidence continues to mount that it’s generally safe to have in-person schooling if U.S. schools require mask-wearing and other precautions. The latest study looks at schools in rural Wisconsin and found cases linked to in-school transmission were very low even while infections were common in the same communities. The Wisconsin study was published online Tuesday by a CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It focused on 17 schools in Wood County in central Wisconsin and found cases were diagnosed at rate 37% lower than reported in the county overall. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other CDC scientists say it’s reassuring that the kind of spread seen in nursing homes and other places hasn’t been noted in schools with prevention measures. However, they say some extracurricular school-related activities, such as sports, have triggered coronavirus spread in some places. ___ ATLANTA — A member of the Georgia state House has been removed from the chamber for not abiding by the legislature’s coronavirus testing policy. Rep. David Clark, a Republican from Buford, was asked to leave the House floor Tuesday morning. Clark refused to leave on his own and had to be escorted out by police. Members of the legislature undergo testing twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. Clark told reporters he is abstaining from twice-a-week testing until it is available to everyone in Georgia, particularly teachers and first responders. A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston issued a statement that didn’t name Clark. It said he had been “advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session.” ___ LONDON — More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus. The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday. Britain is the fifth country in the world to pass that mark, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest. The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. The U.K. toll is 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II. The Associated Press
Grace Villa’s operator responded Tuesday to horrific reports of understaffing, deplorable sanitation and neglect inside the home’s recent COVID outbreak, while critics joined calls to revoke the company’s licence. The Spectator reported on tragic conditions exposed by workers in correspondence to Hamilton MPP Monique Taylor. The letters, which Taylor released Monday, describe in graphic detail the disturbing conditions inside the city’s biggest and deadliest outbreak. In an email late Tuesday, APANS Health Services addressed the allegations for the first time. “The safety of our residents, staff and family members is paramount and these statements are deeply concerning,” said CEO Mary Raithby. “We are continually reviewing our response throughout the outbreak. We will continue to listen to the best advice in our sector to determine where we can make enhancements to further protect our residents and staff.” She said, “Our utmost concern is for those in our home.” “Everyone at Grace Villa is continuing to pour their hearts and energy into their work each day,” Raithby continued. “We are humbled by their dedication and are saddened that some may have felt they did not have the resources or support as needed to do their jobs.” She added, “Our leadership team is working tirelessly to ensure everyone has the knowledge, training and resources to safely care for our residents now and in the future.” More than a quarter of the home’s 156 residents died in less than two months. Grace Villa had 234 cases — including 144 resident, 88 staff and two visitor cases — and 44 deaths from Nov. 25 to Jan. 20. Though the outbreak ended last Wednesday, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) still holds management powers at the east Mountain home through a provincial order. Taylor, who represents Hamilton Mountain, said the letters came from workers worried what would happen when HHS leaves the facility. The letters described “chaos, confusion and outright neglect” while workers “begged and cried for help.” “It was heartbreaking, traumatizing and it was criminal,” one read. The letters were anonymized to protect workers from reprisal and because they weren’t authorized to speak with media. “Every single room was trashed,” a worker wrote, describing cardboard boxes “overflowing” with “dirty PPE, soiled briefs and food trays, many of them untouched.” A McMaster University professor supported Taylor and SEIU Healthcare’s calls for APANS Health Services’ licence to be revoked, calling it “appalling neglect.” “It’s absolutely abhorrent to read of the conditions at Grace Villa,” said Amit Arya, assistant professor in palliative care. “It’s unimaginable suffering and grief.” On Sunday, Conservative MPP Donna Skelly, who represents Flamborough-Glanbrook, announced new provincial funding for local seniors’ homes, including Grace Villa, to cover “eligible expenses” for proper screening, staffing, equipment and supplies, and infection control. Grace Villa was allotted $124,000, bringing its total “prevention and containment support” to more than $1 million. In an email Tuesday, Skelly called the allegations at Grace Villa “disturbing,” adding they were “being looked into” by the Ministry of Long-Term Care. An emailed statement from the ministry said the province worked with the city and health organizations to address the outbreak at the Lockton Crescent home. “We take the safety of long-term-care residents very seriously,” said press secretary Krystle Caputo, noting the province invested $1.38 billion to support homes, including through orders that allow hospitals and infection control teams to manage outbreaks. Caputo added the ministry has worked directly with local public health, the LHIN and HHS “throughout the pandemic.” “In addition to improving the home’s infection prevention and control measures and educating staff on the proper use of PPE, the hospital is providing staffing for the home,” Caputo said. “The home has an adequate supply of PPE, and N95 masks are available when needed.” “We remain committed to doing everything we can, along with our partners, to help stabilize the home and have it return to normal operations.” On Monday, Hamilton’s medical officer of health said the city called for support at Grace Villa, connected the facility with HHS to improve staffing and carried out inspections. “Our job is to look at the infection control and disease control aspects,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson. “The care of the residents in the home is the responsibility of the home and ... the Ministry of Long-Term Care.” “Our hearts go out to all of those who have family in long-term care and especially those who have experienced the challenges of a bad outbreak such as that,” she said. “It’s a circumstance that none of us would want our loved ones to experience and none of us would want to go through.” Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
“There's not enough words in the English language to share how much this will impact First Nations; how much every time the land is destroyed, how much that that tears apart who we are as Niitsitapi,” said Latasha Calf Robe. The member of the Blood Tribe (Kainai Nation) and founder of the Niitsitapi Water Protectors spoke at a town hall Jan. 21 focused on the changes to the provincial coal policy brought in by Alberta’s current UCP government. A Coal Development Policy for Alberta, known also as the 1976 Coal Policy, was rescinded effective June 1, 2020 by the government. The policy protected large portions of land, like the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, from strip mining. After intense public backlash to a December 2020 coal mining auction, the UCP government, through the office of Minister for Energy Sonya Savage, cancelled 11 pending leases for coal mining. In a statement issued by the ministry Jan. 18, Savage said the “pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.” But participants at the town hall made it clear that they do not believe the government is looking out for their interests, and the best-case scenario is to have the coal policy reinstated completely. One of the main concerns is the potential for toxic amounts of selenium to enter the headwaters of the Old Man River, contaminating the drinking water of more than 200,000 Albertans, including the Blood Tribe. The town hall was organized by NDP Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips, the former minister of Environment and Parks and minister responsible for the Climate Change Office. She said at least 10 per cent of her constituents are members of Blackfoot Nations and will be affected by the government’s coal policy changes. In addition to concerns about selenium entering the drinking water, Phillips said the significant change in land use sets a dangerous precedent for the possibility of backroom deals on water licensing that would impact the availability of water for the Kainai Nation. She said the Grassy Mountain Mine is getting access to water in large volumes in order to operate, alleging this would only be possible by some sort of skirting of the rules when it comes to water licensing. “We are already in a very water-stressed area made only worse by the effects of climate change,” Phillips said. “Already, we see communities all across this corridor struggling with (lack of water) or even their water infrastructure… because climate change changes when you have more water and the volumes and, you know, extreme weather events and so on.” The mounting criticism over the lack of consultation with First Nations, as well as concerns over the potential environmental impacts, have resulted in stakeholders from across the province coming together to file a judicial review of the rescission of the coal policy. That is set to begin today, Jan. 26 in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. The review argues for the policy to be restored. “These kinds of projects have zero legitimacy from seven generations beyond me, beyond us,” said Diandra Bruised Head, a member of the Blood Tribe council, at the town hall. The mayor of Lethbridge, Chris Spearman, and the former premier of Alberta, now Leader of the Opposition, Rachel Notley, both spoke out against the rescission of the coal policy. “Albertans have overwhelmingly said that the eastern slope should be devoted to watershed protection, recreation tourism, and just, of course, that the land itself should be respected for the way it has interacted with original peoples for so many years before anybody else was here,” said Notley. Mayor Spearman talked about the potential dangers to commercial and drinking water for the residents of Lethbridge and the surrounding areas. “To have this go forward and have the headwaters potentially contaminated is a huge betrayal of trust,” said Spearman. CJWE By Tsering Asha, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CJWE
NEW YORK — The baseball Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on-the-field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown on this year's ballot. Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It's the first time the BBWAA didn't choose anyone since 2013. Schilling, a right-handed ace who won three World Series titles, finished 16 votes short of the 75% threshold necessary for enshrinement. He got 71.1% per cent this time after coming up 20 votes shy at 70% last year. Schilling's on-field accomplishments face little dispute, but he has ostracized himself in retirement by directing hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others. “It’s all right, the game doesn’t owe me anything,” Schilling said during a live video stream on his Twitter account. He later wrote on Facebook that he has asked the Hall of Fame to remove his name from next year's ballot. Hall of Fame Board Chairman Janes Forbes Clark said in a statement that the board "will consider the request at our next meeting.” Bonds (61.8%) and Clemens (61.6%) made minimal gains and joined Schilling in falling short on their ninth tries. Both face suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use — Clemens has denied using PEDs and Bonds has denied knowingly using PEDs. Bonds also has been accused of domestic violence and Clemens of maintaining a decade-long relationship with a singer who was 15 when they met. Schilling, Clemens and Bonds will be joined on next year's ballot by sluggers Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Rodriguez was suspended for all of the 2014 season for violating MLB's PED policy and collective bargaining agreement, and Ortiz's name allegedly appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003. Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, dropped from 52.6% last year to 49.1% after his wife accused him of repeated domestic abuses in December. Braves star Andruw Jones, arrested in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, got 33.9% in his fourth year. Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to two days in jail last year, got 44.9% in his third time on the ballot. Some players missed out over old-fashioned baseball disagreements, too. Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen moved from 35.3% to 52.9% and hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner from 31.7% to 46.4%. It’s the 19th time the BBWAA has failed to elect a Hall member and just the third time since 1971. With the Hall of Fame's Era Committees postponing their scheduled elections until next off-season because of the pandemic, there won't be a new Hall class for the first time since 1960. Cooperstown won’t be without celebration next summer, though. After the 2020 ceremony in the upstate New York village was cancelled due to the pandemic, Yankees great Derek Jeter and five-tool star Larry Walker will take centre stage on July 25, a year later than planned. They’ll be honoured alongside catcher Ted Simmons and late players’ association chief Marvin Miller. BBWAA members are instructed to elect Hall members “based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” At a time when social justice movements are pushing for a broader reckoning on sexual misconduct and racial inequality, character evaluation took on an outsized role in this election cycle. While the Hall’s inductees already include racists, cheaters, philanderers and criminals, the current voting bloc has — narrowly, in many cases — taken a stand against candidates they think have insufficient integrity. A record 14 voters sent blank ballots, topping the 12 sent in 2006. Schilling — a six-time All-Star over 20 seasons with Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, Arizona and Boston — has been embroiled in controversy throughout his retirement. He launched a video game company, 38 Studios, that went bankrupt shortly after receiving a $75 million loan guarantee from Rhode Island, then was fired as an ESPN analyst after he sent a tweet comparing Muslim extremists to Nazi-era Germans and posted a derogatory Facebook comment about transgender people. Months later, Schilling was again criticized after using social media to applaud a T-shirt calling for journalists to be lynched. On Jan. 6, the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, he said the following in a message on his Twitter account: “You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens, sit back .... and watch folks start a confrontation for (expletive) that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption.” That tweet was sent a few days after Hall of Fame ballots were due. Schilling wrote on Facebook that he would like the veterans committee to review his Hall case. That panel — comprised of former players, managers and others in the game, along with some writers — is tasked with evaluating players who don't get election via the BBWAA vote. “I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player,” Schilling wrote. “I don’t think I’m a hall of famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honour. “In my heart I am at peace," he also wrote. “Nothing, zero, none of the claims being made by any of the writers hold merit.” Bonds’ ex-wife testified in 1995 during divorce proceedings that he beat and kicked her. Bonds said he never physically abused her but once kicked her after she kicked him. In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and he was a star for the Boston Red Sox. Clemens apologized for unspecified mistakes in his personal life and denied having an affair with a 15-year-old. McCready later told “Inside Edition” she met Clemens when she was 16 and that the relationship didn’t turn sexual until several years later. The BBWAA recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the name and imprint of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from MVP plaques. Landis became commissioner in 1920, and there were no Black players in the majors during his more than two decades in charge. Further down the ballot, outfielder Gary Sheffield jumped from 30.5% to 40.6% on his seventh time on the ballot and Jeff Kent improved from 27.5% to 32.4% in his eighth year. The 2022 ballot also will include Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. ___ Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Jake Seiner, The Associated Press
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says the federal government should not have rejected an environmental assessment prepared by territorial officials. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board released its recommendations for BMC Minerals' proposed Kudz Ze Kayah lead-zinc-copper-gold mine in October. It stated there could significant adverse effects from the mine, located 115 kilometres south of Ross River in southeast Yukon, but the effects could be mitigated by following 30 recommendations in its assessment. Officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada, however, referred the assessment back to the board for reconsideration. In a letter to the assessment board, the federal government officials said the board's review needs more detail about how the effects will be mitigated. Those effects include water quality, wildlife, particularly the Finlayson Caribou Herd, and traditional land use by Kaska citizens. The federal officials say the assessment board also failed to properly address concerns from the Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation. They also want to know how Aboriginal rights were incorporated into the board's recommendations. "The Screening Report and Recommendation does not expressly delineate whether and how First Nation interests, including from a (Indigenous) rights perspective, have been considered within the assessment," the officials' letter to the Yukon assessment board says. The letter noted the Ross River Dena want more discussions on how the recommendations will be implemented. And the Liard First Nation does not believe the mitigation measures will protect its members' right to hunt the Finlayson Caribou Herd. Liard First Nation chief Stephen Charlie said Tuesday the recommendations should not be approved until they're acceptable to the Kaska people. Premier Sandy Silver, however, said in a written statement that the assessment board's review was comprehensive and the recommendations reasonable. The decision by the federal government, "creates unreasonable and unnecessary uncertainty for the proponent and sends a troubling signal," Silver said. "The government of Canada absolutely needs to take steps to streamline these processes going forward to ensure greater clarity and certainty for the mining industry." Silver said the territorial government was prepared to issue a decision accepting the recommendations.
Ice coverage on the Great Lakes hit record lows in January and is well below the seasonal average, prompting concerns from experts about the environmental impact caused by a lack of ice. As of Jan. 25, 7.7 per cent of the Great Lakes have frozen over, based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. science agency. Ice levels were as low as 1.8 per cent on Jan. 15, a record-low for the mid-January period. The abnormally low levels in 2021 reflect a longstanding trend of Great Lakes ice coverage declining by about 5 per cent per decade since the 1970s. “The downward trend is a trend by global warming,” said Jia Wang, an ice climatologist with U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But this year’s significant low is the result of local weather patterns, which have the biggest impact on ice formation on the lakes. “On the Great Lakes, our local climate, like surface air temperature, is the main determinant of if the ice is severe or mild,” Wang said. He projects the maximum ice coverage this year will be 30 per cent, sometime in February or early March. The long-term average is 53 per cent. Lake Huron is hovering around 15 per cent ice coverage. The late-January long-term average is about 35 per cent. Erie, one of the shallowest lakes, is sitting at 8.8 per cent ice coverage as of Jan. 25, and that figure had been less than 1 per cent as early as last week, a far cry from the almost 50 per cent average. Wang said low ice levels bring a “negative impact more than a positive impact.” Save for a potential boon for lake freight shipping, which would be less reliant on ice breakers, lack of ice can devastate the Great Lakes environment. “What’s worrisome is this higher frequency of lower ice,” said Michael McKay, executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor, adding years with abnormally low ice are becoming more common. Since 2000, 14 of the last 21 years have had ice coverage levels below the 53 per cent average. McKay said ice cover on the Great Lakes has dropped 70 to 75 per cent in the past 40 to 50 years. “It has really run parallel to what we’re seeing the arctic and Antarctic,” he said. The effects of low ice on the Great Lakes can be felt throughout Southwestern Ontario. “This is going to exacerbate other problems we find in the lakes,” McKay said. One major challenge is the increased risk of shoreline erosion without the protection of ice coverage. “Ice cover in the winter can help protect coastal communities from erosion,” McKay said. “In Southwestern Ontario, we’ve seen regions on the Lake Erie coast that have caved in … in part because it no longer has had that protection because of ice cover and waves just keep slamming.” The runoff effects extend to inland communities too, like London and Huron and Perth Counties, which often are hit by lake effect snowstorms. Without ice on the lakes, prevailing winds pick up more precipitation and dump it in communities downwind. “We’ll continue to get hit by large snowfall when lakes remain ice-free,” McKay said. Blooms of cyanobacteria which have plagued the Great Lakes in recent years, also can be made worse by a lack of ice. Ice cover calms lake water in the winter and allows some runoff nutrients and contaminants to settle in the sediment. Without ice cover, more resuspension events occur, reintroducing the contaminates into the water, which contributes to cyanobacteria blooms. Fish too are impacted, with some species, like white fish, spawning in winter months and needing still waters so their eggs are not disturbed. And beyond the environmental impacts, McKay said less ice on the Great Lakes means losing a “cultural identifier” for Canadians. “It's part of our identity, certainly in Canada, to have outdoor skating and ice fishing,” he said. While McKay said it may be past the point where actions to slow climate change could yield visible results within our lifetime, he said attention should still be paid to mitigating the effects that are indirectly related to the declines in Great Lakes ice cover. The good news, he said, is the waters are resilient. “Time and again, we’ve seen the lakes assaulted by various pressures, usually human-induced, things ranging from containments to invasive species, the (cyanobacteria) blooms,” McKay said. “It may not be exactly the same as it was before, but there’s a lot of resiliency in the lakes and they seem to bounce back and still be intact and important ecosystems.” (AS OF JAN. 25, 2021) Superior: 4 per cent Michigan: 6.7 per cent Huron: 15.3 per cent Erie: 8.8 per cent Ontario: 1.1 per cent St. Clair*: 33.8 per cent Great Lakes average: 7.7 per cent *Lake St. Clair is not technically a Great Lake firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Uncertainty about COVID-19 vaccine availability is taking a toll on older Albertans who have been living in the shadow of the potentially deadly coronavirus for a full year. The Alberta government recently announced all Albertans over 75 — who were scheduled to start receiving their shots in February — will have to wait due to manufacturing delays at Pfizer. The postponement also impacts First Nations and Métis people over the age of 65. It's another layer of angst on top of a year of living in fear and isolation. "It's terribly, terribly stressful," said Allan Singleton-Wood, 88, who lives alone in Calgary and hasn't been able to visit with his daughter or grandchildren in nine months. Singleton-Wood is particularly high risk because he has a number of serious health problems including COPD. He's also suffered two strokes and recently had surgery after a heart attack. "It doesn't make sense to me that I'm just stuck here and goodness knows how long it's going to be," he said. 'Apprehension and confusion' At the Kerby Centre, which provides programming and services for Calgary seniors, CEO Larry Mathieson is hearing similar concerns every day. "A lot of them have really essentially not been out of their house for almost a year. So the news of a vaccine coming I think was very exciting ... the delays have certainly created some apprehension and confusion," he said. A trip to the supermarket can be terrifying for someone over 75, according to Mathieson, who is concerned about the mental health impacts as the pandemic drags on. "We're very worried ... When you're fearful that going to the grocery store or the drugstore may actually be a life-threatening situation, you tend to pay attention to that and you tend to stay home. But it is very much against our human nature," said Mathieson . Hope disrupted There is no question the risk of serious illness — or even death — is much higher for people over age 75. And the provincial government's plan to start vaccinating the priority group in February offered promise. "This vaccine is one of the first glimmers of hope that they've had for getting back to normal, getting to see their families again, not worrying about catching COVID and the likelihood of getting severely ill or dying from it," said Kirsten Fiest, epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary. "So I think the uncertainty around when they're going to be vaccinated just adds to that stress and compounds the already difficult year that they've had." Once vaccine supplies are flowing again, Fiest said she wants Alberta Health Services and the provincial government to work faster to get them into the arms of high priority groups. "Vaccination needs to be the top priority right now … we should be vaccinating 24/7," she said. "Frankly, I do think that deaths right now are starting to be preventable. We have a vaccine and we need to be giving it to people," she said. Variant adds to urgency This sense of urgency ballooned on Monday, as Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Alberta has identified its first case of a more highly transmissible coronavirus variant with no known link to travel. "Canada is being hit harder than others with reduced vaccine shipments. We're receiving zero shipments of Pfizer vaccine this week and we're expecting shipments next week to be cut by 78 per cent," he said. "We need more doses now and we need them more urgently due to the increased threat posed by the new variants. We continue to advocate to the federal government and as soon as we get more doses we will get them into the arms of Albertans." According to Shandro, approximately 250,000 people are eilgible in Phase 1B of the now paused vaccine roll-out which was set to include all seniors over 75 and First Nations and Métis people over 65. "For us to be able to do that we need the vaccines to arrive in Alberta first." As of Tuesday afternoon, Alberta had administered 99,814 doses of the COVID-19. Back in his Calgary condo, where he's spent nearly a year on his own, Singleton-Wood has spent hours writing to health officials and making calls as he tries to sort out when he might be able to get his first dose He's left questioning why the federal and provincial governments have been unable to keep the vaccine supplies flowing. "I don't understand how we can be this disorganized," he said. "The lack of transparency, the confusion, the constantly changing stories, the constantly changing times." Despite the questions and frustration, Singleton-Wood — a life-long musician — has turned to his music to cope. He plays the piano to pass the time and even released a new CD during the pandemic. "I'm a musician so I can enjoy myself a little with my music, you know?"
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden's administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president's promise of a “unity” agenda. “The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must," Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators. "Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We're keeping all options open on the table.” Unwilling to wait for Republicans who argue Biden's price tag is too high and his priorities too wide-ranging, Democrats are flexing their newfound power as they take control of the Senate alongside the House and White House. It is the first time in a decade the party has held the full sweep of power in Washington, and Democrats say they have no time to waste trying to broker compromises with Republicans that may, or may not, happen. They have watched Republicans use similar procedural tools to advance their priorities, most recently the Trump administration’s GOP tax cuts. The fast-moving events days into the new majority on Capitol Hill come as the White House continued meeting privately with groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in hopes of striking a bipartisan agreement. Biden's COVID-19 aid package includes money for vaccine distribution, school reopenings and $1,400 direct payments to households and gradually boosts the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. The next steps remain highly fluid. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of more than 50 House lawmakers met virtually Tuesday with top administration officials on the virus aid and economic recovery package. A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the virtual conversation with the caucus, said there was agreement on the scope of the challenges facing the country and the need for additional relief. Biden and other members of his team intend to continue making their case to lawmakers about the need to act with urgency. Separately, the dozen senators who emerged from a lengthy private meeting with the White House on Sunday evening are talking on their own about trying to craft a more targeted bill. The bipartisan group of senators assembled privately again Monday evening. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday that Biden is still looking to negotiate on an aid package, while emphasizing that several components of the existing aid will lapse in March. “He laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback,” Psaki said. "He’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who led a bipartisan effort for the last $900 billion relief package, is working again with the senators on crafting an alternative package that she has said would be more focused on money for vaccine distribution and tailored economic assistance to the neediest Americans. Collins said Tuesday that the White House made good on its commitment to deliver a more detailed accounting of the proposed expenditure. But she said the group is still waiting for data on how much funding remains unallocated from past relief measures that, by her tally, totals a whopping $1.8 trillion still unspent. Congress has approved some $4 trillion in emergency aid since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stunning outlay and the largest rescue package in the nation's history. Senators from both parties who joined the White House call over the weekend agreed the priority needs to be standing up the country's faltering vaccine distribution system. With the death toll climbing, and new strains of the virus threatening more trouble ahead, ensuring vaccinations appears to be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 crisis. Several senators from both parties also said they want the $1,400 direct checks to be more targeted to those in need. They also want an accounting of what remains from previously approved aid bills. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the incoming Budget Committee chair, said he is already working on the budget package for next week and expanding it to include Biden's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. Raising the wage is a long-running Democratic priority that would essentially double the current $7.25 hourly wage set the last time the party was in control in the Obama administration. Advocates say the pay raise would boost millions of full-time workers from poverty. “There is a consensus,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol. “If Republicans are not prepared to come on board, that’s fine. We’re not going to wait. We’re going forward soon and aggressively.” Lisa Mascaro And Josh Boak, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A former executive with British Columbia's lottery corporation became emotional Tuesday after two days of testimony at a public inquiry into money laundering.Robert Kroeker took several moments to compose himself but his voice still cracked with emotion when he was asked to describe his experience as a focal point in B.C.'s probe into money laundering.Kroeker, who was fired as vice-president of corporate compliance in 2019, spent much of his testimony explaining what the Crown corporation knew about illegal cash circulating at casinos and what was being done to prevent it."You are not a floor manager. You are not on the business side of casinos. You are not wining and dining high rollers," said Marie Henein, Kroeker's lawyer. "That's not what you do. You've spent your life in compliance and trying to deal with money laundering and making casinos secure places in B.C."Kroeker's voice cracked as he tried to describe the impact of allegations that the lottery corporation did not act on large amounts of illegal cash at casinos."It's been devastating, not being able to respond, particularly when I was at the corporation, and especially for my team," said the former RCMP officer. "They're professionals and to see them continually attacked and maligned, it's really unfair."Former gaming investigator Larry Vander Graaf, who is also a former Mountie, told the commission last November that the B.C. Lottery Corp. did not move quickly enough to protect the integrity of gaming from organized crime more than a decade ago.Vander Graaf, the former executive director of the province's gaming policy branch, testified that large amounts of suspicious cash started to appear at B.C. casinos in 2007 and by 2010, loan sharks were circulating nearby parking lots with bags of money believed to be from proceeds of crime.Kroeker testified Tuesday he received a high-level briefing about suspicious cash activities at provincial casinos with possible links to organized crime on his first day on the job at the lottery corporation in 2015.He said he reviewed a document that concluded lottery officials appeared unwilling to address police concerns about suspicious cash and its potential connections to organized crime. The document also included the lottery corporation's concerns over the potential fallout if the information became public, he added."Certainly by this point BCLC knew there was a concern around the cash being brought into casinos being proceeds of crime," B.C. government lawyer Jacqueline Hughes asked Kroeker."Yes, for sure," said Kroeker.On Monday, Kroeker testified that Attorney General David Eby appeared uninterested in the lottery corporation's anti-money laundering efforts during a meeting in 2017 shortly after the New Democrats took power.The Ministry of Attorney General said in a statement on Monday that Eby would not comment on evidence or proceedings while the commission is underway.But in a statement on Tuesday, the ministry said "this government's actions to tackle financial crime in B.C. speaks for itself."Kroeker testified Tuesday that the money laundering issue in B.C. had become "politically charged" and was used by the two main political parties to criticize each other.The province appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the public inquiry into money laundering after three reports outlined how hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash affected the province's real estate, luxury vehicles and gaming sectors.— By Dirk Meissner in VictoriaThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press