Portland, Oregon recently assembled individual shelters for those experiencing homelessness as part of an effort unfolding in cities nationwide to keep people without permanent homes safe as temperatures drop and coronavirus cases surge. (Dec. 18)
Portland, Oregon recently assembled individual shelters for those experiencing homelessness as part of an effort unfolding in cities nationwide to keep people without permanent homes safe as temperatures drop and coronavirus cases surge. (Dec. 18)
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Officials are debating whether additional public health measures are needed to rein in a coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom that is now spreading in Ontario. Premier Doug Ford said he is so concerned about the threat posed by the more transmissible mutation that he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt all non-essential travel by foreigners into Canada. Ford said Monday he would like mandatory testing at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, which he plans to visit on Tuesday. "We have to test every person that comes into Pearson and any other crossing. It's absolutely critical. We need to put barriers up every which way we can," Ford told reporters. "I can't emphasize enough: close down our borders and make sure anyone that's coming in gets tested." Ontario has confirmed at least 34 cases of the variant that was first identified in the U.K., some among people who have not travelled outside of the province. Dr. Vanessa Allen, chief of microbiology and laboratory science at Public Health Ontario, told reporters on Monday that the province will analyze every COVID-19-positive sample from one day last week to learn just how prevalent the variant is. Allen said the strain is considered more contagious and there is evidence that it causes more severe disease in some people. This particular strain has been found in more than 60 countries, she said. Asked if the variant can actually be contained at this stage, she said: "We don't know yet, but we will be finding out in the days to come." Public Health Ontario is deploying tests to find possible cases of the "variants of concern" before sending them up for genomic screening, which can take days, Allen said. The screening test is focusing on cases considered "high-risk" for the mutations, such as aggressive outbreaks known as "superspreader events" and cases affecting known travellers. "The goal based on the data right now is to do everything we can to contain every single case we find and increase our capacity to find them, recognizing that we still don't have the full picture because we have not tested everybody to date," Allen said. 'Very much on top of it' Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said he is not convinced of the need to ban travel. "Our existing public health protocols, such as physical distancing, wearing masks, ventilation, all these types of things, still work to prevent the variant from infecting you," Chakrabarti said. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province is testing samples to look for three new variants — separate strains that first emerged in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil — to determine where they are and how they spread. So far, only the variant first detected in the U.K. has been found in Ontario. Cases have been confirmed by public health units covering Toronto, Ottawa, York, Durham and Peel regions, as well as Simcoe Muskoka, Middlesex-London and the Kingston area as of Monday. Elliott said the province had tested more than 9,000 samples for the new variants as of Monday, and is aiming to assess 1,500 samples per week starting next week. "We are very much on top of it and we are detecting it very quickly so that we'll know how to deal with different geographic areas where it may show up," Elliott told reporters. Deadly outbreak The new variant is deemed to have caused a deadly outbreak at Roberta Place Long Term Care Home in Barrie, Ont., that has infected more than 200 people. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said it was investigating whether the variant was also a factor in an outbreak at the Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury. The health unit, which has confirmed seven cases of the variant, announced a strategy on Monday to curb spread. Measures include more frequent testing for residents, visitors and staff at care homes dealing with outbreaks where the variant is suspected. The variant has been confirmed by Simcoe Muskoka health officials as "the causative agent" in the outbreak at Roberta Place, in Barrie, Ont., after six cases were confirmed in samples. The seventh individual with a confirmed case of the new strain was a close contact of someone infected in another outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community. Public health officials were still investigating the link on Monday. The public health unit said 44 residents at Roberta Place had died from COVID-19, and the outbreak had infected 127 residents and 86 staff. Five other people assisting with the outbreak had been infected, the health officials said Monday, including two essential caregivers. One of the caregivers had died from the illness. Toronto Public Health has also reported 10 cases of the variant.
As Braiden Bendzsak was scooting around his neighbourhood, he noticed a cat that looked oddly familiar. "I knew it was just the one from the poster," said Braiden, referencing the 'lost Hunter' posters that the cat's owner, Gina Henderson, had put up on street poles around Windsor's Little Italy neighbourhood. When 9-year-old Braiden spotted Hunter it had been 74 days since the cat went missing and he was only two blocks away from home. Braiden had kept an eye out for the cat after seeing the posters, searching for Hunter during his lunch breaks and after school. And based on the posters, Henderson was offering an $800 reward to anyone who returned the 13-year-old, green-eyed Tabby cat. "It was really tough losing him like I would break down quite often ... and say 'I can't believe I lost my boy,' like I felt so guilty," Henderson said. WATCH: Braiden talk about what he's learned from finding Hunter For the last 13 years, Hunter has been with Henderson through countless "ups and downs" and seven houses, she said, adding that during COVID-19, they had been leaning on each other's companionship all the more. "It was a really devastating Christmas just to not have him around," she said. When she got the phone call from Braiden on Friday, she was starting to give up hope and thought it was going to be another dead-end lead. "I was skeptical when he called cause you know he's nine and there's a lot of cats that look like [Hunter] so I was like 'OK, we'll go check it out,'" she said. But Braiden said he knew it was Hunter by his features. "So I tried picking it up but when I picked it up it didn't like it so it clawed onto my shoulders and hopped off, but then it ran under a porch and I knew it was going to stay there for a while," he said. After he couldn't coax the cat out, he decided to call the number on the posters. "They were so happy to find him, like so happy," Braiden said about the moment Henderson and her friend came to retrieve Hunter. "I don't know how to describe it they were just so happy to see it. They were like, 'oh my God, it's Hunter.'" 'I like doing good stuff' At first Henderson said she put out a $100 reward. But friends, family and, soon enough, community members who heard her story from social media, the posters and a newspaper ad started donating money to the reward fund. Before she knew it, she said the reward jumped to $900 and when people learned Braiden was the "hero," they kept throwing in more money. "I'm super excited that the reward went to him, like it's great," she said. In total, Braiden received $1,025. "I have to say it makes me very proud that he's such a thoughtful and caring boy for his age, he has a huge heart," said Rachelle Sylvestre, Braiden's mom. And while the reward money has its perks, including a new video game console, Braiden said he just feels good knowing he was able to help. "I feel like I did a good thing and I should have because I like doing good stuff for people and animals," he said. "What I learned was to not give up on hopes because you could really accomplish something when you put your mind to it, or in this case, heart." Hunter spent all of Monday in the vet, Henderson said, adding that he had to be on an IV for seven hours because he was so dehydrated. She said he lost so much weight that if Braiden didn't find him when he did, Hunter may never have returned home. "Braiden found him just in time," she said. "Finding him again still seems like a miracle, like it doesn't seem real ... It's just so surreal that he's in my living room again, it's crazy."
The European Union will seek to create a bio-defence preparedness programme in the form of a public-private partnership, to prepare against the next big health crisis, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said. Von der Leyen said the programme would seek to prepare the EU before the next pandemic hits by seeking to discover and prepare for known and emerging pathogens, and then developing and manufacturing vaccines at scale to respond to them. The scheme would secure long-term and predictable funding and bring together cutting-edge tech-companies and blue-chip manufacturers, as well as regulators such as the European Medicines Agencies or the European Commission.
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
A Canadian clothing line is helping transgender kids feel confident at the beach or pool with bathing suits designed to maximize comfort without compromising style. Jamie and Ruby Alexander are the Toronto father-daughter duo behind Rubies, a fledgling fashion business that specializes in form-fitting clothing for trans and non-binary girls. Ruby says she's proud to see how the brand is allowing other trans kids to take part in the same activities as their friends without worrying about what they're wearing. "A lot of trans kids just stopped doing what they love to do, because they don't feel comfortable," Ruby, 12, said in an interview. "We wanted to change the kids' lives, and we're happy to do that." Since Ruby came out as transgender at nine years old, Jamie Alexander said fashion has been an important part of how she expresses her identity. But it hasn't always been easy to balance style against concerns for her safety. At first, Ruby wore baggy boardshorts and sweatpants to athletic activities such as swimming, gymnastics and dance, Alexander said. Eventually, Ruby wanted to wear a bikini like her friends, so they got her one at a department store. But as they were getting ready for a vacation in Central America in 2019, Alexander started to worry about what Ruby should wear to the beach in a place where there may not be the same cultural awareness of transgender identity. He looked online for a swimsuit that would allow her to safely have fun in the sun, but the limited options he could find didn't seem age-appropriate. Alexander knew that other families must be dealing with similar struggles, so he set out to launch a company that would offer a solution. He teamed up with Ryerson University's Fashion Zone to design prototypes for bathing suit bottoms that uses a soft compression to provide a worry-free fit. After getting in touch with other parents online, Alexander biked around Toronto to deliver samples, so transgender kids could try them on and give feedback. Some families said their kids hadn't had much exposure to other transgender children, Alexander said, and it soon became clear that Ruby had a gift for connecting with customers. "To say, 'hey, there's someone else out there just like you that understands you and understands what you're going through' is a really powerful thing," Alexander said. "It's really touching to hear the impact Ruby and I can have with these families." Alexander partnered with a Toronto clothing manufacturer to gear up for a launch last spring, but production was set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Rubies has managed to sell roughly 1,000 swimsuits in its first year, Alexander said. Ruby writes a personal message to accompany every shipment, which for some customers seems to be just as valuable as the product itself, said Alexander. "We've gotten feedback that said some kids will put these postcards under their pillows, like it's this special treasure," he said. Alexander also launched a crowdfunding campaign so Rubies could donate swimsuits to families who many not be able to spend $57 on bikini bottoms. The brand has also expanded its offerings to include T-shirts, and recently started accepting preorders for a line of underwear. Alexander said Ruby has been involved in every step of getting the business off the ground, helping her father keep up with the latest trends on top of the usual demands of homework and chores. While it can be hard to juggle her duties as Grade 7 student and fashion maven, Ruby said it's worth it to see the impact that Rubies is having on kids like her across the globe. "There's other trans kids in the world who need help, and I'm happy to see them smile, and I'm proud to be the person who I am," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
A giant mass of rubbish that clogged a dam has finally been cleaned up in Bulgaria. Nearly 600 tonnes of garbage and debris were removed from the Iskar river near the capital Sofia.View on euronews
After Michelle LaFontaine delivered her stillborn twins, Elora and Joseph, at nearly 21 weeks, she was unspeakably bereft. She needed time off to grieve and recover from the birth, and her employer at the time helped her cobble together bereavement leave, sick time and vacation time. "There's a lot of grief work to be done in the early days following the loss of your baby that, you know, having to focus on work is often something that families can't even contemplate doing in the first few weeks," said LaFontaine, who lives in Whitby, Ont. She returned to work after three weeks, but it wasn't until later that she — and her employer — learned she had actually been eligible for more paid time off through federal maternity benefits. LaFontaine said when she did go back to her job, which involved working with families, she asked to be assigned a different caseload so she wouldn't have to face questions from her 45 clients about why she was no longer pregnant. Her employer told her that wasn't possible. "Ultimately, the message that I received was it was coming down to the bottom line that their needs as an organization would trump my needs as a bereaved mother," she said. A researcher at Cape Breton University is studying the experiences of people like LaFontaine who have returned to work full time after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth. Stephanie Gilbert, an assistant professor of organizational management at the Shannon School of Business at CBU, is researching how workplaces support employees who have suffered a pregnancy loss, and how those supports — or lack thereof — affect pregnant people and their partners. Along with Jennifer Dimoff at the University of Ottawa and Jacquelyn Brady at San José State University, Gilbert plans to interview people and their partners about what challenges they faced after their pregnancy loss and how the miscarriage or stillbirth affected the employee's sense of identity and attitude toward work. The team of researchers is inviting Canadians or Americans who have lost a pregnancy and returned to full-time work within the last five years to take part in the study. Lack of studies Gilbert said there have been virtually no studies on the topic of pregnancy loss and employment. "There's a huge need for more on this because, you know, pregnancy loss is incredibly common," she said. Miscarriage — the loss of a baby up to 20 weeks' gestation — is estimated to occur in 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies, while approximately eight out of 1,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth, when a baby dies at or after 20 weeks' gestation. In Canada, employees who lose a baby at or after 20 weeks are eligible for maternity benefits. But miscarriages are a "grey area" for employers, Gilbert said. While some employers offer sick days, short-term disability or bereavement leave to help an employee recover, there are no federal regulations providing paid time off for earlier losses. "So the supports offered, I'm guessing, vary wildly between organizations," Gilbert said. Reaction of employers varies LaFontaine left her job after her loss in 2005 and now works as the program manager for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network, which supports families in Ontario who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. She would like to see the government offer bereavement leave specifically designated for pregnancy and infant loss — and one that is not based on the length of the pregnancy. "Grief is not tied to the weeks of gestation, but tied to the attachment that the family has already experienced to the baby," LaFontaine said. She said based on what she hears from families she works with, some employers try their hardest to be supportive and accommodate the needs of people who have had a stillbirth or miscarriage, sometimes even making a donation to a pregnancy loss organization in the baby's name. But others are not as helpful or compassionate. "[Some families] were kind of told, like, 'You should be over it by now,'" LaFontaine said. Getting support can be tricky for people who miscarry in their first trimester, since many have not even disclosed their pregnancy to their employer yet. Employees who work part-time jobs or who lack job security may also not feel comfortable sharing their situation with their employer. Compassion, support are crucial Supporting grief-stricken employees is key to their well-being, Gilbert said. Through her previous research on grief, Gilbert found that employers can help their workers by allowing them to work from home or have flexible working hours, by acknowledging the employee's loss rather than avoiding the topic,+ and by being compassionate and empathetic. Gilbert said supporting grief-stricken employees helps not only their well-being, but also their productivity, as grieving people can have trouble sleeping, focusing, making decisions and interacting socially. "So there's a lot of implications for organizations in terms of work outcomes and a business case to be made for supporting people who have gone through loss," Gilbert said. MORE TOP STORIES
With shops boarded up and riot police out in force, it was relatively calm in Dutch cities on Tuesday night after three days of violence during which nearly 500 people were detained. In several cities, including the capital Amsterdam, some businesses closed early and emergency ordinances were in place to give law enforcement greater powers to respond to the rioting, which was prompted by a nighttime curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday when the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, rowdy crowds of youths gathered in Amsterdam and Hilversum, but were broken up without incident.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 26, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 23,498 new vaccinations administered for a total of 839,949 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,216.267 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 74.83 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 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,423 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 6,525 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 41.134 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.73 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 3,483 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,083 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.357 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 3,821 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 14,257 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.277 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 21,675 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 1,960 new vaccinations administered for a total of 220,715 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 25.795 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 5,537 new vaccinations administered for a total of 286,110 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.478 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 810 new vaccinations administered for a total of 29,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.606 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 53.46 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 314 new vaccinations administered for a total of 33,353 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.286 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 101.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 406 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,453 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.592 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,284 new vaccinations administered for a total of 119,850 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.355 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.91 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 222 new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,952 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 94.702 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 27.44 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 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 13.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 636 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,458 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 115.116 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 37.15 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. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
ROME — The Vatican has essentially slapped a retired U.S. bishop on the wrist for “flagrant" imprudent behaviour with teenagers, even though a diocesan review board determined a half-dozen allegations of sexual abuse against him were credible. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cleared retired Cheyenne, Wyoming Bishop Joseph Hart of seven accusations abuse, determined that five others couldn’t be proven “with moral certitude” and that two cases involving boys, who were 16 and 17, couldn’t be prosecuted given the Catholic Church didn’t consider them minors at the time of the alleged abuse, the diocese reported Monday. Another allegation wasn’t addressed in the decree. Hart, 89, had long maintained his innocence and denied all allegations of misconduct. The Vatican decision clearly disappointed Hart’s successor, Bishop Steven Biegler, who stressed that the Vatican’s findings didn’t mean Hart was innocent, just that the Holy See determined that the high burden of proof hadn’t been met. Biegler has previously stood by the findings of his review board, and a diocesan statement noted the qualifications of its members: “law enforcement; school administration; a doctor of psychology; a pediatrician; a psychotherapist, who treats sexually abused children; and a judge, who was a criminal prosecutor for 13 years involving crimes against children, primarily child sexual abuse.” On the other hand, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, relies on the judgment of priests and bishop canon lawyers, and ultimately the pope. The Vatican for decades has been blasted by victims’ groups for giving bishops a pass when they have been accused of sexual abuse themselves or of covering it up. A few exceptions have been made in recent years, most famously in the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked after the CDF determined he had abused minors as well as adults, including during confession — essentially the same allegations against Hart. As a result, the sentence showed the arbitrary nature of Vatican’s canonical sex abuse judgments, which aren't public. Hart’s previous diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached court settlements years ago with at least 10 victims. But Wyoming criminal prosecutors also decided last year not to proceed with charging Hart. In its decree, the CDF rebuked Hart “for his flagrant lack of prudence as a priest and bishop for being alone with minors in his private residence and on various trips which could have been potential occasions endangering the ‘obligation to observe continence’ and that would ‘give rise to scandal among the faithful,'” the diocese said. Hart was also rebuked for failing to observe previous Vatican restrictions prohibiting him from having contact with minors and seminarians and from participating in public engagements, the diocese said, adding that those restrictions remain in place. “Today, I want the survivors to know that I support and believe you” Biegler said in a statement. “I understand that this announcement will not bring closure to the survivors, their family members, Bishop Hart and all those affected.” Hart was a priest in Kansas City, Missouri, for 21 years before moving to Wyoming, where he served as auxiliary and then full bishop from 1976 until his retirement in 2001. The first known allegations against Hart dated to the early 1960s and were made in the late 1980s. At least six men came forward in the past few years to say Hart abused them in Wyoming. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals are eyeing changes to the law governing public service hiring to help make federal departments and agencies more diverse. They also plan to do further research on the makeup of the federal public service and will try to hire more senior leaders with varied backgrounds. Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos and his parliamentary secretary, Greg Fergus, are spelling out the priorities today to foster greater diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the public service. The government says while there has been some progress for Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and others who face racial discrimination in the workplace, too many public servants continue to face obstacles. The Treasury Board Secretariat has begun discussions about the framework for recruitment in the public service and is specifically looking at "possible amendments" to the Public Service Employment Act. The act is intended to ensure federal hiring is fair, transparent and representative. The move would complement a review of the Employment Equity Act planned by Labour Minister Filomena Tassi. The government recently released data that provides more detail about the composition of the public service. Duclos and Fergus say the annual public service employee survey will help the government identify more precisely where gaps remain and what is needed to improve representation. The government plans to increase diversity through promotion and recruitment, including introduction of the Mentorship Plus Program to allow departments to offer mentoring and sponsorship opportunities to high-potential employees who might currently face barriers. The government says although progress will take time, the public service can be a model of inclusion for employers across the country and around the world. "In time, we will build a public service that is the true reflection of our pluralism and diversity," Duclos said in a statement. Just last week, Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart issued a call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service, setting out federal expectations for current leaders. The government has also launched the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, supported by a budget of $12 million, to create an ongoing discussion about change. "There is much to do before all public servants can feel they truly belong in a public service that values inclusiveness and differences," Fergus said. "Outlining these key areas of focus is a key step in taking concrete action." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered. Socio-economic and health inequities have made some people more vulnerable COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego. "The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions," Strathdee said. In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people. Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services. "In my sister and mother's region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it's very, very difficult to get a doctor," she said. "What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn't going to be the last pandemic we see." University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age. "Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID," she said. She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death. Canada's division of health-care responsibilities is inefficient The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He's the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada's COVID-19 therapeutics task force. For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication. He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes. "Quebec is screaming they want money but they're refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care," he said. He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic. "There should be a time when it's all hands on deck and we don't play games," he said. "That didn't happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying." Centralized decision-making in health care stifles innovation Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can't be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic. "During a new disease like a pandemic, when we're learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto," he said. He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely. "The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold." Sheppard said there's no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs. "The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we're doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything ... therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we're doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority," he said. "That's the mentality, and it's just killed innovation in the health-care setting." Lack of coordination stymied research The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said François Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke. He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination. "There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped," he said. He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials. "This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies." Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country's national health system. "It's not something that happens in a silo. It's part of the (National Health Service)," he said. "This led them to build the infrastructure ... And then there's an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly." He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada. "This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of 'us' — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination." Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate. "The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system," he said. Good messaging and communication matter Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines. "We need for people to understand that science and medicine don't have all the answers all the time, that we're learning just like everybody else," she said. Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that's what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission. She said government officials should be trained in health literacy. John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons. "We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence," he said. Strathdee said it's critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by "making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course." She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk. She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS. "We have to make sure that we don't unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we've learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020 ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
COVID-19 might be partly to blame for a spike in cooking fires in Charlottetown over the past month, says a fire inspector with the capital city. Kent Mitchell said over the past 24 days, Charlottetown firefighters have responded to 10 cooking fires. Damage has ranged from a burned-out pot to extensive kitchen damage. Mitchell believes the spike in fires could be connected to people being home more because of the pandemic. "We've had five since Friday, and we've had 10 incidents in the last 24 days so we're certainly concerned about it," Mitchell said during an interview from Charlottetown Fire Station 1 in the city's downtown. 'They just leave for a few minutes' "They just leave for a few minutes and come back and find themselves with a bit of a fire," he said. Four people were forced out of their home during the latest cooking fire, which happened Saturday morning, said Mitchell. Firefighters were called to a four-unit apartment building on St. Peters Road in Charlottetown. One of the units sustained extensive damage, he said, with the fire originating from a pot of oil on the stove. "There was quite a bit of damage to the kitchen," said Mitchell. 'Injuries occur when people are trying to put out the fire' "It got into the cupboards and impinged on the ceiling some so there's quite a bit of soot damage and some fire damage done to the kitchen." There were no damages to the other three units in the building. Mitchell said when a kitchen fire happens, it's best to contain it with a pot cover or a cookie sheet to reduce the flow of oxygen which fuels the fire. If that's not easily doable, he said to call 911 and evacuate the home immediately. "Half the household injuries occur when people are trying to put out the fire," he said. The spike in kitchen fires appears isolated to Charlottetown. CBC News contacted Summerside, North River and Crossroads fire departments. None of them reported an increase in kitchen fires. 'No way of controlling that temperature' Mitchell said cooking fires are the most common firefighters have to deal with. The fire inspector said it's important to keep a close eye on what is being cooked and ensure nothing combustible, like an oven mitt or towel, is close to the stove. He also cautions against cooking with a pot of oil, sometimes used to deep fry french fries. Use a proper deep fryer, he urges. "We are still seeing open pots of oil," he said. "The risk is it can overheat and there's no way of controlling that temperature so if you turn your burner on maximum and you do leave for a few minutes it's going to be unattended and that could risk bursting into flames." More from CBC P.E.I.
A suspicious package left last week at Cape Breton University for the school's president turned out to be nothing more than some 350-million-year-old rocks. Police were called to investigate the green reusable Sobeys bag that had David Dingwall's name on it. Geology professor Jason Loxton said the rocks are older than the coal fields of Cape Breton and were formed at a time when the land in Nova Scotia was still underwater. "They're not scientifically super-duper important, but they are a really neat, unique set of Nova Scotia history," Loxton told CBC's Mainstreet: Cape Breton. He was the second person officials telephoned after police. "The security guard immediately meets me and says, 'Just the man I was looking for,' which is not a thing you really want to hear from security," Loxton said. He said he immediately knew the rocks were limestone and there was a fossil of a rugose coral, otherwise known as horn corals. Loxton said this was his first time he saw this in Cape Breton. He said the person who left the package knew what they were doing when they found the rocks. "They noted the exact geographic locality down to actual lat-long co-ordinates and wrote it on the rock," said Loxton. "I was able to quickly throw that into a map and confirm not only exactly where it came from, but confirmed my suspicions on the age of it as well." Loxton said the rocks will remain in the geology lab, and Dingwall is welcome to check out the package that was intended for him. Loxton is looking for the person who dropped the rocks off. He hopes they can have a chat. MORE TOP STORIES
In the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan, a bright pink artificial tree stands out against the muted browns and greens. Through a trail camera, Jeff Meldrum watches as bears pull at the tree. Whitetail deer giving it a smell as they walk by. "I've just sort of always been interested in the animals of the forest. They're kind of mysterious," Meldrum said. "I thought it would be interesting to document how the animals are reacting to the sculptures." The pink tree is part of an ongoing project by Meldrum called Art for Animals. Meldrum has now self-published a book showcasing his project with a humorous take. The project started off simply, Meldrum said. In 2017, he had some friends that wanted to move a sculpture they were holding onto. Meldrum said he has some property outside of Choiceland in northern Saskatchewan and suggested they take it up there. "From there I started building my own sculptures as well and getting a little bit more in tune with the technology and the sort of grew from there," Meldrum said. The Regina-based artist said he likes to see what the animals can get up to when isn't at his northern property. "I think that they do a lot more when I'm not around, I think my presence at least sort of inhibits their actions," he said. "Maybe in a way, it kind of allows them to explore and play a little bit more." Meldrum said to people concerned about him disturbing natural habitats that it's naive to think animals aren't being disrupted by humans and his land is a type of safe haven, especially for bears. "I don't hurt bears and if they're coming to my property, they're possibly staying away from areas where people are hunting them," he said. Meldrum said he was surprised to see the bears appreciate the sculptures so much. They seem to have a sense of play, especially with a sculpture that was a rigid yellow tree, he said. "The veracity in which they destroyed that was pretty surprising. It went from being this like, quite beautiful sculpture … to existing in shambles in about 20 minutes," he said. He said the bears also critique his work in a way, by showing what they're interested in and not interested in. Meldrum wanted to use his book to address the good and bad of the contemporary art world. "Using a satirical voice in the book made it easy to make fun of things, make fun of myself, and make fun of different ideas within the art world," he said. Meldrum said he printed 100 copies for friends and family and they sold out right away. He then printed more and sold them at the Penny University Bookstore and Mortise and Tenon in Regina. "I hope that people learn not to take themselves so seriously and just to recognize that animals are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for," Meldrum said. "It's less about elevating animals to the status of humans, and it's more about trying to diminish our viewpoint of ourselves." Sometimes humans put themselves on a pedestal compared to animals, Meldrum said. He hopes people look at the animals on their own, rather than comparing them to people. Meldrum said he intends to create more sculptures for the animals and hopes to share his work in a gallery one day.
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — A North Korean diplomat who served as the country’s acting ambassador to Kuwait has defected to South Korea, according to South Korean lawmakers who were briefed by Seoul’s spy agency. Ha Tae-keung, a conservative opposition lawmaker and an executive secretary of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, said Tuesday he was told by officials from the National Intelligence Service that the diplomat arrived in South Korea in September 2019 with his wife and at least one child. That would make him one of the most senior North Koreans to defect in recent years. North Korea, which touts itself as a socialist paradise, is extremely sensitive about defections, especially among its elite, and has sometimes insisted that they are South Korean or American plots to undermine its government. Ha said he was told that the diplomat, who changed his name to Ryu Hyun-woo after arriving in the South, had escaped through a South Korean diplomatic mission but that spy officials didn’t specify where. Ha said spy officials didn’t provide specific details as to why Ryu decided to defect. The office of Kim Byung-kee, a lawmaker of the ruling liberal party and the intelligence committee's other executive secretary, said he was also told that Ryu was now living in South Korea. Kim's aides didn’t elaborate further. The NIS and South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, didn’t independently confirm Ryu's defection when reached by The Associated Press. Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A mobile phone number once associated with the North Korean Embassy there rang unanswered Tuesday. North Korean state media has yet to comment on Ryu’s situation. The North has been known to maintain silence about such defections — such as the 2018 defection of its former acting ambassador to Italy — in part to avoid highlighting the vulnerabilities of its government. North Korea has long used its diplomats to develop money-making sources abroad and experts have said it’s possible that diplomats who defected may have struggled to meet financial demands from authorities at home. The North’s long-mismanaged economy has been devastated by U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear program, which strengthened significantly in 2016 and 2017 amid a provocative run in nuclear and weapons tests. The North Korean Embassy in Kuwait City serves as its only diplomatic outpost in the Gulf region. Pyongyang once had thousands of labourers working in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates before the United Nations stepped up its sanctions over North Korean labour exports, which had been an important source of foreign income for Pyongyang. In its most-recent letter to the United Nations in March 2020, Kuwait said it had stopped issuing work permits for North Koreans and expelled those working in the country. The UAE said it expelled all North Korean labourers by late December 2019. Oman and Qatar haven’t provided updates since 2019 and 2018 respectively. In September 2017, the Kuwaiti government expelled North Korea's ambassador and four other diplomats following Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests. Ryu reportedly stepped in as acting ambassador after that. It appears Ryu fled months after North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil, vanished with his wife in late 2018. Ha and other lawmakers told reporters last year that they learned Jo was living in South Korea under government protection after arriving in July 2019. Jo was possibly the highest-level North Korean official to defect to the South since the 1997 arrival of a senior ruling Workers’ Party official who once tutored leader Kim Jong Un’s father, late leader Kim Jong Il. Tae Young Ho, formerly a minister at the North Korean Embassy in London who defected to the South in 2016 and was elected as a lawmaker representing Ha’s party last year, said in a Facebook post that Ryu’s defection would shock members of the North Korean ruling elite because he appears to be the son-in-law of Jon Il Chun, who once oversaw a ruling party bureau that handled the Kim family’s secret moneymaking operations. The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify Tae’s claim. More than 33,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, according to South Korean government records. Many defectors have said they were escaping from harsh political suppression and poverty, while elites like Tae have expressed resentment about the country’s dynastic leadership. Tae has said he decided to flee because he didn’t want his children to live “miserable” lives in North Korea and that he was disappointed with Kim Jong Un, who he said terrorized North Korean elites with executions and purges while consolidating power and aggressively pursued nuclear weapons. North Korea has called Tae “human scum” and accused him of embezzling government money and committing other crimes without presenting specific evidence. __ Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell contributed to this story from Dubai. Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Critics are asking why Alberta Environment has been sitting on years worth of data about pollution from coal mines while the government considers a dramatic expansion of the industry. "It raises some important questions about our ability to trust what's going on," said New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt. "The fact (Alberta Environment) hasn't reported publicly is extremely concerning." On Monday, The Canadian Press reported on analysis of coal mine contamination in the Gregg and McLeod Rivers and Luscar Creek near Jasper, Alta., dating back to the 1990s. It found toxic levels of selenium many times over the amount considered safe for aquatic life. The Gregg and Luscar Creek mines closed in the early 2000s. Selenium levels from both declined, at best, only gradually over more than 15 years of remediation. In the case of the Cheviot mine on the McLeod River, levels gradually grew between 2005 and 2017. The operation closed last June. The data also shows the provincial government knew about the levels for at least 15 years and did not report anything after 2006. The information was available in raw form, but Schmidt said it isn't enough to simply collect information. "There are numbers and then there are the numbers that the stories tell. That's the piece that's missing." The New Democrats were in power for four of those years. Schmidt said sitting on the information is worse now because Alberta is going through a wrenching debate over the present government's plans to expand the industry by opening up the Rocky Mountains to open-pit, mountaintop coal mines -- an option that did not exist under the NDP. "This data's relevance is more important now," he said. Alberta Environment has pointed out that the raw data has always been public. Spokesman John Muir promised the province would soon release its own report on water downstream of coal mines. Lack of action shows that monitoring often promised by industry and government as new projects are considered isn't enough, said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "On those rivers we're seeing that monitoring hasn't been enough to actually control selenium. We just continue to promise monitoring. We didn't see action to bring those selenium numbers down." A 2006 provincial report found that selenium was already harming fish. As well, a 2005 published study co-authored by provincial scientists found rainbow trout were suffering facial and skeletal deformities from selenium. The province has recently sold about 1.4 million hectares of coal exploration leases. Hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of new roads have already been permitted on previously unmined mountainsides. One new coal mine, Benga Mining's Grassy Mountain project in the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta, is before a joint federal-provincial review. The information on the old coal mines shows what's at issue for new ones, said Morrison. "Those stakes are really high. (Selenium release) has been happening other places and they have not been able to get the selenium under control." Benga says a new method should allow the mine to treat 99 per cent of its selenium. As well, the mine has been designed to minimize contact between water and selenium-bearing rocks, the company says. Morrison said that treatment is still unproven. She said if its efficiency falls to even 90 per cent, selenium levels in nearby streams will cross thresholds safe for aquatic life. Morrison said her group produced expert testimony at the Benga hearings suggesting the company doesn't have a convincing long-term plan for controlling selenium long into the future. "We have not seen that technology work at the scale that we'll need it to or with the amount of selenium we're likely to see." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 -- Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press