CBC News Network's Jennifer Hall speaks to David Herle, host of the Herle Burly podcast, principal partner at The Gandalf Group and former campaign co-chair of Liberal Party of Canada.
CBC News Network's Jennifer Hall speaks to David Herle, host of the Herle Burly podcast, principal partner at The Gandalf Group and former campaign co-chair of Liberal Party of Canada.
MAMUJU, Indonesia — Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and lack of heavy equipment on Saturday hampered rescuers after a strong earthquake left at least 49 people dead and hundreds injured on Indonesia's Sulawesi island. Operations were focused on about eight locations in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju, where people were still believed trapped following the magnitude 6.2 quake that struck early Friday, said Saidar Rahmanjaya, who heads the local search and rescue agency. Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta landed late Friday for distribution in temporary shelters. Still, thousands of people spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks and a possible tsunami. The National Search and Rescue Agency's operations director, Bambang Suryo Aji, said rescuers recovered three more bodies in the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings in Mamuju late Saturday, raising the death toll to 49. A total of 40 people were killed in Mamuju, while nine bodies were retrieved in neighbouring Majene district. At least 415 houses in Majene were damaged and about 15,000 people were moved to shelters, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati. Bodies retrieved by rescuers were sent to a police hospital for identification by relatives, said West Sulawesi police spokesperson Syamsu Ridwan. He said more than 200 people were receiving treatment at the Bhayangkara police hospital and several others in Mamuju alone. Another 630 were injured in Majene. Among those pulled alive was a young girl who was stuck in the wreckage of a house with her sister. The girl was seen in video released by the disaster agency Friday crying for help. She was being treated in a hospital. She identified herself as Angel and said that her sister, Catherine, who did not appear in the video, was beside her under the rubble and was still breathing. The fate of Catherine and other family members was unclear. The quake set off landslides in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to Majene. Power and phone lines were down in many areas. Mamuju, the capital of West Sulawesi province with nearly 75,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. A governor office building was almost flattened by the quake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge collapsed and patients with drips laid on folding beds under tarpaulin tents outside one of the damaged hospitals. Two hospitals in the city were damaged and others were overwhelmed. Many survivors said that aid had not reached them yet due to damaged roads and disrupted communications. Video from a TV station showed villagers in Majene, some carrying machetes, forcibly stopping vehicles carrying aid. They climbed onto a truck and threw boxes of instant noodles and other supplies at dozens of people who were scrambling to get them. Two ships headed to the devastated areas from the nearby cities of Makassar and Balikpapan with rescuers and equipment, including excavators. State-owned firm AirNav Indonesia, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the quake did not cause significant damage to the Mamuju airport runway or control tower. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Friday that he instructed his Cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to co-ordinate the response. In a telegram sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis, the pontiff expressed “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster.” The pope was praying for “the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve.” Francis also offered encouragement to those continuing search and rescue effects, and he invoked “the divine blessings of strength and hope.” International humanitarian missions including the Water Mission, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross said in statements that they have joined in efforts to provide relief for people in need. On Thursday, a magnitude 5.7 undersea quake hit the same region, damaging several homes but causing no apparent casualties. It was followed by more than 30 aftershocks, including the deadly quake. Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground. A massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. ___ Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia. Niniek Karmini And Yusuf Wahil, The Associated Press
IQALUIT — A sliver of orange rose over Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier this week, tinting the sky pink and the snow a purple hue. The sun washed over the frozen tundra and sparkling sea ice for an hour — and was gone. Monday marked the return of the sun in the Arctic community of about 1,700 after six weeks of darkness, but an overcast sky that day meant the light couldn't get through. Pamela Gross, Cambridge Bay's mayor, said the town gathered two days later, on a clear day, to celebrate. Gross, along with elders and residents, rushed down to the shore as the darkness broke around 10 a.m. "It was joyous. It's such a special feeling to see it come back," Gross said. Elders Mary Akariuk Kaotalok and Bessie Pihoak Omilgoetok, both in their 80s, were there. As Omilgoetok saw the sun rise, she was reminded of a tradition her grandparents taught her. Each person takes a drink of water to welcome and honour the sun, then throws the water toward it to ensure it returns the following year. Gross filled some Styrofoam cups with water and, after taking a sip, tossed the rest at the orange sky behind her. "I didn’t know about that tradition before. We learned about it through her memory being sparked through watching the sun rise." Although the sun's return was a happy moment, the past year was especially difficult for the community, Gross said. She wouldn't elaborate. "Being such a small community, people really know each other, so we feel community tragedies together. There were a few that we’ve gone though this year," she said. Gross said restrictions on gatherings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant losses in the community felt even more heavy. "It made it extra challenging to be close as a community ... and for your loves ones if they’re going through a hard time." Getting the sun back helps. "It's hard mentally to have a lack of sun, but the feeling of not having it for so long and seeing it return is so special. You can tell it uplifts everyone." The return of the sun is celebrated in communities across Nunavut. Igloolik, off northern Baffin Island, will see the sun return this weekend. But the community of about 1,600 postponed its annual return ceremony to March because of limits on gathering sizes during the pandemic. In the territory's more northern areas, the sun slips away day by day in the fall, then disappears for months at a time. Grise Fiord, the most northern community in Nunavut, loses sun from November to mid-February. But in the summer, the sun stays up 24 hours a day. Now that the sun has returned in Cambridge Bay, the community will gain 20 more minutes of light as each day passes. “The seasons are so drastic. It really gives you a sense of endurance knowing that you can get through challenging times," Gross said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021. ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News fellowship Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press
The second batch of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrived in Argentina on Saturday, allowing the South American country to apply the second part of the two-dose program aimed at inoculating front-line health workers. More doses are expected to arrive in Argentina later this month and in February. Paraguay this week became the eighth country outside Russia to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute.
Prince Rupert resident Sharlene Wilson was in her early 60s when she lost her job of more than 30 years in October 2019. A month later, legal advocate Paul Lagace with the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre filed a complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch on her behalf, arguing she should be entitled to eight weeks' severance. More than a year later, Wilson is dead, and the branch has yet to look at her case. Lagace is now acting on behalf of her estate. "I'm so frustrated and I'm tired of the runaround," Lagace said. 'Severe stress' on workers The Employment Standards Branch is the service that oversees B.C.'s Employment Standards Act. It deals with complaints like severance, working conditions and lost wages. Legal advocates like Lagace say wait times at the branch have become unacceptable, especially given that many of the people who file complaints are low-wage workers with no other recourse. David Madiros, a lawyer with Kent Employment Law, says his clients have had to wait 10 months or longer before the branch will even touch their case. "It puts a severe stress on people," Madiros said. "Many people who are in the service industry or who are hourly wage workers don't have a lot of a cushion to fall back on." Madiros says he advises his clients to take their matters to B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal for small claims when possible. But he says some cases have to be filed through the Employment Standards Branch. Backlog due to pandemic, increased services Lagace says even trying to just call the branch for an update has become unbearable, with wait times of two hours or more. In a written statement, B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains admits there is a backlog of complaints. Although it's been more than three years since they were in power, Bains blames it on the previous Liberal government. "In 2017, our government inherited a system that was failing to serve workers," Bains said in the statement. Other reasons the ministry gave for the backlog include the elimination of the branch's self-help kits in 2019, doubling the time to submit a complaint to a year, the new inclusion of temporary foreign workers and, of course, the pandemic. "I think everyone understands that COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on British Columbians," Bains said. "The pandemic has certainly contributed to the increase in worker complaints coming into the branch." Complaints nearly double in 4 years The ministry says the Employment Standards Branch received about 7,700 complaints in 2020, compared to 4,260 complaints in 2016. But legal advocate Lagace says Wilson's case was filed months before the pandemic was declared. Regardless of what's causing the problem, Lagace says, wait times of more than a year to even get a case started, let alone resolved, is unacceptable for the people who rely on the Employment Standards Branch for lost wages. 'It was very difficult' Wilson's husband, Henry Richard Wilson, says waiting to find out about her severance put a lot of stress on his wife, who died in June from heart surgery complications. "Just seeing her reaction to her job was extremely devastating," Wilson said. "It was very difficult." Wilson, a stroke survivor, says waiting to hear about his wife's case has been frustrating, and a resolution would help put him and his two daughters at ease. Lagace wants the Labour Ministry to apologize to Wilson, and make significant changes at the branch so cases like hers can be expedited. Bains says in 2019 the ministry did invest an additional $14 million in the branch over three years, including hiring 35 more staff, streamlining processes and triaging cases.
Ottawa's homicide unit is investigating the death of a man who was found with gunshot wounds in the city's south end early Saturday morning. According to police, the man was found in the area of Hunt Club Road and Lorry Greenberg Drive at approximately 3 a.m. He was identified Saturday afternoon as 20-year-old Mehdi El-Hajj Hassan. A section of Lorry Greenberg Drive was closed to traffic but has since re-opened. People with information are asked to contact police or can submit anonymous tips by calling Crime Stoppers.
COVID-19. Suite à une discussion avec la Santé publique et en accord avec les représentants des partis, le président de l'Assemblée nationale, François Paradis, indique que les séances des commissions parlementaires prévues pour les deux prochaines semaines seront virtuelles. Les auditions se dérouleront donc à distance pour les témoins et les députés impliqués dans les auditions publiques des projets de loi sur la modernisation du régime de santé et de sécurité du travail, l'Institut de technologie agroalimentaire du Québec et celui sur l’aide aux personnes victimes d'infractions criminelles. Les études détaillées des autres projets de loi qui étaient prévues pour les deux prochaines semaines sont quant à elles annulées. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
The public won’t see President Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there’s growing concern that the collection won’t be complete, leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House staffers to spend hours taping them back together. “They told him to stop doing it. He didn’t want to stop,” said Solomon Lartey, a former White House records analyst who spent hours taping documents back together well into 2018. The president also confiscated an interpreter’s notes after Trump had a chat with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump scolded his White House counsel for taking notes at a meeting. Top executive branch officials had to be reminded more than once not to conduct official business on private email or encrypted text messaging systems and to preserve it if they did. Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud, which postponed for weeks an acknowledgement of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, is delaying the transfer of documents to the National Archives and Records Administration, further heightening concern about the integrity of the records. “Historians are likely to suffer from far more holes than has been the norm,” said Richard Immerman at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In the Trump White House, “not only has record-keeping not been a priority, but we have multiple examples of it seeking to conceal or destroy that record.” But even with requests by lawmakers and lawsuits by government transparency groups, there is an acknowledgment that noncompliance with the Presidential Records Act carries little consequence for Trump. The Presidential Records Act states that a president cannot destroy records until he seeks the advice of the national archivist and notifies Congress. But the law doesn’t require him to heed the archivist’s advice. Most presidential records today are electronic, and records experts estimate that automatic backup computer systems capture a vast majority of them, but cannot capture records that a White House chooses not to create or log into those systems. THE MOVE Moving a president’s trail of paper and electronic records is a laborious task. President Barack Obama left about 30 million pages of paper documents and some 250 terabytes of electronic records, including the equivalent of about 1.5 billion pages of emails. When Trump lost the November election, records staffers were in position to transfer electronic records, pack up the paper ones and move them to the National Archives by Jan. 20 as required by law. But Trump’s reluctance to concede has meant they will miss the deadline. “Necessary funding from the (White House) Office of Management and Budget was delayed for many weeks after the election, which has caused delays in arranging for the transfer of the Trump presidential records into the National Archives’ custody,” the National Archives said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Even though the transfer of these records will not be completed until after Jan. 20, the National Archives will assume legal custody of them on Jan. 20 in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment about preserving Trump’s records. One person familiar with the transition said guidance typically emailed to executive branch employees, explaining how to turn in equipment and pack up their offices, was sent out in December, but quickly rescinded because Trump insisted on contesting the election. With little guidance, some staffers in the White House started quietly calling records workers to find out what to do. Departing employees are instructed to create a list of folders in each box and make a spreadsheet to give the National Archives a way to track and retrieve the information for the incoming Biden team. The public must wait five years before submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to see the Trump material. Even then, Trump — like other presidents before him — is invoking six specific restrictions to public access of his records for up to 12 years. RECORD-KEEPING PRACTICES On impeachment and other sensitive issues, some normal workflow practices were bypassed, a second person familiar with the process said. Higher-ups and White House lawyers became more involved in deciding which materials were catalogued and scanned into White House computer networks where they are automatically saved, the person said. The individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the inner workings of the White House, said that if uncatalogued materials ended up in an office safe, for instance, they would at least be temporarily preserved. But if they were never catalogued in the first place, staffers wouldn’t know they existed, making them untraceable. Trump’s staff also engaged in questionable practices by using private emails and messaging apps. Former White House counsel Don McGahn in February 2017 sent a memo that instructed employees not to use nonofficial text messaging apps or private email accounts. If they did, he said, they had to take screenshots of the material and copy it into official email accounts, which are preserved. He sent the memo back out in September 2017. Government transparency groups say the screenshots are not adequate because they do not capture attachments or information such as who contacted whom, phone identifiers and other online information. “It’s an open question to me about how serious or conscientious any of those people have been about moving them over,” said Tom Blanton, who directs the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which was founded in 1985 to combat government secrecy. Trump was criticized for confiscating the notes of an interpreter who was with him in 2017 when Trump talked with Putin in Hamburg, Germany. Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to obtain the notes of another interpreter who was with Trump in 2018 when he met with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Several weeks ago, the National Security Archive, two historical associations and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued to prevent the Trump White House from destroying any electronic communications or records sent or received on nonofficial accounts, such as personal email or WhatsApp. The court refused to issue a temporary restraining order after government lawyers told the judge that they had instructed the White House to notify all employees to preserve all electronic communications in their original format until the lawsuit was settled. Anne Weismann, one of the lawyers representing the groups in their lawsuit, suspects “serious noncompliance” of the Presidential Records Act. “I believe we will find that there’s going to be a huge hole in the historical record of this president," Weismann said. Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Nova Scotia is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Three of the new cases are in the central health zone. One was a close contact of a previously reported case. The other two are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. One is a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax who lives off-campus. The case in the eastern health zone is a student at Cape Breton University in Sydney who lived off-campus and travelled outside the region. That case was reported Friday but not included in the official case tally until Saturday. All the new cases are self-isolating. There are 30 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, down two from Friday. No one is in hospital with the virus. Nova Scotia Health Authority labs conducted 2,293 Nova Scotia tests on Friday. Premier Stephen McNeil is commending students for "following health protocols," according to a release from the province. "We are seeing young people at universities taking the isolation requirement seriously and I want to thank them for protecting the health of others in their school community," he said. The province is continuing to urge students who have returned from outside of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or P.E.I. to book a COVID-19 test on the sixth, seventh or eighth day of their quarantine, regardless if they have symptoms. Any students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 must complete a self-assessment online or call 811. Students still must complete their 14-day isolation period even with a negative test result. Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said the low numbers are encouraging but warned against complacency. "While this is good news, we must remember COVID-19 is still in our communities and we must all do our part to prevent its spread," he said in a news release. New potential exposures Late Saturday, the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced two new possible COVID-19 exposures on flights into Halifax from Toronto. Officials are asking anyone who was on the following flights in the specified seats to immediately book a test through the province's self-assessment website or contact 811, regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms: Swoop flight 408 travelling on Jan. 8 from Toronto (5:30 p.m.) to Halifax (8:30 p.m.), passengers in rows 16-22 seats A, B, C and D. Symptoms may develop up to, and including, Jan. 22. Air Canada flight 604 travelling on Jan. 5 from Toronto (8:00 a.m.) to Halifax (11:00 a.m.), passengers in rows 22-28 in seats C, D, E and F. Symptoms may develop up to, and including, Jan. 19. All other passengers on this flight must continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Reduction in vaccine supply At a news briefing on Friday, the premier said Nova Scotia will continue to hold back second doses of COVID-19 vaccine until it is guaranteed there will be no interruption in supply. McNeil said he understands the concerns people have with the rollout, but stressed the importance of moving the vaccine throughout the province safely and effectively. He said the province had administered 7,600 doses of the vaccine as of late Thursday, which included 2,200 front-line health-care workers who have received their second dose. Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the province had received 13,000 doses of vaccine prior to Thursday. Most of that supply has been administered or has been scheduled for second doses. Pfizer had recently said it will temporarily reduce shipments of its vaccine to Canada. The pharmaceutical giant is pausing some production lines at a facility in Belgium in order to expand long-term manufacturing capacity. In an email, a spokesperson from Nova Scotia Health said it has been notified it should expect fewer Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses each week for a month. "We have solid processes in place to manage a decrease or increase in vaccine supply. We can adjust our clinics to accommodate the amount of vaccine we receive," the email said. Mandatory testing for rotational workers Mandatory testing for rotational workers came into effect Friday. Workers will now be required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later. If rotational workers do not get tested, they will be fined $1,000. Regardless of the test result, they must still complete their 14-day modified self-isolation. A mobile health unit was set up in Truro , N.S., on Thursday in response to an increase in the number of potential exposures in the area in the last week. A full list of exposures in the province can be found here. On Friday, Nova Scotia Health said the unit will be expanded for four more days of testing. Drop-in testing will be available on Saturday at the NSCC Truro Campus from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday through Tuesday at the convention centre in the Best Western Glengarry from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Atlantic Canada case numbers MORE TOP STORIES
The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) council plans to waive penalties on tax payments in the initial few months of 2021. “I think residents and businesses across the town have been severely impacted by COVID. This last shutdown over the Christmas season has been particularly painful for a lot of businesses and residents,” said TBM councillor Rob Sampson. “I think we should, as a council, show some recognition of that pain and provide some relief,” he added. TBM staff will be preparing a draft bylaw for council consideration that will look to waive penalties on tax payments for April, May and June of 2021. The bylaw is expected to waive penalties for both commercial and residential taxpayers. According to Ruth Prince, director of finance for TBM, waiving the penalties may cost the municipality approximately $100,000. However, she says that if an additional round of COVID relief funding were to come from the province, the cost could be covered should the town obtain some of that funding. “I’ve got to believe the province is going to have to provide a third round of funding. It is not as though COVID has stopped impacting municipalities. In fact, I would argue that's probably gotten worse,” Sampson said. TBM previously waived penalties for tax payments at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to Prince, most TBM residents continued to make the payments on-time and in-full. “Last year most people did make their payments even though there was a waive of the penalty and interest,” she said. “Most people are in the habit of making the payments and understand that they will have to pay the money eventually anyways.” A related staff report and draft bylaw are expected to be brought to a committee of the whole meeting in early February. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Cities, towns and villages across France were practically empty on Saturday as residents stayed home and businesses shut to observe a nationwide curfew intended to help stem the spread of coronavirus, especially a more infectious variant. The virus has killed 70,000 people in France, the seventh highest toll in the world, and the government is particularly worried by the more transmissible variant first detected in Britain, which now accounts for about 1% of new cases. The curfew was brought forward two hours to 6 p.m. and will run until 6 a.m. In addition, from Monday anyone travelling to France from outside the European Union will have to show a negative test result and self-isolate for a week upon arrival.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. The number of hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients, and four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227. The province added 2,430 more recoveries, for a total of 210,364. The province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. --- 10:45 a.m. Ontario is reporting 3,056 new cases of COVID-19 today along with 51 new deaths related to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliot says 903 of the latest diagnoses are in Toronto, with 639 in neighbouring Peel region and 283 in York Region. The province says 1,632 COVID-19 patients are currently in hospital, with 397 in intensive care. Elliott says the province had administered 189,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of 8 p.m. on Friday. --- 10:30 a.m. Ontario says a shipping delay from Pfizer BioNTech means residents who receive an initial dose of the company's COVID-19 vaccine will have to wait longer than expected to receive their second one. The government says long-term care residents and staff who have been inoculated already will wait up to an extra week before a second dose is administered. Anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine were initially supposed to get a econd dose after 21 days, but will now see that timetable extended to a maximum of 42 days. The government says it's on track to ensure all long-term care residents, essential caregivers and staff, the first priority group for the vaccine, receive their first dose by mid-February. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — All federal prisons in the United States have been placed on lockdown, with officials aiming to quell any potential violence that could arise behind bars as law enforcement prepares for potentially violent protests across the country in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. The lockdown at more than 120 federal Bureau of Prisons facilities took effect at 12 a.m. Saturday, according to an email to employees from the president of the union representing federal correctional officers. “In light of current events occurring around the country, and out of an abundance of caution, the decision has been made to secure all institutions,” the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement. The lockdown decision is precautionary, no specific information led to it and it is not in response to any significant events occurring inside facilities, the bureau said. To avoid backlash from inmates, the lockdown was not announced until after they were locked in their cells Friday evening. Shane Fausey, the president of the Council of Prison Locals, wrote in his email to staff that inmates should still be given access in small groups to showers, phones and email and can still be involved in preparing food and performing basic maintenance. Messages seeking comment were left with Fausey on Saturday. The agency last put in place a nationwide lockdown in April to combat the spread of the coronavirus. During a lockdown, inmates are kept in their cells most of the day and visiting is cancelled. Because of coronavirus, social visits only resumed in October, but many facilities have cancelled them again as infections spiked. One reason for the new nationwide lockdown is that the bureau is moving some of its Special Operations Response Teams from prison facilities to Washington, D.C., to bolster security after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Authorities are concerned there could be more violence, not only in the nation’s capital, but also at state capitals, before Trump leaves office Jan. 20. A Bureau of Prisons spokesman said the agency was co-ordinating with officials at the Justice Department to be ready to deploy as needed. Earlier this month, about 100 officers were sent to the Justice Department's headquarters to supplement security staff and were deputized by the U.S. Marshals Service and given special legal powers to “enforce federal criminal statutes and protect federal property and personnel,” said the spokesman, Justin Long. The specialized units typically respond to disturbances and other emergencies at prisons, such as riots, assaults, escapes and escape attempts, and hostage situations. Their absence can leave gaps in a prison’s emergency response and put remaining staff at risk. “The things that happen outside the walls could affect those working behind the walls,” Aaron McGlothin, a local union president at a federal prison in California. As the pandemic continues to menace federal inmates and staff, a federal lockup in Mendota, California, is also dealing with a possible case of tuberculosis. According to an email to staff Friday, an inmate at the medium-security facility has been placed in a negative pressure room after returning a positive skin test and an X-ray that indicated an active case of tuberculosis. The inmate was not showing symptoms of the lung disease and is undergoing further testing to confirm a diagnosis, the email said. As a precaution, all other inmates on the affected inmate’s unit were placed on quarantine status and given skin tests for tuberculosis. The bacterial disease is spread similarly to COVID-19, through droplets that an infected person expels by coughing, sneezing or through other activities such as singing and talking. Mendota also has 10 current inmate cases and six current staff cases of COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the last day for which data was available, there were 4,718 federal inmates and 2,049 Bureau of Prisons staff members with current positive tests for COVID-19. Since the first case was reported in March, 38,535 inmates and 3,553 staff have recovered from the virus. So far, 190 federal inmates and 3 staff members have died. __ Balsamo reported from Washington. __ On Twitter, follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 Michael R. Sisak And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
The family of a missing Yarmouth County man has been targeted by an online scam, according to Nova Scotia RCMP. A family member of Zachery Lefave, who was last spotted in Plymouth on New Year's Day, received an unsolicited text message on Jan. 12 saying that Lefave was still alive but would be killed if they didn't send $7,000 in gift cards. The family immediately contacted police without sending any money. After an investigation, police determined the text appeared to have came from various locations in North America and Africa, as the sender had been using a virtual private network. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce told CBC that investigators are still tracking the source of the text, but they believe it came from a country that does not have a "strong bilateral relationship" with Canada. He said that will make the investigation "very, very challenging." Police believe the sender obtained personal phone numbers from social media after family members had posted them online during the search for Lefave. "The person responsible used technology to disguise their location and then preyed on a vulnerable family who are doing everything possible to find Zach," Sgt. Terry Faulkner of the Southwest Nova Major Crime Unit said in a news release Saturday. The RCMP reminded Nova Scotians that there is a risk when sharing personal information online. The search for Lefave has been suspended but Yarmouth RCMP is continuing to ask for the public's help in finding Lefave. Lefave, who was turning 21 at the time he went missing, is white, five-foot-nine and 175 pounds with brown hair, brown facial hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a hat, plaid shirt and shorts. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Yarmouth Rural RCMP at 902-742-9106. Anonymous tips can be shared by calling CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477. MORE TOP STORIES
Plateau Mountain is the first thing John Smith looks at every day on his ranch near Nanton, Alta. "They're a barometer of weather. That's where our chinook arches are. You can tell when there's big wind coming, they blow snow off, and they're just cool to look at," Smith said. The 48-year-old third-generation rancher named his business after it — Plateau Cattle Company. He has nearly 600 head of cattle and 1,500 acres near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. If open pit mining happens on the eastern slopes, it threatens his operation. "Thirty-five per cent of our cattle go up there," Smith said. "So in these COVID times, I'm sure everybody understands what a 35 per cent reduction in wage or the bottom line of a business [does]. So yeah, it's definitely a threatening thing." Along with his wife Laura Laing, Smith is pushing back against the provincial government's decision to revoke a 1976 policy that kept coal mines out of most of the province's Rocky Mountains and Foothills. WATCH | Why Alberta is looking to the Rockies for coal: One mine is under review, and others could follow. Some residents of former mining towns have applauded the prospect of potential jobs returning to their communities. But others, including Smith, worry about what the change might have on quantity and quality of local water — which at the moment runs good and clear. "Every kid in agriculture has always been told this. Your grandfathers tell you, if you haven't got water, you haven't got [nothing]," Smith said. Laing said speaking up against the changes is not a comfortable thing to do, but it's important. "We've been challenged in lots of adversities. We're fighting for a bigger picture here. Everybody's water, the landscapes, the mountains," Laing said. The couple's plight has been boosted by star power recently. Alberta-born country stars Corb Lund and Paul Brandt posted their feelings on social media, saying they oppose coal development in the region. WATCH | Country star Corb Lund comes out against proposed coal mines: "I know a lot of people are afraid to speak out. It's not easy, I get it. But I'm so glad they're taking the lead and sharing the story," Laing said. The mayor of High River, Craig Snodgrass, doesn't want it either. He said provincial maps show Category 2 lands where mines will be allowed stretch into Kananaskis Country and the headwaters of the Highwood River and Cataract Creek. "Reinstate the policy, the protections in these [Category 2] lands and let's have a discussion, and we'll give you the chance openly to prove to us that everything's going to be good," Snodgrass said. Snodgrass put forward a motion this week to send the province a letter of opposition. It was unanimously approved by town council. David Luff is a former assistant deputy minister and was a resource planner for former premier Peter Lougheed's government when the policy was created. He said the process the United Conservative government used was ethically and morally wrong, adding the policy was based on a vision for a long-term priority. "The eastern slopes were to be recognized as having the highest priority for watershed protection, recreation and tourism," Luff said. For Smith, who would like to see his family's ranch reach a fourth generation, the situation is one that weighs heavy. "This place can provide a living for multiple families for a hundred or two hundred years," he said. "I don't think there's a coal mine that can do and create what agriculture is doing here." Representatives with Alberta's energy and environment ministries were unavailable to comment for this story.
There's good news for northern New Brunswick skiers and snowmobilers this weekend. Some northern parts of the province are expected to get hit with winter weather, bringing as much as 35 centimetres of snow. The storm is expected to start Saturday evening and continue into Sunday afternoon. Environment Canada has issued snowfall warnings for the Acadian Peninsula, Bathurst and Chaleur Region, Campbellton and Restigouche County, Edmundston and Madawaska County, the Miramichi region and the Mount Carleton area near Renous Highway. Snow and ice pellet accumulation is expected to range from 15 centimetres to as much as 35 centimetres in some parts of northeastern New Brunswick. "Travel is not recommended," Environment Canada warned. Gusty easterly winds will lead to blowing snow. In coastal areas, high water levels are expected Sunday evening. Rainfall warnings have been issued for mainly southern parts of New Brunswick, including Grand Manan, coastal and northern Charlotte County, the St. Stephen area and the Saint John region. Environment Canada said those areas could see heavy precipitation. Combined with melting snow, flooding is possible in low-lying areas. The agency issued special weather statements for all other regions of the province, which can expect a mix of precipitation, ranging from ice pellets and freezing rain overnight, and changing to rainfall by Sunday morning. In the south, the storm will likely result in rain.
With the new year here, many are starting to think of tax season which is just around the corner. This year, with the uncertain financial standing Canada and the world, is in with COVID-19 still breathing down our throats, it is helpful to hear of tax credits being offered by the government. Recently, Deputy Premier and Finance minister Donna Harpauer came forward with a few tax credits the Sask Party is offering, “We are pleased to resume the indexation of income tax brackets and tax credit amounts in 2021….. Indexation protects Saskatchewan taxpayers from bracket creep, and helps keep the tax system fair, competitive and affordable.” All Saskatchewan income tax brackets and tax credit amounts will once again be indexed in 2021, this will save taxpayers an estimated $15 million. The level of indexation in 2021 will be 1.0 percent, matching the national rate of inflation. “Restarting the Active Families Benefit to make children’s activities more affordable was a key election commitment of our government,” Harpauer said. “As promised, the Active Families Benefit will provide a non-refundable tax credit of $150 per year per child to eligible families. Families of children with a disability will receive an additional $50, for a total tax credit of $200 per year per child.” Families with children enrolled in sports, arts and cultural activities will also be able to claim the Active Families Benefit once again on their 2021 taxes, the restarting of the Active Families Benefit will be part of the 2021-22 Budget which will be retroactive to January 1, 2021. Parents who enroll their children in sports, arts and cultural activities in the new year are therefore reminded to keep their receipts so they may claim the benefit with their 2021 tax filings. Saskatchewan residents who are planning to renovate their homes may also be able to claim the recently announced Saskatchewan Home Renovation Tax Credit. Under this non-refundable tax credit, Saskatchewan homeowners can save up to $1,155 in provincial income tax in 2021 if they claim a 10.5 percent tax credit on up to $11,000 of eligible home renovation expenses incurred between October 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. A further $945 in savings may be claimed in 2022 in respect of eligible expenses incurred between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022. Eligible expenses include the cost of permits, contractor labour and professional services, building materials, fixtures, and equipment rentals. Tax Credits are always helpful to see as tax season approaches. It is always a good idea to check with your local accountant, or better yet hire a local account, as they are always on top of any tax credit you may be eligible for. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
Canadian scientists in a nationwide network of labs are on a mission to detect and disrupt the new and highly contagious coronavirus variants in the U.K. and South Africa. Dawna Friesen takes us inside the hunt for the new variants.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party on Saturday chose Armin Laschet, the pragmatic governor of Germany’s most populous state, as its new leader — sending a signal of continuity months before an election in which voters will decide who becomes the new chancellor. Laschet will have to build unity in the Christian Democratic Union, Germany's strongest party, after beating more conservative rival Friedrich Merz. And he will need to plunge straight into an electoral marathon that culminates with the Sept. 26 national vote. Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the centre-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s Sept. 26 election, but Laschet will either run himself or have a big say in who does. He didn't address his plans at Saturday's party convention. Laschet, 59, was elected in 2017 as governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, a traditionally centre-left stronghold. He governs the region in a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats, the CDU’s traditional ally, but would likely be able to work smoothly with a more liberal partner, too. Current polls point to the environmentalist Greens as a likely key to power in the election. Laschet pointed Saturday to the value of continuity and moderation, and cited the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump as an example of where polarization can lead. “Trust is what keeps us going and what has been broken in America,” he told delegates before the vote. “By polarizing, sowing discord and distrust, and systematically lying, a president has destroyed stability and trust.” “We must speak clearly but not polarize,” Laschet said. “We must be able to integrate, hold society together.” He said that the party needs “the continuity of success” and “we will only win if we remain strong in the middle of society.” Laschet said that “there are many people who, above all, find Angela Merkel good and only after that the CDU.” He added that ”we need this trust now as a party” and that “we must work for this trust.” Laschet beat Merz, a former rival of Merkel who was making his second attempt in recent years to win the CDU leadership, by 521 votes to 466. A third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting. Merz's sizeable support suggests that a strong contingent would like a sharper conservative profile after the Merkel years. Merkel has led Germany since 2005 but said over two years ago that she wouldn't seek a fifth term as chancellor. Merkel, 66, has enjoyed enduring popularity with voters as she steered Germany and Europe through a series of crises. But she repeatedly abandoned orthodox conservative policies, for example by accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and ending military conscription. Her decision in 2015 to allow in large numbers of migrants caused major tensions on the centre-right and strengthened the far-right Alternative for Germany party. Saturday's vote ends a nearly year-long limbo in Germany’s strongest party since outgoing leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who narrowly beat Merz in 2018 to succeed Merkel as CDU leader but failed to impose her authority, announced her resignation. A vote on her successor was delayed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic. Laschet called for unity after Saturday's vote and said Merz remains “an important personality for us.” “All the questions that will face us after the pandemic need a broad consensus in our party,” he said. “And we will need this consensus for all the elections that are ahead of us, too. Everyone will be against us.” Laschet, a miner's son who served as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2005, shouldn't expect much of a honeymoon in his new job. In addition to the national election, Germany is holding six state elections this year, the first two in mid-March. And at some point, he will confer with allies in Bavaria on who runs for chancellor. The CDU is part of the Union bloc along with its sister party, the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, and the two parties will decide together on the candidate. The Union currently has a healthy poll lead, helped by positive reviews of Merkel’s handling of the pandemic. CSU leader Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria, is widely considered a potential candidate after gaining in political stature during the pandemic. Some also consider Health Minister Jens Spahn, who supported Laschet and was elected as one of his deputies, a possible contender. Polls have shown Soeder’s ratings outstripping those of Saturday’s CDU candidates. Laschet has garnered mixed reviews in the pandemic, particularly as a vocal advocate of loosening restrictions after last year’s first phase. “It's very good that a year-long discussion process is over,” Soeder said. “I am sure that Armin Laschet and I will find a joint, wise and united solution to all other pending questions.” Saturday’s result will now be officially endorsed in a postal ballot. That is expected to be a formality but is required by German law. Geir Moulson, The Associated Press
Ontario says it's slightly slowing the pace for some COVID-19 vaccinations in response to a shipping delay from drugmaker Pfizer BioNTech. Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams says the company's decision to temporarily delay international vaccine shipments will likely have an effect on the province, though the full impact of the move is not yet known. Williams says long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer's vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week longer than originally planned. He says the timetable will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot. The adjustments come as Ontario reported 3,056 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, along with 51 new deaths related to the virus. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 stand at 1,632, with 397 patients in intensive care. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Toronto and the neighbouring regions of Peel and York continue to post the highest infection rates in the province. She said 903 of the most recent diagnoses were found in Toronto, with 639 in Peel and 283 in York. Some of those regions are among those targeted by a government blitz of big box stores which got underway on Saturday. The province said earlier this week it would send 50 inspectors to stores in five regions -- Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham. They'll be looking to ensure the retailers are complying with the province's tightened public health rules, which went into effect on Thursday along with a provincewide stay-at-home order meant to curb the spread of the virus. Labour Minister Monte McNaughton has said inspectors will focus on compliance with masking and physical distancing rules, as well as other health guidelines. He said they'll have the authority to temporarily shut down facilities found to be breaching the rules, and to disperse groups of more than five people. The minister said inspectors will also be able to issue tickets of up to $750 to management, workers or customers if they're not abiding by the measures. Premier Doug Ford, who has faced criticism for allowing big-box stores to remain open for on-site shopping while smaller businesses are restricted to curbside pickup or online sales, vowed this week to crack down on big lineups and other infractions at large retailers. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021. The Canadian Press
WOLVERHAMPTON, England — West Bromwich Albion collected only its second win in the Premier League — and first under new manager Sam Allardyce — as two penalties by Matheus Pereira helped to earn a 3-2 victory over Wolverhampton on Saturday. Allardyce was unable to call upon two key players — goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and winger Matt Phillips — after they contracted the coronavirus, but West Brom still managed to boost its survival hopes with its first win since beating Sheffield United on Nov. 28. Pereira slotted home his first penalty in the fourth minute after Callum Robinson was tripped at the edge of the penalty area, but Wolves fought back to lead at halftime thanks to goals by Fabio Silva in the 38th and Willy Boly in the 43rd. Centre half Semi Ajayi scored for the third time since Allardyce arrived a month ago after a header following a long throw-in in the 52nd minute, and Pereira regained the lead for West Brom four minutes later from a penalty again won by Robinson. West Brom remained in next-to-last place, but moved in sight of safety. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press