MADRID — Spain’s armed forces chief has dismissed as ‘’not representative” leaked chats by retired military officers allegedly talking about shooting political adversaries and praising late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.In a statement Friday, Air Force Gen. Miguel Villarroya Vilalta also said the remarks by the retired military members “damage the image of the Spanish Armed Forces and only confuse public opinion.’’The messages from a private Whatsapp group were published recently by Spain’s Infolibre news website. They reportedly were posted by members of the General Air Force Academy class that started training in 1963, when Franco still ruled the country.Some of them were among dozens of retired officers who wrote King Felipe VI last month to criticize Spain’s left-wing coalition government. The letters to the monarch included some of the language used by far-right politicians and expressed discontent with the “social-communist” government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and its deals with separatist parties in parliament.The royal palace has not commented on the letter.It is not clear how many people were involved in the chats.Spain’s defence minister Thursday asked prosecutors to investigate, saying both the letters and the chats were “reprehensible.”The country’s leading conservative opposition Popular party has refrained from condemning the comments while its ally, the far-right VOX party, has said it identifies with the ex-military members.Villarroya said the Spanish armed forces did not look to the past and were “always in (the) service of the Spanish people and the constitution.”According to Infolibre, one of the WhatsApp chat participants, while discussing activists advocating for the northeastern Catalonia region’s independence from Spain, wrote: “There is no other choice but to start shooting 26 million (expletive).”Another group chat member referred to Franco, who helped lead a military rebellion that led to Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War and then became the country’s dictator, as “the Irreplaceable.”The armed forces were a backbone of Franco’s regime until the dictator died in 1975. Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy didn’t lead to a widespread purge in the military ranks as happened in other countries emerging from authoritarian regimes.In 1981, a coup d’état bid by a few members of a paramilitary police force ended when then-King Juan Carlos I, Felipe’s father, condemned the plot on national television.____Associated Press writer Aritz Parra contributed to this report.CiaráN Giles, The Associated Press
Some 7,000 people are facing eviction hearings in Ontario this winter, and tenant advocates are urging solidarity among neighbours and across Toronto to keep people in their homes. The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) is “in a full-throttle blitz to clear its backlog,” said Kenneth Hale, the director of legal services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), noting there is a particular focus on processing eviction applications for non-payment. While Premier Doug Ford promised earlier this year that no one would be evicted during the pandemic, his government lifted a moratorium on hearings back in August, and the LTB has since kicked back into gear despite higher COVID-19 caseloads than in the first wave. “The government thinks that it’s more important that investors get paid than low-income people are protected from viral infection,” Hale said. In response, the Keep Your Rent advocacy group is inviting those facing the tribunal to share details — they’ve collected more than a hundred of these so far — in order to better prepare them to fight. “We are telling them that they need to be communicating with their neighbours, they need to realize that they are part of a bigger struggle, that they are not alone in being behind on rent during COVID,” said MaryAnn Icaro, who got active with Keep Your Rent early in the pandemic and has been observing hearings in the recent uptick. “What we've been seeing, especially for these tenants that we are not in contact with, that are not organizing, that are isolated, they are finding themselves with standard orders,” she said, which typically give a tenant less than two weeks to pay their arrears. After eight months of pandemic-related income loss, that could amount to thousands of dollars. “Tenants have minutes to plead their case to these judges,” she said. In one recent online hearing, she said neighbours and other supporters intervened by going down the hall to notify a tenant who had, in fact, paid their arrears and didn’t know they still needed to attend or that the landlord would not mention the payment. A spokesperson for Tribunals Ontario, of which the LTB is a part, did not respond to a request for comment. The Ford government has introduced legislation this year, Bill 184, which makes it easier for tenants to be evicted, including by waiving a requirement for another LTB hearing if a tenant agrees to a rent arrears plan and then misses a payment. “These politicians will not save us, they’ve orchestrated this crisis,” Icaro said, noting that Keep Your Rent is instead focused on improving tenants’ negotiating position with their landlords. This is what tenants in properties owned by corporate landlord MetCap Living plan to do this Saturday when they show up at the real estate company’s headquarters seeking a meeting with CEO Brent Merrill. Tenants who have withheld rent since April plan to say they are willing to pay if Merrill agrees not to seek to evict those who can’t, Icaro said. She also pointed out that tenants in various locations across the city, including in the Crescent Town neighbourhood near the Victoria Park subway station, have made it clear to their landlord that they will block any efforts by sheriffs to enforce evictions. That may stave off the immediate threat, but ACTO’s Hale said a deeper reckoning with the housing crisis and troubles at the tenancy tribunal looms. “Community efforts to fend off the sheriff are not going to be successful in the long run,” he said. “We need a justice system that works for everyone, including low-income people.”Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
When neighbours first saw the smashed windows of a little library in the Sherwood neighbourhood of Charlottetown, they couldn't understand why someone would have done it.The little nest for books is plunked up like a mailbox and in its roughly six-week lifespan has seen many people come and go, exchanging books with crackly spines and even dropping off new ones. "I was sad, frankly," said Keith Burgoyne, who put it up just outside his house."Not angry or anything, just disappointed. It has been a constant source of joy for myself and, I think, for a lot of other people."In its relatively short time there, the door has been opened nearly 300 times by visitors, according to a counter Burgoyne installed inside.Then, last weekend the Plexiglas on its door was smashed in. Burgoyne posted a picture of it on Twitter, people were upset to hear what had happened and some even offered to help.And that help was quickly on the way.'Why not?'Burgoyne got a text from Ryan Roach, the owner of Glass Doctor of P.E.I., who offered to fix the library for free."Which was utterly unexpected," Burgoyne said, "but it totally turned things around. It was fantastic."Roach stopped by on Sunday to take a look, cut the piece of Lexan (similar to Plexiglas) on Monday and then screwed it into place Thursday morning."I just wanted to help out," Roach said. After seeing the post online he was discouraged to see that the library had been vandalized. Sometimes, he said, seeing that can make someone "lose a little bit of faith in humanity — so I figured I'd try my best to restore a little bit of that faith."When asked why he'd done it for free he said simply: "why not?" The little library is back up and ready for visitors to drop by to exchange their favourite titles and discover new ones. "Come on by, take whatever you'd like, leave whatever you'd like," Burgoyne said."Every time you leave a book you're probably going to make somebody happy, so it's kind of like putting forward a little bit of joy at a time when I think we could all really use it."More from CBC P.E.I.
Nominations are open to recognize individuals in the territory who “work to strengthen the arts, culture, heritage and languages of the N.W.T.” The Minister’s Culture and Heritage Awards celebrate “outstanding leadership in the North” and raise awareness about the importance of protecting, preserving and celebrating the different cultures and unique ways of life in the territory. There are five categories: According to the GNWT's website, a Minister's Choice Award will also be handed out this year at the discretion of RJ Simpson, the minister. Awards will be given to winners virtually this year, due to COVID-19. Northerners looking to nominate a peer must submit the necessary form by January 8, 2021.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
OTTAWA — Canada's national unemployment rate was 8.5 per cent in November. Here are the jobless rates last month by province (numbers from the previous month in brackets):— Newfoundland and Labrador 12.2 per cent (12.8)— Prince Edward Island 10.2 per cent (10.0)— Nova Scotia 6.4 per cent (8.7)— New Brunswick 9.6 per cent (10.1)— Quebec 7.2 per cent (7.7)— Ontario 9.1 per cent (9.6)— Manitoba 7.4 per cent (7.1)— Saskatchewan 6.9 per cent (6.4)— Alberta 11.1 per cent (10.7)— British Columbia 7.1 per cent (8.0)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020 and was generated automatically.The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — A chilly breeze whirls through New Delhi in the mornings and the sun is partly obscured by toxic haze, a marker of another winter in the Indian capital. But along the city's borders, this year is visibly and viscerally different.The perpetually busy arterial highways that connect most northern Indian towns to this city of 29 million people now pulse to the cries of “Inquilab Zindabad” — “Long live the revolution.” Tens and thousands of farmers with distinctive, colorful turbans and long, flowing beards have descended upon the city's borders, choking highways in giant demonstrations against new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation.For more than a week, they’ve marched toward the capital on their tractors and trucks like an army, pushing aside concrete police barricades while braving tear gas, batons and water cannons. Now, on the outskirts of New Delhi, they are hunkered down with food and fuel supplies that can last weeks and threatening to besiege the capital if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government doesn't meet their demands to abolish the laws.“Modi wants to sell our lands to corporates,” said one of them, Kaljeet Singh, 31, who travelled from Ludhiana city in Punjab, some 310 kilometres (190 miles) north of New Delhi. “He can’t decide for millions of those who for generations have given their blood and sweat to the land they regard as more precious than their lives.”At night, the farmers sleep in trailers and under trucks, curling themselves in blankets to brave the winter chill. During the day, they sit huddled in groups in their vehicles, surrounded by mounds of rice, lentils and vegetables that are prepared into meals at hundreds of makeshift soup kitchens, in enormous pots stirred with wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles.Anmol Singh, 33, who supports his family of six by farming, said the new laws were part of a larger plan to hand over the farmers' land to big corporations and make them landless.“Modi wants the poor farmer to die of hunger so that he can fill the stomachs of his rich friends,” he said. “We are here to fight his brutal decrees peacefully.”He paused, then reconsidered: “Actually, let him and his ministers take us on. We will give them a bloody nose.”Many of the protesting farmers hail from northern Punjab and Haryana, two of the largest agricultural states in India. An overwhelming majority of them are Sikhs. They fear the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices. Many activists and farming experts support their demand for a minimum guaranteed price for their crops.The new rules will also eliminate agents who act as middlemen between the farmers and the government-regulated wholesale markets. Farmers say agents are a vital cog of the farm economy and their main line of credit, providing quick funds for fuel, fertilizers and even loans in case of family emergencies.The laws have compounded existing resentment from farmers, who often complain of being ignored by the government in their push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.The government has argued the laws bring about necessary reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers say they were never consulted.With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Modi’s administration and allies. His leaders have scrambled to contain the protests, which are fast resembling last year’s scenes when a contentious new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims led to demonstrations that culminated in violence.Those demonstrations were much bigger in scale, but the farmers' rumblings are growing fast and gaining widespread support of ordinary citizens who have started joining them in large numbers.Modi and his allies have tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws while dismissing their concerns. Some of his party leaders have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national,” a label often given to those who criticize Modi or his policies.The government is holding talks with the farmers to persuade them to end their protests, but they have dug in their heels.On Friday, a group of 35 leaders of the farmers called for a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday and said the protests would continue until the laws are revoked.Farmer Kulwant Singh, 72, said that when he left his home in Haryana for the protests, he gave his wife a garland of flowers for two possible scenarios.“Either I return victorious and she places it around my neck in celebration, or I die here revolting and the same garland is put on my body when it reaches home,” Singh said.Such passions run deep among the protesters who have found social, economic and generational barriers tumbling during the demonstrations.Singh isn't the only one from his family who travelled to New Delhi for what he called “Qilah Fatehi," an Urdu term that translates to “laying a siege.” His son and grandson also accompanied him.“It's a fight for my generation too,” said Amrinder Singh, 16.As demonstrations grow, the protesters have also started to drive a political message home.Not satisfied with Modi's federal policies, many of which have attracted widescale resentment from his critics and minorities, protesting farmers say it's time he stops what they call his “dictatorial behaviour.”“India is in a recession. There are hardly any jobs and our country's secular fabric is in tatters,” said Gurpreet Singh, 26, a biotechnology student who comes from a farming family. “At a time when India needs a healing touch, Modi is coming up with divisive, controversial laws. This is unacceptable and defies our constitutional values.”Modi's second term in power since May 2019 has been marked by several convulsions. The economy has tanked, social strife widened, protests have erupted against discriminatory laws and his government has been questioned over its response to the pandemic.The farmer protests present a new challenge for the government.The protesters' desire to stand up to Modi and his policies extends to a sexagenarian farmer couple who drove 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Chandigarh city in a hatchback Sunday to participate in the demonstrations.Dharam Singh Sandhu, 67, and Vimaljeet Kaur, 66, are spending nights in their car parked near the protest site. In the morning, they share breakfast at a makeshift soup kitchen. The latter part of the day is spent taking part in the demonstrations.“Our land is our mother. If we can’t protect it then we have no right to live," Sandhu said about the protests.His wife spoke passionately of a larger purpose as she made her way to the protest site through a stream of vehicles honking incessantly to get past congested traffic.“Our country is like a bunch of flowers, but Modi wants it to be of the same colour. He has no right to do that. I am here to protest against that mindset," Kaur said.As Kaur walked hand in hand with her husband, a great cry emerged from one of the vehicles: “Inquilab Zindabad.”The crowd turned and followed their gaze toward a young man with a black beard who held up his fist through the car's window.The protesters, including Kaur, roared back: “Inquilab Zindabad!"Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press
The Humboldt Special Olympics Floor Hockey Team took home the Special Olympics Canada Team of the Year Award. TSN hosted the award ceremony on Facebook Live on Dec. 3 with athletes and coaches sending in their thank you videos for the ceremony. The team has been collecting the hardware over the last two years with a bronze medal win during the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational youth games in Toronto and another bronze win at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay 2020. Floor hockey has been part of the Humboldt Special Olympics sporting list for the last 16 years. Ever since the team lost fellow teammate, Brody Hinz, in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the team has played to honour him, said Vic Rauter, a TSN announcer, during the ceremony. “Since the loss of their friend and teammate, the Special Olympics Humboldt Broncos floor hockey team have been on a mission to honour those lost and those who were affected.” This award comes on the cusp of two provincial awards in October, another team award for the floor hockey team and a coaching award from coach Brain Reifferscheid. Reifferscheid said the award was unexpected and the coaches and players are pretty happy and proud and excited and humbled by the honour, he said. The provincial award was enough of a surprise for the team to wrap their heads around and celebrate but it was not long after before they were contacted by Special Olympics Canada about their national award. This will be the second year in a row that a Humboldt Special Olympics athlete or team has received a national award from Special Olympics Canada, with Tianna Zimmerman from Englefeld taking home Athlete of the Year during the 2019 award ceremony as well as the provincial honour that same year, just like the floor hockey team. This two year stretch at both the national and provincial level said a lot about the Special Olympics Humboldt, Reifferscheid said. “We've got a group of athletes that are very sports-minded and committed to achieving high goals. It also says something about the Special Olympics Humboldt organization, all the volunteers and coaches and all the sports. Everyone has a piece of contributing to helping athletes be successful.” On behalf of the Humboldt Special Olympics floor hockey team, they are honoured to receive this award, Reifferscheid said.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
BERLIN — Veteran German diplomat Helga Schmid, a key behind-the-scenes negotiator of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, was named Friday as the new administrative head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.The Vienna-based regional security organization plays an important role in trying to resolve conflicts in Europe and on its periphery, including Ukraine. Its 57 members include Russia and the United States.A career diplomat, the 59-year-old Schmid was the German embassy's spokeswoman in Washington during the early 1990s, before taking senior roles at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, and later moved to Brussels. She spent the last four years as the head of the EU's diplomatic service.The post of OSCE secretary general comes with a three-year term that can be renewed once. The secretary general is the administrative head of the OSCE, complementing the presidency which rotates annually among member states.A branch of the organization also conducts election monitoring missions, including during last month's U.S. presidential vote.The Associated Press
Had the ATAC mining access road in the Beaver River watershed been built, it would have constituted a “breach of the honour of the Crown” and betrayed First Nations people, according to a decision document released by the Yukon government after inquiries by The Narwhal. The document provides insight into the territorial government’s Nov. 27 decision to reject the proposed all-access road by Vancouver-based ATAC Resources, a mining exploration company with gold and copper claims in the region. The document also sheds light on concerns raised by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, on whose territory the claims are located. The rejected road was given a conditional green light by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board in 2017 but was awaiting a final decision from the Yukon government. The new route would have opened access to a 65-kilometre portion of the company’s three mineral claims that form the Rackla gold property and connected Keno City to the Tiger gold deposit, the site of a planned ATAC Resources’ open-pit gold mine. The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun was “strongly opposed” to the project going ahead, the decision document reveals. The document contains a list of concerns raised by the nation, including fears the road would have caused “significant adverse impacts” on treaty rights such as hunting, fishing and trapping in traditional territory. That list also noted concerns the road would have prevented Na-Cho Nyäk Dun citizens from adequately exercising treaty rights in “one of the few remaining wilderness areas in its traditional territory.” The road would have “fundamentally alter[ed] an untouched portion of” the nation’s territory and would have “alienated” citizens from their lands. “Approving the application would permanently impair the process of reconciliation that the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, the Yukon government and Canada have been engaged in for more than 30 years,” the document states. Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn did not return a request for comment. Andrew Carne, ATAC Resources’ vice-president of corporate and project development, told The Narwhal this week that the company is seeking legal counsel on the Yukon government’s decision and that, as a result, there’s little else he can state at this time. “ATAC does not agree with many material aspects of the government’s decision,” Carne said in an email to The Narwhal. In an ATAC Resources’ press release, president and CEO Graham Downs said the road’s cancellation suggests Yukon isn’t open for business. “We are extremely disappointed with and surprised by this decision,” he wrote. The Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has warned that roads such as the one ATAC Resources’ proposed can fragment wildlife habitat, interrupt migratory patterns and lead to an increase in mining activity and hunting pressure. The Beaver River watershed, northeast of Mayo, is a vast expanse of relatively intact wilderness that’s home to moose, grizzly bears and wolves. According to the Yukon government’s decision document, ATAC Resources’ plan for the road didn’t adequately consider cumulative effects on the region’s ecosystem — particularly on wildlife. Todd Powell, director of mineral resources at the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Narwhal the company did not review wildlife impacts “in a meaningful way.” “The bigger the project, the bigger the effects are. In this case, a road into an area like that was going to have fairly significant effects.” The company’s plan to mitigate effects on wildlife “simply didn’t go far enough,” he said. According to ATAC Resources’ draft management plan, mitigation efforts included building the road in the Rankin Creek valley, where fewer wildlife are present, reducing or suspending traffic during calving and rutting and making the route private to prevent hunting. The company also said it would conduct road patrols to further deter hunting. The decision document notes there were baseline data “deficiencies” that would have affected environmental monitoring efforts. In its draft management plan, ATAC noted Lebarge Environmental Services conducted eight aerial and three ground surveys of wildlife between 2010 and 2013 that noted the project area is home to species that are considered of “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada including woodland caribou, grizzly bear, wolverine, collared pika, horned grebe, rusty blackbird, peregrine falcon and dolly varden. Threatened species that are found in the project area, according to ATAC, include the common nighthawk and the olive-sided flycatcher. Without adequate monitoring, Powell said there was little hope potential impacts could be mitigated in the future, which contributed to the Yukon government pulling the plug on the project. The Beaver River watershed is largely roadless and the ATAC road would have set a new “precedent” for mineral exploration in the territory, the document states. No roads longer than 50 kilometres have been built for operations that, like ATAC Resources’, are purely exploratory over the past decade, the document notes. “Far more typically, existing access routes and new access routes have only been upgraded or constructed once mine development and production has been authorized.” ATAC Resources is not currently operating any mines in the region and is not permitted to. The company is only permitted to conduct exploratory work until 2024, which raised questions about the need for the access road and concerns the company wouldn’t have long enough to successfully build and decommission the road as proposed. “The nearness of the expiration date doesn’t suggest that they would have a reasonable timeframe to get all of that work done,” Powell said. A sub-regional land use plan for the Beaver River watershed was recently launched by the Yukon government and the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation. Work on the plan is set to continue, regardless of the ATAC road cancellation, Powell said. “Everybody recognizes that this is a highly mineralized area with lots of potential,” he said. “The commitment remains in place to finalize [the land use plan] as soon as we can.” Randi Newton, conservation manager with CPAWS Yukon, recently told The Narwhal she hopes that the sub-regional land use plan will be replaced with a much broader plan that encapsulates the entire Beaver River watershed. CPAWS recently released a report that cautioned the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board against approving road projects before land use plans are completed. “Land use planning can take that broader view of how much development is allowable in an area, which areas should we keep remote and free of roads,” Malkolm Boothroyd, the report’s author and campaigns co-ordinator at the Yukon chapter of CPAWS, told The Narwhal in a previous interview. Powell said that while the sub-regional land use plan won’t be scrapped, it could help inform a region-wide plan in the future, so the intention now is to finish what has already been started. Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst at the Yukon Conservation Society, told The Narwhal his organization has been highlighting concerns associated with the ATAC road since its inception. While he questions why it took the Yukon government so long to cancel the project, he’s hopeful environmental protection is coming to the region through land use planning. “It does give us a chance to protect or manage a pretty large-scale landscape,” he said. “Now we can do the planning without having the road dictate certain land uses.”Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years.Buried amidst the ongoing COVID confusion and controversy this week in Alberta came a bit of unusual news: the UCP government and NDP opposition agreed on something.It wasn't exactly a Kumbaya moment but the two battling political parties that have turned the legislature's daily question period into a form of trench warfare finally see eye-to-eye on an issue.They're both unhappy with the announcement on Monday from federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland involving much-anticipated changes to the fiscal stabilization program that provides money to provinces experiencing a significant drop in revenue year-over-year.Alberta, of course, has been experiencing chronic revenue drops year-over-year-over-year. Because of a series of bad years topped off by a COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's revenue ride is less like a roller coaster and more like the Drop of Doom.The fiscal stabilization program wasn't designed for that kind of multi-billion-dollar collapse in revenues.In 2016, for example, the Alberta government under the NDP complained that it lost $6.5 billion in revenue because of low oil prices but only received $250 million from the stabilization program that was capped at $60 per provincial resident.After forming government in 2019, the United Conservative Party took up the fight and this year demanded $4 billion instead of the $266 million offered. Not only that, the UCP wanted the higher stabilization payments to be retroactive to 2015.On Monday, Freeland announced the cap is being hiked to $170 per capita, meaning the province is now entitled to receive $750 million this year. But the payments will not be retroactive."[I am] very disappointed that the caps weren't lifted entirely," said Finance Minister Travis Toews. "It really doesn't go far enough."For her part, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sounded like a clone of Toews: "I would continue to advocate for the removal of the cap and I would also suggest that this should be retroactive to when Alberta deserved a fair fiscal stabilization formula in the first place."But the fight to remove the cap completely has gone from difficult to impossible because of the pandemic.WATCH | Alberta politicians unhappy with federal stabilization changesThis year, every province will probably be applying for aid under the stabilization program. Ottawa, already neck-deep in pandemic debt, would be swamped with billions of new claims under a sky's-the-limit fiscal stabilization program.And, besides, premiers who had been supporting Jason Kenney's call for a capless program will likely be happy enough to receive almost triple the amount of money than was available under the old formula.Change of heartBut Kenney's disappointment with Ottawa on Monday shifted to satisfaction on Wednesday.He performed such a sudden change in direction he might need a neck brace for whiplash. But that's the kind loopy politics you get during a pandemic.On Monday, the issue was money.On Wednesday, it was a COVID-19 vaccine."We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year," said Kenney, putting the kind of faith in the federal government apparently not shared by federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole.Setting a firm timeline for a vaccine rollout is not particularly risky for Kenney. If the plan works, great. Albertans might be happy enough that Kenney sees his approval ratings start to rise after a year of steady decline. If the vaccines don't arrive on time, Kenney can blame Ottawa yet again for Alberta's problems.Of course, a third scenario is Ottawa delivers the vaccine as promised but Alberta has trouble with the logistics of getting Albertans vaccinated.To that end, Kenney has called in the military — sort of. He has appointed Paul Wynnyk, the deputy minister of municipal affairs and a former general in the Canadian Forces, to lead the province's vaccine task force.In the meantime, as Alberta continues to lead the country in COVID cases, playing in the background is a plan to call on the federal government and Red Cross to set up emergency hospitals should the virus overwhelm our health-care system.Kenney is still trying to spin a positive tale out of the distressing pandemic reality, still trusting that Albertans will take personal responsibility to flatten the curve, still insisting there is "light at the end of the tunnel."But that light might just be a Red Cross truck coming with a field hospital to house Alberta's ever growing number of pandemic patients.
COVID-19 has made things difficult for municipalities, especially when it came to tax collection for the 2020 tax year. During a normal year, Tisdale has a reminiscing tax discount period from May to November, with a 15 per cent tax discount for those residents who pay in May and the discount diminishing over the following months by five per cent, said Brad Hvidston, Tisdale’s administrator With COVID causing financial challenges for residents, Hvidston said they changed the rates so the discount dropped by two per cent over the following months so that residents could still take advantage of the discount if they paid later. While Al Jellicoe, Tisdale’s mayor, said this was appreciated by residents, tax payments came into the town as usual with 95 per cent of property taxes paid by the end of May, Hvidston said. People save up during the year, he said, in order to take advantage of that discount. “By the time COVID hit in March and taxes were due in May, a large amount of people had their taxes mostly accumulated by them. I'm anticipating that next year will be the year that we see the impact on COVID.” With tax challenges being expected for the coming year, Hvidston said the council will have to decide how they can help residents deal with this in the future. The tax update was reported during the council meeting on Nov. 30.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
LONDON — U.K. regulators went on the offensive Friday to beat back criticism that they rushed their authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying they rigorously analyzed data on safety and effectiveness in the shortest time possible without compromising the thoroughness of their review.The comments from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency came as the Times newspaper reported that the agency’s chief executive, Dr. June Raine, planned to give a series of radio interviews so she could speak directly to people who may be concerned about getting vaccinated.The MHRA reiterated earlier statements that the agency is conducting rolling reviews of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, allowing regulators to speed up the review process by looking at data as it becomes available. The agency gave emergency approval on Wednesday to a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech, making Britain the first Western country to authorize a vaccine against the coronavirus.The ability to act more quickly “does not mean steps and the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed,” the MHRA said. “No vaccine would be authorized for supply in the U.K. unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”The media blitz comes amid concerns that criticism of the approval process could undermine public confidence in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, leading some individuals to shun shots. Britain plans to begin vaccinating people within the next few days, starting with nursing home residents, caregivers and people over age 80.Britain will initially receive 800,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 400,000 people, so the first shots will go to those who are most at risk of dying from COVID-19 and those who are most likely to spread the coronavirus.America’s top infectious disease expert late Thursday apologized for suggesting that U.K. authorities had rushed their authorization of the vaccine.Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had told U.S. media outlets that U.K. regulators hadn’t acted “as carefully” as the Food and Drug Administration. He later clarified to the BBC that he had meant to say that U.S. authorities do things differently than their British counterparts, not better, but didn't phrase his comments properly.“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the U.K., and anyone who knows me and my relationship with that over literally decades, you know that’s the case,” Fauci told the BBC.Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the different approaches of various regulators may be one reason Britain was first to authorize the vaccine.The FDA, for example, goes back to the raw data supplied by drugmakers and reanalyzes it to verify the findings. Virtually no other regulatory agency regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with regulators in the U.K. and the European Union.In addition, Britain decided to take advantage of EU rules that allow individual countries to allow the emergency use of new products inside their own borders in response to public health emergencies. The EU's European Medicines Agency chose a more time-consuming authorization process that will allow the vaccine to be used in all 27 member nations.While Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31, it remains bound by the bloc’s rules and regulations until the end of December under a transition agreement designed to ease the shock of Brexit.Brexit helped the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency move faster because it is no longer involved in assessing products intended for the entire bloc as are regulators in the remaining EU countries, according to Evans. MHRA therefore had more resources to devote to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and could respond more quickly when new data was submitted, he said.“Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said.When the MHRA announced its decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, chief executive Raine said people should be confident “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for use of the vaccine, she said.But European officials reacted sourly to the U.K. decision.The European Medicines Agency, which plans to make its own decision by Dec. 29, issued a statement saying its process was “more appropriate” than Britain’s.Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder was more pointed, suggesting U.K. authorities had acted “without even sufficient basis.”“This will reduce the readiness to get vaccinated rather than increase it, because people expect a safe immunization process,” he said.In his latest comments, Fauci rejected the idea that the U.K. skipped vital steps.The FDA has to move more slowly amid the high degree of skepticism about vaccines in the U.S., Fauci said. Because of this, U.S. regulators are reviewing all of the raw data from Pfizer and BioNTech “in a way that could not possibly have been done any more quickly,” he said.It will take the FDA at least another week to complete its review, but the U.S. and Britain will ultimately end up in the same place, Fauci said.“At the end of the day, it’s going to be safe, it’s going to be effective,” he said. “The people in the U.K. are going to receive it, and they’re going to do really well, and the people in the United States are going to receive it, and we’re going to do pretty well.”___Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans contributed.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
While the aftermath of the American presidential election continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how exactly the shift of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden will impact Canada-U.S. relations. A former international ambassador cautions it won’t be all sunshine and lollipops ahead for the generally friendly neighbours. Derek Burney, who was born in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1989 to 1993 under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Burney is currently chancellor of Lakehead University, chairman of the Burney Investment Group, chairman of GardaWorld’s International Advisory Board, chairman of Enablence Technologies Inc., and a member of the advisory board of Paradigm Capital. He was named an Officer to the Order of Canada in 1993. Last week he gave an online address which was hosted by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, and simulcast by the chambers of Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins. Burney opened by calling the U.S. election a “cathartic” event. “The aftershocks continue to resonate. The Electoral College will meet on Dec. 14 to certify the results, and formally declare Joe Biden as president.” He then spoke of the big takeaways he had from the election. “A huge turnout amplified by massive influxes of mail-in ballots helped ultimately tip the verdict to Joe Biden, even though Trump won 10 million more votes than he received in 2016.” Burney said the 'Blue Wave' that many pollsters had predicted did not materialize. “Too many pollsters seemed more inclined to affect, rather than reflect, the mood of American voters. Biden won with a tightly disciplined, low-key campaign, banking on the fact that he was not Trump, and that the election would be a referendum on Trump, not a choice between the two candidates.” Burney lamented that foreign policy was barely mentioned by either candidate throughout the campaign. “Personalities, character and COVID concerns dominated.” Burney pointed out that regardless of the outcome the United States is in a period of deep division. “The country remains highly polarized — split right down the middle and very difficult to govern. The Democrats are jubilant, but weary. The Republicans are subdued, but not submissive.” He said the election conveyed a messy image of American democracy to the world, and that it regrettably emboldened authoritarian leaders like China's President Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take advantage. Domestically, policy ideas from the Republicans and Democrats on matters such as taxes, immigration, health care and energy are seemingly polar opposites. “Biden will definitely bring a less abrasive tone, especially on global issues, but his ability to implement major changes on domestic issues will be circumscribed, if the Republicans hold the Senate. He will also need to consolidate consensus on policies and priorities first within his own party, which is more divided internally, than are the Republicans.” “Biden's pledge to heal and unite the nation is commendable, but maybe unrealistic.” On the positive side, Burney did remark that there was some scope for bipartisan consensus on issues like justice reform, infrastructure, and possibly healthcare. “But if the Congress remains divided, agreements will require nimble give-and-take negotiations. At least Biden and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell are both Senate veterans, and they begin with a degree of mutual respect, a spirit that was entirely lacking between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Regarding Canada and how a new government will affect Canadian business, Burney, said Biden will be more congenial with U.S. allies. “After 47 years of service in Washington, he is no stranger to Canada, nor to our Prime Minister and other alliance leaders. That alone is good news.” However, Burney said that in reality, the Canada-U.S. relationship is “no longer special” and that Biden’s domestic policies are a mixed bag for Canada moving forward. “Those favouring more action on climate change will be pleased by his quick decision to rejoin the Paris Accord. I personally would be happier if he were also committed to ensuring more timely, and more tangible commitments by major polluters like China and India. The imbalance is startling.” He also cautioned that Western Canada could be in for more challenging times concerning the oil and gas sector if Biden’s positions come to fruition. “If he fulfils his pledge to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit, that would be devastating for our energy sector. In my view, such action would be blatantly discriminatory and should be challenged forcefully by our government, not just the pipeline companies.” The first few months of 2021 will be highly interesting for economic observers on both sides of the border as the two nations, the largest trading partners on the planet, scramble to get their economies rolling again during a global health crisis. “Because we are joined at the hip economically with the U.S., we stand to gain when their economy is robust, and conversely when the U.S. economy slumps, so does ours. That is why my fervid hope is that Joe Biden puts economy recovery first and foremost on his agenda.” Burney told the business-oriented viewers what his overall message is. “At a time of greater instability and uncertainty in the world, my most important message to you is that greater self-reliance is becoming the order of the day. As business operators, you need to be mindful of that increasing trend. Find ways to produce more of what is needed right here in Canada, and rely less on global supply chains that can easily be disrupted, as our experience with COVID, badly demonstrated.”Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
New York City police say at least two U.S. marshals and a suspect have been shot in the Bronx. (Dec. 4)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has returned to work after recovering from COVID-19, his office said. Young's staff said the veteran Republican lawmaker was back at work in his congressional office in Washington, D.C., The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday. The 87-year-old announced Nov. 12 he had tested positive for the coronavirus. In March, Young referred to the coronavirus as the “beer virus” before an audience that included older Alaskans and said the media had contributed to hysteria over COVID-19. His campaign manager told the Anchorage Daily News at the time that the virus’ impact is real and that Young was trying to urge calm. After contracting the virus, Young said he had not grasped the severity of the illness. “Very frankly, I had not felt this sick in a very long time, and I am grateful to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers,” Young said following his release from an Anchorage hospital Nov. 16. Young is now “preparing to fight harder than ever” for Alaskans, spokesman Zack Brown said. Voters last month reelected Young, Alaska’s lone U.S. representative, to serve his 25th term in office. Young has held his seat since 1973 and is the longest-serving Republican in congressional history. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. The Associated Press
Ontario’s justice system will continue to push forward and modernize beyond the rapid transformations forced by the pandemic, Attorney General Doug Downey told the Empire Club of Canada on Thursday. During the lunchtime virtual meeting, Downey talked about some of the advancements made in the province's justice system since emergency measures were enforced in March to ensure it could operate safely. “It wasn’t long before capacity was expanded to conduct 100 per cent of proceedings involving a person in custody” and advancing to remote hearings, said Downey, who is also the local MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. “Behind the scenes, we were making targeted investments to update technology in a sector where fax machines were still an acceptable way of doing business.” The initiatives included remote court access, the new use of digital signatures and service by email, all of which are now becoming permanent staples of the system. As a result, he said, the system has become stronger by becoming more accessible and more resilient. “We really did rely on fax machines, millions of pages of paper, and technology that was just slightly better than Morse code to share information,” he said, adding that just two days ago the word 'telegram' was replaced by 'email' in a civil rule. Within months, the old paper-based system has been modernized to allow for online filing of more than 450 different documents. As a result, 95 per cent of civil proceedings are filed online and more than 70 per cent of family matters. Information about court cases are now available online, meaning people don’t have to line up at the courthouse to gain access. And a platform to power online and in-person hearings was also adopted. Last June, the changes allowed 20,000 people to log into an online Superior Court hearing to witness a judge deliver a sentence in a high-profile case. In September, the Superior Court reported 50,000 hearings had been conducted virtually. The lesson, Downey said, was to not just address yesterday’s issues, but to look at solutions for tomorrow’s sustainability and resilience and to not be afraid of change. He also suggested adopting a design for a courthouse implementing some of the customer service elements available in an airport. Or creating an app that allows the user to schedule a court appearance from a cellphone. “The pandemic showed us, in stark terms, how far behind Ontario’s justice system had fallen,” he said. “Now we know better, and we’ll do better. In this new approach, justice accelerated means justice delivered.” During a question period, he pointed to Ontario’s tribunals, which were largely shut down after the COVID-19 crisis and prevented normal interaction. Downey said he’s struck a deal with British Columbia’s attorney general to adopt its four-year-old online tribunal system for $1, provided Ontario takes care of the updates.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
Marco Arop believes it's the best he's ever felt through 600 metres of a race. But near the home stretch of a men's 800 event in August, the Canadian runner sensed his lead slipping away, felt the shoulder of American Donavan Brazier brush against his and panicked. Arop's body tightened up while Brazier, the world's top-ranked 800 runner, accelerated on the outside down the straightway at a sun-drenched Stockholm Olympic Stadium to another victory in a pandemic-shortened season. "Sometimes in a race, if you push too hard it ends up slowing you down," Arop said over the phone this week from Starkville, Miss. "No matter how comfortable I am, when I see someone pass me, I have to stay comfortable and not be too reactive. "Since my first collegiate season, there have been a lot of races when I would have a good 600 metres and the final 100 would get me. I was always told if I had a strong base [of a training program] I would be able to finish stronger." To that end, Arop has worked on improving his physical strength the past three months with Mississippi State University head track and field coach Chris Woods, with weekly 13-kilometre runs, weight training and circuits — sets of 400 to 1,000-metre runs in combination with other exercises. WATCH | Marco Arop places 2nd behind reigning 800m world champ: Arop has emphasized more volume in his workouts and a greater focus on recovery at the rest stage to prevent injury. For example, if he does repeat runs of 1,000, Arop might swim the next day for recovery and follow that with a 20 to 40-minute fartlek — a period of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. For his Saturday long runs on a grass field or gravel trail, the 22-year-old has started at a six-minute 40-second pace per mile and gradually increased his speed to clock a 6-flat pace at the halfway mark ahead of a strong finish. "Before, I'd probably start at 6:40 and go slower towards the end, finishing at around a 7:30 [pace]. I'm now able to pick up the pace," said the six-foot-four Arop, who trains six days a week and has added five pounds to his regular racing weight of 175. "My body is holding up well. I feel stronger and more fit to run faster for longer periods of time." Beating higher-ranked opponents Woods, who also coached Arop before the three-time All-American announced last December he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility to turn pro, has been encouraged by the runner's consistency in training. "I am excited to see what he is capable of doing once we start doing things more specific to his race," Woods said. "He's been in this sport for such a short time and there's several things we haven't been able to get to because we don't want to rush his growth and potentially get injured." I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet and I hope we can showcase that during the [Tokyo] Olympic Games. — Chris Woods, Mississippi State University head track and field coach Still, the 15th-ranked Arop, who didn't start running seriously until he was 17 in his final year of high school in Edmonton, was able to get out strong in races in 2020, take the lead against Brazier and beat top-six runners Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich of Kenya, Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Puerto Rico's Wesley Vázquez. "They're amazing runners and to be in the same conversation as them does give me a lot of confidence going into next year," Arop said. "I'm hoping to surprise [Brazier] in the upcoming season. I do respect him as a runner and I want to give him my best shot when the time comes." Arop also shaved four seconds off many of his early 2019 performances to a personal-best 1:44.14, a time that falls below the 1:45.20 Tokyo Olympic standard and one he feels could have been lowered by "maybe" another second. WATCH | Arop sets personal-best time in Monaco: The Business Information Systems major understands he's now among the sport's elite, which includes world No. 4 and Canadian record holder Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont. Early in 2019, the Sudan-born Arop recovered from a hamstring injury and enjoyed a breakout season that featured a Pan Am gold medal and seventh-place finish in his world final debut last October in Doha, Qatar. 'The sky is truly the limit for this young man' Right now, Woods said, there isn't a ceiling to the 2018 Canadian champion's potential. "I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet," he said, "and I hope we can showcase that during the Olympic Games [next summer]. Not to be cliché, but the sky truly is the limit for this young man." At the insistence of his parents and four brothers, all of whom contracted the coronavirus in September, Arop will stay in Mississippi through the Christmas holiday season to build upon the momentum of his fall training. "They know how important it is for me to have a training period through the winter [entering an Olympic year]. I went home a year ago and got the flu which put a stop to my training for about two weeks and the next month was spent regaining my fitness," he said. "It's very common for my mom to have a cold and she was the most at-risk [for COVID-19] having diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm just thankful they all came out of it fine. "It was a reflective time for me, to not take little moments for granted. It was a reminder to make sure when I talk to them to tell them how I feel and check in with them as much as I can."
SANTÉ. Par une triste coïncidence, c’est au moment où l’on apprenait un autre cas de maltraitance d’enfants à Granby où la DPJ s’est fait pointer du doigt pour son inaction que le CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS a présenté son Rapport annuel de gestion 2019-2020. Bien que l’on y mentionne «les services de protection de l’enfance, une priorité absolue», Marie-France Thibeault, chef de service relations publiques et partenariats au Service des communications n’a pas cru bon acheminer les questions du GranbyExpress au président-directeur général, Stéphane Tremblay. «En lien avec la fillette de Granby et le cas révélé aujourd’hui (26 novembre), est-ce que des sanctions ont été imposées à des employés sous la responsabilité du CIUSSS de l’Estrie? Si oui, lesquelles? Si non, pourquoi?» Bien que l’on ait sollicité ses questions tant par courriel que lors du Facebook Live du 26 novembre dernier, l’organisation n’a pas répondu à nos demandes. «La séance d’information annuelle du conseil d’administration de ce soir n’est pas un point de presse. Nous pouvons parler des services jeunesse en général ou du plan d’action à venir, mais nous ne commenterons pas une situation particulière. Merci», a fait savoir Marie-France Thibeault, chef de service relations publiques et partenariats au Service des communications du CIUSSS de l’Estrie. Rappelons que le 13 novembre dernier, une mère de famille de Granby a été condamnée à une incarcération de huit ans pour des sévices effroyables qu’elle a fait subir à son fils de 17 ans. «À l’instar de deux pédiatres qui ont pris soin de X, le Tribunal considère que le présent dossier demeure un des pires cas de maltraitance à lui avoir été soumis», indique le juge de la Cour du Québec Conrad Chapdelaine dans son jugement. «S’acharner de cette façon sur un enfant blessé, défiguré, sans défense, devant se déplacer à quatre pattes pour se mouvoir ou s’occuper de ses deux jeunes frères, isolé socialement, sans aucun filet de protection, comme l’école par exemple, dépendant à tous points de vue de son seul parent, l’accusée, constitue un comportement d’une cruauté extrême», ajoute-t-il. Dans son jugement, Conrad Chapdelaine a également dénoncé la DPJ de l’Estrie. En effet, une dizaine de signalements concernant cette famille n’ont pas mené au retrait de l’enfant qui avait de nombreuses plaies, des os brisés et une maigreur effroyable qui s’apparentait aux victimes des camps de concentration selon Francis Livernoche, un des pédiatres qui l’a traité, a rapporté le journal La Presse. C’est l’appel aux policiers d’un huissier, Louis Martin, qui a découvert son état lamentable le 14 février 2019 lors de l’exécution d’une ordonnance d’éviction de la Régie du logement qui a mené à l’arrestation de la mère. Cet autre cas de maltraitance à Granby a trouvé écho en ouverture de la conférence de presse du premier ministre du Québec du 26 novembre. François Legault a qualifié la situation de «terrible» et «gênante». Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the challenges of governing with a narrowly divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a raging pandemic.Rather than immediately pursue ambitious legislation to combat climate change, the incoming administration may try to wrap provisions into a coronavirus aid bill. Biden's team is also considering smaller-scale changes to the Affordable Care Act while tabling the more contentious fight over creating a public option to compete with private insurers.Biden is already working on an array of executive actions to achieve some of his bolder priorities on climate change and immigration without having to navigate congressional gridlock.The manoeuvring reflects a disappointing political reality for Biden, who campaigned on a pledge to address the nation's problems with measures that would rival the scope of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. But Democrats acknowledge that big legislative accomplishments are unlikely, even in the best-case scenario in which the party gains a slim majority in the Senate.“Let’s assume my dream comes true,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said, referring to a tight majority for his party. “I think we have to carefully construct any change in the Affordable Care Act, or any other issue, like climate change, based on the reality of the 50-50 Senate.”“There’s so many areas, which we value so much that Republicans do not, that it will be tough to guide through the Senate under the circumstances,” the Illinois Democrat added.Biden's agenda hinges on the fate of two Senate runoff races in Georgia, which will be decided on Jan. 5. If Democrats win both seats, the chamber will be evenly divided, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.In that event, Biden's agenda items stand a better chance of at least getting a vote. If Republicans maintain control, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might not bring the new president's priorities to the floor.Biden's initial focus on Capitol Hill will be a multibillion-dollar coronavirus aid bill, which is certain to require significant political capital after lawmakers have been deadlocked over negotiations on Capitol Hill for months.The president-elect said Thursday on CNN that while he supports a $900 billion compromise bill introduced this week by a bipartisan group of negotiators, the bill is “a good start" but it's “not enough” and he plans to ask for more when he's in office. His team is already working on his own coronavirus relief package.People close to Biden's transition team say they're looking at that stimulus as a potential avenue for enacting some climate reforms — like aid for green jobs or moving the nation toward a carbon-free energy system — that might be tougher to get on their own.Durbin mentioned President Barack Obama’s first term as a precedent for what Biden will encounter when he takes office.Then, Obama was forced to focus much of his early energy on a stimulus package to deal with the financial crisis, and he spent months wrangling with his own party on his health care overhaul. Obama also enacted financial regulatory reform, but other progressive priorities, like cap and trade legislation and immigration reform, ultimately lost steam.And he had a significant House and Senate majority at the time.Still, some Republicans argue that if Biden approaches negotiations in good faith, there are some common areas of agreement. Rohit Kumar, the co-leader of PwC's Washington National Tax Services and a former top aide to McConnell, said it's possible to find a compromise on some smaller-scale priorities, like an infrastructure bill, addressing the opioid crisis and even a police reform bill.“There is stuff in the middle, if Biden is willing to do deals in the middle — and that means being willing to strike agreements that progressive members don’t love, and maybe have them vote no, and be at peace with that,” he said.Indeed, speaking on CNN Thursday, Biden expressed optimism about cutting deals with Republicans. He said when it comes to national security and the “economic necessity” of keeping people employed and reinvigorating the economy, “there's plenty of room we can work.”Still, he acknowledged, "I’m not suggesting it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be hard."But here, progressives, not Republicans, could be the roadblock. Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for the liberal Justice Democrats, said progressives are “worried and anxious” about Biden's history of making what he called “toxic compromises with McConnell."“I think progressives will probably play a key role in trying to push Democrats to have a spine in any negotiations with Mitch McConnell,” he said. “People will hold him accountable for what he ran on.”Shaheed said he believes progressives could play a role in pushing the Biden administration to embrace a more “aggressive approach” and pursue executive actions to address some Democratic priorities.And indeed, Biden’s transition team has already been at work crafting a list of potential unilateral moves he could take early on.He plans to reverse Trump’s rollback of a number of public health and environmental protections the Obama administration put in place. He’ll rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord and rescind the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries. He could also unilaterally reestablish protections for “Dreamers” who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children.But some of his biggest campaign pledges require congressional action and are certain to face GOP opposition.Biden has promised to take major legislative action on immigration reform and gun control, but prior legislative efforts on both of those issues — with bipartisan support — have failed multiple times.He’s also pledged to roll back the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy, forgive some student loan debt and make some public college free — all heavy lifts in a closely divided or Republican-controlled Senate.“It’s easy to be skeptical and pessimistic in this Senate,” Durbin said. “I hope that they give us a chance to break through and be constructive and put an end to some of the obstruction.”Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
For the second time in the past five days, Niagara Region Public Health has advised District School Board of Niagara that one individual at Port Colborne High School has tested positive for COVID-19. The first case was confirmed on Nov. 29. As a result of the two COVID-19 cases, three classrooms have been closed. Local school boards will not identify the individual who tested positive. However, the provincial online database that tracks school-related COVID-19 cases does identify the Nov. 29 case as staff member. Today’s case will not be immediately known as the provincial database lags behind school boards in its reporting. In a media release, DSBN said, “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual have been contacted and told by NRPH to stay home and self-isolate.” Provincial guidelines indicate “an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection.” Public health has not indicated if it will declare an outbreak at Port High. Preventative COVID-19 practices that Port Colborne High School has been following since classes started, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue, DSBN said. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review