Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse thought Fred VanVleet’s work over the past few weeks should have clinched him an All-Star roster spot.
Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse thought Fred VanVleet’s work over the past few weeks should have clinched him an All-Star roster spot.
NEW YORK — With homebound nominees appearing by remote video and hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on different sides of the country, a very socially distanced 78th Golden Globe Awards trudged on in the midst of the pandemic and amid a storm of criticism for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with top awards going to “Nomadland,” “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Crown” and “Schitt's Creek.” The night's top award, best picture drama, went to Chloé Zhao's elegiac road movie “Nomadland," a Western set across economic upheaval and personal grief. Zhao, the China-born filmmaker of, became the first woman of Asian descent to win best director. She’s only the second woman in the history of the Globes to win, and the first since Barbra Streisand won for “Yentl” in 1984. “'Nomadland at its core for me is a pilgrimage through grief and healing,” said Zhao, accepting the awards remotely. “For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, this is for you." With a cancelled red carpet and stars giving speeches from the couch, Sunday's Globes had little of their typically frothy flavour. But they went on, nevertheless, with winners in sweats and dogs in laps, in a pandemic that has sapped nearly all the glamour out of Hollywood. Facing scant traditional studio competition, streaming services dominated the Globes like never before — even if the top award went to a familiar if renamed source: Searchlight Pictures, formerly the Fox specialty label of “12 Years a Slave” and “The Shape of Water” now owned by the Walt Disney Co. Amazon's “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” — one of the few nominated films shot partly during the pandemic — won best film, comedy or musical. Its star guerilla comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen, also won best actor in a comedy. Referring to Rudy Giuliani's infamous cameo, Cohen thanked “a fresh new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius.” “I mean, who could get more laughs from one unzipping," said Cohen. Netflix, which came in with a commanding 42 nominations, won the top TV awards. “The Crown,” as expected, took best drama series, along with acting wins for Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher). “The Queen's Gambit” won best limited series, and best actress in the category for Anya Taylor-Joy. “Schitt's Creek,” the Pop TV series that found a wider audience on Netflix, won best comedy series for its final season. Catherine O'Hara also took best actress in a comedy series. Chadwick Boseman, as expected, posthumously won best actor in a drama film for his final performance, in the August Wilson adaptation “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — a Netflix release. Boseman’s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, tearfully, emotionally accepted the award. “He would thank God. He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices,” said Ledward. “He would say something beautiful, something inspiring.” Apple TV+ scored its first major award when a sweatshirt-clad Jason Sudeikis won best actor in a comedy series for the streamer's “Ted Lasso.” The NBC telecast began in split screen. Fey took the stage at New York's Rainbow Room while Poehler remained at the Globes' usual home at the Beverly Hilton. In their opening remarks, they managed their typically well-timed back-and-forth despite being almost 3,000 miles from each other. “I always knew my career would end with me wandering around the Rainbow Room pretending to talk to Amy," said Fey. “I just thought it would be later.” They appeared before masked attendees but no stars. Instead, the sparse tables — where Hollywood royalty are usually crammed together and plied with alcohol during the show — were occupied by “smoking-hot first responders and essential workers,” as Fey said. In a production nightmare but one that's become familiar during the pandemic, the night's first winner accepted his award while muted. Only after presenter Laura Dern apologized for the technical difficulties did Daniel Kaluuya, who won best supporting actor for his performance as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” get his speech in. When he finally came through, he waged his finger at the camera and said, “You're doing me dirty!" Pandemic improvising was only part of the damage control for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Globes. After The Los Angeles Times revealed that there are no Black members in the 87-person voting body of the HFPA, the press association came under mounting pressure to overhaul itself and better reflect the industry it holds sway in. This year, none of the most acclaimed Black-led films — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “One Night in Miami,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Da 5 Bloods” — were nominated for the Globes’ best picture award. With the HFPA potentially fighting for its Hollywood life, Sunday's Globes were part apology tour. Fey and Poehler started in quickly on the issue. “Look, a lot of flashy garbage got nominated but that happens,” said Poehler. “That’s like their thing. But a number of Black actors and Black-led projects were overlooked.” Within the first half hour of the NBC telecast, members of the press association appeared on stage to pledge change. "We recognize we have our own work to do," said vice-president Helen Hoehne. “We must have Black journalists in our organization.” Whether those statements — along with a diverse group of winners — did enough to remedy anything remained unclear. The moment the show ended, Time's Up sent letters to both the HFPA and NBCUniveral demanding more than lip service. “The Globes are no longer golden. It’s time to act,” wrote Tina Tchen, the group's president. COVID-19 circumstances led to some award-show anomalies. Mark Ruffalo, appearing remotely, won best actor in a limited series for “I Know This Much Is True” with his kids celebrating behind him and his wife, Sunrise Coigney, sitting alongside. Lee Isaac Chung, writer-director of the tender Korean-American family drama “Minari" (a movie the HFPA was criticized for ruling ineligible for its top award because of its non-English dialogue), accepted the award for best foreign language film while his young daughter embraced him. “She's the reason I made this film,” said Chung. “'Minari' is about a family. It's a family trying to learn a language of its own. It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language. It's a language of the heart," said Chung. “I'm trying to learn it myself and to pass it on." John Boyega, supporting actor winner for his performance in Steve McQueen's “Small Axe” anthology, raised his leg to show he was wearing track pants below his more elegant white jacket. Jodie Foster ("The Mauritanian") won one of the biggest surprise Globes, for best supporting actress in a film, while, sitting on the couch next her wife, Alexandra Hedison, and with her dog, Ziggy on her lap. Some speeches were pre-taped. The previously recorded speeches by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the wining “Soul" score went without hiccup even though presenter Tracy Morgan first announced “Sal" as the winner. Even if speeches sometimes lacked drama without Hollywood gathered in one place, representation was a common refrain. Pointedly referring to the diversity of the HFPA, presenter and previous winner Sterling K. Brown began, “Thank you. It is great to be Black at the Golden Globes,” he said. “Back.” Jane Fonda, the Cecil B. DeMille Award honoree, spoke passionately about expanding the big tent of entertainment for all. “Art has always been not just in step in history but has lead the way,” said Fonda. “So let’s be leaders.” Other awards included Pixar's “Soul” for best animated film; Rosumund Pike took best actress in a comedy or musical film for “I Care a Lot"; Aaron Sorkin ("Trial of the Chicago 7") for best screenplay; and, in the night's biggest surprise, Andra Day ("The United States vs. Billie Holiday") for best actress in a drama, besting Carey Mulligan ("Promising Young Woman") and Frances McDormand ("Nomadland"). As showtime neared, the backlash over the HFPA threatened to overwhelm the Globes. Yet the Globes have persisted because of their popularity (the show ranks as the third most-watched award show, after the Oscars and Grammys), their profitability (NBC paid $60 million for broadcast rights in 2018) and because they serve as important marketing material for contending films and Oscar hopefuls. The Academy Awards will be held April 25. Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Ontario's website for booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments will begin a "soft launch" in six public health units this week, two weeks before it becomes available across the province, The Canadian Press has learned. But the website will not be available to the general population in those regions, said a senior government source not authorized to speak publicly about the plan. Instead, public health officials will reach out to a small number of individuals who are 80 or older, as well as some eligible health-care workers, starting Monday. The source said the plan will help the province test components of the system before the full launch, determine whether any changes need to be made to the system and organize the vaccination of larger populations. The site is a "public-facing extension" of the COVaxON system the province has been using since the start of the vaccine rollout, the source said, and will also serve to keep track of inoculation data. The regions participating in the soft launch are Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington; Peterborough County-City; Hastings and Prince Edward Counties; Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark; Grey Bruce; and Lambton. The source noted the site will not be available to other regions before March 15, even those that have already begun vaccinating members of the 80-and-over age group such as York and Peel. Those regions must use "existing relationships with residents" to book the vaccinations until the online platform launches on March 15, when they're expected to switch to the provincial system. The source said the website will focus at first on appointments at mass vaccination sites, but the province will work with public health units in the coming weeks to make sure it's compatible with other facilities such as hospital sites and mobile clinics. The government has faced criticism for what some describe as the slow rollout of its vaccine booking portal, which is expected to launch the same day the head of the vaccine task force said people aged 80 and over would start getting the shots. Retired general Rick Hillier said his team was "furiously working" to test and refine the site so it would be up-and-running on time. Health Minister Christine Elliott defended the timeline, saying the government was still testing the site and wanted to ensure it won't crash when it goes live. "We don't want to rush to failure,'' she said last week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
(Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC - image credit) For Onowakohton Rusty Nolan, the people's fire in Kahnawake, Que., has become a second home. It's where he feels a sense of comfort, comradery and unity and is able to show solidarity to First Nations across the country facing injustices. "It's a symbol of our resistance," said Nolan. "It's a symbol of who we are, our strength, and lately it's been a place to give us a little bit of hope." The fire, which is located in a green space at the foot of the Honoré Mercier Bridge, was lit on Feb. 8, 2020 when community members blockaded Canadian Pacific Railway lines in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs' ongoing opposition to the Coastal GasLink project in northern B.C. Even though the barricades have since come down, the fire still burns a year later. The people's fire, housed behind this wooden structure, was moved to a green space at the foot of the Honoré Mercier Bridge when the railway barricade was dismantled on March 5, 2020. Nolan, who is one of the firekeepers, said being there evokes a sense of pride. "It's like we're on standby for Wet'suwet'en. We didn't want to give up. We didn't want to go home," he said. "I feel like I'm letting people know that I'm there and they can sleep tight at night. It's a nice big warm fire that is spreading positive vibes far." The fire is moved to its new location March 5, 2020 after the dismantling of barriers that halted rail traffic south of Montreal for more than three weeks. Ongoing fight Roxann Whitebean, a filmmaker in Kahnawake, was asked to read a letter last year to a crowd of reporters on behalf of the people of the fire, explaining the decision to take down the blockade. She said the fact that the camp is still up and the fire is still going sends a powerful message. "It's still a solidarity fire burning for the Wet'suwet'en, and I'm happy that people are still going and that there's a level of visibility there," said Whitebean. "Their fight is ongoing so we have to remind people that they are still dealing with this." A delegation of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs walks toward the Longhouse to meet with members of the Kahnawake branch of the Mohawk Nation in February 2020. The hereditary chiefs still oppose the pipeline, and the support has not gone unnoticed. "It's a continued fight and I really appreciate the fire is still on with the alliance we're building with Kahnawake," Wet'suwet'en hereditary Chief Woos said. "We stood up to create awareness, and that awareness has been a highlight of what is actually out there which is racism. The message that I get to Indigenous people is to continue to stand up against this racism." A place for solidarity In addition to showing solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs throughout 2020, the people's fire also helped raise awareness locally of the Black Lives Matter movement, 1492 Land Back Lane, and the plight of Mi'kmaw lobster fishers. The show of solidarity is something Whitebean said the people's fire has been doing for well over a decade and will continue to do. "Even when the physical structure comes down, the people still carry that same love within their hearts to want to make social change and to try to better our nation and and amplify the voices of people who are dealing with injustice within their communities," she said. As for Nolan, he said he just wants people who pass by the camp to know that it's a place of solidarity, unity and peace rather than harmful stereotypes often portrayed in media when Indigenous people use blockades to raise awareness of injustices. "We're Mohawks. We're still here. We're not going anywhere, and we're here for peace," said Nolan. "The fire is still there because our issues are neverending. Every time our fire is lit, it lasts longer and longer. It just seems like our resistance is becoming brighter and brighter."
(Brittany Spencer/CBC - image credit) Tough new COVID-19 measures kicked in at midnight, meaning Prince Edward Islanders are waking up to a world where some things are no longer possible — at least for the next 72 hours. The P.E.I. government's so-called modified red restricted measures are meant to curb outbreaks of COVID-19 in Summerside and Charlottetown. As of late Sunday, 17 new cases had been confirmed in the past five days, with more than 190 close contacts identified so far. Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer, provided a long list of possible exposure sites and dates during a briefing Sunday afternoon. They appear below, along with a list of where COVID-19 testing is available. Exposure sites and times Islanders are strongly urged to seek a COVID-19 test if they were at any of the following locations at the times given, even if they do not have symptoms. Note that the province said on its Facebook page Monday: "When we list an exposure location and time, it's only for those specific times. If you were there before or after that time, you would not be considered a risk for exposure." Testing locations and hours After a busy weekend that saw about 6,632 tests for COVID-19 collected — 2,250 at Three Oaks High School in Summerside alone — provincial public health officials are looking for more swabs. Here are the times and places of today's testing clinics for people who may have had exposure at the above sites as well as for anyone experiencing symptoms: Charlottetown Park Street clinic, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Montague Legion Clinic, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m Summerside Slemon Park Clinic, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. O'Leary Health Centre Clinic, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Health PEI announced changes for testing sites this evening because of potentially bad weather on Tuesday. Stratford testing site at Stratford Town Hall will be open for people aged 19-29 who work in the food service industry, meat and fish processing plants, call centres, transportation and delivery or any long-term care staff who are not vaccinated and do not have symptoms until close at 8 p.m. tonight. It was previously open only to 19- to 24-year-olds working in that industry today. Three Oaks High School testing site is available for 25- to 29-year-olds who work in the food service industry, meat and fish processing plants, call centres, transportation and delivery or any long-term care staff who are not vaccinated and who do not have symptoms until 6 p.m. This clinic was also previously open today only to 19- to 24-year-olds. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
NEW DELHI — India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to receive a vaccine on Monday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those now eligible include anyone older than 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make them vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness. The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a fixed price of 250 rupees, or $3.40, per shot. But the rollout of one of the world's largest vaccination drives has been sluggish. Amid signs of hesitancy among the first groups offered the vaccine, Modi, who is 70, got a shot at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science. He received the vaccine produced by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech — which has been met with particular skepticism. He appealed for all to get vaccinated, tweeting afterward, “together, let us make India COVID-19 free!” The drive, which began in January in the country of 1.4 billion people, has recently taken on even more urgency, since new infections have begun to increase again after months of consistent decline, and scientists have detected worrisome variants of the virus that they fear could hasten infections or render vaccines or treatments less useful. Scores of elderly people started lining up outside private hospitals on Monday morning. Sunita Kapoor was among them, waiting for a vaccine with her husband. She said that they had been staying at home and not meeting people for months to stay safe from the virus — and were looking forward to being able to socialize a bit more. “We are excited,” said Kapoor, 63. Many said that they had struggled with the online system for registering and then waited in line for hours before receiving the vaccine — problems that other countries have also experienced. Dr. Giridhar R. Babu, who studies epidemics at the Public Health Foundation of India, said that long waits for the elderly were a concern since they could pick up infections, including COVID-19, at hospitals. “The unintended effect might be that they get COVID when they go to get the vaccine,” he said. Even though India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs, things haven't gone according to plan. Of the 10 million health care workers that the government had initially wanted to immunize, only 6.6 million have gotten the first shot of the two-dose vaccines and 2.4 million have gotten both. Of its estimated 20 million front-line workers, such as police or sanitation workers, only 5.1 million have been vaccinated so far. Dr. Gagangdeep Kang, an infectious diseases expert at Christian Medical College Vellore in southern India, said the hesitancy by health workers highlights the paucity of information available about the vaccines. If health workers are reticent, “you seriously think that the common public is going to walk up for the vaccine?” she said. Vaccinating more people quickly is a major priority for India, especially now that infections are rising again. The country has recorded more than 11 million cases, second in the world behind the United States, and over 157,000 deaths. The government had set a target of immunizing 300 million people, nearly the total U.S. population, by August. The spike in infections in India is most pronounced in the western state of Maharashtra, where the number of active cases has nearly doubled to over 68,000 in the past two weeks. Lockdowns and other restrictions have been reimposed in some areas, and the state's chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, has warned that another wave of cases is “knocking on our door.” Similar surges have been reported from states in all corners of the massive country: Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Gujarat in the west, West Bengal in the east, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in central India, and Telangana in the south. Top federal officials have asked authorities in those states to increase the speed of vaccinations in districts where cases are surging, and to track clusters of infections and monitor variants. “There is a sense of urgency because of the mutants and because cases are going up,” said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India. He said that the consistent dip in cases over months resulted in a “reduced threat perception,” leading to vaccine hesitancy. “The (vaccination) drive began when perception was that the worst was over, so people were more hesitant,” Reddy said. Others have also pointed out that the reticence to get vaccinated was amplified, at least in part, by the government's opaque decision making while greenlighting vaccines. But experts say that allowing private hospitals to administer the shots — which began with this new phase of the campaign — should improve access. India's health care system is patchy, and in many small cities people depend on private hospitals for their medical needs. Still, problems remain. India had rolled out online software to keep track of the shots and recipients, but the system was prone to glitches and delays. The federal government will decide which hospitals get which vaccine and people will not have a choice between the AstraZeneca vaccine or the Bharat Biotech one, confirmed Dr. Amar Fettle, the nodal COVID-19 officer for southern Indian state Kerala. The latter got the go-ahead by Indian regulators in January before trials testing the shot's effectiveness at preventing illness were completed. But opening up the campaign to private hospitals may allow the rich to “shop” around for places that are providing the AstraZeneca vaccine — an option that poorer people wouldn't have, said Dr. Anant Bhan, who studies medical ethics. India now hopes to quickly ramp up vaccinations. But the country will likely continue to see troughs and peaks of infections, and the key lesson is that the pandemic won't end until enough people have been vaccinated for the spread of the virus to slow, said Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University who advises West Bengal state on the virus response. “Don’t use a trough to declare success and say it's over,” he said. ___ Associated Press journalists Krutika Pathi and Rishabh Jain contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press
As Bolivia struggled late last year to secure deals with large drug firms to supply COVID-19 vaccines, the incoming president, Luis Arce, turned to Russia for help. By the end of December, Bolivia clinched its first major COVID-19 vaccine deal, with enough shots for some 20% of the population. The first Sputnik V doses arrived in the country in late January, just as virus cases were spiking.
OTTAWA — The federal government hopes to start receiving doses of AstraZeneca’s recently approved COVID-19 vaccine this week as the flood of shots that flowed into Canada from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna last week partially subsides. Health Canada announced on Friday that it had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 shot to have received regulatory approval since the start of the pandemic. Canada has ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine, with the majority to be delivered from the United States between April and September. But two million jabs have been ordered from the Serum Institute of India, and Verity Pharmaceuticals, which is facilitating the institute’s application in Canada, has said the first 500,000 would reach Canadian shores this week. A senior government official told The Canadian Press on background Sunday that the first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday, though the shipment has not been confirmed. Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, also told the CBC on Sunday that the regulator had received additional information over the weekend from Johnson and Johnson, which is seeking approval for its own vaccine. Regulators in the U.S. gave it the green light over the weekend. Sharma said Health Canada is hoping to approve Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in "the next couple of weeks," but added any decision is contingent on the information presented by the company. As it stands now, the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently only expecting delivery of about 445,000 vaccine doses this week, which is about 200,000 less than last week’s record high of 640,000 doses in a seven-day period. The confirmed doses are all coming from Pfizer-BioNTech, as the two companies settle into a rhythm following a month-long delivery lull in January and much of February due to production upgrades in Europe. The pharmaceutical giants have pledged to deliver 4 million doses by the end of March. Canada received 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, but the company only delivers every three weeks. Clinical trials showed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be less effective at preventing infection than the other two, but it is still keeping people from getting very sick or dying, Sharma said Friday. Pfizer and Moderna both reported their products were 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in immunized patients compared to those who received a placebo. Efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine is believed to be around 62 per cent. It’s not entirely clear yet how provinces and territories will incorporate the AstraZeneca vaccine into their inoculation efforts, but the product offers a more flexible option since shots can be shipped and stored in refrigerators rather than freezers. AstraZeneca vaccines are to be given in two doses between four and 12 weeks apart. Sharma said there is some indication that waiting longer for a follow-up jab leads to a better response, but that data is not yet complete. There have been some concerns raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent weeks, including its effectiveness against virus variants of concern and whether there is enough data to show it works on older recipients. Several European countries, including Germany and France, limited AstraZeneca's vaccine to residents under the age of 65. Sharma said there were a limited number of people over 65 involved in the clinical trials, but that data, coupled with the real-world experience in the United Kingdom, shows strong evidence seniors are protected. Canada’s vaccine program is ramping up after the lengthy slowdown in deliveries. More than 300,000 people were vaccinated in the last week, almost one-fifth of the total doses injected since the first immunizations began Dec. 14. About 700,000 people had received one dose as of Friday afternoon, and more than 500,000 are now fully vaccinated with two doses. Quebec is set to expand its vaccination effort to the general public on Monday by allowing seniors 85 or older to begin booking appointments. The age threshold has been lowered to 80 for seniors in the Montreal area. The AstraZeneca vaccine works differently than the other two already in use in Canada. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection. AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine, which takes a cold virus, modifies it so it can’t reproduce itself, and adds the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When injected, it too provokes the body to develop infection-fighting antibodies and cells to combat the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday stood by an unidentified Cabinet minister against calls for him to step down over an allegation he raped a 16-year-old girl more than 30 years ago. The accusation has created a cloud over the 16 men in Morrison’s 22-minister Cabinet and is feeding complaints of a culture within Parliament that is toxic for women. The allegation was contained in an anonymous letter sent to the prime minister’s office and to three female lawmakers last week. The letter contained a statement from a complainant that detailed her allegation of a rape she said occurred in New South Wales state in 1988. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, reported the allegation to police before taking her own life in June at age 49. Morrison said the Cabinet minister “vigorously and completely denied the allegations.” Morrison said he forwarded the letter to police and discussed the allegation with the federal police commissioner. Morrison said he did not intend to take any further action. “We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicized through the media is grounds for ... governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that,” Morrison said. The Ministerial Code of Conduct states a “minister should stand aside if that minister becomes the subject of an official investigation of alleged illegal or improper conduct.” Some within the government argue that because the complainant is dead, her allegation is no longer under official police investigation because a conviction is unlikely. Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, a minor Greens party lawmaker who received the anonymous letter, said the minister must step down pending an independent investigation by a former judge. “It is just not right to suggest that this type of allegation could linger, hang over the heads of the entire Cabinet,” Hanson-Young said. She said the accusation erodes the belief that the government takes sexual assault seriously. Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley, who represented the complainant when she took her accusation to police, said the allegation cannot be resolved through the criminal justice system because she has died. The minister should step down while some independent inquiry investigates the evidence, Bradley said. “His position is pretty clearly untenable and he should step aside or be stood aside until this matter can be addressed and resolved,” Bradley said. The disclosure comes two weeks after Morrison apologized in Parliament to a former government staffer who alleged she was raped by a more senior colleague in a minister’s office two years ago. Brittany Higgins quit her job in January and reactivated her complaint to police after initially not pursuing the case because she felt it would have affected her employment. The colleague, who has not been named publicly, was fired for breaching security by taking Higgins into a minister’s office following a night of heavy drinking. Three other women have made sexual misconduct allegations against the same man since Higgins went public with her complaint. A government staffer who alleged she was raped by the man last year told The Weekend Australian newspaper the attack wouldn’t have happened if the government had supported Higgins’ initial complaint. Morrison responded to Higgins’ public complaints by appointing government lawmaker Celia Hammond to work with political parties to investigate Parliament House culture, improve workplace standards and protect staff. Hammond and opposition Labor Party Sen. Penny Wong also received anonymous letters about the 1988 rape allegation. Wong said she met the complainant in 2019 and the complainant detailed her allegation against the man, who was not in Parliament in 1988. “I facilitated her referral to rape support services and confirmed she was being supported in reporting the matter to NSW Police,” Wong said. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whom Morrison replaced in a power struggle within the ruling conservative Liberal Party in 2018, said the complainant wrote to him in 2019 seeking advice on what she should do with her allegations. Turnbull described her allegations as “pretty harrowing” and said Morrison should remove the minister. Turnbull said he had sent the woman's email and his reply to police in the woman's home state of South Australia in expectation that they would be used as evidence in a coroner's investigation into her death. An investigation has not yet been announced. Morrison said that before he was told of the rape allegation last week, he had heard “rumours” that an Australian Broadcasting Corp. investigative reporter was “making some inquiries” about a rape around November last year when the ABC’s Four Corners program broadcast its “Inside the Canberra Bubble” investigation. The program accused the Liberal Party of tolerating and condoning inappropriate sexual behaviour. The program exposed an extramarital affair between Population Minister Alan Tudge and a female adviser in 2017. It also alleged Attorney General Christian Porter had been seen “cuddling and kissing” a female staffer in a Canberra bar, which he denies. The government has condemned the program. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has asked the ABC board to explain how the program was in the public interest and complied with the state-owned broadcaster’s obligation to produce accurate and impartial journalism. Minister for Women Marise Payne on Monday described the recent allegations of sexual misbehaviour as a low point of her 24 years in Parliament. “This is most definitely the most difficult, most confronting and most distressing period of my work life in this environment,” Payne told Sky News. “But distressing for me is meaningless in comparison to those people who have had to endure issues around sexual assault, the experience of sexual assault or harassment in its many forms, and we want to make sure that that stops now,” she added. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
(Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit) Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac, who has been on sick leave since the summer of 2019, says he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and will not be returning to work. "It's a work in progress," he said Friday in an exclusive interview with CBC News. "I'm doing a lot better than I was. "I'm feeling much better. I'm in a much better place." He said he wasn't in a great place when he went on sick leave. "It was something that was happening over a period of a long time and it just hit a point where my wife stepped in and she recognized some of the stuff I was going through and it was time to take care of Peter." McIsaac's wife, Lydia, is a mental health nurse. The chief, who is 61, said it was difficult accepting the diagnosis. It was also difficult dealing with bouts of depression and having to leave policing after 35 years on something other than his own terms. 'I didn't realize I was suffering' He started in 1986 as a patrol officer in the coal-mining town of New Waterford. McIsaac said cops couldn't show any weakness back then. "I've been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for 25 years, they tell me," he said. "I didn't realize I was suffering ... for the many years that I had been, until it hit a point that I sought the treatment and help that I needed so badly, and it was bad. "It was very disappointing for me. I was very ashamed. For me, I thought this was something that happened to someone else because I considered myself not only physically tough, but I always considered myself mentally tough." On Tuesday, staff told Cape Breton regional councillors during an in-camera session that McIsaac would not be returning to work and that the municipality would need to post the chief's position internally. McIsaac said he intended to go back to work for the longest time, but only lately his health-care providers convinced him that was not a good idea. McIsaac says he comes from an age when police officers would have been considered weak if they admitted they were negatively affected by the job. "I've investigated everything from a barking dog complaint to a double homicide and everything in between, so to think that I would be some type of superhuman individual that wouldn't be affected by this stuff is absolutely ridiculous," he said. "I realize that now." But that realization was a long time coming. In fact, he said, some of his therapy had to stop because it was too traumatic to deal with all at once. "I come from an era of policing where you just wouldn't share this stuff because it was considered weak," McIsaac said. "Matter of fact, back in my time when I was hired, you would probably be outcast from the police service, never hired, never be promoted, and you would probably have to move on to another career." The chief said the police service has much better workplace supports for PTSD than it used to and said he has been getting excellent care. "I don't know if all doctors operate like this, but I think I've got the best and they've helped me so much that they've probably saved my life." I'm hoping that by actually talking about it today that others will seek the help that they need and if they don't, I guarantee them it will get worse. - Chief Peter McIsaac The chief said he considered simply walking away from his job and not talking about his sick leave, but decided he had to speak out. "I know police officers who I've worked with my whole career are going through this and probably been impacted worse than I have. So I'm hoping that by actually talking about it today that others will seek the help that they need and if they don't, I guarantee them it will get worse." McIsaac said policing has changed drastically over the span of his 35-year career. He said New Waterford had a lot of drinking establishments when he started. "Look, you had miners who worked hard and played hard, and I think cops back then were hired more for their brawn than their intellectual ability and it had to be that way because they had to keep order." However, within three years, there was a changing of the guard as older officers retired. McIsaac says when he first started policing in New Waterford, cops had to start cracking down on drinking and driving. McIsaac said he quickly found himself as an acting sergeant and soon there was a crackdown on drinking and driving. "When I first started ... you took your life in your hands if you were going down Plummer Avenue and within about two years we led the province in the amount of impaired driving cases." He said policing has come a long way, with more specialized training in forensics and particular aspects of investigations. McIsaac became Nova Scotia's representative on the national chiefs association and developed relationships with big-city police chiefs across Canada and the U.S. Those connections brought in outside resources that helped solve the two longstanding, but unrelated, homicides of Harold (Buster) Slaunwhite and Brett MacKinnon, something that is a source of pride for McIsaac. CBRM budgeted $1 million for renovations to the former Sydney Mines town hall to modernize it and convert it into the north division police headquarters. He said he is also proud of the regional police department's efforts to have the municipality create modern divisional offices by renovating the historic Sydney Mines town hall and building a brand new office in downtown Glace Bay. He also said creating a strategic plan and implementing the trunk mobile radio system helped modernize the force. McIsaac was also faced with several challenges during his tenure as chief. One was the continuing controversy around the death of Clayton Miller, a New Waterford teen who died in 1990 after an outdoor drinking party. Supporters of the Miller family gathered outside the Sydney hotel where investigators met with the parents of Clayton Miller in 2015. His parents and their supporters have always said police were somehow involved in his death, but the cause has been ruled accidental after several reviews, including one three years ago by the province's Serious Incident Response Team and chief medical examiner. McIsaac was an officer with the New Waterford department, but was never implicated in the case. Still, he and his family have been accosted by people who believe the death has been covered up. He said it was simply a tragedy due to a deadly mix of young people, alcohol and cold temperatures. "You've got to be sympathetic to the family. Anybody who loses a child .. under any circumstances, the grief that any parent must feel, I can't even fathom it. "However ... that thing has been investigated more than any other thing that I can think of in my policing career, by several other agencies, including the RCMP and the last one was done by SIRT." Acting Chief Robert Walsh had a hand in crafting the terms of reference for a study into the police department's efficiency. That report is expected sometime in March. Not long after McIsaac went on sick leave, CBRM received a consultant's report on the municipality's long-term viability. One of the recommendations was to study the efficiency of the police service. The report said the municipality has more police officers per capita than any other similar-sized Canadian jurisdiction. The efficiency study was commissioned with the help of the acting chief, Robert Walsh, and was due last November, but CBRM staff say it is now expected to be delivered sometime in March. Walsh and CBRM officials have argued that some of the service's 200 officers are not paid for by the municipality. They are funded by the province's Boots on the Street program, Membertou, the regional centre for education and the RCMP highway patrol. Officials have also said the police service needs that many officers to cover the large regional municipality, to backfill up to 40 officers who are off sick at any given time, and to keep the crime rate low. McIsaac said he agrees on both counts. McIsaac says the force's next chief needs to focus on the staff and on the people of the communities they serve. He says they may pay a price, though. "Go and ask the union membership right now, do they think they have enough members, because they are working shorthanded just about every day. People are getting burned out. It's probably some of the reasons why some of them are not working. "And the only reason our number is what it is, is because 30-plus are there because of outside resources or money allocated from somewhere else." McIsaac said he has one piece of advice for whoever becomes the next chief. "Don't think it's about you, because it's not. The last person you should think about is yourself. You're going to pay a price for that, but it's about the people that work for you. More importantly, it's about the people that you serve and it's all about community. "I've probably paid a personal price for it myself, and my family paid a price for it, because there was lots of long hours and days, nights, evenings, weekends and vacations that we forego because of my job, but I can honestly say I gave it every ounce of my energy and ability and my knowledge and experience to try to make this place and our community and our organization better, and I have no regrets and I can walk out the door knowing I left it in good shape." MORE TOP STORIES
Former Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi says he believes he was surveilled by Canadian intelligence while he lived in Montreal.
Unable to find work, Ahmed Farea has sold everything including his wife's gold to feed and house two young daughters in one small room. Elsewhere in Yemen's capital Sanaa, widow Mona Muhammad has work but struggles to buy anything more nutritious than rice for her four children amid high prices. And in a nearby hospital, severely malnourished children receive lifesaving nutritional drinks.
Bitcoin's 300% price surge since October has revived China's grey market in cryptocurrency trading, putting regulators on alert over financial risks and capital outflows as volatility spikes. China shut down its local cryptocurrency exchanges in 2017, smothering a speculative market that had accounted for 90% of global bitcoin trading. Onshore investors now trade bitcoin on platforms owned by Chinese exchanges that have relocated overseas, including Huobi and OKEx.
Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. Chris Scott, chief meteorologist with The Weather Network, said Canadians can count on some sunny days to put a bounce in their step after a long winter. "There's going to be some challenges. We're not out of the woods for winter, but we've certainly put the worst behind us and there's some really nice days ahead," said Scott, adding that people should get out and enjoy the sunshine when the daily forecast calls for it. The Weather Network predicts that March will bring extended tastes of early spring to Ontario and Quebec after a particularly wintry February. But Scott said the province should brace for a period of colder weather in mid-spring before more consistent warmth sets in. The Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia, with lower-than-average temperatures in the offing for the first half of the season. An above-normal snowpack will make for excellent skiing conditions but also a heightened risk for spring flooding when warm weather finally arrives, Scott said. The Weather Network's outlook suggests March will be dramatically warmer through the Prairies, but indicates western parts of the region will struggle to reach consistently mild temperatures. The network said it's concerned that drought conditions south of the border could become more widespread and affect southern parts of the region by the start of the growing season. Scott predicted temperatures exceeding seasonal norms in Atlantic Canada, but said the region is still at risk for high-impact, late-winter storms. In Northern Canada, colder than normal spring temperatures are expected for southern Yukon, while eastern Nunavut will be warmer than usual. "There's going to be good days (for outdoor activities) in every part of the country, you're just going to have to pick your battles," Scott said. The meteorologist did have good news for most of Canada's largest river valleys, predicting they would be spared disastrous floods in the months ahead. Scott said the Red River Valley in Manitoba, the Ottawa and St. Lawrence valleys in Ontario and Quebec, as well as the Saint John River valley in New Brunswick likely won't have to contend with dangerously high water levels in March and April. "That's because we don't have the tremendous snowpacks that are the antecedent condition that you need to get really severe spring flooding," said Scott. "That's really good news in places, especially in Eastern Canada, that have been hit with floods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and sentenced to three years in prison, a stunning fall from grace for a man who for five years bestrode the national and global stage. A Paris court found that Sarkozy, 66, had tried to bribe a judge after leaving office, and to peddle influence in exchange for confidential information about an investigation into his 2007 campaign finances. "He took advantage of his status and the relationships he had formed," presiding judge Christine Mee said.
Despite the U.S. economy's near miss with a depression last year and an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has brought travel to a virtual halt, Jeff Hurst, the chief executive of vacation rental firm VRBO, sees a boom on the horizon. "Every house is going to be taken this summer," Hurst said, as the expected protection from vaccines arrives in step with warmer weather, unleashing a cooped-up population with record savings stashed away.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Mar. 1, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 46,624 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,882,952 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,968.306 per 100,000. There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 77.12 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 13,856 new vaccinations administered for a total of 432,255 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 50.517 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.37 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 19,167 new vaccinations administered for a total of 687,271 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.788 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,894 new vaccinations administered for a total of 75,448 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 54.791 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.56 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,725 new vaccinations administered for a total of 78,226 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 66.341 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 104.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 8,982 new vaccinations administered for a total of 227,678 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.721 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Mar. 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
BERLIN — Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years, to help reduce the vast mountain of electrical waste that piles up each year on the continent. The "right to repair," as it is sometimes called, comes into force across the 27-nation bloc Monday. It is part of a broader effort to cut the environmental footprint of manufactured goods by making them more durable and energy efficient. “This is a really big step in the right direction” said Daniel Affelt of the environmental group BUND-Berlin, which runs several "repair cafes" where people can bring in their broken appliances and get help fixing them up again. Modern appliances are often glued or riveted together, he said. “If you need specialist tools or have to break open the device, then you can’t repair it.” Lack of spare parts is another problem, campaigners say. Sometimes a single broken tooth on a tiny plastic sprocket can throw a proverbial wrench in the works. “People want to repair their appliances,” Affelt said. “When you tell them that there are no spare parts for a device that’s only a couple of years old then they are obviously really frustrated by that.” Under the new EU rules, manufacturers will have to ensure parts are available for up to a decade, though some will only be provided to professional repair companies to ensure they are installed correctly. New devices will also have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools when they really can't be fixed anymore, to improve recycling. Each year, Europeans produce more than 16 kilograms (35 pounds) of electrical waste per person. About half of that junk is due to broken household appliances, and the EU recycles only about 40% of it, leaving behind huge amounts of potentially hazardous material. German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said that in a next step, manufacturers should have to state how long a product is expected to work for and repair it if it breaks down earlier. This would encourage companies to build more durable products, she said. “In the repair cafes we see a lot of devices that broke shortly after the warranty expired,” said Affelt — a phenomenon that has prompted some environmentalists to accuse manufacturers of designing their devices with planned obsolescence. Knowing an appliance will really last for a decade might prompt consumers to choose products that are more durable or can be easily fixed, he said. “For the vast majority of devices, repair is the right choice," said Affelt, adding that the exception might be old, inefficient refrigerators that can contain powerful greenhouse gases which fuel climate change. In a next step, environmentalists and consumer rights groups want the “right to repair” expanded to include smartphones, laptops and other small electrical devices. Responding to growing demand, Apple last year announced it would start providing training and spare parts to certified independent repair stores fixing Mac computers, not just iPhones. Right to repair bills have been introduced in several U.S. state legislatures, attracting bipartisan support, though as yet there is no nationwide measure in force. Sweden has gone further than most of the EU, making repairs and spare parts subject to lower value-added tax. The bloc's ecological design directive — of which the right to repair requirement is a part — will also revise existing energy labels that describe how much electricity washers and other household devices consume. The new seven-step scale from A to G will be complemented by a QR code that provides consumers with further information, such as how loud the devices are. Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Mar. 1 ... What we are watching in Canada ... OTTAWA - The federal government is hoping to start receiving vaccine doses from AstraZeneca this week as the flood of injections that flowed into Canada from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna last week partially subsides. Health Canada announced on Friday that it had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 shot to get the green light from the regulator since the start of the pandemic. A senior government official told The Canadian Press on background yesterday that the first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada on Wednesday, though the shipment has not been confirmed. The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently only expecting delivery of about 445-thousand doses this week, which is about 200-thousand less than last week’s record high of 640-thousand doses in a seven-day period. The scheduled doses are all coming from Pfizer-BioNTech, as the two companies settle into a rhythm and work toward their promise to deliver 4 million doses by the end of March. Canada received 168-thousand doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, but the company only delivers every three weeks. --- Also this ... VANCOUVER - The chief financial officer of telecom giant Huawei is set to return to the British Columbia Supreme Court today for arguments over the admission of evidence in her extradition case. Meng Wanzhou's defence team alleges the evidence will prove that international bank HSBC was aware of the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, a subsidiary of the technology company. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 at the request of United States authorities over claims she misrepresented that relationship, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. She is wanted on fraud charges in the United States that both she and Huawei deny. Later this week, the court is expected to hear her team argue that former U.S. president Donald Trump used Meng as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China and that she should be released. Her team alleges she was subjected to an abuse of process but Canada's attorney general says that argument is irrelevant now that Trump is out of office. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... WASHINGTON — Congress is beginning debate on the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections law in a generation. Legislation from Democrats would touch virtually every aspect of the electoral process — striking down hurdles to voting, curbing partisan gerrymandering and curtailing big money in politics. Republicans see those very measures as a threat that would limit the power of states to conduct elections and ultimately benefit Democrats. The stakes are enormous with both control of Congress and President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda in the balance. But at its core, a more foundational principle of American democracy is at play: access to the ballot. --- Also this ... ORLANDO, Fla. — Former U.S. president Donald Trump called for Republican Party unity when he returned to the political stage for the first time since losing the White House to Joe Biden. Trump closed out a conservative political conference in Florida on Sunday, and told cheering attendees that he is sticking with the GOP and not forming a third party. He said Republicans would stand united, yet he also criticized those who supported his impeachment and denounced his incitement of rioters at the U.S. Capitol. Trump also repeated familiar falsehoods about the November election being rigged against him. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of attacking an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week. Iran promptly dismissed the charges. Netanyahu spoke today to Israeli public broadcaster Kan and saying “it was indeed an act by Iran, that’s clear.” He offered no evidence but said that “Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel." The ship suffered a mysterious explosion in the Gulf of Oman on Friday and came to Dubai’s port for repairs on Sunday, days after the blast that revived security concerns in Mideast waterways amid heightened tensions with Iran. Iran denies it was behind the incident. --- And this ... YANGON, Myanmar — Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests Sunday as they sought to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power. A U.N. human rights official said it had “credible information” at least 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded. That would be the highest single-day death toll among protesters who are demanding the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power after being ousted by a Feb. 1 coup. About 1,000 people are believed to have been detained Sunday, adding to the others detained earlier, including Suu Kyi. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the violence. --- ICYMI ... TORONTO - Schitt's Creek nabbed two Golden Globes at last night's awards. The Canadian sitcom won best television series in a musical or comedy, and Catherine O'Hara took home best television actress in a musical or comedy. The series was nominated for three other awards, but ultimately lost out. Eugene and Dan Levy, the show's father-son creator duo, were nominated for best television actor in a musical or comedy and best supporting actor in a series, miniseries or motion picture for TV, respectively. Annie Murphy had been nominated for best supporting actress in a series, miniseries or motion picture for TV. Schitt's Creek wrapped up its six-season run last year, when it swept the Emmy's, winning all seven major comedy awards. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2021 The Canadian Press
Russia has identified a policeman as a suspect in a criminal investigation into a flight data leak that could have been used to out jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's alleged poisoners, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday. Investigators suspect a police major in St Petersburg of accessing an official database and selling air passenger data of a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow last August that Navalny was on board the day he was poisoned. Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, collapsed on the flight in a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia with what many Western nations said was a nerve agent.
(Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada - image credit) New Brunswick Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson has support in some accounting and auditing circles for the merit of her request to gain access to the financial records of the pension investment and management body Vestcor, but her office is not saying if she is prepared yet to escalate the effort into a legal fight. "The Auditor General respectfully declines to comment at this time," wrote spokesperson Jolyne Roy about whether a court application is under consideration. Adair-MacPherson appeared before the legislature's Crown corporations committee last week and gave a lengthy presentation to MLAs about her effort to gain access to the internal financial documents of Vestcor. Vestcor is the Fredericton-based organization set up to manage what is now $18 billion in New Brunswick government pension and other funds. It used to be a Crown agency, but in 2016 was reorganized as an independent body to allow it to solicit outside accounts and contends it is no longer subject to Adair-MacPherson's authority. She disputes that on several grounds, but Premier Blaine Higgs has sided with Vestcor and said his government will not pass special legislation Adair-MacPherson has requested to require the body to submit to her oversight. Vestcor president John Sinclair earned $375,000 in salary in 2019 and performance bonuses of $882,721. Adair-MacPherson told MLAs last week that if government took that position she might be forced to mount a legal challenge to assert her right to audit Vestcor. "Depending on how this plays out and what the response is to our recommendations, eventually it might have to be a decision made in the courts," she said. "If they don't agree, then the option to the auditor general is to go the legal route, which I would find very unfortunate." On Thursday, Higgs told CBC News Vestcor no longer has ties to the provincial government and the province has no more responsibility to oversee its affairs than the affairs of any outside body like a big bank. "Vestcor was set up as an independent operation not unlike other financial institutions," said Higgs. "I don't have any responsibility for TD either or the Bank of Nova Scotia." But Adair-MacPherson told MLAs that in her view Vestcor maintains strong connections to the provincial government that make it essential she be allowed to oversee its operations. She said it was created by a special act of legislature and given unique non-profit status by lawmakers. In addition, she said it was handed billions of dollars in government employee pension dollars to manage without having to compete for the business. Premier Blaine Higgs said he views Vestcor as an independent financial institution and New Brunswick has no special role to oversee its operations. Vestcor is jointly owned by the province's two largest public pension funds serving civil servants and teachers. Those funds each have provincial government representation on their boards of trustees, which adds to the connections, she believes. "There are just so many components to it that when I sit back and look at it, to me, it should be held accountable to the public," said Adair-MacPherson. "My office, I feel, should be able to have access the same as we always did in the past to do both financial audit work and performance audits." Steven Salterio, the current Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Accounting and Auditing at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said Adair-MacPherson will have difficulty winning the right to look into Vestcor's operations, but there is merit in the argument she is making. "I think the auditor general is correct in that she should have the mandate to deal with this newly privatized corporation from the point of view this is strictly a government entity," said Salterio. "This is a lot of provincial money going into an organization that is not accountable to the auditor general." Steven Salterio is the Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Accounting and Auditing at Queen's University. He said Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson's interest in looking at Vestcor has merit but is not surprised the body is resisting. According to New Brunswick's public accounts, the province paid Vestcor $327.9 million last year as its share of employee pension contributions. Adair-MacPherson has said she is interested in testing Vestcor claims that it is meeting and beating its investment targets and looking into whether incentive and bonus programs for Vestcor executives are reasonable. In 2019, the last full year it published an annual report, Vestcor posted investment returns of 11.76 percent, which placed it in the bottom quarter of Canadian pension funds for the year, according to a ranking by the Royal Bank of Canada. Still, Vestcor reported those results were $107 million higher than its "benchmark" targets, helping to boost bonuses and incentives to its employees to $5.3 million, including $882,721 to its president, John Sinclair. Sinclair's base salary is $375,000. "We would do a performance audit to determine whether [bonuses] are reasonable given the business they are in," said Adair-MacPherson. "We would audit to determine whether in fact we agree with the claims that they're making in their annual report, but right now there's no way to do that." Salterio said in hindsight the time for the auditor general to win access to Vestcor was back in 2016 while legislation that created the body was being debated and adopted. The Royal Bank of Canada said 119 major Canadian pension funds it tracked in 2019 generated average returns of 14 per cent. Vestcor's investment return of 11.76 per cent placed it somewhere in the bottom 30, although it beat its own internal benchmarks. He said performance audits can be grueling and he's not surprised Vestcor is doing whatever it can to escape that level of scrutiny. "You certainly wouldn't volunteer to give the auditor general a mandate if you were a private-sector organization," said Salterio. "But at the same time you have to have it set up so that the legislative intent is clear and as far as I can see there is no legislative intent that the auditor general have a mandate." New Brunswick's Auditor General Act grants broad powers to look at any "auditable entity," which can include "a service provider" to government or "a funding recipient." Adair-MacPherson told MLAs her office believes that is enough legal authority for her to gain access to Vestcor without an amendment to legislation, although that would be the easier route. "It might have to be a decision made in the courts, but I surely hope it doesn't come to that because that's a costly, lengthy exercise," she said.