Dr. Zainab Abdurrahman, a clinical immunologist and allergist, said there may be sporadic severe reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but she said we really should focus on the thousands who are being inoculated and tolerating it well.
Dr. Zainab Abdurrahman, a clinical immunologist and allergist, said there may be sporadic severe reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but she said we really should focus on the thousands who are being inoculated and tolerating it well.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Plans to transform Brampton from a sprawling suburb into a modern, transit city took a significant step forward in December. The release last month of a business case by provincial agency Metrolinx for a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor along Queen Street offers a glimpse of the city’s exciting future. The lengthy document provides broad ideas for design, cost and justification of the potentially game-changing route. The street is already one of Brampton’s busiest for transit ridership, something a BRT would only increase. Boarding figures for Brampton Transit from fall 2018 show more than 20,000 daily riders on its express route alone. The corridor carries essential workers to and from the job, also ferrying students who live in Brampton to York University. Shoppers use it to reach the Bramalea City Centre and development planned for the corridor holds the promise of completely reshaping what has been an eyesore for decades. City Hall has positioned Queen Street as the road where Brampton meets the future. In 2018, the City of Brampton undertook a major soul-searching project by hiring Vancouver-based urban planner Larry Beasley to supervise the creation of its 2040 Vision. The document, which included input from some 13,000 residents, laid out how Brampton would look in the future if it embraced density, transit and smart growth. It suggested Queen Street could be the heart of that transformation. Density could bring more than just housing, Beasley and his team of visionaries promised. An inspired plan would bring culture and vibrant public life to the sprawling streetscape. Its aging strip malls and cracked sidewalks, devoid of pedestrians, would give way to the new suburbia of the GTA. “The strong westerly and easterly urban anchors for central Queen Street, Downtown and Bramalea, set up the best potential in Brampton to create its own grand boulevard and to host a ‘boulevard lifestyle’ where everything is immediately at hand,” the Vision states. Higher order transit plays a key part in this plan, allowing for sidewalks to be expanded, pushing out cars and integrating people into their surroundings. Instead of vast tracts of potholed parking lots that act as urban barriers, literally forcing residents away from all the spaces in between (driving from one plaza to the next to shop or dine) rapid transit lines fill in all the gaps with rich commercial offerings, boutiques, cafes and intimate sidewalk culture. Dense housing along these corridors acts as the catalyst, as cars are replaced by transit and sprawl is filled in by human activity. The Queen Street Corridor plan aims to support future rapid transit expansion. The City of Brampton took its first step toward the future in 2010 when it introduced Zum services along the route. Zum buses are express vehicles with occasional lane skips, but not fully fledged rapid transit. The total length of the area Metrolinx has considered for its initial investigation of a BRT corridor is 18.5 kilometres through Brampton and a further 5.5 kilometres in Vaughan. Transforming parts of the Queen Street corridor from its current state of barren, industrial and suburban roadways into a dense downtown will have its challenges. In Brampton, 83 percent of residents arrive at work by car, while 14 percent travel by transit. The city’s public transit use is roughly in line with provincial averages, but a rapid transit corridor could see it begin to fulfill its aspirations of shedding its car-dominated suburban past, when developers literally designed areas such as Bramalea, Canada’s first fully planned, post-war satellite community, built by Bramalea Consolidated Developments when the car was king. To transform Queen Street from its role as a commuter thoroughfare for vehicles into a boulevard lined with teeming patios and urban cyclists, its current use by commercial transportation and logistics companies will need to be rethought. Between 8 and 12 percent of the corridor’s traffic is currently medium or heavy trucks. “The relationship between density and higher order transit service is symbiotic,” Brampton Ward 1 and 5 Councillor Rowena Santos told The Pointer through a City spokesperson. “Having sufficient ridership is key to the viability of a rapid transit service, and an efficient and effective mobility solution – such as rapid transit – supports the 2040 Vision for the Queen Street corridor as a higher density mixed use urban boulevard. This type of project goes a long way to cut down on the need for personal automobiles and it accelerates the establishment of healthy and vibrant 20-minute walkable neighbourhoods.” Santos has been Brampton Council’s loudest advocate for smart, active transportation and put words into action when she brought forward a successful motion in 2019 to stop a planned road widening of Williams Parkway, arguing that it did not fit with the 2040 Vision and the goal of getting people out of their cars. Along the Queen Street corridor, roughly half of all trips are made by students. The transit ridership is younger than average and offers potential to grow further in the future, according to Metrolinx. “There is a large market that can be considered ‘untapped’; i.e. who would be likely to take advantage of transit but have not yet adopted regular transit usage,” the report states. The Metrolinx business case proposes several scenarios for how to bring a bus rapid transit route to Queen Street. One suggests a single trunk route BRT corridor for the full length, while two other options involve splitting the route into two sections. The document concludes that combining different options to have several priority buses run along Queen Street on an uninterrupted trunk route would be the best outcome. Metrolinx has made high-level cost calculations, with a proposed construction year of 2023. If the project were to go ahead on schedule, the transit agency expects it to be operational by 2026. Depending on how the project is constructed, the costs would vary. One suggested scenario would see existing traffic lanes converted into separate, painted bus lanes for between $3 million and $5.1 million per kilometre. That option, Metrolinx estimates, would cost roughly $93 million in total. An alternative possibility would be to widen Queen Street for most of its length — estimated at between $15.7 and $26.4 million per kilometre and totalling just over $481 million. With construction potentially just three years away, few answers are available as to who will pay for the infrastructure. Following a theme for the City, Brampton doesn’t seem to have a funding plan. Mayor Patrick Brown has effectively frozen all funding options by the City for major infrastructure projects and other features highlighted in the 2040 Vision, which he has claimed to support. The three straight years of tax freezes he pushed through make it difficult to realize the aspirations of the forward thinking planning document. To the south, Mississauga is more prepared for its rapid transit vision. The City has submitted a federal funding application for its Dundas Street BRT route and added a share of the costs to its 10-year capital plan. The project itself was studied by the City in a 2018 master plan and is now in the midst of an environmental study, the cost of which is being shared by Metrolinx. By comparison, Brampton is kilometres behind. “High level capital and operating costs are provided in the Initial Business Case (IBC), and governance structures are discussed; however, final decisions on funding models have not been made at this time,” Santos said, when asked about the Queen Street BRT. A Metrolinx spokesperson said the preliminary design phase had funding and that “a governance structure is being established between Metrolinx, the City of Brampton and other stakeholders to oversee the preliminary design, preliminary design business case (PDBC), and Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) phase.” Like so many projects floated in Brampton, the Queen Street corridor oozes potential. In many ways, it shines through as a possible turning point which could begin to steer Brampton toward a denser, greener and more urban future. But, despite its standout potential, the usual problems raise their heads. Questions about funding have been met with unknowns from City Hall while the mayor has failed to take any leadership on key projects to move Brampton into the future. If construction is to begin on the project by 2023, to deliver rapid transit by 2026, funding will need to be secured — or at least earmarked — in the next two years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
A growing number of COVID-19 cases in Rosthern has led the Saskatchewan Health Authority to bring in more restrictions at the local hospital. On Wednesday, the health authority said family visits at the Rosthern Hospital would be limited to compassionate reasons only. "The decision to restrict family presence is not taken lightly," read a news release from the health authority. "These measures are in place to keep you, your loved ones, and health care workers safe." Compassionate reasons include visiting patients in end of life care, people undergoing major surgery or maternity and pediatrics. The health region said the restrictions will be in place until it is safe to remove them. Rosthern Hospital was added to the provincial COVID-19 outbreak list on Dec. 24. As of Wednesday, there were 442 active cases of COVID-19 in the North Central region. Anyone who wants to visit the hospital must go through a screening process, including a temperature screening and must fill out a questionnaire. The health authority reminded everyone in the province to follow COVID-19 recommendations, including staying two metres apart from people, wearing a mask and self-isolating if they come down with any COVID-19 symptoms. CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
More than a week into the work stoppage at the Burleigh Falls dam project, Parks Canada has issued a statement regarding the land defenders and their rights to the land within their treaty territory. “The Government of Canada is working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationships with Indigenous Peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, collaboration, and partnership,” says David Britton, director of Ontario waterways. Kawartha Nishnawbe land defenders in Burleigh Falls blocked work on the dam project on Jan. 13 after they say they were not consulted about the project. Parks Canada did consult with Curve Lake First Nation in previous meetings, and recently at a Jan 6, 2021 online virtual meeting stated the organization did consult with Kawartha Nishnawbe in 2016. “Parks Canada has offered to meet with Kawartha Nishnawbe,” adds Britton. “Not to my knowledge has there been any consultation with Kawartha Nishnawbe in 2016 regarding the replacement of the dam,” said Nodin Webb, spokesperson for Kawartha Nishnawbe. He went on to say Parks Canada is falsely claiming they consulted with the community as a whole in 2016. “I also do not believe Parks Canada is respecting us, if anything, they’ve ignored us,” adds Webb. Parks Canada says they remain available and hope to connect in a meaningful way through this process. “Parks Canada continues to meet with Curve Lake First Nation and other Williams Treaty First Nations on the upcoming phases of work for the Burleigh Falls dam replacement project and are working together to develop fisheries monitoring and mitigation plans,” says Britton. “We are fully aware of the litigation in court and we will not comment on the issue at this time. The part of the court litigation lies with Crown Indigenous Relations Services Canada,” added Britton. Curve Lake Chief Emily Whetung issued an official statement on the blockade. “Many of our members harvest in or near Burleigh Falls Dam area, and our goal through our consultation process with Parks Canada has been to protect the impacts on the species that our members harvest,” says Chief Whetung. The statement also says while Curve Lake First Nation recognizes the complicated history of the Kawartha Nishnawbe, their relationship to the land at Burleigh Falls, and their assertion with the Federal Government and Curve Lake respect that they have an independent perspective. “The Burleigh Falls Dam is located within the recognized pre-confederation and Williams Treaties Territory and we feel a responsibility to protect the environment and species in the area as the reconstruction project moves forward.” Parks Canada says there are do not know the full cost of the stoppage, but did say there is no impact on the spawning season. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week
Hugo Paiz says he's gotten the run around, been laughed at, and spent countless hours worrying about his finances, during his nearly year-long dispute with Enmax over his January, 2020 bill which saw his electricity charges spike from a typical $80 per month to $1,527.28. Paiz says he, his wife and his daughter tried calling and emailing Enmax repeatedly to try to convince them it made a mistake — only to be continually pressured to pay up. Then this week Paiz's daughter reached out to CBC News in desperation and within about a day of CBC intervening, the company admitted it made a mistake. Now, Paiz hopes his story will help others avoid the same anxiety and stress he and his family experienced for months. "For me, coronavirus, it wasn't that bad the whole year, it was worse what they've been doing to me because you can see the papers, message and letters doing everything they can to make me to pay the bills, which I never use," said Hugo Paiz, 61, from his home in southeast Calgary. His daughter broke down in tears talking about the toll the ordeal has taken on her parents. "It's been tough because it's weighed on them, you know. My dad doesn't want to cry, my mother doesn't want to cry, but I can tell they're hurting," said Talia Paiz, Hugo's daughter. Enmax told CBC News their investigation discovered the meter was being misread and the family had been overcharged. "This was a case of human error by one of our readers of the meter, and it was due to the age and the weathering visual condition, condition of the front of Mr. Paiz's meter," said Corry Poole, vice-president of customer service at Enmax. But Paiz's daughter says while the company's acknowledgement brings relief, it doesn't take away what her mother and father went through trying to resolve the billing error. "Their words will never, ever fix what was already said to him and the mistreatment they did him," said Talia Paiz. 'No one would listen' Hugo Paiz lives with his wife and their 18-year-old son in a duplex in Penbrooke Meadows in southeast Calgary. Originally from Guatemala, he's been renting the same home for 13 years after moving from Toronto. The couple both work — he at a bottling facility, she at a potato chip manufacturing plant, while their son goes to school. They have four other children, including Talia, who live on their own. Hugo says he remembers opening his Enmax bill last year and going into shock when he read the total — a whopping $2044.95. "I almost fall with a heart attack the day I see the bill," said Paiz. He says he immediately went line by line to figure out why his bill was so high when he noticed a charge of more than $1,500 for his electricity. His bill includes gas, electricity, water, wastewater, storm water as well as garbage and recycling fees. He says he called Enmax representatives to explain that there was no way the three of them could have used that much electricity in one month. He says his family keeps a tight budget and are cognizant of turning lights off. The only extra draw they have on their electricity, he says, is a fish tank. But instead of any real solutions, he says he got patched from person to person. Paiz says one representative told him to hire an electrician to locate the problem, and so his landlord did. CBC News spoke to the landlord and the electrician. The electrician says he inspected the home and didn't find any problems, but says he did notice the meter reading on Paiz's bill didn't match what he was reading — rather it was much higher. The electrician then wrote a letter on Paiz's behalf to give to Enmax — which was shared with CBC News — but Paiz's daughter says Enmax said it didn't want to see it. "The first thing I got was laugh, someone started laughing and saying that because it was a third party and everything they weren't going to accept it," said Talia Paiz. "It's just no one would listen." Enmax calls it a 'learning opportunity' In the meantime, the company continued to request the money. Paiz ended up paying an extra $160 on his bills for three months for a total of $480. The family was also forced to pay a $425 deposit. The family says it kept asking Enmax to come to their house and check their meter to see if there was something wrong with it, but nobody did. However, after being contacted by CBC News, Enmax sent someone to check the meter and discovered the problem. The meter was working fine, but it had weathered and was being misread by the meter reader. Enmax then swapped the meter for a digital one. CBC News asked Enmax about the Paiz family's allegations of being mistreated over the phone. With respect to the laughter and the refusal to take the electrician's letter which said it appeared the meter was being misread, Poole, the vice-president of customer service at Enmax, says it's unfortunate the person refused it because any information is helpful in an investigation. "It was a complex issue. I can see when I review the account that many people were involved in trying to resolve this for the customer, but it certainly took too long and much longer than what we strive for and so we're using this as a learning opportunity here at Enmax," she said. 'Should have been fixed in a week' Hugo Paiz says the company has now apologized for the way he was treated and told him this problem "should have been resolved in a week" based on an initial email the family sent that contained a photo of their electricity meter after they got the bill. At the time, the company's email response said the photo only backed up the company's claims, but Poole now says it appears the company representative didn't take a close enough look at the photo to see that the meter had been weathered and had obscured dials. "Unfortunately, that is one of our learning opportunities there around the visual inspection of ... the photo of the meter when it comes in and what to look for and that's definitely something we've learned from here," said Poole. The company has also told Paiz it is working on resolving the bill and refunding both the overpayment and the deposit with interest. Paiz hopes the company does learn from his situation and creates a better system for customers who are disputing an overcharge so they are not forced to either go to the media or to court. "Start investigating the cases right away, don't let the people suffer years and years, months and months before they start putting any attention," said Paiz. For those who are having trouble with their utility bill there is another option. People can contact the Utilities Consumer Advocate. It issued the following statement in regards to this story: If Albertans have exhausted all known avenues to resolve a dispute with their electricity or natural gas provider, the mediation officers from Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) are available to contact the utility provider to advocate on the consumer's behalf. Mediation officers are knowledgeable about utility regulations, including terms and conditions, and can help steer the focus of a dispute toward problem solving. Mediation outcomes vary depending on the nature of the complaint, but can result in identifying and correcting previously unknown issues, establishing payment arrangements, or reducing incorrect billing. UCA Mediation services are available to small business, farm and residential utility consumers. Interpretation services are also available. Albertans with questions or concerns about their utility bill can contact the UCA at 310-4822 or visit ucahelps.alberta.ca for more information about the resources and services they provide.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
While Municipalities of Saskatchewan President Gordon Barnhart remains out of province on vacation, members of the organization said they are still in the dark about his plans to return. Barnhart did comment on his vacation to Hawaii with his wife for a Jan. 19 story written by Gary Horseman, a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Four-Town Journal. The Journal covers Saltcoats, the town where Barnhart is the mayor. “For the last nine years, Naomi and I have spent Christmas and January in Maui. This year, with COVID-19, we took extra precautions to ensure that our health and the health of those around us would be safe,” Barnhart told the Journal. “Before leaving for our vacation, I discussed with the Saltcoats council and administration how we could keep in contact while away. While in Maui, we both have been keeping up with work by email and phone, FaceTime and Zoom. As mayor of Saltcoats, I am in touch with councillors and administration on a daily basis. Arrangements have been made for me to fulfill my administrative duties by distance and I have been able to chair council meetings by Zoom. I take my role as mayor very seriously and believe I have been able to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability while still taking a holiday with my wife,” Barnhart continued. The fact that Barnhart has been taking precautions while travelling is great, said Naicam Mayor Rodger Hayward, Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s vice-president of towns, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that elected officials like Barnhart should be taking public health orders to not travel seriously. “As municipal leaders, we have a duty to lead by example, following all public health measures, orders and advisories. The premier has asked everyone to not do unnecessary travel and especially out-of-country travel,” he said. In Barnhart’s comments to the Four-Town Journal, he really didn’t address that key issue, Hayward said. While Municipalities of Saskatchewan is busy preparing for their upcoming virtual convention, Hayward said he is sure the president’s travel will be part of the conversation. “It'll be a little different because it's a virtual convention and it’s our very first one, so we'll see how it goes. But I'm sure it'll be a topic there. The office of president and the rest of the executive is up for election this year, as well.” Barnhart has not been in contact with Hayward as of Jan. 20. Hayward said he was in contact with only one other board member of Municipalities of Saskatchewan to give the same information that was given to the Four-Town Journal. Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
BERLIN — Germany is seeing a promising decline in new coronavirus infections, but must take "very seriously” the risk posed by a more contagious variant and will have to be cautious whenever it starts easing its lockdown, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday. Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors on Tuesday decided to extend the country’s lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 14 and tighten some measures, for example requiring surgical masks — rather than just fabric face coverings — in shops and on public transportation. On Thursday, Germany’s disease control centre said that 20,398 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours, nearly 5,000 fewer than a week ago. The number of new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days stood at 119, the lowest since the beginning of November — though still well above the level of 50 the government is targeting. There were 1,013 more deaths, bringing Germany’s total so far to 49,783. The new variant, which has been detected in Germany and many other European countries, isn't yet dominant there, but “we must take the danger from this mutation very seriously,” Merkel told reporters. “We must slow the spread of this mutation as far as possible, and that means ... we must not wait until the danger is more tangible here,” she said. “Then it would be too late to prevent a third wave of the pandemic, and possibly an even heavier one than before. We can still prevent this.” Merkel said that Germany won't be able to open up everything at once whenever the lockdown ends, declaring that schools must open first. “We must be very careful that we do not see what happens in many countries: they do a hard lockdown, they open, they open too much, and then they have the result that they are back in exponential growth very quickly,” she said. She pointed to Britain's experience in December, when the new variant took hold. The Associated Press
Researchers have said around 52,000 deaths in Europe could be prevented each year if emissions are cut to WHO guidelines. View on euronews
Mongolia's Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa submitted his resignation to parliament on Thursday after protests in the capital Ulaanbaatar over the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state news agency Montsame reported. Khurelsukh said in his resignation statement that he should "assume the responsibility upon himself and accept the demand of the public." The protests erupted on Wednesday over what some Mongolians saw as the inhumane treatment of a COVID-19 patient and her newborn baby, Montsame said.
WASHINGTON — U.S. home construction jumped 5.8% in December to 1.67 million units, ending a strong year for home building. The better-than-expected gain followed an increase of 9.8% in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Housing has been one of the star performers this year even as the overall economy has been wracked by the coronavirus. Record-low mortgage rates and the desire of many people to move to larger homes during the extended stay-at-home period has fueled demand. For December, construction of single-family homes increased 12%. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China on Thursday expressed hope the Biden administration will improve prospects for people of both countries and give a boost to relations after an especially rocky patch, while getting in a few final digs at former Trump officials. “I think after this very difficult and extraordinary time, both the Chinese and American people deserve a better future,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing. She said China and the U.S. need to relaunch co-operation in a number of areas. She particularly welcomed the new administration’s decision to remain in the World Health Organization and return to the Paris Agreement on climate change. “Many people of insight in the international community are looking forward to the early return of Sino-U.S. relations to the correct track in making due contributions to jointly address the major and urgent challenges facing the world today,” Hua said. She also criticized ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other former officials, a day after Beijing imposed travel and business sanctions on 28 of them, including Trump's national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft. “Over the past few years, the Trump administration, especially Pompeo, has buried too many mines in Sino-U.S. relations that need to be eliminated, burned too many bridges that need to be rebuilt and wrecked too many roads that need to be repaired,” Hua said. Hua on Wednesday described Pompeo as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” Hua's markedly more friendly tone Thursday appeared to signal Chinese hopes to cool the rhetoric on both sides and give the relationship a chance to heal over some of the worst divisions. “I think both China and the United States need to show courage, show wisdom, listen to each other, face up to each other and respect each other," Hua said. “I think this is the responsibility of the two major countries of China and the United States, and it is also the expectation of the international community.” Also Thursday, China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai offered his congratulations to Biden on Twitter, which is widely used by the Chinese government despite being blocked in the country. “Congratulations to President Biden on his inauguration! China looks forward to working with the new administration to promote sound & steady development of China-U.S. relations and jointly address global challenges in public health, climate change & growth,” Cui tweeted. Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping congratulated Biden on his election but had no immediate comment on Wednesday’s inauguration. While Biden’s administration is expected to seek to put relations with China back on an even keel, he is unlikely to significantly alter U.S. policies on trade, Taiwan, human rights and the South China Sea that have angered Xi’s increasingly assertive government. ___ This story has been corrected to show that the number of officials sanctioned by China was 28, not 30. The Associated Press
With the nadir in civic discourse at last year’s U.S. presidential debates fresh in their minds, high school students from across Ontario are preparing to receive an antidote by competing in a high-minded tournament of ideas. Students on 20 teams from 16 schools are getting acquainted with the ways an “ethics bowl” differs from the debating competitions many of them have previously taken part in, and participants say the exercise holds valuable lessons for those in positions of power, too. In a typical debate, “the way you win isn't necessarily by trying to get to the truth, but rather by rhetorical mastery, or trickery, one-upmanship over your opponent,” Jeffrey Senese, president of the Ontario High School Ethics Bowl, explained to a group of students from Assumption College Catholic High School in Windsor this week. “An ethics bowl is different. We're trying to solve problems, get down to the truth. And so to this end, you can ... concede a point to your opponent and this is a sign of collegiality” that is rewarded in the scoring rubric that judges fill in, said Senese, who also runs outreach for the philosophy department at the University of Toronto. “We’re not looking for mic drop moments,” he added, noting the exercise aims to acknowledge that issues are complicated and nuanced, and frames the topic as the target of attention, not the opponent. In fact, incorporating the other team’s valid arguments into your response to an ethical dilemma is actively encouraged, whereas in many debate formats, “you’d be laughed offstage if you admit your opponent said something that was helpful to furthering the conversation,” Senese said. The university’s Mississauga campus hosted 11 schools at the initial Ontario event last year, but the provincial tournament on Feb. 27 will be virtual. The winning team will move on to a national event, also virtual, which will likely happen in late April. By the end of Senese’s presentation to the assembled Assumption students (including the school’s top tennis player and its reigning stock trade simulation champion), all warmed to the concept once they’d worked out how the competition was being scored. “When you start considering the other side, you become even more open-minded and you realize that not every case is black or white, but it's really focusing on that grey area and where you stand there,” said Gaby Ruggero. Mekhi Quarshie describes last September’s chaotic presidential debate, which saw former president Donald Trump constantly interrupting his challenger Joe Biden and the moderator, as the worst he’d ever seen, but said the style is prevalent elsewhere in society, too. “If one person puts up a very good point, even if we might find some validity within it, we want to just bash it down and contradict it,” Quarshie said. As potential future leaders, the event is “training all of us (that) instead of shooting each other down, to really collaboratively come up with great ideas and strengthen our own ideas,” he said. The idea for ethics bowls emerged out of the United States, and was picked up initially out west in Canada, with the involvement of the universities of Manitoba and British Columbia and B.C.’s Simon Fraser University, among others. “I like the idea of an ethics bowl that puts truth and principles above ideology,” said Assumption College's business teacher Jeremy Bracken, who is coaching the school's ethics bowl team as well as its debate team, finance club and numerous business competitions and public speaking events this year. For Ontario's 2021 competition, judges will include professors and professionals, graduate students and other academics in law, political and social science, history, science and medicine. Teams will be judged on whether they clearly address questions and comments from the moderator and opposing team, stay on topic, consider conflicting viewpoints, and engage with counterpoints raised in respectful dialogue. A moderator will tally the number of judges who give a win to each team, rather than tallying their scores, which are not revealed to participants. The finalists will be asked to wrestle with the real-world question of COVID-19 vaccination, including whether health-care workers should be required to get it or if schools should be allowed to restrict access to only vaccinated students. Other examples of issues to be discussed include free speech versus hate speech, drones as weapons, cultural appropriation, toxic masculinity, the call-out culture, and whether police should be invited to Pride parades. Stephanie Gibson took a team from Toronto’s Humberside Collegiate to last year’s event and will be back this year. The school’s Grade 12 philosophy teacher says the bowl encourages the pursuit of ethical truth and forces students to hold their own ideas to account. It is critical to equip young people with critical thinking skills, Gibson says, especially in the current climate, arguing that her subject should be mandatory starting in elementary school to help students “improve upon the clarity of their thinking, their ability to see through illusion, to try to look at different ideas and entertain them without having to take them in as their own.” Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
When Diogo Dalot signed for Manchester United, the excitement was mixed with regret at missing out on the chance to play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The veteran striker had departed for what appeared to be a career swan song at the Los Angeles Galaxy just before a teenage Dalot arrived at Old Trafford three years ago. “It was a little bit of a sad moment for me,” Dalot recalls in an interview with The Associated Press. “When you play football, you always want to play with the best players and, of course, Zlatan was a reference.” The opportunity had been missed, or so the Portuguese defender wrongly assumed. As the right back struggled for game time in Manchester, a loan move was needed at the start of this season. Now the 21-year-old Dalot is at the heart of the defence of an AC Milan side which has been propelled to the top of the Italian league by the 39-year-old Ibrahimovic. With 12 goals in eight league games, the Swede’s enduring quality is undisputed — and inspirational for a teammate giving his career a lift in Italy. “He’s very demanding on ourselves,” Dalot said in a video call from Milan. “He’s always one of the first to come in to training ground. So these kind of things help us to see that maybe we need to be as professional as him because, if you want to win as much as he won, you need to be doing this for a long time. “And this is a very good way to see how you want be a success in football, how you want to be in 10 years or in 15 years. And it’s been a very good surprise to work with him.” Surprising because Dalot had not envisaged leaving United — even temporarily — so soon after being acclaimed as the “best young fullback in Europe” when Jose Mourinho brought him to United from Porto in 2018. “It was one of the sentences that I keep with me until this day,” Dalot said. “Coming from him was even more special because we all know that is a fantastic coach, one of the best ever, and it gave me a little bit more responsibility.” A change in manager produced a change in circumstances and Dalot fell down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Ibrahimovic is helping Dalot believe in himself again and improve his game. “He can give you the confidence when he thinks you need (it),” Dalot said. That sometimes means being brutally honest. “'You’re not doing good enough to be at this level'” Dalot says Ibrahimovic will tell players in training or games. "Coming from him we need to listen.” Especially about what it takes to win titles, something Milan has not done in Serie A since Ibrahimovic lifted the trophy in 2011 before eventually moving on to PSG, United and the LA Galaxy. Almost halfway through the season, a resurgent Milan enjoys a three-point lead over city rival Inter and has an unexpected 10-point advantage on Juventus, which has slumped to fifth after eight successive titles. “It will be more special (winning the title), not just because of beating Juve or Inter ... but to put Milan back on the top again, winning titles after so many years,” Dalot said. “We like this kind of pressure. We like to have people down there pushing us and paying attention to us to see, ‘OK, if you lose, we are there.’ So we like these kind of challenges.” Dalot’s focus is on the Serie A prize. But there will be some uncertainty when the season-long loan expires whether he returns to United or secures a longer stay with Stefano Pioli’s Milan. United is also going strongly this season, sitting top of the Premier League and looking to end its own title drought stretching back to 2013. “I am completely focused on what is going on here,” Dalot said. “When I go home and I can rest, I can see Manchester games, Porto games and be happy with them, because they are winning and they are doing fantastic.” Dalot is delighted to be back on the field regularly again, playing 15 times since October and being a key part of a defence that has not conceded in four of the last five games. “I’m a confident person. I know my qualities. I know what I can do, but then if you don’t play that’s not enough," Dalot said. "Feeling the grass again, feeling the games again, winning games and playing 90 minutes ... it’s been fantastic.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
Timmins' Indigenous Advisory Committee is moving ahead with taking Indigenous relations training. At the virtual committee meeting Wednesday, members voted in favour of taking training offered by Bob Joseph, the author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act and the founder of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. The committee’s interim chair Kristin Murray said it’s more of a self-guided training that can be entered in groups of up to 30 people and that can be completed at an individual pace. The previously suggested training, The San’yas: Indigenous Cultural Safety (ICS) Training Program, was off the table because some elements of the training weren’t always offered, Murray said. “Not all of our staff could jump on board and get that training at once, which was the downside,” said Murray. During the committee’s last meeting in December, members agreed to take a training program before deciding whether they want to recommend the training for city employees. “There’s racism in the city. Even before we do all this training ourselves, we have to try get out there and try to educate the public,” committee member Irene Camillo said during Wednesday’s meeting. Stacey Vincent Cress of Waubetek Business Development Corporation, who attended the meeting as a guest, said taking online training shouldn’t be “a tick box exercise”. “Something is better than nothing," he said. "However, if we’re going to have some Indigenous awareness and competency training … if you’re going to train 500 members of the community plus the committee, plus the general population, you need to be able to sit and speak with some people on some of the issues that you can’t get from a computer program.” Murray noted the discussions about taking the training have been going on for two years, and there has also been a discussion about taking localized training. “But that’s going to take time. By the time we put these things together, it will be years, it will be after our term as a committee,” she said. “Some of these training opportunities are not click-through, you have to be able to engage.” If approved by council, this will be the first cultural awareness training for city employees since the Ontario Human Rights Commission's visit to Timmins in 2018. Murray said the hope would be to have the members complete the training by the next committee meeting in March. Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
ORANGEVILLE, Ont. — A senior staff member at an Ontario hospital has retired after a relative was vaccinated against COVID-19 at a clinic intended for health-care workers. Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville, Ont., has apologized for what it’s calling an isolated incident on Jan. 14. The centre won’t name the individual beyond the title “staff director,” citing privacy reasons. The CEO says the employee's relative was at the hospital for another reason and was vaccinated during a break in scheduled appointments. Kim Delahunt calls it one person's “failure in sound decision-making,” and that health-care leaders must be held to a higher standard. Delahunt says the individual decided to retire after the incident, adding that the hospital is “deeply sorry.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) have identified the victims of a double homicide in Fort Erie as two young women from Windsor and Toronto. Police say the victims are Juliana Pannunzio, 20, of Windsor, and Christina Crooks, 18, of Toronto. The information came hours after officers revealed more details about the incidents that led up to a double homicide in a Fort Erie home on the Niagara Parkway. NRPS say a group of people, some who don't live in the Niagara region, were at the home on Jan. 18. The home was a short-term rental. Someone fired a gun, and people left the house before officers arrived. Police found the two dead women in the home and say both had "obvious trauma to their bodies." Detectives are trying to identify anyone who was at the home, but the investigation is still in its infancy. Despite this, they don't believe there's an immediate threat to public safety. Police say, as they look for evidence, they will search the Niagara River with dive teams, resulting in closures between Black Creek Road and Switch Road. Police expect a presence in the area for days. "Homicide detectives are appealing to anyone who may reside or have a business in the area of the scene that has security cameras, doorbell cameras or dashboard cameras to contact them. They may have captured something that could assist the investigation," reads a release from police. Police find takeout food order at the scene Detectives said on Thursday afternoon they found a takeout food order at the scene. Inside a grey, plastic bag with "923" written on it was a white Styrofoam container with a cheeseburger, fries, chicken wings, celery, carrots and blue cheese dip. The bag also contained five ketchup packets from the brand, Sunspun. Police are looking to identify what restaurant the order came from. Detectives say they believe it was ordered on Monday, Jan. 18 or in the early morning hours of Jan. 19.
A 42-year-old woman has been fined under the Saskatchewan Public Health Act for breaching COVID-19 public health orders last week. Just after 6 a.m. on Jan. 14, Regina police said they received a complaint of a woman, who had tested positive for the virus, not obeying her isolation order and inviting guests into her home. When officers arrived at the woman's house in the 800 block of Elphinstone Street, police said they found another person there, who was asked to leave. After confirming the 42-year-old was COVID-positive and her isolation order was valid, police, in consultation with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, fined her on Wednesday. Regina police said this is the 11th such ticket they have issued in the city.
Allan Legere plotted a fresh escape the year he was convicted of a series of brutal killings that had created panic in Miramichi, according to a written decision denying him parole. The eight-page decision, which follows a Jan. 13 parole board hearing, also said that in May 2019, a weapon was found inside the television in his cell at the maximum security Edmonton Institution. The written decision reiterates the board's firm refusal of any form of parole for the 72-year-old inmate, noting Legere's failure to accept responsibility for his violence and his suggestion victims' families forgive him and "move on." The decision also contains new details of an escape attempt not widely known in the past. The convicted murderer, rapist and arsonist famously escaped from custody on May 3, 1989, while serving a life sentence for the murder of store owner John He then terrorized the Miramichi area as he carried out four more brutal murders, several arsons and a sexual assault before being recaptured on Nov. 24, 1989.Glendenning during a 1986 robbery. Yet, even when he was imprisoned at the maximum security Atlantic Institution in Renous following his 1991 conviction, Legere appeared to keep plotting how he could get away. "According to file information, you have a history of attempting to, and being successful in, escaping from custody," the decision read. "In 1987 you attempted to escape twice, in 1989 you did escape, and in 1991 you attempted once again to escape. "In regards to the 1991 attempt, file information relays that your plan to escape custody included an intention of taking a female staff hostage." Legere was convicted of the murders on Nov. 3, 1991 after DNA evidence confirmed his presence at the murder scenes. John Harris, a former Correctional Service Canada manager at the Atlantic Institution, said during a telephone interview that he recalled the 1991 escape attempt, which intelligence officers at the facility documented. He said it fit a pattern of past behaviour. "When that information [of the escape plan] started to come up, and it started to get a little intense, that's when the decision was made to have him transferred to the super maximum unit [near Montreal]," Harris recalled. Plan 'kept under wraps' The 77-year-old retired correctional officer said Legere's plan was "kept under wraps but it was put on the file to justify the transfer." "We had to caution some of the female staff members.... We weren't sure what woman it was, but we had an indication it was a female correctional officer." During his parole hearing last week, Legere didn't accept responsibility for the beating deaths, saying others committed them, and he blamed alcohol for his actions in tying up and sexually assaulting a woman. He said several times he didn't expect parole but would like a chance to pursue programs for his rehabilitation at a medium security prison. More recently, in May 2019, a weapon was found in your television during an X-ray. - Parole Board of Canada decision Harris urges the board and the federal correctional service to remain vigilant, as he said he believes that Legere will still plan an escape, despite his denials of such an intention during the hearing. "It won't be an escape as we think of it," Harris said. "He's planning to get to minimum security, where you can just walk away." During his hearing, Legere made a number of remarks critical of Rick MacLean, the former editor of the Miramichi Leader who documented the murderer's violence in the weekly newspaper and in two books he co-wrote. MacLean said in an interview that he finds it frightening to imagine what Legere might have done had he managed to escape again in 1991. "It would have been horrifying for me and my family," he said. The parole board's decision, released Monday night, said that after his 2015 transfer to Western Canada, Legere's behaviour continued to be "problematic," though it said his violence decreased and he managed at times to successfully participate in institutional employment programs. Legere, however, continued to develop fixations on female staff members and to behave inappropriately around them, the report said. "More recently, in May 2019, a weapon was found in your television during an X-ray. The board takes note that you have hidden contraband in your television in the past, and it is concerning that this behaviour has persisted over time." Harris said this also fits a pattern of past practice of Legere using the television for improper purposes. In 1989, guards failed to detect a television antenna Legere had hidden in his rectum, and he used it during his escape after being taken out of the prison for a medical appointment.
Like 8,000 flying trapeze artists passing in midair, the Biden and Trump administrations swapped out senior leadership of the federal government on the fly as Joe Biden was inaugurated as the nation's 46th president. Biden announced the dozens of career civil servants who would be leading federal agencies, pending Senate approval of his permanent nominees. Acting heads of Cabinet agencies raised their right hands Wednesday afternoon for oaths of office. Emails went out briefing federal employees on just which career employee would be serving as their acting boss. It’s a painstakingly executed exchange of Cabinet agency senior staffing with inherent risk of bad goof-ups in the best of years, former agency officials and scholars of the federal bureaucracy say. And this year, when Biden’s administration was starting work amid fears that President Donald Trump’s followers would launch more attacks like the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, had added challenges. “Day One is always going to be the riskiest” when it comes to uncertainty about who's in charge, or the new people missing news of some critical event during an agency transition, said Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University. One example, he said, would be scientists in the ranks learning of some vital development in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic or development of vaccines. “As sure as we’re talking here, these things happen,” Light said. “It’s a very dense hierarchy and there are no alarm bells." There was no immediate word of any trouble Wednesday in the first hours of the change in leadership. Biden supporters earlier had accused Trump security agencies of failing to share vital information in the weeks leading up to the handoff. Trump’s false insistence that he, not Biden, won the presidential election raised the level of worries over Wednesday’s transition. U.S. officials this month made a point of specifying in advance who would be the acting head of the Defence Department at 12:01 p.m. Wednesday, the minute after Biden became president. Deputy Defence Secretary David Norquist became acting head of the Defence Department between the resignation of Trump appointee Christopher C. Miller and Senate confirmation of Biden’s nominee to replace him, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin. Across Cabinet-level agencies, most political appointees of the old administration turned in resignations by Inauguration Day, following tradition. Before leaving office, Trump had tweaked the orders of succession at some agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, in ways that changed which career staffer was in charge when all the political appointees go away. Environmental advocates and other opponents of the Trump administration, and scholars of government, expressed suspicion of some of Trump’s succession changes in his last weeks, fearing he might plant loyalists as acting heads to make trouble for Biden. But Barack Obama’s White House and others before him in their finals weeks also made adjustments to who’s left in charge in agencies, said Anne Joseph O’Connell, a Stanford Law School professor and expert in government process. That's usually “not because of party preferences but to help with good governance,” O’Connell said. “To the extent you care about government, you care about transition.” However, with Trump’s reluctance after Election Day to yield power, “you could see why many would question the need for changes to succession now,” she added. In any case, federal law on vacancies gives incoming presidents wide choice in picking their own acting agency heads from among employees, regardless of succession plans. Biden by Wednesday afternoon announced his own selections of acting agency heads, from the State Department to the Social Security Administration to the National Endowment for the Arts. “My expectation is that the incoming Biden administration will be relying very heavily on the vacancies act to staff their administration until their nominations are confirmed,” O’Connell said. Another Trump-era complication for this election cycle's power swap: Trump added more layers and senior staffers to federal government, Light said. Researchers have crunched the federal government’s annual directory of executive-level Cabinet staffers — the associates to the chiefs of staff, the deputies to the deputies — each year since the Kennedy administration. There were 451 of them, then. There were 3,265 of those senior Cabinet employees when Obama left town — and 4,886 at last count under Trump, Light said, in research that Brookings published in October. The thicker bureaucracy adds to the risk of vital communications not making it up to new leaders, Light said. The rule for any acting heads remaining from past administrations is simple, Light said: Do no harm. The understanding over the years is “acting appointees are not going to do anything significant” without warning, he said. “We just cross our fingers and hope that people will behave.” Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press