Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
The Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. is holding a town hall this Friday to ask Black Islanders how it can help them.President Tamara Steele says the group is putting together a strategic plan and wants to make sure it represents the community, whether it's newcomers or people whose families have been here for generations."I think the biggest challenge we have right now is connecting with everyone, so we know that there are people that we're not reaching and just figuring out how to reach them," she said."I don't hesitate any more to just ask people if they've heard about the society and get involved if they want to."Steele said the group has identified three main themes to discuss at the town hall — financial security, mental health and community engagement.The event will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there is only room for 100 people. Pre-registration is required.For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.More from CBC P.E.I.
L’Alliance du corridor ferroviaire Estrie-Montérégie n’est pas inquiétée par l’augmentation de la vitesse des trains de Canadien Pacifique (CP) sur le réseau des Chemins de fer du centre du Maine et du Québec (CMQ) annoncée plus tôt cette semaine. L’entreprise a assuré à l’ACFEM et ses municipalités membres que la sécurité est au cœur de leurs préoccupations. «Je sais qu’ils ont mis beaucoup d’argent pour sécuriser les rails pour amener les trains à un niveau plus rapide, soit de 25 miles à l’heure à 40 miles à l’heure. Ils me l’ont garanti, qu’ils ont à cœur la sécurité», commente le président du sous-comité sur la sécurité ferroviaire de l’ACFEM, également préfet de Brome-Missisquoi et maire de Farnham, Patrick Melchior. Si Transport Canada a donné son accord à CP pour que la compagnie ferroviaire augmente la vitesse de ses trains, c’est que les rails sont sécuritaires, ajoute le président de l’ACFEM et maire de Bromont, Louis Villeneuve. Il souligne également que le train ne roulera pas toujours à 64 km/h, précisant qu’il y a des sections où le train devra ralentir. Par exemple, le train circulera toujours à 16 km/h dans le secteur de Lac-Mégantic. Plus de capacité La question qui turlupine davantage M. Melchior est le nombre de trains qui passeront chaque jour. L’achalandage augmentera-t-il au cours des mois à venir? C’est ce que laissait entendre l’entreprise dans un communiqué en parlant de capacité supplémentaire. «Comme maire de Farnham, s’il y a plus d’achalandage, ça veut dire plus de trains dans la gare de triage, plus de trains aux passages à niveau. Déjà, on passe beaucoup de temps en arrêt aux passages à niveau puisque le chemin de fer scinde la ville en deux. Des fois, on peut être arrêté pendant 12 à 15 minutes en attendant que le triage se fasse.» Il n’a pas obtenu de réponse claire à ce sujet de la part de CP jusqu’à présent, mais entend bien suivre le dossier de près.Cynthia Laflamme, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix de l'Est
The Town of Bay Roberts has awarded a tender in the amount of $316,277 to CanAm Platforms & Construction Ltd. for new ballfield lighting. There was some discussion on whether that tender price would include new dehumidifiers, as the tender was for ballfield lighting and stadium dehumidifier upgrades. “I’m 99 percent sure that’s just the ballfield lighting,” said councillor Dean Franey, who noted the Town had already awarded the dehumidifier upgrade. “I’ll have to check with the director, but I’m pretty sure councillor Franey is right,” agreed Chief Administrative Officer Nigel Black. “What happens is the project name was called Ballfield Lighting and Stadium Dehumidifier. It was all lumped into one project.” Councillor Silas Badcock raised a concern about the awarding of the tender. “This is the company that put up our building at the recreation complex, where we’re having trouble with the roof?” asked Badcock. Black confirmed it was. Badcock said it didn’t make sense to him to award the contract unless the roof was fixed first. Black replied that the company met all the requirements of the tender, which had been reviewed by Municipal Affairs and the Town’s consultant, Crosbie Engineering. “There’s no way in the world we can say, ‘Fix our roof before you get this contract?’” asked Babcock. Black said the roof is being fixed and there is no outstanding claim against the company. “There was an outstanding problem with the roof, and they’re fixing it,” said Black. Councillor Geoff Seymour asked how much interest there was in the tender, and Franey said that there were 10 bids— including one from a company from Nova Scotia. “There’s not much work out there, I’ll put it to you that way. So people are going after whatever they can get,” said Franey. Council voted to approve the tender for the ballfield lighting.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Giant dumps of snow are nothing new to people in the Big Land, but even by Labrador standards the snowfall over the last 24 hours was a doozy. Snow began to fall Monday evening and by 11 a.m. Tuesday 60 centimetres of snow had fallen, with 25-30 more expected before evening. SaltWire Network meteorologist Cindy Day said the storm, the first blizzard of the season for Labrador, tracked across Ontario and Quebec, bringing significant snow across those provinces, and was just off the Northern Peninsula Tuesday afternoon. “The system really is a two-season system. North of the storm it’s a blizzard, snow and wind and significant windchill. On the south side of that low-pressure system it's extremely mild, but also very windy. So, depending on where you are, there are either spring-like conditions or deep into winter.” Day said it’s interesting to note that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday Gander was the hot spot in the country, while there was 60 centimetres of snow in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, about 840 kilometres away. Schools and many businesses closed for the day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but some remained open or were slated to open after lunch. All town facilities, including the town hall and the E.J. Broomfield Arena, remained closed for the day, and the scheduled town council meeting was moved to Thursday. Canada Post announced it would not deliver mail in the region Tuesday due to the weather. The average snowfall for the month of November in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is 56 centimetres, Day said, so Tuesday alone will top that. There has already been a record amount of snowfall this month, she said, but depending on how the calculations are done it could also be a new one-day record. The previous record was set, she said, on Jan. 16, 1985, when 71 centimetres fell in one day. “It’s going to be tricky how they add these numbers, since it will have fallen on the 23rd and 24th, so we’ll see how that comes out, but it’s on track for a record,” she said. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Rebecca Irving has applied to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, asking it to quash a decision by the province's minister of land regarding a controversial land transfer that took place in 2019.Irving is part of the larger Irving family, which has multiple corporate holdings throughout New Brunswick and P.E.I.In June of 2019, a company listing Rebecca Irving as its director, Haslemere Farms, became the owner of 2,200 acres of land in the area of Summerside and North Bedeque that had belonged to a family-owned farming operation.A previous attempt to purchase the same land involving several corporations with connections to the Irvings had failed to receive the necessary cabinet approval.But in the Haslemere Farms transaction, Minister of Land Bloyce Thompson said the transfer had not been put before cabinet for approval. He asked the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to investigate, and vowed to close "loopholes" in the Lands Protection Act, legislation that sets limits on individual and corporate land ownership on P.E.I.Haslemere Farms has since changed its name to Red Fox Acres. Under P.E.I.'s corporate registry, Rebecca Irving is the only person listed under the heading of "directors and shareholders."Minister says he asked for divestitureSixteen months after Thompson asked IRAC to investigate, the commission delivered its report to government in October. However, neither IRAC nor the province has released that report to the public. The minister said he would do so after it's been reviewed by P.E.I.'s privacy commissioner.Thompson issued a written statement Oct. 27 saying the investigation had found "there are reasonable and probable grounds that two individuals and the corporation involved contravened the Lands Protection Act by having aggregate land holdings in excess of the prescribed limits."The statement went on to say "the involved parties have received correspondence from government asking them to divest land and become compliant with the Lands Protection Act within 120 days," but the statement did not disclose who those involved parties are. Under the Lands Protection Act, individuals are limited to owning 1,000 acres of land. For corporations, the limit is 3,000. With allowances for leased and non-arable land, those limits increase to 1,900 acres for individuals and 5,700 acres for corporations.The act also includes measures to prevent corporations "directly or indirectly controlled by the same person, group or organization" from stacking up land limits in order to control more land. Minister exceeded jurisdiction, says IrvingTwo court applications for judicial review filed Monday, one from Rebecca Irving and the other from Red Fox Acres, ask the court to "nullify" the minister's decision, and seek an interim order affirming the status quo until a final ruling can be delivered.The two court applications argue Thompson exceeded the jurisdiction granted him under the Lands Protection Act and "erroneously interpret[ed] the provisions of the Lands Protection Act."The filings also argue Thompson breached "his duty of fairness" to Irving and Red Fox Acres for, among other things, failing to provide proper notice and opportunities to respond at various points throughout the investigation process. Jonathan Coady, legal counsel for both Rebecca Irving and Red Fox Acres, sent this statement to CBC News: "The filing made by the company was to preserve its right to court review, if it became necessary to do so. Because the matter is ongoing, the company has no additional comments to make at this time."The allegations have not been tested in court and there was no response from the minister or the department as of Wednesday.More from CBC P.E.I.
TEMAGAMI – With COVID-19 not going away anytime soon, Temagami council has begun discussing some options when it comes to winter recreation opportunities at the Community Centre. With all the uncertainties surrounding COVID, and with current arena restrictions, the municipality had yet to determine if the ice plant would be operational for the 2020-21 winter season. Council looked at a pair of options at the November 19 regular meeting. The first option would be for the town to start up the ice plant and have the ice ready for the Christmas season. Staff would ensure that the municipality would continue to follow current health regulations while offering public skating, pick-up hockey, and other events for which revenue could be generated. “To proceed with this option we would need to develop health and safety protocols, cleaning protocols and purchase additional protective equipment,” recreation manager Kelly Hearn wrote in his report to council. “The start-up procedures for the ice plant would also need to be completed.” The second option would be that the municipality does not start up the ice plant this winter. Staff would consider other options for recreational programming for the community to stay active and healthy. “From the operational funds that are not utilized on the start-up, shut down and maintenance of the ice surface, staff would find alternate means of providing recreation to the community,” said Hearn. Hearn noted that staff are also considering the purchase of a made-to-measure, rubberized floor for the arena surface. “This would increase the options of non-ice arena use,” he reasoned. Councillor John Shymko was in favour of the second option, suggesting that the town “could plow a few rinks on Net Lake and Lake Temagami” so that they could still offer public skating. Treasurer-administrator Craig Davidson said he didn’t disagree with Shymko’s idea, but that it might not be something the municipality could do itself based on its insurance coverage. “It might need to be something that’s done at arm’s length (from council) volunteers,” he explained. Davidson added that he has always thought an outdoor rink, along with a bonfire, by the municipal office would be a good idea “as long as the fire doesn’t melt down into the lake.” Shymko then said he wouldn’t mind plowing the potential rink himself. Councillor Margaret Youngs was also in favour of the second option while Councillor Jamie Koistinen said she was leaning towards favouring the first option because of how “depressing” Northern Ontario winters can be. “If we’re removing any kind of recreation from the kids here in town, or even families to have some kind of outings that are safe within the community, then what does that do for the community members there?” she questioned. “Christmas is coming, there’s the two-week (school) break and possibly extensions beyond that. So I tend to think that some families might benefit from going to the arena, especially during a time where you’re not quite able yet to go ski-dooing, you can’t go ice fishing, there’s different things that can’t happen in the community at that time.” Councillor Barret Leudke stated that he didn’t feel the municipality should be encouraging group gatherings of any kind because of the increasing risks and uncertainty associated with the coronavirus. “We need to go into a full lockdown and other municipalities have suggested to stay directly home. I’m not in support of (group gatherings), I see this virus getting worse long before it gets better,” he said. “I want to encourage more distancing and no group gatherings.” Deputy Mayor Cathy Dwyer said she would be in favour of the second option as long as the municipality looks into other recreational possibilities for its residents. She said she has heard from some parents who understand the municipality might not put ice in the arena but were concerned about a lack of activities for their kids this winter. Council agreed on a motion to choose the second option and not start up the ice plant this winter. Hearn said that staff would work on seeking out other recreation opportunities to keep the community active this winter.Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
SAN FRANCISCO — Some California counties are pushing ahead with plans to wind down a program that's moved homeless people into hotel rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic despite an emergency cash infusion from the state aimed at preventing people from returning to the streets in colder weather as the virus surges.Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced $62 million for counties to move hotel guests into permanent housing or to extend hotel leases that were part of “Project Roomkey," which he rolled out this spring as a way to protect some people experiencing homelessness from the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pick up 75% of the cost.But counties say that with federal relief funding expiring soon, it's time to transition residents from expensive hotel rooms to cheaper, more stable housing. Officials hope to offer a place to every resident leaving a hotel, though they acknowledge not everyone will accept it and affordable housing is difficult to find.California is one of several states, including Washington, that turned to hotels to shelter homeless people as the virus took hold. Homelessness has soared nationwide during the pandemic, and it was already at a crisis level in California because of an expensive housing market and a shortage of affordable options. The nation's most populated state has by far the highest number of people on the streets, though other places have a higher per capita rate.In San Francisco, advocacy groups and some officials are outraged by the mayor's plan to start moving hundreds of people out of hotels around the holidays. They say it’s ridiculous when thousands of people are still sleeping on sidewalks and in cars, and they don't believe the city can find enough virus-safe housing for 2,300 people living in more than two dozen hotels.“It makes absolute zero sense. It is outrageous, it’s irresponsible, and it basically tells people experiencing homelessness that you’re not a priority for the city,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said as she and other leaders announced proposed legislation to slow the move and ensure every resident is offered alternative housing.The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement that money from the state will provide “more flexibility and time” but would not say if San Francisco had changed its timeline. The department has said it plans to move homeless people out of all 29 hotels by June.“We will continue to work with city staff and our service providers to deliver on our commitment to get people housed and ensure no one in our hotels gets moved back on the streets," the statement said.An estimated 150,000 people experiencing homelessness live in California, and there are signs that number will only increase with an economy ravaged by the pandemic. Newsom has awarded $800 million to cities and counties to buy hotels and other properties to convert into housing, saying he didn't want to squander an opportunity to get more people indoors.At times, connecting homeless people to shelter, work, medical care and social services boils down to finding them in time, and the hotels have been a huge help, advocates say. They say hotel residents have flourished with regular checkups and meals.“If this were to be taken away from us at this time, it really would be like having a carpet pulled out from under us in a really major way,” said hotel resident Nicholas Garrett, who appeared with the San Francisco supervisors.Dr. Danielle Alkov spoke of one of her patients, a transgender woman who has blossomed after being brought indoors. But her hotel is scheduled to be among the first to close.“She’s thriving, she’s engaged in medical care, she’s very future-thinking for probably the first time in a long time, thinking about her career goals, her educational goals,” Alkov said. “The idea of her not having a stable place to go, and losing all the progress that she’s made, would be devastating.”In Los Angeles, the Homeless Services Authority said nearly 600 people have moved out of hotel rooms and into interim housing, with 62 others in permanent housing. About 3,400 people remain in hotel rooms, and while the agency has received funding from the city to extend leases at several hotels, it will keep moving people into other housing, spokesman Christopher Yee said.Alameda County, which includes Oakland, hopes to use state money for rental subsidies and to extend leases on hotel rooms but will continue with plans to close five of nine hotels between December and February. Over 1,000 people are in hotels there.It's much more cost-effective to use the money “for permanent housing with leases than to continue the hotel program indefinitely," said Kerry Abbott, director of the county’s Office of Homeless Care and Coordination. And while some people have chosen to return to a shelter, “our goal is to make sure everyone has a housing offer. Most people will take a housing offer."The hotels won't go away entirely. Abbott said the county plans to operate a 98-room quarantine and isolation hotel for six months next year and keep an additional 240 hotel rooms open through 2021 for residents who require the extra care.By year's end, Sacramento County plans to close trailers housing 46 people either recovering from the virus or awaiting test results. But county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said shelter hotels will stay open through early next year and nobody will be forced to leave without a place to go.Even though the program is ending, Abbott, of Alameda County, says people have benefited deeply, with some able to start addressing issues that have kept them out of stable housing.“Many people have been inside for the first time in a decade or longer, and have stayed inside, and have benefited from a place to stay, the services and the food and even the community our providers have put in place," she said.Janie Har, The Associated Press
A snowmobiler got more than he bargained for when he ventured away from his friends in search of new terrain while out in the Yanks Peak area two Sundays ago. He took the detour without telling anyone and without a shovel. He paid for it by spending the night and much of the next day out in the wilderness. "He got really stuck," said Dave Merritt of Prince George Search and Rescue. "He got stuck multiple times, he just couldn't get himself out without a shovel." Merritt said search and rescue volunteers were originally called out to look for another member of the party of about 15-20 enthusiasts. By the time the searchers had shown up, that subject had made his way back to the parking lot at the entrance to the popular snowmobiling area south of Wells after spending a few hours extracting his sled from a tree well. But by then, the party had realized one other person remained unaccounted for. Volunteers from three search and rescue organizations plus members of the Wells Snowmobile Club and a couple of the missing man's friends participated in the search. Prince George SAR was called in because it has the skills to search in avalanche terrain. The second man was "cold and tired" but otherwise OK when he was spotted by a helicopter shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday. "We probably would've found him another hour and a half later by sled but the weather had lifted enough that we were able to spot him a little faster and get him home a little quicker," Merritt said. "We had maybe another 20 minutes and the helicopter would've had to go back to Prince George because of the darkness." Cell service in the area is spotty and neither snowmobiler had radios or satellite communication devices, Merritt said. The one who spent the night outside was also without fire starter and material to build a shelter. Merritt urged outdoor enthusiasts to check the AdventureSmart website for advice on being prepared in case something goes wrong. "The group did everything right once they realized somebody was missing," Merritt added. "They initiated all the proper procedures."Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
If you happen to pop by Ranchland Mall in Pincher Creek this Wednesday you’ll see a booth manned by purple-clad staff from the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter. On top of sporting purple fashion, the workers are handing out information and resources raising awareness for Family Violence Prevention Month, as well as recognizing Nov. 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Throughout November, family shelters and resource groups across the province have been participating in a public and social media campaign through gopurpleAlberta to help individuals and families feel safe in their homes and in their communities. The campaign is especially important as Alberta has the third-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in Canada. Lori Van Ee, executive director for the shelter, says community members are asked to don purple throughout the day to help highlight efforts to prevent family violence. The shelter’s plans extend beyond the day of Nov. 25 and into the night as well. “We are encouraging community members to take part in our first-ever Shine Your Light Event,” says Lori. “This event will ask community members to shine their outside light, put a glow stick in their window, or turn on their holiday lights for the remainder of the night to help raise awareness.” The goal of Family Violence Prevention Month is twofold: help provide resources that prevent family circumstances from deteriorating, and ensure people in an unsafe domestic situation find the information and the help they need. Helping families through stress, says Kayla Strandquist, is the main focus for the Crowsnest Pass Women’s Resource and Crisis Centre. The centre provides counselling and support services for anyone who may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Though acknowledging that reaching out for help can be tough, Kayla emphasises the centre is a safe place to talk. “There’s always someone that will be willing to listen. Lots of times people don’t think that they can reach out for help, but there are people out there willing to help,” she says. “Sometimes people feel isolated or scared to ask for help, but just know that you’re not being judged.” Though the centre has shifted the majority of its counselling services to telephone or virtual sessions, people without access to technology are still welcome to come for conversations in person as long as they wear a mask. The centre is also running a Coats for Kids program and can provide free household items for families in need. A Christmas toy hamper will also be starting in December. Should anyone find themself in a situation where their safety is in danger, the centre can also provide same-day transportation from Crowsnest Pass to the shelter in Pincher Creek. The shelter, explains Lori, is more than a bed for women fleeing abuse. “Our residential program is a 21-day stay and assists women to assess their danger levels, create a safety plan, provide the necessities, and work with women to attain short-term goals such as finding housing independent from their abuser,” she says. “Women’s shelters remain the safest place for women fleeing violence. Our staff are trained to help women assess their danger levels and create a safety plan,” Lori continues. “We encourage anyone facing immediate danger to call 911. You are not alone.” The shelter also runs a support program to help moms meet the needs of their children, as well as facilitating age-appropriate activities for children staying in the shelter. Helping get women out of immediate danger is only one aspect of the shelter’s mandate. An outreach program also helps clients identify their needs, helping put women on a path to living independently and productively from abuse. The program lasts up to six months but can be extended as needed. Additionally, Lori says, women do not have to be living in the shelter to access the outreach program. “We can take referrals from community agencies and or community members themselves who see a need to access the supports that our outreach program can offer,” she says. A host of resources are available for anyone experiencing family violence. Any individual can contact the Pincher Creek crisis line at 403-627-4868 or 403-627-2114. In Crowsnest Pass, anyone in need of assistance can contact the resource centre at 403-563-9077. Provincially, a toll free crisis line is available at 1-888-354-4868. The Family Violence Info Line is also available in more than 170 languages at 310-1818. In case of immediate danger, people are encouraged to call 911. Online provincial resources can be found at www.alberta.ca/family-violence-find-supports.aspx. Provincial shelters can also be looked up at www.alberta.ca/find-shelters.aspx. Further information on the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter can be found online at www.pcshelter.ca. Likewise, additional information on the Crowsnest Pass Women’s Resource and Crisis Centre is available at www.cnpwomensresourcecentre.ca.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
A study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) shows there is a five-per-cent mortality rate for Ontario people who often visit hospital Emergency Rooms for alcohol-related reasons in a one-year period. The study also said more intervention would be helpful in offsetting the mortality rate of those people, who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds. The authors of the study were Jennifer Hulme, MD MPH; Hasan Sheikh, MD; Edward Xie, MD MSc; Evgenia Gatov, MPH; Chenthila Nagamuthu, MPH; Paul Kurdyak, MD PhD; from the University of Toronto, the Institute for Mental Health Policy and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The study was carried out between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2016 in Ontario for persons who made two or more ER visits in one year for alcohol-related mental or behavioural disorders. More than 25,000 Ontario residents were narrowed down to the cohort of those who had two or more hospital ER visits in a one year. Of that number, the study found a mortality rate of 5.4 per cent. This ranged from 4.7 per cent for those with two visits up to 8.8 per cent for those with five or more visits. "Death due to external causes (e.g., suicide, accidents) was most common," said the study. Despite the percentage findings, the authors concluded that "little is known about the risk of death among people who visit emergency departments frequently for alcohol-related reasons, including whether mortality risk increases with increasing frequency of visits." The authors said their primary objective was to describe socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of this high-risk group and examine the level of mortality, premature mortality and causes of death. In the formal interpretation of their study, the authors said the highest mortality rate involved mostly urban and mostly low income people who had frequent hospital visits for alcohol issues. The study also said alcohol is a leading driver of morbidity and mortality around the world. In 2016, the study said there were an estimated 3 million deaths — five per cent of all global deaths — attributable to alcohol consumption. Alcohol also plays a significant factor in the morbidity of younger people, said the study. "The 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study showed that alcohol was the single greatest risk factor for ill health worldwide among people aged 15-49 years. In Canada, hospital admissions for alcohol-attributable conditions out-number those for myocardial infarction. Alcohol-related harms cost Canadians about $14.6 billion annually, with $3.3 billion in health care costs." The study also said that alcohol-related hospital visits are increasing with acute intoxication and withdrawal disorders becoming common reasons for ER visits. "Data from the United States and Canada, furthermore, suggest that alcohol-related emergency department visits have increased in recent years. For example, a study in Ontario showed that, between 2003 and 2016, the age-standardized rates of alcohol-attributable emergency department visits increased by 86.5 per cent in women and 53.2 per cent in men," said the report. It also stated that those who visit the ER for alcohol reasons have high levels of comorbidity (having two or more diseases or medical conditions at the same time) and social disadvantage and represent a readily identifiable patient population "A systematic review suggested that screening and brief intervention for alcohol-related problems in the emergency department is a promising approach for reducing problematic alcohol consumption," said the study.Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association is a not-for-profit registered charity that provides therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults with diverse abilities, while also working with at-risk youth. The association is one of five organizations being helped this year by the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund. The association works with riders from throughout the Thompson-Nicola region, with some riders coming as far as from Lillooet to participate. As a social enterprise, the association also provides a community riding program for Kamloopsians interested in getting on a horse. In a normal year, there would be between 80 and 100 participants per session, with a 12-week session in the spring and an eight-week session in the fall. But 2020 has not been a normal year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We were unable to do our 12-week spring session, so we did a small summer session for independent riders only,” said Ashley Sudds, executive director of the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association. But that meant numbers dropped to about 30 participants. The organization tried to offer a longer session in the fall — once again for independent riders — with a bit more success, managing close to 50 riders for those sessions. With lower numbers, and some of the horses nearing retirement, the therapy horse herd was downsized a bit. Sudds is hopeful the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund money can help improve the situation for the association in 2021, saying funds can go toward sponsoring a horse or perhaps sponsoring a rider or two who might have aged out of financial support for the program. but would still like to continue with it. The riding programs are tailored for each individual according to their diagnosis and the association is able to work with a variety of different individuals, including those who are in wheelchairs. “We have an electric lift,” Sudds said. “It can lift them out of their wheelchair.” Information on volunteering with the association, as well as rider information and information on the Parent A Horse program can be found on their website at www.ktra.ca People can also take a virtual tour of the facility online and get a chance to see what the location is all about. It’s also where people can go to find out how to support the group directly or to find out more about volunteering. For more information on the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association, go online to ktra.ca.Todd Sullivan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
The Northern B.C. Crisis Centre could use some help when it comes to helping others. In the time since the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold, the centre has seen a 25-per-cent increase in calls to its phone lines from people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal. The jump has translated into about 600 calls per month from people in the Northern Health region plus a further 400-500 calls per month the centre fields from the national suicide prevention line. "Things really ticked up in March and they haven't really stopped. We've been very busy," Sandra Boulianne, the centre's executive director, said. She said there have been similar upticks in the past, such as during the two major wildfire seasons, but nothing as sustained as this. Adding to the trouble, Boulianne said the centre is short-staffed. The centre works on a hybrid model with trained volunteers taking calls during the days and evenings and paid staff working the overnight shift. The roster of volunteers has waivered between 25 and 30. Ideally, Boulianne said the count should be over 40. As it stands, the centre's call answer rate averages about 70 per cent. "So we're missing 30 per cent of our calls," Boulianne said. "It's not good." Moreover, the volunteers are typically university students looking for some practical experience while pursuing their degrees. While she welcomes them, Boulianne said she would like to have a broader representation of the community not only because they may be able to better relate to some of the callers but they may last longer than the two to three years a student typically does. "Sometimes it feels like we're training people as fast as we're losing people," she said. Retired folks and stay-at-home mothers with some spare time are among the kinds of people Boulianne said she is seeking, adding the centre also has a youth-serving-youth line. Newcomers go through 70 hours of training, delivered online, and once completed, they're asked to put in one four-hour shift per week, either from home or at the centre. "It's difficult work but it's very rewarding," Boullianne said. She added that she joined the centre after earning a social work degree as a mature student at UNBC and had intended to stay for just two years. That was eight years ago. "I can honestly say I've fallen in love with the work," Boullianne said. "I love the authenticity of people when they're calling anonymously and confidentially and I love the skills that we use to help people open up." On the bright side, the centre was one of 10 across B.C. to receive a $10,000 from Pacific Blue Cross. Boulianne said it has made a difference to the non-profit which relies largely on funding from Northern Health and the United Way of Northern B.C. "We're very, very grateful," she said. Pacific Blue Cross provided the funding after a survey indicated two-thirds of British Columbians predict their mental health will deteriorate in the coming months. "We know that those who engage early support through crisis lines, are less likely to require acute care later," said Jim Iker, Chair of the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation. "With BC now facing its second wave of the pandemic, supporting our community and our health care system has never been more critical.” Boulianne attributed a significant amount of the jump in calls to people stuck in quarantine or other forms of isolation brought on by the virus. For some, it's also meant they have been unable to access face-to-face counselling in a timely manner and just need someone to talk to while they're waiting. "The beautiful thing about crisis lines is you can talk to somebody right away," Boulianne said. "We are not counsellors because our service is anonymous and we don't have a therapeutic relationship with our callers but we're able to diffuse a situation in the moment." Even if the centre needs more volunteers, Boulianne said those in need of help should still call. "You don't need to be suicidal to call a crisis line," she said. "We take any kind of distress call. If anything is worrying or distressing an individual, we want to be there to support them and so, no issue is too small," she said. "It's really anything, all the way from social isolation and loneliness to suicidal ideation and everything in between." Those interested in volunteering can get more information at crisis-centre.ca. If you need help, call 1-888-562-1214. There is also a suicide prevention line at 1-800-SUICIDE and youth crisis line at 1-888-564-8336. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
The Goulds Lions Arena bears the Lions name, so it’s only appropriate that its warm room also bear a Lion’s name. During a short ceremony on November 19 attended by family and fellow Lions, the Lion Ron Whitten Room was unveiled. “A few months ago, one of our Lions came to me with a suggestion. He said, ‘We always honour Lions with a plaque or something, after they pass away. Why not do something for our Lions while they’re still alive?’” Goulds Lions Club President Charlie Phillips said to those gathered. So, when Phillips announced that they would be naming the warm room after Lion Ron Whitten, Whitten jokingly asked if that meant he was going to die soon. “Without Ron, I’m not sure if, or when, there would have been a Lion’s Club,” said Phillips. “It was the vision of Lion Ron when he returned from Labrador back in 1975. He had a notion of starting up the Lions Club, which, he did, in March of 1976. He is a well-respected member of our community, and also a well-respected member of our Lions Club. Ron is a strong supporter of the Lions Club and of it’s activities. I’m sure most of you, if we went around the room, could add another 10, 20, 40, maybe a hundred reasons why we should name this room after Lion Ron.” Whitten was grateful for the gesture. “I appreciate this, it’s very nice,” he said. “It’s important to help out the community where you’re from.” During the ceremony, the Goulds Lions Club also presented a $6000 cheque to the Arena Association.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
ORILLIA — Police across the province are reminding motorists of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol and drugs as the annual OPP Festive RIDE campaign kicks off this week. Ontario Provincial Police have received more than 21,000 calls related to suspected impaired drivers so far this year, according to a news release issued on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The seasonal campaign runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 3, 2021. “As Ontarians celebrate this physically-distanced holiday season, an important part of staying safe is ensuring you have a solid plan that prevents you and your family from driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in the release. “The OPP encourages citizens to continue reporting impaired drivers to the police. Combined with the dedication of our frontline officers, our collective efforts can significantly help keep you and your loved ones safe on our roads during the holidays and throughout the year.” Last year, OPP conducted more than 8,800 RIDE stops and charged more than 600 drivers with impaired driving. Police are reminding motorists that officers regularly conduct mandatory alcohol screening procedures with drivers who are lawfully pulled over and will be ramping up this measure including at RIDE stops throughout the campaign. OPP also praises proactive citizens for doing their part and calling in suspected impaired drivers. Nearly 3,300 calls were placed during last year’s Festive RIDE campaign. An officer with an alcohol screen device can demand a breath sample from any driver without having reasonable suspicion they have consumed alcohol, OPP said in the release. Officers also have drug screening equipment that detects cannabis and cocaine in a driver’s saliva. These devices are used to enforce provincial zero-tolerance sanctions which apply to drivers under the age of 21. “Impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death and injury on Ontario’s roads and these dangers remain a threat to our communities as we continue to face COVID-19 this holiday season. We all want a safe and happy holiday season and it is important to remind our friends and family to plan ahead and make alternative arrangements to get home safely. The decision to get behind the wheel impaired can be a matter of life and death,” Solicitor General of Ontario Sylvia Jones said in a statement. Forty-two people have died on OPP-patrolled roads so far this year in collisions involving alcohol or drug-impaired driving, according to OPP statistics.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La vérificatrice générale de l’Ontario n’a pas mâché ses mots à l’endroit du médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario, le Dr David Williams, dans son plus récent rapport sur les mesures prises par la province pour lutter contre la COVID-19. Le médecin hygiéniste en chef n’a pas dirigé l’intervention du gouvernement de l’Ontario face au coronavirus et n’a pas exercé pleinement ses pouvoirs en vertu de la Loi sur la protection et la promotion de la santé dans l’intervention face à la pandémie, a conclu Bonnie Lysyk dans son rapport, dévoilé mercredi matin. À LIRE AUSSI : Le gouvernement Ford a réagit plus lentement que les autres Le Dr Williams n’aurait pas émis de directives aux médecins hygiénistes locaux afin que leurs bureaux interviennent avec cohérence face à la pandémie, constate également la vérificatrice. Rappelons qu’en mai 2020, 34 médecins hygiénistes locaux ont signé un document indiquant qu’il fallait améliorer l’orientation et la cohérence régionale. Par exemple, c’est la province, et non le médecin hygiéniste en chef, qui a finalement émis un arrêté d’urgence au début d’octobre 2020 pour imposer le port du masque au grand public. La vérificatrice générale affirme aussi que Santé publique Ontario a joué un rôle « réduit » dans l’intervention globale de la province, et que même les structures d’interventions régionales n’étaient pas dirigées par des experts en santé publique. Le Bureau de Mme Lysyk a appris des médecins hygiénistes locaux que les conseils de santé publique donnés par les politiciens provinciaux à la place du Dr David Williams étaient une source de confusion à leurs yeux. Mme Lysyk juge également que la reconnaissance de la transmission communautaire de la COVID-19 s’est faite en retard, en province. Même si dès le 15 mars, plusieurs médecins hygiénistes régionaux, dont ceux d’Ottawa, de Toronto, de Simcoe Muskoka et de Halton, avaient déjà décelé des cas de COVID-19 qui découlaient d’une transmission communautaire, le Dr Williams a déclaré le 17 mars qu’il attendait de constater des exemples concrets. Malgré les preuves tangibles, le ministère de la Santé et le Dr Williams n’ont reconnu l’existence de la transmission communautaire que le 26 mars. Par ailleurs, la vérificatrice souligne à maintes reprises des soucis de communication chez le médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario. Par exemple, le Dr Williams a émis une note de service plutôt qu’une directive claire aux médecins hygiénistes locaux dans laquelle il recommandait « fortement » d’émettre eux-mêmes des directives pour réduire le risque de propagation du virus chez les travailleurs étrangers dans les fermes. Ce n’est que le 21 juin que cette note de service est parue, soit huit semaines après la première flambée de COVID-19 chez ces travailleurs en milieu agricole. Son contrat prolongé? Le gouvernement Ford, qui tente de prolonger le contrat du Dr Williams - dont la retraite était prévue en février 2021- jusqu’en septembre 2021, se heurte actuellement à l’opposition des différents partis politiques à Queen’s Park. « Est-ce que c’est le Dr Williams qui conseille le gouvernement Ford, ou est-ce le gouvernement Ford qui dicte au Dr Williams les recommandations qu’il doit faire? » Il s’agit là de la question que martèle le NPD depuis plusieurs semaines. Les néo-démocrates et les libéraux déplorent de ne pas avoir été consultés dans la prise de cette décision. Pourtant, le Dr David Williams avait été choisi comme médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario de concert avec tous les partis politiques, en 2016. Dans son rapport, la vérificatrice générale recommande de donner au médecin hygiéniste en chef et à Santé publique Ontario un rôle plus important dans la réponse à la pandémie, y compris le pouvoir de présider les réunions décisionnelles clés et de diriger la surveillance de la santé publique de la province.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
After expressing outrage, disgust and regret over reports of Coun. Rick Chiarelli's egregious conduct, Ottawa city council unanimously voted Wednesday to impose the harshest penalties available to them to sanction the veteran councillor.Council was united in its call for the College ward councillor to resign immediately, and to ask the minister of municipal affairs and housing to change the law to allow a councillor found to have committed serious misconduct to be removed from office.> There are not enough apologies to make the pain … go away. \- Mayor Jim WatsonMany council members appeared shaken by the details of integrity commissioner Robert Marleau's most recent report on Chiarelli's behaviour, which Marleau called "offensive and disreputable.""I know many of you share my concerns that the behaviour outlined in this report are repugnant and are completely inconsistent with what is expected of anyone in a position of power or trust," said Mayor Jim Watson. "There have clearly been a number of gross violations of the trust the public placed in this elected official."The mayor issued a formal apology to all the women who came forward, and to others who may have been harassed but didn't feel able to tell their stories."I know that there are not enough apologies to make the pain of these events go away, but I would like to publicly apologize and [offer a] sincere gesture of recognition that this should not have happened and that we have listened and heard you," Watson said.Many councillors joined the mayor in apologizing to the former staffers and job applicants.Coun. Diane Deans had many dealings with Chiarelli's College ward office because their wards are next to each other, and said she had met Chiarelli's staffers on numerous occasions."I just wanted to say to the women involved that I am sorry," she said, her voice breaking. "And I am sorry I did not see the signs."Pay suspended for 15 monthsTwo separate integrity commissioner reports found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking behaviour, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers, and commenting on their bodies.Marleau recommended council suspend Chiarelli's pay for a total of 15 months — 90 days for each of the five formal complainants — as well as remove him from any committees and take away his delegated authority to hire staff or spend his own office budget.Minister not changing lawBut Chiarelli's council colleagues did not believe the sanctions went far enough. They've been hearing from many people in the community that they'd like to see some sort of mechanism to remove the councillor from office."If I go home, my own wife will be asking, 'Is that all that you guys can do?' or, 'Can't you do more?'" Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said.Council passed a motion looking for changes to the Municipal Act that would include some sort of process "for the vacating of the seat of a member of council who has been found on clear and convincing evidence to have committed serious misconduct."But that doesn't seem in the cards right now.In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said "the ministry is not considering any changes to the Municipal Act ... however, I am taking the unprecedented move of, in the strongest terms possible, urging Councillor Chiarelli to resign his position."Chiarelli's access restrictedThey approved a motion by Coun. Jenna Sudds directing city staff to report back on ways to restrict the councillor's access to city property, including in council chambers when in-person meetings resume. "I ask that his seat at the council table be moved so that none of us have to sit beside him," Sudds said. "His actions as detailed in the report and the very lengthy appendix is enough to turn one's stomach. It is appalling, and no woman should ever have to deal with this type of behaviour."A number of councillors said their staff would be uncomfortable encountering Chiarelli in their workplace. Council also agreed to donate Chiarelli's suspended pay to a non-profit organization that deals with violence against women.Chiarelli going to court in JanuaryThe College ward councillor last year denied all allegations against him, and is challenging the jurisdiction of the integrity commissioner in provincial court. In fact, Chiarelli, who was present for the start of Wednesday's meeting, said a hearing date is set for Jan. 13, 2021.Chiarelli did not participate in the year-long inquiry, nor has he responded to the specific allegations against him, of which he was made aware in September 2019 by CBC News. Last December, the councillor had bypass surgery and some post-op complications, but did participate in a number of virtual council meetings in 2020.The mayor called his silence a further affront to the women involved."Stonewalling is just another form of the type of manipulation the integrity commissioner has identified in his detailed report to council," Watson said. "Coun. Chiarelli, I would like to say that your silence speaks volumes."Chiarelli's office respondsIn a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Chiarelli's office said the councillor will not resign."Councillor Chiarelli will not be resigning. He was democratically elected to serve a 4yr term and he intends to do so," the statement reads."This report is based on an investigation that only heard from one side of the story. Neither Councillor Chiarelli nor his lawyer were provided with information as to how witnesses were selected, their identities nor what testimony they gave which would only be natural justice in a fair forum. "This is important because Councillor Chiarelli was not medically able to participate following his open-heart surgery, and subsequent severe bacterial chest infection and stroke. The Integrity Commissioner refused to accommodate Councillor Chiarelli during his recovery despite having been provided with numerous medical notes."According to the statement, the divisional court hearing on Jan. 13 "will be the first time where both sides are heard in a fair and unbiased forum. Until then the Councillor has been advised by his legal team not to comment on the issue any further."
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would not be allowed to visit the country until he apologized for “genocide” against Kosovo's population.Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla also posted on Twitter that no entry permission would be granted for Serb officials until Serbians are held accountable for “genocide” in an international court.“I repeat once again the only and permanent response to all future demands from Vucic and others: there is no permission for you to visit Kosovo if you do not apologize for the genocide committed on our people and until responsible persons of this genocide are held accountable,” she said.Vucic and other Serb officials have to ask Kosovo's permission before visiting ethnic Serb minority areas in the former Serbian province.Kosovo’s 1998-99 war, which ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign, left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Albanians.Haradinaj-Stublla reacted following Vucic' presence at the inauguration of a hospital in Belgrade where a mass grave of 744 ethnic Albanians killed in 1999 has been found.Several mass graves with the bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed by Serb troops during the 1998-99 war have been discovered in various parts of Serbia. Moving victims from Kosovo to Serbia was part of a coverup operation by Serbian authorities at the time to try to hide evidence of war crimes.Last week the European Union’s mission to ensure the rule of law in Kosovo said human remains that appear to be a mass grave of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have been found in a disused coal mine in Kizevak in southern Serbia.Vucic said on Tuesday that Haradinaj-Stublla had asked to be present at the Kizevak works “in order to create a political show.”Although several of its top military officers have been sentenced by a UN court for war crimes during the 1998-99 war, Serbia has never admitted committing atrocities in its former province.Meanwhile, an international court based in The Hague, Netherlands has indicted and arrested on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity the former Kosovo president and four other top ex-commanders of ethnic Albanian guerillas who fought for independence from Serbia.Last week Vucic asked to visit Kosovo but was denied permission by Pristina.Kosovo-Serbia relations remain tense despite EU-mediated talks on normalization of their ties and efforts from the United States too.Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized that.——-Semini reported from Tirana, Albania; Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade.Zenel Zhinipotoku And Llazar Semini, The Associated Press