Healthcare workers at the Ndlovu Care Group in rural northeastern South Africa are eagerly awaiting the first jabs of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be rolled out to the country’s front-line healthcare workers starting this week. (Feb. 16)
Healthcare workers at the Ndlovu Care Group in rural northeastern South Africa are eagerly awaiting the first jabs of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be rolled out to the country’s front-line healthcare workers starting this week. (Feb. 16)
TBILISI, Georgia — Thousands of people protested in Georgia on Friday, demanding the release of the jailed top opposition politician and calling for early parliamentary elections. Opposition supporters marched down the streets of the capital Tbilisi and rallied in front of the parliament building and the government headquarters. Police didn't interfere with the protesters. The demonstration comes days after police stormed the headquarters of Georgia's top opposition party, United National Movement, and arrested its chairman Nika Melia. “We believe that today Georgia stands at the crossroads, and this is the moment when the country should decide whether it continues its European development and democratic development or it turns back and goes back to Russia,” opposition politician David Bakradze said at the rally on Friday. Melia faces charges of inciting violence during protests that erupted in 2019 when a Russian lawmaker sat in the parliament speaker’s chair during a meeting of lawmakers from Orthodox Christian countries. He had been freed on bail but was arrested again earlier this week on charges of violating bail terms. The political situation in Georgia has been tense amid allegations of voter fraud in the country’s Oct. 31 parliamentary election. The ruling Georgian Dream party won the vote, but the United National Movement has refused to concede defeat and demanded a rerun. Before the police raid in which Melia was arrested, parliament members named a new prime minister to replace the one who opposed the arrest because of concern it would escalate the country’s political crisis. The new prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has insisted that the move was justified. Opposition supporters have put up tents in front of the parliament and vowed to continue protests until their demands are met. The Associated Press
Quebec City police say they have arrested a 54-year-old woman in connection with the case of fake Alexis Lafreniere hockey cards circulating online. Last December, organizers of the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament warned of fake cards of Lafreniere from 2013 emblazoned with the tournament logo for sale on websites. Organizers had said they came across the fake cards selling for $100 on eBay. Police said in a statement today they arrested the suspect on Feb. 24 and that they seized many hockey cards and digital hardware following a search in connection with the investigation, which they said is ongoing. They say it will be up to prosecutors to decide on charges. The New York Rangers selected Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL draft. He led Canada to a gold medal at the 2020 world junior hockey championship in the Czech Republic and played junior hockey for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Three Hamilton schools are offering rapid COVID-19 testing this week. Testing will be offered to asymptomatic students and staff on a voluntary basis as part of a provincial mandate that boards offer tests in five per cent of their schools — and at least two per cent of their students — each week. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is set to offer asymptomatic testing at Saltfleet District High School in Stoney Creek on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Testing will be open to asymptomatic students and staff — including those working in before- and after-school care programs — at Saltfleet, as well as elementary schools in the community. Eligible elementary schools include Billy Green, Janet Lee, Mount Albion, Gatestone, Tapleytown, Bellmoore and Shannen Koostachin. At the Catholic board, testing will be offered at two schools between Thursday and Saturday. St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton — one of three Catholic elementary schools currently in outbreak — offered testing on Thursday evening. It is unclear which types of tests were used. Both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid testing was offered at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School on Feb. 20 after the school closed amid an outbreak. Asymptomatic testing will also be offered Friday evening at St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School for students and staff at that school. On Saturday, testing at St. John Henry Newman will be available for students and staff at the feeder schools — Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Peace, St. Agnes, St. Clare of Assisi, St. David, St. Francis Xavier, St. Gabriel and St. Martin of Tours. Fewer than 100 students and staff participated in Feb. 13 pilot clinics at Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek and Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School in Hannon during a snowy long weekend. Among the 86 participants — 65 students and 21 staff — no positive cases of the virus were detected. The HWDSB is hoping for increased uptake this time around. Approximately 3,600 in-person learners at schools are eligible for asymptomatic testing at the Saltfleet “hub” clinic, which has the capacity for 130 tests. “We started to think about how do we increase the voluntary participation ... without disrupting the teaching, learning that’s happening,” said education director Manny Figueiredo. He said the board has “done some reflecting” since the first clinic and made the decision to offer testing on a weekday immediately after high school students finish in-person sessions, and into the evening for elementary students. “If they’re already in the building ... we’re going to likely get more voluntary participation because they’re already present,” Figueiredo said. The board has also created a schedule to let parents know about asymptomatic testing well in advance. With new testing targets set out by the province, the public board is expected to offer testing to about five schools per week. The next dates for testing are March 5 at Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek, the location of one of the pilot clinics, and March 12 at Bernie Custis Secondary School in central Hamilton. Figueiredo said though there is a schedule in place, boards need to be ready to pivot if public health directs the board to change locations in the case of an outbreak. “We can’t give you a will-use it-always-in-these-circumstances-type answer around those outbreaks, but we’ll look at each case as it comes to make a determination as to what we would recommend,” Hamilton’s medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said a Feb. 23 media briefing. In a 2020 asymptomatic testing pilot at 18 Toronto schools, 31 per cent of students and 54 per cent of staff volunteered to get tested, Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health, said in an email to The Spectator. Jen Vickers-Manzin, director of Hamilton public health’s healthy families division, said the province has indicated uptake for asymptomatic testing in schools is typically around 20 per cent — a number the city was “planning for” during its first clinics. “We’ll continue to engage with our school board partners and really understand our baseline a little bit more, as well as any barriers to participating,” she said. “The planning and the direction of this rapid testing, including rapid antigen testing, is still very much a moving target.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
NEW DELHI — India’s economy expanded by a weaker-than-expected 0.4% in the October-December quarter, which still allowed it to escape recession following large contractions in the two previous quarters during the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Friday. The National Statistical Office projected an 8% contraction for the 2020-21 financial year, which ends in March. In January, it had projected a contraction of 7.7% for the fiscal year, following 4% growth in 2019-20. It said fertilizer production rose by 2.7% in January, steel by 2.6% and electricity generation by 5.1%. Coal production declined by 1.8%, crude oil by 4.8% and natural gas by 2%, it said in a statement. India’s economy contracted by 7.5% in the July-September quarter following a record plunge of 23.9% in the previous three months. The government had imposed a strict two-month lockdown across the country in March after the outbreak of the pandemic. A country enters a technical recession if its economy contracts in two successive quarters. India's recovery is expected to improve with a rise in consumer demand and investment. India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, is projecting gross domestic product growth of 10.5% in financial year 2021-22. The International Monetary Fund has projected 11.5% growth in calendar 2021. The IMF estimated that the Indian economy contracted 8% in 2020. The Associated Press
Powassan is being recognized with a seasonal beer made by New Ontario Brewing Company of North Bay. It's called Two Towns Past Powassan. Company co-owner Mike Harrison says only 4,000 cans have been produced, “and when they're gone, they're gone. We'll see you again next year. “It's just another way to bring attention to a local town, and we're proud to put it on the label,” Harrison says. “Powassan is a really tight community. You have the events 250 Clark puts on and things like the Maple Syrup Festival all show how close the community is. As a municipality, you can see they care for each other and that's nice to see.” Coming up with the name Two Towns Past Powassan wasn't particularly difficult for Harrison. When people south of North Bay ask where the brewery is located, Harrison usually says “it's just two towns past Powassan and at your first set of lights turn right. “The name is a silly thing,” Harrison admits. “But when you're deciding on names, you bounce around a lot of possibilities. You're thinking what will tie people to the beer and make them feel something.” Powassan Mayor Peter McIsaac says word spread fast when New Ontario announced Two Towns Past Powassan last week on Facebook and Instagram. “Within minutes, I had people sending me pictures of it,” McIsaac recalls. “Quite a buzz went through the community. There's a lot of pride in our community so when people saw New Ontario was putting a product out with the Powassan name on it, you could expect the sales to happen.” And McIsaac isn't exaggerating. Harrison believes all 4,000 cans of the seasonal beer will be gone by early March. Harrison describes Two Towns Past Powassan as an amber ale that's a bit fruity and citrusy. “But we also made it a bit drier than a lot of our other beers so it has a greater appeal.” So, why not make the beer available year round? “We make around 25 different types of beer a year,” Harrison explains. “And if it's not available as often, it makes it more interesting for people to come in and try it. It's important to always be doing something different.” McIsaac purchased two cases right after hearing Two Towns Past Powassan was available. “If New Ontario is going to highlight my community and support my community, I'm going to turn right around and support New Ontario,” he says, adding Powassan already had a great relationship with New Ontario. “We sell their products when we had trivia nights before COVID and they're at our beer festival.” McIsaac says a two-week promotion started in Powassan last Friday to support New Ontario and Two Towns Past Powassan. “People are asked to take a picture that includes Two Towns Past Powassan, put it on the 250 Clark Facebook page and like New Ontario on Facebook and Powassan Trivia Nights,” he explains. “Your name will be entered in a draw where you could win New Ontario merchandise or a gift certificate.” The value of the gift certificate is $75 and the merchandise includes a New Ontario sweatshirt and toque. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as U.S. President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least 9 hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Israel did not immediately comment on the blast. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
Moderna co-founder, Dr. Derrick Rossi, takes a look back at the company’s creation and its role in producing a COVID-19 vaccine.
(New Glasgow Regional Police - image credit) A Pictou County man is facing a seldom-used charge after allegedly posing as different people online in order to buy police decals for a car and to post defamatory comments. After a two-month investigation, New Glasgow Regional Police said Thursday they'd laid four charges against a 47-year-old man for identity fraud and defamatory libel. Police received a complaint in January that another person's identity was used to post a Kijiji ad. The ad said this person was looking to buy New Glasgow Regional Police decals, and other police items, for a 2018 Ford Explorer. Const. Ken MacDonald said the post gathered "a lot of attention" and was used as a way to attract awareness to this other person's identity. "Within the province of Nova Scotia there's great concerns in terms of police vehicles. And in this case, it was a great concern to us," MacDonald said Friday. "In terms of the amount of confidence in the public … we want to make sure that our police decals are controlled." The case brings to mind the Portapique mass killing last April, where a gunman drove a decommissioned 2018 Ford Taurus police vehicle across the province, killing 22 people. In the months leading up to the shooting, the killer worked to make the vehicle look identical to an actual RCMP cruiser and had decals printed to make the replica look as authentic as possible. Const. Ken MacDonald said the post gathered 'a lot of attention' and was used as a way to attract awareness to this other person's identity. A second complaint also came in this January where a separate person's identity was used to make "defamatory comments" using Google Reviews, MacDonald said. MacDonald said the rates of identity theft have increased with modern technology, but "especially, in terms of COVID, we've seen a lot more." Police searched a residence in Linacy, Pictou County at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. The suspect was arrested and electronic items seized. The two victims and the suspect are known to each other, police said. Police lay rare libel charge The 47-year-old man from Pictou County has been charged with two counts each of identity fraud and defamatory libel. He has been released under strict conditions and will appear in Pictou provincial court on May 31. MacDonald said the defamatory libel charge is "rarely used" by police agencies in Nova Scotia, and had never seen it laid within his 15 years with the New Glasgow force. The Criminal Code defines defamatory libel as material that's published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to "injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published." "I think this is one of the first departments that have actually used it," MacDonald said. "I can't find it anywhere." MORE TOP STORIES
Après son prédécesseur Jonathan Vance, l’amiral Art McDonald fait aussi l’objet d’une enquête et quitte ses fonctions de chef d’état-major de la défense un mois après sa nomination. C’est un constat d’échec selon Dave Blackburn de l’université du Québec en Outaouais, par ailleurs ex-officier des forces armées canadiennes. Le professeur au département de travail de l’UQO s’est exprimé sur un phénomène « récurrent et inquiétant » qui suscite plusieurs interrogations sur « la culture militaire » dans les rangs des forces armées canadiennes. Dave Blackburn a estimé que des vérifications étaient faites sur les antécédents des personnes nommées aux fonctions de chef d’état-major de la défense, compte tenu de l’image et du poids de la responsabilité, mais il a subodoré que les soupçons persistants seraient révélateurs d’un dysfonctionnement. « Soit qu’on a raté quelque chose, soit que la plainte a été déposée quand il est entré en fonction », a-t-il redouté au sujet des allégations contre l’amiral Art McDonald sur les antennes de Radio Canada, tout en espérant qu’on est plutôt dans la deuxième hypothèse. Des allégations d’inconduite refont surface plus de cinq ans après le lancement de l’opération Honour, la première initiative visant à éradiquer les comportements sexuels inappropriés et illégaux au sein de l’armée. L’ex-officier a constaté que la provenance du malaise du haut de la pyramide pourrait envoyer de mauvais messages et de mauvaises images en interne et qu’il y’avait encore beaucoup de travail de sensibilisation à faire. Ottawa n’a pas donné de précision sur la nature des allégations ou le type d’inconduite qu’on reprocherait au patron des Forces armées canadiennes. Quelle que soit la forme du harcèlement, a poursuivi M Blackburn, « Ça vient brimer le moral des troupes, ça brise l’intégration des femmes dans les cas d’inconduite sexuelle… avec un impact direct sur l’efficacité opérationnelle des forces armées. » Il faut opérer des réformes « On n’a pas atteint l’objectif de l’opération Honour », a-t-il conclu, en suggérant de régler la question par des réformes. De son avis, tous les cas d’inconduite doivent être traités en dehors des chaînes de commandement ou du système de justice militaire et les sentences seront plus sévères et plus dissuasives. Dave Blackburn concentre principalement ses recherches sur la santé mentale des militaires dont il a assuré la gestion des programmes de formation et d’éducation au cours de sa carrière. . « Comme je l’ai dit, je prends les allégations d’inconduite très au sérieux. Je continue d’agir de manière décisive lorsque des allégations d’inconduite sont présentées ; peu importe le rang ou le poste qu’occupe la personne visée », a indiqué le ministre Sajjan dans un communiqué qui précise que le lieutenant-général Wayne Eyre va occuper à titre intérimaire le poste de chef d’état-major de la défense. Le prédécesseur de l’amiral Art McDonald, le général Jonathan Vance, a lui aussi fait l’objet d’une enquête à la suite d’un rapport faisant état de présumés comportements inappropriés avec ses subordonnées féminines. « Franchement, je crains que des situations comme celles-ci n’érodent la confiance que vous avez dans le leadership », avait déploré l’amiral McDonald au début du mois, en parlant de son prédécesseur dans le couloir de la retraite. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
The Gabriel Dumont Institute, the official education arm of Saskatchewan’s Métis Nation, is investing Brandon’s Will Goodon into the Order of Gabriel Dumont. "It is one of the Métis Nation’s highest civilian honours, awarded to Métis and non-Métis individuals based on their achievements and lifetime contributions," stated the institute’s executive director, Geordy McCaffrey. Goodon, a southwestern Manitoba Métis businessman and a minister of housing and property management with the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), will receive the silver medal, which honours those who have made significant contributions to the Métis. The gold medal recognizes a lifetime of outstanding service to the Métis of Canada. Since the 1980s, 73 people have been invested into the order. "It’s, for me, very prestigious and I’m very honoured," said Goodon. Goodon was instrumental in securing Section 35 rights of the Métis in Manitoba through the case of R. v. Goodon, stated the institute. That case affirmed that Métis, as an Indigenous people, had the right to hunt in Manitoba. It all began when Goodon was charged under the provincial Wildlife Act for killing a ringneck duck near Turtle Mountain without a hunting licence, though he had a harvesting card issued by the Manitoba Metis Federation. The court case pitted the provincial Wildlife Act against Section 35 of the federal Constitution Act, which recognizes and affirms Aboriginal rights. The institute also noted Goodon serves on the national steering committee for innovation in Indigenous housing. "He has worked extensively on the development of the Métis government, and he played a significant role in the development of the MMF. Goodon is also a successful Métis entrepreneur, owning and operating several motels in southwestern Manitoba," the institute stated. "Beyond his work in Manitoba, William has served the Métis Nation across the homeland for more than a decade, chairing the Legislative and General Assemblies of Saskatchewan and British Columbia, facilitating numerous national, regional and local consultations and meetings, and representing the Métis Nation internationally on lands and resources matters." As Goodon explains it, Dumont, for whom the Order is named, was one of the great Métis leaders of the 19th century, with a remarkable life story. "I think he went out buffalo hunting for the first time when he was 13. They had some little battles out on the plains, with other Indigenous people when he was that age. He became a business person, and was the military leader of the Métis during our second resistance up in Batoche and area," said Goodon. "Before there was this idea of guerrilla warfare tactics, he was the guy who sort of made that happen. That’s why the early battles were all won by the Métis." He was very well respected in the community, and talked about in the Métis Nation with the same reverence as Louis Riel, Goodon added. Goodon also said Dumont was a man who stood by his principles, no matter what happened, somebody who always stood up and wasn’t afraid to do the right thing for his people. "I think that says a lot about the character of a person," said Goodon. Injustice is what drives Goodon. "When I see an injustice, it’s hard for me to be quiet," he said, adding it might sometimes be better to remain quiet. "It could hurt our career. It could hurt our standing in the community. People might misunderstand it." As an example, he stands up for the integrity of the Métis Nation. If there are people pretending to be Métis, he will call them out. "That has hurt some friendships. It has ostracized me in some places," he said. "If we pick and choose the really priority things to us, then then we can go to sleep at night and feel good about ourselves." As for what he likes to pass on to young Métis, he said, cherish the older people, the elders. "The people who have come before, who have gone through the battles and the struggles, they have wisdom, and they can teach you. And to just listen, listen to the elders, listen to the wisdom, because at some point, they won’t be here, and that wisdom will be gone forever, unless you take that time to listen," said Goodon. Though he said it’s hard to choose any one wise person who was integral to the man he has become, he named his father and a founder and past MMF president, Edward Head. Goodon and Head talked about many things, including Métis rights and the battles he fought in the ’70s. "That’s the kind of guy that I’m talking about, that really was there, in there, and did that. He was a force of nature, a big man, and just had a heart of gold, as well," said Goodon. Goodon will be invested to the Order, along with Senator Nora Cummings, Wayne McKenzie, Dennis and Jean Fisher and Gregory Scofield, on March 4 in a virtual ceremony. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
MONTREAL — Movie theatres in Quebec were allowed to reopen Friday, but owners are wondering how long they can operate without selling food and with customers who have to be home by 8 p.m.Eric Bouchard, co-president of a movie theatre owner group, Association des proprietaires de cinemas du Quebec, said his members planned to reopen their doors Friday after their businesses had been shut down by the government since October. Revenue, he said, is expected to be much lower than usual."Not being able to show films in the evening because of the curfew and not selling food makes our business model very difficult in terms of profitability," Bouchard said in a recent interview.At least one major theatre owner says the rules make it impossible for him to reopen, while those who welcomed patrons back on Friday say they aren't sure the government's plan is sustainable.Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he opened movie theatres to give families something to do during March break week, which begins Monday. But he ordered theatres in "red" pandemic-alert zones — such as Montreal and Quebec City — to keep their concession stands closed because he wants moviegoers to keep their masks on throughout the duration of the films. Residents in red zones are still under an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, forcing movie theatres to limit their schedules. Bouchard said he hopes families will come during the day next week because kids will be off school. "What we've decided is to reopen because we think that with the spring break, we can limit our losses. It will be very difficult afterwards."Legault has offered compensation to theatre owners, but Bouchard said the subsidies aren't enough to make up for the lack of food sales or evening shows. The government is permitting theatres to continue benefiting from a provincial program designed to keep companies afloat during government-mandated closures. Theatres can continue collecting those cheques for two months after they reopen, Jean-Pierre D’Auteuil, a spokesman for Quebec's Economy Department, wrote in an email.That program provides loans to businesses to cover fixed costs. The government is willing to forgive up to $15,000 of those loans per month.Vincenzo Guzzo, the CEO of Cinemas Guzzo, which operates 10 theatres in the Montreal area, said his theatres will stay closed for now. Reopening without evening shows or concession sales would be a money-losing proposition, he said.Historically during spring break, he added, 50 per cent of his revenue came from daytime screenings, with the rest coming from evening shows. In a regular week, his theatres only offer daytime screenings on the weekends.The government support program is insulting, Guzzo said. "You haven't even re-gifted a gift, you took the same gift you gave me last week, you took it back, you repackaged it, and now gave it to me for St. Valentine's Day."He said if the government offered him more money he would reject it on principle. During a pandemic, he said, "there's no way I will be accused of taking public money to open my theatres.""I don't want the money, I don't want popcorn money ... I want to sell popcorn."During the three months last summer when cinemas were open in Quebec, he said there wasn't a single reported case of COVID-19 transmission at movie theatres. "Not in our theatres, not in any theatre in Quebec, not in any here in Canada," he said.And while Guzzo is saying no to the money, other theatre operators in Quebec don't have access to it. Daniel Seguin, senior vice-president at Cineplex, said his company isn't eligible for the government aid because it's headquartered in Toronto. The ban on concession sales, he added, "really does not help us financially."That ban caught him by surprise, he said. "It was a surprise because this is not something we have anywhere else in Canada."Still, Cineplex plans to reopen Friday, he said. "After five months, our goal here is to get the theatres open."But, he said, theatres may not stay open seven days a week after spring break if the 8 p.m. curfew or the ban on concession sales continue. "We'll have to see after spring break what makes business sense," he said. In 2019, around a quarter of the company's revenue came from food sales, according to its annual report.Bouchard, who co-owns two theatres in Montreal suburbs, said he hopes the rules will be relaxed so he can have evening screenings and start selling the snacks that are part of the moviegoing experience. "We don't want to live on subsidies, what we want is to operate our cinemas, welcome people, enjoy movies, make everyone happy; that's what we want to do," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
BEIRUT — A U.S. airstrike targeting facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Syria appears to be a message to Tehran delivered by a new American administration still figuring out its approach to the Middle East. The strike was seemingly a response to stepped-up rocket attacks by such militias that have targeted U.S. interests in Iraq, where the armed groups are based. It comes even as Washington and Tehran consider a return to the 2015 accord meant to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. appears to have chosen the target, just across the border in Syria rather than in Iraq, carefully. It's a way for President Joe Biden to signal he will be tough on Iran while avoiding a response that could offset the delicate balance in Iraq itself or trigger a wider confrontation. And it's yet another example of how Syria, mired in civil war for the past decade, has often served as a proxy battlefield for world powers. WHO ARE THE FORCES TARGETED BY THE US? The U.S. airstrike — which took place Friday in Syria — targeted one of the most powerful Iran-backed militias in the Middle East known as Kataeb Hezbollah, or the Hezbollah Brigades. The group is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes an array of Iraqi militias. The group was founded after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It is different from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, but the two groups are strong allies. In recent years, Kataeb Hezbollah has played a major role in the fight against the Islamic State group as well as helping President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria’s conflict. The group was founded by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a veteran Iraqi militant who was closely allied with Iran and killed in a U.S. drone attack in Baghdad in January 2020 along with Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force. The U.S. has hit the group before: In December 2019, an American strike along the Syria-Iraq border killed 25 of its fighters and wounded dozens. Washington called it retaliation for the death of an American contractor in a rocket attack that it blamed on Kataeb Hezbollah. ___ WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR RELATIONS WITH IRAN? The attack is likely aimed at sending a message to Tehran that the U.S. will not tolerate attacks against American interests in the region, while leaving the door open for talks. It comes as the Biden administration faces an uncertain road in its attempts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — which gave Tehran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program and that the Trump administration pulled out of. In the meantime, relations with Iran have been further strained as the country's proxies become more assertive, with Iran-backed militias increasingly targeting U.S. interests and allies. That has rekindled worries that the standoff relations between the U.S. and Iran could end up being fought out in Iraq. Already there are signs that Iraq is being used to fight a proxy war. Explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Arabia’s royal palace in the kingdom’s capital last month were launched from inside Iraq, a senior Iran-backed militia official in Baghdad and a U.S. official told The Associated Press this week. ___ WILL THIS TRIGGER A WIDER ESCALATION? That is unlikely at this point. Biden’s decision to attack in Syria does not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region, but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq while also avoiding embarrassing the Iraqi government, a U.S. ally, by striking on its territory. Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said the operation in Boukamal, Syria, sends an unambiguous message: “President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.” A Syrian commentator based in Turkey, Abdulkader Dwehe, said the choice of Syria was a wise one. “Responding in Iraq could open a front that may be hard to close,” he tweeted following the attack. “With the Boukamal strike, a valuable point, and a political message rather than a military one, have been made.” ___ FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OTHER US PRESIDENTS In its first weeks, the new Biden administration has emphasized its intent to put its focus on the challenges posed by China — even as volatility and threats to U.S. interests persist in the Middle East. But the operation proved the region is never far from a U.S. president’s agenda. By striking Syria, Biden joins every American president from Ronald Reagan onward who has ordered a bombardment of countries in the Middle East. Zeina Karam And Bassem Mroue, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole spent $3.69 million on his campaign to win leadership of the party last year. But having raised over $3.7 million, he ended the race with a small surplus. All leadership candidates for political parties must submit detailed financial returns due six months after the race ends. The Conservatives marked that milestone this week, but two of the final four candidates have asked for an extension. Elections Canada says Peter MacKay asked for an extra 90 days and Derek Sloan asked for another 120 days. Leslyn Lewis, who finished third in the race, spent $2.2 million, and also finished with a small surplus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
BRUSSELS — The Belgian government will not approve new COVID-19 relaxations for at least another week after health authorities warned Friday that the number of coronavirus infections is rising, probably due in part to the fast-spreading variant first found in Britain. Until a few days ago, expectations were that Belgium would finally start scaling down major virus-control measures. But the uptick in new confirmed cases and especially an increase in hospital admissions persuaded Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to call for at least a one-week delay. “The figures are rising everywhere," De Cross said. "It forces us to remain extremely careful, especially because we know there are such dangerous variants." “We are calling a one-week timeout to avoid taking decisions that would waste our gains of the past weeks," he said. Figures released Friday showed that 2,294 new confirmed cases are appearing on average daily in Belgium, a rise of 24% over the previous 7-day period. Hospital admissions were rising sharply over the past few days. “The rise in the number of infections, despite the number of tests decreasing, is a sign that the virus is circulating more," said Steven Van Gucht, head of the viral diseases scientific service at the Belgian Scientific Institute of Public Health. "This could be due to the appearance of more contagious new variants, but also to less respect for restrictions.” The institute estimated that more than half of new infections last week were caused by the variant first identified in the U.K., compared to 38% of cases over the previous seven days, Van Gucht said. Belgium has also recorded cases of virus variants first found in South Africa and Brazil, but numbers are small. More than 22,000 people have now died of COVID-19 in Belgium, which has a population of 11.5 million. Restrictions have been in place almost permanently since the start of November, including obligatory mask-wearing outdoors, night-time curfews, and limits on certain shops opening. Non-essential travel is also banned. Belgian officials have been exhorting people to respect the restrictions, as warmer weather approaches and the effect of vaccinations slowly begin to take hold, even as rights groups challenge some of the measures and amid concern over the possible misuse of health data. Models on the spread of the disease made public earlier this week suggest that any easing in March could spark a “third wave” of infections. The Associated Press
Dozens of people fined for allegedly hosting illegal gatherings and other emergency-measures violations in Peel Region have settled their cases before trial while hundreds more have outstanding charges before Peel’s provincial offences court, Peel bylaw officials say. Bylaw enforcement officials in Mississauga and Brampton have issued 2,093 charges — 833 in Mississauga and 1,260 in Brampton — since the start of the COVID-19 restrictions last March. Roughly another 100 summonses for more-egregious breaches were issued across the two municipalities, 73 in Brampton. The charges and fines are linked to a variety of emergency measures, including breaches of gathering restrictions, stay-at-home orders, face-covering bylaws and businesses not adhering to reopening rules. “We have had approximately 25 matters proceed to early resolution to date,” Mississauga spokesperson Catherine Monast told the Star this week, adding that none of the summons cases have proceeded to trial or the penalty phase yet. Monast said that when and how the matters reach a resolution will hinge on court scheduling and volume. In early resolution, a prosecutor may offer a reduced fine, but “they do not typically withdraw the matter,” Monast said. “Citizens who are not satisfied may proceed to trial.” Michael Foley, Mississauga’s acting director of enforcement, said though “private social gatherings (being held) in commercial spaces have been an issue,” he’s anticipating those types of breaches will dwindle following a recent clampdown. A summons, handed out for more serious infractions, can carry fines into the tens of thousands of dollars. The 25 summonses in Mississauga include 16 businesses found to be in violation and nine illegal gatherings, Foley said. They were “issued in response to egregious violations or repeated violations,” he said. Peel Region remains under a stay-at-home order, along with Toronto and North Bay. Brampton was thrust into the spotlight in the summer when it became the hotbed for parties, one of which attracted an estimated 200 people in July and another where police were called to a shooting that same weekend. Several dozen of the Brampton cases have also been resolved early. Brampton spokesperson Megan Ball told the Star that about 75 people charged for noncritical offences, with set fines ranging from $750 to $1,000, have opted for early resolution. Fines can range from a low of a couple hundred dollars up to a court summons with potential fines of up to $100,000 and up to one-year imprisonment for an individual, $500,000 for a director or officer of a corporation or $10 million for a corporation. Ball said the 1,260 charges laid in Brampton translate to about $791,170 in total fines, although many people settle for lower fines during early resolution. (This amount does not include fines for summonses, which are set by the justice of the peace.) Businesses and private gatherings accounted for most of the fines in both cities. Of the total charges issued in Brampton, 509 were for commercial addresses and 511 involved a private residence. In Mississauga, there were 227 charges involving businesses and 316 for gatherings. Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
L’Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil et son chef Alexandre Da Costa préparent en ce moment même deux nouveaux concerts virtuels uniques qui seront disponibles en webdiffusion pour les mois de mars et avril. Au cours de la dernière semaine, le chef a dirigé ses musiciens en vue de la captation du concert BaROCK Symphonique. Au menu, la performance d’Alexandre au violon Enregistrement de 13 pièces avec l’Orchestre, une expérience audacieuse où l’ensemble s’approprie et revisite la musique de compositeurs ayant vécu au temps de Louis XIV. Pensons à Vivaldi en version Rock, à Bach en Boogie & soft Jazz ou encore au célèbre Canon de Pachelbel comme vous ne l’avez jamais entendu ! Présences d’artistes invités, Bruno Pelletier, La Bronze et un trio de Jazz. * Il sera également possible de faire des entrevues avec ces artistes. Egalement l’orchestre prépare son concert Stradivarius à Vienne Au menu , la Performance d’Alexandre au violon Répétions de 10 pièces avec l’Orchestre, valses viennoises, et grand classique en mode panache et élégance de l’époque des grands bals viennois. Tous les détails des deux prochains concerts, et abonnement, sur le site internet de l’OSDL. François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
LONDON — Former Scottish leader Alex Salmond on Friday criticized the government of his successor and one-time friend for undermining democratic principles and the rule of law, in the latest episode of a political tug of war that threatens to tear apart Scotland’s independence movement. Salmond's comments came as he testified to a committee of the Scottish parliament investigating the government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against him. Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the government had acted unlawfully, and awarded Salmond more than 500,000 pounds ($695,000) in legal expenses. Salmond criticized his successor, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, for allowing the distinctions between her government, the Scottish National Party and the civil service to become blurred, amid suggestions that she intentionally sought to destroy his reputation. The government and civil service have systematically tried to avoid public scrutiny by refusing to turn over evidence requested by parliament, he said. “The move to independence, which I have sought all my political life and continue to seek, must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority," Salmond told lawmakers. “Such a principle is a central component of the rule of law." The long-awaited testimony was postponed earlier this week after the national prosecutors’ office expressed concerns about Salmond’s written evidence. The documents were removed from the parliament’s website and later republished with some sections redacted, paving the way for Salmond's appearance on Friday. In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations by nine women who had worked with him as first minister, or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020. Sturgeon is scheduled to give testimony to the committee next week. The former allies have traded accusations for months over who knew what and when about the allegations against Salmond. Salmond accuses people within the SNP and Sturgeon's government of a “malicious and concerted effort” to sideline him and damage his reputation. He also says Sturgeon lied about her meetings with him and violated the code of conduct for government ministers. If that were found to be true, she would have to resign. Salmond said Friday that the long-running case has been a “nightmare" and he would like to stop talking about the events in question. “The reason I’m here today is because we can’t turn that page, nor move on until the decision making undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed," he said. “The competence and professionalism of the civil service matters. ... Democratic accountability through parliament matters. Suppressing evidence from parliamentary committees matters." Sturgeon earlier this week accused her predecessor of making “wild claims” about a conspiracy. “It is time for insinuation and assertion to be replaced with actual evidence,” she said. “There is no evidence, because there was no conspiracy.” The case has exposed a bitter rift between two former allies who have dominated Scottish politics for a generation. Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades and was Scotland’s first minister between 2007 and 2014, built the separatist party into a major political force and took the country to the brink of independence by holding a referendum on the issue in 2014. He stepped down as first minister after voters decided Scotland should remain part of the U.K. Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him. The SNP has become increasingly divided between Salmond’s supporters, who want a new independence referendum come what may, and those who back Sturgeon’s more cautious approach. Sturgeon and her allies are also critical of Salmond’s efforts to stay in the public eye, especially his talk show on the Kremlin-funded English-language television station RT. Sturgeon’s popularity, meanwhile, has been boosted by her response to the coronavirus pandemic. The feud threatens to derail a party that is riding high in the polls and increasingly confident it can secure its goal of taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom. Scotland’s 2014 referendum was billed as a once-in-a-generation decision, but the SNP says Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union. A majority of Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum, even though the U.K. as a whole voted to leave the bloc. An election for the Scottish Parliament is due in May, and the SNP has a strong lead in opinion polls. Sturgeon says that if she wins a majority, she will push for a new independence referendum. Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
(Submitted by Scott Walton - image credit) The City of Saint John is wrestling with competing desires: economic development versus some residents' desire to keep their rural environment. A proposed four-storey, 125-unit retirement complex on a 19-acre property near the end of Sandy Point Road is being considered for approval by council. The project is raising concerns for neighbours, who fear the development will cause environmental harm and increase traffic in the area. The city is planning a public consultation in late March. After a call for input, 62 households responded: 56 letters were against the project, five were neutral, and one was in support. Developer Scott Walton said Ethos Ridge is an unconventional retirement-home project. He said the physical site near Milledgeville and close to Pelton Road, the Sandy Point and Beach Road area, is of "paramount importance." "Part of our vision is helping the residents feel like they're in an oasis. And so if you're looking for a site that has large acreage, it's waterfront, has elevated views and it's flush with trees, that was the only site that really met all of that criteria for us within the city," he said. The proposed project is four kilometres from the Saint John Regional Hospital and seven kilometres from uptown Saint John. The multi-unit retirement home is drawing environmental impact concerns from nearby residents. Residents Kory Kinsella and Paul Desjardins live near the site of the proposed development. They both wrote letters against it, and they both said a large commercial development goes against the city's commitment to prevent urban sprawl. "Had they been wanting to put single-family dwellings with well and septic systems similar to what's here, the neighbours would have been just rejoicing to see some new neighbours move in," Desjardins said. "But a seniors' complex of 125 units could generate 200 strangers who are really high-risk people to be put up over the hill where this is located." Safety concerns Kinsella said residents are worried that people who may need ambulance services may be too far away from the city centre for quick responses. "It definitely has to do with the public safety, the fact that we're, you know, old narrow roads, no sidewalks. We have very, very little city infrastructure down there," he said. Walton said the company took that into consideration. "People mentioned the issue of the fire service station closing in in Milledgeville and that presenting problems. But when we looked at the service times, there are still like everything was in compliance with what would be required to keep people safe." Walton said the project would be similar to nursing homes because it offers full food services and limited medical services, but it's for people who choose to live there before a serious heath event, as opposed to after. "With a lot of these places there's a health event or a life event," he said. "And then, you know, the child of the parent has to arrange for them to go there. We're not targeting those people. We're targeting people who are focused on active, healthy living." He said if the project and is approved and once it's built, monthly prices would be similar to a Shannex home, so between $2,900 and $4,400. Environmental concerns Dejardins said he is concerned about construction and possible contaminant runoff into the Kennebecasis River and the land surrounding it. He said most people in that area depend on well water, so they're worried their wells could get contaminated. "If you start, you know, changing the trees and the growth of the grass and the fact that everything is hilly around here, if you're not at the very top of the hill, you're going to get water run on to you," he said. Walton said once catchment basins and water rewriting routing equipment is installed, the neighbourhood is "going to see some positive change." "There's going to be the pumping station was already slated for upgrade by the city before we endeavour down this road. And we're going to have a net zero impact on that," he said. Changes already made, developer says Walton said the company has already changed plans to accommodate some residents' concerns. For example, he said, originally the building was going to be perched up on a ridge, but after complaints, the company decided to move it close to the water. Then the company heard people on Pelton Road saying they're concerned that they were going to see it and hear noise on the site. "So we removed it as far away from from that boundary as possible," he said. "We moved the building around a lot, changed its design, made it more narrow just and had the landscape architects come up with a plan that would transplant in trees so we'd have a big vegetative buffer and barrier to buffer sound and noise and visibility," he said.
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit Selon le plus récent bilan de la santé publique de l’Ontario, publié vendredi matin, 97,4% des Ontariens n’ont toujours pas reçu leur première dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19. En Ontario, 643 765 doses du vaccin contre la COVID-19 avaient été administrées, en date de jeudi soir, à 20h30. La même journée, 21 805 personnes ont roulé leur manche, dans la province, afin de recevoir une dose du vaccin. En tout, 258 014 Ontariens ont reçu leurs deux doses jugées nécessaires par les fabricants pour être immunisés contre la COVID-19. Le général retraité Rick Hillier, responsable du plan de vaccination en Ontario, a dévoilé cette semaine un calendrier pour identifier les dates auxquelles pourront se faire vacciner les Ontariens appartenant aux différents groupes d’âge. Or, Santé Canada a approuvé, vendredi, le vaccin de la compagnie AstraZeneca, s’ajoutant comme troisième à la liste des fabricants approuvés au pays pour distribuer le vaccin contre la COVID-19. Ainsi, le plan du général Hillier, uniquement basé sur les approvisionnements des vaccins des compagnies Pfizer et Moderna, serait déjà obsolète. À LIRE AUSSI: Vaccination: pas avant le 15 mars chez les 80 ans et plus en Ontario Les cas La santé publique de l’Ontario a enregistré, au cours de la journée de jeudi, 1258 nouvelles infections au coronavirus, portant le total à près de 300 000 cas répertoriés en province depuis le début de la crise sanitaire. Jeudi, le Groupe pour le consensus en matière de modélisation et de conseils scientifiques a fait le point sur les projections relatives à la COVID-19. Selon les experts, les prochaines semaines seront cruciales pour comprendre les effets des variants. En tout, près de cas de nouveaux variants de la COVID-19 ont été comptabilisés jusqu’à maintenant en province, dont 477 du Royaume-Uni, 13 de l’Afrique du Sud et deux du Brésil. Les spécialistes ont noté qu’il reste une période de risque avant que la pandémie ne s’atténue, «probablement en été». «Un environnement changeant pour la COVID-19 contribuera à réduire la transmission», puisque «le temps plus chaud augmentera le temps passé à l’extérieur et diminuera le temps passé dans des endroits bondés ou fermés», ont-il indiqué. Décès La mortalité liée à la deuxième vague (1886 décès) a maintenant dépassé celle de la première vague (1848 décès). Néanmoins, les taux de mortalité quotidiens ont fortement diminué. L’Ontario déplore le décès de 28 personnes, survenu jeudi, causé par la COVID-19. Un résident d’un foyer de soins de longue durée a perdu la vie la même journée en raison de la maladie. Ce virus a emporté 6944 Ontariens depuis le début de la pandémie, dont 3743 résidents d’établissements de soins de longue durée. Hospitalisations Jeudi, 683 personnes atteintes du coronavirus étaient hospitalisées pour soigner des symptômes. Parmi celles-ci, 284 patients étaient aux soins intensifs avec des symptômes plus graves, dont 193 avaient besoin d’un respirateur pour rester en vie. Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
Loggerhead seat turtles are one of the largest of all turtles. And during mating season, they are the most amorous. Watch as this one decides to swim right at a scuba diver!