Coronavirus topped the list of things people want to leave behind in 2020 and not take into the new year at the annual Good Riddance Day paper shredder event in Times Square. (Dec. 28)
Coronavirus topped the list of things people want to leave behind in 2020 and not take into the new year at the annual Good Riddance Day paper shredder event in Times Square. (Dec. 28)
CAMEROON, Cameroon — A new U.N. report estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of international migrants by 2 million by the middle of 2020 because of border closings and a halt to travel worldwide — an estimated 27% decrease in expected growth. Clare Menozzi, principal author of the report by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, told a news conference Friday that for the second half of 2020 “we have a sense that it will be probably comparable, if not more so.” She said international migration had been projected to grow by 7 to 8 million between mid-2019 and mid-2020. But the border closures and travel clampdown starting in March, as the pandemic circled the globe, meant zero growth for four months, and an estimated 2 million reduction in the expected number of international migrants, Menozzi said. By August 2020, Population Division Director John Wilmoth noted, “there had been more than 80,000 travel restrictions imposed by 219 countries or territories across the world.” Over the last two decades, growth in the number of international migrants has been robust. Wilmoth said that according to the latest estimates, “the number of international migrants worldwide reached 281 million persons in 2020, up from 173 million in 2000,” They account for just 3.6% of the total global population, he said. Liu Zhenmin, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said, “The report affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world and shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families” and undermined progress on achieving U.N. development goals for 2030. The economic fallout from the pandemic is expected to reduce remittances from people working abroad to low- and middle-income countries from $548 billion in 2019 to $470 billion in 2021, according to projections by the World Bank. Wilmoth said the data confirmed that nearly two-thirds of all international migrants were living in high-income countries. According to the report, the United States continued to top the destination list with 51 million international migrants in 2020, representing 18% of the global total. Germany was second, hosting around 16 million international migrants, followed by Saudi Arabia with 13 million, Russia with 12 million and the United Kingdom with 9 million, it said. India topped the list of countries with the largest diasporas in 2020, with 18 million Indians living abroad, followed by Mexico and Russia, each with 11 million outside the country, China with 10 million, and Syria with 8 million, the report said. In 2020, it said, women and girls comprised 48% of all international migrants, and refugees accounted for 12% of international migrants, up from 9.5% in 2000. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
KABUL — At least two members of an Afghan militia opened fire on their fellow militiamen in the western Herat province, killing 12, in what provincial police on Saturday described as an insider attack. Herat police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the attackers fled with the slain militiamen's weapons and ammunition, adding that Afghan government forces had regained control of the area. A Taliban spokesman Yousaf Ahmadi in a tweet claimed responsibility for the insider attack, which took place late Friday. Meanwhile, a sticky bomb attached to an armoured police Land Cruiser SUV exploded Saturday in the western part of the capital, Kabul, killing two policemen and wounding another, Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said. Faramarz did not specify the identities of the casualties. However, two members of the Afghan police force, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said Kabul's deputy police chief Mawlana Bayan was wounded in the attack. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Kabul. In the southern Helmand province, a suicide car bomber targeted a police compound late Friday, killing one policeman and wounding two others, provincial police spokesman Zaman Hamdard said. The attack took place in Lashkar Gah district on the highway between Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Also in Kandahar province, a suicide car bomber and multiple gunmen attacked an auto workshop belonging to the Afghan intelligence agency on Saturday but inflicted no casualties, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada said. He said at least four attackers were killed and that an operation to clear the workshop compound was ongoing. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Helmand and Kandahar. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in the capital in recent months, including on educational institutions that killed 50 people, most of them students. IS has claimed responsibility for rocket attacks in December targeting the major U.S. base in Afghanistan. There were no casualties. The violence comes as the representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government earlier this month resumed peace talks in Qatar. However, the negotiations were off to a slow start as the insurgents continue their attacks on Afghan government forces while keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops. The stop-and-go talks are aimed at ending decades of relentless conflict. Frustration and fear have grown over the recent spike in violence, and both sides blame one another. There has also been growing doubt lately over a U.S.-Taliban deal brokered by outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration. That accord was signed last February. Under the deal, an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops ordered by Trump means that just 2,500 American soldiers will still be in Afghanistan when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Tameem Akhgar, The Associated Press
In the summer, with half of Memorial Drive in Calgary shut down to traffic, a group of protesters set up near the Peace Bridge to draw attention to a bewildering array of grievances. One sign attacked Justin Trudeau, another warned of 5G networks, some supported oil and gas, while others cautioned against "chemtrails." But the main thrust of the gathering was to oppose COVID-19 restrictions, masks and vaccines. As the pandemic dragged on, that group morphed and found new stomping grounds in front of Calgary City Hall. Coalescing around the banner of "freedom," they railed against government COVID-19 lockdowns, mask laws and public health measures. They marched through downtown Calgary with signs that proclaimed them lions, not sheep. Alternative medicine hippies strode alongside yellow vesters in what at first seemed an odd countercultural pairing but is a natural alliance based on a shared distrust of governments, health mandates, corporations and more. The reason for their unity lies deep in our evolutionary history and the brute force of societal shifts that are shaking civilizational foundations. Those forces have conspired to make Alberta a prime breeding ground for the kind of conspiratorial thinking on display, which pulls nuggets of truth from the flurry of science in real time and contorts it into a narrative of oppression. It is a near-perfect storm for the small minority caught up in it. The question is: how did they find themselves in its path? How we're wired Humans have evolved to be really good at fitting into groups. Our malleable brains can adapt beliefs in order to thrive within our given tribe. But that sort of cognitive wiring can lead us astray. Adrian Bardon, a philosophy professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and the author of The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics and Religion, has obviously spent some time thinking about how these sorts of movements come to be. Writing in The Conversation, he says although the phenomena of denialism is "many and varied," the story behind it is "quite simple." "Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses that go with it," he writes. "Under the right conditions, universal human traits like in-group favouritism, existential anxiety and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic, system-justifying identity politics." It's why protesters against Trudeau and 5G and chemtrails and, and, and ... all came to march under the same banner, protesting public health measures supported by growing scientific consensus. Speaking to CBC News, Bardon specifically breaks down the current storm over pandemic responses and says the combination of economic threats, politicization by elites and the visual/visceral effect of masks is a fearsome combination for fuelling science denialism and ideological polarization. "It starts with the lack of trust, and then the reasons for the lack of trust comes next, and then you're already in an ideological community," he says. "And then that explains why your community is all of one voice on what the story is, but this story is made up. The reaction comes first, and then you rationalize the reaction." He says covering faces interferes with one of the most fundamental ways we interpret other people, but creates a new signal. "At this point, after the politicization of it, not wearing a mask is immediately understood by the mask-wearing people to be a statement, and wearing the mask is an accusation. And it creates this incredibly toxic environment," he says. There's also no better metaphor for a muzzle than something really darn close to a muzzle. With the science around COVID-19 evolving in real time and government's struggling to keep up and keep track, the stage is set for our minds to fill in the gaps. The psychology Another person who's spent some time thinking about the current moment is Steven Taylor, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and the author of The Psychology of Pandemics. Taylor says one major issue is the lack of scientific literacy in the world and the belief by many that "science is really no different from opinion." Among those of a conspiratorial nature, there is also often an urge to feel special, he says, and possessing what you believe to be secret knowledge can be a big boost. "It's going to feed your self-esteem," says Taylor. It works in tandem with a phenomenon known as psychological reactance, which Taylor describes as a "kind of allergic reaction to being told what to do." "So if I came up to a person like that, and started to explain why I thought masks were effective, two things would happen," says Taylor. "First, they would get very angry, and second, they would start to automatically generate reasons for themselves as to why masks are ineffective. So my strategy would backfire if I tried to directly confront them." That, along with the fact that the vast majority of people support wearing masks, is why Taylor doesn't think governments should mandate their use. Adding to the mix are the sometimes confusing debates and changing recommendations about public health that have allowed a wide opening for doubters and reactionaries. All of those factors combine to make Alberta prime breeding ground for COVID denialism. The Alberta scene The first thing to note is that the protests against lockdowns and masks in Alberta are small. This does not represent the majority. But still, there is a vocal core group that isn't going to go away and that has at points drawn bigger crowds than many expected. Recent polling, too, has suggested Albertans are the least likely Canadians to consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, if at all. Bardon notes that denial of science rears its head pretty forcefully when the economy is threatened — something that has been fraying nerves in Alberta long before the pandemic brought government shutdowns. There is anxiety about income, about empty office towers in Calgary, about the continued existence of the oil and gas industry that once seemed a limitless well of wealth. The economic powerhouse of Canada is sputtering and many look at a sort of global network of elites and their war on global warming as a major factor in its demise. Some of the same protesters that were out in yellow vests calling Trudeau a traitor while sporting "I Love Alberta Oil and Gas" sweaters are now out calling for an end to lockdowns as another elite attack. Many in the province feel powerless in the face of global forces that have battered their world, and that leads them to reach for the comforts of a group and a belief system that nourishes them. When Trudeau was re-elected in 2019, Albertans had voted in droves for the Conservative opposition and the reaction to the minority government was angry. Separatists were emboldened and started drawing more attention and crowds, attempting to walk off with a province because they disagreed with the outcome of a democractic election. Sprinkle in some good old-fashioned Alberta myth-making, like the maverick spirit, egalitarianism and the belief that Albertans share a full-throttled libertarian-tinged conservatism, and the recipe is nearly complete. With the addition of a provincial government that has preached personal responsibility, provided mixed messages, resisted some health measures and recently saw MLAs and cabinet ministers ignore the government's own travel advice, the meal is cooked. It's not a stretch to see why many in the province feel left behind, without agency. That's something Bardon says is the very core of anxiety. "You feel anxious, and then you look for something to project that on.… Conspiracy theorists latch on to the conspiracy they just ran across, and if your community already has some preconceived notions as to what the threat is out there, you latch on to that," he says. If you give yourself a story, it gives back. That's not the way some in the protests see it, though. Freedom walker Jake Eskesen is an organizer with Freedom Walk Calgary, which recently branched off from Walk for Freedom over an internal dispute. Speaking just before Christmas, he says the weekly protests are about, well, freedom. "We're standing, basically for our constitutional rights, which are currently being infringed upon by the government," says Eskesen, who previously organized events for what he calls the Alberta independence movement. Personally, he doesn't think the COVID-19 statistics — including death rates and hospitalizations — justify the measures being taken by governments to restrict freedoms and the ability of people to earn a living. He gets his information from places like Post Millennial and The Rebel and also directly from Alberta Health Services statistics, while largely shunning mainstream news which he feels is trying to sell one narrow narrative. The government, he says, is the enemy. Eskesen possesses a complete certainty that his views are correct, while questioning every study, every public health recommendation, the way COVID tests are conducted and more. He, like 20 per cent of Alberta respondents to a recent poll, says he would not get the vaccine until he's convinced it's safe — and that would take a lot, he says. In short, Eskesen has a high threshold for science to convince him that the virus is serious and the measures in place help fight it are worthwhile. Everywhere he looks he sees a lack of the kind of evidence he would need to change his mind even if his own convictions are based on less — and often on misinformation or misinterpretation. Yet he acknowledges that everyone pre-forms opinions and that they're "looking for information to support it." He says it's important to step back and honestly ask yourself whether bias is getting in the way of clearly understanding an issue. So does he ever worry that maybe he's wrong and his actions are putting other people in harm's way? "No. No, not at all." The world of narratives We live now, for better or for worse, in a world of narratives. Storylines that carry us in their wake in a way that has never existed before, at least not to this extent. Information overload, anxiety, rapidly changing technologies and societies have left people clambering for support and anchors. For answers to those empty pits in their stomachs and relief from constricted chests. The more complex the world becomes, the more our prehistoric cerebral architecture kicks in, forcing our flexible thought processes into groupthink of one kind or another and further erecting barriers to thinking that threatens it. We see the results in some dramatic ways, like the storming of the U.S. Capitol building last week. But also in smaller ways like the weekly marches through downtown Calgary. But that's not to say it's all based on a lie, even if much of it is. The official narrative is something that should never be considered sacrosanct, but neither should some of its conspiracy-laden counterparts. So although COVID tests do, indeed, test for COVID, and there is a scientific consensus around masks and restrictions, there are still questions to be asked and answered. There's no doubt small businesses and the people who own them and depend on them for incomes are suffering. Shutdowns have been painful. And then there's the question of government making inroads into our daily lives. "Honestly, with the governments' track record, I have a very hard time believing that once the vaccines are rolled out that they will then relinquish a lot of these powers," says Eskesen.
Suicide rates in Japan have jumped in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women and children, even though they fell in the first wave when the government offered generous handouts to people, a survey found. The July-October suicide rate rose 16% from the same period a year earlier, a stark reversal of the February-June decline of 14%, according to the study by researchers at Hong Kong University and Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology. The early decline in suicides was affected by such factors as government subsidies, reduced working hours and school closure, the study found.
Hot chocolate bombs are the latest food trend to explode onto the scene from social media, especially TikTok. Slightly larger than a tennis ball, a bomb can be placed in the bottom of a mug and when hot milk is poured over them, the hard chocolate shell melts, gently exploding with hot cocoa powders and marshmallows. Stir and enjoy! "It's really delicious," said Kimberly Davey with At Your Service Creations, one of two bakers who joined CBC Radio: Island Morning host Mitch Cormier to talk about the trend. The trend began last year and came on strong during the Christmas season. Davey began making them last Valentine's Day and makes them in different sizes and flavours. She said most people hadn't heard of them earlier this year, so at her pop-up markets she'd show them videos on her phone of how the bombs work. When the trend exploded on social media, she said people began lining up to get them. "I would be showing up for a market, I'd get there 15 minutes early, but there'd already be a lineup for the hot chocolate bombs," Davey said. Charisa Lykow from DaBomb Custom Baking in Summerside, P.E.I., saw them on social media and began making them for Christmas to expand her selection. "It's been insane, my inbox was constantly filled," she said. Lykow's decided to take a break after Christmas to spend time with her family because she was so busy making bombs before the holiday. "I don't think it's the product itself, to be completely honest — I think it's the process of using the product, It's exciting," she said. "It makes hot chocolate exciting." "I'm not even a kid and I get excited very time I test one." They predict the bombs will be hot sellers this Valentine's and St. Patrick's days. With people spending more time at home and investing in self-care, the bakers hope this trend remains hot — at least, till the next big trend comes along. More from CBC P.E.I.
Filmmaker Sayda Habib turned lockdown blues into an inspirational project. Sayda Habib was pursuing a project on long-term care homes in Canada for her masters in journalism at the University of Regina when COVID-19 hit. "Originally, I wanted to create a documentary portraying the abuse in the Canadian seniors homes. I wanted to work on this project because the number of seniors suffering from abuse in nursing homes has tripled in the last few years. The documentary was to be named Care in Jeopardy," Sayda said. Weeks into the pandemic, however, it became clear to Sayda and her supervisor that she would have to course-correct. Many of her key characters were restricted from receiving guests and the logistics for getting a camera anywhere became incredibly difficult. "I knew I had to change my plans," Sayda said. "Most nursing homes were restricted to visitors already at that time which meant I had to change my project to a more attainable one." Although it was disheartening to change course late in the academic year after investing so much time and effort into her research, Sayda decided to make a documentary about the cause of the change. Pandemic Minds was born. The documentary finds Sayda following the lives of different characters from different parts of the world to explore how they are adjusting to the strange new world. Assisted by clinical psychologist Syeda Batool Najam, Sayda examines how the various personalities perceive the global pandemic and why. "Pandemic Minds investigates human behaviour in a global crisis through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. This documentary explores five factors of human behaviour through the stories of ordinary people," Sayda said. "The factors that were mentioned in the documentary were denial, self-interest, fear/anxiety, adaptation and solidarity." Sayda raced against the clock to finish her documentary. As she was essentially starting a brand new project, she had to act quickly and find creative solutions to whatever hurdles were thrown her way. This proved to be a long process. "I can say it took me about three and half months to write, record and edit this documentary. But the whole process at that time seemed like a decade," Sayda said. Sayda faced challenges creating the documentary, from finding characters to co-ordinating them. "The biggest challenge was to be able to get at least 20 participants who were willing to record themselves one whole day. Not everyone was comfortable recording themselves and even when they agreed, some of the participants did not follow the instructions while recording," Sayda said. "I also had a hard time getting the materials online. This is because I had participants from different countries and not everyone was able to send me the files through the shared drive." Sayda was able to come through shining on the other side, regardless of the challenges. She said she especially learned the importance of patience and perseverance. Moving forward, she would like to make a documentary series inspired by Pandemic Minds. "The psychological explanations in the documentary would be very detailed yet simple to understand. To give you an example, one episode can solely be on the increase in domestic violence during a pandemic or this specific pandemic," Sayda said. "What is the psychological reason behind that? What goes through the mind of the perpetrator and what can be done about it?"
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is filling out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signalling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump. A transition official said Biden intends to nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively. They were expected to be the 11 department appointees that Biden was announcing Saturday to serve under his pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, the official said. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the appointments before the announcements and spoke on condition of anonymity. Among the others joining the Biden team are: —longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management. —former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively. —Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counsellor. —former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, as director of policy planning. —Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken's chief of staff. —Ned Price, a former Obama administration National Security Council staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman. —Jalina Porter, communications director for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is leaving Congress to work in the White House, will be Price's deputy. Price and Porter intend to return to the practice of holding daily State Department press briefings, officials said. Those briefings had been eliminated under the Trump administration. Jeffrey Prescott, a former national security aide when Biden was vice-president, is Biden's pick to be deputy ambassador to the United Nations, He would serve under U.N. envoy-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Five of the 11 are either people of colour or LGBTQ. Although most are not household names, all are advocates of multilateralism and many are familiar in Washington and overseas foreign policy circles. Their selections are a reflection of Biden's intent to turn away from Trump's transactional and often unilateral “America First” approach to international relations. “These leaders are trusted at home and respected around the world, and their nominations signal that America is back and ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," Biden said in a statement. “They also reflect the idea that we cannot meet this new moment with unchanged thinking or habits, and that we need diverse officials who look like America at the table. They will not only repair but also reimagine American foreign policy and national security for the next generation.” Sherman led the Obama administration’s negotiations leading to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Trump withdrew, and had engaged in talks over ballistic missiles with North Korea during President Bill Clinton's second term. Nuland served as assistant secretary of state for European Affairs during the Ukraine crisis.. Sherman, McKeon, Nuland, Jenkins and Zeya will require Senate confirmation to their posts while the others will not. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
At least five people have died at a nursing home in Italy from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, local media and officials said on Saturday. Seven people, including two health workers, are being treated in hospital for symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning, the ANSA news agency said. "It's a tragedy," Interior Ministry Undersecretary Carlo Sibilia wrote in a Facebook post.
China promised on Saturday to donate 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines as the two countries signed infrastructure deals aimed at boosting post-pandemic recovery efforts, officials said. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte imposed one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns to contain the virus in March last year - bringing one of Asia's fastest-growing economies to a standstill. "As a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbour, we will firmly stand with the people of the Philippines until the defeat of this virus," senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said during a meeting with the Philippines' foreign minister.
Dougie just can't contain his excitement as he runs and plays in the first snowfall of 2021. Hilarious!
A brand of sweet rice pancake products are being recalled across Canada due to undeclared egg. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the recall was prompted when a consumer reported a reaction after consuming Wang Korea brand pancakes. Two flavours of the pancakes, Green Tea Flavor Sweet Rice Pancake and Sweet Rice Pancake, were recalled from stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. The barcodes for the recalled products are as follows: Green Tea Flavor Sweet Rice Pancake (480 g) - 0 87703 15649 4 Green Tea Flavor Sweet Rice Pancake (180 g) - 0 87703 15408 7 Sweet Rice Pancake (480 g) - 0 87703 15647 0 Sweet Rice Pancake (180 g) - 0 87703 15323 3 The inspection agency is warning people with an allergy to egg to discard the pancakes or return them to the store where they were purchased. "If you have an allergy to egg, do not consume the recalled products as they may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction," the recall said. The CFIA says it's ensuring the recalled products are being removed from the marketplace and a food safety investigation will be conducted. MORE TOP STORIES
NASA's deep space exploration rocket built by Boeing briefly ignited all four engines of its behemoth core stage for the first time on Saturday, cutting short a crucial test to advance a years-delayed U.S. government program to return humans to the moon in the next few years. Mounted in a test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the Space Launch System’s (SLS) 212-foot tall core stage roared to life at 4:27 p.m. local time (2227 GMT) for just over a minute — well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket's first launch in November this year. "Today was a good day," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a press conference after the test, adding "we got lots of data that we're going to be able to sort through" to determine if a do-over is needed and whether a November 2021 debut launch date is still possible.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Saturday fired long-range ballistic missiles into the Indian Ocean on the second day of a military exercise, state media reported. The drill, which comes in the waning days of high tensions with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, was conducted in the country's central desert region. "One of our most important defence policy goals is to use long-range ballistic missiles against enemy warships, including aircraft carriers and warships," state media quoted Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami as saying.
For the first time since the pandemic began, a Windsor lab will start locally processing tests for the region on Monday. That means a quicker turnaround for test results, which in turn means a faster response on positive cases: the health unit can contact trace sooner and an infected person will be able to isolate sooner. Since March, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has been sending the region's tests to a lab in London to be processed, but by next week the tests will be subjected to a much shorter drive and quicker processing time. Medical Laboratories of Windsor says it applied for a testing license in March but didn't get approved until September. Since then, it's been waiting for the equipment to arrive. Starting Monday, it will start processing about 100 tests per day. By the end of February, the lab hopes to process up to 1,000 tests a day as it will have an additional testing device up and running. That means that by March, the lab said 1,100 tests will go through its machines, with the majority of results getting out same-day. This will improve the result turnaround time as the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said Friday that currently only 11 per cent of test results come back within 24 hours. And, according to provincial data, Windsor-Essex has some of the slowest test return rates in the province. "I'm feeling very lucky to finally be able to perhaps join this battle," said Shannon Bondy, a microbiology molecular supervisor for Medical Laboratories of Windsor. "We have our most vulnerable in the community that we could possibly get results quicker to or just curb the spread." Bondy has helped to set up the lab with the new devices and will be processing tests as they come in on Monday. The lab's VP of operations Jennifer Yee said it feels like "we're contributing to the end of the pandemic." "To me it really feels like it's a war and it kind of feels like we've been called up to defend our country or our community in this case," Yee said. The lab has also already started rapid testing certain long-term care homes and groups and says it will continue to do that to curb any potential outbreaks. As of Friday, Windsor-Essex has more than 2,700 active cases of the disease and 248 deaths. There are 45 COVID-19 outbreaks across the region, with 21 at workplaces and 20 at long-term care and retirement homes.
“I am very much encouraging my 92-year-old mom to get in line as soon as (a COVID-19 vaccine) is available in her community and she’s all ready and excited about it as well,” said Leila Gillis. She is acting chief nursing officer and director general primary health care with the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). Gillis was speaking on Jan. 14 on the weekly virtual town hall hosted by the First Nations Health Managers Association. “Many communities are currently managing active outbreaks and had such a challenging Christmas period. I worked through it all. And there’s still evidence of community transmission in many, many jurisdictions across the country,” said Gillis. According to figures posted on the ISC website of coronavirus activity on First Nations reserves, as of Jan. 14 ISC “is aware of” 12,071 confirmed positive cases; 4,581 active cases; 7,377 recovered cases and 113 deaths. Worst hit are reserves in the prairie provinces with Alberta numbering 3,944 confirmed positive cases, Manitoba with 3,201 and Saskatchewan with 3,084. British Columbia is next with 1,081 confirmed positive cases. “We’re still working hard to prevent COVID spread in our continued and longstanding public health measures and we can’t lose sight of that while we’re also working to organize and support one of the biggest vaccine administration campaigns in this country’s history,” said Gillis, who spent time reassuring Indigenous viewers and listeners of the safety of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Some First Nations and Inuit communities or members of those communities have been prioritized in the first phase of the vaccine rollout. The vaccines have been “rigorously tested” and the benefits far outweigh the risks, said Gillis. Valerie Gideon, senior assistant deputy minister with FNIHB, said in a national news conference on Jan. 13 that having Indigenous health professionals involved in the process is significant in addressing suspicion from the Indigenous population. “There are a lot of amazing Indigenous health professionals that are speaking very proactively about the vaccine and supporting that understanding that the (ISC) Minister (Marc Miller) is speaking to and I think that makes a significant difference. “They are such influential decision makers with respect to the vaccine planning and administration process, not only within their communities, but overall in the context of supporting First Nations and others across the provinces,” said Gideon. Still some members of the Indigenous population have approached the vaccine with wariness. “The hesitancy comes sometimes with good reason,” said Miller. “You see that hesitancy that is based on perhaps experiences … So it’s based on reality.” He pointed out that Indigenous peoples were the target of medical procedures and experiments in the 1950s and 1960s and they continue to experience mistreatment in today’s healthcare system. Miller also talked about the need to have information available in Indigenous languages as well as the need to build trust with health officials who come into communities to deliver the vaccinations. “One (way) that works best is when you engage local communities to get that information out there, tell people there’s an informed choice, and let them make the choice. It makes for more work but it makes for better vaccination strategies,” said Miller. “We’ve heard a lot more request for the vaccine to arrive than we’ve heard hesitancy… That’s at the leadership level. We will see in the numbers of uptake,” said Gideon. Miller said 75 per cent of the adult population in the territories are expected to have received their second dose of the vaccine by the end of March. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. Rollout of the vaccine to urban Indigenous population – a larger number than live on reserve – will require “coordination amongst partners, provinces and territories. Efficient and effective roll out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration and partnership,” said Miller. He said figures weren’t available for how COVID was impacting Indigenous people living in cities, although he did say that those living in Montreal and Winnipeg had been “really hit.” “Our government is working with all provinces and territories to encourage full inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples,” he said. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
MAMUJU, Indonesia — Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and lack of heavy equipment on Saturday hampered rescuers after a strong earthquake left at least 46 people dead and hundreds injured on Indonesia's Sulawesi island. Operations were focused on about eight locations in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju, where people were still believed trapped following early Friday's magnitude 6.2 quake, said Saidar Rahmanjaya, who heads the local search and rescue agency. Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta landed late Friday for distribution in temporary shelters. Still, thousands of people spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks and a possible tsunami. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati said rescuers had so far recovered the bodies of 37 victims in Mamuju and nine in neighbouring Majene district. At least 415 houses in Majene were damaged and about 15,000 people were moved to shelters, Jati said. Bodies retrieved by rescuers were sent to a police hospital for identification by relatives, said West Sulawesi police spokesperson Syamsu Ridwan. He said more than 200 people were receiving treatment in the Bhayangkara police hospital and several others in Mamuju alone. Another 630 were injured in Majene. Among those pulled alive was a young girl who was stuck in the wreckage of a house with her sister. The girl was seen in video released by the disaster agency Friday crying for help. She was being treated in a hospital. She identified herself as Angel and said that her sister, Catherine, who did not appear in the video, was beside her under the rubble and was still breathing. The fate of Catherine and other family members was unclear. The quake set off landslides in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to Majene. Power and phone lines were down in many areas. Mamuju, the capital of West Sulawesi province with nearly 75,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. A governor office building was almost flattened by the quake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge collapsed and patients with drips laid on folding beds under tarpaulin tents outside one of the damaged hospitals. Two hospitals in the city were damaged and others were overwhelmed. Many survivors said that aid had not reached them yet due to damaged roads and disrupted communications. Video from a TV station showed villagers in Majene, some carrying machetes, forcibly stopping vehicles carrying aid. They climbed onto a truck and threw boxes of instant noodles and other supplies at dozens of people who were scrambling to get them. Two ships headed to the devastated areas from the nearby cities of Makassar and Balikpapan with rescuers and equipment, including excavators. State-owned firm AirNav Indonesia, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the quake did not cause significant damage to the Mamuju airport runway or control tower. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Friday that he instructed his Cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to co-ordinate the response. In a telegram sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis, the pontiff expressed “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster.” The pope was praying for “the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve.” Francis also offered encouragement to those continuing search and rescue effects, and he invoked “the divine blessings of strength and hope.” International humanitarian missions including the Water Mission, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross said in statements that they have joined in efforts to provide relief for people in need. Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground. A massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. ___ Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia. Niniek Karmini And Yusuf Wahil, The Associated Press
Azerbaijan will begin vaccinating citizens against COVID-19 on Monday, using a batch of 4 million doses from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, the health ministry said on Saturday. "Medical workers will be vaccinated first, and then over-65s from Feb. 1," presidential aide Shahmar Movsumov added. The doses will be transported first to Turkey, he said, where they will be checked and packaged, before arriving in batches to Azerbaijan.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Saturday launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean, state television reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program and a U.S. pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic. Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships” at a distance of 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles). The report did not specify the type of missiles used. In the first phase of the drill Friday, the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases." Iranian state television described the drill as taking place in the country’s vast central desert, the latest in a series of snap exercises called amid the escalating tensions over its nuclear program. Footage also showed four unmanned, triangle-shaped drones flying in a tight formation, smashing into targets and exploding. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased amid a series of incidents stemming from President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. Amid Trump’s final days as president, Tehran has recently seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the U.S. has sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region. In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord, which he has said America could reenter. Iran fired cruise missiles Thursday as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a U.S. nuclear submarine. Iran’s navy did not identify the submarine at the time, but on Saturday, a news website affiliated with state television said the vessel was American. Helicopter footage of the exercise released Thursday by Iran’s navy showed what resembled an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, the USS Georgia, which the U.S. Navy last month said had been sent to the Persian Gulf. Iran has missile capability of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), far enough to reach archenemy Israel and U.S. military bases in the region. Last January, after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of them. Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord. When the U.S. then increased sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development. The Associated Press
New Brunswick writer Richard Vaughan's life and legacy is now being celebrated through a virtual art exhibition. The acclaimed author, poet and playwright died in Fredericton in October. He was 55. Known as Cut. Paste. Resist. Redux, the multimedia exhibition consists of film strips created from collages. Those images are paired with voiceovers of friends and colleagues reading various excerpts from his poetry, chat books and novels. Marie Maltais, director of the UNB Arts Centre, helped organize the project and described Vaughan as "a shining star of New Brunswick's cultural scene." She said the exhibit is a way to "bring back the genius" of the writer. "He was an advocate, he was someone who was very down to earth, you could approach him," Maltais said. Vaughan was born in Saint John, but lived and worked in Montreal, Toronto and Berlin before returning to his home province last year to work as writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick. He wrote under the name R.M. Vaughan. He is remembered as a pioneer for LGBTQ artists and a talented writer who could address many subjects. The new exhibit was inspired by a collage project Vaughan organized with Ken Moffatt, the Jack Layton chair at Ryerson University, early last year. They put out a call for submissions from community members focused on the theme of resistance. More than 200 collages came in from around the world, and were displayed as part of the Cut, Paste, Resist art show at UNB. That initial show has evolved into the project presented online this month in Vaughan's memory. Maltais reached out to Moffatt shortly after Vaughan's death to collaborate on the project. It is being held virtually on the centre's website because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recorded readings from 17 different people will be released throughout the month. The response to the show has been positive, with people sharing fond memories. Maltais said she remembers Vaughan as someone who really cared about his students and the cultural community. "I have spoken to a few people that were mentored by him, and it is really a terrible loss," she said.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Trump administration early Saturday carried out its 13th federal execution since July, an unprecedented run that concluded just five days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden — an opponent of the federal death penalty. Dustin Higgs, convicted of ordering the killings of three women in a Maryland wildlife refuge in 1996, was the third to receive a lethal injection this week at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. President Donald Trump’s Justice Department resumed federal executions last year following a 17-year hiatus. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many federal executions. Higgs, 48, was pronounced dead at 1:23 a.m. Asked if he had any last words, Higgs was calm but defiant, naming each of the women prosecutors said he ordered killed. “I’d like to say I am an innocent man. ... I am not responsible for the deaths,” he said softly. “I did not order the murders.” He did not apologize for anything he did on the night 25 years ago when the women were shot by another man, who received a life sentence. As the lethal injection of pentobarbital began to flow into his veins, Higgs looked toward a room reserved for his relatives and lawyers. He waved with his fingers and said, “I love you.” Louds sobs of a woman crying inconsolably began to echo from the witness room reserved for Higgs’ family as his eyes rolled back in his head, showing the whites of his eyes. He quickly became still, his pupils visible with his eyelids left partially open. A sister of Tanji Jackson — one of the murdered women who was 21 when she died — addressed a written statement to Higgs after his execution and mentioning his family. “They are now going to go through the pain we experienced,” she said. “When the day is over, your death will not bring my sister and the other victims back. This is not closure.” The statement didn't include the sister's name. The number of federal death sentences carried out under Trump since 2020 is more than in the previous 56 years combined, reducing the number of prisoners on federal death row by nearly a quarter. It’s likely none of the around 50 remaining men will be executed anytime soon, if ever, with Biden signalling he’ll end federal executions. The only woman on death row, Lisa Montgomery, was executed Wednesday for killing a pregnant woman, then cutting the baby out of her womb. She was the first woman executed in nearly 70 years. Federal executions began as the coronavirus pandemic raged through prisons nationwide. Among those prisoners who got COVID-19 last month were Higgs and former drug trafficker Corey Johnson, who was executed Thursday. In the early Saturday execution of Higgs, officials inside the execution chamber were more diligent about their keeping masks on after a federal judge expressed concern that officials at Johnson's execution were lax about coronavirus precautions. When a marshal called from a death-chamber phone to ask if there were any impediments to proceeding with Higgs' execution, he kept his mask on and shoved the receiver under it. Not since the waning days of Grover Cleveland’s presidency in the late 1800s has the U.S. government executed federal inmates during a presidential transition, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Cleveland’s was also the last presidency during which the number of civilians executed federally was in the double digits in one year, 1896. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post earlier this week, Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, noted that Higgs, a Black man, was scheduled to die Friday — his father’s birthday. With last-minute appeals, it was delayed into early Saturday. “The federal government should not be needlessly taking more Black lives, and to do so on my father’s birthday would be shameful,” he wrote. Pressure is already building on Biden to follow through on pledges to end the federal death penalty. The ACLU released a statement after Higgs' execution urging Biden to invoke his presidential powers after he is sworn in. “He must commute the sentences of people on the federal death row to life without parole, and he must drop death from all pending trials," the ACLU said. In 2000, a federal jury in Maryland convicted Higgs of murder and kidnapping in the killings of Tamika Black, 19; Mishann Chinn, 23; and Tanji Jackson. Higgs’ lawyers argued it was “arbitrary and inequitable” to execute Higgs while Willis Haynes, the man who fired the shots that killed the women, was spared a death sentence. In a statement after the execution, Higgs’ attorney, Shawn Nolan, said his client had spent decades on death row helping other inmates. “There was no reason to kill him, particularly during the pandemic and when he, himself, was sick with Covid that he contracted because of these irresponsible, super-spreader executions,” Nolan said. Higgs had a traumatic childhood and lost his mother to cancer when he was 10, Higgs’ Dec. 19 petition for clemency petition said. Higgs was 23 on the evening of Jan. 26, 1996, when he, Haynes and a third man, Victor Gloria, picked up the three women in Washington, D.C., and drove them to Higgs’ apartment in Laurel, Maryland, to drink alcohol and listen to music. Before dawn, an argument between Higgs and Jackson prompted her to grab a knife in the kitchen before Haynes persuaded her to drop it. Gloria said Jackson made threats as she left the apartment with the other women and appeared to write down the license plate number of Higgs’ van, angering him. The three men chased after the women in Higgs’ van. Haynes persuaded them to get into the vehicle. Instead of taking them home, Higgs drove them to a secluded spot in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, federal land in Laurel. “Aware at that point that something was amiss, one of the women asked if they were going to have to ‘walk from here’ and Higgs responded ‘something like that,’” according to court documents. Higgs handed his pistol to Haynes, who shot all three women outside the van, Gloria testified. “Gloria turned to ask Higgs what he was doing, but saw Higgs holding the steering wheel and watching the shootings from the rearview mirror,” said the 2013 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chinn worked with the children’s choir at a church, Jackson worked in the office at a high school and Black was a teacher’s aide at National Presbyterian School in Washington, according to The Washington Post. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect the execution taking place early Saturday. ____ Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland. Michael Tarm And Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press