Keith Raniere, leader of the group NXIVM, has been convicted of sex trafficking, extortion and racketeering. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison.
Keith Raniere, leader of the group NXIVM, has been convicted of sex trafficking, extortion and racketeering. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
For the second time in two months, a retired Alberta teacher is on trial accused of indecently assaulting a female student. In October, David O'Reilly was found guilty of the indecent assault of a 14-year-old student in 1980 at Ellerslie Campus school. O'Reilly, 73, was given a suspended sentence and 18 months probation. He was also placed on the national sex offender registry. O'Reilly allegedly assaulted another female student at the same school four years earlier. She was a 14-year-old Grade 9 student at the time. Her identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban. The woman is now 59 and lives in New Zealand. She testified by video conference. She said she remembers being singled out by O'Reilly, who taught physical education at the school. "He was seen as a cool teacher and I was a naive country girl," she said. "I was quite flattered by that." She said she liked it when he complimented her on her looks and suggested she'd look even better if she wore contacts instead of eyeglasses. In hindsight, she thinks she was being groomed. "I was just a young girl and didn't know any better really," she said. She testified she remembers him putting his hand on her knee and holding her for "too long at the hips" when she was practising gymnastics. The woman also recalled spending time alone with O'Reilly in his office, sitting on his knee and him quickly fondling her breasts with his hand moving up her thigh. There were other encounters when she was standing. "Initially, I would stand against the wall and he would stand with his hands on either side of me," she said. "I had no idea about sexual behaviour at that age, so I was confused by what was going on. A little bit scared and uncertain about what was appropriate." She also told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Thomas Rothwell that on one occasion O'Reilly kissed her. She said she got frightened when he pressed the lower half of his body up against hers while she leaned against the wall. "It wasn't a long kiss, but it was a suggestive kiss," she said. "I just knew it was wrong and I really didn't know what to do." The woman said she ducked out under his arms and ran away. "To me, that was almost an ending in a way," she said. "Because it did quite frighten me. I don't recall much after that." Pages from the woman's 1980 Ellerslie Campus school yearbook were made an exhibit at the trial. O'Reilly signed her yearbook and wrote, "Thanks for the memories...of a lot of good times that I'll remember for a long time, if not now." The woman testified she had a vivid memory of going to a lake cabin with O'Reilly and his then-wife in the summer of 1976 to watch Olympic gymnastics. On Tuesday, O'Reilly's ex-wife testified for the defence. Ellen Singleton testified she has no memory of that encounter, nor did anyone in their family own a lake cabin at the time. O'Reilly did not testify in his own defence. The judge will hand down his decision on Friday morning. 'It's very exhausting' The woman who was indecently assaulted by O'Reilly in 1980 attended this week's trial, even though she admitted she found it increasingly difficult to be in the same room with her attacker. "It's very exhausting, is how I feel when I leave the courtroom for the day," she told CBC News. "I'm doing it because I'm a strong woman and I'm here to support the gal that came forward for this trial." The woman said she kept a close eye on O'Reilly while his accuser testified. He was allowed to sit at the back of the courtroom next to his wife, rather than in the prisoner's box. At one point he was leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed. "He's sitting nonchalant, but I can see the facial features change and the colour of his face change during the trial," she said. "It gets red or white in colour when different things are being said on the stand." O'Reilly's lawyer has filed a notice of appeal on the October conviction. He calls the verdict unreasonable and argues he was denied the right to a fair trial because the judge was biased toward him. O'Reilly is asking the court to hear his appeal and overturn his conviction. Failing that, he wants Alberta's highest court to order a new trial by judge and jury.
A number of provincial sports leagues in Nova Scotia have voluntarily decided to shut down for two weeks.Those decisions come a day after the Nova Scotia government brought in new regulations to clamp down on travel in and out of Halifax Regional Municipality to try and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus."It's a year of not being the norm," said Nova Scotia U15 Major president Todd Watson. "Our teams outside of Halifax could continue to play, but we want to be part of the solution and not part of the issue, so we will shut down our league for two weeks."The U15 league has five of its 12 teams within HRM.Practices to continue outside HalifaxWatson said teams outside the Halifax zone can still practice, but teams inside the Halifax zone will not be able to because facilities have been closed.Another provincial league, with no teams in the Halifax area, has also shut down.The Scotia Minor Hockey League is an under-11 league with nine teams scattered throughout mainland Nova Scotia."To ensure all teams remain in their respective health zones, effective immediately all Scotia Minor regular-season league play will be suspended until Dec. 9," stated a notice posted to the league website.In total, 11 minor hockey associations in the Halifax zone are impacted by yesterday's announcement and will be off the ice for two weeks. The province will re-evaluate in 14 days and could extend the conditions if COVID-19 numbers don't improve.Any Halifax-area players who are playing for other teams outside their zone will no longer be allowed to travel and be with the team. As an example, the Koltech Valley Wildcats U18 team has eight players from HRM on their roster."These players are also not permitted to participate in any Hockey Nova Scotia-sanctioned activities (including practices, training sessions, or games with their teams) while these restrictions are in effect," a statement posted on the Hockey Nova Scotia website late Tuesday read.School sports also on breakAll school sports, in all regions of the province, are also being paused until Dec. 10.Other leagues, including the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League, will be holding meetings to determine how they move forward."You can't cross players from different health zones and we have a team that is in the northern health zone (Cumberland Blues) that pulls players from the eastern zone and those players can't play for them," said Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League president Heather Campbell."We have a meeting tonight to determine what we'll do."Campbell said only four of the 12 teams in the league — Glace Bay, Eskasoni, Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish — won't be impacted by the new restrictions.MORE TOP STORIES
The MPP for Simcoe North says she believes Indigenous people in her riding and elsewhere in Ontario have taken COVID-19 seriously, and she is pleased to see that. Jill Dunlop said that during the first wave of the pandemic, 119 of the 133 Indigenous territories in Ontario reported no on-reserve cases of the coronavirus. That bucks a trend, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the rate of COVID infection is substantially higher among Indigenous people than it is among non-Indigenous people. Dunlop credits the First Nations leaders in Ontario for taking preventive steps. “Some First Nations communities have taken additional measures to stop the spread during the pandemic. Some had established curfews. Some were only allowing residents of that community to come into the community, using a checkpoint,” Dunlop said. “They are also following public health regulations to make sure they are not bringing COVID back into their communities as well.” Dunlop said that the respect that Elders have in their communities is a likely part of the reason COVID numbers have been lower in First Nation communities. “If this was something that was affecting young people, we would see our (Elders) do everything they could to protect our young people,” she said. “We need to do the same to protect our seniors from the virus in this case.” Dunlop’s riding includes two First Nation Territories: the Chippewas of Rama First Nation near Orillia and the Beausoleil First Nation located on Christian, Beckwith and Hope islands on Georgian Bay, not far from Penetanguishene. As of last week, only four COVID cases had been diagnosed on the Rama territory since the global pandemic began. All were detected in October and all four patients have since recovered. There have been no cases reported on the Beausoleil First Nation Territory. Meanwhile, Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said he, too, is extremely pleased with the way Indigenous people on the territories the unit serves have handled the pandemic. “People need to be aware how (the virus) is transmitted. Ideally, you are sticking to your household for intimate contact and that you are otherwise maintaining a two-metre distance from other people, even if they are family and they are not in the household,” the doctor said. Dr. Gardner said he is very aware that it is only natural for Indigenous people to want to get together with extended family and friends. But, he added, that comes with risks and natural tendencies have to be overcome and precautions are needed at this time. The doctor added that currently they don’t publicly report COVID cases from the four First Nations territories that the health unit serves in Muskoka and Simcoe Region. John McFadden is a Local Journalism Reporter with The Parry Sound North Star, MuskokaRegion.com and Simcoe.com. LJI is funded by the Government of CanadaJohn McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
In order to welcome the jolly old elf to Aylmer, while keeping everyone safe, spectators and floats will swap roles for a “reverse” Santa Claus Parade this year. Aylmer Kinsmen Club’s 76th annual Santa Claus Parade will take place at night and have spectators drive past light displays, characters, floats, and Santa himself, while remaining in their own vehicles. “We’re going to do our best to make it enjoyable – it’s important that Santa comes to town,” said Andy Beck, the club’s parade marshal for the last eight years. The Santa Claus parade normally attracts thousands of people each year, he added. East Elgin Community Complex will host the “drive-through parade” on Saturday, Nov. 28 starting at 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Instead of moving through town, floats would be fixed in place and include plenty of lights along with some Christmas music. Spectators would be driving past them along a planned route circling the complex parking lot. (See ad on Page 3 for parade details and route.) No pedestrians are permitted. Visitors must stay in their cars, except for emergencies. No open vehicles, such as motorcycles or convertibles, are allowed. There will be no candy or other handouts this year, and the Kinsmen are asking anyone who is feeling ill to stay home. Kinsmen and EECC volunteers be outside directing traffic flow. Vehicles will enter from the east, and exit from the west. Drivers can use Rogers Road to return to town. All volunteers will wear face coverings at the event and practice physical distancing. Some Kinsmen will wear red jackets, while others may be dressed as clowns or Santa’s elves. The Aylmer Fire Department will also make an appearance at the event. The Kinsmen are inviting spectators to donate canned food and monetary donations for the Aylmer Corner Cupboard. Monetary donations will be placed in a collection bucket, while food donations should be delivered using a bag with a handle. The Kinsmen will have extra bags if needed. The Kinsmen will use a hockey stick with a bucket to collect from a distance. Letters to Santa are also encouraged. Donations will be quarantined for 72 hours before being distributed to the Aylmer Corner Cupboard or Canada Post. There is no washroom availability or access to the EECC. “The Santa Claus parade is the main event for the Kinsmen all year. We’re always talking about it, it’s always in process,” said Mr. Beck. “We’re hoping people come to visit and see Santa Claus.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers increased their spending by a sluggish 0.5% last month, the weakest rise since April, when the pandemic first erupted, and a sign that Americans remain wary with the virus resurging across the country and threatening the economy.The October gain reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department followed a seasonally adjusted 1.2% increase in September. It suggested that consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, is being restrained by a weakened economy and by the failure of Congress to provide another stimulus package to struggling individuals and businesses.The government's report also showed that income, which provides the fuel for spending, fell 0.7% in October.With new viral cases accelerating across the country, many states are adopting or considering new restrictions on businesses. Sales at restaurants and bars fell in October for the first time in six months. Restaurant traffic declined further this month, according to the reservations provider OpenTable. Hotel occupancy is down from a month ago. Consumer spending on credit cards dropped in the first week of November from a month earlier, according to data compiled by Opportunity Insights.Economists warn that consumer spending could falter further in the current October-December quarter given that many of the major government support programs have expired and Congress has yet to renew the assistance.“With coronavirus infection rates soaring, states re-imposing restrictions and the ... data on in-person dining and jobless claims beginning to show signs of weakness, we are increasingly worried that the monthly gains in consumption will be weaker," Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.The report showed that while the wages-and-salaries component of consumer income rose 0.7% in October, government transfers — the category that includes unemployment aid and other benefits — fell 6.2%.Inflation, as measured by a gauge tied to consumer spending, was unchanged in October. Measured year over year, it's up just 1.2%. That is far below the 2% annual target set by the Federal Reserve, and it gives the Fed further leeway to supply support to the economy beyond the ultra-low interest rates it is already providing.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
The Catfish Creek Conservation Authority board members agreed to give staff two additional paid days off around Christmas, instead of forcing them to use their vacation time. Further, a maximum of 10 vacation days are permitted to be carried over into next year, and the CCCA waived the requirement to use the carried over time by March 31, 2021. The CCCA office is closed from December 24 at 12 p.m. and reopens January 4, 2021 (the Monday after New Year’s Day), as is standard practice for the organization every year. Staff will get Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30 as paid days off. CCCA general manager Chris Wilkinson presented a series of options to board members at their Nov. 12 meeting, including allowing all staff to work from home during that time. “One of the ideas that came up is just to keep it simple is to give staff an additional two days paid off over that Christmas holiday to limit that need to work over the vacation period this year,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “That’s just an option, we can work from home or force staff to take vacation days.” Board member Sally Martyn asked if the holidays were ever taken off an employee’s vacation time in the past. Mr. Wilkinson referred to this as “forced vacation,” and this was done in 2018. “The staff have done an extraordinary job through these trying times,” said CCCA board chair Rick Cerna. “I think to give them two paid vacation days is minimal to the fact of what they’ve achieved throughout the year. It’s like a little added bonus.” Board member Arthur Oslach was in agreement, called two paid days off “reasonable.” Water Management Technician Peter Dragunas said that while the office may be closed, he was always watching for potential flooding each year, and responds as required. “If there’s any threat, I’m on it,” he said. “I have been out there actually on New Year’s Eve day. It doesn’t shut down that way.” Conservation Areas Supervisor Dusty Underhill agreed with Mr. Dragunas, and said he consistently keeps an eye on the office, even during the holidays. According to Mr. Wilkinson’s report, many vacations were cancelled and staff often worked instead of taking time off this year due to COVID-19.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Alaska within a few weeks, state health officials said.Early batches of vaccine will be prioritized for essential workers in health care, assisted living and emergency medical settings, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.Vaccines initially will be issued in limited quantities and likely will not be available to the general public until March or April.The state continues to work on plans to distribute supplies after the vaccines become broadly available.The mid-December timeline for arrival in Alaska was based on announcements by drug companies working to produce coronavirus vaccines.Pfizer Inc. said earlier this month that test results showed its vaccine is 95% effective and protects older people most at risk of dying. Moderna Inc. said this month that preliminary data from an ongoing study showed its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective.AstraZeneca PLC on Monday reported results from ongoing studies of a vaccine under development with Oxford University, saying the drug was up to 90% effective.The high efficacy rates of the vaccines is “such a triumph,” said Joe McLaughlin, an Alaska state epidemiologist. For comparison, influenza vaccine effectiveness is typically between 40% and 60%, he said.Alaska has not definitively settled a timetable, but the distribution will be done in phases with front line health care workers prioritized, said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of the Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force.The soonest the Pfizer vaccine could be shipped is Dec. 10, with Moderna's vaccine likely being shipped about a week later, said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.After the first round of people get the vaccine, the next phase could include high-risk or critical-infrastructure workers.Pregnant women and children were not included in any of the drug trials and will need to wait longer for access.The state does not know how much vaccine will be delivered and officials are planning for three different scenarios, including batches of less than 5,000 doses and groups of around 10,000 and 20,000 doses, Zink said.For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.The Associated Press
Investigators with the 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau are seeking witnesses and two suspects following the attempted theft of a puppy from a commuter parking lot in the Township of King. On Nov. 18 at approximately 4 p.m., York Regional Police were called to a commuter parking lot at Highway 400 and Highway 9 for a report of an attempted theft. When officers arrived they found the victim, a 54-year-old female from the City of Barrie and her puppy, who were not injured. Investigators learned that the victim had advertised two puppies for sale online. She had arranged to meet potential buyers in the commuter lot. After the sale of one of the puppies without incident, two men approached the victim driving an older model white Honda Civic. One of the men assaulted the victim, grabbed the puppy, who was in a carrier, and attempted to flee. The victim chased the suspects who eventually threw the puppy out the window of the vehicle and drove away. Investigators are appealing to anyone who may have been in the area at the time and witnessed the incident or anyone with dashcam to please come forward. One suspect is described as male, South Asian, approximately 20 years old, 5’8.” He was wearing a black face mask, black scarf and green track pants. The other suspect is described as male, South Asian, wearing a face mask. Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7142 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
NEW YORK — Former President Barack Obama, already a million-selling author, is also a prize-winning author.PEN America announced Wednesday that Obama will receive its second annual Voice of Influence Award in recognition of how his writings “have traversed political, social, and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”Obama, whose memoir “A Promised Land” came out last week, will be honoured Dec. 8 at the literary and human rights organization's annual gala, to be held virtually because of the coronavirus.During the ceremony, Obama and historian Ron Chernow, a former PEN board president, will discuss freedom of expression and the importance of truth in a world of misinformation.Obama’s previous books include “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author. His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.PEN presented its first Voice of Influence Award in 2019 to filmmaker Ava DuVernay.Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
The federal government has named former Liberal justice minister and internationally-known human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler as Canada's special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment today, stating that the government is committed to strengthening Canada's efforts to advance education, research and remembrance at home and abroad."We must never forget the painful lessons of the Holocaust, or the memories of those who lived through it, because anti-Semitism has no place in Canada, or anywhere else," Trudeau said in a media statement. Anti-Semitism on the riseThe position is not paid but Cotler's expenses will be reimbursed, said the PMO.Calling the Holocaust "one of the darkest chapters in human history," a government news release said Jewish communities in Canada and around the world are facing a rising number of anti-Semitic incidents 75 years after the liberation of Nazi concentration and extermination camps revealed the full horrors of the Holocaust."The government of Canada will always stand with the Jewish community and fight the anti-Semitism, hatred and racism that incites such despicable acts," the release reads. "We will also continue to preserve the stories of survivors through younger generations, and work to promote and defend pluralism, inclusion, and human rights."The PMO pointed to Cotler's record on fighting racism and his experience in defending human rights through legal cases, including some related to mass atrocities.Appointment welcomedCotler will lead the government's delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), working with 33 other member countries while reaching out to Canadians, civil society groups and academics.The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center human rights advocacy group welcomed the appointment, calling the role "tremendously important.""At a time of rising anti-Semitism and dwindling awareness of the Holocaust, this initiative is more important than ever," the organization's president and CEO Michael Levitt said in a statement.Levitt said it's important that Cotler will have a mandate that gives him responsibility for advancing the implementation and adoption of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism in institutions across Canada and internationally, including at the United Nations and other international institutions.B'nai Brith Canada also applauded the appointment."This announcement is a major step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism in Canada and shows a much-needed seriousness in our government's commitment to this promise," said the organization's CEO Michael Mostyn.Cotler called 'icon'The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also weighed in, calling Cotler an "icon" who has fought for human rights for decades."Anti-Jewish racism is a cancer, and there is no one more qualified than Mr. Cotler to lead the fight against it on Canada's behalf on the international stage," said Jeffrey Rosenthal, co-chair of CIJA's board of directors.But Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) issued a statement saying the group is deeply troubled by Cotler's appointment. IJV said the move shows the Canadian government is aligning itself with a "highly controversial" IHRA definition of anti-Semitism it claims is being used to portray supporters of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic.IJV's national coordinator Corey Balsam called on provincial and municipal governments, universities and other institutions to oppose the IHRA definition, arguing that anti-Semitism cannot be fought at the expense of legitimate criticism of Israeli human rights violations."It is vital that the memory of the Holocaust be preserved and that anti-Semitism be taken on forcefully," Balsam said. "However, the appointment of Cotler to such a post virtually guarantees that the Canadian government will go about this in the wrong way."Cotler's approach is likely to be counterproductive to the fight against anti-Semitism because it seeks to muddy the waters and will ultimately confuse people as to what is and is not anti-Semitic."Cotler is the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and emeritus professor of law at Montreal's McGill University.
BERLIN — A car crashed into the front gate of the building housing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's offices on Wednesday morning, causing minor damage, authorities said. The driver, who authorities say had been involved in an almost identical incident six years ago, was detained.The Volkswagen station wagon hit the gate to the German chancellery at about 10 a.m. (0900 GMT; 4 a.m. EST). The slogan “You damned murderers of children and old people” was scrawled in white paint on one side of the car and “stop the globalization policies” was on the other.Police spokesman Thilo Cablitz told reporters the 54-year-old driver was detained at the scene after driving at a slow speed into the gate and was being questioned. He said police were investigating whether he might be psychologically disturbed or had other motivations.According to Germany’s Interior Ministry, the same man had already been involved in an almost identical incident in 2014.At that time, he drove a similar, if not the same, car into the same gate but caused no damage. The car carried a slogan scrawled in white paint on the side that condemned climate change and the man was taken into custody.Reports in 2014 said the man had done something similar before.Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said he did not know whether the suspect was listed as a possible threat.The car used Wednesday had license plates from the Lippe area in western Germany and was driven away by the Berlin fire department showing little sign of damage beyond a few scratches.Merkel’s office said there was only minor damage to the security gate.“For the chancellor, other members of the federal government, and the people employed in the chancellery there was no danger at any time,” her office said.The chancellery sits in downtown Berlin next to the Swiss Embassy and across from parliamentary offices. The exterior gate that was hit, which is next to a security office outside the main building, opens onto a public street.There was no immediate indication of what prompted the incident, but it came on the day that Merkel was to meet with state governors to talk about extending a partial coronavirus shutdown that started on Nov. 2.The government's approach toward slowing the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions enjoy widespread support among most Germans but they have also prompted occasionally violent protests in some major cities._____ Frank Jordans contributed to this story.David Rising, The Associated Press
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
A Malahide resident was surprised to find a boat, car topper, and construction debris, all discarded at a remote spot along Sawmill Road. Vern Shaver said that while garbage has occasionally been tossed in this area, the items he finds along the road have been more bizarre than usual lately. “You name it, it’s been dumped there over the years,” he said. “There’s been foliage, tires, medical masks, dead animals, and hazardous materials, like shingles or siding with asbestos.” Not only are there environmental and economic consequences to illegal dumping, but the garbage can be potentially dangerous for drivers. Some items, such as the car topper found on Saturday, Oct. 17, are dumped directly on the gravel roadway. Mr. Shaver said his seven-year-old son, Sean, hit some fencing materials in the weeds while operating an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) along Sawmill Road last autumn. Sean was not hurt; the machine came to a stop after it became entangled in wire. “It’s inconsiderate and dangerous, and it’s not saving anybody any money,” he said. Mr. Shaver has notified Malahide township on multiple occasions. The roads department drives out shortly afterwards to clean up the mess, which costs the township hundreds of dollars. “I’m disappointed that people take this route. There is an expense to clean this up,” said Malahide Mayor Dave Mennill. “It’s far more expensive for us to clean this than it is for people to dispose of it properly.” Elgin Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have investigated, and concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to press charges. If there is sufficient evidence, Elgin OPP normally asks the suspected person to clean it up or charge them with illegal dumping, said Mayor Mennill. No other residents have complained about the issue in that specific area recently. Mr. Shaver travels on Sawmill Road relatively often, as his property is nearby on Vienna Line. A long stretch of the road is relatively isolated, surrounded by forests and farm fields. There are about two properties on opposite ends of the road. The Malahide roads department winter patrol inspects every kilometre on a daily basis, including all township roads as well as county roads, as part of the minimum maintenance standard. There are also “no dumping” signs posted on some roads. There have been several other similar instances of public trash dumping in East Elgin. The Aylmer Express reported about an Aylmer man in the April 22 edition, who consistently found trash piles near his residence across from Centennial Estates Park. In late March, several residents complained about trash piles on Port Bruce beach.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Those who want to pass on their gently used hockey gear to kids who need it can do so at an equipment drive the first week of December. Brain Atkins of Total Construction Management in Peterborough wants to help First Nations communities get hockey equipment so he has organized an event for Dec. 5 at the company's location at 169 Lansdowne St. E, from 9 a.m. to noon. “Most of the gear is for smaller kids, but we have already gotten a few items for older players,” said Atkins. Although he does have a few items on hand, Atkins says he cannot accept equipment prior to the drive due to space. “I have some equipment that’s in my vehicle, but I would rather wait until the day of the drive,’’ he says. Atkins says items like skates, good condition hockey sticks and goalie equipment are needed. “We will take whatever people have in equipment, new or used,” he adds. The hockey equipment drive is also being held in other cities in the province such as Whitby and Kitchener. Atkins says those equipment drives are quite successful and he says he has seen the positive effects of the drive and wanted to do something in Peterborough. “This is a first for the City of Peterborough,” he says. To follow all COVID-19 safety measures, Atkins says for those who are going to donate can stay in their cars the day of the event, between the hours listed and the team will remove the equipment. TCM helps First Nations communities rebuild homes, construct community centres, renovate existing homes and complete construction as well as train homeowners how to maintain their homes and buildings after the work is complete. He says the team is dedicated in providing sustainable and self-sufficient structures for the communities they work in. “What a better way to give back than through hockey, and I’m just happy kids will have equipment to use to play hockey.”Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week
Health officials have declared the latest Saskatchewan care home outbreak at Saskatoon's Oliver Lodge, a seniors' facility housing more than 100 residents.The Hudson Bay Park home was added to the province's list of active outbreaks on Tuesday, making it the 19th special care home, seniors residence, long-term care home or assisted living facility in the province currently dealing with two or more cases of the virus. According to a new weekly update from the province on COVID-19 cases in long-term and special care homes that launched on Wednesday, Oliver Lodge had only one infected person between Nov. 10 and Nov. 24. Most homes were dealing with fewer than five cases. Some had more, such as Parkside Extendicare in Regina and Providence Place in Moose Jaw, which had 14 and seven cases respectively. In total, health workers at 29 different homes navigated new working conditions spurred by 88 different positive cases. The data released Wednesday did not indicate the age of infected people nor how many of them were hospitalized. Nor is it known if the infected people were residents or workers. See the full list here.Staffing challengesOliver Lodge's website says the home has 139 residents. A 2019 inspection stated each room is private and has its own bathroom. The lodge is connected to an apartment building, Oliver Place, that offers assisted living, according to the inspection.Frank Suchorab, Oliver Lodge's executive director, said updates on the situation are being posted on the home's website.Suchorab declined to say how many residents have tested positive as of Wednesday, saying it wouldn't make a difference in terms of the home's response to the outbreak. The province only declares an outbreak if two or more cases are present. Residents in the home's south wing are isolating in their rooms, according to the update.Other care homes have said they're facing staffing challenges as some workers are required to self-isolate."I would say that we're not any different from the other sites," Suchorab said. "We all work together. We all have the same challenges. Rapid tests on orderLuther Special Care Home in Saskatoon, the long-term care home in the province dealing with the largest outbreak, reported to residents' family members on Tuesday night that the number of infected residents remained at 34 for the second day in a row. Operations lead Ivan Olfert also outlined the steps the home is taking to curb the spread of the virus. Staff working in the affected wing are not mingling with workers from other areas of the home. Supplies are being dropped off outside the complex, located in the city's Varsity view neighbourhood."On Sunday we applied for a medical laboratory licence in order to be able to bring an Abbott Panbio Point of Care testing device onsite, which will allow us to test individuals for COVID and have results in about 15 minutes," Olfert wrote.Olfert noted with concern that the number of staff working in the outbreak unit who are self-isolating continues to grow. "Other long-term care homes in the city, along with home care, have contacted us and are offering assistance in a variety of ways, including lending us staff on a temporary basis [and] supporting us in the recruitment and training of new employees to help bolster our ranks."Also, we have a couple of staff who have temporarily moved from Regina to help support our efforts."Moose Jaw home's outbreak numbers unknownHealth officials added Providence Place to the list of active outbreak sites on Tuesday. The home declined to specify how many staff members have needed to self-isolate."We are taking all the necessary and precautionary measures to ensure the ongoing health and safety of our residents and employees," said executive director Georgia Hutchinson. "The situation at Providence Place is evolving and we are not commenting on specific cases or case numbers at this time." Saskatchewan reported only three new COVID-19 cases among people aged 80 and older on Wednesday, compared to 12 on Tuesday, bringing to cumulative number of cases in that age bracket to 246.It's unclear how many of the cases among aged seniors are active.
An 18-year-old Prince Albert woman accused of shooting and killing an 18-year-old man was released on bail. Lynessa Highway was arrested in October after a man was shot and killed Oct. 10, 2020, during an incident in the 1700 block of 14 Street West. Police say they were called to the residence at about 1 a.m. and when they arrived they found a man deceased. Police haven’t released the name of the victim. Highway was released from custody in October. She was scheduled to enter a plea in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Nov. 16 but the matter was adjourned to Dec. 16. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Town of Aylmer is asking for public feedback on their proposed official plan amendments, with the details explained through a virtual open house. The official plan is a statement of goals and policies, intended to guide future land use within the town to build sustainable communities and protect natural and agricultural resources. The Ontario Planning Act requires a review/update of the plan every five years. “It’s not a brand-new official plan, it’s just amending our existing one to fit with the current legislation,” explained Corporate Services Director Kale Brown during a virtual council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. The draft official plan lists proposed changes to housing access and attainability; active transportation; parks, open space and sustainability; cultural heritage; servicing, stormwater, and waste management; transportation, energy and utilities; and general “housekeeping” updates. For example, one amendment is the provision of traditional and non-traditional housing options “to support residents of all ages.” Another is a new policy to partner with infrastructure providers to increase access to electrical vehicle charging stations. A 13-minute video explaining the amendments is available on the town website. During the meeting, Councillor Tom Charlton asked, “Are you in pretty good shape as far as growth concerns – our lagoons can handle the development in Cottonwood [Hills] without any issues?” Mr. Brown said that these projects would be addressed separately through the budget process and through the strategic priorities of the operations and planning department. “Staff will always recommend that council plan accordingly for our growth,” said Mr. Brown. “It’s difficult to say exactly what capacity that we would have because you don’t know exactly what’s going to be built. “We think it’s going to be around 300 units, and that was set aside back when the plan of subdivision was approved.” Aylmer staff started the review process of the town’s official plan in 2019, with the help of WSP, a consulting firm. Citizens are encouraged to review and provide feedback on the proposed changes before the plan is brought back to council on Monday, Dec. 7.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The Bridgetown Litter Patrol, better known as Stubbert siblings Katie, Haes and Addison, have expanded their enterprises from treasure hunting and picking up litter on the beach to form what they call Beachcomber Crafts. The youngsters have turned their beach and outdoor gem finds into Christmas ornaments, art and crafts. They hope to sell the items to raise money for Hope for Wildlife. Hope for Wildlife is a charitable wildlife rehabilitation and education organization located in Seaforth, Nova Scotia. They have rescued, rehabilitated, and released more than 50,000 injured and orphaned wild animals representing more than 250 species since 1997. The organization is totally volunteer run. Hope Swinimer is at the helm of the organization and even has her own show Hope For Wildlife/TV. “I want to be just like Hope,” said Addison who is 11-years-old and passionate about animals. She has been watching Ms Swinimer’s show for the past two years. “I’m really trying to teach the kids to think about giving rather than receiving this Christmas season,” Denise Metcalf, the kid’s mom, said. “I was thinking, what are we already doing? What can we work with? I have a crafty mind so I thought let’s do crafts.” For the past few years when the family visited the beach Haes’s favourite activity has been picking up litter and treasure in his toy dump truck. This got all the kids cleaning and combing the beach for other treasures too. The family tends to take home pinecones, leaves and treasures from walks in the woods and other time spent outdoors. “We had all this material,” Ms Metcalf said pointing to a bucket of oldman’s beard tree bark and seashells. The kids decided they would get to work making ornaments. “The next step is selling the crafts,” Ms Metcalf said. To avoid the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to immunocompromised family members they can’t sell their creations at a craft fair this year. So Ms Metcalf and the Beachcomber Crafts crew are asking anyone interested in buying an ornament to call them at 902-3261385 or email email@example.com. All proceeds will go to Hope for Wildlife.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic