Viewer video show near Durham, ON.
Viewer video show near Durham, ON.
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
GUYSBOROUGH – When the Citizens Supporting Community Health Care group in Guysborough asked to take part in the consultation process on the state of health care in the area, they were expecting more involvement before the report was submitted to the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). At a Jan. 19 meeting, the group met with health care consultant Mary Jane Hampton – via Zoom – and was told that the report had already been presented to the NSHA and the minister for review. Paul Long, who has been active in the citizens’ group since it formed last August, told The Journal on Friday (Jan. 22) that the group was surprised to learn the report had already been submitted. “I guess we thought that was a little bit backwards to do it that way but that is the way she has gone about it, so we agreed to be as cooperative as possible and review what she has come up with.” As Long understands the situation, once the report has approval from the NSHA and the minister, it will be brought to the community for comment and adjustments. “To be fair,” said Long, “we’ll reserve our judgement on things until we see it. It just didn’t seem like a real process of consultation. My understanding, most of the consultation was done within the health authority’s parameters and really wasn’t as extensive in the community as some people would have liked to have seen.” During the meeting, Hampton reportedly said that she thought the people in the area would be pleased with the report and that there was no recommendation to close the hospitals in Guysborough and Canso. Long said, “There is no indication of what the hospitals would look like, what the services would be, but it wouldn’t be a recommendation for closure. That part is a positive. But we’ll wait and see what the structure is going to look like.” More information should be forthcoming this week and Long said, “I think the idea is that once it is presented (to the citizens’ group), it will be out there for public consumption – for people to look at and make their opinions known.… If it is not something that is palpable to the community then certainly the municipality will have something to say about it and surely the individual citizens will let their feelings be known.” Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
GENEVA — Independent human rights experts who work with the United Nations say Italy failed to protect the “right to life” of over 200 migrants who died when the boat they were on sank in the Mediterranean Sea over seven years ago, The Human Rights Committee also called on Italian authorities to “proceed with an independent and timely investigation and to prosecute those responsible” for the deaths. The boat departed from Libya on Oct. 10, 2013 carrying some 400 people, mostly Syrians. In a decision published Wednesday, the committee said Italy “failed to respond promptly” to distress calls after the vessel was shot “by a boat flying a Berber flag in international waters” some 113 kilometres south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The committee of 18 experts says distress calls to Italian authorities were redirected to Malta, which was some 218 kilometres away. By the time a Maltese patrol boat arrived the boat had capsized. More than 200 people, including 60 children, drowned. Committee member Helene Tigroudja called it a “complex case” since the migrants' boat was in international waters within Malta's search and rescue zone, but she said a timely response might have averted the tragedy. "Had the Italian authorities immediately directed its naval ship and coast guard boats after the distress calls, the rescue would have reached the vessel at the latest two hours before it sank,” Tigroudja said. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — CGI Inc. topped expectations as it reported its first-quarter profit rose to $343.5 million compared with $290.2 million a year earlier, helped by improved margins and lower restructuring and integration costs. The technology and business consulting firm says the profit amounted to $1.32 per diluted share for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from $1.06 per diluted share in the same quarter a year earlier. Revenue totalled $3.02 billion, down from $3.05 billion. CGI says the most recent quarter included $3.7 million in acquisition-related and integration costs compared with the same quarter a year earlier that saw $16.5 million in acquisition-related and integration costs and $28.2 million in restructuring costs. Excluding specific items, CGI says it earned $1.33 per diluted share for its most recent quarter, up from $1.23 per diluted share a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $1.24 per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GIB.A) The Canadian Press
TORONTO — If you were on the lookout for a Greater Toronto Area condo or apartment to rent or own late last year, new data from the region’s real estate board shows you might have had an edge in negotiations. The number of condos listed for sale or rent in the area in the fourth quarter of 2020 were up by double and sometimes triple digits from the year before, while prices were down, according to two reports released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board on Wednesday. “The increase in supply...resulted in much more choice and bargaining power for buyers and a moderate decline in average selling prices,” TRREB president Lisa Patel said in a statement. Patel also noticed the market tipped in favour of renters, who had plenty of properties that sat on the market for weeks or months to choose from. Her observations encompass the last few months of 2020 — a period when the Greater Toronto Area was staring down tougher COVID-19 lockdowns, the looming possibility of a tax on vacant units and a softening of the short-term rental market triggered by travel bans and work from home orders. TRREB said condo and apartment sales in the quarter reached 6,469, up 20.7 per cent compared to 5,358 in 2019. New listings climbed by almost 92 per cent to hit 12,298, up from 6,407 in the year prior, while active listings doubled to reach 4,294. The average selling price fell 1.1 per cent to reach $610,044 in the quarter, down from $616,771 a year earlier. Average selling prices in the city of Toronto decreased 2.4 per cent to $644,516. Davelle Morrison, a Toronto broker with Bosley Real Estate Ltd., noticed the period was a reversal from the usually sleepy December holiday season. "Towards the end of December people just decided to start snapping up what they could," she said. "One of the reasons why December is usually so dead is because everybody's at Christmas parties and shopping for Christmas gifts, but now, because of COVID, you're not doing any of those things, so all they were doing is looking at real estate." Meanwhile, demand for condo rental was reaching record highs, Patel said. TRREB’s new data showed 12,584 condos were rented in the quarter, up by about 86 per cent from the 6,756 rentals in the same period last year. The number listed for rent soared by 131.6 per cent, rising from 33,280 and 14,371. “Growth in the number of available units far outstripped growth in rental transactions, as many investors chose to make their units available due to the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and the short-term rental market,” said Patel. Those who offered places for rent ended up charging less for rent than they would have a year ago. The average one-bedroom condo rent unit was down by 16.5 per cent year over year to $1,845 compared to $2,209. The average two-bedroom condo rent was down by 14.5 per cent over the same time period to $2,453 compared to $2,868. That pattern seems to be continuing in 2021, Morrison said, "I have a few clients right now where their properties are vacant because we just can't even get tenants in them," she said. "It's on my to do list to try to get to take another price cut." But her clients on the market for houses are having a harder time. Prices are soaring and people are scrambling to make offers. Morrison has heard of houses in Mississauga getting 70 offers, ones in Durham Region getting 30 offers, and places in Toronto getting 18 offers. Bully offers are becoming common too, she said. She believes the time to buy houses was when the pandemic first hit and sellers were feeling skittish about the uncertain times, but condo buyers still have a window of opportunity. "If you want to buy a condo you should have bought it in December, but really now is the absolute time to get in there and buy something because I think the second that the borders open up and people get vaccinated, the condo market is going to take off again." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement, repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters. In the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling. Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others.
Alphabet unit Google on Wednesday opened a centre to tackle harmful online content, in a move also designed to ease regulatory concerns about how the company and other tech giants police a growing problem on the internet. The world's most popular search engine, along with other U.S. tech giants, has drawn criticism because of the spread of illegal and harmful content via their platforms, triggering calls for more regulatory action. The 27-country European Union has taken the lead in proposing tough new rules to curb their powers, protect smaller rivals and make them take more responsibility for removing harmful content from their platforms.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa signed with Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki on Wednesday. The club, which won the Greek title in 2019 for the first time since the mid-1980s, said the Japan international signed an 18-month contract. Kagawa has scored 31 goals in 97 appearances as an attacking midfielder for Japan and was a regular for the national team at the 2014 and 2018 World Cup tournaments. PAOK is currently in fourth place in the 14-team Greek league with 36 points. Olympiakos leads with 48 points. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
APELDOORN, Netherlands — Jos Bieleveldt had a spring in his step when the 91-year-old Dutchman got a coronavirus vaccine this week. But many think that was way too long in coming. Almost two months before, Britain's Margaret Keenan, who is also 91 now, received her shot to kick off the U.K.'s vaccination campaign that has, so far, outstripped the efforts in many nations in the European Union. “We are dependent on what the European Commission says we can, and cannot, do. As a result, we are at the bottom of the list, it takes far too long," Bieleveldt said of the executive arm of the EU, which, perhaps unfairly, has taken the brunt of criticism for a slow rollout in many of its member states. Onerous regulations and paperwork in some countries and poor planning in others have also contributed to the delay, as did a more deliberate authorization process for the shots. Overall, the 27-nation EU, a collection of many of the richest countries in the world — most with a universal health care system to boot — is not faring well in comparison to countries like Israel and the United Kingdom. Even the United States, whose response to the pandemic has otherwise been widely criticized and where tens of thousands of appointments for shots have been cancelled because of vaccine shortages, appears to be moving faster. While Israel has given at least one shot of a two-dose vaccine to over 40% of its population and that figure in Britain is 10%, the EU total stands at just over 2%. And it is not just EU citizens who are laying the blame at the bloc's door. Criticism is also coming from many nations that had hoped to see some live-saving liquid from the EU trickle through their borders. Amid concerns that the richer nations had snapped up far more doses than they needed and poorer nations would be left to do without, the EU was expected to share vaccines around. The rocky rollout is also testing the bloc's long commitment to so-called soft power — policies that advance its cause not through the barrel of a gun but through peaceful means, like through the needle of a syringe. “Today it’s harder to get the vaccines than nuclear weapons,” said Serb President Aleksandar Vucic, who had been counting on a lot more help from the EU. Serbia sits at the heart of the Balkan region where the EU, Russia and even China are seeking a stronger foothold. Helping the Balkan countries with their vaccine rollout seemed an area where Europe, with its medical prowess and a willingness to prioritize such co-operation, would have an edge. Not so far. Vucic said weeks ago when he welcomed 1 million doses of Chinese vaccines that Serbia had not received “a single dose” from the global COVAX system aimed at get affordable shots to poor and middle-income countries that the EU has championed and funded. Instead, Vucic said Serbia secured vaccines through deals with individual countries or producers. Rubbing salt in the wound, Vucic went for the EU's social conscience when he said this week that “the world today is like Titanic. The rich tried to get the lifeboats only for themselves ... and leave the rest.” Other nations on the EU's southeastern rim have also been critical. It is a big turnaround from only a month ago when the EU's future looked pretty bright. It had just inked a last-minute trade deal with the United Kingdom, clinched a massive 1.8 trillion-euro pandemic recovery and overall budget deal and started rolling out its first COVID-19 vaccines. “This is a very good way to end this difficult year, and to finally start turning the page on COVID-19,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the time. By this past weekend, though, her attitude soured as it became clear that the bloc would be getting vaccines at a slower rate than agreed upon for its 450 million people. AstraZeneca has told the EU that of its initial batch of 80 million, only 31 million would immediately materialize once its vaccine got approved, likely on Friday. That came on the heels of a smaller glitch in the deliveries of Pfizer-BioNTech shots. Both companies say they are facing operational issues at plants that are temporarily delaying the rollout. Italy is threatening to take legal action against both over the delay. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte had been boasting that the country’s rollout was a huge success, especially when the millionth dose was given on Jan. 15. But after Pfizer announced the temporary supply reduction, Italy slowed from administering about 80,000 doses a day to fewer than 30,000. Bulgaria has also criticized the drug companies, and some there have called for the government to turn to Russia and China for vaccines. Hungary is already doing so. “If vaccines aren’t coming from Brussels, we must obtain them from elsewhere. One cannot allow Hungarians to die simply because Brussels is too slow in procuring vaccines,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” But supply isn't the only thing holding up the EU's campaign. The problem is partially that the EU Commission bet on the wrong horse — and didn't get enough doses of the early success vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech. The commission notes there was no way of knowing which vaccines would succeed — and which would be first — and so it had to spread its orders out over several companies. The EU rollout was also slowed because the European Medicines Agency took more time than the U.S. or U.K. regulators to authorize its first vaccine. That was by design as it made sure that the member nations could not be held liable in case of problems and in order to give people more confidence that the shot was safe. But individual countries also share in the blame. Germany, Europe's cliche of an organized and orderly nation, was found sorely wanting, with its rollout marred by chaotic bureaucracy and technological failures, such as those seen Monday when thousands of people over 80 in the country’s biggest state were told they would have to wait until Feb. 8 to get their first shots, even as vast vaccine centres set up before Christmas languished empty. “The speed of our action leaves a lot to be desired,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “Processes have often become very bureaucratic and take a long time, so we have to work on that.” It is no different in France, where there is a Kafkaesque maze of rules to get consent for vaccinating the elderly. In the Netherlands, which banked on the easy-to-handle AstraZeneca vaccine being the first available, authorities had to scramble to make new plans for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, whose ultracold storage requirements make it more complicated. “We were proven to be insufficiently flexible to make the change," said Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. The Dutch have been particularly criticized since they were the last in the EU to begin vaccinations, more than a week after the first shots were given in the bloc, and they have been especially slow to roll doses out to elderly people living at home, like Bieleveldt, a retiree. “I’m already playing in injury time in terms of my age," he said. "But I still want to play for a few more years.” ___ Casert reported from Brussels. AP journalists across the European Union contributed. ___ Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine. Raf Casert And Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Regional Librarian for Kings County Grace Dawson, , has noticed shifts in trends, looking back on 2020. “The big trend which is reflected in the numbers is this year’s rise in digital and electronic resource use,” Ms Dawson said. She added this is likely because of COVID-19 and the related shutdowns. Islanders used 49,200 more electronic resources in 2020 compared to 2019. That’s a jump from 179,527 uses to 228,759. On the flip side, new memberships to Island libraries and physical book loans were down this year. Libraries offered 4,163 new library cards in 2019 but only 2,033 in 2020. They also loaned 300,652 physical books in 2020 compared to 471,380 in 2019. Physical items could not be borrowed from libraries between mid-March and early June 2020 when the facilities closed their doors to the public. In June, library services started to gradually reopen with some locations offering curb-side pickup. Eventually all 26 locations reopened and welcomed browsing. But libraries reverted back to curb-side pickup during the December COVID-19 circuit breaker when restrictions were heightened again for Islanders. Despite these interruptions, overall, borrowed library materials increased this year from 819,987 in 2019 to 980,800 iitems borrowed in 2020. Ms Dawson said the growing use of non-traditional library materials such as musical instruments, telescopes, snowshoes, etc increased. These types of items have been available through the province’s libraries since 2018. “I think their popularity reflects the evolution of libraries as a provider of a broad range of materials and items to the entire community,” Ms Dawson said. “Libraries have always been inclusive spaces that provide information and access to all individuals but now we are seeing the public wants information and resources in a wide variety of formats.” The following is a breakdown of non-traditional items loaned this year: • Musical instruments: 2,781 • TCAP Fitness passes (available at Montague Library): 995 • Radon detectors: 165 • Telescopes: 403 • Snowshoes: 731 • Museum passes checked out (July & August 2020): 143 • Books delivered through Library’s Early Learning and Child Care Centre Book Delivery Service (which was started in July 2020): 3,799 • Books delivered through Library’s Community Care Book Delivery Service : 2,671 Ms Dawson said it’s worth noting that it has been difficult to draw conclusive trends from this year’s data given the restrictions libraries have faced due to the pandemic. Krystal Dionne, a branch technician with the Montague Rotary Library, says it has been fun to see the joy kids and adults get out of borrowing less traditional items from the library such as musical instruments. Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Requests for mail-in ballots in the upcoming provincial election are soaring, according to Newfoundland and Labrador's chief electoral officer, who credits the pandemic with causing a shift in voting habits. Elections NL workers usually field about 300 such requests in a regular election. In the far-from-normal circumstances of 2021, those requests have spiked, with 3,000 applications in for the special ballots so far. Staff saw the wave coming, as the pandemic axed typical home visits for seniors to vote and travel restrictions continue to create logistical challenges for rotational workers. "As we anticipated, we are getting a lot more volume of mail-out ballots than we ever had before," said chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk. To keep on top of the extra votes, Elections NL staff turned extra warehouse space into a processing centre, where mail-in ballot applications are approved and sent out, and completed ballots are received and sorted. All that work has meant adding bodies to the election effort. "Everybody that we have working in this particular facility here wouldn't be working, because we normally would've been able to handle the mail-out process with the normal staff that we have," Chaulk said Tuesday. Want in? There's still time Those employees will stay busy for several weeks yet ahead of the Feb. 13 election. People can still request a mail-in ballot until 4 p.m. on Feb. 2. For anyone in unusual or remote living arrangements, Elections NL will mail those ballots wherever they can, with Chaulk saying some have been flown by helicopter to the Hibernia offshore platform. One perennially popular ballot destination, however, isn't so hot in an era of non-essential travel. "We're not seeing as many kits mailed to the snowbirds in Florida. We're getting very few that are actually going outside the country," said Chaulk. Elections staff will send out mail-in ballots until Feb. 4. The kits include an pre-stamped Xpresspost envelope for return, and all ballots have a strict deadline to make it back to the St. John's processing centre. "We need all of them back by about the ninth of February in order to have them counted by election day, because the law requires the special ballots to be counted by election day," Chaulk said. Mail-in ballots can also be dropped off, in person, at any of the 60 Elections NL district offices across the province by Feb. 7, he added. Or, if people want to get a jump on their say in the electoral process, they can vote in person at the district offices right up until advance polling day, on Feb. 6. One caveat to mail-in ballots: if someone does request one and it's sent out, their name is then struck from the voters' list, meaning if they don't fill it out and return that ballot, they can't do so at any other poll. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska health officials plan to launch a live phone service for residents trying to schedule coronavirus vaccination appointments. The state currently provides an answering service through which Alaska residents seeking appointments can only leave messages, Alaska Public Media reported. The hotline will become available in anticipation of a February shipment of COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration said Monday. Tessa Walker Linderman of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said more than 40 staff members will answer calls from people wanting to book appointments. Many of the workers were previously tasked with tracking the contacts of people who were infected with COVID-19. A decrease in the number of new cases has allowed those employees to shift to the hotline, Walker Linderman said. “We’ve built up a huge workforce, especially when we were seeing hundreds more cases a day than we are now,” Walker Linderman said. Callers may still have to wait, but the system should allow personal interaction within reasonable amounts of time rather than automatically requiring residents to wait for return calls. New appointment openings are expected to be added to the state’s vaccine website starting Thursday, officials said. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
PARIS — In a first for France, six nongovernmental organizations launched a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the French government for alleged systemic discrimination by police officers carrying out identity checks. The organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, contend that French police use racial profiling in ID checks, targeting Black people and people of Arab descent. They served Prime Minister Jean Castex and France’s interior and justice ministers with formal legal notice of demands for concrete steps and deep law enforcement reforms to ensure that racial profiling does not determine who gets stopped by police. The lead lawyer in the case, Antoine Lyon-Caen, said that the legal action is not targeting individual police officers but "the system itself that generates, by its rules, habits, culture, a discriminatory practice.” “Since the shortcomings of the state (concern) a systemic practice, the response, the reactions, the remedies, the measures must be systemic,” Lyon-Caen said at a news conference with NGOs taking action. They include the Open Society Justice Initiative and three French grassroots groups. The issue of racial profiling by French police has festered for years, including but not only the practice of officers performing identity checks on young people who are often Black or of Arab descent and live in impoverished housing projects. Serving notice is the obligatory first step in a two-stage lawsuit process. The law gives French authorities four months to talk with the NGOs about how they can meet the demands. If the parties behind the lawsuit are left unsatisfied, the case will go to court, according to one of the lawyers, Slim Ben Achour. It's the first class-action discrimination lawsuit based on colour or supposed ethnic origins in France. The NGO’s are employing a little-used 2016 French law that allows associations to take such a legal move. “It’s revolutionary, because we’re going to speak for hundreds of thousands, even a million people.” Ben Achour told The Associated Press in a phone interview. The NGOs are pursuing the class action on behalf of racial minorities who are mostly second- or third-generation French citizens. “The group is brown and Black,” Ben Achour said. The four-month period for reaching a settlement could be prolonged if the talks are making progress, he said. The abuse of identity checks has served for many in France as emblematic of broader alleged racism within police ranks, with critics claiming that misconduct has been left unchecked or whitewashed by authorities. Video of a recent incident posted online drew a response from President Emmanuel Macron, who called racial profiling “unbearable.” Police representatives say officers themselves feel under attack when they show up in suburban housing projects. During a spate of confrontational incidents, officers became trapped and had fireworks and other objects thrown at them. The NGOs are seeking reforms rather than monetary damages, especially changes in the law governing identity checks. They argue the law is too broad and allows for no police accountability because the actions of officers involved cannot be traced, while the stopped individuals are left humiliated and sometimes angry. Among other demands, the organizations want an end to the longstanding practice of gauging police performance by numbers of tickets issued or arrests made, arguing that the benchmarks can encourage baseless identity checks. The lawsuit features some 50 witnesses, both police officers and people subjected to abusive checks, whose accounts are excerpted in the 145-page letters of notice. The NGO’s cite one unnamed person who spoke of undergoing multiple police checks every day for years. A police officer posted in a tough Paris suburb who is not connected with the case told the AP that he is often subjected to ID checks when in civilian clothes. “When I’m not in uniform, I’m a person of colour,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous in keeping with police rules and due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Police need a legal basis for their actions, “but 80% of the time they do checks (based on) heads” — meaning how a person looks. Omer Mas Capitolin, the head of Community House for Supportive Development, a grassroots NGO taking part in the legal action, called it a “mechanical reflex” for French police to stop non-whites, a practice he said is damaging to the person being checked and ultimately to relations between officers and the members of the public they are expected to protect. “When you’re always checked, it lowers your self-esteem,” and you become a “second-class citizen,” Mas Capitolin said. The “victims are afraid to file complaints in this country even if they know what happened isn’t normal,” he said, because they fear fallout from neighbourhood police. He credited the case of George Floyd, the Black American whose died last year in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, with raising consciences and becoming a catalyst for change in France. “These are practices that impact the whole society,” said Issa Coulibaly, the head of Pazapas-Belleville, another organization taking part in the case. Like a downward spiral, profiling hurts youths' “feeling of belonging” to the life of the nation and “reinforces prejudices of others to this population." NGOs made clear they are not accusing individual police of being racist. “It’s so much in the culture. They don’t ever think there’s a problem,” said Ben Achour, the lawyer. ___ Follow all AP stories about racial profiling at https://apnews.com/Racialinjustice. Elaine Ganley, The Associated Press
ST. MARY’S – On the subject of feelings, elected officials of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s got down to business last week. After less than five minutes of deliberation, the Jan. 20 committee of the whole meeting voted to send “whoever is available” on council to a think tank on social wellbeing tentatively scheduled to take place in Guysborough next month. The summit is the brainchild of Engage Nova Scotia, a Halifax-based non-governmental organization responsible for “An Exploration of Wellbeing in Nova Scotia: A summary of Results from the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Survey” released a year ago. “The question to this council [from Engage NS] is whether [you’d] like to participate in this event next month,” Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald told councillors, adding that the meeting is intended to be a “joint session” also involving council representatives from the Town of Mulgrave, Municipality of the District of Guysborough and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish. “It seems to me a good opportunity to hear what the other councils are talking about,” he said. “It seems to me [it is] a good thing to participate in.” Based on the responses of 861 residents from Antigonish and Guysborough counties, the survey appears to show that people here are among the happiest and well-adjusted in the province. Of the 10 regions designated, Antigonish-Guysborough ranked number one on the ‘satisfaction with life in general’ scale, with 45.7 per cent of respondents declaring that they were ‘very satisfied’. Area residents scored second place (behind Southwest Nova) on satisfaction with government responsiveness; second (behind Lunenburg-Queens) on satisfaction with their financial situations; and second (behind Annapolis Valley-Hants) on the environmental quality of their neighborhoods. In the report’s introduction, Engage Nova Scotia says “this set of results deepens our understanding of how Nova Scotia is doing. It is the result of 12,000 [people] participating in a 23-question survey in May and June 2019. It represents the largest data set of its kind in Canada.” Following the meeting, MacDonald said, “There may be some opportunities of joint interest [with other municipalities] going forward. The joint session among the councils is to just talk about what the survey results were for our districts and talk about possibilities for moving forward with that. That’s a good starting point if people are already happy.” Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Saskatchewan’s top doctor spoke for the first time following a rally outside of his family home over the weekend.
GUYSBOROUGH – Three times wasn’t the charm, so the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) invited representatives from ambulance provider Emergency Health Services (EHS) – Derek LeBlanc and Phil Stewart – to council, once again, to answer questions about the provision of service in the area. And, once again, council was disappointed. The EHS representatives joined council by video link at its regular meeting on Jan. 20. They answered questions from Warden Vernon Pitts, CAO Barry Carroll and councillors for almost an hour, but they failed to satisfy the concerns council has about lack of service and long wait times for ambulance transfers between hospital facilities. These issues are, in part, due to staffing shortages. The EHS representatives noted that the company, like any health care service in the province, has had difficulty attracting employees. A full-time job was posted for Canso three times and couldn’t be filled, said Stewart. Councillor Desmond asked if there was a minimum or maximum response time for EHS service. Warden Pitts reiterated that question and was told by Stewart that the complexities pertaining to the question didn’t allow him to provide the answers they were looking for. After council adjourned, Pitts told media present, “In regard to medical first response by EHS what really blew me away, as the warden, was there are no expected minimum or maximum response times within our municipally and to me, that is totally unacceptable … We should be given a minimum time – if your live in a city or whatever, I expect a minimum time in regard to response; same as the fire department or police. If you don’t have a minimum response time what are you measuring it by – this is totally unacceptable. “What it comes right down to is we’re playing Russian roulette and the gun is going to go off one of these times, if it hasn’t already gone off, and it has lately. We want a minimum level of service within MODG and surrounding areas – that’s not too much to ask for,” said Pitts. ‘Unacceptable’ continued to be the theme of the council meeting, with MODG receiving a response from the Department of Environment stating that a freedom of information request would need to be filed in order for the municipality to gain access to information regarding Irving Oil’s plans for a contaminated lot on Main Street in Guysborough. “That’s the only way they will release that information to us,” said Pitts, “And that is also totally unacceptable. “My understanding is that Irving has submitted a plan; now I haven’t got this from a legal source, but my understanding is that Irving has submitted a plan. It’s waiting approval from the province. Apparently, there are two avenues that this can go down. I don’t know exactly what those avenues are, but we just want to be made aware of what the plan is now; that we can have some input into it as a municipal unit as well as the residents. This is not acceptable. This is Main Street in Guysborough and this is impacting people’s lives and property values,” said Pitts. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
NEW YORK — The new novel from “Big Little Lies” author Liane Moriarty will be a story of family, tennis and a mysterious absence. Henry Holt announced Wednesday that Moriarty's “Apples Never Fall” comes out Sept. 14. Its characters include retired tennis coaches Stan and Joy Delaney and their four adult children as the author once again brings readers “behind the closed doors of seemingly tranquil suburbia.” “Now Joy Delaney has disappeared and her children are re-examining their parents’ marriage and their family history with fresh, frightened eyes,” according to Holt. “Is her disappearance related to their mysterious house guest from last year? Or were things never as rosy as they seemed in the Delaney household?” The Australian writer's previous books also include “Truly Madly Guilty” and “Nine Perfect Strangers," which came out in 2018 and is being adapted for a Hulu miniseries starring Nicole Kidman. “Big Little Lies,” published in 2014, is the basis for the Emmy-winning HBO series that stars Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. The Associated Press
Uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine has been high among long-term care workers in eastern PEI. Some workers have shown hesitancy but a large majority have chosen to be vaccinated. Grace Cressman, Nursing Director with Riverview Manor in Montague, said all but eight of 100 staff there have gotten at least their first dose of vaccine. “Once people became informed, most were willing to get the vaccine,” Ms Cressman said. “As they learned this and saw their co-workers getting the vaccine without reactions, more seemed interested,” she said, adding for some it was just a matter of scheduling. Of the eight who didn’t get vaccinated Ms Cressman said some were advised not to by their doctor for medical reasons. “There was also the idea that no one wants to be the one to bring the virus into the home,” Ms Cressman said about the overwhelming positive response to the vaccine. Nursing Director of the Dr John M Gillis Lodge in Belfast, Jennifer Penny, said she had not compiled the full tally yet but at least 80 per cent of staff at the lodge have been vaccinated. She added some are still planning to get their shot. “I’ve seen the opposite of hesitancy,” said Jason Perrin, owner of Perrin’s Marina Villa in Montague. “People have been knocking at the door wondering if they can get a vaccine.” Mr Perrin said several residents’ partners in care have asked if they would be able to be vaccinated. He hopes this may be possible. He said more than 90 per cent of his staff have gotten their first dose and all the residents have had the chance to be vaccinated through a clinic set up on-site. Approximately 71 per cent of the staff and nearly all residents at the 52-bed long-term care Colville Manor in Souris have been vaccinated, according to Health PEI. Karen Cook, administrator of Lady Slipper Villa in O’Leary, said uptake for the COVID-19 vaccine seems to be more enthusiastic than it typically it is for the yearly flu vaccine. Thirteen of 16 staff members have already been vaccinated and another staff member now plans to get the vaccine after further consideration. Ms Cook said one staff member is on leave and one has been advised not to take the vaccine for medical reasons. “The majority wanted to do it because they see it as a way out of this mess,” Ms Cook said. On PEI Phase 1 of vaccination roll out began in December 2020 and will continue through to March 2021. The province’s public health office expects the following Islanders will gradually be able to receive vaccines in this first phase: Residents and staff of long-term and community care, health care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 years of age and older, adults 18 years of age and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of other residential or shared living facilities (e.g. group homes, residential care, shelters, corrections), truck drivers and other rotational workers. From April to June this year, the public health office expects another swath of Islanders will be able to be vaccinated including the following: anyone in priority groups remaining from Phase 1, health care workers not included in phase one, seniors 70 years of age and older and essential workers. Finally, through the summer and fall of 2021, public health hopes to be able to administer vaccine to anyone in priority groups remaining from Phase 2 and then the general public. Despite some recent delays in shipments of Pfizer vaccine in Canada, PEI's cheif public health officer, Dr Heather Morrison, said this schedule should remain on track. Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
NAIROBI, Kenya — The United States says all soldiers from Eritrea should leave Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region “immediately.” A State Department spokesperson in an email to The Associated Press late Tuesday cited “credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugee camps and other human rights abuses." "There is also evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea,” the spokesperson said. The statement reflects new pressure by the Biden administration on the government of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country with 114 million people and the anchor of the Horn of Africa, and other combatants as the deadly fighting in Tigray nears the three-month mark. The AP this week cited witnesses who fled the Tigray region as saying Eritrean soldiers were looting, going house-to-house killing young men and even acting as local authorities. The Eritreans have been fighting on the side of Ethiopian forces as they pursue the fugitive leaders of the Tigray region, though Ethiopia’s government has denied their presence. The U.S. stance has shifted dramatically from the early days of the conflict when the Trump administration praised Eritrea for its “restraint.” The new U.S. statement calls for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged abuses. “It remains unclear how many Eritrean soldiers are in Tigray, or precisely where,” it says. It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. has addressed its demand directly to Eritrean officials. And the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not immediately respond to questions. Witnesses have estimated that the Eritrean soldiers number in the thousands. Eritrean officials have not responded to questions. The information minister for Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive countries, this week tweeted that “the rabid defamation campaign against Eritrea is on the rise again.“ The U.S. also seeks an immediate stop to the fighting in Tigray and “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” to the region, which remains largely cut off from the outside world, with Ethiopian forces often accompanying aid. “We are gravely concerned by credible reports that hundreds of thousands of people may starve to death if urgent humanitarian assistance is not mobilized immediately,” the statement says. The United Nations in its latest humanitarian update said it is receiving reports of “rising hunger” in Tigray and cited a “dire lack of access to food” since many farmers in the largely agricultural region missed the harvest because of the fighting, and as “critical staff” to scale up the humanitarian response can't access the region. Transport, electricity, banking and other links “have yet to be restored in much of the region,” the U.N. said, and 78% of hospitals remain nonfunctional. “Our concern is that what we don’t know could be even more disturbing," U.N. children's agency chief Henrietta Fore said in a statement Wednesday. "For 12 weeks, the international humanitarian community has had very limited access to conflict-affected populations across most of Tigray.” Vaccinations have stopped across the region, Fore added. The U.S. statement added that “dialogue is essential between the government and Tigrayans.” Ethiopia's government has rejected dialogue with the former Tigray leaders, seeing them as illegitimate, and has appointed an interim administration. The former Tigray leaders, in turn, objected to Ethiopia delaying a national election last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and considered Abiy's mandate over. Cara Anna, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — A lawyer for one of three people who allegedly supplied ammunition to the gunman who murdered 22 people in Nova Scotia criticized a lack of Crown disclosure today. RCMP have charged Lisa Banfield, the 52-year-old spouse of the killer, with unlawfully transferring ammunition, specifically .223-calibre Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges. Police have laid the same charges against 52-year-old James Blair Banfield and 60-year-old Brian Brewster for offences alleged to have occurred in the month before the April 18-19 killings. During a brief date-setting appearance today in Dartmouth provincial court, Brewster's lawyer, Tom Singleton, commented to the judge he's dissatisfied with the lack of disclosure of evidence. He said 13 of the 14 court documents used to obtain search warrants are so heavily redacted that he can't understand them, and he also wants a copy of the search warrant the RCMP used to obtain his client's cellular telephone. Crown attorney Shauna MacDonald told the judge she intended to proceed summarily, meaning the case would be before a provincial court and that sentence length is limited. When the charges were announced on Dec. 4, police said the three "had no prior knowledge" of the actions of the gunman, who was killed by an RCMP officer on April 19. The arraignment occurred by teleconference, and a date of March 9 was set for the next court hearing in the three separate proceedings. All three lawyers waived the reading of charges and said they are going to delay entering a plea on behalf of their clients until further disclosure of evidence. The RCMP has said that on the night of April 18, Banfield was handcuffed by the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, but managed to escape into nearby woods in Portapique, N.S. She emerged the next morning and told police at 6:30 a.m. that Wortman was driving a police replica vehicle. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press