WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
GENEVA — The U.N. humanitarian office says needs for assistance have ballooned to unprecedented levels this year because of COVID-19, projecting that a staggering 235 million people will require help in 2021.This comes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and global challenges including conflicts, forced migration and the impact of global warming.The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, expects a 40% increase in the number of people in need of such assistance in 2021 compared to this year — a sign that pain, suffering and torment brought by the coronavirus outbreak and other problems could get worse even if hopes of a vaccine are rising.OCHA made the projections in its latest annual Global Humanitarian Overview on Tuesday, saying its hopes to reach 160 million of those people in need will cost $35 billion. That’s more than twice the record $17 billion that donors have provided for the international humanitarian response so far this year — and a target figure that is almost certain to go unmet.“The picture we’re painting this year is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs we’ve ever set out, and that’s because the pandemic has reaped carnage across the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet,” said U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who heads OCHA.“For the first time since the 1990s, extreme poverty is going to increase, life expectancy will fall, the annual death toll from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is set to double,” he said. “We fear a near doubling in the number of people facing starvation.”Lowcock told a U.N. briefing in New York on the overview that he thinks the U.N. appeal will probably raise a record $20 billion by the end of the year -- $2 billion more than last year. But he said the gap between needs and funding is growing and the U.N. is looking to “new players” coming on the scene in 2021, including U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration.The U.N. aims to reach about two-thirds of those in need, with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations trying to meet the rest, Lowcock explained.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humanitarian aid budgets are now facing dire shortfalls as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, and said extreme poverty has risen for the first time in more than a generation.“The lives of people in every nation and corner of the world have been upended by the impact of the pandemic,” he said in a video statement. “Those already living on a knife’s edge are being hit disproportionately hard by rising food prices, falling incomes, interrupted vaccination programs and school closures.”The overview, which is billed as one of the most comprehensive looks of the world’s humanitarian needs, has put together nearly three dozen individual response plans for a total of 56 “vulnerable” countries.Lowcock said the biggest problem is in Yemen where there is danger of “a large-scale famine” now, saying a prime reason is lack of funding from Gulf countries that were major donors in the past which has led to cuts in aid and the closing of clinics.He said the biggest financial request is for the Syrian crisis and its spillover to neighbouring countries where millions of Syrians have fled to escape the more than nine-year conflict.OCHA said other countries in need include Afghanistan, Congo, Haiti, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Venezuela. Newcomers to this year’s list are Mozambique, where extremist activity has increased in the north, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.Lowcock said it’s not the pandemic, but its economic impact that’s having the greatest effect on humanitarian needs.“These all hit the poorest people in the poorest countries hardest of all,” he said. “For the poorest, the hangover from the pandemic will be long and hard.”Lowcock told the launch of the overview, speaking virtually from New York, that the world faces a clear choice.“We can let 2021 be the year of the grand reversal – the unravelling of 40 years of progress – or we can work together to make sure we all find a way out of this pandemic,” he said.___Lederer reported from the United NationsJamey Keaten And Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
TORONTO — DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. says sales of cars and trucks fell in November as COVID-19 restrictions returned.The consultancy says 128,351 cars and trucks were sold last month, down 10.4 per cent from a year ago. DesRosiers says the November decline marks a pull back from strong performances in September and October.DesRosiers managing partner Andrew King says the auto market is still relatively strong compared with this spring, after sales fell nearly 75 per cent from their year-ago levels in April.But the consultants say auto sales are still set to be down about 20 per cent this year compared with 2019, between spring's lockdowns and new COVID-19 restrictions.DesRosiers now estimates that 2020 auto sales will total slightly more than 1.5 million for the full year.“It was always apparent that the recovery in the market was never going to be a straight line," said King in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
British Columbia has seen more COVID-19 deaths over the past two weeks than the preceding two months because the virus has found its way back into nursing homes. And with long-term care workers exhausted and families frustrated, it's not clear what can be done.
NEW YORK — Oscar-nominated actor Elliot Page, the star of “Juno," “Inception” and “The Umbrella Academy,” came out as transgender Tuesday in an announcement greeted as a watershed moment for the trans community in Hollywood.“I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer," Page said in a statement on social media.Page, the 33-year-old actor from Nova Scotia, said his decision to come out as trans, which also involved changing his first name, came after a long journey and with much support from the LGBTQ community.“I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self,” Page wrote. “I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community. Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place.”“The more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive,” added Page, who said his pronouns are “he" and "they.”Page signed his statement with the words, “All my love, Elliot.”The announcement was celebrated widely on social media by LGBTQ rights advocates and many in the film industry. Netflix, maker of the comic book series “The Umbrella Academy," said, “So proud of our superhero! We love you Elliot!”"Elliot Page has given us fantastic characters on-screen, and has been an outspoken advocate for all LGBTQ people,” said Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Media. “He will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. All transgender people deserve the chance to be ourselves and to be accepted for who we are. We celebrate the remarkable Elliot Page today.”Page broke out in Jason Reitman's 2007 film “Juno” in a performance as a pregnant teenager that earned him an Academy Award nomination.Page has frequently worked to bring the lives of LGBTQ characters to screen, including the 2015 film “Freeheld,” which he produced and starred in as the partner of a dying New Jersey police detective who had been denied pension benefits.Last year, he made his directorial debut with the documentary “There's Something in the Water,” about environmental damage on Black and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia.Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
Inoccupé depuis 10 ans, l’ancien centre communautaire Saint-Noël-Chabanel a finalement croulé sous le pic du démolisseur à la fin du mois de novembre. L’administration Demers est à réfléchir quant à la vocation qu’elle entend donner à ce site, alors qu’à 1,5 kilomètre à l’ouest s’amorcent les travaux préliminaires à la réalisation du centre de services de proximité de l’Est (CSPE). «Différents scénarios que l’on ne peut dévoiler pour l’instant sont à l’étude, précise le conseiller municipal de Saint-François et membre associé du comité exécutif, Éric Morasse, dans un communiqué publié le 1er décembre. D’ici à ce qu’une décision soit prise, le terrain en question situé à l’angle du boulevard Lévesque et de la montée du Moulin sera gazonné, mentionne-t-on. «On peut maintenant affirmer que Saint-François est en route vers un meilleur avenir», se réjouit M. Morasse, fier de constater que «le secteur est plus que jamais en effervescence». Par ailleurs, le 10 novembre dernier, le futur centre de services de proximité de l’Est a fait l’objet d’une présentation en ligne où les croquis du futur bâtiment de quelque 4400 mètres carrés ont été dévoilés. Ce centre, qui s’élèvera sur l’ancien site industriel que BASF Canada a occupé de 1969 à 1986, abritera des espaces communautaires, une salle de diffusion, le poste de police de quartier ainsi que la bibliothèque Marius-Barbeau qu’on y relocalisera en 2023. La mise en chantier est prévue en 2021. Plus de détails à venir.Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, will spend Christmas at Windsor Castle instead of their Sandringham estate for the first time in decades.Buckingham Palace officials said Tuesday that the monarch and her husband may see some members of their family briefly in accordance with guidelines, but Christmas celebrations will likely involve just the couple.“Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor,” a spokeswoman said.The queen is not expected to attend church on Christmas Day to avoid large crowds of well-wishers gathering.The royal family spent many Christmases at Windsor Castle when the queen’s children were small, but since the 1980s the royal family has celebrated Christmas and New Year at the queen’s country estate, Sandringham, in Norfolk, eastern England.Hundreds of people typically gather near the historic church at Sandringham on Christmas Day to greet the royal family as they arrive for their morning service.Officials in the U.K. say coronavirus restrictions will be relaxed for five days over the festive season to allow people to travel to see friends and family. Three households can form a “Christmas bubble” and socialize from Dec. 23 to 27.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakThe Associated Press
Toronto FC will be going after goals in searching for a third designated player.The slot became open this week when TFC announced that while it was open to Argentine winger Pablo Piatti returning, it would not be as a DP."We need someone that can come in and help us score goals at a very high clip, that can create relationships with our players on the field and off the field, that can contribute in a lot of different ways, that has a great character and personality off the field," GM Ali Curtis told reporters Tuesday.Toronto's other designated players are Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo and striker Jozy Altidore.TFC tied for 12th in goal-scoring this season in the 26-team league, averaging 1.43 goals a game.Young striker Ayo Akinola and Pozuelo each had nine goals while fullback/midfielder Richie Laryea and Piatti had four apiece. Altidore, limited to just 13 appearances through injury, had two goals."Obviously our real only consistent goal-scorer this year was Ayo and so that's an area we're looking to upgrade," team president Bill Manning said of his strike force.The hunt will go on in conjunction with the search for a coach to follow Greg Vanney, who stepped down Tuesday.Toronto (13-5-5) posted the second-best regular-season record in MLS in 2020 despite only playing four games at BMO field due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.There will be other changes."How much change? It's such a relative kind of term," said Curtis. "But there will be change. We have to bring in a new coach. We've got to find a way to get better we can win these trophies."Pozuelo has been a hit right out of the box, a member of the league's Best XI in his two MLS seasons and a leading contender for MVP this year. Altidore can be a force to be reckoned with when healthy, but keeping him out on the pitch has been a problem.Curtis said Altidore will be back next year, although his words did not come with a guarantee."Jozy's been a really big part of TFC over the years … Unfortunately he had a couple of injuries and wasn't able to be on the field as much as we'd like but we're looking to have Jozy back next year and we'll go from there."(If) for some reason we were to have a conversation and something were to change or things like that, then just like any player we would have that conversation. But for the most part right now I think the focus is on how we can find a player to fill that designated player slot and how can we find a coach to help lead our team on the field."The team also has high hopes for 23-year-old rookie forward Ifunanyachi Achara, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season.While Toronto has declined its option on Piatti, Manning said there were lots of positives with the 31-year-old Argentine and that Curtis has had "very good discussions" with his agent."So if we're in a situation where we can have a new designated player and Pablo on the team together, I think we're going to be better," he added.Said Curtis: "Pablo was a great addition … We're just looking for something slightly different."As for 21-year-old Scottish fullback Tony Gallacher, Curtis said the club's loan agreement with Liverpool did not come with an option to buy.Curtis said the club continues talks with 33-year-old fullback Justin Morrow, whose contract expires at the end of the season."We'd like for Justin to come back but we also recognize that he's earned the right to be a free agent. He's a good soccer player … He's got a lot of juice in him as a soccer player."Morrow also serves as executive director of Black Players for Change.As for 35-year-old defender Laurent Ciman, Curtis said he plans a conversation with his agent but was unsure about his future.\---Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Provinces are criticizing the federal Liberals for failing to signal more help for health-care systems and strained provincial coffers in its new spending plans, setting up a potential showdown next week between the prime minister and premiers.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Dec. 10 with the country's premiers, who have been demanding a meeting since September to talk about the annual federal transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care.The fiscal update released Monday, which proposed some $25 billion in new spending to top up and expand existing programs and create new, targeted support for hard-hit industries, did not detail a bump in health-care spending beyond increases planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.Federal health transfers to provinces will rise to $43.1 billion next year from $41.9 billion this year, as part of a prearranged three per cent annual increase.Provinces say the proposal still falls well short of what is needed to properly fund their systems, not including the added costs associated with COVID-19.They want the federal government to boost its share of health-care funding by an extra $28 billion this year with annual increases of $4 billion thereafter. "The primary objective of the premiers to to see a structural change in how health care is funded," Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Tuesday in an interview. "And I think they're going to be successful because it is the No. 1 thing that Canadians are interested in right now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is making sure we have stable, long-term health-care funding."The Liberals argue they've sent plenty to the provinces for pandemic-related measures, totalling $24 billion to support health-care systems across the country.On Tuesday, Trudeau said he planned to hear out the provinces about their needs during and after the pandemic, but wouldn't commit to added spending.His Liberal government's fall economic statement must first survive a confidence vote in the House of Commons. Failure to gather the necessary support would mean the minority government falls, which could plunge the country into a federal election."I am reasonably confident that none of the opposition parties wants an election right now. We certainly don't want one," Trudeau told reporters outside his Ottawa residence."We want to get these supports out to Canadians. And there are certainly things in this fall economic statement that every party should be able to support in terms of helping Canadians."Spending to date is putting the federal deficit on track to reach $381.6 billion this year, but the government's math says it could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks.Pandemic-related spending has sent total federal transfers this year to $99.7 billion. Next year, the amount falls to $82.1 billion, near where it was before the pandemic, based on figures in the fall economic statement.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberals' spending binge pre-pandemic has blown the margin now to increase transfers to lower levels of government."There's not a lot of room left for other commitments because of (Trudeau's) irresponsible and insatiable appetite for spending other people's money," Poilievre said.Rebekah Young, Scotiabank's director of fiscal and provincial economics, wrote in an analysis that one-off transfers to provinces were necessary under the circumstances, but there should be a structural shift in the long term to make the country's finances sustainable."And the discussion should be broader than expenditure-shifting, as provinces have been reluctant to take up revenue capacity given up at the federal level in recent years," she wrote.The Liberals are proposing extra help through a revised fiscal stabilization program that sends money to provinces facing a year-over-year decline in non-resource revenues.The economic statement looks to lift funding capped now at $60 per resident up to $170.Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said his province expects to receive $750 million under the new limits, which falls well short of what Alberta could use. He said he was disappointed the Liberals didn't eliminate the cap as provinces have asked."We're going to continue to seek support from other provinces and we're disappointed in what I would call is really not even a half measure," he told reporters at the provincial legislature.Newfoundland and Labrador's Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the province still wouldn't qualify for help through the stabilization fund this year despite a 45 per cent drop in offshore oil revenues.She added the increase in the cap is unlikely to be a big benefit.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.— With files from Shawn Jeffords in Toronto, and Dean Bennett in EdmontonJordan Press, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Insurance companies in British Columbia have agreed to end a pricing practice that has been identified as one of the key factors in skyrocketing property insurance premiums for condominiums. Earlier this year, the B.C. Financial Services Authority said premiums have gone up by 40 per cent on average for a number of reasons. Finance Minister Selina Robinson says an agreement to end so-called best terms pricing on Jan. 1 is a positive step. Insuring multi-unit properties in B.C. often sees many insurers submit bids.Under best terms pricing, the final premium paid by owners is usually based on the highest bid, even if most quotes were lower. Blair Morrison, CEO of the financial services authority, says the change is an important step for long-term stability in the property insurance market. Robinson was the housing minister in June when she introduced legislation to change the Strata Property Act and the Financial Institutions Act to bring more transparency to the insurance market. The Insurance Council of B.C., the regulatory body for insurance agents in the province, says it will work with the industry to address the practice. Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility.A financial authority report released in June says price pressures will continue on buildings considered to be higher risk and the insurance market for so-called strata properties was "unhealthy."It says insurers were accumulating losses mostly from minor claims, especially for water damage due to poor building maintenance and initial construction. It says new building construction, building material changes and rising replacement costs have put added strain on the industry's profitability. Insurers are also reducing the amount of insurance they offer in B.C. because of excessive exposure to earthquake risk, it says. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the need for more robust cybersecurity and anti-fraud measures as government employees are forced to work remotely.However, he says the provincial government isn't working fast enough to manage those risks.Acting auditor general Terry Spicer notes in a report released Tuesday that the federal government's Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity has warned of an increase in attempts to access and attack networks used by remote workers.The audit finds that 10 provincial government departments, nine public service units and 19 government organizations have not completed fraud risk assessments.It adds that Service Nova Scotia, which helps citizens access government programs and services, is lagging behind on finalizing its regulations around cybersecurity.The auditor general cautions that fraud in the public sector can result in the loss of taxpayer funds and erode the public’s confidence in government if the risk isn’t properly handled.Tim Houston, leader of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, said in a statement that the auditor general's findings reveal the province is failing to protect the information of residents."As governments around the world find themselves increasingly at risk of cyberattacks, Nova Scotia has shown that it doesn’t place a high importance on keeping our health and other records safe from improper access," Houston said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. \- - - This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News FellowshipThe Canadian Press
PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania's highest court questioned Tuesday whether Bill Cosby's alleged history of intoxicating and sexually assaulting young women amounted to a signature crime pattern, given studies that show as many as half of all sexual assaults involve drugs or alcohol. Cosby, 83, hopes to overturn his 2018 sex assault conviction because the judge let prosecutors call five other accusers who said Cosby mistreated them the same way he did his victim, Andrea Constand. The defence said their testimony prejudiced the jury against the actor and should not have been allowed.“That conduct you describe — the steps, the young women — there’s literature that says that’s common to 50% of these assaults — thousands of assaults — nationwide,” Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor asked a prosecutor during oral arguments in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “So how can that be a common scheme?”The prosecutor, in response, offered more precise details about the relationships, saying Cosby used his fame and fortune to mentor the women and then took advantage of it. And he sometimes befriended their mothers or families.“There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,” said Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Philadelphia's Montgomery County, where Constand says she was assaulted at Cosby's estate in 2004.“The signature was isolating and intoxicating young women for the purpose of sexually assaulting them," Jappe said.Cosby has served more than two years of his three- to 10-year prison sentence for drugging and molesting Constand, whom he met through the basketball program at his alma mater, Temple University.Courts have long wrestled with decisions about when other accusers should be allowed to testify in criminal cases. It's generally not allowed, but state law permits a few exceptions, including to show a signature crime pattern or to prove someone's identity. The state's high court appears eager to address the issue, and in doing so took on the first celebrity criminal case of the MeToo era. The court typically takes several months to issue its opinion.Judge Steven T. O'Neill had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby's first trial in 2017, when the jury could not reach a verdict. The MeToo movement took hold months later with media reports about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other men accused of sexual misconduct.O'Neill then let five other accusers testify at Cosby's retrial in 2018, when the jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting Constand.Cosby's appellate lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said prosecutors exploited “all of this vague testimony” about his prior behaviour and his acknowledgement that he had given women alcohol or quaaludes before sexual encounters.“They put Mr. Cosby in a position where he had no shot. The presumption of innocence just didn't exist for him,” Bonjean said in the arguments Tuesday, which were held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Constand went to police in 2005, about a year after the night at his home. The other women knew Cosby in the 1980s through the entertainment industry, and they did not go to police.The defence also challenged the trial judge's decision to let the jury hear damaging testimony Cosby gave in a lawsuit Constand filed against him in 2005, after then-prosecutor Bruce Castor declined to arrest Cosby.The testimony was sealed for nearly a decade until The Associated Press asked a federal judge to release documents from the case as more Cosby accusers came forward. The judge agreed, and Castor's successor reopened the case in 2015, just months before the statute of limitations to arrest him would have expired.Cosby, a once-beloved comedian and actor known as “America’s Dad,” has said he will serve his entire 10-year term rather than admit wrongdoing to the parole board.Criminal law professor Laurie Levenson believes it's important for the court to scrutinize Cosby's conviction given the publicity the case attracted, the legal questions it raised and the potential influence of the MeToo movement.However, she was less sure there's data to show that intoxication was as prevalent in sex assault cases in the 1980s through 2004 as it is today.“We have heard a lot more about doping types of sexual assaults (recently), but I'm not sure how common it was at the time of this offence,” said Levenson, of Loyola Law School. “I think the court’s doing the right thing, which is asking, ‘Did he get convicted on legitimate evidence?'"The AP does not typically identify sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has granted.___Follow Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale.Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press
Statistics from Public Health Ontario (PHO) show the opioid-related death rates in many parts of Northern Ontario are significantly higher than the numbers being reported by Toronto Public Health and some other Southern Ontario locations. For comparison purposes, statistics were compiled in quarterly segments from the end of March 2019, through to the end March of 2020, which was the one-year time period with the latest available information on Emergency Room visits, hospitalizations and opioids-related deaths. In the first quarter of this year, just in the Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) jurisdiction, the rate of opioid deaths was listed at 41.9 per 100,000 population, an increase of 16.7 per cent from the previous year. This was based on a population of 200,424 within the jurisdiction of the Sudbury health unit, which includes the City of Greater Sudbury and several surrounding smaller communities, such as Espanola, Chapleau and on Manitoulin Island. Public Health Ontario said this accounts for 21 deaths in the first three months of this year for the PHSD service area. The Sudbury health unit's own opioid surveillance program reports that from January 2020 to June 2020, opioids have claimed 44 lives. The Sudbury health unit jurisdiction, in the first three months of this year, also had an opioid death rate more than three times higher than the national rate in Canada, which is 12.1 deaths per 100,000 residents. By comparison, for the Toronto Public Health area, the rate of opioid deaths was 11.4 per 100,000 population. It is an increase of 8.6 per cent from the previous year. This was based on a population of 3,090,377. The rate for the last three months of 2019 was 10.5 per 100,000. For the third quarter, the rate was lower at 6.1 deaths per 100,000. The second quarter of 2019 in Toronto, the death rate was 10.5 and in the first quarter the death rate was 11.2 deaths per 100,000. The lower rate was evident in other parts of Southern Ontario. In the jurisdiction of Ottawa Public Health, the rate of opioid deaths was lower at 7.7 per 100,000, the first three months of this year. This was for a population of slightly more than one million. In the Peel region, Peel Public Health reported an even lower fatality rate of 7.6 per 100,000 residents, for a population listed at more than 1.5 million. In the Windsor - Essex County Health Unit, the opioid fatality rate was 15.2 per 100,000 based on a population of roughly 420,000. In the Niagara Public Health Region, the death rate in the first three months this year was reported at 23.1 per 100,000 population for a region of more than 468,000 residents. Back to Northern Ontario, the rates were far higher in general. The Porcupine Health Unit, representing Timmins and several other smaller northern towns, also has a high rate of opioid deaths according to the PHO stats. For the first three months of this year, the death rate attributed to opioids was 32.8 per 100,000 population, three times the Toronto rate. This was for a population of 85,273. Figures for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) for the first quarter of this year revealed a mortality rate of 28.5 per 100,000 population. This was for a population of nearly 155,000 in the TBDHU jurisdiction. For the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit it was revealed that the rate of opioid deaths was 18.6 per 100,000 population. This was for a region of more than 129,000 residents. The Timiskaming Health Unit, which includes such communities as Kirkland Lake and Temiskaming Shores, the rate was 12.1 per 100,000 for a jurisdiction with a population of more than 33,000 residents. Four deaths occurred in that jurisdiction between March 2019 and March 2020. Further west in the jurisdiction of the Northwestern Health Unit, for communities such as Kenora, Red Lake and Dryden, the mortality rate for the first three months of this year was 9.8 per 100,000, a couple of points lower than Toronto. This was for a population just short of 82,000. A full report on the patterns of opioid-related deaths in Ontario during 2020 the pandemic may be causing some unintended consequences. "In June 2020, Ontario’s Chief Coroner announced a 25 per cent increase in suspected drug-related deaths between March and May 2020, compared to the monthly median reported in 2019. Similar trends have been reported elsewhere in Canada," said the report. "It is expected that this increase in drug-related deaths is being driven by a combination of numerous factors, including an increasingly toxic unregulated (‘street’) drug supply, barriers to access to harm reduction services and treatment, and physical distancing requirements leading to more people using drugs alone."Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
The Town of Drumheller reported the hundredth case of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic on Thursday, November 26. The number of total cases, both active and those with an outcome, nearly doubled from 51 cases on Monday, November 16 to 101 cases on November 26. On Monday, November 23 the Town of Drumheller had the eighth highest regional rate of active cases with 700 active cases per 100,000 population, beating out all but one region in both Calgary and Edmonton. As of Monday, November 30 the rate of active cases in Drumheller has dropped to 533 active cases per 100,000. There are currently 48 active cases, with 57 recovered and two deaths. Wheatland County has 21 active cases and there are 13 active cases in Kneehill County; both counties remain on enhanced status, along with the Town of Drumheller. Starland County has four active cases.Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail
TORONTO — The 2021 Juno Awards are moving to May for their 50th anniversary.Organizers behind Canada's biggest night in music say the golden celebration, set to take place in Toronto, is being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The televised show will happen on May 16, 2021, about a month and a half after its originally planned date in March.Allan Reid, head of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, says the move is intended to give artists and the local community more options to celebrate in a time when physical distancing measures are expected to still be in place."We also hope that the warmer weather will bring more opportunities for some unique outdoor programming," he said in a press conference."The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a huge effect on the city and our music community, but we will be resilient and live music will return, and we will be there to help in any way we can."The return of the Juno Awards to Toronto, for the first time in a decade, was billed as a splashy affair when it was announced last year. Thousands of fans were expected to gather inside the Scotiabank Arena, with many past honorees in attendance.How the momentous occasion might take shape in the pandemic is a work in progress, Reid said, and it's still undetermined whether any of the Juno performances will be permitted to take place indoors.The organization also stopped short of announcing details for Juno Week, a series of concerts and events leading up to the broadcast that in other years have proven to be a business boon for local bars and concert halls.Other changes will be introduced as part of the Junos anniversary, including three new looks for the award statuette.The updated designs take inspiration from designer Shirley Elford's human-shaped molten-glass award, first handed out in 2000.A gold Juno will be given to Juno Award winners, while a silver version is for recipients of a special Juno prize, and a gold and silver variation goes to Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees.There's also a notable change within the R&B categories, first announced in October. The R&B recording of the year award will now be two distinct prizes, one for contemporary R&B recording of the year and another for traditional R&B/soul recording of the year.Reid noted that artist submissions for the Junos reached a record high, though he did not offer specific figures. He said the historic interest shows the resiliency of Canadian musicians in a difficult year that saw many of their concert tours cancelled.Nominees for the Juno Awards will be announced early in 2021.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. David Friend, The Canadian Press
Tuesday marked the first snow day that wasn't in Windsor-Essex, as school transportation was cancelled but secondary students in the public school board still had to do a full day of remote learning.The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) announced the policy last week, saying that students would be expected to do a full day of remote learning for the 2020-21 school year even if transportation is cancelled."For the current school year (2020-21), in the event that student transportation is cancelled in the city and/or the county, all secondary students will participate exclusively in remote on-line learning for that day," the news release says. Shelley Armstrong, the superintendent of business and treasurer at the GECDSB, said the board felt the decision made sense given the "quadmester" remote learning system students are using this year."It's really important that we do the best that we can to support their learning in the classrooms, and it's challenging to do that if there's a missed day," she said. "We really want to make sure that we're supporting them the best that we can with their education."Schools are still open for staff and elementary school students. But elementary students who stay home are not expected to do online work.Armstrong says that the board made the decision for this year only, and she's not certain snow days for secondary students are facing extinction."I don't know necessarily that that would be the case," she said.Armstrong added that if anyone has any questions about the new policy, they can reach out to school administrators."If anyone has specific questions for it, certainly they can reach out to the board office or the school principal, and we'll do our best to help them with any questions they may have," she said.
Tout au long de l’année 2020, les organismes communautaires lavallois ont dû s’adapter en raison du contexte de pandémie de la COVID-19. La situation ne sera pas différente à l’approche des Fêtes. «La demande d’aide et les besoins des citoyens et familles auprès des organismes sont à la hausse, précise Marc Longchamps, directeur général de la Corporation de développement communautaire (CDC) de Laval. Alors que la capacité de recevoir des groupes est à la baisse à cause des différentes mesures d’adaptation sanitaire qu’ils doivent mettre en place. Les organismes ont beaucoup de pression pour répondre à ces demandes.» M. Longchamps ajoute que plusieurs organismes ne pourront tenir leurs activités de financement, ce qui réduira leurs fonds pour 2020. «Cela change la donne pour nombre d’entre eux qui comptaient sur ces revenus pour financer leurs activités, parfois même pour rémunérer leur personnel.» À titre d’exemple, l’Association lavalloise des parents et amis pour le bien-être mental (ALPABEM) ne pourra tenir sa collecte annuelle de biens pour les personnes hospitalisées en psychiatrie qui existe depuis près de 20 ans. L’organisme tentera plutôt d’amasser des fonds qui seront remis aux groupes habituels. De son côté, le Centre de bénévolat et moisson Laval a modifié sa traditionnelle campagne de paniers de Noël. La livraison des denrées se déroulera sur cinq jours, soit du 18 au 22 décembre. Il s’agira d’une méthode de cueillette sans contact pour respecter les règles sanitaires. «Depuis le début de la campagne, on note un taux de participation plus faible que les années précédentes, note Wazna Azem, directrice aux communications et marketing de l’organisme. Plusieurs organisations et compagnies qui nous appuient optent pour le télétravail et, du coup, cela réduit le nombre de participants à la collecte de denrées.» Mme Azem confirme aussi que la demande d’aide alimentaire est à la hausse et que Moisson Laval mise sur les dons en ligne pour combler le manque actuel. Malgré la crise sanitaire, les organismes communautaires ont continué d’offrir leurs services habituels. Les pratiques ont été adaptées et ils ont travaillé en coopération pour poursuivre leur mission. «Nous nous sommes rapidement mobilisés pour assurer un suivi psychosocial auprès des familles qui fréquentent notre organisation, explique Nancy Champagne, directrice générale de la Maison de quartier de Vimont. Nous avons été créatifs avec des plateformes comme Facebook et Zoom pour développer une offre virtuelle.» «Dès la deuxième semaine, nous sommes revenus pratiquement à un état normal, mais cette fois en virtuel, confirme aussi Patrick Machabée, directeur général de l’ALPABEM. On était technologiquement prêt à le faire en vidéo. À partir de juin, on a recommencé à accueillir des familles en personne.» M. Machabée précise toutefois que cette façon de faire n’était pas possible pour tous. «Certains organismes ne sont plus en mesure d’offrir leurs groupes d’entraide, car l’espace ne leur permet pas de respecter la distanciation sociale. Les gens qui utilisaient ces services se retrouvent encore plus isolés.» Cette situation exceptionnelle a d’ailleurs permis de reconnaître l’importance du milieu communautaire. «S’il y avait des préjugés sur la pertinence des organismes, maintenant, la crise a démontré qu’ils étaient essentiels, assure M. Machabée. Nous avions maintenant les leviers nécessaires pour répondre à des besoins que nous avions depuis plusieurs années.» Il précise que la crise a permis à son organisation d’être approchée pour mettre en place un programme de soutien psychologique pour leurs collègues du monde communautaire de partout au Québec. Marc Longchamps croit quant à lui que beaucoup peut être encore fait pour soutenir les organismes bien que les fonds d’urgence offerts ont servi pendant la crise. «On parle davantage des organismes et de leur apport, mais le gouvernement a été très peu aidant par les longs processus demandant des redditions de comptes complexes pour obtenir des fonds. Les directions étaient déjà débordées pour répondre aux besoins de la population. Une réelle reconnaissance des organismes passe par un financement décent et récurrent.»Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said Tuesday efforts to resolve Cyprus’ ethnic division should start fresh and aim to achieve a two-state deal, because decades of negotiations for a federation-based agreement have got nowhere.Tatar said a regional “new state of affairs” that takes into account the discovery of significant gas deposits off Cyprus creates the need for a two-state accord, under which equally sovereign Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can live “side by side.”The Greek Cypriots reject the two-state idea.Tatar spoke after meeting United Nations envoy Jane Holl Lute, who arrived on the island nation to scope out chances of resuming peace talks that have remained dormant since 2017.U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he’s willing to host an informal conference bringing together the two sides as well as Cyprus’ “guarantors” — Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain — in hopes of resuscitating peace talks.The approach by Tatar, a right-wing hardliner who defeated a leftist incumbent in Turkish Cypriot leadership elections in October, threatens to upend a 1977 agreement for the two sides to negotiate a federation.Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece. The island’s internationally recognized government is seated in the Greek Cypriot south. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the north.The majority Greek Cypriots reject a two-state deal or any other arrangement legally sanctioning the country’s division by lending recognition to a breakaway entity.Lute met late Tuesday with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades who expressed his willingness to take part in the conference in hopes of resuming peace talks where they left off in 2017, according to government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos.Lute will travel to Greece on Wednesday and to Turkey later this month for more talks.The Associated Press
Rugby League Cares, the official charity of the Rugby Football League, has set up a fund for Toronto Wolfpack players suffering because of the transatlantic team's collapse.The fund will award grants to help players deal with financial difficulties.Wolfpack players and staff have not been paid since June 10. The club stood down July 20, saying it could not afford to play the remainder of the Super League pandemic-interrupted season.Toronto's subsequent bid to win reinstatement for 2021 under new ownership was rejected.“Due to circumstances entirely out of their control, many of the Toronto players are now finding it difficult to pay their bills," Chris Rostron, head of Rugby League Cares, said in a statement.“Some of them were on very modest salaries: six months without pay and no access to the U.K. government furlough scheme has been incredibly tough. We have been providing practical support to the players over recent months, including debt management advice and access to counselling services.“Our welfare team has spent the last 10 days working with the players to identify those who are suffering most hardship: thanks to the support of the RFL and Super League we are now in a position to begin making payments to those in most need."Because the team is Canadian-owned, players and staff in England have been unable to take advantage of many U.K. government support programs.A dozen or so players have found other clubs, either on loan or permanently. Some signed for lesser deals. Others have had to take jobs outside their sport to pay the bills.The players have already received two "hardship payments" to date from English rugby league authorities.Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter confirmed the earlier 1,000-pound ($1,735) payments. He said the Wolfpack pushed for the financial help with the first coming from a bond of some 30,000 pounds ($52,095) the transatlantic team had put up in the past.The club owes in excess of 500,000 pounds ($868,425) in missed payroll. Majority owner David Argyle, who could no longer fund the club, has stepped away from the franchise.Argyle, a Toronto-based Australian entrepreneur who specializes in mining and natural resources in emerging markets, has offered a personal guarantee for the player pay but has not been in a position to make good on it. He has said the original ownership group poured $30 million into the franchise.\---Follow @NeilMDavidson on TwitterThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Holiday shoppers are receiving their own gift from the City of Charlottetown this December: free parking downtown. The city approved the free parking at downtown meters at a special council meeting Monday. Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said letting shoppers park for free fits in with the Love Local P.E.I. campaign currently on. "It sends out a signal that, you know, we're in this bubble, but let's stick to our local merchants," said Brown. "They're going to need the help, just like we're going to need the help as we get through this pandemic."> We're in this bubble, but let's stick to our local merchants. They're going to need the help. \- Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown The idea for the free parking came from the P.E.I. government, which offered $15,000 to replace some of the lost revenue. Brown said the City of Charlottetown will cover the rest of that loss, another $45,000. City officials have had to cancel some holiday activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Brown said some of the money that would have been used for those activities will help cover the revenue lost from parking meters. "This is a small effort, but I think it'll go a long way," he said. Brown added that he's not worried about people who work downtown taking advantage of the free spots.More from CBC P.E.I.