WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.
New York plans to prioritize nursing home residents and staff when it begins distributing the first doses of coronavirus vaccine, hopefully later this month. (Dec. 2)
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
HALIFAX — A new website was launched Wednesday to assist Nova Scotia first responders coping with trauma, in a year in which a pandemic and a mass shooting have added to the distressing experiences they routinely face. The site offers resources designed for paramedics, firefighters, police officers and health services workers to help them manage the toll of the trauma they experience at work. It also provides support for their recovery from traumatic psychological injury, including links to online counselling. The site www.FirstRespondersMentalHealthNS.com is promoted by posters with the faces of first responders superimposed with phrases reflecting thoughts they may be keeping inside. They include statements such as "It's hard to quiet the voices in my head," and "There's this heavy feeling." The website, launched by a provincial steering committee, is modelled on a similar site in British Columbia, and also contains links for family members living with a person with post-traumatic stress disorder. Debra Fortune, a 42-year-old paramedic who participated in the committee, said in an interview Wednesday that first responders often are reluctant to seek help or are unaware of how to begin. Her husband Jason Fortune, also a paramedic, developed PTSD in 2014 but went without significant treatment for two years, she said. Fortune, who started in her field in 2002, gradually accumulated psychological traumas herself from exposure to disturbing scenes, including arriving at a home where a young child had died. Early this summer, she realized the incident was causing her to lose sleep, as painful memories kept returning. At times, she'd feel a searing pain through her back and neck. "I had some previous pediatric calls that were very difficult, and all of a sudden I wasn't able to be around my (infant) daughter. I was very fearful," she said. "When I realized I was avoiding my 16-month-old child that's when I reached out for treatment." She said she's hopeful that she will be able return to work next year. Fortune said paramedics across the province have been at a breaking point for years as they try to help patients who are awaiting treatment in backed-up emergency rooms, or move them from one overcrowded hospital to another. COVID-19 has added to the stress as the paramedics must now often don protective equipment for patients who might have the illness. "It's very scary because there are many people who aren't always honest with us," she said. The Nova Scotia mass shooting in April, in which a gunman killed 22 people in a 13-hour rampage, will likely contribute to the number of medics and other first responders with trauma, said Fortune. "We go to work and know anything can happen, but there is nothing that can prepare you for something like that," she said. Nova Scotia has passed legislation that presumes a diagnosis of PTSD for first responders is related to their work, and they are therefore eligible for workers' compensation. Fortune said the legislation, along with the new awareness campaign, are giving access to more resources than when her husband became ill. "Hopefully this site will bring people forward, to get the help that they need," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Community centres across the South Peace have partially closed due to three-week COVID restrictions that came into effect for enhanced-status areas last Friday. The Beaverlodge Community Centre and multi-purpose room are both closed, said Tina Letendre, Beaverlodge acting chief administrative officer. The Christmas Festival hasn’t been booked at the centre this year and that means lost revenue of approximately $1,800, she said. “We’re unable to do the Christmas Festival this year with the COVID restric- tions,” said Alysha Martin, Beaverlodge Daycare Society executive director. She said last year the festival was held at St. Mary School, which is also closed for private rentals. Letendre said most other lost rental revenue at the community centre will be “very minimal,” or about $143 in November. Planned private rentals were cancelled and postponed, with Letendre saying birthday parties, fitness classes and meetings were the most common rentals. Both the Sexsmith Community Centre and civic centre have been affected by the restrictions. Dennis Stredulinsky, an Elks member who manages bookings for the civic centre, said the centre is largely shut down. Shannon Municipal Library remains open at reduced capacity, but the Sexsmith Tumbling Club has postponed group classes in favour of Zoom classes and one-to-one appointments, he said. The civic centre had booked one church service in December, but that has been postponed until next year, he said. The Elks won’t be meeting at the civic centre again until possibly January, and that might be by phone, Stredu- linsky said. Council had also been meeting at the civic centre in recent months but moved to the community centre two weeks ago. The Sexsmith Community Centre is also mostly closed, said Beth Endresen. Council meetings will still take place there but two private parties and a yoga session had to be cancelled, she said. There won’t be much lost revenue for December, as typically the space is donated to the Sexsmith Christmas hamper campaign, Endresen said. The centre is commonly used for yoga and fitness classes, playschool and family rentals, as well as annual general meetings, she said. Endresen said the “primary user” is the Lighthouse Seventh Day Adventist Church, which holds services Saturdays. Under COVID restrictions the services will continue with one-third attendance, she said. The Hythe Community Centre is “basically closed to public access,” but Montana’s Hair Salon, the food bank and South Peace Rural Community Learning are open by appointment, said facilities manager Candy Robertson. Appointments aren’t necessary for the thrift store but the north access should be used, Robertson said. The Demmitt Community Centre is also closed, said Teresa von Tiesenhausen, a Demmitt Cultural Society volunteer board member. Von Tiesenhausen said the society had to cancel yoga classes, which have been running with a cap of 15, as well as the annual community Christmas party. Typically at this time of year the hall would see activity like dances, documentary nights, workshops and the Borderline Culture Series concerts, she said. The Saskatoon Lake Community Hall is closed as well, said Teri Ondrick, hall manager. Girl Guides, 4-H and other community group meetings and Christmas parties had to be cancelled, along with many rentals over the upcoming weeks, she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
A frequent user of Nova Scotia's freedom-of-information system says he's growing frustrated with what he calls the repeated disregard for the rules by the provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.Ron Neufeld has filed four requests for information from the department since last February and each has faced notable delays. In one case, Neufeld faced multiple time extensions for his application before eventually being told the package was awaiting sign-off by the deputy minister before it could be released; that only happened after Neufeld called in the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.In another case, the department refused to release any documents even after the commissioner became involved. In a third case, it took months for the deputy minister to sign off on what amounted to a single page of information; again the commissioner's office had to intercede.Neufeld is still waiting for information about a lease and licence for a specific aquaculture site he requested back in June."It's hard not to feel picked on," Neufeld, a well-known critic of open-pen fish farming, said in a telephone interview. "The department seems to have disregard for their obligations under [the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act]."'Committed to being open'The freedom-of-information system is intended to provide accountability for the public when it comes to government operations, said Neufeld, but right now it feels like the department isn't living up to its obligation.Even more frustrating for him is that there is little that can be done to hold department officials' feet to the fire; recommendations from the commissioner's office are not binding. Premier Stephen McNeil has ignored repeated requests to change that, despite having promised to do so during the 2013 provincial election.The department refused to make Minister Keith Colwell or deputy minister Loretta Robichaud available for an interview, but in a statement said they are "committed to being open and transparent."The statement said the department has been proactively posting "most information" online, including administrative and adjudicative decisions and adjudicative application documents. Leases and licences will be posted online as they're renewed, according to the statement.The department's statement did not address the issue of delayed sign-offs by the deputy on the release of information packages.Repeated roadblocksA complaint from Neufeld was the subject of a report by the privacy commissioner's office in February.In that report, it was noted the department ignored followups by staff with Information Access and Privacy Services to try to move things along. It also noted that the act does not permit time delays for awaiting a deputy minister's sign-off on the release of information.At the time, Internal Services Minister Patricia Arab, whose department oversees Information Access and Privacy Services, said it would be "very irresponsible" for government officials not to do due diligence when it comes to freedom-of-information requests.For Neufeld, who once successfully sued the government to gain access to information the commissioner ruled he was entitled to, the issue comes down to the department living up to its own talking points."I hear over and over again from the minister that they're becoming more transparent and providing more information all the time, and yet it seems like that is actually not the case when you get down to asking them a question," he said."It's pretty basic information I'm asking for."MORE TOP STORIES
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 1, 2020 Fourteen ATV riders could have saved themselves more than $100 if they had purchased an off-road trail permit. Instead they were hit with a $215 fine for breaking a Simcoe County bylaw that requires the $103 permits to use trails designated for off-road use. Riding in undesignated areas also carries a $215 fine. Huronia West OPP officers and trail wardens stopped 65 riders in County of Simcoe Forests Sept. 27, with the majority of the trail users in full compliance with regulations. Police remind ATV riders that under provincial laws a helmet, licence plate, registration, insurance and driver's licence are required when operating off-road vehicles on public trails, road allowances and Simcoe County Forests trails. They must be presented to an officer upon demand. Trail permits can be purchased from OFATV and OFTR. For details refer to https://myoftr.ca or call 855-637-6387. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released a final decision recently on the applicable uses of the fungicide, mancozeb after a years-long process. Popular among vegetable and fruit growers, mancozeb is a broad-spectrum fungicide with a low risk of parasite resistance that has been used in Canada since the 1960s. Today, according to Health Canada’s pesticide registry, mancozeb is used in at least 40 registered products. Under the Pest Control Products Act, the PMRA regularly re-evaluates pesticides to ensure they’re safe for people and the environment. In 2018, a document outlining proposed changes to the use of mancozeb was released, revealing that the PMRA was proposing cancellation of all mancozeb use, aside from greenhouse tobacco, “due to risks to human health and the environment that were not found to be acceptable.” “I was in an apple meeting and I was told apples were cancelled, and my face went white,” said Charles Stevens of the moment he was told of the news. Stevens, an apple grower in Newcastle and chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s crop protection committee, said mancozeb is likely the most important fungicide to the apple industry — he says he’s used it on crops for over 40 years. Leading a mancozeb task force, Stevens, Craig Hunter, Caleigh Hallink-Irwin, and Jason Smith pushed back against the government’s proposal, meeting with then PMRA executive director, Richard Aucoin, in 2018. “It was the most important crop protection meeting of my life in this industry,” Stevens said. “They pulled the final decision back which has never happened in North America ever, so this was a big deal,” he explained. “There were a lot of things that we had presented that the executive director had not heard. He was not happy with his staff that had done the re-evaluation. That was all there was to it; tey had not done a good job and he recognized that and he put the hammer down,” Stevens said of the agency’s decision to pull back. That started the year’s long process of redoing the re-evaluation of mancozeb, which culminated in a final decision being released on Nov. 19 this year. In an emailed response to questions from Niagara This Week, Health Canada spokesperson Kathleen Marriner said the agency’s evaluation found mancozeb products meet current health and environment standards when used with new mitigation measures. Under the 2020 decision, use is approved for: ground and aerial foliar application to potatoes; and ground foliar application on apples, onions, sugar beets, ginseng, field cucumbers, field tomatoes, grapes, pumpkin, squash, and melon (but not watermelon), and in-furrow application to onions. According to Marriner’s email, use has been repealed for all seed treatments, greenhouse uses, and use on pears, carrots, celery, lettuce, watermelon, lentils, wheat, alfalfa grown for seed, as well as ornamentals and forestry uses. Mancozeb also cannot be applied using hand-held equipment, or used for commercial-class wettable powder or dust formulations. “At the end of the day, they haven't changed the amount used in Canada,” Stevens said, explaining that usage limits had previously been granted to potatoes, leaving the rest of the horticulture sector wanting. In this year's decision, removing two uses of mancozeb from potatoes provided enough uses to be distributed among other crops, while staying within limits of the total amount of the fungicide that can be used. “It was worth the effort, and it got done correctly at the end of the day,” Stevens said. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
LONDON — Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and could be dispensing shots within days — a historic step toward eventually ending the outbreak that has killed more than 1.4 million people around the globe.In giving the go-ahead for emergency use of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, Britain vaulted past the United States by at least a week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not scheduled to consider the vaccine until Dec. 10.“This is a day to remember, frankly, in a year to forget," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.The announcement sets the stage for the biggest vaccination campaign in British history and came just ahead of what experts are warning will be a long, dark winter, with the coronavirus surging to epic levels in recent weeks in the U.S. and Europe.Officials cautioned that several tough months still lie ahead even in Britain, given the monumental task of inoculating large swaths of the population. Because of the limited initial supply, the first shots will be reserved for those most in danger, namely nursing home patients, the elderly and health care workers.Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency recommended the vaccine after clinical trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers showed it was 95% effective and turned up no serious side effects. The vaccine is still considered experimental while final testing is done.“This is an unprecedented piece of science,” given that the vaccine was authorized less than a year after the virus was discovered, said David Harper, senior consulting fellow in global health at the Chatham House think-tank .Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that the “searchlights of science” had picked out the “invisible enemy,” which has been blamed for close to 60,000 deaths in Britain. He said that in developing the vaccine, scientists had performed “biological jujitsu” by turning the virus on itself.Other countries aren’t far behind: Regulators not only in the U.S. but in the European Union and Canada also are vetting the Pfizer vaccine along with a shot made by Moderna. British and Canadian regulators are also considering a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.Amid growing concern in the U.S. that Americans will greet vaccines with skepticism, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Britain’s decision “should give Americans additional confidence in the quality of such a vaccine.” The virus has killed more than 270,000 in the U.S.Hancock said Britain will begin receiving the first shipment of 800,000 doses from Belgium within days, and people will start getting the shots as soon as it arrives. Two doses three weeks apart are required. The country expects to receive millions of doses by the end of this year, Hancock said, though the exact number will depend on how fast it can be manufactured and checked for quality.BioNTech, which owns the vaccine, said it has so far signed deals to supply 570 million doses worldwide in 2021, with options to deliver 600 million more. It hopes to supply at least 1.3 billion in 2021.That is only a fraction of what will be needed as public health officials try to vaccinate much of the world’s population. Experts have said several vaccines will be required to quickly end the pandemic that has infected more than 64 million people globally.In Britain, the first shots will go to nursing home patients and those who care for them, followed by everyone over 80 and health care workers. From there, the program will be expanded as the supply increases, with the vaccine offered roughly on the basis of age groups, starting with the oldest people.Amid the burst of optimism, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla warned governments against any immediate move to relax restrictions and reopen their economies.“The time that we will have to go back to normality is not far away," he said. "But it is definitely not now.”Despite the speed with which they approved the vaccine, and the intense political pressure surrounding the worldwide race to solve the crisis, British regulators insisted “no corners have been cut” during the review process.The MHRA made its recommendation following a so-called rolling review that allowed it to assess information about the vaccine as it came in, starting back in October.“The safety of the public will always come first,” said Dr. June Raine, the agency's chief executive. “And I emphasize again that this recommendation has only been given by the MHRA following the most rigorous scientific assessment of every piece of data.”Getting that message to the public will be critical if any vaccination program is to be successful. Some people are worried about getting any vaccine, never mind a new one.“But I think once they understand and see everyone else having it without hesitation, I think you’ll find that people will go and have it,” Jacqueline Roubians, a 76-year-old retired nurse, said at Brixton Market in London. “People are dying of COVID, so you make that decision: Do you want to die or do you want the vaccine?”In addition to the huge logistical challenges of distributing the vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech one must be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit).Pfizer said that it has developed shipping containers that use dry ice and that GPS-enabled sensors will allow the company to track each shipment and ensure it stays cold.Every country has different rules for determining when an experimental vaccine is safe and effective enough to use. China and Russia have offered different vaccines to their citizens before they had gone through large-scale, late-stage testing.Hours after Britain's announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin, not to be outdone, ordered the start of a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination campaign by late next week, with doctors and teachers to be first in line to receive the Sputnik V shot, whose name was inspired by the 1957 satellite that was one of Moscow's proudest technical achievements.The Russian vaccine won regulatory approval in August but has yet to complete advanced studies of its effectiveness and safety. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said more than 100,000 people in Russia have been given the shots.Still to be determined is whether the Pfizer-BioNTech shots prevent people from spreading the virus when they have no symptoms. Another question is how long protection lasts.The vaccine also has been tested in only a small number of children, none younger than 12, and there’s no information on its effects in pregnant women.___Neergaard reported from Alexandria, Virginia. Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Lawless, Pan Pylas and Jo Kearney in London contributed__Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___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 And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Hamilton's Forge FC is headed to Honduras for another attempt to secure a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the confederation's top-tier club competition.The Canadian Premier League champion plays CD Marathon in a play-in match next week. Both teams lost their quarterfinals Tuesday in the CONCACAF League, a 22-team feeder tournament that sends six teams to the elite Champions League.Date and venue in Honduras have yet to be announced.Forge lost a penalty shootout to Haiti's Arcahei FC following a 1-1 tie in regulation time in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Marathon was beaten 2-0 by Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa, the defending CONCACAF League champion, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.Marathon will be a formidable opponent. Founded in 1925, it currently tops its group in the Honduran Premier Division at 7-3-2. Forge, meanwhile, has played just three times since winning the Island Games, which represented the CPL's truncated season, on Sept. 19 in Charlottetown.Forge, which has already posted road victories in Panama and El Salvador in its tournament run, is bidding to become the first CPL team to qualify for the Champions League. Marathon reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League in 2009 and 2010.The four CONCACAF League quarterfinal winners qualify directly for the Champions League while the losing quarterfinalists compete in single-leg play-in games with the two winners also qualifying.The other play-in match will feature the losers of Wednesday's two remaining CONCACAF League quarterfinals: Costa Rica's Alajuelense versus Nicaragua's Real Esteli FC and Olimpia versus fellow Honduran side Motagua.Forge will also have a crack at Champions League qualification via the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC, slated for the first quarter of 2021.There is no word yet on what happens to the Champions League berth on offer in the Canadian Championship final if Forge wins in Honduras next week."CONCACAF remains in discussions with Canada Soccer and will provide an update in due course," a CONCACAF spokesman said.\---Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Halifax councillors want to crack down on landlords who purposely make rental units unlivable as a ploy to pressure tenants to move out of their homes. Rosanna Chilton, a renter in Halifax, said the door to her basement apartment on Joseph Howe Drive was removed on Dec. 1 for 24 hours."My roommate was there when he removed the door and ran away with it," she said. "He wanted to bully us out of here."Chilton had to miss work and make a number of calls before the door was put back. She is looking for another place to live, but has not been able to find one that she can afford.Councillors are hearing from other tenants with similar stories."I just had another note from a young woman who had her doors and windows taken off," said Coun. Pam Lovelace. "Landlords should know that Halifax will not put up with this."Councillor calls for $10K finesThe province handles landlord-tenant disputes, such as overdue rent, through the tenancy board. The municipality is responsible for health and safety standards of rental buildings."If the tenancy board has problems, that's an issue for landlords to take to the province," said Coun. Waye Mason. "But in the interim, they can't do these things that put people's lives at risk."Mason said there should be a $10,000 fine per day, per incident, and the municipality should have the ability to send in a contractor to immediately replace a door or window.HRM officials are already working on a new rental bylaw that will have occupancy standards and a rental registry. Mason is calling for new fines for health and safety violations to be included in the bylaw, which is expected to be ready by April."I think our bylaw officers need the biggest stick possible," he said. "You cannot make a unit dangerous because you have a tenant dispute."MORE TOP STORIES
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
Tay council wrangled with budget-item options in an attempt to bring down the proposed tax levy as much as possible, eventually settling on a 2% increase. The number is expected to go down to at least 1.4% or 1.2% once the blended tax rate from the county is shared with the municipality, said treasurer Joanne Sanders, who presented a detailed budget to council at its recent special meeting. She told councillors about items that had been taken off the list to help bring the tax rate down to 2%, including major expenses like repairs to bridges. "Granny White bridge, Rumney Road culvert and the Rosemount Road north bridge have all been removed from the capital budget," she said. "We did some more research there and no safety issues came up. The most recent bridge report still had those repairs in the one- to five-year category." These projects will be re-assessed during the 2020 bridge report, added Sanders. And with growth, comes surplus And it is this surplus, said Sanders, which is helping keep the tax rate down. "We are projecting a healthy surplus for the close of 2020," she said. "The greatest contributors are salaries and the supplementary assessments, which created additional income. There is a surplus of $349,500 left in the 2020 projected surplus. We do have funds to work with." Most of that money, Sanders said, has come from growth in the area. "Rather than $93,000 being covered by growth, we're looking at $128,000," she said. "That reduces our reliance on the reserve from $66,500 to $31,500." And with the additional bylaw summer student and administrative summer student positions also taken out of the budget, the reliance on surplus fell further to $19,600. Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle warned about relying too much on growth. "Moving forward, we need to remember the future may not be so kind to us," he said. "We're running out of inventory. Do we require that growth to balance our budget? What impact does that have year-in and year-out?" Sanders said money from supplementary assessments as a result of growth in the area doesn't show up immediately on a budget, but trickles in over a few years. But with great growth comes higher liability, and that means higher insurance costs, she said. According to the budget Sanders shared, insurance costs are estimated to increase by 20% or $84,000 for next year, adding she doesn't see a light at the end of that tunnel. "They're not saying the landscape is going to change," said Sanders. "Last year, we looked at increasing our deductible to decrease our rate, but I don't see a huge light at the end of the tunnel." Capitals projects Coun. Jeff Bumstead wasn't sure if that move would end up saving the township any money in the long run. "If we're pushing these replacements to the end of that one- to five-year suggested range, are we looking at further cost or replacement?" he asked. Rick Bingham, interim operational service general manager, agreed with the councillor's assumption. "You need to do some rehabilitation before it gets to the point you have to do a reconstruction," said Bingham. "I think there are quite a few of them that will need to be reconstructed because they haven't had any rehabilitation done over the years. "I understand the former director had engaged the consultants to do a feasibility review and they will be providing a report over the next couple weeks on how money is best spent on bridges so we can stay ahead of the game," he added. Seeing the trend of removing projects from the capital budget, Coun. Barry Norris came up with another 'money-saving' suggestion. "The dry hydrants for the rural areas; I don't support it," he said talking about the emergency preparedness list. "The fact that we have tankers and mutual aid, I still can't support that at this point in time. Council may want to weight in to defer that expenditure." Fire Chief Brian Thomas made the case for fire safety. "The dry hydrants are a water source for the fire department to use while they're fighting fires out in the rural areas," he said. "We have $10,000 down for the next three years to find locations and get agreements with property owners so that we can enter their property to access the water sources. We do have mutual-aid agreements, but we still need the water source for all those tankers. The closer the water source is the more readily available; then the firefighters will have the amounts of water they will need." Then Norris focused on the planned sidewalk for Seventh Avenue and wondered about $127,000 expenditure. "I find it tough to increase that. The next thing we're going to have to do is clear it through the winter," said Norris, who instead suggested staff should consider putting in a base and a screen top over the pathway. "If it's substantially used, I have no problems putting a top coat on," he said. "To allow $30,000 to do that, let's see how it pans out. We can deviate that to another part of the capital." That suggestion did not sit well with Coun. Sandy Talbot, who said she wasn't sure why Norris had a problem with a project she considered a 'no brainer.' "This has been on the books for two years," she said, noting the safety of children who catch a bus there is a paramount concern. "I'm not sure if you're aware there's an incline on that road on Seventh Avenue, which is like a speedway and people are going down the road at unbelievable speeds. We need this. People walk this road on a daily basis. We need to ensure the safety of our residents." And she had support from councillors Paul Raymond and Mary Warnock. "I agree with Coun. Talbot," said the latter. "They've waited long enough. Sidewalks are important in our community to make them walkable. As we're going to see in official plans that come out, making our communities age-friendly, sidewalks are going to be a priority. I don't think there's any reason to delay this any further." With that, Norris' bid to remove those two items from the list was defeated. Expenses and overtime Talbot had her own concerns over some of the items contained within the budget. "Under expenditures, there's a cost for a rental car for $7,000. What did we need that car for?" she said. Sanders said that was thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. "It was for bylaw due to physical distancing requirements," she added. "It's on the COVID-related expenses list." Talbot then said she was concerned about the amount of overtime recorded. "It's $55,000," she said. "Can you give me an explanation of that? It's a lot of money. It's almost another position." Sanders said that wasn't just in one department, but spread across various township sections. "In a lot of cases, overtime was worked due to COVID-19, additional research and setting stuff up," she said. "There was also additional time that we felt was worked because we didn't necessarily fill positions as quickly as we would have because filling positions wasn't feasible during the height of COVID-19. So you have staff doing double-duty and that's why you see a fair bit of overtime." Talbot said she would like to see overtime kept in check moving forward. "Our aim should be reducing the overtime hours," she said. "I understand (the need) with our snowplow drivers or a public works emergency. But we need to be adherent to the lowest overtime we can allow. We're responsible for the monies of this township. In turn, we need to adhere to some kind of reduction in the overtime as possible." Grants and funding requests This section will be discussed in further detail at an upcoming December meeting, still council directed staff around two moves. "We can take the YMCA out," said Mayor Ted Walker. "They're not going to take us up on the loan offer." He took a bit of a hard line around the funding request made by the Severn Sound Environmental Association. "They had a huge increase last year and this year, the increase looks rather substantial as well," he said, talking about their request of $76,070 from 2019, that increased to $108,462 for this year and has gone up further to $122,042 for next year. "I'm wondering if we've heard anything back from them about this huge increase. "I think we should wait for their response and if we don't get any, we should budget what we did last year," added Walker.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Fossil fuel production around the world must start winding down now, dropping by six per cent per year for the next decade to avoid the more extreme consequences of the climate emergency, according to a major new study backed by the United Nations. Instead, governments around the world, including Canada, expect to go in the opposite direction — producing more coal, oil or natural gas “far in excess of the levels consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature limits,” states the 2020 Production Gap report, released Wednesday. Researchers working in collaboration with the UN’s Environment Program looked at publicly available energy strategies of eight major fossil fuel-producing countries that collectively account for 60 per cent of the global fossil fuel supply. They found a planned average annual increase of about two per cent per year to carbon-intensive energy production. Such production levels would result in more than double, or 120 per cent more, high-carbon fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with holding global heating below 2 C above pre-industrial levels. “Governments are altogether still planning on producing far too many fossil fuels,” said Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, a scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the corresponding author of the report’s chapter on the production gap. This includes Canada, which expects its crude oil and natural gas production to keep steadily climbing over the next two decades, even as the federal Liberal government commits to net-zero emissions nationwide by 2050 and promises to increase the stringency of its 2030 emissions target. Canadian crude oil production isn’t expected to peak until at least 2039, and natural gas production isn’t expected to peak until 2040, according to projections from the federal energy regulator that were released last week. Wednesday’s report cites Canadian projections showing 6.4 million barrels of oil per day and 187 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2030. Julia Levin, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence, said the report sounds the alarm over the disconnect between the climate commitments of countries and their plans for their energy sectors. As a wealthy nation, said Levin, with expertise in renewable energy and clean technology, Canada has the ability to start down a path of a managed decline of fossil fuel production, while ensuring such a transition is just and equitable for workers in the sector. “It will require courage and leadership from our elected leaders to start having honest conversations about what achieving zero emissions really means, and to stop dancing around an obvious truth: That we must transition off of fossil fuels,” she said. Canada is one of four countries examined in the report, along with Australia, the United States and Russia, that are forecasting increases in their oil and gas production. The eight countries studied also include China, India, Indonesia and Norway. The researchers — who also hailed from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and European think tank E3G — said the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures meant to stop the spread of the virus did take a bite out of fossil fuel production, but not nearly enough to stave off harsher climate disruptions. They said preliminary estimates suggest global fossil fuel production will drop by seven per cent in 2020, relative to last year. Coal will drop by eight per cent, oil will drop by seven per cent and natural gas will drop by three per cent. Pre-COVID-19 energy plans, as well as government stimulus and recovery measures, however, could “prompt a return to pre-COVID production trajectories that lock in severe climate disruption.” “To date, governments have committed far more COVID-19 funds to fossil fuels than to clean energy,” the report states. “As of November 2020, G20 governments had committed US$233 billion to activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption, as compared with US$146 billion to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon alternatives.” One very important fossil fuel player is missing from the report: The researchers could not find data from Saudi Arabia. But the state-controlled fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco has indicated in a Reuters story that it will ramp up production as soon as demand returns “before a shift to cleaner energy makes crude all but worthless.” The federal government gets credit in the report for committing $1.7 billion towards cleaning up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells, and for launching a methane emissions reduction program. Canada, with its carbon pricing system, is also one of several governments that have introduced reforms and limits to fossil fuel consumption. It is also one of three countries to have set up bodies that are helping design policies to facilitate a “just transition” away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Alberta is also noted for contributing $180 million to its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction system, meant to help large industrial emitters cut their pollution. Michael Lazarus, director of SEI’s U.S. centre and co-ordinating lead author of the report, noted that even though Canadian oil production is forecasted to continue to rise, the Canada Energy Regulator had “substantially ramped down” the projections in its latest report. “I think we may begin to see other countries starting to do the same,” he said. “But the point is they need to be encouraged to do so. It doesn’t necessarily come automatically.” Canada is also listed as a “leading provider of fossil fuel producer subsidies” and Alberta’s equity and loan guarantees for the Keystone XL pipeline are also singled out. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Newly-elected Yorkton, Sask., Mayor Mitch Hipplsey says Manitobans are still welcome in his city and there isn't much he could do to stop them if he wanted to.Both provinces are reporting high numbers of COVID-19 cases and health officials are asking people to avoid non-essential interprovincial travel.Yorkton is about 80 kilometres away from the Manitoba border, so Hipplsey said it's been very common to see Manitoba licence plates in that city since long before the pandemic started.Hipplsey said Manitobans are not only essential to the local economy, but between 12 and 15 per cent of patients at Yorkton's hospital are from that province. Not to mention the municipal government doesn't have any legal authority to stop Manitobans from coming there, Hippsley said."Interprovincial travel is not our rules [or] our protocol," he said, noting he has been in close contact with Premier Scott Moe."We hope that our provincial leaders will look after that for us, but it's not our legislation to control that."Hipplsey said he has heard concerns from some residents.He said he sympathizes with those concerns, but there isn't much the city can do aside from ensuring everyone is abiding by COVID-19 protocols like wearing a mask in indoor public places, physical distancing, regular hand washing and staying home when sick."We cannot stop people from doing what they're going to do. We can only ask that they be responsible."No interprovincial travel unless 'absolutely necessary'Moe said on Monday people should not travel interprovincially unless it's "absolutely necessary.""I know businesses and maybe [chambers of commerce] are hungry for business, but I would ask them as an organization and the individuals, whether they be in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, to follow the public health advice … that does not mean going for groceries in a neighbouring province," Moe told reporters."Let's make a little bit of an effort so that we can bend these numbers down and preserve all of the opportunities that we have in our province."The Yorkton Chamber of Commerce declined an interview request.Editorial in Man. newspaperThe Brandon Sun recently published an editorial criticizing Hipplsey's welcoming stance on Manitobans coming to Yorkton.It was in response to a CTV Regina story that featured the mayor saying Manitoba shoppers are always welcomed and encouraged.The editorial says inviting people from Manitoba to shop in Yorkton given the current pandemic circumstances puts people in Saskatchewan at a greater risk since there are considerably more active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba."Communities in Manitoba have come here on a daily basis to get their essential needs, COVID or non-COVID," Hippsley told CBC News in response.He also reiterated that many Manitobans come to Yorkton for reasons other than shopping, like going to the hospital."Until the provincial governments get involved and stop people at the border, we've got no control over that."
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter The grade 11/12 Leadership and Peer Support class at St. Marys DCVI is looking to help local families struggling with food insecurity this holiday season. It is a tradition with DCVI to hold a food drive around the holiday season every year, however, there was some concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may put that in jeopardy. However, thanks to the senior Leadership class, the annual food drive will continue, albeit slightly modified to account for this year's unique circumstances. The event is taking place in multiple different ways, with different aspects targeted to in-school food collection, as well as donations from the public. Each part will be managed by a group of students from the class, with the first part being an in-school contest between grades. This challenges students of every grade to donate non-perishable food items and whichever grade can fill up a kiddie pool the most will win a prize. This in-school contest will run the week of December 7th to December 11th. The next group of students will be going outside the school to collect donations from the public. On Tuesday, December 8th, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the students will be located in the parking lot of Delmar Foods Food Factory Outlet to collect donations. They will then be located in the DCVI parking lot on James Street on Wednesday, December 9th, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Then, on Thursday, December 10th, a group will be stationed in the DCVI parking lot outside on Elizabeth Street. Using the roundabout outside of the school's main doors, this portion of the food drive will run as a drive-thru event, allowing you to place your donations on a table and remain physically distanced from the volunteers. All events will adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, and all of the non-perishable food items collected will be donated to the St. Marys food bank once the food drive is completed on Friday, December 11th. Katie Stevens and Cierra Boyer, two members of the class running the food drive, spoke to the Independent on why it was so important for the entire Leadership class to continue DCVI's tradition of the food drive. "With COVID-19 hitting, we believe that the food drive could support many families during the pandemic, hence why we wanted to still have one even in these times. We have also lost a lot of opportunities in the course to give back to the community because of COVID-19. The course itself is about getting involved with our community and supporting not only our peers but the whole town. The class hopes to not only successfully put on a food drive during a pandemic but also fulfill the curriculum of the course and continue to get involved with the community and our peers." Stevens and Boyer also noted that Guidance Counselor Ruthan Waldick said of the pandemic impacting the food drive, "I have been at the school for over 20 years and can't imagine a school year without the food drive, not even a pandemic will get in the way." If you're unsure of what you could donate, the food drive is accepting canned goods, dry foods, infant/baby formula, diapers, personal hygiene products, bathroom tissue, and paper towels. Monetary donations will also be accepted, and the Leadership class would like to thank Delmar Foods and the Independent for their support.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
VICTORIA — A long-running study of more than 50 dead killer whales in the Pacific Ocean concludes human activities pose deadly threats to the orcas. Killer whale deaths from Alaska to British Columbia, south to California and west to Hawaii linked to human activities were found in every age class from calves to adults, said the study published Wednesday in the open access journal Plos One. The findings indicate that understanding and being aware of each threat is vital for the management and conservation of orca populations, said Stephen Raverty, a B.C. scientist and the report's lead author. Some of the direct causes of orca deaths were attributed to blunt force trauma from collisions with ships or cuts from the propellers of vessels, while indirect causes were related to ingested fish hooks, various human-caused pollutants and malnutrition, Raverty said in an interview. "In one case in Alaska, a young animal swallowed a hook that perforated the back of the throat and resulted in bacteria entering the body and the animal died of a blood-borne bacteria infection," he said. In another necropsy conducted on an older orca, a triple-barbed fishing hook was found in the animal's colon, but it did not appear to impact its health, Raverty said. Raverty, who's a veterinary pathologist at the B.C. Agriculture Ministry and a marine mammal researcher, said the study also provides a baseline understanding of orca health necessary for future research. "There have been a variety of indirect things that have been demonstrated to impact killer whale health and what we're saying is this is more direct evidence of human activities that impact the overall well-being of these animals," he said. The study involved necropsies on the remains of 53 killer whales found from the North Pacific to Hawaii from 2004 to 2013. It also examined the data from 35 other orca deaths from 2001 to 2017, said Raverty. The study was able to confirm the cause of death in 22 of the 53 orcas, and "death related to human interaction was found in every age class." It said necropsies showed evidence of 15 infectious agents and 28 pathogens with the potential to affect orca health, but "non-infectious health concerns include impacts from accumulated persistent pollutants, human interactions including vessel collisions, interaction with fishing gear, the effects of noise and consequences of reduced prey availability." Raverty said the study's results should support federal government efforts to reduce and slow down shipping traffic and noise pollution to protect threatened orca populations, including the West Coast's southern residents that now number 73 members. The federal government recently expanded orders for B.C. whale-watching vessels, requiring them to stay 400 metres away from orcas on their viewing voyages. "You think of these animals as being very agile and being able to avoid impact with vessels, but that doesn't appear to necessarily be the case," Raverty said. "Whether it's just the vessel's speed or there's increased shipping traffic or these vessels are going into some fairly narrow channels where whales may not be able to avoid or evade these vessels, these might be some of the conditions that are occurring." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled the name of the science journal Plos One.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 9, 2020 Two Simcoe County teenagers are charged after a woman was robbed at gunpoint in Orillia Oct. 5. Orillia OPP officers responded to a 911 call about a robbery outside an Atherley Road business at about 11 p.m. but were unable to track down the suspects at the time. Following further investigation, police identified the suspects and arrested them in Port McNicoll. Officers seized a replica Glock handgun, and two prohibited knives, one doubling as brass knuckles. Police allege a female suspect ordered the victim to hand over her money and cellphone while a male suspect pointed a handgun at her. An 18-year-old Midland man and an 18-year-old Tay Township man are charged with robbery using a firearm, robbery using violence and uttering threats. Both suspects were held in custody for a bail hearing. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance