In an effort to speed up what has been a sluggish rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, New York's governor threatened Monday to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they don't finish their first round of inoculations by the end of the week. (Jan. 4)
In an effort to speed up what has been a sluggish rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, New York's governor threatened Monday to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they don't finish their first round of inoculations by the end of the week. (Jan. 4)
Any members of the U.S. Congress who helped a crowd of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the Capitol should face criminal prosecution, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday. The unprecedented Jan. 6 attack on the seat of Congress left five dead and led the House to impeach Trump a second time, for a fiery speech that day in which he urged thousands of his followers to fight Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Democratic Representative Mikie Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, has accused some Republican lawmakers of helping Trump supporters, saying she saw colleagues leading groups on "reconnaissance" tours on Jan. 5.
It was New Brunswick's largest urban centre as recently as 2003, but Greater Saint John is now 17 per cent smaller than Greater Moncton and is losing ground to Fredericton for the No. 2 spot. New internal New Brunswick population estimates released Thursday by Statistics Canada offer insight into two decades of the cities' shifting positions and changing fortunes. It shows a struggling Saint John, but one that has begun growing again and could ultimately fend off being overtaken by the capital city, according to Sébastien Lavoie, an analyst with Statistics Canada's Centre for Demography. Lavoie said he can't say when, or if, Fredericton is expected to outstrip Saint John. "We're not there yet, but that's kind of been the trend in the last few years," said Lavoie, who cautioned future growth among all communities could follow any number of paths. "Population changes in New Brunswick are quite dynamic, so it doesn't mean that's where these things will stay." Fredericton has steadily gained on Saint John since 2001 Greater Saint John had 39,000 more people than Fredericton in July 2001, but the capital has gained ground every year since and as of July, the difference between them was down to 20,748 people. Much of Fredericton's gains happened between 2011 and 2015, when Saint John began shrinking. That reversed itself in 2016. Greater Saint John began growing again and, in a new development for the area, 80 per cent of that expansion has been inside Saint John city limits rather than outside in nearby bedroom communities. Saint John Mayor Don Darling said that alone makes him optimistic for the future. "The first step is to stop the shrinking and to turn that around, so I think that is really positive news that has happened," Darling said. "We've been talking about, focused on and working on population growth with purpose, and this is a validation of some of that hard work." Moncton's tightening grip on the top spot Whichever community eventually prevails as New Brunswick's second-largest, there is no disputing Moncton's place at the top. After several years of impressive economic growth, the metropolitan Moncton area – which includes Dieppe and Riverview and the nearby villages of Memramcook, Hillsborough, Salisbury and Dorchester – grew 1.8 per cent to 158,695 over the 12 months ending July 1, 2020. That placed it as Canada's seventh-fastest growing municipality, ahead of Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and 24 other metropolitan areas across the country. It was the second year in a row population growth in Moncton has been inside the top 10 in Canada with little sign of that changing. Greater Moncton Realtors du Grand Moncton recently reported 256 property sales by its members in December, 72 more than last December. "No previous December had even cracked 200 sales," association president Parise Cormier said in a statement about the area's booming real estate market. Last month, Moncton Industrial Development Ltd. (MID), which set a record for industrial park lot sales to companies in 2019, told CBC News it doubled that amount in 2020 and may have to open a fifth location. Given the overall economy, "it's quite phenomenal that we were able to pull that off," MID general manager Pierre Dupuis said. Greater Moncton first surpassed greater Saint John as New Brunswick's largest urban area in 2004. It is now larger by nearly 27,000 people, and its economy bubbling has widened that gap annually. Over the last five years, Moncton's population has grown by more than 12,300, compared to just over 8,100 in Fredericton and just under 3,500 in Saint John. By contrast, the rest of the province shrank by 1,300 over the same time period. Lavoie said most population growth in New Brunswick is driven by immigration and most new comers are choosing to settle in the larger urban areas. "The three biggest cities are more attractive to immigrants, especially Moncton and Fredericton," he said. That has been reshaping the makeup of New Brunswick. Numbers show 51.4 per cent of residents now live inside one of the three main urban areas, up from 45 per cent in 2001. NEW BRUNSWICK'S CHANGING POPULATION AREA 2020 POP. CHANGE FROM 2015 Moncton 158,695 +12,328 Fredericton 111,024 +8,128 Saint John 131,772 +3,490 Other 379,985 -1,312 *Source: Statistics Canada. Population figures are all from July 1.
MADRID — While most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders, authorities in Spain insist the new coronavirus variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for a sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up. The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020, the last time Spain could claim victory over the stubborn rising curve of cases. Infection rates ebbed in October but never completely flattened the surge from summer. Cases started climbing again before the end of the year. In the past month, 14-day rates more than doubled, from 188 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 10 to 522 per 100,000 on Thursday. Nearly 39,000 new cases were reported Wednesday and over 35,000 on Thursday, some of the highest daily increases to date. The surge is again threatening intensive care unit capacity and burdening exhausted medical workers. Some facilities have already suspended elective surgery, and the eastern city of Valencia has reopened a makeshift hospital used last year. Unlike Portugal, which is going on a month-long lockdown Friday and doubling fines for those who don't wear masks, officials in Spain insist it will be enough to take short, highly localized measures that restrict social gatherings without affecting the whole economy. “We know what we have to do and we are doing it,” Health Minster Salvador Illa told a news conference Wednesday, ruling out a national home confinement order and advocating for "measures that were a success during the second wave.” Fernando Simón, the government's top virus expert, has blamed the recent increase in cases on Christmas and New Year's celebrations. “The new variant, even if it has an impact, it will be a marginal one, at least in our country," he said this week. But many independent experts disagree and say Spain has no capacity to conduct the widespread sequencing of samples to detect how the new variants have spread, and that 88 confirmed and nearly 200 suspected cases that officials say have largely been imported from the U.K. are underestimating the real impact. Dr. Rafael Bengoa, former director of Healthcare Systems at the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press the government should immediately enact "a strict but short” four-week confinement. “Trying to do as little as possible so as not to affect the economy or for political reasons doesn’t get us where we need to be,” said Bengoa, who also oversaw a deep reform in the Basque regional health system. The situation in Spain contrasts starkly with other European countries that have also shown similar sharp leaps in cases, increasingly more of them blamed on the more contagious variant first detected in the U.K. The Netherlands, which has been locked down for a month, has seen the pace of infections starting to drop. But with 2% to 5% of new COVID-19 cases from the new variant, the country is from Friday requiring air passengers from the U.K., Ireland and South Africa to provide not only a negative PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure but also a rapid antigen test result from immediately before takeoff. France, where a recent study of 100,000 positive tests yielded about 1% of infections with the variant, is imposing curfews as early as 6 p.m., and Health Minister Oliver Veran has not ruled out a stay-at-home order if the situation worsens. Existing lockdowns or the prospect of mandatory confinement have not been questioned or turned into a political issue in other European countries. Ireland instituted a complete lockdown after widespread infections were found to be tied to the new variant. Italy has a colour-coded system that activates a strict lockdown at its highest — or red — level, although no areas are currently at that stage. In the U.K., scientific evidence of the new variant has silenced some critics of restrictions and spurred Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose measures that are strict but slightly milder than the nation's first lockdown. People have been ordered to stay home except for limited essential trips and exercise, and schools have been closed except for some exceptions. In Germany, where the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has recently shot up to 26 per 100,000 people, many high-ranking officials are arguing that the existing strict confinement order needs to be toughened and extended beyond its current end-of-January expiration. Nordic countries have rejected full-on mandatory lockdowns, instead instituting tight limitations on gatherings and certain activities. Residents have been asked to follow specific recommendations to limit the spread of the virus. In Sweden, the issue is both legal and political, as no law exists that would allow the government to restrict the population's mobility. While urging residents to refrain from going to the gym or the library, Swedish Prime Stefan Lofven said last month, “we don’t believe in a total lockdown,” before adding, “We are following our strategy.” Policymakers in Spain seem to be on a similar approach, although it remains to be seen if the results will prove them wrong. On Thursday, they insisted that vaccinations will soon reach “cruising speed.” But Bengoa, the former WHO expert, said vaccinations won't fix the problem immediately. “Trying to live with the virus and with these data for months is to live with very high mortality and with the possibility that new variants are created,” he said, adding that the new variant of the virus widely identified in the U.K. could make the original version start to seem like "a good one.” Dr. Salvador Macip, a researcher with the University of Leicester and the Open University of Catalonia, says the combination of spiraling infections and the uncertainty over the new variants should be enough for a more restrictive approach, but that pandemic fatigue is making such decisions more difficult for countries like Spain, with polarized politics. “People are fed up with making sacrifices that take us nowhere because they see that they will have to repeat them," Macip said. —- Associated Press writers across Europe contributed. —- Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Aritz Parra, The Associated Press
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities sacked a local police chief and 11 other policemen for failing to protect a Hindu temple that was set on fire and demolished last month by a mob led by hundreds of supporters of a radical Islamist party, police said Friday. The 12 policemen were fired over “acts of cowardice" and “negligence" for not trying to stop the mob when it attacked the temple, with some having fled the scene. Another 48 policemen were given various punishments following a probe into the attack, the police statement said. The punishments come amid government assurances to the Hindu community that the temple in Karak, a town in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, would be rebuilt. Hours after the Dec. 30 attack, authorities arrested about 100 people on charges of participating or provoking the mob to demolish the temple. The detainees included supporters of the radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, who are currently facing trials on various charges. The attack took place after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate the temple. Although Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan, there have been other attacks on Hindu temples in recent years. Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain’s government. The Associated Press
SAO PAULO — Hospital staff and relatives of COVID-19 patients rushed to provide facilities with oxygen tanks just flown into the Amazon rainforest's biggest city as doctors chose which patients would breathe amid dwindling stocks and an effort to airlift some of them to other states. As heavy rain poured down Thursday in Manaus, Rafael Pereira carried a small tank containing five cubic meters of oxygen for his mother-in-law at the 28 de Agosto hospital. He didn’t want to be interviewed because of his stress, but he looked relieved when the tank — which he said would aid her breathing for an additional two hours — was taken inside. Health workers at the Hospital Universitario Getulio Vargas took empty cylinders to its oxygen provider in the hopes there would be some to retrieve. Usually, the provider picks up the cylinders and brings newly refilled ones. Despairing patients in overloaded hospitals waited as oxygen arrived to save some, but came too late for others. At least one of the cemeteries of Manaus, a city of 2.2 million people, had mourners lining up to enter and bury their dead. Brazilian artists, soccer clubs and politicians used their platforms to cry for help. Brazil's health minister, Eduardo Pazuello, said Thursday that a second plane with medical supplies — including oxygen — would arrive Friday, and four others later. The local government’s oxygen provider, multinational White Martins, said in a statement that it was considering diverting some of its supply from neighbouring Venezuela. It wasn't immediately clear whether this would be sufficient to address the spiraling crisis. “Yes, there is a collapse in the health care system in Manaus. The line for beds is growing by a lot — we have 480 people waiting now,” Pazuello said in a broadcast on social media. “We are starting to remove patients with less serious (conditions) to reduce the impact.” Hospitals in Manaus admitted few new COVID-19 patients Thursday, suggesting many will suffer from the disease at home, and some may die. The strain prompted Amazonas state's government to say it would transport 235 patients who depend on oxygen but aren't in intensive care units to five other states and the federal capital, Brasilia. “I want to thank those governors who are giving us their hand in a human gesture,” Amazonas Gov. Wilson Lima said at a news conference Thursday. "All of the world looks at us when there is a problem as the Earth’s lungs," he said, alluding to a common description of the Amazon. "Now we are asking for help. Our people need this oxygen.” Governors and mayors throughout the country offered help amid a flood of social media videos in which distraught relatives of COVID-19 patients in Manaus begged for people to buy them oxygen. Federal prosecutors in the city, however, asked a local judge to pressure President Jair Bolsonaro's administration to step up its support. The prosecutors said later in the day that the main air force plane in the region for oxygen supply transportation “needs repair, which brought a halt to the emergency influx.” The air force said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press that it was deploying two planes to transport patients, starting Friday. The health ministry didn't respond to a request for comment about transportation plans. The U.S Embassy in Brasilia confirmed it had received a request from the federal government to support the initiative, without providing details. Local authorities recently called on the federal government to reinforce Manaus' stock of oxygen. The city’s 14-day death toll is approaching the peak of last year’s first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, according to official data. In that first peak, Manaus consumed a maximum 30,000 cubic meters (about 1 million cubic feet) of oxygen per day, and now the need has more than doubled to nearly 70,000 cubic meters, according to White Martins. “Due to the strong impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumption of oxygen in the city increased exponentially over the last few days in comparison with a volume that was already extremely high," White Martins said in an emailed statement to AP. "Demand is much higher than anything predictable and ... continues to grow significantly.” The company added that Manaus’ remote location presents challenging logistics, requiring additional stocks to be transported by boat and by plane.. The governor also decreed more health restrictions, including the suspension of public transportation and establishing a curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. The new measures challenged protesters who on Thursday carried Brazilian flags through the streets. Lima, once seen as an ally of Bolsonaro, has faced criticism from supporters of the conservative president for imposing new restrictions aimed at stemming the virus' recent surge. Bolsonaro has downplayed risks of the disease, saying the economic fallout of the pandemic will kill more than the virus. His son Eduardo, a lawmaker who chairs the international relations committee in Brazil's lower house, was one of the many conservatives who egged on their supporters in December to challenge social distancing and disobey stay at home orders. Park of the Tribes, a community of more than 2,500 Indigenous people on the outskirts of Manaus, went more than two months without any resident showing COVID-19 symptoms. In the past week, 29 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, said Vanda Ortega, a volunteer nurse in the community. Two went to urgent care units, but no one yet has required hospitalization. “We’re really very worried,” said Ortega, who belongs to the Witoto ethnicity. “It’s chaos here in Manaus. There isn’t oxygen for anyone.” ___ Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Sao Paulo and AP writer David Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro. AP photographer Edmar Barros contributed to this report from Manaus. Mauricio Savarese And David Biller, The Associated Press
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Flying rocks. Burning tires. Acrid smoke. Deadly gunfire. Haiti braced for a fresh round of widespread protests starting Friday, with opposition leaders demanding that President Jovenel Moïse step down next month, worried he is amassing too much power as he enters his second year of rule by decree. “The priority right now is to put in place another economic, social and political system,” André Michel, of the opposition coalition Democratic and Popular Sector, said by phone. “It is clear that Moïse is hanging on to power.” Opposition leaders are demanding Moïse’s resignation and legislative elections to restart a Parliament dissolved a year ago. They claim that Moïse’s five-year term is legally ending — that it began when former President Michel Martelly's term expired in February 2016. But Moïse maintains his term began when he actually took office in early 2017, an inauguration delayed by a chaotic election process that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a year-long gap. Haiti's international backers have echoed some of the opposition’s concerns, calling for parliamentary elections as soon as possible. They were originally scheduled for October 2019 but were delayed by political gridlock and protests that paralyzed much of the country, forcing schools, businesses and several government offices to close for weeks at a time. Some in the international community also condemned several of Moïse's decrees. One of those limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and had accused Moïse and other officials of embezzlement and fraud involving a Venezuelan program which provided cheap oil. Moïse and others have rejected those accusations. Moïse also decreed that acts such as robbery, arson and blocking public roads — a common ploy during protests — would be classed as terrorism and subject to heavy penalties. He also created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president. The Core Group, which includes officials from the United Nations, U.S., Canada and France, questioned those moves. “The decree creating the National Intelligence Agency gives the agents of this institution quasi-immunity, thus opening up the possibility of abuse," the group said in a recent statement. “These two presidential decrees, issued in areas that fall within the competence of a Parliament, do not seem to conform to certain fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law, and the civil and political rights of citizens.” Moïse has dismissed such concerns and vowed to move forward at his own pace. In a New Year’s tweet, he called 2021 “a very important year for the future of the country.” He has called for a constitutional referendum in April followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in September, with runoffs scheduled for November. “There is no doubt elections will happen,” Foreign Minister Claude Joseph told The Associated Press, rejecting calls that Moïse step down in February. “Haiti cannot afford another transition. We need to let democracy work the way it should.” Joseph said Moïse remains open to dialogue and is ready to meet anytime with opposition leaders to solve the political stalemate. He also said the constitutional referendum won't give Moïse more power but said changes are needed to the 1987 document. “It is a source of instability. It does not have checks and balances. It gives extraordinary power to the Parliament that abuses this power over and over,” Joseph said. “It’s not the president’s own personal project. It’s a national project.” While officials haven't released details of the referendum, one of the members of the consulting committee, Louis Naud Pierre, told radio station Magik9 last week that proposals include creating a unicameral Parliament to replace the current Senate and Chamber of Deputies, extending parliamentary terms and giving Haitians who live abroad more power. The referendum and flurry of decrees are frustrating many Haitians, including Rose-Ducast Dupont, a mother of three who sells perfumes on the sidewalks of Delmas, a neighbourhood in the capital. “The political problems in my country have been dragging on for too long,” she said. “They are never able to find a solution for the nation. ... We are the ones suffering.” The nation of more than 11 million people has grown increasingly unstable under Moïse, who received more than 50% of the vote but with only 21% voter turnout. Haiti is still trying to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016. Its economic, political and social woes have deepened, with gang violence resurging, inflation spiraling and food and fuel becoming more scarce at times in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $2 a day. “I don’t have a life,” said Jean-Marc François, who wants Moïse gone. “I don’t have any savings. I have three kids. I have to survive day by day with no guarantee that I’ll come home with bread to put on the table.” Some days he works in construction; others he does yardwork or disposes of garbage or moves boxes at warehouses, which sometimes pays 500 gourdes ($7) a day. François said he won't take part in the “circus act” of voting in the referendum or elections. “We’re talking about voting for a new president? A new constitution? Deputies and senators? They’re all going to be the same,” he said. “This is a country of corruption.” Moïse has faced numerous calls for resignation since taking office, with protests roiling Haiti since late 2017. The demonstrations have been fueled largely by demands for better living conditions and anger over crime, corruption allegations and price increases after the government ended fuel subsidies. The most violent protests occurred in 2019, with dozens killed, and some worry about even more violence as the opposition steps up its demands that Moïse resign amid fears that elections will be delayed once more. “Can the current status quo continue for another year?” said Jake Johnston, senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “Moïse can announce an electoral calendar ... but what signs are there that that’s going to actually happen?” ___ Associated Press writer Evens Sanon reported this story in Port-au-Prince and AP writer Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Evens Sanon And DáNica Coto, The Associated Press
A towering stainless steel monolith set up along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta comes with a message. The three-metre-tall structure, which reflects its surroundings, is one of many that have been found around the world in recent months. Monoliths have been discovered on a California trail, a Utah desert and at sites across Canada. Many have popped up without explanation, but the woman who built the one in southern Alberta says she wanted to draw attention to the threats the area is facing as the province moves to open a vast stretch of the mountains to open-pit coal mining. "This land holds the bones and dreams of our ancestors. This soil remembers the thunder of buffalo hooves and ... still fosters wild grasses. These mountain-fed waters are the lifeblood of southern Alberta," Elizabeth Williams wrote in an Instagram post on her wildstonestories page earlier this month. "They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat," she wrote. "The shiny beacon is not the focal point, but the land, which it reflects." Williams, who couldn't work as a massage therapist during COVID-19 restrictions, said she's been watching some of the provincial government's recent decisions. "I felt compelled to take action," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. Williams is most concerned about the potential for mining along the eastern slopes and the reallocation of water rights in the area. "It's staggering to me so few Albertans are aware that this is happening," she said. She wanted to do something to inspire others to pay attention and take action. Similar concerns were raised this week by Alberta country singer Corb Lund, who criticized the plan for an area that contains the headwaters for freshwater on which millions depend. Coal mining can release selenium, a highly toxic element already poisoning watersheds downstream of coal mines in British Columbia. Paul Brandt, another country music star from Alberta, added his voice to protest the coal mines Thursday. Williams, who hopes her monolith adds to the growing conversation in Alberta, said she built it after talking to an artist, ordering the stainless steel and borrowing a welding shop. She installed it with the help of volunteers after getting permission from private landowners to put it on their property. "I thought, 'If I make this to last, if I make this extra beautiful and I get it on private land, it can stay and it can become a beacon for the curious.'" The monolith, which was installed in early January, has come with challenges. Williams broke her hand as she and some volunteers were installing it on a windy day where the Oldman River meets Highway 22, known as the Cowboy Trail. And her creation was vandalized by a man who pulled his big truck over at a pullout along the highway and tried to take the monolith apart. "I have it all on camera," said Williams, who noted people are keeping a close eye on the area. Others have expressed intrigue and interest after spotting it on the landscape. "It looked a little bit startling to see it where it hadn't been before," said Kevin van Tighem, a conservationist and author who owns property in southern Alberta. "It's really beautiful. It's a real work of art. "It's really striking how it reflects so much of the landscape and by doing that moves us into thinking about reflecting on the landscape." He said he hopes it draws attention to the natural beauty of the eastern slopes, which he believes are under serious threat as companies start exploring for coal. "Things are happening out of sight and out of mind," said van Tighem. "This thing stands up like a giant reflective beacon that says we can't leave these things out of sight and out of mind. "We have to reflect on who we are and where we're going. We're on the cusp here. This is leading us to permanent change and permanent loss. "We cannot not be paying attention." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021 Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
Paul Allen, the executive director of Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board, says most people don't understand the role the regulator can play in helping solve problems with Nova Scotia Power. This week, CBC Nova Scotia revealed there was an unplanned power outage somewhere in the province every day in 2020. People have told CBC since then they don't know where to turn for help if they are in an area with repeated outages. Allen said a customer must take a complaint to Nova Scotia Power first. But, if the problem continues, they can turn to the board for help. "If a customer feels that they're being discriminated against in terms of not being provided service or maybe they feel they've been charged incorrect power rates, the board has the ability to give some direction to the utility to fix those sorts of things," he said. The UARB will also accept complaints about chronic outages. But some things are out of the regulator's control. "The board is not able to deal with billing disputes where it's just a matter of the customer doesn't have the ability to pay." In 2016, changes to the Public Utilities Act gave the UARB the ability to set performance standards with the utility. The performance standards examine three key areas: reliability, which covers routine outages. responses to adverse weather, which includes the length of outages after a major weather event. customer service, which includes general communications. When Nova Scotia Power failed to meet performance standards in 2019, the UARB made it pay a $250,000 penalty. It has the power to issue penalties up to $1 million. The results of the 2020 performance standards are expected next month. Nova Scotia Power told CBC in late December that it was on track to meet them. The standards also examine the bottom five feeder lines. "If a feeder is on that list for two consecutive years, it's labelled as a problem circuit," Allen said. "Any problem circuits that is among the worst five for the third consecutive year is labelled a chronic circuit. It can attract some of those administrative penalties." Wide mandate There are limits to the board's powers. "The board does have some other powers to direct the company to do things or stop doing things depending on the nature of what the complaint is," said Allen. "The board can only do what is allowed under the Public Utilities Act. We can't go beyond that." Allen urged anyone with questions to call the UARB, and not be intimidated by the process. The UARB has mandates covering everything from payday loans to the bridge commission. But, out of everything, the most calls it gets isn't electricity, but another issue that affects nearly all Nova Scotians. "Our No. 1 area for calls is gasoline and diesel oil prices," said Allen. MORE TOP STORIES MORE TOP STORIES
LOS ANGELES — Peter Mark Richman, a character actor who appeared in hundreds of television episodes and had recurring roles on “Three's Company" and “Beverly Hills 90210," has died. He was 93. Richman died Thursday at his home in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles of natural causes, publicist Harlan Boll announced. Born in Philadelphia, Richman was a pharmacist but turned to acting. He joined the Actors Studio and in 1953 he starred on stage in the play “End as a Man." He appeared on Broadway in “A Hatful of Rain” and “Masquerade.” He also portrayed Jerry in more than 400 New York performances of Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story," Boll said. His moves included 1958's “The Black Orchid” with Sophia Loren, “The Strange One,” “The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear” and “Friday the 13th, Part 8.” Bu he was best known for his TV work, appearing in more than 500 episodes of various shows over a decades-long career, from “Bonanza” and “The Fugitive" to ”Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He starred as lawyer Nick Cain in the short-lived 1960's NBC series “Cain’s Hundred” and had recurring roles as an attorney on the 1980s hit “Dynasty” and the 1970's show “Longstreet." In the 1970s and 1980s he was Suzanne Somers’ father, the Rev. Luther Snow, on ”Three’s Company,” appeared as Lawrence Carson in a few episodes of “Beverly Hills, 90210" and was C.C. Capwell for nearly 30 episodes of “Santa Barbara." Richman also wrote plays, including the acclaimed “4 Faces,” a novel, short stories and an autobiography. In 1990, he received the Silver Medallion from the Motion Picture & Television Fund for outstanding humanitarian achievement. Richman is survived by his wife, Helen, five children and six grandchildren. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia — A pigeon that Australia declared a biosecurity risk has received a reprieve after a U.S. bird organization declared its identifying leg band was fake. The band suggested the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 was a racing pigeon that had left the U.S. state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) away, two months earlier. On that basis, Australian authorities on Thursday said they considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it. But Deone Roberts, sport development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said on Friday the band was fake. The band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the United States which is not the bird pictured in Australia, she said. “The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Roberts said. “They do not need to kill him.” Australia's Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, agreed that the pigeon dubbed Joe, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, was wearing a “fraudulent copy” leg band. “Following an investigation, the department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not present a biosecurity risk,” it said in a statement. The department said it will take no further action. Acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack had earlier said there would be no mercy if the pigeon was from the United States. “If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck Joe, either fly home or face the consequences,” McCormack said. Martin Foley, health minister for Victoria state where Joe is living, had called for the federal government to spare the bird even if it posed a disease risk. “I would urge the Commonwealth’s quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion,” Foley said. Andy Meddick, a Victorian lawmaker for the minor Animal Justice Party, called for a “pigeon pardon for Joe.” “Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk,” Meddick said. Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird, who found the emaciated bird in his backyard, was surprised by the change of nationality but pleased that the bird he named Joe would not be destroyed. “I thought this is just a feel-good story and now you guys want to put this pigeon away and I thought it’s not on, you know, you can’t do that, there has got to be other options,” Celli-Bird said of the threat to euthanize. Celli-Bird had contacted the American Racing Pigeon Union to find the bird’s owner based on the number on the leg band. The bands have both a number and a symbol, but Celli-Bird didn’t remember the symbol and said he can no longer catch the bird since it has recovered from its initial weakness. The bird with the genuine leg band had disappeared from a 560-kilometre (350-mile) race in Oregon on Oct. 29, Crooked River Challenge owner Lucas Cramer said. That bird did not have a racing record that would make it valuable enough to steal its identity, he said. “That bird didn’t finish the race series, it didn’t make any money and so its worthless, really,” Cramer said. He said it was possible a pigeon could cross the Pacific on a ship from Oregon to Australia. “In reality, it could potentially happen, but this isn’t the same pigeon. It’s not even a racing pigeon,” Cramer said. The bird spends every day in the backyard, sometimes with a native dove on a pergola. “I might have to change him to Aussie Joe, but he’s just the same pigeon,” Celli-Bird said. Lars Scott, a carer at Pigeon Rescue Melbourne, a bird welfare group, said pigeons with American leg bans were not uncommon around the city. A number of Melbourne breeders bought them online and used them for their own record keeping, Scott said. Australian quarantine authorities are notoriously strict. In 2015, the government threatened to euthanize two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
The Dutch government is resigning over its response to a child welfare benefits scandal, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday. View on euronews
GAZA, Palestinian Territory — With a chainsaw in his car, Ahmed Abdelal tours the Gaza Strip, asking around for people wanting to cut down trees, regrow orchards or make way for construction. One of the few remaining woodcutters in the Palestinian territory, Abdelal, who learned woodcutting from his father, is struggling to scratch out a living in a traditional job that is less and less in demand. Job opportunities are rare in this Palestinian enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, and so are green spaces. Rapid population growth — more than 2 million people are crammed in a 360-square-kilometre (140 square mile) strip — comes at the expense of arable land. Israel maintains a 300-meter (330-yard) wide buffer zone along its frontier with Gaza. At the the height of the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, its military bulldozers levelled large swaths of citrus groves in the border areas. In more recent years, Gaza has suffered under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant Hamas group seized control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from upgrading its weapons. The Palestinian Authority, or PA, holds sway in the West Bank. The blockade and the rift between Hamas and the PA have weakened Gaza's energy sector. As a result, residents are put on a rotating electricity schedule of eight-hours on, followed by an eight-hour blackout. Here, woodcutters like Abdelal find an opportunity. The unreliability of the power supply drives up the demand for wood in winter. So Abdelal and other Gaza woodcutters look to expand their clientele from the traditional buyers of logs, residents of rural areas who bake bread on woodfire ovens and tribal councils who keep the Arabic coffee pots warm near a woodfire. Among Abdelal’s favourite clients are small kitchens that cook food in ovens dug under the ground. In these pits, the wood is burnt to coal before chicken, lamb shoulders and shanks are tossed in and left to cook for hours. The cooking technique is getting popular. The olive and citrus wood logs also go to a burning site in east Gaza City where they are turned into charcoal. Abu Ashraf al-Hattab, who has been a charcoal burner for decades, says the business has declined in recent years because the local supplies of wood have shrunk and people have turned to cheaper, imported charcoal. In his gift shop, Muhanad Ahmed wanted to offer environmentally friendly items and drop the excessive amount of plastic that's seen on the shelves of other shops, he says. So, he buys the logs and shapes them into wood sculptures. Abdelal says that as long as he can find customers, he will continue. “Cutting the wood is an old profession for us, and despite development and modernity, it still exists,” he said. Wafa Shurafa And Fares Akram, The Associated Press
In the week since a mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol, the House has impeached President Donald Trump. Dozens of people have been arrested nationwide over participation in the riots. Politicians and business leaders are loudly condemning the violence. Twitter and other social media sites have banned Trump and thousands of other accounts. Yet amid all the noise, a Capitol Police officer hailed as a hero for confronting the insurrectionists and leading them away from Senate chambers has remained silent. Officer Eugene Goodman isn't saying whether he thinks he saved the Senate, as many of the millions who've viewed the video believe. In fact, Goodman isn't saying anything at all publicly — not to reporters, not on social media. And he's asked the force's union, bosses, family and friends to help him maintain his privacy and not publicly discuss the events of Jan. 6. But the video speaks volumes. Goodman, a Black man facing an overwhelmingly white mob, is the only officer seen for a full minute of the footage, shot by reporter Igor Bobic of HuffPost. Goodman stands in front of the rioters, walks backward until he reaches a collapsible baton lying on the floor, and picks it up. “Back up ... back it up!” he yells, keeping his eyes on the mob. He turns and runs upstairs, waving the baton, as the group follows. Goodman calls “second floor” into his radio, then takes a brief glance and half a step to his left at the top of the stairs. Two chairs sit on either side of an entrance to the U.S. Senate chamber, just a few steps away. Dozens of rioters are right in front of him, no other officers to be seen. Goodman shoves one of the rioters and walks to the right, away from the chamber. The mob follows, and Goodman leads them to a room where other officers wait. The time on the video is 2:14 p.m. The Senate stopped its proceedings to begin clearing the chamber at 2:15 p.m. Five died in the riots, including one of Goodman's fellow officers. Legislative offices were trashed, gallows were built outside, and a video showed a woman shot dead while journalists, Congress members and staff hid. The images of Goodman spread via social media and news sites, a foil to the bloody and messy scenes elsewhere at the Capitol. People called him brave, impressive, effective. They dissected the video, guessing about his strategy and decision-making. But not all the commentary has been kind. Backing up and running away is weak, some said. It was a staged photo op, others alleged. Goodman has been silent. He didn't respond to text messages and phone calls The Associated Press left at potential numbers for him. The head of the Capitol Police union said only that Goodman didn't want to talk to reporters. Spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the Capitol Police isn't giving interviews or discussing Goodman’s actions. Public records shed a little light on Goodman. He served in the Army as an infantryman for more than four years, leaving with the rank of sergeant in December 2006 after a year in Iraq. He has worked for the Capitol Police since at least mid-2009. But that's about it. Goodman's friends, family, buddies he would have known from the military, members of Congress and force colleagues all begged off interviews about him. They say he wants to maintain his privacy. Online and in much of the public eye, Goodman is a hero. Plenty of people, famous and not, suggested he has earned the Medal of Honor. A Republican and two Democrats in the U.S. House introduced a bill Thursday to give him the Congressional Gold Medal. “If not for the quick, decisive, and heroic actions from Officer Goodman, the tragedy of last week’s insurrection could have multiplied in magnitude to levels never before seen in American history," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri. But the representatives didn't respond to messages asking if they met with Goodman. In a tweet promoting the bill, they show not a formal photo of Goodman in uniform, but an image of him facing the mob — his eyes wide open, mask down below his nose, baton behind him. ___ AP news researcher Randy Herschaft contributed. ___ Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press
Nearly a year into the pandemic, the prospect of yet more time at home can be daunting. Perhaps the one benefit of the COVID-19 era is that many of Ottawa's cultural institutions and businesses have adapted to the new normal, and are offering a range of entertainment online. From concerts to virtual tours to online classes, there's something to help just about everyone stave off cabin fever. Here are a few ways to explore the outside world without leaving home. Concerts and talks coming up Jan. 14 to Jan. 28, on demand, GCTC and Tarragon Theatre present It's All True Listen to an audio play at your leisure. The GCTC has partnered with Toronto's Tarragon Theatre to bring listeners a series of Canadian plays produced for your ears only. Jason Sherman's It's All True goes liveon Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $10 or $7 for subscribers. Jan. 15, 5 p.m. The NAC presents Geneviève & Alain Listen to folk group Geneviève & Alain, two singer-songwriters from the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Alain Barbeau plays guitar and Geneviève Roberge-Bouchard plays piano. The event is streaming live for free on Facebook. Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m. In conversation with Desmond Cole The Arthur Kroeger College Educational Students' Society and Carleton University's School of Public Policy and Administration are hosting author Desmond Cole. He's speaking about his 2020 book The Skin We're In, which looks at systemic racism in Canada and includes events that happened in Ottawa. The event will stream live on Youtube. Jan. 19, 7 p.m. One eRead Canada: An evening with Kim Thúy The Ottawa Public Library is hosting a reading with author Kim Thúy from her new book Vi. The free event includes live questions and answers. Jan. 20, 7 p.m. Preservation of the 180 Wellington building mosaic Hear from conservator Kelly Caldwell about the history and preservation of the mosaic at 180 Wellington St. Created in 1927 by American muralist Barry Faulkner, the mural consists of one million coloured glass tiles. The lecture will be held on Zoom. Classes and other ideas The City of Ottawa is now offering a range of recreational activities online during the pandemic. The city's Virtual Arts and Recreation Centre provides cooking classes, workout classes, visual arts classes and much more. Registration for online classes began Jan. 14. In Quebec, Muraï Céramique is offering online pottery classes this month. A four-week course costs $350 plus tax, and includes delivery of clay and tools to your home. A few weeks later, staff will pick up pieces to be fired and glazed. The course starts Jan. 25. For something different to do with friends or family, Escape Manor is offering two virtual escape rooms to play online. The games costs $30 for a group of up to four players. Museums, galleries, etc. Just about every major cultural institution in Ottawa is offering some kind of online content these days. Take part in mini science courses and family-friendly activities from the Canadian Museum of Nature, or listen to curators at the National Gallery of Canada discuss some of the most famous works in the collection. Many of the museums also offer virtual tours where visitors can use their mouse to navigate the rooms and halls. That includes the Diefenbunker, where visitors lucky enough to own a pair of VR goggles can explore the Cold War-era museum as if they were there. If you're hosting a virtual event and wish to let us know about it, please let us know.
WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armour trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead. The formation, known as “Ranger File,” is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building — instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did. An Associated Press review of public records, social media posts and videos shows at least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named. In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armour and technology such as two-way radio headsets that were similar to those of the very police they were confronting. Experts in homegrown extremism have warned for years about efforts by far-right militants and white-supremacist groups to radicalize and recruit people with military and law enforcement training, and they say the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead saw some of their worst fears realized. “ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a U.S. military officer,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.” Among the most prominent to emerge is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and decorated combat veteran from Texas who was arrested after he was photographed wearing a helmet and body armour on the floor of the Senate, holding a pair of zip-tie handcuffs. Another Air Force veteran from San Diego was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to leap through a barricade near the House chamber. A retired Navy SEAL, among the most elite special warfare operators in the military, posted a Facebook video about travelling from his Ohio home to the rally and seemingly approving of the invasion of "our building, our house.” Two police officers from a small Virginia town, both of them former infantrymen, were arrested by the FBI after posting a selfie of themselves inside the Capitol, one flashing his middle finger at the camera. Also under scrutiny is an active-duty psychological warfare captain from North Carolina who organized three busloads of people who headed to Washington for the “Save America” rally in support the president’s false claim that the November election was stolen from him. Judges across the country have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud. While the Pentagon declined to provide an estimate for how many other active-duty military personnel are under investigation, the military’s top leaders were concerned enough ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration that they issued a highly unusual warning to all service members this week that the right to free speech gives no one the right to commit violence. The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police was forced to resign following the breach and several officers have been suspended pending the outcome of investigations into their conduct, including one who posed for a selfie with a rioter and another who was seen wearing one of the Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” caps. The AP’s review of hundreds of videos and photos from the insurrectionist riot shows scores of people mixed in the crowd who were wearing military-style gear, including helmets, body armour, rucksacks and two-way radios. Dozens carried canisters of bear spray, baseball bats, hockey sticks and pro-Trump flags attached to stout poles later used to bash police officers. A close examination of the group marching up the steps to help breach the Capitol shows they wore military-style patches that read “MILITIA” and “OATHKEEPER.” Others were wearing patches and insignias representing far-right militant groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and various self-styled state militias. The Oath Keepers, which claims to count thousands of current and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members, have become fixtures at protests and counter-protests across the country, often heavily armed with semi-automatic carbines and tactical shotguns. Stewart Rhodes, an Army veteran who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 as a reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama, had been saying for weeks before the Capitol riot that his group was preparing for a civil war and was “armed, prepared to go in if the president calls us up.” Adam Newbold, the retired Navy SEAL from Lisbon, Ohio, whose more than two-decade military career includes multiple combat awards for valour, said in a Jan. 5 Facebook video, “We are just very prepared, very capable and very skilled patriots ready for a fight.” He later posted a since-deleted follow-up video after the riot saying he was “proud” of the assault. Newbold, 45, did not respond to multiple messages from the AP but in an interview with the Task & Purpose website he denied ever going inside the Capitol. He added that because of the fallout from the videos he has resigned from a program that helps prepare potential SEAL applicants. Army commanders at Fort Bragg in North Carolina are investigating the possible involvement of Capt. Emily Rainey, the 30-year-old psychological operations officer and Afghanistan war veteran who told the AP she travelled with 100 others to Washington to “stand against election fraud.” She insisted she acted within Army regulations and that no one in her group entered the Capitol or broke the law. “I was a private citizen and doing everything right and within my rights,” Rainey said. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. of Texas was released to home confinement Thursday after a prosecutor alleged the former fighter pilot had zip-tie handcuffs on the Senate floor because he planned to take hostages. “He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said. “His prior experience and training make him all the more dangerous.” More than 110 people have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol riot so far, ranging from curfew violations to serious federal felonies related to theft and weapons possession. Brian Harrell, who served as the assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security until last year, said it is “obviously problematic” when “extremist bad actors” have military and law enforcement backgrounds. “Many have specialized training, some have seen combat, and nearly all have been fed disinformation and propaganda from illegitimate sources,” Harrell said. “They are fueled by conspiracy theories, feel as if something is being stolen from them, and they are not interested in debate. This is a powder keg cocktail waiting to blow.” The FBI is warning of the potential for more bloodshed. In an internal bulletin issued Sunday, the bureau warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, police departments in such major cities as New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and Philadelphia announced they were investigating whether members of their agencies participated in the Capitol riot. The Philadelphia area's transit authority is also investigating whether seven of its police officers who attended Trump’s rally in Washington broke any laws. A Texas sheriff announced last week that he had reported one of his lieutenants to the FBI after she posted photos of herself on social media with a crowd outside the Capitol. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Lt. Roxanne Mathai, a 46-year-old jailer, had the right to attend the rally but he’s investigating whether she may have broken the law. One of the posts Mathai shared was a photo that appeared to be taken Jan. 6 from among the mass of Trump supporters outside the Capitol, captioned: “Not gonna lie. ... aside from my kids, this was, indeed, the best day of my life. And it’s not over yet.” A lawyer for Mathai, a mother and longtime San Antonio resident, said she attended the Trump rally but never entered the Capitol. In Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo said an 18-year veteran of the department suspected of joining the mob that breached the Capitol was placed on leave and will face a disciplinary hearing. “There is no excuse for criminal activity, especially from a police officer,” Acevedo said. “I can’t tell you the anger I feel at the thought of a police officer, and other police officers, thinking they get to storm the Capitol.” ___ Bleiberg reported from Dallas and LaPorta from in Delray Beach, Florida. Robert Burns and Mike Balsamo in Washington; Jim Mustian, Michael R. Sisak and Thalia Beaty in New York; Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland; Juan A. Lozano in Houston; Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia; Martha Bellisle in Seattle; and Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed. ___ Follow Associated Press Investigative Reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck; Jake Bleiberg at http://twitter.com/JZBleiberg; and James LaPorta at http://twitter.com/JimLaPorta ___ Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org Michael Biesecker, Jake Bleiberg And James Laporta, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Pooria Behrouzy was honoured to be offered a full-time job as a COVID-19 vaccine support worker at Trillium Health Partners last month. The international student in health informatics at George Brown College was already on staff at the Mississauga, Ont., hospital network after working on an IT project, and he was eager to contribute to the rollout of the vaccine that’s brought hope during the pandemic’s increasingly grim second wave. But a roadblock stopped Behrouzy from accepting the full-time shifts offered: as an international student, he can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session or he risks losing his study permit and legal status in Canada. Behrouzy, who is now working part time at the hospital, said it’s disappointing that he can’t contribute fully. “I can work and I can help against this COVID ... why (am I) not able to do that?” said the 42-year-old, who is from Iran. “It's very sad that I'm not fully available.” His colleague Passang Yugyel Tenzin had a similar experience. Tenzin, a 26-year-old graduate of health informatics currently studying in another IT program, was working on the same project at the hospital as Behrouzy before he received an offer to work on the vaccine support team as well. The non-medical role involves providing scheduling support to ensure all available doses are administered and other administrative tasks that keep the process running smoothly. Tenzin, who is from Bhutan, signed on for the job in a part-time capacity but noted that the 20-hour limit would make scheduling 12-hour shifts a challenge. Working full time would be beneficial for his own education and for the health-care system that's struggling to keep up with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and other important services, he said. “We can learn more and on top of that, we can contribute more to this situation currently, because they actually need a lot of people,” Tenzin said in a phone interview. “We can contribute a lot if we were given the opportunity to work full time.” Ottawa temporarily lifted the restriction on international students’ work hours last April, saying the change was aimed at easing the staffing crunch in health care and other essential workplaces. The measure expired on Aug. 31, 2020, and has not been reinstated. The press secretary for the office of the federal immigration minister said the government is grateful for the role newcomers have played in Canada's pandemic response. "As more students returned to regular studies in the fall of 2020, the work hour restriction was reinstated at the request of provinces, territories and educational institutions, due to concerns about students working full time while also completing a full course load," Alexander Cohen said in a statement. Behrouzy said he doesn't understand why the limit on work hours was reinstated while the pandemic is still ongoing and hospitals need more support than ever. “I'm available to work and all the schools, the universities and colleges are remote now, so why not extend this exception again?” he said. “It’s really disappointing.” Trillium Health Partners said in a statement that it's continually assessing staffing needs at its COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and international students currently work on its vaccine team in administrative functions. "THP supports and accommodates international students within the federal government requirements," it said. Sarom Rho, who leads the Migrant Students United campaign with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the pandemic is an opportunity to ditch the restriction on work hours that advocates have long fought to remove. Rho said she’s spoken with students in other health-care fields like nursing who are also eager to work more but are hindered by the limit on their hours. "This kind of unfairness is totally based on status," Rho said. "The fact that they are migrants is what is causing the limitation and the restrictions of how they can work, where they can work and when they can work, and how that work will be valued." Migrant Students United also wants Ottawa to make work hours done in essential jobs count towards permanent residency applications. Rho said it's time to consider how work done by people on study permits is valued in Canada. "Respecting the labour is fundamental," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The province's police watchdog says it is investigating after a Toronto police officer shot a 31-year-old man.The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened in the city's east end at about 8 p.m. Thursday. It says officers located a vehicle of interest in the parking lot of Church's Chicken, a restaurant in the area.The SIU says that when officers tried to block in the vehicle, it rammed into their cruisers.An officer discharged his firearm, the SIU says, which struck the 31-year-old man, sending him to hospital.Two officers were also taken to hospital for treatment of injuries. The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials that may have resulted in death, serious injury and sexual assault.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canadians are reporting feeling frustrated, anxious and depressed after months of COVID-19 restrictions. Registered psychologist Christine Purdon answers audience questions about the mental health impacts of the pandemic.