Highlights of this day in history: Soviet Union invades Afghanistan; Charles Darwin sets out on round-the-world voyage; Radio City Music Hall opens in New York; James Barrie's play "Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" opens in London. (Dec. 27)
Highlights of this day in history: Soviet Union invades Afghanistan; Charles Darwin sets out on round-the-world voyage; Radio City Music Hall opens in New York; James Barrie's play "Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" opens in London. (Dec. 27)
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
Swedish telecom operators are planning to cover almost the entire country with 5G in the next two to three years after a spectrum auction by the country's telecom regulator PTS. The auction between four bidders, which had been delayed for a security review and by a lawsuit filed by Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei, finally took place on Tuesday. Bidders were units or joint ventures of telecom operators Telia, Tele2, Telenor and Tre.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s Defence Ministry on Wednesday reported the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, the second from the tiny Western Balkan country to die during the international peacekeeping mission. The soldier, identified only by the initials Xh. J., died Tuesday night at 1810 GMT (1:10 p.m. EST), the ministry said in a statement. It didn't specify the location or give any details about the circumstances. The ministry said that the Albanian military was assisting an investigation by the command of the Resolute Support Mission operation in Afghanistan, made up of around 16,000 troops from 38 countries. Albania, a NATO member since 2009, has been part of the international mission since 2010. The country currently has 99 troops in Afghanistan, located at two bases in Herat and Kabul. The ministry expressed condolences to the family and “assure the personnel in the mission and their families of continuous support in the successful accomplishment of their mission.” The Associated Press
MOSCOW — Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader said Wednesday that his forces have killed six suspected militants, including a warlord accused of organizing a 2011 suicide attack at a Moscow airport. Ramzan Kadyrov, the regional leader of Chechnya, said that troops under his command had tracked down the suspects in the village of Katar-Yurt and killed all of them on the spot. Kadyrov claimed that the raid marked the elimination of the last group of militants that remained in the region. “All underground bands in Chechnya have now been eliminated,” Kadyrov said on his blog. He added that the security sweep had been planned long ago and followed two previous unsuccessful attempts to hunt down the militants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Kadyrov, who personally took part in the security sweep. Kadyrov said that those killed included warlord Aslan Byutukayev, whom Russian authorities accused of involvement in the January 2011 suicide bombing at the arrivals area of Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37. Byutukayev appeared in a video alongside top Chechen warlord Doku Umarov and the suicide bomber. Umarov, who also claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Russia, was killed in a security raid in 2013. After Umarov's death, Byutukayev became the leader of militants in Chechnya and swore allegiance to the Islamic State group. He has been on the Russian wanted list for his involvement in the 2011 airport bombing and other attacks. The Kremlin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars in the 1990s and the early 2000s and has provided generous subsidies to help rebuild the region. International human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of rampant rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings by his feared security forces. Despite Kadyrov’s relentless crackdown on suspected extremists, some of whom have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, militants have continued to launch sporadic attacks in Chechnya and other regions in Russia’s North Caucasus. The Associated Press
After the large windstorm that hit Saskatchewan last week, Dallas Ostrom has a tough decision. His property includes the iconic Bents grain elevator, which has been featured in thousands of photos long after Bents became a ghost town. It was in decent condition until the wind storm. Now the elevator has been severely damaged and the top roof is expected to fall off soon. "I've had all sorts of people telling me not to burn it down," he said. "But I don't want anybody going in the elevator and getting hurt. "So I guess I'm wrestling with either burning it down in the wintertime here before the snow leaves or getting a company in to tip it over and see if we can maybe salvage some of the big timbers and stuff out of it. But that gets a little costly." Ostrom looked at the grain elevator every day when growing up because his parents' farm was right across the road. It's located about 94 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon. Ostrom came to possess the elevator after the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool decommissioned it and turned it over to the landowner. He said it wasn't usable even then, and he enjoys seeing people stop by. "We've had people come from all over the world to photograph that elevator," he said. "Like from Qatar, Montreal, all over the States.… It was kind of a sense of pride for me to have one that was so popular and so photographed. "It's a great iconic structure in Saskatchewan. It's too bad that time hasn't been a friend, and this last winter storm the other day kind of was the final straw. So it's a sad day for me." Because he doesn't want to pay the hundreds of thousands to fix it, he needs to decide the next steps. If he doesn't demolish it, he worries someone may get hurt, then sue. "Most people are good people, and they'll stop and ask permission," he said. "But there are a handful of people that come out there and steal stuff out of it and vandalize it and cause trouble. "I don't want to end up broke because somebody sued me for trespassing on my property when they got hurt." Other landmarks damaged in the storm Ostrom's grain elevator isn't the only historic landmark damaged in the storm. The Ogema firewall was destroyed and the Pangman grain elevator was badly damaged. Allan Spriggs, a hobby drone photographer, captured the damage done to the Pangman elevator, about 95 kilometres south of Regina. During the storm, he was concerned about property damage and wasn't planning to take out the drone for the aftermath, but was inspired to check it out after seeing some ground-level images on social media. "My first thought was, 'Wow.' It was incredible to see it ripped apart like that, with portions of the walls completely opened up from the wind, yet the shell of the structure and top of the elevator still standing," Spriggs said. "It looked like it could collapse any minute. "It really gives you a sense of the destructive power of the Prairie wind." Spriggs said people have a real attachment to their small-town elevators, which are part of the cultural identity of the province. "It's sad to see them slowly disappear. It's like seeing a part of our heritage become forgotten," he said. Spriggs hopes to capture more through drone photography before it's too late, and hopes the Pangman elevator will be repaired. He also hopes the old grain elevators will be maintained as heritage sites.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
GUYSBOROUGH – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) launched an initiative last year to reduce the amount of lost fishing gear, also called ghost gear, in Canadian and international waters. In a news release issued earlier this month (Jan. 7), DFO stated that early estimates show this initiative has helped to remove almost 63 tonnes of ghost gear; 80 per cent of which was retrieved from the Bay of Fundy and coastal waters off Nova Scotia, including the waters surrounding the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) – Lobster Fishing Areas 31 A and 31 B. The overwhelming majority of gear type retrieved was lobster and crab pots (86 per cent). Nets and longline from various fisheries comprised 14 per cent of gear retrieved. And 3.2 km of rope was removed from coastal waters in Atlantic Canada. Gear was retrieved by projects supported through DFO’s $8.3 million Ghost Gear Fund, self-funded third-party projects authorized by DFO to collect gear, fishery officer patrols and fish harvesters. In MODG, all retrieved gear was collected by harvesters who previously lost their fishing gear in these areas. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
MULGRAVE – When the Town of Mulgrave prepared its budget for 2020/2021, several issues stood out; in particular, the rising cost of policing, housing and education. At that time, and in the intervening months, Mulgrave’s CAO Darlene Berthier Sampson has been in contact with the RCMP and the Department of Justice about the cost of policing in the town. In September, council was informed that a policing review was slated to begin that month. At Monday night’s regular council meeting (Jan. 18), Department of Justice liaison Donna Jewers met with council to discuss the policing issue. Mayor Ron Chisholm told The Journal that the meeting was very informative and that the town expected to receive further communications from Jewers on the matters discussed. In other business, Mulgrave continues to wait for acceptance of the CAO job offer that was made in December. Mayor Chisholm said they expect an answer in the coming week. The current CAO has completed her contract obligations and doesn’t wish to extend her time in the CAO’s chair. Technical difficulties and the pandemic have meant that recent council meetings have neither been open to the public nor live streamed. Mayor Chisholm said they plan to have one of these options available before the next council meeting in February. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Looks like this conductor isn't crazy about a drone getting some up-close footage of his train. Watch out for the water canon!
GUYSBOROUGH – It has been three months since the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society hearing regarding charges against Adam Rodgers, former partner in the Port Hawkesbury law firm Boudrot Rodgers, concluded. The charges sought to define the potential level of knowledge and complicity Rodgers shared with his former law firm partner, Jason Boudrot, in the latter’s defrauding of clients’ trust funds. The hearing panel, in a decision released Tuesday, Jan. 12, found Rodgers had engaged in professional misconduct and had been reckless in regard to his professional responsibility – but had not misappropriated funds or assisted Boudrot in doing so. “The Panel has concluded that the Society (Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society) has satisfied its burden of establishing on the balance of probabilities that Adam Rodgers has engaged in professional misconduct by being reckless in regard to his professional responsibilities regarding trust funds,” stated the Notice of Decision issued by the Hearing Panel of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society on Jan. 12. In October of 2018, managing partner Boudrot contacted the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society (NSBS) to report that he had “some issues with his trust accounts,” stated a NSBS hearing committee document in 2019. That led to a suspension of Boudrot’s practicing certificate, a declaration of bankruptcy and, in 2019, the disbarment of Boudrot. Last August, the NSBS published a notice stating that the society would hold a hearing respecting charges of professional misconduct and professional incompetence against Rodgers. The hearing, which took place at the beginning of last October, convened to hear submissions and consider evidence regarding the fraudulent dealings with clients’ trust monies managed by Boudrot Rodgers, to determine Rodgers’ role in the matter. The panel heard and was supplied evidence – in the form of an agreed upon joint book of exhibits – related to three charges of professional misconduct by encouraging or knowingly assisting with fraudulent or dishonest dealings with clients' trust monies and/or professional incompetence. The panels’ findings state, “We, as a Panel are satisfied that the Society has demonstrated it is more probable than not that Adam Rodgers, allowed Jason Boudrot to misappropriate clients’ trust funds, through his willful blindness and recklessness and thereby failed in his professional obligations. “The Panel is satisfied by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Rodgers was “deliberately ignorant” of the activities of Mr. Boudrot. The Panel is satisfied that Mr. Rodgers did not deliberately nor actively misappropriate funds nor assist Mr. Boudrot in doing so. The Panel is satisfied the Society has demonstrated that it is more probable than not that Adam Rodgers aided Jason Boudrot through his willful blindness and recklessness and thereby failed to preserve and protect clients’ property.” The conclusion of its 50-page decision states, “In reaching this conclusion the Panel has imputed to Mr. Rodgers’ knowledge of the illegal activities of Mr. Boudrot and that he should have done something about it. The Panel findings are not based on a criminal standard that he aided and abetted Mr. Boudrot, but rather that a lawyer has a very high obligation of trust, as set out in the code of professional conduct and the regulations to properly deal and protect trust funds and Mr. Rodgers breached that obligation.” Rodgers, who has been vocal in his defense against the charges brought by NSBS, shared his response to the decision with The Journal via email Jan. 13. He wrote, “I am pleased to be exonerated on the main charges that I was somehow a participant in the large-scale theft and misappropriation schemes of my former law partner. It was not easy to fight the powerful Bar Society all on my own, but it was the right thing to do, and most of the Bar Society allegations against me were found by the Panel to be without merit, as I had predicted. “My conscience was always clear, but it was still satisfying to see it confirmed by the Panel that I did not take anything from anybody, that I did good work as a lawyer for my clients, and that I handled the crisis brought on my former partner in an appropriate manner,” he stated. Speaking to the finding of misconduct, Rodgers stated, “Where the Panel did make a finding of misconduct, it was to do with relatively minor billing matters, distinct from the main allegations. The Panel agreed that these instances did not result in any client of mine or other third party experiencing any losses and characterized my actions as willful blindness. “While I disagree with this unusual characterization, I take the matter seriously, and have learned some important lessons from the experience. I also wish to move on from this entire matter and focus my energy on the clients and other people I serve, both as a lawyer and community volunteer. I recognize and accept that lawyers are held to a higher standard and, throughout this difficult time, I have tried my best to act and communicate publicly in ways that would reinforce respect for our justice system and preserve the integrity of the legal profession in Nova Scotia.” As for the future, Rodgers wrote, “I look forward now to putting this entire ordeal behind me and see what I can do next for the people of my area, and throughout Nova Scotia. I continue to prepare for the next phase of the Desmond Inquiry, which resumes hearings next month, and [I] am considering several potential opportunities after that.” The panel has 60 days from the time of the decision’s release to determine what sanctions may be applied to Rodgers regarding the findings of the hearing. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
BEIJING — China’s capital, Beijing, recorded seven more coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia, and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday it was "outrageous" that hundreds of thousands of police records had been deleted due to a human coding error with the Police National Computer. A piece of software to weed out records from the database that the computer had no legal right to hold went haywire because of faulty coding and began to automatically delete hundreds of thousands of other records, the Home Office said. "Of course it is outrageous that any data should have been lost but at the moment ... we're trying to retrieve that data," Johnson told parliament, adding that the Home Office (interior ministry) hoped to restore the deleted information.
TORONTO — Shareholders of West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. and Norbord Inc. have approved a $4-billion all-stock deal that will marry two of Canada's big wood product producers. Norbord chief executive Peter Wijnbergen, who will join West Fraser as president of of engineered wood, said in November that the combined company aims to be a “one-stop shop” for construction customers. The combined company says it will operate as West Fraser with headquarters in Vancouver and a regional office in Toronto, with West Fraser shareholders owning 56 per cent of the company, and Norbord shareholders owning about 44 per cent. Executives said when the deal was announced that the new West Fraser will have 10,000 employees. The deal comes as lumber prices have hit record highs twice in the past six months, according to lumber statistics from RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst Paul Quinn. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:WFT, TSX:OSB) The Canadian Press
A group of horseback riders on P.E.I. is looking at other options after their request to use sections of the Confederation Trail was rejected by the provincial government. Donna Lee Cole, an avid rider and member of the group, said they had asked to use a 10 to 20 kilometre section of the trail in each of the three counties as a pilot for the summer of 2021. They would share the trail with cyclists, joggers and walkers, as is done in other parts of the country. "We want to be part of the nature and the different woods and the undulating landscape and hillside, that's what we're looking for as trail riders," she said. "If we could access parts of the trail in rural areas to connect to separate adjoining trails that would be phenomenal." However, when they met last fall with Steven Myers, P.E.I.'s minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy, he quickly made his position clear. "My response was no," he said, "but that I would work with them in developing trails around that they could use for horses." Myers said government would be willing to partner with the group to redevelop the old horseback trail in Forest Hill near Dundas in eastern P.E.I. "It's a really nice trail in a really picturesque area," he said. "We're looking at what we can do to bring that back. And certainly interested in if we can help create a new type of multi-use trail that includes horses in other parts of Prince Edward Island. We'd also entertain that." Myers said money could come from the active transportation fund. I'm not ready to drop it but if he is willing to come up with alternatives, that would be great. — Donna Lee Cole He said staff in his department have told him that allowing horses on the Confederation Trail would cause bumps and ruts that would make it unsafe for cyclists and walkers, and would require a lot of maintenance. Cole said she disagrees that the horses would cause damage to the trail, and was "quite disappointed" when the proposal was rejected. Currently, horses are allowed on P.E.I. roads, but anyone riding on the Confederation Trail can face fines up to $1,000. "I'm not ready to drop it but if he is willing to come up with alternatives, that would be great," Cole said. Myers has asked the group to come up with a plan that doesn't include the Confederation Trail. 'The door is open' "From where I stand, the door is open and we're here and ready to work," he said. "I want it to be their project. I'd kind of want them to be the lead on it because they're the experts.… Just like we do with cycling groups and walking, hiking groups, we rely on them to say, 'here is what we want,' and then we try to make it fit into the program that we have currently running." Janice MacSwain, another member of the group who met with the province, said the Confederation Trail is a logical first option because of its accessibility, but she is more concerned about just having a safe place to ride. She is looking forward to meeting with government to further discuss the possibilities. "I really want it to go forward in whatever format we can for the safety. I ride with a young girl sometimes and when we're on the road I'm just a little bit nervous," she said. "It's just not as safe on the roads as it was, say, 20, 30, 40 years ago." Cole said the horseback riding group is also in discussions with the ATV Federation about the possibility of sharing their trail system. More from CBC P.E.I.
Family doctors in Alberta want to help give COVID-19 vaccinations but say the province has yet to tap them for help. "Family doctors have largely been left out of the conversation about the distribution and administration of vaccines in the province," said Dr. James Makokis, a family physician with practices in Edmonton, Kehewin Cree Nation who also works with an addictions and mental health practice in Toronto. Makokis said family doctors are in a good position to help because they know which patients meet the criteria for vaccinations and could help identify them. He said family doctors have their patients' trust and can answer questions they might have about the vaccine. While there are challenges that would make it difficult to store the vaccines in most family clinics, he said, many of the other roughly 5,200 family doctors in the province would be willing to attend AHS vaccination sites to help with injections. "If there was opportunity for, you know, late night shifts or weekend shifts when people can be vaccinated, many physicians would make themselves available to meet the needs of that," he said. Makokis said the province needs to engage with doctors, and wonders if the series of recent clashes between the provincial government and physicians has become a barrier. "My sense is their ego has gotten in the way to reach out for help," he said. Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said family doctors have yet to be tapped simply because of limited supply of the vaccine, and the province recognizes the important role doctors and others could play when there is more vaccine to go around. On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta was on track to use up its current supply by the end of that day or early Wednesday. "Right now, we have a very limited amount of vaccine available," McMillan said in a statement. "This is why we are currently focusing on the priority groups in Phase 1, which can most effectively be immunized directly through AHS personnel. As the available supply of vaccines increases, we will expand our approach." He said the province will continue to work with pharmacists, physicians and other health professionals on options for rolling out vaccines on a broader scale, and an update will be provided to the public in the coming weeks — including information about how different providers will be compensated for giving vaccine. Dr. Craig Hodgson, the family medicine section president of the Alberta Medical Association, said discussions have been held over the course of the pandemic about different ways family doctors could be involved in the vaccine rollout, but so far there hasn't been much interest. "Largely, we … certainly haven't received much in the way of a response in terms of wanting us to be involved," Hodgson said. In his own practice in Whitecourt, he said, patients have asked questions about the vaccine, and the relationship people have with family practitioners can be a way to address hesitancy concerns. Dr. Vishal Bhela, president of the Alberta College of Family Physicians, said the college has also been involved in a number of conversations, and while they recognize the issues of limited supply and ensuring that specific high-risk groups get shots first, they still hope to see family doctors looped in as the program expands. "We're hopeful that there will be a recommendation about the important role that family physicians can play in a successful COVID-19 campaign," he said. "Patients trust us, they have long-standing relationships with us, they approach us with questions and already have been," he said.
As you take a closer look at your financial footing amid the headwinds of a pandemic, it’s an excellent time to examine the possible impact of a Joe Biden presidency on money matters. The balance of Congress has shifted following the Georgia runoffs, providing possible momentum for President Biden’s agenda. A new COVID check, taxes, health care — it’s all on the line. Here’s how. A SHORT FUSE ON ANOTHER ROUND OF STIMULUS CHECKS Look for another round of pandemic relief shortly after Biden’s inauguration, says Bernard Yaros Jr., an economist with Moody’s Analytics. “In February, we expect that there’s going to be a COVID-specific relief package,” Yaros says. That measure will likely once again extend unemployment insurance benefits, with enough support for another round of checks issued to Americans, “whether it’s 2K or slightly lower,” he says. Small businesses are likely to receive more grants and forgivable loans, as well. “And we’re also thinking, you would probably get some additional funding for rental assistance,” Yaros adds. MOVING FROM RELIEF TO STIMULUS With Democrats gaining two seats in the Senate from the Georgia runoffs, there is now a greater possibility of moving from “relief” to “stimulus” mode in late 2021. “That’s because now that the Democrats have a simple majority in the Senate. They can pass changes to the tax code as well as implement changes in spending,” Yaros says. Moody’s Analytics economists expect the Biden administration will dedicate increased funding for enhancements to “social safety nets,” possibly including: — Expanding eligibility for Medicare. — Retooling Obamacare into Bidencare. — Rolling out paid sick leave protections. — Offering universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. — Providing some kind of student debt forgiveness. But on these initiatives, Democrats will “have to pick and choose,” Yaros says. “Among the more moderate Democrats, they’re not going to want to increase the deficit too much. That’s obviously going to be a limiting factor,” he adds. And while Vice-President Kamala Harris holds the deciding vote in the event of a Senate tie, the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans doesn’t constitute filibuster-proof power. REVERSING TRUMP TAX CUTS Higher taxes are expected to partially fund the widening of these social safety nets. Yaros says Biden is likely to succeed in reversing Trump’s tax cuts, raising the corporate income tax rate to 28%, increasing the tax rate for taxable incomes of more than $400,000 and eliminating some tax breaks for those making more than $1 million. But the tax hikes may be smaller than widely anticipated, says Michael Zezas, head of U.S. public policy research at Morgan Stanley. “In a Senate where Democrats have the slimmest majority possible, any one Democratic senator effectively has a veto. And when it comes to taxes, we expect many of the Biden administration’s proposed taxes won’t pass muster with Democratic moderates,” Zezas says in an analysis. “We estimate about $500 billion of tax increases are possible, obviously a smaller number than another potential COVID stimulus round, and also smaller than the $1 trillion-plus spending now in play for each of health care and infrastructure,” Zezas added. Even if Biden can swing the tax hikes, they aren’t expected to kick in until 2024, Yaros says, “to make sure that there’s no fiscal drag, at all, on the economy in these next couple of years when we’re still digging ourselves out of the pandemic.” REVISING RETIREMENT PLANS Joe Biden also has some ideas to reshape employer-sponsored retirement plans. One of those proposals is to equalize the tax benefit of contributing to a retirement plan so that “higher-income earners aren’t getting more of the benefit than the lower-income workers, that it’s standard across the board,” says Anne Tyler Hall, founder and principal of Hall Benefits Law. For example, someone in a 37% tax bracket is able to deduct the full amount of a retirement plan contribution; so $37 for every $100 pre-tax contribution. That’s a greater tax benefit than someone in a lower tax bracket, such as 20%, who would receive a $20 deduction for each $100 pre-tax contribution. The idea proposed by the Biden administration is to offer a tax credit to low- and moderate-income workers, resulting in an equal tax benefit. Democrats are also pushing for employers to make retirement saving easier for the U.S. workforce. “Employers who don’t offer retirement plans would be required to allow employees to make contributions to individual retirement accounts, IRAs,” Hall says. “Contributions to the IRAs would come directly from paychecks.” With the shift of balance in Congress, Hall says such changes may be more likely. Plus, “some of these provisions have bipartisan support,” she adds. RELATED LINKS: Georgia Changes the Game https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/thoughts-on-the-market-zezas Budgeting 101: How to Budget Money http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-budget-101 Hal M. Bundrick Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — One name missing in President Donald Trump's flurry of pardons is “Tiger King” Joe Exotic. His team was so confident in a pardon that they'd readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas. But he wasn't on the list announced Wednesday morning. Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed. Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019. In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued that he was “railroaded and betrayed” by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that “he will likely die in prison” because of health concerns. Maldonado-Passage's legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” The Associated Press
China's central bank has proposed stepping up antitrust measures for companies in the non-bank payments industry, such as Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent's WeChat Pay. Under draft rules proposed on Wednesday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) can advise the state council's antitrust committee to stop companies abusing their dominant position or even break up a non-bank institution if it "severely hinders the healthy development of the payment service market".