This pet raccoon is excited to hear the popping sound while stepping on the bubble wrap. He's just like us!
This pet raccoon is excited to hear the popping sound while stepping on the bubble wrap. He's just like us!
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus. Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.” A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.” Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference. “Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said. In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.” The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials. The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year. Mike Corder, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — On Dec. 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin to the World Health Organization. By Jan. 31, WHO declared an outbreak of a novel coronavirus a global health emergency. Come March 11, the world was facing down the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents sat children down to explain what a pandemic is. Related terms usually restricted to medicine and science stormed into everyday conversation. Over time, we were pandemic baking and pandemic dating and rescuing pandemic puppies from shelters. All of which led Dictionary.com on Monday to declare “pandemic” its 2020 word of the year. Searches on the site for the word spiked more than 13,500% on March 11, senior research editor John Kelly told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of the announcement. “That's massive, but even more telling is how high it has sustained significant search volumes throughout the entire year. Month over month, it was over 1,000% higher than usual. For about half the year, it was in the top 10% of all our lookups.” Another dictionary, Merriam-Webster, also selected pandemic as its word of the year earlier Monday. Kelly said pandemic beat out routine lookups usually intended to sort more mundane matters, such as the differences between “to, two and too.” “That's significant,” Kelly emphasized. “It seems maybe a little bit obvious, and that's fair to say, but think about life before the pandemic. Things like pandemic fashion would have made no sense. The pandemic as an event created a new language for a new normal.” Lexicographers often factor out routine lookups when evaluating word trends. The pandemic, Kelly said, made us all worthy of watercooler chatter with Dr. Anthony Fauci as our knowledge grew about aerosols, contact tracing, social distancing and herd immunity, along with the intricacies of therapeutic drugs, tests and vaccines that can help save lives. “These were all part of a new shared vocabulary we needed to stay safe and informed. It's incredible,” said Kelly, who works with a team of lexicographers to come up with words of the year based primarily on site traffic. Asymptomatic, furlough, non-essential, hydroxychloroquine and a host of other pandemic-related words saw massive increases in lookups as well. Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, chief executive officer of Dictionary.com, said one key ingredient in the hunt for the site's word of the year is sustained interest over time. Pandemic met that standard. “This has affected families, our work, the economy,” she said. “It really became the logical choice. It's become the context through which we've had dialogue all through 2020. It's the through line for discourse.” The word pandemic has roots in Latin and the Greek pandemos, meaning “common, public.” Breaking it down further, “pan” means “all” and “demos” means “people.” As evidenced in a medical text by a Dutch-born physician, Gideon Harvey, pandemic entered English in the 1660s in the medical sense, Kelly said. He noted that “demos” is also the basis for the word democracy. A pandemic is defined by Dictionary.com as a disease “prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.” Its broader sense, as evidenced in its roots, can be used thusly: “A pandemic fear of atomic war.” Dictionary.com also noted other worthy search trends beyond the pandemic. After the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, words around racial justice experienced spikes, including fascism, anti-fascism, defund and white fragility. “There was no way for us to leave that out of the conversation this year,” Kelly said. Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
TOKYO — A brightly burning meteor was seen plunging from the sky in wide areas of Japan, capturing attention on television and social media. The meteor glowed strongly as it rapidly descended through the Earth's atmosphere on Sunday. Many people in western Japan reported on social media seeing the rare sight. NHK public television said its cameras in the central prefectures of Aichi, Mie and elsewhere captured the fireball in the southern sky. A camera at Nagoya port showed the meteor shining as brightly as a full moon as it neared the Earth, the Asahi newspaper reported. Some experts said small fragments of the meteorite might have reached the ground. The Associated Press
People travelling from Toronto and Peel regions to visit inmates at jails and prisons in other areas across the province are a real concern for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. Rob Finucan, union president for Ontario, said the union would like in-person visits with inmates to be suspended, including at Warkworth Institution medium-security federal prison, southeast of Peterborough. Finucan said in-person visits were prohibited at the start of the pandemic, when case numbers were far less than they are now. “I know visits in person are important, but during this time, they do have the ability to do video visits,” he said. Government and health officials in Toronto and Peel regions have been asking residents to travel only if it’s absolutely essential, Finucan said. “And then we’re allowing them to come for visits to our areas … so that’s our main concern is that it’s going to come into our institutions through visits,” he said. While keeping workers and inmates in institutions COVID-free is important, keeping community members where intuitions are located safe is also crucial, Finucan said. “Obviously when people are coming from Toronto or Peel into our communities, especially the small communities like Warkworth, they’re probably going to stop for gas, maybe stop for something to eat, and so there’s that chance of community spread also,” he said. The union doesn’t expect in-person visits to be stopped indefinitely, but until the number of cases start to decrease, especially in the hot spot regions, Finucan said it’s ludicrous that those visitors are still allowed into institutions. Currently, the health and safety measures in place are allowing fewer visitors than usually permitted into the visiting area at once and visitors must socially distance from both workers and inmates. Some visits last longer. “The private family visits (PFVs), they come in for three days and then the inmate has to self-isolate for 14 days after the PFV before they go back into the institution,” Finucan said. Although there have been cases within institutions across the country, Grand Valley Institution for Women located in Kitchener has been the only Ontario facility to have a COVID-19 case, Finucan said. There have been 85 inmates at Warkworth Institution medium-security federal prison who have been tested for the virus, with 84 testing negative and one awaiting test results, Correctional Service Canada reported Friday. Health measures There are measures in place to protect the health of staff, inmates and visitors at Canadian correctional facilities. Masks provided for inmates, if required; Self-screening and temperature checks for staff; Increased cleaning measures; Testing of inmates provided by health units; New inmates isolated for 14 days and tested before joining general population; Expanding use of temporary absences; Visitor access must be confirmed in advance and are by appointment only; Health screening required for visitors. Visitors with symptoms will not be permitted to visit; Masks required and must be supplied by visitors; Professional visits, including legal counsel, will continue with additional screening.Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Members of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation are electing a chief and council today.The first thing voters will encounter at the polling centres will be COVID-19 stations meant to prevent the spread of the virus, said Chief Electoral Officer Raelina Jobin.She said that includes a package with latex gloves, a disposable mask and a pencil to mark their ballot. Hand sanitizers will be available, said Jobin, and voters will put their names down on a list in case contact tracing is needed later.The voting process is set up to encourage physical distancing and voters will leave by a different door, she said.There are polling stations at the Heritage Hall in Carmacks, Jobin said, and in the Fireside Room at the Yukon Inn in Whitehorse.She said citizens can also arrange to cast a special ballot at a different location such as their home if they choose. CandidatesThe polling stations are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.There are two people, Edward Skookum and Nicole Tom, running for chief.Two people, Shirley Bellmore and Willian Van Fleet are running for elder councillor.Terry Billy, Chantelle Blackjack, Toni Blanchard and Joseph O'Brien are running for one of the two Crow clan councillors.Six people, Veronica Burgess, Cody Cashin, Calvin Charlie, Bill Johnnie Jr., Jo-lene Mullett and Tanya Silverfox are in the race for one of the two Wolf clan councillors.
THE LATEST: * On Monday, health officials announced the deaths of 46 people from over the weekend and 2,364 new cases of COVID-19. * There are 8,855 people with active cases of the disease across B.C. * 316 patients are in hospital with COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care. * 441 people have died of the disease since the pandemic began. * A total of 10,139 people are under active public health monitoring and in self-isolation because of exposure to known COVID-19 cases. * There have been 33,238 confirmed cases in the province to date.B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday an unprecedented 46 deaths from COVID-19 over the weekend.A total of 2,364 new cases were added to B.C.'s total, however 277 of them were historical cases previously missed due to an error in data reporting by the Fraser Health region.There are now 8,855 people with active COVID-19 cases in B.C., 316 of whom are in hospital, including 75 in intensive care.The Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions continue to see the greatest spread of the disease, accounting for 73 per cent of the new cases announced Monday. However, 212 of the new cases over the weekend were located in the Interior Health region.Monday's update includes five new outbreaks in the health-care system. Currently, there are 57 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and five in hospitals.Health officials have told British Columbians to pause all social interactions and be vigilant applying different layers of protection, including physical distancing, washing hands and using masks.Review of PHSA spendingA review into spending by the Provincial Health Services Authority has been ordered by B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix, following allegations of misspending.On Monday, CBC News reported how whistleblowers with intimate knowledge into PHSA operations have come forward with numerous concerns.They accuse B.C.'s central health authority of squandering $7 million on the purchase of unusable face masks from China; hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary renovations to executive offices; and tens of thousands of dollars on high-end catered meals for executives and their staff."I appreciate these allegations being raised to me," Dix said in a statement to CBC News. "I have directed the deputy minister of health to assess PHSA's decisions and conduct ... and provide advice and recommendations to me." COVID-19 finesSeveral fines were issued in Vancouver over the weekend as people continued to violate provincial COVID-19 health orders.The Vancouver Police Department says it issued fines following health order violations at a pair of house parties, a birthday party and inside a limousine.In all instances, there were too many people from different households gathering together.Violation tickets ranged from $230 - $2,300.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaThere have now been more than 370,278 cases of COVID-19 in Canada.On Monday, the federal Liberal government announced it's preparing to spend up to $100 billion to kick start the post-pandemic economy as it stares down a record-high deficit projection of more than $381 billion for this fiscal year.In a long-awaited economic statement, tabled today, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government's immediate priority is to do "whatever it takes" to help Canadians and businesses stay safe and solvent.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Edward Blake Rudkowski was a member of Nunatsiavut, and before that the Labrador Inuit Association, for 34 years. He ran successfully to represent Labrador Inuit living outside the land claim as an ordinary member in 2017, was re-elected in 2018 and was named the Speaker of the Nunatsiavut Assembly, the legislative branch of the Inuit government. That was, until Nov. 20, when Blake Rudkowski was told he was no longer a member of Nunatsiavut, his status as a beneficiary was revoked and he could no longer hold the political office he had been elected to. Blake Rudkowski told SaltWire Network he was told he didn’t meet the eligibility requirements and was just over 17 per cent Inuit. According to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, there are a number of requirements that can lead to a person being a beneficiary, including that a person is one-quarter Inuit, is a descendant of someone who settled permanently in the land claim area prior to 1940 with no Inuit ancestry or is adopted by a beneficiary. “To be clear, they didn’t tell me I wasn’t Inuit,” he said. “They said I wasn’t Inuit enough.” He says he would like to know what formula they use to come up with that determination, and what factors were taken into account to determine it. He’d also like to know why that number matters more than what was determined when he was first accepted as a member of the Labrador Inuit Association 34 years ago. His status as a beneficiary of Nunatsiavut had been challenged two years ago and he’d been going through the process ever since. “Immediately after the election, literally the day after, there were two challenges to my membership eligibility,” he said. “I’d been dealing with this behind the scenes since then.” He said the two people who challenged his membership were political rivals — one a person he had beaten in an election and another a former politician — and the timing of it seemed curious to him. “It felt like membership was being used as a tool of political retribution,” he said. Having Nunatsiavut beneficiary status challenged is like coming in as a new applicant and is a daunting task that, successful or not, can take up a lot of time. In 2013 an amendment was made to the Nunatsiavut Beneficiaries Enrolment Act that allows any member to challenge the membership of another. Blake Rudkowski said this allows people to try to use membership as a tool to try to harm their enemies. “What this does is it allows someone who is a malcontent or has a beef with someone else a vehicle to exact some sort of retribution. At minimum, even if it's not successful, it can cause someone a significant amount of mental anguish.” What this has created, Blake Rudkowski said, is a climate where some people are afraid to speak up about issues they have with the government for fear they may have their rights as a beneficiary stripped away, or at the very least have it challenged. When he was in government, it appeared there were an increasing number of memberships being challenged, he said, to the point where people were asking whether a full review was underway. He said he also heard complaints that the process was inconsistent, which he believes to be the case. “You have a lot of cases where it’s one brother in, one sister out, one cousin in, one cousin out, so there’s an inconsistency across the board which speaks to the fact that maybe there’s a problem with the process. That’s been a long-standing critique of many beneficiaries, there’s an inconsistent application of the rules.” Blake Rudkowski said he doesn’t know what steps he’ll take next, and while it appears his career as a politician in Nunatsiavut has come to an end it won’t be the last time people see him the political arena. The Nunatsiavut Government put out a statement Monday about Blake Rudkowski’s removal, saying he was removed from the government once his eligibility as a beneficiary had been revoked. “First Minister Tyler Edmunds reminds beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement that the Nunatsiavut Government plays no role whatsoever in determining the membership of any individual,” the statement read. “The beneficiary enrolment process is independent from the Nunatsiavut Government.” SaltWire asked to speak to someone with the Nunatsiavut Government about the requirements and the process, but an interview was not available before deadline.Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Mark Hamill pays tribute to Darth Vader star Dave Prowse; U.K. Culture Secretary says "The Crown" should come with fiction disclaimer; World's "loneliest elephant" heads to sanctuary in Cambodia. (Nov. 30)
NEW YORK — The co-author of the million-selling “Game Change” has a book of his own coming about the 2020 election.Simon & Schuster announced Monday that John Heilemann is working on a “dramatic, first-hand account” of Joe Biden's victorious campaigns over his Democratic Party rivals in the primaries and over President Donald Trump in the general election. Heilemann had collaborated with Mark Halperin on “Game Change,” about the 2008 race, and on “Double Down,” about 2012.Halperin has since faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment. He was dropped by Showtime, where he and Heilemann hosted the political series “The Circus,” and a planned book by the two authors on the 2016 campaign was cancelled by Penguin Press.Heilemann's new book, currently untitled, draws on three decades of covering the former vice-president, who was Barack Obama's running mate in 2008 and 2012. The publication date is not yet scheduled.“I first met Joe Biden in 1986 when I was in college and he was getting ready to run for president the first time, and I’ve been following his ups and downs, his triumphs and tragedies, ever since,” Heilemann said in a statement. “The story of how, against all odds and against the apocalyptic backdrop of America in 2020, Biden rallied in the winter of his life to defeat Trump — and, in the eyes of many, to save the country — is one of the great political tales of this or any age, and I’m thrilled to have a chance to tell it.”Screen rights have been acquired by Showtime, where Heilemann still hosts "The Circus." The HBO adaptation of "Game Change" won five Emmys and three Golden Globe awards.Heilemann is national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC and co-founder of the political video platform The Recount. He is also the author of “Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era,” which came out in 2001.His current project adds to the list of books expected on the 2020 race, which includes works by Maggie Haberman of The New York Times and by Ryan Lizza of Politico and co-writer Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine.Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
Financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, specializes in helping people deal with their anxieties about money. But since the pandemic started, Bryan-Podvin has been hearing more about guilt than fear.Several people who still have jobs and financial security felt guilty about having been spared while others suffered, says Bryan-Podvin, author of “The Financial Anxiety Solution.”“I would start to hear things like, ‘I shouldn’t be complaining — my partner has it so much worse,’ or ‘I can’t even believe I’m telling you this because so-and-so in my neighbourhood lost their job,’” she says.The feelings clients expressed and the language they used were almost identical to what Bryan-Podvin hears from people with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health disorder that can be triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.“What I started to see was survivor guilt,” Bryan-Podvin says. “They feel like they somehow didn’t deserve what they have.”GUILT CAN TURN INWARDSurvivor’s guilt is a symptom of PTSD, often felt by people who wonder why they lived while others died. While financial survivor’s guilt isn’t an official psychological diagnosis, Bryan-Podvin says that recognizing the similarities has helped her treat clients who are struggling.People experiencing this kind of guilt may feel sad or even hopeless, she says. They may have obsessive thoughts, wondering why they were spared or what they might have done differently to protect others. They may feel paralyzed, numb or burned out.“Survivor guilt is like any other type of stress,” she says. “It can impact your sleep, it can impact your parasympathetic nervous system, it can impact your ability to fully rest in the present.”Recognizing what you’re experiencing can help you cope, says certified financial planner Edward Coambs, a marriage and family therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina. One reason people feel survivor’s guilt is because we’re hard-wired to want justice and fairness, he says.“That’s really what’s getting activated,” Coambs says. “Like, how is it fair that I still have my job but this segment of the market no longer has their job?”Not everyone feels bad about inequities, of course. But those who do can experience financial self-shaming, where they feel that it isn’t OK to have money, jobs or opportunities that are denied to others, Coambs says. At the extreme, they may give away too much, volunteer to be furloughed or otherwise put themselves at financial risk because they feel guilty.“It’s not your fault what’s happened to this other person,” he says. “Sometimes survivor guilt can be about taking on more responsibility than is appropriate.”COPE IN WAYS THAT HELP OTHERSA more productive approach is to look for sensible ways to help others, therapists say. That may be working at a food bank, donating to a cause, helping someone update their resume or making introductions that could help them find a job.“Some level of service, some level of giving back tends to help us feel better,” Bryan-Podvin says. “It’s about knowing that you’re taking steps and you’re taking action to help.”But be careful about going overboard. Some people may rush in with referrals and networking suggestions when a jobless friend is still in shock, for example. Maybe your friend just needs an empathetic listener right now.When your goal is to alleviate your guilt, it’s easy to miss what the other person actually needs, Coambs says.Also, resist the urge to share the setbacks you’ve experienced, Bryan-Podvin says.“It’s better to say, ‘I’m so sorry that happened. That must be really hard,’” she says.MAKE ROOM FOR GRATITUDEAnother way to cope with financial survivor’s guilt is to start noticing and appreciating the positives in your life.“Turn the ‘g’ in guilt to gratitude,” says financial therapist and CFP Preston D. Cherry of Lubbock, Texas. Research shows that writing gratitude lists, keeping a gratitude journal or just contemplating what you’re grateful for can lower stress, improve sleep and make relationships better.Feeling bummed out about layoffs and economic turmoil is normal, but experiencing sadness and guilt for weeks at a time is not, Bryan-Podvin says. If you can’t sleep, you’re too distracted to work or you keep forgetting important things, like what time your kids need to be in online classes, consider getting professional help. The Financial Therapy Association is one place to look for referrals. (Cherry and Coambs are board members.)“If your ability to function is so impacted, whether it’s financial survival guilt or just the trauma of being alive right now, therapy is not a bad idea,” she says.______________________________-This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizweston.RELATED LINK:NerdWallet: How to Cope With Financial Anxietyhttps://bit.ly/nerdwallet-financial-anxietyLiz Weston Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
Three student cohorts at two schools in the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board have been dismissed due to COVID-19 cases.The board said in a statement Sunday that two cohorts — or 41 students — at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School, along with one 26-student cohort at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School in River Canard, are impacted.There are two cases at Mount Carmel and one at St. Joseph. Board officials said they learned of the cases on Sunday afternoon and told parents not to send the affected students to class for Monday."We have been working with the health unit by providing lists of students and staff who may have been directly affected.The health unit is contacting any individuals, both students and staff, who may have been affected, and will give directions for them to follow," a spokesperson for the board said in a statement.There are 13 active cases of COVID-19 within the school board, including seven at W.J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School, which remains closed.Meanwhile, in the Greater Essex County District School Board, there have been 75 total cases as of Monday. This includes 49 cases at F.W. Begley, which was shut down as well.There are also three cases in the Lambton Kent district school board and four in the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.
Canada's budget deficit is forecast to hit a historic C$381.6 billion ($293.9 billion) on COVID-19 emergency aid, with the federal government eyeing C$100 billion in stimulus to be rolled out once the virus is under control, the finance department said on Monday. The forecast deficit is 11.2% higher than projected in July, mostly due to C$25.1 billion in new COVID-19 and recovery spending, along with higher emergency support costs. "We are living through a very virulent second wave of the coronavirus and I think we all know winter will be difficult," Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters.
The first two vaccines against the novel coronavirus could be available to Americans before Christmas, Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Monday, after Moderna Inc became the second vaccine maker likely to receive U.S. emergency authorization. The Food and Drug Administration's outside advisers will meet on Dec. 10 to consider authorizing Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine. "So we could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people's arms before Christmas," Azar said on CBS' "This Morning."
TC Energy Corp's sale of a C$1 billion ($769 million) stake in Keystone XL (KXL) to a Canadian indigenous group is the result of over three years of pressure from a tiny Saskatchewan First Nation that demanded part ownership of the long-delayed oil pipeline, rather than short-term payments for allowing it to be built through its lands. Natural Law Energy's (NLE) planned investment was billed by TC as the biggest-ever indigenous investment in an oil project, highlighting how some communities are seeking to share in the industry's profits while others oppose it. Adding indigenous support may help efforts by Canada and TC to convince U.S. President-elect Joe Biden not to revoke the permit of the $8-billion Keystone XL when he takes office as he has promised.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.Moderna is one of several companies to have already submitted partial data to a "rolling review" process offered by Health Canada. Rather than presenting regulators with a complete package of trial results, the would-be vaccine-makers file data and findings as they become available. Canada has been looking at Moderna's first results since mid-October.Canada has a different approval process than the United States and European countries, meaning that Moderna and Pfizer do not have to apply or reapply at each step. Instead, they have to submit their newest data and findings.Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.Of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo and 11 who got the real vaccine. The only people who got severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots, said Dr. Tal Zaks, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company's chief medical officer.When he learned the results, “I allowed myself to cry for the first time,” Zaks told The Associated Press. “We have already, just in the trial, have already saved lives. Just imagine the impact then multiplied to the people who can get this vaccine.”Moderna said the shots’ effectiveness and a good safety record so far — with only temporary, flu-like side effects — mean they meet requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use before the final-stage testing is complete. The European Medicines Agency, Europe’s version of FDA, has signalled it also is open to faster, emergency clearance.WHAT COMES NEXTThe FDA has pledged that before it decides to roll out any COVID-19 vaccines, its scientific advisers will publicly debate whether there’s enough evidence behind each candidate.First up on Dec. 10, Pfizer and BioNTech will present data suggesting their vaccine candidate is 95% effective. Moderna said its turn at this “science court” is expected exactly a week later, on Dec. 17.RATIONING INITIAL DOSESIf the FDA allows emergency use, Moderna expects to have 20 million doses ready for the U.S. by year’s end. Recipients will need two doses, so that’s enough for 10 million people.Pfizer expects to have 50 million doses globally in December. Half of them — or enough for 12.5 million people — are earmarked for the U.S.This week, a different panel of U.S. experts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will meet to decide how initial supplies will be given out. They're expected to reserve scarce first doses for health care workers and, if the shots work well enough in the frail elderly, for residents of long-term care facilities. As more vaccine gradually becomes available in coming months, other essential workers and people at highest risk from the coronavirus would get in line. But enough for the general population isn't expected until at least spring.Outside the U.S., Zaks said significant supplies from Moderna would be available later, “in the first quarter” of next year.“Obviously we are doing everything in our power to increase the capacity and accelerate the timelines,” he said.Both Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines are made with the same technology, using a piece of genetic code for the “spike” protein that studs the virus. That messenger RNA, or mRNA, instructs the body to make some harmless spike protein, training immune cells to recognize it if the real virus eventually comes along.ASTRAZENECA CONFUSIONAstraZeneca last week announced confusing early results of its vaccine candidate from research in Britain and BrazilThat vaccine appears 62% effective when tested as originally intended, with recipients given two full doses. But because of a manufacturing error, a small number of volunteers got a lower first dose — and AstraZeneca said in that group, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective.Experts say it’s unclear why the lower-dose approach would work better and that it may just be a statistical quirk.A larger U.S. study of the AstraZeneca candidate still is underway that should eventually give the FDA a better picture of how well it works. The FDA has said any COVID-19 vaccine would have to be at least 50% effective.Meanwhile Britain’s government will have to decide whether its U.K. data is sufficient for an early rollout there.STILL IN THE PIPELINEJohnson & Johnson also is in final-stage testing in the U.S. and several other countries to see if its vaccine candidate could work with just one dose.Both the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines work by using harmless cold viruses to carry the spike protein gene into the body and prime the immune system.The different technologies have ramifications for how easily different vaccines could be distributed globally. The AstraZeneca shots won't require freezer storage like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.Candidates made with still other technologies are in late-stage testing, too. Another U.S. company, Novavax Inc., announced Monday that it has finished enrolling 15,000 people in a late-stage study in Britain and plans to begin recruiting even more volunteers for final testing in the U.S. and Mexico “in the coming weeks.”Vaccines made by three Chinese companies and a Russian candidate also are being tested in thousands of people in countries around the world.____The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is warning people about a "large number" of COVID-19 cases linked to curling clubs in Regina.A news release sent on Sunday said anyone who visited the Highland Curling Club between Nov. 13 to 23, or the Caledonian Curling Club between Nov. 16 to 24, must immediately self-isolate and call HealthLine 811 if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms.The release also said anyone who was at either club when the exposures occurred should consider getting tested, even if they don't have symptoms.SHA also said on Saturday there's an increased risk of COVID-19 exposures at curling clubs in Christopher Lake and Shellbrook.Letter sent to club membersThe Highland Curling Club has paused its season after a COVID-19 outbreak at a bonspiel held at the club, according to a letter on the rink's website.The outbreak happened at a seniors and masters bonspiel held at Highland Curling Club in Regina from Nov. 13 to 15. The tournament included divisions for senior men and women in the 50 and up category, as well as a masters division for men aged 60 and older.In the letter, general manager A.J. Scott said it was an "extremely isolated" event. "The rink was closed to the public and kept exclusively for the athletes competing in the event," the letter said. "We only ran two sheets at any single time, as well as made sure to run only the men's or women's divisions at one time. The teams all respected our safety protocols we have here at the rink and routine scheduled cleaning was done more than every 60 minutes as well as after every draw."In the middle of the tournament, a team pulled out due to flu-like symptoms. Scott wrote that the club asked the remaining teams "if they felt safe and confident enough to want to continue play," and all the teams said they did, so the tournament finished as planned.Shortly after the bonspiel, the club was notified that members of the team that pulled out had COVID-19.The club's website says curling has been postponed until Dec. 7 while the facility gets a "professional deep cleaning."
BEIJING — China on Monday said it is sanctioning leaders of U.S. government-affiliated bodies that promote democracy around the world in response to what it calls practices that “blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the measures would cover the senior director for Asia at the National Endowment Democracy, John Knaus, the regional director for the Asia-Pacific at the National Democratic Institute, Manpreet Singh Anand, and two of the institute’s officials responsible for Hong Kong. Hua gave no details and the institute said in a news release that it had no further information but that it “remains steadfastly committed to these core principles and to continuing our work in support of democracy worldwide.” China has long accused such groups of encouraging dissidents who built grassroots movements to push for greater direct democracy in Hong Kong. Those burst out into street protests in 2014 and again last year, prompting a harsh crackdown from authorities. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials over the passage of a National Security Law that imposed strict penalties for critics of the Beijing-backed government that has ruled the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The sanctions ban the officials, including the head of Hong Kong’s local government, Carrie Lam, from travelling to the U.S. and freezes all dealings with American financial institutions. Hua told reporters Monday that “the relevant U.S. practices blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs, grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the international law and basic norms governing international relations." “The U.S. should immediately cease interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs and avoid going further down the wrong path," Hua said at a daily briefing. Hong Kong is just one area where tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen over recent years. The Trump administration has cut off Chinese tech giant Huawei’s access to most U.S. components and technology on security grounds, part of a feud over trade and technology that has led the White House to press the Chinese owner of video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation, which American officials say is a security risk. U.S. accusations of Chinese human rights abuses, particularly against Muslim minority groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, have resulted in frequent angry exchanges between the sides. Frictions have also built over Washington's support for Taiwan, which China claims as a breakaway province to be recovered by force if necessary, along with China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — With nothing on their agendas for months to come, music festival organizers in Belgium want to use their know-how to help the country's coronavirus vaccination campaign.The Belgian government has set a goal of vaccinating about 70% of the country's population, about 8 million people, when approved COVID-19 vaccination shots become available.As the vaccines are expected to arrive in multi-dose vials for shots to be administered all on the same day, Belgium health authorities are planning to vaccinate people in groups as much as possible. The task will pose many logistical challenges, including the creation of vaccination centres that festival organizers say they can help set up.Enjoying a strong reputation in the music world, Belgian festival experts have proven experience in both building huge pop-up structures and in crowd management.With the music industry hit hard by the pandemic's economic, several festivals in the French-speaking region of Wallonia and the Brussels area have created a federation to better defend their interests. They have a large network of technicians who are currently unemployed and are ready to help out.“Our sector has been at a standstill for many months, and our many staff are eager to bring their creativity and dedication to the fight against coronavirus," said federation president Damien Dufrasne.One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported some 577,000 confirmed cases and more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus.Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said COVID-19 vaccinations could start in the European Union's 27 nations before the end of December. The commission, the EU’s executive arm, has agreements with six potential vaccine suppliers and is working on a seventh contract. The deals allow it to purchase over 1.2 billion doses, more than double the population of the EU.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakThe Associated Press
This column is an opinion from Max Fawcett, a freelance writer and the former editor of Alberta Oil magazine.Political courage seems to be in short supply these days, whether it's Republicans in the United States refusing to acknowledge the reality of Donald Trump's election defeat or provincial leaders here in Canada avoiding the more stringent measures that are needed to flatten the latest COVID-19 curve.But when it comes to political cowardice, few acts can top the decision by Calgary's city council to punt on a proposed reduction to residential speed limits — one that would almost certainly save lives and money.Rather than doing the obvious (something that Edmonton's city council voted 9-3 in favour of), council will revisit the issue in February, when they'll decide whether to put it to the public in a plebiscite in the fall. Holding a plebiscite on something like reducing speed limits in residential neighbourhoods is a bit like asking voters to cast a ballot on whether puppies are adorable or babies smell good.According to a report from the City of Calgary, reducing the speed limit in residential neighbourhoods from 50 km/h to 40 km/h would prevent approximately 300 collisions a year, as well as avoid $8 million in societal costs that range from property damage and hospital bills to loss of work due to injury.And none of these figures can account for the cost of losing a loved one — say, a young child — in an accident that didn't have to happen.You might think, given these realities, that a plebiscite would be a waste of everyone's time. Politicians are elected to make decisions and they don't come much easier than this one.But what if seeking the consent of Calgarians isn't really the point of the plebiscite?Weaponizing direct democracyAfter all, as University of Alberta political science professor Jared Wesley argued in a recent Alberta Views dialogue with Ted Morton, direct democracy is often weaponized for entirely undemocratic purposes."At best," he wrote, "referendums allow elected officials to shirk their responsibility to negotiate and define the common good. At worst, they allow politicians to manipulate the public to achieve much narrower partisan, regional or ideological ends."But even if Calgary city council finds its courage in February and actually votes on the proposed reduction to residential speed limits, next fall's municipal election could still have an assortment of plebiscites on provincial matters, such as an Alberta police force and the province's place in the federal equalization program.Some local officials are already sounding the alarm about the impact that those plebiscites could have on municipal elections across the province."It would just drown us out," said Barry Morishita, the mayor of Brooks and the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, in a June 2020 CBC story. "There is no other way to put it."That doesn't seem like an accident. After all, for a government that seems to view everything through the lens of combat, and which has found its most effective opposition coming from municipal leaders, particularly the ones in major cities like Edmonton and Calgary, this seems like a logical fight to pick.While directly attacking those leaders could potentially backfire, encouraging people to turn out and vote against federal government programs — even ones they don't completely understand — seems far more likely to succeed.And being able to pursue this political agenda under the guise of supporting direct democracy does have a certain Machiavellian brilliance to it. Then again, Machiavelli would warn about the risk of being hoisted by your own petard.While holding provincial plebiscites in a municipal election may serve the UCP's near-term political interests, that format may not be nearly as constructive when it comes to the looming conversation about potential new revenue measures.Finance Minister Travis Toews has repeatedly indicated that, once his government is done cutting costs and slashing the salaries of doctors, nurses, and other public servants, it will turn its attention to the revenue side of the equation — and potentially a provincial sales tax."I think it will be important to review the province's revenue structure to determine if it's the appropriate, the most efficient structure that we can have," he said during a recent appearance at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce event.But as Jason Kenney said in a letter to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation earlier this year, any move to implement a sales tax will have to be approved by the voters in a plebiscite."As long as I am premier," he wrote, "Albertans will have the final say through a fair referendum vote on whether a hypothetical sales tax should be introduced."And given how enthusiastically conservatives have salted that particular political field in the past, it's hard to imagine anything ever growing there — even if the province suddenly needs that harvest to survive. The problem with plebiscitesIndeed, even in a comparatively pro-tax place like Metro Vancouver, a 2015 plebiscite that asked voters whether they'd be willing to pay an additional 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund new transit infrastructure failed miserably.Despite having the backing of a large group of local mayors and the tepid support of both provincial parties, the "No" side won convincingly, carrying 61.7 per cent of the vote to the "Yes" side's 38.4 per cent. Therein lies the problem with plebiscites, and the politicians that turn to them most enthusiastically.Yes, they allow elected officials to avoid having to make certain decisions on the public's behalf, especially ones that might not be immediately popular. But they also box those same politicians into a much smaller political space, one where they've set an expectation that anything even vaguely controversial will get put directly to voters. For some elected officials, constraining the range of a given government's policy space and ambition might be a good thing. But for a public that is contending with everything from climate change to the economic fallout from COVID-19, to say nothing of a failing state to our south, those sorts of constraints could do far more harm than good in the future. Right now, we need leaders who are willing to actually lead — and take the political risks that come with that.When Calgarians go to the polls next fall, they should remember that. And if there are pointless plebiscites about things like residential speed limits on the ballot, maybe they'll serve as a useful (and unintentional) reminder to that effect.This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.
Peel Regional Police are forecasting a $16.7 million increase in spending for 2021, the bulk of which will service a spike in salaries and benefits, and the addition of 27 officers. The budget, presented at a police board meeting Friday, calls for $462.5 million in total spending in 2021, a 3.8 per cent increase or a $316 per capita bump in the annual tax levy. The spending increase comes at a time when police services across Canada and south of the border have seen outcry over police violence and systemic anti-Black racism lead to calls to defund police in favour of non-police alternatives and community programs. Peel police will spend $5.2 million on hiring the 27 new officers, while other salary and benefits costs will eat up another $11.4 million of the increase. After it was endorsed by the board Friday, the budget will now go to Peel Regional Council for final review and approval in early 2021. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who is on the seven-member Peel Police Services Board, lauded police Chief Nishan Duraiappah for seeking to reallocate millions of dollars toward areas of public concern. “Thank you for putting emphasis on areas that are a concern to the community, whether it’s street racing, mental health, whether it’s human trafficking,” Brown said. The service says it saw more than $2 million in unforeseen costs this year as a result of the pandemic. It will draw on reserve funds to cover any COVID-related shortfalls. Looking ahead, Peel police is also calling for $597 million in capital upgrades –– to be funded from capital reserve funds –– it says will be needed over the next decade. It includes an anticipated $307 million for land and new facilities, $153 million for information and technology advancements, and $76 million for vehicles. At the board meeting Friday, Duraiappah also discussed a summary of the year’s crime trends: Gun crime and homicides trending down Peel is seeing a decline in gang and gun activity so far this year, and is also tracking a decrease in homicides, Duraiappah told the police board Friday. Nevertheless, he dubbed the service’s Project Siphon, which ended with more than 800 charges against 88 people earlier this month, the “largest in the service’s history.” The arrests led to what police say is the dismantling of a prominent Peel-area gang, the seizure of dozens of guns and arrests over three homicides and one attempted murder. So far this year, Peel police have seized 363 firearms, Duraiappah said, noting that “91 per cent of the handguns seized that are traceable came from the United States,” up from the 74 per cent in 2019. “We do have a plan to bolster our gang response,” Duraiappah said. “We know a dedicated gang team is one we need for the new year.” But intimate partner violence is still common So far this year, police have responded to 90 shootings and 14 homicides, five of which were linked to intimate partner violence. That continues a trend that also saw more than a third of the region’s 34 homicides last year linked to intimate partner-related disputes. “It’s still the top three calls that we have each day,” the chief said. “We need to turn the dial on this,” he said, adding that it’s a priority to lower the number of repeat offenders. This year, the service is averaging about 50 calls a day for intimate partner disputes and in response, Duraiappah said the service has created a dedicated intimate partner and family unit with 48 officers who will soon start working out of a hub dedicated to those calls. Rethinking mental health crisis calls Peel’s three dedicated Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams responded to 1,700 calls between their introduction in January and October, with only 22 per cent of those calls ending in someone being apprehended, a report to the board said. But police field about 16 daily calls for mental health distress, and the bulk of those calls still land in police hands, Duraiappah said. “We know it’s understaffed,” he said, adding that the rapid response teams can’t respond to that volume of demand — “they do about a third of them, so two-thirds are still being done by uniformed officers.” “Our goal is to have eight on the rapid response team,” he added. Under existing provincial law, only police have the power to apprehend a person experiencing a mental health crisis and take them for treatment. A near-record year for traffic deaths So far this year, Peel has seen a significant increase in vehicle-related deaths, at 38, up from 23 all of last year. Since 2010, only two full years have recorded more motor vehicle-related fatalities: 41 in 2018 and 40 in 2016. “We’re sadly at one of the highest levels of fatal motor vehicle collisions this region has ever seen,” the chief said. The chief also mentioned a troubling bump in stunt driving charges. Police laid 719 charges for stunt driving, to date, up from 332 over the same time frame in 2019.Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star