Ontario is in the midst of extending lockdowns in hot spots and tightening restrictions in other regions.
Ontario is in the midst of extending lockdowns in hot spots and tightening restrictions in other regions.
Any members of the U.S. Congress who helped a crowd of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the Capitol should face criminal prosecution, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday. The unprecedented Jan. 6 attack on the seat of Congress left five dead and led the House to impeach Trump a second time, for a fiery speech that day in which he urged thousands of his followers to fight Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Democratic Representative Mikie Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, has accused some Republican lawmakers of helping Trump supporters, saying she saw colleagues leading groups on "reconnaissance" tours on Jan. 5.
BEIJING — A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases rise ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush. State media on Friday showed crews levelling earth, pouring concrete and assembling pre-fabricated rooms in farmland outside Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province that has seen the bulk of new cases. That recalled scenes last year, when China rapidly built field hospitals and turned gymnasiums into isolation centres to cope with the initial outbreak linked to the central city of Wuhan. China has largely contained further domestic spread of the coronavirus, but the recent spike has raised concerns due to the proximity to the capital Beijing and the impending rush of people planning to travel large distances to rejoin their families for country’s most important traditional festival. The National Health Commission on Friday said 1,001 patients were under care for the disease, 26 of them in serious condition. It said that 144 new cases were recorded over the past 24 hours. Hebei accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43. Nine cases were brought from outside the country, while local transmissions also occurred in the southern Guangxi region and the northern province of Shaanxi, illustrating the virus’ ability to move through the vast country of 1.4 billion people despite quarantines, travel restrictions and electronic monitoring. Shijiazhuang has been placed under virtual lockdown, along with the Hebei cities of Xingtai and Langfang, parts of Beijing and other cities in the northeast. That has cut off travel routes while more than 20 million people have been told to stay home for coming days. In all, China has reported 87,988 confirmed cases with 4,635 deaths. The spike in northern China comes as World Health Organization experts prepare to collect data on the origin of the pandemic after arriving Thursday in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. Team members must undergo two weeks of quarantine before they can begin field visits. The visit was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of WHO. That delay, along with Beijing's tight control of information and promotion of theories the pandemic began elsewhere, added to speculation that China is seeking to prevent discoveries that chisel away at its self-proclaimed status as a leader in the battle against the virus. Scientists suspect the virus that has killed more than 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. Former WHO official Keiji Fukuda, who is not on the team, cautioned against raising expectations for any breakthroughs from the visit, saying that it may take years before any firm conclusions can be made. “China is going to want to come out avoiding blame, perhaps shifting the narrative, they want to come across as being competent and transparent,” he told The Associated Press in an interview from Hong Kong. For its part, the WHO wants to project the image that it is “taking, exerting leadership, taking and doing things in a timely way," said Fukuda. ___ Associated Press journalist Emily Wang contributed to this report. The Associated Press
GAZA, Palestinian Territory — With a chainsaw in his car, Ahmed Abdelal tours the Gaza Strip, asking around for people wanting to cut down trees, regrow orchards or make way for construction. One of the few remaining woodcutters in the Palestinian territory, Abdelal, who learned woodcutting from his father, is struggling to scratch out a living in a traditional job that is less and less in demand. Job opportunities are rare in this Palestinian enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, and so are green spaces. Rapid population growth — more than 2 million people are crammed in a 360-square-kilometre (140 square mile) strip — comes at the expense of arable land. Israel maintains a 300-meter (330-yard) wide buffer zone along its frontier with Gaza. At the the height of the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, its military bulldozers levelled large swaths of citrus groves in the border areas. In more recent years, Gaza has suffered under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant Hamas group seized control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from upgrading its weapons. The Palestinian Authority, or PA, holds sway in the West Bank. The blockade and the rift between Hamas and the PA have weakened Gaza's energy sector. As a result, residents are put on a rotating electricity schedule of eight-hours on, followed by an eight-hour blackout. Here, woodcutters like Abdelal find an opportunity. The unreliability of the power supply drives up the demand for wood in winter. So Abdelal and other Gaza woodcutters look to expand their clientele from the traditional buyers of logs, residents of rural areas who bake bread on woodfire ovens and tribal councils who keep the Arabic coffee pots warm near a woodfire. Among Abdelal’s favourite clients are small kitchens that cook food in ovens dug under the ground. In these pits, the wood is burnt to coal before chicken, lamb shoulders and shanks are tossed in and left to cook for hours. The cooking technique is getting popular. The olive and citrus wood logs also go to a burning site in east Gaza City where they are turned into charcoal. Abu Ashraf al-Hattab, who has been a charcoal burner for decades, says the business has declined in recent years because the local supplies of wood have shrunk and people have turned to cheaper, imported charcoal. In his gift shop, Muhanad Ahmed wanted to offer environmentally friendly items and drop the excessive amount of plastic that's seen on the shelves of other shops, he says. So, he buys the logs and shapes them into wood sculptures. Abdelal says that as long as he can find customers, he will continue. “Cutting the wood is an old profession for us, and despite development and modernity, it still exists,” he said. Wafa Shurafa And Fares Akram, The Associated Press
Canadian researchers are concerned about the impact climate change will have on drinking water quality, as warmer temperatures lead to less ice cover on lakes. The paper, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was led by York University science Prof. Sapna Sharma. The research found, across the northern hemisphere, by 2100, 5,700 lakes are likely to stop freezing during the winter. Of those, 179 lakes will lose ice cover by 2030. “We need ice on lakes to curtail and minimize evaporation rates in the winter,” Sharma said. “Without ice cover, evaporation rates would increase, and water levels could decline. We would lose freshwater, which we need for drinking and everyday activities. Ice cover is extremely important both ecologically and socio-economically.” While water freezes after temperatures reach 0 C, it must be colder still for lakes to have ice cover. The researchers found air temperature needed to be below -0.9 C for most lakes to freeze. The larger or deeper the lake, the colder it needs to be; some need temperatures as low at -4.8 C to freeze. “It is quite dramatic for some of these lakes, that froze often, but within a few decades they stop freezing indefinitely,” said co-author and postdoctoral fellow Alessandro Filazzola. “It’s pretty shocking to imagine a lake that would normally freeze no longer doing so.” Examining the data, Filazzola found no Manitoba lakes on the list of bodies of water expected to stop freezing altogether. Most of the lakes that are expected to remain open year-round are in the southern and coastal regions of the Northern Hemisphere. However, Manitoba lakes will still be affected. “Large lakes, such as Lake Manitoba, Winnipeg, Winnipegosis, and Cedar will each probably experience an increase in ice-free years in the future. I just have no data to support by how much and by when,” Filazzola said. The research shows Lake Superior and Lake Michigan could permanently become ice-free by 2055, if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, or by 2085 with moderate changes. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Turns out that not taking part in the Spice Girls' reunion tour of 2019 gave Posh Spice major FOMO.
TORONTO — The province's police watchdog says it is investigating after a Toronto police officer shot a 31-year-old man.The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened in the city's east end at about 8 p.m. Thursday. It says officers located a vehicle of interest in the parking lot of Church's Chicken, a restaurant in the area.The SIU says that when officers tried to block in the vehicle, it rammed into their cruisers.An officer discharged his firearm, the SIU says, which struck the 31-year-old man, sending him to hospital.Two officers were also taken to hospital for treatment of injuries. The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials that may have resulted in death, serious injury and sexual assault.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Teachers, educational assistants and other school staffers will be able to jump COVID-19 testing lines to receive same-day results starting Monday, when high schoolers resume in-class learning after a month at home. However, the province has yet to confirm where in line teachers are on the immunization priority list. On Thursday, Manitoba unveiled plans for its first Fast Pass testing centre, where eligible educators can get tested to receive results within hours. School staff, including custodians, bus drivers and workers in school-based early learning and child care facilities, will be able to schedule an appointment at 1066 Nairn Ave., in Winnipeg, as early as Jan. 18. Eligible clients must have valid employment identification and be symptomatic, identified as a close contact as a result of an exposure at school, or have a symptomatic household member. The pilot project is expected to start by testing 20 to 40 school staff daily with Songbird Hyris bCUBE equipment. Negative results will still need to be confirmed at the provincial lab, but early positive results will require educators to start self-isolating right away. Officials aim to expand the pilot to 80 tests daily at the end of January, and later, double that. “It is certainly our hope that this will work to alleviate absences, to a certain degree... and also, to address that anxiety that occurs when a teacher is told there’s a possible exposure,” said James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Following the announcement, Bedford said Thursday the union that represents 16,000 public school teachers will be watching closely to ensure testing capacity meets demand. The inaugural site will initially only be open to staff who work directly with students in Winnipeg, Seven Oaks, River East Transcona, Seine River and Hanover school divisions. Those districts were chosen by Manitoba Health, Education Minister Cliff Cullen said. Staff from other divisions will be able to access the site in February. The pilot will start off slow, Cullen said, adding the plan is to expand to additional locations. Winkler and Brandon could be home to future sites. Cullen also confirmed Thursday the province is not making any adjustments to how schools operate when high schoolers resume in-class instruction Monday. Students are expected to return to routines similar to those in place pre-winter break, while the 28 Hanover-area schools that were in code red in the fall are now in code orange. “Teachers are excited to see kids face-to-face again,” said Emery Plett, principal of Steinbach Christian School, which will welcome back grades 7-12 students, who haven’t studied in school since late November. Politicians and public health officials alike have repeatedly said pandemic protocols in schools are working, and the novel coronavirus hasn’t been spreading significantly within such facilities. Acting deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said Thursday officials have “lots of evidence” there’s a much lower risk of contracting COVID-19 in a school than in the general population. He told reporters the province’s vaccine task force will decide how teachers are prioritized. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation is pushing for teachers to be next in line for vaccinations — right behind health-care workers and vulnerable groups. President Shelley Morse is critical of government messaging that schools are safe, given there isn’t mandatory masking for all ages, many classes cannot accommodate two metres of distancing, and ventilation in old buildings can be poor. Ontario has announced a plan to include teachers in the second phase of its vaccine roll-out; Morse, who is based in Nova Scotia, said she hopes other provinces follow suit. “Because of our environment and because of the amount of people teachers and education workers come into contact with every day, we do need to be on a priority list,” she said. MTS also indicated Thursday it wants to see a provincial plan that prioritizes teachers’ immunization. Since 2021 began, there have been 74 cases among Manitoba students and 11 cases involving school staff, according to the latest public health data. — with files from Katie May and Danielle Da SilvaMaggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Goldman Sachs Group Inc is considering acquisitions to bulk up its consumer banking unit Marcus, after the Wall Street firm slowed loan and deposit growth at its fledgling business last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, three bank sources said. Goldman management has put an "extremely high" bar for any deal to be large and transformational, the sources cautioned. Digital businesses that bring in new customers or unique technologies would be attractive to the bank, the source said.
MADRID — While most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders, authorities in Spain insist the new coronavirus variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for a sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up. The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020, the last time Spain could claim victory over the stubborn rising curve of cases. Infection rates ebbed in October but never completely flattened the surge from summer. Cases started climbing again before the end of the year. In the past month, 14-day rates more than doubled, from 188 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 10 to 522 per 100,000 on Thursday. Nearly 39,000 new cases were reported Wednesday and over 35,000 on Thursday, some of the highest daily increases to date. The surge is again threatening intensive care unit capacity and burdening exhausted medical workers. Some facilities have already suspended elective surgery, and the eastern city of Valencia has reopened a makeshift hospital used last year. Unlike Portugal, which is going on a month-long lockdown Friday and doubling fines for those who don't wear masks, officials in Spain insist it will be enough to take short, highly localized measures that restrict social gatherings without affecting the whole economy. “We know what we have to do and we are doing it,” Health Minster Salvador Illa told a news conference Wednesday, ruling out a national home confinement order and advocating for "measures that were a success during the second wave.” Fernando Simón, the government's top virus expert, has blamed the recent increase in cases on Christmas and New Year's celebrations. “The new variant, even if it has an impact, it will be a marginal one, at least in our country," he said this week. But many independent experts disagree and say Spain has no capacity to conduct the widespread sequencing of samples to detect how the new variants have spread, and that 88 confirmed and nearly 200 suspected cases that officials say have largely been imported from the U.K. are underestimating the real impact. Dr. Rafael Bengoa, former director of Healthcare Systems at the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press the government should immediately enact "a strict but short” four-week confinement. “Trying to do as little as possible so as not to affect the economy or for political reasons doesn’t get us where we need to be,” said Bengoa, who also oversaw a deep reform in the Basque regional health system. The situation in Spain contrasts starkly with other European countries that have also shown similar sharp leaps in cases, increasingly more of them blamed on the more contagious variant first detected in the U.K. The Netherlands, which has been locked down for a month, has seen the pace of infections starting to drop. But with 2% to 5% of new COVID-19 cases from the new variant, the country is from Friday requiring air passengers from the U.K., Ireland and South Africa to provide not only a negative PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure but also a rapid antigen test result from immediately before takeoff. France, where a recent study of 100,000 positive tests yielded about 1% of infections with the variant, is imposing curfews as early as 6 p.m., and Health Minister Oliver Veran has not ruled out a stay-at-home order if the situation worsens. Existing lockdowns or the prospect of mandatory confinement have not been questioned or turned into a political issue in other European countries. Ireland instituted a complete lockdown after widespread infections were found to be tied to the new variant. Italy has a colour-coded system that activates a strict lockdown at its highest — or red — level, although no areas are currently at that stage. In the U.K., scientific evidence of the new variant has silenced some critics of restrictions and spurred Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose measures that are strict but slightly milder than the nation's first lockdown. People have been ordered to stay home except for limited essential trips and exercise, and schools have been closed except for some exceptions. In Germany, where the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has recently shot up to 26 per 100,000 people, many high-ranking officials are arguing that the existing strict confinement order needs to be toughened and extended beyond its current end-of-January expiration. Nordic countries have rejected full-on mandatory lockdowns, instead instituting tight limitations on gatherings and certain activities. Residents have been asked to follow specific recommendations to limit the spread of the virus. In Sweden, the issue is both legal and political, as no law exists that would allow the government to restrict the population's mobility. While urging residents to refrain from going to the gym or the library, Swedish Prime Stefan Lofven said last month, “we don’t believe in a total lockdown,” before adding, “We are following our strategy.” Policymakers in Spain seem to be on a similar approach, although it remains to be seen if the results will prove them wrong. On Thursday, they insisted that vaccinations will soon reach “cruising speed.” But Bengoa, the former WHO expert, said vaccinations won't fix the problem immediately. “Trying to live with the virus and with these data for months is to live with very high mortality and with the possibility that new variants are created,” he said, adding that the new variant of the virus widely identified in the U.K. could make the original version start to seem like "a good one.” Dr. Salvador Macip, a researcher with the University of Leicester and the Open University of Catalonia, says the combination of spiraling infections and the uncertainty over the new variants should be enough for a more restrictive approach, but that pandemic fatigue is making such decisions more difficult for countries like Spain, with polarized politics. “People are fed up with making sacrifices that take us nowhere because they see that they will have to repeat them," Macip said. —- Associated Press writers across Europe contributed. —- Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Aritz Parra, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — A Civil War-era sedition law being dusted off for potential use in the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was last successfully deployed a quarter-century ago in the prosecution of Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks. An Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and nine followers were convicted in 1995 of seditious conspiracy and other charges in a plot to blow up the United Nations, the FBI’s building, and two tunnels and a bridge linking New York and New Jersey. Applications of the law making it a crime to conspire to overthrow or forcefully destroy the government of the United States have been scant. But its use is being considered against the mob that killed a police officer and rampaged through the U.S. Capitol last week. Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for D.C., has said “all options are on the table,” including sedition charges, against the Capitol invaders. “Certainly if you have an organized armed assault on the Capitol, or any government installation, it’s absolutely a charge that can be brought,” said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who secured convictions at Abdel-Rahman’s 1995 trial. The challenge, he said, is whether prosecutors can prove people conspired to use force. “In our case, conspiracy was a layup because of the nature of the terrorist cell we were targeting. In this case, can they show conspiratorial activity or was it one of these things that spontaneously combusted, which makes conspiracy harder to prove?” McCarthy said. Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at the Fordham University School of Law, said sedition charges in an attack against the centre of U.S. government are even more appropriate than in the New York bombing plot. “Of course we should use it here. That’s what this is, seditious conspiracy,” she said. Prosecutors had scant evidence against Abdel-Rahman when they arrested him months after a bomb exploded in February 1993 at the World Trade Center, killing six people. Then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White went to Washington to convince the FBI and Attorney General Janet Reno that Abdel-Rahman should be charged with seditious conspiracy, a law enacted after the Civil War to arrest Southerners who might keep fighting the U.S. government. The law’s hefty penalty — up to 20 years — boosted its value before terrorism laws were overhauled in 1996, McCarthy said. Prosecutors offered jurors Abdel-Rahman’s fiery speeches, witness testimony and a recording of his conversation with an FBI informant in which the sheikh said U.S. military installations could be attacked. Abdel-Rahman argued on appeal that he was never involved in planning actual attacks against the U.S. and his hostile rhetoric was protected free speech. His conviction was upheld and the so-called “Blind Sheikh” died in prison in 2017 at 78. In another case, Oscar Lopez Rivera — a former leader of a Puerto Rican independence group that orchestrated a bombing campaign that left dozens of people dead or maimed in the 1970s and 1980s — spent 35 years in prison for seditious conspiracy before President Barack Obama commuted his sentence in 2017. In 2012, U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts in Detroit dismissed seditious conspiracy charges brought against a militia group’s members who spoke of engaging local, state and federal law enforcement in combat. While considering bail in the case, the judge said “their right to engage in hate filled, venomous speech, is a right that deserves First Amendment protection.” She also wrote that the group’s rhetoric spoke of “reclaiming America, not overthrowing the United States Government.” Before the Capitol attack, federal prosecutors talked about using the seditious conspiracy statute in cases involving protests against police brutality, though none were brought. In a Sept. 17 memorandum, Jeffrey A. Rosen, now the acting U.S. Attorney General, urged prosecutors nationwide to consider filing seditious conspiracy charges against what he called “violent rioters” during racial injustice demonstrations sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Rosen wrote that the law didn’t require proof of a plot to overthrow the U.S. government. Lawyers interviewed by The Associated Press agreed that it would be stretch to try to put President Donald Trump or lawyer Rudolph Giuliani on trial for sedition for what some have criticized as incendiary rhetoric at the rally preceding the mob attack on the Capitol. McCarthy labeled Trump’s actions that day reprehensible, but said “you would never be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended force to be used.” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said prosecuting Trump for urging people to march to the Capitol and not be “weak” or other statements would be a problem. “I think people who work in the area of criminal procedure would say it has a checkered history,” Tobias said of seditious conspiracy law, which has drawn criticism for targeting those with unpopular views and chilling free speech. “People who are absolutists about the First Amendment would be troubled by it and civil libertarians on either end of the spectrum,” he said. New York civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby, who represented Abdel-Rahman for a time, predicted that with or without a sedition charge, the people who committed the most serious offences at the Capitol will pay “a substantial price, certainly a price none of them ever expected.” “Those who started a riot have no idea just how oppressive the government can actually be and they are about to find out,” Kuby said. Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — At age 22, poet Amanda Gorman, chosen to read at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, already has a history of writing for official occasions. "I have kind of stumbled upon this genre. It's been something I find a lot of emotional reward in, writing something I can make people feel touched by, even if it's just for a night," says Gorman. The Los Angeles resident has written for everything from a July 4 celebration featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra to the inauguration at Harvard University, her alma mater, of school president Larry Bacow. When she reads next Wednesday, she will be continuing a tradition — for Democratic presidents — that includes such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. The latter's “On the Pulse of Morning," written for the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, went on to sell more than 1 million copies when published in book form. Recent readers include poets Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, both of whom Gorman has been in touch with. “The three of us are together in mind, body and spirit,” she says. Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in memory, and she has made news before. In 2014, she was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, and three years later she became the country's first National Youth Poet Laureate. She has appeared on MTV; written a tribute to Black athletes for Nike; published her first book, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough,” as a teenager, and has a two-book deal with Viking Children's Books. The first work, the picture book “Change Sings," comes out later this year. Gorman says she was contacted late last month by the Biden inaugural committee. She has known numerous public figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama, but says she will be meeting the Bidens for the first time. The Bidens, apparently, have been aware of her: Gorman says the inaugural officials told her she had been recommended by the incoming first lady, Jill Biden. She is calling her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” while otherwise declining to preview any lines. Gorman says she was not given specific instructions on what to write, but was encouraged to emphasize unity and hope over “denigrating anyone” or declaring “ding, dong, the witch is dead" over the departure of President Donald Trump. The siege last week of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election was a challenge for keeping a positive tone, but also an inspiration. Gorman says that she has been given 5 minutes to read, and before what she described during an interview as “the Confederate insurrection” of Jan. 6 she had only written about 3 1-2 minutes worth. The final length runs to about 6 minutes. “That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” says Gorman, adding that she will not refer directly to Jan. 6, but will “touch" upon it. She said last week's events did not upend the poem she had been working on because they didn't surprise her. “The poem isn't blind,” she says. "It isn't turning your back to the evidence of discord and division." In other writings, Gorman has honoured her ancestors, acknowledged and reveled in her own vulnerability ("Glorious in my fragmentation," she has written) and confronted social issues. Her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric),” written for the 2017 inaugural reading of U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, condemns the racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia ( “tiki torches string a ring of flame”) and holds up her art form as a force for democracy: ____ Tyrants fear the poet. Now that we know it we can’t blow it. We owe it to show it not slow it _____ Gorman has rare status as a poet, and has dreams of other ceremonies. She would love to read at the 2028 Olympics, scheduled to be held in Los Angeles, and in 2037 wouldn't mind finding herself in an even more special position at the presidential inauguration — as the new chief executive. “I'm going to tell Biden that I'll be back,” she said with a laugh. Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
The unknown release date of Manitoba’s K-12 education review is what one rural superintendent says keeps him up at night. “How can we continue to move forward without knowing what the future holds?” said Donald Nikkel, superintendent of human resources, public relations and alternative programming at Lakeshore School Division, located in Eriksdale, approximately 140 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. That’s one of many questions Nikkel has for the province. With 2021-22 budget planning underway, the administrative team at Lakeshore penned a letter to the new education minister this week, to raise concerns about the future of Manitoba’s public school system and what it holds for rural staff and students. It’s easy for the voices of school leaders in small divisions like Lakeshore to be muted, Nikkel said. The district is roughly the size of Prince Edward Island, but its student population is less than 1,000, spread across 12 schools, including two colony schools. “We know our students really, really well, and we’re able to really tailor our education to the particular schools and communities that we’re in,” Nikkel said, adding the division embraces land-based learning and its connections to agriculture. Its small size allowed for two metres of physical distancing to be accommodated in all buildings before classes started in the fall amidst COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Nikkel and board chairman Jim Cooper share in their concern the implementation of the K-12 review could limit rural representation in education decision making, citing the fact amalgamation is widely anticipated. “We’re not opposed to change, but we want to make sure that we maintain some type of local voice — whether it’s a board system or whatever,” said Cooper, school trustee for Eriksdale. Cooper added there is concern special programs, such as Lakeshore Education Growth Opportunities, which help students access temporary accommodation and job training in Winnipeg, could be in jeopardy. Among the Lakeshore team’s other worries: what it claims is a provincial fixation on standardized testing scores, the introduction of Bill 45 (Public Schools Amendment and Manitoba Teachers’ Society Amendment Act) and Bill 64 (Education Modernization Act) before the release of the K-12 review, and a decline in funding for rural divisions in recent years. Manitoba Education typically releases K-12 funding allocations in January each year. Education Minister Cliff Cullen was not made available for an interview Wednesday. A spokesperson for the minister said in a statement the province appreciates Lakeshore’s feedback and will continue to engage with Manitoba’s education community “to make sure our students are receiving the best education.”Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
After months of “abnormal” economic uncertainty, early projections for 2021 show Canadian employers are beginning to relax cost-cutting measures in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s not good news for everyone yet, and certainly not for smaller organizations. According to figures from a new compensation report, at least seven per cent of all companies expect to freeze salaries this year — a figure well below the nearly one-third which axed wages in 2020, and much less than the 20 per cent projected for 2021. At the same time, data from the report by consulting firm Normandin Beaudry suggest, salary-freezing has increased significantly for smaller companies and remains above the pre-pandemic levels of three per cent overall. About 16 per cent of organizations with 50 to 100 employees said they won’t be increasing wages this year, compared to four per cent in 2020. And 30 per cent of companies with fewer than 50 employees said the same, compared to 12 per cent last year. “Salary freezes wouldn’t exactly be the biggest measure to look at market outlooks in a normal economic climate,” explains Diane White, principal of compensation at Normandin Beaudry. “But I haven’t seen wage-freezing represent such a large chunk for our companies in around 25 years of my career. And that’s why, right now, it’s probably the most important figure to factor in when showing how the economics are playing out.” In terms of salary increases, forecasts show only 2.6 per cent of companies will do so this year (excluding any freezes). The decrease has been partly attributed to around 35 per cent of organizations expecting to allocate a budget less than previous plans. The pandemic continues to be the reason for causing these shifts to compensation, White told the Free Press Wednesday, and it’s not just affecting salaries — even bonuses are being diminished. More than a quarter of all organizations expect not to pay any bonuses in 2021, mainly because financial results from last year did not meet their set objectives. For those that do plan to pay bonuses, however, close to half will make payments that are less than 20 per cent of what they’d initially planned to give out as a reward for good performance. Low levels like this have rarely been seen for such a high number of organizations, said White, adding it will force a “massive” number of employers to look at permanently overhauling their pay bump and bonus programs. “It’s mass volatility which is causing these trends to kind of be all over the place,” said Bram Strain, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba. “The shock of COVID is settling down after the summer when we had no idea how things were looking, but it seems to be somewhat still lingering.” “Certainly though, whether things are looking well for you or not, the results are definitely affecting some industries more than the other,” he said. In summer 2020, Normandin Beaudry believed more than 10 per cent of organizations in the manufacturing sector would freeze salaries in 2021. Barely six months later, the consulting firm says none of those organizations expect to pause their wages. White said any “good changes” like that after 2020 are likely the result of a “continued war for talent.” “It’s good to know that there’s still demand for talent, which is likely why projections are better this time around,” she said. “But I think it’s going to need quite a bit of patience before things normalize or settle down to what they looked like before the pandemic.”Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities sacked a local police chief and 11 other policemen for failing to protect a Hindu temple that was set on fire and demolished last month by a mob led by hundreds of supporters of a radical Islamist party, police said Friday. The 12 policemen were fired over “acts of cowardice" and “negligence" for not trying to stop the mob when it attacked the temple, with some having fled the scene. Another 48 policemen were given various punishments following a probe into the attack, the police statement said. The punishments come amid government assurances to the Hindu community that the temple in Karak, a town in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, would be rebuilt. Hours after the Dec. 30 attack, authorities arrested about 100 people on charges of participating or provoking the mob to demolish the temple. The detainees included supporters of the radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, who are currently facing trials on various charges. The attack took place after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate the temple. Although Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan, there have been other attacks on Hindu temples in recent years. Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain’s government. The Associated Press
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top challenger in upcoming elections is promising a tough line toward Iran and the Palestinians, yet expressed confidence he has the tools to avoid what appears to be a collision course with the incoming Biden administration. In an interview, Gideon Saar voiced harsh criticism of Netanyahu, accusing the prime minister of turning the ruling Likud party into a “cult of personality” as he faces a corruption trial. While welcoming President Donald Trump's affinity for Israel, he acknowledged that Netanyahu's close ties with the divisive U.S. president had alienated many Democrats and vowed to restore traditional bipartisan support for Israel. “I think I am in a better position than the prime minister to have an effective and true dialogue with President-elect (Joe) Biden and his administration,” he told The Associated Press. That could be critical given the deep differences between Israel and Biden, who plans to return to the Iranian nuclear deal and adopt a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Saar, who defected from Netanyahu's ruling Likud party last month, shares the prime minister's hard-line nationalistic ideology. He is a strong proponent of West Bank settlements, rejects the idea of a construction freeze and favours the eventual annexation of the settlements. He said he would never agree to an independent Palestinian state that includes the removal of settlements. “I oppose a Palestinian state in the heart of our homeland,” he said. “I think it will not bring peace and it will undermine stability and security in the region.” These positions will put him at odds with Biden, who — like many of his predecessors — opposes settlement construction and favours a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Saar seems to be counting on his reputation as a bridge builder to massage the inevitable disagreements likely to arise. His demeanour and style are starkly different from Netanyahu's. While Netanyahu is a firebrand orator, Saar, a lawyer by training, speaks methodically, often pausing to find the right word. Where Netanyahu has gained a reputation for an extravagant lifestyle, Saar conducted Thursday's interview in the book-lined living room of his high-rise apartment in an upscale Tel Aviv neighbourhood. With four children living at home, he lamented the challenges, including Zoom lessons, of raising a blended family during the pandemic. Saar, 54, entered Israeli politics in 1999 as Cabinet secretary during Netanyahu’s first term. He held key senior Cabinet posts after Netanyahu returned to power in 2009. But as with many other fast-rising Likud figures, he eventually had a falling out with Netanyahu. Saar took a break from politics in 2014 to spend time with his new wife, TV anchor Geula Even, and their children. He returned in 2019 but never seemed to repair his ties with Netanyahu. Later that year, Netanyahu trounced him in a party leadership vote, confining Saar to the backbenches. Since bolting Likud and launching his “New Hope” party last month, Saar has made no secret that their battle is personal. In his inaugural speech, he accused Netanyahu of creating a “cult of personality” — a term he repeated Thursday to describe those who blindly support Netanyahu’s claims that his corruption trial is a conspiracy. Saar said a key moment for him came last May, when Netanyahu arrived at the courthouse for the opening of his trial joined by a group of Likud ministers and lawmakers. The group stood silently behind Netanyahu as he accused the media and justice system of trying to topple him. “A cult of personality is when the most important thing in order to be advanced in a political system is to flatter and serve the personal interests of its leader,” Saar said. He said that while Netanyahu has the right to fight the charges against him, his claims of a grand conspiracy are “absolute nonsense.” Netanyahu’s tactics have drawn comparisons to Trump, who showered his Israeli counterpart with diplomatic gifts, ranging from the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to brokering normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries. Saar said he had great respect for Trump’s contributions to Israel and did not want to wade into U.S. politics. But in an apparent reference to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol, he said: “I cannot identify with talk that delegitimized the democratic electoral process and its results.” Saar is among the legions of critics who believe that Israel is being dragged into its fourth election in just two years due to Netanyahu’s legal troubles and divisive personality. It is widely believed that Netanyahu is seeking a coalition of allies willing to grant him immunity from prosecution. Saar, emerging as Netanyahu's biggest challenger in the March 23 election, appears poised to prevent that. Opinion polls project New Hope will become the second-largest party in parliament, smaller than Likud but with enough seats to prevent Netanyahu from assembling a majority. That has made Saar the unofficial leader of a diverse group of “anyone but Bibi” parties that refuse to serve under Netanyahu, who is widely known by his nickname. Netanyahu says his opponents are motivated by sour grapes and little more than shared animosity toward him. Saar believes he can find enough common ground to form an alternative coalition. In a reflection of his political savvy and ability to work with rivals, he co-ordinated a surprise late-night parliamentary manoeuvr last month that caused the coalition to collapse. Saar described himself as pragmatic. He said, for example, he welcomed Netanyahu's agreement to shelve a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank as part of last year's agreement establishing diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates. He said he would respect that pledge if elected. If elected, Saar's first big test with the Biden administration is likely to be the Iranian nuclear issue. In 2015, Netanyahu famously delivered a speech to Congress to lobby against the Iran deal as then-President Barack Obama was wrapping it up. Netanyahu was a driving force in Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, one of Obama’s signature achievements. His confrontation with Obama remains a sore point with many Democrats. Saar said he respected Netanyahu's campaign, but that times have changed and a new approach will be needed to make sure the nuclear deal is not revived in its original form. He said he would seek a mutually respectful dialogue to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear bomb. “I will have to deal with the political reality of 2021,” he said. “I will do it much better than anyone else.” Josef Federman, The Associated Press
Thursday's Games NHL Winnipeg 4 Calgary 3 (OT) Edmonton 5 Vancouver 2 Washington 6 Buffalo 4 Boston 3 New Jersey 2 (SO) N.Y. Islanders 4 N.Y. Rangers 0 Carolina 3 Detroit 0 Nashville 3 Columbus 1 San Jose 4 Arizona 3 (SO) Dallas at Florida — postponed Vegas 5 Anaheim 2 Minnesota 4 L.A. 3 (OT) --- NBA Toronto 111 Charlotte 108 Philadelphia 125 Miami 108 Houston 109 San Antonio 105 Denver 114 Golden State 104 Indiana 111 Portland 87 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 14, 2021. The Canadian Press
BEIJING — President Xi Jinping is asking former CEO Howard Schultz of Starbucks to help repair U.S.-Chinese relations that have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid a tariff war and tension over technology and security. A letter from Xi to Schultz reported Friday by the official Xinhua News Agency was a rare direct communication from China's paramount leader to a foreign business figure. Schultz opened Starbucks' first China outlet in 1999 and is a frequent visitor. Xi wrote to Schultz “to encourage him and Starbucks to continue to play an active role in promoting Chinese-U.S. economic and trade co-operation and the development of bilateral relations,” Xinhua reported. No text of the letter was released. Xinhua gave no indication whether the letter reflected an initiative to ask American corporate leaders to help change policy after President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week. Economists and political analysts say Biden is likely to try to revive co-operation with Beijing over North Korea and other political issues. But few changes on trade are expected due to widespread frustration in Washington over China's human rights record and accusations of technology theft. The Cabinet press office didn’t immediately respond to questions about what Xi wanted Schultz to do and whether he contacted other American business leaders. Schultz, who was Starbucks CEO until 2017 and chairman until 2018, led an aggressive expansion that made China its biggest market outside the United States. Starbucks says it has more than 4,700 stores and 58,000 employees in almost 190 Chinese cities. Schultz said in 2019 that he was considering running for president as an independent but later dropped that. Xinhua said Xi was responding to a letter from Schultz that congratulated the Chinese leader on “the completion of a well-off society” under his leadership, Xinhua said. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
Canada's Alimentation Couche-Tard has dropped its 16.2 billion euro ($19.6 billion) bid to acquire European retailer Carrefour SA after the takeover plan ran into stiff opposition from the French government, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday. The decision to end merger talks came after a meeting on Friday between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Couche-Tard's founder and chairman, Alain Bouchard, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential. Couche-Tard and Carrefour declined to comment.