An incredible moment caught on camera at the Center of Serengeti National Park.
An incredible moment caught on camera at the Center of Serengeti National Park.
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Consumers filed complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in record numbers in 2020, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit consumer advocacy group. Credit reporting issues were cited in 282,000, or 63%, of the complaints. The majority noted “incorrect information” on credit reports or “information belongs to someone else,” the report said. Not only did complaints about credit report errors lead the list of consumer grievances, but the three major credit-reporting bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — were the top three companies complained about. ERRORS CAN ENDANGER YOUR SCORE Accuracy matters since credit report errors can suggest identity theft or fraudulent activity on your accounts. And because credit report data provides the raw material for credit scores, errors can lower your score. Some of the volume of complaints may be an unintended consequence of payment accommodations mandated by the 2020 coronavirus relief bill and temporary concessions offered by lenders and credit card issuers. But credit report errors were common even before the pandemic, says Ed Mierzwinski, senior director of the advocacy group’s Federal Consumer Program and author of the report. Payment accommodations may have led more people to check their credit reports and find those errors, he says. Mierzwinski recommends that “any consumer with any credit account” check their credit reports. People who have common names may be at particular risk of a mix-up, he says. HOW TO GET YOUR FREE CREDIT REPORTS You can get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus by using AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll be asked to provide personal identifying information — your name, Social Security number, birthdate and address. You will also be asked security questions to verify your identity. Some of those can be tough. If you aren’t able to answer correctly, call 877-322-8228 to request your credit reports by mail. You can also download and mail a request form to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. HOW TO READ YOUR CREDIT REPORTS Your reports from the three bureaus won’t look exactly the same. Not every creditor reports to all three and the bureaus present information in different formats. But you can use a similar procedure for reading your credit reports. First, check your identifying information. Errors such as misspellings of a former employer are unimportant, but something like an address you’ve never lived at could suggest identity theft. Next, check account information. Each credit account you have (and some that are closed) should be listed and include: — Creditor’s name, account number and date opened. — Type of account (credit card, loan, etc.). — Account status and whether you’re current on payments. Accounts that were in good standing when pandemic-related payment accommodations began must continue to be reported that way until the accommodation ends. — Whether you are a joint account holder, primary user or authorized user. — Credit limit and/or the original amount of a loan. — There may be negative information, such as collections accounts or bankruptcy records. Be sure that you recognize it and that it is accurate. HOW TO DISPUTE ERRORS The Fair Credit Reporting Act holds both the creditor that reports to the credit bureaus and the credit bureaus responsible for making sure the information in your credit reports is accurate. If you spot an error in one credit report, check for it in the other two. Dispute the error with each bureau that’s reporting it. You can dispute by mail, phone or online — the credit report will include information on how to file your dispute. Credit bureaus must investigate and inform you of the result. You can also contact the business providing the incorrect information. It must inform the bureaus of the dispute and, if it finds the information was wrong or incomplete, ask the credit bureaus to delete it. If disputing doesn’t resolve the issue, Mierzwinski recommends filing a complaint with the CFPB and asking for an investigation. That can bring additional pressure to correct misinformation, he says. The CFPB’s acting director, Dave Uejio, has said one of his goals is “making sure that consumers who submit complaints to us get the response and the relief they deserve.” ______________________________ This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea. RELATED LINKS U.S. PIRG: Consumers in peril https://uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/consumers-peril NerdWallet: How to Get Your Annual Credit Reports From the Major Credit Bureaus http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-credit-reports AnnualCreditReport.com request form https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0093-annual-report-request-form.pdf NerdWallet: How to Read a Credit Report http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-report-reading NerdWallet: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-report-errors Bev O'Shea Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
ANKENY, Iowa — The discovery of a live pipe bomb at a central Iowa polling place as voters were casting ballots in a special election forced an evacuation of the building, police said. Officers called to the Lakeside Center in Ankeny around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday found a device that looked like a pipe bomb in grass near the centre. Police later confirmed in a news release that the device was a pipe bomb. The banquet hall was being used as a polling place for an Ankeny school district special election. Police evacuated the building, and the State Fire Marshal and agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called in. Technicians safely detonated the device, and the centre was reopened around 12:30 p.m. — about three hours after the device was discovered, police said. No one was injured. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald described the device as a metal piece with two end caps, and said in a Twitter post that a couple walking their dog Tuesday morning had discovered the device. “I want to also add that there is no way of knowing how long this device had been at the Lakeside Center,” Fitzgerald said in a tweet, saying officials don't know whether the pipe bomb was related to the election. Fitzgerald and police said other polling places in Ankeny were checked an no other bombs or suspicious devices were found. An investigation into who left the device is continuing, police said. The Associated Press
The European Union promised legal action on Wednesday after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated terms of Britain's divorce deal. Since it left the EU last year, Britain's relations with the bloc have soured, with both sides accusing the other of acting in bad faith in relation to part of their trade agreement that covers goods movements to Northern Ireland. The British government extended a grace period for some checks on agricultural and food products imported by retailers to Northern Ireland until Oct. 1 in a move it said was necessary to ensure the free flow of goods to the British region.
Denis Giles, the editor of a small Indian newspaper, received a phone call as he sat typing in his one-room office in Port Blair overlooking the languid waters of the Andaman Sea. The caller, Mohammed Siddiqui, was frantic and largely incoherent. Giles said he was about to hang up until he heard, in broken Hindi: "Please help me... Many people may die."
European telecoms firms are cashing in on the money-making power of masts, as tower companies line up to pay multi-billion dollar price tags for antennas buzzing with ever more data ahead of the advent of 5G. Upgrading networks, including towers, for 5G - which promises an age of self-driving cars and brain surgery performed at a distance - will soak up some $890 billion between 2020 and 2025, the GSMA industry body says. European operators are increasingly willing to exploit assets to help finance those build-outs.
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron has met with four grandchildren of an Algerian independence fighter to tell them that Ali Boumendjel had been tortured and killed by French soldiers in 1957. It was a further step in Macron's efforts to reconcile France with its colonial past while offering an outstretched hand to Algeria, which France occupied for 132 years. In a statement late Tuesday, the presidential Elysee Palace said Macron wants to give families of the disappeared on both sides of the Mediterranean “the means to learn the truth.” Macron is the first French president born after the end of Algeria's brutal seven-year war of independence in 1962, and had promised to reckon with colonial-era wrongs and, put an end to the two countries' still rancorous relationship. Algeria held a special place among France’s colonial conquests, becoming part-and-parcel of France like other French regions. While Algerians make up a large portion of immigrants in France, the North African country harbours enmity from the years of colonization that culminated in the war, its brutal secrets locked in archives that Macron said he is gradually trying to reopen. “No crime, no atrocity committed by anyone during the War of Algeria can be excused or left hidden,” the Elysee statement said. “They must be faced with courage and lucidity, with absolute respect for those whose lives were torn apart by them and whose destinies were broken.” France’s bid to seek reconciliation is part of a larger movement of reckoning with the dark past of nations, notably in the United States where Civil War-era statues honouring southern heroes who defended slavery are being torn down. Macron has said he is opposed to removing statues to erase history. He has also said he doesn’t want to apologize to Algeria — even though he surprised everyone when he said, while campaigning for the presidency he won in 2017, that France’s colonization was a “crime against humanity.” Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said last year that his country is still awaiting an official apology. A report commissioned by Macron from historian Benjamin Stora, considered France’s top expert on Algeria, said the “excesses of a culture of repentance” don’t contribute to facing the past. However, Stora also said that healing wounds demands improving understanding of what the colonial system entailed, including its daily reality and ideological goals and “how some in Algeria and France resisted this system of domination.” Among recommendations was recognition of the killing of Boumendjel. His wife Malika had spent a lifetime trying to uncover the truth of her husband’s death during the especially brutal Battle of Algiers when, the presidential statement said, “he was arrested by the French army, placed in a secret (location), tortured, then killed on 23 March 1957.” It said a French general, Paul Aussaresses, “admitted to have ordered one of his subordinates to kill him and cover the crime as a suicide.” Aussaresses was convicted in 2004 of defending torture. In 2018, Macron formally recognized the responsibility of the French state in the 1957 death of a dissident in Algeria, Maurice Audin, admitting for the first time the military’s use of systematic torture during the war. Macron wants to honour Gisele Halimi, a French feminist who supported Algeria’s independence and denounced the use of wartime torture. He hopes to have her reburied at the Pantheon monument in Paris, a resting place for some of France’s most distinguished citizens. ___ Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed. Elaine Ganley, The Associated Press
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s governing party pulled out of its conservative group in the European Union’s legislature on Wednesday following years of conflict over the rule of law and European values. The right-wing Fidesz party has held a two-thirds majority in Hungary’s parliament almost uninterrupted since 2010. It left the European People’s Party over the latter’s adoption on Wednesday of new procedures allowing for entire parties to be excluded from the group rather than just individual lawmakers. Fidesz officials, including Hungary’s prime minister and head of the party, Viktor Orban, had argued that the rule changes were “tailor-made” to sanction Fidesz, and threatened over the weekend to pull out of the EPP if the rules passed. The EPP backed the rule changes with an overwhelming majority: 148 in favour, 28 against and four abstentions. In a letter Wednesday to Manfred Weber, chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, Orban announced Fidesz’s decision to leave the group. “The amendments to the rules of the EPP Group are clearly a hostile move against Fidesz and our voters ... This is anti-democratic, unjust and unacceptable. Therefore, the governing body of Fidesz has decided to leave the EPP Group immediately,” Orban wrote. Orban said the rule changes deprived Hungarian voters of their democratic rights and that Fidesz lawmakers would continue to represent Hungary in the European Parliament. A spokesman for the EPP Group, Pedro Lopez de Pablo, told The Associated Press that Orban pulling his party out of the EPP was “his own personal decision,” and that the group would not comment. Fidesz’s decision to leave the group could be the final note in a series of longstanding clashes with the EPP, the largest political family in Europe. The group suspended Fidesz’s membership in 2019 over concerns that it was eroding the rule of law in Hungary, engaging in anti-Brussels rhetoric and attacking the EPP leadership. In a tweet, Hungary’s minister for family affairs and a Fidesz vice-president, Katalin Novak, confirmed Fidesz’s decision to leave the EPP Group. “We will not let our MEPs be silenced or limited in their capacity to represent our voters. Tackling the pandemic and saving lives remains our number one priority,” Novak wrote. Justin Spike, The Associated Press
COVID-19 fatigue has most people a bit more irritable and emotional these days but a Vancouver-based expert is already worried about the fragility of some British Columbians' mental health after the pandemic. UBC professor and clinical psychologist Steven Taylor said while most people will "bounce back" from the mental toll of lockdowns, self-isolation and uncertainty, some will struggle with longer-term mental health problems such as clinical depression. And if just an additional 10 per cent of B.C.'s population needs mental health support after the pandemic, the province's health-care system is not adequately equipped to help, he said. "There will be a substantial proportion of people who will develop lingering problems and we don't have mental health resources for managing on that scale," Taylor said Tuesday on CBC's The Early Edition. Steven Taylor's research and clinical work focus on anxiety disorders and related clinical conditions, including health anxiety, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Taylor is the author of the 2019 book, The Psychology of Pandemics.(vchri.ca) The B.C. NDP invested $5 million in spring 2020 to expand existing mental health services and launch new virtual programs to help British Columbians cope during the COVID-19 crisis, as ongoing isolation and increasing financial stress weigh heavily on the population's shoulders. Online counselling services like BounceBackBC are free with no referral required. Other services like FoundryBC, which supports people aged 12-24, are available throughout the province by voice, video and chat. But Taylor said the current setup is "piecemeal" and apps and online resources are not enough. "There has been a rise in clinical depression," said Taylor, adding that governments need to plan now to ensure there are enough resources in place for not only after this pandemic, but in case of another one. Depression vs. the 'blahs' According to Taylor, if someone is consistently having negative, self-critical thoughts as well as feeling sad, they should consult a health practitioner to determine if they are suffering from clinical depression. This, he said, is different then the bad moods and irritability pervading the general population right now. "It's not exactly depression, it's more like a 'blah,'" said Taylor. According to results of a survey published at the end of January, 62 per cent of B.C. residents are feeling more worried, 60 per cent have more stress, 59 per cent more anxiety and 59 per cent are more bored compared to pre-pandemic times. The survey, commissioned by Pacific Blue Cross and conducted by Insights West, also suggested females and younger people are affected to a greater degree by negative emotions during the pandemic. The results were based on an online survey of 815 B.C. residents conducted Jan. 20-25. A comparable margin of error for a probability based sample of this size would be +/- 3.4 percentage points. LISTEN | Steven Taylor talks about the impacts of the pandemic on mental health:
A wild rally in shares of Rocket Companies that saw the stock rise 70% in an apparent short squeeze has attracted fresh bets that the stock price will decline. Shares of Rocket, the parent of mortgage lender Quicken Loans, were down 31.7% to $28.43 in afternoon trading on Wednesday. The heavily-shorted stock had surged more than 70% on Tuesday in a move that analysts said was likely sparked by bearish investors unwinding bets against the stock as its share price surged.
From models strutting inside an empty museum to designers absenting themselves from the catwalk calendar, this season's virtual fashion weeks have been re-styled with a new look many expect will endure when traditional runway shows resume. COVID-19 restrictions forced New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks to go virtual in the past year, with brands rethinking how to keep the buzz of catwalk shows online. While many are optimistic of a return to the events usually attended by buyers, editors and celebrities, digital presentations - which have opened up fashion week to a wider audience - are likely to stay on.
With the hope of alleviating one of the problems plaguing the long term care system during the pandemic, the provincial government announced on Feb. 24 that it is investing over $115 million to train up to 8,200 new personal support workers for high-demand jobs in Ontario's health and long-term care sectors. The initiative plans to have up to 8,200 new supporter workers ready for the long term care workforce by the fall of 2021. The province has collaborated with Colleges Ontario, and all 24 publicly assisted colleges will offer this fully-funded plan, set to begin next month. "We are taking monumental steps to protect our most vulnerable and provide the highest quality of care when and where residents need it," said Premier Ford. "We will achieve this by recruiting and training some of our best and brightest to be PSWs. This will improve the quality of life for our seniors and begin to correct the decades of neglect in this sector." The Accelerated PSW Training Program will offer free tuition for up to 6,000 new students enrolled in the personal support worker course. The course, which begins Apr. 5, will allow students to graduate with full credentials in six months, compared to the eight months it would usually take to complete. It will include three months of coursework, and experiential, or hands-on learning, in a clinical setting. Students will complete the final three months in paid onsite training in a long-term care home or in a home and community care environment. The province is also offering tuition assistance to students who are close to finishing an existing program at one of Ontario's publicly-assisted colleges. Nearly 2,200 students will be eligible to receive a $2,000 tuition grant to help them complete their studies, as well as a stipend to complete the clinical placement part of their training. According to Georgian College, the new accelerated training program for personal support workers will produce a huge increase in PSW training at Ontario’s colleges. “This is a major step to help fill the demand for personal support workers in our communities,” said Dr. MaryLynn West-Moyes, president and CEO, Georgian College. “PSWs are the backbone of care in Ontario – and there simply aren’t enough of them. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in a new career in this critical field.” “Our graduates provide essential care to many of our most vulnerable citizens,” Dr. West-Moynes said. “We were pleased to collaborate with the province and our community health-care partners to create this new opportunity for students who will graduate job ready with high-quality, essential skills.” Those interested in applying to the provincially funded PSW program with intakes starting in April or May at Georgian, should check https://www.ontariocolleges.ca on or after March 8 for details. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Eighty U.S. House of Representatives Democrats urged President Joe Biden on Tuesday to repeal Donald Trump's "cruel" sanctions on Cuba and renew engagement, an early sign of support in Congress for easing the clamp-down on the Communist-run country. In a letter to Biden seen by Reuters they urged the Democratic president to sign an executive order "without delay" to end restrictions on travel and remittances, noting that well over half of Cubans depend on the latter. "With the stroke of a pen, you can assist struggling Cuban families and promote a more constructive approach," they said.
Music's ability to connect us, even if only virtually, is on display in the latest film project by Vicki Van Chau in collaboration with the Calgary Chinese Orchestra. Van Chau is co-director and editor for a new documentary and music video called Off to the Races. The film features interviews and a music collaboration of 72 musicians playing a classic Chinese erhu song, Horse Race. The erhu is a Chinese violin. The idea to produce the 12-minute doc came from Jiajia Li, the artistic director of the Calgary Chinese Orchestra and a flutist. Vicki Van Chau is the co-director and editor of the film.(Kai Sunderland) Li wanted to do something to honour the Lunar New Year despite restrictions on the ability to gather. Van Chau and Li connected in November and opened up the call for submissions from artists playing the song on their instruments. Li chose the song, which was composed in the 1960s, for its upbeat and hopeful theme. And because it's less than three minutes long, it would be easy for submitting musicians to learn and record in time. There were so many submissions that the music producer, Warren Tse, wrote an intro and interlude so that more musicians could be included in the final performance. Erhus, pipas, fiddles, pianos and other instruments are played alongside each other in the video featuring 72 submission from Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Singapore, the United States and China. The video was released via YouTube on Feb. 14. With files from Huyana Cyprien and the Calgary Eyeopener.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is pushing ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite rising coronavirus infections, hoping to encourage the country’s dwindling number of Christians who were violently persecuted during the Islamic State's insurgency while seeking to boost ties with the Shiite Muslim world. Security is a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of rogue Shiite militias and fresh rocket attacks. Francis, who relishes plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armoured car with a sizeable security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds. Francis’ visit is the culmination of two decades of efforts to bring a pope to the birthplace of Abraham, the prophet central to Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, after St. John Paul II was prevented from going in 1999. “We can't disappoint this people a second time," Francis said Wednesday in urging prayers for the trip. The trip will give Francis — and the world — a close-up look at the devastation wrought by the 2014-2017 IS reign, which destroyed hundreds of Christian-owned homes and churches in the north, and sent tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities fleeing. The trip will include a private meeting with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in Iraq and beyond. ___ WHAT'S THE VIRUS SITUATION IN IRAQ? Iraq is currently seeing a resurgence of infections, with daily new cases nearing the height of its first wave. For months, Francis has eschewed even small, socially distanced public audiences at the Vatican, raising questions about why he would expose Iraqis to the risk of possible infection. Francis, the Vatican delegation and travelling media have been vaccinated, but few ordinary Iraqis have been given shots. The Vatican has defended the visit, insisting that it has been designed to limit crowds and that health measures will be enforced. But even then, 10,000 tickets have been prepared for the pope's final event, an outdoor Mass at a stadium in Irbil. Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the important thing is that Iraqis will be able to watch Francis on TV and “know that the pope is there for them, bringing a message that it is possible to hope even in situations that are most complicated.” He acknowledged there might be consequences to the visit, but said the Vatican measured the risks against the need for Iraqis to feel the pope's “act of love." ___ HOW WILL CHRISTIANS REACT TO POPE'S INTERFAITH MESSAGE? Before IS seized vast swaths of northern Iraq, the Rev. Karam Shamasha ministered to 1,450 families in his hometown of Telskuf, 20 miles (about 30 kilometres) north of Mosul. Today, the families of his Chaldean Catholic parish number 500, evidence of the massive exodus of Christians who fled the extremists and never returned. Shamasha says Francis will be welcomed by those who stayed, even though his message of interfaith harmony is sometimes difficult for Iraqi Christians to hear. They faced decades of discrimination and envy by the Muslim majority well before IS. “The first ones who came to rob our houses were our (Muslim) neighbours,” Shamasha told reporters ahead of the trip. Even before IS, when a Christian family built a new house, Muslim neighbours would sometime say “‘Good, good, because you’re building a house for us’ because they know or believe that in the end, Christians will disappear from this land and the houses will be theirs," he said. Francis is going to Iraq precisely to encourage these Christians to persevere and remain, and to emphasize that they have an important role to play in rebuilding Iraq. Iraqi Christians were believed to number around 1.4 million in 2003. Today there are about 250,000 left. Arriving in Baghdad, Francis will meet with priests, seminarians and nuns in the same cathedral where Islamic militants in 2010 slaughtered 58 people in what was the deadliest assault targeting Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. On Francis’ final full day in Iraq, he will pray in a Mosul square surrounded by four destroyed churches, and visit another church in the Christian city of Qaraqosh that has been rebuilt in a sign of hope for Christianity's future there. ___ WHY WILL FRANCIS MEET WITH GRAND AYATOLLAH? One of the highlights of the trip is Francis’ meeting with al-Sistani, the grand ayatollah whose 2014 fatwah calling on able-bodied men to fight IS swelled the ranks of Shiite militias that helped defeat the group. Francis has spent years trying to forge improved relations with Muslims. He signed a historic document on human fraternity in 2019 with a prominent Sunni leader, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning in Cairo. There are no plans to add the 91-year-old al-Sistani's signature to the document. But the fact that the meeting is happening at all is enormously significant, said Gabriel Said Reynolds, professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame. “It’s hard not to see this as accompanying his relationship with Ahmed el-Tayeb,” Reynolds said, noting al-Sistani's place as a revered figure of religious, political and intellectual influence in Iraq and beyond. “I think there would be a lot for them to speak about," he said. ___ WHAT ARE THE SECURITY CONCERNS? Security concerns were an issue well before twin suicide bombings claimed by IS ripped through a Baghdad market Jan. 21, killing at least 32 people. They have only increased after a spate of recent rocket attacks, including at least 10 Wednesday, resumed targeting the American presence in the country, attacks the U.S. has blamed on Shiite militias. Those same groups, strengthened after al-Sistani’s fatwa, are accused of terrorizing Christians and preventing them from returning home. Iraqi government and religious officials are concerned these militias could carry out rocket attacks in Baghdad or elsewhere to show their displeasure over al-Sistani’s meeting with Francis. Asked if this 33rd foreign visit was Francis' riskiest, Bruni replied diplomatically. “I wouldn’t get into a competition of riskiest journeys, but I would say this is certainly one of the most interesting.” Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
Caleb shows the easy way to cook rice in an instant pot with perfect results. Enjoy!
Britain's Prince Harry and American wife Meghan decided long ago they would not play the traditional royal media "game", and on Sunday they depart from the norms of engagement again with an in-depth interview with U.S. chat show host Oprah Winfrey. Smarting from sometimes critical tabloid headlines and press intrusion in Britain, they have already announced they will step down from official duties, move to California with young son Archie and cut off contact with Britain's biggest tabloids. Last month, Meghan successfully sued the Mail on Sunday for breaching her privacy by publishing parts of a letter she wrote to her father.
The City of Charlottetown needs to pull its socks up when it comes to flooding prevention, according to a new report from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. The centre has been studying flooding preparedness in 16 Canadian cities, and Charlottetown's grade dropped from C– to D+ between 2015 and 2020. "Where is water going to go when the big storms hit, either through rivers overflowing or water backing up through sewer systems?" said Blair Feltmate, a professor at the university and head of the centre. "Charlottetown does not have up-to-date flood risk maps," he told Laura Chapin on Island Morning. Blair Feltmate says flood risk maps need to take into account that future storms will likely be more intense and longer than storms of the past. (uwaterloo.ca) Feltmate said Charlottetown scored worse than in 2015 on five of the seven areas they looked at, tying for the second-worst overall grade in the country. "In terms of land-use planning, directing that no new developments be built on flood plains, Charlottetown scored fairly low," he said. The city also scored low for its efforts in urban drainage, directing water away from areas where infrastructure currently exists. There was one area where Charlottetown has improved, however: educating homeowners about the risks of basement flooding. "We have an infographic that delineates on one page, 15 things you can do around your house to lower the probability that you will end up with water in your basement. And the city has been putting that material out through various forms of communication to homeowners," said Feltmate. The weather of the past is not a good predictor of the weather of the future under climate change. - Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation The average cost of a flooded basement in Canada right now is about $40,000, said Feltmate, and often the homeowner ends up paying for all or part of that because of a lack of insurance coverage or a cap on pay-outs. "That's why we put so much attention on helping homeowners to help themselves, to put the measures in place around their home, to hopefully not realize a flooded basement when the big storms hit," he said. Charlottetown has 'picked up the ball', says Feltmate, when it comes to helping homeowners prevent basement flooding. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC) A staff member from the Intact Centre is working with the city and the province of P.E.I. right now in the area of flood home protection. "And that's training individuals in the province to go out into the community, meet with homeowners and be able to perform an assessment of their flood vulnerabilities for their home," said Feltmate. Charlottetown recently received about $87,000 in funding from P.E.I.'s Climate Challenge Fund to do homeowner flooding education and assessment work. Feltmate said the centre's evaluation ended at the beginning of 2020, but Charlottetown has done some good work since then. "I think they've picked up the ball quite a bit to be more aggressive in the whole area of helping homeowners help themselves." City says reports like this are 'valuable' In a statement to CBC News, Ramona Doyle, manager of environment and sustainability for the City of Charlottetown, said that the city is "displeased" with the report's results, but that it is valuable in identifying areas where the city must improve. "We believe that a number of ongoing initiatives, including recent funding from the Climate Challenge Fund, our active partnership with ClimateSense, as well as joining the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative will help us work towards mitigating flood risks going forward," Doyle said. 'New regime' of extreme weather Feltmate said that across Canada, extreme weather events are becoming more common, and governments need to change the way they model flood risk. "The weather of the past is not a good predictor of the weather of the future under climate change. We are getting storms today that are more intense, more water coming down over shorter periods of time than has happened historically," he said. "So the question is, are you also forward-looking under the new regime of the extreme weather that's on the ground today and the more extreme weather that's coming?" More from CBC P.E.I.
Britain is more than doubling to 100 pounds ($139.75) the limit on contactless payments made with debit or credit cards, the finance ministry said on Wednesday, as COVID-19 accelerates a shift to electronic payments from cash. The finance ministry said that while legally in force from Wednesday, the changes to limits from the current ceiling of 45 pounds will not happen in practice immediately, as firms will need to make the necessary systems changes. The banking industry is due to implement the new 100 pound limit later this year, it said.
Fingers crossed, residents and visitors to the area will be able to attend the Ripley Food, Art and Craft Show on Aug. 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Community Centre. The annual show is a showcase for local vendors, bringing them all together under one roof to connect with shoppers. Like so many other events scheduled last summer, the show had to be cancelled because of pandemic restrictions that prohibited large gatherings under one roof. “This past year has been tough on small businesses, local artisans and our residents,” said Maggie Young, who handles community services programming and administration for the Township of Huron Kinloss. “The Township of Huron-Kinloss and the Community Services Department are committed to providing a space and hosting an event to help showcase local artisans and food producers, as well as re-introducing events for the community to attend. Therefore, every effort is being made to host the 2021 Ripley Food Art Craft Festival, keeping in mind the safety and wellbeing of both the vendors and visitors.” Young said all protocols advised by public health will be followed, and may include masks if required, the number of people allowed in the building at one time and sanitizer will be available. If necessary, booths can be spaced two-metres apart and directional flow arrows will be placed on the floor. Young says community services will “go above and beyond” what restrictions are in place. Organizers also have a plan B ready, should it be decided that the event cannot be held on the arena floor. It can be moved outside, under tents, if necessary, and as a last option, held online with a marketplace and vendor focus. Registration is now open for vendors, which has in past years welcomed 40-50 small businesses. Information is available by calling 519-395-2909 or emailing email@example.com or follow the event on Facebook @RipleyArtisansFestival for status updates. All money raised from the event is directed back to the Town of Ripley and Huron Kinloss. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent