British scientists have launched submersible gliders near a massive iceberg breakup in the far southern Atlantic Ocean to see what effect the melting freshwater has on the surrounding salty sea.
British scientists have launched submersible gliders near a massive iceberg breakup in the far southern Atlantic Ocean to see what effect the melting freshwater has on the surrounding salty sea.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Bruce Meyers was hanging out at Pismo Beach on California's Central Coast one afternoon in 1963 when he saw something that both blew his mind and changed his life: a handful of old, stripped-down cars bouncing across the sand. It sure would be fun to get behind the wheel of one of those, Meyers thought, if only they weren't so ugly and didn't appear so uncomfortable. He built his own solution: a “dune buggy" fashioned out of lightweight fiberglass mounted on four oversized tires with two bug-eyed looking headlights and a blindingly bright paint job. The result would become both an overnight automotive sensation and one of the talismans of California surf culture, especially when he created a space in the back to accommodate a surfboard. He called the vehicle the Meyers Manx and it turned the friendly, soft-spoken Meyers into a revered figure among off-roaders, surfers and car enthusiasts of all types. Meyers died Feb. 19 at his San Diego-area home, his wife, Winnie Meyers, told The Associated Press on Friday. He was 94. Meyers built thousands of dune buggies in his lifetime but he did far more. He designed boats and surfboards, worked as a commercial artist and a lifeguard, travelled the world surfing and sailing, built a trading post in Tahiti and even survived a World War II Japanese kamikaze attack on his Navy aircraft carrier the USS Bunker Hill. “He had a life that nobody else has ever lived,” his wife said with a chuckle. Bruce Franklin Meyers was born March 12, 1926, in Los Angeles, the son of a businessman and mechanic who set up automobile dealerships for his friend Henry Ford. Growing up near such popular Southern California surfing spots as Newport, Hermosa and Manhattan beaches, it was wave riding, not cars, that initially captivated Meyers, who liked to refer to himself as an original beach bum. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy and was aboard the Bunker Hill when it was attacked near Okinawa, Japan, on May 11, 1945. As fire raged aboard the ship, he jumped overboard, at one point handed his life preserver to someone who needed it more, and helped rescue others. Later, his wife said, he returned to the ship and helped remove the bodies of the nearly 400 sailors killed. After the war he served in the Merchant Marine and attended the Chouinard Art Institute, now part of the California Institute of the Arts. He also designed and built boats, learning to shape lightweight but sturdy fiberglass. That experience gave him skills he would put to use in building the first dune buggies. He built his first 12 mainly for himself and friends, and decades later was still driving No. 1, which he named Old Red. He and his friends had fallen in love with surfing the more rugged and less crowded beaches of Mexico's Baja California and they figured a Meyers Manx would be perfect for driving over and around the area's sand dunes. “All I wanted to do was go surfing in Baja when I built the dang thing,” he told broadcaster Huell Howser when he took the host of Public Television's California Gold program for a spin in Old Red in 2001. Those first dozen cars were built without chassis, which hold in place the axels, suspension and other key parts of a vehicle's undercarriage. Not having one made the car lighter but illegal to drive on public roads. Meyers began adding chassis to his models and created kits that people could initially buy for $985 and build their own cars. What really caused sales to take off, though, was when Meyers and friends took Old Red to Mexico in 1967 and won a 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometre) off-road race that took drivers through steep gullies, across soft sand and past other obstacles. Old Red won in record time, shattering the previous mark by more than five hours. “Almost overnight we had 350 orders,” Meyers told The New York Times in 2007. Soon afterward, the road race became officially known as the Mexican 1,000 — since renamed the Baja 1.000 — and when a Meyers-built dune buggy won that one too the orders poured in. In all, B.F. Meyers & Co., built more than 6,000 Meyers Manx dune buggies. Although he trademarked the design, it was easy to borrow from it, and deep-pocketed competitors sold more than 250,000 copycats. The Historic Vehicle Association says the Meyers Manx is the most replicated car in history. Fed up with losing control of his invention, Meyers closed his company in 1971 and went on to other things. At one point, his wife said, he sailed to Tahiti with a wealthy sponsor and built and ran a trading post. He and his wife re-established the car business in 1999, by which time there were dune buggy clubs all over the world. They sold the business to a venture capital firm last year. Asked over the years what it was about the dune buggy that so captivated the public, Meyers said several things played into its success. One was the cars' bright colours and big tires, which gave them almost a cartoonish look. Another was the flat surface of the fenders, which were a perfect place to put a beer. There was also the spot in the back designed for a surfboard. That, he and others noted, captivated people at a time when California surf culture was being glorified in movies and song. The car, with Elvis Presley at the wheel, is featured in the opening credits to the 1968 film “Live a Little, Love a Little.” To this day, children still play with Meyers Manx Hot Wheels. As Road and Track Magazine stated in 1976: “The Manx has to rank as one of the most significant and influential cars of all time. It started more fads, attracted more imitators … and was recognized as a genuine sculpture, a piece of art.” In addition to his wife, Meyers is survived by a daughter, Julie Meyers of Colorado. Two children, Georgia and Tim, preceded him in death. John Rogers, The Associated Press
The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce joined many in its network in urging the provincial government to address key economic points of pain on Friday. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with its network of local chambers across the province, released its pre-budget submission to the provincial government. The submission released ahead of Ontario's 2021 budget focuses on three themes: Recovery, growth and modernization. A major part of the submission calls on the government to offer relief to small businesses and municipalities that lasts beyond a short-term timeline. "We want to hear recovery; we don't want band-aids anymore," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We want to continue to make sure that small businesses and small-medium sized businesses are very well taken care of," added Kirkland. "We want to see everybody recover and we need the support of our government officials in order to do that." Targeted funding towards the hardest-hit sectors is established as a key request early in the submission to the government. "The number one affected industry by COVID-19 is tourism," said Kirkland. She added that is one reason why the pandemic has hit the areas of Gananoque and the Thousand Islands hard, as they rely on tourism through boaters and summer travellers for a portion of revenue. The submission acts as a messaging piece for chambers and districts across the province, bringing in a large variety of recommendations and requests. Population areas as large as Toronto to smaller towns like Gananoque are represented. "With Ontario's economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact," said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians," added Rossi. Recommendations under the growth section that would directly support the area include accelerating broadband expansion and supporting farmers and producers with online sales. "We need to not only support tourism but also the agriculture sector as well," said Kirkland. Under the recovery section of the submission, the OCC also argues that the government must minimize the economic impacts of business closures. One of the methods the chambers are asking for beyond physical distancing is through testing. Prioritizing rapid testing and contact tracing would facilitate more targeted decisions regarding business restrictions. Kirkland also said that better distribution of the vaccine would greatly help businesses. "We need a solid plan moving forward to get out to a post-COVID environment," said Kirkland. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office confirmed that the provincial budget will be presented no later than March 31, but no exact date has been announced. With regards to the OCC submission, ministry spokesman Scott Blodgett said: "The Ministry of Finance does not speculate as to what may or may not be in the forthcoming budget." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The British Columbia government announced today its controversial Site C dam project will move forward, despite the new price tag of $16 billion — nearly double what was initially projected. The West Moberly First Nations says it will file a lawsuit to stop the project.
TORONTO — The Ontario government's switch to a centralized procurement system stalled the replenishment of the province's stockpile of personal protective equipment in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, an independent commission heard this week. Health Minister Christine Elliott told the commission examining the crisis's impact on long-term care that the government expected its supply of PPE to be restocked, and that she was not aware at the time that the process had been held up by the change. The commission has heard that much of Ontario's supply of PPE was destroyed by December 2019 because it had expired. The panel's co-counsel, John Callaghan, said previous testimony indicated only 10 per cent remained by then, most of which was meant to deal with Ebola rather than a disease like the novel coronavirus. "You never went to cabinet, you never went to anyone to suggest that the safety of Ontarians would require us to have a stockpile in the face of a pandemic? You never went and made that suggestion?" Callaghan asked the minister. Elliott replied it wasn't necessary to do so because "there was an expectation that it would be replenished." "And that is what we were doing, (we are) in the process of doing. But I was not aware that it had been slowed up by the central procurement. I anticipated that it was happening, but I did not know that it had been held up by that." COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,743 residents and 11 staff members so far. The commission is set to present a report on April 30 that will include recommendations aimed at preventing similar outcomes in the future. Callaghan pressed the minister on whether the provincial government should bear responsibility if the commission finds Ontario's lack of PPE early in the pandemic led to deaths in the long-term care system. He noted the commission has heard many long-term care homes did not have the required stockpile of PPE when the health crisis began. "The loss of life here is tragic. And is something that I think everyone in government feels some level of responsibility for," Elliott replied. "But certainly I knew that there were inspections that were going on in long-term care homes. I would have expected that checking to make sure that they had a supply of PPE would have been something that the inspectors would have checked upon." Asked whether maintaining an appropriate stockpile of PPE should be legislatively mandated for the province and long-term care homes, Elliott said she didn't believe it necessary, noting homes are already required to do so. Deputy health minister Helen Angus, who testified alongside Elliott, said it would be helpful to outline the requirements for homes "in more detail going forward," before looking at the mechanism to "compel and enforce it." Elliott also defended the government's decision last summer to give COVID-19 tests to anyone who wanted one, which the commission has heard went against the recommendations of several scientists advising the government, particularly in light of the strained lab capacity and the need to monitor cases in long-term care. "Looking back, it would have been because of the increase in community transmission and the need to locate where that was coming from and to understand better what was happening in communities," she told the commission. Callaghan noted scientists have testified they advised the province that would not be an effective strategy. "In fact, you are going to delay the responses from the tests because you are going to have so many of them that are unnecessary," he said. He also asked why Ontario had not run any pandemic simulations before COVID-19 that likely would have flagged its lack of lab capacity in the face of a surge in testing. Angus acknowledged the delays in processing tests "at times obviously were unacceptable" but stressed the issue stemmed from the absence of an integrated lab system and that the province quickly moved to fix the problem and ramp up its daily testing capacity. The commission's hearings aren't open to the public but transcripts are posted online, typically days later. The minister and deputy minister testified Wednesday and the transcript was released Friday evening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
The human trafficking case brought against a former U.S. Olympics women’s gymnastics coach hours before he killed himself could signal a new approach to policing a sport already dogged by a far-reaching sexual abuse scandal involving a one-time team doctor. John Geddert, the head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, killed himself Thursday hours after prosecutors charged him with 24 counts accusing him of turning his once-acclaimed Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train there and then abusing them — one sexually. Although Geddert was charged with sexually assaulting one teenager and he worked closely with Larry Nassar, the imprisoned sports doctor who sexually abused hundreds of women and girls under the guise it was treatment, the bulk of the case against Geddert was for human trafficking — a charge that even the state's top law enforcement official acknowledged might not fit the common understanding of such a case. “We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves ... but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.” Lawyers for women who accused Geddert and Nassar of abuse say Nassar's imprisonment and Geddert's death won't resolve some of the serious issues that have plagued the sport. But they lauded the attorney general's office for bringing the trafficking case against the 63-year-old Geddert, who was charged with making money through the forced labour of young athletes. According to a transcript from a closed court hearing this week, Geddert reported that his income was $2.7 million between 2014 and 2018. “They took a stand that if you do this kind of thing as a coach, you are going to get charged,” John Manly, an attorney for accusers of the two men told The Associated Press, noting that the maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for each of the 20 trafficking counts is more than the penalty for the sex crime he was charged with. Sarah Klein, an attorney who works with Manly and was coached by Geddert, whom she said physically and emotionally abused her — and was sexually abused by Nassar — said she doesn't think Geddert's suicide will halt any reckoning for women's gymnastics. “I think this sends a big message that you can't emotionally and physically, and obviously sexually, abuse children for the sake of winning anymore,” she said. What that means for the immediate future is that the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, where Nassar once worked, will face increased scrutiny, Klein and Manly said. Both organizations turned a blind eye to such abusive treatment, they said. The USOPC didn't respond to a request for comment Friday. USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung issued a statement expressing shock that Geddert killed himself, and expressed her sympathy for the victims. Manly and Klein said that although the latest case will bring more attention to abusive coaching in women's gymnastics, the success of coaches like Geddert, whose 2012 Olympic team won the team gold, will make reforming the sport more difficult. They said so much of Geddert's alleged abuse was able to continue because his private gyms and gymnastics clubs operated outside of the view of the public or even the athletes' parents. And that abuse, as described by Nessel, was emotional and physical, from ordering one distraught girl to apologize to him for trying to kill herself to throwing another girl into the uneven bars with such force that it ruptured the lymph nodes on one side of her neck. “In almost every elite gym ... parents were not allowed, so they had no idea that if a kid vomited and he saw there were French fries, he would stick the kid's face in the vomit,” Manly said. He said in recent years, some gyms have opened up a bit to let the parents see how their kids are being coached. But many still operate behind a wall of secrecy. Klein said this secrecy has been tolerated and even encouraged because coaches were producing champions that the whole country could be proud of, which she traces back to the wild success of Bela and Martha Karolyi, the husband-and-wife duo who coached America’s top female gymnasts for three decades. For most of those years, she said, nobody was asking questions of what gymnasts later said was the couple's harsh treatment of their young charges. The coaches are now the subject of at least one lawsuit from a gymnast who contends they knew or should have known about Nassar's behaviour. Finding out what is going on will also be made tougher by parents' unwillingness to ask questions or look too closely because of all the success Geddert and other coaches, Manly and others said. In a transcript released this week, this issue was raised by a young woman who was coached by Geddert. “He gets everyone to buy into his program, then parents start seeing positive results from their gymnast, then they are hooked," she said. “The parents then decide to tolerate Geddert’s style or they turn their heads.” Don Babwin, The Associated Press
The search for the next leader of the BC Liberal party has officially begun. A leadership conference to pick the party’s next leader will be held Feb. 3 to 5, 2022, with the leader chosen on Feb. 5, the BC Liberal Party announced today. “Today is really an opportunity for us to begin that focus on the search for a new leader that will revitalize our party and connect with British Columbians,” said Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond on Feb. 26. The previous party leader, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, stepped down in November after the BC Liberals lost about a third of their seats and the New Democrats picked up a majority government. The BC Greens won two ridings. Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond replaced Wilkinson when she was elected interim Liberal leader by her caucus colleagues on Nov. 23. “We are excited to begin the race for the (permanent) leadership of our party, a process that will help to shape the future of BC politics” said Interim Liberal Party President Don Silversides in a press release. Given the pandemic context, the party decided an 11-month long timeframe would allow the broadest range of candidates as much opportunity as possible to interact with voters, Silversides said. “It gives the party a chance to talk about the things that matter to British Columbia,” said Bond. “We're going to have the opportunity to hear from what I hope will be a broad, diverse range of candidates as we look to renew the party.” Political hopefuls will have until Nov. 31 to register as candidates. All BC Liberal Party members will be eligible to vote in the leadership election, and anyone who isn’t a member who wants to participate has until Dec. 29 to join the party. Bond will stay on as interim leader until a new leader is selected next February. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. There are 861,472 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 861,472 confirmed cases (30,516 active, 809,041 resolved, 21,915 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 3,252 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 80.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,886 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,984. There were 50 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 339 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 48. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,205,347 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 977 confirmed cases (290 active, 682 resolved, five deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 55.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 114 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 16. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 0.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 194,501 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 121 confirmed cases (seven active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been six new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 100,524 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,634 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,534 resolved, 65 deaths). There were 10 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 3.57 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 323,312 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,428 confirmed cases (42 active, 1,360 resolved, 26 deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 5.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 234,746 tests completed. _ Quebec: 286,145 confirmed cases (7,888 active, 267,885 resolved, 10,372 deaths). There were 815 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,458 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 780. There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 94 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,220,844 tests completed. _ Ontario: 298,569 confirmed cases (10,294 active, 281,331 resolved, 6,944 deaths). There were 1,258 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 69.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,798 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,114. There were 28 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,726,049 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,721 confirmed cases (1,197 active, 29,635 resolved, 889 deaths). There were 64 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 86.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 486 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 69. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 526,985 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 28,344 confirmed cases (1,510 active, 26,454 resolved, 380 deaths). There were 153 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 128.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,099 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 157. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 567,399 tests completed. _ Alberta: 132,788 confirmed cases (4,505 active, 126,406 resolved, 1,877 deaths). There were 356 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 101.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,433 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 348. There were three new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,378,626 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 79,262 confirmed cases (4,719 active, 73,188 resolved, 1,355 deaths). There were 589 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,427 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 490. There were seven new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,901,202 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,126 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (three active, 39 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 6.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,388 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 356 confirmed cases (26 active, 329 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 66.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 24 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,569 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Greg Lovett /Northwest Florida Daily News/The Associated Press - image credit) First Nations leaders in B.C. say the province's updated COVID-19 immunization plan deviates from national guidelines that priority should be given to all Indigenous adults within the first two stages of vaccine rollout. The current guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization states adults in Indigenous communities should be prioritized in stage one and adults in or from Indigenous communities, including those living in urban centres, should be prioritized in stage two. Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council, the political leadership and advocacy arm of the health governance structure for First Nations in the province, said the provincial plan was published "with no explanation or engagement by our people at all." "I was in a call yesterday where chiefs are very upset about this new direction." Isolated and remote communities given priority Richard Jock, CEO of B.C.'s First Nations Health Authority, which is responsible for health services in B.C.'s First Nations, said the approach to vaccinations in First Nations communities has been one that takes a "whole of community" approach. Belleau said this approach was advocated for by First Nations leadership and agreed to with the province in the initial vaccine rollout. Documentation from the authority said this means vaccine is provided to all adults living and working in a community, including people who may not be First Nations such as family members, health care and community workers serving the community. "This includes individuals who live off reserve, but close to community, due to housing challenges," states the authority's toolkit for First Nations receiving COVID-19 vaccine. Then on Monday, the First Nations Health Authority learned the B.C. Ministry of Health was taking a different direction. The province committed that the whole community approach would continue for isolated, semi-isolated and remote communities identified for phase one rollout. But according to a document shared with CBC News, all other First Nations communities (that aren't isolated) will receive vaccines for those who are 65 years and older, elders, recipients of long term home support/home care and related staff in First Nations. The province said it will consider a whole community approach in situations where a community is experiencing ongoing clusters and outbreaks. To date just over half of the 204 First Nations in the province have received allocations of vaccine, according to the latest figures from the First Nations Health Authority. The authority reported to chiefs on Thursday they're aware of just under 5,000 cases of COVID-19 among First Nations people in B.C. as of Feb. 24. There have also been 83 deaths. Charlene Bealleau is chair of the First Nations Health Council. Concern for off-reserve members For the off-reserve population, First Nations people 65 or older will be eligible for vaccine in phase two of B.C.'s immunization plan. In a Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs meeting on Thursday, Coun. Sherry McIntyre (Nlaka'pamux from the Skuppah Indian Band) said it's problematic to limit vaccines to elders and people over 65. "Many elders live in multi-generational homes and need the entire household immunized at minimum in order to protect the health of that elder," she said. Chief Don Tom (Tsartlip) is vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Tsartlip Chief Don Tom said it's also problematic to have inequitable access between community members who face the same kinds of risk factors regardless of where they live. "Crowded homes, chronic health conditions, kidney problems — these are not limited to on-reserve. These are very much factors that come into play off-reserve as well," he said. "Tsartlip will be having vaccines available on Monday for my community and it just breaks my heart to know that my aunts and uncles who live off-reserve, who are elders, that they just aren't afforded the same opportunity and somehow their lives are less important than mine," he said. 'No room for exceptions' Leadership at UBCIC passed a resolution calling for a revision to the B.C. immunization plan on Thursday. They're advocating for a plan that will see equitable and accessible delivery to all First Nations people in the province. They also called on Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller, who was at the meeting, to step in. Miller acknowledged that the national guidelines "clearly and squarely" state that all adults living in Indigenous communities should get a vaccine under stage one, and that all other Indigenous adults should be able to get their shot in stage two. "There's no room for exceptions here, with the exception of some of the logistical challenges, that I must acknowledge," said Miller. Some of the logistical challenges Miller acknowledged come down to jurisdictional differences for on and off-reserve populations. Belleau said the First Nations Health Council has requested a meeting with B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to discuss their concerns. The province did not respond to questions by the time of publishing.
Several thousand people commemorated the anniversary of the 2015 murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow on Saturday, following a clampdown on protests over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. With a minimal police presence at the scene, opposition supporters laid flowers on the bridge in central Moscow where Nemtsov was gunned down on the night of Feb. 27 six years ago. Nemtsov briefly served as deputy prime minister in the late 1990s before joining the opposition, and Russian news agencies said the ambassadors of several Western countries were among those who attended Saturday's commemoration.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is lauding a new collective agreement between a rural school division and its teachers as a “turning point” in public-sector bargaining in the province. The union, which represents upwards of 16,000 public school teachers in Manitoba, announced Friday members of the Beautiful Plains Teachers’ Association have unanimously voted to ratify a new agreement. The new contract in Beautiful Plains, which encompasses Carberry- and Neepawa-area schools, includes a 1.6 per cent salary increase for 2018-19 and a 1.4 per cent increase for 2019-20. All teachers will then receive a $500 bonus going into the third year. Substitute instructors will also receive a three per cent bump in pay. MTS president James Bedford said Friday the agreement is the first one to be reached in the public sector after Bill 28 was introduced and, more recently, overturned in a court challenge. “It’s a statement that employees and employers can sit down (and) reach a negotiation that’s good for both parties, and that results in what really is inflationary protection,” said Bedford. Introduced in 2017, Bill 28, the Public Services Sustainability Act, seeks to regulate salary increases for public-sector employees over a four-year-period. It proposes a wage freeze for the first two years, followed by an increase of 0.75 per cent and in the final year, a one per cent hike. Last summer, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the legislation, calling it a “draconian measure” that reduced unions’ bargaining power. The Pallister government is appealing the decision. Meantime, the Beautiful Plains agreement marks the third time in the last year teachers have been awarded increases that counter the legislation. The Beautiful Plains situation suggests divisions don’t need guidance from the province to reach agreements with staff, Bedford added. Earlier this month, the education department informed Manitoba superintendents divisions must now obtain “a bargaining mandate” from cabinet’s public-sector compensation committee prior to engaging in negotiations with both unionized and non-unionized staff. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
HOUSTON — President Joe Biden heard firsthand from Texans clobbered by this month's brutal winter weather on Friday and pledged to stick with them “for the long haul” as he made his first trip to a major disaster area since he took office. Biden was briefed by emergency officials and thanked workers for doing “God's work.” He promised the federal government will be there for Texans as they try to recover, not just from the historic storm but also the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat that’s hurting," Biden said. “It's our fellow Americans that are hurting and it's our job to help everyone in need." With tens of thousands of Houston area residents without safe water, local officials told Biden that many are still struggling. While he was briefed, first lady Jill Biden joined an assembly line of volunteers packing boxes of quick oats, juice, and other food at the Houston Food Bank, where he arrived later. The president's first stop was the Harris County Emergency Operations Center for a briefing from acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and state and local emergency management officials. Texas was hit particularly hard by the Valentine's weekend storm that battered multiple states. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents are still under orders to boil water before drinking it. “The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it is our duty to organize prompt and competent federal support to American citizens, and we have to ensure that bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way,” said Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, who accompanied Biden to Houston. Biden was joined for much of his visit by Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, four Democratic Houston-area members of Congress and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The president also stopped by a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease. Democrat Biden suggested that he and Republicans Abbott and Cornyn could find common cause in getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. “We disagree on plenty of things,” Biden said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are plenty of things we can work on together. And one of them is represented right here today, the effort to speed up vaccinations." Texas' other U.S. senator, Ted Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was in Florida Friday addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. Cruz, who has been criticized for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in unheated homes, later said the trip was a mistake, but he made light of the controversy on Friday. “Orlando is awesome,” he said to laughs and hoots. “It’s not as nice as Cancun. But’s nice.” At the peak of the storm, more than 1.4 million residents were without power and 3.5 million were under boil-water notices in Houston's Harris County, the nation's third largest county. Post-storm debate in Texas has centred on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and its lack of better storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas relies heavily on oil and gas. In Washington, Biden's climate adviser said the deadly winter storm was a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems that can withstand extreme weather linked to climate change. “We need systems of energy that are reliable and resilient,” Gina McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press. The White House said Biden's purpose in visiting was to support, not scold. Biden was bent on asking Texans "what do you need, how can I help you more," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “And what can we get more for you from the federal government.” Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn't know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden “thinks it's important to visit, then come on down.” Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort. Houston also was the destination for Trump's first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August. —- Associated Press writers Juan Lozano in Houston, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed reporting. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
An Alberta court ordered an updated Gladue Report for an Onion Lake Cree Nation woman facing drug trafficking charges in that province. Tamarah Lee Dillon, 27, had court appearances in Alberta and Saskatchewan on charges stemming from separate incidents. She had an appearance on Feb. 24 in Lloydminster Provincial Court for breaching condition of her release. The matter was adjourned to Aug. 4. She had an appearance in St. Paul Provincial Court Feb. 18 on drug trafficking charges. The St. Paul court adjourned her matter until April 8 to allow time for an updated Gladue Report. A Gladue Report is a pre-sentence report typically prepared by Gladue caseworkers at the request of the judge, defense or Crown Prosecutor. By law, judges must consider Gladue factors when sentencing First Nations people. Section 718.2(e) of Canada’s Criminal Code stipulates that judges must clearly address an Aboriginal offender’s circumstances, as well as the systemic and background factors that contributed to those circumstances. Gladue was a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in1999. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Gladue Principle also applies to breaches of long-term supervision orders. The ruling says that failing to take Aboriginal circumstances into account violates the fundamental principle of sentencing. The Gladue Principles also state that restorative justice may be more appropriate for Aboriginal offenders. Restorative justice focuses on healing those affected by the criminal act, including the offender, which is more in line with traditional Aboriginal justice. This restorative justice approach is also meant to act as a solution to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginals in Canadian jails. Dillon was wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant in December 2018 for being unlawfully at large. She remains in custody. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Richard Gray is warning Indigenous communities against signing confidentiality agreements with the government as they reclaim authority over their child welfare systems under Bill C-92 — also known as the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Gray is the social services manager with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC), which monitors and provides oversight to ensure Indigenous groups and communities have access to “culturally-appropriate and preventive health and social services programs,” according to their website. “This is a huge problem and we can’t allow the feds to utilize these confidentiality agreements in negotiations or discussions,” he said at a virtual gathering focused on the implementation of the Act, hosted on Feb. 9 by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The Act establishes a framework for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to exercise their authority and create their own child welfare laws. Through the Act, Indigenous governing bodies can either notify the federal government of their intent to establish their own laws, or they can request to “enter into a tripartite coordination agreement with [Indigenous Services Canada] and relevant provincial or territorial governments” — as previously reported by IndigiNews. Gray says he knows of at least one instance where a confidentiality agreement was signed as part of a coordination agreement — between Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Canada and the province of Ontario. He says he’s worried that confidentiality agreements could “really put a damper on our ability to share information and to give strategies and to advise and counsel First Nations communities that are interested in following this road.” “Canada will have all the information, and once again, First Nations are left stuck on their own.” ‘Stuck on their own’ Since the Bill came into force on Jan. 1, 2020, nine Nations have sent notice and 17 Nations have requested to enter into coordination agreements discussions, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). In an interview with IndigiNews, Gray says the practice of signing confidentiality agreements is “almost a bit of a contradictory approach” because the government is “supposed to be working with the First Nations at a national level and regional level to support the implementation of coordination agreements.” “If you sign one of these things, you can’t share any information with the AFN [and] you can’t share any information with a First Nations community about things that are happening in terms of your coordination agreement discussion,” he says. As part of the Act’s development, the AFN and ISC signed a protocol agreement in June of 2020. The agreement established a structure to support the implementation of Bill C-92, according to a news release by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and FNQLHSSC. “This agreement is a crucial step that should allow First Nations to develop effective long-term plans. This protocol ensures that Canada will work with our governments, but that the implementation of Bill C-92 will be led by First Nations,” says Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the AFNQL. But for Gray, not being able to share how nations are doing at coordination tables puts them at a disadvantage. He says that the federal government knows everything that nations are sharing while the nations themselves, if they sign a confidentiality agreement, cannot speak with each other on how they are working to exercise jurisdiction. “Collectively, this is something that affects First Nations all across Canada. Why would we get into these processes where we’re hiding our discussions? Or not showing any transparency about how we’re going to work with our communities?” asks Gray. “First Nations are going to try to get the best deals possible,” he says. “I think that one of the ways to achieve that is by sharing as much information as possible amongst First Nations.” Gray says he wants the federal and provincial governments to respect this, “rather than trying to impose their processes on us.” “We’ve got to break these cycles or these patterns that [Indigenous Services Canada] uses and open up new processes and new ways of doing things to help one another.” IndigiNews followed up with both Indigenous Services Canada and Wabaseemoong Child Welfare Authority for comment, but did not receive a response by the time this article was published. The virtual gathering is part of a series on sharing best practices for implementing the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. The next session is March 2, 2021. Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP is calling on the provincial government to help maintain a homeless shelter in North Battleford that is to close April 1 due to lack of funding. Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living, says 22 full and part-time staff at The Lighthouse emergency facility have received layoff notices. He says the shelter has space for 37 people and will try to find new housing for them. Windels says the shelter depended on around $500,000 in core funding from the Provincial Metis Housing Corporation and says it costs about $800,000 per year to operate. He says the corporation wants to focus on housing in the north and believes shelters should be the province's responsibility. In a news release, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on Premier Scott Moe to ensure funding is in place to keep The Lighthouse shelter open in North Battleford. "Saskatchewan is in the midst of two public health crises. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the overdose crisis that is taking a brutal toll in lives across our province," Meili said Friday. "It is unacceptable that the Sask. Party government would allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding." The Ministry of Social Services said it increased provincial funding to the shelter last April and in November to help offset extra COVID-19 related services. The ministry said it has met with Lighthouse staff to discuss the shelter's loss of federal funding and had meetings with Indigenous Services Canada to determine what other money might be available. "We continue to work with the North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter and other partners in the community to support income assistance clients," the ministry said in an email. "We are also continuing to provide income assistance benefits for per diems to emergency shelter for individuals in need.” (CTV, The Canadian Press) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
(Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC - image credit) Quebec families looking to hop into a hotel pool during March break won't be able to do so if they're staying in one of the province's red zone. A ministerial decree made public on Friday confirmed that only municipal swimming pools will be authorized to reopen as of Feb. 26. Now hotel owners expect a tidal wave of cancellations as many lodgers were planning their stay with hopes of at least swimming with so much closed and travelling abroad so strongly discouraged. Eve Paré, CEO of the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal, said the Legault government had yet to clarify the rules since the premier announced on Feb. 16 that pools would be allowed to open Friday. Regardless, members of the association launched launched promotional campaigns to attract families looking for something to do during March break, she said. "This was the main reason for the stay for many clients," said Paré. This news comes at a time when hotel occupancy rates are at an all-time low. According to the Altus Group, Montreal's hotel occupancy rate in November 2019 was 73 per cent. In November of 2020, it was just 12 per cent. The Ministry of Health released a statement at the end of the day Friday, outlining which public health measures are being scaled back during March break. First, sports activities taking place in public indoor swimming pools are permitted, but limited to individual practise, in pairs or in groups of people residing at the same address, the statement says. Individual lessons or lessons alongside members of the same residence are possible also, it says. However, the swimming pools of hotel establishments will have to remain closed in the red zone, the statement says. In an email to Radio-Canada, the ministry says hotels in orange zones can open their pools.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney John Durham said Friday that he will resign from his position as the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut but is remaining as a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that shadowed Donald Trump’s presidency. Durham will resign from his post as U.S. attorney for Connecticut on Monday. But Durham, who was appointed in October by then-Attorney General William Barr as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, will remain in that capacity. Like Durham, nearly every other U.S. attorney who served in the Trump administration was asked earlier this month to submit their resignations as the Biden administration moves to transition to its own nominees. The FBI in July 2016 began investigating whether the Trump campaign was co-ordinating with Russia to sway the outcome of the presidential election. That probe was inherited nearly a year later by special counsel Mueller, who ultimately did not find enough evidence to charge Trump or any of his associates with conspiring with Russia. The early months of the investigation, when agents obtained secret surveillance warrants targeting a former Trump campaign aide, have long been scrutinized by Trump and other critics of the probe who say the FBI made significant errors. A Justice Department inspector general report backed up that criticism but did not find evidence that mistakes in the surveillance applications and other problems with the probe were driven by partisan bias. Durham’s investigation, which the Justice Department has described as a criminal probe, had begun very broadly but Barr said in December that it had “narrowed considerably” and that it was “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI.” Durham’s investigation has so far resulted in one prosecution so far. A former FBI lawyer was sentenced to probation last month for altering an email the Justice Department relied on in its surveillance of an aide to President Donald Trump during the Russia investigation. The U.S. attorneys transition process, which happens routinely between administrations, applies to a few dozen U.S. attorneys who were appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate and many of the federal prosecutors who were nominated by Trump already left their positions. A senior Justice Department official told the AP earlier this month that David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, overseeing the federal tax probe involving Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, will remain in place. The 93 U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and are responsible for overseeing offices of federal prosecutors and charged with prosecuting federal crimes in their jurisdictions. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
(Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel - image credit) A group of Edmonton medical staff are calling on the province to delay plans to move forward with further relaxation of COVID-19 measures. The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMA) released a letter Friday saying that instead of moving to Step 2 of its reopening plan, the Alberta government should close bars and restaurants to indoor service or, at least, institute capacity limits. Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of EZMA's pandemic committee, worries that the province is getting ahead of itself. "You're virtually guaranteeing that you are going to miss the signal," Talbot said. "They should be waiting longer if they are going to use hospitalizations [as a lagging indicator] and in fact they should be using active cases." Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer, said the province would not make a decision to further restrictions until Monday at the earliest. After a steady decline since December, Alberta's daily new cases and test positivity rate have plateaued and showed signs of trending upward since the province entered Step 1 on Feb. 8, which included reopening bars and restaurants for in-person service. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Friday that the last week's worth of data still needs to be reviewed, but he wasn't anticipating a need to delay Step 2. He said the data will be reviewed by government and public health officials on Monday before an official decision is made. Talbot worries that opening banquet halls and conference centres — both a target for eased restrictions under the province's next step — could lead to so-called super-spreader events. Further easing of indoor fitness guidelines is a concern for Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury, a critical care doctor at the University of Albeta Hospital. "It scares me when places where you get a lot of people together, where it's hard to control everybody's behaviour [start to reopen]," Chowdhury said. "That's always a risk." Co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, Dr. James Talbot, would like the province to hold off on Step 2 of the reopening plan. He advises that mask wearing and physical distancing measures should be strictly adhered to at gyms and any indoor space. Otherwise, Dr. Chowdhury is cautiously optimistic to move forward with Step 2. "We're not out of the woods by any means, I hope nobody thinks that … as long as [the province] is paying attention to the numbers, I think we're going to be OK." Chowdhury said he was feeling burned out around the holidays but the pressures have eased slightly on frontline staff. He said they have been able to return to normal staffing levels on most units. "I think it will be a huge hit to morale if we see cases come up again," he said. "I don't think anyone really wants to go through, or is prepared to go through, what we may have gone through at Christmas time. We're hoping now we can just tread water until this thing at least dissipates." As of Friday's update from Alberta Health, there were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in ICU. The province said it would consider each step of eased restrictions based on hospitalization benchmarks, with the mark for Step 2 set at less than 450 hospitalizations.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is telling California's Santa Clara County that it can't enforce a ban on indoor religious worship services put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The high court issued an order Friday evening in a case brought by a handful of churches. The justices, in early February, told the state of California that it can't bar indoor church services because of the pandemic. The justices said at the time that the state could cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity and continue to bar singing and chanting. But Santa Clara had argued that its temporary ban on indoor gatherings of any kind including worship services should be allowed to stand. The county, which includes San Jose, said that it was treating houses of worship no differently from other indoor spaces where it prohibits gatherings and caps attendance. The county said people could go into houses of worship to pray or go to confession, among other things, but couldn't gather with groups of others. The county said the same was true of retail establishments, where shoppers can go but not gather for an event such as a book reading. The justices' unsigned order Friday said that their action was “clearly dictated” by their order from earlier this month. The court's three liberal justices dissented. Santa Clara had told the court in a letter Thursday that coronavirus cases in the county have recently continued to decline and that it was already close to lifting its ban on indoor gatherings. If the data continued the positive trend, the letter said, the county expected to allow all indoor gatherings, subject to restrictions, as soon as next Wednesday. The Associated Press
Community leaders in Kenora, Ont., are rallying to support First Nations individuals who say they are being denied services from businesses in town after a COVID-19 outbreak in a surrounding community. Tania Cameron, a First Nations community advocate in the area, said she’s received complaints from nine people from Wabaseemoong First Nation who allege that some local businesses have refused them service. Wabaseemoong, about 100 kilometres north of Kenora, was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this month, infecting several households. Kenora is a hub for dozens of rural and First Nations communities in the area that travel to the small city for essential services such as shopping and health care. Ms. Cameron is organizing support to those who want to pursue action such as filing formal complaints to the police and Ontario human-rights tribunal. She said her own teenage children feel unsafe shopping in town, worried that others might think they’re infected with COVID-19 because they’re First Nations. Facebook posts began to circulate last week with allegations that people from Wabaseemoong were spitting on produce at local grocery stores. One post to the local Kenora Rant N Rave Facebook group said that people from the First Nation didn’t care about small local businesses trying to survive. The poster said they were infecting innocent people who “actually” work for a living. Ms. Cameron shared that screenshot and another one on her own Facebook page, calling the posters “garbage people with ugly hearts” and encouraging others to “rise above their hate.” She said she was later contacted by an Ontario Provincial Police officer who asked her to take the screenshot down because the person who posted the comment and her employer were receiving threats. Ms. Cameron says she was only bringing attention to the harmful damage racism has on the broader community, and that there was nothing in her own posts that incited hate or violence. She says she hasn’t deleted the screenshots but has since removed the names and photos so they aren’t identifiable. Inspector Jeff Duggan, Kenora OPP Detachment Commander, told The Globe and Mail that allegations that people from Wabaseemoong were spitting on produce were false and baseless. He said the original poster took down the post before she contacted police because she was receiving threats and realized it was harmful. The treatment of Wabaseemoong members has drawn condemnation. On Monday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller took to Twitter to denounce “ignorant and bigoted behaviour from certain businesses and organizations in Kenora, as well as online.” People from across the province shared positive messages and support on social media for Wabaseemoong, using the hashtag #wabaseemoongstrong, in response to the community’s COVID-19 outbreak and the racism that followed. More than 50 people were infected at the onset of the outbreak and the community went into immediate lockdown, according to information posted to the Wabaseemoong website. In response to one of the Facebook posts, local community-services organization Firefly condemned what it called “an act of racism” from one of its employees. Firefly said the company was heartbroken to see the racially insensitive and offensive comment posted by the employee who also had their workplace identified. Insp. Duggan said police are concerned for the safety of everybody in the area, including those from Wabaseemoong, and that if they are being denied service they should contact police to investigate. “If they’re being denied service, that’s against the human-rights code,” Insp. Duggan said, adding that they haven’t received any complaints from anyone from Wabaseemoong. Ms. Cameron says many First Nations people in the area don’t trust the police to investigate racist encounters and consider police action a privilege not afforded to Indigenous people. The Ontario Human Rights Commission also issued a statement encouraging all Kenora residents to stand up to the racism in their community, advising that “discriminatory action against individuals who are Indigenous or who have, or are perceived to have, COVID-19 is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.” Terence Douglas, a Kenora lawyer, is part of an ad hoc group of concerned citizens, lawyers and service providers that have come together recently to assist those who have been denied service because they’re from Wabaseemoong, including possibly filing applications to the human-rights tribunal. “Clearly upon its face, refusal of service based on a person’s race or place of origin is contrary to and denies a person’s right guaranteed under Section 1 [of the human-rights code], and is an affront to a person’s human dignity,” Mr. Douglas said in an e-mail. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail