Quebec Premier Francois Legault thanked Quebecers for cooperating with the province's curfew and called on them to avoid contact with people over 65 in an effort to protect Quebec's overburdened hospital system.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault thanked Quebecers for cooperating with the province's curfew and called on them to avoid contact with people over 65 in an effort to protect Quebec's overburdened hospital system.
The federal government is eyeing a comprehensive North American energy strategy as workers reel from cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. The project's presidential permit was rescinded by U.S. President Joe Biden on his first day in office, prompting outrage from Alberta's provincial government. TC Energy, the proponent, had pre-emptively ceased construction of the project. "I was the minister of natural resources when the Obama administration cancelled Keystone XL. So for me, it's Round 2 of deep disappointment," Minister Jim Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's representative for the Prairies, said Monday. "We have to look forward, however, to a continental energy strategy." That North American energy strategy is enticing to Alberta's premier as well, with Jason Kenney suggesting to the prime minister that they approach Washington together to pitch a collaborative approach to North American energy and climate policy. "Canada and the U.S. share a highly integrated energy system, including criss-crossing infrastructure such as pipelines and electricity transmission systems. Our energy and climate goals must be viewed in the context of that integrated system," Kenney wrote. The premier has called the Keystone cancellation an "insult" and a "gut-punch," repeatedly pressing for retaliation against the U.S. and suggesting economic and trade sanctions if the administration is unwilling to engage in conversations about the future of the pipeline. Last year, Kenney invested $1.5 billion in Keystone XL, arguing it would never be completed without the infusion. The pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. The Biden administration has made no indication it intends to consider reinstating the permit. TC Energy has already laid off 1,000 workers in Alberta. A continental energy partnership has been an elusive goal for more than 15 years, with multiple trilateral meetings ending with consensus but often without measurable outcomes. It's been five years since Carr, then the minister of natural resources, hosted his American and Mexican counterparts to discuss the potential of such a partnership. They agreed to collaborate on things like energy technologies, energy efficiency, carbon capture and emissions reduction. While they signed a document stating these shared goals, synergy between the three countries has been slow to develop. In December 2014, a similar meeting ended with a to-do list to move forward on a continental energy strategy, including mapping energy infrastructure and sharing data. That data website hasn't been updated since 2017. In that meeting, then-natural resources minister Greg Rickford was making the pitch to the Obama administration for why Keystone XL should be permitted to live. It was cancelled — for the first time — less than a year later. "We've gone through a period over the last number of years where relations around energy have kind of died a slow death and become more and more narrowly focused around individual projects," said Monica Gattinger, director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. "There's tremendous potential between Canada and the United States to collaborate around energy and environmental objectives in the long term." Gattinger said changes in the United States around hydrocarbon and shale have diminished the country's motivation for a broader energy approach. With the national governments in Canada and the U.S. now more closely aligned on climate priorities, she added there's the potential for a breakthrough. "Both countries have vast potential across a whole host of energy resources," she said. "Those are the conversations that we have not been having in North America for a number of years now. And there is a real opportunity to do so at this time." Carr is optimistic, too. "We're hardly starting from scratch, and there will be alignment," he said, alluding to his hope for co-operation between the U.S. and Canada, but also with the Prairie provinces. "There is an awful lot of work to be done and an awful lot of potential."
The European Union failed to make a breakthrough in crisis talks with AstraZeneca on Wednesday and demanded the drugmaker spell out how it would supply the bloc with reserved doses of COVID-19 vaccine from plants in Europe and Britain. The EU is making more comprehensive checks on vaccines before approval, which means a slower rollout of shots than former EU member Britain and growing public frustration. The issue has been exacerbated by Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca and Pfizer of the United States both announcing delivery hold-ups in recent weeks.
COUNTRY HARBOUR – Better now than during the summer is the general reaction from people in the Country Harbour area when it was announced last week (Jan. 20) that the Country Harbour ferry would continue to be out of service – due to mechanical problems – until May, when a new ferry comes into service. The Stormont II served as a link between the communities of Country Harbour and Port Bickerton for more than 40 years and was scheduled for replacement in May; a schedule the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal says is on track. The cable ferry makes 13,000 voyages a year carrying 25,000 passengers and 15,000 vehicles but traffic is greatly reduced over the winter months. Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Councillor Rickey McLaren, whose district includes Country Harbour, told The Journal that he had not gotten any calls about the disruption to service. If service were stopped in the summer, he expected there might have been more of a reaction. That’s a sentiment shared by the local stores in the Country Harbour area; Smokey Hollow General Store and Rhynold's Gas and Convenience. Paul MacLennan of Smokey Hollow General told The Journal that the temporary closure of the Country Harbour ferry at this time of year made little difference in his business but added if it had happened in the summer, tourism would be affected. At Rhynold’s store there was similar comment, with the exception that one of the part-time employees now has to add 30 minutes’ drive to her commute. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Lloyd Hines, who is also MLA for the Country Harbour area, said in the TIR press release, “This is disappointing news, especially during a year that has already been hard…We had hoped the old ferry would takes us through to the arrival of the brand new ferry. The Stormont II served the community well for more than 40 years, but unfortunately the mechanical issues are significant." The Stormont II has been out of service since November. During the pause in service, a detour has been in place. It runs from Port Bickerton, on Route 211, to Route 7 and then to Melrose Country Harbour Road and onto Route 316. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
BERLIN — A German woman has been charged with preparing a far-right attack and other crimes on allegations she was in the process of building a bomb to target Muslims and local politicians in Bavaria, Munich prosecutors said Wednesday. Susanne G., whose last name wasn't given in line with privacy laws, also faces charges of making threats and violations of weapons laws, among other things. She has been in custody since her arrest. Prosecutors allege that the woman started planning a firebombing attack no later than May 2020, motivated by her xenophobic and extreme-right views. She is alleged to have downloaded information on bomb building online and have gathered materials for the construction, including gasoline, fireworks and fuses, by the time of her arrest in September. Between December 2019 and March 2020 the suspect is alleged to have sent six anonymous letters, five including a live bullet, with death threats to a local politician in the Nuremberg area, a Muslim community association, and an asylum seeker aid organization. During the summer of 2020, she started focusing on local police officers and a different local politician than the one threatened by letter as other possible targets, and began scouting their homes and cars. The Associated Press
If you have high-interest consumer debt, getting control of your money in the new year might sound overwhelming. Most Americans say the COVID-19 outbreak has caused financial stress, according to a survey released in October by the National Endowment for Financial Education, with 30% listing debt as their top stressor. Despite the pandemic, you can still pay down your debt with the right plan. Here’s how. CONFRONT YOUR DEBT The first step is simple, but it can be the hardest: You have to face the problem. Angela Moore, a Miami-based certified financial planner and founder of Modern Money Advisor, which offers virtual advising and education for consumers, says it’s common for her clients to know they’re in debt but not know how much. She recommends compiling your debt onto one document or spreadsheet, listing all balances, minimum payments and interest rates. Though the task is daunting, most of her clients feel relief once it’s finished. “Debt is an emotional burden,” she says, “but a lot of times that overwhelm goes away once you have clarity.” COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR LENDERS After listing your debt, it’s time to get on the phone with your creditors. Ask for a temporarily lowered interest rate, reduced monthly payment or waived late fees. Make sure to explain how the pandemic has influenced your finances. Most creditors will be willing to work with you, says Dan Herron, a California-based CFP at Elemental Wealth Advisors. “It doesn’t hurt to say, ‘I’m still trying to do the right thing, I’m still trying to make payments. Where can we meet in the middle?’” he says. Any break you get, take that money and apply it to your debt. If you need help negotiating, contact a credit counsellor at a reputable non-profit organization, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Counselors have relationships with creditors and can negotiate on your behalf. Services are typically free for those experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. CONSIDER CONSOLIDATING If you have multiple types of debt, such as loans, credit cards and medical bills, you may want to take out an unsecured personal loan to consolidate it into one monthly payment. A consolidation loan is a good idea only if you can qualify for a lower interest rate than those on your current debts. Some lenders have tightened their approval standards in the pandemic, but borrowers with good to excellent credit (690 FICO or higher) should have a good shot. Look for a lender that specializes in debt consolidation and offers perks like direct payments to creditors or rate discounts for automated payments. If you have credit card debt, you could apply for a balance transfer card. Though these cards typically charge a 3% to 5% fee, they offer an introductory 0% interest period, so all payments go toward your principal, which helps you pay off debt faster. You’ll likely need good credit to qualify. Charles Ho, a California-based CFP and founder of Legacy Builders Financial, urges caution for some consumers. Though consolidation tools can save money, they also free up your credit cards for more spending. “It might make mathematical sense to consolidate your loans, but the math is meaningless if we don’t account for our behaviour and end up almost doubling our debt,” he says. PICK A STRATEGY AND STICK TO IT If you choose not to consolidate, there are two common methods for approaching debt payoff: the snowball or avalanche. With the snowball method, you pay off your smallest debt first, while making minimum payments on the others, then move to the second smallest and so on. The avalanche method uses the same strategy, but you start with the debt that has the highest interest rate. According to Herron, the avalanche method may get you to the finish line faster since the money you save on interest can be applied to other debts, but it’s more important to pick the method that motivates you the most. BREAK THE CYCLE As you make your way out of debt, start to automate your finances. Moore has her clients set up automatic bill payments and savings contributions, so the money is put aside without having to think about it. If finances are tight in the pandemic, build toward a $500 emergency fund. She also advises clients to use a separate account for nonessential spending — 30% of your post-tax income is a good target to hit in this account. Clients can use the money to buy whatever they want, but once it’s at $0, “that’s it,” she says. “By automating and creating systems, it helps you stick to your financial strategy and take the emotional aspect out of it. That’s the key.” ______________________ This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Jackie Veling is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. RELATED LINKS NerdWallet: Compare debt consolidation loans http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-debt-consolidation-loans National Foundation for Credit Counseling: Get help for debt https://www.nfcc.org/ Jackie Veling Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Halifax regional council will hold public consultations on a request from the province to buy parkland to build a new school. The parkland is located next to Park West, an existing school in Clayton Park West that's overcrowded. Park West was opened in 2000 and was designed for 560 students. There are currently close to 900 students and the school has set up nine portables. "This is a wonderful opportunity," said Coun. Iona Stoddard. "We have a chance to work with our staff and the province to get some badly needed infrastructure." The new school would accommodate 700 pre-primary to Grade 8 students. An existing soccer field would remain, but a wooded area would be affected. Stoddard acknowledged that some residents have concerns about the loss of parkland, bussing and traffic, as well as the safety of pre-primary children in the area. That's why city staff decided community consultations should be done, even though the province does have the ability to exempt itself from such a process. "All that is legally required is notification in the newspaper," said Denise Schofield, executive director of parks and recreation for the city. "But the fact that this is a piece of parkland, we asked, and they agreed to do a true consultation." Provincial officials first showed interest in the site in June 2020 and sent a formal request to city officials in December asking the site selection process be expedited due to enrolment increases. Some councillors wondered if selling the land to the province is the best option and asked about leasing it instead. "We are not taking the lease option off the table," said chief administrative officer Jacques Dube. "There are also ongoing discussions about swapping various parcels of land." Halifax officials were not sure when the public consultations will take place. MORE TOP STORIES
BERLIN — A German state governor has apologized for referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel as “little Merkel” during a recent online event, saying he had unintentionally displayed macho behaviour. Bodo Ramelow, who governs the state of Thuringia, told German weekly Die Zeit that he greatly regretted using the term “Merkelchen” while talking chatting with other politicians and the public on the social networking app Clubhouse. Die Zeit on Wednesday quoted Ramelow saying that he should have used the diminutive form in reference to male politicians. “Instead, I spoke about a woman. That was dumb and appeared disrespectful,” he said. Ramelow, a member of the Left Party, said he had since apologized personally to Merkel. The 64-year-old has also faced criticism for playing the game “Candy Crush” during lengthy video meetings with Merkel and other governors to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. He defended playing games on his smartphone, saying he only did so during lulls in the meeting when others were replying to emails or going outside to smoke. The Associated Press
Most countries in Europe now require people to wear facemasks on public transport and in shops. In Germany, new rules allow only medical masks to be worn on public transport and supermarkets. Euronews has visited one small factory in the German capital that is ramping up its production.View on euronews
Harvey Murlin Price hurled homophobic slurs as he reached into his truck, pulled out a shotgun and levelled it at his former brother-in-law and his partner. He fired two shots as the men threw themselves to the rocky ground for cover. Both shots missed, sailing somewhere into the trees surrounding a picturesque cabin in Hatchet Cove, a rural settlement on Newfoundland's east coast. Price is now facing serious jail time, after being convicted on two counts of uttering threats to cause death and five weapons offences related to that day in 2018. But a question lingers over his upcoming sentencing hearing: Will Price's homophobic motivations net him a longer prison term? "We're just two people trying to live a normal life and it boggles my mind," said Edison Avery, the former brother-in-law who found himself staring down the barrel of Price's gun. "Because in my mind, a lot of this is not just a family thing, but a hate crime." Family dispute turns violent Avery had once been married to Price's sister. The couple divorced; Avery came out as gay and began openly dating a man. A dispute began within the family about a cabin in Hatchet Cove, which Avery built while he was married to Price's sister. Price inserted himself into the disagreement in August 2018, when he called Avery and told him he was going to kill him and his partner, Chris Neal, if he ever saw them in Hatchet Cove again. On Sept. 2, 2018, the couple was at the cabin when they heard a truck coming down a long and secluded driveway. Avery confronted Price before he could get out of the truck, telling him to leave and urging him not to do anything stupid. That's when he spotted the shotgun on the backseat of the truck and yelled out for Neal to take cover. WATCH | In 2018, Edison Avery and Chris Neal described their encounter with an armed man: Price got out of the truck with the gun and fired two shots as they ducked for cover. The men then chased him back down the driveway with rocks in their hands. "We couldn't give him an opportunity to load the gun again," Avery told CBC News three days after the shooting. Price was arrested at his home in nearby Hillview soon after the shooting. Why wasn't it a hate crime? Avery and Neal told CBC News at the time they were disappointed it wasn't being prosecuted as a hate crime. They're not the first victims of crime to be let down by the judicial process when it comes to violent offences motivated by hatred, according to Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. "It sucks for most people," Balgord said. "When somebody is the victim of a hate crime and they're part of a community, they wonder, why isn't this person being charged with a hate crime? Because there isn't one. It doesn't exist." The Canadian Criminal Code does have three sections on hate crimes, but it only covers vandalism at religious sites, public incitement of hate and publicly advocating for genocide. The law does not have separate charges for when physical assaults are based on hatred. Instead, what people typically classify as hate crimes are cases where an accused is charged with something common, like assault, and the Crown prosecutor will urge the judge to consider the hateful motivations when handing down a sentence. It requires the police to do extra work to prove the person's motive was rooted in something like homophobia or racism. A recent study by Dr. Barbara Perry at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology showed there were several problems with this system of policing hate crimes. She polled more than 200 officers involved in reporting hate crimes at eight police departments in Ontario. Some officers reported they weren't sure if their work actually resulted in longer prison sentences. Some said it was too difficult to prove the leading motivation was hate. Several said the public lacked knowledge on the definition of a hate crime in Canada and it eroded public trust when hate-related charges weren't laid. Many said they didn't feel it was worth doing the extra work. "The net result is we actually have no idea how often things are being followed through [with] treating a crime like a hate crime to try and get an enhanced sentence," Balgord said. "There's massive systemic problems here." Hatchet Cove victims suffering Avery hopes it's a factor at Price's sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for April 9. Anything that can net a longer prison sentence is good with him. "I don't wish any ill or harm to his family. They used to be my family," he said. "But reality is reality and this man shouldn't be walking the streets and living his life while I'm living in fear every day." While neither Avery nor Neal were physically injured in the shooting, the mental scars have taken a toll on the couple. Avery was a funeral director in St. John's, but hasn't been able to return to work since the shooting. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and now suffers seizures that he had never experienced before Sept. 2, 2018. He's tried to park the homophobic aspect of the crime and tuck it away in his mind. He's more worried now about his ongoing safety, since Price is still free on bail while awaiting sentencing. Still, he said an acknowledgement that homophobia was an element would be meaningful. "It would have made a difference, not so much for me as it would for the gay community," Avery said. "The part that still eats me alive is the charges against this man — I'm glad he's guilty of all charges — but in my mind it's attempted murder .... It's hate." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
To the residents of Quebec's Listuguj First Nation, Campbellton is a lifeline to health care, schools, shopping and work. But it's a lifeline that has been repeatedly twisted, tested and torn as the pandemic has unfolded. The latest twist came last weekend — and this time, some residents on both sides of the border say, it was one twist too many. Effective Saturday, Jan. 23, the provincial government tightened the border-crossing rules for anyone coming into New Brunswick. The measures followed spiralling outbreaks and the decision to impose a full lockdown in the Edmundston region. Residents of Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix coming to Campbellton were allowed to continue to cross the border for medical appointments and child custody arrangements, and to buy essential items. But visits were cut from the previous twice-a-week allowance to once a week, with a new stipulation that travellers would have to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests and provide proof of negative results. By Monday, the Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation government was expressing concern about reports of mistreatment and denial of access to services across the bridge. Some residents afraid to make the trip to N.B. In a statement on its website, leaders urged community members to report any issues to them, noting they were "concerned with the stories we've heard … regarding mistreatment, harassment, denial of services, refusal of entry and/or access to essential goods and services across the bridge." Many have already come forward to do so. "We've been hearing these stories for a while, at least three a week come to us, and others are posting on Facebook," administrative clerk Christy Metallic told CBC News on Tuesday. Residents say they're afraid to make the trip across the bridge, worried they'll face harassment or racist comments, or that their car might get keyed. "We've heard about verbal confrontations, we've heard about being people chased out because they had Quebec plates," Metallic said. In one instance, she said, a resident reported that they were shopping for a snowsuit for their child, who was with them. "A border patrol agent followed them right into the store … they were being followed" and felt threatened, Metallic said. Residents are also frustrated by the new requirement for a weekly COVID-19 test, which entails planning in advance, booking a test and waiting for results. In their own Listuguj community, there are now just three active cases. In Campbellton, there are 16. 'We are one community, separated by a bridge' Residents are saying that their constitutional rights are being trampled, and Campbellton Chamber of Commerce president Luc Couturier said he wholeheartedly agrees. "Testing once a week? I have no idea where that came from," Couturier said. "What's the message you are giving people? What about people who have to come here for work, the grocery store workers, the nurses and others? The rules are so tight it's almost like they're trying to tell them 'Don't bother coming at all.' " Couturier, who is himself a business owner in Campbellton, said he has not seen any instances of denial of service or mistreatment of Listuguj or Pointe-à-la-Croix residents and can't fathom that it would be coming from business owners. "I have a restaurant and I serve anybody. I'm not border patrol," he said. "We are one community, separated by a bridge. We have relatives on both sides of the border, we depend on each other, we are linked. We always have been." Couturier said he is so upset by the new rules, particularly the mandatory weekly tests, he has written to Premier Blaine Higgs and hopes to discuss the situation with him in the coming days. Metallic said residents' concerns are being collected and will be passed on to Listuguj leaders. Their chief will also be requesting a meeting with Higgs, she said. CBC News requested comment about the recent rule changes and Listuguj residents' reported concerns from the provincial government and from Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin, who declined to comment. In an email, provincial government spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said they are looking into the matter but could not immediately respond.
Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall. Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said Tuesday the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that states in recent weeks have been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next. Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot. “This is unacceptable," Biden said. "Lives are at stake.” He promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks. The administration said it plans to buy another 100 million doses each from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term. Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorization in the coming weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week’s allotment of 8.6 million. The figures represent doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the surge of doses could be sustained. Governors and top health officials have been increasingly raising the alarm about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine is on the way so that they can plan. Biden's team held its first virus-related call with the nation's governors on Tuesday and pledged to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks ahead of delivery. Biden's announcement came a day after he grew more bullish about exceeding his vaccine pledge to deliver 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that a rate of 1.5 million doses per day could soon be achieved. The administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week, beginning Wednesday, about the outbreak that has killed more than 425,000 people in the United States. “We appreciate the administration stating that it will provide states with slightly higher allocations for the next few weeks, but we are going to need much more supply," said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican. The setup inherited from the Trump administration has been marked by miscommunication and unexplained bottlenecks, with shortages reported in some places even as vaccine doses remain on the shelf. Officials in West Virginia, which has had one of the best rates of administering vaccine, said they have fewer than 11,000 first doses on hand even after this week’s shipment. “I’m screaming my head off” for more, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said. California, which has faced criticism over a slow vaccine rollout, announced Tuesday that it is centralizing its hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility. Residents have been baffled by the varying rules in different counties. And in Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said that the limited supply of vaccine from the federal government is prompting the state to repurpose second doses as first doses, though he expects that people scheduled for their second shot will still be able to keep their appointments. The weekly allocation cycle for first doses begins on Monday nights, when federal officials review data on vaccine availability from manufacturers to determine how much each state can have. Allocations are based on each jurisdiction’s population of people 18 and older. States are notified on Tuesdays of their allocations through a computer network called Tiberius and other channels, after which they can specify where they want doses shipped. Deliveries start the following Monday. A similar but separate process for ordering second doses, which must be given three to four weeks after the first, begins each week on Sunday night. As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC reported that just over half of the 44 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. That is well short of the hundreds of millions of doses that experts say will need to be administered to achieve herd immunity and conquer the outbreak. The U.S. ranks fifth in the world in the number of doses administered relative to the country’s population, behind No. 1 Israel, United Arab Emirates, Britain and Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford. The reason more of the available shots in the U.S. haven’t been dispensed isn’t entirely clear. But many vaccination sites are apparently holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second one on schedule. Also, some state officials have complained of a lag between when they report their vaccination numbers to the government and when the figures are posted on the CDC website. In the New Orleans area, Ochsner Health said Monday that inadequate supply forced the cancellation last week of 21,400 first-dose appointments but that second-dose appointments aren’t affected. In North Carolina, Greensboro-based Cone Health announced it is cancelling first-dose appointments for 10,000 people and moving them to a waiting list because of supply problems. Jesse Williams, 81, of Reidsville, North Carolina, said his appointment Thursday with Cone Health was scratched, and he is waiting to hear when it might be rescheduled. The former volunteer firefighter had hoped the vaccine would enable him to resume attending church, playing golf and seeing friends. “It’s just a frustration that we were expecting to be having our shots and being a little more resilient to COVID-19,” he said. The vaccine rollout across the 27-nation European Union has also run into roadblocks and has likewise been criticized as too slow. Pfizer is delaying deliveries while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase capacity. And AstraZeneca disclosed that its initial shipment will be smaller than expected. The EU, with 450 million citizens, is demanding that the pharmaceutical companies meet their commitments on schedule. ___ Associated Press writers around the U.S. contributed to this report. ___ Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic Jonathan Drew And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive body warned the Polish government Wednesday that it has a month to address long-standing concerns about laws that Brussels fears undermine the independence of Supreme Court judges or Poland faces possible legal action. The European Commission considers Poland in violation of EU law for allowing the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to make decisions which have a direct impact on judges and the way they do their jobs. It says the chamber's independence and impartiality are not guaranteed. The commission warned that it “may refer the case” to the European Court of Justice, Europe’s top court, unless Poland takes action to fix the problem and replies to Brussels’ concerns in time. A series of legislative acts approved in late 2019 governs the way Poland's justice system operates. The laws entered force in February of last year. The European Commission started infringement proceedings against the government in Warsaw in April, and took further steps in October and December. The EU is concerned about cases involving the lifting of judges’ immunity to bring criminal proceedings against them, moves to temporarily suspend them and to cut their salaries. The Supreme Court disciplinary chamber can also rule on labour law, social security and the retirement of judges. The European Commission, which supervises the way EU laws are applied in the 27 member countries, said “the mere prospect for judges of having to face proceedings before a body whose independence is not guaranteed creates a ‘chilling effect’ for judges and can affect their own independence.” In November, the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court Disciplinary Chamber suspended Judge Igor Tuleya and cut his salary by 25%. Tuleya, who has been critical of the changes to the justice system, has become the symbol of the struggle for judicial independence in Poland. Tuleya’s immunity was also waived, allowing prosecutors to press charges against him, for having let the media hear the verdict in a politically sensitive trial. He's the third judge critical of Justice Ministry policy who has been suspended by the chamber, which is largely composed of government loyalists. Poland’s largest association of judges, IUSTITIA, has condemned the decisions. The EU commission's case is part of a long-running row between Brussels and the nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary over concerns that they are undermining democratic standards and the rule of law in the world's biggest trading bloc. The Associated Press
Work continues in an effort to protect the province's last coastal wilderness — the Hog Island Sandhills — though the process has been slowed down due to COVID-19, Parks Canada says. The initiative was originally brought forward by the Mi'kmaq of P.E.I., as well as the province. In 2019, Parks Canada began a feasibility assessment with the aim of turning the area into a national park reserve, separate and distinct from the existing Prince Edward Island National Park. It would be given the Mi'kmaq name Pitaweikek. Shanna MacDonald, senior negotiator for protected areas establishment for Parks Canada, said plans are moving slowly because part of the process includes significant community and public engagement. "Given that there has been a lockdown and … wanting to follow public health rules and regulations and practise social distancing and all of those other things, a lot of the types of community engagement that we would normally do, like open houses, one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders, has had to be put on hold." MacDonald is hopeful community engagement will take place this spring. She said until that happens, it's hard to predict when Hog Island could become a national park reserve. Treasured place According to the Canada National Park Act, park reserves are established for the same purpose as national parks — to preserve the land for the benefit and enjoyment of Canadians — but in areas "subject to a claim in respect of Aboriginal rights that has been accepted for negotiation by the government of Canada." MacDonald said Hog Island is a treasured place among Indigenous people. "It was a place where the community could always go in times of scarcity because of the rich waters in Malpeque Bay and the ability to collect plants and fish in the waters offshore," she said. "It's a fascinating piece of geology as well because of igneous outcropping in the area which makes the environment around Hog Island significantly different than the onshore land." More from CBC P.E.I.
Indigenous women traumatized by birth alerts continue to be haunted by them long after the alerts were first entered into the health-care system, says Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe) — and she's not alone in saying simply ending the practice doesn't go far enough. "We have to repair the harm. [Government] has to acknowledge it," said Turpel Lafond, whowas the First Indigenous woman appointed to the bench in Saskatchewan. She is now a professor at the University of British Columbia's school of law and recently headed an intensive study that found widespread racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in B.C.'s health-care system. Saskatchewan posted an anouncement online Monday saying it would stop using birth alerts on Feb. 1. Under the practice, social workers or health-care workers would place an alert on the file of a mother-to-be — in Saskatchewan, most often an Indigenous woman, according to government data — considered high-risk before they entered labour. The baby would often then be seized by government and put into provincial care. Turpel-Lafond says women who were flagged were labelled as bad parents, drinkers or drug seekers. "Instead of working prenatal and postnatal with mums and families, it was just putting the alert in the system, doing the harsh removals [of babies]," she said. She's spoken to women affected years after having an alert placed upon them. "They're so traumatized to this day … they will not access the health care because they don't feel it's culturally safe," she said. "All of this extremely hostile profiling that came with the child welfare … goes with them, especially through the emergency departments." Turpel-Lafond said the data should be deleted and the government should apologize, acknowledging the harm caused by birth alerts. "There wasn't really appropriate attention to whether that was even legal, and in my respectful view as a lawyer, a law professor, I don't think it is legal to take private information and blast it through the health-care system." The government did not apologize in its recent announcement. "Our decision aligns with recommendations from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the federal Indigenous child welfare legislation," Janice Colquhoun, executive director of Indigenous Services with child and family programs at the Ministry of Social Services, said in a statement Tuesday. The TRC's final report was released in 2015. In 2019, the Saskatchewan government said it would continue using birth alerts, despite calls to immediately abandon the practice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. B.C. announced an end to birth alerts in 2019, with Manitoba and Ontario following in 2020. Saskatchewan's Ministry of Social Services said its latest decision came after "recognizing concerns raised by various Indigenous partners and community stakeholders across Saskatchewan." Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, Saskatchewan issued 76 birth alerts — 53 involving Indigenous women, according to a Ministry of Social Services spokesperson. Data dating back to 2016 shows Indigenous moms had their children taken away at rates far higher than non-Indigenous moms. A spokesperson said the ministry is actively working on reunification. Gaps in support for expecting moms Jamesy Patrick, interim executive director at Sanctum Care Group in Saskatoon, said the alerts were essentially another discriminatory extension of colonial programs such as residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. Patrick, who holds a master's degree in law and focused her research on Indigenous children and youth in the child-welfare system, says the government needs to turn focus to supporting vulnerable women who would have been flagged. "There are significant gaps for prenatals in our community who interface homelessness, addiction, substance abuse, who are potentially HIV-positive or at risk of becoming, and also who have other children in care," she said. Patrick said they've served 54 moms (most postnatal) in a two-year period, and consistently have dozens of women on the wait-list. She advocates for the province to develop prenatal case management teams to connect vulnerable women to agencies providing support. She said case workers could help make women feel more comfortable accessing health care. "We know that many of our moms don't access prenatal care because they're worried about being alerted or they're worried that they're going to be discriminated against or marginalized, or they're going to face stigma in accessing care." Turpel-Lafond said anecdotes indicate Saskatchewan Indigenous women in the province receive less health-care in pre- and post-natal periods. "I think this is also connected to this tradition of birth alert, judging, shaming and and well and segregating Indigenous health care," she said. Patrick said stronger prenatal supports for vulnerable women are needed province-wide. She said this should be supported by government by lead by Indigenous leadership and frontline community organizations. The Ministry of Social Services said it will work with the Ministry of Health, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and other partners to ensure supports are available. Turpel-Lafond said in addition to supporting vulnerable moms-to-be, much more work is needed to make the health-care system as a whole accessible for Indigenous women who no longer feel safe accessing it. "Let's hope people in Saskatchewan will begin to use anti-racism tools in their workplace, in health and social services and child welfare, and eradicate the scourge of racism that is in the system."
GUYSBOROUGH – Three times wasn’t the charm, so the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) invited representatives from ambulance provider Emergency Health Services (EHS) – Derek LeBlanc and Phil Stewart – to council, once again, to answer questions about the provision of service in the area. And, once again, council was disappointed. The EHS representatives joined council by video link at its regular meeting on Jan. 20. They answered questions from Warden Vernon Pitts, CAO Barry Carroll and councillors for almost an hour, but they failed to satisfy the concerns council has about lack of service and long wait times for ambulance transfers between hospital facilities. These issues are, in part, due to staffing shortages. The EHS representatives noted that the company, like any health care service in the province, has had difficulty attracting employees. A full-time job was posted for Canso three times and couldn’t be filled, said Stewart. Councillor Desmond asked if there was a minimum or maximum response time for EHS service. Warden Pitts reiterated that question and was told by Stewart that the complexities pertaining to the question didn’t allow him to provide the answers they were looking for. After council adjourned, Pitts told media present, “In regard to medical first response by EHS what really blew me away, as the warden, was there are no expected minimum or maximum response times within our municipally and to me, that is totally unacceptable … We should be given a minimum time – if your live in a city or whatever, I expect a minimum time in regard to response; same as the fire department or police. If you don’t have a minimum response time what are you measuring it by – this is totally unacceptable. “What it comes right down to is we’re playing Russian roulette and the gun is going to go off one of these times, if it hasn’t already gone off, and it has lately. We want a minimum level of service within MODG and surrounding areas – that’s not too much to ask for,” said Pitts. ‘Unacceptable’ continued to be the theme of the council meeting, with MODG receiving a response from the Department of Environment stating that a freedom of information request would need to be filed in order for the municipality to gain access to information regarding Irving Oil’s plans for a contaminated lot on Main Street in Guysborough. “That’s the only way they will release that information to us,” said Pitts, “And that is also totally unacceptable. “My understanding is that Irving has submitted a plan; now I haven’t got this from a legal source, but my understanding is that Irving has submitted a plan. It’s waiting approval from the province. Apparently, there are two avenues that this can go down. I don’t know exactly what those avenues are, but we just want to be made aware of what the plan is now; that we can have some input into it as a municipal unit as well as the residents. This is not acceptable. This is Main Street in Guysborough and this is impacting people’s lives and property values,” said Pitts. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
BERLIN — A survivor of the Holocaust and a young Jewish immigrant spoke about their lives in Germany at a special parliamentary session Wednesday commemorating the victims of the Holocaust 76 years after the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland. Charlotte Knobloch, 88, and Marina Weisband, 33, told lawmakers on International Holocaust Remembrance Day how their lives as Jews in Germany are still far from normal, almost eight decades after the Nazis and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews in the Shoah. Knobloch, the president of the Jewish Community of Munich, looked back at her life from when she was a little girl and had to hide from the Nazis under a false identity. “I lost my homeland, I fought for it and I reclaimed it,” she said. “Today, I am standing here in front of you as a proud German,” she told lawmakers. But Knobloch also warned of democracy's fragility and asked lawmakers to protect the achievements of the last decades for both Jews and non-Jews and defend Germany against extremists. “I'm asking you, please watch out for our country,” she said. Both Knobloch and Weisband warned of resurging anti-Semitism in Germany, especially while false claims of Jewish responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic abound online and at anti-government protests. “It is still dangerous for us to be visible as Jews in Germany,” Weisband, who immigrated from Ukraine as a child, said. She described how Jews are under constant police protection whether during visits to the synagogue, in school or at university clubs. However, Weisband also expressed hope that one day Jewish life may become normal again in Germany, “and then we can simply be human beings.” Following the speeches in parliament, several high-ranking government officials bore witness in the prayer room of parliament as a rabbi put the finishing touches on a carefully restored Torah scroll. In the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and others, Rabbi Shaul Nekrich wrote the last 12 letters of the Sulzbacher Torah Scroll, one of Germany's oldest Torah scrolls. The Torah was created in 1792 in Bavaria and survived a city fire in Sulzbach in 1822, and the so-called Night of Broken Glass in 1938, when Germans across the country destroyed synagogues and killed Jews. After the end of World War II, the Torah scroll stood unnoticed for around 70 years in the shrine of the Amberg synagogue in Bavaria, until it was discovered again in 2013. The faded letters and animal skin of the Torah were carefully restored for 45,000 euros ($54,520) with German federal funds in Israel and the Torah will now be used again in services at the Jewish community in Amberg. Kirsten Grieshaber, The Associated Press
ST. MARY’S – Voters let their fingers do the walking at a special election earlier this month, pushing participation rates to the highest level ever recorded in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, according to Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald. “It is an exceptionally high turnout rate; one that I don’t think we have ever seen before here,” he said of 73.4 per cent voter participation during the race for the District 8 council seat (Port Bickerton, Harpellville and area), which culminated on Jan. 16. He added that of 278 eligible voters, 121 cast their ballots online, while another 83 used their telephones. Seventy-four did not participate. Noting that council had limited the special election to voting by telephone and Internet only, he said: “The use of online technology is increasing. But no matter where you go in the province, this is a high participation rate.” Indeed, Elections Nova Scotia’s official results of the 2017 provincial election (the most recent available) show that the average turnout at St. Mary’s four polling stations during that ballot was 46.25 per cent (Greenfield Oyster Club in Melrose, 46 per cent; St. Luke’s Parish Hall in Liscomb, 46.9 per cent; Sherbrooke municipal office, 44.9 per cent; and the Port Bickerton Community Centre, 47.2 per per cent). The mobile polls arranged for residents of High-Crest Sherbrooke Home for Special Care and Sherbrooke/Harbour View Lodge in that election registered substantially higher turnouts of 65.5 per cent, suggesting that easy access to ballot boxes played a role in those results. MacDonald, who has administered several provincial and local elections in St. Mary’s over the years, cited several possible factors for this month’s robust public interest. “For one thing, it [District 8 special election] came so soon after the general municipal election in October. To have that particular district go back to the polls so soon probably drew more attention to issues. People were already ready to participate.” Specifically, he said, the near-term prospect of an international whale sanctuary in Port Hilford, and the long-term uncertainty over Atlantic Gold’s plans for an open pit mine upriver from Sherbrooke, seemed to resonate with voters. Last week, James Harpell – who won by a margin of 158 to 46 against his rival James Bingley in District 8 – told The Journal that whales and gold were the top two topics of doorstep conversation as he canvassed the constituency for votes. “A lot of people were really excited about the beluga whales coming. The first thing they wanted to know was what I thought about it,” he said. “The second thing they wanted to talk about was the gold mine. It was a hot topic. People were on board with the idea of not being left in the wake of an open pit mine that might harm the environment in the future.” Beyond this, MacDonald thinks online platforms are facilitating the act of voting. “In some places, like HRM, the argument has been that turnout hasn’t been affected by the electronic voting option. Maybe that’s because it has been really new,” he said. “But now people are more inclined to use the computer for more things. They do more online banking and shopping. If you are used to using computers already, the platforms to vote are a lot easier.” The Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust and other levels of government and the private sector are part way through a $263 million program to bring high-speed internet to 97 per cent of the province’s rural areas, such as St. Mary’s, by 2022. Said MacDonald: “I do think that election turnouts in the future will be higher because of electronic voting.” Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
It's a sight familiar to anyone who's driven into or out of Windsor across the Ambassador Bridge — a woman in a bright red bikini, next to a massive number 4. For decades, Studio 4 has greeted millions of drivers entering Canada or heading to the United States; its risqué sign a distinctive —and for some an unwelcome — landmark. But the sign you can't miss won't be there for much longer. The strip club has been sold. "It hasn't really sunk in yet. I think if they demolish it or something I want to be there," said Peter Barth, who had owned the bar since 1984. Negotiations for the lot at the corner of Huron Church and Tecumseh roads began last year, according to Iyman Meddoui, president of Westdell Development Corporation, which bought the property. Both Brath and Meddoui declined to say how much the site sold for, but land registry documents show it was transferred on Jan 21 for $1,250,000. Plans for something 'completely different' The new owners won't say just yet what's coming to the site — but it won't be a strip club. "Our plans are going to be something completely different," said Meddoui. "We do have an exciting development that's under the planning." The company has applied to demolish the red building covered in signs currently advertising the XXXTASY LOUNGE, he added. "Saying that it was rough is putting it lightly. It looked like there wasn't much investment made there for many years now." Knocking down Studio 4 means the loss of a landmark — for better or worse. It was part of Windsor's exotic dancer heyday in the 1980s, when roughly a dozen strip clubs were operating and the city was dubbed "Tijuana North" by American visitors, said local historian Marty Gervais. "When you drive off the bridge and you see Studio 4 it's part of our Sin City image and people have always talked about it." The history of catering to partiers who streamed across the river dates back to Confederation when the city boasted the "best bawdy houses in North America," he explained. During prohibition, Windsor offered dance halls and a place to get a drink. More recently, it's attracted visitors with fully-nude dancing, Cuban cigars and a legal drinking age of 19. "We were constantly feeding thirsty Americans with what they wanted, which they couldn't get on the Detroit side of the border," said Gervais. Studio 4, and its salacious sign is part of that history. "It's very much a part of Windsor life. It just seems to have always been there," he said. Sign survived councillors and controversy But the sign, much like the club it stands outside, has had to weather controversy. Alan Halberstadt is a former newspaper columnist and city councillor. He remembers his council colleague, Caroline Postma, leading a crusade to "get that half-naked sign down because she felt it was against the city's sensibilities." Halberstadt said he wasn't happy about the sign either, but over time he got used to it. "After a while it becomes … kind of a Windsor insignia or landmark," he said, adding he believes any concerns about damage it may have done to the city's image is "overblown." "There's a lot of politicians and people that would have liked to see that sign come down, but she's stood the test of time," he said with a wry smile. Tussles with councillors and police officers enforcing the no-touching rule are among memories that were top of mind for Brath on Tuesday. He doesn't have any worries about his sign being a bad first impression of Windsor, or Canada for that matter. "We were right in their face, right on the corner," he said. The sign that's so recognizable today was also once a little more risque. "We had to draw on panties and a bra," said the former owner. "Originally, it was showing a little bit more." Strip clubs have been shut down by COVID-19, but even before the pandemic, Brath, who's 80 now, said business wasn't what it once was. Gone are the days of limousines pulling up out front, seven servers working non-stop and a lineup that extended beyond the canopy snaking out the back door. "The first week we were full, full, full," he said. "Lately? Nothing. Adult entertainment in Windsor is dead." Studio 4's new owners are planning to turn the site into a shopping development, he added. A 'fresh new look' coming to sign Meddoui was tight-lipped about his company's plans, saying they're still being developed. Westdell has also purchased an empty lot next to the club, along with the University and Ambassador shopping centres across the street. They're planning to "transform" the intersection over the next couple of years, said Meddoui. As for the sign? He's promising a very different look in the meantime. "You'll see a fresh new look on that sign on an interim basis," he said. "As the building will be removed, the sign will also be rebranded."
The Charlottetown Islanders say they will play by the COVID-19 rules when their season resumes in Cape Breton on Friday. The Charlottetown Driving Park is the only open harness racing track in Canada right now, and it was first to open in the spring, and that created a surge in revenues in 2020. The final numbers are in, and they show what many observers already suspected — 2020 was the worst year on record for the Charlottetown Airport in the last 45 years. The pandemic has slowed down the process of turning Hog Island, along P.E.I.'s North Shore, into a national park reserve. Provincial qualifiers for the Scotties and the Brier are short on competitors, and Curl P.E.I. says it is because of the self-isolation requirements. A trauma and orthopedic surgeon has been splitting his time between work in three New Brunswick hospitals and his home and family in P.E.I. And he's got dozens of COVID-19 test results to show for it. UPEI's writer-in-residence will not actually be in residence this year. A 24-year-old P.E.I. woman from the Summerside area has been fined for not following the province's COVID-19 self-isolation rules. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported on P.E.I. remains 110, with six still active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. New Brunswick reported 14 new cases Wednesday. Nova Scotia had four new cases, with 12 active. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.