WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Canadian service workers are faring even worse during the pandemic than previously thought with hundreds of thousands of those who still have jobs not actually putting in any hours at all, and a grim holiday season could add to the pain. Canada has so far clawed back nearly 80% of the jobs lost to the COVID-19 crisis, official data shows. There are 391,300 Canadians employed but working zero hours because of the pandemic, data provided to Reuters shows, and another 42,100 working less than half their usual hours.
A study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) shows there is a five-per-cent mortality rate for Ontario people who often visit hospital Emergency Rooms for alcohol-related reasons in a one-year period. The study also said more intervention would be helpful in offsetting the mortality rate of those people, who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds. The authors of the study were Jennifer Hulme, MD MPH; Hasan Sheikh, MD; Edward Xie, MD MSc; Evgenia Gatov, MPH; Chenthila Nagamuthu, MPH; Paul Kurdyak, MD PhD; from the University of Toronto, the Institute for Mental Health Policy and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The study was carried out between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2016 in Ontario for persons who made two or more ER visits in one year for alcohol-related mental or behavioural disorders. More than 25,000 Ontario residents were narrowed down to the cohort of those who had two or more hospital ER visits in a one year. Of that number, the study found a mortality rate of 5.4 per cent. This ranged from 4.7 per cent for those with two visits up to 8.8 per cent for those with five or more visits. "Death due to external causes (e.g., suicide, accidents) was most common," said the study. Despite the percentage findings, the authors concluded that "little is known about the risk of death among people who visit emergency departments frequently for alcohol-related reasons, including whether mortality risk increases with increasing frequency of visits." The authors said their primary objective was to describe socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of this high-risk group and examine the level of mortality, premature mortality and causes of death. In the formal interpretation of their study, the authors said the highest mortality rate involved mostly urban and mostly low income people who had frequent hospital visits for alcohol issues. The study also said alcohol is a leading driver of morbidity and mortality around the world. In 2016, the study said there were an estimated 3 million deaths — five per cent of all global deaths — attributable to alcohol consumption. Alcohol also plays a significant factor in the morbidity of younger people, said the study. "The 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study showed that alcohol was the single greatest risk factor for ill health worldwide among people aged 15-49 years. In Canada, hospital admissions for alcohol-attributable conditions out-number those for myocardial infarction. Alcohol-related harms cost Canadians about $14.6 billion annually, with $3.3 billion in health care costs." The study also said that alcohol-related hospital visits are increasing with acute intoxication and withdrawal disorders becoming common reasons for ER visits. "Data from the United States and Canada, furthermore, suggest that alcohol-related emergency department visits have increased in recent years. For example, a study in Ontario showed that, between 2003 and 2016, the age-standardized rates of alcohol-attributable emergency department visits increased by 86.5 per cent in women and 53.2 per cent in men," said the report. It also stated that those who visit the ER for alcohol reasons have high levels of comorbidity (having two or more diseases or medical conditions at the same time) and social disadvantage and represent a readily identifiable patient population "A systematic review suggested that screening and brief intervention for alcohol-related problems in the emergency department is a promising approach for reducing problematic alcohol consumption," said the study.Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
Brighton council has taken its first look at the proposed 2021 operating budget for the municipality. A committee of council met Nov. 23 for round one of discussions about the first draft of the budget, which puts operating expenditures at $14,679,201. The proposed operating budget at this point is $290 lower than the 2020 operating budget. Earlier in the fall, council asked staff to attempt freezing the operating budget for 2021. Meanwhile, Brighton recently arrived at a proposed capital budget for 2021. If passed by council, the municipality’s 2021 budget for capital expenditures, such as maintaining roads and buildings, is $1,492,856. A public presentation of the proposed overall 2021 budget will occur in the new year prior to the budget bylaw being before council. Taxpayers in Brighton pay three levies on their property taxes – a municipal levy, a county levy and an education levy. During the budget process each year, staff provides council with the estimated increase/decrease to the county and education tax levies so that taxpayers can better understand the impact of the total tax increase, not just the municipal levy. Those figures aren’t available yet and the committee of the whole won’t meet again until the new year to further discuss the operating aspects of the overall Brighton budget. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
Les résidents et l’administration municipale de Baie-Johan-Beetz s’opposent fermement au projet d’exploitation par l’entreprise Dexter d’une ancienne carrière située à moins de 300 mètres du village. « Si ça a lieu, c’est vraiment annoncer une lente agonie du village. C’est la mort du village, point barre », déclare austèrement le maire de la municipalité, Martin Côté. La filiale québécoise de Dexter a déposé, au mois de mai, une demande de bail exclusif (BEX) pour l’exploitation de substances minérales de surface pour rouvrir un site de 10,4 hectares situé à moins de 300 mètres de l’entrée est du village et bordé par la rivière Piashti. Dexter compte extraire et traiter au plus 80 000 m3 d’agrégats par année pendant 25 ans, soit de 2020 à 2045. Pour M. Côté, la réouverture et l’exploitation du site vont à l’encontre de la vision de développement de la municipalité, axée sur la revitalisation et la réalisation d’un projet de plantation d’argousier dans l’ancienne carrière. « Avec le contrat de 50 000 $ qu’on a donné à une firme de marketing territorial, c’est tout simplement incompatible. » Le bruit, les vibrations, la poussière et les odeurs causés par les possibles travaux dans la carrière viendraient sabrer les efforts de la municipalité pour attirer de nouveaux résidents, estime M. Côté. « Tout le monde qui va vouloir venir s’installer ici, qui vont voir ça à côté, qui vont savoir qu’à tout moment, ça peut partir pendant un ou deux mois, qu’il va y avoir de la poussière dans le village, du son, de la puanteur… S’ils ont le choix entre Baie-Johan-Beetz et un autre village, ils vont aller ailleurs », déplore-t-il. Le tourisme serait aussi mis à mal par la relance de la carrière, croit-il. « Imaginons que nous sommes au mois de juillet au petit camping du village. Il est 6 h 30, le touriste se réveille avec le soleil dans sa tente, se prépare un café. Il sort dehors et à 7 h 01, il commence à entendre des “bang bang bang” et ça ne lâche pas jusqu’à 19-20 h… Qu’est-ce que les gens vont faire? Ils vont partir d’ici. » La réouverture de la carrière compromettrait aussi le projet touristique d’envergure Les Caraïbes Nordiques des propriétaires de la Pourvoirie Baie-Johan-Beetz, Guy Bellefleur et Vincent Pérès, qui affirment avoir acquis le bâtiment patrimonial précisément pour cette raison. « Cette carrière nous occasionnerait de sérieux préjudices financiers, économiques, professionnels et moraux », écrivent-ils dans une missive adressée au ministre de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN), Jonatan Julien. Le chef du conseil de bande de Nutashkuan, Réal Tettaut, a également fait part de son opposition au projet d’extraction minérale, en soulignant l’utilisation par la communauté innue du territoire pour des activités de chasse, de pêche et de cueillette. Dexter veut rassurer les résidents Le directeur régional de Dexter, Maxime Bourassa, dit entendre les préoccupations des Baie-Johannais. « On est au courant que ça ne fait pas l’unanimité [au village] et que si on décide d’aller de l’avant avec cette carrière-là, lorsque va venir le temps de l’exploiter, ça va être problématique parce qu’il n’y a pas eu d’acceptabilité publique », exprime-t-il. Il indique que même si l’entreprise obtient le BEX, rien ne dit que la carrière sera exploitée à chaque année pendant la durée du bail puisque tout dépend des contrats qui seront octroyés par le ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ). « Je vais vous donner un exemple : j’ai un BEX à Sept-Îles depuis environ cinq ans et on n’a pas encore exploité la carrière », signale-t-il. À son avis, la réouverture de la carrière aurait aussi des retombées économiques pour la petite municipalité. « C’est certain que si on va faire des travaux là, durant les périodes d’exploitation, les travailleurs n’auront pas le choix d’être hébergés, de manger, d’utiliser les services ou des endroits pour acheter du gaz près de la carrière. » M. Bourassa précise par ailleurs que les dynamitages n’auraient lieu « qu’aux quatre ou cinq ans » et que des mesures d’atténuation seraient mises en place, notamment l’arrosage des minéraux concassés pour éviter les nuages de poussière. « Ça ne veut pas dire que parce que [les résidents] ont vécu quelque chose qui a été fait tout croche dans le passé que ça va se répéter. Nous, on s’efforce de respecter les normes en vigueur et on ne veut pas faire de l’exploitation ou des travaux tout croches », assure-t-il. La crainte de revivre les événements de 2008 Le souvenir amer de la première utilisation du site par l’entreprise Sintra en 2008 n’est pas étranger au refus catégorique du conseil municipal à l’idée que Dexter exploite la carrière. « On avait donné notre accord parce que c’était dans le cadre d’un projet spécifique du MTQ pour 70 000 m3 », explique Martin Côté, en évoquant le besoin d’alors de la municipalité pour du gravier et de l’asphalte. L’expérience avait été tout sauf rose. « À cause de la poussière et du bruit, des senteurs, du non-respect des mesures d’atténuation qui avaient été promises », le conseil avait refusé que Sintra revienne dans le paysage l’année d’après. Alors quand, au mois de mai, le MERN avise la municipalité qu’il procède à l’analyse d’une demande de BEX de la part de Dexter, le conseil rétorque un « non » inébranlable. Pourtant, à la fin du mois d’octobre, le maire reçoit une copie de la demande de bail de Dexter au MERN. Aussitôt, le village s’est braqué. « Les gens ne veulent pas revivre ça. En plus, ils savaient qu’en 2008, ce n’était que pour un été. Là avec Dexter, c’est 25 ans possiblement. Tout le monde va se sauver du village », s’alarme M. Côté. Depuis, la municipalité multiple les rencontres et les démarches pour mettre un frein à l’exploitation de la carrière, allant jusqu’à entamer un processus de changement de zonage et de plan d’urbanisme pour le site, pour qu’il soit utilisé à des fins récréotouristiques et agroforestières. Dans un esprit de conciliation, des aménagistes de la MRC de Minganie ont identifié trois autres sites, situés à 8, 10 et 12 kilomètres à l’ouest du village, que Dexter pourrait exploiter, ce qui atténuerait le problème initial de proximité. « C’est dans la cour des gens, l’autre carrière à presque 200 mètres », compare Martin Côté. De son côté, Maxime Bourassa, de Dexter, a certifié que l’entreprise était ouverte à l’idée d’exploiter un autre site. « Ça chemine dans ses eaux-là », laisse-t-il entendre. D’autres rencontres sont prévues dans les prochains jours pour déterminer la suite des choses. Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, le ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles n’avait pas répondu à notre demande d’entrevue.Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
Former Saskatchewan music teacher convicted of sexually assaulting students will be sentenced in January 2021. Gerard Loehr, 57, was found guilty in Wynyard Provincial Court Nov. 13 on three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. In 2019 Loehr was charged with five counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference related to incidents involving students in the 90s. The court heard that the victims encountered Loehr when he was a teacher in Wynyard and Foam Lake schools when he worked in the Shamrock School Division. During a trial in Wynyard court in July 2020, five former students testified. The students ranged in age from 12 to 14 at the time of the incidents. Judge Lloyd Stang found Loehr not guilty on four counts of sexual interference because the girls were 14 at the time and according to the law in the 90s, the age of consent was 14. The age has since been raised to 16 and today, the Criminal Code Section 151 charge of sexual interference now states, “Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years… is guilty.” Judge Stang also found Loehr not guilty on two counts of sexual assault because he had concerns about the reliability of the witness’ memory. One charge of sexual interference was dismissed in July. Wynyard RCMP launched an historic sexual assault investigation against Loehr in February 2019 after a woman contacted them to report an assault that occurred in the 90s. Five others later came forward to police with sexual assault allegations against Loehr. Loehr left Saskatchewan in 1996 and taught in Ottawa schools. In 2019 Ottawa Police Service charged Loehr with sexual assault and sexual interference against 11 students. Ottawa Police say Loehr taught middle school level music in the west end of Ottawa between 2000 and 2003. He also taught privately in his home. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board removed him from the classroom. His trial on those charges is scheduled in November in Ontario. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
When it filed for bankruptcy last year, Purdue Pharma agreed to an innovative plan: It would make $200 million available immediately to help those those harmed by its signature painkiller, OxyContin, and ease the effects of the opioid crisis.More than a year later, with the crisis worsening, not a penny has been spent.“The money is just sitting in Purdue’s bank account collecting dust,” said Ed Neiger, a lawyer representing opioid victims. “It’s a travesty of epic proportions.”It's not Purdue that is holding up the money. Instead, it's lawyers representing the wide range of entities suing the company who cannot agree how best to use it. The main disagreement is between nearly 3,000 local governments and advocates for those hurt by opioids.Advocates want the money funneled mostly to local nonprofits that provide emergency services to people with addictions. State attorneys general say doing so would dilute the money so much it would not be effective. Because Purdue is undergoing the long process of distributing its assets, the states also see the prospect of distributing billions of dollars over time as more important than the $200 million.“You see the state AGs come in and block the money, and you’re not understanding why,” said Jill Cichowicz, who lost her twin brother to an overdose and sits on a committee advocating for victims in Purdue’s bankruptcy case. “We’re all baffled.”Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year as part of an effort to settle thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold the company accountable for the crisis that has been linked to 470,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. In a separate case, it pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a broader settlement with the Department of Justice.The proposal being considered in bankruptcy court calls for members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue, to pay at least $3 billion and give up ownership of the company. Purdue would then become a public benefit corporation, with its profits going to ease the overdose crisis, including by increasing treatment capacity and providing other addiction services.The company says the total value of the deal over time could be more than $10 billion.State attorneys general, all of whom have sued Purdue, disagree over whether that’s the right approach.They are not the only ones who will need to be persuaded. A committee of creditors that includes people in recovery or who have lost loved ones to overdoses must also agree. It was that group that proposed the $200 million relief fund after Purdue filed for bankruptcy in September 2019.The fund was inspired by one adopted last year in the case of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the giant California utility that landed in bankruptcy because of lawsuits blaming it for California wildfires.Neiger, who represents a committee of victims in the complicated legal battle, says the relief fund idea is so novel that it’s not even recognized by bankruptcy law but was accepted by federal bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain.The plan called for distributing money to groups trying to help people with addictions by providing shelter, connecting them to services and supplying overdose antidote drugs. It was left to parties in the case to work out the details.With disagreements on where the money should go and who should control it, that has not happened.In a statement read during a hearing in April, a group of lawyers said they were pausing talks on how to use the relief money while they focus on broader mediation about how Purdue’s assets will be used.The statement asserted that “despite the best intentions on all sides,” the players in the case had a “deeply held, fundamental difference in view" about the best use of the money. They said talking about it was straining efforts to figure out what to do with the billions that could ultimately flow from Purdue. They planned to revisit the issue later.Since then, the broader question of where settlement money would go was resolved through mediation. State and local governments agreed to put their full shares toward programs to alleviate the crisis. That's a significant development, but it does not bring the quick help called for with the $200 million fund. And there are no indications when the relief fund discussions will resume.Advocates for people with substance abuse disorders say local nonprofits could have used the money to assist more people immediately.“If you gave them a million dollars, they would be able to do so much more than if you just gave it to a state agency,” said Cichowicz, whose twin brother, Scott Zebrowski, fatally overdosed in 2017 on a counterfeit OxyContin pill containing fentanyl. The former gym manager was 38.Cichowicz, who lives in Richmond, Virginia, said her brother became addicted after being prescribed OxyContin for back pain in 2014.While the case plays out, the addiction problem only deepens. The U.S. had a record 71,000 overdose deaths last year, most of them from opioids. Preliminary data shows an even higher death toll is likely this year. Experts say that could be in part because of the loss of in-person counselling during the coronavirus pandemic.Brandon George, director of the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition, said the pandemic has taken almost all the energy of county health departments and left local recovery organizations to distribute naloxone, an overdose antidote. He expects mental health services to be cut as state and local tax revenue decreases.George said he never expected the Purdue relief fund to get money to groups quickly, but it might have made a difference.“That money certainly could have been put to good use,” he said. “Right now, our health care systems are very strained.”___Mulvihill reported from Davenport, Iowa. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill.Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub in Toronto’s west end is offering free meals to people who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Chris Murie expects more people to be looking for help as government benefits wind down.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Trump administration is preparing to auction oil drilling rights inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the degree to which the industry will participate is uncertain.Leases on the land in northeast Alaska could be go on the block days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Tuesday.Supporters, including Alaska’s congressional delegation, have celebrated the prospect of a lease sale as a way to create jobs and revenue. Opponents express concerns about impacts on ecosystems, Indigenous people and the climate.Kara Moriarty, CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said oil and gas companies are unsurprisingly remaining quiet about their intentions.“Participation in lease sales is one of the most competitive and secretive things between companies,” Moriarty said.The public likely will not learn about the industry's level of interest until the federal government unseals the bids on the sale date, which has not yet been announced.There is a possibility that the sale could be held shortly before Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.Some industry analysts believe there is a measure of uncertainty and risk that could lead to limited interest in a lease sale within the next two months.The coronavirus pandemic and an oil price war have hit the oil industry hard. Oil prices remain low and there are high costs and difficulties involved in Arctic exploration, said Mark Myers, a geologist and former Alaska natural resources commissioner.“The prices have fallen down to a level that leaves very little capital for exploration in these companies,” Myers said.Rowena Gunn, an analyst for energy research firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd., said public criticism of drilling in environmentally sensitive areas could weigh heavily on publicly traded companies.Colorado-based energy economist Philip Verleger said he would not expect a deluge of bids because of the uncertainty over future demand for oil and natural gas.A lease sale in the refuge would have been “terrifically successful” 15 years ago, but the time to develop the coastal plain has passed, Verleger said.“The cost of going there and developing and putting the resources in is too high, particularly since the production would last a long time, and we don’t know if demand would last," he said.as long.”The Associated Press
Audible bestsellers for the week ending November 22nd:Nonfiction1\. A Promised Land by Barack Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio)2\. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by the author (Random House Audio)3\. Off Menu by Nell McShane Wulfhart, performed by Katie Schorr (Audible Originals)4\. Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa TerKeurst, narrated by the author (Thomas Nelson)5\. Unf—k Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD LPC-S ACS ACN, narrated by the author (Blackstone Audio, Inc. )6\. Galileo by Mario Livio, narrated by Jonathan Davis (Simon & Schuster Audio)7\. Atomic Habits by James Clear, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio)8\. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, performed by Aidan Gillen (Audible Studios)9\. Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio)10\. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, narrated by the author (Folio Literary Management)Fiction1\. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Kate Reading & Michael Kramer (Macmillan Audio)2\. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis, narrated by Amy Landon (Blackstone Audio, Inc.)3\. Daylight by David Baldacci, narrated by Brittany Pressley & Kyf Brewer (Grand Central Publishing)4\. The Last Flight by Julie Clark, performed by Khristine Hvam & Lauren Fortgang (Audible Studios)5\. 1984 by George Orwell, narrated by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio, Inc.)6\. The Wedding Gift by Carolyn Brown, performed by Brittany Pressley (Audible Originals)7\. The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly, narrated by Peter Giles (Little, Brown & Company)8\. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, performed by Rosamund Pike (Audible Studios)9\. Tom Clancy Shadow of the Dragon by Marc Cameron, narrated by Scott Brick (Random House Audio)10\. The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian, performed by Julia Motyka (Audible Studios)The Associated Press
Investigators with the 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau are seeking witnesses and two suspects following the attempted theft of a puppy from a commuter parking lot in the Township of King. On Nov. 18 at approximately 4 p.m., York Regional Police were called to a commuter parking lot at Highway 400 and Highway 9 for a report of an attempted theft. When officers arrived they found the victim, a 54-year-old female from the City of Barrie and her puppy, who were not injured. Investigators learned that the victim had advertised two puppies for sale online. She had arranged to meet potential buyers in the commuter lot. After the sale of one of the puppies without incident, two men approached the victim driving an older model white Honda Civic. One of the men assaulted the victim, grabbed the puppy, who was in a carrier, and attempted to flee. The victim chased the suspects who eventually threw the puppy out the window of the vehicle and drove away. Investigators are appealing to anyone who may have been in the area at the time and witnessed the incident or anyone with dashcam to please come forward. One suspect is described as male, South Asian, approximately 20 years old, 5’8.” He was wearing a black face mask, black scarf and green track pants. The other suspect is described as male, South Asian, wearing a face mask. Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7142 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
Aylmer Mayor Mary French announced that she is not the sole decision-maker for town COVID-19-related actions, in response to the brief avalanche of messages received as a result of the state of emergency declaration, and closure of the East Elgin Community Complex, ahead of the Nov. 7 “freedom” rally. The Emergency Control Group (ECG), comprised of the mayor, administrator, staff, emergency and community services repesentatives, works together to make decisions regarding the pandemic. “In this group, my role is the same as it is at council in that I am one of many voices at the table,” said Mayor French, near the conclusion of the Nov. 16 virtual council meeting. “More specifically, actions of the town in response to COVID-19 are never undertaken specifically at my request, but instead are the result of collaborative decision-making processes.” Anyone with questions about the ECG decision-making process can contact Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Reynaert or Emergency Services Director Sam Taylor, she said. Mayor French also thanked the community, council and staff for the “ongoing support that has been received in relation to recent events.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Brandon Sun readers are requesting specific questions be asked of health officials related to COVID-19. QUESTION: Regarding the transfer of COVID patients to Brandon Regional Health Centre from outside of Prairie Mountain Health — the number listed on the website of patients in hospital in Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) region only lists residents of PMH, not patients brought in from other regions. It doesn’t give an accurate picture of what’s going on at our hospital. SHARED HEALTH SPOKESPERSON: Individual COVID cases are attributed to the health region where a person resides. Altering that info if individuals required care at a hospital outside of their "home" region would create confusion. For the purposes of data collection, it is more meaningful to know where an individual likely transmitted the virus than where they received care. The Brandon Regional Health Centre is one of four hospitals in the province to have a critical care (ICU) department. Determining where a critically ill or injured patient should receive care is based on a number of factors relating to the individual’s case, including but not limited to where they are currently located, whether they’ve been stabilized, whether they need specialized care and where there are open beds in the system. As a result, it is not unusual for Brandon’s ICU to have patients who don’t live in the Prairie Mountain Health region. For the same reason, it is also not unusual for individuals living in the PMH region to be ICU patients at one of Winnipeg’s three critical care units. This is a provincial, not a regional, program. QUESTION: Is Manitoba making use of wastewater COVID epidemiological analysis, such as in Saskatoon or other cities in Canada? University of Saskatchewan toxicologist Dr. Markus Brinkmann is quoted as saying that since feces from infected people sheds particles of the virus, they can use a special model to roughly estimate how many cases may be in the community, potentially before those people have symptoms. DR. BRENT ROUSSIN (CHIEF PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER): This is something that’s being worked on. We don’t have it applied routinely, right now. This is really something that may be beneficial when we don’t have a lot of transmission of the virus as an early warning. It wouldn’t help us right now, say testing in Winnipeg. We know there’s a high level of transmission going on. As we get the numbers down, if we have, say, remote communities or other communities that really have no activity, this might give us an early warning indicator that something is starting to happen there. So there are uses for it. But right now, we don’t have a routine use for it here in Manitoba.Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers increased their spending by a sluggish 0.5% last month, the weakest rise since April, when the pandemic first erupted, and a sign that Americans remain wary with the virus resurging across the country and threatening the economy.The October gain reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department followed a seasonally adjusted 1.2% increase in September. It suggested that consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, is being restrained by a weakened economy and by the failure of Congress to provide another stimulus package to struggling individuals and businesses.The government's report also showed that income, which provides the fuel for spending, fell 0.7% in October.With new viral cases accelerating across the country, many states are adopting or considering new restrictions on businesses. Sales at restaurants and bars fell in October for the first time in six months. Restaurant traffic declined further this month, according to the reservations provider OpenTable. Hotel occupancy is down from a month ago. Consumer spending on credit cards dropped in the first week of November from a month earlier, according to data compiled by Opportunity Insights.Economists warn that consumer spending could falter further in the current October-December quarter given that many of the major government support programs have expired and Congress has yet to renew the assistance.“With coronavirus infection rates soaring, states re-imposing restrictions and the ... data on in-person dining and jobless claims beginning to show signs of weakness, we are increasingly worried that the monthly gains in consumption will be weaker," Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.The report showed that while the wages-and-salaries component of consumer income rose 0.7% in October, government transfers — the category that includes unemployment aid and other benefits — fell 6.2%.Inflation, as measured by a gauge tied to consumer spending, was unchanged in October. Measured year over year, it's up just 1.2%. That is far below the 2% annual target set by the Federal Reserve, and it gives the Fed further leeway to supply support to the economy beyond the ultra-low interest rates it is already providing.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Sept entreprises de la Rive-Sud dont deux de Boucherville profiteront du récent programme d’aide d’Investissement Québec, dotée d’une enveloppe de 9,7 millions $, pour améliorer leur positionnement stratégique. Développant des logiciels pour l’industrie du béton, Marcotte Systems, de Boucherville, se voit accorder un prêt pour soutenir le transfert du contrôle de l’entreprise à Joël Bardier et à Frédéric Gamache. Grâce à la motivation et la compétence de ces deux dirigeants, la poursuite des opérations de l’entreprise ayant déjà plus de 45 ans d’histoire est assurée. De plus, une contribution financière a été offerte à l’entreprise pour supporter leur projet de développement des marchés hors-Québec. Également à Boucherville, l’entreprise de gestion Investissement 585 Inc. obtient une aide financière de plus d’un demi-million de dollars pour soutenir sa relève et la transition à la direction qui s’opérera dans pour les prochaines années. Par ailleurs, en opération depuis près de 75 ans à Sainte-Julie, Groupe BFL Inc. se voit octroyer 2 880 000 $. Cette aide permettra au fabricant de centrales de chauffage, de climatisation et de ventilation de poursuivre son intégration et de créer 31 emplois. À Saint-Hubert, le fabricant de produits de réfrigération RefPlus obtient 1 625 000 $, dont 975 000 $ proviennent des fonds propres d’Investissement Québec et 650 000 $ du programme ESSOR du Fonds du développement économique. Métaux Solutions Inc., une entreprise spécialisée dans la distribution de métaux industriels basée à Longueuil, reçoit une aide financière de 300 000 $ pour l’acquisition d’une nouvelle scie à métaux qui lui permettra d’augmenter sa productivité. Le spécialiste en conception graphique et en impression Graphiscan Montréal Inc., dont le siège social est situé sur le Boulevard Jacques-Cartier à Longueuil, aux limites de Boucherville, obtient un soutien financier de 1 644 556 $ pour faire l’acquisition de Quadriscan. Enfin, le Groupe Lanerco, de Saint-Hubert, reçoit un soutien financier de 1 300 000$ pour se porter acquéreur de Charette Service d’Auto, de Remorquage Charette et de Charette Logistique. François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
An 18-year-old Prince Albert woman accused of shooting and killing an 18-year-old man was released on bail. Lynessa Highway was arrested in October after a man was shot and killed Oct. 10, 2020, during an incident in the 1700 block of 14 Street West. Police say they were called to the residence at about 1 a.m. and when they arrived they found a man deceased. Police haven’t released the name of the victim. Highway was released from custody in October. She was scheduled to enter a plea in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Nov. 16 but the matter was adjourned to Dec. 16. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
A team of friends and business partners from India are looking to spice things up in Dartmouth — but in moderation, so everyone is satisfied. On Nov. 5, Dinu Mathew, Tinu Matthews, Tony Abraham and Jinu Samuel opened the doors to Spice Hub Indian Kitchen, located at 1015 Main St. The restaurant serves up homestyle Indian dishes prepared by Mathew, who has been cooking for 11 years. “I’ve been cooking for a long time,” said Mathew, who first moved to Ontario in 2010 to do a two-year culinary management course at Fanshawe College and moved to Halifax in 2012. “It was my dream to open up my restaurant for a long time, and I’ve been waiting. I didn’t have enough money to do it myself, so I got three other partners.” The restaurant’s dishes come at a mild-to-medium heat level “so everyone can eat our food,” Mathew said, adding “there is still flavour and everything in it.” For those who want the extra heat, which Mathew said a lot of customers have requested so far, they can have chili added to their meals. When he moved to the Halifax region, Mathew said, he noticed a lack of Indian restaurants in Dartmouth. That’s why he wanted to be among the first to open one up. Originally from southern India, Mathew and his partners also noticed a lack of southern Indian food available in the area. They’re offering a mix of dishes from around India. “It’s mostly north Indian restaurants (here), so we want to introduce some of our stuff from south India, too,” said Mathew. Their offerings include porotta, which is a layered flatbread, as well as dosa, a rice pancake filled with rice and beef. Their northern Indian food offerings include tandoori chicken and butter chicken with naan bread. Spice Hub Indian Kitchen also sells Indian food staples like samosas and an Indian-Canadian dish that’s become a fan favourite — butter chicken poutine. Mathew said everything at the restaurant is reasonably priced but still comes in adequate portions. Appetizers cost less than $10 and entrees are priced between $10 and $15, he said. To reel in Nova Scotians who may be unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, Spice Hub Indian Kitchen is also sharing educational posts on social media about dishes, drinks and desserts. On Facebook, they’ve shared some background on how butter chicken, masala tea and rasmalai are made, for example. “We want to give (people) a little bit of an idea of what’s going on,” Mathew explained. The co-owners initially planned to open the restaurant last year, but then COVID-19 hit and altered their business plans. Luckily, Mathew said, their landlord gave them a break and told them they could start paying rent whenever they opened. With COVID-19 case numbers rising in Nova Scotia, the restaurant is making some adjustments, according to Spice Hub Indian Kitchen’s marketing manager, Binil Kurian. This week, he said, the restaurant is looking to close down dining and focus solely on offering takeout food until the second wave slows in the province. Spice Hub Indian Kitchen is also slated to join Uber Eats this week, begin offering curbside pickup and introduce placemats with barcodes that customers can scan to see a menu, contact-free. “We don’t want an exposure here or we don’t want our customers (to get sick). We really value their time, we really value their (support), so we don’t want anything from our side,” said Kurian. If all goes well with the business, Mathew said, the goal is to open more Spice Hub Indian Kitchen restaurant locations in the region. For now, he said, he and his team have one wish: “We want (customers) to come back.” Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Health officials have declared the latest Saskatchewan care home outbreak at Saskatoon's Oliver Lodge, a seniors' facility housing more than 100 residents.The Hudson Bay Park home was added to the province's list of active outbreaks on Tuesday, making it the 19th special care home, seniors residence, long-term care home or assisted living facility in the province currently dealing with two or more cases of the virus. According to a new weekly update from the province on COVID-19 cases in long-term and special care homes that launched on Wednesday, Oliver Lodge had only one infected person between Nov. 10 and Nov. 24. Most homes were dealing with fewer than five cases. Some had more, such as Parkside Extendicare in Regina and Providence Place in Moose Jaw, which had 14 and seven cases respectively. In total, health workers at 29 different homes navigated new working conditions spurred by 88 different positive cases. The data released Wednesday did not indicate the age of infected people nor how many of them were hospitalized. Nor is it known if the infected people were residents or workers. See the full list here.Staffing challengesOliver Lodge's website says the home has 139 residents. A 2019 inspection stated each room is private and has its own bathroom. The lodge is connected to an apartment building, Oliver Place, that offers assisted living, according to the inspection.Frank Suchorab, Oliver Lodge's executive director, said updates on the situation are being posted on the home's website.Suchorab declined to say how many residents have tested positive as of Wednesday, saying it wouldn't make a difference in terms of the home's response to the outbreak. The province only declares an outbreak if two or more cases are present. Residents in the home's south wing are isolating in their rooms, according to the update.Other care homes have said they're facing staffing challenges as some workers are required to self-isolate."I would say that we're not any different from the other sites," Suchorab said. "We all work together. We all have the same challenges. Rapid tests on orderLuther Special Care Home in Saskatoon, the long-term care home in the province dealing with the largest outbreak, reported to residents' family members on Tuesday night that the number of infected residents remained at 34 for the second day in a row. Operations lead Ivan Olfert also outlined the steps the home is taking to curb the spread of the virus. Staff working in the affected wing are not mingling with workers from other areas of the home. Supplies are being dropped off outside the complex, located in the city's Varsity view neighbourhood."On Sunday we applied for a medical laboratory licence in order to be able to bring an Abbott Panbio Point of Care testing device onsite, which will allow us to test individuals for COVID and have results in about 15 minutes," Olfert wrote.Olfert noted with concern that the number of staff working in the outbreak unit who are self-isolating continues to grow. "Other long-term care homes in the city, along with home care, have contacted us and are offering assistance in a variety of ways, including lending us staff on a temporary basis [and] supporting us in the recruitment and training of new employees to help bolster our ranks."Also, we have a couple of staff who have temporarily moved from Regina to help support our efforts."Moose Jaw home's outbreak numbers unknownHealth officials added Providence Place to the list of active outbreak sites on Tuesday. The home declined to specify how many staff members have needed to self-isolate."We are taking all the necessary and precautionary measures to ensure the ongoing health and safety of our residents and employees," said executive director Georgia Hutchinson. "The situation at Providence Place is evolving and we are not commenting on specific cases or case numbers at this time." Saskatchewan reported only three new COVID-19 cases among people aged 80 and older on Wednesday, compared to 12 on Tuesday, bringing to cumulative number of cases in that age bracket to 246.It's unclear how many of the cases among aged seniors are active.
Town of Aylmer is asking for public feedback on their proposed official plan amendments, with the details explained through a virtual open house. The official plan is a statement of goals and policies, intended to guide future land use within the town to build sustainable communities and protect natural and agricultural resources. The Ontario Planning Act requires a review/update of the plan every five years. “It’s not a brand-new official plan, it’s just amending our existing one to fit with the current legislation,” explained Corporate Services Director Kale Brown during a virtual council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. The draft official plan lists proposed changes to housing access and attainability; active transportation; parks, open space and sustainability; cultural heritage; servicing, stormwater, and waste management; transportation, energy and utilities; and general “housekeeping” updates. For example, one amendment is the provision of traditional and non-traditional housing options “to support residents of all ages.” Another is a new policy to partner with infrastructure providers to increase access to electrical vehicle charging stations. A 13-minute video explaining the amendments is available on the town website. During the meeting, Councillor Tom Charlton asked, “Are you in pretty good shape as far as growth concerns – our lagoons can handle the development in Cottonwood [Hills] without any issues?” Mr. Brown said that these projects would be addressed separately through the budget process and through the strategic priorities of the operations and planning department. “Staff will always recommend that council plan accordingly for our growth,” said Mr. Brown. “It’s difficult to say exactly what capacity that we would have because you don’t know exactly what’s going to be built. “We think it’s going to be around 300 units, and that was set aside back when the plan of subdivision was approved.” Aylmer staff started the review process of the town’s official plan in 2019, with the help of WSP, a consulting firm. Citizens are encouraged to review and provide feedback on the proposed changes before the plan is brought back to council on Monday, Dec. 7.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express