Jason Bell gives his predictions for the Conference Championships.
Jason Bell gives his predictions for the Conference Championships.
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
La Corporation du Moulin des pionniers a obtenu un financement de 450 000 dollars de Développement économique Canada. Ce montant permettra à l’organisation de construire de multiples infrastructures familiales, dont des jeux d’eau, une glissade et un parcours d’hébertisme, et ce, dès cet été. « C’est toute qu’une bonne nouvelle », s’est réjoui le maire de La Doré, Yanick Baillargeon, qui est également le président-directeur général de la Corporation du Moulin des pionniers. Ce dernier avait bien hâte d’annoncer la nouvelle à toute la population, car DEC Canada avait informé la municipalité le 24 décembre, offrant un des plus beaux cadeaux de Noël pour le maire de la municipalité qui compte un peu plus de 1300 âmes. « Ce n’est que la première phase de notre plan de développement », ajoute fièrement le maire. Avec l’aide de 450 000 dollars de DEC Canada, le Moulin des pionniers investira également 150 000 $ dans le projet initial de 600 000 $. La construction du parc familial commencera dès que le sol sera dégelé. On y retrouvera notamment des jeux d’eau, une glissade et un parcours d’hébertisme, lesquels viennent s’ajouter à l’offre actuelle. Le choix des fournisseurs et des modèles de structures n’est pas encore fait, poursuit le premier magistrat, mais le concept sera relié au thème du site historique, soit la forêt et le bois. Vers un camping en 2022 Ce projet permettra d’enclencher la phase 2 du projet, dès 2022, espère Yanick Baillargeon. « Selon le concept initial, on prévoit développer un camping de 139 emplacements », dit-il, avant d’ajouter que les plans sont toujours à l’étude. Cette phase de développement devrait nécessiter un investissement supplémentaire de 900 000 dollars, qui est toutefois plus facile à financer étant donné que des revenus se rattachent au projet. Les astres semblent désormais alignés pour un développement majeur, estime le maire. La piste cyclable entre Saint-Félicien et La Doré sera terminée cette année. Un sentier de quad entre La Doré et le Relais 22, sur le territoire de La Tuque, devrait se concrétiser sous peu. Un sentier de vélo de montagne a été développé jusqu’à la montagne à Ouellet et elle se rendra bientôt jusqu’au Tobo-ski. Ajoutez à cela les sentiers de ski de fond, de raquettes, les nombreux sentiers de motoneige, ainsi que le charme de la rivière. « C’est un site merveilleux qui gagne à être connu », remarque Yanick Baillargeon. Plusieurs maisons anciennes sur le site, qui sont en train d’être rénovées, seront disponibles pour la location dès l’été prochain. « C’est un premier pas pour développer l’hébergement sur le site, avant d’implanter le camping », conclut ce dernier.Guillaume Roy, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Before Wilf Doyle scratched the Set For Life ticket he had received for Christmas from his partner, Rowena King, he had a rule to follow. It was Jan. 7 and Doyle made sure to remove the Christmas tablecloth that was still on the table in their Gander home. “I said, ‘don’t you dare scratch that ticket on the tablecloth’,” recalls King. Whether Doyle’s adherence to the order had anything to do with what happened next can never be known, but if you suggest that it brought him good luck, it would be tough to argue. Because when he was finished, staring back at him were all the required number of Set For Life symbols, meaning he had won the grand prize. “I really didn’t believe it,” said Doyle. “It was a weird feeling.” As people tend to do in these situations, Doyle checked everything twice. They even called their daughter so she could provide a fresh set of eyes for confirmation. All agreed the numbers made Doyle a big winner. ”It is life-changing,” he said. The ticket was a part of a bundle the couple had purchased at the lotto booth at the Gander Mall as Christmas stocking stuffers for loved ones. King saved the last ticket for the stocking she had for Doyle. “I can’t say how I felt,” said King of first discovering it was the winning ticket. But she knows how it feels now. “It feels good.” Winners of the Set For Life grand prize are presented with a pair of options. They can choose to receive $1,000 a week for the next 25 years or take a one-time payment of $675,000. In this instance, the Gander couple elected to take the lump sum. The decision will pay immediate dividends. Where once they didn’t own a home, they do now. They’ve already picked out their dream house in Bay Roberts — quickly becoming a destination for jackpot winners — and have made a successful offer. They are especially looking forward to making the move since both have family in the Conception Bay North area. As well, their winnings will allow them to eliminate car payments; they recently purchased a new vehicle. They also have plans to purchase an RV sometime in the future. That will allow them to do some travelling around the province. “It could not have come at a better time,” said Doyle. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
Niagara Falls Transit has elected to revert to its pre-pandemic winter schedule. The city said in a press release in order to provide the best level of service to riders given provincial restrictions, it will return to regular winter city and WEGO service, minus 30-minute peak services, on day routes. Changes take effect Monday. On Jan. 18, in an attempt to comply with the state of emergency orders issued by the province, Niagara Falls Transit preemptively adjusted its hours of operation to reflect the average business closure of 8 p.m.; however, it acknowledged that it could have been stranding essential service workers. The city issued an apology on its website for any inconvenience it caused transit users. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.com Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
COVID-19. Les plus récentes données sur l'évolution de la COVID-19, au Québec, font état de 1 457 nouveaux cas pour la journée d'hier, pour un nombre total de 253 633 personnes infectées. Parmi celles-ci, 227 215 sont rétablies. Elles font également état de 41 nouveaux décès, pour un total de 9 478. De ces 41 décès, 12 sont survenus dans les 24 dernières heures, 26 entre le 17 et le 22 janvier, 2 avant le 17 janvier et 1 à une date inconnue. Le nombre total d'hospitalisations a diminué de 56 par rapport à la veille, avec un cumul de 1 327. Parmi celles-ci, le nombre de personnes se trouvant aux soins intensifs a augmenté de 3, pour un total actuel de 219. Les prélèvements réalisés le 22 janvier s'élèvent à 33 719, pour un total de 5 646 660. Au cours des 7 derniers jours (depuis le 16 janvier), ce sont 72 396 personnes qui ont été vaccinées, pour une moyenne quotidienne de 10 342 personnes vaccinées.Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
Niagara College now requires staff and students to wear enhanced personal protective equipment where physical distancing is not possible. In a recent release, Niagara College said in consultation with Niagara Region Public Health, and in light of the spread of the new United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 in Ontario, it has implemented the enhanced PPE requirements on campus. A medical-grade face mask and eyewear is now required for all staff and students attending classes, labs and workspaces where it is not always possible to maintain a physical distance of two metres. The college said a reusable fabric face mask is acceptable when outside of classrooms and labs and when physical distancing can be maintained, It will be providing staff and students enhanced PPE with medical-grade face masks and eye protection. The college will address staff and students who have a medical exemption that prevents them from wearing PPE on a case-by-case basis. The college also implemented schedule changes. To comply with provincial orders regarding on-campus/in-person instruction that requires classes and labs to be limited to 10 students or fewer plus faculty, several courses will be re-sectioned to ensure class sizes are within provincial limits. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Over 150 McKellar ratepayers have signed an online petition against a proposed electric vehicle charging station in the township. The petition was started by Chris Skinner, who was unable to comment at time of publication. Posted in multiple McKellar Facebook pages on Jan. 19, it quickly gained traction and reached its 100-signature goal. Many ratepayers commented that they were against the potential charging station. “Why should we have to pay for something as ridiculous as these charging stations if the majority of residents in McKellar are never going to use them?” asked Tammy DeCarle-Bier in the McKellar Free Speech Facebook page. The Nov. 10 minutes from the McKellar council meeting state that the township “identified the installation of electric vehicle charging stations as part of its action plan” and that the community centre complex would be the ideal location. The initial cost per charging station is estimated at $100,000, but council requested that Hydro One apply to the federal government NRCan Grant, under the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, which would provide up to 50 per cent of the total cost of the acquisition and installation of two electric vehicle charging stations. However, David Downing, a McKellar ratepayer, said that he’d rather see a gas station in McKellar before electric vehicle charging stations. “You cannot even buy gasoline in the township,” said Downing. “How many (electric vehicle) owners? One I think, and he is a councillor … sure, the government will match to 50 per cent but we have other needs for our $100,000.” McKellar’s mayor, Peter Hopkins, said that the township was working on a response to the petition but had no further comment at this time. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
CALGARY — Obsidian Energy Ltd. is extending its hostile takeover offer for Bonterra Energy Corp. until March 29. The offer was set to expire today. Bonterra has repeatedly recommended shareholders reject the bid. Obsidian has offered two of its shares for each Bonterra share. In December, Obsidian reduced the minimum number of tendered shares needed to complete the transaction to 50 per cent from two-thirds. Obsidian has said a combined Obsidian-Bonterra could save $50 million in the first year and a total of $100 million in the first three years, however Bonterra has said those savings are "uncertain." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:BNE, TSX:OBE) The Canadian Press
“Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” by Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf) Back in 1968, Joan Didion identified a problem with the mainstream media. “The only American newspapers that do not leave me in the grip of a profound physical conviction that the oxygen has been cut off from my brain, very probably by an Associated Press wire …,” she begins in an essay that goes on to criticize traditional news outlets, including the wire service carrying this review, for pretending that there is such a thing as neutral, unbiased, objective reporting. That article, “Alicia and the Underground Press,” was a snarky ode to alternative newspapers in the 1960s like the East Village Other and Berkeley Barb that might have been “amateurish and badly written” but at least had the virtue of speaking directly to their readers, and speaking to them as friends. Some 50 years later, in a media landscape dominated by players who present “alternative facts” with a straight face, and consumers who get their news through platforms tailored to their specific interests, Didion’s critique seems more prescient than ever. The essay is one of 12 she wrote between 1968 and 2000 that have been collected in a new volume, “Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” sure to be of interest to Didion completists and fans of such cultural touchstones as “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Others haven’t aged as well. Another piece from 1968, about Gamblers Anonymous, quotes the people at a meeting in ungrammatical English, speaking “as if from some subverbal swamp.” In “A Trip to Xanadu,” she sneers at tourists at the Hearst Castle in their “slacks and straw hats and hair rollers.” But when she punches up instead of down, the results can be devastating, as in her portrait from the same year of Nancy Reagan, then the wife of the California governor, portrayed as a media-savvy control freak and distant mother to her then 10-year-old son. Similarly, her 2000 profile of Martha Stewart captures what most observers missed at the time — that Martha wasn’t selling homemaking, she was selling success. The best of the bunch have to do with the subject Didion, 86, knows and cares about most — being a writer. In essays like “Why I Write,” whose title she borrowed from George Orwell, “Telling Stories” and “Last Words,” she makes it clear why she has been an essential voice in American arts and letters for more than half a century. Ann Levin, The Associated Press
QUETTA, Pakistan — A Pakistani dissident and civil rights activist who died in exile in Canada last month was returned to Pakistan and laid to rest in her home village in southwestern Baluchistan province under tight security, activists said Monday. Only immediate family members of 37-year-old Karima Baloch were allowed to attend her funeral Sunday in the village of Tump in Baluchistan. Her supporters claim that Pakistani troops had sealed off the village and prevented them from attending her burial. Her remains were brought to Pakistan from Canada earlier Sunday. Baloch’s body was found Dec. 22 near Toronto’s downtown waterfront, a place that she liked and often visited, a day after she was reported missing. Toronto police have not treated her death as suspicious though there were allegations by her supporters that she was killed. A fierce critic of Pakistani spy agencies that are often accused of abducting activists in Baluchistan and elsewhere in Pakistan, Baloch was granted asylum in Canada in 2016. Her death has raised suspicions among rights activists, who on Monday denounced authorities for holding the funeral in near secrecy. “It is appalling to see how Karima Baloch’s dead body was treated," said Mohsin Dawar, a lawmaker from Pakistan's former tribal regions who campaigns for Pashtun minority right but like Baloch, has also criticized Pakistani spy agencies. “It is not difficult to understand how this will deepen the divide and fuel separatism," he tweeted. "Is this the strategy to deal with the Baloch insurgency, to sprinkle salt on the wounds of Baloch?" There was no immediate comment from the government, but a video that surfaced on social media shows soldiers turning back several mourners who are heard in the footage saying they wanted to pay their last respects to Baloch. Angered over the situation, a Baloch nationalist group — the Baloch Solidarity Committee — issued a call for a daylong strike and complete shutdown in Baluchistan on Monday. Its statement said Pakistani troops spirited Baloch's coffin away on its arrival from Canada and foiled a move by her supporters to hold her funeral in Karachi, instead taking her remains to her home village. Later on Sunday, hundreds of Baluch activists rallied in Karachi, denouncing the government for not allowing that Baloch's funeral be held in the city. They chanted antigovernment slogans and demanded justice for Baloch, who they say was a “voice of the Baloch people” that was “silenced.” The activists insisted she did not die a natural death though they offered no evidence to support their allegation. Baluchistan has for years been the scene of a low-level insurgency by small separatist groups and nationalists who complain of discrimination and demand a fairer share of their province’s resources and wealth. Although there are also militant groups in Baluchistan that stage attacks on soldiers, separatists also often attack troops in the province, prompting authorities to detain suspects. Human rights activists often blame security forces of illegally holding people. Such detainees are usually not charged and do not appear in court, which draws protests from their families and rights activists. ___ Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report. Abdul Sattar, The Associated Press
Structure and rhythm are important for Ayden Rana. The six-year-old is on the autism spectrum and requires a little extra help to complete his studies. When the winter break turned into an extended period away from the classroom, keeping most children and teachers at home, it presented a unique challenge for Ayden and his mother, Karen, who found herself playing the role of teacher, therapist, support worker and parent. “He was very receptive the first two days, I would say, to virtual learning because he got to see the teacher and the educational assistants,” Karen said. But the novelty quickly wore off. Studying became much harder. Learning became even more challenging than usual. Touch and sense are key to Ayden’s educational development, meaning the curiously flat, two-dimensional world of pixels on a screen, fell far short of meeting his needs. “The educational assistant realized his needs for tactile material — he’s not grasping the Chromebook — so she put together a binder with all the activities,” Karen explained. “All the math, English, all the subjects he would do at school, along with his puzzles, his timer [and] his favorite pens [are included].” The binder is carefully prepared by his educational assistant every week and left for Ayden to pick up, offering new material to make the best of a difficult situation. For some other students with special needs, learning at home — even with the extra work and resources — isn’t a possibility. As a result, despite the province-wide shutdown and stay-at-home-order, some are still physically in school. A few teachers are on hand, along with a small army of special education assistants. At the Peel District School Board, they are referred to as educational assistants (EAs) and a large number of the board’s 3,800 EAs are reporting for duty. At Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, where they are known as educational resource workers (ERWs) 40 school sites are open and staffed. A major issue for EAs working at PDSB is a lack of coordination and tracking by the board, Natacha Verdiel, president of OPSEU Local 2100, the union representing EAs at PDSB, explained to The Pointer. Unlike students and teachers who cohort together, EAs do not have to sign into classrooms and are not included in contact tracing efforts when an outbreak is declared. “An EA might cross cohorts 14 times on any given day,” she explained. “They might report to 12 different classrooms to provide support to high needs students. They’re now cross contaminating between students, that’s alarming, and no one knows they’ve been in that classroom.” As a result of their specific profiles, many children with special needs are unable to wear a mask. Some even find staff wearing them to be upsetting and can attempt to physically remove them. Depending on a child’s age, size and unique needs, such behaviour can be challenging. In some instances the desire to create normalcy can even lead to aggressive actions by some students. That’s why some personal protective measures to mitigate the risk of viral spread can’t be used. “Here’s what I don’t think the public understands: the students that are reporting to the physical building right now are students who cannot wear masks,” Verdiel said. “They are all unmasked, all of the students are unmasked. Most of them are extremely behavioral, they are our highest needs students in the system.” Verdiel described one situation where a particular student coughs, spits and sneezes as part of their behavioural profile. “The staff in there are covered in bodily fluids, all day long,” she said, lamenting the lack of effective personal protective equipment and how masks can act “as a target” for some students who attempt to remove them or strike the workers wearing them. For the parents of children with special needs, the role EAs, ERWs and the education system play can be nothing short of a miracle. Staff are able to look after children during the day, calm them and tend to their various behavioural and physical needs. “Some of our workers have phenomenal skills… some of them are outrageously amazing at what they can do,” Pam Bonferro, president of the Dufferin Peel Educational Resource Workers’ Association, told The Pointer. “They’re like pied pipers, they walk into a room and the students calm down.” Karen Rana agrees, describing Ayden’s EA as a rock. “He changed three classes [due to COVID-19 attendence variations], so you can imagine,” she said. “Three classes, three teachers, three sets of students, but with the same assistant. She has been the constant and it’s been very positive for Ayden.” The work of classroom assistants is often born of passion. As a vocation, many pursue the work out of a desire to help care for children and assist with their challenging development. “It’s not that they don't want to support the students that are there,” Verdiel added. “They want the Province to acknowledge that those who are reporting in person are unable to maintain any kind of physical distancing at all. Their job is very, very, very high risk in terms of exposure to bodily fluids.” Highlighting the fact the government is working hard during a crisis, but still missing key supports, Bonferro said ERWs and EAs are being inadvertently positioned in opposition to the very families they support. “What they have technically done is they have pitted the EAs against the parents,” she said. “They are taking the EAs voice away, if an EA speaks up, they’re going to be kind of vilified as the bad guy [in the] situation. So they are way beyond stressed and what’s really tearing them apart is: they have a conscience, they care about the kids they work with.” The Ministry of Education did not provide a response in time for publication. Despite working in the same space as teachers, classroom assistants have unique demands, detailed by the unions who represent them. Where teachers can safely distance from pupils, even in the same classroom, EAs and ERWs are unable to make the space. Their duties include helping students use the bathroom, feeding and, when needed, physically helping them to calm down. “The exposure level that a teacher has when they’re standing in front of a classroom teaching versus the exposure that an EA has when they’re being spat in the face or restraining a student [is significantly different],” Verdiel said. The unions have several specific asks of the Doug Ford government to improve the situation. They include pandemic pay, more robust PPE and rapid access to the vaccine. Under the Province’s current vaccination rollout, teachers and classroom assistants find themselves on the list at the same time. The second phase, which also includes older adults living in the community and several other key worker categories, could run as late as July, which risks some EAs and ERWs not being vaccinated until during the summer break. “The government has taken on the position that EAs are now essential workers; however, they are not being provided with the same level of pay or protection,” Verdiel said. “The NDP has long called for pandemic pay for all frontline workers, and believes educators should be included among the groups prioritized to get their vaccine,” NDP Education Critic Maritt Stiles told The Pointer. “Special education assistants, who are now working in classrooms with vulnerable people, should be vaccinated as soon as possible, when the vaccine becomes available.” PDSB provided a statement offering extensive instructions to EAs around wearing PPE. It did not address questions around contact tracing and EAs working in multiple classrooms. “Since returning from the winter break, all students and staff, including EAs, who have returned to in-person learning and working are required to follow the Active Daily Screening process,” a spokesperson told The Pointer. At DPCDSB, contact tracing does not appear to be an issue and ERWs are carefully monitored. “School principals maintain a record of any ERWs that are working in the school and should a positive COVID case be reported, any staff and students that worked with, or could be considered to be a close contact, would be identified for contact tracing,” Bruce Campbell, general manager of communications and community relations for the board, told The Pointer. As most schools remain closed and the majority of children learn at home, EAs and ERWs continue to show up for work feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable. “Everybody is sympathetic, everybody understands,” Verdiel said. “Nobody is willing to do anything.” Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
TORONTO — Scientists and health experts are launching a nationwide campaign to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and related vaccines. The #ScienceUpFirst initiative is an awareness and engagement campaign that will use social media to debunk incorrect information and boost science-based content. The campaign team says in a news release that it emerged from conversations between Nova Scotia Sen. Stan Kutcher and Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. The initiative is now being led by the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. Anyone interested in participating can follow @scienceupfirst and use the #ScienceUpFirst hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and tag the account to amplify science-based posts and alert it to misinformation posts. The campaign says there is a marked rise in misinformation and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 vaccines, virus transmission and government response, and it represents a threat to the health and safety of Canadians. "Misinformation is a dire, imminent threat to the lives of all Canadians and is proven to be one of the factors fueling COVID-19 infections, and dissuading Canadians from getting vaccinated," says Caulfield. "The #ScienceUpFirst initiative seeks to help fill an urgent need to beat back misinformation with the truth, and save lives." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska held the enviable position of having the highest rate of coronavirus vaccinations per capita in the nation as of last week, the state's top health official said. Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said last Thursday that the progress was the result of community efforts to quickly distribute vaccinations and additional allotments for federal agencies within the state, KTOO-FM reported. Zink told the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce that Alaska receives more doses of vaccine because of allowances above the state’s share for the Department of Defence, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service. “We have the highest veterans per capita population. We have a large military presence. And we have a large Indigenous population with over 229 sovereign tribes,” Zink said. “And so, because of those reasons, we did get some additional vaccine in the state via those federal partnerships.” The allotment for the Indian Health Service, which works with tribal entities to deliver health care to Alaska Native residents, could have been subtracted from the state’s share of the federal supply, but ultimately was allowed to be added, Zink said. “That’s been transformational for Alaska, that decision for Operation Warp Speed,” Zink said of the Trump administration's name for the national vaccine distribution initiative. More than 14,000 people had received both required doses of a vaccine cycle as of last Thursday, while more than 67,000 people had received at least one of the shots in the series. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
Returning to work after layoffs in the first wave of the pandemic was daunting for Brampton resident Nathan Aitken. Between managing his asthma and fibromyalgia, and having just welcomed a newborn at home, COVID-19 was a significant risk due to his serious underlying conditions. As a welder, Aitken said there was some peace of mind in knowing his mechanic-grade respirator and uniform provided an added layer of protection at the Milton auto-industry plant where he works. “I'm just very diligent about…how I do my job, cleaning and everything else, but it’s definitely something I worry about all day,” Aitken said. In the building, floor markings indicate the pathways for workers to follow to promote safe distancing, and staff are also asked to sanitize their stations every four hours. Despite the protocols, Aitken said he’s concerned about the diligence of individual workers, especially those like him with no paid sick days. “I've never gotten that. If I call in sick, I don’t get paid,” he said. Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has joined the Opposition NDP, labour unions and other increasingly frustrated voices across the province calling for paid sick days. She characterized them as “essential” protection during the pandemic in a report two weeks ago and called for the ruling PCs under Premier Doug Ford to legislate five permanent paid sick days, and 10 during a pandemic like the one causing the current public health crisis. Ford continues to ignore the pleas, claiming there’s “no reason” for sick days. He has said the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program, and its $500 weekly payout (with a maximum of two weeks) to sick workers is enough for Ontario’s frontline employees. He has repeatedly said he would do anything to support these heroic residents who have kept the province running throughout the pandemic. From the early second-wave public health restrictions to the current stay-at-home order, little has changed for essential workers who continue to show up on the frontline, said Tim Deelstra, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 175 and 633, which represent about 70,000 members in the province. Data included in the 2016 Census provide a picture of Peel’s labour force that shows why the region has been particularly hard-hit by viral spread among the essential work force. The sector that employs more Peel residents than any other is manufacturing, including jobs that are deemed essential to keep supply chains running and the flow of needed products uninterrupted. Some 90,000 Peel residents worked in the sector, according to the Census figures. Other job categories that also include large numbers of essential workers are also heavily represented in the region’s labour force: There were 69,920 resident working in transportation and warehousing; 59,270 in healthcare and social assistance; 44,755 in construction; and 42,205 in accommodation and food services. Labour unions like UFCW have been calling on the government to implement more robust protections to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus at essential workplaces, including paid sick days as part of the Employment Standards Act and priority vaccine access for those workers most at risk. For many who may be experiencing minor symptoms, the risk of losing pay or even their job, is enough to keep them going to work, potentially putting their colleagues at risk. “Even before the pandemic, we were very critical of the Ford government, that one of the first things they did upon getting elected was removing the two paid sick days” from the Act, Deelstra said. He points to former Progressive Conservative party leaders, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, as being vocal supporters for sick leave. “They’re now seeing the need for their constituents,” he said. Mayor Brown is spearheading a campaign and motion – endorsed by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie – at the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario and GTHA Mayors group to advocate for higher levels of government to support better sick-day policies. He told Brampton city council on Wednesday the provincial and federal governments would be discussing the issue in a conference call this week. “I hope that there's going to be a mechanism that can be found to bring this to the table,” he said. Some of Peel’s largest employers include Maple Lodge Farms, Fiat Chrysler, and PepsiCo Foods Canada, as well as airport-related warehouses and businesses, including airline food catering company Gate Gourmet Group Inc., in Mississauga. In April, Maple Lodge Farms suspended operations at its Brampton poultry plant after three cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in the facility. At that time, there were about 2,864 confirmed and probable cases of infected residents throughout the Region, with about one-fifth of them in long-term care homes. Now, there have been almost 53,000 confirmed and probable cases in Peel since the start of the pandemic, along with 204 outbreaks, according to the Region’s January 22 epidemiological summary and its most recent data. In the 14 days up to January 21, 232 cases were reported as being linked to a workplace outbreak. The region’s test positivity rate fell to 11.9 percent for the week that ended January 16, down from 13.8 percent the previous week. Anything above 2.5 percent in a jurisdiction suggests viral spread is not under control. Peel’s weekly incidence rate, which has consistently been the highest of all Ontario regions since early in the pandemic, decreased slightly to 247 positive cases per 100,000 residents for the week that ended January 16, compared to 262 the previous week. Once the current emergency order is lifted, to be moved down through the grey-lockdown and red-control categories and into the Province’s orange-restrict category, under Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework, a region’s incidence rate has to be below 40 cases per 100,000 residents. Of the federal government’s $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement, about $1.1 billion is dedicated for helping workers through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. It has been criticized by some advocates who say that narrow eligibility criteria, including the requirement of an at least 50 percent reduction in income in the prescribed period, while only $500 per week is offered for a maximum of two weeks, leaves many without proper support. “Paid sick days are necessary. Continuing to lob things off to the federal government is not acceptable. We need people to know that they can immediately take time off, make the right decision, and not have to worry that their next pay packet is going to be short,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at a media conference Tuesday. She urged the premier to call Ontario MPPs back to the legislature to advance a private member’s bill introduced last month by Peggy Sattler, opposition critic for employment standards. Following the current winter break, Queen’s Park is set to resume business in mid-February. Among proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act in Bill 239 (the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act) the NDP are tabling the requirement of 14 paid sick days instead of “unpaid leave in situations related to declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies.” In Brampton, in addition to the risks facing essential workers in the City’s prominent manufacturing, transportation and food processing sectors, non-unionized workers face even more precarious conditions. “They should be confident enough that if I'm feeling any symptoms, right away, I go [get] tested, and I sit at home…I don't have to worry about three or four days that I lose or how I eat, or how I will pay my bills. That should not be the thing to worry right now,” said Gurbaaz Sra, a community advocate and team member of Humans in Brampton, a social media campaign calling attention to the plight of essential workers. Sra, a mechanical engineer, has heard dozens of stories from members of the South Asian-Canadian community in Brampton who also fear professional reprisal for speaking out, and share their experiences anonymously with Humans in Brampton via their Instagram and Twitter. Despite the reach of social media, Sra said digital literacy among new immigrants remains a barrier for accessing updates about the local COVID-19 picture and public health guidance. “The information is changing rapidly…so that needs to be understood,” he said. “To capture that, they need to make sure that the messaging reaches everyone.” Language barriers can also affect workers who are trying to advocate with their employer for further protections. “In certain cases…they are not really able to express their demands fully because a lot of workers in the warehousing industry are new immigrants to this country,” said Gagandeep Kaur, a postal worker and an organizer at the Brampton-based Warehouse Workers Centre for Peel. Social distancing concerns within warehouses is another common concern, said Kaur, who has worked in warehouses for the last 12 years and with the Centre when it launched last January. “Employers are not doing enough to protect the workers, we know with this new variant of COVID-19 that spreads like crazy…people are scared,” she said. In Mississauga, a recent outbreak at the International Mail Processing Centre, also known as the Gateway Postal Facility located at Eglinton Avenue and Dixie Road, resulted in a total 182 postal employees testing positive for the novel coronavirus as of January 1, Canada Post confirmed in a statement to The Pointer. Rapid tests were used on-site to identify new cases. Responding to The Pointer at a Mississauga press conference on Wednesday, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, explained how rapid tests have been deployed in the community but did not detail where, specifically, this has been done. “The idea would be to try to deploy things in a bit of a concentric circle, around the cases and clusters that have been initially identified,” he said. For Nathan Aitken, the option of on-site rapid testing at his auto-sector plant, complemented by an app-based pre-screening protocol to pass through the security checkpoint, and frequent temperature checks, are “good standards and practises to keep things safe, and keep people safe,” he said. While the advocacy around paid sick days continues in Peel, Aitken is facing work precarity on another front, in his role as a hip-hop and R&B emcee and producer under the moniker TempoMental. He previously toured Ontario and did a small project in Japan right before the pandemic, relying on show and merchandise revenue to fund his art. He is holding back his latest music to release it when touring will be possible, but did one show when some venues could reopen, between the first and second waves. Aitken appeared behind a large plastic screen, with a barricade between the stage and audience, with masks mandatory inside the venue, likening the show to a jazz club experience. “I’m a hip-hop dude so everybody usually crowds the stage and jumps around, and we really can’t do that now,” he said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials that showed it was safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unfounded theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm. State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect the attacks. Both issues are in the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus. Some of these conspiracy theories find a receptive audience at home. The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for a WHO investigation of the biological weapons lab in Maryland. “It’s purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the U.S.,” said Fang Shimin, a now-U.S.-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science. “The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.” Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true. Inflaming doubts and spreading conspiracy theories might add to public health risks as governments try to dispel unease about vaccines, she said, saying, “That is super, super dangerous.” In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news. Health experts say deaths unrelated to the vaccine are possible during mass vaccination campaigns, and a WHO panel has concluded that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role” in the Norway deaths. The state media coverage followed a report by researchers in Brazil who found the effectiveness of a Chinese vaccine lower than previously announced. Researchers initially said Sinovac’s vaccine is 78% effective, but the scientists revised that to 50.4% after including mildly symptomatic cases. After the Brazil news, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-supported think-tank , reported seeing an increase in Chinese media disinformation about vaccines. Dozens of online articles on popular health and science blogs and elsewhere have explored questions about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine at length, drawing on an op-ed published this month in the British Medical Journal that raised questions about its clinical trial data. “It’s very embarrassing” for the government, Fang said in an email. As a result, China is trying to raise doubts about the Pfizer vaccine to save face and promote its vaccines, he said. Senior Chinese government officials have not been shy in voicing concerns about the mRNA vaccines developed by Western drug companies. They use a newer technology than the more traditional approach of the Chinese vaccines currently in use. In December, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said he can’t rule out negative side effects from the mRNA vaccines. Noting this is the first time they are being given to healthy people, he said, “there are safety concerns.” The arrival of the WHO mission has brought back persistent criticism that China allowed the virus to spread globally by reacting too slowly in the beginning, even reprimanding doctors who tried to warn the public. The visiting researchers will begin field work this week after being released from a 14-day quarantine. The Communist Party sees the WHO investigation as a political risk because it focuses attention on China’s response, said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The party wants to “distract domestic and international audiences by pre-emptively distorting the narrative on where responsibility lies for the emergence of COVID-19,” Wallis said. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying got the ball rolling last week by calling for the WHO investigation of the U.S. military lab. The site had been mentioned previously by CGTN and other state-controlled outlets. “If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Hua said. Her comments, publicized by state media, became one of the most popular topics on Sina Weibo. China isn’t the only government to point fingers. Former President Donald Trump, trying to deflect blame for his government’s handling of the pandemic, said last year he had seen evidence the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory. While that theory has not been definitively ruled out, many experts think it is unlikely. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
Sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers melting 60 per cent faster than in the 1990s
L’annonce de la démission de Julie Payette représente une occasion de renouveler l’équipe dirigeante du bureau du gouverneur général « dans le but de répondre aux préoccupations concernant le milieu de travail que des employés ont soulevées », a déclaré le premier ministre. Prenant acte du départ de celle qu’il avait nommée en octobre 2017, le premier ministre, Justin Trudeau, s’est contenté d’indiquer que Mme Payette avait « rempli ses obligations de préserver la démocratie parlementaire et de servir les Canadiens. » « Tous les employés du gouvernement du Canada ont le droit de travailler dans un milieu sain et sécuritaire, et nous prendrons toujours cette question très au sérieux », a-t-il cependant reconnu, en référence au rapport confirmant les allégations de harcèlement en milieu de travail dont la représentante de la Reine Élisabeth II fait l’objet. Justin Trudeau a ajouté que le juge en chef de la Cour suprême du Canada, Richard Wagner, assurerait l’intérim. « Une recommandation concernant un remplaçant sera présentée à Sa Majesté la reine Élisabeth II et annoncée en temps voulu », a-t-il conclu. Une démission qui arrive « à point nommé » « Bien qu’aucune plainte officielle… n’ait été formulée au cours de ce mandat, ce qui aurait immédiatement déclenché une enquête détaillée comme le prescrivent la loi et les conventions collectives en vigueur, je prends toujours ces allégations très au sérieux », a assuré Julie Payette dans un communiqué, rappelant qu’elle a encouragé « à maintes reprises » les employés à participer à l’enquête sur le climat de travail à Rideau hall. La firme commise en septembre dernier pour faire la lumière sur des allégations de harcèlement à Rideau Hall a remis un rapport accablant au président du conseil privé de la Reine pour le Canada, Dominic Leblanc. Les allégations visaient principalement l’ancienne astronaute et sa secrétaire Assunta Di Lorenzo, démissionnaire. Dans un reportage diffusé sur le réseau de CBC, des agents et ex-employés de Rideau Hall avaient accusé ces deux personnalités d’avoir intimidé et humilié des membres du personnel. « Pour le bien de notre pays, pour l’intégrité de ma fonction vice-royale et de nos institutions démocratiques, je suis arrivée à la conclusion qu’un nouveau gouverneur général devrait être nommé, car, dit-elle, “les Canadiens méritent la stabilité en ces temps incertains”, a indiqué Mme Payette. Sur les raisons de sa démission, elle s’est contentée de constater que “des tensions sont apparues à Rideau Hall au cours des derniers mois”, s’est dite “désolée”, et a ensuite souligné une démission qui arrive “à point nommé” pour des raisons personnelles. “La santé de mon père s’est sérieusement détériorée ces dernières semaines et ma famille a besoin de mon aide”, a-t-elle précisé. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday brought an end to lawsuits over whether Donald Trump illegally profited off his presidency. The justices threw out Trump’s challenge to lower court rulings that had allowed lawsuits to go forward alleging that he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel. The high court also ordered the lower court rulings thrown out as well and directed appeals courts in New York and Richmond, Virginia, to dismiss the suits as moot now that Trump is no longer in office. The Associated Press
York Region public health certified health inspector Nadia Varbanova shares the biggest issues and concerns she comes across during her inspections at big-box stores.