Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Paula and Anthony Hunter spun off their catering service into a restaurant serving Italian food with a “touch of soul” right before the coronavirus hit. Soon, both Louisville businesses slammed to a halt, and the couple relied on federal relief to help stay afloat.They improvised to keep income flowing in, navigating a maze of food delivery mobile apps and prepping boxed lunches for health care workers toiling long hours at local hospitals.Now, hit with a recent statewide order closing restaurants to indoor dining until mid-December, the couple is hoping for another round of federal aid to hang on until a vaccine arrives.“Just a few more months, you know, get us through this,” said Paula Hunter, who owns the Black Italian restaurant along with her husband.Kentucky's senior senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is at the centre of congressional negotiations on another relief package. Kentucky voters didn’t punish McConnell for the long-stalemated talks, awarding him a lopsided victory as he secured a seventh term in last month’s election. He spent the campaign boasting about the money he delivered for the Bluegrass State in the massive federal relief package passed early in the pandemic.While reports of hardship are growing in Kentucky, much of the political pressure there is focused not on McConnell but on the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear.Beshear is under fire from business owners and state GOP leaders who think the virus-related restrictions he’s imposed on daily life in Kentucky have gone too far. Emboldened by gains they made in the November elections, GOP legislative leaders are expected to push to rein in Beshear’s authority to take emergency measures when the legislature convenes next year.Beshear says he's focused on saving lives but Congress must do its part and pass more aid.“We need people to not be Democrats or Republicans but to be human beings and do the right thing," the governor said in an interview. “People out there are dying, People out there are hurting. This is the time to invest in our people and in their safety.”With COVID-19 surging across the country, a group of Senate centrists has offered a $908 billion federal relief package aimed at breaking the monthslong logjam. McConnell hasn’t budged so far from a $550 billion plan that failed twice this fall but said Thursday that “compromise is within reach” as bipartisan talks gained momentum in the Senate.“There is no reason why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle,” McConnell said in a Senate speech this week.In his home state, anxiety is rising along with deaths, infections and hospitalizations.In a region already reeling from the decline of coal mining, eastern Kentucky pastor Chris Bartley has heard an unprecedented chorus of pleas for help from people whose lives have been shattered by the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19.“You hear the desperation in the phone calls: ‘I have to pay my rent today. I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve offered to rake leaves or mow grass or anything I can do.’ They’ve lost their job or the stimulus has run out,” said Bartley, associate pastor at a Methodist church in Pikeville, Kentucky.Along with prayers for divine guidance, Bartley hopes to see more relief from Congress.Beshear, meanwhile, delivers daily doses of grim news of the state's virus cases and deaths and presses for another economic lifeline for struggling businesses, the unemployed, and state and local governments.“We saw the first round of CARES Act funding really flow through our economy in a positive manner," he said. “People needed the dollars. They spent the dollars. We saw businesses lifted up by those dollars. We were able to use funds to help people stay in their homes with an eviction-relief fund. Pay their utility bills so they didn’t end up in debt."Beshear has carefully avoided calling out McConnell or President Donald Trump as the impasse drags on. Republicans dominated federal and state elections last month in Kentucky.The governor has fought his own battles as his restrictions on businesses, gatherings and schools have drawn opposition from GOP lawmakers, business operators and the state's Republican attorney general.Kentucky's Supreme Court last month upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related mandates, but Beshear is now embroiled in another legal fight over his recent virus-related suspension of in-person classes at religious schools.Some restaurant operators vow to reopen their dining rooms to 50% capacity later this month, regardless of whether Beshear chooses to extend his current order closing restaurants and bars to indoor dining until Dec. 13. Beshear said Wednesday he doesn't expect to extend the order. The governor set aside $40 million in federal aid to help bars and restaurants reeling from the restrictions, but many say it will cover only a small portion of the revenue they're losing.Publicly, Beshear shrugs off the pushback from his detractors.“I’m willing to take whatever blame some people want to heap out there," he said. “If it means that their relatives are still around for Christmas this year and Christmas next year, I’ll take it.”Meanwhile, Beshear this week announced the release of an additional $50 million in federal relief funding to reimburse hard-hit city and county governments for coronavirus-related expenses.Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones welcomed the influx of money but warned that without another federal relief package, the hardships will intensify for city and county governments faced with increasing demands from constituents amid shrinking tax revenues.He's hoping any new federal package includes another round of Paycheck Protection Program subsidies for struggling businesses and an extension of supplemental federal unemployment programs.“There’s no question if there’s not an extension of the unemployment benefits and another round of PPP funding, it will have a catastrophic impact on local revenues,” Jones said.Bartley sees the damage being inflicted on families firsthand.“I'm dealing with more mental health issues than I ever have in 20 years," he said.At his church's food pantry, demand fell after Congress passed the massive aid bill months ago, but now more and more people are showing up for bags of groceries.“It’s almost as much as we can do to keep up again," Bartley said.Congress, he added, needs to “get past all of the politics” and provide more aid to those in need.“I don’t know a whole lot about the political scheme of all this, but it seems like we’ve got to do something for the betterment of our country," Bartley said. “I don’t know how or what that could be. But it feels like something has to happen, or it’s like the dam is going to break.”___Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Bruce Schreiner And Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, The Associated Press
Despite the Ford government’s recent attempts to increase standards of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, a co-chair of Pioneer Manor’s Family Council said that while it’s nice, it’s too little too late. “The announcement about increasing personal care to four hours per day is great. But’s it’s all of the other details around it that make absolutely no sense,” said Terry Martyn, who also sits on Ontario’s Northeast Family Council Network. “Nothing will come into effect for another four to five years. That’s not good enough. Residents need more care right now.” On Nov. 2, Ford announced that the provincial government would provide additional funding in the 2020 budget to increase average daily direct care from 2.75 to 4 hours per resident by 2024-25 in a move that was met with both praise and criticism. “This is a bold step on a big issue,” said Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge Ontario, a non-profit association that represents more than 36,000 long-term care residents and more than 8,000 seniors in housing units across the province. “Almost without exception, any report or study looking at the challenges in providing safe, quality care to seniors living in long-term care has pointed to the need for more staff. There is absolutely nothing that could have a more direct and positive impact on the quality and enjoyment of life for residents than more staff.” The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), which has been advocating for increased standards of care for more than 20 years, would like to see something more substantial. “We are happy that the minimum care standard is finally, belatedly, adopted as policy but we cannot allow this to be the way that this government tries to shut down the legitimate criticism about their inadequate response,” said executive director Natalie Mehra. “We desperately need staff in the homes now. It is in this government’s power to do more. Why will they not do it?” The province has also announced it is launching a new recruitment program called the Ontario Workforce Reserve for Senior Support that would train and deploy resident support aides (RSA) to work in long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The province is hoping that those who are unemployed or have been displaced from the retail and hospitality industries or administrative roles as well as students in education programs will take advantage of the opportunity. “COVID-19 has amplified persistent staffing challenges in the long-term care sector, highlighting the need for immediate action,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, minister of Long-Term Care. “I encourage those who are looking for new opportunities or those who have been displaced during the pandemic to consider working in a long-term care home. This will not only be personally satisfying work, but it will also help out our frontline staff and greatly improve the quality of life for our seniors.” But while it seems that the provincial government has finally heard the voices calling for change, Martyn still isn’t impressed. “RSAs do not help get residents up in the morning, dressed, and bathed – that’s the direct care that we need and only PSWs do that,” he said. He doesn’t believe that the government’s actions address the real need for a concrete recruitment plan to hire more PSWs in Ontario – and he’s not alone. “The NDP, alongside families, frontline workers, and experts, have been fighting (to increase personal care standards) for literally years, including introducing the bill that would make it the law in Ontario four times since 2016,” said MPP Teresa Armstrong, the NDP critic of long-term care. “Prior to the pandemic, we all heard heartbreaking stories of seniors dehydrated, injured without explanation, left to develop bedsores, and not being given the time or the help to eat, dress themselves, bathe or even get to the bathroom. A revolving door of underpaid, part-time workers, like PSWs, have been run off their feet for years.” Since the pandemic started, conditions in long-term care facilities seem to have gotten worse,, critics say. The Service Employees International Union estimated that nearly 30 per cent or 7,500 of the nurses and PSWs they represent left their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Martyn added that adequate, full-time work as a PSW is difficult to come by – many PSWs work multiple part-time gigs at more than one long-term care home, something that increases the possibility of spreading COVID-19. Dot Klein, the co-chair of the Sudbury Health Coalition, said that almost 2,000 long-term care residents and staff died during the first wave of the virus this year. According to Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission, 55 per cent of the province’s long-term care facilities experienced an outbreak of the virus during the first wave, and about 75 per cent of all COVID-related deaths in Ontario were in long-term care. “Some common characteristics among the most impacted homes were: location in communities with high infection rates, insufficient leadership capacity, pre-existing and COVID-related staffing shortages, and a lack of strong infection prevention and control measures, including difficulty cohorting and isolating positive residents, often because of limitations of the physical environment,” said a letter written by the Commission on Oct. 23. The letter was addressed to Minister Fullerton, and it outlined five recommendations for the provincial government to follow to prepare for the second wave of COVID-19 this fall. The first item on that list is increasing the supply of PSWs and ensuring that recruitment efforts address the need for various staff to meet the increasingly complex needs of residents. “The issue with staffing shortages is the same everywhere in Ontario. Long-term care homes are funded by the Ontario government depending on how many residents they have and what kind of care they need,” said Martyn. “They are given a certain level of funding to hire PSWs, and that’s it. They cannot hire more PSWs above that number unless they have excess money or profits in the bank. It’s impossible to do that.” The Ontario government announced $405 million in funding for the province’s long-term care homes to help with operating pressures due to COVID-19 in late September. The funding can be used for infection prevention and containment measures, staffing supports, and purchasing additional supplies and PPE. The government also announced that it would extend the $3 per hour pay raise for PSWs until March 2021. “The bottom line is that the Ford government’s approach is piecemeal, does not include a robust recruitment strategy, and does not address the longstanding problems in working conditions,” said the OHC. “The Ford government’s approach is far less and far later than the program launched by the government of Quebec four months ago in which the province itself drove recruitment, hiring 10,000 PSWs (the Quebec equivalent), paying them for training and providing a wage of $26 per hour.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Unseasonably warm temperatures so far this month are causing Northwest Territories residents some problems.In Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., Chuck Gruben's truck wasn't having it."I started to back out of the driveway and I started going sideways," he told Wanda McLeod on CBC's Northwind.The thermostat hit zero degrees in the hamlet on Thursday, balmy for this time of year, when the average high is around -20 C. But Tuktoyaktuk's temperatures were frigid compared with other communities in the territory.Norman Wells hit a tropical 11.1 C — smashing its previous record-high for December of 5.7 C, set in 1985. Wrigley also hit 11 degrees Thursday, while Fort Simpson, Sambaa K'e and the South Slave region all saw temperatures above zero. "It's not normal," said Gruben, commenting on the heavy rain he was seeing in Tuktoyaktuk. He said conditions were slippery and many people stayed home."Even to get down your steps, it's pretty scary," he said. "My wife, she went out to her work truck this morning. She had to sit on the steps and go down each step on her bum." The unusually warm weather may be even harder on the animals."For any animals or birds that forage out there, it's going to be hard to dig for food once it freezes," said Gruben.While temperatures in Tuktoyaktuk are forecasted to descend into the minus-teens and twenties over the weekend, these recent days of rain and warmth might not be forgotten by the caribou. "These are the kind of winters that we dread for the caribou," said Gruben, especially considering how animal numbers are declining. "This just contributes to make it worse for them," he said. "Going to see a lot of skinny caribou."
LONDON — Britain’s announcement that it has become the first Western country to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine has sparked debate about whether officials emphasized speed over safety. The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gave temporary authorization for people to receive a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. The agency made the decision under rules allowing regulators to sign off on medicines more quickly during public health emergencies. The move made the United Kingdom the world's first country to OK a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine. The British public is now seeking more information about the vaccine and the immunization timetable as authorities try to find an equitable way to distribute the limited number of doses that initially will be available. WHO WILL GET THE VACCINE FIRST - AND WHEN? Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said vaccinations would begin “within days.” The exact date the shots start will depend on how fast regulators can complete safety checks that must be done on each batch. A panel of independent experts that advises the British government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, has set out priorities for vaccinating the most vulnerable people first. The highest priority goes to older people living in nursing homes and their caregivers, but logistical difficulties in shipping smaller quantities of vaccine to reach a limited demographic group might cause a delay to this group. People over age 80 and healthcare workers have the second-highest priority. From there, priority access is based roughly in order of age until a vaccine has been offered to everyone over the age of 50, which is almost 40% of the U.K. population. Younger people with health conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 also will take precedence. DID BREXIT HELP THE UK AUTHORIZE A VACCINE FIRST? Health secretary Hancock sparked controversy when he said Wednesday morning that British authorities couldn’t have moved so quickly if the U.K. were still a member of the European Union. That drew a rebuke from the EU, which pointed out that Britain is still governed by the bloc’s rules. While the U.K. formally left the EU on Jan. 31, it remains bound by European Union regulations until a transition period designed to cushion the shock of Brexit ends on Dec. 31. EU rules permit individual member countries to give temporary authorization for the national use of medicines during a public health emergency. But U.K. regulators may have been able to move faster than the 27-nation EU because they are no longer assessing products intended for the entire bloc, Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said. “Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said. However, any speed advantage the U.K. might have had is likely to disappear starting Jan. 1, when British regulators will become responsible for reviewing all applications for new drugs and vaccines to be authorized in the U.K. "It will have to do work that previously would have been shared among all the other ... member states,” Evans said. DID UK REGULATORS MOVE TOO FAST? Dr. June Raine, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency's, said people should be absolutely confident that “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine's use, she said. But that doesn't mean regulators take the same approach everywhere. American immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Fox News that British regulators didn’t review the data as carefully as their counterparts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, potentially fueling concerns of individuals who are hesitant about getting the vaccine. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA,'' Fauci said. “The U.K. did not do it as carefully. They got a couple of days ahead. I don’t think that makes much difference. We’ll be there very soon.'' Evans said there is only one major difference between the approach taken by British regulators and those in the U.S. The FDA often reanalyzes raw data to verify the findings of drugmakers. Virtually no other regulatory entity regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with EU and U.K. regulators. “The processes carried out by the FDA and the MHRA are basically very similar,” he said. “We may well see differences in interpretation of the data between a regulator and a company, but this type of difference is regularly seen by all regulators, whether they reanalyze the data or not.” WHAT DOES THE EU SAY? The European Medicines Agency has said it expects to make a decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by Dec. 29. The regulator said it is taking more time because it is considering granting the vaccine a different type of green light, known as a conditional marketing authorization. The process requires more data, but will result in the vaccine being authorized for use in all 27 EU member nations, rather than a single country. The agency said its procedure is “the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency.'' The debate comes at a particularly sensitive moment as Britain and the EU reach the final phase of talks over their post-Brexit relationship. More than four years after people in the U.K. voted to leave the bloc, negotiators have just days to reach a trade deal before the end of the transition period. One of Britain’s goals has always been to wrest control of its rules and regulations from EU bureaucrats. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN DELIVERING THE VACCINE? First, the Pfizer/BioNTeach vaccine must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) until a few hours before it is administered. Storage and shipment therefore requires specialized equipment that can maintain such ultra-cold temperatures. Also, the U.K.'s emergency use authorization sets out strict conditions to ensure vaccine supplies aren’t damaged or wasted. The vaccine is shipped in packages containing 975 doses. “You can't, at this point, distribute it to every individual GP surgery, as we normally would for many of the other vaccines available on the NHS,'' National Health Service CEO Simon Stevens said. More broadly, vaccinating a large percentage of the country’s population in a few months is an unprecedented challenge. Because of this, most vaccinations will take place at a relatively small number of sites that can handle large numbers of people. WHERE WILL THE VACCINATIONS TAKE PLACE? Vaccinations will start at 50 hospital hubs, which will offer vaccines to care home residents and people over 80. Those who are going to receive the vaccine will be notified by the hospital, so there is no need to schedule an appointment. As the National Health Service receives additional supplies of the vaccine, the shots will also be offered at about 1,000 community vaccination centres. Local GPs will invite their patients to be vaccinated in order of priority. ___ Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
MADRID — Spain's Supreme Court has revoked a less restrictive prison status awarded to nine Catalan political figures previously sentenced to jail for their part in a secession attempt in Catalonia. The status would have allowed them almost daily release.The court said Friday that such a measure was “premature” given that none of the nine had served half their sentence and most not even a quarter of it. The sentences ranged between nine and 13 years.The nine were convicted in 2019 of sedition and misuse of public funds following the failed independence bid two years earlier. After they were transferred to prisons in the northeastern region, the pro-independence Catalan regional government granted them third-grade status last July. meaning they could leave prison during the day to carry out certain activities.The July measure was quickly suspended following appeals by prosecutors.The new court ruling comes as the leftist Spanish government is considering possible pardons and a reform of the sedition law that would favour the nine.The nine include the former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and five ex-regional cabinet members.Former regional president Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium and is still sought by Spanish authorities.Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the secession push in Catalonia was Spain’s most serious crisis in decades. Polls have long shown the wealthy region’s 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence. Spain’s constitution says the country is indivisible.The Associated Press
Health-care workers feel muzzled and alone: Study Colleen Romaniuk Health-care workers in Ontario are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, but according to a new study, they are feeling “sacrificed” and “violated” by their employers and the provincial government. Researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor in collaboration with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union co-authored a report titled “Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19.” Health-care workers represent 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, according to the study, a number that is much higher than the global rate of 14 per cent. Due to fear of reprisal, those on the frontlines are extremely hesitant to speak out – but those who participated in the study told a story of “dismal” working conditions and “unrelenting” stress. “Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general public,” said Dr. James Brophy, one of the lead authors of the new study. “While we are all facing COVID-fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress. They are burning out from overwork, fear and anxiety.” Led by Dr. Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, the study examines in-depth, anonymous interviews conducted with 10 health-care workers who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario. The respondents, who work in facilities that range from small northern-rural to large urban, were contacted by phone in April and May. Frontline workers, including PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and custodial and clerical staff, all reported feeling unprotected and unsupported in their place of work. “We have lost about 100 staff who have either taken a leave of absence because of fear or have taken a leave to go work other jobs. We have a few who have taken early retirement,” said a participant in the study. “When I leave this interview, I’m heading into work and I’m going to work 44 out of the next 60 hours. I’ve prepared enough food for six meals and they’re in two shopping bags right now. That’s what it’s doing to me.” Some interviewees reported going home to cry after their shifts, sleeping in separate bedrooms away from their spouses, and experiencing increased social isolation because they fear infecting their family and friends. “The words on the page cannot convey the level of emotion we heard in the voices of healthcare workers we interviewed,” said Brophy. “We did not expect to hear the degree of anger and desperation that came out. The stories they told us were tinged with anger, frustration and fear.” There are a number of factors that contribute to the distress of health-care workers in the province, including inadequate protection against the virus, government failings, and barriers to exercising their agency. The study suggests that the provincial government, for example, has not applied the “precautionary principle” identified by the SARS Commission in 2006 which stipulates that, when in doubt, policies should err on the side of caution. “An ongoing debate that has direct impact on health-care workers’ safety is whether or not the virus can be transmitted through airborne particles,” said the study. “The evidence has grown that SARS-CoV-2 can indeed become aerosolized through coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.” These tiny, aerosolized particles can breach surgical masks, according to Brophy. Researchers have recommended the use of N95 masks or powered air-purifying respirators for more adequate protection. Surgical masks are still considered safe for use in a health-care setting under most circumstances, although the health-care workers that participated in the study expressed some skepticism. “I had an infected patient on one of my shifts. I had my own N95 mask and I had my own goggles, and I had my own hair cover and I made sure I double gloved,” said an interviewee. “I put the cheap level two mask over top of my N95.” The study suggests that the government’s policy was probably “supply-based rather than science-based.” Another contributing factor is the health-care workers’ lack of recourse when it comes to addressing these challenges. Employers generally don’t allow their workers to speak publicly about their experiences at work, and, according to reports, the Ministry of Labour has been unhelpful. “All the frontline workers fear reprisal. We are told, ‘You can’t talk to the media. You have to send your manager to talk to them. We have corporate relations. You can’t be outside holding signs',” said one individual. “It’s just a travesty and these issues need to be said and people need to know what’s really going on.” Another said that they were “disheartened” by the Ministry of Labour during the pandemic. “They’ve totally taken the employers’ side and not the workers. There is no consultation with any frontline worker,” they said. “The ministry is not showing up to calls. They’re doing a lot of phone calls, but it’s not how they should be working. They still need to be out there on the frontlines. They should use PPE and come out to the hospital if we’re saying it’s not safe.” Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union and co-author of the study, explained that health-care workers have a limited right to refuse unsafe work. “They can’t refuse if it would result in a danger to a patient or resident,” said Hurley. “The evidence shows that in every case when the Ministry of Labour was called in, they did not support the workers.” To address these issues, the study recommends increasing staffing levels, adequate PPE and protective administrative and engineering controls, increased mental health supports, and reinvestment into a “weakened public health-care system.” There also needs to be a chance in workplace culture so that health-care workers concerns will be heard, respected, and addressed. “Health-care workers' health and wellbeing is essentially being sacrificed. We all need to pay attention to their pleas during this frightening time,” said Dr. Margaret Keith. “Not only does their wellbeing matter, but we also need to realize if they are not being kept safe, they can’t properly care for their patients or residents.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Three years after the death of a child in Bonavista prompted calls for change, it is still legal for children as young as 12 to drive side-by-sides without helmets or seatbelts in Newfoundland and Labrador.The RCMP launched a new enforcement and education campaign on Monday, which served as a reminder that despite assurances from various ministers past and present, the provincial government has still not updated its ATV and snowmobile legislation.The ability to hop on a snowmobile or a side-by-side — also known as a utility terrain vehicle, or UTV — without a helmet, as well as the fines for breaking the act remain too low for advocates to accept.Sherrie Dunn lost her 13-year-old daughter, Heidi, in that Bonavista crash. Heidi Dunn wasn't wearing a helmet when the side-by-side she was driving tipped over. In the years since, her mother has turned her grief into advocacy, and has been disappointed so far."What is it going to take to get them to change those rules?" Sherrie Dunn said on Thursday. "It makes me mad and sad, because like I said, I know what those parents feel like and it can be prevented."The Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act was first introduced in 1996 and has undergone several changes since then. None of them include adaptations for side-by-side vehicles, which have risen in popularity in recent years.The act defines an ATV as a vehicle that a rider sits astride, with one leg on either side. Since that doesn't include side-by-sides, where the driver sits behind a steering wheel akin to a car, they fall under a different set of rules than ATVs.While a driver must be 16 to operate a full-sized ATV, the minimum age for a side-by-side is 12 as long as the driver is supervised by someone 16 or older.In Heidi Dunn's case, she did not have the supervision of a 16-year-old, a fact that earned the owner of the side-by-side a $200 fine — the maximum amount for a first-time offence under the current legislation, including cases that result in death.After Dunn died, the province's Child Death Review Committee issued a set of recommendations calling on the province to close loopholes for side-by-sides, make helmets mandatory, and increase the maximum amount for fines.The committee issued the same recommendations after another child died last winter.The provincial government has said on several occasions that changes to legislation are coming — including an assertion by Digital Government and Service NL Minister Sarah Stoodley that changes were coming this fall — but it has yet to be tabled in the House of Assembly.Stoodley declined an interview for this story. In an emailed statement, the department said a review of the legislation is finished, and several potential changes are on the table."These included training requirements for off-road vehicles; age of operation for vehicles such as side-by-sides; operation of vehicles on municipal roadways; and body size requirements for safe operation," the statement said."Recommendations to enhance safety are being developed for consideration by government in the near future."Don't 'hide behind the law,' says safety advocateATV safety advocate Rick Noseworthy, head of the Newfoundland T'Railway Council, has also been calling for changes for several years. In the absence of change, he doesn't understand why more people aren't taking their safety seriously."Just because it's not the law on a side-by-side doesn't mean you shouldn't wear [a helmet]," he said. "I don't want to make light of it, but it's not against the law to put a cape on and get up on the roof of your house and jump off to see if you can fly. But people don't do it because it's common sense."To hide behind the law and not wear a helmet on a side-by-side because it's not the law, that's no excuse ... [there is] no reason in the world why these helmets shouldn't be worn."According to the RCMP, 15 people died on recreational vehicles so far in 2020.Of those deaths, a 24-year-old woman was killed when the side-by-side she was driving rolled over. She wasn't wearing a helmet.Three people were killed on snowmobiles. Two of them were not wearing helmets, while the other is believed to have been wearing one unbuckled.None of those people were legally required to wear helmets.Sherrie Dunn follows the news and takes note of recreational vehicle deaths. She shudders when she sees people driving on roads, or without helmets. Three years after her daughter died, Dunn still has the same message to the provincial government."Please, take this much more seriously. Sit down and put yourself [in my position]. Call me. I can tell you what I go through every day."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
When Bob Murphy began his search for an affordable housing unit in Toronto, he said the process felt something like blindly throwing darts at a map.As a person with a disability on a fixed income, Murphy's options for an affordable unit within the Toronto Community Housing system were even further limited."You're just basically looking at an address on a map and just picking five choices you would possibly want," he said of the process.Three years later, he says there's been no movement on his application, and a total lack of communication about the status of his search.Murphy says he's now resigned to quietly languishing on Toronto's massive waiting list for affordable housing, which numbers 79,768 according to the city's latest count."I call it the never, ever housing list," said Murphy, who also volunteers with the advocacy group ACORN Canada. "I don't plan on anything ever developing from this list."Frustrating experiences like Murphy's are now driving a push to transform the city's outdated affordable housing application system, which has been described as an inconvenient relic from a pre-digital age."It's a barrier to entry," said Mark Richardson, an affordable housing activist behind the grassroots organization HousingNowTO. He's critical of the current system's reliance on physical documentation and the need for applicants to frequently update their files."I think it's a cumbersome system for people who are looking for housing," said Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, who is also the chair of the city's planning and housing committee.All eyes on NYCImprovements to Toronto's affordable housing application process could make the system easier to access, more responsive, and ultimately more capable of matching applicants with suitable housing, say those calling for change.Those advocates can now point to New York City, which in June rolled out a similarly ambitious makeover of its affordable housing application system to early positive reviews.Prospective tenants in New York can now access and update their applications on a smartphone, and the streamlined system is said to be more effective at matching tenants to possible homes."I think it would make a major difference and possibly create a little bit more hope," said Murphy of New York's revamped system.Richardson said a more sophisticated and intuitive system could also remove a burden on applicants to apply for various lotteries when new units become available. Rather than applying for a handful of buildings like Murphy has done, an improved system could match tenants with any building with an availability."You're not waiting to see some sign up on the side of the building, or the sign in a lobby of a building saying some units are becoming available," Richardson said.Change coming early next year, city saysBailão calls the updated system in New York "a great example" and said Toronto's social housing application process will take cues from it for its next update."It is an excellent system and that's what I'm hoping we're going to be able to roll out in Toronto," she said.She said that could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2021 for subsidized units in the Toronto Community Housing network. The same system would later be used for other forms of affordable housing, including below-market-rate units, Bailão said.A recent pilot project that tested an enhanced application system created the equivalent of 200 new units by more efficiently matching tenants to homes, she added.Despite possible improvements to the application process, Toronto will still have to grapple with a demand for affordable housing that still vastly exceeds the current supply of units.The city's HousingTO plan has a target of 40,000 new affordable housing units by 2030, which covers about half the applicants currently on the city's waiting list.
OAKVILLE, Ont. — A driver has been charged in the death of a woman who was struck while walking her dog in Oakville, Ont. Halton Regional Police say the fatal collision happened Thursday afternoon. The 51-year-old and her dog were pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators determined the victim was walking her dog on a path when they were hit by the vehicle that had left the roadway. After hitting the pedestrian and her pet, police say the driver struck a stone post before the vehicle came to rest in the road. The driver, a man in his 50s from Oakville, has been arrested for impaired operation and dangerous driving causing death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Climate activists piled up giant cardboard delivery boxes outside the finance ministry in Paris on Friday, protesting against Amazon's expansion in France as the online retailer launched a delayed "Black Friday" sales drive. Gathered in the ministry's cobbled courtyard, the protesters from three groups - ANV-COP 21, Attac and Amis de la Terre - rolled out a banner on the building's facade bearing the slogan "change of owner" and featuring the faces of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The City of Amsterdam has asked an expert on Sinterklaas how to the modernise the tradition.View on euronews
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Public Health Sudbury & Districts decreased on Thursday as no new cases were reported, and one case was declared resolved. There are now seven active cases of COVID-19 in the region. According to the health unit’s weekly summary, five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last seven days and 11 were resolved. Of the new cases, two were close contacts of a confirmed case and two were travel related. The investigation into the exposure category of the 5th case remains ongoing. All five cases were in Greater Sudbury. Public Health's territory also takes in Espanola, Manitoulin Island and the District of Sudbury. “By end of day on December 2, contact tracing information was available for all 5 of the new cases," Public Health said in its weekly report. "Through our investigation, we identified 30 people who had high-risk close contacts with these cases. That is an average of 6 high-risk close contacts per case, which is consistent with last week. “Public Health follows up directly and regularly with every high-risk close contact to monitor them for symptoms, ensure they are self-isolating, and make recommendations for testing according to provincial guidance.” The seven-day incidence rate was 2.5 per 100,000 compared to 9.1 in the previous week. The percent positivity was 0.3 per cent compared to 0.5 per cent last week. Public Health Sudbury and Districts remains in the Yellow-Protect category of the provincial COVID-19 response framework. While Sudbury didn't report any new cases, the same can't be said for the rest of Ontario. Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 14 new deaths due to the virus. In her message to the community, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe reminded the public about staying safe as the holiday season approaches, and to treat everyone with kindness. “For some of us, the upcoming winter holidays are a time to celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones. For many, the holidays also can be stressful – and this year, especially so. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out to friends, loved ones, or connect with local agencies and resources,” she said. “Treat yourself with kindness and respect and offer the same to others who may need support. This pandemic is not a forever-thing, but the lives we touch can be. Share a smile (behind the mask), practice patience, and lend a hand when it is least expected.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
EDMONTON — CWB Financial Group reported its fourth-quarter profit edged down from a year ago, but the bank still beat expectations.The bank says it earned net income available to common shareholders of $63.4 million or 73 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Oct. 31, down from $67.5 million or 77 cents per diluted share a year ago.Revenue totalled $236.6 million, up from $220.9 million in the same quarter last year.Total provisions for credit losses were $19.6 million, up from $13.3 million in the same quarter last year, but down from $24.4 million in the third quarter.On an adjusted basis, CWB says it earned 75 cents per share for the quarter, down from an adjusted profit of 78 cents per share a year ago.Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 74 cents per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:CWB)The Canadian Press
The European Union has not yet won over countries seeking more cash and conditions in exchange for committing to sharper emissions cuts, as it tries to strike a deal on on its new climate target by the end of the year. The EU has promised to make a tougher emissions-cutting target this year under the Paris climate accord, a move U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said is "essential" to global efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto the bloc's next budget, which could freeze the cash they and other countries say they need to curb their emissions.
TORONTO — Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after police shot and injured a man in the west end of Toronto. The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened Thursday afternoon after 4 p.m. A news release says witnesses had reported a screaming man holding a sharp object in Etobicoke. Toronto police officers arrived at the scene and the agency says one of them shot the man. The 30-year-old was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. Four investigators and two forensic investigators are assigned to the case and the watchdog has identified one subject officer and one witness officer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Marco Arop believes it's the best he's ever felt through 600 metres of a race. But near the home stretch of a men's 800 event in August, the Canadian runner sensed his lead slipping away, felt the shoulder of American Donavan Brazier brush against his and panicked. Arop's body tightened up while Brazier, the world's top-ranked 800 runner, accelerated on the outside down the straightway at a sun-drenched Stockholm Olympic Stadium to another victory in a pandemic-shortened season. "Sometimes in a race, if you push too hard it ends up slowing you down," Arop said over the phone this week from Starkville, Miss. "No matter how comfortable I am, when I see someone pass me, I have to stay comfortable and not be too reactive. "Since my first collegiate season, there have been a lot of races when I would have a good 600 metres and the final 100 would get me. I was always told if I had a strong base [of a training program] I would be able to finish stronger." To that end, Arop has worked on improving his physical strength the past three months with Mississippi State University head track and field coach Chris Woods, with weekly 13-kilometre runs, weight training and circuits — sets of 400 to 1,000-metre runs in combination with other exercises. WATCH | Marco Arop places 2nd behind reigning 800m world champ: Arop has emphasized more volume in his workouts and a greater focus on recovery at the rest stage to prevent injury. For example, if he does repeat runs of 1,000, Arop might swim the next day for recovery and follow that with a 20 to 40-minute fartlek — a period of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. For his Saturday long runs on a grass field or gravel trail, the 22-year-old has started at a six-minute 40-second pace per mile and gradually increased his speed to clock a 6-flat pace at the halfway mark ahead of a strong finish. "Before, I'd probably start at 6:40 and go slower towards the end, finishing at around a 7:30 [pace]. I'm now able to pick up the pace," said the six-foot-four Arop, who trains six days a week and has added five pounds to his regular racing weight of 175. "My body is holding up well. I feel stronger and more fit to run faster for longer periods of time." Beating higher-ranked opponents Woods, who also coached Arop before the three-time All-American announced last December he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility to turn pro, has been encouraged by the runner's consistency in training. "I am excited to see what he is capable of doing once we start doing things more specific to his race," Woods said. "He's been in this sport for such a short time and there's several things we haven't been able to get to because we don't want to rush his growth and potentially get injured." I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet and I hope we can showcase that during the [Tokyo] Olympic Games. — Chris Woods, Mississippi State University head track and field coach Still, the 15th-ranked Arop, who didn't start running seriously until he was 17 in his final year of high school in Edmonton, was able to get out strong in races in 2020, take the lead against Brazier and beat top-six runners Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich of Kenya, Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Puerto Rico's Wesley Vázquez. "They're amazing runners and to be in the same conversation as them does give me a lot of confidence going into next year," Arop said. "I'm hoping to surprise [Brazier] in the upcoming season. I do respect him as a runner and I want to give him my best shot when the time comes." Arop also shaved four seconds off many of his early 2019 performances to a personal-best 1:44.14, a time that falls below the 1:45.20 Tokyo Olympic standard and one he feels could have been lowered by "maybe" another second. WATCH | Arop sets personal-best time in Monaco: The Business Information Systems major understands he's now among the sport's elite, which includes world No. 4 and Canadian record holder Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont. Early in 2019, the Sudan-born Arop recovered from a hamstring injury and enjoyed a breakout season that featured a Pan Am gold medal and seventh-place finish in his world final debut last October in Doha, Qatar. 'The sky is truly the limit for this young man' Right now, Woods said, there isn't a ceiling to the 2018 Canadian champion's potential. "I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet," he said, "and I hope we can showcase that during the Olympic Games [next summer]. Not to be cliché, but the sky truly is the limit for this young man." At the insistence of his parents and four brothers, all of whom contracted the coronavirus in September, Arop will stay in Mississippi through the Christmas holiday season to build upon the momentum of his fall training. "They know how important it is for me to have a training period through the winter [entering an Olympic year]. I went home a year ago and got the flu which put a stop to my training for about two weeks and the next month was spent regaining my fitness," he said. "It's very common for my mom to have a cold and she was the most at-risk [for COVID-19] having diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm just thankful they all came out of it fine. "It was a reflective time for me, to not take little moments for granted. It was a reminder to make sure when I talk to them to tell them how I feel and check in with them as much as I can."
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years.Buried amidst the ongoing COVID confusion and controversy this week in Alberta came a bit of unusual news: the UCP government and NDP opposition agreed on something.It wasn't exactly a Kumbaya moment but the two battling political parties that have turned the legislature's daily question period into a form of trench warfare finally see eye-to-eye on an issue.They're both unhappy with the announcement on Monday from federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland involving much-anticipated changes to the fiscal stabilization program that provides money to provinces experiencing a significant drop in revenue year-over-year.Alberta, of course, has been experiencing chronic revenue drops year-over-year-over-year. Because of a series of bad years topped off by a COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's revenue ride is less like a roller coaster and more like the Drop of Doom.The fiscal stabilization program wasn't designed for that kind of multi-billion-dollar collapse in revenues.In 2016, for example, the Alberta government under the NDP complained that it lost $6.5 billion in revenue because of low oil prices but only received $250 million from the stabilization program that was capped at $60 per provincial resident.After forming government in 2019, the United Conservative Party took up the fight and this year demanded $4 billion instead of the $266 million offered. Not only that, the UCP wanted the higher stabilization payments to be retroactive to 2015.On Monday, Freeland announced the cap is being hiked to $170 per capita, meaning the province is now entitled to receive $750 million this year. But the payments will not be retroactive."[I am] very disappointed that the caps weren't lifted entirely," said Finance Minister Travis Toews. "It really doesn't go far enough."For her part, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sounded like a clone of Toews: "I would continue to advocate for the removal of the cap and I would also suggest that this should be retroactive to when Alberta deserved a fair fiscal stabilization formula in the first place."But the fight to remove the cap completely has gone from difficult to impossible because of the pandemic.WATCH | Alberta politicians unhappy with federal stabilization changesThis year, every province will probably be applying for aid under the stabilization program. Ottawa, already neck-deep in pandemic debt, would be swamped with billions of new claims under a sky's-the-limit fiscal stabilization program.And, besides, premiers who had been supporting Jason Kenney's call for a capless program will likely be happy enough to receive almost triple the amount of money than was available under the old formula.Change of heartBut Kenney's disappointment with Ottawa on Monday shifted to satisfaction on Wednesday.He performed such a sudden change in direction he might need a neck brace for whiplash. But that's the kind loopy politics you get during a pandemic.On Monday, the issue was money.On Wednesday, it was a COVID-19 vaccine."We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year," said Kenney, putting the kind of faith in the federal government apparently not shared by federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole.Setting a firm timeline for a vaccine rollout is not particularly risky for Kenney. If the plan works, great. Albertans might be happy enough that Kenney sees his approval ratings start to rise after a year of steady decline. If the vaccines don't arrive on time, Kenney can blame Ottawa yet again for Alberta's problems.Of course, a third scenario is Ottawa delivers the vaccine as promised but Alberta has trouble with the logistics of getting Albertans vaccinated.To that end, Kenney has called in the military — sort of. He has appointed Paul Wynnyk, the deputy minister of municipal affairs and a former general in the Canadian Forces, to lead the province's vaccine task force.In the meantime, as Alberta continues to lead the country in COVID cases, playing in the background is a plan to call on the federal government and Red Cross to set up emergency hospitals should the virus overwhelm our health-care system.Kenney is still trying to spin a positive tale out of the distressing pandemic reality, still trusting that Albertans will take personal responsibility to flatten the curve, still insisting there is "light at the end of the tunnel."But that light might just be a Red Cross truck coming with a field hospital to house Alberta's ever growing number of pandemic patients.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president says he would get vaccinated against the coronavirus to set an example for his country's citizens.“There is no problem for me to get vaccinated,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after Friday prayers in Istanbul. “It is necessary to take this step as an example for our citizens.”The Turkish government plans to buy multiple vaccines, Erdogan said.Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, and the first shipment is due to arrive Dec. 11. The government also is talking with Russia about securing the vaccine developed there.Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told the official Anadolu news agency that he would work to convince people to get immunized by getting the Chinese shot himself as soon as Turkish authorities approve its use.Turkey also has ordered 1 million doses of the vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. Erdogan said he spoke with BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin, who is of Turkish descent.Turkey is experiencing a surge in infections with confirmed cases hovering above 30,000 per day on a 7-day average. The country's death toll since March has reached 14,316. A weekend lockdown, the first since the end of May, is set to begin Friday evening.The Associated Press
Record high water levels in the Northwest Territories led to record amounts of trace metals and hydrocarbons in watersheds over the summer, but the territory's environment department says that aren't expecting to see much of an impact on local wildlife.The findings were presented to a standing committee of MLAs on Thursday, during a presentation on transboundary water agreements.Deputy minister Dr. Erin Kelly delivered the presentation, saying turbidity reached historic highs in July, exceeding Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.However, she said, the dissolved concentrations of those metals were much lower, and turbidity levels returned to regular levels starting in August. "The concentrations of metals in the Slave and Hay rivers this July should not have had any chemical-related impacts on aquatic organisms or fish," she said, adding that the dissolved concentrations of those metals were well below Health Canada guidelines for safe drinking water.The concentration of hydrocarbons in the water, which the government attributed partially to oil sands development downstream, were also much higher than usual in July, but dropped back to regular levels in subsequent months.Deh Cho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge, who chaired the meeting, questioned the long-term impacts of contaminants flowing downstream from oil sands development, saying that meeting guidelines now may not portend a sustainable future."I take it you guys are just saying, 'well, it's dissolved into the water. It's dissipated somewhere.' I kind of have a hard time fathoming such a scenario," he said. "Because many times, you're also stating that they're within guidelines. Just saying that alone — within guidelines — does tell me that there is something in that water coming from the tar sands."In her response, Kelly said that they are tracking long-term trends related to hydrocarbons, and that dissolved metal concentrations are the indicators the department most concerns itself with, due to their direct impacts on bugs and fish. "From our perspective, we've looked at this and what we see is there's this one peak, and then it's gone down from there. And from a health perspective, we're not concerned for the bugs and fish, and we're not concerned with the levels in the water."Monitoring restored at 12 of 18 sitesKelly also said water monitoring activities had resumed at 12 of 18 priority sites in Alberta. Monitoring at the sites was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of monitoring activities — done without the territory's knowledge — led MLAs to question the effectiveness of the territory's transboundary water agreement with Alberta, which it has had since 2015."Water monitoring was suspended during the highest levels ever recorded, and the Alberta government didn't bother to inform us," Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly said. "What sort of lessons do we take away from this, and how do we improve the implementation of these agreements?"Shane Thompson, the minister of Environment and Natural Resources, said that while the government has learned lessons from the ordeal, the transboundary agreements the government has with southern provinces are "world class.""Unfortunately, we weren't informed. But as soon as we were informed, we reached out to both the provincial minister and federal minister to have these open and frank discussions ... we were on it right away," he said.Kelly said that the incident has led to the government changing how it communicates with Alberta. The province put an assistant deputy minister on the bilateral management committee, and is meeting with N.W.T. representatives quarterly.Testing underway for Great Slave Lake plumeThe environment department reported in its presentation that water levels in Great Slave Lake are the highest they've ever been, reaching record highs for every month beginning in July 2020. Though the government wasn't able to pinpoint the exact reason for the high levels, it attributed them to very high precipitation in watersheds that flow into the lake, starting in September 2019. Kelly said the analysis suggested the flooding of B.C.'s Bennett Dam, which took place this summer, did not have a significant impact on the levels.Territorial government officials are working with researchers from the federal, Alberta, and B.C. governments to further examine the factors contributing to the high levels, she said.Kelly said that the government also took samples of a larger than normal plume in Great Slave Lake after hearing concerns from residents, and that results from that sampling are expected to be available in the next few weeks.WATCH | Take an aerial look of the Great Slave Lake plume, as seen in August 2020:As for what's next, officials say they aren't sure at this point, and that rain and snowfall in northern B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan and the southern N.W.T. will be the biggest factors. "It's not just an average high water year," said Kelly. "It's unprecedented. It's very hard to predict what happens next when we have no data on what's happened previously."