WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Canadian service workers are faring even worse during the pandemic than previously thought with hundreds of thousands of those who still have jobs not actually putting in any hours at all, and a grim holiday season could add to the pain. Canada has so far clawed back nearly 80% of the jobs lost to the COVID-19 crisis, official data shows. There are 391,300 Canadians employed but working zero hours because of the pandemic, data provided to Reuters shows, and another 42,100 working less than half their usual hours.
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — K-pop band BTS has earned its first Grammy nomination, a long-awaited feat for the South Korean act that has been reshaping the global pop landscape with record-breaking songs and well-mobilized fans. Critics say the boy band's nomination Tuesday demonstrates its growing presence and impact in the mainstream U.S. pop industry. “K-pop, represented by BTS, has cracked the mainstream of mainstream, the Grammys,” said Kim Youngdae, a Seoul-based music critic and author of the book “BTS: The Review." He called the nomination “historic” and said the band "has carved out its own space and squeezed itself in.” The pandemic may have unexpectedly contributed to the long-awaited recognition from the Recording Academy. “Before (the pandemic), artists who went to the U.S. would sing at radio stations, concerts and live stages, but these include a variety of limitations, including time and space,” said Kim Do Heon, editor-in-chief of the online music magazine IZM. Kim said the band’s increased online presence during the pandemic -- through frequent social media interactions and paid virtual concerts -- may have contributed to its global success, leading to the nomination. The band — composed of J-Hope, RM, Suga, Jungkook, V, Jin and Jimin — will compete for best pop duo/group performance at the 63rd Grammy Awards with their all-English song “Dynamite,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart this year. This year’s best pop duo/group performance, a highly competitive category, features artists such as Taylor Swift with Bon Iver and Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande. The awards don't have a K-pop category and recently changed the name of the best world music album category to best global music album to be more “modern and inclusive." The academy said the new name “symbolizes a departure from the connotations of colonialism, folk and ‘non-American’ that the former term embodied." After the announcement, BTS uploaded videos on their official Twitter page, which has over 30.9 million followers, showing four members reacting to the nomination by jumping up from a couch and shouting “Yes!” and “BTS!” The band's members have always expressed their hope for a Grammy nomination. “I’d cry if we get an award in a (group-related) category,” J-Hope said at news conference for their new album “BE” last week. The most popular boy band in the world has been a familiar presence at the Grammy Awards -- but as an award presenter and performer, hitting the stage for less than a minute with Lil Nas X and others at the previous awards ceremony. However, a nomination by the Recording Academy evaded the band for years as it broke multiple records, including becoming the first Korean act to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart and clenching multiple trophies at ceremonies including the MTV Video Music Awards and American Music Awards since their humble debut in 2013. Their dedicated fans around the world -- known as ARMY -- have been pushing for a Grammy nomination for years. Fans say the belated nomination makes them feel seen. “It’s like when you’re doing a test and you want to know if you passed or not and you finally get the result saying you passed, and make it that, but like 20 times more impactful,” Divisha Deepti, a university student in Fiji, said in a video interview. Maryann Lockington, another ARMY fan who works as a communications officer, said many of her fellow fans stayed up late for the announcement, and their fan group chat “blew up” afterward. The 2021 Grammy Awards will air on Jan. 31. Juwon Park, The Associated Press
The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub in Toronto’s west end is offering free meals to people who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Chris Murie expects more people to be looking for help as government benefits wind down.
Those who want to pass on their gently used hockey gear to kids who need it can do so at an equipment drive the first week of December. Brain Atkins of Total Construction Management in Peterborough wants to help First Nations communities get hockey equipment so he has organized an event for Dec. 5 at the company's location at 169 Lansdowne St. E, from 9 a.m. to noon. “Most of the gear is for smaller kids, but we have already gotten a few items for older players,” said Atkins. Although he does have a few items on hand, Atkins says he cannot accept equipment prior to the drive due to space. “I have some equipment that’s in my vehicle, but I would rather wait until the day of the drive,’’ he says. Atkins says items like skates, good condition hockey sticks and goalie equipment are needed. “We will take whatever people have in equipment, new or used,” he adds. The hockey equipment drive is also being held in other cities in the province such as Whitby and Kitchener. Atkins says those equipment drives are quite successful and he says he has seen the positive effects of the drive and wanted to do something in Peterborough. “This is a first for the City of Peterborough,” he says. To follow all COVID-19 safety measures, Atkins says for those who are going to donate can stay in their cars the day of the event, between the hours listed and the team will remove the equipment. TCM helps First Nations communities rebuild homes, construct community centres, renovate existing homes and complete construction as well as train homeowners how to maintain their homes and buildings after the work is complete. He says the team is dedicated in providing sustainable and self-sufficient structures for the communities they work in. “What a better way to give back than through hockey, and I’m just happy kids will have equipment to use to play hockey.”Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week
Investigators with the 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau are seeking witnesses and two suspects following the attempted theft of a puppy from a commuter parking lot in the Township of King. On Nov. 18 at approximately 4 p.m., York Regional Police were called to a commuter parking lot at Highway 400 and Highway 9 for a report of an attempted theft. When officers arrived they found the victim, a 54-year-old female from the City of Barrie and her puppy, who were not injured. Investigators learned that the victim had advertised two puppies for sale online. She had arranged to meet potential buyers in the commuter lot. After the sale of one of the puppies without incident, two men approached the victim driving an older model white Honda Civic. One of the men assaulted the victim, grabbed the puppy, who was in a carrier, and attempted to flee. The victim chased the suspects who eventually threw the puppy out the window of the vehicle and drove away. Investigators are appealing to anyone who may have been in the area at the time and witnessed the incident or anyone with dashcam to please come forward. One suspect is described as male, South Asian, approximately 20 years old, 5’8.” He was wearing a black face mask, black scarf and green track pants. The other suspect is described as male, South Asian, wearing a face mask. Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7142 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top U.S. envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people", cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal.
Brendon Crane of Lorne Valley, along with a number of area residents, said they appreciate the province’s decision to restrict travel off and onto the Island. On Monday, Premier Dennis King announced border restrictions on all non-essential travel for a minimum of two weeks. Those travelling would be required to isolate for 14 days upon their return to PEI. “I believe in the science of the health care professionals,” Mr Crane said. “If Heather Morrison says this is what we need to do as a preventative measure then I think we should do it." “We’ve had no hospitalizations so we’ve been very fortunate and if we can take preventative measures, that is way better than trying to fix a problem after the fact.” Mr Crane said he was recently speaking with a veteran who put his life on the line for the safety of others. “When you put it into perspective, if you might be saving lives, wearing a mask and taking precautions is likely worth it.” Mr Crane’s daughter lives in Nova Scotia and if the restrictions extend they may not be able to visit this Christmas. This hasn’t changed his opinion in favour of the measures PEI is taking. Kenny MacLennan of Caledonia said he appreciates how Islanders can continue to go about business within the province, unlike in other areas of the country. “It’s good. Lock ‘er down if we need to,” he said. Duane Wilson lives part-time in Lower Montague and part-time in Fredericton. He just moved to PEI this past Friday and family members were set to join him here for Christmas as they do every year. Mr Wilson said if the restrictions continue they may have to change their plans but he is still in favour of the decision to fortify preventative measures on the Island. “Cases have been rising in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I think it’s important there are limitations.” Shelley LaVie, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Souris, said local events such as the town’s annual Christmas Parade will go ahead as planned. “Some family members (of locals) might not be able to make it but overall it shouldn’t be affected.” Ms LaVie thinks Islanders are fortunate to be able to continue with a variety of activities and festivities that could be restricted in the event of an outbreak.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
NEW YORK — Kaley Cuoco knew she wanted to turn Chris Bohjalian’s bestselling novel “The Flight Attendant’ into a TV series when the book caught her eye online. “The cover of the book is a blonde woman. It just kind of looks like me,” she recalled in a recent interview. Cuoco read the one sentence summary and called her agent. “The first thing I asked was, ‘Has Reese Witherspoon gotten the rights to this book?’” she said. When she learned Witherspoon had not optioned the book, Cuoco said she instructed her team to hurry and nab the rights because she wanted to make it into a TV series. “My entire team was like, ‘Great. So, you read it? Tell us about it.’ I hadn’t read it, but I knew I needed them to get moving. I’m trying to make up all these things that I think it’s going to be." Cuoco says she then read the book for real and thankfully loved it “because that would have been embarrassing.” Fast-forward to now and “The Flight Attendant” debuts Thursday on HBO Max. Cuoco is an executive producer and stars as Cassie, a party girl flight attendant who meets a handsome man on a flight to Bangkok. She spends the night with him on a layover, and wakes up to him dead in her bed. She panics and leaves, and while she’s at work on another plane, authorities discover the body. Cuoco becomes a suspect in the murder since she doesn’t remember what happened. After 12 years as a lead on the CBS hit “The Big Bang Theory,” Cuoco said her goal for what came next in her career was to play an interesting character — it didn't matter what genre. The writers wrote Cassie in Cuoco's voice, allowing some quirkiness and humour to shine through. She was also able to show her range. “By the time we get to episode six, seven and eight, there’s such an emotional crash and breakdown that I’ve never been able to do before. I’m just so excited for people to see that." The pace of work was new for Cuoco, who was accustomed to the sitcom filming schedule, which actors will gleefully admit is akin to a 9-to-5 job, except for taping days. “I’ve never worked like this before,” said Cuoco. She jokes that one day when she had a 3:40 a.m. pickup time, she was confused: “I remember saying, ‘Is this a.m.?’ I didn’t understand what I was looking at. I’m like, ‘It must be a night shoot.’ I could not wrap my brain around that.” ___ Follow Alicia Rancilio online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar Alicia Rancilio, The Associated Press
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 42 new cases for the region Wednesday. Based on some current data, including the case rate and how quickly the virus is reproducing, medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Windsor-Essex technically qualifies for the province's 'control' red category. But Ahmed said that by Friday, when the province typically announces changes, these numbers can shift and there is other data the province looks at before moving a region into another category."Based on the numbers, I think it's pretty evident that we are [in the red category], but as I said the qualitative data would also be taken into consideration and we'll see what the province decides," said Ahmed. Currently, Windsor-Essex is in the 'restrict' orange category. Of Wednesday's 42 new cases, 19 are close contacts of a confirmed case, five are agri-farm workers, one is a local health care worker, two are travel related to Michigan, two are community acquired and 14 are under investigation. There are 341 active cases in the region. Eighteen people are in hospital, including five in the ICU. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) announced one new community outbreak Wednesday, at Victoria Manor Supportive Living in Windsor. A community outbreak at Riverplace Residence in Windsor was declared Tuesday.There are three workplaces with outbreaks, two in Leamington's agriculture sector and another at a place of worship in Leamington. Two schools — Frank W. Begley Public School and W. J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School — remain in outbreak.Begley now has 43 cases, 35 are students and eight are staff members. W. J. Langlois now has five cases. The outbreak at Begley is still under investigation and public health officials say they are not yet sure how many community cases, in student family members, have resulted from the outbreak. There are five long-term care and retirement homes in outbreak. Riverside Place in Windsor reported a spike in new cases Tuesday with 17 residents and two staff members testing positive. Other homes in outbreak include: * Leamington Mennonite in Leamington with one staff case. * Berkshire Care Centre in Windsor with two staff cases. * Lifetimes on Riverside in Windsor with five resident cases and four staff cases. * Iler Lodge in Essex with 18 resident cases and three staff cases. WECHU also issued potential exposure notices for two additional places this week: * RIA Financial at 54 1/2 Erie St. S. in Leamington on Nov. 14 from 10 a.m. to 7: 30 p.m., Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. * Deer Run Church at 1408 Deer Run Rd. in Leamington on Nov. 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.The potential exposures are considered by the health unit to be low risk, however anybody who visited these locations on the days and times listed are advised to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days.Several charges issued this monthThis month, WECHU said it will be cracking down on those who don't comply with COVID-19 rules and will start issuing charges. On Wednesday, chief nursing officer Theresa Marentette said since Nov. 1 the health unit has issued seven charges, most of which are related to non-compliance with masking or physical distancing. University launches COVID-19 web pageThe University of Windsor launched a COVID-19 web page Monday that lists the number of active cases on campus. The school has had a total of eight cases to date, six of which are resolved. All of the cases occurred in November.
The Catfish Creek Conservation Authority board members agreed to give staff two additional paid days off around Christmas, instead of forcing them to use their vacation time. Further, a maximum of 10 vacation days are permitted to be carried over into next year, and the CCCA waived the requirement to use the carried over time by March 31, 2021. The CCCA office is closed from December 24 at 12 p.m. and reopens January 4, 2021 (the Monday after New Year’s Day), as is standard practice for the organization every year. Staff will get Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30 as paid days off. CCCA general manager Chris Wilkinson presented a series of options to board members at their Nov. 12 meeting, including allowing all staff to work from home during that time. “One of the ideas that came up is just to keep it simple is to give staff an additional two days paid off over that Christmas holiday to limit that need to work over the vacation period this year,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “That’s just an option, we can work from home or force staff to take vacation days.” Board member Sally Martyn asked if the holidays were ever taken off an employee’s vacation time in the past. Mr. Wilkinson referred to this as “forced vacation,” and this was done in 2018. “The staff have done an extraordinary job through these trying times,” said CCCA board chair Rick Cerna. “I think to give them two paid vacation days is minimal to the fact of what they’ve achieved throughout the year. It’s like a little added bonus.” Board member Arthur Oslach was in agreement, called two paid days off “reasonable.” Water Management Technician Peter Dragunas said that while the office may be closed, he was always watching for potential flooding each year, and responds as required. “If there’s any threat, I’m on it,” he said. “I have been out there actually on New Year’s Eve day. It doesn’t shut down that way.” Conservation Areas Supervisor Dusty Underhill agreed with Mr. Dragunas, and said he consistently keeps an eye on the office, even during the holidays. According to Mr. Wilkinson’s report, many vacations were cancelled and staff often worked instead of taking time off this year due to COVID-19.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The federal government has named former Liberal justice minister and internationally-known human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler as Canada's special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment today, stating that the government is committed to strengthening Canada's efforts to advance education, research and remembrance at home and abroad."We must never forget the painful lessons of the Holocaust, or the memories of those who lived through it, because anti-Semitism has no place in Canada, or anywhere else," Trudeau said in a media statement. Anti-Semitism on the riseThe position is not paid but Cotler's expenses will be reimbursed, said the PMO.Calling the Holocaust "one of the darkest chapters in human history," a government news release said Jewish communities in Canada and around the world are facing a rising number of anti-Semitic incidents 75 years after the liberation of Nazi concentration and extermination camps revealed the full horrors of the Holocaust."The government of Canada will always stand with the Jewish community and fight the anti-Semitism, hatred and racism that incites such despicable acts," the release reads. "We will also continue to preserve the stories of survivors through younger generations, and work to promote and defend pluralism, inclusion, and human rights."The PMO pointed to Cotler's record on fighting racism and his experience in defending human rights through legal cases, including some related to mass atrocities.Appointment welcomedCotler will lead the government's delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), working with 33 other member countries while reaching out to Canadians, civil society groups and academics.The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center human rights advocacy group welcomed the appointment, calling the role "tremendously important.""At a time of rising anti-Semitism and dwindling awareness of the Holocaust, this initiative is more important than ever," the organization's president and CEO Michael Levitt said in a statement.Levitt said it's important that Cotler will have a mandate that gives him responsibility for advancing the implementation and adoption of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism in institutions across Canada and internationally, including at the United Nations and other international institutions.B'nai Brith Canada also applauded the appointment."This announcement is a major step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism in Canada and shows a much-needed seriousness in our government's commitment to this promise," said the organization's CEO Michael Mostyn.Cotler called 'icon'The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also weighed in, calling Cotler an "icon" who has fought for human rights for decades."Anti-Jewish racism is a cancer, and there is no one more qualified than Mr. Cotler to lead the fight against it on Canada's behalf on the international stage," said Jeffrey Rosenthal, co-chair of CIJA's board of directors.But Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) issued a statement saying the group is deeply troubled by Cotler's appointment. IJV said the move shows the Canadian government is aligning itself with a "highly controversial" IHRA definition of anti-Semitism it claims is being used to portray supporters of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic.IJV's national coordinator Corey Balsam called on provincial and municipal governments, universities and other institutions to oppose the IHRA definition, arguing that anti-Semitism cannot be fought at the expense of legitimate criticism of Israeli human rights violations."It is vital that the memory of the Holocaust be preserved and that anti-Semitism be taken on forcefully," Balsam said. "However, the appointment of Cotler to such a post virtually guarantees that the Canadian government will go about this in the wrong way."Cotler's approach is likely to be counterproductive to the fight against anti-Semitism because it seeks to muddy the waters and will ultimately confuse people as to what is and is not anti-Semitic."Cotler is the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and emeritus professor of law at Montreal's McGill University.
Brighton council has taken its first look at the proposed 2021 operating budget for the municipality. A committee of council met Nov. 23 for round one of discussions about the first draft of the budget, which puts operating expenditures at $14,679,201. The proposed operating budget at this point is $290 lower than the 2020 operating budget. Earlier in the fall, council asked staff to attempt freezing the operating budget for 2021. Meanwhile, Brighton recently arrived at a proposed capital budget for 2021. If passed by council, the municipality’s 2021 budget for capital expenditures, such as maintaining roads and buildings, is $1,492,856. A public presentation of the proposed overall 2021 budget will occur in the new year prior to the budget bylaw being before council. Taxpayers in Brighton pay three levies on their property taxes – a municipal levy, a county levy and an education levy. During the budget process each year, staff provides council with the estimated increase/decrease to the county and education tax levies so that taxpayers can better understand the impact of the total tax increase, not just the municipal levy. Those figures aren’t available yet and the committee of the whole won’t meet again until the new year to further discuss the operating aspects of the overall Brighton budget. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
NEW YORK — Former President Barack Obama, already a million-selling author, is also a prize-winning author.PEN America announced Wednesday that Obama will receive its second annual Voice of Influence Award in recognition of how his writings “have traversed political, social, and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”Obama, whose memoir “A Promised Land” came out last week, will be honoured Dec. 8 at the literary and human rights organization's annual gala, to be held virtually because of the coronavirus.During the ceremony, Obama and historian Ron Chernow, a former PEN board president, will discuss freedom of expression and the importance of truth in a world of misinformation.Obama’s previous books include “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author. His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.PEN presented its first Voice of Influence Award in 2019 to filmmaker Ava DuVernay.Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
SOCIÉTÉ. Le 25 novembre marque le début de la 11e édition des 12 jours d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes. Une initiative toujours aussi pertinente pour la ministre responsable de la Condition féminine Isabelle Charest. «Je veux remercier les organismes qui se mobilisent à la grandeur du Québec pour porter ce message important. La violence faite aux femmes, c’est l’affaire de tout le monde et je joins ma voix aux membres du Comité des 12 jours pour dénoncer ce fléau. Même après 11 ans d’action, le portrait de la violence faite aux femmes est extrêmement inquiétant au Québec. Les femmes sont toujours les principales victimes de crimes contre la personne, et sont aux prises avec des formes de violence parfois invisibles, qui prennent place dans toutes les sphères de leur vie», indique Isabelle Charest qui invite les Québécoises et les Québécois «à dénoncer, à s’éduquer et à s’entraider afin d’enrayer une bonne fois pour toutes ce phénomène extrêmement préoccupant».Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA) staff and board members were pleased with the financial summary for October. CCCA Finance Coordinator Susan Simmons reviewed the finance report during a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12. She noted the conservation area revenue was currently at $565,275.15, about $2,200 short of the budgeted amount. “I think we all deserve a sigh of relief for making it through,” said Ms. Simmons. “When we started the year, we didn’t know what we were going to be looking at for revenue for the conservation area.” CCCA recently launched a fundraiser to assist in the $80,000 replacement of the aging Springwater Conservation Area gatehouse and visitor centre. Ms. Simmons said, including recent donations, the current total for donations was about $14,000. “I’m really happy with that. $20,000 is our goal, and we’re getting kind of close to it,” she said. Recent donors, such as A1 Unique Installations and Ferguson RV World, are very passionate about Springwater, she added. “I think that the situation that’s happening now with COVID-19, we’re doing an excellent job at Catfish Creek,” said CCCA chair Rick Cerna. Total expenditures for CCCA were at $1,079,812.64, about $250,000 less than the annual overall budgeted amount. Board members had no questions regarding expenditures.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Flu shot vaccine supply on the Island is now limited, according to the Chief Public Health Office (CPHO), but so far there has been no overall shortage. High dose and regular dose shots are still available. Public health nurses continue to offer vaccines and pharmacies are permitted to order 50 doses per day from provincial stock. The CPHO has also ordered 2,000 more vaccines to distribute on the Island and these are expected to arrive at the end of November. Erin MacKenzie, Executive Director of the PEI Pharmacists Association, said PEI seems to be well positioned with the number of regular-dose flu vaccines obtained so far this season even with increased demand. More than 79,000 shots have been distributed to public health nurses and Island pharmacies, which is more than ever. An increased demand was projected by CPHO this year as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms MacKenzie said demand at pharmacies has been higher this year. Island pharmacies have administered 41,500 flu shots so far compared to a total of 37,100 last year. Jonathan Broderick, manager of Montague Pharmasave, said his pharmacy usually administers 700-800 flu shots per year. This year 1,000 have already been given and a daily demand continues. High-dose flu vaccines, recommended for those 65 years of age or older, are in shorter supply but they are still available at some pharmacies, through primary care providers and through public health. Ms MacKenzie recommends calling ahead to obtain the high-dose shot from a pharmacy. Some local pharmacies have run out of regular flu shots for a day or two here and there. “This is not unusual,” Ms MacKenzie said. At the beginning of the season, pharmacies order wholesale batches. Sometimes an individual pharmacy will run out between these orders because of fluctuations in demand early on. Near the end of the season, wholesale batches available to pharmacies typically run out and pharmacies then rely on ordering remaining shots from the Provincial Pharmacy or redistribution among pharmacies. “The transition from sending your order in to your regular wholesaler and finding out they don’t have any more in stock can cause delays. It can take a few days to smooth that wrinkle out,” Ms MacKenzie said. “If you order a batch of 50 on a Friday and a few families come in looking for shots over the weekend you might run low or run out before the next order arrives,” she added. Desi Peters, a pharmacist with RemedyRx in Souris, said they ran out of shots for a couple days but then they have been able to get supply as needed. He added that it seems the provincial supply is starting to stretch thin with maximum orders of 50 per day. “We’re down to one or two,” Mr Broderick said on Wednesday, November 18, about stock remaining from his wholesale orders. He had submitted an application to receive additional doses from the Provincial Pharmacy, but he was unsure when those would arrive. By Friday, November 20, there were no doses available at RemedyRx. While there are still no overall issues with the Island’s supply of regular-dose flu shots, according to Ms MacKenzie, this could of course change depending on unprecedented demand moving forward. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends everyone six months of age and older, who do not have contraindications to the vaccine, get a flu shot this year.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
« Passez le temps des Fêtes avec vos proches sur la Côte-Nord », a recommandé le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de la Côte-Nord lors du point de presse du 20 novembre. « C’est pour protéger nos proches, notre système de santé et pour maintenir les activités sociales de la région », a fait valoir le médecin-conseil en santé publique du CISSS, Richard Fachehoun. « Pour ce faire, partageons la joie familiale et les cadeaux, pas le virus. » Ainsi, selon le modèle du gouvernement provincial, le Dr Fachehoun conseille aux familles qui recevront des proches lors des Fêtes d’exiger que ces derniers respectent un confinement volontaire de sept jours avant leur arrivée. Les rassemblements privés, autorisés par le gouvernement Legault entre les 24 et 27 décembre, doivent être limités à dix personnes, et « on doit respecter les deux mètres en tout temps et faire attention à nos personnes vulnérables ». Les individus vulnérables tels qu’identifiés par la santé publique sont ceux âgés de 70 ans et plus, ou qui vivent avec des maladies chroniques ou une immunosuppression. Dans le cas où on doit se déplacer dans une autre région, « notez tous les lieux que vous avez fréquentés » pour faciliter les possibles enquêtes épidémiologiques. « Demandez à la famille [qui vous accueille] de respecter un confinement volontaire de sept jours », suggère le Dr Fachehoun en rappelant qu’un isolement d’une semaine doit être respecté après le retour à la maison. « Il faut vraiment se limiter aux rassemblements essentiels, exhorte-t-il. Ces sacrifices sont nécessaires pour limiter le nombre de cas de COVID-19 sur la Côte-Nord au début du mois de janvier. » Hausse du nombre de personnes infectées Vendredi, la Côte-Nord a recensé son plus gros bond depuis le début de la deuxième vague avec sept nouveaux cas de COVID-19, c’est-à-dire six dans la MRC de Manicouagan et un autre dans la MRC de Sept-Rivières. « Nous sommes très préoccupés par la hausse du nombre de cas et par les impacts que cela pourrait avoir sur le réseau santé et sur le nombre de dépistages réduit », a déclaré le président-directeur général par intérim du CISSS de la région, Claude Lévesque. La Basse-Côte-Nord a par ailleurs enregistré son premier cas d’infection au coronavirus. Un résident de Blanc-Sablon a reçu un test positif après un dépistage effectué dans le cadre du programme de gestion des entrées en territoires isolés. Le CISSS a déterminé que le risque de transmission dans la communauté était faible et qu’aucun contact n’avait été relié aux transports aériens. Malgré l’augmentation du nombre de cas dans la région, la direction du CISSS ne proposera pas l’instauration de contrôles routiers plus coercitifs à l’entrée de la Côte-Nord ou entre les MRC, même si l’option est sur la table à dessin de Québec. Les points de contrôle préventifs à la traverse Baie-Sainte-Catherine/Tadoussac seront maintenus jusqu’à nouvel ordre. Toutefois, le CISSS maintiendra son protocole de gestion des entrées en territoires isolés ou vulnérables, tels que la Basse-Côte-Nord et Schefferville, et n’a pas fermé la porte à possible durcissement. Pour l’instant, il est recommandé à toute personne provenant d’une zone orange ou rouge de respecter un isolement préventif de sept jours et de faire un dépistage à l’arrivée, puis un second après la période de confinement. Certaines entreprises ont choisi de mettre en place des protocoles plus sévères pour ses travailleurs. Hydro-Québec, par exemple, exige que ses employés et ses sous-contractants soient systématiquement dépistés et aient reçu un résultat négatif avant qu’ils ne se rendent sur les chantiers. Rappel des mesures sanitaires « Nous devons agir maintenant pour éviter de passer au palier orange ou rouge avec les restrictions que cela imposerait », a imploré le Dr Richard Fachehoun en rappelant comme à chaque conférence de presse l’importance du respect des mesures sanitaires de base. « S’il-vous-plaît, portez le masque. Il faut le mettre pour qu’il couvre votre bouche et votre nez. Il ne faut pas le masque se retrouve en-dessous du nez ou du menton », a-t-il répété. Selon lui, la dernière semaine du présent mois déterminera si la région restera au palier jaune. En date du 24 novembre, la Côte-Nord a atteint le seul de 200 cas confirmés sur son territoire depuis le début de la pandémie, dont 17 cas actifs et 181 guéris. Trois hospitalisations sont en cours. La Minganie, quant à elle, a ajouté une personne infectée à son bilan, portant le total à 13.Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
Les membres du conseil d’agglomération de Longueuil ont voté, jeudi dernier, un budget supplémentaire de 1,626,000$ pour permettre à l’agglomération de terminer l’année, malgré un déficit d’opération. Les cinq villes liées de l’organisme devront cependant éponger ce déficit et pour Boucherville, la dépense supplémentaire représente une somme de 250,000 $ ce qui ne semble pas inquiéter le maire Jean Martel. Il a d’abord voté en faveur de ce budget supplémentaire de 1,6 million $ mais il a aussi expliqué que, dans le cas de Boucherville, ce déficit serait absorbé à même l’aide de plus de 4 millions de dollars que Québec a alloué à la ville, pour passer à travers la crise de la Covid-19. Les sommes nécessaires au comblement du déficit de l’agglomération proviendront des quatre autres municipalités, selon leur poids démographique. Les maires de Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville et de Saint-Lambert ont signifié leur dissidence tout en souhaitant que l’agglomération, dans les prochaines années, puisse se constituer un surplus budgétaire pour ne plus avoir à revivre une telle situation de déficit. Dans un cas comme dans l’autre le déséquilibre fiscal dans l’agglomération, maintes fois dénoncés par les maires, défavoriserait toujours Saint-Lambert et Saint-Bruno, entre autres. 120,000$ pour L’Orchestre symphonique L’orchestre symphonique de Longueuil étant un organisme relevant de la compétence de l’agglomération de Longueuil, le conseil d’agglomération a voté, jeudi dernier, une nouvelle aide financière à l’OSL pour l’année 2021. Les cinq villes verseront une subvention de 120,000$ et la Ville de Longueuil y ajoutera 22,000$ en frais de location de locaux. Le maire de Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Martin Murray en a cependant profité pour demander à ce que l’appellation de l’orchestre soit revue. L’OSL porte le nom d’Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil alors que ce sont les cinq villes de l’agglomération, donc les citoyens de toutes ces villes, qui payent une partie de leur taxes pour subventionner l’OSL et, à ce titre, il serait plus juste et équitable, selon monsieur Murray, de modifier le non de l’OSL pour Orchestre symphonique de l’agglomération de Longueuil. La suggestion a, au moins, été entenduFrançois Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève