The Ravens TE hasn't scored since Week 5, and now gets a tough matchup in the Patriots tonight.
The Ravens TE hasn't scored since Week 5, and now gets a tough matchup in the Patriots tonight.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Discovery is joining the increasingly crowded streaming fray with its own reality-focused service Discovery Plus that will include shows from the Food Network, HGTV, TLC and its other networks. It launches Jan 4.The service will cost $5 a month with ads and $7 a month without ads. By comparison, the ad-free Disney Plus costs $7 a month and Netflix' most popular plan costs $14 a month.Each account will include up to five user profiles and support four concurrent streams. Discovery said the service will be available on “major platforms," connected TVs, web, mobile and tablets, but it didn't specify which services would carry it.Discovery CEO David Zaslav first announced the streaming service in late 2019, but did not provide details until now.Discovery has built a reality-TV empire with popular channels that feature reality programming, including the Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery and others. Hit shows have included TLC's “90-Day Fiance," HGTV's “Fixer-Upper" and Guy Fieri's “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food Network.The service will offer some originals like “90-Day Fiance” spinoff “90-Day Diaries” and “Long Island Medium” spinoff “Long Island Medium: There in Spirit.”Verizon customers will get a year free of the service, similar to the deal that Verizon did when Disney Plus launched in late 2019.Discovery Plus joins a slew of new streaming services started to challenge traditional TV providers and dominant streaming services like Hulu and Netflix over the past year, including Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max and Comcast’s Peacock service. CBS recently rebranded its CBS All Access service as Paramount Plus, relaunching in 2021.The service will role out in 25 countries in 2021 including Italy, Spain, U.K. and Ireland as well as India.The Associated Press
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room.Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on.Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.”Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.”There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center.“At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said.The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks.Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada's health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren't so sure. The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result. Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial. "It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure," he said. "And there's a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society." The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the COVID virus could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure. Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer. While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there's a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset. Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19. "If you're exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so (seven to 10 days) should be enough to tell whether you've got the virus," Tuite said. "But of course, that's assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection." The key to the CDC's new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that's in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early. A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won't still get sick. Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC's plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7. "It's impossible to do that," he said. "It's either 14 days of proper isolation, or it's seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large." Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results. Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn't meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event. He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn't been followed. Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent. "Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups," Sheppard said. "So if you don't do strict, single-person isolation, you don't actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group." Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period. A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can't afford to take a full two weeks off work. "It really comes down to having the means to do it," she said. "Can you survive for two weeks if you're not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people? "We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn't change whether it's for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it's for longer periods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Junior and senior high school students switched back to online learning after new provincial COVID restrictions kicked in Monday. The restrictions announced last Tuesday and in place until Jan. 11 have local school divisions scrambling to prepare for transitions. Elementary school students were to remain on site until the Christmas break starts Dec. 18. In-person learning is not set to return until Jan. 11. “We certainly had a bit of experience with online learning in the spring, but we want to do a better job this time around,” said Karl Germann, Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools (GPCSD) superintendent. “We’ve got a little more time to prepare and will ensure all our subjects are covered.” Peace Wapiti School Division (PWSD) said at-home learning will resume for all grades Jan. 4 to 8. “Given the information we have at this time conveyed to us by the Ministry of Education, the expectation is that all students who are enrolled in in-person classes will return to schools on Monday, Jan. 11,” said PWSD superintendent Bob Stewart. PWSD will use the website Google Classrooms as a learning platform, with paperwork packages also available to students who can’t access the Internet, according to the guidance to parents. For kindergarten to Grade 3, teachers are preparing work packages in advance of Christmas break, according to the guidance. The guidance states it’s expected students can complete their work in an average of one and a half to two hours per school day. For grades 4 to 6 in early January, it’s expected students will be able to complete their work in an average of two and a half to three hours per school day, according to PWSD. Teachers are expected to communicate with students using email and Google Meet, as well as to keep up regular contact with parents and guardians. PWSD is providing Chromebooks and other devices to students to facilitate at-home learning, said Angela Sears, communications officer. At Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools, Germann said schools will continue to use Google Classroom but now also has software called Hapara. Hapara can keep students’ assignments organized and streamlines students’ workflow, he said. “If assignments are emailed, it’s easy to lose track of them, so we’re trying to use software … to make sure the lessons are as interesting as being in school,” Germann said. GPCSD is aiming to keep learning interactive, with not only webcast lessons but also videos, virtual activities and even having physical activities like exercises, he said. “An email is just text, but we know people learn more when they have a chance to break into groups, to chat, to problem solve,” he said. GPCSD has “re-deployed” its Chromebooks to grades 7 to 12 students who don’t have the necessary technology at home, Germann said. He also called on parents to drive home the message to their children that the at-home learning is “not a holiday.” School break in GPCSD begins after Dec. 18 and ends Jan. 4, when at-home learning begins again. At Valhalla Community School, kindergarten to Grade 6 students will continue with in-person learning until winter break begins Dec. 17, according to a letter sent to parents. Grades 7 to 9 students will be using Google Classroom in the meantime, according to Valhalla Community School’s letter. Diploma exams will be optional, including August 2021 diplomas, according to the Alberta government.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
NEW YORK — National lawmakers introduced a joint resolution Wednesday aimed at striking language from the U.S. Constitution that enshrines a form of slavery in America’s foundational documents.The resolution, spearheaded and supported by Democratic members of the House and Senate, would amend the 13th Amendment’s ban on chattel enslavement to expressly prohibit involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime. As ratified, the original amendment has permitted exploitation of labour by convicted felons for over 155 years since the abolition of slavery.The 13th Amendment “continued the process of a white power class gravely mistreating Black Americans, creating generations of poverty, the breakup of families and this wave of mass incarceration that we still wrestle with today,” Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon told The Associated Press ahead of the resolution's introduction.A House version is led by outgoing Rep. William Lacy Clay, of St. Louis, who said the amendment “seeks to finish the job that President (Abraham) Lincoln started.”It would “eliminate the dehumanizing and discriminatory forced labour of prisoners for profit that has been used to drive the over-incarceration of African Americans since the end of the Civil War,” Clay said.In the Senate, the resolution has Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland signed on as co-sponsors. “This change to the 13th Amendment will finally, fully rid our nation of a form of legalized slavery,” Van Hollen said in an emailed statement.constitutional amendments are rare and require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures. Should the proposal fail to move out of committee in the remaining weeks of the current Congress, Merkley said he hoped to revive it next year.The effort has been endorsed by more than a dozen human rights and social justice organizations, including The Sentencing Project, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Color of Change.“It is long past time that Congress excise this language from the U.S. Constitution which should begin to put an end to the abusive practices derived from it,” said Laura Pitter, deputy director of the U.S. program at Human Rights Watch, which also endorsed the amendment.The proposed amendment comes nearly one month after voters in Nebraska and Utah approved initiatives amending their state constitutions to remove language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. In 2018, Colorado was among the first U.S. states to remove such language by ballot measure.Although nearly half of state constitutions do not mention human bondage or prison labour as punishment, just over 20 states still include such clauses in governing documents that date back to the 19th century abolition of slavery.In Merkley’s Oregon, voters in 2002 approved the elimination of constitutional language that prohibited Black Americans from living in the state unless they were enslaved.He said the movement toward a federal amendment is “kind of saying to the world, let’s not forget this big piece of injustice that’s sitting squarely in the middle of our Constitution, as we wrestle with criminal justice reform.”Many Americans will recognize modern-day prison labour as chain gangs deployed from prison facilities for agricultural and infrastructure work. The prevalence of prison labour has been largely accepted as a means for promoting rehabilitation, teaching trade skills and reducing idleness among prisoners.But the practice has a much darker history. Following the abolition of slavery, Southern states that lost the literal backbone of their economies began criminalizing formerly enslaved Black men and women for offences as petty as vagrancy or having unkempt children.This allowed legal re-enslavement of African Americans, who were no longer seen as sympathetic victims of inhumane bondage, said Michele Goodwin, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Irvine.“These people became criminals, and it became very difficult for many abolitionists to use the same kinds of emotional messaging about the humanity of these individuals,” Goodwin said.Today, incarcerated workers, many of them making pennies on the dollar, work in plants, manufacturing clothing, assembling furniture and even battling wildfires across the U.S., much of it to the benefit of large corporations, governments and communities where they’ve historically been unwelcome upon release.Researchers have estimated the minimum annual value of prison labour commodities at $2 billion, derived largely through a system of convict leasing that leaves these workers without the legal protections and benefits that Americans are otherwise entitled to.And while prison work is largely optional for the 2.2 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S., it’s a grave mistake to disassociate their labour from the original intent of the penal system, Goodwin said.“Your freedom has been taken away — that’s the punishment that society has assigned,” she said. “The punishment is not that you do slave work, that is unpaid labour or barely paid labour.”____Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.Aaron Morrison, The Associated Press
VIENNA — Austria will allow skiing to start on Dec. 24, but will limit the capacity of ski lifts and keep restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January, officials said Wednesday. It also will require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17 and are due to expire on Sunday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said a limited curfew that has applied around the clock will be eased, and from Monday will apply only between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.Schools will be reopened next week, except for older students, as will nonessential shops, museums, libraries and some other businesses. But restaurants will remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as will bars, and hotels will remain closed except to business travellers.Austria has been hard hit by the resurgence of coronavirus infections in Europe, though its infection rate has declined over recent weeks. It currently is recording 335 new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days, down from around 600 last month — but still more than twice as many as in neighbouring Germany, which is in a milder partial shutdown.Kurz said that progress over recent weeks, and the expectation of more before Christmas, allows “cautious” reopening steps. But he said the tourism and catering sectors won’t start reopening until Jan. 7.That will effectively mean that, over the holiday season, skiing is possible in most cases only on day trips for those Austrian residents who live fairly close to the Alps. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said there will be mask-wearing and distancing requirements, and the capacity of cable cars will be limited.Kurz said that allowing skiing for locals but keeping the catering sector closed is “absolutely justified.”“Skiing is a sport that takes place in the open air, an individual sport, so epidemiologically it must be assessed differently from catering, where we know that there can time and again be infections,” he said.Kurz added that he, as a resident of eastern Austria, won't benefit but “for a large part of our population it will then be possible to go skiing at least for the day.”France and Germany, which has closed its ski resorts, are pushing for similar measures to be taken in other European countries, like Italy and Spain, for the Christmas season. Ski resorts are already open in neighbouring Switzerland, which has allowed skiing.Kurz rejected suggestions that Austria's limited reopening was a response to pressure from abroad.“We decide according to our infection situation, and our expectation is that we can push down our infections very, very strongly by Christmas,” he said.Austria also plans tougher border controls and quarantine rules in an effort to dissuade people from travelling abroad over the Christmas period. Austrian residents' summer trips to see relatives in the western Balkans, in particular, were blamed as a significant source of the resurgence of infections this fall.The quarantine rules will be imposed by mid-December and will apply “if you're coming from a country that exceeds a certain limit of infections,” Kurz said. Authorities set the limit at 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, an infection rate which the vast majority of European countries currently surpass.The requirement will be for new arrivals to go into quarantine for 10 days, which they can cut short by taking a test after five days, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___Geir Moulson reported from Berlin.Geir Moulson And Philipp Jenne, The Associated Press
Renée Englot woke up in the night feeling nauseous, her mouth dry, head pounding. She was the first in her family to fall ill. Englot tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 15. Within three days, her husband, Curtis, and daughter, Sadie, 17, had also been diagnosed. Within nine days of Englot's diagnosis her eldest daughter, Georgia, 20, also contracted the disease. Like thousands of other Albertans who have been diagnosed and sent into confinement, the family's daily lives have been upended. "The reality of three people having and then one doesn't, it was so complicated to try to work through," Englot said in an interview from her home in Edmonton. "And the reality is that we were staggered, so it's a longer isolation period than 14 days. It was more complicated than we expected." 'A huge impact' Englot is urging other Albertans to take the virus seriously. She said her family has experienced mild symptoms but their time in isolation has been a frustrating ordeal. She said her family has struggled with the anxiety of being sick, the logistical challenges of quarantining from one another, and the stigma of contracting the virus. "We're lucky enough that we haven't required medical attention," Englot said Tuesday. "But it is still a huge impact. And 17 days later, it's still making its presence felt." Englot said she worries that other families will struggle with the challenges of isolation, and the ordeal of warning their close contacts that they could be infected. She said with limited contact tracing being done by provincial health officials, the onus is often on individuals to notify their close contacts and navigate isolation protocols. "I understand that we have to take some responsibility and help with it, that the system is very overwhelmed right now," she said. "But having sick people trying to read complicated instructions and reach out and follow people, it's not really a recipe for success." Englot said her diagnosis was frightening. Her results were sent via text message at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 15. "I got no sleep after that," she said. "The worry set in. You know, what will it mean for my family? Will they be OK? Who have I been in contact with? Who else might we have put at risk? And then how do we manage and keep isolated from each other?" The following morning, the rest of the family scheduled tests and started calling their short list of close contacts. The couple and their youngest daughter began quarantining in the master bedroom, their meals left at the door. For Georgia, it was a particularly stressful time. A student at the University of Alberta, she was juggling course work with the demands of three unwell family members unable to leave their rooms. By that weekend, the family switched places. The master bedroom was sanitized and Georgia moved in, in an attempt to protect her from extended interaction with her infected family members. Then, she began to feel unwell. Her third COVID test came back positive. "It was so weird, how am I supposed to stay safe now that my entire family has this?" she said. "I'm very frustrated. It's a bit like we took all of the precautions we could and still caught it, but there's nothing we can do about it." Georgia and her family, still suffering from flu-like symptoms, have a few more weeks of isolation ahead. "Being together is definitely a plus, but I'm still a bit worried, worried that if we leave isolation too early it might pass it on to people," she said. "We're definitely trying to take things slowly." It's not just numbers, it's people. And probably people you know. - Renee Englot Renée Englot said she still has no idea how they contracted the disease. She had no known close contacts who were sick and she and her family were following health guidelines, taking precautions. She said people who have tested positive need to speak up. She said assumptions that people who have become infected acted irresponsibly are dangerous. "We need to do more about saying, 'I have it,' so that people realize it's not just numbers, it's people. And probably people you know."
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
A recent ruling by the East Ferris Integrity Commissioner has left some residents wondering how much financial interest is required before a conflict must be declared. “What would make it significant?” asks Maggie Preston-Coles, referencing the findings of Integrity Commissioner David King last month. Preston-Coles asked King to investigate her allegation that the East Ferris Planning Advisory Committee chairman John O’Rourke should have declared a conflict on a subdivision application March 27, 2019. As King’s report notes, O’Rourke co-owns the Brownstone Kitchen and Bath in North Bay and does installations for the developer of the subdivision in question. The Brownstone lists the developer’s main business, Degagne Carpentry, as one of their “quality partners” and they are in a promotional photo together for a contest giveaway. King found that there was direct interest for O’Rourke but ruled that, because they are not in a financial partnership and Degagne’s customers can choose kitchen and baths from a variety of options, that it was “remote and insignificant.” King’s report noted that O’Rourke has been well involved in the community for three decades as a hockey coach, chairman of a parent-teachers’ association, and volunteer firefighter. “I have lived in East Ferris for over 30 years and would have to declare a conflict on approximately 85 per cent of all applications based on knowing the parties,” he said, as quoted by King in the report. “In fact, the whole committee would also have to declare based on this as well.” Preston-Coles, however, maintains that there’s a difference in knowing someone as a potential customer than actually doing past, present or future business with a residential subdivision developer. Related: East Ferris, LPAT testing teacher's patience Related: East Ferris planning chairman cleared of pecuniary interest allegations by integrity commissioner Related: Letter - East Ferris conducted robust public process in 25-lot subdivision development She said it’s surprising that King would agree there is a direct interest, a conflict, but then dismiss it as “insignificant, remote” without asking exactly how much business is transacted between them. Degagne’s Carpentry, she explains, has developed multiple subdivisions in East Ferris and has numerous individual residential lots listed for sale. King, she said, should have asked how many kitchens and bathrooms Brownstone has installed for Degagne over the years so it’s clear how much pecuniary interest he has or doesn’t have. Phil Koning, who has written several letters to council about public matters, has his own concerns about how East Ferris is handling the issue. Koning made his thoughts public by posting them on a Facebook page he created prior to the last municipal election in 2018, called Elected by You – East Ferris. He was reacting to a media release East Ferris circulated about news coverage about Preston-Coles’ fight against the subdivision and complaints to the Integrity Commissioner. “The municipal response to the report,” Koning wrote, “seemed to indicate the issue of conflict of interest for Mr. O’Rourke has been resolved. Unfortunately, I do not think that is the case.” Koning referenced negative feedback regarding development during a municipal survey in 2019. He said, “The only way to counter the growth of that attitude is to provide clear evidence of unbiased decisions and absence of any conflicts.” He said King’s report substantiated those concerns without quantifying the line municipal representatives must stay within. “This is where Mr. King’s report falls flat, in my view,” Koning wrote, “…it does nothing to dampen the controversy.” By stating that the pecuniary interest is “too remote or insignificant to influence behaviour,” Koning said King left a major question begging to be answered. “I would think the amount of business historically generated by the relationship would be a better indicator of its significance than the structure of it,” he said, referring to King’s assertion that it wasn’t a true partnership and not exclusive between them. Koning also felt King should have looked into the municipality’s boards and committee policy, developed by council, and not be limited by the Municipal Act. He said East Ferris advises members to declare a conflict to avoid the “appearance” of conflict, and it’s clear from King’s report that there was direct pecuniary interest. “There is no discussion of penalty in the policy, but certainly the fact that a municipality’s policy was not followed puts the entire process in jeopardy,” Koning said. The Integrity Commissioner’s report also noted that the planning advisory board doesn’t make final decisions only recommendations. He also said there’s no record of O’Rourke voting on the subdivision plan (a recorded vote wasn’t requested so the minutes don’t reflect who participated in the decision). Koning said the responsibility falls to council to ensure transparency and accountability for all its committees, agencies, boards, and commissions where East Ferris is represented. “Council members are the ones who should be seeking clarification of these apparent omissions in the Commissioner’s report since ultimately they will be held accountable,” he said. East Ferris Mayor Pauline Rochefort, through chief administrative officer/treasurer Jason Trottier, declined to comment when asked about the points raised by Preston-Coles and Koning. O’Rourke said he didn’t want to “stir the pot” by commenting and King didn’t respond to an email query sent Tuesday. Degagne Carpentry wasn’t asked for comment because nobody has alleged any wrong-doing or policy breach by the developer. King noted in his report that he still investigating Preston-Coles other complaint regarding the conduct of council. She said council had a duty to look into her concerns about O’Rourke’s business conflict when she raised it. And she said council and members of the municipal staff have made residents feel their presence and input unwelcome at the meetings. Preston-Coles has also approached the Ontario Ombudsman about the Integrity Commissioner’s investigation and report but feels it may not be worth her time and effort. She said the Ombudsman can only review the process King followed and not his ruling. Preston-Coles said she has enough on her plate preparing for a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal hearing she requested over council’s approval of the 25-lot subdivision plan. LPAT rescinded its acceptance of changes to her application this summer and recently asked East Ferris to put forward a motion to dismiss it entirely. Meanwhile, Preston-Coles is awaiting word about her complaint about lack of communication from the LPAT staffer assigned to her case, which is supposed to come before Friday. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
Dianne Dunn, 86, grew up in a music-loving family. She enjoyed going to operas, tried her hand at piano (though she says she’s not very good at it), and listened to the greats like Frank Sinatra. She believes in the power of music to help people grow. “That’s a good outlet in many ways, socially and physically, and just matures them,” she said. “It’s so beautiful to be able to know what music is about.” That’s why she volunteered to participate in McMaster University’s “Music, Health, and the Community” course which teaches students about music’s impact on the brain, with a focus on older adults. The placement course brings youth and seniors together through music. Previously, the health sciences course saw students work with local elementary school students to share music with residents in long-term care and retirement homes. But due to the pandemic, the course moved online this year and connected high school students and older adults virtually across Canada. The program wraps up its virtual go this week. McMaster students were divided into groups to facilitate Zoom sessions with up to three high school students and one or two older adult volunteers. Through 45-minute calls, they participated in ice breakers and activities connected to music. The program culminates in a virtual musical performance by the high school students, which Dunn attended Monday. “It was really so beautiful to see these young people playing this instrument, it meant so much,” said Dunn. The Mountain resident also learned more about what the kids are listening to — even though the music doesn’t always appeal to her. “It always amazes me that these young people know every word to every song that you hear on the radio or you see on TV and that’s terrific, but I can’t even understand those words,” she said. But Dunn added the students were open to her perspective. “I never once was made to feel that I was so much older than them and that my views were a little bit crazy,” she said. Chelsea Mackinnon, one of the course instructors, said the program teaches youth about working with older adults while also allowing the seniors to give back. “Our kids today are the first generation that will grow up where there is more older people than there are young people, so we feel it’s really important to normalize the aging process,” she said. The course is also intended to help build relationships across generations. “A lot of children, unless it’s their own family, have almost no experience spending time with older adults,” said Brad Haalboom, also a course instructor. “We find that retirement homes and long-term care homes are often ... cut off from society. We’re trying to bridge those gaps.” Mackinnon added there is a phenomenon called “generativity,” where as a person ages, they want to give back. “It’s providing this sense of purpose and meaning for the older adults who are participating, who can give advice, share meaningful moments, and feel like they’re actively contributing to society,” she said. Hannan Minhas, one of the McMaster facilitators who worked with Dunn, said music’s ability to inspire emotion allowed participants to connect on a more personal level. “Music is universal. Everyone likes some sort of music,” said the fifth-year student. Minhas added the sessions were something to “look forward to” especially since it wasn’t possible to see friends regularly this year. It also taught Minhas about the similarities between youth and older adults. “What surprised me is there were so many things we had in common,” Minhas said. “Even though we had different music tastes ... our values were similar.” The instructors are seeking new volunteers aged 65 and over to participate in the next semester. Those interested can email email@example.com.Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
MAPLE RIDGE – Officials with the Upper Canada District School Board announced that two cases of COVID-19 have been found at North Dundas District High School. The cases come less than a week after a case was diagnosed at Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore. The board did not identify if the cases were staff or students at the school, or if the cases were related to each other. Contact tracing by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit is underway and people identified who may have had close contact with the infected have been contacted. "The school and health unit are taking all necessary steps to prevent the further spread of the virus in the school and in the community," said UCDSB spokesperson April Scott-Clarke. "The school remains and operating on the regular daily schedule." No outbreak has been declared by the EOHU. A school is considered in an outbreak when two or more infected individuals whose cases are linked go to the same school. It is unknown the case at North Dundas is related to the one at Tagwi. That case, a student, was diagnosed on November 29th. This is the third new case of COVID-19 in North Dundas since Friday. As of December 2nd there are no active COVID-19 infections in South Dundas, and there have been fewer than five cases total. Only one school, a French-Catholic school in Casselman (Sainte-Euphémie) is currently considered in an outbreak. There are 130 active COVID-19 infections in the EOHU region, more than half are in Prescott-Russell. Since the pandemic began there have been 898 cases. Five people are currently hospitalized, none of those are in Intensive Care. Thirty-one people have died from the virus in the region.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
Après la publication de plus d’une vingtaine de livres portant sur le vin, Jacques Orhon, maître sommelier, s’est lancé dans un projet audacieux il y a trois ans : l’écriture de son premier roman, Les fruits de l’exil. Publié en octobre, cette « autofiction à saveur œnologique » raconte l’histoire de Stéphane et sa quête pour retrouver son père qui l'a quitté durant sa jeunesse. À travers des références, des périples et des rencontres, la passion du sommelier reste encore aussi présente et nous fait voyager dans notre pays, mais aussi en Europe. « Ce qu’il y a de merveilleux dans le vin, c’est tout ce qu’on apprend à côté ou derrière. Par l’intermédiaire du vin, j’ai pu faire des rencontres extraordinaires. C’est pourquoi j’ai tenu à ce que le grand-père du personnage principal soit masson. Au cours de l’histoire, il deviendra quelqu’un de très cultivé grâce au vin, qui lui permettra d’apprendre plein de choses en architecture, en culture, en littérature. Le vin va aussi sceller ce lien entre le petit-fils et son grand-père. Ils seront réunis et passeront à travers plusieurs épreuves grâce au vin. » L'auteur propose même une liste de vin pour accompagner la lecture ! Cliquez ici pour la consulter. Jacques Orhon est sommelier et fondateur de l’Association canadienne des sommeliers professionnels. Expert en dégustation et véritable globe-trotter du vin, il parcourt depuis plus de 40 ans les vignobles du monde. Ses ouvrages ont maintes fois été récompensés, notamment, Le vin snob, du prix en littérature de l’Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin. Il est arrivé au Québec à l’âge de 23 ans et s’est installé dans les Laurentides. Il habite dans sa maison à Sainte-Adèle depuis 1976. Le titre du livre est révélateur pour l’auteur qui y voit un peu le résumé de sa vie. « Quand on quitte son pays d’origine pour aller ailleurs, qu’on s’exile, on cueille ensuite les fruits de notre exil. Tout simplement parce qu’on va chercher une meilleure qualité de vie. Les fruits de l’exil représente donc bien l’histoire, mais correspond aussi à ma propre vie ! » Jacques Orhon s’est ainsi inspiré de sa vie, de ses rencontres et s’est amusé à faire interagir des personnages réels et inventés, comme cet échange entre Winston Churchill et un des personnages du livre. Même s’il n’a pas eu une enfance aussi difficile que celle de Stéphane, l’auteur souligne que certaines épreuves vécues par le personnage principal, ont réellement eu lieu dans sa vie et c’est ce qui a rendu l’écriture si émotionnelle pour le sommelier. Cette expérience a été un défi pour Jacques Orhon qui affirme n’avoir jamais autant travaillé sur un livre. « Je connaissais bien le fond, parce que je me suis inspiré de mes expériences, mais le style d’écriture m’était peu familier. C’était tellement nouveau pour moi et j’avais un sentiment d’imposture au début. Même que pendant plus d’une dizaine de mois, je n’en ai parlé à personne ! Je me demandais si j’avais vraiment les capacités d’écrire un roman dans son entièreté. » L’auteur s’est découvert une facilité, mais surtout un plaisir à concevoir les histoires et construire les dialogues. Pourquoi donc s’être lancé dans le style romancier de l’écriture ? C’est à la suite de plusieurs discussions avec des gens, des auteurs parfois, qui lui demandaient pourquoi n’écrivait-il pas un roman, lui qui a vécu tant de choses et qui aime raconter des histoires. « Un des éléments déclencheurs a été lorsqu’une romancière m’a dit qu’elle écrivait sur ma région d’origine. Elle m’a demandé comment c’était là-bas. Je lui ai répondu : “ Tu n’es jamais allée ? “ Elle m’a dit non. Je ne comprenais pas comment on peut écrire sur un endroit sans y avoir mis les pieds, sans avoir senti les odeurs, parler avec les gens, goûter à la nourriture ! Pour moi c’était important que les gens lisent et se sentent dans le lieu que je décris. » Et ça fonctionne bien. Le livre nous transporte ailleurs le temps de sa lecture. Les Fruits de l’Exil vient de gagner une première place, et représentera le Canada dans la catégorie Novels (Romans), en lice avec quatre autres pays, pour se mériter le Prix international remis par le Gourmand World Awards. Les résultats seront annoncés en juin prochain à Paris entre Le Louvre et le Jardin des Tuileries.Marie-Catherine Goudreau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
MONTREAL — Organizations representing doctors and nurses in Quebec say they're increasingly worried as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb heading into what is normally one of the busiest times of the year for the province's hospitals. “In a normal year, there's a surge of activity at the beginning of January,” Dr. Hoang Duong, the president of Quebec's association of internal medicine specialists, said in a phone interview. “The first wave, it’s left its scars,” he added. “Our staff, nurses especially, are very tired.” Many nurses are on sick leave, Duong said, leaving the health-care system short-staffed. “We have to divert staff to take care of COVID patients, which makes even less staff available,” he said. The deteriorating situation in the province's hospitals was cited Tuesday by Premier Francois Legault as a factor that could force him to cancel a plan to allow multi-household gatherings over Christmas. On Wednesday, as the province reported more than 1,500 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time since the pandemic began, deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault announced measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. As of Friday, stores will have to adhere to new limits on the number of people allowed inside or risk fines of up to $6,000. The province says enforcement, including ensuring proper distancing and the wearing of masks, will fall to mall owners and store owners. Guilbault cited images of packed shops and malls as the reason behind the decision to regulate capacity as the busy holiday shopping season begins. She said the measures were necessary as the province reported a record 1,514 new COVID-19 cases and 43 additional deaths linked to the virus. The number of people in Quebec hospitals with COVID-19 rose by 21 Wednesday for a total of 740, including 99 in intensive care. Nathalie Levesque, the vice-president of Quebec’s largest nurses union, said Quebec already faced a shortage of nurses. With the pandemic, thousands of nurses are currently on medical leave or can’t work for preventive reasons. Levesque said she’s “very, very concerned” about the coming weeks, a period when hospital emergency rooms often see higher numbers of patients with colds, flu and stomach infections. Hospital emergency rooms in Quebec were already frequently over capacity, she said. Last week, she said, nurses in the Montreal area were asked to volunteer to work in other parts of the province that have been particularly affected by the pandemic. In some regions, private seniors residences have asked public health authorities to provide them with nurses to assist with COVID-19 outbreaks. Levesque said she’s worried this will leave some health-care facilities without enough staff, adding that she hopes administrators are being careful when they agree to transfer staff. Duong, who works at a hospital diabetes clinic, said nurses he works with have transferred to a new department dedicated to COVID-19. “I understand that, because we do have to take care of COVID patients," he said. "But that also means that diabetic patients, are not going to get, at least for now, the care that they usually do." Quebec hospitals still haven't recovered from the almost total cancellation of non-emergency surgeries and medical imaging during the first wave of the pandemic, the province's Health Department confirmed Wednesday. "All hospitals in Quebec have been forced to delay surgeries," Robert Maranda, a department spokesman wrote in an email, adding that the waiting list is continuing to diminish. Dr. Matthew Oughton, who specializes in infectious diseases at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, said there's "little resilience" in Quebec's health-care system. As the number of hospitalizations in a region rise, it reduces flexibility and the ability to provide services, putting more pressure on other hospitals. Duong said he was relieved to hear Quebec Premier Francois Legault say Tuesday that the province is rethinking its plan to allow gatherings of up to 10 people for four days around Christmas. As a doctor, he said, he wants every precaution taken to prevent the spread of the virus, though he understands that people want to get together this time of year. "It's a hard choice to make," he said, adding that he believes public health authorities will make the right decision. Meanwhile, the Retail Council of Canada said it welcomed the province's new measures on store capacity, noting they were largely in line with its own recommendations to retailers. “We understand that the government must give itself the tools to intervene with certain less collaborative retailers," the council's Quebec representative Marc Fortin said in a statement. "The health and safety of employees and consumers remain the priority of our retailers." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin and Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Residents of a Lambton County township dealing with a massive outbreak of gypsy moth caterpillars will be left on their own to fight the tree-destroying critters. Lambton Shores, located along Lake Huron, won’t spray private properties to control the pests next summer but has agreed to take “control measures” on some municipal land. Council voted unanimously to support a contentious gypsy moth action plan Tuesday night, adding a new recommendation that funds be included in the 2021 budget to undertake spraying on municipal land adjacent to private properties. “Where the people are going to spray theirs, we'll spray ours,” said Coun. Jeff Wilcox, who proposed the added recommendation. “It’s a good first step.” Other approved recommendations include creating a webpage to advise residents of resources to tackle gypsy moths, a $10,000 mail-drop to create awareness and not objecting to any spraying on private property. The gypsy moth citizens' action group, a coalition of some 4,000 residents across 12 subdivisions, lambasted the plan, arguing it doesn’t go far enough to protect the region’s trees and environment and calling it a “do-nothing approach.” They were pushing for the municipality to take the lead on a targeted aerial spray, as has been done in other municipalities, such as Sarnia and Pelham, and parts of Toronto and Hamilton. Romayne Smith-Fullerton, a group spokesperson, said their option wasn’t considered and felt the report wasn’t fully discussed at council. “The appearance of (our group) being heard wasn’t even met,” she said. “How many people need to speak up?” Wilcox called the added recommendation a compromise, adding staff will need to monitor how well this approach works next year and adjust for any future outbreaks. “It’s a tough situation . . . I can see why some people would be upset. They have every right to be,” he said. “We’re at least trying to get something done, and at least council now has acknowledged that we are responsible for our property.” The gypsy moth report was originally sent to council Nov. 10, but was deferred until Dec. 1 to receive more public feedback. More than 300 pages of correspondence were submitted to council, most advocating for more municipal involvement in tackling the outbreak. Smith-Fullerton was denied a presentation request to council, with officials citing COVID-19 safety protocols. Lambton Shores’ procedure bylaw disallows public presentations at electronic meetings. Tuesday night, councillors and staff met in person in Thedford. A written delegation was accepted, but not read aloud at the meeting. “I was honestly disappointed that they couldn’t come and speak,” Wilcox said. “I’m a firm believer that we need to listen to the people. In a democracy, you may not get your way, but you need to get your say.” Wilcox said he's submitted a motion for the next council meeting to consider amending the procedure bylaw to allow some form of public delegations at future meetings. In the months leading up to council’s report, many neighbourhoods already had been planning to spray their properties with a bacterium — bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki, referred to as Btk — but said that was their fallback approach. “That is what we are going to have to do because we have no choice,” Smith-Fullerton said. Gypsy moths are an invasive species, the larvae of which can cause rapid defoliation. An environmental assessment on the extent of the damage the insects caused this year was never ordered by the municipality. The 2020 outbreaks were most severe in the Port Franks, Deer Run and Pinery Provincial Park areas of Lambton Shores, a region that’s home to some rare ecosystems, such as oak savanna and pine barren. Many residents said beyond destroying trees, the moth larvae devastated their quality of life this summer, with the sheer volume of caterpillars making it impossible to be outdoors. “It’s like head lice in a public school. It spreads like wildfire,” Smith-Fullerton said. “Why are we not caring about this as a community?” MaxMartin@postmedia.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPressMax Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is confirming that potato wart fungus has been found in soil from two fields on a farm in Queens County, Prince Edward Island.In an email to CBC News, CFIA said the potato wart was found on October 16, 2020, in soil that was being collected for routine export testing. It said there are approximately 20 hectares, in the two fields combined, on the farm where the fungus was found. The agency has not indicated where exactly the farm is located, other than specifying it was Queens County.Investigation continuesFollowing the detection, CFIA said it took immediate action to secure the farm and prevent potential spread. Potato wart poses no risk to humans or food safety, but it can be a serious disease for the infected potatoes, which become disfigured, making them unmarketable.It also prevents tuber production and can affect export markets.CFIA said potato wart can remain dormant in a field for more than 20 years. It is spread through the movement of infested tubers, soil and farm equipment.CFIA indicated it has sampled material from the fields affected to determine the possible sources of the fungus.Testing of the source fields that supplied the seed potatoes for the positive fields in 2020 has also been completed, and they are negative for potato wart. The agency said the testing of other samples continues, as does the investigation.CFIA said no seed potatoes from the 2020 harvest have been shipped from this farm, and it has prohibited movement of seed potatoes or soil from this farm to other locations.The CFIA has identified the fields where the potatoes produced in previous years were planted, and has conducted soil sampling there as well.Export suspendedIn a notice to producers in November, CFIA reported that "to address concerns raised by the United States, the export of seed potatoes originating from P.E.I. and destined to the United States has been suspended, as of Friday, November 20, 2020." It noted that this suspension does not apply to tablestock potatoes or potatoes for processing.CFIA said there have been no changes in inter-provincial movement of seed potatoes originating from P.E.I.The National Potato Council represents U.S. potato growers and supply chain partners.In response to the CFIA announcement, the council's CEO Kam Quarles released a statement about the situation on P.E.I."The National Potato Council supports CFIA's immediate action to stop all P.E.I. seed shipments into the United States and are working with our state potato organizations to inform U.S. growers who may be intending to source seed from P.E.I. for the upcoming year," the statement said. "We have been advised that no seed from the identified areas has been shipped to the United States in four years. However, we are working closely with USDA to monitor recipients of seed in years-past out of an abundance of caution."We are in communication with APHIS regarding CFIA's ongoing survey work to comprehensively determine the level of threat within Canada and are also urging CFIA to prohibit all domestic seed shipments out of P.E.I. to prevent spread within Canada until they can confirm no other farms have been jeopardized."CFIA said in its statement to CBC News that "the government of Canada will continue to work closely with the P.E.I. potato industry, the government of Prince Edward Island and the United States to resolve this trade disruption as quickly as possible."Other discoveriesIn 2000, potato wart shut down trade between P.E.I. and the United States, when it was first found on the Island. Since then, new protocols have been introduced for monitoring and controlling the spread of potato wart, and there have been no trade issues after subsequent discoveries of the fungus, including in 2012 and 2014.The border closure in 2000 cost P.E.I. potato farmers $22 million in sales.When reached for comment, the P.E.I. Potato Board referred all questions to CFIA.A spokesperson for the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Land said that because there is an ongoing investigation by CFIA, it won't be commenting on this case.According to the department, about 15 per cent of the potatoes grown on P.E.I. are used for seed, and about 80 per cent of that seed is used on Island farms.It said seed exports account for two per cent of P.E.I.'s international potato exports.The U.S. was the single biggest international buyer. In 2019, they bought $3.1 million worth of seed potatoes from P.E.I., out of $4.5 million exported.More from CBC P.E.I.
An owner of a New York City bar that was providing indoor service in defiance of coronavirus restrictions was arrested on Tuesday after a police sting operation. (Dec. 2)
ISLAMABAD — The U.S. envoy who brokered the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban said Wednesday the two sides have overcome a three-month impasse and agreed on rules and procedures for the negotiations.The development is significant as it means the warring sides are getting closer to actually starting to negotiate the issues that could end decades of fighting in Afghanistan and determine the country's post-war future. But first they must decide on the agenda for the negotiations, which is the next step.In a series of tweets, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said there was a signed document and urged both the Taliban and the government to get down to the business of negotiating a “political roadmap and a cease-fire.”The three-page document lays out the rules and procedures for the negotiations, which are taking place in Qatar where the Taliban have long maintained a political office.Afghans “now expect rapid progress on a political roadmap and a ceasefire. We understand their desire and we support them,” Khalilzad tweeted.A cease-fire, rights of women and minorities, and constitutional amendments are expected to top the agenda. But the list is likely to be long and contentious, with issues such as safety guarantees for thousands of Taliban fighters who disarm, as well as for disbanding the heavily armed militias loyal to Kabul warlords, many of them allied either with the government or opposition politicians.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Feb. 29 signed a Taliban-U.S. deal that paves the way for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, welcomed the agreement.“As negotiations on a political roadmap and permanent ceasefire begin, we will also work hard with all sides in pursuit of a serious reduction of violence,” he said.Khalilzad’s announcement was not unexpected — last month, the Taliban said the rules and procedures were settled and the U.S. said last week it was all but wrapped up. But then the Afghan government said it had concerns with the some of the words in the preamble that set off accusations that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was holding up the deal. His spokesman denied this.There were no details about the document, but Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said the two sides have appointed a committee to hammer out the agenda items.Since the Afghan-Taliban talks started in September, violence has spiked significantly. The Taliban have staged deadly attacks on Afghan forces while keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops. The attacks have drawn a mighty retaliation by the Afghan air force, backed by U.S. warplanes. International rights groups have warned both sides to avoid inflicting civilian casualties.In Washington, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military’s plan for reducing American troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 by mid-January has been approved by the acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller. Milley declined to discuss the plan beyond saying that the smaller U.S. force would operate from “a couple of larger bases,” along with several smaller ones, in order to continue its current missions of combatting extremist groups like al-Qaida and training and advising Afghan defence forces.Milley asserted that the U.S. has achieved “a modicum of success” in Afghanistan after more than 19 years of war, given that there has not been a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. Noting that President Donald Trump made the decision to reduce the U.S. force to 2,500, Milley said, “What comes after that, that will be up to a new administration; we’ll find that out on the 20th of January and beyond.”In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the breakthrough on the Afghan-Taliban talks, amid uncertainty over the alliance's future in Afghanistan and urged for rapid progress on cease-fire and establishing a political road map.“You can discuss whether it is a big or a small step, but the important thing is that it’s the first step,” Stoltenberg said, after chairing a videoconference of NATO foreign ministers. “It’s the first time actually that the Taliban and the Afghan government are able to sign a document agreeing on the framework, the modalities, for negotiations addressing a long-term, peaceful solution.”NATO has roughly 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, but under the U.S.-Taliban deal, all foreign troops would leave the country by May 1 if conditions allow. Stoltenberg has said that NATO faces a “difficult dilemma” over what to do.A decision on its future in Afghanistan, where NATO has led international security efforts since 2003 in the hope of keeping extremist groups at bay, is expected to be made in February after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.The Taliban today control or hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled their regime over sheltering al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden.Many Afghans, particularly in larger urban areas fear a return of their repressive regime that harshly punished those who defied their strict Islamic edicts. Unlike when they ruled, the Taliban now say they will allow girls to go to school and women to work and hold public office, though they will not allow a woman to become president or a chief justice of Afghanistan's Supreme Court.___Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Ken Guggenheim in Washington, Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press
Known Terror Squad gang member Kevin George Ackegan pleaded guilty in Prince Albert Provincial Court to weapons and drug-related charges avoiding a trial. Forty-year-old Ackegan was arrested by Prince Albert RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team during a traffic stop on Feb. 26, 2020. When police searched the vehicle they found two firearms, ammunition, a machete, a knife, bear spray, hydromorphone, methamphetamine, and Gabapentin pills. They also found U.S., Jamaican and Canadian currency. On Nov. 30 Ackegan changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. Before Ackegan’s trial, his lawyer Dale Blenner-Hassett, filed a Charter application asking the court to exclude the evidence seized during the traffic stop. Blenner-Hasset challenged whether the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that an offence was being committed. The court heard that the arresting police officer was working for the RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team that investigates gangs, guns and drugs. At about 8 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2020, the officer got a call from a source that told him Ackegan was in possession of guns and told him where he was in Prince Albert. The officer had used the source on eight previous occasions. The officer testified that the source has a criminal record. The court heard that the arresting officer also knew Ackegan. He had charged Ackegan previously in 2017 with breaching his parole by associating with known gang members and at the time of that arrest, Ackegan was a member of the street gang Terror Squad. On Feb. 26, 2020, when the officer received the information about Ackegan, he conducted surveillance at a residence on the 800 block of 14 Street West in Prince Albert. Another officer testified that he watched the residence for about three hours and at about 11:20 a.m. Ackegan came out of the residence and started loading several bags into the back seat and trunk of a vehicle. A woman was driving the vehicle and Ackegan was the passenger. Both officers testified that in their experience, guns could be concealed in bags. The officer who took the call from the informant testified that he conducted a CPIC inquiry on Ackegan, which confirmed he was prohibited from possessing firearms. The woman and Ackegan drove a few blocks before stopping at another residence. At this point the officers made a traffic stop and arrested Ackegan. One of the officers drove the vehicle to the police station where it was searched and police found guns in the bags, ammunition, drugs, and a cell phone. Crown Prosecutor Andreanne Dube argued that the search of the vehicle was justified as a search incidental to the lawful arrest of Ackegan. During cross-examination, Blenner-Hassett asked one of the officers the identity of the confidential informant. Judge H. M. Harradence, however, said the informant’s identity shouldn’t be disclosed and the court must ensure confidentiality is maintained. Judge Harradence dismissed the defence’s Charter application to have the evidence thrown out. He said he accepted that the arresting officer had information from a source that the accused was in possession of guns and that the information was current and firsthand because the source actually saw what was reported. Judge Harradence said there was some indication of past credibility of information from the source, three hours of surveillance that corroborated Ackegan was at the residence and was loading bags into the trunk and back seat of the vehicle. Judge Harradence also said that police testified they have investigative experience that guns have been concealed in bags and the arresting officer had personal knowledge of Ackegan’s history with illegal firearms and association with known gang members. “I find a number of factors persuasive of a strong connection between Ackegan and the illegal possession of firearms,” said Judge Harradence. Judge Harradence ruled that Ackegan’s rights weren’t violated. “In these circumstances, I find that the arrest and search of this accused and the vehicle was reasonable and lawful.” Ackegan will be sentenced in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Feb. 2. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist