Fashion mogul Peter Nygard appeared in a Winnipeg court on Tuesday after being arrested on U.S. charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. Nygard has been the subject of a CBC News investigation into allegations of sexual assault.
Fashion mogul Peter Nygard appeared in a Winnipeg court on Tuesday after being arrested on U.S. charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. Nygard has been the subject of a CBC News investigation into allegations of sexual assault.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China’s capital, Beijing, recorded seven more coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia, and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
For parents in eastern Ontario struggling to work from home while overseeing their grade-school children's at-home learning — or battling for bandwidth with their teenagers — Wednesday may be D-day. That's when Ontario's chief medical officer of health is expected to submit his recommendations on which regions should be allowed to resume in-class learning as of Jan. 25. Education Minister Stephen Lecce will make the announcement publicly — after cabinet approves the decision — either Wednesday or Thursday. Under the provincewide shutdown that began Dec. 26, elementary students were to return to class on Jan. 11, while secondary-school teens had to wait until Jan. 25. But with COVID-19 numbers on the rise over the holiday period, the government extended online learning for elementary schools until at least Jan. 25 — longer for hotspot zones in and around Toronto, as well as Windsor, Ont. 'Trickier' to reopen Ottawa schools Neither provincial nor local health officials would comment on the likelihood of local schools reopening later this month. But experts say the province will be looking at COVID-19 transmission numbers as a key indicator for whether students should go back to school. So while in-person learning could be returning for regions with relatively low ratios of spread — think Kingston, Prince Edward County, or Lanark — Ottawa's numbers mean it will be a "little bit trickier" to open schools in the capital, says one expert. Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen's University and medical director of infection prevention and control at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, said the province will likely be looking at how many new cases are being reported a week per 100,000 people in each region, to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community. We are still seeing a significant increase in the number of children and youth testing positive for COVID-19. - Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health "That's the classic metric that's being used," Evans told CBC. "Certainly where I am here in Kingston is going to look very good because that number is actually less than seven." In Ottawa, it's almost 82. Positivity up among children Another key statistic the province will study, according to Evans, is the proportion of children testing positive, which has risen in recent weeks. In a letter sent to parents of students in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Tuesday evening, Dr. Vera Etches warned that "we are still seeing a significant increase in the number of children and youth testing positive for COVID-19," even though there's been a significant decline the number of young people getting tested. Ottawa's medical officer of health wrote that the city is currently seeing a positivity rate of 21 per cent among children aged five to 12 who are tested for COVID-19. "We know there are likely many more undiagnosed infections in our community and unless we test more, we will not be able to identify them," she wrote. Etches pleaded for children with even minor symptoms to get swabbed because "refraining from testing is adding to the growing risk of community spread." She said that could lead to pressures on the health-care system, and "ultimately lead to an extension of the lockdown and other restrictions." Weighing numbers vs. social importance It's important to note that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in children is likely not due to spread in schools, as they've been closed since Dec. 17. According to Dr. Doug Manuel, a scientist with The Ottawa Hospital and a member of the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the province needs to consider whether school closures are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 faster. There have been 72 COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa schools since September — 45 of them in elementary schools. An outbreak is declared when it's reasonable for public health officials to conclude that two positive cases in a school are related. The vast majority of the outbreaks consisted of just a few people; 11 outbreaks involved five or more students or staff. While school outbreaks are certainly an area of focus for officials, Manuel points out that the transmission there isn't "as high as we expected going into the fall." "I think we can all agree that the teachers and the students and the custodial staff exceeded our expectations." Manuel, who says he'd feel comfortable sending his own grade-school aged children back to class in Ottawa, points to a number of promising signs that Ottawa is beginning to flatten the curve, including the receding daily count of new cases. Each person who tests positive is reporting an average of 1.3 close contacts, instead of seven just before the holidays. Also on Tuesday, Ottawa Public Health reported an effective reproduction rate — the average number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case — of 0.96. A rate below one suggests the spread is coming under control. "People often describe schools as the last place you want to shut down," said Manuel. "And I think that's a reflection of the importance for schools for kids." He suggested it can be possible for society to reduce COVID-19 levels while keeping schools open — like Ottawa did in October.
China's central bank has proposed stepping up antitrust measures for companies in the non-bank payments industry, such as Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent's WeChat Pay. Under draft rules proposed on Wednesday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) can advise the state council's antitrust committee to stop companies abusing their dominant position or even break up a non-bank institution if it "severely hinders the healthy development of the payment service market".
Irving Oil Ltd. is blaming petroleum price regulation in New Brunswick for failing to keep up with industry costs and pushing it to request "urgent" price increases, even though it twice refused requests from the Energy and Utilities Board to help improve wholesale margins. In written evidence submitted to the board earlier this month, Irving Oil marketing president Darren Gillis said that regulated markets "have become disconnected from non-regulated markets over time and do not provide for adequate recovery of costs." That has "eroded industry's ability to continue to supply regulated markets and remain competitive across our regions," Gillis said. Irving Oil applied on Jan. 5 to increase the margins wholesalers can earn on gasoline, diesel and furnace oil sales by 4.13 cents per litre, including an "immediate" increase of 3.5 cents. This week, it revised that request downward to 4.09 cents for gasoline and diesel and 3.02 cents for furnace oil. If that request is granted, that will increase the cost to consumers by a total of $60 million more per year. Irving Oil, others declined to help EUB update margins In evidence submitted with the application, Gillis said the last increase in wholesale margins was awarded by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) in 2013, based on 2011 cost data. Since then, he said, industry expenses have escalated significantly without matching increases in revenue. Irving Oil's claim that petroleum regulation has caused wholesaling margins in New Brunswick to grow stale comes after two major Energy and Utility Board attempts to keep them current were thwarted by a number of companies, including Irving Oil. In 2016, three years after the last margin adjustment, the board wrote to every New Brunswick petroleum wholesaler asking for help to update margins to cover changing costs. "It is important to remember that the Board can only change the margins if it has sufficient evidence to support such adjustments," it noted in asking for the companies' cooperation, and the review had to be abandoned. But four months later, the consultant the board hired to conduct the analysis, Gardner Pinfold of Halifax, reported back that no companies would cooperate with it. Review abandoned in 2019 after second attempt "Gardner Pinfold sent a letter to each petroleum wholesaler on December 15, 2016 to invite companies to participate in the review," it told the Energy and Utilities Board at the time. "No wholesaler expressed an interest in participating in the review and none provided data. Due to a lack of data, Gardner Pinfold is unable to provide a recommendation to change the current wholesale margin." The board tried again in 2019. Petroleum wholesalers again declined to provide any information to Gardner Pinfold about the adequacy of margins, prompting comment from then Energy and Utilities Board chair Raymond Gorman. "I would point out that this technically is a review of the wholesale margin, but Mr. Gardner didn't get any evidence," Gorman said during hearings in September 2019. "Nobody filed any evidence, so again we are in that situation where we have no data in order -- you know, to be able to deal with it." Following the hearing in November 2019, the board announced it could not increase margins for New Brunswick petroleum wholesalers because none of them would provide information, even in confidence. The board noted that a consultant "made initial and follow-up requests to wholesalers" to provide data on certain specified costs, including maritime freight, working capital, receivables, and terminal costs. "No data was submitted by the wholesalers. In the absence of sufficient evidence of changes to those factors, or other factors, an adjustment to the maximum wholesale margin for motor fuels cannot be justified," the board wrote, concluding the matter and taking no action. Irving Oil did not respond to a request for an interview about why it did not ask for margin increases in 2017 or 2019, when the board was asking for its help to reset them. But the company is pointing to margins not increasing in those years, combined with sudden demand reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence regulation is not working. "Petroleum pricing regulations in New Brunswick were created 15 years ago. They did not contemplate the challenges of the last several years and were not designed to react to a global pandemic," said Gillis. "Unregulated markets, however, respond as required to ensure supply at reasonable cost recovery levels. This is not the case in regulated markets."
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
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The seemingly more transmissible variants of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil are called "variants of concern" by the World Health Organization. Viruses mutate or change all the time to try to gain a selective advantage over other variants or versions of the virus. What sets the variants of concern apart from run-of-the-mill mutations is they could help the virus to infect human cells more easily or transmit person to person. If so, the variant gains a competitive advantage to wrestle aside other versions of the virus. So far, there are no signs of the variants worsening severe outcomes from the disease directly. But the fear is they will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths by spreading much more easily to more people. Here's a look at what's driving the concern and calls for more precautions in Canada. Where are the variants found in Canada? Canada's national microbiology lab has to date reported 23 cases of the B117 virus variant first identified in the U.K. and two cases of the variant first reported in South Africa. Most provinces aren't testing all samples for the variants. Only Saskatchewan says all of its COVID-19 tests will detect the B117 variant. Health officials say when greater transmission results in more people testing positive, then more hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and eventually deaths will follow. And the more that a virus circulates — either worldwide or in a particular community — the more opportunities it has to mutate. How quickly and to what extent are the variants spreading? Virus and infectious disease experts say that to get a handle on how quickly the variants are spreading in Canada requires more surveillance. But genome sequencing is a research tool that is costly and time consuming to use clinically. That's why labs across the country are working to develop faster assays for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, noted Monday that some of the province's cases of variants don't have a travel history. "We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow, as there is evidence now of community transmission," Yaffe said. Last week, Yaffe called community transmission "a very serious concern that the vaccine will not be able to address quickly enough." Public health officials are on the lookout for variants showing community transmission because it means the source of an outbreak can no longer be traced back to travel abroad. At that point, an outbreak can quickly spiral, so time is of the essence. If the B117 variant spreads in the community, the doubling time for cases could drop to 10 days in March from every 35 to 40 days now, Ontario health officials estimated. What would experts like to see next? Art Poon, an associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Western University in London, Ont., develops computer methods to study the evolution of viruses, such as an app called CoVizu that's listed by the GISAID Initiative — an international non-profit project to share genome data on viruses. Poon said that the variants of concern show more mutations than scientists would expect. WATCH | New coronavirus variant emerges in Brazil: "I think, sadly, we're going to see increasing frequency of this particular [B117] variant and disproportionate growth of this in other countries," he said of what's been seen so far in Britain. Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is also looking for more surveillance of variants, as well as other precautions. Saxinger said she would like to see tighter controls at Canada's border with the United States, both by land and air. This includes checks to ensure international travellers obey requirements in the Quarantine Act and aren't carrying the infection unknowingly and spreading it, as well as possibly an interprovincial travel ban, which has been proposed by B.C. Premier John Horgan. "We don't want there to be multiple importations of these difficult mutations before we have an opportunity to detect and control them," Saxinger said. "We should probably try to keep a tight lid on things until we sort out what's what, if this is a big deal, where it's a big deal and how it might be controlled." Limiting importations of the variants means less fuel for the fire. "If you're not having that many potential sparks hitting your tinder, you have a much better chance of being able to control it," she said. Saxinger is one of the signatories to a petition released Tuesday calling on the federal government to immediately act to reduce opportunities for variant entry by restricting international travel to essential travel, as well as other precautions.
TORONTO — Pediatric and mental health experts say pandemic stress is driving a spike in eating disorders among adolescents and teens, pointing to school disruptions, social isolation and infection fears as destabilizing factors that could have long-term physical and mental health effects. Doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, Ottawa's pediatric hospital and research centre CHEO and the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary are among those noting a significant jump in admissions and demand for outpatient treatment. Dr. Ellie Vyver of the Alberta Children's Hospital says admissions more than doubled at her hospital between July and September last year and continue to rise. Colleagues across the country are reporting similar signs of despair. "What we have been seeing in Alberta and at SickKids is not unique. It's happening in B.C., it's happening in other centres in Ontario outside of SickKids, it's happening in Montreal. It's something that's happening across across the country," says Vyver, who said the illness tends to have the highest prevalence around age 14. At the same time, children who struggle are displaying more severe mental and physical problems, adds the director of CHEO's mental health program, who says his eastern Ontario hospital can only treat the "tip of the iceberg." "The supply and demand is so off-kilter right now that it is overwhelming the system," says David Murphy. The cutoff for admission to CHEO is a heart rate below 45 beats per minute. CHEO says there were 67 admissions between April 1 and Oct. 31 last year – a 63 per cent jump from the same period in 2019. Christina Bartha of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health points to increased isolation, school disruption, social media exposure and stress as fuelling unhealthy eating and exercise habits. Compared to last year, Bartha says yearly admissions at her Toronto hospital are expected to jump as much as 30 per cent to 170 (from 128), while the number of referred outpatients is heading towards a 50 to 60 per cent increase with 245 cases (versus last year's 154). The cases primarily involve restrictive eating, including anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which is similar to anorexia but does not involve stress over body shape or size. Dr. Debra Katzman, senior associate scientist at SickKids and co-founder of its eating disorders program, also says children are in more acute physical and mental distress than past cases. That could be because of delayed assessments if some families feared contracting COVID-19 by visiting a hospital early in the pandemic, she says. Meanwhile, virtual care has made it more difficult for some recovering patients to maintain health goals. "We're seeing kids who are at significantly low weights, are extremely malnourished and have all kinds of medical and psychiatric comorbid complications," says Katzman. Although SickKids is still collecting and analyzing its data, she and Bartha expressed little doubt that pandemic-fuelled turmoil has played a key role in driving up youth anxiety. "These young people are so used to having a routine that they engage in every day – waking up, going to school, coming home, et cetera – and now they have no routine. And they're quite disconnected from their peers. That's a huge thing, especially during adolescence," says Katzman. "(And) they're not with their teachers or their coaches who are able to identify these very life-threatening disorders quite early." Sterling Renzoni of Orangeville, Ont., believes social media, isolation and disrupted care were key factors in a "mini-relapse" he says he experienced during the lockdown last spring. The 18-year-old says he was discharged early from a southern Ontario residential treatment program for anorexia in the early days of the pandemic. No longer forced to follow a strict daily routine, under less supervision and unable to see his friends, Renzoni says he began fixating on exercise. "It was challenging to figure out how I was going to keep myself busy," admits Renzoni, who says he stopped obsessing with the help of virtual care and by redirecting focus to his long-term goal of attending university in the fall. "I had more time to just be on social media (and) it was still filled with a lot of unhelpful accounts, unhelpful information and unhelpful people that I was following... but I realized that after already having a mini-relapse." Now a Trent University freshman, Renzoni says if it hadn't been for the pandemic, he likely would have stayed in residential care for three months instead of one, and would have been more physically and mentally able to withstand pandemic restrictions when discharged. Aryel Maharaj, outreach and education co-ordinator with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, says social media has played a large role in driving fat-phobic messages around the so-called "Quarantine 19" in recent months, while repeated lockdowns ignited grocery sprees and encouraged food hoarding. These all make it difficult for anyone struggling with food issues, he said. "It just makes it a lot harder if food is your primary means of coping and now you're surrounded by it and you're stressed out," says Maharaj. Maharaj says NEDIC's anonymous helpline has seen a 43 per cent overall increase in calls, and more than double the number of calls from those aged 11 to 19. The head of the Adolescent Medicine Program at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John's, N.L., says admissions are up there, too. Dr. Anna Dominic says the wait-list for assessments of medically stable patients is now seven months, when it's typically two to three months. Over at CHEO, Murphy says the hospital would not turn away anyone approaching its 45 bpm threshold, but he says the very fact they require such a stark cutoff – introduced before the pandemic – speaks to how dire the situation is. Demand is so high, CHEO also denies 73 per cent of referrals — up from 49 per cent from the year before. Murphy admits that means many very sick and starving youngsters are forced to look elsewhere for help, and risk deteriorating further while seeking care. He knows of at least two community-based services with 18-month wait-lists. Maharaj says eating disorders thrive in isolation and so it's important for struggling youngsters to know they are not alone and can turn to a growing number of remote resources. He says hospitals, community groups, therapists, dietitians and others have embraced online options to reach more people. "It's so easy to fall into this pit of despair, of hopelessness, if you think that it's never going to change and there's nothing out there for you," says Maharaj. "There are virtual ways that we can try to connect and provide some kind of support so you're not just sitting there spiralling on your own." Murphy says the issue has always been under-resourced, and the pandemic has highlighted that problem. "When we talk about mental health, we think of depression, suicide, schizophrenia. It's all of those acute mental illnesses, but then there's this thing called eating disorders," he says. "And the eating disorder population requires a specific level of training and expertise to be able to deal with, and we just simply do not have the capacity, the resources and the training to be able to deal with it as a community at large." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
REGINA — A former truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash has submitted paperwork with reasons why he should not be sent back to India when he gets out of prison. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu is now waiting for the Canada Border Services Agency to write a report that will recommend whether he be allowed to stay in his adopted country or be deported. A grieving father of one of the hockey players killed will be waiting, too. Scott Thomas said he aches everyday for his 18-year-old son, Evan, but submitted a letter in support of Sidhu. “I know for a fact that he’ll never drive a semi again. I know for a fact that if he could take back what happened that day he would in a heartbeat. He would trade places with any one of those boys," said Thomas. Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the April 2018 collision that killed 16 people and injured 13. Court was told that Sidhu, a newly married permanent resident, had missed a stop sign at a rural Saskatchewan intersection and driven into the path of the Broncos bus carrying players and staff to a junior hockey league playoff game. The lawyer for the then-30-year-old Sidhu noted during sentencing arguments that jail time would mean the commerce graduate wouldn't be allowed to stay in Canada, where he has lived since following his partner who had come over in 2013. A criminal conviction that carries a sentence of more than six months makes a permanent resident ineligible to remain in the country. An immigration lawyer says Sidhu's bid has the makings of other cases where deportation was avoided. “It’s very difficult to say how it’s going to go, but I do think this is one of those types of cases where (border services) could choose to exercise their discretion … given the exceptional circumstances," said Erica Olmstead, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, who's not representing Sidhu. Lawyer Michael Greene, who is working with Sidhu, said last year his client has no prior criminal history, is well-educated, fluent in English and extremely remorseful. He acknowledged Sidhu's crime had catastrophic consequences, but added his actions were not malicious. Thomas said he's more concerned about regulations that allowed the inexperienced truck driver, three weeks on the job, to get behind the wheel. “We just always felt that the deportation part of it shouldn’t necessarily apply. He’s a broken man. He’s broken psychologically and spiritually, and to deport him now would just add to the suffering to him and his family." Thomas forgave Sidhu in court and has since kept in touch with his wife, who has shared their emails with her husband. Thomas said he knows Sidhu's desire to remain in Canada is divisive. “There’ll be a lot of families that would never support this and there are going to be some that do, too.” Olmstead said the deportation policy is there to protect Canada's security, but she has seen orders avoided when someone is guilty of a single offence as in Sidhu's case. "But on the other hand, you’ve got this terrible tragedy where there were so many victims." She explained that a border officer considers community connections and someone's chance of reoffending when writing a report, which could take months, and decides whether there are "exceptional circumstances" that would allow a person to remain in Canada. "It’s quite rare for people to not then still get referred for a removal order.” The Immigration and Refugee Board then holds a hearing to consider the report and is responsible for issuing any deportation order. A permanent resident can appeal the board's decision on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but not if a sentence, like Sidhu's, is longer than six months. “This is the end of the road for him," Olmstead said. Sidhu could seek a review before a Federal Court, but would first need to be granted leave to do so, she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
CAIRO — A fire, followed by an explosion at an ammunition warehouse at a naval academy in western Libya killed three people, including two officers, a Libyan spokesman said Wednesday. It was not clear what caused the overnight blaze at the academy in the town of Janzur, about 24 kilometres (14 miles) west of the capital of Tripoli, said Masoud Abdal Samad, the spokesman of the Libyan navy. Four people were also wounded in the incident. Samad said the dead included Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ayoub, the head of the academy, and Brig. Gen. Salem Abu Salah, who ran the naval college. The third person who died was not identified. Video footage that circulated online following the incident shows firefighters and ambulances rushing to the site where a building is engulfed in a huge fire. Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed the country’s longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich country is now ruled by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east. Eastern-backed forces had fought a months-long offensive to capture Tripoli but the campaign ended in failure last year. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 36,473 new vaccinations administered for a total of 651,139 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,718.078 per 100,000. There were 39,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 888,540 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 73.28 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 1,531 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 4,689 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,520 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 8.73 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 37.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 164,053 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.173 per 1,000. There were 24,375 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 220,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.38 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 14,346 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,134 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 15.259 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 17,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.891 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 1,957 new vaccinations administered for a total of 24,575 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.841 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.87 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,501 new vaccinations administered for a total of 92,315 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.971 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 91.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,023 new vaccinations administered for a total of 92,369 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.00 per 1,000. There were 15,600 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 404 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner. In a report issued to the media Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities" to adopt basic public health measures as early as possible. “What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” it said. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying disputed whether China had reacted too slowly. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions,” she said, pointing out that Wuhan — where the first human cases were identified — was locked down within three weeks of the outbreak starting. “All countries, not only China, but also the U.S., the U.K., Japan or any other countries, should all try to do better,” Hua said. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them, including the new virus' genetic sequence. The story noted that WHO didn't have any enforcement powers. At a press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson Sirleaf said it was up to countries whether they wanted to overhaul WHO to accord it more authority to stamp out outbreaks, saying the organization was also constrained by its lack of funding. “The bottom line is WHO has no powers to enforce anything," she said. “All it can do is ask to be invited in." Last week, an international team of WHO-led scientists arrived in Wuhan to research the animal origins of the pandemic after months of political wrangling to secure China's approval for the probe. The panel also cited evidence of COVID-19 cases in other countries in late January, saying public health containment measures should have been put in place immediately in any country with a likely case, adding: “They were not.” The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency — its highest warning for outbreaks — sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. “One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said. WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents, meeting WHO’s own definition for a flu pandemic. As the coronavirus began spreading across the globe, WHO's top experts disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu and that people without symptoms only rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and that a significant proportion of spread is from people who don't appear to be sick. Over the past year, WHO has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the response to COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the U.N. health agency for “colluding” with China to cover up the extent of the initial outbreak before halting U.S. funding for WHO and pulling the country out of the organization. The U.N. health agency bowed to the international pressure at the annual assembly of its member states last spring by creating the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The WHO chief appointed Johnson Sirleaf and Clark — who both have previous ties to the U.N. agency — to lead the team, whose work is funded by WHO. Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread (of COVID-19) internally and internationally,” it did not name specific countries. It also declined to call out WHO for its failure to more sharply criticize countries for their missteps instead of commending countries for their response efforts. Last month, the author of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response said he warned his bosses in May that people could die and the agency could suffer “catastrophic” reputational damage if it allowed political concerns to suppress the document, according to emails obtained by the AP. To date, the pandemic has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. ___ AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from Toronto. Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Maria Cheng And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
A man from the Bathurst area is dead after a motor vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon. The accident happened just before 4 p.m. on Route 11 near Petit-Rocher and was a head-on crash. A 22-year-old man died and a 45-year-old truck driver was injured. Traffic was rerouted for several hours.
The City of Gatineau and two of its police officers have been ordered to pay $18,000 to a Black man who was deemed a victim of racial profiling by Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal. The ruling is about an incident in December 2013, when two Gatineau police officers, Éric Bélanger and Jason Bruneau, stopped, searched and arrested a man they suspected was involved in a domestic violence complaint. The officers were looking for a suspect identified by name and described as a Black man carrying a knife. He was also described as six-feet-one-inch in height, wearing a black coat and grey sweat pants, with long hair tied up. But the man they ended up stopping did not fully match the description, according to the tribunal's decision. The victim said he was leaving a convenience store when he was stopped and searched twice, even after identifying himself to police. With the exception of being Black, the victim was wearing different clothes: a grey hooded sweatshirt and faded blue jeans. His hair was also shaved. The man told officers during his arrest that he believed it was an act of racial profiling, states the tribunal's decision. Police ignored evidence: commissioner In her ruling, the commissioner said the officers changed the description of the suspect and ignored clear signs, like the man's short hair, that would confirm they were searching and arresting the wrong person. She also said that because officer Bruneau admits at one point that the man is not the suspect they were looking for, arresting him was unreasonable, as was a second search. The commissioner also questioned why a complaint the victim filed with the police ethics commissioner days later was dismissed. Recommendations The commissioner ruled that the city and the two police officers pay a total of $18,000 to the victim. In addition to the fine, the commissioner also had recommendations. She requested the city both train its police officers about the risks of racial profiling. She also said the city should create guidelines to identify and control racial profiling by police officers. In response, the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) said it wouldn't comment on the ruling because it may appeal the decision, but that there is zero tolerance for racial profiling from its members. It said in recent years, SPVG has taken several steps to counter racial profiling, including training for its members, making services more accessible for ethnocultural groups and that it is talking with those groups to identify the challenges they face during interactions with police.
WASHINGTON — In the 11 weeks since Election Day, the collision of crises confronting President-elect Joe Biden have gone from staggering to almost unimaginable. More than 170,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 during that stretch alone, sending total U.S. deaths soaring past 400,000. The deep partisan divisions roiling the nation boiled over into violence during the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, threatening America's long history of peaceful transitions of power and resulting in the second impeachment of the outgoing president. The economy has steadily weakened, with employers cutting 140,000 jobs just in the month of December. It falls now to Biden, as he is sworn in on Wednesday, to both level with Americans about the deep trouble facing the nation and cast ahead to a brighter future. He will do so knowing that millions of Americans wrongly believe his election was illegitimate, fueled by the lie perpetuated by President Donald Trump. Trump himself won't be there to witness Biden's swearing in, having decided to defy tradition and leave Washington Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration. Taken together, it's as grim a moment as many Americans can remember and far from the celebration Biden, 78, likely imagined over the decades he has pined for the presidency. There will be no cheering crowd spread out before him on the National Mall when he takes the oath of office as a consequence of the pandemic, but there will be 25,000 National Guard troops securing the streets of Washington in response to the Capitol siege. Historians have put the challenges Biden faces on par with, or even beyond, what confronted Abraham Lincoln when he was inaugurated in 1861 to lead a nation splintering into civil war or Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he was sworn in during the depths of the Great Depression in 1933. But Lincoln and Roosevelt's presidencies are also a blueprint for the the ways American leaders have turned crises into opportunities, pulling people past the partisan divisions or ideological forces that can halt progress. “Crises present unique opportunities for large scale change in a way that an average moment might not,” said Lindsay Chervinsky, a presidential historian and author of “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.” “The more intense the crisis, the more likely the country is to get behind someone to try to fix that — the concept of uniting in war or uniting against a common threat." But by some measures, Roosevelt and Lincoln had advantages Biden does not. Roosevelt's Democratic Party had solid majorities in Congress, helping him power through his expansive agenda. Lincoln's Republican majorities were added by the secessionist push that dwindled his opponents' ranks in Congress. Biden, meanwhile, will have the narrowest of Democratic majorities in Congress; in the 50-50 Senate, it will fall to soon-to-be Vice-President Kamala Harris to break any ties. The Republican Party faces an existential crisis of its own making after the Trump era, and it's deeply uncertain how much co-operating with the new Democratic president fits into its leaders' plans for their future. Still, Biden has signalled he will press Congress aggressively in his opening weeks, challenging lawmakers to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package to address the public health and economic crisis — all but daring Republicans to block him at a moment when cases and deaths across the U.S. are soaring. Biden's ability to get that legislation passed will significantly shape both his administration's ability to tackle the pandemic and his overall standing in Washington. He's staked much of the promise of his presidency on his ability to court lawmakers from across the aisle, touting his long working relationship Republican senators and the reputation he cultivated as a dealmaker while serving as President Barack Obama's No. 2. But Washington has changed rapidly since then, a reality Biden's advisers insist he is clear-eyed about. Unlike Obama, he will quickly flex his executive powers on his first day in office, both to roll back Trump administration policies and to take action on the pandemic, including issuing a mask mandate on federal property. He's also pledged that his administration will vaccinate 100 million people against the coronavirus within his first 100 days in office, laying down a clear marker to judge his success or failure. Linda Belmonte, the dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and a professor of history, said that while Biden would be “naive” to think Washington is the same as it was when he was a senator or even when he left it as vice-president, the experience he brings to the job will be invaluable in this moment. “We don't have time for a learning curve,” Belmonte said. “I cannot think of a modern president that has faced a more daunting landscape." On the eve of his inauguration, Biden took stock not only of the challenges ahead but the path the nation has taken to get to this moment. As the sun set on the National Mall, he stood before the imposing memorial to Lincoln and called on the nation to remember the 400,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus. “To heal we must remember," he said. “That’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation.” ___ Editor's Note — Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 2007. Follow her at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC Julie Pace, The Associated Press
Thousands of fake Canadian government websites, emails and apps that take advantage of the pandemic to try to mine personal data or steal money have been taken down in the last few months, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. The centre leads the federal government's response to cyber-security events, defends Ottawa's cyber assets and provides advice to Canadian industries, businesses and citizens about how to protect themselves online. Evan Koronewski, a spokesperson for the centre, said in email the fraudulent websites are impersonating the government of Canada to "deliver fake COVID-19 exposure notification applications, designed to install malware on users devices." Koronewski said those programs were created to steal personal information or money. Since March 15, the centre has helped remove more than 4,000 such fraudulent sites or email addresses, he said. In some cases the sites were pretending to be the Public Health Agency of Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency. "This work continues each and every day as we identify and remove more of these fraudulent domains," said Koronewski. He couldn't say how many Canadians have been taken in by these particular scams. But the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a separate federal organization, said between March 6, 2020, and Jan. 10, 2021, there were 8,583 Canadian victims of a wide range of COVID-19 fraud. Those included everything from people buying fake vaccines and COVID test kits, to identity theft and ransomware attacks. In total, COVID-19 fraud has cost Canadians $7 million, according to the anti-fraud centre's website. The government of Canada's actual COVID Alert app started to be rolled out in July in Ontario, and went online in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick later in the summer. Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Quebec signed on in the fall. Alberta and British Columbia are the only provinces that haven't adopted the app. In Nova Scotia, for instance, the app allows users who test positive for COVID-19 to enter a code supplied by the Nova Scotia Health Authority. It then sends an alert to any phone with the app that has been in close contact with the person who tested positive. But no matter how fast the government works, scammers continue to pump out fake, malicious websites and COVID-19 apps. At the beginning of the pandemic many app stores contained these fake apps, said Florian Kerschbaum, an associate professor in the school of computer science and director of the University of Waterloo's cybersecurity and privacy institute. App store administrators like Apple and Google were quick to crack down and remove the offending apps. "Still, there are a lot of COVID apps which make false promises and basically just try to abuse your information and do strange things," said Kerschbaum. The scammers who make the apps are looking to steal people's personal information and then sell it on the dark web, according to Arash Habibi Lashkari, an assistant professor and research co-ordinator at the University of New Brunswick's Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity. Information like a person's credit card number, full name and home address are valuable commodities, he said. That information could be used for a range of purposes including being sold to adware producers. It could also be used to steal someone's identity or put ransomware on their phone, encrypting it until the scammer is paid off. Lashkari said people need to carefully review the terms and conditions of an app before they install any app. People should avoid the app if the terms seem odd. And people should consider what systems an app wants permission access on their phone or computer, and determine if that matches up with what the app is supposed to do. If you download photo editing software, for instance, and it wants access to your telephone contact list, that should raise some red flags, he said. Even if people are vigilant, installing an app from a questionable publisher comes with risks. "There are, I don't know, thousands [of] methods that they can hide their abnormal activity from the user," said Lashkari. Anyone looking to download the government of Canada's COVID Alert app should only do it from trusted app stores, said Kerschbaum and Koronewski. Kerschbaum also said if people don't recognize the publisher of a COVID app then they shouldn't download it. Any Canadians who believe they may have received a fraudulent message via email or text is encouraged to report the activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said Koronewski "Rely again on the recommendations by the app store and by the government and you will be safe. But don't install ... every COVID app that's out there," said Kerschbaum. MORE TOP STORIES
Public health officials have expressed concern about a new strain of COVID-19 after cases of the UK variant were identified in Ontario. New modeling projections suggest this new variant, called B117, could drop the virus’s doubling time significantly, meaning that daily case counts could double every 10 days by March. There’s evidence that this new strain is about 56 per cent more transmissible, according to co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, which could lead to higher case counts, increased ICU occupancy, and higher mortality rates should community transmission occur. The first known cases of the UK variant in Ontario were in a man and a woman who initially withheld information about being in close contact with a recent traveller from the UK. The couple is now facing charges. At least four new COVID-19 variants have been identified around the world. These include the UK variant B117 and a variant that originated in South Africa. “One also emerged recently in Nigeria, and Japan is reporting as of Sunday that they detected a new variant among travelers returning from Brazil,” said Justeen Mansourian, Public Health Nurse on the Communicable Disease Team at Public Health Sudbury & Districts. Mansourian told The Sudbury Star that not much is known about the new variants at this time, but the Public Health Agency of Canada is closely monitoring the situation. “What we know so far is that there is evidence that these variants increase the transmissibility of COVID-19. An individual who catches a new strain is more infectious and contagious, but the severity of the actual disease or the course of the illness is not more severe,” she said. “Early data is not showing that the new strain has any impact on any type of antibody response, and when I say that I am talking about the vaccine. You need a lot of mutations within a virus, within the genetic sequencing, for it to actually affect the vaccine itself. We’re not there yet.” What people need to appreciate about any virus, she added, is that variants or mutations are quite normal. As an example, she cited the influenza virus. “The flu virus mutates often, and sometimes it mutates within the same season. There are also several thousands of variants of the influenza virus. There are so many mutations that it actually changes the behaviour of the virus,” she said. “That’s why sometimes you hear that a vaccine was not effective during a particular year.” With only a handful of mutations identified so far, it is unlikely that the COVID-19 vaccine will become less effective. The real concern at this point is that increased transmissibility will drive COVID-19 rates up, putting pressure on an already strained health-care system and potentially increasing mortality rates. Growth in COVID-19 cases in the province is over seven per cent on the worst days. If this trend continues, Ontario could eventually see more than 40,000 cases per day. Cases have soared in Public Health Sudbury & District’s service area in the new year, and outbreaks have been declared at Amberwood Suites, Extendicare and the Elizabeth Centre, as well as Ecole St. Denis. The provincial government has imposed a stay-at-home order to try to get things under control. The governing body monitoring the COVID-19 variant situation is the Public Health Agency of Canada. Samples are sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory, located in Winnipeg, for genetic sequencing. “There are sentinel sites across all labs in Canada, and samples are sent pretty much at random. There’s a very, very large surveillance program in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia right now,” said Mansourian. “The majority of any sequencing that’s established comes out of those three provinces, but we do know that the first two variants were identified in Ontario.” According to Ontario public health officials, 500 to 600 samples are being tested each week. Experts are working on compiling data from across the country to identify variants “as soon as possible and understand what the implications are.” “In the grand scheme of things, what we really need to know from a public health perspective is that nothing changes,” said Mansourian. “We just need to be more hyper-vigilant about following all public health protocols and provincial regulations to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star