WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
The Nov. 17 regular Crowsnest Pass council meeting saw council discuss and vote on a handful of agenda items. Senior housing The meeting began with a 2021 budget update from Crowsnest Senior Housing. The budget was very preliminary as uncertainties surrounding Alberta Health Services and Covid-19 funding have yet to be confirmed. Revenue estimates for 2021 were based on the centre having four vacancies, even though currently vacancies sit at 13. A similar situation with seven vacancies resolved itself last year, so staff are optimistic residents will fill the vacancies again this year. One additional vacancy reduces rent revenue by about $18,000 to $20,000. A finalized budget will be in place by January. The housing board requested that, going forward, annual budgets be presented in January as it is difficult for staff to compile a budget when data has yet to be collected for the remaining months of the year. Rather than compiling a complete budget before year’s end, Crowsnest Senior Housing will make a year-to-date presentation in October to keep council informed. So far, the Peaks to Pines senior centre is about halfway through construction, though it is not anticipated to be completed until the summer of 2021. Land redesignation After no issues were raised during the public hearing, council passed second and third reading of Bylaw 1057, 2020, a land-use bylaw redesignation. The bylaw will rezone a property in Coleman from a recreation and open space (RO-1) designation to residential (R-1). The rezoning comes about after administration received a development permit application for a residential addition to the property. It was discovered that part of the land was designated as residential while the other was set aside for recreation and open space. After going through municipal records and past council meeting minutes, it was determined the split zoning was a mistake. Health and wellness Council agreed to make a few minor changes to the municipality’s health and wellness spending account, Policy 1810-02. The biggest change involves allowing employees to submit reimbursement receipts throughout the year. Previously, claims could be made only once a year. Other changes included adding employee leave as a reason to prorate benefits and including a new category on health apps. Club rent rates The meeting concluded with a lengthy discussion on rates the municipality charges clubs to rent municipal facilities. For detailed coverage, please see Crowsnest Pass Council Debates Rent Rates, posted online at www.shootinthebreeze.ca. Next meeting The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre. Agendas are available on the municipality’s website at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Chadwick Boseman surges onto the screen as fast-talking trumpeter Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” like a man on an electrified tightrope -- balancing precariously between hope and cynicism, humour and sadness, joy and pain, and love and hate. Unlike with some of Boseman’s other famous characters who’ve had a clear moral centre from the start, it's not clear what Levee, a creation of legendary playwright August Wilson, has up his sleeve. Handsome and wiry, he’s constantly on edge, and behind even his most brilliant smile there’s a whiff of something amiss. We don’t really know what we're looking at. But we sure don't want to look away. Boseman’s performance in this film adaptation of Wilson's 1982 play, lovingly directed by George C. Wolfe, would be heartbreaking even if the actor hadn’t tragically lost his life to cancer this year. But watching it now, that knowledge informs every moment, as one imagines the challenges he must have faced in a famously taxing role that was clearly so important to him. It goes without saying that the performance is brilliant, and yes, electric, but it’s also heroic. If there had to be a final role, what a gift that it was this, an exclamation point to a career that seems ever more momentous. Boseman isn’t the only volcanic force in “Ma Rainey,” a meditation on power, race, sex and commerce in early 20th-century America treated with sensitivity and grace by Wolfe, with a screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and score by Branford Marsalis. There’s also the matter of the titular Ma herself, played by a superb Viola Davis, nearly unrecognizable in her broadened silhouette, mouth of gold teeth, and coat upon coat of eye makeup. Together, she and Boseman conduct a master class. A historical note: Ma Rainey, who died in 1939, was a groundbreaking Black singer from Georgia known as “Mother of the Blues.” She’s the only real-life character in Wilson’s 10-play cycle documenting the African American experience, and the only LBGT character, too. Wolfe, who doesn't try to underplay the material's theatrical roots, gives us a a few tone-setting performance scenes. But the action takes place almost exclusively inside a white-owned studio in Chicago, where Ma and her band are scheduled one afternoon in 1927 to record a few hits. Intensifying the claustrophobia, Wolfe has turned it from winter to sultry summer; Ma is perpetually glistening in sweat. Before Ma arrives -- suitably late -- her band gathers. There’s the fatherly Cutler (Colman Domingo), Slow Drag (Michael Potts), and pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman). Then Levee bursts in, brandishing a prized new pair of shoes. Not only does he have talent, he boasts to the older guys: “I got STYLE.” That he does. And ambition. Encouraged by the white studio owner, he's writing songs and plans to launch his own band. And he has his own, jazzier version of “Black Bottom," sure to get people dancing. But Ma isn’t having it. She has her version of the song, and it works. She's also insistent that her nephew Sylvester give the introduction, even though he stutters. And she won’t begin recording until she’s good and ready. "That's the way it go around here,” she says. Ma isn’t merely throwing around her weight. She's staking a claim to her very dignity. Once the studio has what they need, she knows, they won't care a whit about her. And so, when the ice-cold Coke she requires is forgotten, she won't budge until it comes. Watch Davis guzzle down that Coke ferociously when it does. Ma rightly sees Levee as a threat to her style of performing, but also to her authority. To make it worse, she senses he has eyes on her young girlfriend, Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige). She's right -- and it’s more than his eyes. But Levee isn't just a brash troublemaker. Behind the bluster is a deep well of pain, which we come to understand through several devastating tour-de-force monologues that hark back to past demons, and hint at future tragedy. If you haven’t seen the play, brace yourself. Seven years ago, Boseman wrote poignantly about the experience of meeting Wilson, whom he clearly revered, and reciting the playwright's lines, which he likened to poetry. “Filling one’s nostrils with the emotionally charged breath to recite an August Wilson monologue,” he wrote, “can be transformative.” And now we know how transformative it can be to watch Boseman himself recite those monologues. We should all count ourselves lucky to be able to witness this, his final and arguably finest performance. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a Netflix release, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language, some sexual content and brief violence.” Running time: 94 minutes. Four stars out of four. ___ MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires a parent or adult guardian. ___ Follow Jocelyn Noveck at www.Twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
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
Participants both in favour of and opposed to the proposed Grassy Mountain mine squared off Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 during the scheduled presentation and cross-examination period. The hearing topics focused on the project’s purpose, visual esthetics, alternative road access and the potential socioeconomic effects the mine could have on the region. In Benga’s beginning statement, vice-president of external relations Gary Houston said the mine would spike the local economy, encouraging local business, the service industry and tourism in the area. “Benga considers [that] economic development, recreation and tourism are compatible and mutually supportive in the community and the region,” he said. Providing Crowsnest Pass with an established industry, Mr. Houston continued, would help draw more hotels and restaurants, which in turn would attract more tourists to the region to the point the municipality could rival a destination like Fernie. Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, challenged such an assertion because the environmental and socioeconomic assessment sections of Benga’s application were missing consultation with the outdoor recreation industry. “It appears that the consultant who prepared the report left a gap regarding what is going on in the community,” she said. “A cost-benefit analysis should include the assessment of outdoor recreation, lifestyle and tourism prior to the mine approval.” Ms. Davis said the mine’s approval would limit access to recreational opportunities, which would not only deter people from coming to the area but would also drive away people who live there. Gavin Fitch, representing the Livingstone Landowners Group, said Benga’s claim that the mine would help tourism ignored the fact travel destinations always have a destination worth going to. Amenities like hotels and restaurants, he said, come second. “How, then, is removing the top of one of the local mountains going to contribute to attracting or drawing more tourists?” he asked. Money talks In terms of improving the local economy, Mr. Houston said Benga’s “hire local” policy would ensure the two-year construction phase would provide meaningful employment for nearby residents, as well as establish some 400 good-paying, permanent positions once the mine was operational. The total socioeconomic benefit of the mine, however, was called into question. Though Mr. Houston said in Benga’s opening statements that some 500 jobs would be created during construction, it was later corrected that at its peak the construction phase would require only 190 workers. Overall, an average of 120 workers would be employed while construction is occurring. The estimate of $1.7 billion in provincial and federal royalties and taxes over the mine’s 25-year lifespan — two for construction and 23 for operations — was also based on an assumed average price of US $140 per tonne of metallurgical coal. Coal prices, Benga acknowledged, can regularly fluctuate above $300 or below $100, though the process is a complicated one to predict since prices are established directly between individual steelmakers and coal mines. The risk to the multibillion-dollar agrifood industry downstream from the mine, which was recently reported at $2.2 billion in 2020 for Lethbridge County alone, has raised questions as to whether any purported benefit from the mine is worth the economic risk. With more and more countries investing in green energy to combat climate change, Mr. Fitch said, the economic viability outlook was overly optimistic since global coal use is estimated to decrease. Alternative methods of producing steel without metallurgical coal, like hydrogen-field forges or electric-arc furnaces, could also hamper the mine’s profitability on world markets. Opponents of the proposed mine also said the mine’s development contradicted Canada’s international commitments to limiting gas emissions. Gas emissions as part of the project’s mining operations, however, are regarded by proponents as negligible. “I believe the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project are in the order of 0.05 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions, so that seems like a small number to me,” said Mr. Houston. He also added that figure would be applicable only once the mine reached peak production during its 19th year. As well, decreasing coal demand worldwide only really applies to thermal coal, or coal used to produce electricity, said Benga’s Mike Yuill. “For Canadian export hard-coking coal, the outlook is still very robust,” he said. While using electricity in arc-flash furnaces is growing, Mr. Yuill added that the process requires recycling old steel. For many countries in southeastern Asia just starting to develop, little amounts of steel exist to be recycled, necessitating the need for metallurgical coal. Using hydrogen instead of coal is still in its preliminary stages and is not expected to be used widely during the Grassy Mountain mine’s lifespan. Property problems The mine’s land use, as well as its effect on nearby properties, was also discussed. Since the mine is located on an existing mine that closed in the 1960s, Benga argued that it’s reclamation efforts would improve the area since the previous mining company did not complete any land reclamation. The company also clarified concerns about private properties being located within the mine’s boundary; the boundary was purposefully drawn larger than what operational needs actually required to facilitate appropriate environmental study. No properties exist within the mine footprint, where mining would occur. For Fran Gilmar, who has owned property in the area for 60 years, the distance properties were from the mining footprint was irrelevant since mining activity would destroy the area’s source of fresh water, particularly Gold Creek. “I've drank it for 58 years, and it's, it's beautiful water. It's the last of the last,” she said. “You know, you do not find water like that anywhere.” In addition to water pollution, residents also said the resulting air and noise pollution would significantly devalue their properties. While acknowledging values would decrease if a catastrophic accident occurred, Brian Gettel, a professional appraiser who testified at the hearing, said property losses would only really be affected by the dust produced at the mine. He estimated the additional air pollution would result in 10 per cent or less loss in property value, though mining activity would more negatively affect the higher-end housing, which typically involves people from the city owning a second house in an alpine area. “Put simply, second homes in a mountain area are not necessarily the greatest thing if it's a mining community,” Mr. Gettel said. To mitigate property losses in the Grassy Mountain area, Benga had engaged nearby landowners throughout the proposal and application period, Mr. Houston said. A voluntary buy-back program had been established, with Benga offering to pay owners double what their property was worth, based on individual negotiations. The average starting point for such negotiations, Mr. Houston continued, was $800,000. Describing $800,000 as double the average property price, however, was a disputed figure. “From my perspective, $400,000 is a rare instance, and that is the absolute lowest value I've seen,” said Mr. Gettel. In their communications with Benga, Norm and Tyler Watmough, who own property immediately adjacent to the proposed mine, said negotiations were more like an ultimatum. The initial offer the family received was for $750,000, even though they knew two of their neighbours’ land had been bought by Benga for $1.1 million and $1.3 million. When the family declined the initial offer, Benga offered $800,000, claiming it was 60 per cent premium over the highest appraised property in the region. The Watmoughs again refused the offer. “We felt that they were bullying us and trying to force us out at a price that was below market value,” Tyler said. The difference in pricing, Mr. Houston said, was the result of Benga determining what land was necessary for it to own in order to operate the mine. Land within the mine footprint, then, would be a higher priority for purchase. Landowners in the area also are concerned they will be cut off from Grassy Mountain Road, the most direct access to their properties. Though Benga has suggested alternative roads exist, locals say the routes amount to little more than quad trails or are accessible only parts of the year with four-by-four trucks. The issue stems from an agreement property owners formerly had with the gas company Devon Canada Corp. The agreement granted residents permission to access Grassy Mountain Road, even though it went through private property. Richard Secord, legal counsel for the affected landowners, said Benga did not do its due diligence in ensuring residents could still use the road. “You didn't determine or bother in your public consultation to find out whether [the agreement] was real [and] that they had a similar access to the Grassy Mountain Road,” he said. In Benga’s defense, Mr. Houston responded that no landowners had approached the company about the issue until the hearing. “I don't know that the onus is on Benga to ask [if] there any secret agreements that we don't know about,” he said. “The lines of communication have been open for five years. The fact that we have intended to close the Grassy Mountain Road has been documented in writing at least [since] 2015 and through several other communications.” When Martin Ignasiak, Benga’s legal counsel, asked landowners Larry and Ed Donkersgoed why they did not discuss the issue with the mining company, they replied that they just assumed Benga would know. Benga’s understanding of the agreement was that residents could maintain the road at their own expense, though Mr. Houston said the company was under the impression it really only included clearing snow. He also said the agreement only formally acknowledged Devon was not liable for residents using the road and gave the gas company power to terminate the agreement with 120 days written notice. Evidence of the agreement brought before the hearing was also a little suspect, Mr. Houston said, since a letter indicating the agreement was written and signed by a former Devon employee. The letter didn’t have an official letterhead and only described a verbal agreement rather than laying out terms and conditions. Accessing the hearing The public hearing for the joint review panel continues throughout November. Live and recorded proceedings of the hearing are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/GMtnHearing, with transcripts and submitted documents accessible at https://bit.ly/AllDocx.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
TORONTO — A judge accused of lying about his involvement in a Black activist organization will face a disciplinary hearing starting next month, the Ontario Judicial Council has announced.The four-person panel will delve into whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians. McLeod was cleared in the earlier process and denies the current unproven allegations.If the complaints are proven, the panel could impose punishment up to suspension with or without pay. It could also recommend to the attorney general that McLeod be forced from the Ontario court bench.In its notice of hearing filed earlier this year, the council alleges the judge behaved in a manner "incompatible with the due execution of the duties of his office."The earlier hearing focused on McLeod's involvement with the non-profit federation, which advocates on legal and policy issues affecting the community. Key was his role in the group's advocacy related to a Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.In December 2018, the panel dismissed the complaint based on an agreed statement of facts and McLeod's evidence that he was no longer involved in Abdi advocacy. That wasn't true, the new complaint alleges.Among other things, McLeod is alleged to have either arranged or taken part in a meeting with then-refugee minister, Ahmed Hussen, on the federation's behalf. "Contrary to his evidence at the hearing, Justice McLeod was involved in (the federation's) efforts in this regard," the hearing notice states. "In light of the above, His Honour committed perjury and/or misled the hearing panel regarding his involvement in the Abdi case."Similarly, the notice alleges the judge resumed his leadership role during which time the federation sought funding from government and met various officials.It also says he spoke at a political summit in Ottawa in February 2019. At one point, a security guard ordered a group of Black attendees to leave the Parliament Hill cafeteria in an allegedly racist incident.McLeod, according to the notice, counselled two witnesses against speaking out about the incident which, the complaint asserts, amounted to giving legal advice or using his position to influence them.Overall, the complaint alleges, McLeod's conduct could undermine public confidence in the judiciary.In his response, the judge maintains his meeting with Hussen in January 2018 was not about Abdi. He also states the allegations are based on claims from people who did not directly witnesses the various events."The evidence will show Justice McLeod did not commit perjury or intentionally mislead the 2018 hearing panel," his response states. "(He did not) engage in impermissible advocacy or lobbying, or attempt to pressure or intimidate two youth delegates."McLeod says the earlier panel recognized that racialized judges "legitimately feel and act upon a moral obligation to serve as leaders and role models" in their communities.His return to the federation in a "limited capacity" was in line with the panel's decision and his advice to the youth delegates about the cafeteria incident was based on his personal experience as a Black man, he says. "The choice not to investigate this matter thoroughly led to a notice of hearing that contains unnecessary allegations," his response states.The hearing panel will comprise an Appeal Court and a Superior Court justice, a lawyer and a community member. The virtual hearing, scheduled for 20 days over three weeks, is set to begin Dec. 7 and will be open to the public.Several groups of Black Canadians have called for the misconduct charges to be dropped.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
MOSCOW — Thousands of people in Russia's Far East region of Primorye remained without heating or electricity on Wednesday, as local authorities and emergency services wrestled with the consequences of an unprecedented ice storm that hit the region last week.According to Russia's Energy Ministry, 5,800 Primorye residents as of Wednesday were still cut off from power, and 3,300 people in the city of Vladivostok, the region's capital, still had no heating, the ministry said.The region was hit by freezing rain on Nov. 18, and thousands of its residents woke up in dark, cold apartments the next day. Thick layers of ice covered trees, cars, roads and power lines, many of which broke under the weight.The region hasn't seen weather like this in 30 years, Primorye Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako said on his Instagram page. The ice storm continued for several days. On Saturday, nearly 180,000 people in the region had no electricity, heating or water, according to the regional government's website.The authorities have been working on restoring power supplies in the region for a week. Shelters and hot meals for those affected were organized. The government allocated 700 million rubles ($9 million) of assistance to the region, where a state of emergency was declared Friday.Commenting on the situation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the ice storm was rather severe and “inflicted colossal damage onto the urban infrastructure" and pointed out that, while the authorities were taking all necessary measures to deal with the situation, the consequences from the force of nature couldn't be eliminated quickly.The Associated Press
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
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
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
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A mine in the Red Sea off Saudi Arabia's coast near Yemen exploded and damaged an oil tanker Wednesday, authorities said, the latest incident targeting the kingdom amid its long war against Yemen's Houthi rebels. The blast happened before dawn and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq, Saudi Arabia. “Their vessel was attacked by an unknown source,” a statement from the Agrari's operator, TMS Tankers Ltd., said. “The Agrari was struck about 1 metre above the waterline and has suffered a breach. It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries.” The ship was still floating off the coast and had been boarded by Saudi officials, the company said. Shuqaiq is some 160 kilometres (100 miles) north by sea from the Yemeni border. Ambrey, a British security firm, reported the blast and attributed it to a mine. It said the Agrari had cargo from Rotterdam, Netherlands, that it had discharged at the Shuqaiq Steam Power Plant. “The explosion took place in port limits and punctured the hull of the vessel,” Ambrey said. The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an information exchange overseen by the British royal navy in the region, acknowledged a ship had “experienced an explosion,” without elaborating. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, responsible for patrolling the waterways of the Mideast, said it was aware of the incident. Saudi state television later aired a report claiming a military coalition led by the kingdom destroyed a bomb-laden Houthi drone boat and that a merchant ship sustained light damage. The report offered no details and it wasn't immediately clear if the report was the same incident at Shuqaiq. Saudi-owned channels later aired reports about Houthi mining in the Red Sea. The explosion comes after a cruise missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck an oil facility early Monday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition reported Tuesday that it removed and destroyed five Iranian-made naval mines planted by the Houthis in the southern Red Sea, condemning the attempted attacks as posing “a serious threat to maritime security in the Bab al-Mandab strait.” The strait is some 585 kilometres (363 miles) south of Shuqaiq. The Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iranian-backed Houthis since March 2015. Houthi military officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but they've been blamed for other mining incidents during the course of the war. A United Nations panel in 2018 found the Houthis used both improvised and what appear to be Iranian-manufactured “bottom” mines, explosives that could be live in the water for as a long as a decade. “Sea mines are low cost, easy to deploy, tactically very effective, difficult to detect and thus are a potent threat to both naval and commercial vessels,” that report warned. "Relatively small quantities present a threat out of proportion to their numbers." Iran repeatedly has denied arming the Houthis, though experts say Iranian weapons ranging from small arms to missiles have been smuggled to the rebels. The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and the global energy supplies, making any mining of the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by the currents, which changed by the season in the Red Sea. The Red Sea has been mined previously. In 1984, some 19 ships reported striking mines there, with only one ever being recovered and disarmed, the U.N. panel said. ___ Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Jawan M. Jackson recently got to do something he's been yearning to do for months — sing and dance again with his Broadway cast.Jackson is one of the stars of “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations” and he reunited with castmates for the first time since theatres shuttered to prepare for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.“I was most happy with just seeing all my old friends I haven’t seen in months, some who flew in specifically for the show to do this,” he said. “It was different, but it was still great to do.”The pandemic, which shut down theatres in March, may have upended most traditions this holiday season, but the annual New York City parade will march on with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa — albeit heavily edited for safety.“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year's parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it's a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.The biggest change this year is that the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan has been scrapped in favour of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances have been pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.In addition to “Ain’t Too Proud," the parade will feature performances from the Broadway casts of “Hamilton,” “Mean Girls” and “Jagged Little Pill,” a musical built around the music of Alanis Morissette. The Broadway performances were taped days before the parade.Things felt a lot different for actor Derek Klena, who was in the 2017 parade as part of the cast of “Anastasia.” This year, he's Tony Award-nominated for his role in “Jagged Little Pill” and helped perform “You Learn” from the Tony-nominated show.The cast was quarantined for two weeks before taping and tested regularly for the virus. Cast members rehearsed in masks until the moment cameras started rolling and kept socially distant. They sang live this time instead of years past when casts lip-synched."Although the circumstances were much different, it was still so magical and fulfilling to get to share that experience with your fellow castmates after being distant for so long," said Klena.“I think it was important to everybody to find a way to still celebrate this event and celebrate the shows and the companies that all get to share in this amazing event.”Both Jackson and Klena said everyone adhered to the show's strict safety protocols — enforcing the 6-foot rule, frequent testing and requiring face masks plus face shields, as well as a fresh mask after their performance. “I’m appreciative of it because it is built to keep you safe,” said Jackson, though he noted “dancing in a mask is a tough feat.”This year's lineup of balloons includes Snoopy, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “The Elf on the Shelf,” Chase from "Paw Patrol," Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants and “Trolls.” New this time are “The Boss Baby” and Red Titan from “Ryan’s World.”The giant cartoon-character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 rope-pulling handlers assigned to each inflatable and will instead be tethered to specialized vehicles.Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jordin Sparks will perform, and there will be floats from “Blue’s Clues,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and Lego. There will be a New York City Ballet ballerina with a performance from “The Nutcracker,” an all-female samba drumline and acrobats from “The Big Apple Circus,” and the Rockettes will be out in force. The parade ends with an appearance from Santa Claus.Another change this year was the decision to spotlight many of the New York City parades that were cancelled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and NYC Pride March.“We’re going to be highlighting them, and we’re going to be really giving them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’re going to be able to see creativity in this entertainment come to life that has sort of been dormant for the past seven months.”For the Broadway performers, there's a silver lining to the changes this year. Usually on Thanksgiving Day, they'd be freezing in Midtown, having woken at dawn and been dancing and singing for hours. This year, they get to watch themselves from the warmth of their apartments, a job already well done.“It’s the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I either don’t have a show or I’m not taping something,” said Klena. “So in that way it’ll be kind of fun to just celebrate with some of my friends here in the city and my wife.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
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
A $2 million family healing and wellness centre is scheduled for construction on Muskowekwan First Nation. The First Nation, which is about 330 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, expects the project to be completed in 2021. Funded by an Indigenous Services Canada initiative, the centre will be built in the spring and summer, a government statement announced on Monday. The prepared statement said the centre will have four family log homes, each holding two to four bedrooms. The First Nation will use a fifth home for healing program delivery. Operations support will come from community Elders, in addition to counsellors and staff. In a prepared statement, Chief Reginald Bellerose said the project is an "urgently needed" step on a "healing journey from the historical effects of attending residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, among other traumas." While he said communities like his are in crisis, he hopes the model of care will produce tangible results for his First Nation. The project is "driven by the community, for the community," he said. The goal is to "provide a welcoming, homelike environment where families in crisis referred to the Centre can get the support they need to help heal together," the federal government's statement added.Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
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
Health officials have declared the latest Saskatchewan care home outbreak at Saskatoon's Oliver Lodge, a seniors' facility housing more than 100 residents.The Hudson Bay Park home was added to the province's list of active outbreaks on Tuesday, making it the 19th special care home, seniors residence, long-term care home or assisted living facility in the province currently dealing with two or more cases of the virus. According to a new weekly update from the province on COVID-19 cases in long-term and special care homes that launched on Wednesday, Oliver Lodge had only one infected person between Nov. 10 and Nov. 24. Most homes were dealing with fewer than five cases. Some had more, such as Parkside Extendicare in Regina and Providence Place in Moose Jaw, which had 14 and seven cases respectively. In total, health workers at 29 different homes navigated new working conditions spurred by 88 different positive cases. The data released Wednesday did not indicate the age of infected people nor how many of them were hospitalized. Nor is it known if the infected people were residents or workers. See the full list here.Staffing challengesOliver Lodge's website says the home has 139 residents. A 2019 inspection stated each room is private and has its own bathroom. The lodge is connected to an apartment building, Oliver Place, that offers assisted living, according to the inspection.Frank Suchorab, Oliver Lodge's executive director, said updates on the situation are being posted on the home's website.Suchorab declined to say how many residents have tested positive as of Wednesday, saying it wouldn't make a difference in terms of the home's response to the outbreak. The province only declares an outbreak if two or more cases are present. Residents in the home's south wing are isolating in their rooms, according to the update.Other care homes have said they're facing staffing challenges as some workers are required to self-isolate."I would say that we're not any different from the other sites," Suchorab said. "We all work together. We all have the same challenges. Rapid tests on orderLuther Special Care Home in Saskatoon, the long-term care home in the province dealing with the largest outbreak, reported to residents' family members on Tuesday night that the number of infected residents remained at 34 for the second day in a row. Operations lead Ivan Olfert also outlined the steps the home is taking to curb the spread of the virus. Staff working in the affected wing are not mingling with workers from other areas of the home. Supplies are being dropped off outside the complex, located in the city's Varsity view neighbourhood."On Sunday we applied for a medical laboratory licence in order to be able to bring an Abbott Panbio Point of Care testing device onsite, which will allow us to test individuals for COVID and have results in about 15 minutes," Olfert wrote.Olfert noted with concern that the number of staff working in the outbreak unit who are self-isolating continues to grow. "Other long-term care homes in the city, along with home care, have contacted us and are offering assistance in a variety of ways, including lending us staff on a temporary basis [and] supporting us in the recruitment and training of new employees to help bolster our ranks."Also, we have a couple of staff who have temporarily moved from Regina to help support our efforts."Moose Jaw home's outbreak numbers unknownHealth officials added Providence Place to the list of active outbreak sites on Tuesday. The home declined to specify how many staff members have needed to self-isolate."We are taking all the necessary and precautionary measures to ensure the ongoing health and safety of our residents and employees," said executive director Georgia Hutchinson. "The situation at Providence Place is evolving and we are not commenting on specific cases or case numbers at this time." Saskatchewan reported only three new COVID-19 cases among people aged 80 and older on Wednesday, compared to 12 on Tuesday, bringing to cumulative number of cases in that age bracket to 246.It's unclear how many of the cases among aged seniors are active.
It's been a long time coming, but the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is building a hut in the Robson Pass area at the end of the Berg Lake trail. The site has been cleared and, if all goes to plan, the dorm-style hut will be built by next summer and usable by the fall. It will be open seasonally and accommodate 16 overnight guests: four bunks of four. Matt Reynolds, a professional mountaineer and president of the Jasper/Hinton section of the ACC, said the location is sought by "hikers and mountaineers alike”. "It's a really popular hiking destination for people who don't want to camp in the elements,” he said “It really will be quite a good thing for the community as a whole." The ACC got word of their permission to build the hut on Oct. 6 and the next day, a crew of ACC volunteers and two McElhanney survey technicians flew up to the site armed with chainsaws, fuel and other equipment to prepare and clear the area, which had already been marked with tape. Claire Levesque, a mountaineer and a Jasper/Hinton section member said she dropped everything when she found out the hut was a go-ahead and was happy to help. She said the crew worked all day. "There was a lot of work,” she said. The hut at Robson Pass will be the first one to be maintained by the ACC in B.C. Provincial Parks, though the club has had a presence in that area for more than 100 years - The first ascent of Mt. Robson was on an ACC camp. Lawrence White, ACC executive director in Canmore, and an avid mountaineer and backcountry skier, said the bid to get permission to build the hut started in 2005. The process was a three-way consultation between B.C. Parks, First Nations groups and the ACC. It's a World Heritage site. "We have a great partnership with B.C. Parks,” White said. “This seemed like the next natural step.” Next, the ACC will be working with the province and avalanche specialists to categorize the access route. The Jacques Lake cabin The ACC is now about a year into its 16-month trial agreement to manage the Jacques Lake patrol cabin, formerly managed by Parks Canada. As a not-for-profit operator, the ACC operates a number of cabins throughout the mountain national parks including four in Jasper. Steve Young, communications officer for Jasper National Park, said, "The addition of the Jacques Lake cabin provides an introductory level winter backcountry experience to novice visitors who may not otherwise experience Jasper’s backcountry at this time of year. The cabin offers visitors rustic accommodation along a moderate non-technical trail." Young said Parks Canada’s backcountry operations in Jasper National Park have changed over the years, reducing the frequency of use of patrol cabins such as Jacques Lake. The cabin was identified as a viable option to be used for public enjoyment as it is no longer required for operations during the winter months. Parks Canada retains ownership of the cabin while the ACC is responsible for the booking, management and maintenance of the cabin during the winter months. Established in 1906, the ACC head office is in Canmore and there are 25 local sections across the country, including the Jasper/Hinton section. The ACC promotes alpine experiences, knowledge and culture, responsible access and excellence in mountain skills and leadership. Currently there are 35 backcountry huts maintained by the ACC across the country.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
The raft of musicians who were snubbed by the 2021 Grammy Award nominations on Tuesday highlight the Recording Academy's scattershot efforts at inclusion, say industry observers, pointing out that ironically, those snubs might have been inadvertently caused by the academy's attempts to do the opposite. "I was a little bit surprised by the dearth of albums by Black artists in the album of the year category," said Jeremy Helligar, a journalist with the trade magazine Variety. The category is the most-coveted award of the night, and among the eight nominees — Jacob Collier, HAIM, Dua Lipa, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Black Pumas and Jhené Aiko — only the last two include Black or biracial members. Beyoncé's anthem about Black pride, Black Parade, scored nine nominations, including song and record of the year, making her the leading contender and the second-most nominated act in the history of the awards show. But other high-performing albums were ignored in favour of those that largely went under the radar — most notably, Coldplay's Everyday Life.Music fans critiqued the Recording Academy, which hands out the awards, on Twitter for ignoring Lil Baby's My Turn and Roddy Ricch's Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, both double-platinum albums.Rapper Nicki Minaj also threw her support behind the two artists soon after the list was announced, reminding fans that she herself was ignored for best new artist in 2012 in place of "white man Bon Iver.""It's like they try to embrace as diverse a group as they can to try to show that they're thinking outside of the box," Helligar said. "But by thinking outside of the box, they miss some of the obvious choices that are really worthy."Dropping 'urban' category not enoughOne of the academy's recent attempts to think outside of the box was the decision to drop the word "urban" from the "best urban contemporary album" category — now called "best progressive R&B album." Helligar has written about the decision, which he says seemed like a good-faith attempt to move away from a term that lumped Black musicians together regardless of genre but ended up being little more than lip service. It was also undercut by the continued use of the "urban" designation in Latin music categories. Organizers also changed the best world music album to "best global music album" as "a departure from the connotations of colonialism." This came among similar changes at other awards shows — such as the Oscars renaming best foreign language film to "best international feature film" and the Junos renaming the Indigenous album of the year to "Indigenous artist or group of the year" in late 2019."This is the year when the academy could have really made a statement about its support of Black music," said Helligar.But despite those efforts, Helligar says, the "hand-wringing" and the focus on categories in general by the Recording Academy could result in Black artists being lumped together once again — something he feared he saw evidence of in the best album category this year.The Weeknd ignoredMusic and culture journalist Gary Suarez, who has written for Vulture and other publications, says the academy's focus on categories and genres, and its difficulty fully nailing them down, could have played a role in the passing over of other contenders.For example, despite Canadian musician The Weeknd having produced one of the biggest albums of the year with After Hours, winning big at the American Music Awards and being named as the Super Bowl halftime performer, he didn't receive a single Grammy nomination.The singer responded to the snub Tuesday, writing: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…"Suarez says the reason for the snub could be that The Weeknd's music fits into so many different genres, including electronic, pop and R&B. The academy's concern with categories and genres, he says, can cause artists to fall through the cracks. "The simple fact is that when you create these genre categories, you're ghettoizing artists whether you intend to or not," Suarez said. "It's entirely possible that The Weeknd could have had his votes split in too many ways so that he didn't make the long list."After the Weeknd called out the academy, Harvey Mason Jr., the academy's interim president and CEO, released a statement explaining that, "unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.""We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he's feeling," Mason Jr. said.A 'silent hierarchy' of decision makersThe concern over the academy's decision making was echoed by Justin Bieber later Tuesday. The Canadian singer thanked the Grammys for putting his album Changes up for best pop vocal album but questioned why it was selected for the category."Changes was and is an R&B album," Bieber wrote on Instagram."For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!"The apparent disconnect between the academy's categories and how people listen to music, Saurez says, is only serving to further alienate fans from the industry."When you have artists who do the extraordinary things that we as listeners, as journalists celebrate artists for, but the institutions in the industry can't find a home for them in their little boxes," Suarez said, "then we have to ask ourselves: What does this industry serve? Who does this industry serve?"Music journalist A. Harmony doesn't think the Grammys are doing a good job of fixing that. In her view, the awards have a "silent hierarchy," that determines what qualifies as "real music," and people of colour are more often shut out of broader categories with universal appeal. But, she said, the lack of recognition is hurting artists less now than in the past. As organizers continue to break away from what people are actually listening to, she says, people are paying less attention to who is nominated for the Grammys and who wins."It seems as though the consumer now is dictating what they like and what they want to listen to, and they seem to be a lot more inclusive and accepting of a wider range of artists than the Grammys," said Harmony, who contributes to CBC's q."So, I think if the Grammys don't learn the lessons that they're meant to learn soon, they will just fade into the abyss."
Police in Regina handed a 34-year-old woman a $2,800 fine for allegedly hosting a party for 12 people. Officers were called to the 3100 block of Arens Road on Sunday for reports of a private gathering larger than the public health order allows. Police say officers found 12 people gathering at the home and told them they were violating the public health order. On Tuesday officers returned to the home and issued the woman the fine. "The Regina Police Service once again urges Regina residents to familiarize themselves with the Public Health Orders in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic," a statement from the Regina Police Service said. "There is more at stake than tickets and fines. We all have a responsibility when it comes to community health and safety."
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