Highlights of this day in history: Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer gets life in prison; House lawmakers pick a president; Garry Kasparov beats IBM's Deep Blue at chess; NBA star Michael Jordan born; The Eagles release their greatest hits. (Feb. 17)
Highlights of this day in history: Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer gets life in prison; House lawmakers pick a president; Garry Kasparov beats IBM's Deep Blue at chess; NBA star Michael Jordan born; The Eagles release their greatest hits. (Feb. 17)
WASHINGTON — The economy grew at a 4.1% pace in the final three months of 2020, slightly faster than first estimated, ending a year in which the overall economy, ravaged by a global pandemic, shrank more than in any year in the past seven decades. The influx of new government stimulus efforts and accelerated vaccine distribution could lift growth in the current quarter, ending in March, to 5% or even higher, economists believe. The 4.1% gain in the gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic health — is a slight upward revision from 4% growth in the first estimate released a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The revision does alter the nation's annual GDP which shrank 3.5%, the largest decline since 1946 when the U.S. demobilized after World War II. As bad as 2020 was, it's set the nation up for what economists believe will be a very strong rebound. Many project a growth rate of 5% or more in the current quarter or more, with 9% growth the headline in some forecasts. For all of 2021, economists are forecasting the GDP could grow by 6%. That would be the fastest annual GDP growth since the economy expanded 7.2% in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was president. Fueling optimism about an economic comeback is a sharp decline in new COVID-19 infections, and recent surging sales in the beleaguered retail sector. “You have massive government stimulus, low interest rates from the Fed and the vaccine supply is growing,” said Sung Won Sohn, finance and economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “The economy is beginning to fire on all cylinders.” The upward revision to the nation's quarterly GDP reflected stronger housing construction, a bigger increase in business inventories, and a smaller decline in state and government spending than first estimated a month ago. These gains offset a slightly slower increase in consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. The new report showed consumer spending growing at a 2.4% rate, slightly lower than the 2.5% gain initially estimated. Housing construction, the star performer for the economy last year, grew at a 35.8% rate in the fourth quarter following a 63% surge in the third quarter. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
(CBC - image credit) Six Prince Edward Islanders are being honoured by the Governor General's office for their service to others, with their names appearing Thursday on a list of 98 recipients of the Meritorious Service Decoration. They are: Carolyn Bateman said receiving the honour has been "a little surreal, nothing I ever expected that's for sure." In an interview with CBC News: Compass's Louise Martin, Bateman said when she received the email about the award she thought it was a hoax. Bateman recalled how she and teRaa both had children with autism, and started the Autism Society. As the children grew up, the women had to figure out how best to support them as adults. There's nothing like putting a mother in a corner! — Carolyn Bateman "Once they left the school system there was nothing for them to do, no place to go, no place to live if their parents were aging," Bateman said. Her son Adam was "very bright" and graduated high school, Bateman said. "We just thought he deserved more than sitting at home all day, he needed a life. And others like him needed a life too," she said. "There's nothing like putting a mother in a corner!" So they started the Stars for Life Foundation, a home for adults with autism. Adam Bateman is now 39 and enjoys volunteering and socializing, she said. Much has been learned about autism since then and with robust fundraising, the foundation continues to be a success. Bateman was also named to the Order of P.E.I. in 2016. Betty Begg-Brooks is one of six people from Prince Edward Island being honoured by the Governor General of Canada's Office for their work helping others. "Honourees announced today have undertaken a variety of inspiring initiatives to support the most vulnerable in their communities," said a news release from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. It continues: "Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to extraordinary and unprecedented times, and many Canadians rose to the challenge to support and help others." More from CBC P.E.I.
As the branches of Muskoka’s three township's libraries prepare to reopen to the public, use of their services are more in demand than ever. Across the region, public libraries are adjusting to new operations in the time of COVID-19, including increased online services and curbside pickup at some locations. On Monday, the provincial government permitted libraries to reopen with “limited on-site services, such as computer access and contactless book pickup and drop-off.” Patrons are not to handle books or materials on shelves. Cathy Fairbairn, CEO of Lake of Bays Township Public Library, operating branches in Baysville and Dwight, said curbside pickup has been a hit with patrons and demand is steadily increasing. “It’s taking us a lot longer to get the items out the door because we stand and chat with them,” she said of the library’s users. “It feels like people are coming home.” To ensure the health and safety of staff and patrons the library is collecting return items on a separate cart that is stored for 72 hours before staff touch it. Turnaround time for materials is a little longer, Fairbairn said, but users understand. Plexiglas barriers are being installed, separate doors will be designated for entering and exiting and public computers will be cleaned following each use. Unfortunately, some of the toys in the kids section will be put away, “which is sad, but we have to be safe,” Fairbairn said. In March, Lake of Bays Township council approved funding for subscriptions to media streaming sites like Hoopla and Canopy which offer ebooks, audio books and comics as well as television and films. “The timing could not have been better,” said Fairbairn. As a result of the pandemic, new digital programming has also been popular among families, as library staff have pivoted to online formats. “The response to those videos has been overwhelming,” Fairbairn said, citing more than 1,000 views on some posts, “which is way more than we can reach if we’re inside our walls.” At the Georgian Bay Township Public Library, the MacTier and Port Severn branches are also offering curbside pickup and calls for the service are growing, said CEO Tracey Fitchett. “The libraries have continued to grow their collections in order to keep reading materials and movies up-to-date,” Fitchett said in an email to this newspaper. One of the unfortunate downsides the pandemic has presented is the halting of sales of used books and movies, an important source of revenue for library budgets, Fitchett explained. Forgiven fines for late returns have also affected revenue, leaving a significant impact on the library, she added. Opening a library where patrons are unable to touch the materials is a difficult thing to do, said Cathy Duck, CEO of Muskoka Lakes Public Library. For the last four weeks the Port Carling branch has offered curbside pickup and staff are busy filling requests. Duck said phase two of reopening doesn’t change much at her library where the doors will not open to the public for some time yet. “Typically in the summertime we are the community information centre, the community washroom, so if our doors are open we have to be prepared for that as well,” she said. “It’s not just about the library.” Duck’s branches regularly provide senior and children’s programming that draw people from across the Township. “We were a very vibrant library here,” she explained. “We’re all missing that.” Staff have moved some services, like story time, online but, recognize not everyone has access to the internet which can be a challenge. “A lot of our users are hard copy book users, they’re not electronic users.” To keep patrons up-to-date the library uses its website and social platforms but it also has a forthcoming community survey, to be delivered with Mayor Phil Harding’s newsletter, to gauge how services are being received. “It was part of our library strategic plan,” said Duck. “But because of how things are now, it’s morphed into a pandemic plan.” At press time an official reopening date is still to be determined as Fairbairn consults with the library board and sets further precautions, but she knows people are anxious to visit. “For seniors in our area, the library is a huge part of their social life." In the meantime, staff is working on compiling a list of work by Black authors and other relevant materials, anticipating requests in light of anti-racism protests occurring across the world. Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
TORONTO — A new report says Canada’s small businesses now collectively owe more than $135 billion as they struggle to survive the pandemic, a staggering amount experts say could hurt the country's economic recovery. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the average small business owner has accrued $170,000 in debt, with businesses in the hospitality, recreation and service sectors most indebted. Laura Jones, CFIB's executive vice-president, says the amount of debt being racked up by businesses has grown significantly over the last six months. She says the second wave of COVID-19 and the restrictions that came with it are putting a massive wrench in an already slow recovery for small businesses. The CFIB report says that three-quarters of business owners who have taken on debt say it will take them more than a year to repay loans, with 11 per cent expressing concern that they may not be able to repay their COVID-19 related debt at all. Taylor Matchett, a research analyst at CFIB and the lead author of the report, says businesses are more fragile now than at the beginning of the pandemic, and that every effort should be made to keep businesses open while managing the health implications of the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb, 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Submitted by The Front Yard Flower Co. - image credit) Flower vendors are worried B.C.'s COVID-19 rules for farmers' markets could lead to greenhouses full of blooms going to waste. Farmers' markets are considered an essential service and have been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic. However, non-food vendors like potters, jewelry and soap makers and flower sellers are excluded from in-person sales. This rule was lifted for a time last summer before being reinstated in December. Flower farmers plan months ahead, ordering seeds and growing plants throughout the winter, said Rachel Ryall, who owns River and Sea Flowers in Ladner. "We planted the current flowers that will be blooming over the next month back in September and October, assuming things would be alright to sell them again," Ryall said. "I can't stop them from flowering. They're coming." Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition urging non-food vendors be allowed back. She has sold her flowers at the Vancouver Farmers Market for years and says the market has maintained strict rules throughout the pandemic to keep visitors and vendors safe. Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and she's worried about lost sales and wasted blooms — she says she's not equipped for large-scale delivery across the Lower Mainland. "I feel like maybe we've been forgotten, because we're not vegetable farmers, we're kind of a smaller segment of vendors," Dykstra said. Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition asking that non-food vendors be allowed back. Laura Smit, executive director of Vancouver Farmers Market, says although she is grateful the province has permitted markets to continue operating, it's never been made clear why non-food vendors aren't allowed. The farmers' market has been working since December to bring back non-food vendors, and she says if the rule is not overturned, it will have a big impact on the bottom line for flower vendors in particular. "Their product is absolutely seasonal," Smit said. "It's not something that is shelf-stable and can sit around to be sold later on in August. Literally the spring time is when these flower farmers are planning for, preparing for, and they don't understand why they can't come to market and we don't either." Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and Rose Dykstra is worried about lost sales and wasted blooms if she can't bring them to the market. In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the rule is in an effort to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission down, and added that non-food vendors can do online sales and pick-up orders. "The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers' markets are essential food and agriculture service providers," a spokesperson said. "The B.C. government will continue to listen to feedback from the community and stakeholders and adjust our response to support businesses as needed." Soap also not allowed — during a pandemic It's not just flower farmers who are concerned. Shea Hogan hopes he will be able to sell his natural bar soap at farmers' markets again this spring. The owner of PoCo Soap Co. says farmers' markets used to be a big part of his business and a way to build relationships with customers. He says it's ironic that, as a non-food vendor, he can't sell soap in a pandemic. He believes buying items from an outdoor farmers' market is among the safest ways to shop. "It was frustrating because other than being arbitrary and general, we're being told to wash our hands with soap and water," Hogan said. "And as a maker and seller of soap, to not be allowed to sell soap somewhere seems ... extra weird."
MUSKOKA LAKES — Norah Fountain is used to wearing many hats as the executive director of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges and longer workdays for Fountain, as local business owners have turned to the chamber for guidance in an uncertain time. Advocacy quickly became a focus for the chamber in the early days of lockdown, Fountain explained, because, “we knew right away there would be businesses who would fall through the cracks.” The chamber helped to get the Muskoka Business Recovery Fund off the ground, which has received $750,000 from the District of Muskoka and an additional $2.1 million from the federal government. Still, the chamber has its own business to operate and this year will be different. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has pulled back on its financial support for the chamber, to the tune of $20,000, “to keep their budget in line,” Fountain said. As a result, the Port Carling Visitor Information Centre will not open this summer. The chamber will receive $27,000 from the Township to maintain its operations, which this month include a virtual job fair as well as outreach to attract Canadian travellers. “We are their front line tourism arm,” Fountain said, of the chamber’s 24-year relationship with the Township. “We put the money right back into the local economy.” COVID-related questions meant the chamber was “inundated with phone calls,” according to Fountain who has worked on developing resources like a set of COVID guidelines businesses can use as they reopen. As well, the chamber has provided hiring assistance for seasonal workers and helped local businesses move into e-commerce. The chamber also began a Facebook group, Muskoka Lakes Resiliency to connect businesses and extend their reach, posting the menus of local restaurants to encourage takeout business. Fountain also raised the idea of assembling a Muskoka Recovery Task Force to help aid businesses now dealing with coming back to a COVID economy after also suffering losses in the 2019 floods. Some of the chamber’s 312 members fast-tracked their annual renewals to help provide stability for the chamber, as revenue-generating events have been cancelled. And, new members like CrossFit Muskoka have joined, “because they’re seeing our advocacy work,” Fountain said. Not everyone has been able to make it through COVID-19, said Fountain, who called it “heartbreaking” that Clevelands House Resort will not be offering accommodations this summer. It is the impact this year will have on local business owners that Fountain is thinking of as she looks further ahead. “We’re actually concerned about what 2021 will look like.” Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic appears set to force a modernization of Canada's justice system. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced a bill the government says will make targeted and permanent changes to the Criminal Code to give courts flexibility. Among them are clarifying the law to allow the accused to appear remotely in certain criminal proceedings and providing for remote participation for jury selection.The government says that even with the proposed changes, in-person proceedings would remain the norm, but the new provisions would ensure a remote approach remains an option. Canada's justice system was already wrestling with case backlogs in the courts when the pandemic hit last year, closing courthouses and pausing many trials.Courts were forced to look at different ways of working and accelerate steps toward modernization that many felt were long overdue.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A new alert system that police recently used to find two missing girls received endorsement from the country's police chiefs on Thursday.The system, known as the Child Search Network, allows police to put out information on a missing child via a website and smart-phone app. Members of the public can then offer tips by clicking on the name or picture of the child. Supt. Cliff O'Brien, with Calgary police, called the network run by the non-profit Missing Children Society of Canada "super impressive.""The more people in our community that are looking instead of just the police, the better it is," O'Brien said. "It's great that all law enforcement is going to come together with our communities to help rescue kids."The network aims to alert the public — especially those in a specific location — to missing children deemed at high risk, but who are not in the kind of imminent danger needed to trigger an Amber Alert. The network began testing in September 2019, with just a few police services as early adopters.Now, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have given the system its blessing. The association is urging all police services across the country to adopt and implement the new network as a standard resource in all high-risk missing children investigations.The society's Rescu website and phone app allows users to view all active cases by geographic region. Names, photographs and other relevant data are available.Users can register to receive text alerts on their cellphones specific to cases in their area. The faster a child is found, the more likely they can be returned unharmed to safety, data indicate.Police services across Canada received 40,425 reports of missing children or youth — about half of all missing-person reports, federal data show. About three-quarters of the young people involved were runaways.A few weeks ago Calgary police were able to find two 14-year-old girls reported as missing and designated as high risk after an alert via the network. Tips began coming in within hours of the first alert."Within 24 hours, we were able to locate and safely return this second girl to her family," O'Brien said. "The first 14-year-old girl, within three days of that, we were also able to find her and return her to her loved ones."Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children Society of Canada, said the technology and system now in place will help in the rescue of vulnerable children."We have a network that is able to be used in every single community by every single police service for the sole purpose of protecting children and finding a child as fast as possible," Pick said.Over the past year, the society's Rescu website has received about 4,500 visits and close to 800 users have subscribed to receive text alerts, the organization said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
The hiking boots and winter boots, sneakers and sandals are piling up in the hundreds in Ally Zaheer’s family home in Pickering. They’ve been dropped off on her porch by nearby Durham Region residents and others from Markham and across Toronto responding to a call to voice opposition to the fast-tracked destruction of ecologically significant wetlands nearby. On Friday, the shoes will be placed outside city hall in Pickering, where the mayor and council have pushed to build a warehouse, part of a nearby casino development called Durham Live, over one of the last pieces of wetlands in the Greater Toronto Area. “The City of Pickering is putting Pickering on the map as a leader for wetland destruction rather than a leader for sustainability,” said Zaheer, who in December joined the pandemic-proof protest push started by her former high school environment council co-member Devin Mathura. The pair got the idea from a Guelph Fridays 4 Future climate strike that substituted a typical street action with a shoe strike last year, and will donate the shoes to nearby shelters once pandemic restrictions ease. The municipality’s effort has been aided and abetted by the provincial government, just one among more than a dozen development projects in environmentally sensitive locations the Ford government has recently approved by overriding existing regulations and stripping power from local conservation authorities. In some of the cases, including the Pickering one, the developers behind the projects have donated to the Progressive Conservatives and local politicians, a National Observer investigation has revealed. The moves from a government that claims to be thinking about the everyday taxpayer are likely to be counterproductive in the long run, said Zaheer, who is now studying environmental engineering at the University of Guelph. “From a taxpayer's perspective, with a wetland destroyed, that's going to be a lot of money needed to be put in for flood prevention as that new paved area has nowhere to run off into,” she said. Sitting just inside Pickering’s boundary with the neighbouring town of Ajax (whose mayor is opposed), the wetland connects to the broader Duffins Creek watershed as it drains into Lake Ontario. Duffins Creek is in relatively good condition, but the watershed is under pressure as urban boundaries expand, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) says. “The fact that there is a wetland in a very urbanized area is incredible,” Zaheer said. “It plays a large role in our watershed, it’s flood prevention, it's a habitat for migratory species as well as native flora and fauna.” Zaheer and Mathura, who is studying environmental and resource sustainability at the University of Waterloo, met in December with local politicians, including Peter Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge and the government’s finance minister, to express their views. They are now trying to up the pressure, with the shoe strike on Friday and by drafting an open letter they plan to send to Dave Ryan, the mayor of Pickering, as well as Premier Doug Ford, Bethlenfalvy and Steve Clark, the province’s municipal affairs minister. “We are heartbroken that we have to write this letter,” they write. “We are speaking on behalf of the disappointed, confused, anxious and scared youth across Ontario.” “Your lack of concern for our future has been demonstrated through your drive to destroy our environment, which you justify as an economic boost,” they say, noting that this particular zoning order sets a precedent for other developers to follow. “Greed is the only explanation for the destruction of this wetland,” they add. “You are abusing your power and shutting out our voices!" Morgan Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
(CBC News file photo - image credit) Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson says from his own experience in cabinet, he knows issues the New Brunswick auditor general raised about NB Power in her latest report are longstanding. Melanson, a former finance minister, said that during his time in government it was sometimes difficult to deal with the Crown corporation. "t was probably one of the most frustrating pieces, where on a yearly basis, when NB Power actually submitted their forecasts in terms of net income contribution to the provincial government, which impacts the provincial yearly budget," said Melanson, who held a variety of cabinet posts in the Brian Gallant government. "They were never on target. They were always behind." The auditor general's report was the topic of this week's New Brunswick Political Panel podcast, with a focus on what the report said about NB Power. In her report, released on Tuesday, Auditor General Kim Adair-Macpherson said the utility failed to meet financial targets "year after year." She said debt reduction is "not a top priority" for the utility and its liabilities constitute "the largest contingent risk to the province." Melanson said the government needs to be serious about getting NB Power to focus on their financial situation. Green Party Leader David Coon said the legislature's public accounts committee holds some responsibility for keeping the utility in check, but the Energy Act should be amended to give the Energy and Utilities Board the authority to approve the utility's 10-year plans and not just rate increases. "Without that, you know, they've got one arm tied behind their back and you're not getting the accountability necessary," said Coon. Adair-Macpherson questioned the business sense of keeping New Brunswick's electricity rates some of the lowest in Atlantic Canada. Green Party Leader David Coon, Liberal Leader Roger Melanson, and People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin responded to the auditor general's report on this week's political panel. "While maintaining a consistently low annual rate may be advantageous to NB Power consumers, it is likely contributing to its failure to meet the debt to equity target and ever-increasing debt level," said Adair-Macpherson. Coon said the province should look at amending the Energy Act to deal with industry rates. "Right now [the act allows] NB Power … to deliver power for less than their cost to heavy industry. So they're losing on revenues there," said Coon. People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said he believes the utility would benefit from narrowing its focus to providing electricity to customers. "I've seen lately that NB Power seems to be branching out into other areas, such as, you know, investment in research and development, which I understand there has to be a certain element of," said Austin. "You go back to, you know, things like Joi Scientific, where you see money literally just, you know, thrown down the drain here for these whimsical ideas." The Progressive Conservatives were unable to provide someone to take part in the panel this week.
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week in a sign that layoffs may have eased, though applications for aid remain at a historically high level. Jobless claims declined by 111,000 from the previous week to a seasonally adjusted 730,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It is the lowest figure since late November and the sharpest one-week decline since August. Still, before the virus erupted in the United States last March, weekly applications for unemployment benefits had never topped 700,000. The latest figures coincide with a weakened job market that has made scant progress in the past three months. Hiring averaged just 29,000 a month from November through January. Though the unemployment rate was 6.3% in January, a broader measure that includes people who have given up on their job searches is closer to 10%. All told, 19 million people were receiving unemployment aid as of Feb. 6, up from 18.3 million the previous week. About three-quarters of those recipients are receiving checks from federal benefit programs, including programs that provide jobless aid beyond the 26 weeks given by most states. Last week's drop in applications was concentrated in two states, California and Ohio, where they fell by a combined 96,000. Ohio officials had said earlier this month that a surge in new applications was driven in part by a jump in potentially fraudulent claims. That now appears to have faded. California's system operates on a biweekly bases, which can make its weekly data choppy. This month's devastating winter storms and power outages in Texas and some neighbouring states might have also disrupted the filing or processing of some claims. Applications for jobless aid fell by one-sixth in Texas to about 35,000. Yet last week's decline in applications was broad-based, with 36 states and the District of Columbia reporting fewer people seeking unemployment benefits. That suggests that employers might be cutting fewer jobs. "The drop may be signalling a turning point for labour market conditions,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics. Still, she cautioned, "the data continue to suffer from noise related to issues of backlogs and fraud. We expect a more sustainable labour market recovery to take hold closer to mid-year with broader vaccine distribution and the arrival of more fiscal support." In the meantime, economists say, widespread business shutdowns in states hit by the ice storms could cause an increase in applications for jobless aid in coming weeks. Despite the weakened job market, key sectors of the economy are showing signs of picking up as vaccinations increase and government rescue aid works its way through the economy. The Federal Reserve's ultra-low-rate policy is providing important support as well. Retail sales soared last month as many Americans spent the $600 checks that were included in a relief package enacted in December. Factory output also rose and has nearly regained its pre-pandemic levels. And sales of newly-built homes soared last month. Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America, on Monday upgraded her forecast for growth this year to 6.5%, which would be the fastest since 1984. Daily coronavirus infections are down more than 70% from their peak, Meyer noted, which should lead to more states and cities relaxing business restrictions. Further economic relief is also likely, she said, as Congress considers President Joe Biden's proposal for a new aid package amounting to $1.9 trillion. The Fed has pegged its short-term interest rate near zero to encourage more borrowing and spending. Chair Jerome Powell stressed in testimony to Congress this week that the Fed plans to keep its rate ultra-low until the job market has recovered – even if inflation has begun to surpass the Fed’s 2% target level by then. That soothed the stock market, which had fallen in the past week on fears that rising interest rates and the threat of inflation might lead the Fed to raise rates too quickly and potentially derail the economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has risen sharply in anticipation of more robust economic growth and is now 1.45%. At the start of the year, the 10-year yield was below 1%. In his testimony this week, Powell downplayed the inflation risk and instead underscored the economy’s struggles, including the 10 million jobs that remain lost since the pandemic erupted nearly a year ago. That’s a deeper job loss than was inflicted by the Great Recession of 2008-2009. But on Wednesday, Richard Clarida, a Fed vice chair, sounded a more optimistic note in remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Clarida pointed to the distribution of vaccines and the economic relief package that the government enacted late last year as reasons for a sunnier outlook. “The prospects for the economy in 2021 and beyond,” Clarida said, “have brightened, and the downside risk to the outlook has diminished.” Even the ice storms and widespread power outages in Texas, damaging as they were to residents and businesses there, are unlikely to inflict a major blow on the overall U.S. economy, according to Oxford Economics. Oren Klachkin, lead U.S. economist at Oxford, estimates that the harsh winter weather will slightly lower growth in the January-March quarter to a still-blistering 6.8% annual rate, down from a previous estimate of 7.1%. Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press
Funding was announced for three local road infrastructure projects in Parry Sound-Muskoka. The projects on Wasausking First Nation, in Carling and in Georgian Bay will receive federal, provincial and municipal dollars. • The Wawbawzee Road Reconstruction project will receive $907,472.48 in provincial funding, $3,713,063 in federal funding and $330,215 from the municipal government. The plans to reconstruct 16 kilometres of the road will install culverts and proper shoulders, improve ditches, drainage and paving and will also see a $235,000 contribution from the Wasausking First Nation. • Improvements to Dillon Road in the Township of Carling will receive $1.17 million in provincial funding, $2.1 million in federal funding and $234,487 in municipal funding. Work includes realigning sections of the road, asphalt resurfacing, clearing trees and widening rock cuts to improve sight lines to improve road safety and improve access to the Dillon Cove public boat launch. • The Ogemawahj Road Reconstruction project will receive $235,652 in provincial funding, $424,216 in federal funding and $47,159 in municipal funding to reconstruct 1.9 kilometres of the road between Twelve Mile Bay Road and Kings Bay Marina. The work includes upgrades and raising of the road base, replacing culverts, road resurfacing and guard rail installation. The Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program is a 10-year program that provides up to $30 billion in federal, provincial and local investments in communities across the province. Funding will be distributed between four streams including rural and northern; public transit; green; and community, culture and recreation. Ontario’s share per project will be up to 33 per cent, or approximately $10.2 billion spread across the four streams. At the time of this writing, Kristyn Anthony was a Local Journalism Initiative reporter, funded by the Government of Canada , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
TEMAGAMI – A young Temagami boy is on his way to living a life without an abundance of limitations. Elliot Lacroix Belanger, seven, underwent tendon lengthening surgery on February 16 at Health Sciences North in Sudbury. “Elliot had to quarantine from the sixth of February until the 16th of February, he needed to do a five-hour pre-op and then a COVID swab, which he didn’t enjoy too much,” said Elliot’s parents, Dan and Miranda Lacroix Belanger, in an email message to The Speaker. They noted that prior to his surgery, Elliot was “very nervous and scared” and that he needed medication to calm himself down. “It was even harder that only one parent was allowed in the hospital with him,” the parents said. “We had to spend two nights at the hotel, because he was the first surgery of the day, and we have a family history of Malignant hyperthermia (where your blood boils under anaesthetic), so they wanted us to stay close by to make sure. We are 17 kilometres short for the Northern Health Travel Grant, so it does not cover the hotel room.” The couple noted that Elliot’s surgery was conducted by a surgeon from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa who came to Health Sciences North in Sudbury to do the surgery because of COVID-19 precautions. Elliot’s health issues began early on as he suffered a stroke at birth, causing Cerebral Palsy and a right Hemiplegia (limited use of his right side.) He had been undergoing Botox injections for the last four years, but unfortunately they were no longer working. Elliot’s foot brace also wouldn’t fit anymore because it was so tight around the leg. The orthopaedic and paediatric teams believed Elliot would benefit from serial casting to help stretch the muscles. FINANCIAL CONCERNS The Lacroix Belangers said that for seven years the family has been steadily going back and forth to medical appointments and making it work financially. However, the orthopaedic team mentioned to them that the serial casting procedure wouldn’t be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, but recommended that the family reach out to local organizations to see if they would help with covering the costs. The family was looking at three casts at $275 apiece for Elliott, along with the cost of travelling back and forth to North Bay to get the casts put on and taken off, which is a total of four trips. In order for all of the casting procedures to happen, a 50/50 draw fundraiser was set up on the Jamie’s Army Facebook page, raising a total of $1,050 for the family. “We weren’t expecting it to blow up as much as it did, but we are forever thankful,” the family said of the Jamie’s Army efforts. “We also got many people sending us donations privately, as far (away) as Ohio. There was so much generosity from the people in our community and abroad, we can’t thank everyone enough. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, we truly know what it means.” On January 20 the family travelled to North Bay to the Nipissing Orthopaedic Lab, where Elliot was supposed to be serial casted. Instead, they say he was fitted for a new ridged brace that he will need after the tendon lengthening surgery. “Karen of the Orthopaedic team decided it would be of our best interest not to do the serial casting, for a few reasons,” said Dan and Miranda. “If they were going to do the surgery, they didn’t want him casted beforehand, it’ll be too much on him. Secondly, if he needs to self-isolate, the dates wouldn’t work out, so they will be post-surgery.” MOVING FORWARD After undergoing the tendon lengthening surgery on February 16, the Lacroix Belanger family says Elliot will continue to have many follow-up appointments and they have “great hope” that he will be able to fit back into his brace, skates and boots, and be able to be a child without so many limitations. They also say the support keeps rolling in for the family from Jamie’s Army, the purchasing of the 50/50 tickets, various donations, sharing of posts and getting their story out there, offering to bring them coffee or whatever they need, offers of places to stay, simply reaching out, sending thoughts and prayers, bringing get-well gifts, and so much more. “We can’t begin to tell you how much it means,” stressed the parents. “There are so many people to thank and you are all amazing.” They also noted that even CBC Canada reached out to the family about Elliot’s health journey. Elliot now is scheduled to have a follow-up appointment on March 29 in hopes that he can take the cast off, see how the surgery went, and then he will be required to wear a ridged AFO brace. “Elliot is sore and it hurts to put pressure on his foot,” noted Dan and Miranda. “He’s finding it hard not being able to play outside, have a normal shower, go to hockey, or walk properly.” Along with follow-up appointments, the family says they also have out-of-town orthopaedic appointments and brace fittings, Botox injection appointments for Elliot’s right wrist, and an upcoming trip to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto where they’re looking at five trips or more in the month of March alone. “As always, any and all appointments and updates get posted under #strengthforelliot on Facebook, so make sure to follow that to follow Elliot’s journey.” Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
Municipalities across Muskoka have waived permit costs and streamlined the application process for establishments to build temporary patios in an effort to aid in the economic recovery from COVID-19. The provincial government gave restaurants and other food establishments the green light to reopen to guests for dining in, as part of its Phase 2 reopening. However, it has stipulated service can only take place outdoors to minimize the spread of coronavirus. Noting the challenges that were presented for establishments with small patios, or none at all, the province also passed an order adjusting the process typical for building such structures. No longer do businesses have to pay for building permits — a fee of up to $360 — or apply for new liquor licenses (which are based on occupancy numbers). “To boost the economy, this is one way we can speed it up and get rid of some of the red tape,” said Steve Watson, director of building and bylaw services for Lake of Bays Township. The province waived the typical requirements on the premise that local municipalities would also waive them, Watson explained, noting the timeline for such a request can normally take up to six months. The deadline for applications is Dec. 31, 2020 and will provide exemptions for zoning regulations and site plan approvals to expand an existing patio, or construct a new one, in order to adhere to social distancing measures. Watson noted the primary concern for the township is making sure that no patios are built on septic systems, and that washrooms and exits are in compliance. Marty McDonald manages The Moose Cafe in Dwight where the existing patio will be extended into the grass to accommodate more tables. The café has been offering curbside pickup for takeout and frozen meals during lockdown and customers have been supportive, he said, which has been a big help because the financial impact of COVID-19 has been “huge.” “We already have a good-sized patio,” he said, but with social distancing measures increasing the space between tables the café lost roughly 12 patio seats in addition to the 60 seats inside. Taking the Township up on its offer, MacDonald said, “will bring our patio number back to what it was before.” “We’re trying to make this easy and simple for the businesses so they can get some business to their door,” Watson said, noting coffee shops are other businesses that are not licensed are also eligible. “All the municipalities are doing this,” he added. For the businesses impacted by COVID-19 this option is necessary, “to keep everybody alive,” said Natalie Archer, operations manager at Sawdust City Brewing Company in Gravenhurst. “I think it’s great that communities have done what they’ve done and the province has given us the opportunity to increase our capacity to rival that of what it was prior,” Archer said. At Sawdust the patio has been extended with picnic tables behind the building giving the brewery and saloon a total of 65 seats. Typically the patio and dining room each have seating for 100 guests. “We’re still below capacity,” she noted. “[COVID-19] has impacted us greatly. It’s more important than ever that people shop local.” At press time, a spokesperson from the Township of Muskoka Lakes confirmed it would also offer a similar application process to businesses for temporary patio extensions. STORY BEHIND THE STORY In its newsletter, the Township of Lake of Bays included its plans to help assist restaurants and other food establishments in economic recovery from COVID-19. Our reporter took a look at which other municipalities are offering similar help, as well as who might apply for temporary patio extensions and how that would impact businesses, many of whom are struggling with a significant decline in revenue. Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Anchorage Health Department has arranged two mobile clinics to provide coronavirus vaccinations specifically targeting members of Alaska's community of Pacific Islanders. The clinics scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday this week were the first targeting a specific community since the pandemic began, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The focused clinic strategy was used by the department during past illness outbreaks. There were about 160 appointments available for the two clinics, officials said. “In order to make sure some of these other groups get access, we basically created some private clinics,” said Christy Lawton, Anchorage’s public health division manager. “We’ll still serve people who are eligible but we’re not getting the message out the same way.” The clinics were advertised via word of mouth among Pacific Islanders rather than the usual appointment sites accessible to the public, officials said. “The minute any appointments go on those, they go like hotcakes. People with time to sit at a computer and refresh get them,” Lawton said. The targeted clinics were possible because Anchorage health officials had discretion in the use of monthly vaccine supplies from the state, allowing the city to do “pocket allocations” like the Pacific Islander clinics. “Our charge from the CDC and state is to achieve equity access for Alaskans,” Anchorage Health Department epidemiologist Janet Johnston said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The strategies to be able to do that have to vary and be as diverse as the people we are trying to vaccinate." Officials said the clinics also were made by possible with the assistance of community leaders such as Lusiana Hansen, president of the Polynesian Association of Alaska. "Our communities have less access to health clinics, doctors, and also transportation,” Hansen said. “Our people, they gather in churches and congregations. It’s the easiest and the fastest way for us to get the vaccine.” The majority of the state’s Pacific Islander communities live in Anchorage, where nearly half of people age 60 and over have been vaccinated, data show. More than a third of Alaska Native or American Indian people have been vaccinated through a separate Indian Health Service allocation for tribal members, employees and household members. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
What could have been a terrible tragedy was avoided on Wednesday when two young Innu who got lost on a snowmobile trip between Natuashish and Nain were found, relatively unharmed. The cousins, Courage Nui and Dream Gregoire, had left Natuashish on short notice Tuesday afternoon and, according to their aunt Mary Ann Nui, gotten lost on the way back. “I guess they wanted to come back to the community before dark and somehow, on the way back, they took the wrong trail. It took them more inland and they got lost.” She said it was a very stressful night for the family once they discovered the young adults were missing, with family members mobilizing and taking the trip to Nain to see if they could find them. They found out the pair had been there and had headed back to Natuashish. RCMP said they were informed of the missing snowmobilers at 3:30 a.m., and ground search and rescue teams from Nain and Hopedale were dispatched, as well as teams of searchers from Natuashish. Nui said she wasn’t surprised the community and area mobilized so quickly to help with the search. “People take it very seriously if someone in the community is missing. People respond to it right away,” she said. Gregoire was found first, shortly before noon near Voisey’s Bay. Nui said the young woman had stayed with the snowmobile, while Courage Nui had left to walk to Natuashish for help. He was found about an hour later by an Air Borealis aircraft that was sent to help with the search. “When they found Dream first, it was good, but that was the hardest,” Nui, who is also the deputy chief of the Innu Nation, told SaltWire. “We were waiting for an update and when they found him, we were so relieved.” Nui said she had feared the worst in the morning, and it had reminded her of past tragedies on the northern Labrador coast, including the death of Burton Winters. Winters, 14, froze to death outside of Makkovik in 2012 when his snowmobile got stuck in sea ice. His death prompted an inquiry into ground search and rescue in the province that is currently in the beginning stages. “Luckily for our family it wasn’t what happened, but I was thinking about it all morning,” she said. “I can’t imagine what his family felt.” Nui said as far as she knows the pair were unharmed but exhausted, having stayed up all night before Courage left on foot at first light to get help. She said she can’t thank the searchers enough for the assistance and would like to especially thank Air Borealis, who quickly got on board to help. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
The authorities expect to have 70% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summerView on euronews
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Better Call Saul,” the prequel spinoff to the hugely successful series “Breaking Bad,” will begin production in New Mexico on its sixth and final season beginning in March. White Turtle Casting officials told the Albuquerque Journal that production will begin in the second week of March and the agency is looking for stand-ins for the series. Pre-production is currently underway, and the crew is being quarantined and tested for the upcoming start, the Journal reported Wednesday. Production originally was set for March 2020, but it was moved because of the pandemic. There will be 13 episodes in the final season, although no air date has been confirmed. “Better Call Saul” has been shot in New Mexico since 2015. The production has given nearly $178,000 to the state’s film programs. The Associated Press
Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) will remain in the yellow-protect zone of the provinces COVID-19 Response Framework despite new cases continuing to crop up in the Kenora region. The NWHU reported 19 new COVID-19 cases in Kenora region on Friday, seven on Saturday and 24 on Sunday, with an additional seven probable cases. “This week we re-enter the provinces COVID-19 Response Framework in the yellow-protect zone,” Young Hoon said. “I highly encourage everyone to remain two metres from anyone they not live with. COVID-19 is most likely spread through close contact with others.” A release issued by the NWHU on Friday states that when new cases are identified, they are told to self-isolate and all of that individual’s high risk close contacts are asked to get tested as well as self-isolate. Those who have been told to self-isolate are monitored to support any health needs that they may have to ensure compliance. “There is a coordinated response that involves many agencies, each of which has an important role,” Young Hoon said. “Case numbers are high and at this time, there is no evidence of spread to the municipality of Kenora.” Young Hoon adds that the NWHU has been supporting community partners in the Kenora region that are responsible to set up and operate COVID-19 isolation centres specifically with respect to infection prevention and control. This has been on going throughout the pandemic. “The goal is to ensure that the person can have the appropriate space and access to food and care that they need so that they do not expose others,” Young Hoon said. “Therefore, the risk to the general public from an isolation centre would be extremely low, if not zero.” With cases on the rise in Kenora region, Young Hoon said they have heard disturbing stories of people being treated badly because it is assumed that they have COVID-19. Young Hoon said she reminds the public that this situation is not unique to the area and that it could happen anywhere which is why it is important to be kind. “Please do not assume that someone you see in a public space has COVID-19,” Young Hoon said. “Self-isolation centres are working well and people are isolating so it’s important to remember that the ability to self-isolate can be impacted by someone’s access to resources and we must all continue to provide support and care to those who need it the most.” Young Hoon said they are looking into spaces for mass immunization clinics. In Kenora there are talks of it taking place at the arena, Young Hoon said. “That is a good space, it’s relatively large, it has adequate parking, it will have access to internet and other facilities that are required such as washrooms so it’s a useful space and likely will be a location for our immunizations clinics when it is necessary,” Young Hoon said. Young Hoon said more vaccines are coming into the region but they are still relatively small amounts. She adds that mass immunization clinics most likely will not happen until April or the end of March at the earliest. “At that point there may potentially be large amounts of vaccine,” Young Hoon said. “The province has indicated, however, that these numbers can’t be confirmed until they actually receive some type of confirmation on their end, so it’s really hard to speak to numbers of vaccine until you actually are given a clear amount from a higher level.” Concerning the implementation of Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Young Hoon said she is not aware of any fines being issued or any further enforcements being done at this time. She adds that sometimes just having the public aware of the possibility of these enforcements leads to increased compliance which is what the NWHU expected, Young Hoon said. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
NEW YORK — The exclusion of The Weeknd's “Blinding Lights" at the 2021 Grammy Awards shocked many, but he's in good company: Prince's “When Doves Cry" never scored a nomination either. Here's a look at every Billboard No. 1 hit of the year since 1958, Grammy-nominated or not. NOTE: Songs with an asterisk represent tracks that earned a Grammy nomination; songs with two asterisks won a Grammy. ______ 2020: The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights” 2019: Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2018: Drake, “God’s Plan” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2017: Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2016: Justin Bieber, “Love Yourself” (asterisk) 2015: Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2014: Pharrell Williams, “Happy” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2013: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, “Thrift Shop” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2012: Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2011: Adele, “Rolling In the Deep” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2010: Kesha, “Tik Tok” 2009: Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2008: Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, “Get Low” (asterisk) 2007: Beyoncé, “Irreplaceable” (asterisk) 2006: Daniel Powter, “Bad Day” (asterisk) 2005: Mariah Carey, “We Belong Together” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2004: Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, “Yeah!” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2003: 50 Cent, “In Da Club” (asterisk) 2002: Nickelback, “How You Remind Me” (asterisk) 2001: Lifehouse, “Hanging by a Moment” 2000: Faith Hill, “Breathe” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1999: Cher, “Believe” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1998: Next, “Too Close” 1997: Elton John “Candle In the Wind 1997” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1996: Los del Río, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” 1995: Coolio, “Gangsta’s Paradise” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1994: Ace of Base, “The Sign” (asterisk) 1993: Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”(asterisk)(asterisk) 1992: Boyz II Men, “End of the Road” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1991: Bryan Adams, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1990: Wilson Phillips, “Hold On” (asterisk) 1989: Chicago, “Look Away” 1988: George Michael, “Faith” 1987: The Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian” 1986: Dionne Warwick & Friends, “That’s What Friends Are For” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1985: Wham!, “Careless Whisper” 1984: Prince, “When Doves Cry” 1983: The Police, “Every Breath You Take” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1982: Olivia Newton-John, “Physical” (asterisk) 1981: Kim Carnes, “Bette Davis Eyes” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1980: Blondie, “Call Me” (asterisk) 1979: The Knack, “My Sharona” (asterisk) 1978: Andy Gibb, “Shadow Dancing” 1977: Rod Stewart, “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” 1976: Wings, “Silly Love Songs” 1975: Captain & Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1974: Barbra Streisand, “The Way We Were” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1973: Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” (asterisk) 1972: Roberta Flack, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1971: Three Dog Night, “Joy to the World” (asterisk) 1970: Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1969: The Archies, “Sugar, Sugar” 1968: The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (asterisk) 1967: Lulu, “To Sir with Love” 1966: SSgt. Barry Sadler, “Ballad of the Green Berets” 1965: Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, “Wooly Bully” (asterisk) 1964: The Beatles, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (asterisk) 1963: Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, “Sugar Shack” 1962: Acker Bilk, “Stranger on the Shore” (asterisk) 1961: Bobby Lewis, “Tossin’ and Turnin’” 1960: Percy Faith, “Theme from A Summer Place” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1959: Johnny Horton, “The Battle of New Orleans” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1958: Domenico Modugno, “Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)” (asterisk)(asterisk) Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press