In mid-March, as the coronavirus ravaged communities and economies around the world, The Associated Press launched its “One Good Thing” series to highlight individuals whose actions provide glimmers of joy during hard times. (Dec. 28)
In mid-March, as the coronavirus ravaged communities and economies around the world, The Associated Press launched its “One Good Thing” series to highlight individuals whose actions provide glimmers of joy during hard times. (Dec. 28)
KABUL — At least two members of an Afghan militia opened fire on their fellow militiamen in the western Herat province, killing 12, in what provincial police on Saturday described as an insider attack. Herat police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the attackers fled with the slain militiamen's weapons and ammunition, adding that Afghan government forces had regained control of the area. A Taliban spokesman Yousaf Ahmadi in a tweet claimed responsibility for the insider attack, which took place late Friday. Meanwhile, a sticky bomb attached to an armoured police Land Cruiser SUV exploded Saturday in the western part of the capital, Kabul, killing two policemen and wounding another, Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said. Faramarz did not specify the identities of the casualties. However, two members of the Afghan police force, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said Kabul's deputy police chief Mawlana Bayan was wounded in the attack. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Kabul. In the southern Helmand province, a suicide car bomber targeted a police compound late Friday, killing one policeman and wounding two others, provincial police spokesman Zaman Hamdard said. The attack took place in Lashkar Gah district on the highway between Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Also in Kandahar province, a suicide car bomber and multiple gunmen attacked an auto workshop belonging to the Afghan intelligence agency on Saturday but inflicted no casualties, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada said. He said at least four attackers were killed and that an operation to clear the workshop compound was ongoing. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Helmand and Kandahar. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in the capital in recent months, including on educational institutions that killed 50 people, most of them students. IS has claimed responsibility for rocket attacks in December targeting the major U.S. base in Afghanistan. There were no casualties. The violence comes as the representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government earlier this month resumed peace talks in Qatar. However, the negotiations were off to a slow start as the insurgents continue their attacks on Afghan government forces while keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops. The stop-and-go talks are aimed at ending decades of relentless conflict. Frustration and fear have grown over the recent spike in violence, and both sides blame one another. There has also been growing doubt lately over a U.S.-Taliban deal brokered by outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration. That accord was signed last February. Under the deal, an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops ordered by Trump means that just 2,500 American soldiers will still be in Afghanistan when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Tameem Akhgar, The Associated Press
New Brunswick writer Richard Vaughan's life and legacy is now being celebrated through a virtual art exhibition. The acclaimed author, poet and playwright died in Fredericton in October. He was 55. Known as Cut. Paste. Resist. Redux, the multimedia exhibition consists of film strips created from collages. Those images are paired with voiceovers of friends and colleagues reading various excerpts from his poetry, chat books and novels. Marie Maltais, director of the UNB Arts Centre, helped organize the project and described Vaughan as "a shining star of New Brunswick's cultural scene." She said the exhibit is a way to "bring back the genius" of the writer. "He was an advocate, he was someone who was very down to earth, you could approach him," Maltais said. Vaughan was born in Saint John, but lived and worked in Montreal, Toronto and Berlin before returning to his home province last year to work as writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick. He wrote under the name R.M. Vaughan. He is remembered as a pioneer for LGBTQ artists and a talented writer who could address many subjects. The new exhibit was inspired by a collage project Vaughan organized with Ken Moffatt, the Jack Layton chair at Ryerson University, early last year. They put out a call for submissions from community members focused on the theme of resistance. More than 200 collages came in from around the world, and were displayed as part of the Cut, Paste, Resist art show at UNB. That initial show has evolved into the project presented online this month in Vaughan's memory. Maltais reached out to Moffatt shortly after Vaughan's death to collaborate on the project. It is being held virtually on the centre's website because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recorded readings from 17 different people will be released throughout the month. The response to the show has been positive, with people sharing fond memories. Maltais said she remembers Vaughan as someone who really cared about his students and the cultural community. "I have spoken to a few people that were mentored by him, and it is really a terrible loss," she said.
BEIJING — China on Saturday finished building a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients in five days to fight a surge in infections in a city south of Beijing, state media reported. The hospital is one of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong in Hebei province, the Xinhua News Agency said. All are due to be completed within the next week. China, which largely contained the spread of the coronavirus, has suffered hundreds of infections this month in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, southwest of the Chinese capital. A similar program of rapid hospital construction was launched by the ruling Communist Party at the start of the outbreak last year to set up isolation hospitals in Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first detected in late 2019. Nationwide, the National Health Commission reported 130 new confirmed cases — 90 of those in Hebei — in the 24 hours through midnight Friday. There were 645 cases, two of them acquired abroad, being treated in Nangong and Shijiazhuang, according to Xinhua. In Shijiazhuang, authorities have finished construction of one-third of the rooms in a planned 3,000-room coronavirus facility, state TV said Saturday. More than 10 million people in Shijiazhuang underwent virus tests by late Friday, Xinhua said, citing a deputy mayor, Meng Xianghong. It said 247 locally transmitted cases were found. Meanwhile, researchers sent by the World Health Organization are in Wuhan preparing to investigate the origins of the virus. The team, which arrived Thursday, was under a two-week quarantine but was due to talk with Chinese experts by video link. The team's arrival was held up for months by diplomatic wrangling that prompted a rare public complaint by the head of the WHO. That delay, and the secretive ruling party’s orders to scientists not to talk publicly about the disease, have raised questions about whether Beijing might try to prevent discoveries that would hurt its self-proclaimed status as a leader in the anti-virus battle. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
EL TERRERO, Mexico — In the birthplace of Mexico’s vigilante “self-defence” movement, a new group has emerged entirely made up of women, who carry assault rifles and post roadblocks to fend off what they say is a bloody incursion into the state of Michoacán by the violent Jalisco cartel. Some of the four dozen women warriors are pregnant; some carry their small children to the barricades with them. The rural area is traversed by dirt roads, through which they fear Jalisco gunmen could penetrate at a time when the homicide rate in Michoacán has spiked to levels not seen since 2013. Many of the women vigilantes in the hamlet of El Terrero have lost sons, brothers or fathers in the fighting. Eufresina Blanco Nava said her son Freddy Barrios, a 29-year old lime picker, was kidnapped by presumed Jalisco cartel gunmen in pickup trucks; she has never heard from him since. “They have disappeared a lot of people, a lot, and young girls, too,” said Blanco Nava. One woman, who asked her name not be used because she has relatives in areas dominated by the Jalisco cartel, said that cartel kidnapped and disappeared her 14-year-old daughter, adding, “We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives.” “We women are tired of seeing our children, our families disappear,” the vigilante said. “They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands.” That is, in part, why the women are taking up arms; men are growing scarce in Michoacan’s lime-growing hotlands. “As soon as they see a man who can carry a gun, they take him away,” said the woman. “They disappear. We don't know if they have them (as recruits) or if they already killed them.” Beside the barricades and roadblocks, the female vigilantes have a homemade tank, a heavy-duty pickup truck with steel plate armour welded on it. In other towns nearby, residents have dug trenches across roadways leading into neighbouring Jalisco state, to keep the attackers out. Alberto García, a male vigilante, has seen the medieval side of the war: He is from Naranjo de Chila, a town just across the river from El Terrero and the birthplace of the Jalisco cartel leader Nemesio Oseguera. Garcia said he was run out of the town by Jalisco cartel gunmen because he refused to join the group. “They killed one of my brothers, too,” said Garcia. “They hacked him to pieces, and my sister-in-law, who was eight months pregnant.” El Terrero has long been dominated by the New Michoacán Family and Viagras gangs, while the Jalisco cartel controls the south bank of the Rio Grande river. In 2019, the Viagras hijacked and burned a half-dozen trucks and buses to block the bridge over the river to prevent Jalisco convoys from entering in a surprise assault. And that same year, in the next town over, San Jose de Chila, the rival gangs used a church as an armed redoubt to fight off an offensive by Jalisco gunmen. Holed up in the church tower and along its roof, they tried to defend the town against the incursion, leaving the church filled with bullet holes. It is that stark divide where everyone is forced to chose sides — either Jalisco, or the New Michoacán Family and the Viagras — that has many convinced that the El Terrero vigilantes are just foot soldiers for one of those latter two gangs. The vigilantes bitterly deny allegations they're part of a criminal gang, though they clearly see the Jalisco cartel as their foe. They say they would be more than happy for police and soldiers to come in and do their jobs. El Terrero is not far from the town of La Ruana, where the real self-defence movement was launched in 2013 by lime grower Hipolito Mora. After successfully chasing out the Knights Templar cartel, Mora, like most of the original leaders, has distanced himself from the so-called self-defence groups that remain, and is now a candidate for governor. “I can almost assure you that they are not legitimate self-defence activists,” said Mora. “They are organized crime. ... The few self-defence groups that exist have allowed themselves to be infiltrated; they are criminals disguised as self-defence.” Michoacán's current governor, Silvano Aureoles, is more emphatic. “They are criminals, period. Now, to cloak themselves and protect their illegal activities, they call themselves self-defence groups, as if that were some passport for impunity.” But in some ways, Mora says, the same conditions that gave rise to the original 2013 movement remain: Authorities and police fail to enforce the law and don't guarantee residents peace. Sergio Garcia, a male member of El Terrero vigilante group, says his 15-year-old brother was kidnapped and killed by Jalisco. Now, he wants justice that police have never given him. “We are here for a reason, to get justice by hook or by crook, because if we don't do it, nobody else will,” Garcia said. ___ Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed from Mexico City. Armando Solis, The Associated Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon — A new U.N. report estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of international migrants by 2 million by the middle of 2020 because of border closings and a halt to travel worldwide — an estimated 27% decrease in expected growth. Clare Menozzi, principal author of the report by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, told a news conference Friday that for the second half of 2020 “we have a sense that it will be probably comparable, if not more so.” She said international migration had been projected to grow by 7 to 8 million between mid-2019 and mid-2020. But the border closures and travel clampdown starting in March, as the pandemic circled the globe, meant zero growth for four months, and an estimated 2 million reduction in the expected number of international migrants, Menozzi said. By August 2020, Population Division Director John Wilmoth noted, “there had been more than 80,000 travel restrictions imposed by 219 countries or territories across the world.” Over the last two decades, growth in the number of international migrants has been robust. Wilmoth said that according to the latest estimates, “the number of international migrants worldwide reached 281 million persons in 2020, up from 173 million in 2000,” They account for just 3.6% of the total global population, he said. Liu Zhenmin, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said, “The report affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world and shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families” and undermined progress on achieving U.N. development goals for 2030. The economic fallout from the pandemic is expected to reduce remittances from people working abroad to low- and middle-income countries from $548 billion in 2019 to $470 billion in 2021, according to projections by the World Bank. Wilmoth said the data confirmed that nearly two-thirds of all international migrants were living in high-income countries. According to the report, the United States continued to top the destination list with 51 million international migrants in 2020, representing 18% of the global total. Germany was second, hosting around 16 million international migrants, followed by Saudi Arabia with 13 million, Russia with 12 million and the United Kingdom with 9 million, it said. India topped the list of countries with the largest diasporas in 2020, with 18 million Indians living abroad, followed by Mexico and Russia, each with 11 million outside the country, China with 10 million, and Syria with 8 million, the report said. In 2020, it said, women and girls comprised 48% of all international migrants, and refugees accounted for 12% of international migrants, up from 9.5% in 2000. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe Biden's inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is telling senators their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president over the Capitol riot will be a “vote of conscience.” The timing for the trial, the first of a president no longer in office, has not yet been set. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear Friday that Democrats intend to move swiftly on President-elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office Wednesday. Pelosi called the recovery package a “matter of complete urgency." The uncertainty of the scheduling, despite the House’s swift impeachment of Trump just a week after the deadly Jan. 6 siege, reflects the fact that Democrats do not want the Senate trial proceedings to dominate the opening days of the Biden administration. With security on alert over the threat of more potential violence heading into the inauguration, the Senate is also moving quickly to prepare for confirming Biden's nominee for National Intelligence Director, Avril Haines. A committee hearing is set for the day before the inauguration, signalling a confirmation vote to install her in the position could come swiftly once the new president is in office. Many Democrats have pushed for an immediate impeachment trial to hold Trump accountable and prevent him from holding future office, and the proceedings could still begin by Inauguration Day. But others have urged a slower pace as the Senate considers Biden’s Cabinet nominees and the newly Democratic-led Congress considers priorities like the coronavirus plan. Biden's incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said Friday the Senate can do both. “The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the people," she said. Psaki noted that during Trump's first impeachment trial last year, the Senate continued to hold hearings each day. “There is some precedent,” she said. Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure. He was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit. When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric hours before the bloody attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but rather part of an escalating campaign to overturn the November election. It culminated, they will argue, in the Republican president’s rally cry to “fight like hell” as Congress was tallying the Electoral College votes to confirm he’d lost to Biden. For Republican senators, the trial will be a perhaps final test of their loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states back home, and their own experiences sheltering at the Capitol as a pro-Trump mob ransacked the building and attempted to overturn Biden's election. It will force a further re-evaluation of their relationship with the defeated president, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate. “These men weren’t drunks who got rowdy — they were terrorists attacking this country’s constitutionally-mandated transfer of power,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in a statement Friday. “They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis. They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” McConnell, who has spent the past days talking to senators and donors, is telling them the decision on whether or not to convict Trump is theirs alone — meaning the leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way or the other. Last week's assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and flashed unsettling imagery around the globe, the most serious breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812, and the worst by home-grown intruders. Pelosi told reporters on Friday that the nine House impeachment managers, who act as the prosecutors for the House, are working on taking the case to trial. “The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by shining a light on the truth,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., who will serve as an impeachment manager. Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House on the single charge, incitement of insurrection, in lightning-quick proceedings just a week after after the siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach, the most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment. McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but he has not signalled how he would vote. McConnell continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial next week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from Georgia. No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. But conviction of Trump is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday, “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence.” She said in a statement that the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments. At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about Trump’s actions, but others have signalled their preference to move on. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement saying he opposes impeachment against a president who has left office. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is building support for launching a commission to investigate the siege as an alternative to conviction. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory as lawmakers fled for shelter and police, guns drawn, barricaded the doors to the House chamber. A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. ___ Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
A top French general in West Africa has dismissed calls for his country to engage more in Central African Republic (CAR) after rebels earlier this week attempted to take the capital Bangui, saying that the situation was different to a rebellion in 2013. The Central African army has been battling groups backed by former president Francois Bozize that are seeking to overturn a Dec. 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared victor despite fraud claims. Russia and Rwanda have sent troops to back the government.
The Iqaluit beer and wine store sold more alcohol over the holidays in 2020 than the previous year — and the holiday rush left some residents waiting out in the cold. For the month of December the store sold $947,000 worth of alcohol — a nine per cent increase from December 2019, which saw $868,000 worth of product sold. Daniel Young, director of the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission, says population growth and the store moving out of the pilot project phase contributed to the increase in sales. "A lot of people have more faith in the store now being a permanent fixture, less people are bringing in beer and wine on sea lift," said Young. "And I guess another part of it is a lot less people traveled south for the holiday like we have seen in the past." In December, the beer and wine store sold 222,231 cans and bottles of beer. That's 6,464 more cans than in December 2019. The biggest difference was in the sale of coolers, increasing 41 per cent this year. For the month of December the beer and wine store sold 18,423 cans of coolers compared to just 13,086 sold in 2019. However, Young attributes this to the store having a bigger selection of coolers than they had in previous years. The beer and wine store also recently started selling three litre boxes instead of just bottles. Though the number of bottles and boxes sold was down from December 2019 the quantity of wine in litres was up. In December, 786 litres of wine were sold — an eight per cent increase over December 2019. Wait times over an hour outside But with the increase in sales, a line to get into the beer and wine store frequently went out the door and down the street. Many people wait over an hour just to get in the door. Young says they are aware of the problem with the line and are working on solutions to try and help, such as adding an extra till that would be used during busy hours. "The pitch we try to make to everyone is to plan ahead to avoid lines. There are times when you can walk right in, basically to the counter, and purchase," said Young. "That's not very helpful when it is already a holiday and you need to buy something from our store and there is a line. But that is the best course of action." Changes to come Young says they are limited by the size of the building but are looking at regulator changes. The beer and wine store needs to follow regulations in the Liquor Act. Right now, there are limits set on how much alcohol one person can buy a day. Young says raising the limit is a consideration but not something they were considering while the store was still a pilot project. "Some people think our limits are already too high and some people think they are two low," said Young. In June, Finance Minister George Hickes announced the store would become a permanent fixture. The store is meant to reduce hard alcohol consumption, encourage responsible drinking and combat bootlegging. Right now, limits are set so a single person can purchase up to 24 cans or bottles of beer or coolers, or up to four bottles of wine or one three liter box. Combinations can include two bottles of wine and 12 cans, or three bottles of wine and six cans.
China promised on Saturday to donate 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines as the two countries signed infrastructure deals aimed at boosting post-pandemic recovery efforts, officials said. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte imposed one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns to contain the virus in March last year - bringing one of Asia's fastest-growing economies to a standstill. "As a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbour, we will firmly stand with the people of the Philippines until the defeat of this virus," senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said during a meeting with the Philippines' foreign minister.
“I am very much encouraging my 92-year-old mom to get in line as soon as (a COVID-19 vaccine) is available in her community and she’s all ready and excited about it as well,” said Leila Gillis. She is acting chief nursing officer and director general primary health care with the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). Gillis was speaking on Jan. 14 on the weekly virtual town hall hosted by the First Nations Health Managers Association. “Many communities are currently managing active outbreaks and had such a challenging Christmas period. I worked through it all. And there’s still evidence of community transmission in many, many jurisdictions across the country,” said Gillis. According to figures posted on the ISC website of coronavirus activity on First Nations reserves, as of Jan. 14 ISC “is aware of” 12,071 confirmed positive cases; 4,581 active cases; 7,377 recovered cases and 113 deaths. Worst hit are reserves in the prairie provinces with Alberta numbering 3,944 confirmed positive cases, Manitoba with 3,201 and Saskatchewan with 3,084. British Columbia is next with 1,081 confirmed positive cases. “We’re still working hard to prevent COVID spread in our continued and longstanding public health measures and we can’t lose sight of that while we’re also working to organize and support one of the biggest vaccine administration campaigns in this country’s history,” said Gillis, who spent time reassuring Indigenous viewers and listeners of the safety of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Some First Nations and Inuit communities or members of those communities have been prioritized in the first phase of the vaccine rollout. The vaccines have been “rigorously tested” and the benefits far outweigh the risks, said Gillis. Valerie Gideon, senior assistant deputy minister with FNIHB, said in a national news conference on Jan. 13 that having Indigenous health professionals involved in the process is significant in addressing suspicion from the Indigenous population. “There are a lot of amazing Indigenous health professionals that are speaking very proactively about the vaccine and supporting that understanding that the (ISC) Minister (Marc Miller) is speaking to and I think that makes a significant difference. “They are such influential decision makers with respect to the vaccine planning and administration process, not only within their communities, but overall in the context of supporting First Nations and others across the provinces,” said Gideon. Still some members of the Indigenous population have approached the vaccine with wariness. “The hesitancy comes sometimes with good reason,” said Miller. “You see that hesitancy that is based on perhaps experiences … So it’s based on reality.” He pointed out that Indigenous peoples were the target of medical procedures and experiments in the 1950s and 1960s and they continue to experience mistreatment in today’s healthcare system. Miller also talked about the need to have information available in Indigenous languages as well as the need to build trust with health officials who come into communities to deliver the vaccinations. “One (way) that works best is when you engage local communities to get that information out there, tell people there’s an informed choice, and let them make the choice. It makes for more work but it makes for better vaccination strategies,” said Miller. “We’ve heard a lot more request for the vaccine to arrive than we’ve heard hesitancy… That’s at the leadership level. We will see in the numbers of uptake,” said Gideon. Miller said 75 per cent of the adult population in the territories are expected to have received their second dose of the vaccine by the end of March. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. Rollout of the vaccine to urban Indigenous population – a larger number than live on reserve – will require “coordination amongst partners, provinces and territories. Efficient and effective roll out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration and partnership,” said Miller. He said figures weren’t available for how COVID was impacting Indigenous people living in cities, although he did say that those living in Montreal and Winnipeg had been “really hit.” “Our government is working with all provinces and territories to encourage full inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples,” he said. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Trump administration early Saturday carried out its 13th federal execution since July, an unprecedented run that concluded just five days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden — an opponent of the federal death penalty. Dustin Higgs, convicted of ordering the killings of three women in a Maryland wildlife refuge in 1996, was the third to receive a lethal injection this week at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. President Donald Trump’s Justice Department resumed federal executions last year following a 17-year hiatus. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many federal executions. Higgs, 48, was pronounced dead at 1:23 a.m. Asked if he had any last words, Higgs was calm but defiant, naming each of the women prosecutors said he ordered killed. “I’d like to say I am an innocent man. ... I am not responsible for the deaths,” he said softly. “I did not order the murders.” He did not apologize for anything he did on the night 25 years ago when the women were shot by another man, who received a life sentence. As the lethal injection of pentobarbital began to flow into his veins, Higgs looked toward a room reserved for his relatives and lawyers. He waved with his fingers and said, “I love you.” Louds sobs of a woman crying inconsolably began to echo from the witness room reserved for Higgs’ family as his eyes rolled back in his head, showing the whites of his eyes. He quickly became still, his pupils visible with his eyelids left partially open. A sister of Tanji Jackson — one of the murdered women who was 21 when she died — addressed a written statement to Higgs after his execution and mentioning his family. “They are now going to go through the pain we experienced,” she said. “When the day is over, your death will not bring my sister and the other victims back. This is not closure.” The statement didn't include the sister's name. The number of federal death sentences carried out under Trump since 2020 is more than in the previous 56 years combined, reducing the number of prisoners on federal death row by nearly a quarter. It’s likely none of the around 50 remaining men will be executed anytime soon, if ever, with Biden signalling he’ll end federal executions. The only woman on death row, Lisa Montgomery, was executed Wednesday for killing a pregnant woman, then cutting the baby out of her womb. She was the first woman executed in nearly 70 years. Federal executions began as the coronavirus pandemic raged through prisons nationwide. Among those prisoners who got COVID-19 last month were Higgs and former drug trafficker Corey Johnson, who was executed Thursday. In the early Saturday execution of Higgs, officials inside the execution chamber were more diligent about their keeping masks on after a federal judge expressed concern that officials at Johnson's execution were lax about coronavirus precautions. When a marshal called from a death-chamber phone to ask if there were any impediments to proceeding with Higgs' execution, he kept his mask on and shoved the receiver under it. Not since the waning days of Grover Cleveland’s presidency in the late 1800s has the U.S. government executed federal inmates during a presidential transition, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Cleveland’s was also the last presidency during which the number of civilians executed federally was in the double digits in one year, 1896. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post earlier this week, Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, noted that Higgs, a Black man, was scheduled to die Friday — his father’s birthday. With last-minute appeals, it was delayed into early Saturday. “The federal government should not be needlessly taking more Black lives, and to do so on my father’s birthday would be shameful,” he wrote. Pressure is already building on Biden to follow through on pledges to end the federal death penalty. The ACLU released a statement after Higgs' execution urging Biden to invoke his presidential powers after he is sworn in. “He must commute the sentences of people on the federal death row to life without parole, and he must drop death from all pending trials," the ACLU said. In 2000, a federal jury in Maryland convicted Higgs of murder and kidnapping in the killings of Tamika Black, 19; Mishann Chinn, 23; and Tanji Jackson. Higgs’ lawyers argued it was “arbitrary and inequitable” to execute Higgs while Willis Haynes, the man who fired the shots that killed the women, was spared a death sentence. In a statement after the execution, Higgs’ attorney, Shawn Nolan, said his client had spent decades on death row helping other inmates. “There was no reason to kill him, particularly during the pandemic and when he, himself, was sick with Covid that he contracted because of these irresponsible, super-spreader executions,” Nolan said. Higgs had a traumatic childhood and lost his mother to cancer when he was 10, Higgs’ Dec. 19 petition for clemency petition said. Higgs was 23 on the evening of Jan. 26, 1996, when he, Haynes and a third man, Victor Gloria, picked up the three women in Washington, D.C., and drove them to Higgs’ apartment in Laurel, Maryland, to drink alcohol and listen to music. Before dawn, an argument between Higgs and Jackson prompted her to grab a knife in the kitchen before Haynes persuaded her to drop it. Gloria said Jackson made threats as she left the apartment with the other women and appeared to write down the license plate number of Higgs’ van, angering him. The three men chased after the women in Higgs’ van. Haynes persuaded them to get into the vehicle. Instead of taking them home, Higgs drove them to a secluded spot in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, federal land in Laurel. “Aware at that point that something was amiss, one of the women asked if they were going to have to ‘walk from here’ and Higgs responded ‘something like that,’” according to court documents. Higgs handed his pistol to Haynes, who shot all three women outside the van, Gloria testified. “Gloria turned to ask Higgs what he was doing, but saw Higgs holding the steering wheel and watching the shootings from the rearview mirror,” said the 2013 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chinn worked with the children’s choir at a church, Jackson worked in the office at a high school and Black was a teacher’s aide at National Presbyterian School in Washington, according to The Washington Post. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect the execution taking place early Saturday. ____ Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland. Michael Tarm And Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press
Chris MacLean beams from the pages of the book with a wide smile stretched across his face. The 48-year-old is standing in the courtyard of the Downtown Mission, the moment captured by Doug MacLellan — just one of the dozens of shots that make up the Windsor-based photographer's latest project. It's called The Mission and captures life around the emergency shelter, which provides food packs and hot meals in the heart of the city, through personal stories and portraits. "There's a story behind each person," said MacLean on Wednesday, urging anyone who picks up the book, which is being released by Black Moss Press this week, to do more than flip through the pictures. The Mission started off as a project about homelessness, but MacLellan said he soon realized the facility forms its own kind of community. It's used by some who live on the streets, others who are low income, and people who stop by just to see friends. "The day-to-day life that happens here, you can never imagine," said MacLellan. "You never know what's going to happen." The photographer said he was struck by just how rampant the opioid crisis is in Windsor, adding at least five people he knew of died of overdoses during the months he spent there. "It's a story of solitude. There's a lot of lonely people here." Photography focused on homelessness is often gritty and harrowing, said MacLellan, but he set out to document the moments between the drama with intimate images in order to show the humanity of people who frequent the Mission. He visited the site every day or so from July until October, getting to know the people there and building trust, adding the fact people trusted him enough to take their picture is a "gift" he doesn't take lightly. "I want people to take away the fact that the people you're seeing ... this is the worst-possible times of their lives, most-likely," he said. "They're like you and me. When you find yourself in a situation you'll do exactly what they're doing ... scrambling to survive." WATCH: Doug MacLellan talk about his project Among MacLellan's shots is a tender moment between a young couple lying on the grass together, brightly-coloured toys hanging from a tree branch and a father and son being reunited after five years apart. There's also a massive feline named Spunky. The "huge, black cat" weighed 31 pounds and belonged to a man named Albert who was once an understudy for a play on Broadway, according to the photographer. He saw the pair around a few times then, one day, Spunky took off. "People were coming up and petting the lovely cat. And then the big damn thing just got away," he said with a chuckle, adding Spunky was surprisingly speedy. MacLean said he has not lived on the street for a long time, but he was going to the Mission for meals until about a month ago. He and MacLellan hit it off right away after bonding over a shared love of music. "I think it's needed," he said of the new book. "Hopefully people will notice that the homeless situation in Windsor Ontario and other places has just gotten insane and that it needs to be addressed.' Drugs and the struggle to find housing continue to plague people in the city, said MacLean who called on anyone who picks up the book to "read the stories." That's the photographer's hope too. He said he wants readers to look past their preconceptions and see the people in front of them. "Look at the pictures. Take more than two seconds to look at them. See the look in people's eyes. See some similarities," he said. "I hope that when you look at pictures you may want to know more."
In the summer, with half of Memorial Drive in Calgary shut down to traffic, a group of protesters set up near the Peace Bridge to draw attention to a bewildering array of grievances. One sign attacked Justin Trudeau, another warned of 5G networks, some supported oil and gas, while others cautioned against "chemtrails." But the main thrust of the gathering was to oppose COVID-19 restrictions, masks and vaccines. As the pandemic dragged on, that group morphed and found new stomping grounds in front of Calgary City Hall. Coalescing around the banner of "freedom," they railed against government COVID-19 lockdowns, mask laws and public health measures. They marched through downtown Calgary with signs that proclaimed them lions, not sheep. Alternative medicine hippies strode alongside yellow vesters in what at first seemed an odd countercultural pairing but is a natural alliance based on a shared distrust of governments, health mandates, corporations and more. The reason for their unity lies deep in our evolutionary history and the brute force of societal shifts that are shaking civilizational foundations. Those forces have conspired to make Alberta a prime breeding ground for the kind of conspiratorial thinking on display, which pulls nuggets of truth from the flurry of science in real time and contorts it into a narrative of oppression. It is a near-perfect storm for the small minority caught up in it. The question is: how did they find themselves in its path? How we're wired Humans have evolved to be really good at fitting into groups. Our malleable brains can adapt beliefs in order to thrive within our given tribe. But that sort of cognitive wiring can lead us astray. Adrian Bardon, a philosophy professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and the author of The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics and Religion, has obviously spent some time thinking about how these sorts of movements come to be. Writing in The Conversation, he says although the phenomena of denialism is "many and varied," the story behind it is "quite simple." "Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses that go with it," he writes. "Under the right conditions, universal human traits like in-group favouritism, existential anxiety and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic, system-justifying identity politics." It's why protesters against Trudeau and 5G and chemtrails and, and, and ... all came to march under the same banner, protesting public health measures supported by growing scientific consensus. Speaking to CBC News, Bardon specifically breaks down the current storm over pandemic responses and says the combination of economic threats, politicization by elites and the visual/visceral effect of masks is a fearsome combination for fuelling science denialism and ideological polarization. "It starts with the lack of trust, and then the reasons for the lack of trust comes next, and then you're already in an ideological community," he says. "And then that explains why your community is all of one voice on what the story is, but this story is made up. The reaction comes first, and then you rationalize the reaction." He says covering faces interferes with one of the most fundamental ways we interpret other people, but creates a new signal. "At this point, after the politicization of it, not wearing a mask is immediately understood by the mask-wearing people to be a statement, and wearing the mask is an accusation. And it creates this incredibly toxic environment," he says. There's also no better metaphor for a muzzle than something really darn close to a muzzle. With the science around COVID-19 evolving in real time and government's struggling to keep up and keep track, the stage is set for our minds to fill in the gaps. The psychology Another person who's spent some time thinking about the current moment is Steven Taylor, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and the author of The Psychology of Pandemics. Taylor says one major issue is the lack of scientific literacy in the world and the belief by many that "science is really no different from opinion." Among those of a conspiratorial nature, there is also often an urge to feel special, he says, and possessing what you believe to be secret knowledge can be a big boost. "It's going to feed your self-esteem," says Taylor. It works in tandem with a phenomenon known as psychological reactance, which Taylor describes as a "kind of allergic reaction to being told what to do." "So if I came up to a person like that, and started to explain why I thought masks were effective, two things would happen," says Taylor. "First, they would get very angry, and second, they would start to automatically generate reasons for themselves as to why masks are ineffective. So my strategy would backfire if I tried to directly confront them." That, along with the fact that the vast majority of people support wearing masks, is why Taylor doesn't think governments should mandate their use. Adding to the mix are the sometimes confusing debates and changing recommendations about public health that have allowed a wide opening for doubters and reactionaries. All of those factors combine to make Alberta prime breeding ground for COVID denialism. The Alberta scene The first thing to note is that the protests against lockdowns and masks in Alberta are small. This does not represent the majority. But still, there is a vocal core group that isn't going to go away and that has at points drawn bigger crowds than many expected. Recent polling, too, has suggested Albertans are the least likely Canadians to consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, if at all. Bardon notes that denial of science rears its head pretty forcefully when the economy is threatened — something that has been fraying nerves in Alberta long before the pandemic brought government shutdowns. There is anxiety about income, about empty office towers in Calgary, about the continued existence of the oil and gas industry that once seemed a limitless well of wealth. The economic powerhouse of Canada is sputtering and many look at a sort of global network of elites and their war on global warming as a major factor in its demise. Some of the same protesters that were out in yellow vests calling Trudeau a traitor while sporting "I Love Alberta Oil and Gas" sweaters are now out calling for an end to lockdowns as another elite attack. Many in the province feel powerless in the face of global forces that have battered their world, and that leads them to reach for the comforts of a group and a belief system that nourishes them. When Trudeau was re-elected in 2019, Albertans had voted in droves for the Conservative opposition and the reaction to the minority government was angry. Separatists were emboldened and started drawing more attention and crowds, attempting to walk off with a province because they disagreed with the outcome of a democractic election. Sprinkle in some good old-fashioned Alberta myth-making, like the maverick spirit, egalitarianism and the belief that Albertans share a full-throttled libertarian-tinged conservatism, and the recipe is nearly complete. With the addition of a provincial government that has preached personal responsibility, provided mixed messages, resisted some health measures and recently saw MLAs and cabinet ministers ignore the government's own travel advice, the meal is cooked. It's not a stretch to see why many in the province feel left behind, without agency. That's something Bardon says is the very core of anxiety. "You feel anxious, and then you look for something to project that on.… Conspiracy theorists latch on to the conspiracy they just ran across, and if your community already has some preconceived notions as to what the threat is out there, you latch on to that," he says. If you give yourself a story, it gives back. That's not the way some in the protests see it, though. Freedom walker Jake Eskesen is an organizer with Freedom Walk Calgary, which recently branched off from Walk for Freedom over an internal dispute. Speaking just before Christmas, he says the weekly protests are about, well, freedom. "We're standing, basically for our constitutional rights, which are currently being infringed upon by the government," says Eskesen, who previously organized events for what he calls the Alberta independence movement. Personally, he doesn't think the COVID-19 statistics — including death rates and hospitalizations — justify the measures being taken by governments to restrict freedoms and the ability of people to earn a living. He gets his information from places like Post Millennial and The Rebel and also directly from Alberta Health Services statistics, while largely shunning mainstream news which he feels is trying to sell one narrow narrative. The government, he says, is the enemy. Eskesen possesses a complete certainty that his views are correct, while questioning every study, every public health recommendation, the way COVID tests are conducted and more. He, like 20 per cent of Alberta respondents to a recent poll, says he would not get the vaccine until he's convinced it's safe — and that would take a lot, he says. In short, Eskesen has a high threshold for science to convince him that the virus is serious and the measures in place help fight it are worthwhile. Everywhere he looks he sees a lack of the kind of evidence he would need to change his mind even if his own convictions are based on less — and often on misinformation or misinterpretation. Yet he acknowledges that everyone pre-forms opinions and that they're "looking for information to support it." He says it's important to step back and honestly ask yourself whether bias is getting in the way of clearly understanding an issue. So does he ever worry that maybe he's wrong and his actions are putting other people in harm's way? "No. No, not at all." The world of narratives We live now, for better or for worse, in a world of narratives. Storylines that carry us in their wake in a way that has never existed before, at least not to this extent. Information overload, anxiety, rapidly changing technologies and societies have left people clambering for support and anchors. For answers to those empty pits in their stomachs and relief from constricted chests. The more complex the world becomes, the more our prehistoric cerebral architecture kicks in, forcing our flexible thought processes into groupthink of one kind or another and further erecting barriers to thinking that threatens it. We see the results in some dramatic ways, like the storming of the U.S. Capitol building last week. But also in smaller ways like the weekly marches through downtown Calgary. But that's not to say it's all based on a lie, even if much of it is. The official narrative is something that should never be considered sacrosanct, but neither should some of its conspiracy-laden counterparts. So although COVID tests do, indeed, test for COVID, and there is a scientific consensus around masks and restrictions, there are still questions to be asked and answered. There's no doubt small businesses and the people who own them and depend on them for incomes are suffering. Shutdowns have been painful. And then there's the question of government making inroads into our daily lives. "Honestly, with the governments' track record, I have a very hard time believing that once the vaccines are rolled out that they will then relinquish a lot of these powers," says Eskesen.
Suicide rates in Japan have jumped in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women and children, even though they fell in the first wave when the government offered generous handouts to people, a survey found. The July-October suicide rate rose 16% from the same period a year earlier, a stark reversal of the February-June decline of 14%, according to the study by researchers at Hong Kong University and Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology. The early decline in suicides was affected by such factors as government subsidies, reduced working hours and school closure, the study found.
A plane carrying one million doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine arrived on Saturday in Serbia, making it the first European country to receive the Chinese vaccine for mass inoculation programmes. President Aleksandar Vucic was accompanied by Beijing's ambassador to the Balkan country at Belgrade's airport as containers carrying the vaccines were unloaded from an Air Serbia plane. "I would like to thank President Xi Jinping and Chinese leadership for sending us one million doses of the vaccine," Vucic, who has helped forge close ties with China in recent years, told reporters.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United States called Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates “major security partners" early Saturday, a previously unheard of designation for the two countries home to major American military operations. A White House statement tied the designation to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalizing ties to Israel, saying it “reflects their extraordinary courage, determination and leadership.” It also noted the two countries long have taken part in U.S. military exercises. It's unclear what the designation means for Bahrain, an island kingdom off Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, and the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, while the UAE's Jebel Ali port is the busiest port of call for American warships outside of the U.S. Bahrain hosts some 5,000 American troops, while the UAE hosts 3,500, many at Al-Dhafra Air Base. Already, the U.S. uses the designation of “major non-NATO ally” to describe its relationship with Kuwait, which hosts the forward command of U.S. Army Central. That designation grants a country special financial and military considerations for nations not part of NATO. Bahrain also is a non-NATO ally. The U.S. military's Central Command and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The 5th Fleet referred queries to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House designation comes in the final days of President Donald Trump's administration. Trump forged close ties to Gulf Arab countries during his time in office in part over his hard-line stance on Iran. That's sparked a series of escalating incidents between the countries after Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. It also comes after Bahrain and the UAE joined Egypt and Saudi Arabia in beginning to resolve a yearslong boycott of Qatar, another Gulf Arab nation home to Al-Udeid Air Base that hosts Central Command's forward operating base. That boycott began in the early days of Trump's time in office after he visited Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip. ___ Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
Dougie just can't contain his excitement as he runs and plays in the first snowfall of 2021. Hilarious!
January is typically when the holiday lights and Christmas trees begin to come down, as the festive season ends. However, Michael Fabijan, an Inuvik, N.W.T., resident of 33 years, is keeping his unique Christmas tree up to continue to spread some cheer. What was once a blank white wall that separated his living room and kitchen is now donned with a hand-painted tree decked in ornaments crafted by family friends. Fabijan came up with the idea to paint the tree there, and enlisted friends to help spruce it up. "Going away all the time, you never have to decorate for Christmas because you are going to someone else's house. But now I'm here, so I have to decorate," said Fabijan. "And that's where this came from." I'm surrounded by a great crowd of people. - Michael Fabijan Like many, Fabijan spent his Christmas away from family, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 66-year-old said that although this is one of the first holidays he's stayed in Inuvik, the tree ended up bringing a lot of joy and a smile to his face. Every night for about three weeks, four close families in Inuvik would come on different nights to Fabijan's home and spend time decorating the tree with him. "I asked everyone to paint their names somewhere on the board," said Fabijan. Cecile Bleakney, a family friend of Fabijan's, said he is like family, and decorating the tree was like a little celebration every night. "I was amazed about the talent that went in there," she said. "[Almost] everything is handmade… very heartfelt." Sometimes just his friends' kids would come over and paint or add something unique to the tree. A couple of the ornaments feature photos of Fabijan with the children when they were younger. The only two ornaments that aren't handmade are one Fabijan has from childhood, and another he has from his mom. Tree wall may be preserved for future holidays Bleakney and Fabijan have been friends for about 27 years. Bleakney said she felt like the Christmas tree was a great way to bring Fabijan's Inuvik family together. "Because of COVID, the group of us can't all get together," she said. "So that was our way and his way of getting together and spending time with Michael." Fabijan said it helped make the holidays special. "I'm lucky to have friends that will do this. I can't believe it. Everyone I know here that are close friends put something on this tree," said Fabijan. "I'm surrounded by a great crowd of people and the tree is hilarious…. It's just a good family tree," he added. "This made my Christmas and it motivated me." He said he also documented the progress of the tree for family members down south. Fabijan said he always intended to renovate and tear down the wall where the Christmas tree is now painted. But instead, he's decided to try to find a way to keep the wall and bring it out during the holidays. "It's gonna be hard to take down," he said. "To me, it's bringing my local family together at Christmas."
The medical director of Nova Scotia's tissue bank expects his department could see more than double the current number of donations when Nova Scotia changes its organ and tissue laws. On Monday, the province is implementing a new presumed consent system. It means all adults will be considered organ and tissue donors unless they register to opt out. Nova Scotia's organ and tissue law will exempt children and those who do not have the capacity to understand the law. It also doesn't include people who have lived in the province for less than a year. Those who do not want to be donors can use the opt-out registry, and their families will have a say when decisions are being made at the time of death. While organ donation is commonly understood, Dr. Michael Gross hopes people will take the time to understand what it means to donate tissue. Gross said many families are scared or intimidated by the thought. "The whole system is set up to respect the donor," he said. "One of the things people are scared of is that the body is not going to be looking normal." He said they have worked with funeral home directors to make sure that they reconstruct bodies after donation. "You are making a difference, but you are not destroying the overall form of the body," said Gross. Donations lead to 'life-saving' operations The list of possible tissue donations includes corneas, skin, tendons, heart valves and bone. Gross believes more people would be open to the process if they knew how each donation could help others. "It's actually a life-saving operation to put a new heart valve in a child that's undergoing surgery for a cardiac anomaly." Right now, 150 people in Atlantic Canada are waiting for cornea transplants. That wait can take a year and a half. "The people who receive corneal transplants can see again, they can drive again, they can read the newspapers," said Gross. Skin is used for grafts, but it's also now being transformed into a collagen product that can be used in rebuilding tendons. There were 978 tissue grafts in Nova Scotia in 2020. To give that context, Nova Scotia Health says one patient with serious burns can need up to 100 skin grafts. Bone donations can help people who have been in accidents, they can be used in breast reconstruction, and they can help rebuild someone's jaw. "You would be amazed," said Gross. "One person who donates their tissues and we take everything, can affect about 100 other different people. And this is the way it goes." Currently 200 tissue donors a year The need for tissue donation is significant. Gross said the department currently has about 200 donors a year, but once the new law is in effect, he expects it could be as many as 500. Unlike organs, he said, tissues can be donated 24 hours after death. "So there's time for your family to say 'we would like our loved one to donate tissues' or with presumed legislation, anybody who is eligible is able to donate their tissues can automatically which is a big thing." Tissue donors need to be under 70 years old, said Gross, and can't have infections or cancers. He says in 25 years in the department, they have never had a problem with safety. "People need to know that we do an awful lot of screening," he said. "We examine the donor's records. We do a lot of questioning." Gross said the department is also in the process of developing a way to donate placenta at some point in the future. Overall, he said donating is an important part of helping families through the grieving process. MORE TOP STORIES
This column is an opinion by Edward Riche, a St. John's novelist, playwright and commentator. For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ. The comparative success of Atlantic Canada in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has gone little remarked in the national media. I put this down to willful ignorance. How to square our "culture of defeat" with our occasional success has always stumped the mainland. It's hard for a hack in Toronto to see political leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador defer to science and medical expertise while Ontario's leadership defers to spin studios. Stephen McNeil or Blaine Higgs may not come off as towering intellects but in comparison to Kenney's and Ford's witless and dangerous response to the pandemic they are the East Coast's own Feynman and Schrödinger. Until the second wave of the pandemic made its appearance in Halifax and prudence dictated we burst the Atlantic bubble, I believe most people judged it a success. Friends of my sister-in-law in Nova Scotia replaced a planned vacation abroad with their first trip to Newfoundland and had a blast. They were surprised by how different the place is from Nova Scotia. I got to work face-to-face with a chap from Prince Edward Island for a week and it proved the limitations of Zoom. Because of the Atlantic bubble, things got done. The diversity within a region with many shared interests was a small engine. Now, between bubbles, there is great enthusiasm for an admittedly fuzzy, "Atlantic Loop." We don't really know the poop on the loop but do know that Hydro-Quebec will never be part of any arrangement over which it doesn't have a stranglehold. No matter. If a federal bailout of Muskrat Falls sees less burning of dinosaur jam to produce electricity in the Maritimes, it's a capital concept. COVID-19 won't be the last global crisis curtailing movement so perhaps we should consider other Atlantic arrangements. Air Atlantic We on the eastern extreme have been terribly served by the Calgary- and Montreal-based air carriers. Before the pandemic, service and schedules were poor, and predatory pricing was deployed to drive out competition when it appeared. Our proximity to Europe and the big urban centres of the eastern seaboard was insulted with logically (and environmentally) unsound routing that sends us west to fly east or south. Then, when COVID-19 made most travel impossible, those Calgary and Montreal companies proved their essential bad faith by failing to refund tickets for cancelled trips. Shag 'em. We need to build or attract alternative carriers (grow PAL Airlines?) for travel within the region and to a few limited destinations beyond, to Gatwick or Keflavík, Dublin or Charles de Gaulle or Newark, from where we could purchase tickets forward to other destinations in a truly competitive market. Reasonable access to the region by air is critical to all business. We can cease palavering about the potential for increased tourism without it. We are never going to attract or retain enterprising young people without reasonable ways to the wider world. It's never going to make a lot of money, but is an essential service. Canada's small population, spread thinly over its vast terrain cries out for a truly national carrier but that would require the kind of state enterprise for which there has been little appetite in Ottawa since the 1970s. Eatlantic Among the many fruits grown in the Annapolis Valley, the Gravenstein Apple cultivated there is the best apple in Canada. (We have to give the peach to Ontario, they grow the best anywhere.) P.E.I. beef is now world-beating, and their oysters the greatest in North America with New Brunswick a close second. There are bountiful fisheries in all four provinces, and wild foods available nowhere else. Newfoundland lamb is nonpareil. Once upon a time, the region used to do much more to feed itself. There is no reason it cannot embrace a more nose-to-tail, hundreds-of-miles diet. There are compelling economic and ecological reasons to cease driving industrial agricultural products from California, Mexico and beyond. But the winning argument is always taste. The stuff they raise in the Chia Pet that is the American southwest has little flavour. We'd have to return to eating more seasonally but the same reasons of politics, economics and palatability again apply. The Atlantic restaurant scene, not so long ago dismal, is now one of the most exciting on the continent. The Merchant Tavern, Bar Kismet, Mallard Cottage, The Inn at Bay Fortune, Port City Royal and countless other joints are all vaut le détour. Start by meeting your friends at the bar for a glass of the original Atlantic bubbles from Nova Scotia's Benjamin Bridge and a big bowl of plain chips from Covered Bridge. Food security was an issue before the pandemic. There will be other disruptions of the supply chain in the future from natural disaster, political instability, the next virus. Let's begin stocking that local larder sooner than later. Bloc Atlantique We are, all four Atlantic provinces, a meaningless entity in the Canadian parliamentary system. Confederation was a forced marriage of Upper and Lower Canada. Lower Canada has never been happy in the union. Upper Canada addresses threats of divorce by meeting Lower Canada's ever more outlandish demands. No matter how many gifts bestowed on Lower Canada, it will never have conjugal relations with Upper Canada as Lower Canada fulfils its own needs. The tension and the balancing act, the horse trading of Confederation, will go on forever. Could not the members of Parliament from the Atlantic region commit to vote as a bloc during the not-uncommon minority parliaments of our system so that we might see some greater fairness? Wait! What am I thinking? MPs are so gutless, so whipped, this is in the category of faint hope. But the status quo is unsustainable. There are many other reasons to consider increased co-operation between the Atlantic provinces, such as transportation networks beyond air, or unique demands for immigration. The fisheries should probably be co-ordinated. The Atlantic bubble worked well enough the first time, we would be foolish not to consider continuing and fostering its best features, imagining where else we could take it. If it could be expanded to somehow include a portion of the E.U., a little piece of France, say … Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador