When you have to clear this much snow you find ways to have fun with it.
When you have to clear this much snow you find ways to have fun with it.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it intercepted a missile attack over its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on Yemen’s rebel Houthis. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s yearslong war announced the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan, with a fourth toward another southwestern city and other drones being monitored. No casualties or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis. The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019. The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV broadcast footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile. Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in “a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.” The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.” Flight-tracking websites showed a number of flights scheduled to land at Riyadh’s international airport diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack. A civil defence spokesman, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said scattered debris resulted in material damage to one house, though no one was hurt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks. The Houthis overran Yemen’s capital and much of the country's north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign. __ Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report. Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask President Joe Biden to consider sharing part of the U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply with its poorer southern neighbor when the two leaders hold a virtual summit on Monday, U.S. and Mexican officials said. Biden is open to discussing the matter as part of a broader regional effort to cooperate in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but will maintain as his “number one priority” the need to first vaccinate as many Americans as possible, a White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Lopez Obrador has been one of the most vocal leaders in the developing world pressing the richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to the vaccines.
Security forces battling a decades-long insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir are alarmed by the recent arrival in the disputed region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan. "Sticky bombs", which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, three senior security officials told Reuters. "These are small IEDs and quite powerful," said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Schalke fired coach Christian Gross on Sunday after two months in charge along with three senior club staff in a desperate bid to avoid Bundesliga relegation. The Gelsenkirchen-based club is last in the league and nine points from safety with 11 rounds remaining. Gross was fired a day after a 5-1 loss at Stuttgart, leaving Schalke looking for its fifth coach of a turbulent season. The 66-year-old Swiss coach arrived in December with more than 30 years of coaching experience around the world, including a spell with Tottenham in 1997 and 1998, but hadn’t coached in Europe since 2012. He led the team to its only win of the season to end a 30-game winless run in the Bundesliga, but couldn't build on that, with Schalke earning two points from nine games since then. David Wagner was fired as coach in September before his successor Manuel Baum followed in December. The team played two games under stand-in coach Huub Stevens before appointing Gross. Sporting director Jochen Schneider, who was due to leave at the end of the season, was also fired, as was the team co-ordinator Sascha Riether and lead fitness coach Werner Leuthard. Schneider on Saturday denied reports of mutiny within the squad amid reports that several players had asked for Gross to be replaced. Schalke didn't name a new coach and said Monday's training session would be conducted by fitness coaches. The club said Peter Knäbel, who heads the youth department, would take over Schneider's sporting director role until further notice, with “a view to planning for the new season”, a sign the club is preparing for its first season in the second tier since 1991. Former Germany striker Gerald Asamoah moves up from overseeing the under-23 team into Riether's co-ordinator role. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Canadian Community Services Organization handout - image credit) Volunteers masked up outside Flemingdon Health Centre on Saturday to hand out free healthy snack kits, along with masks and hand sanitizer, for hundreds of the neighbourhood's children. Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people live close together in the community in high-rise buildings. Many of the residents are racialized, living off low incomes and working essential jobs — all of which puts them at increased risk for catching and spreading the virus. The kits are a gesture of support for struggling parents, and the reaction has been "amazing," said Masood Alam, president of the Canadian Community Services Organization, a volunteer effort which launched back in April in response to the pandemic and only recently incorporated into a non-profit. "We started with 50 families," Alam said. "Now, they're helping us out… volunteering with us." To date, he said the group has distributed 2,500 adult masks and 900 kid masks. Moving forward, the Kids Healthy Snacks Drive will provide 300 children weekly with healthy snacks and personal protective equipment, including more masks for their parents. It's a small but meaningful volunteer initiative, and Saturday's efforts were bolstered by the latest report from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. WATCH | COVID-19 means sacrifices, stress for residents of Thorncliffe neighbourhood The provincial group released a report Friday recommending vaccines be distributed based not just on age but neighbourhoods too. The recommendation stems from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 "on residents of disadvantaged and racialized urban neighbourhoods throughout the province," said the report. "This vaccine strategy will maximize the prevention of deaths … and best maintain health-care system capacity." Per expert projections, a strategy involving age and neighbourhoods could prevent an additional 3,767 cases, as well as 168 deaths, compared with a strategy that prioritizes based on age alone. "There's a big need in this community," said Alam, who added that the group is also trying to spread awareness about the vaccine "to help the community be ready to get [vaccinated]." Ahmed Hussein, executive director of The Neighbourhood Association, is one of the community advocates who's been pushing for the prioritization of vulnerable communities like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park. "The science advisory group really followed the science so that's the logical thing," he said. "We hope the government will do that." A neighbourhood approach makes sense as part of a public health approach, said Jen Quinlan, the chief executive officer at Flemingdon Health Centre. "You want to make sure you can vaccinate and address the pandemic in the quickest way, and in my opinion it only makes sense to start with those who are most vulnerable to negative health outcomes," Quinlan said. She said she understands that conversations around vaccine access are "very sensitive" and that many people are concerned and worried the rollout isn't fast enough. However, Quinlan said, the stakes are different for Torontonians who are able to work from home safely and haven't seen a big drop in income throughout the pandemic. "Many Torontonians are not in that position," she said. "They're delivering your food, they're stocking your grocery aisles, they're packing all of your Amazon orders, and if we want to address the spread of COVID-19 across Toronto we should start with those who are most likely to spread it and who are most exposed." WATCH | The push to prioritize some neighbourhoods for COVID-19 vaccines Until neighbourhood residents start getting injected with the vaccine, Quinlan said a key part of the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park approach is encouraging more people to get tested. They're even using decommissioned TTC buses to set up testing facilities in the parking lots at the base of high-rise apartment buildings, she said. Despite the fatigue after a long winter under stay-at-home orders, Quinlan said she's "really proud of community leaders" and intends to "keep public health messaging alive and well."
Saudi Arabia's sovereignty is a red line, Saudi columnists said on Sunday, ramping up rhetoric in defense of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a U.S. intelligence report implicated him in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Mohammed, de facto ruler of the U.S.-allied Gulf powerhouse, has denied any involvement in the 2018 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia lawmakers gave final approval Saturday to a bill that will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales of the drug would also begin. With a compromise bill clearing the House and Senate, Virginia becomes the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The legislation now goes to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports legalization. The bill was a top priority for Democrats, who framed legalization as a necessary step to end the disparate treatment of people of colour under current marijuana laws. But talks between Democrats in the House and Senate grew tense in recent days, and a compromise version of the massive bill did not emerge publicly until late Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would say that we’re on the path to an equitable law allowing responsible adults to use cannabis,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, the chief sponsor of the Senate bill. Several Democrats said they hoped Northam would send the legislation back to them with amendments, including speeding up the date for legalization. “If we have already made the decision that simple possession should be repealed, we could have done that today and ended the disproportionate fines on communities of colour,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan. “Let's be absolutely clear — this bill is not legalization, and there are a lot of steps between here and legalization,” she said. Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said the governor “looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation.” “There's still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities and reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” she said. Under the legislation, possession of up to an ounce (28.3 grams) of marijuana will become legal beginning Jan. 1, 2024, at the same time sales will begin and regulations will go into effect to control the marijuana marketplace in Virginia. Under a provision Senate Democrats insisted on, the legislation will include a reenactment clause that will require a second vote from the General Assembly next year, but only on the regulatory framework and criminal penalties for several offences, including underage use and public consumption of marijuana. A second vote will not be required on legalization. The Senate had sought to legalize simple possession this year to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana, but House Democrats argued that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market. Lawmakers last year decriminalized marijuana, making simple possession a civil penalty that can be punished by a fine of no more than $25. House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said that while the legislation isn’t perfect, it was a “justice bill.” “This moves us in a ... direction to strike down and to address those institutional barriers, and over-policing, over-arrests, over-convictions of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than our white counterparts, but we seem to get the brunt of criminal convictions,” Herring said. A recent study by the legislature’s research and watchdog agency found that from 2010-2019, the average arrest rate of Black individuals for marijuana possession was 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate for white individuals. The study also found that Black people were convicted at a rate 3.9 times higher than white people. The bill calls for dedicating 30% of marijuana tax revenue — after program costs — to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The money would be used to help communities that have been historically over-policed for marijuana crimes, with funds going toward scholarships, workforce development and job placement services, and low- or no-interest loans for qualified cannabis businesses. Virginians who have a marijuana-related conviction, have family members with a conviction, or live in an area that is economically distressed could qualify as social equity applicants who would get preference for licenses to get into the marijuana marketplace as cultivators, wholesalers, processors and retailers. The largest portion of the tax revenue from marijuana sales would go toward funding pre-K for at-risk kids. The bill drew sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and and other racial justice advocacy groups. “Today, the Virginia General Assembly failed to legalize marijuana for racial justice. Lawmakers paid lip service to the communities that have suffered decades of harm caused by the racist War on Drugs with legislation that falls short of equitable reform and delays justice,” the ACLU said in a tweet. Groups that opposed legalization entirely have said they are concerned that it could result in an increase in drug-impaired driving crashes and the use of marijuana among youth. Republican lawmakers spoke against the measure Saturday night, saying such a critical issue deserved a less rushed approach. “I would say there are not more than two or three members of this body that have a clue about the comprehensiveness of what this bill does,” said Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment. Denise Lavoie And Sarah Rankin, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding and mind foggy from his yearlong battle with COVID-19, he wonders when a clinic to treat his symptoms might emerge in Atlantic Canada. "My fear is that I'm going to be like this forever," the 50-year-old Halifax resident said in a recent interview. The issue of a lack of timely treatment for the so-called "long haulers" — people who suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath and physical exhaustion months after their first bout of the illness — has been raised across the country by support groups. Specialized clinics have opened in Western and Central Canada, in some instances offering access to occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses and referrals to specialists. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service announced the formation of a network of 60 such clinics in December. However, on Canada's East Coast, patients say they are still searching for a similar, one-stop site to treat symptoms that range from difficulty drawing a breath to tingling pain in their limbs. "In Atlantic Canada, we're at the mercy of how well we've done containing the virus, leading to our low numbers of infected patients," Hoskin said. "It's had an impact on what we can expect to see from the provincial government in terms of specialized clinics." International studies currently predict about 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients develop longer term symptoms. In Atlantic Canada, where about 4,100 cases have been officially documented, this suggests long haulers may eventually number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands expected in larger provinces. But Hoskin argues the lower infection rates shouldn't mean he and others are left to rely solely on family doctors, who may be unaware of how to treat their symptoms, while they spend months awaiting appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists. In New Brunswick, which is fighting a second wave of infections that emerged earlier in the year, Emily Bodechon says she has largely assembled her own treatment effort. "While it's great that our COVID-19 case count is low, it's not been great as a patient to find out nobody knows how to treat you," she said in an interview last week. Almost a year since her infection, the 45-year-old health worker still has respiratory issues, searing headaches and "brain fog" that makes it hard to process new information. Bodechon sought online information from a post-COVID-19 clinic in New York and took part in video calls for patient information. "I went through a six-week program on my own, and it was the most helpful thing I had," she said. She said she hopes provincial governments in the region collaborate to set up centralized clinics that employ telemedicine, so that she can actually speak to doctors with expertise. In Halifax, a senior physician with Nova Scotia Health says doctors with the province's health authority are turning their attention to potential pilot projects. Dr. Christy Bussey, the medical lead for COVID-19 in-patient care in the authority's central zone, said in an interview on Thursday that in the longer term, family doctors will need training on how to care for the lingering impacts of the illness. But in the short term, she's advocating for a post-COVID-19 clinic, potentially attached to an existing clinic in Fall River, N.S., which already treats people with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. She said she has noticed "a gap in the system for following patients who developed new or ongoing symptoms." The physician added it's too early to know how much additional provincial or national funding is needed for an Atlantic post-COVID-19 clinic, as a formal proposal has yet to be completed, but she argues the need for added resources is evident. "Some of these patients are nearly completely disabled by the symptoms they're having," she said. Dr. Alexis Goth, a lead physician at the Fall River clinic, said the first long haulers are starting to trickle into her clinic. She is hopeful resources can be added to pay for a larger numbers of patients by early summer. She said one model for COVID patients may be an adapted version of an eight-week, Zoom-based treatment the clinic uses for fibromyalgia, an illness that can cause muscle pain, fatigue and sleep issues. She said the online treatment could be combined with one-on-one therapy, making use of the occupational therapist, nurses and other experts at the clinic. Susie Goulding, the leader of a national long-haulers support group, cautions that as new clinics and research projects emerge, they should be open to the many patients who didn't receive a formal diagnosis of COVID-19, often due to a lack of testing in the early months. “Most people don’t have a positive test,” she said in a recent interview. “They should still be included." Meanwhile, Hoskin said he's continuing to search for placement in a research study that includes treatment, finding he still feels like collapsing after a brief trip to buy groceries. "At 50 years old, my heart rate is often at 110 (beats per minute) when I stand up, and I still can't smell and taste other than very basic odours," he said. "We really need to find out what is causing this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
SHANGHAI — Chinese Super League champion Jiangsu FC announced Sunday it would “cease operations” with immediate effect, just three months after winning its first title. Nanjing-based Jiangsu, which is owned by retail giant Suning that also holds a majority stake in Italian league leader Inter Milan, said on social media that it hoped that a new backer could be found after the company pulled out. “Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement,” a Jiangsu FC statement said. “From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.” Suning had reportedly tried to sell Jiangsu, which has debts estimated to be around $90 million. Also folding are Jiangsu’s successful women’s team and various youth teams. Earlier this month, Suning owner Zhang Jindong said the group would cut back on non-retail activities after a difficult year in which revenues had been hit by COVID-19. “We will focus on retail business and close and cut down our businesses that are not connected to businesses,” he said. There have been reports in Italy that Suning, which bought a majority stake in Inter in 2016, is looking to sell the Milan club. Jiangsu will be the second Chinese team to withdraw from the Asian Champions League that kicks off in April. Shandong Luneng was kicked out of the competition for breaching rules regarding outstanding salary payments. There are concerns that Jiangsu may soon be followed by Tianjin Tigers. Club owner Teda has cut investment in the team it has owned since 1998 after the Chinese Football Association ruled this year that all team names must be free from corporate titles. Last year, the city’s other club, Tianjin Tianhai, went bankrupt. Chinese soccer became one of the biggest-spending leagues in the world over the past decade. Star players including Hulk, Oscar and Paulinho arrived in the country along with World Cup winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe-Scolari. In a bid to cut costs, a new salary cap has been imposed for the 2021 season that will limit club expenditures to $90 million a year. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Public Domain - image credit) His paintings adorn the walls of some of the most important buildings in the United States. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has dozens of his landscapes, and his works are considered by experts to be some of the best examples of 19th century American art. They have sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. He was also an outspoken advocate for the end of slavery and worked to better the lives of African-Americans through much of his life. But Edward Mitchell Bannister is still little known in the country where he was born. Some people would like to change that. Born in Saint Andrews in 1828, it has been said he was the son of a white Canadian woman and a Black man from Barbados, but scholars are now beginning to doubt whether his mother was white. The Saint Andrews home that was once owned by merchant Harris Hatch, who took Bannister in after his parents died when he was young. It is believed he was born in the Black community on the outskirts of the town, and either his mother or grandmother worked as a cook and housekeeper in the home of Judge Harris Hatch. He was orphaned as a young man, and Hatch apparently took on the role of raising him. Peter Larocque, the curator of art at the New Brunswick Museum, said that relationship seems to have been an important part of Bannister's early artistic development. And recently, the New Brunswick Museum received three examples of his early work that suggest the judge encouraged Bannister's artistic leanings. They're large watercolours, which Larocque believes he painted in his early teens. "They are actually copies of what I believe to be British engravings," Larocque said. An early watercolour of Elgin Cathedral, Moray, Scotland, believed to have been painted by Bannister when he was in his teens. It is likely a copy of an etching from a book. It is one of three early paintings recently acquired by the New Brunswick Museum. The watercolours had been in Britain and still belonged to the family of the man who first purchased them. Larocque said he was a British naval officer who was a friend of Judge Hatch. Larocque describes the watercolours as "very competent," despite the unforgiving nature of watercolour paint, signed "E.M.B," and show the signs of a young artist trying to learn by copying other works. Whether commissioned by the officer, or just a purchase of something Bannister had been working on, it's not a stretch to think Hatch played a role in the deal. Larocque said the support Bannister received from his community in the early days in Saint Andrews was vital to his success in later years. Those watercolours join an oil painting titled Evening that is already part of the museum's collection and is regularly on display there. A Bannister painting acquired by the New Brunswick Museum in 1959. It is on regular exhibit at the museum. He left New Brunswick in his late teens, and went to sea as a ship's cook. That eventually took him to Boston, where he began his career as an artist. Diane Heller is a New Hampshire-based filmmaker who has been working to make a documentary about Bannister's life for nearly a decade. She became fascinated by his story while attending Brown University in Providence, R.I., the city that would become Bannister's home. Her goal is to tell the story of his life and legacy, beyond his skill as an artist. "All the articles you read were just imagery," Heller said, lamenting the lack of detail around the other aspects of his life. New Hampshire-based filmmaker Diane Heller has devoted the last decade to researching Bannister's life. She is currently working on a short film that will feature Bannister's coastal paintings and his love for the sea. Bannister was also an activist, an abolitionist, a philanthropist and, on top of all that, a capable yachtsman, Heller said. "He literally was always successful," she said. That included his choice of a partner, who is the reason he ended up in Rhode Island. Christiana Babcock was born in the state and was of African-American and First Nations descent, 10 years older than Bannister. She was known to Boston society as Madame Carteaux, the owner of a chain of successful hairdressing shops. The story goes that the couple met when a 24-year-old Bannister applied for a job as a barber in one of her shops. They were married five years later. A portrait of Christiana Babcock Bannister painted by her husband. During part of their time in Boston, they lived in the home of Lewis Hayden, an escaped slave and abolitionist who often sheltered Blacks in his home as part of the Underground Railroad. Christiana's shops became meeting places for abolitionists, and the pair would also become involved in the fight to get equal pay and treatment for Black soldiers in the Union Army. "His world included all the abolitionists in Boston," Heller said. He was even very close to Frederick Douglass, abolitionist writer, orator and former slave, who would become the first Black person nominated to run as a vice-presidential candidate. But breaking into the established art community in Boston was difficult for anyone, let alone a Black man. So not long after the end of the Civil War, they moved to Providence. There Bannister co-founded the Providence Art Club, which Heller said had the goal "to promote real New England artists." He also sat on the founding board of the Rhode Island School of Design. Bannister's headstone in Providence. Christiana continued her work by creating the Home for Aged Colored Women, a nursing home to support Black domestic servants who found themselves jobless in old age. All those organizations still exist, with the latter now called Bannister House. And Edward Bannister painted prolifically. It's estimated there are at least 500 of his works in existence. His talent was appreciated in his day, and he was the first Black artist to receive a national art prize. He died in 1901, and Peter Larocque said Bannister's style of landscape painting fell into disfavour after the First World War and disappeared from art galleries and museums for decades. In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in his works. Until recently, this Bannister painting was hanging in the official residence of the vice-president of the United States, one of two on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Smithsonian has a large collection of his paintings, and in 2017 lent two of them to hang in the official vice-president's residence at One Observatory Circle — Woman Walking Down Path, 1882, and Landscape near Newport, R.I., ca.1877-1878. They were part of six selected by Karen Pence, a former art teacher and the wife of former vice-president Mike Pence. A spokesperson for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Laura Baptiste, said in an email that those paintings are typically returned to the museum once the term is over and the new administration makes new requests. Larocque thinks Bannister's works would have special meaning to the new vice-president, Kamala Harris, who lived in Quebec and attended school there. "You would think Kamala Harris would, given her background, and the Canadian connection, be interested in keeping them there." The official residence is currently undergoing renovations, and there's no word yet on whether the new administration has made requests to the Smithsonian. This Bannister painting has been hanging in the White House since 2006. Five kilometres away from the vice-president's residence, on the walls of the White House, hangs Bannister's The Farm Landing, which was purchased for display in the building in 2006, during the term of George W. Bush. But does all this mean the artist is beginning to get his due? "Oh gosh, not yet," said Heller. "People still want to call him a Black artist. Until people call him an activist artist, he won't [get his due]." Some people are trying to change that. Heller is working on a short film, using Bannister's many paintings of coastal scenes, along with postcards of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to recreate a trip around New England's waters Bannister would have sailed in his day. And, she has plans for a series of films looking at other aspects of his life. Nova Scotia arts curator David Woods told CBC News last fall he is planning a retrospective on Bannister's career, which he hopes will happen in Sackville sometime in 2023. The Saint John Theatre Company's We Were Here production, recognizing New Brunswick's Black history, includes a piece on Bannister. And British art historian Anne Louise Avery has a book in the works on Bannister. Heller believes New Brunswickers should take pride in what Bannister accomplished, and the role the province and the community of Saint Andrews played in his formative years. "It's no accident that he flourished from there, it couldn't have happened anywhere else and you can quote me on that." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, among the last in Southeast Asia to secure the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region. A Chinese military transport aircraft carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by China arrived in an air base in the capital. President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials expressed relief and thanked Beijing for the the vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in a televised ceremony. “COVID-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to all, rich and poor alike,” Duterte said, warning that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” China's ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, said China has exported vaccines to 27 countries despite its own domestic needs, adding “no winter lasts forever” when China and other countries help each other in solidarity when crisis strikes. Vaccinations initially of health workers and top officials led by the health secretary were scheduled to start in six Metropolitan Manila hospitals Monday. Aside from the donated Sinovac vaccine, the government has separately ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the delivery of an initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine that was initially scheduled for Monday would be delayed by a week due to supply problems. The initial deliveries are a small fraction of at least 148 million doses the government has been negotiating to secure from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign. The bulk of the vaccine shipments are expected to arrive later this year. The Philippines has reported more than 576,000 infections, including 12,318 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Lockdowns and quarantine restrictions have set back Manila’s economy in one of the worst recessions in the region and sparked unemployment and hunger. Duterte’s administration has come under criticism for lagging behind most other Southeast Asian countries in securing the vaccines, including much smaller and poorer ones like Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. The tough-talking Duterte has said wealthy Western countries have cornered massive doses for their citizens, leaving poorer nations scrambling for the rest. In a sign of desperation, the president said last December that he would proceed to abrogate a key security pact with the United States that allows large numbers of American troops to conduct war exercises in the Philippines if Washington could not provide at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. “No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said then. The Chinese vaccine delivery was delayed due to the absence of an emergency-use authorization from Manila’s Food and Drug Administration. Sinovac got the authorization last Monday. Western pharmaceutical companies also wanted the Philippine government to guarantee that it would take responsibility for lawsuits and demands for indemnity arising from possible adverse side effects from the vaccine, officials said. Aside from supply problems, there have been concerns over the vaccine’s safety, largely due to a dengue vaccine scare that prompted the Duterte administration to stop a massive immunization drive in 2017. ___ Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report. Jim Gomez, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don't want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one. Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election. The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons' agenda to prioritize the right bills; other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame. "They're playing politics all the time in the House. It's delay, delay, delay and eventually that delay becomes obstruction," the Liberals' House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview. "It's absurd. I think it's insulting to Canadians and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force ... because of the games played by the Conservatives." He pointed to the three hours last week the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president. That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government's plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill, which contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it. A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with "in a second." That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall's economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries. That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has argued that "modest debate" is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation. Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling. For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government's response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26. Conservatives note they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments. For Rodriguez it all adds up to "a pattern" of obstruction aimed at blocking the government's legislative agenda. Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it's inappropriate in a pandemic when "people are dying by the dozens every day." If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it's not likely to get. In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote. But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez. "The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities, and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda," he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that "my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.” Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees the Liberals have "mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities." But he doesn't exempt the Conservatives. He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is "deplorable." "These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters," Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O'Toole is having trouble controlling the "religious right" in his caucus. As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election. "We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering," he said in an interview. Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, like the election bill, while "vitally important" bills, like one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish. The Liberals' intention, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of "all these important things we couldn't get done." And the Conservatives "seem to want to play into this narrative" by blocking the bills the government does put forward. Veteran Green MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be "at his wits' end." "What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple," she said in an interview. She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural "tomfoolery" but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being "in cahoots," putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports. "It's mostly the Conservatives but they're in league," May said. "They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we've accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
VATICAN CITY — Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him. No one wants to tell Francis to call it off, and the Iraqi government has every interest in showing off its relative stability by welcoming the first pope to the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip is expected to provide a sorely-needed spiritual boost to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians while furthering the Vatican’s bridge-building efforts with the Muslim world. But from a purely epidemiological standpoint, as well as the public health message it sends, a papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not advisable, health experts say. Their concerns were reinforced with the news Sunday that the Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the main point person for the trip who would have escorted Francis to all his appointments, tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating. In an email to The Associated Press, the embassy said Archbishop Mitja Leskovar's symptoms were mild and that he was continuing to prepare for Francis' visit. Beyond his case, experts note that wars, economic crises and an exodus of Iraqi professionals have devastated the country’s hospital system, while studies show most of Iraq’s new COVID-19 infections are the highly-contagious variant first identified in Britain. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Dr. Navid Madani, virologist and founding director of the Center for Science Health Education in the Middle East and North Africa at Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Iranian-born Madani co-authored an article in The Lancet last year on the region's uneven response to COVID-19, noting that Iraq, Syria and Yemen were poorly placed to cope, given they are still struggling with extremist insurgencies and have 40 million people who need humanitarian aid. In a telephone interview, Madani said Middle Easterners are known for their hospitality, and cautioned that the enthusiasm among Iraqis of welcoming a peace-maker like Francis to a neglected, war-torn part of the world might lead to inadvertent violations of virus control measures. “This could potentially lead to unsafe or superspreading risks,” she said. Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an infectious disease control expert at the University of Exeter College of Medicine, concurred. “It’s a perfect storm for generating lots of cases which you won’t be able to deal with,” he said. Organizers promise to enforce mask mandates, social distancing and crowd limits, as well as the possibility of increased testing sites, two Iraqi government officials said. The health care protocols are “critical but can be managed," one government official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. And the Vatican has taken its own precautions, with the 84-year-old pope, his 20-member Vatican entourage and the 70-plus journalists on the papal plane all vaccinated. But the Iraqis gathering in the north, centre and south of the country to attend Francis’ indoor and outdoor Masses, hear his speeches and participate in his prayer meetings are not vaccinated. And that, scientists say, is the problem. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic. And it is important to get the correct messages out,” Pankhania said. “The correct messages are: the less interactions with fellow human beings, the better.” He questioned the optics of the Vatican delegation being inoculated while the Iraqis are not, and noted that Iraqis would only take such risks to go to those events because the pope was there. In words addressed to Vatican officials and the media, he said: “You are all protected from severe disease. So if you get infected, you’re not going to die. But the people coming to see you may get infected and may die.” “Is it wise under that circumstance for you to just turn up? And because you turn up, people turn up to see you and they get infected?” he asked. The World Health Organization was diplomatic when asked about the wisdom of a papal trip to Iraq, saying countries should evaluate the risk of an event against the infection situation, and then decide if it should be postponed. “It’s all about managing that risk,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19. “It’s about looking at the epidemiologic situation in the country and then making sure that if that event is to take place, that it can take place as safely as possible.” Francis has said he intends to go even if most Iraqis have to watch him on television to avoid infection. The important thing, he told Catholic News Service, is “they will see that the pope is there in their country.” Francis has frequently called for an equitable distribution of vaccines and respect for government health measures, though he tends to not wear face masks. Francis for months has eschewed even socially distanced public audiences at the Vatican to limit the chance of contagion. Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine, said the number of new daily cases in Iraq is “increasing significantly at the moment” with the Health Ministry reporting around 4,000 a day, close to the height of its first wave in September. Head said for any trip to Iraq, there must be infection control practices in force, including mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and good ventilation in indoor spaces. “Hopefully we will see proactive approaches to infection control in place during the pope’s visit to Baghdad,” he said. The Iraqi government imposed a modified lockdown and curfew in mid-February amid a new surge in cases, closing schools and mosques and leaving restaurants and cafes only open for takeout. But the government decided against a full shutdown because of the difficulty of enforcing it and the financial impact on Iraq’s battered economy, the Iraqi officials told AP. Many Iraqis remain lax in using masks and some doubt the severity of the virus. Madani, the Harvard virologist, urged trip organizers to let science and data guide their decision-making. A decision to reschedule or postpone the papal trip, or move it to a virtual format, would “be quite impactful from a global leadership standpoint” because “it would signal prioritizing the safety of Iraq’s public,” she said. ___ Kullab reported from Baghdad. Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Nicole Winfield And Samya Kullab, The Associated Press
(Matt Jonsson Recovery/Facebook - image credit) Family and friends are mourning the loss of a 24-year-old Winnipeg man who passed away after suffering brain damage in a freak accident earlier this month. On Feb. 6, Matt Jonsson hit his head on a low basement ceiling and suffered a severe spinal injury that left him paralyzed below the chest. He was hospitalized and put on a ventilator as doctors worked to stabilize the fracture and wait for the swelling to go down. In that time, family members worked to raise money to renovate his home so it was wheelchair accessible. "It's very hard. It's just very unexpected because in the beginning we were faced with him being paralyzed, which I was very upset about. But now in hindsight, I wish that that's all that was happening," said his mother Tish Jonsson. Matt suffered severe brain damage as a result of the injury and doctors told his family he'd never wake up. He was taken off life support last week. Matt Jonsson (right) was taken off life support on Feb. 20. For a man who loved to ride BMX and dirt bikes and play sports, the accident that took his life seems unfathomable. "[Matt and his brother Cole] got hurt so many times and so many times that they should have broken their necks, I think. And then for a senseless thing like this to happen, I don't understand. I just don't understand it at all," Jonsson said. She says her son was loved by many and will be remembered as a generous, sweet man who loved adventure. Once Matt saw a $100 bill floating down the street and ran out of the house to grab it. "My mother and I tried to convince him to put it in the bank, but he wasn't having it. He went to the skate park and he ordered pizza and drinks for everybody," Jonsson said. "It didn't matter who it was. And I think that sums him up pretty good." She says her son, who she worked with and lived with, always wrapped her in a big hug and told her how much he loved her. Dedicated basketball player, coach Evan Cox knew Matt as his teacher, coworker and friend. Cox, who is a physical education teacher at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, coached boys basketball when Matt was a student there. Last year, Matt joined Cox as an assistant coach on the girls basketball team at the school. Ever since he was a player, Cox said Matt was driven. "He kind of left a legacy of playing the game the right way, an insanely hard worker [who] dedicated so much of his time to just pursuing excellence, just trying to get better every single day," he said. "I think he was doing the same thing to get the girls to have that kind of intensity, that kind of drive and focus and of building hope in them that they can try to get to where they want to get to." Another coach, Stephen Tackie worked with Matt throughout high school and said he was a truly unique student. "He recognized he was part of something bigger than himself, and I think he took that role on that he had to give back." Matt was also instrumental in getting Skate Park West off the ground in Charleswood. He went to planning meetings, worked to raise money to have it built and when it did open, he took first aid training and volunteered to keep watch in case anyone got hurt. Jonsson says the money her family raised for Matt when he was in the hospital — nearly $87,000 — will go to building memorial benches at Skate Park West and starting a fund at to help people play basketball who may not have the means. "He touched so many people," Jonsson says. "We're going to use that money to honour him, to keep his legacy going."
BELGRADE, Serbia — The president of Serbia's Football Association was on Sunday questioned by police in connection with recent arrests of several members of soccer fan groups accused of murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. Serbian media said Slavisa Kokeza was quizzed over his links to leaders of Partizan Belgrade supporter groups who were arrested earlier this month in what officials say is a major crackdown against soccer's links with organized crime. Details from the police investigation leaked to the media include alleged killings by group members of their rivals, including decapitations and torture in a special “bunker” at the Partizan stadium in the Serbian capital. Populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who has often boasted about his youth as a radical supporter of Partizan’s rival Red Star Belgrade, said Saturday that some of the “shocking” details of the investigation will be made public next week and that children will be warned not to watch. Serbia has a history of tolerating hooliganism that often resulted in violence and outbursts of nationalism at stadiums. During the Balkan wars in the 1990s, many of them joined notorious paramilitary groups linked to war crimes against other national groups in the former Yugoslavia. With the return of nationalists to power in Serbia nine years ago, far-right soccer supporters were often seen at pro-government rallies promoting a nationalist political agenda. In exchange, analysts say, the hooligans have been allowed to pursue their illegal business activities. More than a dozen prominent figures from the country’s soccer supporters’ groups have been murdered in recent years. Most have perished in gangland-style killings. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD — A trio of gunmen shot and killed a religious cleric, his teenage son and a student on the outskirts of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, police said, amid a rise in militant attacks. Police officer Shahzad Khan said the killing took place in the Bhara Kahu neighbourhood when Mufti Ikramur Rehman was heading toward his car with his 13-year-old son and a seminary student late Saturday night. He said three assailants fired several shots before fleeing the scene. The cleric, his son and the student received multiple gunshot wounds and died at a hospital. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and Khan said an investigation was underway to ascertain the identity of the assailants and the motive behind the killings. Ikramur Rehman was affiliated with the party of firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads an 11-party opposition alliance to topple the government. Militant violence in Pakistan is on the rise. Last week, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were travelling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls who heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable. In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions. The Associated Press
Check out this heartwarming clip of a little girl bringing a blanket over to her Alaskan Malamute named Dude. She says it's for him to snuggle with then tells him to "Bundle Up". Dude seems to be relaxed with the blanket!
(Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit) Each government job posting in the N.W.T. has a caveat — that applicants provide a "satisfactory criminal record check" if they want to be considered for a position. With high crime rates in communities, that requirement could be deterring potential applicants from seeking those jobs, said Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lıı̀deh MLA Steve Norn. "I fully support anyone who has paid their debts to society who are genuinely trying to make strides to better themselves," he said in the legislature Wednesday. "Everyone deserves a second chance." "I do support firm rules, though, when it comes to working with our vulnerable populations, and I don't expect that we stray from that," he said. Before politics, Norn worked closely with human resources at the mines. He found criminal records were a common barrier for potential applicants. Many needed support getting pardons, he said. At the Legislative Assembly, Norn has been vocal about what he says are "glaring gaps" in the territory's hiring process, including direct appointments which impede "chances of Indigenous candidates from successful job competitions." Norn pressed the justice minister on the territory's hiring practices and how people with criminal records can overcome these barriers. "It should not be a barrier if one wants to work in our public service," he said, recognizing that certain positions will always warrant vulnerable sector checks. Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the government's assessment process only prevents an applicant from taking a job if the offence they are convicted of is related to the job duties. Once someone is offered a position, they could be asked to return a criminal record check to be reviewed by a deputy minister. If they do not get an offer as a result of their criminal record, an applicant has two days to raise their concerns with the deputy minister of human resources, the policy states. The Government of the Northwest Territories conducts criminal record checks and in some cases, a vulnerable sector check. This is to keep clients and employees safe and to preserve public confidence, the website states. There are some positions where having no criminal record is a prerequisite, said Wawzonek. "Someone who may see that advertised wouldn't necessarily want to apply if they have a criminal record," she said. "People may well feel shame around having a criminal record," she said, and encouraged people to use the federal record suspension process. The cost of seeking a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon) will go up to $657 by March 31st. In 2010, it cost an applicant $50 to seek a record suspension. "I very much want to emphasize that people can get criminal record suspensions and that often is a tool that is not adequately used by many who have past criminal records," she said. Getting a record suspension can be a costly and time-consuming process. Update laws to prevent discrimination in all hiring: commissioner N.W.T. Human Rights Commissioner Charles Dent says under the Human Rights Act, people with pardons for offences unrelated to a job duty are protected under the territorial government's hiring policies, but there are gaps for those applying to other workplaces in the N.W.T. "Right now people can be screened out whether the conviction is related to the job or not. We don't think that's the way to go," he said. Dent said in at least one report the commission recommended the Human Rights Act be updated to prohibit this type of screening, unless the conviction affects someone's ability to perform a job. "Our argument is a lot of people in the North … don't even apply for a job because they haven't figured out how to get a record suspension. It's not something that's easy to do," he said. "We want northerners to be able to get jobs," he said. "We know that a lot of people in the N.W.T. don't have access to someone who can help them through the process of getting a record suspension." The legislation also doesn't explicitly prohibit discrimination against those with criminal records who have not received a suspension. At public meetings, some residents have told the commission they face barriers to employment even if the conviction is not related to the job they are applying for. Defence lawyer Paul Falvo said people are held back from seeking record suspensions because of burdensome wait times, costs, and requirements to prove the suspension will provide a measurable benefit. They also state they cannot get employment because of their conviction.
(Submitted by Shyla Augustine - image credit) Shyla Augustine is hoping to help give her children and others a chance to learn a bit of the language of her ancestors. Along with illustrator Braelyn Cyr, Augustine has created an alphabet book that includes the Mi'kmaw word for the animals used to highlight each of the letters from A to Z. Augustine is a member of Elsipogtog First Nation now studying education at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. In an interview with CBC's Shift-NB, she said she got the idea for the book while volunteering at the University of New Brunswick's Early Childhood Centre. "The kids were really curious about the Mi'kmaq language and how to count in Mi'kmaw, and words, and because my son was actually attending the childhood centre at the time, he just so happened to be there." After realizing that she didn't know many words in the language herself, she decided to create an alphabet book she could share with the children at the centre. Augustine, an education student at St. Thomas University, has created an alphabet book that includes the Mi'kmaw word for the animals featured in it. "[I thought] maybe my son could read through it with them and teach them some more of his own language, and so he could learn some more of his own language as well." Growing up, Augustine said she spoke some Mi'kmaw while going to school on-reserve, and she picked up some listening to members of her household speak it. She later transferred to a school off-reserve, where the language wasn't spoken or taught. She said her shyness as a girl also kept her from practising it much. As an adult, she's hoping to reconnect with her language and give that same opportunity to her children. "I really want my children to know their own language and who they are and where they come from, because that's an important thing to know about yourself. And I want them to be proud of who they are." The book features a series of animals representing each letter of the alphabet, along with the Mi'kmaq translation of each animal. Augustine said her family members even offered some inspiration for the animals to include in the book. Deer, her son, Laken's spirit animal, is the one used to represent the letter D. That animal is called "Lentuk" in Mi'kmaw, she said. And otter, which is used to represent the letter O, was inspired by her brother, who lives with cystic fibrosis. "My children are very close with him and they love him too, so we decided that we were going to put a representation in my book of him as well. "It was really made with love." Augustine said the book is being published by Monster House Publishing and copies will go on sale next month.