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ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece — The body of a woman was recovered Thursday on the Greek island of Lesbos and identified as that of a woman reported missing after a migrant boat sank the previous day. The coast guard said the body was recovered from a rocky part of the coast, bringing the death toll from the sinking to two. Another 32 people, all from Somalia and including three children, had been rescued from the sea after the dinghy they had been travelling in from the nearby Turkish coast sank off Lesbos early Wednesday morning, Greek authorities said. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas accused the Turkish coast guard of refusing to help the migrants when they issued a distress call. “It is clear that the Turkish vessel, despite the request for help, didn’t help, didn’t rescue the passengers of the fatal boat while they were in Turkish territorial waters,” Petsas said Thursday. "On the contrary, it urged them to move forward, it carried out manoeuvrs against the boat so that it would continue its course toward Greek shores.” Petsas said smuggling gangs were knowingly endangering people’s lives by sending them out to illegally cross the European Union’s borders in unseaworthy vessels. “People who are not in danger on land, Turkey sends them into danger at sea, in boats that don’t fulfil any safety requirements and are driven by people without permits or knowledge of the rules of the sea,” he said, adding that turning a blind eye to such practices was a “usual practice” by neighbouring Turkey. Turkey's coast guard vehemently denied the allegation, saying in a statement that it dispatched a boat after the distress call but found the dinghy to be in Greek waters with a Greek coast guard boat close enough to help. “Due to the fact that the scene of said incident was within the Greek waters and there was no response to the calls in any manner, it had not been possible to intervene in the scene of incident; nevertheless, Turkish assets continued to stay and wait within the Turkish territorial waters," the Turkish statement said. The coast guard also provided a recording of a Turkish unit telling its Greek counterparts in a call that the migrants “need to be rescued immediately" or otherwise Greece would be responsible. Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing poverty and conflict in the Mideast, Africa and Asia. The vast majority make their way from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, often in unseaworthy and grossly overcrowded dinghies and boats. The Associated Press
Anyone looking to get a glimpse of Santa Claus in Windsor on Saturday will have to make an appointment. The drive-thru Windsor Santa Claus Parade is moving to a reservation system after some other events in the region saw congestion issues and long waits.Tickets are free, and reservations can be made here.This year's event was changed to a drive-thru, or reverse parade, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees remain in their vehicles and drive by the floats. The parade will feature entertainers, inflatables and horse units."Although far from a normal parade concept, this method allows for social distancing and has been reviewed by the Windsor Essex County Health Unit," the City of Windsor said in a statement.The parade, which is produced by the non-profit Windsor Parade Corporation, is being held on Saturday at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the St. Clair College Windsor Campus.In a statement, the city said ticketed admission will allow vehicles to smoothly move onto the parade route, as well as minimize traffic congestion on Cabana Rd.Parade officials have established half-hour time blocks for families to book their visit. As of publication, the earliest slots (ending at 7:30 p.m.) are full.
CORNWALL – The COVID-19 infection curve is going back up after two weeks of bending in the right direction, downward. Overall infection numbers in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region have increased with 39 cases added since this weekend. As of the December 1st statistics update from the EOHU, there were 123 active cases of the virus in the region. More than half (65) of the active cases were in the Prescott-Russell area of the health unit, while Cornwall had 29 active cases and SDG Counties had 27. There have been 874 infections in the region since the beginning of the pandemic in February. The region remains at the Yellow level according to the Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions. The rolling seven-day-average for the region is 19.9 cases per 100,000 people, which is considered moderate. A high level of infection is 25 or more cases per 100,000 people. The EOHU region peaked on October 13-19 with a rolling average of 53.5 cases. No information was given by the EOHU about the increased infection rate since the weekend. Most of the new infections that have occurred since October have had an “epi-link” meaning it is from a known source like a close contact. South Dundas has zero active cases while North Dundas has one new case, the first in nearly four weeks for that municipality. Including the new case, North Dundas has had 20 COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, South Dundas has had fewer than five. The EOHU does not report exact overall numbers of cases until the case count reaches five. North Stormont has its first COVID-19 infections of the pandemic with four new cases over the weekend, while South Stormont has 14 active cases. The Upper Canada District School Board issued a notice on Sunday that one case of the virus was confirmed at Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore. “The EOHU is working closely with the school and is actively communicating with all individuals who have been identified as possible close contacts through high-risk exposures,” the board said in a release adding that the school was taking steps to “prevent spread in the school and community.” There was no change in school operations as of Tuesday and it was not disclosed if it was a staff member or a student who tested positive. The school is not considered in an outbreak situation currently. No response to questions by The Leader was received by press deadline as the EOHU has moved to a new schedule for media briefings. The EOHU now hosts a twice-weekly media availability on Tuesday and Friday. Tagwi is one of four schools with active cases of COVID-19. Only the French-Catholic school in Casselman, Sainte-Euphémie, is closed due to several classes having contact with an individual who later tested positive. No schools in Dundas County have had any known cases.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
Plans for a new LRT station at Victoria Park/Stampede will involve building a temporary platform during construction.Gone will be the old concrete walkway that leads pedestrians to the current platform and in its place will be a street-level stop. It's the first step in creating a permanent platform and extending 17th Avenue into Stampede Park over a level crossing of the tracks."It's been a challenge to figure out how do you usher so many Calgarians through the site, through to downtown and beyond, and keep construction working and the team has come up with a really ingenious solution to do a temporary platform closer to Macleod Trail," said Kate Thompson, the CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, which is overseeing the project and the transformation of the Stampede Grounds. She said there are three tracks in the location, which frees up space. Thompson said the overhead walkway will come down in the spring. Inside Stampede Park, most of Weadickville is being demolished or moved, the wooden stockade fence has been cut down and the Coca-Cola stage will be torn down to make way for the new roadway. Opening the park to 17th Avenue is happening at the same time as the extension of the BMO Centre gets underway, with the $500 million project slated for completion in 2024. That project involves demolishing the old Corral, which will begin next week. Also pegged for a 2024 opening date is the new arena on the north end of the grounds.
LOS ANGELES — Mark Cuban, Anthony Anderson and Skylar Diggins-Smith will take part in a series of panel discussions on YouTube that are focused on racial justice.The video-sharing platform announced the lineup on Thursday for “Bear Witness, Take Action 2.” The two-hour special featuring the various panels and musical performances will premiere Saturday at 6 p.m. EST on the YouTube Originals channel.Common and Keke Palmer return as hosts of the forum, which will include sports figures, entertainers and activists. The first event took place in June.Patti LaBelle, Rapsody and SAINt JHN will perform.“I’m excited to return for the second installment to continue these necessary discussions centred around racial injustices in order to nurture, enhance and protect Black lives,” Common said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to the talented and intelligent people we have joining us this time around for more compelling and impactful conversations that we believe will lead to action.”The panels will venture into several topics including criminal justice reform, dealing with mental health during the pandemic and the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality.Some of the highlighted panels include a discussion between Cuban and New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. The Dallas Mavericks owner and Jenkins are expected to talk about what happens when a team owner holds a conversation with a player about white privilege, civil responsibility and political activism.Diggins-Smith will appear on panel with reporter Jemele Hill and activist Harry Edwards about athletes’ impact on today’s political movement.Famed author Isabel Wilkerson will talk with Soledad O’Brien about making society more equitable.“It is so important that we keep a dialogue about racial justice going beyond any particular moment,” Palmer said. “I want to encourage my peers to continue to have thoughtful and powerful conversations that will lead us to change. Let’s talk about it, take action, and see change realized.”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
Islanders who would like to donate reusable, non-medical masks can now drop off donations at all eight Access PEI locations across the province. And for Islanders who may need a reusable mask and can't afford one, free masks will now be available at 14 food banks and pantries around P.E.I. Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson made the announcement about both organisations in the legislature Wednesday. "For many Islanders, purchasing masks may not fall within their budget. Every Islander deserves access to protection against COVID-19," Hudson said as part of the announcement.> It's great to see that the government is kind of answering the call and getting up to the plate \- Alyssa MacKinnon, co-founder of Mask Central PEIAlyssa MacKinnon, co-founder of Mask Central PEI, said her group helped facilitate the mask donation drop-offs at Access PEI.Mask Central PEI is a Facebook group that helps connect people who want to donate masks with organizations looking for mask donations. MacKinnon said Premier Dennis King and his staff reached out to her group, wondering how they could help get masks out to Islanders as quickly as possible. "We're very excited and we're really overwhelmed with the support that we've been getting," said MacKinnon. "It's great to see that the government is kind of answering the call and getting up to the plate, and implementing getting these masks out to low-income Islanders where they need it the most."Islanders' generosity overwhelming MacKinnon said that since she helped launch the new group just eight days ago, the support and generosity they've gotten from Islanders has been overwhelming. She said that with donation drop-offs at Access PEI locations from Souris to Tignish, the Island is well-covered. "Those, I think, are amazing strides coming not only from us, but from the province and from Islanders to kind of address what low-income Islanders' needs are," said MacKinnon. The 14 food bank locations where people can pick up a donated mask also range across the province. You can see a full list of the food banks and the Access PEI locations on the Mask Central PEI Facebook page.More from CBC P.E.I.
SHEET HARBOUR – The Royal Canadian Legion Courcelette Branch 58 is hurting like other non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. During good times the legion was self-sufficient, sponsoring ongoing fundraisers – such as bingos, 50/50 draws, hall rentals, dances and darts – to cover operating costs and ongoing maintenance. After 10 months of an unprecedented pandemic affecting many aspects of the economy, legion members are looking at their budget and reaching out to the community for continued support. A member of the fundraising committee, Barby Cochrane has a message for residents who rely on the legion and the services it offers. “We need the community's help and support. When we open back up in two weeks, we need those who feel safe to come out on Friday night, even if it is just to have one drink or buy a strip of tickets [Chase the Ace]. We need those who cannot come out to reach out to us and we'll arrange to get tickets for you or you can support the 50/50 online,” says Cochrane. “Our numbers for Chase the Ace usually increase week by week, but this year they did not. We had our steady 30 or so participants weekly. “The legion is the only place in the community to gather and it would be a loss to the community, if we had to shut the doors permanently,” Cochrane tells The Journal in an email. “We'll continue to promote the 50/50. We'll hopefully get some of the Covid-19 relief funds from the government. Hopefully, we'll be able to open again after these two weeks, and we'll be able to start Chase the Ace again and community events. But, none of this will matter unless we get the support from our community,” Cochrane says. Past President Vance Thompson adds, “We have helped 25 different organizations within our community over the past few years with Chase the Ace – paying out more than $150,000. We also have a benevolent fund to help people in need – not only vets, but also community members…. The income is used to keep our aging hall going – roof repairs, plumbing repairs, new accessible washroom, new kitchen, new bar fridge, wheelchair ramps, general upkeep of exterior. All these help customers access the building and feel welcome.” Yearly dues are $40 per member, with the local legion receiving a small percentage of that income. Fundraising efforts are the main source of income, although the legion does rely heavily on grants. “We also support community groups, such as the Lions Club, Lily's Hill, GSAR, ATV club, HYGGE [Travel Club], the Sheet Harbour and Area Heritage Society and St. James Church by partnering with them for our Chase the Ace fundraiser,” Cochrane says. “In the past we have helped individual community members when we were able. We also provide rent free space to any and all fundraisers in the community. It is our way of contributing to the fundraiser.” The building is in need of a new roof. The expected expenditure will be in excess of $40,000. Cochrane says they have applied for grants to cover approximately $30,000, but the fundraising committee and legion members will need to work to raise the balance. “The pandemic has hit us hard,” Thompson says. “We had to close our hall in mid-March and we re-opened in mid-September – only now to be closed again for the next few weeks. All events and rentals we had going on are now cancelled until further notice.” There will be about $2,000 in lost income due to the cancellations. “Our membership is primarily made up of elderly residents who are now not able to visit our branch,” Cochrane says. “They cannot come out for Muffin Morning or Chase the Ace or bingo. The reduction in the number of people attending events has impacted our income substantially … yet the building must still be maintained and the expenses must still be paid.” The legion’s service officer supports veterans by providing a confidential service. The officer liaises with other organizations on behalf of the veteran to ensure that they receive everything to which they are entitled. “The branch provides a place for the veterans to gather, services to honour them, and a place where they can remember,” says Cochrane. “We support our veterans through our service officers and poppy campaign, helping them with any requirements they require. As for the community, the legion has always been there for them – even more now that we are the only hall open in the area,” Thompson says. The legion faces membership challenges as most branch members are elderly. “The legion won't continue to operate, if younger people in the community don't get involved. We have to hire maintenance, such as cleaning and sanitizing after events, and shoveling and snow clearing,” Cochrane says. Sometime after Dec. 7, a new Chase the Ace license will start and the Rafflebox 50/50 online draw will continue weekly. Bingo has been closed for the winter and the hall will be open to rentals or community fundraisers. Muffin Morning, dart league and pool will continue to be offered. “The government protocols allow half the normal allowance; 84 people can be accommodated downstairs, with 150 upstairs. Tables are arranged to allow for six-feet spacing. Masks are required and hand sanitizer is provided. We do have a sign-in procedure in case contact tracing is necessary,” says Cochrane.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Two men charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of Braden Richard Bull of Little Pine First Nation appeared in Lloydminster court Dec. 2 and their matters were adjourned. Twenty-four-year-old Vega Bear was arrested in September and twenty-six-year-old Branden Dillon was arrested in October. Bull’s body was found near a highway on Onion Lake Cree Nation Jan. 21, 2020. Bull was last seen on Jan. 7 and he was reported missing on Jan. 20. Bull’s death was one of three murders in a span of two months that prompted Onion Lake Cree Nation to declare a state of emergency. Conrad Mooswa’s body was found Oct. 23, 2019, at a residence on Onion Lake Cree Nation. Marvin Stanley was arrested in October 2019 and charged with second-decree murder. Braeden Sparvier’s body was found Jan. 1, 2020, along a road in the R.M. of Frenchman Butte, which borders Onion Lake Cree Nation. Shari Heathen, 27, was arrested in July and charged with second-degree murder. “The Nation has now experienced three deaths directly related to drugs and gang activity within the last two months, along with numerous high speed chases and violent crimes,” said Onion Lake Cree Nation when declaring a state of emergency Jan. 24, 2020. If anyone has any information that could assist investigators, please contact Onion Lake RCMP at 306-344-5550. Information can also be submitted anonymously to Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submitting a tip online at www.saskcrimestoppers.com. Onion Lake Cree Nation borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster. Bear and Dillon remain in custody. They are both scheduled to appear next in Lloydminster Provincial Court Jan. 6, 2021, to speak to their matters. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
For decades, Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities in Canada have disproportionately experienced the health impacts of toxic dumps, pollution, tainted water and climate change — and they’ve stood up to put an end to such environmental racism. Ingrid Waldron, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who researches social inequality in Nova Scotia, has been working to bring such issues to light for years in Nova Scotia. As director of the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health (ENRICH) project, Waldron has spent the last eight years analyzing the socio-economic, political and health effects of environmental racism in the province. In 2018, she penned the book There’s Something in the Water, which explores the disproportionate effects of environmental damage on Black and First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. Last year, the book was developed into a documentary film. Now, Waldron is taking her work to the national level. “I’ve always wanted to go beyond Nova Scotia and start looking at issues of environmental racism across Canada,” she said. Alongside Naolo Charles, of the Black Environmental Initiative (BE Initiative), Waldron is creating a national coalition to address environmental racism across Canada. According to Waldron, the new coalition will connect allies, raise awareness and support organizations that are currently working to address environmental racism with funding and resources. One of the coalition’s main objectives, said Waldron, is to engage in policy dialogue to encourage the passage of Bill C-230. The bill looks to develop a national strategy to “redress environmental racism in Canada.” MP Lenore Zann will be re-introducing the bill for second reading and it will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday, Dec. 3. “It will put on the books for the first time, really, the idea of a rights-based environmental bill, so the fact that it would be the human right of people across Canada in racialized communities to be able to have the right to clean air and clear water, for instance,” said Zann. This is not the first time Zann has introduced legislation on this subject. In 2014, then an NDP member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia, Zann introduced Bill 111, An Act to Address Environmental Racism. It didn't pass, but at the time it was touted as the first such bill in North America. According to Zann, it was Waldron who approached her with her research on the topic and gave her the idea for the provincial bill. Now that more people understand what environmental racism is, Zann said it’s time to “address and redress” it and make sure that laws are enacted throughout the country “so this cannot continue.” “The difference really, I think, between the provincial bill and the national bill, is that in Nova Scotia there are Black communities that have been hit by environmental racism and sadly have been affected by it. We can name them, we have a map, we can see that,” she added. “But the same thing has not been done yet in Canada and Ingrid is starting that work, but it’s time for governments and other people to start to do that work as well.” Waldron said the national coalition is “a work in progress,” but is slated to set up by the end of the year. She said there are many ways people can support the coalition. They’re currently looking to raise $200,000 by the end of this year. Funds will provide direct support for the ENRICH Project, BE Initiative and the development of the new coalition. People can also participate in a campaign to support Bill C-230 by visiting enrichproject.org/billc-230, Waldron added. While Waldron praised Nova Scotians for being aware of environmental racism happening around them, she hopes the coalition will be able to bring “greater, broader attention" in Canada. “There’s a history of environmental racism over the last several decades in Canada. It’s real and there are health consequences for communities that live next to waste sites, serious health consequences like cancer and for women, reproductive illnesses, this is serious, it’s real,” she said. “Bringing all of us together with our partnerships, with our activism, I think it’s going to make for an extremely powerful coalition.” With files from Andrea GunnNoushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
French police are beginning an unprecedented inspection of 76 of the country's mosques as part of a move against so-called 'religious separatism'View on euronews
MORRISBURG – Alight at Night may be open for the holidays, but don’t expect to see bus tours arriving this year. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission kicked off the 20th annual light event at Upper Canada Village on November 27th with limited numbers of people able to attend. Tickets are sold online only and limited to blocks in 30 minute intervals between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights it is open. Already, the SLPC reports that the first two weeks of tickets have been sold out. However there was concern from area residents that bus tour companies were bringing visitors from areas where higher levels of COVID-19 infection are located. Several tour companies have listings on their websites for bus trips to Alight At Night from previous years, or for 2021. No bus tour packages have been advertised for 2020. “For the 2020 season, group sales have been paused,” said SLPC spokesperson Rosalyn Gambhir. “Upper Canada Village does not have tour operators/companies or buses groups booked for our winter event Alight at Night.” She said that the SLPC has been working to ensure the event continues during the holiday season, even with the current pandemic situation. “This year, like our fall event Pumpkinferno, there are a limited number of tickets available each night and attendance has been drastically limited every half hour,” Gambhir said. “If needed, numbers will be adjusted based on COVID-19 protocols.” This July, the provincial government provided a $7 million funding infusion to the cash-strapped agency, to assist with operating during the pandemic. Two million of that funding was specifically for Upper Canada Village, which ran a shorter season for 2020 with fewer parts of the attraction open. The SLPC was able to run the popular Pumpkinferno event throughout October. Alight at Night runs on select nights until December 17th, then operates nightly except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until January 2nd.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
OTTAWA – Changes are on the way to the board that manages the water management plan for Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. The International Joint Commission announced November 24th that the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River board will be reformed, reducing the number of members of the board from 18 to six – three from Canada and three from the United States. “The restructuring represents a streamlined approach for this Board,” said Jane Corwin, chair of the IJC’s US section. “Commissioners enlarged the board last year, but after careful consideration determined that a smaller decision-making body with input from a more-inclusive advisory body would be more effective and appropriate.” Appointees to the board include one representative from the Canadian government, and one each from Ontario and Quebec. There will be two appointees from the US government and one from the State of New York. The ILOSLR board oversees Plan 2014, the controversial river management plan adopted to manage water levels and flow on Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River between Lake Ontario and Quebec. That plan has been criticized by many for the wildly fluctuating water levels on Lake St. Lawrence. Changes to the ILOSLR were announced after a review was made by the IJC. “On behalf of IJC Commissioners, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all members of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board who have served above and beyond the call in recent years and have provided excellent leadership in the face of extremely challenging conditions,” said Pierre Béland, chair of the IJC’s Canadian Section. The restructuring of the ILOSLR board was welcomed by local river advocate Cliff Steinberg from Ault Island. Steinberg has been advocating for Lake St. Lawrence users for the past three years and said the change was needed and a positive step forward. “At one point, the previous board had one commissioner from Ontario and five from Quebec,” he said. “This restructured board is more fair and equitable.” The IJC jurisdiction on the St. Lawrence River ends just east of Cornwall Island where the river ceases to be an international waterway. Steinberg is a member of the public advisory group for the ILOSLR of users of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. That group, along with the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management committee or GLAM, will be providing more guidance to this new incarnation of the ILOSLR board. “I think they want to put more emphasis on the public advisory group and the GLAM for decision making,” he said. “That’s where the real information is coming out.” While cutting representation on a board may have been seen as a negative in the past, Steinberg said that the situation between waterway users and the board has improved over the past three years. He attributed much of that to the inclusion of local information to the GLAM, and the creation of the public advisory group. “The communication is much better,” he said. “We are being heard. Our concerns are being heard.” He pointed to examples like this year, when the board removed a deviation from Plan 2014 so that water levels would remain at a higher level longer for boaters, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That deviation was put in place at the end of the shipping season in 2019 to drain more water off Lake Ontario to help prevent shoreline flooding. It attributed to extremely low water levels along the river in January. “[The IJC] were going to deviate longer and keep the water levels low which would have meant we wouldn’t have any water to get our boats into our docks and marinas,” Steinberg said adding that the advisory group made a presentation and the board agreed. “What that meant was they could maintain the water level similar to the level of the Thanksgiving boat haul out,” he explained. “It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than what was originally planned.” Steinberg feels that the IJC is now paying attention to the concerns of those along the St. Lawrence River. That said, he explained that the board still has to follow the adopted Plan 2014. “They are limited to what [the IJC] are going to be able to do, but they are now well aware of the conditions of this area and how it’s affecting people,” he said. “Things are improving though.” The IJC did not announce a timeline on when appointments would be made to the new restructured board. In a statement, the commission said it expected to have the restructuring complete in early 2021. Established in 1909, the IJC provides oversight and management of joint waterways along the Canada-US board. The ILOSLR was created after the completion of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system in 1959. Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
The position of County warden will be contested this year as both incumbent Liz Danielsen and Coun. Brent Devolin are vying for the position. The two councillors delivered speeches at the Nov. 25 council meeting about their candidacy for the role. Deputy warden Andrea Roberts and Coun. Cec Ryall backed Devolin’s nomination, while councillors Carol Moffatt and Dave Burton backed Danielsen’s. The election by councillors and swearing-in will occur Dec. 15. Danielsen is attempting to break recent historical precedent. Hers was the first multi-year warden term since Murray Fearrey in 2011-2012, and there has not been a three-year warden since at least 2004. Danielsen said her attempt may seem extraordinary but argued for the need for continuity in a time such as this. “I just have tried to remain steadfastly available every single day since the pandemic began,” she said. “I believe that continuity is vital. We do remain under a state of local emergency and I’ve been working closely with a lot of the department heads since early March. And continuity in such times brings consistency in decision making.” Danielsen went unchallenged for the position last year and beat out Burton for the role in 2018. Before that, there had been a one-year cycle for warden since 2013. Devolin, who served as warden for one year in 2017, said the County would face significant changes in the second part of council’s term, with COVID-19, population growth, and diminishing upper government funding. “Changes that will need to occur in Haliburton will involve municipal, County, City of Kawartha Lakes and Eastern Ontario governing bodies to achieve the best possible outcomes. I have a keen interest in nurturing these relationships to achieve outcomes that cannot be achieved alone,” Devolin said. He added he is not an unknown quantity to anyone on council. “By now, all of you pretty well know my strengths and weaknesses that I would bring to the position of warden,” Devolin said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve as you know and I’ll put time and energy to fulfill the role.” Danielsen also recognized the change to come with the County services delivery review. “I can honestly say that I have no preconceived bias or thoughts on the outcome of the services delivery review other than a willingness to work hard to see improvements made,” Danielsen said. “I’d be proud to continue as your warden. I believe I have good community support and a good rapport with all of you.”Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
NEW DELHI — Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth said Thursday he plans to launch his own political party in southern India in January, ending years of speculation by millions of his fans on his political future.He said in a tweet that he will make an announcement on Dec. 31, apparently in relation to legislative elections in Tamil Nadu state expected around June next year. He started taking an active part in politics in 2017.Rajinikanth, 69, is one of India’s most popular stars with more than 175 films since 1975, mostly in the Tamil and Telugu languages.“In the upcoming Assembly elections, the emergence of spiritual politics will happen for sure. A wonder will happen,” he tweeted. An announcement on matters connected to the party's launch will be made Dec. 31, he said.His political prospects appear bright following a vacuum created by the deaths of Jayaram Jayalalithaa, an actor-turned politician with the governing party in the state, and Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the leader of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party.Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians.C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi were scriptwriters who went on to become chief ministers. M.G. Ramachandran, a top actor-turned-politician, also had a strong following.Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth worked as a bus conductor for three years before joining an acting school. He started in small roles as a villain in Tamil cinema and worked his way up, landing roles in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan also tried his hand in politics as a member of India’s Parliament, representing the Congress party in support of his friend, then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in the 1980s. He resigned after three years following allegations that he accepted bribes in the purchase of artillery guns. His name was later cleared in the scandal.Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press
Canadian health authorities could approve Pfizer Inc's coronavirus vaccine within the next week, allowing distribution to start in early 2021, medical officials indicated on Thursday. Although Canada has signed supply deals with seven manufacturers, officials say the first decision is set to be on the vaccine Pfizer developed with German partner BioNTech SE. "Things have been progressing really well, and we're expecting within the next week to 10 days to be making a final decision," Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser to the top official at the federal health ministry, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
A six-year-old girl is dead after the ATV she was riding hit a tree and rolled over Monday in northern New Brunswick.The girl was transported to hospital, where she later died from her injuries, RCMP said in a statement.The girl was riding the ATV with a 24-year-old woman in Tabusintac, a community about 53 kilometres northeast of Miramichi. The woman was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.The crash happened shortly before 4 p.m. outside a home on Grattan Road.Esgenoopetitj School was closed Thursday because of the girl's death. But the Esgenoopetitj Healing Team was to be at the school for anyone needing someone to talk to, according to a letter to parents.On its website, the school said the girl's "bright shining smile and heart-warming being will be greatly missed at school and throughout our community. Sending all our love and strength to the families." Members of the Neguac RCMP, Neguac Fire Department and Ambulance New Brunswick responded. Police do not believe alcohol to be a factor in the crash.The investigation is continuing.
MIAMI — Brad Six becomes Santa Claus, pulling his black boots over his red pants in the office of a Miami outdoor supply company. It's hot, so he forgoes the traditional heavy jacket for a lightweight vest and grabs his Santa hat.But before sliding it on, the gray-bearded 61-year-old dons a plastic face shield and then takes his chair positioned behind a plexiglass sheet."Getting paid is nice, but to get your battery recharged and to really get something lasting out of it requires interacting with the kids — you don’t get a lot of that this year,” said Six, who first portrayed Santa 35 years ago.This is Santa Claus in the Coronavirus Age, where visits are conducted with layers of protection or online. Putting hundreds of kids daily onto Santa's lap to talk into his face — that's not happening for most. The physical attributes that make the perfect Santa align perfectly with those that make COVID-19 especially deadly.“Most of us tick all the boxes: We are old, we are overweight, we have diabetes and if we don’t have diabetes, we have heart disease,” said Stephen Arnold, the president of IBRBS, an association formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.That has spurred creativity in Santa's workshops. Santas conducting in-person visits are using some combination of masks, the outdoors, barriers and distance for safety. Others are doing virtual visits, where children chat with Santa online for prices typically ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the length and extras, such as whether customers want a recording. Some Santas are taking the season off.“Santa safety is our No. 1 concern” and negotiated into every contract, said Mitch Allen, president of HireSanta, one of the nation's largest agencies. He said the pandemic initially dried up his business, but it bounced back, especially online.The average Santa makes $5,000 to $10,000 during a normal season, Allen said. That's a welcome bonus for men often retired on a fixed income, but many Santas say revenue is down as corporate parties and other lucrative gigs evaporated.Jac Grimes, a Santa in Greensboro, North Carolina, gave up home visits, about a third of his business. He did it not just for his own health, but to prevent becoming a superspreader, fearing he'd pass the virus from one family to the next.At a farmers market he annually works, Grimes and his wife dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and sit in a parking lot where they to talk to people who remain inside their cars. Some homeowners associations are moving their annual Santa-visitation parties outdoors; Grimes will arrive in his red convertible to greet the crowds from afar.One of the hardest adjustments Santas have made is wearing masks that hide their painstakingly grown beards.“Santa performers are fairly vain people — if they are good,” Grimes said.The virus has many Santas and parents turning to virtual visits, which are booked through each Santa's personal website or agencies like Allen's. That often has Santas turning to their children and others for help mastering the computer skills needed.“It has been a challenge,” said Christopher Saunders, a Santa performer in Tool, Texas, a small town near Dallas.But Saunders and others say virtual sessions are a good if imperfect substitute for in-person visits. Parents fill out questionnaires, allowing performers to personalize their patter, and a side benefit is that the sessions aren't rushed. Many Santa mall visits last no more than two minutes to keep the line moving.“You get a different energy,” Saunders said of the virtual visits. “You can see the child’s expressions, as pure as they are.”Jim Beidel, a Santa performer near Seattle, said knowing the children's personal stories, such as their friends and school, helps Santas sell their Christmas magic.“It really enhances the engagement, the suspension of disbelief, especially among the older children," he said.But even Santas with the best gigs are hurting. Howard Graham usually portrays Santa in the grand foyer of New York's Radio City Music Hall during its Christmas show featuring the Rockettes. That's gone, so he's doing virtual visits and five days with a historic railroad in Pennsylvania. Still, he's taking a financial and emotional hit.“I love what I do ... bringing them (children) a little bit of smiles and hope,” said Graham, who has played Santa at Radio City for eight years. “I am going to do what I can not to change that.”That was also Six's goal as he settled recently into Santa's throne for a three-hour shift at Miami's Bass Pro Shops.As families sat in front of the plexiglass for photos, Six tilted his head so his face shield didn't reflect the camera's flash. He cheerfully waved children around the plexiglass so they could tell him their wish list, keeping them 6 feet (1.8 metres) back. As he wished them a Merry Christmas, an elf swooped in with disinfectant, wiping the plexiglass and bench before the next group sat.Six said the arrangement is “a little easier physically on Santa's back because he doesn't have to pick anybody up, but it's not as enjoyable because Santa doesn't get the interaction he normally gets.”But for families, sitting with Santa, even if behind a shield, is a bit of normalcy in abnormal times.Paul and Sarah Morris and their children, 5-year-old Theo and Sophy, 4, were among the first to visit Six that night. An Air Force family visiting from Hawaii, the Morrises cajoled their children into hugging for their photo. “Stop wiggling,” Theo said, scolding his sister before each sibling told Santa their Christmas wish. Sophy wanted candy; Theo, a remote control Ford Mustang.“This is definitely different," Sarah Morris said of the setup, “but the kids are excited and that's what matters.”Terry Spencer, The Associated Press
Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, are holding out hope of returning to the yellow phase soon for two zones in the province.The Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John regions are all in the more restrictive orange phase of recovery.At a news conference on Thursday, Russell noted that the Moncton region and Frederiction region, Zone 1 and Zone 3, will be undergoing a risk assessment on Sunday to evaluate the effectiveness of measures that were announced when they were rolled back to the orange phase last month."We are seeing some progress, people are following Public Health advice and measures," Russell said.The Saint John region, Zone 2, is a bit further behind, Russell said.Higgs also spoke about the hoped-for return to yellow and urged New Brunswickers not to let their guard down."We got complacent, and that's why we wound up back in the orange zones," he said.He said he understands and shares the longing to return to "some semblance of normal family get-togethers, noting that he won't see his daughters or grandchildren at Christmas. "My mother will celebrate her 100th birthday, and a lot of that will be online celebrations for my family members," he said. "So I'm excited to get back to yellow too ... but every one of us must play a role. It's urgent right now that we don't lose focus."6 new cases reported on ThursdayDr. Jennifer Russell announced six new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick on Thursday.The cases break down this way: * One new case in the Moncton region (Zone 1), age 30 to 39 * Three cases in the Saint John region (Zone 2), including one person under age 19, one 30 to 39, and one 60 to 69, and * Two cases in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), both in people in their 60s.Russell also declared the COVID-19 outbreak in Zone 5, the Campbellton region, officially over.It has been 28 days, which is two COVID-19 incubation periods, since the last confirmed case within Zone 5.Russell thanked the community and health-care workers for the role they played in bringing the outbreak to a close."It really was a collective effort, everyone who self-isolated when directed, wore masks, practised physical distancing, it really helped us bring this outbreak under control quickly," she said.Shorter quarantine period will be reviewedDr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, says she's aware of a U.S. move to reduce the recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case by up to a week, but it isn't likely to happen in New Brunswick soon.The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.Asked about the U.S. move, Russell said her team is "studying that right now.""It's not a new concept," she said, "but thus far in New Brunswick we haven't really felt confident that we could reduce that, although other jurisdictions have." Russell said New Brunswick has continued to err on the side of caution to be "as safe and secure as we possibly can."While it is possible to catch the majority of people by the 10-day quarantine timeline, "we do find there are people who come back positive on day 10 and later.""It really is a numbers game," Russell said. "So we are going to review that information, but I don't see a move to making any changes at this point in time."Higgs addresses enforcement complaints Premier Blaine Higgs devoted a portion of his address at the COVID-19 briefing Thursday to "frustration" with enforcement of rules in orange phase zones.The issue has been in the spotlight in recent days, particularly in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), where videos and photos of enforcement of mask rules have made headlines."I know this surveillance has been challenging, for all of us," Higgs said. "And I know it's frustrating but it's a small price to pay to get back into yellow and get back to enjoying our families."Higgs said that while "I've got complaints too" about enforcement officials and mechanisms, the officers are "just trying to do their jobs.""I want you to put yourself in their shoes," he said. "They're out there every day, they're taking abuse." Asked about whether enforcement officials were directed to hand out tickets or to hand out warnings first, Higgs said he didn't give any instruction related to specific infractions.He noted that in the three orange zones — Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John regions — a total of 2,500 sites were visited, and 120 tickets were issued."What we have asked our public safety officers to do is ensure that the orange zone rules are being followed," he said. "It's what they do every day, they're well-trained to be looking at infractions."In doing so, he said, they are helping to keep New Brunswick safe."I'm pleased to say thus far that's the situation we're in," Higgs said. "The pandemic is not out of control and people are being protected, because everyone's doing their job."Head of N.B.'s vaccine rollout planning announcedGreg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, will lead the province's vaccine rollout, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday.MacCallum will be working with federal officials and the military to plan the logistics, including determining locations for administering the vaccine in New Brunswick."However, before we can do any of that we need to know the quantities we'll be receiving, and when," Higgs said at the COVID-19 briefing. "And we don't know any of that."Higgs said he has a call with the prime minister and premiers Thursday night, and another with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc on Friday, "so maybe that will be answered."Longer Christmas holiday rejectedPublic school students and teachers won't get a longer holiday break this year, Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Thursday. Cardy said he consulted Public Health before deciding against extending the break, which will run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1. Some teachers have complained of feeling worn out by the challenges of teaching during the pandemic and hoped for a few more days of rest over the holidays.But Cardy said other teachers disagreed, and there is no health reason for extending the holidays beyond Jan. 1."I've heard from a lot of teachers who have said they are completely ready to start their work," Cardy told Radio-Canada.Teen with autism barred from stores without a maskA Moncton woman says she's too afraid to go out in public with her autistic son, who's exempt from wearing a mask.Christine Roberts says her 16-year-old son, Jayden Moore, received a doctor's note for his exemption, as he's been diagnosed as moderate to high-functioning on the autism spectrum, with sensory processing disorder and high anxiety.If he were forced to wear a mask, Jayden would have a breakdown or refuse to leave the house, Roberts said. "He will just stop moving or sit down on the floor wherever he's at," she said. "If it's bad enough, he'll start crying."Roberts said it's making her life very difficult because she doesn't drive. She and her son can't take the bus because masks are required."I'm fearful, I'm anxious and it's not over a virus," she said. "It's over getting fined when I can't afford it."Masks are required in public spaces indoors and outdoors under the orange phase of COVID-19 recovery, where Moncton sits as part of the Zone 1 region health zone.According to the New Brunswick government website, medical exemptions for masks are allowed.When the Moncton region was in the yellow phase, Roberts would rush into a store and find the manager or staff right away to let them know of Jayden's exemption. But it didn't do much good. "We're kind of jumped on by every employee."Earlier this week, a woman in Woodstock was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice after an encounter with police after she didn't show a store proof of a medical exemption from wearing mask.Education Minister Dominic Cardy told Information Morning Moncton on Wednesday that store owners are free to insist that masks are worn on their premisesRoberts said she's frustrated and saddened by this."It's not business owners' responsibility to uphold my son's human's rights. It's my government."She has written letters to Premier Blaine Higgs and Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, but she hasn't heard back.Roberts said she's still hopeful she will be able to shop for basic needs or to take her son outside for a walk, just to get some exercise."I really don't know what to do."One new case at Shannex in Saint JohnResults of testing done Tuesday at Shannex Parkland facility's Tucker Hall unit in Saint John have been processed and confirmed one new case of COVID-19 in an employee, Shannex said in a statement on its website Thursday.The employee has been out of the workplace and self-isolating since Nov. 24 for being a close contact of a previously confirmed case, the statement said.Test results for all of the residents of Tucker Hall were negative."At this time, we currently have a total of 16 confirmed cases: 10 residents and five employees at Tucker Hall, and one employee at Carleton Hall," Shannex said in the statement. It noted that the residents who tested positive continue to be cared for in a special area located on Simms Court, and that they are in discussion with Public Health about re-testing.Potential public exposure warnings for Saint John, MonctonPublic Health has warned of the following possible exposures to the virus in the Saint John and Moncton areas, including gyms, stores, bars, restaurants and on flights.Saint John area * Churchill's Pub on Nov. 20, at 8 Grannan St., between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Saint John. * Picaroons on Nov. 21, at 30 Canterbury St., between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saint John. * Thandi's Restaurant on Nov. 21 between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. 33 Canterbury St., Saint John * Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio on Nov. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., 47 Clark Rd., RothesayMoncton * GoodLife Fitness on Nov. 21 at 555 Dieppe Blvd, Dieppe, between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Flights into Moncton: * Air Canada Flight 8372 onNov. 28 from Fort McMurray to Calgary, departed 6:10 a.m * Air Canada Flight 144 onNov. 28 from Calgary to Toronto, departed at 11:15 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 8918 onNov. 28 from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:30 p.m. * Air Canada Flight 178 on Nov. 19 from Edmonton to Toronto, arrived at 5:58 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 404 on Nov. 19 from Toronto to Montreal, arrived at 10:16 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 8902 on Nov. 19 from Montreal to Moncton, arrived at 4:17 p.m.What to do if you have a symptomPeople concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: * A fever above 38 C. * A new cough or worsening chronic cough. * Sore throat. * Runny nose. * Headache. * New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. * Difficulty breathing.In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.People with one of those symptoms should: * Stay at home. * Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. * Describe symptoms and travel history. * Follow instructions.
Famine-like conditions have re-appeared in parts of Yemen and almost half the population is experiencing high levels of food insecurity, new United Nations data showed on Thursday, with aid agencies warning time is running out to prevent mass starvation. Around 45% of Yemen's population is facing high levels of acute food insecurity, according to the U.N.'s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.