Trump tax cuts trickle across America, bringing glee and skepticism

1 / 5

Ortega, a supervisor at an infrastructure safety company, reviews budget paperwork in San Antonio

Will Ortega, a 32-year-old supervisor at an infrastructure safety company, reviews budget paperwork in his office in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. February 6, 2018. Photo taken February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lisa Maria Garza

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, touted as major tax relief for individuals and corporations, is showing up in bigger paychecks and bonuses awarded to workers by companies whose tax bills are being slashed.

More than 200 companies, including Home Depot Inc , American Airlines Group Inc and AT&T Inc , are giving bonuses to at least 3 million U.S. workers, according to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform group.

Reuters has interviewed people around the country on the benefits they have received so far. While they welcome the additional income, the cuts have largely not changed individuals' longstanding views on Trump or the two major political parties.

Here are their views:

- TIM SMITH, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Working two jobs to make ends meet, 61-year-old Tim Smith was happy to get a $400 bonus as a part-time worker at Home Depot thanks to the U.S. tax overhaul, but his dislike for Trump and his policies remains.

"What can I do with that? Not a lot. Buy some groceries, maybe pay a bill or two. That’s it," said Smith, as he deposited materials for recycling at the Home Depot where he works. He figured that after taxes, the bonus netted him $280.

Home Depot last month announced it would give its hourly workers a bonus of up to $1,000 as a result of Trump’s tax plan.

"I did benefit, yes, but, I believe, in seven years, anything we get is going to disappear," said Smith, adding he believed the tax plan was a “rip-off” that would help the wealthy and add $1 trillion to the national debt.

Smith, who sports a long pony tail, lives with his wife in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park, where he owns a home. Their two children are off to college.

He says the middle-class will eventually pay for the tax breaks, in cuts to programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

"That money’s got to come from somewhere, and it’s going to wind up coming from the middle-class," said Smith, who made about $55,000 in 2017 from the two jobs he works.

A graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a degree in history and political science, Smith said he moved to Florida in 1991 and took any job he could.

He has worked part time for Home Depot for 10 years, on top of working full-time at an aluminum processing company, which did not pay a tax-related bonus. Smith said he will probably work until he is 70.

Asked how he felt about Trump, Smith said: "To be honest, I can’t stand the man."

- WILL ORTEGA, San Antonio, Texas

Trump supporter Will Ortega, 32, was happy to see trickle-down economics in action when he got a bigger paycheck due to the tax cuts.

A supervisor at an infrastructure safety company, which controls traffic during highway renovation projects in San Antonio, Ortega's take-home bimonthly paycheck went up by $50, and he knew exactly what to do with it.

"Lunch money," he said, sitting at his desk wearing his neon yellow work clothes. "I was real careful with how I spent my money on food. Now it’s like if I want to go out to eat an extra day or not wake up early to make lunch, I don’t have to worry about it."

Ortega, who lives with his girlfriend and their 1-year-old daughter, makes about $50,000 a year.

"I’m a firm believer in the trickle-down economics of it, he said. "I'm real happy that my boss got a tax break, given he’s not a Fortune 500 CEO."

Ortega said his boss was investing back into the company, which benefited all the workers.

"He’s making more money, and in turn, we just picked up two brand new trucks, so it’s a lot more comfortable for the guys to work in. We’re also able to hire more guys and take some of the workload off us,” he said.

When it comes to Trump, Ortega said he would vote for him again, despite his dislike of Trump's social media presence.

"As a celebrity on social media, I think he’s worthless and I can’t stand him. As for the policies he’s put into effect and the progress he’s making, I couldn’t be happier," he said.

- LIZ HAMMOND, Somerville, Massachusetts

An administrative assistant at a university outside Boston, Liz Hammond, 36, was skeptical the tax cuts passed by Congress in December would mean much for her financially. And then her paycheck rose by about $5 a week.

"I've seen a change. It's tiny though," Hammond said.

Hammond, who lives in Somerville with her boyfriend and cat, said she fears that the tax package will lead to cuts down the road in social spending programs.

"I have friends who are on food stamps and disability and things like that, and we don't have a (federal) budget sorted out and I am terrified we'll lose these programs," Hammond said, adding that she would gladly have given up the tax cut if it protected those programs.

Hammond said she did not vote for Trump and was no likelier to vote for his re-election. The new law cut the federal income tax rate on her roughly $45,000 salary to 22 percent from 25 percent, a cut that is set to expire in 10 years.

"When I’ve finished paying off my student loans and start to accumulate money and maybe think about saving for a house, it's not going to be there," Hammond said. "I don't know anyone who is benefiting from this."

- JEFF ANDERSON, Lincoln, Nebraska

Jeff Anderson, a 33-year-old account manager for a software company in Lincoln, Nebraska, said he received a $1,000 bonus because of the tax cut, about $600 after taxes.

"I was able to purchase a few things I've been putting off," Anderson said. "My computer was failing so I built a new one. I bought a few books. The remainder is in savings, just in case."

A registered Democrat who said the bonus represents less than 1 percent of his annual salary, Anderson describes himself as "socially liberal, fiscally conservative."

Anderson lives with his wife in a modest brick home, where he spends his free time brewing craft beer, cooking, gardening and doing home improvement projects.

Although Anderson did not read the tax cut legislation, he feels the benefits depend on demographics.

"I have a feeling the effects will be as varied as the people who make up this country," he said.

Anderson said he did not vote for Trump, whom he feels has no respect for people from different backgrounds.

"To put it nicely, I think he's the embodiment of everything bad about this country," he said.

- MICHAEL JEFFERSON, Bloomington, Indiana

A graduate assistant making $1,000 a month at Indiana University in Bloomington, Michael Jefferson was disappointed to see a modest $15.22 increase in his paycheck this month as a result of the tax cut bill.

"So about $15 a month for me is maybe a third of a tank of gas or maybe two trips to Chick-fil-A," Jefferson said. "Frankly, the largest tax cut in history was a big bust."

Jefferson, 27, who is originally from Indianapolis, is studying for a dual masters degree in public affairs and environmental science. He has voted Republican in the past but did not vote for Trump.

"This cut is evidence of the fact that he is more show than he is substance," Jefferson said.

When not working as a graduate assistant, Jefferson has three other jobs: substitute teacher, application reviewer for Teach for America and research assistant.

"As a graduate student who makes about $20,000 a year, I saw this as a massive giveaway for the rich," he said. "This bill hasn't changed the fact that I still have to work several different jobs to make ends meet."

Although he is in the lowest tax bracket, Jefferson owns stock in DowDupont Inc and said his investments did increase as a result of the bill's benefiting mostly big companies.

"People who get the largest benefit are not the people who need it," he said.

- BYRON JOHNSON, Chicago, Illinois

A Republican who is disillusioned by Trump, Byron Johnson, 37, a personal banker in Chicago who grew up on the city's South Side, expects to benefit from tax breaks as a small-time real estate investor.

But the self-described Christian, who has a wife and four kids and lives in a four-bedroom condo in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, feels the tax policy will not help those less fortunate, like some of the struggling families he knew growing up.

"It's hard for a parent to say, Should I pay bills today or should I buy groceries?" he said.

Johnson works at Fifth Third Bank in the city's Loop and also invests in real estate, buying apartment buildings and single-family homes on Chicago's West and South sides, rehabilitating them and renting them out. Johnson said he made over $100,000 a year from his real estate business alone.

He expects to get an even bigger tax break under the new tax law for writing off clothes for meetings, gas, car and part of his home since it includes a small office.

Johnson said he plans to use the extra money for college tuition and weddings of his children, now ages 1 to 13, and to invest in more real estate.

Johnson had flown from London, where he lived previously, back to Chicago to vote for Trump because he felt successful corporate people paid too much in taxes. But he is disappointed by Trump because he feels Trump is prejudiced against some people.

Johnson said he would not vote for Trump again.

"Oh, heck no. This is just pure buffoonery," Johnson said.

- JULIE HERNANDEZ, San Antonio, Texas

Home Depot cashier Julie Hernandez, 56, was shocked to get a $140 bonus check after working at the company for only nine months until a friend explained it was because of the tax bill.

"I don’t understand it all. I didn’t know it was from a tax break. We work hard and for them to be paying their employees more, that’s awesome," she said as she crossed the street to go to a Dairy Queen in San Antonio after a four-hour shift.

Hernandez has been working customer service jobs for the last 38 years, from fast-food to retail, and earns about $10,000 a year.

Hernandez, who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, said she is grateful for the small financial gift but that does not erase Trump’s other faults.

“He’s a bully to foreigners,” she said. “I am grateful, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t change my opinion of him."

After purchasing dinner for herself and her elderly mother, Hernandez scrambled to the bus stop as the bus approached. She takes two buses to travel back and forth to work, a 10-15 minute ride if the drivers are on schedule, up to an hour if they are not.

Hernandez pays $38 a month for an unlimited bus pass so the bonus check will cover some of her travel expenses.

“I’m going to try to stretch it out. I live on my checking account," she said.

- RACHEL KEANE, Douglas County, Colorado.

Rachel Keane, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother of three small children who voted for Trump, was happy to see her family's income boosted by the tax overhaul.

Her husband makes about $100,000 annually as a software engineer, and the new tax law has added $300 per month to his take-home pay, she said.

"It may be crumbs to some people, but not to me," she said in a telephone interview. She said the family will use the money to pay for groceries and other household expenses.

"And my husband and I might even be able to go on a date night," she said.

Keane said she supports the reduction in the corporate tax rate and said it will benefit working Americans.

"I’m very pleased with the president, he’s showing real leadership," she said.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lisa Maria Garza in San Antonio, Texas, Scott Malone in Boston, Gina Cherelus in New York, Kevin O'Hanlon in Lincoln, Nebraska, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Keith Coffman in Denver and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Leslie Adler)

  • Trump jabs Maine's Democratic governor; she hits back
    The Canadian Press

    Trump jabs Maine's Democratic governor; she hits back

    GUILFORD, Maine — President Donald Trump on Friday laced into Maine's Democratic governor for not moving quickly enough to reopen the state's economy and urged his supporters to help him win the rest of the state in November if they want to see the country rebound from the coronavirus shutdown.Referring to Maine's electoral votes, Trump said: “Get that other half to go with Trump.” He spoke in the small town of Guilford, home to Puritan Medical Products, one of only two major companies producing a special type of swab needed to ramp up coronavirus testing.At stops in Guilford and Bangor, Trump used his first visit to the state as president to lob jabs at Gov. Janet Mills for not reopening businesses more quickly. Trump won just one of Maine's four electoral votes in 2016.“When are you going to open the state up?” Trump demanded as he spoke at Puritan Medical Products. “What's she doing?"Earlier in Bangor, Trump compared Mills to a “dictator” and said she was preventing her state from reaping money from Maine's busy summer tourist season.“She’s going to destroy your state,” he said. "I’m not a fan.”Mills responded with a lengthy rebuttal.“Yesterday, I asked the president to check his rhetoric at the door and to lead us with courage and compassion through this difficult time," she said. “Sadly, but unsurprisingly, he continues to prove himself incapable of doing so.”“What Maine people heard today was more of the same incendiary rhetoric and insults he uses to try to divide us and to stoke tension and fear. What Maine people heard today was largely devoid of fact and absent of reality. What Maine people saw today was a rambling, confusing, thinly veiled political rally.”She rebuffed Trump's claim that Maine remained shuttered by the virus, saying 13 of Maine's 16 counties have been reopened and that the state was the first in New England to allow indoor dining at restaurants.Ahead of Trump's visit, Mills had urged him to cancel the trip because of security concerns given the civil unrest over the death of George Floyd and Trump's heavy-handed response to protests.During Trump's call earlier this week with governors, Mills criticized him for urging governors to “dominate” protesters and toss perpetrators of violence in prison and for his administration’s move to forcibly clear out peaceful protesters near the White House so the president could walk to a nearby church to pose for photos holding up a Bible.Trump’s caravan rolled through Guilford during the searing heat of the afternoon, drawing cheers from supporters and “boos” from detractors. The crowd alternated between “Black Lives Matter!” and “We Love Trump!” chants as his limousine approached. There was some shouting back and forth among the factions, but the crowd was peaceful. Trump did not reference Floyd or the protests during his stops in the state.Supporters heavily outnumbered anti-Trump demonstrators in Guilford. But there were numerous other anti-Trump demonstrations around the state, and some organizers had dissuaded protesters from coming to Guilford.That didn’t stop Pam Chamberlain of Brewer from coming to Guilford with a sign that said “The Bible Is Not A Prop.” She said it was important for opponents of Trump and police brutality to have a presence.“I said, I need to go down there and represent the people who are afraid to be there,” she said. “And maybe the people who are afraid to come out of their house right now.”Paul Layman drove more than two hours from the Portland area to support the president and let protesters know what he thinks of them. He said rural Maine supports Trump because of his work on the economy. “I’m just tired of all these losers and their stupidity,” Layman said before describing protesters as “imps.”Trump is anxious to get beyond the unrest and the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus and focus on his reelection. His visit to Puritan had the feel of a campaign rally.The official White House event showcased the fact that his administration is providing $75.5 million through the Defence Production Act for Puritan to double production to 40 million swabs a month, and the company plans to open a second production site by July 1.More than 350 workers in Guilford have been working long hours since the coronavirus pandemic began.“We’re doing our best to supply the needs. It’s critical that our country is taken care of," co-owner Timothy Templet told The Associated Press.In Maine, the nation’s whitest state, there have been multiple days of demonstrations. Earlier in the week, more than 1,000 people gathered in Portland, stopping traffic, setting trash cans afire and pelting police with objects. More than 30 people have been arrested.Trump began his visit in Bangor, where he met commercial fishermen and signed an order to reopen fishing waters that were closed in 2016 when the Obama administration designated the first and only national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.The president also used the visit to warn the European Union and China that if tariffs aren’t cut on Maine lobsters, they’ll face retaliatory tariffs equal or higher than those hurting the state’s fishermen.___AP writer David Sharp contributed to this report from Portland.—-This story has been corrected to say Maine has four electoral votes, not three.Jill Colvin And Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press

  • B.C. woman shot dead during police wellness check had just made fresh start to be with her child, family says

    B.C. woman shot dead during police wellness check had just made fresh start to be with her child, family says

    Chantel Moore, a Vancouver Island woman who died after being shot in New Brunswick by police early Thursday, was kind, gentle and bubbly, and was making a fresh start to be closer to her mother and five-year-old daughter, her family says.In a statement, the Edmundston Police Force said officers were called to do a wellness check on a woman in an apartment in the city. When they arrived, she emerged with a knife and attacked an officer, Insp. Steve Robinson told reporters on Thursday."He had no choice but to defend himself," Robinson said.Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, died at the scene."I'm pissed. I'm outraged," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Friday in Ottawa.Miller said that he watched several incidents involving police and Indigenous people yesterday in what he described as "disgust.""I don't understand how someone dies during a wellness check? Police serve Canadians and Indigenous peoples of Canada — not the opposite. These independent inquires need to bring justice," said Miller.His outrage echoes words from Indigenous leaders."It's shocking. It's appalling. Policing in North America has just so deteriorated to this point to where we are on the verge of civil unrest here," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said Friday.The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman loved dirt biking and swimming, and was devoted to her family, loved ones say.Moore was born in Edmundston, N.B., but moved to B.C. as a small child and grew up in Nanaimo and Port Alberni, her great-aunt says.She was adopted by a family from about age four until age 14 but ran away, and was raised by her grandmother after that in Port Alberni.She'd lived in Port Alberni for the past four years and recently saved money to move away, according to one of her siblings.'She would never hold a knife'News of her death has stunned many in the tight-knit Vancouver Island communities."She was funny. Bubbly. She was such a little joker," said Melinda Martin, her half-sister from Port Alberni.Martin said she wants justice."She would never hold a knife," she said, sobbing. Martin said Moore had just saved the money to move to New Brunswick to be closer to her daughter, Gracie, who had been living with Moore's mother.She said her younger sister was proud and in good spirits. She was off to see her mother and child, then head home."She was so excited," said Martin. She says her sister called her every day, and they'd spoken around 10:40 p.m. PT the night before she died.Not long after, around 1 a.m. PT, Moore's grandmother, Grace Frank, got a call telling her that her granddaughter had been shot in the chest and was dead. Nora Martin, Moore's great-aunt, spoke for Frank, who could be heard through the telephone, sobbing in the background."We heard that one cop went to Chantel's place by himself, and that he shot at her five times and she was trying to attack him with a knife," said Martin.She believes that a man who dated Moore called police from Montreal or Toronto to ask to check on her well-being because he feared she was being harassed by someone.Frank was too overcome to speak but posted to her Facebook page. "I don't believe this. They were going there to check on her, not kill her. This is not right. Why would they shoot her five times?"For years, Moore worked at the Tseshaht market and Fas Gas Plus gas station, a pit-stop on the Island Highway.Tseshaht Coun. Hugh Braker said the news was upsetting, especially given a recent racist attack on the Tseshaht First Nations territory near Port Alberni and ongoing racial tensions with police in Canada and the U.S., with the death of George Floyd underscoring how many police incidents end in the death of a person of colour."It just heightens the tension and comes at such a bad time — the shooting of any woman is terrible and tragic at any time," said Braker.There will be an independent review of the shooting, with the aid of New Brunswick RCMP's investigative and forensic teams, the Edmundston force said.

  • Philippines' Duterte renews threat to kill drug dealers after big bust

    Philippines' Duterte renews threat to kill drug dealers after big bust

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte renewed on Friday a threat to kill drug dealers after police seized 756 kg (1,667 lb) of methamphetamines, a haul he said proved the Southeast Asian country had become a transhipment point for narcotics. The crystal methamphetamine, with a Philippine market value that police put at 5.1 billion pesos ($102.22 million), was one of the biggest seizures since Duterte unleashed his bloody war on drugs, which has defined his presidency, in 2016. "If you destroy my country distributing 5.1 billion pesos worth of shabu ... I will kill you," Duterte said in recorded address, referring to the drugs.

  • Ontario considering Stage 2 of reopening despite steady stream of new COVID-19 cases

    Ontario considering Stage 2 of reopening despite steady stream of new COVID-19 cases

    Premier Doug Ford is signalling that he could announce the next phase of loosening Ontario's pandemic restrictions as early as next week, despite a recent uptick in new cases of COVID-19."I was through all sorts of charts this morning, and overall, things are looking more positive," he said during his daily news briefing on Thursday.Ford said the question of moving to Ontario's Stage 2 of reopening is now being considered by the senior officials who form the COVID-19 command table. Stage 2 would allow a wider number of office-based businesses to reopen and expand the maximum size of social gatherings that's currently limited to five. "Hopefully over the next week, we'll be able to discuss it with the people of Ontario," he said in his briefing on Wednesday.The province's top criteria for further easing its semi-lockdown is a consistent decline over a two- to four-week period in the daily number of new cases. That benchmark has not declined consistently in the three weeks since May 14, when Ford announced Ontario's first stage of looser restrictions, including allowing non-essential retail stores outside of shopping malls to open for customers. Ont. health minister less bullish     Since that date, Ontario's daily number of reported new cases dipped below 300 only twice. The daily average in that period has been 371. The average number of new cases daily has trended upward for the past week.By contrast, Quebec's daily number of new cases has steadily declined since early May and has been below 300 for each of the past four days.British Columbia has not reported more than 30 cases in a single day since May 6.Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott sounded less bullish than the premier about the prospect of a move to loosen restrictions."We have had a number of conversations about what would be included in Stage 2," Elliott said Thursday. "We can't say exactly when, but we need to be prepared for it when we do get to that point." Elliott said the daily count of new cases has "gone back and forth" in the past week to 10 days."The numbers are gradually going down. We're going to need to see that to continue," she said.  Positive trendsThere are some positive trends in Ontario's data reported by the provincial Health Ministry: * Hospitalization numbers have been steadily declining. As of Thursday, there were 776 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, the lowest number since April 14.     * The number of long-term care homes with outbreaks of COVID-19 is decreasing. As of Thursday, there were active outbreaks in 89 homes, the fewest since mid-April.    * Ontario's labs completed 20,822 tests in the 24 hours leading up until Thursday morning, more than any day during the pandemic. Still, the province's top public health officials have indicated that it's essential they see a steady reduction in the number of daily new cases daily before recommending a move to Stage 2. A look at the case numbers by their "episode date" (the estimated date of infection, according to the Public Health Ontario interactive data page) shows no sign of a downward trend through the end of May. While 76 per cent of the province's active cases of COVID-19 are in the Greater Toronto Area, outbreaks among agricultural workers have caused spikes in case numbers in the Niagara region and southwestern Ontario.Fifteen of Ontario's 34 public health units have five or fewer active confirmed cases, according to the provincial COVID-19 database on Thursday. None of the public health units north of the Muskoka region has more than three active cases. Ford offered some hope of a quick reopening in parts of the province that are far less affected by COVID-19 by reversing his previous opposition to a regional phaseout of restrictions. He said the recent spate of outbreaks on farms, primarily in southwestern Ontario, will not scupper such a regional reopening.

  • Delta Hospice chair says sorry for equating medically assisted death with the Holocaust

    Delta Hospice chair says sorry for equating medically assisted death with the Holocaust

    The head of the Delta Hospice Society says she is sorry for comparing medical assistance in dying to the mass murder of Jews at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.Angelina Ireland issued the apology on Twitter after being contacted by the The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs."It was wrong of me to use the Holocaust as a comparison tool to advance my discussion of Euthanasia," she said.Ireland became chair of the Delta Hospice Society six months ago. In a speech at a religious right convention in the U.S. posted on Youtube, she told the crowd how the society stopped providing MAiD the day after she came to power."We said you know what Fraser Health Authority and Province of British Columbia, 'this is the Delta Hospice Society, not the Delta Auschwitz Society,'" she said in the speech.Nico Slobinsky, Pacific regional director with The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, says Ireland's statement is offensive. 'Ignorant comments'"These are ignorant comments that trivialize the brutal slaughter of the millions of victims of Nazi barbarity," said Slobinsky."We understand that medical assistance in dying is a difficult and emotional and important debate. But nobody should ever compare the ability to access medical dying to the Holocaust."Slobinsky said his organization had reached out to Ireland to invite her to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.Funding and contracts revokedIn February, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the province was pulling $1.5 million in annual funding from the Delta Hospice Society and cancelling its contracts with Fraser Health, effective Feb. 25, 2021.The move was directly in response to the decision to disallow MAiD at the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice.MAiD was passed into federal law in 2016 and gives an individual the choice of a medically assisted death within strict parameters.The decision to stop MAiD and the society's move to become a faith-based Christian organization has brought on a storm of controversy in the Vancouver municipality where the board is facing allegations of membership stacking.Dix says when the contract with DHS expires early next year, he doesn't expect interruptions to the day-to-day operations of the hospice. "We made it clear we're moving on, that critical decisions about health issues and access to health issues really shouldn't be decided by sign-up battles at local societies," he said."That facility has to follow the Community Care and Assisted Living Act and has obligations under that. So they have to function consistent with the rules and its medical function."Dix is meeting with Delta Mayor George Harvie, Delta MLAs Ian Paton and Ravi Kahlon and Delta MP Carla Qualtrough this weekend to discuss concerns around the Delta Hospice Society.

  • Why military men pushing back on Trump is an 'extraordinary' event in American democracy

    Why military men pushing back on Trump is an 'extraordinary' event in American democracy

    An aberrant event in the life of the American republic unfolded this week in the haze of flash-bang grenades, tear gas and fires.In one of the world's oldest continuing democracies, past and present military officials pushed back on a president talking about deploying troops on U.S. soil. "It's really extraordinary," said Richard Kohn, a University of North Carolina military historian who studies civilian control of the military."This is quite unusual in terms of historical context." What unleashed the discord was President Donald Trump's threat to use the military to quell violence stemming from protests against racism and police brutality in many U.S. cities.WATCH | Trump threatens to use the military against protesters:  Trump said in a statement Monday that he wanted state governors to take measures to "dominate" their streets. If they failed, he said he would deploy the military and "quickly solve the problem for them."White House staff said Trump was prepared to apply the Insurrection Act of 1807 — which has not been used since 1992, and has only rarely been invoked without state governors' consent.Trump's defence secretary, Mark Esper, referred to U.S. cities as battlespaces in a phone call with state governors on Monday. That same day, the joint chiefs chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, appeared on the streets of Washington, D.C., in military fatigues.It's rare enough for active-duty troops to be deployed at home — it has occurred, on average, about once every generation, and hasn't happened since the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Rarer still was the barrage of repudiation of Trump's idea that struck within hours. Letter after letter made clear the wide-ranging displeasure within military circles over this potential deployment."It is not unprecedented to have civil-military friction within an administration," said Peter Feaver, a civilian-military relations expert at Duke University. "Every administration has them. But there are distinctive features of this one, particularly its coinciding with a tight re-election campaign."What the generals saidThe most explicit statements came from retired brass. Perhaps the starkest warning came from retired general John Allen, who warned in Foreign Policy magazine that this might be the beginning of the end of American democracy. An ex-chairman of the joint chiefs, retired navy admiral Mike Mullen, wrote in the Atlantic magazine that he was "sickened" by the use of force on protesters before a Trump photo op in Washington.Trump's first defence secretary, retired general James Mattis, said he was "angry and appalled," and cast his former boss as a menace to the constitutional order.Active military leaders joined in on the criticism — some more explicitly than others. Esper appeared to moderate his tone by mid-week. He made a striking public comment Wednesday against the use of active-duty troops at home, saying he opposed such a measure.Milley also released a letter Wednesday to military command stressing their oath to the constitution and its embedded values of racial equality, free speech and peaceful assembly.Then came similar letters from, among others, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, the chief of naval operations, the chief of staff of the air force, the secretary of the army, and the commandant of the marine corps, some of whom expressed support for protesters. The historical contextMilitary figures occasionally publicly criticize the civilian government, said Lindsay Cohn, who specializes in civilian-military relations at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. She cited a couple of examples — military complaints about gay-rights policy in the early 1990s and about the Iraq war strategy in 2006.But she struggled to think of a precedent for an open argument about whether to deploy soldiers on American soil.That excludes a long-ago, exceptionally dark chapter in American history: the Civil War.One of Abraham Lincoln's generals, George McClellan, brushed off his attack orders and eventually ran for president against Lincoln in 1864.In another restive moment in U.S. history, presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy took the rare step of deploying federal troops against the will of states, sending soldiers to southern states to enforce civil rights.   Where do we go from here?State governors have not asked Trump for federal troops, and he hasn't forced the issue so far.However, in one place the president does control — and where there is no state government — Washington, D.C., several hundred troops were deployed this week. They have reportedly been sent home.Four civilian-military relations experts contacted by CBC News agreed on one big question stemming from this week — and disagreed on another.They all expressed regret that Trump had put the military in this position, forcing it into a political dispute.Cohn said military officials have been forced between a rock (being used as "political pawns") and a hard place (appearing to speak out and sound political).Where the experts disagreed was whether American democracy is in danger."I would say American democracy is definitely at a crisis point right now," Cohn said, explaining that this week's controversy is just one example of the country's heated politics.Stephen Saideman, a civilian-military relations expert who once worked at the Pentagon, said he's very worried.He noted Trump's history of calling elections rigged — Trump did it repeatedly in 2012 when Barack Obama was re-elected (on Twitter, he called for a revolution); he did it in 2016 before he won; and he's now trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots."We already have the seeds being sown about whose job it's going to be to eject a defeated president from the White House. Which is not a conversation the United States has had — ever — as far as I can recall," said Saideman, director of the Canadian Defence and Security Network, based at Carleton University in Ottawa."Norms take a long time to develop. And a short time to destroy." Kohn is less worried about America's democratic institutions."I've seen the courts push back [on Trump]. I've seen the American people, the polling, the 2018 election. … While he's knocked down quite a few guardrails, the fundamentals are still there," he said."As a historian of the United States, I think our institutions are more resilient and more deeply rooted than people think."

  • Violent arrest of young black man by Laval police leads to yet more calls for police reform

    Violent arrest of young black man by Laval police leads to yet more calls for police reform

    A shocking video of Laval police pulling a black man out of a car by his hair last week has surfaced, as protests denouncing police violence and systemic racism are leading to renewed calls for police reform in the U.S. and here in Canada.The video, separated into two one-minute chunks, has been seen nearly 900,000 times since it was posted to Facebook last week, circulating amid footage of other brutal police interventions.It shows a black man in his 20s in the passenger seat of a car, speaking with a Laval police officer standing on the sidewalk. The officer asks the passenger to get out of the car, and the passenger asks why. "For obstruction and a police investigation," the officer says, in French."But what investigation?" the passenger asks."An investigation," the officer replies, reaching into the vehicle and pulling the man out by his dreadlocks. He then knees the man in the head and throws him to the ground. The second video shows the man contorted, face down on the ground, with two officers on top of him. They are yelling at him to put his hands behind his back, even while one of them grips the man's wrist above his head.At one point, one of the officers can be seen punching the man's head and back. "But you're hitting me!" the man can be heard exclaiming. "You're holding me."Samuel, whose last name CBC has agreed not to publish because he fears harassment, has relived those moments over and over since the arrest, which happened at the very same hour that George Floyd was killed in a brutal police takedown half a continent away, Minneapolis, on May 25."All I wanted to know is, why did I have to come out of the car," Samuel recounted to CBC Wednesday."What's going to happen if I get out of the car? What are they going to do to me? Am I going to put my hands behind my back, get handcuffed and get killed or something?""I can't stop thinking about it. At night, when I'm alone, it's in my head. I can't sleep. I need some help." 'With such disdain'Will Prosper has seen dozens of videos like this since he traded in his RCMP badge for social activism 12 years ago.Prosper said he is repelled by "the way he was treated by that police officer — with such disdain."Like Prosper, Samuel is from Montréal-Nord, and the civil rights advocate has known him since he was a kid.Prosper said Samuel had taken workshops to know his rights in case of a police encounter. And he'd received a certificate of merit from Montreal police for his community involvement.Yet the video is evidence that police immediately saw this young black man as a threat, Prosper said."These were gratuitous assaults," said Gunar Dubé, one of two lawyers who have offered to help Samuel file a civil suit against the Laval police officers who arrested him."This is an obvious case of racial profiling," said the other lawyer, Alain Arsenault. No racial profiling in Laval: policeLaval police disagree."The Laval police service does not have a racial profiling problem," said a police spokesperson Sgt. Geneviève Major, pointing to the fact there were eight racial-profiling complaints against the Laval police service in 2019, and Laval police respond to about 150,000 calls per year.Laval police do not collect race-based data on police interactions and have no immediate plans to do so, Major said. "Any individual with that same behaviour would have gotten the same treatment by the police officers," she said.Major said Laval police stopped the car for erratic driving, and the officers told Samuel multiple times over several minutes to get out of the car because they suspected drugs were inside. Officers called the canine unit, and all three occupants of the vehicle were searched. No drugs were found. Arsenault believes the search was illegal and that police did not have a sufficient motive to order anyone out of the car. The men were ticketed for failing to abide by physical-distancing directives, and Samuel could face charges — including obstruction of justice.'Nobody deserves that — nobody'Blame a moment's indecision on a hot night.Samuel, his brother and a friend were just out for a drive, Samuel said, and a stop to buy cold bottles of water.They ended up in Laval, just across the Rivière-des-Prairies from their homes in Montréal-Nord.They couldn't pick between a dépanneur and the IGA on Cartier Boulevard, Samuel said. At one point, the driver settled on one of the stores, and made a U-turn. That's when they were pulled over. Samuel says he understands the value of the video circulating widely, but that each time he sees it go by on his feed he relives what happened."Nobody deserves that — nobody," he says.Prosper worries about the effect the arrest has had on Samuel's mental well-being, and the effect the video has on other black men when they watch it."You feel excluded, and you develop a frustration with a system that doesn't do anything for you," Prosper said. "Nobody cares for you — that's the feeling we are having."Prosper is disheartened that Quebec's political leaders still don't recognize police disproportionately target black people, Indigenous people and other people of colour, even as videos like Samuel's proliferate and the evidence mounts.Last fall, the Montreal police service released a report from three independent researchers which found Indigenous people and black people were four to five times more likely than white people to be stopped by police.The SPVM still hasn't announced the measures it plans to take in response to those findings of racial profiling.And just this week, Premier François Legault denied, once again, there is systemic racism in Quebec, even while he said he "stands in solidarity with people who denounce racial violence.""I think that there is some discrimination in Quebec, but there's no systemic discrimination, no system in Quebec of discrimination," he said Monday, adding "it's a very small minority of the people who are doing some discrimination."Prosper wonders what more proof Quebec's leaders need. "All of us are tired, and tired of saying the same thing over these years." "People said that things are going to change. Well, it's not changing right now. It's not changing at this time, after all of this," he said."Don't be surprised if we are in the streets because we've been facing the police brutalizing us for years and years, and years, and years, and nobody has done anything."

  • Unmasking the stealth virus behind COVID-19

    Unmasking the stealth virus behind COVID-19

    Scientists have discovered the pandemic-causing coronavirus is unique in short-circuiting the safest way our immune system kills off a virus, which could have implications for treating COVID-19 with interferon.Interferon describes a family of proteins produced by the body's immune system in response to an invading viral infection. As the name implies, interferon interferes with the virus's ability to copy itself.Interferon drugs are made in the lab and were used for years to treat hepatitis, a liver infection, as well as other diseases that involve the immune system, such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.In May, researchers in Hong Kong published the results of their Phase 2 trial on fewer than 150 people who were admitted to hospital with mild or moderate COVID-19. Participants were randomly assigned to a combination of potential antivirals, including interferon, or placebo injections for two weeks.The findings lent support to the idea of continuing research efforts, including in Canada, to investigate interferon in larger, blinded trials designed to find more definitive answers.Dr. Jordan Feld, a liver specialist at Toronto General Hospital and senior scientist at U of T, previously used interferon to treat people infected with hepatitis. He's now leading a Phase 2 clinical trial to test a targeted form of the drug, called peginterferon lambda, in injections compared with saline placebo injections."It's kind of like a stealth virus," Feld said of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.Normally, when interferon in the body's white blood cells responds to a viral invader, the interferon sends out a flare signal so nearby cells will work to stop the virus from copying itself or replicating if they, too, should be invaded.In ferrets infected in the lab (a common animal model for studying respiratory viruses), healthy human lung cells, and in people with COVID-19, doctors and scientists say it seems like the natural interferon "flies under the radar" of the immune system and isn't activated the way it should be.Feld said the idea behind giving interferon medications is to provide the body with what it should be making to fend off the infection.The potential therapeutic approach gained scientific backing last month when a study published in the journal Cell showed a "striking" feature of SARS-CoV-2 infection.Ben tenOever is a Canadian-born professor of microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York who led the Cell study and has been flooded with e-mail requests from researchers the world over to test experimental drug compounds against the virus.TenOever said every cell that gets infected has two major jobs: 1. Fortify its defences and those around it with a "call to arms" mediated by interferon, like sending out an emergency flare for the immune system's first responders. 2. Send a "call for reinforcements" for a longer-term response by releasing proteins called chemokines.Most viruses block both of those roles.What makes SARS-Cov-2 unique is it blocks the call-to-arms function from interferon only.Reinforce call to arms with drug?"Treatment with interferon or drugs that induce interferon, the main character in the call to arms, is probably beneficial," tenOever said."The secret is to do it early," he said, when people have a mild cough and test positive for the virus and haven't developed respiratory distress.But there could also be mild side-effects.When we're fighting off a flu virus, blame interferon for feeling so crummy, feverish and achy as your immune system kicks into high gear.Likewise, interferon drugs, could also lead to flu-like symptoms for a day or two.Individuals enrolling in COVID-19 clinical trials of interferon based in Toronto, Hamilton, Ont., Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., Stanford in California, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and elsewhere will need to weigh whether that (potential) shortfall is worth the (potential) payoff of protection from the deadly damage and delivers key answers that only their participation can offer.TenOever said what the enormous scientific interest in the publication shows is an incredible demand for biosafety Level 3 labs like his during the pandemic. Without that lab capacity, the fear is that medical researchers won't be able to run all the experiments they need to do to guide vaccine efforts.Matthew Miller is an associate professor of infectious disease and immunology at McMaster University who isn't involved in the clinical trials or studies.Miller said interferon is what cells use to try to kill off the virus by themselves."Its sort of the preferred route," Miller said, adding interferon is also the safest way for the body to get rid of a virus.Miller called tenOever's paper "an important first step in understanding how our body is responding to this particular new virus."Speed up recoveryDr. Sarah Shalhoub, a transplant infectious disease physician at Western University's medical school, studied the use of interferon to treat another coronavirus infection called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.While interferon hasn't yet panned out to fight MERS, Shalhoub is optimistic for COVID-19."Patients that received interferon beta clear their viruses faster and the duration for hospital admission was also significantly lower," Shalhoub said of the Hong Kong findings last month."It was encouraging in that sense that there might be an effective therapy that's available on the market that can be repurposed."Shalhoub was quick to add a caution. Since no one in either the drug or placebo group died, the mild infections and response to them are difficult to interpret without more research.

  • Dental hygienists worry about COVID-19 safety guidelines as clinics get set to reopen

    Dental hygienists worry about COVID-19 safety guidelines as clinics get set to reopen

    As many shuttered dental clinics are preparing to reopen, a rift is growing in the industry over proper protocols to keep patients and staff safe — with one Ontario dental hygienist calling clinics a "ticking time bomb" for creating new COVID-19 cases.After shutting down for all appointments except emergency services in mid-March, clinic owners now have Ontario's green light to start booking other procedures.But how to do that safely is a matter of hot debate, with the latest guidelines from two regulatory bodies — one for dentists, one for dental hygienists — offering different road maps for team members working in close quarters in the same settings."If the recommendations are coming from science, should the science not be the same that they're looking at? Shouldn't the guidelines be the same?" questioned Lori Gallant, a long-time dental hygienist who owns a clinic in Pickering, Ont. and is keeping it closed for the foreseeable future.Gallant and many other registered dental hygienists point to the most recent protocols for personal protective equipment outlined by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO), the regulatory body for dentists, and those issued by the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO).The CDHO stipulates dental hygienists should wear N95 respirator masks — the highest level of mask protection — for "all aerosol generating procedures," referring to the use of dental instruments which could release droplet particles from a patient's mouth.The latest RCDSO guidelines, however, suggest wearing either an N95 mask or a lower level of protection like a surgical mask for any procedures generating aerosols."If you're working in the same environment, it's important that you're following the same stipulations," said Angela Fuller, a registered dental hygienist who works in two dentist-owned clinics in Scarborough and Brampton, Ont.Debate over PPE usageThe RCDSO and CDHO both call for COVID-19 screening of all patients, using a series of questions provided by Ontario's Ministry of Health regarding someone's self-reported symptoms, travel history, and possible contacts with anyone infected.But the regulatory bodies again differ on how to handle those screening results. "Clients who screen positive must not attend the facility," the guidelines from the CDHO read.Meanwhile the RCDSO allows people who screen positive to be treated at clinics "for emergency or urgent care" while dental professionals are wearing various levels of personal protective gear (PPE) — including an N95 mask for aerosol generating procedures, or just a surgical mask if those procedures aren't being used.Gallant questioned if the province's screening questions go far enough to identify COVID-positive patients, since some people may be carrying the virus without showing symptoms. With that in mind, she said high levels of protection should always be worn as a precaution."We're talking mouth open, aerosols being produced," Gallant continued. "I don't understand why anything less than an N95 would be recommended."So far, research into COVID-19 transmission has shown the virus likely spreads most easily in close quarters.Several recent reports from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control, for instance, found high levels of transmission in multiple indoor settings with low ventilation over an extended period of time.Given the potential risks involved in working so closely with patients, all dental professionals should be "treating everyone as if they're infected," said Irene Iancu, a registered dental hygienist who owns a clinic in Toronto. "That helps us not only protect ourselves, but our clients and patients and their families."Hygienists' guidelines too 'strict,' says dentistDr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease expert and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health at the University of Toronto, said there is "validity" to dental hygienists' concerns amid growing evidence about how the illness spreads."COVID is a highly infectious virus ... nobody should be doing any procedure that is generating viruses in the air without an N95," she said.In a statement provided to CBC News, RCDSO spokesperson Kevin Marsh said its latest guidance "reflects the recommendations of Public Health Ontario.""Our guidance has been developed with input from a range of experts from different disciplines," he continued."Because the science is still evolving there are many opinions about what is needed for the safety of patients and dental office staff. We emphasize caution in any case where clear evidence has not yet been established."But Lisa Taylor, CEO of the CDHO, said she understands why Ontario dental hygienists feel "concern and frustration" over the guidelines from another regulatory body.Initially, both bodies actually took a similar approach, she noted. The latest RCDSO guidelines under fire this week were issued on May 31, and the CDHO was "not made aware" of the update in advance.Dr. Phu-My Gep, a Toronto-based pediatric dentist, accused the CDHO of "playing on the public's fear."Gep is behind an online petition with more than 1,700 signatures so far, which says the CDHO is "pitting hygienists against dentists." (Another online petition with more than 700 signatures is calling for a "collaborative approach.")In an email exchange with CBC News, Gep called the college's guidelines "extremely strict." She added her own regulatory body revised its guidelines to adopt its current approach after a "backlash" about earlier protocols, which were more in line with what the hygienists' college is still mandating.   "The CDHO demands are unrealistic, especially in light of the shortage of PPE," Gep added.Indeed, acquiring enough personal protective equipment is a concern for dental hygienists like Iancu, whose new clinic was supposed to open months ago but has remained closed since COVID-19 began spreading in Ontario.Inside the brightly-lit space near the corner of Woodbine Avenue and Gerrard Street East in Toronto, she shows off the only two boxes of masks and gloves she has left after donating supplies to hospitals early on in the pandemic — since more rounds of protective gear are still on back order, she said.Amid the challenges and debate, Iancu isn't sure when she'll ever be able to open, while Gallant is keeping the clinic she's operated for years shuttered by choice."You could be walking into a dental office where aerosols are produced," Gallant said."You're walking into a ticking time bomb."

  • News

    24-year-old migrant worker in critical condition with COVID-19

    Several Essex County migrant workers have been hospitalized with COVID-19.The news comes days after the death of a 31-year-old farm worker from Mexico.The Leamington hospital, Erie Shores HealthCare, went to hotels where COVID-19-positive workers are staying in self-isolation, to check on their condition. After a board meeting, Windsor Regional Hospital president and CEO David Musyj said he is staying abreast of the initiative, and said six workers have now been admitted to hospital."One of the six who wasn't visited by Erie Shores, but simultaneously came to Windsor Regional Hospital, is a 24-year-old, and he is not doing well. He's now in critical care."Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Thursday he had not yet received the autopsy report on the 31-year-old who died Saturday. Migrant worker youngest death due to COVID-19 in Windsor-EssexThe 31-year-old man had no underlying health issues, said Ahmed, and is the youngest person to die in our region from the disease. Steve Laurie is responsible for the facilitation of temporary foreign workers to Woodside Greenhouses Inc., the pepper farm in Kingsville, Ont. where the man worked. Laurie, who said the man's name is Bonifacio Eugenio-Romero, said he took the man to the hospital on May 21 for treatment and a COVID-19 test after he said he had a fever. By May 23, the test came back showing the man had COVID-19, said Laurie, and all migrant workers who the man worked closely with were put into a hotel. Laurie said the man was put into a room by himself.On May 25, Laurie said the health unit tested the 22 other workers at the facility. Of those, two came back positive, two need to be retested and the remaining were negative.By Saturday, Eugenio-Romero had trouble breathing and was taken to hospital by EMS, both the health unit and Laurie confirmed.Laurie said 30 minutes later, the man died, leaving his co-workers upset and worried. "They're rattled," he said. "It's been a wake-up call for a lot of them."

  • Halifax woman injured during Walmart arrest says Floyd's death 'extremely overwhelming'

    Halifax woman injured during Walmart arrest says Floyd's death 'extremely overwhelming'

    A Halifax woman says she knows what George Floyd was feeling the day he died.Santina Rao was injured when police arrested her while she shopped at Walmart with her kids earlier this year.Rao, who suffered a broken wrist, concussion and bruising in the encounter with police in January, said she watched in horror as Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, was pinned under the knee of a white police officer for nearly nine minutes."It's been extremely overwhelming emotionally to say the least," Rao told CBC's Information Morning on Friday. "Just to hear his story and know that he's gone and I'm here is just emotional in itself."Rao's case sparked renewed calls for an end to racial profiling by Halifax Regional Police. She said watching the video of Floyd's final moments took her back to what happened to her on Jan. 15 at the Mumford Road Walmart.  "It's just almost like a PTSD trigger once I saw what was happening over there just so vividly in the news, but I'm just not surprised by it happening again," she said. That day in January, Rao was shopping with her baby and toddler after recently moving into a new house.She said police officers confronted her inside the store, accusing her of trying to steal a head of lettuce, two lemons and a grapefruit that were in the bottom of her stroller.Her lawyer said police then asked Rao for identification, which she showed them. But the lawyer said that things escalated when the officers questioned Rao about her identification and one of them stood between Rao and her three-year-old daughter. A video posted by the Halifax Examiner to YouTube shows part of the altercation. It shows Rao swearing at a police officer to get off of her before one officer physically brought her to the ground and they struggled.Rao was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and causing a disturbance, but not for stealing. Her case is expected to return to provincial court on July 7. "There was no disturbance, there was no assault, there wasn't anything until the situation was created by her being inappropriately detained and questioned and someone getting in the way of her toddler," lawyer Gordon Allen said. Halifax police referred the case to the Serious Incident Response Team, which continues to investigate, although Allen said that body has no jurisdiction to wade into questions of racial profiling. Public calls for charges to be droppedNova Scotia's Public Prosecution Service said Thursday that it's received numerous requests from the public to drop the charges against Rao, but that her case will go ahead.In a statement, the service said it cannot halt a prosecution "based on requests from the public and the Crown does not argue cases through the media," but that a Crown attorney will decide based on the available evidence.Chief Dan Kinsella with the Halifax Regional Police said he can't speak specifically to Rao's case, or whether she was being street checked when officers asked to see her ID, as the case is being investigated.But he told CBC's Information Morning that any time a situation like that happens "it's of great concern.""Those details will certainly come out, and we'll make whatever steps we need to take, correction or otherwise when we move forward," Kinsella said.> Communication and de-escalation are the most important things that have to occur. \- Chief Dan Kinsella, Halifax Regional PoliceKinsella said in any encounter with police "communication and de-escalation are the most important things that have to occur." He said all front-line supervisors on the force recently received refresher training on de-escalation techniques, and that officers have also had anti-black racism, diversity and bias training."So there is regular communication about this, and the vast majority of calls we deal with appropriately, but there are those areas where we need to do some work and we will continue to do that," he said.Floyd's death has "shaken all of our communities to the core," Kinsella said. "It's a horrible thing that is a gigantic setback."Daughter remembers incident Rao said everywhere she goes she worries about being racially profiled. She said the same was true when she went to Walmart that day in January."It almost feels like you have to double check to make sure that you're looking around to be like, 'Am I allowed to be here?'"She said because she's a black woman, people assume she's stealing. She said a white parent can put groceries in their stroller without a second thought. She doesn't know what will happen with her case, and said her main priority is caring for her kids. Her daughter, who is three, remembers everything that happened that day. She talks about it often and notices when her mom gets upset."My children and I have been through enough already before this incident happened," Rao said. "We've dealt with enough trauma and enough pain in our lives and then on top of this to deal with it, it's just, it's enough."MORE TOP STORIES

  • Minister scrapped job competition for health advocate, instead appointing prominent UCP figure

    Minister scrapped job competition for health advocate, instead appointing prominent UCP figure

    Alberta's health minister discarded a ready-to-go job competition to find the province's next health advocate in favour of appointing a UCP stalwart. Documents show Tyler Shandro's office asked for recruiters to hold off on posting the job the day it was set to go public. The documents were shared with CBC News by the NDP, after the party obtained them through a freedom of information request. Janice Harrington, a former UCP executive director, was named health and mental health patient advocate in November. The job description for that role was never published and has not been made available, despite repeated requests. In August, a plan was put in motion to fill the gap soon to be left by the advocate's term expiring in November. The ministry and department wanted to have someone new in place for that date. The deputy minister of health was given the green light by the premier and minister's offices to fill the role using a recruitment process. Public servants started the paperwork, drafted the job description and strategized how to attract candidates. By mid-September a draft was ready, but the department was concerned combining health and mental health roles could draw out the process and make it difficult to find a suitable candidate. The time crunch was mentioned repeatedly as the target date of November inched closer.Weeks went by with little coordination between the two departments in charge of the hiring. Emails show the job posting paperwork had been approved, but had fallen through the cracks. Posting called down hours before publishing Near the end of October, about a week from the target deadline, the minister's office asked for an update and to see the text of the job posting. The following day it was ready to go. As recruitment managers were about to hit "publish," they were told to hold off. The deputy minister was in a meeting with Shandro and was awaiting his direction. The next day the deputy minister's office was informed the minister had chosen someone for the role: Janice Harrington.Extra correspondence that occurred in that 24-hour window was withheld from the document package because of FOIP regulations. Every health advocate must be approved by the health minister, then an appointment is made official through an order in council. However, in the past, health advocates have been chosen through a competition process — with the job description made public.  Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said it's odd to go through the trouble of a competitive process only to cancel it at the penultimate moment. "Not only to cut short that process or to set it aside, but to instead appoint someone who is an active and rather passionate partisan makes it look like this advocacy position is really nothing more than an arm of the government doing the government's bidding," she said. Williams added it would have been an "advantage" to the UCP to have a transparent vetting process as a way to show Albertans the best candidate was selected.Tight timeline a factorShandro's office said that the tight timeline they set to replace the advocate factored into the minister's decision. "Rather than have a vacancy for the important Advocate role, it was decided to proceed expeditiously in appointing a replacement," Steve Buick, the minister's press secretary, said in a statement.The cancelled job competition is one critique, but Harrington's qualifications have also attracted criticism. Harrington has no background in healthcare or health administration, according to her LinkedIn profile. Her career trajectory has carried her through communications, public affairs and government relations. The minister's office did not provide an answer when asked if she fit the criteria set out in the job posting. Her two predecessors both had healthcare experience. Neither were unilaterally appointed. > "Rather than have a vacancy for the important Advocate role, it was decided to proceed expeditiously in appointing a replacement." \- Minister Shandro's officeMinister Shandro's office said Harrington's diverse skill set makes her an ideal choice for her role. "The Health Advocate must be a voice for Albertans and be capable of effectively engaging government, the public and other stakeholders. Ms. Harrington has extensive experience working in media, public relations and marketing."That background wouldn't necessarily rule her out for this appointment, Williams said, but added she finds the optics problematic given Harrington's past involvement with the now-governing UCP. Harrington declined to be interviewed and her office referred the request back to the minister's office. Her term expires in November 2021 and she is paid a salary of up to $164,000. History of appointmentsAppointments by the Kenney government have raised eyebrows before. In August, his cabinet overturned the boardroom tables at many of Alberta's commissions, boards and agencies. About 20 institutions (like post-secondary, health services and the liquor and gaming commission) were overhauled in one sweep. Many Conservative-associated appointees were then slotted into place.The opposition accused them of "cronyism" for those moves.Harrington's appointment has also drawn criticism from a group called Alberta Doctors for Patients. In a statement, they said it was unfortunate the government is making cuts to healthcare while simultaneously using that budget to pay a former UCP executive director's salary. The opposition also has concerns and has raised them in the legislature a handful of times. Minister Shandro has repeatedly defended Harrington in the chamber, saying, "She is highly qualified and will serve Albertans well."Time for a rethink?Separate from the politics of the appointment, health professionals have a very clear idea of what they want from the advocate — someone who has patient care experience on the ground. "It can't only be a person with a compassionate approach, it has to be somebody who understands government, understands health services, understands the matrices of services it supports," said David Grauwiler, the executive director of Alberta's division of the Canadian Mental Health Association. The advocate position was made permanent in 2014. Its responsibilities are to review complaints, inform and educate Albertans and help to resolve issues. The health advocate cannot take part in court cases, reverse decisions, discipline, apply penalties or investigate complaints involving the government. Unlike other Alberta advocates, this position reports directly to the minister of health instead of to the legislature. Williams says that fact and the lack of investigative powers are a "hugely problematic" part of the position. "What exactly is it supposed to be doing other than confirming what the government is doing is a good idea?" Both Williams and Grauwiler agree it's time to take a deeper look at the efficacy of the health and mental health advocate position — and look at overhauling it.

  • Belleville residents call for firing of veteran police officer over Confederate flag controversy

    Belleville residents call for firing of veteran police officer over Confederate flag controversy

    The Belleville Police Service is facing pressure to fire a veteran officer shown in social media posts wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt and expressing support for the Confederacy, a group of Southern U.S. states that fought against the other states in the U.S. Civil War.Const. Todd Bennett, who has been a police officer for 29 years, posted a photo to his Facebook page last year showing him at a U.S. Independence Day celebration on July 4 wearing a white T-shirt with the rebel flag on it. In a comment accompanying the post, Bennet called it "the real Independence Day flag" and said "The South will rise again! Trump 2020."Another photo from 2015 shows Bennett riding in a golf cart with a large Confederate flag attached to the back of the vehicle.The flag, flown during the American Civil War by the Confederates, who fought in part to preserve the institution of slavery, is widely seen today as a symbol of racism and white supremacy.An online petition calling for Bennett to be fired had garnered 9,000 signatures as of Friday morning."You can't hold such strong views about what the Confederate flag stands for and hold a job that is meant to support, protect and serve the community," Belleville resident Sydney Jarvis said in an interview with CBC Radio's Ontario Morning.Jarvis, a person of colour, is organizing an event called Vigil for Black Lives in Belleville on Sunday, in solidarity with those who have been affected by racism and police brutality.Jarvis said while she sees Bennett's behaviour as an isolated incident and believes that people can change, she thinks the officer deserves to be reprimanded. Bennett has since taken the post down and apologized, the Belleville Police Service said in a tweet on Wednesday. CBC News reached out to Bennett for comment but has not yet received a response.Police officers across Canada and the U.S. are facing increased scrutiny at the moment as tens of thousands of people protest and march against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minnesota who died after a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.'Isolated post': police chiefBelleville police Chief Ron Gignac issued a statement saying that Bennett's actions shouldn't tarnish the good work Belleville police officers do."One isolated post from 47 weeks ago does not represent the hundreds of thousands of events and instances where Belleville police officers have kept this community safe over the past year," Gignac said. "We work tirelessly to serve with distinction to keep this community safe."Gignac said he can't comment on the specifics of Bennett's case, and said "the matter in question is dealt with according to the legal frameworks that I have to abide within and by." Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk, who is also a member of the city's police board, told Ontario Morning that the board will review the action taken by the police chief."It's a very disappointing situation for all of us," Panciuk said. "We're going to continue to work to make sure everyone not just is welcome but is able to live a life of equality." Belleville residents took to Twitter to express their frustration, with many saying Gignac's statement did not go far enough.In a post accompanying the online petition, Lorraine Postma said this is not an isolated incident."This is not enough ... This is not just one bad apple," Postma wrote. "The community of Belleville is calling for a thorough and independent investigation of this police officer's behaviour."For Jarvis, the episode is a painful example of the inequalities people of colour face every day."It just reminds me that it's still a struggle for people of colour to live normal lives," she said. "It's a reminder that there are people out there that still think our lives aren't as relevant or important as theirs."

  • Tiananmen Square anniversary commemorated virtually in Canada due to COVID-19

    Tiananmen Square anniversary commemorated virtually in Canada due to COVID-19

    Thursday marked 31 years since thousands were killed and injured during the Chinese government crackdown at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, but vigils to commemorate the peaceful protest looked very different this year due to COVID-19. Mabel Tung, chair of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, said this year her group is organizing a virtual commemoration."Due to the current pandemic social distancing restrictions, a big gathering is not feasible now," Tung said. The virtual commemoration took place online at 6 p.m. PT Thursday, with participants encouraged to share photos of their candlelight vigil on social media. A small, physically distanced vigil was also planned for outside the Chinese consulate on Vancouver's Granville Street.The turnout was bigger than expected. Dozens lined the sidewalk outside the consulate at 9 p.m. PT, holding candles to commemorate those lost in 1989 and signs to support protests continuing in 2020.Tung expected there might be a larger crowd outside the consulate, especially given the climate in Hong Kong. There, authorities took the extraordinary move of cancelling the territory's annual candlelight vigil for the first time in 30 years. The move is part of an ongoing tightening of restrictions on the part of China in the face of massive pro-democracy protests and demonstrations.Watch anniversary vigils take place in Hong Kong:Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker affiliated with the Civic Party in Hong Kong, said tens of thousands of people still made it to Victoria Park to commemorate the event."But despite the police ban, a lot of brave Hong Kong citizens still came out and expressed commemoration and hope for a democratic country," Kwok said. Kwok said with the incoming national security law, this year may mark the last year the Tiananmen Square anniversary is commemorated in Hong Kong. The events of 1989 are heavily censored in China, and the Chinese government has never apologized for the crackdown.He said it's chance to reflect on how hard pro-democracy protesters have worked to preserve the rights and freedoms they have had under the current "one country, two systems" system."I want to tell my friends and family in Vancouver that they should really treasure the rights and freedoms that they have. It really is so precious. It is not something we can take for granted."

  • News

    Hay River farm gets 25 tonnes of potatoes from generous Alberta donor

    A tow truck carrying 25 tonnes of potatoes rolled into Hay River, N.W.T, Thursday afternoon. The spuds are a donation from a farmer in Lacombe, Alta., who offered to give their farm's surplus to the N.W.T.Jackie Milne, the president of the Northern Farm Training Institute, started jumping up and down as soon as the truck pulled into her farm today and yelled "we did it!" to a couple of people on site.The donation is huge — enough to feed every person in the N.W.T. "If we can get these potatoes planted and we just take good care of the gardens, we can produce five million calories," Milne told CBC. "We gotta take this gift and really value it."Potatoes for allA team of volunteers is working with Milne to distribute the potatoes to every single community in the N.W.T., starting with the communities in the South Slave region. Most of the donations will be sent by plane to Yellowknife, and then another portion will be flown up to communities in the Sahtu and Beaufort Delta regions. Fort Simpson, N.W.T. will be the potato hub for the Dehcho, where volunteers there will distribute the seeds to the smaller communities in the region. Milne said she got the idea to ask for a donation during COVID-19, when she foresaw issues getting food up to the territory due to the border closures.She picked potatoes to focus on because she said they are the ultimate "survival food.""Of all the seeds, potatoes produce the most amount of food that we can eat," Milne said. "They're like the easiest to grow and produce the most food." Milne is also offering free gardening tutorials on the Northern Farm Training Institute's Facebook page during the pandemic. She is also looking into creating interactive Zoom classes, where community members can ask her gardening questions. Milne said any possible food shortage could be avoided next year if the communities are able to save any of their seeds for replanting.

  • Shellfish harvesters frustrated over area closure one day into shortened season

    Shellfish harvesters frustrated over area closure one day into shortened season

    Just a day after some wild oyster fishermen started their season without a buyer, P.E.I.'s shellfish association says the industry has been dealt another blow. On Tuesday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) shut down a popular oyster and quahog fishing area near Stratford in the Hillsborough River, known as Area D.  That's after officials in Stratford discovered higher than allowable bacteria levels in the effluent coming from the town's sewage lagoon. "So I have to move to other areas, which makes it more dangerous. I have to sail further up the East River," said Carl Palmer, who learned of the closure after picking quahogs Tuesday. "I get about half the catch elsewhere, as I would if I could fish Area D. So it cuts my catch in half."Bob MacLeod, the shellfish association's president, says about 25 fishermen typically fish in the area. Given the season was already delayed by a month due to market concerns fuelled by the pandemic, MacLeod said the closure hurts. "This closure could last 14 days. So that's two weeks of the season gone, when most buyers are only talking buying [for] a month," he said. "Those 25 fishermen have to go to another river.… It puts a lot of pressure on overfishing in those areas."Sewage sludge not removed in time Stratford officials say the pandemic can take part of the blame for the effluent issues. Jeremy Crosby, the town's infrastructure director, says back in early March, the town started planning to remove sewage sludge from the lagoon, which he says collects on the bottom and can interfere with the water treatment process in the spring. Crosby said the goal was to have a company remove that sludge and and pump it into geotube bags next to the lagoon for storage, well before the scheduled start of the shellfish season on May 1. "But as a result of travel restrictions, and getting permission for this company to come over during the COVID-19 pandemic, it did delay the process longer than we would've liked," said Crosby. He said the company didn't start the sludge removal until May 22, and wasn't able to finish the job before the start of the delayed season on June 1. So some of the sludge was left behind and interfered with the process to treat the water before it was released into the Hillsborough River."We still felt that it would be best to try to remove as much of the sludge as we could," said Crosby. "We're hopeful the effluent quality will return to normal, and the season can open up here soon."But MacLeod points out this isn't a new problem. He said the same fishing area was closed down twice last May due to water quality concerns at Stratford's sewage lagoon. "This is a little bit ridiculous, the hardship it's putting on people," he said.Lagoon shutting down this fall Crosby acknowledges that even with sludge removal taking place every few years, the town's water treatment process has had its problems. He said it's one of the reasons the town is decommissioning the lagoon this fall and spending $10.9 million dollars to start pumping sewage to Charlottetown's waste water treatment plant.  "We've struggled with the lagoon system over the years. And with it not being there and being pumped to a mechanical plant, we're confident we're going to resolve this problem," said Crosby. "I just hope they're right," said Macleod. "I really hope this is solved after this year. But we'll just have to wait and see on that one I guess."It's not clear when fishing will be able to resume in Area D. Crosby said while the town is conducting daily water testing, it will ultimately be up to DFO to decide when it's safe to open the area back up. The oyster and quahog season officially ends July 15. More P.E.I. news

  • Trudeau 'salutes' peaceful anti-racism, anti-brutality protesters
    Canadian Press Videos

    Trudeau 'salutes' peaceful anti-racism, anti-brutality protesters

    Gradual progress on reducing systemic racism isn't enough, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday, but committed only to working on how to speed up improvements so that every Canadian can call the police without worrying they might make a problem worse. He said he salutes protesters demonstrating against police racism in multiple cities Friday, but declined to say he'd join them.

  • Supporting role: Indigenous activists want focus to stay on black demonstrators
    The Canadian Press

    Supporting role: Indigenous activists want focus to stay on black demonstrators

    Terre Chartrand says she recognizes it's not her place right now to be front and centre during demonstrations in support of black people decrying police violence.Chartrand, the Algonquin artistic director of Pins and Needles fabric company, an Indigenous-led arts collective, says her people play an important — but not central — role."The same violence has created a condition for both of our communities," says Chartrand of Waterloo, Ont.There have been intense demonstrations in cities across the United States since the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, on May 25. A police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, even as Floyd said he couldn't breathe.Indigenous activists say they will be attending rallies and working behind the scenes at demonstrations in Canada. But many say black lives must remain the focus of attention."Black activists have supported the resiliency of Indigenous people time and time again," said a statement Thursday from Idle No More organizers Nickita Longman, Shawn Johnston and Alex Wilson."It is our turn to show up, take instruction, and trust in the Black Lives Matter movement at this time, and always."Idle No More began in 2012 in Saskatchewan and became one of the largest Indigenous mass movements with protests around the world. Colonial violence may look the same on the surface sometimes, its organizers organizers said, but there are historical differences behind the oppression.Ciann Wilson, an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, said Indigenous people she has spoken with recognize that supporting black people right now will move both groups closer to justice."The fact that it's impacting black communities today or Indigenous communities tomorrow, that is a (symptom) of white supremacy," she said. "What we need to tackle is white supremacy in its full form."Wilson, who is black, was a principal investigator of the Proclaiming Our Roots project. It presents the history between black and Indigenous communities and showcases the underrepresented stories of Afro-Indigenous people."When Indigenous and black people have gotten together throughout history in the North Americas, they have staged some of the biggest threats to colonial rule," Wilson said.The project worked with black, Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous scholars and researchers to show how the Haitian revolution against French colonial rule and slavery in 1791 was a collaboration between them. The two also worked together during the Seminole Wars that attempted to displace the Indigenous population in Florida in the 1800s.Wilson said that relationship was feared by colonialists because it forged a strong resistance. Over the decades, stories of the battles faded and the relationships between communities sometimes wavered. But Wilson said their mutual fight for justice against oppression remains.Grand Chief Arlen Dumas with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said First Nations are more than empathic because they "strongly identify with some of the lived experiences of black people in this country and in the U.S.""The black and Indigenous anger over police brutality, as well as with the court system, has been boiling for decades in this country and indeed around the world," Dumas said in a statement.The proportion of Indigenous people behind bars in federal prisons is more than 30 per cent, despite their accounting for five per cent of the Canadian population, says the Correctional Investigator of Canada. Black inmates make up about eight per cent of the total in-custody population and 37 per cent of all discrimination complaints to the ombudsman for federal inmates.An Ontario Human Rights Commission report in 2018 found black people living in Toronto were far more likely to be injured or killed in interactions with city police.Dumas pointed to the death of a 16-year-old Indigenous girl who was killed by Winnipeg police in April. Police allege she was shot after a pursuit that began with a liquor store robbery. She was one of three Indigenous people killed by police in the Manitoba capital in a 10-day span.Black and Indigenous voices must be united, Wilson said. Right now, that means everyone must hold themselves, their families and their communities accountable to anti-blackness, she said."An injustice for anyone is an injustice for all."This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

  • Shaman critical of Putin loses bid to end enforced psychiatric treatment

    Shaman critical of Putin loses bid to end enforced psychiatric treatment

    A Russian court on Friday rejected a challenge by a Siberian shaman critical of President Vladimir Putin who says he has been illegally incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital, his lawyer said. Alexander Gabyshev drew media attention when he set off last year on an 8,000-km (5,000-mile) walk to Moscow, a journey he said would culminate with him banishing the Russian leader, whom he described as a demon. Gabyshev made several attempts at the journey, but was always stopped by police, who took him back to Yakutsk, his home town in eastern Siberia.

  • La Loche men hailed as heroes after extinguishing fire, rescuing dog from RCMP officer's home

    La Loche men hailed as heroes after extinguishing fire, rescuing dog from RCMP officer's home

    Alfie Piche says he never thought he'd find himself kicking down a police officer's front door."It's usually the other way around, isn't it?" Piche said with a laugh.Piche and his uncle Ronnie Lemaigre are being hailed as heroes in their home of La Loche, Sask., after extinguishing a fire and rescuing a dog from the home of a local RCMP officer.On May 26, Piche and Lemaigre were volunteering as security staff at the main doors of the Northern department store in La Loche, a town located approximately 600 kilometres from Saskatoon. They were helping customers sanitize their hands and instructing them to practise physical distancing in the store.La Loche has had more COVID-19 cases than any other Saskatchewan community.Piche said he and Lemaigre noticed flames and smoke in a window of the duplex across the street. They ran across the street and looked inside. The kitchen was on fire.Piche ran to the attached residence and knocked on the door. They got an RCMP officer who lived there out and she joined them outside the other unit.They heard a dog barking frantically inside, Piche said. They kicked down the front door and went in. Piche said the smoke was heavy, but their COVID-19 masks helped a bit.Piche said they got the dog out, then put out the fire with an extinguisher from another nearby home before emergency services arrived."I'm a dog lover, so it felt good," Piche said.RCMP spokesperson Rob King lauded Piche and Lemaigre for their actions. He said the RCMP officer was taking care of a friend's dog.King said the officer had recently returned to the house with groceries."He put them on the stove because he was babysitting the dog and didn't want the dog to get the groceries," King said.The officer turned the stove on by accident without noticing, then left before the groceries ignited.King said the damage was limited to the kitchen and the front door and credited Piche and Lemaigre."It was definitely the two guys who noticed it, called it in and helped put out the fire," King said.Piche said he and Lemaigre have been thanked by town residents and RCMP."I'm glad those guys were there to help," wrote one Facebook user.Another called it "a heroic day for Alfie Piche [and] his Uncle Ronnie!"Piche said he's glad they were able to help."I was in the right time in the right place."

  • What a dinosaur's last supper reveals about life in the Cretaceous period

    What a dinosaur's last supper reveals about life in the Cretaceous period

    A beautifully preserved armoured dinosaur found in an Alberta oilsands mine died on a full stomach. The "extraordinarily rare" preservation of its last meal offers new clues and surprises about how the dinosaur lived during its last days.The 5.5-metre-long, 1,300 kilogram spiky, plant-eating nodosaur, similar to an ankylosaurus but without a tail club, is the only known one of its species, Borealopelta markmitchelli. (Its name means "shield of the north" and honours Mark Mitchell, the technician who spent 7,000 carefully extracting the fossil from the surrounding rock). The nodosaur lived 110 million years ago during the early Cretaceous, in a lush forest of conifers, ferns and palm-like plants called cycads, near the coast of what was then an inland sea. At the time, the climate was warmer, similar to that of South Carolina, said Caleb Brown, a paleontologist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta and lead author of the new study. It was published this week in the journal Royal Society Open Science.The fossil was discovered by accident in 2011 by Shawn Funk, a shovel operator at the Suncor Millennium Mine near Fort McMurray. Paleontologists from the Royal Tyrrell were called to have a look and realized at once that it was no ordinary fossil.While most fossils include only bones, this one included skin. It was so well-preserved that it has been described as "mummified."In the dinosaur's belly, "there were these massive concentrations of what looked like rocks," Brown said.Those were in a mass about the size of a soccer ball, and it appears they were gastroliths — rocks that some plant-eating dinosaurs use to grind up their food in their stomachs, as modern birds do, instead of using their teeth.Sure enough, when chunks of the mass were encased in resin, sliced and examined under the microscope, the researcher could see well-preserved twigs, leaves, mosses, pollen and spores.To get some help at identifying the plant material, the dinosaur researchers turned to paleobotanists, including University of Brandon researcher David Greenwood and his team, along with their retired Royal Tyrrell colleague Dennis Braman.Ferns and charcoalThey discovered that the dinosaur was a bit of a picky eater. While it lumbered through a landscape that was lush with conifers, horsetails and cycads, there weren't a lot of those in its stomach."It's almost all ferns," Brown said, noting that ferns aren't actually very nutritious. "It wasn't just hoovering up everything on the landscape."But to him, the biggest surprise was that the stomach also contained a significant amount of wood, mostly charcoal, suggesting it was feeding in an area that had recently been ravaged by wildfires."And that's a really cool result," Brown said. "Because if you look at large mammals that are herbivores today, they often seek out areas that are recovering from forest fires."That's because the new growth tends to be lush, more nutritious than older plants, and low to the ground where it's easily accessible.Forensic paleobotanyBy looking at the types of spores and the fact that the twigs appeared to be in the middle of their growing season, the researchers figured out that the animal died during the wet season, which was late spring or early summer.In Dinosaur Cold Case, a recent documentary about the fossil on CBC's Nature of Things, Greenwood said extreme storms and flash floods would have been a problem at that time of year on the coastal plain where the dinosaur and suggested that being swept away by rushing water may have been what caused its death.The discoveries about the nodosaur's last meal are significant because to date, Brown said, "we know almost nothing about what herbivorous dinosaurs eat."Only guesses can be made based on what plants lived nearby and the dinosaur's teeth. There are also clues in fossil dinosaur feces, but the plant material in those are often digested beyond recognition and it's difficult to know which dinosaur they came from.Part of the problem is that finding preserved stomach contents from a dinosaur is "extraordinarily rare," Jim Basinger of the University of Saskatchewan, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. Nine cases of possible dinosaur stomachs of plant-eating dinosaurs have been found, the researchers note, but most have turned out to just be plant material found nearby rather than actual stomachs. In this case, the dinosaur was washed far out to sea, without any plants from the landscape it lived in, before it was fossilized."So in this case we have what I would say is by far the best evidence that these are stomach contents," Brown said.That said, he notes that it may not necessarily be representative of what this species normally ate, as an animal's diet can vary depending on its age, its health, and the seasonal availability of different foods.Still, he said it's useful to be able to compare it to what scientists think plant-eating dinosaurs were eating at that time and raises new questions to investigate, such as: How much of this food a dinosaur this size would have needed to eat to sustain itself? And how did it digest it? "I think give us a benchmark for figuring out how this animal may have lived."

  • Wear masks in public says WHO, in update of COVID-19 advice

    Wear masks in public says WHO, in update of COVID-19 advice

    The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its guidance on Friday to recommend that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas where there is a risk of transmission of COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the pandemic disease. In its new guidance, prompted by evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, the WHO stressed that face masks were only one of a range of tools that can reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should not give a false sense of protection. "Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19," the WHO's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a briefing.

  • N.B. police shooting of Indigenous woman leads to questions on 'wellness checks'
    The Canadian Press

    N.B. police shooting of Indigenous woman leads to questions on 'wellness checks'

    FREDERICTON — A 26-year-old Indigenous woman from British Columbia who was fatally shot by police in northwestern New Brunswick was remembered Friday as a caring person as questions were raised about police conduct of so-called "wellness checks."Chantel Moore was killed early Thursday morning when police arrived at her home in response to a request to check on her well-being. Edmundston police say their officer encountered a woman with a knife making threats. She was shot and died at the scene despite attempts to resuscitate her.Moore's grandmother, Grace Frank, said her granddaughter was "tiny" and she doesn't believe she could have attacked the officer."My granddaughter was the most beautiful person and the kindest person you could ever meet," she said from her home in Tofino, B.C. "She was so lovable and caring."Frank said Moore had lived with her for a number of years as a teenager before moving in with other relatives and later settling in Campbell River, B.C., where she met her boyfriend and had a daughter named Gracie.Frank said her daughter — Moore's mother — had been raising Gracie in New Brunswick, and Moore recently moved there to be with her mother and daughter and to go to college. She said she was not aware that Moore had any mental health issues."It is so difficult. We're in disbelief," Frank said crying. "We can't believe it. It's not our girl. She would never attack anybody."Quebec's independent police investigation agency has begun investigating the Edmundston shooting at the request of the RCMP, which is providing forensic support. In a brief statement, the agency said it's investigation will determine if the information provided by police is accurate.The City of Edmundston and the Edmundston Police Force said Friday they will make no further comment.In Ottawa Friday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the family deserves answers, quickly. "It was a wellness check and someone died," he said. "I can't process that."The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council in B.C. called for immediate action and for the independent investigation to be conducted in a timely way.The council represents 14 First Nations including the Tla-o-qui-aht, to which Moore belonged."We're very close-knit communities," council vice-president Mariah Charleson said. "The whole Nuu-chah-nulth Nation is grieving."Charleson said Moore was a friendly face when she worked at the Tseshaht market and Fas Gas Plus gas station in Port Alberni and is being remembered by friends for her bubbly personality.Her death on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls highlights inaction to prevent avoidable deaths. Investigations can take years with no results, she said."For far too long, Indigenous people are left on the back burner and our families and communities are left waiting with no answers," she said.Archie Kaiser, a professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said there have been many examples of "wellness checks" going awry. "In every major city, and in rural areas as well, there continue to be instances where the police fail to discharge their service obligations in terms of treating people compassionately, respecting their human rights," he said Friday. "In the worst cases, that has resulted in a preventable death, and there continue to be such tragic outcomes."He said the 911 operator needs to gather as much information as possible and ensure that information is passed along to the responding officers. Officers need to be equipped "to deal with the person's needs in a sensitive and respectful way," he said.A Halifax-based group Women's Wellness Within said it should not be the police who are sent to check on people's well-being, noting that studies have shown that the victims of many such police shootings are in mental distress.The group is one of many calling for the "defunding" of police, and redirecting funding towards mental health services.Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said it's unfortunate that police become first responders to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.He was reacting to the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet.The Toronto woman fell to her death from her 24th-floor balcony during an interaction with police last Wednesday.Meanwhile Lorraine Witman, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, called for federal action in light of Moore's death, saying the government has yet to respond to the 231 calls for justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.Witman said Indigenous women have been watching with interest what is happening in the United States, and in Canada, after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd."We have seen the outrage and the protest. And we share those feelings. But we also wonder, where is the outrage when young First Nations women and girls die violently in Canada, year after year?" she asked.An online petition calling for the Edmundston police officer to face criminal charges had collected about 6,400 names by mid-afternoon Friday, while a Go Fund Me page had raised about $80,000 for Moore's family.— With files from Liam Casey in Toronto and Amy Smart in Vancouver.This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • City councillor joins growing call to defund police

    City councillor joins growing call to defund police

    An Ottawa city councillor is calling for a rethink of the police budget in the wake of widespread protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd.In a tweet Thursday, Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard used the hashtag DefundThePolice, a slogan attached to a growing movement urging governments to reconsider the use of taxpayers' dollars to militarize local law enforcement, and use the money instead for mental health supports and other services that benefit the community. Speaking on CBC's Ottawa Morning Friday, Menard clarified that he's not calling for the Ottawa Police Service's entire budget to be withdrawn."Obviously context is important in this discussion," he said. "I don't mean zeroing out a budget. What I do mean is there are a number of expensive services currently provided by police where outcomes could improve and which could be better handled by other professionals." The police service's operating budget for 2020 is nearly $358 million, including $38 million in revenue and an additional $4 million from various fees. Most of that money goes toward paying officers.Menard noted that accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the city's total budget, and has increased threefold over the past two decades, a higher rate than other city-funded services. "I'm not calling for a reduction in broad-based funding, what I am calling for is a shift in that funding," Menard said. Kitchissippi ward Coun. Jeff Leiper has also issued a statement about "moving resources from policing to more effective measures."Chief open to discussionThe discussion about redirecting police funding gained momentum after the death of Floyd, who died after a police officer in Minneapolis, Minn., pressed his knee into the handcuffed man's neck for nine minutes, asphyxiating him.In a video of the killing, Floyd can be heard gasping the words, "I can't breathe" before going silent. Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly has signified he's open to discussions surrounding changes to his force's budget, but told CBC "not out of retribution.""How do we actually make this dollar go as far as it can? And who's willing to make sacrifices and do something differently?" Sloly asked The Current's Matt Galloway."That's a different discussion than punish the police, disband the police, defund the police — that's a much more healthy discussion." Menard argued funds allocated for police services could instead be funnelled toward social services and other community investments, potentially lowering the city's crime rate. "One of the areas we really need to look at is the new emergency service that connects people with unarmed mental health emergency service workers that are trained to provide health and social care required in crisis situations," he said. "This is happening already, in other places around the world. It's front-line programs that work in conjunction with the police." Mayor opposes move to defund policeMayor Jim Watson, however, appeared to criticize the councillor over his comments to defund the city's police service. "Mayor Watson is strongly opposed to slashing the budget of the Ottawa Police Service - a budget approved unanimously by Ottawa City Council on December 11, 2019," a statement from the mayor's press secretary, Patrick Champagne, reads."Mayor Watson is surprised by the inconsistency of a few councillors who constantly demand a greater police presence in their communities and then turn around to support deep cuts to the police service. "Further, having just concluded a round of council outreach on this issue, he is confident that an overwhelming majority of members of council are not in favour of defunding the OPS."The statement also notes Sloly was hired with the express mandate to reform the organization, and that cutting the budget would undermine those efforts. While Menard voted in favour of the city's 2020 budget, he said that doesn't mean he supports the budget in its entirety.  "I know there is a need for some police resources within certain areas within communities. I'm not saying that you want to completely cut that out. What I am saying is that we can be doing things a lot better," he said.

  • Hollywood-like footage shows SpaceX deployment of 60 satellites

    Hollywood-like footage shows SpaceX deployment of 60 satellites

    Watch the successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites. Credit to 'SpaceX'.