The federal government keeps hinting at stricter travel restrictions to curb the spread of new coronavirus variants inside Canada.
The federal government keeps hinting at stricter travel restrictions to curb the spread of new coronavirus variants inside Canada.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
County curlers are rocking the ice again as the Haliburton Curling Club reopened its doors Feb. 17 for its first session since the Dec. 26 lockdown. The club ran for several weeks in November and December with a limited slate of approximately 100 curlers, three nights a week, with COVID safety restrictions in place. It is the only curling club in the County which is operating amidst the pandemic. But the lockdown put a premature halt on the winter 2020-2021 schedule. Still, president, Kent Milford, said they were able to carry on with the lockdown lifted. “The only comment we’ve heard is people are just glad they’ve got an opportunity to get out and do something,” Milford said. “Relieve some of the boredom and stress and other things we’ve all faced over the last year.” The sport is not the same this year. Health precautions mean the social gathering aspect cannot be as robust. Travelling for bonspiels is also out. The lockdown also forced a schedule change, though Milford said they reorganized it by picking up where they left off. “No one’s overly concerned this year in making sure we have an even schedule or even some sort of competitive schedule,” Milford said. “It’s just to get some exercise, have some fun, have a little bit of social activity.” Board director, Wanda Stephen, said the first day back went well. “There was a great, big, sigh of relief from the crowd that was here, saying, ‘Yay, we made it’,” Stephen said. “Because there are a lot of clubs that didn’t reopen.” Milford said the club is in a financially stable position. But a major fundraiser – the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show – was cancelled in 2020 and is doubtful again for 2021. “Our strategy is we’re preparing for a show, so if we can have one, the logistics are in place,” Milford said. “It is difficult for me to see how we can have a show this year with the number of people we would normally have.” The club was allowed to curl thanks to the district staying in an “orange” zone under provincial COVID-19 protocol. But if case numbers worsen in the district, pushing that colour to “red” or “gray,” the club would have to halt. “Just hoping we can make it to the end of April without any shutdowns,” Stephen said. Milford said the curling sessions have remained COVID-safe, with no cases associated with the rink. He said they will follow whatever public health asks of them – and members are willing to work through those hurdles. “Curling is really an integral part of the community,” Milford said. “As long as we can keep them safe, and they wanted to do that, then we felt it was important to continue.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada is launching an investigation and reviewing its practices after two returning travellers were allegedly sexually assaulted during their mandatory quarantine periods. A spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said allegations of assaults reported in the media this week are "really concerning." Cole Davidson said the public health agency would review its own procedures as well as those of its service providers to ensure the safety of travellers returning to the country. The response follows reports that a quarantine screening officer as well as a returning traveller have been charged in separate sexual assault cases that allegedly occurred last week. The Opposition Conservatives immediately demanded a suspension of the obligation for travellers to quarantine in hotels until better safety measures are in place, as well as an end to the use of security guards, who they say haven't been properly evaluated, to check on people quarantining at home. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says he doesn't necessarily believe the quarantine measures need to be suspended, but he wants to see improvements to ensure the safety of travellers under quarantine. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
The child care sector is being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and government funding cuts, according to the results of a recent survey. The 2020 Child Care Operator Survey is conducted on a biennial basis by Public Interest Alberta, a non-profit focused on education and advocacy on public interest issues. The purpose of the survey is to gain insights into the overall conditions of the child care sector, as well as the impacts of the pandemic. The results of the survey show that the pandemic negatively affected almost all (about 98 per cent) of respondents, in a variety of ways. The top five impacts of the pandemic were causing operators to lay off staff (62 per cent of respondents), full or partial closures (57 per cent), cutbacks on supplies (about 50 per cent), decreased programming (46 per cent) and increased staff turnover (23 per cent). Other impacts identified by respondents included increased fees, wage and hour cuts, mental health impacts, decreased enrollment, cutting of nutrition programs and financial strain for personal protective equipment. The results of the survey also showed the sector has been affected by funding cuts enacted by the provincial government over the past two budgets. Concerns related to this included government cuts (57 per cent of respondents), affordability of qualified staff (56 per cent), funding for noon-care hours such as professional development or lesson planning (56 per cent), recruitment (47 per cent), administrative tasks (37 per cent) and staff retention (30 per cent). “At a time when the sector is already struggling with pandemic-related issues like full or partial closures, or being forced to lay off staff, the government has not changed course on the significant cuts it made to child care sector funding,” said Joel French, Public Interest Alberta executive director, in a news release. “Child care operators have been significantly impacted by the ending of the Benefit Contribution Grant, in particular, which resulted in fee increases to parents, cutbacks to program supplies, decreases in programming and staff layoffs.” According to the survey, most operators (76 per cent) were not consulted on major government changes in the sector, including elimination of the Benefit Contribution Grant, which offsets the costs to child care operators of mandatory employer payroll contributions. On average, non-profit organizations reported lower fees, yet tended to have more qualified staff. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
(CBC - image credit) It's a mixed bag of weather for parts of the province over the next couple of days. Snow earlier Thursday in eastern Newfoundland has now turned to rain, and the St. John's metro area will see the same switchover Thursday evening. Ice pellets are possible for that region, too. In total, expect 5 to 10 centimetres of snow for eastern part of the island, 10 to 15 centimetres through central and up to 5 centimetres for the Northern Peninsula. On Friday, snow squalls are expected in parts of the province. Port aux Basques to Gros Morne will see a smattering of accumulation, with upwards of 10 centimetres in some of the more persistent squalls on the west coast. The Avalon peninsula will see its own squalls closer to Friday evening. That, combined with winds from 40 to 60 km/hr, will bring near zero visibility at times. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
OTTAWA — The federal government has been granted one more month to expand access to medical assistance in dying. Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan has agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling. The decision comes just one day before the previous deadline was to expire. The 2019 ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural deaths are "reasonably foreseeable." The government has introduced Bill C-7 to expand assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the end of their lives. It is currently stalled in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives are refusing to facilitate debate on the government's response to amendments made by the Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
La campagne de sociofinancement pour les rénovations du Bar à Pitons bat son plein. En moins d’un mois, plus de 8000 $ ont été amassés, sur un objectif de 30 000 $, afin de permettre l’agrandissement de ce lieu culturel et d’ainsi assurer sa survie. Avec ces rénovations, l’établissement pourra revoir sa capacité d’accueil à la hausse et bonifier son offre d’activités. C’est la Coopérative de Solidarité V.E.R.T.E qui est responsable du bar et qui a mis en place la campagne de sociofinancement appelée Pour l’amour du Bar à Pitons. Selon Christine Rivest-Hénault, coordonnatrice générale de la coopérative, le Bar à Pitons est devenu, au fil des années, un endroit unique pour la scène émergente artistique du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. « La signature du Bar à Pitons, c’est que tout le monde peut être une vedette. Ils peuvent tous venir chanter ou lire leurs textes. On accueille aussi beaucoup de groupes émergents. On a une offre qui, je pense, est importante pour la région culturellement », explique-t-elle, lors d’un entretien téléphonique avec Le Quotidien. Alors que les gestionnaires avaient pris la décision, en février 2020, de concentrer leurs activités sur le Bar à Pitons et de fermer l’auberge, ils ont été frappés de plein fouet par la pandémie. Le bar a dû fermer ses portes tout l’hiver, avant de rouvrir quelques mois à l’été. La terrasse extérieure a permis la tenue de certaines activités. Cet automne, la coopérative a dû faire face à la réalité. Les normes sanitaires ne permettent pas au bar d’ouvrir ses portes à l’hiver. Les gestionnaires devaient donc décider de le laisser fermé tout l’hiver ou d’amorcer des rénovations qui permettraient au lieu d’être adapté aux règles sanitaires. « Ça faisait déjà deux ans que nous pensions à ces rénovations et, comme tout le monde, nous ne savons pas combien de temps nous serons dans cette pandémie. Nous nous sommes donc lancés. Nous savons qu’il y a plein de gens qui nous aiment, qui tiennent au Bar à Pitons. Nous avons décidé de prendre le pari que tous ces gens-là, qui voient que notre mission est importante, allaient nous aider », se réjouit-elle. Déjà, les rénovations sont amorcées. La coordonnatrice est fière du montant amassé jusqu’à maintenant et reconnaît que son objectif est ambitieux. L’important pour elle est d’amasser le plus de sous possible, pour que la relance de l’établissement soit le plus facile possible, à la réouverture. Jadis un lieu touristique Le Bar à Pitons a bien changé avec les années. Lorsque la coopérative a acheté la Maison Price, où se trouve le Bar à Pitons, le but était de transformer cette maison en auberge. Au sous-sol, une salle de réunion avait été aménagée, surtout pour les visiteurs. « C’est comme ça qu’est né le Bar à Pitons, une toute petite salle principalement pour les utilisateurs de l’auberge. Rapidement, les gens qui habitent autour se sont approprié le lieu », souligne la coordonnatrice générale. C’est cet engouement qui a motivé les gestionnaires à faire des rénovations en 2015 et à mettre sur pied le Bar à Pitons. Le bar a eu le droit à un léger agrandissement, mais plusieurs espaces étaient toujours réservés à l’auberge. En 2018, l’auberge a commencé à perdre de la clientèle, tandis que le Bar à Pitons lui, en gagnait. C’est ce qui a amené les gestionnaires à fermer l’auberge, en février 2020, pour de bon et se concentrer sur le lieu culturel. « C’était rendu le Bar à Pitons qui faisait vivre l’entreprise. Notre programmation culturelle était de plus en plus riche, aimée et fréquentée, donc nous avons concentré nos activités là-dessus puisque c’est ce qui fonctionne et ce qui attire les gens », continue Mme Rivest-Hénault. La mission de l’établissement alors touristique a officiellement changé pour devenir plus culturelle. Tous les intéressés à participer à la campagne peuvent se rendre sur le site de la coopérative pour faire un don. Myriam Arsenault, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé que le port du masque d'intervention pédiatrique sera rendu obligatoire en tout temps pour les élèves de la 1ère à la 6e année qui fréquentent un établissement scolaire situé en zone rouge. À Laval, cette mesure sera mise en place dès le 8 mars, soit au même moment que pour tous les autres élèves de la Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal. La livraison de ces masques vers les centres de services scolaires et les établissements d'enseignement privés est déjà en cours. Cette mesure s'appliquera plutôt à compter du 15 mars pour les autres territoires en zone rouge en raison des délais de livraison. Les élèves devront tout de même porter un couvre-visage en tissu partout dans les établissements scolaires pendant cette période. Rappelons que le port du couvre-visage était déjà obligatoire en tout temps pour les élèves des 5e et 6e années. L'ajustement se fait plutôt auprès des niveaux plus jeunes qui devaient seulement porter le couvre-visage dans les aires communes, lors des déplacements et dans le transport scolaire. Les régions situées en zone orange pourront continuer de procéder de cette façon. L'opération de vaccination de masse a débuté plus tôt jeudi sur le territoire lavallois. Elle se déroule simultanément avec le lancement de la prise de rendez-vous pour obtenir une première dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19. Selon Christian Dubé, ministre de la Santé, plus de 70 000 rendez-vous avaient déjà été confirmés dans la province moins de quatre heures après l'ouverture de la plateforme web. En conférence de presse, M. Dubé s'est d'ailleurs dit ouvert à l'idée de créer un «passeport de vaccination» qui pourrait notamment permettre aux personnes vaccinées d'accéder à certains lieux ou événements. «Tous les outils qu'on va pouvoir utiliser comme mesures sanitaires pour moi sont importants, précise-t-il. Pour moi, ça en est un, mais il faut le mettre en place. Il faut être capable de s'assurer des pratiques, mais c'est sûr que nous sommes en train de regarder ça.» Le ministre de la Santé a aussi confirmé que le Québec devrait recevoir 700 000 doses des vaccins de Pfizer-BioNTech et de Moderna d'ici la fin du mois de mars. Avec un bilan de 24 367 personnes testées positives à la COVID-19, Laval a connu une hausse de 113 cas en 24 heures. Le total de décès augmente à 868 depuis le début de la pandémie. Le CISSS de Laval cumule également 22 718 guérisons, ce qui signifie qu’il y a désormais 781 cas actifs (+57) confirmés sur le territoire lavallois. Parmi les personnes touchées, 31 sont hospitalisées, dont 10 aux soins intensifs. 15 employés de l’organisation de santé sont toujours absents du travail en raison de la COVID-19. Trois résidence privée pour aînés (RPA) de Laval sont présentement touchées par la COVID-19. Voici la liste complète de celles-ci : Au Québec, le bilan est maintenant de 285 330 cas et 10 361 décès. Au total, 633 personnes sont toujours hospitalisées, dont 122 aux soins intensifs. Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
TORONTO — Ontario had no updated plan for dealing with a pandemic when COVID-19 began cutting a deadly swath through the province last spring, a public commission was told. In testimony before the panel released on Thursday, the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, denied responsibility for the shortcoming. The province had developed a pandemic response plan in 2006 that was updated in 2013, but the process stalled after work started on a "Ready and Resilient" blueprint in 2016. "Do you have any knowledge about the "Ready and Resilient" plan and why it wasn't completed in four years before COVID?" commission co-counsel John Callaghan asked. "The process was in place, and they were doing reviews on it," Williams answered. "Why was it not done?" "Because it was not completed." The commission is delving into the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Ontario's long-term care homes. To date, coronavirus disease has killed 3,753 residents and 11 staff members. Williams said pandemic preparation drifted down the priority list because things had been relatively quiet for several years. Historically, he said, planning focused on influenza A, a situation that hadn't changed as late as 2019 when the World Health Organization said the world is not ready for a pandemic. "For seven years, you never felt the need to increase your pandemic plan, your influenza pandemic plan?" Callaghan asked. "We did quality work back in 2006," Williams said. "You are saying, in your opinion, it was your decision not to upgrade the 2013 plan?" "No, I was not asked to update the plan." Williams said he "took flak" over pushing more robust preparation for a major infectious disease outbreak because others saw the exercise as wasting time and resources for something that would never occur. "It is hard to keep that prevention thing always at the front table because the tyranny of the urgent always pushes things aside," Williams said. "It was to me disappointing to find the lack of depth and breadth of infection prevention and control expertise that was available out there." Williams said he was shocked to discover the poor situation at long-term care homes when it came to masks and other personal protective equipment. The purpose of the provincial stockpile, he said, was to equip front-line doctors and their offices, not long-term care facilities. Nursing homes, he said, were supposed to have their own supplies able to last between four and seven weeks. However, when the pandemic hit in earnest, he learned most of the protective equipment was made in China and global demand had outstripped supply. "That was startling and shocking to me that that had happened in there because it is something that I thought we had in-house; anyways in North America at least," he said. Constant staff turnover of key personnel in nursing homes hampered efforts to ensure adequate infection prevention controls were in place, he said. "The changeover was at times disconcerting," he said. Callaghan called it "vexing" the commission had received 217,000 pages of documents from Williams only in the week before he testified. The co-counsel also noted Williams had provided 2,000 pages of his redacted notes. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Williams' testimony made it "astoundingly clear" the government was trying to hide its response to COVID-19 in nursing homes. “The Ford government and Dr. Williams are taking great pains to hide, bury and cover up how they dealt with COVID-19 in long-term care homes,” Horwath said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.
MILAN — Miuccia Prada has adapted to the digital runway and isn’t ready to give up its lessons when the pandemic is over. Prada showed her first fall-winter collaboration with Raf Simons on Thursday, the camera following models as they traverse architectural spaces of marble floors and walls clad with faux fur. It was not the usual parade of looks seen from a fixed position, but the camera allowed an intimacy with the collection and a closer look at details, suggesting repetitions to consider and new angles that might have gone unnoticed in a packed show room. While a runway show fades with the lights on the last look, the digital presentation requires another step: Picking the details that “create an atmosphere,” Prada said in a streamed conversation after the digital show. “Of course, we can go back to reality,” she said, referring to the post-pandemic world. “But ... this shouldn’t be lost. It was much more effort but much more interesting. Probably we will have to do both.” Digital shows have become hard to ignore even for media accustomed to the runway bustle. Collections coming out during this second pandemic year, projecting hopes of renewed normality into the next cold weather season, by and large are as ambitious as during the pre-pandemic era, demanding attention. The Prada-Simons collection was a layered affair, with graphic prints on body-hugging separates, faux fur wraps, sequined dresses and naïve patterned knits as inserts on dresses and jackets. Beyond the obvious suit, the straightforward jacket, there was a surprise, a rich geometric pattern peeking out or warming, furry linings. The women’s collection continued the body-hugging comfort layer of long johns from menswear, as well as leather gloves fitted with zipped pouches. Giorgio Armani has scaled back the number of offerings, a move he discussed last April in a letter to Women’s Wear Daily, where he outlined how he thought the industry needs to slow down and rescale so customers “perceive its true importance and value.” Armani staged a combined men’s and women’s show for Emporio Armani, which was filmed in his show room with models traversing a curved runway of upbeat colours that were splashed in the collection as accents of optimism against neutrals. The Emporio collection projects beyond the current regime of virus restrictions to a time when one can hope to be more regularly out and about, but with softness. To ease men back in, Emporio’s wool suits mimicked knitwear but never gave in to full leisure wear. Women will have cozy knitwear tucked into trousers or with shorts for day, and satiny dresses with ribboning detail for a return to evenings out. Evening wear was full-on sparkle, both for him and for her. Armani insisted on real shoes -- no more sneakers -- with boots for men and low-heeled shoes or stocking boots for women. Moschino’s Jeremy Scott maintained his usual playfulness, casting top models, actresses and a burlesque star that might have been front-row guests in another period to populate his Moschino digital show. Scott directed the Moschino society woman on a mashup tour from the countryside to a 5th Avenue shopping spree and a night out at the opera. Hailey Bieber appeared in a double-breasted pinstripe suit with shorts and a tiny hat, carrying a Moschino Market newspaper. Amber Valletta was caught on a shopping safari in a faux golden crocodile suit, replete with lizard tail. Miranda Kerr frolicked in a bucolic cinched-waist dress with a blue sky print over a full skirt featuring cows at pasture. Dita Von Teese finished as the queen of hearts, a heart cutout on the back of the dress baring her behind, beneath an old movie-style title: The End. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told sailors on the USS Nimitz Thursday that he hopes to avoid long ship deployments like the more than 10 months they just spent at sea. But as he made his first aircraft carrier visit as Pentagon chief, he acknowledged the demand for American warships around the globe as he wrestles with security threats from China in the Pacific and Iran in the Middle East. Standing in the ship's hangar bay, Austin said he will make a decision soon on whether to send a carrier back to the Middle East, where the Nimitz had been. But he said there have been times when the U.S. has opted not to have a carrier strike group in that region. “There’s going to be gaps,” he said. “As we do that, we do things to make sure we have resources in the right place so can respond.” The Nimitz, which left its homeport of Bremerton, Washington, last April, has been at sea for nearly 300 days, including several weeks of pre-deployment exercises. By the time it gets home in March, the ship and its strike group — which includes the USS Princeton and the USS Sterett — will have sailed about 99,000 nautical miles around the globe. The ship’s return home has triggered renewed debate over whether the U.S. should keep a persistent aircraft carrier presence in the Middle East as a deterrence to Iran. And it underscores the persistent competition for Navy ships as the U.S. and the Pentagon focus on China as a key threat that has required an escalating presence in the Indo-Pacific. Over the past year, however, military commanders have successfully argued for a carrier presence in the Gulf region because of threats from Iran and Iranian-backed militias. Just a year ago, the U.S. poured more than 20,000 additional troops into the Middle East to counter escalating tensions with Iran that peaked with the missile attack on American forces in Iraq in early 2020. The Nimitz’s lengthy deployment was largely due to decisions to keep it in the Middle East last year and this year to serve as a deterrent to Iran. Sailors late last year were just starting to head home, after being held in the Gulf region for an extended time. But in early December, as the U.S. pulled troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, then-acting defence chief Christopher Miller announced that they would be staying in the region -- forcing the ship to turn around and head back to the Gulf. On Dec. 31, Miller announced the ship was finally going to head home. It's now off California. President Joe Biden has announced plans for a Pentagon review of national security strategy on China as part of his push to recalibrate the U.S. approach with Beijing. Biden’s call for a new task force to review strategy comes as the new administration shows growing recognition of the challenges that the U.S. faces from China’s modernized and more assertive military. The review will weigh U.S. intelligence, troops levels in the region, defence alliances with China and more. Speaking to reporters travelling with him on the Nimitz, Austin said that as directed by Biden, he is doing a detailed review of how the U.S. forces are positioned around the globe to ensure resources are focused on national security priorities. His visit to the ship came on Austin's first travel as defence secretary. He spent two days on the West Coast, largely visiting military vaccination centres in San Diego and Los Angeles. But as he spoke to sailors on the ship, he acknowledged their sacrifices in being away from families for so long. Recalling his 18-month deployments to Iraq as a commander, the retired Army general said, “I understand the stress that that can place on families. “Any potential adversary out there in this ocean or any other ocean, has to know when they look at what you’ve accomplished, that the United States takes very seriously our security commitments around the world,” Austin said. He added, however, “I don’t want deployments like this one to be the norm, and so we need to take a hard look at that, but you handled it very very well.” Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
A left turn lane will be installed on southbound Westmount Road at its intersection with Highway 1. The change is expected to improve safety and reduce congestion at Westridge Road by preventing traffic backing up along Westmount Road from the intersection, explained Ethan Wilson, Town of Strathmore’s infrastructure manager. Alberta Transportation has already performed repairs at the intersection, at no costs to the town. These included upgrades, including camera position and signal timing changes, to improve safety. But while these changes have improved the wait times at the intersection, it is still a busy intersection with limited space for vehicles to wait, said Wilson. The cost for the project is estimated to be $30,000, of which $7,000 is for design and about $23,000 for construction. These sums include provisional items that may not be required once the design is completed, said Wilson. Once the design is completed, Alberta Transportation will need to grant approval to the project. The government department has already been consulted and has given some support to the project, but they still need to assess how the project would affect east and westbound traffic on the highway, before giving sign off. “There is a risk of spending some money without getting approval,” said Wilson, adding he is confident the project engineer will be able to provide a solution allowing the project to proceed. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The Canadian Elite Basketball League is pushing back the start of its 2021 season in the hopes of having fans attend games in person. The league announced a reduced 14-game season on Wednesday, with the start date pushed back from mid-May to June 5. A standard CEBL season is 20 games, but the league said it can't go beyond a late-August playoff finish because most of its players must report to their international pro teams by September. The season will kick off with a rematch of the 2020 championship game between the defending champion Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits, as well as a match in Hamilton between the Honey Badgers and the Ottawa Blackjacks. The other teams in the league are the Saskatchewan Rattlers, Guelph Nighthawks and Niagara River Lions. Each team will play seven home and seven road games during a nine-week period. The CEBL played its second season in a bubble environment in St. Catharines, Ont., last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first professional sports league to resume play in Canada after the global pandemic shut down sports around the world in March 2020. "Prioritizing the health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and officials is where we began in creating our league schedule for 2021," Mike Morreale, commissioner and chief executive officer of the CEBL, said in a release. "We recognize that attending live events in a safe manner plays a critical role in revitalizing our communities as they begin to emerge from COVID-19 as 2021 unfolds." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
MEXICO CITY — The number of monarch butterflies that showed up at their winter resting grounds in central Mexico decreased by about 26% this year, and four times as many trees were lost to illegal logging, drought and other causes, making 2020 a bad year for the butterflies. The government commission for natural protected areas said the butterflies’ population covered only 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) in 2020, compared to 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) the previous year and about one-third of the 6.05 hectares (14.95 acres) detected in 2018. Because the monarchs cluster so densely in pine and fir trees, it is easier to count them by area rather than by individuals. Gloria Tavera, the regional director of Mexico's Commission for National Protected Areas, blamed the drop on “extreme climate conditions,” the loss of milkweed habitat in the United States and Canada on which butterflies depend, and deforestation in the butterflies' wintering grounds in Mexico. Illegal logging in the monarchs wintering rounds rose to almost 13.4 hectares (33 acres), a huge increase from the 0.43 hectare (1 acre) lost to logging last year. Jorge Rickards of the WWF environmental group acknowledged the lost trees were a blow, but said “the logging is very localized” in three or four of the mountain communities that make up the butterfly reserve. In addition, wind storms, drought and the felling of trees that had fallen victim to pine beetles or disease, caused the loss of another 6.9 hectares (17 acres) in the reserve, bringing the total forest loss in 2020 to 20.65 hectares (51 acres). That compares to an overall loss of about 5 hectares (12.3 acres) from all causes the previous year. Tavera said the drought was affecting the butterflies themselves, as well as the pine and fir trees where the clump together for warmth. “The severe drought we are experiencing is having effects,” Tavera said. “All the forests in the reserve are under water stress, the forests are dry.” “The butterflies are looking for water on the lower slopes, near the houses,” she noted. Tavera also expressed concern about the sever winter storms in Texas, which the butterflies will have to cross — and feed and lay their eggs — on their way back to their northern summer homes in coming months. “This is a cause for worry,” Tavera said, referring to whether the monarchs will find enough food and habitat after the winter freeze. It was also a bad year for the mountain farming communities that depend for part of their income on tourists who visit the reserves. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, visits fell from around 490,000 last year, to just 80,000 in the 2020-2021 season. It was unclear whether the drop in tourism income contributed to the increased logging. Rickards said there has long been pressure on the area's forests from people who want to open land for planting crops. Felipe Martínez Meza, director of the butterfly reserve, said there have been attempts to plant orchards of avocados — hugely profitable crop for farmers in the area — in the buffer zones around the reserve. The high mountain peaks where the butterflies clump in trees are probably a bit above the altitude where avocado trees like to grow, Martinez Meza said. But the buffer zones provide protection and support for the higher areas, and he said more must be done to combat the change in land use. Frequently, illegal logging is carried out by outsiders or organized gangs, and not by the farm communities that technically own the land. Millions of monarchs migrate from the U.S. and Canada each year to forests west of Mexico’s capital. The butterflies hit a low of just 0.67 hectares (1.66 acres) in 2013-2014. Loss of habitat, especially the milkweed where the monarchs lay their eggs, pesticide and herbicide use, as well climate change, all pose threats to the species’ migration. While there was plenty of bad news for the butterflies — very few showed up to some historic wintering sites like Sierra Chincua — there was the welcome news that a new wintering site was discovered nearby, in a mountaintop near the Lagunas de Zempoala protected area, near Mexico City. Tavera said the wintering site had always been there, but was so difficult to reach that it wasn't discovered until earlier this month. Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press
((RCMP) - image credit) The New Brunswick RCMP say their major crime unit is investigating the suspicious death of a 49-year-old woman whose body was found near Tracadie-Sheila. At about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, members of the Tracadie RCMP responded to a report of a dead woman on Chemin W. Gautreau, in the area of Pont-Landry, the force said in a media release Thursday. The woman's body was found by a passerby, RCMP said. An autopsy will be done on Friday to assist police in the investigation and to help determine the woman's exact cause of death, the RCMP said. The force said anyone with information about the incident can contact the major crime unit at 1-888-506-7267. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, by downloading the secure P3 mobile app, or by secure web tips at www.crimenb.ca.
TORONTO — Proposed changes to Ontario's election laws introduced Thursday by the Progressive Conservatives were slammed by the Opposition as an attempt to silence critics amid mounting failures in the province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government said the election law reforms were aimed at limiting third-party advertising and boosting voter participation. Attorney General Doug Downey, who introduced the bill, said one of the proposed changes would extend the $637,200 spending limit placed on third-party advertisers from six months before an election to a year. “Ontario is the only place where we count third party in the millions (of dollars) instead of in the thousands,” he said in an interview. “And we've heard from Elections Ontario that they have concerns with that dynamic.” Third parties, such as the conservative group Ontario Proud and union-led Working Families Coalition, have played a significant role in recent provincial elections, launching extensive advertising campaigns in bids to sway the vote. The province said more than $5 million was spent by third-party advertisers before and during the 2018 election. The next provincial vote is set to take place in the spring of 2022. The bill also proposes to limit what the government calls “collusion” between those third parties and political parties. “We just want transparency and fairness,” Downey said. “When we talk with third parties spending their ($637,200), we want to make sure that there's rules around them sharing information, common vendors, common contributors, use of funds from foreign sources.” The amount individuals can donate to a party, candidate or constituency association would also double from $1,650 to $3,300 a year. New Democrat legislator Taras Natyshak slammed the proposed limits on third-party advertisers. “At a time when long-term care advocates, organizations of health leaders, and the families of nursing home residents are speaking up about the horrors in long-term care, it looks like Ford is trying to silence his critics,” he said in a statement. Natyshak said doubling the individual contribution limit will drag the government back to the days of "cash-for-access" fundraising. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said while he supports some measures in the bill, like continuing the per-vote subsidy, increasing donation limits is a problem. "My biggest concern is that they're slowly opening the door back up to pay-to-play politics," he said. "How many regular Ontarians can afford to contribute that much to a candidate, constituency association and a party?" University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said the rule changes on individual donations will benefit both the Progressive Conservative government and the Liberal party, but stressed they won’t be the sole factor in deciding the 2022 election. “When the current government came to power, defeating the Liberals wasn't because of money,” he said. “It was because people essentially wanted a change.” Wiseman said the new limits placed on third-party advertisers might be a way the government thinks it’s giving itself a leg up, but the groups will find ways to maximize their message. “This is changing things at the margins,” he said. “Most groups will just try to spend the money as close as they can to election day.” The bill also proposes to extend the number of advance polling days from five to 10. "Ultimately, we want to make it easier and safer for people to vote," Downey said. The legislation will, for the first time, clarify the use of social media accounts by provincial legislators. It will also give Elections Ontario more enforcement powers, and the ability to fine individuals or groups it deems to have violated election rules. Currently, the province's chief electoral officer must report infractions to the Ministry of the Attorney General, which then decides whether to prosecute. Downey said the change would align Ontario with federal practices. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version, based on information provided by the government, said the spending limit placed on third parties six months before an election was $600,000.
Strathmore town council passed first reading of a bylaw that, if enacted, would prohibit conversation therapy from being practiced or advertised in Strathmore. First reading of the Prohibited Business Bylaw passed unanimously by town council on Feb. 17. The bylaw will be deliberated again for second and third reading at the council meeting on March 17. The bylaw was first introduced to council by Geoff Person, communications manager, during the town’s Feb. 10 committee of the whole meeting. During a public engagement process held last summer, the town received views from over 170 people providing support for banning conversion therapy in Strathmore, said Person. The town used this feedback to help draft the specifics of the bylaw, which is modelled off the City of Calgary’s Prohibited Business Bylaw, passed in May 2020. Under the proposed bylaw, conversion therapy is defined as any practice, treatment or service designed to change, repress or discourage a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. If adopted, the bylaw would prohibit conversion therapy from being offered as a business service in town, and would also prohibit the advertising of these services. The specified penalty for an offence under the draft bylaw is $10,000. If that fine is not paid, anyone guilty would be liable to up to a year in prison. An in-person session will be held for residents to share their views on the bylaw on the evening of March 17. Speakers must register and each presentation will be limited to three minutes. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
NEW YORK — Wall Street's GameStop saga won't stop. After weeks of going dormant, shares of GameStop have suddenly shot higher again, rising 18.6% Thursday after surging 75% in the last hour of trading Wednesday. Thursday's gain, which topped 101% before shrinking, came even as most stocks across Wall Street fell sharply on worries about rising interest rates. The moves are reminiscent of the shocking 1,625% surge for GameStop in January, when bands of smaller and novice investors communicating on social media launched the struggling video game retailer's stock. That initial supernova heightened questions about whether the broader market was in a bubble and whether a new generation of traders should be able to take full advantage of the free trades available on their phones. Global markets swooned momentarily; Congress held a hearing. No clear reason seems to be behind this most recent move, leaving market observers to grasp at what little news is out there, but it does demonstrate the increased power that regular investors suddenly have. One major piece that drove last month’s surge is not as big a player this time around: a huge build-up of what’s called “short interest,” or bets by investors that the stock is set to fall. After short-selling funds got badly burned by last month's sudden surge, many fewer GameStop shares are being sold short now. That means this pop may not reach last month's heights. “It’s like dropping a ping-pong ball on the table,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "The first bounce is the greatest while subsequent bounces are a bit more muted. We’re still getting a bounce, but it’s probably not going to drive up GameStop to $500 a share.” Here’s what we know: KITTY ROARS AGAIN — The most influential GameStop-backer may be Keith Gill, a colorful personality known for wearing a red headband and cat-themed T-shirts. He’s given regular updates of his GameStop holdings on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum, going back to when a share cost just 85 cents in 2019. A day after testifying in a Congressional hearing about GameStop last week, he indicated he added another 50,000 shares after Feb. 3, doubling his GameStop stock position. By Feb. 3, GameStop had dropped toward $90 after touching a momentary peak of $483 in late January. CFO EXIT — This is one of the few actual pieces of news. Late Tuesday, GameStop said its chief financial officer had agreed to leave the company and that he was entitled to the benefits due to him under his employment contract for a “good reason” resignation. Speculation rose that the departure was part of the company’s accelerating transformation from a struggling brick-and-mortar retailer to a digital seller better able to compete in an increasingly online business. But this information was known when trading began on Wednesday, and the stock didn't surge until hours later. THE ICE CREAM CONE — Ryan Cohen is a co-founder of the Chewy online pet-supplies company. He is also a big shareholder of GameStop and on its board of directors. GameStop backers see his involvement as a key reason to bet on a successful transformation for the company into a successful digital powerhouse. On Wednesday, an hour or so before GameStop shares spiked, Cohen tweeted a photo of an ice cream cone from McDonald’s, along with an emoji of a frog. Sounds fairly mundane, but nothing is normal in the GameStop saga. Market watchers and Reddit users tried to parse the cryptic image. Some focused on how the original photo seems to have accompanied an article about a person who created a website tracking whether McDonald’s ice cream machines are working ... a person whose past tweets indicate he may be a holder of GameStop stock. LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE — Some market watchers speculated that GameStop’s surprise reanimation was a reaction to critical comments from Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. “That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you get a whole lot of people who are using liquid stock markets to gamble the way they would in betting on race horses,” Munger said on Wednesday while speaking at the annual meeting of Los Angeles Daily Journal The remarks didn’t win Munger many admirers on WallStreetBets, where traders often see themselves in opposition to Baby Boomers, hedge funds and others. One Redditor posted a chart in the forum showing the spike in GameStop’s shares, adding: “TAKE THAT CHARLIE MUNGER.” TRADING FRENZY — The stock's movement were so wild that trading was temporarily halted four times on Thursday for volatility. Even though some novice investors suspected something nefarious, such halts are normal. There are rules that mandate a halt in trading when a stock rises or falls by a certain percentage within a certain time. Even so, GameStop shares changed hands more times by midday Thursday than for Apple, a company with a market value nearly 180 times the size of GameStop. REGULATORS REACT — The Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission are reviewing whether trading practices were consistent with “investor protection and fair and efficient markets.” At a hearing last week by the House Financial Services Committee, some lawmakers floated the possibility of crafting new rules requiring market players to disclose short-selling positions and restricting arrangements of payment for order flow, a common practice in the securities markets in which Wall Street trading firms such as Citadel Securities pay companies like Robinhood to send them their customers’ orders for execution. Stan Choe And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole asks whether Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is aware of any other allegations of misconduct against any other command officer the Canadian Armed Forces. His questions comes after news that defence chief Admiral Art McDonald is being investigated for misconduct. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government takes all such allegations seriously, no matter the rank or position of the person involved.