Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell was caught in COVID-19 protocols and discussed what happened leading up to the game, along what he'd change going forward.
Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell was caught in COVID-19 protocols and discussed what happened leading up to the game, along what he'd change going forward.
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is considering a second firing of its moon rocket engines after a critical test came up short over the weekend, a move that could bump the first flight in the Artemis lunar-landing program into next year. The space agency had aimed to launch its new Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket and an empty Orion capsule by the end of this year, with the capsule flying to the moon and back as a prelude to crew missions. But that date could be in jeopardy following Saturday’s aborted test. “We have a shot at flying it this year, but we need to get through this next step," said Kathy Lueders, head of NASA's human spaceflight office. All four engines fired for barely a minute, rather than the intended eight minutes, on the test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The countdown rehearsal for the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage — made by Boeing — included the liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanks, as well as the all necessary computers and electronics. On Tuesday, NASA attributed the automatic shutdown to the strict test limits meant to protect the core stage so it can be used on the first Artemis flight. The hydraulic system for one engine exceeded safety parameters, officials said, and flight computers shut everything down 67 seconds into the ignition. Two other engine-related issues also occurred. NASA said it can adjust the test limits if a second test is deemed necessary, to prevent another premature shutdown. Engineers will continue to analyze the data, as managers debate the pros and cons of proceeding with a second test firing at Stennis or shipping the rocket straight to Florida's Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations. Some of that Kennedy work might be able to be streamlined, Lueders said. This core stage can be loaded with super-cold fuel no more than nine times, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Tuesday evening. A second full-blown test firing would reduce the remaining number of fill-ups. The Artemis program is working to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024, a deadline set by the Trump administration. It's uncertain how the incoming White House will approach that timeline. In its annual report Tuesday, the Aereospace Safety Advisory Panel urged NASA to develop a realistic schedule for its Artemis moon program and called into question the 2024 date for returning astronauts to the lunar surface. On the eve of his departure from NASA, Bridenstine, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, stressed that key programs like Artemis need to encompass multiple administrations, decades and even generations. It's crucial , he said, that "we've got buy-in and support from all of America and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.” ___ 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. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
A fifth person is facing a charge and a fine after a so-called "freedom rally" in Moose Jaw Saturday that police say broke public health orders. Four others were charged on the weekend. On Tuesday, police gave a breakdown of charges so far. Under the public health order measures enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people. Two people, both Moose Jaw residents, were charged for violating that limit, and given tickets with a $2,800 voluntary payment option. Three others at the rally were charged with the same offence but because they have been charged at previous rallies around the province, they can't just pay the ticket this time. Instead, they will have to make an appearance at court in Moose Jaw on May 19. Police said all the people ticketed were identified as taking "active roles" in the rally.
Specific details about workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 are not made public in most of Canada. Toronto is starting to make the information available, arguing that transparency increases accountability, but others wonder whether ‘naming and shaming’ does more harm than good.
WINNIPEG — Manitobans may soon be able to get a hair cut, buy non-essential items in stores and have visitors in their homes for the first time since November. The provincial government released a plan Tuesday which, subject to public feedback, would ease some of the restrictions aimed at keeping COVID-19 in check. "We think that this is a prudent approach, a very cautious approach, and we'll continue to loosen things as long as our numbers allow us to," said Manitoba's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin. The proposed changes would lift a ban that currently requires non-essential stores to close. The businesses would be allowed to reopen with the same 25 per cent capacity limit that essential retailers now face. Hair salons, barber shops, reflexologists and some other personal services would also reopen under the plan. And a ban on most social visits in private homes, which currently has small exemptions for people who live alone, would be eased to allow two visitors at a time inside and five on outdoor private property. Many other restrictions would remain in place. Tattoo parlours, dine-in restaurants, bars and recreational sports leagues would remain closed. "Prolonged indoor contact is where this virus spreads," Roussin said. "When you look at the loosening (of) restrictions we have right now, they're not including places that really have the prolonged, enclosed contact." A final decision on the proposals is expected Thursday. Any changes would take effect Saturday and would not likely include the northern part of the province, where case numbers are still running high, Roussin added. Manitoba imposed the restrictions in the fall when the province was leading all others in the per-capita rate of new infections. Since then, the daily count of new cases has dropped in southern and central regions, although the demand on intensive care beds remains above pre-pandemic capacity. Health-care officials reported 111 new cases Tuesday and 11 deaths. The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce said it was hoping to see more businesses, such as restaurants, given the go-ahead to reopen with capacity limits. The group said the ongoing uncertainty over when businesses might get closer to normal operations is causing anxiety. "These are businesses that had to shut their doors, in many cases have zero revenue coming in, have had to lay off employees. It's been an extremely challenging time," said the group's president, Chuck Davidson. The Opposition New Democrats called on the Progressive Conservative government to offer more financial aid to businesses and to provide some sort of timeline on when more might reopen. "Those businesses that won't be allowed to reopen this round … would all appreciate greater clarity as to when they may be part of the reopening plan," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Renfrew -- The memorial tree in Low Square is not slated to be cut down, although a story saying the opposite is circulating. “I’ve had several questions from people, and phone calls, in regard to the very big tree in Low Square, which is decorated with the RVH (Renfrew Victoria Hospital) Memory Lights at the moment,” Councillor Sandi Heins said at the January 12 council meeting, held via Zoom. “They have heard rumours that that tree, in regards to some plans that are coming forth for Low Square, is going to be cut down. “I’d like to hear it, and be able to assure people, that that isn’t going to happen.” The memorial tree was planted by the Cadet family who lost their firefighter son, she reminded council. There should be a lot of discussion before that should happen. “When we planted that tree, it was maybe five feet high, and it’s grown into quite a lovely tree and is very momentous to the space and we certainly get a lot of comments on it, how beautiful it is,” Coun. Heins said. “It’s really important to reassure the public that when things are underway in regards to planning of new, maybe a new layout of Low Square…things like the tree and anything that’s very momentous to them, deserves a lot of discussion before it is taken down,” Coun. Heins said. Reeve Peter Emon, who has attended all economic and administration meetings, said the tree has never been discussed. Councillor Mike Coulas said this discussion never occurred at Development and Works Committee. There has been discussion about the refurbishing of Low Square and making it user-friendly or updating it, but nothing was ever said of the tree, he added. “If that comes to be, I’m most assured there will be a ton of discussion about it, I’m sure,” he said. Coun. Heins said it just takes one person who is on municipal staff to say something, or to assume that, and say it in the wrong place, and then people assume that that’s exactly what’s happening. Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Amazon says it will open five facilities in Quebec that will create more than 1,000 jobs and speed up customer deliveries. The U.S. online retail giant says it will add two sorting centres and its first three delivery stations in the province. Its largest sorting centre in the province, a 520,000-square-foot facility — about the size of six Canadian football fields — will open this year in Coteau-du-Lac, about 60 kilometres west of Montreal. That will create at least 500 jobs. Another centre will open in Longueuil, on Montreal's South Shore. Amazon's first sorting centre in Quebec opened last year, creating 500 jobs. Three new delivery stations in 2021 and 2022 will employ hundreds. Two of the stations will be located in Laval and one in the Montreal suburb of Lachine. Delivery stations "power the last mile" of Amazon's order fulfilment process, the company says in a Tuesday announcement. Packages are transported to delivery stations from Amazon fulfilment and sorting centres, and then loaded into delivery vehicles. Amazon opened its first operations facility in Quebec in Lachine last summer, creating 300 full-time jobs. Amazon touts record as employer Jean-Francois Héroux, site leader for Amazon Canada, says in a statement that the company is eager to expand in Quebec "Our new facilities will help us meet our customers' growing demand for great products and faster delivery times while offering our Associates access to incredible career growth opportunities through on-the-job training and upskilling so they can reach their career aspirations," he says. In the statement, Amazon touts its record as an employer that provides competitive pay and benefits. Full-time employees' wages start at $16 per hour in Quebec, the company says, and workers can receive medical, vision and dental coverage, a group RRSP plan, stock awards and performance-based bonuses starting on day one. "Amazon prioritizes the safety and health of its employees to provide a safe workplace," the announcement says. "The company invested more than $10 billion to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers throughout 2020." Workers concerned about safety However, not all workers in Canada agree with the level of safety. In April, CBC reported that many employees were concerned about the lack of physical distancing inside facilities as the company expanded in Ontario. Tim Bray, a former vice-president for Amazon, resigned in May after allegations that three Amazon employees were fired for voicing safety concerns. There were similar apprehensions out west in September when the company announced it was expanding there as well. The Warehouse Workers Centre, a Brampton, Ont.-based organization representing people in the warehouse and logistics sector, started a petition in 2020 that garnered hundreds of signatures claiming "Amazon is failing to protect our health." The petition alleged that Amazon, which employs tens of thousands of people in Canada and has fulfilment centres in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, was refusing to give workers paid leave and not telling staff what their plans were if facilities were contaminated or suspected of being contaminated with COVID-19. In October, Amazon said nearly 20,000 of its workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he won't grant a curfew exemption for Montreal's homeless population, telling reporters Tuesday he has confidence that police will use their good judgment in dealing with cases. Legault told reporters during a COVID-19 briefing in Montreal that altering the government's decree to exclude the homeless from the provincial curfew would be used as a loophole by others to flout the measure. Montreal's mayor had made the formal request just an hour earlier, calling on Quebec to relax the COVID-19 measure on the city's most vulnerable population. "What I'm say is right now, the police are doing a very good job. They use their judgment," Legault said. "If we change the rules and say that you can't give a ticket to someone who is saying they're homeless, you may have some people that will pretend to be homeless." Mayor Valerie Plante's appeal followed the weekend death of Raphael "Napa" Andre, a 51-year-old Innu man found dead in a portable toilet not far from a shelter he frequented. Andre often spent time at a day centre for the homeless called The Open Door, which was forced to close its overnight service last month following a COVID-19 outbreak. He visited the centre Saturday evening and was found dead Sunday morning, not far from the shelter, which had to send him out at 9:30 p.m. The coroner is investigating Andre's death. Plante said there's evidence the curfew is causing problems for the homeless and those who work with them. "What we've been seeing in the past week is that it created a lot of stress — not only for the homeless population itself but also the workers," Plante told reporters outside Montreal City Hall. "The curfew just adds to that and creates a sense of insecurity for a lot of users and we don't want that.... I want people to feel safe in the streets." Plante says the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew — which began Jan. 9 and is scheduled to last at least until Feb. 8 — is creating an untenable situation for the city's most vulnerable. Legault said police aren't there to ticket homeless people, but direct them to homeless shelters. Plante agreed Montreal police have shown compassion, noting they had helped at least 400 homeless people find shelter. The mayor says on most nights the city's overnight shelters are at least 95 per cent full. While she wants the rules relaxed to relieve the pressure, she doesn't want people sleeping on the street. "I want people to have access to a bed, a place where it's warm, where there's food, where there's services for them," she said. Plante said a 100-bed facility is set to open in the coming days. Legault said the province has added 800 beds and it stands ready to add more as needed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — What Marie-Philip Poulin looks forward to the most at the Canadian women's hockey team camp is simply lining up for drills and seeing her teammates' faces. It's been 10 months since the national women's hockey team was on the ice together. Hockey Canada obtained the necessary exemptions from Alberta Health to hold a 14-day camp in Calgary amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Poulin, Canada's captain, has missed the competition and camaraderie desperately. "It means a lot. It's been a long time coming," said the 29-year-old forward from Beauceville Que. "Just being back here as a group in Calgary, it's going to be awesome just to get back on the ice and really connect." All players and staff were told to quarantine for seven days and get tested for the virus before heading to Calgary. Of the 47 players invited, 35 arrived Sunday to quarantine in their hotel rooms and be tested four times over five days. Barring positive tests, the players were scheduled to start skating in groups of three Tuesday before larger groups hit the ice Thursday. Three intrasquad games are planned. "These women want the opportunity to just compete a little bit against each other," head coach Troy Ryan said. "That's one of the biggest things we're going to be able to provide them at this camp. "It brings a little bit of normal life back to them. Although it looks totally different, I think it kind of gives them a little bit of hope." The dozen invitees not in Calgary were classified as "unable to attend", which ranges from injury, college commitments and COVID exposure, but they'll participate in virtual meetings and activities, said Hockey Canada director of women’s national teams Gina Kingsbury. "We're seeing everyone on the screen. We just won't see everyone on the ice," Kingsbury said. Canada's last international game was Feb. 8, 2020, to cap a five-game Rivalry Series against the United States. At a short camp in Toronto later that month, Hockey Canada finalized the roster for the women's world championship, but the tournament in Nova Scotia was cancelled and rescheduled to April 7-17, 2021. Canada's international games in the 23 months since finishing third in the 2019 world championship in Finland has been limited to seven games against the U.S. The 2019 Four Nations Cup in Sweden was cancelled because of a dispute between the host women's team and its own federation. Women's professional hockey was in transition when the pandemic hit. The majority of the Canadian women's team belongs to the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA) which has yet to announce any showcase tournaments this winter. So a perfect storm of circumstances has Canada's top female hockey players sorely lacking in meaningful games. Women in the national team pool train in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary hubs under varying restrictions and have skills coaches employed by Hockey Canada. Poulin's on-ice environment in Montreal has ranged from a limit of three players on the ice to larger groups with everyone wearing masks while they skate. "It's been a little difficult," Poulin acknowledged. "It's been challenging, but any time we had a chance to jump on the ice as a group, we took advantage and really pushed each other. Beyond camp is continued uncertainty over if and when the women's world championship will happen. Hockey Canada's operation of the national junior men's team and world under-20 tournament that concluded Jan. 5 in Edmonton paved a path for this women's camp and potentially the world championship to go ahead in a pandemic. "I hear from Hockey Canada the commitment is there," Kingsbury said. "If one country can do it's definitely us and we've shown that with world juniors. "It's just a matter of when in the year that looks like. I'm confident it will happen in the spring. It might be a few weeks later or a month later." The Calgary' camp, which concludes Jan. 30, is normally held in September. Ryan wants the players to focus on what they have and not what they're missing. "There's no way we would have been able to do this camp a few months ago, so it's a step in the right direction for sure," he said. "All the things that had to be done to make this camp possible, if you're not someone that steps back from that and actually appreciates it, I'm not sure that's the type of person we're going to have success with." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
A man in his 70s died Tuesday afternoon after being hit by a vehicle on Southwood Drive in Nepean, Ottawa police said on Twitter. Ottawa paramedics tell CBC they received a call to attend the crash at Southwood Drive and Thorson Avenue at 1:55 p.m. Tuesday. When crews arrived, the man was bleeding from his head. Workers tried to resuscitate him, but the man died before he could be transported to hospital, paramedics said. Southwood Drive between Baseline Road and Rector Avenue remains closed while Ottawa police examine the crash site. Police said their thoughts "are with the family at this time," and declined to provide further details about the crash.
Like so much this past year, the inaugural celebration will be like no other: pared down, distanced, much of it virtual. But for actor Christopher Jackson — the original George Washington in Broadway's “Hamilton" — performing in a virtual “ball” is a way of participating in an essential rite of American democracy. “I’m glad to play a part in it,” says Jackson, who will perform at the quadrennial ball for the Creative Coalition, a fundraiser for arts education and one of the more prominent unofficial events surrounding Joe Biden’s inauguration. “It’s a great honour, and I’m very grateful that we have allowed our system to continue to work in the way it was intended.” Jackson -- not to mention former co-star and “Hamilton” creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda -- joins a slew of celebrities descending on Washington, virtually or in person, for entertainment surrounding the inauguration of Biden and Kamala Harris. Although the festivities have been radically scaled down due to the raging coronavirus pandemic and security threats, a steady stream of A-list names have signed on, headlined by Lady Gaga singing the national anthem on the West Front of the Capitol, with Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks contributing musical performances. Other top-tier performers will be part of “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network evening broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that officially takes the place of the usual multiple inaugural balls. Miranda will contribute a classical recitation, joining musicians like Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi. Hosts Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria will be joined by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, chef Jose Andres, labour leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. The inaugural committee has made sure to blend this high-powered list with ordinary Americans and inspiring stories. Segments will include tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsey, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings will be carried by ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, MSNBC and PBS as well as the committee’s social media channels and streaming partners. Fox News will not carry the broadcast. Beyond that event, there’s also a virtual “Parade Across America” on inauguration afternoon, hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn with appearances by Jon Stewart, Earth Wind & Fire and the New Radicals — reuniting after more than two decades — among many others. There’s also star power on display Tuesday evening at the virtual “Latino Inaugural 2021,” hosted by Longoria and including Broadway and screen star (and EGOT winner) Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, and Miranda again, saluting Puerto Rico with his father, Luis Miranda. The show honours members of Latino communities keeping the country running during the pandemic as front-line workers. In a normal year, there would be a wealth of sideline events, parties and concerts around Washington. One of the higher-profile events is the Creative Coalition's ball, going all virtual this year, Along with Jackson, KT Tunstall will perform. Host Judy Gold will kick off with a comedy set, also featuring comedians Randy Rainbow, Michael Ian Black and Wendi McLendon-Covey. More than two dozen members of Congress are set to join celebrity guests like Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Jason Alexander, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ellen Burstyn, Alyssa Milano and others. Jackson, who spoke in an interview late last week while planning his performance, said he would not be appearing as George Washington -- but history was on the actor’s mind nonetheless, given the unique circumstances of this inauguration. “We put ourselves in a perilous position,” he said of recent events roiling the country. “So the idea that this inauguration is happening is testament to the resolute dedication that our public servants have to making this thing work.” He said he was also eager to shine a spotlight on arts education, the coalition’s core mission, noting that as a kid growing up in southern Illinois, he depended on resources like an early-morning band class at school, where he’d begin each day playing the trumpet. “There was a time when I went through a lot of bad emotional passages as a kid,” Jackson said. “Had it not been for the outlet the arts created for me, I don’t know where I would be today." He noted that support for the arts is ever more urgent given how the pandemic has decimated the arts industry. Actor Tim Daly, the coalition’s president, said that despite optimism for the new administration’s approach to arts funding, it’s still an uphill battle in the United States. “I feel there’s going to have to be a really long and powerful effort by the Creative Coalition and other organizations to finally try and make federal, local and state governments understand the importance of the arts," he said, adding that the arts, besides being a driver of the economy, "is part of our spirit. It’s how we teach empathy and kindness.” Daly said he has mixed feelings as he approaches this very unique inauguration. “This is going to be the strangest (celebration) ever,” he said. “It’s virtual, and the celebration will in some ways be very muted. But in some ways, very meaningful. In a way this year is more important than any other, because our democracy has been under threat.” The coalition’s ball will include breakout rooms where guests can mingle, and even simultaneous hand-delivered meals in multiple cities. But there’s still no way to replace an in-person experience, Daly acknowledged. “There’s nothing that takes the place of human interaction,” the actor said. “I’d be lying or dishonest if I said this was better. But we’re doing the best we can -- and it’s better than nothing.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte won a crucial confidence vote in the Senate late Tuesday, keeping his wobbly coalition afloat for now, but with such a shrunken majority it will make it extremely hard to effectively govern a country reeling from the pandemic. The vote went 156 to 140 in his favour, There were 16 abstentions, thanks to a coalition ally that bolted the centre-left government last week. An absolute majority in the Senate is 161, so to pass critical legislation, including aid to help Italy's battered economy, Conte will likely have to resort often on support from outside his coalition. Had he lost the confidence vote in Parliament's upper chamber, Conte would have been required to resign. But without absolute command of a majority there, he could still opt to hand in his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in a bid to be tapped anew to try to cobble together a revamped, more dependable coalition. In the lower Chamber of Deputies, where the 16-month-old government holds a more comfortable margin, Conte won a first confidence vote on Monday. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below. Premier Giuseppe Conte appealed in Parliament for a second straight day Tuesday for crucial support to keep his government afloat after the defection of a small but key coalition party as Italy struggles with a second surge of the COVIC-19 pandemic that has seen citizens subject to months of degrees of lockdown. "With today’s vote, I trust that the institutions will be able to repay the trust of citizens in order to put behind us this great act of irresponsibility as soon as possible,” Conte said. He was referring to ex-Premier Matteo Renzi's yanking his small Italia Viva (Italy Alive) centrist party from the centre-left government, in part to protest what Renzi saw was Conte's holding too much control on how more than 200 billion euros (dollars) of European Union recovery funds are spent. Conte on Monday clinched what amounted to a confidence vote in the lower Chamber of Deputies, securing a 321-259 victory after Renzi's party deputies abstained. Without the backing of Renzi and his 17 fellow senators, Conte went into Tuesday's vote in the upper chamber of Parliament facing an even more uphill battle for him and his government to stay in power, since the centre-left coalition's majority in the Senate is narrower than what it enjoys in the Chamber of Deputies. “Numbers are important, today even more so. But even more important is the quality of the political project,’’ Conte said. “We ask all the political forces to help us relaunch with the maximum speed and help us repair the damage to citizens’ trust that the crisis has produced.” Renzi, in replying to Conte in the Senate Tuesday, hammered away at what he contended was the government's less-than-bold response to fighting the pandemic, including in how funds will be spent to revive Italy's battered economy, already stagnant for years before COVID-19 struck. "In view of the pandemic, there's a need for a stronger government,” Renzi added in attacking Conte. But even surviving the Senate vote, Conte’s government still risked being hobbled going forward, since he would have to count on lawmakers outside his coalition to help pass legislation. Conte largely staked his hope on winning votes from senators outside both his government and the centre-right opposition. Among those were the tiny ranks of senators-for-life, who only occasionally come to Parliament to cast votes. In a sign of support, Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor and senator-for-life who travelled from Milan to vote. A representative said that Segre, 90, has not yet received a vaccine against the coronavirus. Segre was made a senator-for-life by Italy's president to honour her work in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive by speaking to students in schools throughout the nation. The government crisis heightened demands by the opposition for an election two years early. But President Sergio Mattarella is considered unlikely at this point to choose that option, given the difficulty of organizing a campaign and vote during a pandemic. Conte has boasted of his efforts to secure pandemic-recovery aid from the European Union. In Brussels, EU officials were following Italian political developments with concern. EU Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis expressed hope that Italy's “political instability would not compromise” Italy's already “substantial” preparation of the recovery plan. He noted that Italy is by far the largest recipient of the pandemic funding. A key source of irritation between Conte and Renzi has been who gets to control how the pandemic relief funds that hard-hit Italy are spent. Barry reported from Milan. Nicole Winfield in Rome and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed. Frances D'Emilio And Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
NEW YORK — The founder and CEO of MyPillow, a vocal and very visible supporter of President Donald Trump, said a backlash against the company has begun after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol this month. Mike Lindell, who appears in TV commercials hugging the company’s foam-filled pillows, said major retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s have dropped his products recently. Both companies confirmed the decision to cease carrying the brand Tuesday, but cited flagging sales rather than Lindell’s actions or his support for Trump. “There has been decreased customer demand for MyPillow,” Kohl’s said in an email. Lindell has continued to push bogus claims of election fraud since Trump’s loss to President-elect Joe Biden in the presidential race. MyPillow's logo was also prominently featured on TrumpMarch.com, a website that promoted the Jan. 6 events in Washington, in which rioters stormed the Capitol. That has led people to head to social media to put pressure on stores carrying MyPillow to drop the brand. Lindell said products have also been pulled from online furniture store Wayfair and Texas supermarket chain HEB. Neither company responded to a request for comment. “They’re succumbing to the pressure from these attacks,” Lindell said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m one of their bestselling products ever. They’re going to lose out. It’s their loss if they want to succumb to the pressure.” Lindell said he doesn’t regret his election claims or his support of Trump, who he said he first met in 2016. “I stand for what’s right,” said Lindell, who created the MyPillow in 2004 and built the business in Chaska, Minnesota, southwest of Minneapolis. “I’m standing firm.” Aside from the retail pressure, Lindell is also facing potential litigation from Dominion Voting Systems for his accusations that their voting machines played a role in election fraud. The Washington Post reported that Dominion sent Lindell a letter earlier this month stating that they would pursue legal action against him. Lindell said he's conducted his own investigation into the voting machines and hopes Dominion will file its suit quickly so that “all the evidence can come out.” Asked if he played a role in the insurrection of the Capitol, Lindell said he didn’t support it at all. “What are you talking about? I wasn’t even there," he said before abruptly ending the call. “I have to get on another show. Now our conversation ends.” Joseph Pisani And Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press
FREDERICTON — More than half of New Brunswick was moved to the red level of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan as Premier Blaine Higgs warned Tuesday of even more severe measures if the spread of the virus doesn't slow. Health officials reported one new death and 31 new COVID-19 cases in the province Tuesday, with 21 of them in the Edmundston region, which entered the red level Monday. The Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John zones were to join Edmundston as of midnight Tuesday. At the red level, gyms, salons and recreational facilities must close, and restaurants can only offer takeout or delivery. Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people, with masks and physical distancing. "We have had some success in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus across our province, and we have succeeded because we acted swiftly and decisively," chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday. "We haven't waited, as some other jurisdictions have done, until critical levels have been breached." Russell called the increase in cases across the province this month alarming. "The threat it poses to our health-care system and the well-being of our citizens cannot be ignored," she said. Russell said the death of a person in their 80s at the Parkland Saint John long-term care facility brings to 13 the number of COVID-related deaths in the province. There are currently 316 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, and there have now been more than 1,000 cases since the pandemic began. Four hundred of those have been in the last 30 days. Russell said many of the new cases were spread through large social gatherings, such as parties and holiday gatherings around Christmas and New Year's. Higgs said the province will consider imposing more stringent measures if the latest restrictions don't limit the spread of the virus. "We are not making enough progress with the current measures that are in place," he said. "We know there are more cases in these zones that exist but have not yet tested positive, and we cannot take the risk of potentially overwhelming our hospitals." He said a continuing rise in case numbers could mean a return to a full lockdown as was in place in March, with schools closed and people staying home except to buy essential items. Higgs said the all-party COVID cabinet committee would meet again Thursday to discuss next steps. "Public health is currently working to determine exactly what a lockdown would look like if we need to take this additional step," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
There was a clear but unusual path for three Alberta-based teams to play in the Tim Hortons Brier this season. Curling Alberta made a difficult choice that will send two rinks to the Calgary event and leave that third team on the outside looking in. Jeremy Harty's team issued a statement Monday night that congratulated the provincial representatives while expressing disappointment that only two Alberta-based men's teams would go to nationals. "Alberta men were fortunate enough to have a Tour this year with three very well-run events and all competitive teams in attendance," the team said on Twitter. "We were No. 1 on the Alberta Tour both this season and last season and felt we had the merit to be named Team Alberta knowing that (Kevin) Koe and (Brendan) Bottcher would be guaranteed the wild-card spots. "We understand that it was a tough decision and we appreciate all of Curling Alberta's efforts this year." The association decided to invite last season's champions -- Brendan Bottcher and Laura Walker -- to wear Alberta colours again, dropping Koe into a wild-card spot. Curling Alberta waited 10 days after cancelling its championships before announcing its picks. Bottcher, ranked fourth in the country and a Brier finalist last year, was obviously a worthy selection. But Curling Alberta also had to consider Koe, since his team didn't compete in provincial playdowns thanks to its automatic Brier entry as Team Canada. Further muddying the waters was Harty, a young team that had a slight edge on the second-place Koe in the Alberta Tour points race. Bottcher and the sixth-ranked Koe were essentially Brier-bound no matter what. But picking Harty -- ranked a respectable 15th in Canada -- as the provincial rep would have meant all three could go. "We think Team Bottcher are going to be great reps," Harty third Kyler Kleibrink said Tuesday. "They're good guys and they're good mentors to us. Team Koe will be great as well. "We're not saying we're better than these teams or that we deserve it more than these teams. We just think Alberta had a good chance to send three reps." Helping ease the disappointment was a phone call from Bottcher third Darren Moulding, who Kleibrink said reached out to voice his support and say he thought the team's time would soon come. "Lifted the spirits for sure," Kleibrink said. "His words of encouragement and telling me his story and path was great." Curling Alberta's decision to send reigning champions to the so-called curling bubble was one that other provinces have used in recent weeks. The Walker pick for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts was expected but the men's selection for the Brier was the subject of more debate. Harty's teammates were buoyed by recent decisions from Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia to consider results beyond 2020 provincial championships for their picks, Kleibrink said. Before the pandemic, many elite Alberta-based teams were focused on top-flight events around the country rather than just provincial bonspiels. The association also had to consider that the 2020-21 women's Alberta schedule had to be cancelled. It all left Curling Alberta board members with plenty to think about before selections were made. The decision left Koe to join Manitoba's Mike McEwen in a secure wild-card position based on the 2019-20 Canadian rankings. A Harty pick as Team Alberta would have given Bottcher and McEwen wild-card spots and Koe would have been a slam dunk for the third. "I think that it's good for Alberta that there is a discussion over situations like this because it just shows the depth that we have," said Koe lead Ben Hebert. "What we've created here in Alberta is a good curling culture. "I think that's how young teams get good is they have good competition to play against and there's a couple good, young, up-and-coming teams in Alberta here as well that are going to be around for a while." Ontario's Glenn Howard, a four-time Brier champion, is a favourite for the final wild-card entry as the highest-ranked team without a berth. Harty is a longshot to get the entry as he's in the mix with other underdog teams that may be considered by Curling Canada. The federation is expected to make its selection next month. For the Scotties, it's possible there could be a whopping five Manitoba-based teams in the 18-team draw depending on how the wild-card picture plays out. Tracy Fleury is a lock for one of the three wild-card spots, so her team will join Manitoba's Jennifer Jones and Team Canada's Kerri Einarson in the field. Suzanne Birt is a heavy favourite to win the Prince Edward Island title this month but she'd get the second wild-card spot with a loss. Mackenzie Zacharias would be next among eligible teams on the rankings list, a whisker ahead of fellow Manitoban Beth Peterson. The criteria for the third wild-card pick in both draws has not been finalized. As a result, it remains possible that higher-ranked teams skipped by Alberta's Kelsey Rocque and Robyn Silvernagle of Saskatchewan could be considered. Both teams have two returning players, one short of the normal required minimum. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
A man who police say stole a Victoria harbour ferry has been arrested after cops and the coast guard had to chase the wannabe pirate through city waterways Tuesday morning. According to a statement from the Victoria Police Department, officers were called to the waters off the 400-block of Swift Street at approximately 3 a.m. after a boat was reported stolen and heading up the Gorge Waterway. When officers arrived on the scene, the alleged thief changed direction toward the inner harbour and appeared to be trying to flee the area. With the assistance of a nearby harbour ferryemployee, officers boarded a separate boat, took off after the stolen vessel and were able to get close enough to speak with the suspect and convince him to surrender. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape St. James brought additional VicPD officers to the scene to help. Police say the stolen ferry and suspect were then towed to a dock in the 900-block of Wharf Street where the man was arrested. The short-lived ride resulted in recommended charges of theft over $5,000.
BOSTON — A Massachusetts-based political scientist and author is accused of secretly working for the government of Iran while lobbying U.S. officials on issues like nuclear policy, federal authorities said Tuesday. Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, on Monday, officials said. He is charged in New York City federal court with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of Iran. An email seeking comment was sent to an attorney for Afrasiabi. Afrasiabi appeared before a Boston federal court judge via videoconference during a brief hearing and a detention hearing was scheduled for Friday. Authorities said Afrasiabi, an Iranian citizen and lawful permanent U.S. resident, has been paid by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City since at least 2007. At the same time, he made TV appearances, wrote articles and lobbied U.S. officials to support the Iranian government's agenda, officials said. In 2009, Afrasiabi helped an unidentified congressman draft a letter to President Barack Obama about U.S. and Iranian nuclear negotiations, according to court documents. He never disclosed that he was working for Iran, officials said. After the January 2020 U.S. military airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Afrasiabi told Iran’s foreign minister and permanent representative to the United Nations that Iran, in response, should “end all inspections and end all information on Iran’s nuclear activities pending a (United Nations Security Council) condemnation of (the United States’) illegal crime,'" according to court documents. Doing so will “strike fear in the heart of enemy” and “weaken Trump and strengthen his opponents,” Afrasiabi wrote, according to court documents. Assistant Attorney General John Demers said Afrasiabi portrayed himself "to Congress, journalists and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran." “Mr. Afrasiabi never disclosed to a Congressman, journalists or others who hold roles of influence in our country that he was being paid by the Iranian government to paint an untruthfully positive picture of the nation," William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York Field Office, said in a statement. Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.