The three women spearheading the project say they cannot complete the large art installation blanket alone and are calling for knitters across Canada to help.
The three women spearheading the project say they cannot complete the large art installation blanket alone and are calling for knitters across Canada to help.
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
The Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John regions are being rolled back to the more restrictive red phase as of midnight Tuesday night, and there has been another death in the province. The individual, an 89-year-old resident of Parkland Saint John, is the 13th COVID-19 patient to die since the pandemic began last winter. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, made the announcement at a live-streamed briefing Tuesday afternoon, saying the measures are needed to stave off the "avalanche of cases we are seeing across our borders." Premier Blaine Higgs also addressed the briefing, warning that the province will go to "full lockdown," including closing schools, if cases continue to rise. "We have never been in a situation like this since pandemic began," Higgs said. "I cannot stress enough that this is a critical moment. ... Stay home as much as you possibly can and avoid interacting with people outside your household bubble." Under the red phase, gyms, hairdressers and entertainment centres must close and everyone must stick to a single-household bubble. Dining must be takeout, drive-thru or delivery only, and elective surgeries and non-urgent medical procedures are postponed. New red phase rules for schools have been introduced, including: Students and staff must stay home if they have even one symptom of COVID-19. School staff will be screened for COVID-19 when they report to work each day. If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed at a school in the red level, the school will be closed for at least three days to allow for contact tracing. The school would also become a testing site for school staff. 31 new cases reported, affecting six of seven zones Dr. Jennifer Russell,the chief medical officer of health, announced 31 new cases in the province on Tuesday. The cases break down as follows: Moncton region, Zone 1, four cases: two people 40 to 49 an individual 50 to 59 an individual 60 to 69 Saint John region, Zone 2, three cases: two people 19 or under an individual 40 to 49 Fredericton region, Zone 3, one case: an individual 19 or under Edmundston region, Zone 4, 21 cases: an individual 19 or under an individual 20 to 29 two people 30 to 39 three people 40 to 49 seven people 50 to 59 five people 60 to 69 an individual 70 to 79 an individual 80 to 89 Campbellton region, Zone 5, one case: an individual 50 to 59 Bathurst region, Zone 6, one case: an individual 20 to 29 There are now 316 active cases in the province, and 1,953 New Brunswickers are self-isolating. The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick so far in the pandemic is 1,004 and 674 have recovered. There have been 13 deaths, and one patient is hospitalized. As of Tuesday, 176,034 tests have been conducted, including 1,839 since Monday's report. Warnings about deadly, underestimated threats The daily case count numbers are a visible reminder of the threat of COVID-19 that is "all around us," Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday. But unseen threats also lurk, with potentially fatal consequences, he said. Higgs cautioned against "underestimating your ability to infect others" and said that even with the mildest symptoms — or no symptoms at all — you could be a carrier and a transmitter of the disease. He cited the case of an asymptomatic person who came home to isolate with their parents in New Brunswick. That individual unknowingly infected them with COVID-19, Higgs said, "and one of their parents died." The growing threat of the much more contagious U.K. and other variants of the virus should also be on everyone's radar, Higgs said. "We do not yet know if new strains of COVID-19 are in New Brunswick," he said, "but they pose an additional, real threat." Frustrating wait for answers on vaccines Premier Blaine Higgs has questions about the "reliability" of vaccine supply in the wake of Pfizer's delivery wobble, but he said he's not getting answers. In the wake of news from Ottawa on Tuesday that Canada will not get any shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and will see reduced shipments for several weeks after that, Higgs said plans to have the province's health-care workers and care home residents vaccinated by the end of March are still on track. But he wants further assurances — and he's not getting them, he said. "We need consistency, we need to know what the [dosage delivery] numbers are," he said at Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing. "We'll work with the numbers we have, but we need to have assurance that the numbers are correct. This (Pfizer delivery) issue this week gives us some concern in that regard." The status of approvals for some of the five other vaccines Canada has agreed to purchase is also a troubling question mark, Higgs said. "Only two vaccines have been approved by Health Canada and they were approved relatively quickly," he said. "What is the status of at least two others that are in front of Health Canada for approval? What is the timeline? We can't seem to get any answers on that … not only here but across Canada." Health Canada is currently reviewing AstroZeneca's vaccine, which has been approved in the U.K., and a vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical arm, Janssen. 3 more schools record cases of COVID-19 École Régionale Saint-Basile in Saint-Basile and Élémentaire Sacré-Coeur in Grand Falls both announced positive cases and said they would close because of them. Both schools are in Zone 4, the Edmundston region, which is in the red phase. Meanwhile in the Anglophone South School District, a Saint John school has announced a positive case. In an email to CBC News district spokesperson Jessica Hanlon confirmed a case at Princess Elizabeth School. "Any staff or student who might have been identified by Public Health as a close contact would have been contacted and informed to self-isolate," said Hanlon. Nine schools in the province have had COVID-19 cases within the past week. In Anglophone South School District, cases have been recorded at Quispamsis Middle School, Belleisle Elementary School in Springfield, Millidgeville North School in Saint John, and Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis, where there are two cases. Two schools in the Anglophone East School District, Riverview East School and Caledonia Regional High School in Hillsborough, have also announced positive cases. New public exposure warnings issued Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on the following flights: Jan. 3 – Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:23 a.m. Public Health has also issued the following potential COVID-19 exposure warnings: Moncton region: Goodlife Fitness Centre, 175 Ivan Rand Dr. E., on Jan. 13 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Moncton North After Hours Medical Clinic, 1633 Mountain Rd., on Jan. 14 from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Edmundston region: Jean Coutu Kim Levesque-Cote Pharmacy, 276 Broadway Blvd., Grand Falls, on Jan. 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Parts for Trucks,21 Powers Rd., Grand Falls, on Jan. 11, 12 and 14 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: A fever above 38 C. A new cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
A new poll suggests Ontario Premier Doug Ford's popularity has dropped in the last three months, along with his government's approval rating, and a market research firm attributes the decline to the province's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ford, however, continues to be Ontario's most popular party leader and his popularity is still higher than it was before the pandemic knocked the province off course, according to the survey released Tuesday. In an online poll entitled "A New Year Brings Old Politics to Ontario," Abacus Data has found that only 39 per cent of respondents have a positive view of the premier, while 35 per cent have a negative view. Ford's personal popularity has plummeted seven per cent over the past three months, according to the survey. When it comes to the Ontario government, 10 per cent strongly approve of it and 34 per cent mostly approve, while 21 per cent mostly disapprove and 10 per cent strongly disapprove. Twenty four per cent feel neither way. There has been a decline of eight percentage points in the government's approval rating over the past three months, the poll suggests. Pollster David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, told CBC Toronto this week that he believes the decline in numbers can be attributed to the government's handling of the pandemic's second wave. He said the numbers are clearly trending in the wrong direction for Ford and his Progressive Conservative government. "The overall picture that we're seeing in this poll suggests that over the last few months, both the government's approval rating and views of the premier have taken a hit, I think largely because of some mistakes or decisions that the government has made, specifically around COVID-19," Coletto said. Coletto noted that Ford is still viewed more positively than negatively and continues to have more people approving than disapproving of him. "But I think the longer this pandemic has gone on and the more challenging it actually has become to manage this crisis and deal with the second wave, the more toll it has taken to how people feel about this government and the premier specifically," he said. Ford's approval still higher than before pandemic The PC party, however, can take some solace in the finding that Ford is still getting higher approval numbers than he did before the pandemic, he said. In late 2019 and early 2020, more than 60 per cent of Ontarians had a negative view of the premier. Coletto added that Ford's rivals are not reaping benefits from the decline in his popularity. Feelings about NDP Leader Andrea Horwath are mixed, with 27 per cent having a positive view, 27 per cent having a neutral view and 28 per cent having a negative view. Thirty-eight per cent don't know enough about Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca to have an opinion of him. According to the poll, if a provincial election were called today, 34 per cent of Ontario residents would vote for Ford and the PC party, 29 per cent would vote Liberal, while 25 per cent would vote for the NDP. Colletto said he thinks the downward trend in numbers for Ford and his government are tied directly to what the public thinks of the government's pandemic approach. 37% think government in control of situation Only 37 per cent believe the Ontario government is in control of the situation right now, a drop of 25 percentage points since October. "The belief that the province has a clear plan, is providing consistent advice and guidance and is generally making the right decisions have all dropped significantly in the last few months," the poll suggests.. Sixty-one per cent of Ontario residents, for example, continue to believe the government is making public health "the priority." Twenty-seven per cent believe the premier has done a bad job and made crucial mistakes, an increase of 10 percentage points since October. "I think the reason that, despite the numbers softening, the premier remains more popular today than he was prior, is because at the core, far more people believe that the premier's intentions remain sound, that despite some mistakes that have been made, most people believe that he's either doing a really good job or there's some mistakes, but at the end of the day, he's doing the best that he can," Coletto said. "And that is what gives him, I think, some latitude with the public to make mistakes, to change course here and there, but at the end of the day, people have a good sense that he's doing what he can in a very challenging situation." As for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Ontario residents give the premier a little more slack. Twenty-two per cent believe Ford has done a good job, while 53 per cent believe he has made mistakes but has done as well as can be expected, while 25 per cent believe he has done a bad job and made crucial mistakes that could have been avoided. According to the survey, 43 per cent say vaccine distribution is going either well enough or very well, while 57 per cent say it is going poorly or very poorly. 75% say holiday trips 'completely unacceptable' Not surprisingly, the poll suggests 75 per cent of residents believe that holiday trips taken outside of the Canada by politicians and health-care leaders are "completely unacceptable." Nine in 10 residents have heard about the Caribbean vacation taken by Rod Phillips, former finance minister. Of those aware, only 37 per cent believe the premier handled the situation well, while 49 per cent believe he handled it poorly, with 14 per cent suggesting it was largely out of his hands. Coletto said he was not surprised by the "overwhelming anger and disappointment" over the trip and the general reaction that it was unacceptable. But he said it has had less of an impact on the government than pundits might expect, although it might have weakened trust in elected officials. "It hasn't cratered support for the government or approval rating for the premier," Coletto said. "And that, I think, continues to remind me and us that the people are looking at government today and all the actors in government through the lens of COVID and how they are trying to make people's lives better and protect people from from this virus." Nearly 900 residents surveyed in January The poll concludes that "a lot of the fundamentals" are declining for the Ford government. "His personal reputation, assessments of his government's leadership, and assessments of his handling of COVID-19 have all been in a steady decline over the past few months. However, vote dynamics are largely unchanged," the poll says. Abacus conducted the poll 793 Ontario residents recuruited online from Jan. 8 to 12, 2021. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.48 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Tiny Township residents can expect a 1% blended tax rate increase for this year. The decision was forwarded to the next meeting after hours of deliberation at Monday's budget meeting. Where a majority easily agreed on the option, one council member expressed some concerns. A blended tax rate is achieved after incorporating the county and education tax rates. "I’m not comfortable with 1%," said Coun. Tony Mintoff, adding he also wasn't comfortable sacrificing important projects to find the $400,000 to keep the township's tax rate increase at zero per cent. "Based on that, I will reluctantly agree to a 1% blended rate increase." Council approved $70,000 in salary for a full-time human resource person. Staff pointed out that there may yet be savings in this line item once recommendations from the North Simcoe services operations review comes forward in March. Further, even if the township hires an independent HR staff member, the $70,000 annual salary will not be realized in full for this year. Then council found $30,000 in savings by directing staff to take out the extra ask for arena use from the Town of Penetanguishene. "It’s my understanding the recreation master plan had created the recommendation that fulsome discussion be held with all three municipalities that provide arena facilities to us," said Mintoff. "Given the fact that hasn’t happened yet, my recommendation would be to remove the $30,000 that was asked by Penetang, subject to the discussions to take place in 2021." Agreeing with staff, council decided to delay the purchase of a vehicle for the parks department, instead moving the $70,000 to reserve funds. At the end of the day, staff was sent back to find efficiencies in departments or seek out projects that could be delayed to make up for the $8,500 in funding gap that still remains if the tax rate is to be set at 1%. Other budget approvals include a 6% increase in funds to be moved to the municipal infrastructure reserves. As well, council approved a 1% cost of living increase for staff wages, despite Mintoff's suggestion to the contrary so the township could show solidarity with residents who had suffered through the pandemic. "This has been a very difficult year financially for a lot of our residents," he said. "The majority that live in the private sector world and those who live on retirement income. I’m pleased we were able to maintain full employment for our staff, so I think it would be inappropriate and insensitive of us to consider any kind of increase in wages. My recommendation would be to remove this salary increase from the budget." Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma disagreed with his peer. "I can 100% justify the cost," he said. "When you look at municipal employees as a whole, there’s very little you can do in terms of incentives. There are no bonuses and there’s no additional time off you can get. I know there’s been a CPP increase this year. If we’re going to take a look at our retirees being affected, we have to back it up with quantitative evidence as well. "If a statement needs to be made in terms of leadership, then I’d be in favour of council taking no increase," added Walma. "The savings can be donated to a local charity. Or the council could take the 1% increase and donate it back to the municipality into the bursary program." Other council members agreed with his suggestion. And so did Mintoff. "I have no issue with council taking zero per cent increase," he said. "Speaking about council’s initiative to raise our rate of pay for staff from 50th percentile to the 55th percentile, how much did that bumping up of salaries cost? "I believe it was several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t want my comments to be misconstrued that we don’t value our staff, but I believe we pay them above a comparative group. I don’t want staff watching to think they don’t deserve fair recognition and compensation for what they do." Staff will now bring back a third and possibly final draft of the 2021 budget at a meeting next month. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
A busy thief smashed out the glass doors to two businesses in downtown Halifax early Tuesday morning making off with two cash registers, according to Halifax Regional Police. The first break in happened around 2:55 a.m., an alarm went off at Boston Pizza on Granville Street drawing police to the scene. When police arrived they found part of the restaurants' glass door had been smashed. A cash register and other items had been stolen from inside, according to a news release from the Halifax police. Then around 3:05 a.m. another business' alarm went off this time at Creamy Rainbow, a bakery and cafe on Dresden Row. Once again the thief had smashed the business' glass door to get inside, and taken the cash register. So far no one has been arrested. The suspect in both break ins is a white man about 30 years old, with short brown hair and glasses. The man was wearing a black jacket with a white hoodie underneath, black pants and black sneakers with white soles. Police say anyone with information about the incident or suspect should contact them or send an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers. MORE TOP STORIES
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. On Tuesday, Pentagon officials said 12 National Guard members were removed from securing Biden's inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who posted and texted extremist views about Wednesday's event. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
Gil Hymer was sixteen years old when he came out of the closet. When he left home, he met his partner through a consciousness-raising group in the gay community. They became fast friends, and bonded easily over their mutual love for music. They were together for 40 years. "We sort of became very entrenched in our own relationship, and didn't make a lot of friends outside," he explains. When his partner died and he entered his golden years, Hymer found himself longing for community. For many people who are over 50 years old and LGBTQ+, it can be difficult to make new friends. While bars in the Gay Village are an option for younger people, the older generation are often left without a space to connect with others their own age. Hymer, however, found support through a group called Gay and Grey Montreal, a social group for people 50 and over who are LGBTQ+. They meet for barbecues, go out for walks, and offer a safe space for people to be themselves. For now though, because of the pandemic, the group meets primarily through video calls. Gil recalls a special moment he had with the group. "[They] came to one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas I was singing in," he says. "It really touched me that they would go all the way out to the West Island to do that." Bruce Cameron founded Gay and Grey in 2018 . The goal was to counteract the homophobia that some seniors might experience as they get older, and to allow them to interact comfortably with people of the same orientation, gender identity, or who share similar experiences. As Cameron explains, many seniors go back into the closet when they enter residential care. "They have to be concerned again about people being homophobic," he says. "They can't really be free, and this is one of the last places where they're going to live." Through Gay and Grey, Cameron also hopes to fight ageism that exists within the LGBTQ+ community. "Whether you're 40, 50, 60, or 70, you still have needs, you still have wants, you still have desires," he said. "And people should be open and accepting of that." By connecting older members to younger people in the LGBTQ+ community, Bruce hopes to bridge the divide between members of the community. "The older generation, they lived through gay liberation. They remember a time when being themselves was actually illegal," Nikki Machin, an outreach co-ordinator for Gay and Grey, explains. "That's an experience that not many of us today, who are millennials or younger, have any experience with." One of the group's members, K. David Brody, was involved in a court case fighting for the right to a widower's pension after his partner died. At the time, the province of Quebec did not recognize gay couples' rights to the pension. The members of Gay and Grey have a message for young people who may be struggling to come out of the closet. As Cameron puts it: "Be proud of who you are. The people who aren't accepting, that's their issue. Live with who you are, and be proud of that." WATCH | Bruce Cameron discusses what it's like to age as part of the LGBTQ+ community with the CBC's Catherine Verdon Diamond.
Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19. QUESTION: if a person from Rapid City, for example, were to test positive at the Brandon site, would they not be added to Brandon district numbers? PROVINCIAL SPOKESPERSON: Numbers are tracked by home address — i.e., the address on the Manitoba Health Card is where that case will be attributed to in our numbers, not the testing location. As to your example, if that person’s home address were to show as Rapid City on their health card, that’s where we would consider the case to be from, not the testing location (Brandon). QUESTION: I understand Moderna’s vaccine efficacy in participants 65 years of age and older appears to be lower than in younger adults 18 to 65 years — 86.4 per cent compared to 95.6 per cent. Considering First Nation elders are top of list for vaccination — is this on your radar at all as an issue? The question would apply, as well, regarding any personal care homes using Moderna. DR. JOSS REIMER: We are constantly looking at the data that’s provided by the companies, as well as by other jurisdictions. We will be sure to analyze it on an ongoing basis. What we have right now shows it as a very effective vaccine and we are confident that it will be beneficial to those who are receiving it. QUESTION: People who work at a COVID testing site are eligible to receive the vaccine. Why aren’t people who work directly with COVID-positive clients at alternative isolation accommodation sites included in the eligibility criteria? REIMER: We have looked at a number of different issues when it comes to determining the eligibility criteria. We looked at issues like whether or not the people would potentially be exposed to the virus in the workplace. We’re also looking at how vulnerable the patients or clients in that setting might be. So for example, for personal care homes, it’s essential that the staff be immunized so that they’re not a source of infection or the individual living in that setting because they’re more likely to experience severe harm. We’re also looking at where we’ve seen evidence of outbreaks and disease transmission, particularly between staff and residents or patients. We’re looking at where we have a specialized workforce with specialized skills or those where any work disruption would be quite critical to the system. All of those factors have to be considered at the same time. So one of the reasons that the COVID immunization clinics became a priority was around that workforce issue. It is critical that these clinics be up and running with as many people as we need in order to give every vaccine as fast as we can. So it was important that not only that we have the eligibility in there to help recruit some of the workers to that batch location, but also to prevent that from ever becoming a source of infection. The last thing we would want for Manitobans is to have one of our vaccine clinics become the site of an outbreak, and so we wanted to ensure that we were protecting everyone who was working there, as well as protecting everyone who is coming through to get their vaccine. Do you have a question? Send your questions to email@example.com with the subject line: Readers Ask. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Albertans logged hundreds of rat reports in 2020, double a typical year, but it's not necessarily because more pests are scurrying around the province. Norway rats are considered to be extremely destructive — they can carry disease and eat through valuable crops. For more than 70 years the province has been determined to stop these pests from calling Alberta home, concentrating efforts along the Saskatchewan border, banning the animals as pets, and investigating any hint of a rat inside the province's borders. Out of 481 rat reports, just 17 turned out to be the real deal last year. Karen Wickerson, specialist with Alberta's Rat Control Program, said the province set up an email in 2020 which helps turn around a case faster than the 310-RATS number. The new reporting method could have helped bolster reporting numbers last year. "When they're out in the environment outside, they have their phones with them and so they can easily take out their phone and email us in a photo, and then we can respond very quickly and tell them which species it is," Wickerson said. "If it is a confirmed rat then we can contact the appropriate people and have them go out and investigate." Wickerson said while Albertans are diligent about reporting rats they usually get it wrong. "What I've noticed about Albertans is they feel a really strong responsibility to report a rat sighting because they know that we are rat-free, which is great," Wickerson said. "Because we don't have a resident population of rats in Alberta, they don't know what a rat looks like." Muskrats more common About half of the sightings in 2020 turned out to be muskrats. But Wickerson doesn't mind. "I'd rather have 100 muskrat emails and, you know, not miss out on a rat sighting or a confirmed rat than people think, 'oh, it might be a muskrat, I'm not going to send an email,'" she said. She added there may be an educational campaign coming in the spring to help Albertans better identify what rats look like. For her, the difference between a waddling muskrat, and a scurrying rat is night and day — but she has daily practice identifying the critters that land in her inbox. It's unclear if the pandemic played a role in last year's rat sightings. Dr. Kaylee Byers is the Regional Deputy Director with the B.C. Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. She's also a researcher with the Vancouver rat program. Byers said throughout the pandemic rats made headlines. The pests were seen in the daylight, reportedly on the move scouring the streets for scraps of food as more humans retreated indoors. "We would certainly expect to see some changes in rat behaviours in relation to major changes in the environment," Byers said. "What exactly those have looked like? All of those reports have been largely anecdotal." Rat research still in its infancy Byers said in many areas there aren't baseline studies or statistics to help better understand what kinds of effects the pandemic has had on rat populations. Rats are notoriously hard to research, as studying wild ones means catching them, sometimes more than once to monitor behaviour. "Wouldn't it have been nice if we were set up to study this in advance?" Byers said. "The way we answer these kinds of questions is through having systems of reporting so we can say whether or not rat sightings have gone up or down." Alberta's Saskatchewan border is patrolled several times a year to check rats aren't crossing over into the province. Rats can't live in mountainous areas, which is good as it keeps British Columbia rats at bay. But, Wickerson said the rodents are crafty hitchhikers. Out of the 26 rats found in 2020, many rode into Alberta on transport trucks or even personal vehicles, which is something Wickerson hopes to work on. There's also been a trend of rats ending up at recycling centres across the province. Wickerson said in Calgary, a family drove from Vancouver Island back to Calgary, making a stop in Kelowna before parking their SUV inside their garage at home. The next morning the homeowner found a rat dead in the garage, floating in a pail of water. Rats like to hitchhike "Check your vehicle when you come back from B.C. so that it doesn't increase our risk of rats entering into the province," Wickerson said, adding many Albertans own property in the neighbouring province. Wickerson hopes to collect more data on rats found in Alberta, mapping out where they are found, recording their specific species, all to see if she can tease out a pattern. "Location, urban-rural, the type of rat and then where it was reported, I'll put in the GPS location, alive or dead, how many, that sort of thing," Wickerson said. "I would like someone to come along, like a grad student, to do a study."
MADRID — As soon as the lifeless body is silently pushed away on a stretcher, a cleaning battalion moves into the intensive care box. In a matter of minutes, the bed where the 72-year-old woman fought for over two weeks for another breath gets rubbed clean, the walls of glass isolating it disinfected with a squeegee. There is little time to reflect on what has just happened, as death gives way to the possibility of saving another life. “Our biggest source of joy is obviously emptying a bed, but because somebody is discharged and not because they have passed away,” said Ignacio Pujol, the head of this Madrid ICU. “That's a little space there for somebody else to get another chance.” As a surge of infections is once again putting Spain’s public health system against the ropes, the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital that employs Pujol, a project seen by many as an extravagant vanity enterprise, is getting a fresh opportunity to prove its usefulness. Named after the 19th-century Spanish nurse who took smallpox vaccination across the Atlantic Ocean, the facility was built in 100 days at a cost of 130 million euros ($157 million), more than twice the original budget. It boasts three pavilions and support buildings over an area the size of 10 soccer fields, looking somewhere between a small airport terminal and an industrial warehouse, with ventilation air ducts, medical beds and state-of-the-art equipment. The original project was for 1,000 beds, of which roughly half have been installed so far. The Zendal opened to a roar of competing fanfare and criticism on Dec. 1, just as Spain seemed to dampen a post-summer surge of coronavirus infections. By mid-December, it had only received a handful of patients. But Spain on Monday recorded over 84,000 new COVID-19 infections, the highest increase over a single weekend since the pandemic began. The country’s overall tally is heading to 2.5 million cases with 53,000 confirmed virus deaths, although excess mortality statistics add over 30,000 deaths to that. As the curve of contagion steepened after Christmas and New Year's, the Zendal has gotten busy. On Monday, 392 patients were being treated, more than in any other hospital in the region of 6.6 million. Spain's surge follows similar infection increases in other European countries, most notably in the U.K. following the discovery of a new virus variant that experts say is more infectious. The London Nightingale, one of the temporary hospitals across Britain designed to ease pressure on the country's overwhelmed health care system, has also reopened for patients and as a vaccination centre. Spain's top health officials insist they have found no evidence that new variants wreaking havoc elsewhere are contributing in any way to its own rocketing infections. Some experts dispute that, claiming the country's limited ability to sequence coronavirus cases is distorting reality and that a new stay-at-home order is necessary. On the ground, increasing hospitalizations for the virus already surpass the peak of the second resurgence. Nearly one out of every five hospital beds has a patient with COVID-19. The new illness is also taking up one-third of the country's ICU capacity and non-urgent surgeries are already being called off. Joined by some medical experts, left-wing politicians and workers’ unions accuse Madrid's conservative government of spending on vote-attracting hardware instead of reinforcing a public health system they have underfunded for years. Investing in contact tracing and primary care previously, they say, could have averted the need for a Zendal altogether. “Rather than the success they boast, the filling up of this makeshift hospital represents a tremendous failure of those at the helm of the pandemic's response, and also a failure of all of us as a society that could have done better," said Ángela Hernández, a spokeswoman for Madrid's main medical workers' union, AMYTS. The last straw for the unions, she said, has been the regional government laying off medical staff who refuse to abandon their positions in regular hospitals when they are reassigned to the Zendal. "The project has been nonsense from beginning to end," Hernández said. "A few beds without adequate personnel don't make a hospital.” Fernando Prados, Zendal's manager, says he doesn't mind the debate but the 750 patients treated over the last month and a half have already taken significant pressure off other hospitals. “We have already contributed in one way or another," Prados said. "We know that we will continue to have COVID patients and once the pandemic is over this infrastructure will be here for any other emergency.” Past automatic glass doors, patients recover in modules of 8 beds, leaving little space for privacy but providing better monitoring of possible complications in their recovery, said Verónica Real, whose challenge as the head nurse has been to organize staff teams drawn from other hospitals. “Some of the sanitary workers arrive with a degree of anger for all the noise out there about our hospital,” Real said. “But once here, the attitude completely changes.” The Zendal's managers say a modern ventilation system renews the entire facility's air every 5 minutes, which contributes to a safer work environment. But they are most proud of the expansion of the intermediate respiratory care unit, where patients receive varying types of assisted respiration to overcome lung inflammation. The unit's chief, Pedro Landete, says by admitting potentially worsening patients in one of its 50 highly-equipped beds, they are reducing the number of people who later require the more demanding intensive care. José Andrés Armada arrived with mild symptoms at the facility after all his family was infected despite what he said was a very careful approach to the pandemic. But the 63-year-old's health quickly deteriorated and last week he was on the brink of being intubated in one of the Zendal's dozen ICU boxes. “I know that the economy is something to safeguard, but health is more important. We should be in lockdown by now. You can’t have bars and other places open," the former entrepreneur said. “I never imagined it could attack you in such a way." ___ AP reporter Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Aritz Parra, The Associated Press
When President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 2017, he promised an end to “American carnage,” a bleak and dysfunctional nation he had insisted that he alone could fix. Closing out his presidency exactly four years later, Trump leaves behind an even more polarized America, where thousands are dying daily from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is badly damaged and political violence has surged. Trump didn’t create the bitter differences that have come to define American life.
Reports that U.S. president-elect Joe Biden plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion are reverberating in Saskatchewan.
The Township of McMurrich/Monteith is still apprehensive about the one-fifth funding model used to calculate the financial contribution towards a regional fire training program. At its Jan. 12 council meeting, the discussion got heated once again, with councillors raising concerns about Burk’s Falls, Ryerson and Armour’s funding. Here is the discussion encompassed in quotes by council: “I have some grave concerns about what I’m reading in the newspaper regarding the (funding formula) and I believe I have voiced that,” said Coun. Alfred Bielke. “I have some further concerns about what has transpired — the number is quoted as $95,000 in this document here — the cost of the RTO agreement was $95,000 when in fact the numbers in that agreement come down to 92,900. Divided by five, it isn’t the number we were quoted in December.” “The tri-county has always had a cost-sharing model of 50-25-25 (per cent) but in the last couple of years, Armour wanted it one-third, one-third, one-third. It’s the very same discussion we are having right now,” said Coun. Lynn Zemnicky. “(This current agreement) buys us three more years to come up with a solid argument on paper saying, ‘look, this is what it’s costing everyone — we don’t care that you have your own cost-sharing agreement. If you’re going to have seven votes, seven municipalities then that’s how it should be split,” said McMurrich/Monteith Reeve, Angela Friesen. “I’m not saying I agree with this process, but I just don’t want our fire department and our residents to suffer because we make a decision here tonight that doesn’t give our people the protection they need,” said Coun. Dan O’Halloran. “I totally agree that that this thing needs to be looked at in the next three years and hammered out … I think we need to get this on the table, get this thing passed and then sit into negotiations to get this straightened out so we don’t have these discussions anymore.” “… I think you also have a responsibility financially and I resent subsidizing someone larger than ourselves,” said Zemnicky. “It’s always been a couple of townships pushing for the one-fifth and if you look at the numbers it relieves them quite a bit.” McMurrich/Monteith decided to defer its decision on the regional fire training program until its next meeting. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's trailblazing Black food writer Dorah Sitole's latest cookbook was widely hailed in December as a moving chronicle of her journey from humble township cook to famous, well-travelled author. The country's new Black celebrity chefs lined up to praise her as a mentor who encouraged them to succeed by highlighting what they knew best: tasty African food. Now they are mourning Sitole's death this month from COVID-19. She was 65. In “40 Years of Iconic Food,” Sitole engagingly described how she quietly battled South Africa's racist apartheid system to find appreciation, and a market, for African cuisine. Her book became a holiday bestseller, purchased by Blacks and whites alike. Sitole's career started in 1980 at the height of apartheid when she was hired by a canned foods company to promote sales of their products by giving cooking classes in Black townships. She found that she loved the work. In 1987, Sitole became the country's first Black food writer when she was appointed food editor for True Love, one of the few publications for the country's Black majority. The magazine, and its competitor Drum, were known for giving Black writers, photographers and editors the freedom to write about the Black condition and experience. With stories that were about much more than food, Sitole described how traditional African dishes brought pleasure to families and communities in troubled times. She was known for her distinctive takes on well-known recipes and tips on how to make them on a budget. She won an avid readership and became a household name, even as South Africa's townships were roiled by anti-apartheid violence. When apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, Sitole found new opportunities. She trained as a Cordon Bleu chef and got a diploma in marketing. She travelled across Africa to learn about the continent's cuisine, producing the book “Cooking from Cape to Cairo.” In interviews, she pointed out her East African fish dish with basmati rice that she developed while travelling through that region, and the seafood samp recipe, which is basically a paella using chopped corn kernels instead of the traditional rice. In 2008, Sitole's success was acknowledged when she was appointed True Love's editor-in-chief. Sitole's warmth and generosity is credited with opening doors for many Black chefs, food writers and influencers who are thriving in South Africa today. “Mam (mother) Dorah’s approach to food was a mixture of things. First, it was something that was driven by her background, she was very true to who she was," said Siba Mtongana, one of South Africa's brightest new chefs, who started out as food editor for Drum magazine and now has a television series and cookbooks. “She would take what we grew up eating and add a twist to them, and add flavours that we would not ordinarily have thought of putting together,” said Mtongana who has opened a restaurant in Cape Town, featuring food from all over Africa. She said Sitole imbued her with a passion for exposing the world to Africa's many cuisines saying she loved describing to her readers what others enjoy eating across Africa, and around the world. Another chef who credits Sitole for assisting her is Khanya Mzongwana, a contributing editor for food retailer Woolworths’ Taste magazine. “Mam Dorah wore so many hats — she was a writer, a creator, a mother, a friend, a real artist. I remember just how awesome it was to see a Black woman blazing trails in food media. Nobody was doing that," said Mzongwana. “What made Mam Dorah the best was definitely how she could fill a space with pleasantness," said Mzongwana. “She was so generous with her resources and wanted to see all of us — her daughters — win. Paying it forward in meaningful ways is something I saw Mam Dorah do first," she said. “She loved and respected everybody and made what seemed like such a wild dream appear so reachable and normal. She was one of the most impactful Black women in the food world.” Sitole received numerous awards for her contribution to South African culture. In one of her last interviews, Sitole said the highlight of her four-decade career was her trip across the continent. “I had always wanted to travel through Africa and I had no clue what to expect," she said on Radio 702. "It was almost like you don’t know what you are going into, and then you find it. I loved every moment and every country that I went to, I loved the food and the experience." Sitole is survived by her children Nonhlanhla, Phumzile and Ayanda. Mogomotsi Magome, The Associated Press
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years. When word leaked this week that Joe Biden would pull the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline project the first day he's sworn in as president, the only person who seemed shocked was Premier Jason Kenney. "We hope president-elect Biden will show respect for Canada and will sit down and at the very least talk to us," said Kenney during an online news conference where he lectured, hectored, and pleaded with the Biden administration. Politically speaking, Kenney was at times on his knees begging, on his toes dancing, shaking his fist, shaking his head, and bending over backwards to justify sinking $1.5 billion into the troubled project in 2020 and promising another $6 billion in loan guarantees in 2021. It was like watching a tap dancer trying to juggle as he set his hair on fire. Kenney, of course, should have seen this coming since March last year when he announced the "wise investment." It was no investment but a gamble on a troubled project. He called it a "bold move." That should have been the first red flag. Whenever politicians describe something they're doing as "bold" they mean controversial or contentious or risky. Kenney, it turns out, meant all three. Another red flag was Kenney acknowledging the project "never would have moved forward" without $7.5 billion in support from the Alberta public. When government's jump in where private corporations fear to tread, plan for a rough landing. And, of course, there was this red flag big enough to cover the pipeline's proposed 2,000-kilometre route from Alberta to Nebraska: "I've been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tar sands that we don't need, that in fact is a very, very high pollutant." That was Biden on the campaign trail promising to take action against climate change. Hot button issue Just as Keystone has become a symbol of economic salvation for Alberta, it has also become a symbol of all the evils of global warming. Both are simplistic tropes. Building Keystone won't solve Alberta's systemic economic problems. Killing it won't end global warming. But, boy, it's been a lightning rod for more than a decade. Keystone was twice rejected under the presidency of Barack Obama and even though it received approval under Donald Trump, Biden promised to scrap the project should he become president. He'll be sworn in on Wednesday. Kenney says cancelling the Keystone expansion project "would be, in our view, an economic and strategic error that would set back Canada-U.S. relations with the United States' most important trading partner and strategic ally: Canada." WATCH | Kenney's message for Joe Biden Kenney is falling into the same political conceit that has beguiled Alberta premiers for decades: the belief that they or Alberta or even Canada really matters on the U.S. stage when partisan politics is involved. Yes, we are major trading partners but, to paraphrase Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's father, we are a mouse sleeping next to an elephant. And the elephant isn't taking our calls. Almost 20 year ago Ralph Klein travelled to Washington in a futile attempt to open up the closed U.S. border to Alberta beef during the mad cow scare. Others including Alison Redford and Jim Prentice tried to educate U.S. politicians and business leaders about the oil sands and its strategic importance in North America, as if highly placed Americans had never heard of Alberta. They have, but they'll only act in Alberta's interests if it's in their interests. Kenney seems to be under the assumption that if he can just get Biden, or someone close to him, on the phone, he could convince the new president to overturn an election promise to shut down Keystone. But Biden made an election promise — just like Kenney did in 2019 to scrap Alberta's carbon tax. Perhaps Biden should simply send Kenney a four-word email the premier would understand: "promise made, promise kept." Kenney asked Biden to "show respect for Canada" and sit down to talk. But where was Kenney's respect last November when he suggested Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was "brain-dead" because her state waged a legal fight last summer against Enbridge's Line 5? Whitmer isn't just any U.S. governor. She was a national co-chair of Biden's presidential campaign. Five days after Kenney's slur, Whitmer took legal action to shut down the pipeline completely this year. Maybe American politicians do listen to Kenney, after all. For Kenney, the impending death of the Keystone project isn't just an end to thousands of construction jobs or another hit to Alberta's beleaguered economy, it's a political humiliation and a harbinger of things to come as the world moves away from fossil fuel. Kenney campaigned in the 2019 Alberta election on a promise of jobs, economy and pipelines. Thanks in large part to the pandemic, Alberta now has some of the highest jobless rates in the country, the depressed price of oil has undercut the economy, and, what must be the most galling of all for a staunch conservative like Kenney, the only pipeline to tidewater under construction is the Liberal-government-owned Alberta-to-West-Coast Trans Mountain pipeline project. There are two questions looming: can Canada convince Biden at the last minute to change his mind on Keystone? If not, how long before Kenney hits his default button and lays the blame at Trudeau's feet?
A tabloid's publication of a deeply personal letter written by Meghan, Britain's Duchess of Sussex, to her father was a "plain breach" of privacy, her lawyers told a court on Tuesday and said the judge should rule in her favour without need for a trial. Meghan, 39, the wife of Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince Harry, is suing publisher Associated Newspapers after its Mail on Sunday paper printed extracts of a handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018. At the start of two days of remote hearings, Meghan's lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke, asked a London High Court judge to issue a summary judgment without a potentially embarrassing trial.
PRISTINA, Kosovo — A court in Kosovo on Tuesday acquitted a dozen former government officials of misusing public money in benefits payments to people who hadn't fought during the 1998-1999 war. The Pristina court said that the 12 defendants, who included former ministers and lawmakers, couldn't be blamed for the illegal payments to around 19,000 fake war veterans, as the prosecutor’s office had charged them in 2018. The prosecutor's office said the state budget suffered 68 million euros ($79 million at the time) in losses claimed improperly from people falsely presenting themselves to be war veterans. Kosovo offers benefits to former fighters of the 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia. A NATO-led air campaign in 1999 forced Serb troops out of Kosovo where an armed uprising by the ethnic Albanian majority population fought for independence. At the time, Kosovo was run by the United Nations until 2008 when it declared independence that Serbia refuses to recognize. The Associated Press
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has delayed its high school scenarios process yet again, leaving parents of junior high students waiting to find out where their child will attend high school. Some of those parents say it's time for the school board to "pull the Band-Aid off," allowing families to plan for the future. Christopher Usih, chief superintendent of the CBE, said the purpose of this work will determine the catchment areas for students entering high school in the 2022-2023 school year. The plan is meant to deal with growing capacity issues faced by numerous high schools in the city. "Otherwise what will happen is we'll have situations where if a school is way above capacity, then we run into challenges around safety and even our ability to be able to provide effective programming because there are just too many students in that one building," he said. "You probably heard in fall of last school year that one of our high schools, [Ernest Manning], was way over capacity and we were really challenged from a health and safety standpoint." Changing timelines Documents posted on the CBE website in May 2019 said the original timeline for the engagement process would see the scenarios finalized and communicated between July and October 2021. In February 2020, the timeline was adjusted, pushing back the engagement and presentation of possible scenarios from March to June 2020, to September to November last year. However, that never happened, and in November, CBE parents were informed that the board would be sharing the high school scenarios with them this month. But in an email sent home last week, the CBE informed parents there would be yet another delay — and that scenarios would be released and and engagement would take place between Feb. 23 and March 17. Kelly Van Webber has a daughter in junior high who will be directly impacted by these decisions. The area their family lives in is currently designated for Ernest Manning, but these potential boundary changes could see them designated to Central Memorial. "The concerning part around that is … when they redid the boundaries for [Ernest Manning High School] before, they basically said in November of that year, 'your kids are going to these schools,' and it was under a year to plan and families were thrown into chaos," he said. COVID-19 to blame for delays Usih said all of the delays to this process have been caused by COVID-19 and the challenges the school board has faced when it comes to school re-entry and online learning. He said it's been an adjustment to switch to engaging families and staff online, as opposed to an in-person session. Van Webber said he struggles to see how this work can be dragging on for more than a year-and-a-half. "[The CBE] knows the numbers, so make a decision and let people plan," he said. "Pull the Band-Aid off already." For his family, Van Webber said knowing which high school their daughter is designated to has big implications. "We're going to see where our designated high school is and we've talked to different families and said, 'Hey, do we form some sort of carpool to go to Bowness?' for example. A bit of a circuitous route to get there, but at least it's a shorter commute," he said. "We've kicked around the idea of, do we move basically a kilometre away to get on the other side of Old Banff Coach road to get into the catchment for Manning if we decide that's the best or the appropriate school? Should move into the catchment area? So, going back and forth with that." CBE confident parents will have time to plan Usih said he appreciates and understands that families want their child to attend a school where there's strong and effective programming. "And, if parents have concerns about programming or any aspect of the school there, we have processes in place for addressing those," he said. "But I cannot emphasize enough the need to ensure that we have strong programming in every one of our schools." Van Webber said the uncertainty of this process is beginning to weigh on students too. "My daughter is in Grade 8 now, and she and her friends are starting to talk about it and, you know, you kind of want some certainty for them as they go into high school, especially with all the wackiness that COVID has caused," he said. Usih said he knows the last year has been a difficult period for many. "We want to make sure that we are we are doing our due diligence to communicate clearly and to provide opportunities for families to know what our plan is going forward," he said. "And I'm confident that, you know, the timelines that we've we've indicated will will satisfy that expectation." Following the engagement in March, Usih said the scenarios are subject to change. But, he said the CBE is committed to finalizing all scenarios for 2022-2023 by no later than December 2021.
(ANNews) – Alexis Nakota Sioux Chief Tony Alexis is criticizing the vaccine roll out in Alberta. In November 2020, The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released preliminary guidance on the key populations for early COVID-19 vaccinations, “for the efficient, effective, and equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccine(s).” The NACI guidance came because of the limited supply of the vaccines which necessitates that there be “prioritization of immunization in some populations earlier than others.” The key populations in Stage 1 of the national vaccine rollout, which were identified by the NACI, are as follows: Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors. Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available. Health care workers (including all those who work in health care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients). And adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences. On January 19, Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Tony Alexis, condemned the Alberta Government for its handling and distribution of its COVID vaccines. "Provinces across Canada are following the NACI guidance and vaccinating Indigenous communities early, with other populations like the elderly identified as vulnerable,” said Chief Alexis. “Meanwhile in Alberta under Minister [of Health] Shandro’s watch, First Nation communities are seeing case numbers rapidly rise, while the rest of the Alberta COVID numbers decline.” Alarmingly, First Nations in Alberta have experienced the most on-reserve COVID cases in the entire country. At the time of writing, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) lists Alberta as having 4,086 confirmed cases within First Nations. A few days ago, it was also reported that Maskwacis has had a total of 1,573 cases – nearly 10 percent of its entire population. Chief Tony Alexis continued by saying, “after weeks of discussions and ‘consultation’ with Chiefs across Alberta – the government of Alberta deceived us and made special arrangements to distribute vaccines early to only one First Nation community. There was no direct communication for this action beforehand.” “This behaviour belittles First Nations people and is a tactic that has been historically used by the government to divide Indigenous people in an attempt to pit us against one another.” “Please know, my outrage is not directed to the community receiving the vaccine early, it is directed to Minister Shandro and the UCP government,” Chief Alexis emphasized. “I am tired of being consulted and urged to work together when it truly does not matter. The UCP government continues to leave us in the dark on issues that directly and disproportionately affect Indigenous people.” The Chief ended his statement by urging Minister Shandro that 10,000 doses would not be enough and that they need to comply with the NACI’s guidance. Then just yesterday, Jason Kenney announced that the provincial government’s plan to vaccinate First Nations and Métis individuals aged 65 and older, which was expected to begin in February, has been put on hold until further notice. “We have quite simply run out of supply,” Kenney said at a press conference. Jacob Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Native News. Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
ATHENS, Greece — Greece's coast guard says three men reported missing after a group of migrants were rescued in a remote part of the Aegean island of Lesbos have been found alive and well. A search and rescue operation was launched Tuesday morning after 24 people were found on the southern part of the island, while the body of one person was recovered. The three missing men were found in a coastal area later and were in good health. The group was believed to have arrived by boat from the nearby Turkish coast. The short but often perilous journey from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands has been one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Mideast, Africa and Asia. Many make the journey in unseaworthy and grossly overcrowded inflatable dinghies or other boats. A 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey stipulates that new arrivals be held on the islands pending deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. The deal has led to massively overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek islands. The Associated Press