Using YouTube videos as a guide and seeds from store-bought produce, Sijo Zachariah and his father began a farm that helped feed twenty neighboring households in India while under lockdown. (Nov. 23)
Using YouTube videos as a guide and seeds from store-bought produce, Sijo Zachariah and his father began a farm that helped feed twenty neighboring households in India while under lockdown. (Nov. 23)
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Cargo shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway remained flat last year, despite COVID-19’s harsh toll on demand for many products shipped along the waterway. Nearly 38 million tonnes of cargo were shipped last year along the route stretching from the lower St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes, with record shipments of grain offsetting a decline in liquid bulk, dry bulk and iron ore, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. said. In total, cargo shipments were down nearly 1.7 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019. “It’s been a hugely challenging year,” said Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “We had significant drops in most of the major commodities that we move.” The data from the St. Lawrence Seaway, the linchpin in a system of commercial waterways that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes, highlights the uneven effects that COVID-19 has had on different areas of the global economy. Of the types of goods shipped, liquid bulk, which includes petroleum products like jet fuel and gasoline, declined the most, with shipment volume dropping 34.4 per cent to around three million tonnes. The drop reflected a lack of demand for travel amid government restrictions to combat the pandemic. Similarly, dry bulk and iron ore dropped by 9.4 per cent and 12.4 per cent respectively, year over year, as low demand for automobiles, manufacturing and construction reduced shipments of commodities like iron, cement and stone. However, the declines in these categories were offset by a 27 per cent increase in grain shipments, which accounted for more than 13 million tonnes of cargo. Terrence Bowles, president and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said the increase in grain was due to high global demand for food products, coupled with rising yields by Canada’s grain farmers. “One of the big Canadian success stories is grain,” Bowles said. “Farmers today are highly technical. They’ve been able to improve their yields of grain.” Burrows said there had been no restrictions on shipping as a result of COVID-19, despite general disruptions to supply chains, such as manufacturing facilities operating at limited capacity. Looking ahead to the 2021 season, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. expects shipments to pick up soon as the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. and Canada lifts demand for air travel, as well as for construction and automobiles. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Jon Victor, The Canadian Press
Two British hospitals are using blockchain technology to keep tabs on the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines, the companies behind the initiative said on Tuesday, in one of the first such initiatives in the world. Two hospitals, in central England's Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, are expanding their use of a distributed ledger, an offshoot of blockchain, from tracking vaccines and chemotherapy drugs to monitoring fridges storing COVID-19 vaccines. The tech will bolster record-keeping and data-sharing across supply chains, said Everyware, which monitors vaccines and other treatments for Britain's National Health Service (NHS), and Texas-based ledger Hedera, owned by firms including Alphabet's Google and IBM, in a statement.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 42,543 new vaccinations administered for a total of 613,285 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,618.197 per 100,000. There were 31,065 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 848,565 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.27 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 1,531 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,502 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,102 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 61.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 3,769 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,600 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 7.788 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 33.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 6,845 new vaccinations administered for a total of 153,539 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.944 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 196,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 9,691 new vaccinations administered for a total of 209,788 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.282 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.72 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 4,212 new vaccinations administered for a total of 17,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.891 per 1,000. There were 12,665 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,459 new vaccinations administered for a total of 22,618 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.182 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 3,879 new vaccinations administered for a total of 89,814 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.403 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.68 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 11,432 new vaccinations administered for a total of 87,346 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.021 per 1,000. There were 18,400 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 117,875 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 163 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 1,158 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,141 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 55.286 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 35.68 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
There is growing angst among investors over financial market price bubbles, and top of the list of concerns were the cryptocurrency bitcoin and U.S. tech stocks, two closely followed surveys showed on Tuesday. According to nearly 90% of respondents in Deutsche Bank's monthly money-manager study, many price bubbles were now being blown. More generally, too, when asked specifically about the 12-month fate of bitcoin - which surged 300% last year - and electric vehicle maker Tesla which soared nearly 750% and is seen as emblematic of highly priced tech stocks, a majority of respondents said they were now more likely to halve than double in value.
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. On Tuesday, Pentagon officials said 12 National Guard members were removed from securing Biden's inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who posted and texted extremist views about Wednesday's event. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
MADRID — As soon as the lifeless body is silently pushed away on a stretcher, a cleaning battalion moves into the intensive care box. In a matter of minutes, the bed where the 72-year-old woman fought for over two weeks for another breath gets rubbed clean, the walls of glass isolating it disinfected with a squeegee. There is little time to reflect on what has just happened, as death gives way to the possibility of saving another life. “Our biggest source of joy is obviously emptying a bed, but because somebody is discharged and not because they have passed away,” said Ignacio Pujol, the head of this Madrid ICU. “That's a little space there for somebody else to get another chance.” As a surge of infections is once again putting Spain’s public health system against the ropes, the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital that employs Pujol, a project seen by many as an extravagant vanity enterprise, is getting a fresh opportunity to prove its usefulness. Named after the 19th-century Spanish nurse who took smallpox vaccination across the Atlantic Ocean, the facility was built in 100 days at a cost of 130 million euros ($157 million), more than twice the original budget. It boasts three pavilions and support buildings over an area the size of 10 soccer fields, looking somewhere between a small airport terminal and an industrial warehouse, with ventilation air ducts, medical beds and state-of-the-art equipment. The original project was for 1,000 beds, of which roughly half have been installed so far. The Zendal opened to a roar of competing fanfare and criticism on Dec. 1, just as Spain seemed to dampen a post-summer surge of coronavirus infections. By mid-December, it had only received a handful of patients. But Spain on Monday recorded over 84,000 new COVID-19 infections, the highest increase over a single weekend since the pandemic began. The country’s overall tally is heading to 2.5 million cases with 53,000 confirmed virus deaths, although excess mortality statistics add over 30,000 deaths to that. As the curve of contagion steepened after Christmas and New Year's, the Zendal has gotten busy. On Monday, 392 patients were being treated, more than in any other hospital in the region of 6.6 million. Spain's surge follows similar infection increases in other European countries, most notably in the U.K. following the discovery of a new virus variant that experts say is more infectious. The London Nightingale, one of the temporary hospitals across Britain designed to ease pressure on the country's overwhelmed health care system, has also reopened for patients and as a vaccination centre. Spain's top health officials insist they have found no evidence that new variants wreaking havoc elsewhere are contributing in any way to its own rocketing infections. Some experts dispute that, claiming the country's limited ability to sequence coronavirus cases is distorting reality and that a new stay-at-home order is necessary. On the ground, increasing hospitalizations for the virus already surpass the peak of the second resurgence. Nearly one out of every five hospital beds has a patient with COVID-19. The new illness is also taking up one-third of the country's ICU capacity and non-urgent surgeries are already being called off. Joined by some medical experts, left-wing politicians and workers’ unions accuse Madrid's conservative government of spending on vote-attracting hardware instead of reinforcing a public health system they have underfunded for years. Investing in contact tracing and primary care previously, they say, could have averted the need for a Zendal altogether. “Rather than the success they boast, the filling up of this makeshift hospital represents a tremendous failure of those at the helm of the pandemic's response, and also a failure of all of us as a society that could have done better," said Ángela Hernández, a spokeswoman for Madrid's main medical workers' union, AMYTS. The last straw for the unions, she said, has been the regional government laying off medical staff who refuse to abandon their positions in regular hospitals when they are reassigned to the Zendal. "The project has been nonsense from beginning to end," Hernández said. "A few beds without adequate personnel don't make a hospital.” Fernando Prados, Zendal's manager, says he doesn't mind the debate but the 750 patients treated over the last month and a half have already taken significant pressure off other hospitals. “We have already contributed in one way or another," Prados said. "We know that we will continue to have COVID patients and once the pandemic is over this infrastructure will be here for any other emergency.” Past automatic glass doors, patients recover in modules of 8 beds, leaving little space for privacy but providing better monitoring of possible complications in their recovery, said Verónica Real, whose challenge as the head nurse has been to organize staff teams drawn from other hospitals. “Some of the sanitary workers arrive with a degree of anger for all the noise out there about our hospital,” Real said. “But once here, the attitude completely changes.” The Zendal's managers say a modern ventilation system renews the entire facility's air every 5 minutes, which contributes to a safer work environment. But they are most proud of the expansion of the intermediate respiratory care unit, where patients receive varying types of assisted respiration to overcome lung inflammation. The unit's chief, Pedro Landete, says by admitting potentially worsening patients in one of its 50 highly-equipped beds, they are reducing the number of people who later require the more demanding intensive care. José Andrés Armada arrived with mild symptoms at the facility after all his family was infected despite what he said was a very careful approach to the pandemic. But the 63-year-old's health quickly deteriorated and last week he was on the brink of being intubated in one of the Zendal's dozen ICU boxes. “I know that the economy is something to safeguard, but health is more important. We should be in lockdown by now. You can’t have bars and other places open," the former entrepreneur said. “I never imagined it could attack you in such a way." ___ AP reporter Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Aritz Parra, The Associated Press
For one Cape Breton teen, helping out his great-uncle has led to a blooming relationship with tech giant Google. A couple of years ago, Jack Mugridge's great-uncle started using some Google Home devices as part of a project launched by the company that allowed seniors to check in with someone and have daily interactions with people. Mugridge, now a Grade 11 student, stepped up to help his great-uncle try out the devices. As the project continued, Mugridge started to notice things that could be improved on. So when Google came to Cape Breton to record footage for marketing and feedback, Mugridge's great-uncle invited the teen over to meet the crew. The budding tech whiz then took the opportunity to make a presentation of his observations and ideas. "I told them about some issues that it had and some things that I thought were good about it," Mugridge told CBC Radio's Information Morning Cape Breton. For example, instead of loudly broadcasting a conversation a senior might be having with someone checking in, Mugridge suggested an earpiece or integrating the technology with a hearing aid. From N.S. to Google HQ The Google team was so impressed with the teen, they first invited him to Google's Toronto headquarters before scratching the idea and instead flying him to Google HQ — Googleplex in California in February 2019. "It was crazy," said Mugridge, a student at Riverview High School in Sydney River. "They talked about how it was good to get a younger person's view on this kind of technology, how it was also good to get an older person's view on this kind of technology from my uncle." Mugridge wants to someday build gadgets centred around making daily life easier for seniors and people with disabilities. He has some ideas, but a non-disclosure agreement he signed with Google prevents him from revealing too much information. Since his trip to California, Mugridge has taken online courses sent to him by Google and stays in touch. He and his great-uncle also brainstorm gadget ideas together and have put together a 3D printer. Mugridge hopes to learn how to engineer the technology he's been brainstorming and get a job with Google once he graduates college. MORE TOP STORIES
GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner. In a report issued Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities to apply basic public health measures at the earliest opportunity” and that Chinese authorities could have applied their efforts “more forcefully” in January shortly after the coronavirus began sickening clusters of people. “The reality is that only a minority of countries took full advantage of the information available to them to respond to the evidence of an emerging pandemic,” the panel said. The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. At the time, WHO said its expert committee was divided on whether a global emergency should be declared. “One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said. WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents, meeting WHO’s own definition for a flu pandemic. As the coronavirus began spreading across the globe, WHO's top experts disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu and that people without symptoms only rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and that a significant proportion of spread is from people who don't appear to be sick. Over the past year, WHO has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the response to COVID-19. U.S. President Trump slammed the U.N. health agency for “colluding” with China to cover up the extent of the initial outbreak before halting U.S. funding for WHO and pulling the country out of the organization. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them. Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread (of COVID-19) internally and internationally,” it did not name specific countries. It also declined to call out WHO for its failure to more sharply criticize countries for their missteps instead of lauding countries for their response efforts. Last month, the author of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response warned his bosses in May that people could die and the agency could suffer “catastrophic” reputational damage if it allowed political concerns to suppress the document, according to emails obtained by the AP. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
The Nova Scotia government is defending its decision to allow five Cooke Aquaculture open-net pen fish farms to expand outside their existing lease and licence boundaries. A coalition of fish farming opponents wants the province to force Cooke subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon into compliance at fish farms where the company has not yet received boundary expansions. The Healthy Bays Coalition cites government inspection reports that gear and equipment are in place outside of the previously approved boundaries in violation of existing leases. "Configuring their sites in this way may allow Kelly Cove Salmon to have more cages, and more fish, on each of their sites than the size of their lease and licence would otherwise permit," wrote lawyer Sarah McDonald of Ecojustice, an environmental law non-profit, on behalf of Healthy Bays. Expansion without permission? The province, however, said it's only allowing "regular operations" at the fish farms — not more cages or fish in the water. Cooke Aquaculture applied for boundary amendments to leases at four fish farms sites in 2016 and one in 2019. The coalition said all five sites have been allowed to expand before receiving the required approval from the provincial aquaculture review board. On Jan. 12, McDonald wrote to provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell and Environment Minister Gordon Wilson, demanding action on "this egregious conduct" and a response by March 12. No 'material changes,' says N.S. The province has not responded to the Healthy Bays Coalition, but a spokesperson for the Fisheries Department sent CBC News a statement rejecting the insinuation that Cooke has more cages or fish in the water at the fish farms in question. "The five Kelly Cove Salmon sites under review have been allowed to continue regular operations on their sites until the amendment process is complete, but have not been permitted to make material changes to their operations including increases in size or production," the statement said. The coalition said there's no way to verify that claim since Nova Scotia refuses to release farm stocking and configuration data on the grounds it is confidential business information. It has also taken issue with the fact Cooke Aquaculture has not held a required public meeting on three of the five fish farm expansion applications: Saddle Island, Brier Island and Victoria Beach. "They may say no harm, no foul. We say harm and foul," coalition president Geoff LeBoutillier told CBC News. "At the very least, the regulations require that there be public meetings, public information meetings, so that the people in the communities that are affected by these open-net pens have an opportunity to find out what's going on and have an opportunity to express their points of view." The other two fish farms expansions are at Brier Island and Rattling Beach. In her letter, McDonald said the province has effectively granted the company long-term interim approvals for the lease and licence expansions without "any statutory basis for doing so." "Not only does this undermine the province's own regulatory scheme, with its commitments to increased public engagement and transparency, but it erodes public trust in the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture willingness to properly regulate the industry and subverts the rule of law," said the letter. Cooke responds Cooke Aquaculture said different provincial and federal regulatory agencies oversee its fish farms in Nova Scotia, where it has been operating for 23 years. "Maintaining a clean environment is essential to raising salmon, and the coastal areas around our sites are as pristine today as they were when the farms was first established many years ago," Joel Richardson, a spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture, said in a statement to CBC News. Richardson, however, did not address the status of salmon farms where Cooke is seeking expanded boundaries. Instead, he pointed to the successful renewal of leases and licences of three of its other Nova Scotia fish farms. He said that demonstrated Cooke's strong environmental performance and management practices. "The renewal procedure includes the completion of performance reviews based on the technical and biological assessment of the farms and a public comment period," Richardson said in a statement. "In these decisions, the scientists and regulators concluded that claims being made by individuals and groups about impacts to the environment were unproven." MORE TOP STORIES
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 19 ... What we are watching in Canada ... OTTAWA — A new poll suggests almost two-thirds of Canadians would support imposition of a nightly curfew if necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 — even though they're not convinced it would be effective. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they would support a temporary curfew in their province if recommended by public health officials. In Quebec, where the government imposed a month-long curfew 10 days ago, 74 per cent said they support the move. Nevertheless, only 57 per cent of Quebecers and just 39 per cent of respondents in the rest of the country said they think curfews are an effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The poll, conducted Jan. 15 to 18 by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies, also suggests that Canadians' mental health has suffered as the pandemic drags on; it registered an eight-point rise since last April in the number of respondents who rate their mental health as bad or very bad. The online poll of 1,516 Canadians cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples. --- Also this ... OTTAWA — Ontario Conservative MP Derek Sloan says he'll fight efforts by his party's leader to boot him from caucus. Sloan says a decision by leader Erin O'Toole that he should be tossed out over a donation to his leadership campaign by a known white supremacist is ridiculous. O'Toole announced he's launching the effort to remove Sloan late Monday, after news broke that Sloan's campaign had received a donation from Paul Fromm last year. O'Toole framed the decision as being a question of having no tolerance for racism within his party. But Sloan is raising questions about that approach, saying Fromm is a party member and that fact would have previously been known both to O'Toole and to the party itself. Sloan generated controversy during the leadership campaign for his aggressively social conservative views, and his presence in caucus has been polarizing ever since. He had survived a bid to oust him during the leadership race itself, when comments he made about the country's chief public health officer saw him accused of racism, a charge he denied. --- And ... EDMONTON — Alberta has decided to cancel recently issued coal leases in the Rocky Mountains, as public opposition grows to the United Conservative government's plan to expand coal mining in the area. Late Monday afternoon, Energy Minister Sonya Savage issued a press release saying the sale of 11 recently purchased coal leases would be cancelled. Savage added that no further leases would be sold on lands that were protected from open-pit mines under a policy the government revoked last May. She also said the move will have no effect on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review. The cancelled leases are a small portion of the coal exploration leases the government has issued since revoking a policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies — home to endangered species as well as the water source for millions downstream — since 1976. The decision came as more than 100,000 signatures had been collected on two petitions opposing increased mining on two related fronts. One, sponsored by environmental groups on Change.org, was addressed to the provincial government and had 77,000 signatures Monday afternoon. Another, sponsored by a private citizen and addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, had nearly 28,000 names opposing the Benga coal project in southern Alberta, which is undergoing a federal-provincial environmental review. Members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have sent more than 700 postcards to Wilkinson asking him to block coal development in the Rockies and another 2,000 have joined an online group to that end, said organizer Latasha Calf Robe. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol complex temporarily locked down during a rehearsal for president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment roughly a mile away sent a plume of smoke into the air and caused security concerns in an already jittery city. The false alarm briefly interrupted Monday's rehearsal for Wednesday's inauguration ceremony, a quadrennial exercise in which stand-ins take the roles of Biden and other VIPs and the U.S. Marine Band goes through its paces, including practising "The Star-Spangled Banner" for Wednesday’s performance by Lady Gaga. Rehearsal resumed not long afterward, accompanied by frequent passes by a helicopter patrolling the skies over the Capitol. Law enforcement officials said there was no threat to the public and the fire was not believed to be a threat to the inauguration. Local firefighters put out the blaze quickly. The evacuation of some participants from the area and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution, officials said. But the fast decision to lock down underscores the fear that has gripped Washington since the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters and prompted extraordinary measures ahead of the inauguration. Armed protests planned for this past weekend around the country were mostly a bust, but anxiety is still skyrocketing. U.S. Secret Service tightened security in and around the Capitol a week early in preparation, and the city centre is essentially on lockdown with streets blocked, high fencing installed and tens of thousands of National Guard and other law enforcement officers stationed around the area. But U.S. defence officials, worried about a potential insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing the event, pushed the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into the area. Acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement Monday that vetting of National Guard troops continues and that the Pentagon has found no intelligence so far that would indicate an insider threat. --- On this day in 1943 ... Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born in an Ottawa hospital. Crown Princess Juliana, who became queen in 1948, and her two oldest daughters, fled from the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940 and eventually came to Canada. --- In entertainment ... "Schitt's Creek" continues to flood the awards circuit. The Canadian CBC series, which swept the Emmys' comedy categories with seven trophies last September, is now up for five Critics Choice Awards. The story of the riches-to-rags Rose family is nominated for best comedy series and in acting categories for stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Daniel Levy, and Annie Murphy. Other series with five nominations apiece include HBO's "Lovecraft Country," and FX's "Mrs. America" and "What We Do In The Shadows." Two Netflix series lead the pack, with "Ozark" and "The Crown" each up for six awards, including best drama series. --- ICYMI ... The backcountry survival skills of a British Columbia teen who got lost while snowmobiling are being praised by search and rescue volunteers who found him safe. The South Cariboo Search and Rescue Society says the 17-year-old did everything right when things went wrong. The society says in a social media post that the teen became separated from his group and when he realized he was lost he parked his snowmobile in an open area, built himself an overnight snow cave and waited for help to arrive. RCMP say they received a call for help around the dinner hour on Saturday and a search team reported finding the teenager at about 10:30 p.m. It society says when team members found the young man he was waiting in the snow cave with food and water. It says he and his family and friends were snowmobiling near Mahood Lake, located about 80 kilometres east of 100 Mile House in B.C.'s Cariboo region. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 The Canadian Press
The company that operates the Eurostar rail service between the UK and mainland Europe has called for a UK government bailout following a collapse in travel. The train operator runs daily services through the Channel Tunnel between London, Paris and Brussels.View on euronews
BEIJING — Workers trapped for more than a week in a Chinese gold mine asked for pickles and porridge to be dropped to them while they wait to be rescued, state media reported Tuesday. The website of the People's Daily said the request came after a telephone line was dropped to the group of 11 inside the mine's No. 6 chamber. Another survivor of the mine explosion a week ago is inside an adjoining chamber while the fate of 10 others remains unknown, according to officials in the city of Yantai in the eastern province of Shandong. People's Daily said two of the miners were recovering from exhaustion and another was injured by the explosion that ripped through the mine on Jan. 10. Medicine, food and liquids have twice been delivered to the workers, enough to last at least two days, Yantai mayor Chen Fei told reporters at a briefing Tuesday morning. “Their overall physical condition seems to be pretty good," Chen said. The porridge requested, also known as millet congee, is a nourishing breakfast staple common throughout northeastern China. Pickles and chilies are often added for flavour and vitamins. A brief video clip released by the city government Tuesday morning showed rescuers cutting through metal cages used to transport miners and ore that were blocking the shaft. Hundreds of rescuers were drilling six shafts in an attempt to reach the different sections of the mine. Workers passed a note to the surface on Monday saying they were suffering from toxic fumes and rising water levels but calling on rescuers not to give up. Mine managers have been detained for waiting more than 24 hours before reporting the accident, the cause of which has not been announced. The mine in Qixia, a jurisdiction under Yantai, had been under construction at the time of the blast. Increased supervision has improved safety in China's mining industry, which used to post an average of 5,000 deaths per year. Yet demand for coal and precious metals continues to prompt corner-cutting and two accidents in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing last year killed 39 miners. The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard plans to seek bail in a Winnipeg courtroom today following his arrest last month on charges in the United States of sex trafficking and racketeering. Nygard, who is 79, was arrested in December under the Extradition Act and faces nine counts in the southern District of New York. Authorities there accuse Nygard of using his influence in the fashion industry to lure women and girls with the promise of modelling and other financial opportunities. Nygard’s lawyer, Jay Prober, has said his client denies the allegations. Prober has told court his client should be released on bail because his health is deteriorating behind bars and he is not a flight risk. Lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada say Nygard has a history of not showing up to court and has the means to flee. The two-day bail hearing is expected to find out more about affidavits filed in court that detail Nygard’s unconventional health routines, which include having a diet free of sugar, carbs and preservatives. Nygard's team has also filed several affidavits from associates and friends who are standing by the businessman. Two people who were employed by Nygard have offered to put up their homes to act as sureties if Nygard is released before the extradition hearing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that for 25 years Nygard targeted women and underage girls from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and forcibly sexually assaulted them. He is also the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. involving 57 women with similar allegations. Nygard stepped down as chairman of his company after the FBI and police raided his offices in New York City last February. Two of Nygard’s sons have filed a separate lawsuit against him in which they claim they were statutorily raped at his direction when they were teens. Nygard, through his lawyer, has also denied the allegations in the lawsuits. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding a virtual meeting Tuesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to discuss the country’s pandemic measures amid concerns that new mutations of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge in cases. The country's infection rate has stabilized in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers. On Tuesday, the country's disease control centre reported 11,369 new virus infections and 891 new deaths, for an overall death toll of 47,622. The government tightened the country's lockdown in early January until the end of this month. However, surging infections in Britain and Ireland, said to be caused by a more contagious virus variant, have experts worried that the mutation could also spread quickly in Germany if measures are not extended or even toughened. Therefore, Merkel and the state governments are meeting earlier than planned to considered stricter rules. While restaurants, most stores and schools have already been closed and those shutdowns are likely to be extended, there's also talk about possible nightly curfews, an obligation to wear the more effective FFP2 or KN95 masks on public transportation, and a push to get more people to work at home to avoid office-driven infections. Medical workers have been demanding an extension or toughening of the lockdown since many hospitals are still on edge, with intensive care wards overflowing in some areas. “The current measures on limiting social contacts seem to be showing an effect,” Susanne Johna, the head of the physicians' association Marburger Bund, told the dpa news agency, adding that the measures should continue to be upheld to further reduce new infections. “We urgently need further relief,” Johna said. ___ __Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic,https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Kirsten Grieshaber, The Associated Press
BEIJING — Profit at state-owned companies that dominate China’s banking, oil and most other industries rose by as much as 25% last year as the country recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Tuesday. Total revenue for national-level companies rose 2.2% over 2019 to 30.3 trillion yuan ($4.7 trillion), according to Peng Huagang, secretary general of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. Speaking at a news conference, Peng said profit rose 2.1% to 1.4 trillion yuan ($215 billion). The ruling Communist Party has built up such “national champions” over the past two decades, but their monopolies and multibillion-dollar subsidies prompt complaints by the public that they are a waste of money and gouge consumers with high prices. Peng’s agency oversees 97 companies directly under the Cabinet including PetroChina Ltd., Asia’s biggest oil producer; China Mobile Ltd., the world’s biggest phone carrier by number of subscribers, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the world’s biggest bank by assets. SASAC companies also dominate air travel, insurance, securities, shipping, internet access, power generation, construction, nuclear power technology and coal and steel production. Chinese industries benefited from the economy’s relatively early reopening starting in March after the ruling party declared victory over the virus that emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019. Total economic activity rose 2.3% in 2020, possibly making China the only major economy to grow while the United States, Europe and Japan struggled with rising infections. Growth accelerated to a two-year high of 6.5% over a year earlier in the three months ending in December. Profit at 24 national-level state companies rose by more than 25% over 2019 and two had profit of more than 100 billion yuan ($15.4 billion), Peng said, without identifying them or giving other details. Total profit at top state-owned companies grew by at least double digits over a year earlier in each month after June, according to Peng. Revenue growth accelerated to 11.7% over a year earlier in December as China’s economy rebounded, reaching a record 3.7 trillion yuan ($570 billion), Peng said. State-owned companies stepped up investment as part of the ruling party’s effort to support flagging economic activity. Telecom carriers spent 373.1 billion yuan ($57.5 billion) on next-generation networks and other investments, according to Peng. He said spending by power suppliers on hydro, wind and solar technology rose 27.4% over 2019 to 481.5 billion yuan ($74 billion). ___ State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission: http://en.sasac.gov.cn/ Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has given himself an imposing to-do list for his earliest days as president and many promises to keep over the longer haul. Overshadowing everything at the very start is Biden's effort to win congressional approval of a $1.9 trillion plan to combat the coronavirus and the economic misery it has caused. But climate change, immigration, health care and more will be competing for attention — and dollars. Altogether Biden has laid out an ambitious if not always detailed set of plans and promises across the range of public policy. Drawn from a review of his campaign statements and a recent memo from Ron Klain, who'll be his chief of staff, here's a sampling of measures to expect right away, around the corner and beyond: WEDNESDAY, after the inauguration, mostly by executive action: — Declaration that the U.S. is rejoining Paris climate accord. — Declaration that the U.S. is rejoining World Health Organization. — Ethical standards for his administration and an order prohibiting interference in the operations of the Justice Department from other parts of government. — Start of a process to restore 100 public health and environmental rules that the Obama administration created and President Donald Trump eliminated or weakened. — Start of a process to rejoin the deal restraining Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. — Executive action to end travel restrictions on people from a variety of Muslim-majority countries. — Executive action to protect from deportation people who came to the country illegally as children. — Executive action to make masks mandatory on federal property and when travelling out of state. Others will be asked to wear masks for 100 days. — Steps to extend pandemic-era restrictions on evictions and foreclosures. — Legislation to go to Congress proposing to repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers and tightening some other aspects of gun control. — Immigration legislation to go to Congress as part of an effort to offer a path to citizenship for 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and to codify protections for people who came illegally as children. — Education Department to be asked to extend the existing pause on student loan payments and interest for millions with student debt. ___ THURSDAY — Executive action laying out new steps to expand virus testing, protect workers and set new public health standards. ___ FRIDAY — Directive to agencies to take unspecified immediate action to deliver economic relief from the pandemic. ___ BY FEB. 1 — Executive actions to strengthen “buy American” provisions. — Executive actions to address climate change. — First steps to expand access to health care, for low-income women, women of colour and other segments of the population. — First steps to reunite families still separated at the Mexican border. ___ BEYOND (some may be tried sooner) — Ensure 100 million vaccines have been given before the end of his first 100 days. — Ensure 100 federally supported vaccination centres are up and running in his first month. — Expand use of the Defence Production Act to direct the manufacture of critical pandemic supplies. — Win passage of a $2 trillion climate package to get the U.S. to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. — Seek passage of a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans; increase existing premium subsidies. — Eliminate certain corporate tax cuts where possible, by executive action, while doubling the levies U.S. firms pay on foreign profits. — Make a plan within 100 days to end homelessness. — Expand legal immigration slots. — Freeze deportations for 100 days, then restore the Obama-era principle of deporting foreigners who are seen as posing a national security threat or who have committed crimes in addition to the crime of illegal entry, thereby pulling back the broad deportation policy of the Trump years. — Halt financing of further construction of the wall along the Mexican border. — Within 100 days, establish a police oversight commission to combat institutional racism by then. — Reinstate federal guidance, issued by Obama and revoked by Trump, to protect transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity. — Ensure taxes are not raised on anyone making under $400,000. — Restore Obama-era rules on campus sexual misconduct and a policy that aimed to cut federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debt they can't pay back. — Support legislation to make two years of community college free and to make public colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000, with no repayment of student loans required for people who make less than $25,000 a year and, for others, no repayment rate above 5% of discretionary income. — Support increasing the national minimum wage to $15. — Try to win passage of a plan to spend $700 billion boosting manufacturing and research and development. — Establish a commission to study expanding the Supreme Court. Darlene Superville And Will Weissert, The Associated Press
The possibility of a fire in a special care home with dozens of residents shuffling toward the nearest exit while pushing a walker is something Lise Dubois worries about. Her elderly mother suffers from dementia, and she has seen what happens when a blaring fire alarm goes off, with three staff trying to evacuate 45 seniors in a hurry. "It's pretty scary," Dubois said of the scene she witnessed when her mother lived at Manoir Sugarloaf in Campbellton. A CBC News analysis of special care homes in New Brunswick, completed on Jan. 8, has found 24 per cent failed to meet fire prevention standards, with the most common infraction being a failure to do monthly fire drills. Dubois worries that lack of preparation, combined with the ongoing practice of reducing overnight staff at care homes, could lead to "disaster" for some of the province's most vulnerable. 'Variances' often granted Special care homes can be approved for a "variance" that allows the overnight staffing level to drop below the government standard of one caregiver per 10 residents. "In some circumstances, a staffing variance may be approved of up to 1:15," wrote government spokesperson Coreen Enos. The practice came to light in a recent CBC investigation into five special care homes owned by the Lokia Group. These homes took part in a government-approved pilot project that allowed staffing levels to be reduced, in some cases leaving workers alone overnight. As of Nov. 20, 2020, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development said 55 of the 491 adult residential facilities in New Brunswick, which includes special care homes, memory care homes and community residences, had been granted a nighttime variance. Those variances are valid for one year and can be revoked at any time. Resident 'stuck' in her room Dubois remembers helping her mother, who uses a walker and moves slowly, to exit the home during that evening fire alarm. With one staff for every 15 residents, she said it was "chaos" with everyone "freaking out." "If it would have been a real fire, at least half to three-quarters of them wouldn't make it." There's a lot of them that has a hard time to walk. And a lot of them has oxygen tanks, so they need help. - Lise Dubois The Office of the Fire Marshal would not do an interview, but spokesperson Enos said in a written statement that staffing ratios always ensure "there is sufficient staff for evacuating residents in the event of a fire." She said variances are granted only after the operator has completed a timed fire drill, and if Social Development has no concerns about the home. Dubois said that during the evening fire alarm, as she was hurrying her mother down the hall toward the exit, another resident who was in a wheelchair opened the door of her room a crack to ask Dubois what was going on. "She was kind of stuck in there," she said. "She needed help. So I stopped and I helped her and I brought her and my mom toward the front. "There's a lot of them that has a hard time to walk. And a lot of them has oxygen tanks, so they need help." Dubois's mother, who has dementia, has now moved out of the special care home and into a nursing home, but Dubois is still bothered by what she saw during that fire alarm. "It really got me thinking a lot when I seen that — it's like Holy Lord — something like that had happened in an old people's home somewhere near Montreal." In January 2014, a fire that broke out just after midnight in the Résidence du Havre, about 450 kilometres northeast of Montreal, took the lives of 32 of the 50 residents. Many of the residents used walkers and wheelchairs, and a coroner's report blamed the high death toll in part on the lack of automatic sprinklers and insufficient overnight staff at the residence. Expert says fire drills critical In the most recent inspection reports for New Brunswick special care homes, as of Jan. 8, inspectors flagged 83 homes for not complying with fire prevention and safety standards. Fire prevention expert Derek Gruchy said it's critical that fire drills are completed regularly, especially when you are dealing with vulnerable populations who may have reduced mobility and diminished cognitive abilities. "The vast majority [of residents] are there because they need assistance. And so in the event of a fire, they can't just all get up and walk out, so they need help from the staff." Gruchy is the co-ordinator of the fire protection engineering technology program at Seneca College in Toronto, and his students include future fire inspectors. He said the number of residents, the number of exits, the distance to those exits and whether there are sprinklers all need to be considered when determining whether staffing levels are adequate and evacuation plans are safe. "If you have one staff or three staff — I don't really care — I just want to make sure that it's safe. So if you can do it with one person, show me. And so you do these evacuations to show that." Rules in New Brunswick 'very strict' Jan Seely, president of the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association, understands why family members like Dubois are concerned. She didn't know anything about the pilot project at the five Lokia homes and says the variance never should have been approved. "It's painted a very unfortunate picture of a sector that is undeserving of that picture," she said. "I hope that this type of thing doesn't happen again." Seely operates a 12-bed care home in Saint John and has applied for a variance herself in the past, which allows her to have one staff person working during the night. "The variance process is very strict," said Seely who does regular fire drills, has a sprinkler system and is confident all of her residents and staff can get out in two minutes. "When I go home at night, I know that can be done … it's one of my most important peace-of-mind issues." Seely is calling for a peer-review committee to be set up that would include officials from the Department of Social Development, the Office of the Fire Marshal, the Special Care Home Association and care home operators. The committee would discuss requests for future pilot projects and staffing variances. "Nobody knew this project was happening. So, you know, shame on government for doing that." For Gruchy, the bottom line is that all special care home staff and residents have to be prepared should there be a fire — day or night. "It's really important for the drills to just keep repeating the same thing over and over, so that when it is a real fire, everybody just knows what to do, and it's not a situation where people are looking around [wondering] 'Are you helping me? Where am I supposed to go?'"
When the COVID-19 pandemic sent Aly Murphy into lockdown, she figured it was finally time to start learning Russian. Nearly one year later, she's still at it. "I don't know if I'd have committed to it as fiercely as I have," said Murphy, a University of Ottawa theatre student who wanted to read famous Russian playwrights like Anton Chekhov without relying on translations. "The Duolingo streak system is definitely a compelling reason to keep doing it, because now, I'm at a 340-day streak or whatever — and if I ever lose that, I'll be heartbroken." Murphy is one of the many Canadians who've flocked to language podcasts, apps like Duolingo and Zoom-based classes over the past year, as the pandemic limits in-person instruction and gives people freedom to pursue interests online. But when it comes to what the new virtual approach means for language acquisition in the long run, it's still an open question. 'A bit less personal' "Some people like it better online. Some people miss the human interaction, because it's of course a bit less personal," said Samuel Coeytaux, director of Alliance Française Ottawa. According to Coeytaux, courses at his French-language school remain full, even though there hasn't been a single in-person class since last March. That's led to positive developments, Coeytaux said — like students signing up from across Ontario, even Montreal — but also negative ones, including a halt to the cultural immersion Alliance Française prides itself upon. "Of course, online, we can't really have a petit dejeuner français with, like, croissants and French pastries," he said. "These days we can't have movie nights the same way." Missing out on French-language breakfasts won't necessarily hamper one's ability to learn a language, but those sorts of experiences convey traditions and elements of day-to-day life that can't always be picked up via an app or in the classroom, said Jeffrey Steele, associate professor in the department of language studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. "The best language-learning is one in which the learners are actively engaging with fluent speakers — whether they be more advanced learners or native speakers, and particularly doing authentic tasks," Steele said. Steele notes those tasks do include things like writing emails or chatting online, which may actually be more suited to the new virtual learning environment Canadians find themselves in. "For the majority of second-language learners ... there's really a practical goal here, about being be able to use that language in their daily lives, to accomplish real tasks with other speakers," said Steele. "There's so many ways in which online learning can either be lent to that — or sometimes be preferable." 'Go at my own pace' The free Duolingo app — which teaches users vocabulary through short quizzes and conversations — has proven especially popular: the company reported more than 30 million new learners signed up when much of the world went into lockdown last March. But apps like it struggle to convey the ebbs and flows of everyday speech, said professor Shana Poplack, the Canada Research Chair in Linguistics and the director of a sociolinguistics laboratory at the University of Ottawa. It would never occur to me to try to learn a language over an app. Never. - Shana Poplack, Canada Resarch Chair in Linguistics For Poplack, language acquisition requires two things: exposure to language as it's actually spoken, and the possibility of interacting with native speakers. She's particularly critical of apps that dispense rigid grammatical rules, like always using the French ne in a negative sentence — something her lab has found gets dropped in spoken French more than 99 per cent of the time. "It would never occur to me to try to learn a language over an app. Never," Poplack said. "I would sooner jump on a plane and fly to the country where that language is spoken." As for Murphy — who's set her phone to Russian and is grinding through a Russian-language version of the first Harry Potter novel — she sees the benefits of both approaches. "I definitely wish that I did have more people to practise with, and that there was an in-person component," she said. "But at the same time, I really like being able to go at my own pace. And the discipline that's gone along with it."
Recent developments: Quebec wants the federal government to ban non-essential international travel. What's the latest? Ottawa is reporting 56 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the lowest daily total of the month. Two more people have died in Ottawa, and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is also reporting two deaths. Quebec Premier François Legault is calling on the federal government to ban non-essential international travel. Legault says vacationers are still flying to the Caribbean despite the worrying rise of COVID-19 variants in other countries. WATCH LIVE | Update from Quebec starts at 1 p.m. ET: How many cases are there? As of Tuesday, 12,427 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 1,137 known active cases, 10,883 resolved cases and 407 deaths from COVID-19. Public health officials have reported more than 22,300 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 19,500 resolved cases. One hundred and seven people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario and 142 people have died in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Ontario says people must only leave home when it's essential to avoid more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Places such as Kingston have started to take patients from other regions struggling with capacity. People who leave home for non-essential reasons can now be fined, though police won't be stopping people just for being outside. Travel within Ontario is not recommended. Residents who leave the province should isolate for 14 days upon returning. Private indoor gatherings are not allowed, while outdoor gatherings are capped at five. It's strongly recommended people stick to their own households and socializing is not considered essential. People who live alone are still allowed to interact with one other household. Outdoor recreation venues remain open. In-person shopping is limited to essential businesses. Others can offer pickup and delivery. The province will announce by tomorrow which schools can offer general in-person learning, with some boards already delaying that return to classrooms. Child-care centres remain open. The lockdown rules are in place until at least Feb. 11. In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it's essential and not see anyone they don't live with, with an exception for people living alone. They can visit one other home. Western Quebec's health authority said Jan. 19 it had postponed about 300 surgeries so far in 2021 to free up space for COVID-19 patients. Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is now in effect, with fines of up to $6,000 for breaking the rules. The province has shut down non-essential businesses, but has brought students back to classrooms. Like in Ontario, travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. Those rules are in place until Feb. 8. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms. This means it's important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with — even with a mask on. WATCH | Learning a new language now happening virtually: Masks, preferably with three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Ontario and Quebec. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get friends and family to help with errands. Anyone returning to Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days. Air travellers have to show recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Symptoms and vaccines COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. COVID-19 vaccines have been given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in most of the region. Renfrew County expects its first doses in early February. Ontario wants every long-term care resident and worker to have at least one shot by Feb. 15. That's already happened in Ottawa. That, and Pfizer temporarily slowing its vaccine production to expand its factory, means some areas can't guarantee people will get a second dose three weeks after the first. It may take four to six weeks. Ontario's campaign is still expected to expand to priority groups such as older adults and essential workers in March or April, with vaccines widely available to the public in August. Ottawa believes it can have nearly 700,000 residents vaccinated by August. Quebec is also giving a single dose to as many people as possible. It said before Pfizer's announcement people will get their second dose within 90 days. Ottawa had given about 22,000 vaccine doses as of Jan. 18. As of Jan. 19, western Quebec's health authority had given out about 6,000 doses. Where to get tested In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you've been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria. People without symptoms but part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Ottawa has 10 permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester. Its Alexandria and Casselman sites will reopen next week. People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic. Kingston's main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee. Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions. In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site. There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki, Fort-Coulonge and Petite-Nation. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: Akwesasne has had more than 130 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and five deaths. More than 240 people have tested positive across the community. Its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back and it has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Kitigan Zibi logged its first case in mid-December and has had a total of 18. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had its only confirmed case in November. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information