A private investigator hired by Ontario's workers' compensation board (WSIB) secretly surveils this woman as part of an insurance fraud investigation.
A private investigator hired by Ontario's workers' compensation board (WSIB) secretly surveils this woman as part of an insurance fraud investigation.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it intercepted a missile attack over its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on Yemen’s rebel Houthis. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s yearslong war announced the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan, with a fourth toward another southwestern city and other drones being monitored. No casualties or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis. The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019. The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV broadcast footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile. Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in “a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.” The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.” Flight-tracking websites showed a number of flights scheduled to land at Riyadh’s international airport diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack. A civil defence spokesman, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said scattered debris resulted in material damage to one house, though no one was hurt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks. The Houthis overran Yemen’s capital and much of the country's north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign. __ Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report. Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
Security forces battling a decades-long insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir are alarmed by the recent arrival in the disputed region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan. "Sticky bombs", which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, three senior security officials told Reuters. "These are small IEDs and quite powerful," said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask President Joe Biden to consider sharing part of the U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply with its poorer southern neighbor when the two leaders hold a virtual summit on Monday, U.S. and Mexican officials said. Biden is open to discussing the matter as part of a broader regional effort to cooperate in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but will maintain as his “number one priority” the need to first vaccinate as many Americans as possible, a White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Lopez Obrador has been one of the most vocal leaders in the developing world pressing the richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to the vaccines.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, among the last in Southeast Asia to secure the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region. A Chinese military transport aircraft carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by China arrived in an air base in the capital. President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials expressed relief and thanked Beijing for the the vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in a televised ceremony. “COVID-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to all, rich and poor alike,” Duterte said, warning that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” China's ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, said China has exported vaccines to 27 countries despite its own domestic needs, adding “no winter lasts forever” when China and other countries help each other in solidarity when crisis strikes. Vaccinations initially of health workers and top officials led by the health secretary were scheduled to start in six Metropolitan Manila hospitals Monday. Aside from the donated Sinovac vaccine, the government has separately ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the delivery of an initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine that was initially scheduled for Monday would be delayed by a week due to supply problems. The initial deliveries are a small fraction of at least 148 million doses the government has been negotiating to secure from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign. The bulk of the vaccine shipments are expected to arrive later this year. The Philippines has reported more than 576,000 infections, including 12,318 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Lockdowns and quarantine restrictions have set back Manila’s economy in one of the worst recessions in the region and sparked unemployment and hunger. Duterte’s administration has come under criticism for lagging behind most other Southeast Asian countries in securing the vaccines, including much smaller and poorer ones like Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. The tough-talking Duterte has said wealthy Western countries have cornered massive doses for their citizens, leaving poorer nations scrambling for the rest. In a sign of desperation, the president said last December that he would proceed to abrogate a key security pact with the United States that allows large numbers of American troops to conduct war exercises in the Philippines if Washington could not provide at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. “No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said then. The Chinese vaccine delivery was delayed due to the absence of an emergency-use authorization from Manila’s Food and Drug Administration. Sinovac got the authorization last Monday. Western pharmaceutical companies also wanted the Philippine government to guarantee that it would take responsibility for lawsuits and demands for indemnity arising from possible adverse side effects from the vaccine, officials said. Aside from supply problems, there have been concerns over the vaccine’s safety, largely due to a dengue vaccine scare that prompted the Duterte administration to stop a massive immunization drive in 2017. ___ Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report. Jim Gomez, The Associated Press
SHANGHAI — Chinese Super League champion Jiangsu FC announced Sunday it would “cease operations” with immediate effect, just three months after winning its first title. Nanjing-based Jiangsu, which is owned by retail giant Suning that also holds a majority stake in Italian league leader Inter Milan, said on social media that it hoped that a new backer could be found after the company pulled out. “Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement,” a Jiangsu FC statement said. “From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.” Suning had reportedly tried to sell Jiangsu, which has debts estimated to be around $90 million. Also folding are Jiangsu’s successful women’s team and various youth teams. Earlier this month, Suning owner Zhang Jindong said the group would cut back on non-retail activities after a difficult year in which revenues had been hit by COVID-19. “We will focus on retail business and close and cut down our businesses that are not connected to businesses,” he said. There have been reports in Italy that Suning, which bought a majority stake in Inter in 2016, is looking to sell the Milan club. Jiangsu will be the second Chinese team to withdraw from the Asian Champions League that kicks off in April. Shandong Luneng was kicked out of the competition for breaching rules regarding outstanding salary payments. There are concerns that Jiangsu may soon be followed by Tianjin Tigers. Club owner Teda has cut investment in the team it has owned since 1998 after the Chinese Football Association ruled this year that all team names must be free from corporate titles. Last year, the city’s other club, Tianjin Tianhai, went bankrupt. Chinese soccer became one of the biggest-spending leagues in the world over the past decade. Star players including Hulk, Oscar and Paulinho arrived in the country along with World Cup winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe-Scolari. In a bid to cut costs, a new salary cap has been imposed for the 2021 season that will limit club expenditures to $90 million a year. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
An Israeli-owned ship hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman strategic waterway has arrived at a port in Dubai, where is it is due to be assessed in dry dock. Israel's defence minister on Saturday said that an initial assessment had found that Iran was responsible for the explosion. The blue and white ship is now berthed in Dubai's Port Rashid, having sailed from its position off the coast of Omani capital Muscat, where the explosion occurred.
OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don't want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one. Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election. The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons' agenda to prioritize the right bills; other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame. "They're playing politics all the time in the House. It's delay, delay, delay and eventually that delay becomes obstruction," the Liberals' House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview. "It's absurd. I think it's insulting to Canadians and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force ... because of the games played by the Conservatives." He pointed to the three hours last week the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president. That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government's plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill, which contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it. A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with "in a second." That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall's economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries. That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has argued that "modest debate" is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation. Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling. For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government's response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26. Conservatives note they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments. For Rodriguez it all adds up to "a pattern" of obstruction aimed at blocking the government's legislative agenda. Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it's inappropriate in a pandemic when "people are dying by the dozens every day." If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it's not likely to get. In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote. But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez. "The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities, and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda," he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that "my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.” Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees the Liberals have "mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities." But he doesn't exempt the Conservatives. He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is "deplorable." "These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters," Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O'Toole is having trouble controlling the "religious right" in his caucus. As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election. "We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering," he said in an interview. Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, like the election bill, while "vitally important" bills, like one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish. The Liberals' intention, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of "all these important things we couldn't get done." And the Conservatives "seem to want to play into this narrative" by blocking the bills the government does put forward. Veteran Green MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be "at his wits' end." "What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple," she said in an interview. She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural "tomfoolery" but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being "in cahoots," putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports. "It's mostly the Conservatives but they're in league," May said. "They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we've accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
(PARO - image credit) Reginald (Dutch) Thompson's column The Bygone Days brings you the voices of Island seniors, many of whom are now long-departed. These tales of the way things used to be offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. Every few weekends CBC P.E.I. brings you one of Dutch's columns. Back in the days when most Islanders lived on a farm, they had only to say "I just got home from the Royal," and their friends would turn green with envy. The Royal was and is the Royal Winter Fair, held every November in Toronto — except 2020, when it was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of spectators come to mingle with judges and entrants and see the best in Canadian agriculture. According to its website, organizers are planning for the 99th annual fair to go ahead in 2021. Dutch Thompson is an award-winning historian and storyteller. He has published a book about P.E.I.'s bygone days. A win at the Royal was a big deal then as it remains today, whether it's for pickling or prize-winning pork, horses or Holsteins. Islanders have always won more than their share of ribbons and trophies at the Royal, for things like Guernsey or Jersey cattle, Percheron or Belgian heavy horses, fancy chickens, or potatoes. 6 generations of winners Vimy Jones was born in 1917, to Katherine and J. Walter Jones. They farmed in Bunbury and in 1940, Walter became premier of P.E.I. He was an innovator, and was instrumental in introducing the potato crop to the Island. In 1935, he received the King George V medal as the best farmer in the province and so later was known as the "farmer premier." Vimy Jones Siegrist of Bunbury, P.E.I., was the last surviving child of famous 'farmer premier' J. Walter Jones. "He was the first master breeder of Holsteins in Canada," Vimy told Dutch. "He really had, for some years in the '30s, the best herd of Holsteins in Canada, and he started it all himself right from scratch." That began around the time Vimy was born, she said. "So as far as I was concerned, it was cattle and horses." Her grandfather Franklin Bovyer also farmed in Bunbury, and was famous for breeding prize-winning silver foxes. J. Walter Jones grew up on his family's farm in Pownal and first become an educator, teaching at several P.E.I. schools, an award-winning athlete, and later an agronomist and then premier. He won the King George V medal in 1935 for the best farm in P.E.I. "We still have trophies that he won at The Royal in 1924," Vimy said. "When my granddaughter [Vimy Henderson] showed a pony at The Royal last fall, she was the sixth generation to have exhibited at The Royal." Vimy Jones Siegrist died in 2011 at age 93. Vimy Henderson with her pony Flirt was champion in the pony hunter class at The Royal in 1997, and was the 6th generation of her family to show at the fair in Toronto. Calves were fox feed Another frequent winner from P.E.I. was Angus Johnston from White Sands, who collected dozens of red ribbons For years, he and his father, Albert, were butchers and meat peddlers in Murray River. Angus Johnston of Murray River was a meat peddler and an award-winning chicken showman. "I used to sell meat to Mrs. MacKay when she had the old cookhouse," Johnston told Dutch. "Probably in 1929, '30.... She fed the fishermen. Great woman she was, and a great family, yeah." Johnston said he and his father would go to different farmhouses or see cows out at pasture, and drop in to see if the farmers wanted to sell any. They were all kinds of cattle, too — beef and dairy cows. "When my father first started butchering in Murray River, there were no young cattle — the calves were sold the minute they were born, for fox feed." Some of those foxes may have belonged to the Joneses in Bunbury, and become champions at the Royal. Quite a school project But Johnston didn't become famous for raising cattle — as a boy, he raised barred rock chickens. The barred Plymouth Rock chicken breed was developed in the U.S. in the late 1800s and was the most popular breed for about 100 years. Angus Johnston of Murray River won many prizes for his barred Plymouth Rocks. "I used to bring in eggs from Ontario, and set them and raise chickens out of them. Showed them at school fairs. When I was 12," he said, showing Dutch where he had accidentally sawed off the end of his thumb while making a cage to carry the chickens to school. Those barred rock poultry are handsome birds, with their eye-catching black-and-white stripes. In 1947, Johnston packed up his knives and meat saws and moved to Toronto. Then in 1954, the family moved to Fonthill and Welland just west of Niagara Falls. Angus went back on the road, making lots of new friends as a meat peddler. However he didn't travel by horse and wagon this time, but instead had a refrigerated Chevy truck. The family owned a few acres where they could keep some hens, and Angus rekindled his chicken-raising hobby. Soon he was setting records at the Royal: one year he won 86 of 91 prizes at the fair. He also showed and won with his poultry at dozens of other fairs in Ontario. 'Shipped cornies to B.C.' "I just happened to have an eye on the type. Type means a lot, feather means a lot," he said. "Sold a lot of them, I shipped cornies to B.C." Them big shows, you have to wash your chickens, soap and water then rinse them with vinegar and warm water. — Angus Johnston Johnston was more proud of shipping his chickens across North America than all the prizes he won. You might wonder how one prepares a chicken for judging at the Royal. For Johnston, it was with a bottle of shampoo and a bar of Irish Spring soap. "Oh sure, them big shows, you have to wash your chickens, soap and water then rinse them with vinegar and warm water," he said. "Make sure their toenails are clean. You got to make sure they don't have too many spikes in their head, their comb." Johnston moved home to P.E.I. in 1974 and worked as a butcher in Montague, where some of his customers were the same ones he'd had more than 25 years earlier as a meat peddler. He eventually retired, but kept his hand on the knife working part-time at the Co-Op and at the Queen Street Meat Market in Charlottetown, and dusting off all the red ribbons he'd won at the Royal. More from CBC P.E.I.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony outside Moscow to serve his prison sentence, a public commission said on Sunday, weeks after he returned to Russia after being poisoned. Navalny's whereabouts had been unknown since Thursday when his allies learned that he was transferred out of one of Moscow's most infamous jails to an undisclosed location. He has been transferred to a penal colony in the Vladimir region, the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission that defends the rights of prisoners and has access to people in custody, said on its website.
(Matt Jonsson Recovery/Facebook - image credit) Family and friends are mourning the loss of a 24-year-old Winnipeg man who passed away after suffering brain damage in a freak accident earlier this month. On Feb. 6, Matt Jonsson hit his head on a low basement ceiling and suffered a severe spinal injury that left him paralyzed below the chest. He was hospitalized and put on a ventilator as doctors worked to stabilize the fracture and wait for the swelling to go down. In that time, family members worked to raise money to renovate his home so it was wheelchair accessible. "It's very hard. It's just very unexpected because in the beginning we were faced with him being paralyzed, which I was very upset about. But now in hindsight, I wish that that's all that was happening," said his mother Tish Jonsson. Matt suffered severe brain damage as a result of the injury and doctors told his family he'd never wake up. He was taken off life support last week. Matt Jonsson (right) was taken off life support on Feb. 20. For a man who loved to ride BMX and dirt bikes and play sports, the accident that took his life seems unfathomable. "[Matt and his brother Cole] got hurt so many times and so many times that they should have broken their necks, I think. And then for a senseless thing like this to happen, I don't understand. I just don't understand it at all," Jonsson said. She says her son was loved by many and will be remembered as a generous, sweet man who loved adventure. Once Matt saw a $100 bill floating down the street and ran out of the house to grab it. "My mother and I tried to convince him to put it in the bank, but he wasn't having it. He went to the skate park and he ordered pizza and drinks for everybody," Jonsson said. "It didn't matter who it was. And I think that sums him up pretty good." She says her son, who she worked with and lived with, always wrapped her in a big hug and told her how much he loved her. Dedicated basketball player, coach Evan Cox knew Matt as his teacher, coworker and friend. Cox, who is a physical education teacher at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, coached boys basketball when Matt was a student there. Last year, Matt joined Cox as an assistant coach on the girls basketball team at the school. Ever since he was a player, Cox said Matt was driven. "He kind of left a legacy of playing the game the right way, an insanely hard worker [who] dedicated so much of his time to just pursuing excellence, just trying to get better every single day," he said. "I think he was doing the same thing to get the girls to have that kind of intensity, that kind of drive and focus and of building hope in them that they can try to get to where they want to get to." Another coach, Stephen Tackie worked with Matt throughout high school and said he was a truly unique student. "He recognized he was part of something bigger than himself, and I think he took that role on that he had to give back." Matt was also instrumental in getting Skate Park West off the ground in Charleswood. He went to planning meetings, worked to raise money to have it built and when it did open, he took first aid training and volunteered to keep watch in case anyone got hurt. Jonsson says the money her family raised for Matt when he was in the hospital — nearly $87,000 — will go to building memorial benches at Skate Park West and starting a fund at to help people play basketball who may not have the means. "He touched so many people," Jonsson says. "We're going to use that money to honour him, to keep his legacy going."
Check out this heartwarming clip of a little girl bringing a blanket over to her Alaskan Malamute named Dude. She says it's for him to snuggle with then tells him to "Bundle Up". Dude seems to be relaxed with the blanket!
HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding and mind foggy from his yearlong battle with COVID-19, he wonders when a clinic to treat his symptoms might emerge in Atlantic Canada. "My fear is that I'm going to be like this forever," the 50-year-old Halifax resident said in a recent interview. The issue of a lack of timely treatment for the so-called "long haulers" — people who suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath and physical exhaustion months after their first bout of the illness — has been raised across the country by support groups. Specialized clinics have opened in Western and Central Canada, in some instances offering access to occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses and referrals to specialists. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service announced the formation of a network of 60 such clinics in December. However, on Canada's East Coast, patients say they are still searching for a similar, one-stop site to treat symptoms that range from difficulty drawing a breath to tingling pain in their limbs. "In Atlantic Canada, we're at the mercy of how well we've done containing the virus, leading to our low numbers of infected patients," Hoskin said. "It's had an impact on what we can expect to see from the provincial government in terms of specialized clinics." International studies currently predict about 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients develop longer term symptoms. In Atlantic Canada, where about 4,100 cases have been officially documented, this suggests long haulers may eventually number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands expected in larger provinces. But Hoskin argues the lower infection rates shouldn't mean he and others are left to rely solely on family doctors, who may be unaware of how to treat their symptoms, while they spend months awaiting appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists. In New Brunswick, which is fighting a second wave of infections that emerged earlier in the year, Emily Bodechon says she has largely assembled her own treatment effort. "While it's great that our COVID-19 case count is low, it's not been great as a patient to find out nobody knows how to treat you," she said in an interview last week. Almost a year since her infection, the 45-year-old health worker still has respiratory issues, searing headaches and "brain fog" that makes it hard to process new information. Bodechon sought online information from a post-COVID-19 clinic in New York and took part in video calls for patient information. "I went through a six-week program on my own, and it was the most helpful thing I had," she said. She said she hopes provincial governments in the region collaborate to set up centralized clinics that employ telemedicine, so that she can actually speak to doctors with expertise. In Halifax, a senior physician with Nova Scotia Health says doctors with the province's health authority are turning their attention to potential pilot projects. Dr. Christy Bussey, the medical lead for COVID-19 in-patient care in the authority's central zone, said in an interview on Thursday that in the longer term, family doctors will need training on how to care for the lingering impacts of the illness. But in the short term, she's advocating for a post-COVID-19 clinic, potentially attached to an existing clinic in Fall River, N.S., which already treats people with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. She said she has noticed "a gap in the system for following patients who developed new or ongoing symptoms." The physician added it's too early to know how much additional provincial or national funding is needed for an Atlantic post-COVID-19 clinic, as a formal proposal has yet to be completed, but she argues the need for added resources is evident. "Some of these patients are nearly completely disabled by the symptoms they're having," she said. Dr. Alexis Goth, a lead physician at the Fall River clinic, said the first long haulers are starting to trickle into her clinic. She is hopeful resources can be added to pay for a larger numbers of patients by early summer. She said one model for COVID patients may be an adapted version of an eight-week, Zoom-based treatment the clinic uses for fibromyalgia, an illness that can cause muscle pain, fatigue and sleep issues. She said the online treatment could be combined with one-on-one therapy, making use of the occupational therapist, nurses and other experts at the clinic. Susie Goulding, the leader of a national long-haulers support group, cautions that as new clinics and research projects emerge, they should be open to the many patients who didn't receive a formal diagnosis of COVID-19, often due to a lack of testing in the early months. “Most people don’t have a positive test,” she said in a recent interview. “They should still be included." Meanwhile, Hoskin said he's continuing to search for placement in a research study that includes treatment, finding he still feels like collapsing after a brief trip to buy groceries. "At 50 years old, my heart rate is often at 110 (beats per minute) when I stand up, and I still can't smell and taste other than very basic odours," he said. "We really need to find out what is causing this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
(Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit) Each government job posting in the N.W.T. has a caveat — that applicants provide a "satisfactory criminal record check" if they want to be considered for a position. With high crime rates in communities, that requirement could be deterring potential applicants from seeking those jobs, said Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lıı̀deh MLA Steve Norn. "I fully support anyone who has paid their debts to society who are genuinely trying to make strides to better themselves," he said in the legislature Wednesday. "Everyone deserves a second chance." "I do support firm rules, though, when it comes to working with our vulnerable populations, and I don't expect that we stray from that," he said. Before politics, Norn worked closely with human resources at the mines. He found criminal records were a common barrier for potential applicants. Many needed support getting pardons, he said. At the Legislative Assembly, Norn has been vocal about what he says are "glaring gaps" in the territory's hiring process, including direct appointments which impede "chances of Indigenous candidates from successful job competitions." Norn pressed the justice minister on the territory's hiring practices and how people with criminal records can overcome these barriers. "It should not be a barrier if one wants to work in our public service," he said, recognizing that certain positions will always warrant vulnerable sector checks. Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the government's assessment process only prevents an applicant from taking a job if the offence they are convicted of is related to the job duties. Once someone is offered a position, they could be asked to return a criminal record check to be reviewed by a deputy minister. If they do not get an offer as a result of their criminal record, an applicant has two days to raise their concerns with the deputy minister of human resources, the policy states. The Government of the Northwest Territories conducts criminal record checks and in some cases, a vulnerable sector check. This is to keep clients and employees safe and to preserve public confidence, the website states. There are some positions where having no criminal record is a prerequisite, said Wawzonek. "Someone who may see that advertised wouldn't necessarily want to apply if they have a criminal record," she said. "People may well feel shame around having a criminal record," she said, and encouraged people to use the federal record suspension process. The cost of seeking a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon) will go up to $657 by March 31st. In 2010, it cost an applicant $50 to seek a record suspension. "I very much want to emphasize that people can get criminal record suspensions and that often is a tool that is not adequately used by many who have past criminal records," she said. Getting a record suspension can be a costly and time-consuming process. Update laws to prevent discrimination in all hiring: commissioner N.W.T. Human Rights Commissioner Charles Dent says under the Human Rights Act, people with pardons for offences unrelated to a job duty are protected under the territorial government's hiring policies, but there are gaps for those applying to other workplaces in the N.W.T. "Right now people can be screened out whether the conviction is related to the job or not. We don't think that's the way to go," he said. Dent said in at least one report the commission recommended the Human Rights Act be updated to prohibit this type of screening, unless the conviction affects someone's ability to perform a job. "Our argument is a lot of people in the North … don't even apply for a job because they haven't figured out how to get a record suspension. It's not something that's easy to do," he said. "We want northerners to be able to get jobs," he said. "We know that a lot of people in the N.W.T. don't have access to someone who can help them through the process of getting a record suspension." The legislation also doesn't explicitly prohibit discrimination against those with criminal records who have not received a suspension. At public meetings, some residents have told the commission they face barriers to employment even if the conviction is not related to the job they are applying for. Defence lawyer Paul Falvo said people are held back from seeking record suspensions because of burdensome wait times, costs, and requirements to prove the suspension will provide a measurable benefit. They also state they cannot get employment because of their conviction.
(Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit) A historic brick building familiar to anyone who's driven through Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley has developed an unplanned skylight. A passerby on Highway 101 could be forgiven for not noticing the damage to the old textile mill in Windsor, N.S., but a closer look shows a significant chunk of the snow-covered roof is now resting on an angle on the second floor of the vacant three-storey building. It isn't clear when the collapse happened, but it was brought to the attention of the building's owners and local officials on Saturday. Word seemed to be spreading through the community the same day, with a steady stream of cars passing slowly for passengers to gawk; some stopping to take photos. Abraham Zebian, mayor of the Region of Windsor-West Hants Municipality, said he understands the interest and the attraction to the site, given its 140-year history in the community. Regardless, he said, "It's very important to stay away." Locals noticed the collapsed roof on Saturday. The owners of the building sent a structural engineer to assess the damage and prevent anyone from going inside — a not uncommon occurrence, despite 'no trespassing' signs. Owners assessing the damage Mike Gallant — a project manager for United Gulf Developments Ltd., which bought the property in 2018 — was on his way to inspect the site Saturday afternoon. He told CBC News the company was sorting out how to keep the public from going inside. Commissioning private security and putting up fences were both on the table. "It's an unfortunate situation, obviously. We're doing what we can to mitigate the issue. It's all about protecting the health and safety of the public and that's our first priority," he said. Gallant, who is a structural engineer, said prior to the collapse, he had been leading an assessment of the building. He said he hadn't yet learned enough about it to have predicted something like a roof collapse. "We'd just started wrapping our heads around it," Gallant said. The question he was trying to answer was whether a tear-down, renovation or sale would make the best business sense. Gallant said that question still remains. Representatives from the company and the municipality met earlier this month. From that meeting, Zebian said he believed the property owners were "very motivated to do something with the actual structure." He said he figured the roof collapse was "just a slight setback." Abraham Zebian, mayor of the Region of Windsor-West Hants Municipality, says he still thinks a revitalization of the building is possible. Zebian said many in the community keep close watch on the building. "It's an icon. Every day over 16,000 cars pass along the highway here and they see the building [from] its former glory, with the old smoke stack that stood at an angle, to what it is today." A 140-year history Built as a cotton spinning mill around 1881 (or 1884, by some accounts), the 74,631 square-foot building was an operational textile plant until 2005. According to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, that's the year Nova Scotia Textiles, Inc. consolidated with its Truro-based competitor, Stanfield's. The building has been vacant since then, but there were once plans to convert it into a retail and condo complex. In 2009, units were listed for sale ranging in price from about $200,000 to $585,000. It was marketed as "Mill Island — not just a home, but a destination, only a short hop from Nova Scotia's premier destinations!" This artist rendering was included in a 2009 real estate listing for 'Mill Island,' a complex that was supposed to have upscale condos, fine dining and specialty shops. The developers behind the project put the building up for sale in 2013. New windows were installed around the same era, but the project stalled and many of those same windows — designed to fit the 19th century esthetic, but some still bearing modern manufacturer stickers — have since been smashed. Photos and videos from inside the building are easy to find online, making it clear that it isn't difficult, or uncommon, for trespassers to visit. Interior walls are covered with graffiti, from elaborate, multi-coloured pieces to a simple, white "I love my mom," punctuated with a heart. 'It was a dangerous spot to be left wide open like that' Alex Hanes said he suspects he might have seen it all for the last time when he visited the site last weekend. The hobby photographer and life-long Windsor resident went to take some photos of the dilapidated building, suspecting that its end was near. "I know I shouldn't have been in there," Hanes said. But, he said, he didn't want to miss his chance to photograph it. "I figured if I was going to take some pictures of the interior I better just go ahead and do it." United Gulf Developments Ltd. bought the dilapidated structure in 2018. Hanes said he was glad to hear the owners were going to seal it off to the public. "It's a wonder someone wasn't hurt. There was big gaping holes in the floor. It was a dangerous spot to be left wide open like that." Still, Hanes said he hopes the structure can be saved. "It's a beautiful building, it's an icon of the community. A lot of the families raised their families, they raised their kids working at that mill." His family, included. Hanes said his grandmother worked at the mill for decades. MORE TOP STORIES
HYDERABAD, India — A man was killed by a rooster with a blade tied to its leg during an illegal cockfight in southern India, police said, bringing focus on a practice that continues in some Indian states despite a decades-old ban. The rooster, with a 3-inch knife tied to its leg, fluttered in panic and slashed its owner, 45-year-old Thangulla Satish, in his groin last week, police inspector B. Jeevan said Sunday. The incident occurred in Lothunur village of Telangana state. According to Jeevan, Satish was injured while he prepared the rooster for a fight. “Satish was hit by the rooster’s knife in his groin and started bleeding heavily," the officer said, adding that the man died on the way to a hospital. Jeevan said police filed a case and were looking for over a dozen people involved in organizing the cockfight. If proven guilty, the organizers can be jailed for up to two years. Cockfights are common in the southern Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka despite a countrywide ban imposed in 1960. Animals rights activists have for long been calling to control the illegal practice, which is mainly organized as part of local Hindu festivals usually attended by hundreds of people, though the crowds sometimes swell to thousands. The cockfights are often held under the watch of powerful, local politicians and involve large sums of betting money. Last year, a man was killed when a blade attached to his bird’s leg hit him in the neck during a cockfight in Andhra Pradesh. In 2010, a rooster killed its owner by slashing his jugular vein in West Bengal state. According to police, the rooster involved in last week's incident was among many other roosters prepared for the cockfight betting festival in Lothunur village. As the practice goes, a knife, blade or other sharp-edged weapon is tied to the leg of a bird to harm its rival. Such fights continue until one contestant is either dead or flees, declaring the other rooster the winner. Officer Jeevan said the rooster was brought to the police station before being taken to a local poultry farm. “We may need to produce it before the court,” he said. Images of the rooster tied with a rope and pecking on grains at the police station were widely viewed on social media. Omer Farooq, The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD — A trio of gunmen shot and killed a religious cleric, his teenage son and a student on the outskirts of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, police said, amid a rise in militant attacks. Police officer Shahzad Khan said the killing took place in the Bhara Kahu neighbourhood when Mufti Ikramur Rehman was heading toward his car with his 13-year-old son and a seminary student late Saturday night. He said three assailants fired several shots before fleeing the scene. The cleric, his son and the student received multiple gunshot wounds and died at a hospital. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and Khan said an investigation was underway to ascertain the identity of the assailants and the motive behind the killings. Ikramur Rehman was affiliated with the party of firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads an 11-party opposition alliance to topple the government. Militant violence in Pakistan is on the rise. Last week, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were travelling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls who heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable. In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions. The Associated Press
(Public Domain - image credit) His paintings adorn the walls of some of the most important buildings in the United States. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has dozens of his landscapes, and his works are considered by experts to be some of the best examples of 19th century American art. They have sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. He was also an outspoken advocate for the end of slavery and worked to better the lives of African-Americans through much of his life. But Edward Mitchell Bannister is still little known in the country where he was born. Some people would like to change that. Born in Saint Andrews in 1828, it has been said he was the son of a white Canadian woman and a Black man from Barbados, but scholars are now beginning to doubt whether his mother was white. The Saint Andrews home that was once owned by merchant Harris Hatch, who took Bannister in after his parents died when he was young. It is believed he was born in the Black community on the outskirts of the town, and either his mother or grandmother worked as a cook and housekeeper in the home of Judge Harris Hatch. He was orphaned as a young man, and Hatch apparently took on the role of raising him. Peter Larocque, the curator of art at the New Brunswick Museum, said that relationship seems to have been an important part of Bannister's early artistic development. And recently, the New Brunswick Museum received three examples of his early work that suggest the judge encouraged Bannister's artistic leanings. They're large watercolours, which Larocque believes he painted in his early teens. "They are actually copies of what I believe to be British engravings," Larocque said. An early watercolour of Elgin Cathedral, Moray, Scotland, believed to have been painted by Bannister when he was in his teens. It is likely a copy of an etching from a book. It is one of three early paintings recently acquired by the New Brunswick Museum. The watercolours had been in Britain and still belonged to the family of the man who first purchased them. Larocque said he was a British naval officer who was a friend of Judge Hatch. Larocque describes the watercolours as "very competent," despite the unforgiving nature of watercolour paint, signed "E.M.B," and show the signs of a young artist trying to learn by copying other works. Whether commissioned by the officer, or just a purchase of something Bannister had been working on, it's not a stretch to think Hatch played a role in the deal. Larocque said the support Bannister received from his community in the early days in Saint Andrews was vital to his success in later years. Those watercolours join an oil painting titled Evening that is already part of the museum's collection and is regularly on display there. A Bannister painting acquired by the New Brunswick Museum in 1959. It is on regular exhibit at the museum. He left New Brunswick in his late teens, and went to sea as a ship's cook. That eventually took him to Boston, where he began his career as an artist. Diane Heller is a New Hampshire-based filmmaker who has been working to make a documentary about Bannister's life for nearly a decade. She became fascinated by his story while attending Brown University in Providence, R.I., the city that would become Bannister's home. Her goal is to tell the story of his life and legacy, beyond his skill as an artist. "All the articles you read were just imagery," Heller said, lamenting the lack of detail around the other aspects of his life. New Hampshire-based filmmaker Diane Heller has devoted the last decade to researching Bannister's life. She is currently working on a short film that will feature Bannister's coastal paintings and his love for the sea. Bannister was also an activist, an abolitionist, a philanthropist and, on top of all that, a capable yachtsman, Heller said. "He literally was always successful," she said. That included his choice of a partner, who is the reason he ended up in Rhode Island. Christiana Babcock was born in the state and was of African-American and First Nations descent, 10 years older than Bannister. She was known to Boston society as Madame Carteaux, the owner of a chain of successful hairdressing shops. The story goes that the couple met when a 24-year-old Bannister applied for a job as a barber in one of her shops. They were married five years later. A portrait of Christiana Babcock Bannister painted by her husband. During part of their time in Boston, they lived in the home of Lewis Hayden, an escaped slave and abolitionist who often sheltered Blacks in his home as part of the Underground Railroad. Christiana's shops became meeting places for abolitionists, and the pair would also become involved in the fight to get equal pay and treatment for Black soldiers in the Union Army. "His world included all the abolitionists in Boston," Heller said. He was even very close to Frederick Douglass, abolitionist writer, orator and former slave, who would become the first Black person nominated to run as a vice-presidential candidate. But breaking into the established art community in Boston was difficult for anyone, let alone a Black man. So not long after the end of the Civil War, they moved to Providence. There Bannister co-founded the Providence Art Club, which Heller said had the goal "to promote real New England artists." He also sat on the founding board of the Rhode Island School of Design. Bannister's headstone in Providence. Christiana continued her work by creating the Home for Aged Colored Women, a nursing home to support Black domestic servants who found themselves jobless in old age. All those organizations still exist, with the latter now called Bannister House. And Edward Bannister painted prolifically. It's estimated there are at least 500 of his works in existence. His talent was appreciated in his day, and he was the first Black artist to receive a national art prize. He died in 1901, and Peter Larocque said Bannister's style of landscape painting fell into disfavour after the First World War and disappeared from art galleries and museums for decades. In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in his works. Until recently, this Bannister painting was hanging in the official residence of the vice-president of the United States, one of two on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Smithsonian has a large collection of his paintings, and in 2017 lent two of them to hang in the official vice-president's residence at One Observatory Circle — Woman Walking Down Path, 1882, and Landscape near Newport, R.I., ca.1877-1878. They were part of six selected by Karen Pence, a former art teacher and the wife of former vice-president Mike Pence. A spokesperson for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Laura Baptiste, said in an email that those paintings are typically returned to the museum once the term is over and the new administration makes new requests. Larocque thinks Bannister's works would have special meaning to the new vice-president, Kamala Harris, who lived in Quebec and attended school there. "You would think Kamala Harris would, given her background, and the Canadian connection, be interested in keeping them there." The official residence is currently undergoing renovations, and there's no word yet on whether the new administration has made requests to the Smithsonian. This Bannister painting has been hanging in the White House since 2006. Five kilometres away from the vice-president's residence, on the walls of the White House, hangs Bannister's The Farm Landing, which was purchased for display in the building in 2006, during the term of George W. Bush. But does all this mean the artist is beginning to get his due? "Oh gosh, not yet," said Heller. "People still want to call him a Black artist. Until people call him an activist artist, he won't [get his due]." Some people are trying to change that. Heller is working on a short film, using Bannister's many paintings of coastal scenes, along with postcards of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to recreate a trip around New England's waters Bannister would have sailed in his day. And, she has plans for a series of films looking at other aspects of his life. Nova Scotia arts curator David Woods told CBC News last fall he is planning a retrospective on Bannister's career, which he hopes will happen in Sackville sometime in 2023. The Saint John Theatre Company's We Were Here production, recognizing New Brunswick's Black history, includes a piece on Bannister. And British art historian Anne Louise Avery has a book in the works on Bannister. Heller believes New Brunswickers should take pride in what Bannister accomplished, and the role the province and the community of Saint Andrews played in his formative years. "It's no accident that he flourished from there, it couldn't have happened anywhere else and you can quote me on that." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. 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WASHINGTON — Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting. The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct. The high court's consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters. A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday. President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators. The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the portion of the law known as Section 5 could no longer be enforced because the population formula for determining which states were covered hadn’t been updated to take account of racial progress. Congress “must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a conservative majority. “It cannot rely simply on the past.” Democrats in Congress will try again to revive the advance approval provision of the voting rights law. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act failed in the last Congress, when Republicans controlled the Senate and President Donald Trump was in the White House. But another part of the law, Section 2, applies nationwide and still prohibits discrimination in voting on the basis of race. Civil rights groups and voters alleging racial bias have to go to court and prove their case either by showing intentional discrimination in passing a law or that the results of the law fall most heavily on minorities. The new Supreme Court case mainly concerns how plaintiffs can prove discrimination based on the law’s results. The arguments are taking place against the backdrop of the 2020 election, in which there was a massive increase in early voting and mailed-in ballots because of the pandemic. Trump and his Republican supporters challenged the election results by advancing claims of fraud that were broadly rejected by state and federal courts. But many Republicans continue to question the election’s outcome, despite the absence of evidence. GOP elected officials have responded by proposing to restrict early voting and mailed-in ballots, as well as toughen voter identification laws. The challenged Arizona provisions remained in effect in 2020 because the case was still making its way through the courts. But Brnovich said last year’s voting is another reason the justices should side with the state. “I think part of the lesson of 2020 was that when people don’t believe that elections have integrity or that their vote is being protected, it will lead to undermining the public’s confidence in the system,” Brnovich said. Civil rights groups said the court should not use this case to make it harder to root out racial discrimination, which “still poses a unique threat to our democracy,” as the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund put it in a brief. Nearly 75 businesses, including PayPal, Levi Strauss and Impossible Foods, joined in a brief urging the court to “fully preserve the Voting Rights Act." The Justice Department will not be part of Tuesday’s arguments, a rarity in a voting rights case. The Trump administration backed Arizona. The Biden administration, in a somewhat cryptic letter to the court, said this month that it believes “neither Arizona measure violates Section 2’s results test,” but doesn’t like the way its predecessor analyzed the issues. The suggestion from the new administration could give the court a narrow way to uphold the Arizona provisions without making any significant changes to voting discrimination law. A decision is expected by early summer. Mark Sherman, The Associated Press
Saudi Arabia's sovereignty is a red line, Saudi columnists said on Sunday, ramping up rhetoric in defense of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a U.S. intelligence report implicated him in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Mohammed, de facto ruler of the U.S.-allied Gulf powerhouse, has denied any involvement in the 2018 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.