When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Chatham-Kent is trending in the right direction. Chatham-Kent will move from ‘Red-Control’ to ‘Orange-Restrict’ under Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. The move into Orange indicates Chatham-Kent saw a weekly incidence rate of 25 to 39.9 new cases per 100,000 residents. Based on the latest data, Chatham-Kent will move from ‘Red-Control’ to ‘Orange-Restrict’ in the Framework effective Monday, March 1, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. Windsor-Essex is expected to remain in ‘Red-Control’ for at least another week. The move brings some changes as Chatham-Kent changes restriction levels. Among the biggest changes is regarding gathering sizes in organized venues. Under ‘Orange-Restrict’, up to 50 people can now gather indoors and 100 outdoors as long as physical distancing can be maintained in places such as restaurants. Additionally, religious services can now move to 30 percent capacity indoors or 100 people outdoors. The limit on private gatherings remains at 10 for indoors and 25 outdoors with distancing and masking protocols in place. However, health officials continue to recommend not gathering indoors. While many restrictions that were in place under ‘Red-Control’ will continue, locations such as restaurants and bars may now remain open until 10 p.m. Additionally, dancing, singing, karaoke and musical performances are allowed with restrictions. Movie theatres and performance venues can also reopen with a limit of 50 people indoors and a number of restrictions in place, including masking, screening and collection of contact information. Despite the numbers trending in the right direction, Mayor Darrin Canniff said now is not the time to be complacent. “The more people that get vaccinated, the better off we’ll be,” said Canniff. “The light is at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine. We just need to be patient for another few months and, hopefully, most of this will be behind us after that.” On February 26, a third COVID-19 vaccine, “AstraZeneca,” was approved by Health Canada. A fourth vaccine, being developed by Johnson & Johnson, is still awaiting approval. “I’m really hoping that Health Canada approves it soon,” said Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, “A single-dose product that only needs refrigeration; wow, we can really work with that and get it distributed in a widespread way. The vaccines that need freezing are very effective, but they’re cumbersome to transport and to deal with.” Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
Toronto FC can count on roster continuity and an extended training camp in the buildup to the 2021 MLS season. While Monday marked the first day most other teams were able to have their coaches and technical staff on field with players, Toronto has been in camp for close to two weeks — granted extra time to prepare for the Canadian Championship final later this month. New head coach Chris Armas likes what he sees in terms of commitment to his style of play, which promises to be more aggressive and pressing. "It's been a great nine, maybe 10 training sessions over the course of two weeks," Armas said Monday in just his third meeting with media since his Jan. 13 appointment. "It's a heck of a group to work with." Should it get past CPL title-holder Forge FC in the Canadian Championship final, whose date and venue has yet to be announced, TFC will play Mexico's Club Leon on April 7 and 14 in a two-legged Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 series. The MLS regular season kicks off April 17, with TFC expected to take up residency in the U.S. again due to the pandemic-related border issues that forced it to finish out the 2020 season in East Hartford. Florida is the front-runner, with Orlando and Tampa possible homes away from home. Toronto fans will see a familiar group in action wherever the team plays. The league's 2021 transactions list has just one new face on the TFC docket: 20-year-old Jordan Perruzza, a homegrown forward whose 2021 first-team contract was announced last August. Gone are fullback Tony Gallacher (returned to Liverpool after loan expired), centre back Laurent Ciman (retired, now an assistant coach with CF Montreal) and attacking midfielder/forward Pablo Piatti (option not picked up). Forward Ayo Akinola, who missed a January camp with Canada, is still sidelined with the club yet to detail his condition. “Ayo has a medical condition that we hope to resolve soon," the team said in a statement when asked for specifics. "At this time he has not been given medical clearance by team doctors and will be re-evaluated in mid-March." The 21-year-old had a breakout season last year with nine goals in 15 games. Fellow forward Ifunanyachi Achara, whose promising start as a rookie was derailed by surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament last July, is still rehabbing. Midfielder Nick DeLeon and Brazilian fullback Auro are finishing off quarantine. Winger Tsubasa Endoh "also needs to get healthy," according to Armas. Armas has provided a few more clues to his approach, suggesting captain Michael Bradley will see action further forward and be around the ball more. The 33-year-old Bradley has played as a defensive midfielder in recent years, shielding the backline. The coach says his team will also have flexibility on offence, able to use star striker Jozy Altidore in his traditional role as tip of the TFC spear or play with two strikers. Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo is being asked to stay closer to Altidore. Armas reports that forward Patrick Mullins has looked dangerous in camp while little-used Venezuelan winger Erickson Gallardo has also started well. "We're trying to create more clarity for him and utilize his weapons — his ability to run and challenge backlines," he said of Gallardo, who failed to find his niche under former coach Greg Vanney. "We see something there. And Jacob Shaffelburg the same." Altidore has been "working his ass off" for the team in training, according to Armas. Altidore's future became a topic of conversation again after U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter's comments in late January about transfer interest in the 31-year-old. Armas indicated Monday that he wants to put that issue to bed, saying the likes of Altdore have helped fill the club's trophy case. "I'm seeing a winner every day show up and commit big-time to the team and himself," Armas said. With Ciman gone, Eriq Zavaleta is the lone veteran backing up centre backs Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga. "We think there's some interesting things there but we need a little more time to assess what's going to be the most reliable cover," said Armas. With CONCACAF Olympic and World Cup qualifying play both starting later this month, Armas is also in negotiations with Canada Soccer coaches. The first domino to fall is the Canadian Championship, he suggested, with everything from date and venue to roster size as factors to be considered. Anther key question is how long players who are released for international duty will be sidelined due to quarantine upon their return. Injuries will also play a part. "We are going to factor in Canada, we're going to factor in the player and then our club," said Armas. "I don't have clarity at the moment. I will in another week or so," he added. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Twitter said it would apply warnings to tweets that contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and implement a strike system of enforcement that could see users permanently banned for repeat violations. The social media network started promoting public health information before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It also aimed to remove demonstrably false or misleading content about the virus that had the highest risk of causing harm.
WINNIPEG — Manitoba has released a report showing COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Indigenous, Black and other people of colour in the province. “This is systemic and it is seen in every jurisdiction,” Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said Monday. Roussin said the province’s race and ethnicity data show a similar pattern to information in other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world. He said it’s not about people in communities making bad choices. COVID-19 infections are largely linked to pre-existing inequities, including in housing and employment. “We know people in (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities are more likely to live in lower income neighbourhoods, live in overcrowded and multi-generational households,” Roussin said. “They are also more likely to have low-wage occupations.” The report compiled Manitoba infections data from May 1 to Dec. 31, 2020. Fifty-one per cent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 self-identified as Black, Indigenous or of colour, but 35 per cent of people in Manitoba belong to that group. The report said North American Indigenous people made up 17 per cent of infections, despite representing about 13 per cent of the overall population. Black and African people, accounting for four per cent of the population, made up eight per cent of positive tests. Filipino people also had significant infection rates — 12 per cent of cases, while representing seven per cent of the population. South Asian people, three per cent of the population, made up eight per cent of positive cases. The report noted that white people experienced less COVID-19 than would be expected based on population size. On Monday, Manitoba reported one more death and 35 new cases of the novel coronavirus. The province brought in significant restrictions last fall that shut down restaurants and limited group sizes after a surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The number of new cases has significantly dropped in recent weeks. The five-day test positivity rate was at 3.9 per cent provincially and three per cent for Winnipeg. The provincial government has indicated that details on what public-health restrictions are to be further loosened are to be provided Tuesday. Roussin said it’s important to take a cautious approach. “We are going to gradually reopen and stay open.” Vaccines also became available for the general population in Manitoba last week based on age. Roussin said the rollout has expanded to include people born in 1930 and earlier and First Nations people born in 1950 and earlier. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021 Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months as it ramps up its age-based immunization plan to free up doses so all residents could get their initial shot by July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday the change is based on the "miraculous" protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.'s decision, which is also based on similar data from Quebec and countries including Israel and the United Kingdom. Starting Monday, health authorities will contact residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call a central number to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over. People 80 and up will have a chance to book their time-slot on March 22. Those between 60 and 79 as well as people 16 and up who are medically vulnerable are expected to get their shots starting in mid-April by registering for an appointment online. Henry said first responders and essential workers, including teachers, may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine, with the first shipment expected to arrive in B.C. next week. "We've had a number of places in communities around the province where we've had outbreaks. We can think about things like poultry workers (and) people who work in some of our mail distribution centres," she said. While people will be able to choose whether they want the AstraZeneca vaccine or wait their turn for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, Henry said people should go with what is available first. Premier John Horgan urged people to continue taking precautions — such as wearing masks, practising physical distancing and staying home when sick — aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 as vaccines become available. "We have months to go and I want British Columbians to take the good news we're hearing today with the joy that it deserves. But we need to remind ourselves not just today, but next week and next month, that we have a long way to go," he said. Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the province's vaccination plan, said about 400,000 people are expected to be vaccinated by early April but that number could rise because 70,000 more first doses will be available by stretching out the time before second doses are administered. Ballem said it's important for people to call for an appointment only when it is their turn, or when the person they're calling for is eligible for vaccination in order to prevent call centres from being overwhelmed as has happened in other jurisdictions. Information that will be required includes a birth date, personal health number and a postal code to connect people to the right health authority, she said, adding that an online booking system will be operating by mid-April. "That, in and of itself, is a major, major step forward in our vaccination program," she said of the system that will also help track real-time vaccine effectiveness. — By Camille Bains in Vancouver This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has eased slightly more restrictions tied to COVID-19. Libraries can now open at 15 per cent capacity and gyms can now host indoors low-impact group activities, like Pilates and tai chi. Kenney had been expected to ease rules in other areas, such as retail capacity and hotels, but he says the COVID numbers have hit a plateau and they need more time to assess just to be safe.
Mass vaccinations will be the key to controlling a potential third wave in Chatham-Kent, says the region’s top doctor. Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said the highly transmissible variants are keeping public health officials on their toes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other health officials have warned a third wave could be the worst yet, but Dr. David Colby remains optimistic. “I really think that widespread vaccination will have a significant impact to blunt the effect of the third wave,” said Colby. “The worrying factor are these variants, and that’s really what is fueling the speculation about a third wave.” Colby said there are three variants of concern. “The common variant, the B.1.1.7 variant, remains susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccines that we have,” said Colby. “We need to push ahead with our vaccination program and get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can.” The interval between the first and second doses is 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. However, Colby said it could be up to 45 days as there isn’t an exact answer for how long a person can go between receiving the first and second dose. “There isn’t an exact answer, we have an agreed-upon regimen for these COVID vaccines, which is up to 45 days, but the Ontario government does not want to go out that far with the elderly population,” said Colby. He added that most of the protection happens with the first dose, while the second dose is to consolidate protection and ensure that it lasts for a longer time. “All I can say is that there’s a great deal of protection that’s afforded for quite a while with even one dose of any of the vaccines,” said Colby. On Feb. 23, the John D. Bradley Convention Centre opened its vaccination clinic. There were 700 appointments for health-care workers and essential caregivers on the first two days. Colby said the clinic is running smoothly. “It’s such an important step for Chatham-Kent,” said Colby. “The Bradley Centre clinic is really doing very, very well, and they hit the ground running.” While he could not go into detail regarding more vaccine shipments, Colby said we’re heading in the right direction. “All indicators that we have right now point to the fact that vaccine supplies will be stable or increasing over the next while,” said Colby. Meanwhile, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance CEO Lori Marshall is warning the public about recent robocalls claiming to be for booking vaccinations. These calls can be dangerous as they are really aimed at collecting people’s personal information. She said these calls are not official and should be ignored. Marshall said a live person will make all vaccination booking calls. “People will be contacted by a live person, and no one should be giving out their personal information like social insurance numbers and those kinds of things on the phone,” said Marshall. CK Public Health said Chatham-Kent Police are aware of the issue, and there is no need to report these calls to them at this time. Colby said people who can’t travel to Chatham would have an opportunity to get vaccinated at pop-up clinics across the municipality when they are set up. Paramedics will be vaccinating individuals who are housebound when they’re identified through their doctors. The homeless population falls under Phase 2. Additionally, Colby said there are mechanisms in place to get to those who are missed. Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s prime minister-designate has found himself in a difficult diplomatic position ahead of taking the post following his country’s diplomatic ties with Israel. Albin Kurti of the Self-Determination Movement party, or Vetevendosje!, is expected to be Kosovo’s next prime minister after his party won the Feb. 14 parliamentary election. On Monday, Kurti met with the Turkish ambassador in Pristina, and Kosovo’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem was among the topics of discussion. “The place where the embassy will be located is to be considered following checking of the documentation of the outgoing government,” said a statement issued after the talks. On Feb. 1, Kosovo established diplomatic ties with Israel and decided to open an embassy in Jerusalem — becoming the first European country and Muslim-majority one to make such plans. It followed the U.S. and Guatemala in doing so. Most countries’ embassies are in Tel Aviv. Kosovo's decision was taken when outgoing Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti met with Serb President Aleksandar Vucic at the White House in September with then-President Donald Trump. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Kosovo that the move could damage future relations with his country. “I believe that it would be beneficial to avoid such a move that would cause great damage to Kosovo,” Erdogan said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote that “I attach much importance to Kosovo’s decision to open its embassy in Jerusalem and I look forward to hosting you in Israel for its inauguration.” The letters sent in February were published by Kurti’s spokesman, Perparim Kryeziu, on his Facebook page as part of congratulations from world leaders on his victory. Last week, Kosovo sent its ambassador to Israel. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed, as the capital of a future state. Most of the international community doesn't recognize the Israeli annexation of east Jerusalem and says the competing claims to the city should be resolved through negotiations. Kosovo’s Parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after a U.S.-led 78-day NATO airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians — most of whom are Muslim — in Kosovo. Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China have not. ——- Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey. Zenel Zhinipotoku And Llazar Semini, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for the Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States says there's evidence showing the case against her is "manifestly unreliable" and he wants that evidence admitted to the record. Meng Wanzhou's lawyer Frank Addario says emails between staff at the telecom giant and international bank HSBC show the bank was well aware that Huawei controlled another company called Skycom, therefore Meng wasn't responsible for any violation of U.S. sanctions again Iran by the bank. He told the B.C. Supreme Court hearing that staff at HSBC knew that Skycom was sold to Canicula, that Canicula was Skycom's parent company and that Huawei controlled the Canicula account. Addario is asking the judge to admit affidavits including emails and bank account information into evidence to support the defence team's case at Meng's committal hearing, to be heard in May. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in 2018 on a request by U.S. officials who allege she misrepresented the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, causing HSBC to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Both she and Huawei deny the allegations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose televised coronavirus briefings won plaudits last spring, is now fighting for his political life amid accusations of sexual harassment, bullying and undercounting virus deaths connected to the state's nursing homes. Here's a look at the trio of challenges faced by the three-term Democrat: ___ SEXUAL HARASSMENT New York's attorney general was empowered Monday to choose an independent investigator to probe allegations of sexual harassment by at least two women who worked for Cuomo. Former economic development adviser Lindsey Boylan, 36, first accused Cuomo of harassment on Twitter in December, saying he had made inappropriate comments about her appearance. Her initial, nonspecific accusations initially seemed barely to dent Cuomo's reputation. But in a Feb. 24 Medium post she elaborated, saying Cuomo once kissed her on the lips without her consent and suggested on another occasion that the two of them should play strip poker. Boylan said that during her more than three years in Cuomo's administration, the governor “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs" and commented that she looked like a woman he'd been reported to have dated. Cuomo denied Boylan's allegations, calling them "just not true.” Then, a second former staffer, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times in a story posted online Saturday that Cuomo had asked inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men. Bennett said Cuomo told her he was lonely since breaking up with TV food personality Sandra Lee and wanted a girlfriend. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. Cuomo released a statement Sunday saying some of his behaviour with women “may have been insensitive or too personal” but suggesting that he meant no harm. "I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” Cuomo said. The statement struck critics as a tone-deaf failure to admit wrongdoing. “That’s not an apology,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a frequent Cuomo antagonist, said Monday. “He seemed to be saying, 'Oh, I was just kidding around.' You know, sexual harassment is not funny. It’s serious.” New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat and sometime Cuomo ally, will choose an investigator to examine his workplace behaviour. ___ NURSING HOMES Last spring, as the coronavirus raged through New York's nursing homes, some critics questioned whether the state had made things worse by telling homes they had to accept recovering COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals. Cuomo's administration, and top hospital officials, have insisted the policy wasn't a factor in the spread of the virus and saved lives by freeing up hospital beds. But in the face of criticism, it withheld information about the true death toll among nursing home patients. For months, the state's count of nursing home dead excluded people who died after being transferred to hospitals. An Associated Press investigation last year concluded that the state could be understating nursing home deaths by as much as 65%. James, the attorney general, issued a report in late January estimating the state's count was off by 50%. The state’s official death toll in long-term care facilities now stands at over 15,000, up from the roughly 9,000 previously disclosed. Cuomo's top aide, Melissa De Rosa, told legislators recently that the administration had withheld the full data from the public because it was worried it would “be used against us.” ___ BULLYING Among the critics of Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths was state Assembly member Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat who said an uncle of his died in a nursing home and he wanted answers. Kim told reporters that when Cuomo called him on Feb. 11 to complain about a quote he’d given to the New York Post, the conversation devolved into threats. Kim said Cuomo berated him and threatened to “destroy” him if he didn’t get the newspaper to retract statements he had made faulting Cuomo. Cuomo staff members denied that the governor had threatened to “destroy” Kim. His spokesperson, who was listening to the Feb. 11 call, called Kim a liar and said the governor was just trying to defend himself against a false accusation. But critics of the governor's hard-charging style said Kim's accusation had the ring of truth. “A number of your colleagues in the media will tell you about calls where they were berated and belittled," de Blasio told a reporter. "It’s something that a lot of people in New York state have known about for a long time. I can’t get into the why. That’s a deeper question, I can only say it’s a very unfortunate way to treat people.” State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat and frequent Cuomo critic, said she’d been subjected to the governor’s pressure tactics, too. “They have said things to me and sent ominous messages to me and the governor himself has made threatening remarks to me,” said Biaggi, whose district includes Bronx and Westchester. Karen Matthews, The Associated Press
Vaccine doses for the Pfzier-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be administered 16 weeks, or four months, apart in British Columbia.
ASHFORD, Conn. — A police investigation into the fire that tore through the Hole in the Wall Gang camp for seriously ill children in Connecticut could not determine the cause but found no indication it was set intentionally, officials said Monday. The Feb. 12 fire at the Ashford camp, which was founded by the late actor Paul Newman, destroyed buildings including a large wood-frame structure that was made to look like the centre of an old western town. The investigation was closed with the cause of the blaze listed as undetermined. “Due to the catastrophic damage caused by the fire, the exact area of fire origin could not be identified,” Connecticut State Police said in a news release. “It is the opinion of investigators that the fire started in one area, however, and quickly spread through the buildings that comprised the camp’s Main Street area and housed the wood working shop, the arts and crafts area, the camp store and the cooking zone.” The camp plans to replace the lost structures with a larger, single-level complex. The camp was built in 1988 to accommodate about 300 children each summer. The charity now serves about 20,000 kids a year on site and through community and hospital-based programing. The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida officials are recommending that the state's antiquated unemployment processing system be replaced after a review confirmed what had long been known: a broken system full of glitches that was incapable of handling the unprecedented deluge of jobless claims spawned by the coronavirus outbreak. The state's Department of Economic Opportunity is recommending that the current system, known as CONNECT, be discarded and replaced with a more robust and modern system that employs cloud-based technology that could allow the system to more nimbly respond to increased demands. The department, which oversees the state's unemployment system, is asking lawmakers for $73 million over the next two years to modernize the system that left hundreds of thousands of jobless Floridians without unemployment checks for weeks and sometimes months. The director of the agency, Dane Eagle, told lawmakers Monday that Florida was not alone in its struggles. “We are far behind in where we need to be,” he said. “Florida is not the only state to experience these challenges." But as the unemployment rate surged when businesses closed, Florida was among the slowest states — if not the slowest — in getting unemployment checks to those with no other income to pay mortgages, rents and other necessities. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who likened the benefits claim system to an “old jalopy” breaking down at the Daytona 500, ordered the inspector general to investigate. The Economic Opportunity Department launched a review of its own, and the results were presented Monday to the legislative select committee on pandemic preparedness and response. The report makes clear that the system was neither prepared nor responsive at a time of crisis, when some 1.3 million Floridians, at the peak of unemployment in April, tried to access benefits through online portals that continually crashed or phone systems that only added to frustrations. The long awaited inspector general’s report could be released in a matter of weeks. The inspector general’s findings are current being reviewed by economic opportunity officials. The CONNECT system prompted concern from the start. Soon after the online portal launched in October 2013, it was beset by system crashes that prevented people from claiming benefits. Despite previous audits that identified numerous glitches, many of the problems were never addressed. Those same system failures prevented people from accessing the system. Critics warned that the system was doomed to fail. “Unfortunately, as it turns out, we were absolutely correct," said Democratic state Rep. Evan Jenne, the House minority co-leader. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3.1 million people have filed unemployment claims in Florida. The state has paid out more than $23.1 billion in benefits — less than a fourth of that from the state's reemployment assistance program. The rest of the funds came from federal pandemic relief packages, some of it earmarked to supplement meagre unemployment checks and to provide benefits to gig workers and others who were not eligible for traditional state benefits. The state's electronic portal was initially unable to process claims filed by freelancers and other independent contractors, adding to confusion, frustration and anger. The state eventually put in place a parallel electronic system to handle claims from nontraditional workers. In fact the state's electronic portal was so overwhelmed that state officials reverted to filing claims on paper forms. As part of its just-completed review, the Department of Economic Opportunity is also asking lawmakers for authority to establish an Office of Accountability and Transparency, but it was unclear in a presentation submitted to the pandemic committee exactly what its role would be. In addition, it wants to create a Reemployment Assistance Modernization Strategic Planning Office to oversee the modernization effort. The new money requested by the Economic Opportunity Department adds to the $39 million COVID-19-related outlays in its current year budget. The $73 billion being requested for the next two years would nearly double the department’s budget during the same time period. A more modest $8 million is also being requested to supplement the department's typical annual budget of $41.3 million in the three years after. Before the pandemic, the Reemployment Assistance System budget was about $12 million annually. Meanwhile, the state’s Unemployment Benefit Trust Fund has been dramatically depleted. Its balance is now just $777 million -- less than a fifth of the $4 billion it had before the pandemic. Bobby Caina Calvan, The Associated Press
MILAN — Fashion is off the hamster wheel, taking a deep breath that is allowing some freshness to seep into the once relentless cycle. “It is so weird thinking about fashion, and the kind of hamster wheel of fashion, and how we never had a break and always complained about it,’’ Marc Jacobs said during a Milan Fashion Week video chat with Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons post-digital show. “And then you get a break, and you complain.” Instead, he said, he was taking the moment to watch others, and be inspired. Milan Fashion Week of mostly womenswear previews for next fall and winter wrapped a nearly all-digital edition on Monday. Only one designer — Daniel Del Core, marking his brand's debut — held a live runway show for a small number of guests. While the bustle of live shows with the parade of itinerant fashionistas decamping from New York to London, Milan and finally Paris was missed, designers also were stimulated by the slower pace of the pandemic-era fashion cycle. Austrian designer Arthur Arbesser shrank his collection to just 25 looks, which he presented in visits to his Milan studio and video calls, opting out of a digital runway show. For the creations, he upcycled textiles from previous collections that had been stashed in a studio cubbyhole. The designer revitalized them either by printing a new design on the other side, in the case of a pretty pleated skirt, or printing over the original with a different pattern, in the case of a black architectural detailing over a striped cotton. Arbesser said the enforced quiet of the COVID-19-era restrictions, along with the necessity of saving money, pushed other creative forces to the fore. He and his team created a patchwork mini-dress out of cotton, silk and technical nylon, and they experimented with Shibori hand-dying for a wool mini skirt. The collection bears Arbesser’s love of prints, this season’s inspired by an actual painter’s palette that he picked up at a flea market, which he mashes up with geometrical patterns and materials that range from soft silk jersey to wool to knits. “I felt it was important to keep writing this story, my little story, keep adding chapters,’’ Arbesser said of his 8-year-old brand. “I am happy that even doing something so reduced, so little, while at the same time producing quality, you can still be seen, you can actually sell your production.” Global masters Dolce&Gabbana took a technological leap forward with a no-holds-barred, youth-inspired collection featuring technical textiles in bold hues intermingled with hologram finishes, metallic glimmers and even multi-colored Styrofoam beads, for a feast of colorful confections. The 140 looks included some reinterpretations of Domenico Dolce and Stefan Gabbana’s iconic pieces — including Madonna’s bejeweled bodysuit and corsets worn by dancers in Prince’s “Cream” video — from the early days when Dolce&Gabbana helped define the bold sexiness of the 1990s. The result was a mix of Dolce&Gabbana’s trademark tailoring, often under strands of layered pearls and gold, alongside more futuristic elements that bely our new protective bearing: elaborate eye shields, plastic sneaker coverings and transparent slickers. Underlining this leap forward, a humanoid robot developed by the Italian Institute of Technology acted as master of ceremonies for the digital runway show. “The collection is a tribute to this generation that asks us about the 1990s,” Dolce said during an in-person presentation of the looks at the designers' showroom. The designers said the younger generation’s idea of sexy is much freer of preconceived notions than in the past, meaning men can wear lace T-shirts without a second thought. “It has nothing to do with sexuality,’’ Gabbana said. “It is almost a euphemism; it’s about pleasing themselves.” Giorgio Armani staged separate digital men's and women's collections in his own theatre both around a replica of a gorilla statue dubbed Uri that has been part of his personal home decor for decades. This green version of Uri evoked the designer's support of wildlife preservation, but also echoed the collections' ties to the natural world. Prints and designs that can be interpreted as leaves, or water lilies, or simple sea creatures, provided the motif for elegantly relaxed looks. The fashion world also paid tribute to creative colleagues in the theatre, which have been mostly empty in Italy since the start of the pandemic. Pierpaolo Piccioli staged the Valentino Fall/Winter 2020/21 collection live to empty seats in Milan’s Piccolo Theater, while the singer Cosima hauntingly intoned Sinead O’Conner’s lyrics: “It’s been so lonely without you here.” The Valentino collection was a sombre affair, fitting the moment. It featured tailored jackets that have been reconstructed into capes, layered with pointy-collared white shirts, skin-fitting tops with seemingly hand-cut holes. For women, there was a movement in flouncy miniskirts peeking out of jacket hems, while feminine flourishes like ruffles on shirts were employed with discipline. Accessories featured studded bags and boots. Milan designer Francesca Liberatore had planned an extravagant show in a Milan theatre with holographic effects, but decided against it in solidarity with theatre creatives who can't occupy that space. “I had the moral problem. How could I do a show in a theatre at this moment when artists themselves cannot recite in this place?” Liberatore said by phone. Instead, her virtual show featured an actor on an empty stage, and two-dimensional models, like paper dolls, in creations including reinvented trenches in camouflage, representing the state of siege society is living under in the pandemic. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 Monday. Also, the province can now do its own testing for virus variants. Of the 28,801 total known cases to date in the province, 1,551 are considered active. The seven-day average of daily new cases in Saskatchewan is 143 — 11.6 new cases per 100,000 population. The new cases Friday are in the following provincial zones: Far northwest (12). Far north central (three). Far northeast (five). Northwest (14). North central (10). Northeast (two). Saskatoon (33). Central west (one). Central east (14). Regina (53). Southeast (two). There are currently 151 people in hospital in the province due to COVID-19, of whom 21 are in intensive care. The province also reported 146 new recoveries. There have been 26,865 known recoveries in total. To date, 578,066 COVID-19 tests have been processed in Saskatchewan, 1,741 of which were processed on Sunday. Variant testing The Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory (RRPL) has completed the validation process to support whole genome sequencing, according to the province. This means that Saskatchewan now has the capacity to test whether a positive COVID-19 case is a variant of concern. Up until now, the province has sent its samples to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for sequencing. Starting immediately, the RRPL has the capacity to test up to 192 samples per week, according the province. Saskatchewan will continue to send up to 120 COVID-19 case samples per week to Manitoba in order to ensure a larger sample size. The province said the RRPL will continue to focus whole genome sequencing testing on COVID-positive results linked to international travel, declared outbreaks and cases of unexpected severe illness, as well as a random sampling of confirmed cases. 386 vaccinations There were 386 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered Sunday in Saskatchewan, according to the province. To date, a total of 79,289 shots have been administered. The 386 doses were administered in the northwest (124) and north central (262) zones. There were an additional 677 doses administered in the far northeast (22), northwest (212), central east (120) and southeast (323) zones from Feb. 25 to 27. CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
B.C. is moving into the second phase of its immunization plan, vaccinating seniors in the community aged 80 and up over the course of this month. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said the second dose of the three approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—will be delayed to four months or 16 weeks, to provide more protection to more people sooner. Henry said the initial dose provides “a very high level of real-world protection.” In Phase 2, more than 400,000 people in B.C. will receive their first vaccine dose from March to early April, including: • seniors and high-risk people residing in independent living and seniors' supportive housing (including staff); • home-care support clients and staff; • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older); and • seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older). Today, first-dose immunizations begin for those living and working in independent living centres and seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff. Health authorities will directly contact those in this priority group to book appointments—there is no need to call. Beginning Monday (March 8), seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous peoples aged 65+ who are not living in independent living or seniors' supportive housing can make one call to book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule. This is to avoid long waits and system overload. Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15: • March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; • March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and • March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment. Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for yourself, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available on March 8, here: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst "We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We are working hard each and every day to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccine gets one, and my new provincial health officer order significantly expands the range of health professions and occupations who can support our immunization clinics, including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters and retired nurses." For health professionals who want to sign up to support B.C.'s immunization efforts as immunizers, visit: https://forms.hlth.gov.bc.ca/registry-covid-19 Immunizing other priority groups identified in Phase 2, many of whom have already received their first dose, is also underway, including: • Indigenous communities, Indigenous Elders, hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1; • vulnerable populations living and working in select congregate settings; and • staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors. In mid-April, Phase 3 will begin mass vaccination of people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16+ who are extremely clinically vulnerable, at community immunization clinics throughout B.C. Mobile clinics will be available in some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues. In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous peoples born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31. As of last week, 252,373 people in B.C. have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 73,808 who have received their second dose. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have a long way to go.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
The Rideau Waterway Land Trust (RWLT) has launched a fundraising campaign to purchase a large property on Opinicon Lake near Chaffey’s Lock. The 30-hectare (74-acre) piece of land in the heart of the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only World Heritage Site, is also within the Frontenac Arch UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The location provides critical habitat for many species-at-risk, the RWLT said in a release on Monday, Mar. 1, 2021. The Frontenac Arch also provides a “land bridge” that connects the boreal forest of the Canadian Shield to the forests of the Adirondack and Appalachian Mountains. The organization says this link helps to maintain genetic diversity in plant and animal life as our climate continues to undergo change. According to the release, the land abuts provincially significant wetlands, is near the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS), and has been used for scientific research and education. The current owners now wish to sell the land and its acquisition is an ideal project to help the Trust celebrate its 25th year of successful operation. Since it’s incorporation in 1996, the RWLT has been able to preserve 20 significant properties through ownership and conservation easement while expanding its area of interest to include all the communities within the Rideau Corridor from Kingston to Ottawa. If RWLT is successful in this fundraising campaign, they say the property will be added to the Land Trust’s collection. A map of the properties protected by the RWLT can been seen here, and includes the popular Rock Dunder hiking trail near Morton, Ontario. The property up for purchase was once owned by Don and Mary Warren. Don was one of the founders of the Rideau Waterway Land Trust, an educator and activist who led the community’s resistance to the plan to electrify the Rideau Canal’s locks in the 1960s, according to the release. The organization says Mary was an enthusiastic supporter and was instrumental in convincing Don to purchase this property in 1965. The opportunity to establish the Warren Nature Reserve is a fitting tribute to their foresight, RWLT said in the release. RWLT is seeking to raise $120,000 towards the $435,000 project cost by April 2021; all donations will be used to leverage matching government funding. The RWLT expects the government funding to cover 40 per cent of the land acquisition cost, providing they are able to raise the other 60 per cent. RWLT has a very short timeframe to raise these funds, and say any and all donations from local communities would be greatly appreciated. Anyone interested can learn more about this project at www.rwlt.org/warren. Donations can be made at www.rwlt.org/donate, noting “Warren Property” in the donation comments. All donations will receive a charitable receipt. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
REGINA — Saskatchewan's finance minister says it's going to be tough to eliminate the province's deficit by 2024 and the government is likely to pick a new goal. Donna Harpauer says the province's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is going slower than hoped. During last fall's provincial election, Premier Scott Moe campaigned on a promise to eliminate Saskatchewan's $2-billion deficit by 2024. He also promised it wouldn't happen through increasing taxes or slashing services. Harpauer says the Saskatchewan Party government believes in having a plan for eliminating the deficit, but it won't make irresponsible cuts to meet its goal. She says with a slower economic recovery, it's going to be "very, very difficult" to get back to balance by 2024. Harpauer says more will be said about the deficit when the 2021-22 budget is presented April 6. "We still haven't taken in our final projections, so I guess there's a faint hope," she told The Canadian Press on Monday. "The way the projections are coming in, in all good likelihood, we'll have to change that goalpost." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021 The Canadian Press