Freedom Forum senior fellow for the first amendment Gene Polincinski shares insight on the ban by tech giants of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Freedom Forum senior fellow for the first amendment Gene Polincinski shares insight on the ban by tech giants of U.S. President Donald Trump.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after being sworn in, according to State Department officials. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
The Town of Penetanguishene has struck a vendor take-back mortgage deal with the Georgian Bay Native Women's Association (GBNWA) for two properties it wants to develop for affordable housing. The matter was first brought to council at its Jan. 13 meeting by Grace Kidd, the association's realtor. During that presentation, she asked council to consider selling the two pieces of land on Dupuis Drive for $60,000 (equivalent to a $64,000 sale, after real estate commission and HST), which the group will be getting through a federal Rapid Housing Initiative program. "I've found a contractor who is willing to do the build and is willing to put in two apartments," said Kidd, adding she wasn't charging realtor fees for the project. "I'm throwing myself and my clients at your feet and asking you if you're willing to do this." Council members asked a few questions at that meeting. "I would like to understand if you were successful in the build, who would the housing geared toward?" asked Coun. George Vadeboncoeur. Kidd, who emphasized she was not a member of the organization but just their realtor, said the residents would likely be single mothers with their children. Coun. Jill St.Amant asked how soon would GBNWA need to take possession. "Our builder said he could start building without the services actually being there," said Kidd. "We would say it's conditional on the final approval by the ministry. We don't have to have all the ducks in a row by Jan. 31. We only have to have a contract in hand. We have to be in there by the end of 2021." Council could not make a decision on the same day so they came back to discuss the matter at a Jan. 20 special council meeting. That's when staff presented two options for the property purchase, recommending that council go the vendor-take-back mortgage route, which would comply with section 107 of the Municipal Act. This section allows municipalities to make grants, to any person, group or body for any purpose that council considers to be in the municipal interests, which includes selling or leasing land for nominal consideration or to make a grant of land. "The town could transfer the lots directly to the GBNWA at below market value," said the report, which Jeff Lees, chief administrative officer, explained during the meeting. "This model also provides complete assurance that the lots will be utilized by GBNWA as the owner. "As the GBNWA would not be in a position to pay the below market value amount immediately, payment could be secured by a vendor take-back mortgage (VTB)," read the report. "Under the VTB, the Town would receive payment upon the GBNWA receiving its funding from the upper levels of government or by a specified date. Given the information above, Administration is comfortable with this approach as a viable option for Council consideration." This option, he said, provides assurance that the lots will be transferred to the GBNWA. "This is far cleaner from the municipal act standpoint," said Lees. "The other piece is that with this model, there would be some nominal savings (about $1,200) for the association from the perspective of a land transfer tax perspective. Every dollar that can be stretched would be helpful for the group." The suggestion was well received. "I like the idea of vendor take-back and have the lots transferred directly to the GBNWA," said St.Amant. "I would be very supportive of it. It matches our strategic plan." Fellow Coun. Jessica Klug also thought this was a good news project for the town. "I'm very supportive of this project," she said. "I think it's a great idea to have those lands signed over to the native women's association. It allays some concerns." Council unanimously voted in favour of the option, making a minor change to include the lot servicing fees ($15,000 per lot) in the agreement. Brenda Jackson, president of GBNWA, and Kidd looked delighted by the decision and left the meeting after saying, "Chi migwech." But neither woman responded to requests for further comment following the meeting. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
The arrival of COVID vaccines have stirred excitement and optimism for a swift end to the global pandemic, with some seeing the shot as a "free pass" to soon gather and socialize as they did pre-2020.Not so fast, experts say.Canada's first phase of vaccine rollout — targeting front-line health-care workers, long-term care residents and staff, and some Indigenous populations — began last month and is expected to stretch into March before the inoculation process is opened to a broader population this spring.While experts agree the end of the pandemic is in sight, they say it will take time to determine what level of protection the new vaccines actually provide — and whether they prevent us from spreading the virus.Experts expect mask mandates, limits on gatherings, and physical distancing measures to continue even as more of us get vaccinated, at least through part of 2021."Until we get to a level of herd immunity where we have around 70 per cent of our population vaccinated worldwide, there's going to be that question of transmission," said Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba. "And that's certainly a concern for us."Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two vaccines currently approved for use in Canada, were shown in clinical trials to have a 95 per cent efficacy in preventing severe infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. And while Moderna has some evidence suggesting it also decreases transmission, more data is needed.Some vaccines, like the one for HPV, offer complete protection from infection and transmission, while others like the flu shot primarily work against acquiring the virus and lessening the severity of symptoms. Kindrachuk says part of the reason for that is the way our immune systems respond to different vaccines.The COVID vaccine seems to effectively produce neutralizing antibodies, he says, "but not necessarily enough to stop the virus from potentially getting into some of our cells."Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician in Mississauga, Ont., says answers to the transmission question will only come as "large swathes of the population" start getting vaccinated worldwide.We may see that the inoculations do decrease transmission, he says, and restrictions could be lifted earlier than experts expect."But as it stands in January 2021, when you get vaccinated you'll want to still act like you were doing before: physical distancing, keeping contacts low, masking indoors," Chakrabarti said. "As the pandemic starts to ease up, things will change."Being able to still transmit the virus becomes less of a problem as more and more people are vaccinated, experts say.But Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor of infectious diseases at UBC, doesn't expect SARS-CoV-2 to ever be eradicated. If 30 per cent of the population isn't immunized, the virus will continue to circulate through them, he says. So effective treatment for COVID-19 will be needed to deal with lingering cases."Viruses don't have brains but they're not stupid," he said. "They will continue to find hosts."Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, says COVID-19's potential staying power will have less of an impact once pressure is relieved on the health-care system. And that will be achieved by vaccinating high-risk populations early in the rollout.The first indication that vaccines are working will be a reduction in deaths as long-term care and other high-risk groups are immunized, he says, while case counts will be the last to decrease. That means infection prevention controls will need to be followed while community transmission is still happening."Eventually you'll start to see a reduction in cases as these vaccine programs roll up, and then we'll start to see public health measures slowly lifted as the year progresses, post-April," he said. "We'll probably see a gradual shift allowing larger outdoor gatherings, then indoor gatherings, and eventually lifting of mask mandates." An exact timeline for reaching that level is hard to predict, however.While a highly effective vaccine will allow us to reach herd immunity quicker, Bogoch says a 95 per cent efficacy in a clinical trial might not actually translate that successfully in the real world.Since efficacy was based on a two-dose regime, Bogoch expects that number to drop if people don't return for a second shot. It's also still unknown how effective the vaccine is for segments of the population excluded from clinical trials.So visiting a grandparent or other high-risk individual in the next couple months will be risky, Bogoch says, even if they've been vaccinated."The effectiveness is probably going to be lower (than the trials showed)," he said. "And we'll need to see how this plays out in real time to help drive our behaviours."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Shortly after the first state of emergency was declared by the Ontario government last March 17, municipal bylaw officers across the province were given power by the province to enforce pandemic emergency orders after “stretched” policing agencies requested assistance. Despite having the option to issue tickets under the Provincial Offences Act for violations of provincial emergency orders, municipal and regional bylaw enforcement officers focused on education rather than enforcement. But that tone has changed after the province handed down additional powers to police and bylaw officers alike to enforce a recent provincial stay-at-home order which came into effect on Jan. 14. Niagara This Week reached out to municipalities, Niagara Region and Niagara Regional Police to find out what enforcement action has been like since the start of the pandemic. Niagara-on-the-Lake has relied the most on enforcement out of the Niagara municipalities approached for data, having issued 66 tickets between March and December of last year, according to a Jan. 5 report to council. Niagara Falls has issued 28 tickets since May; Fort Erie has issued 13 since the initial orders; and St. Catharines has issued two tickets between March last year and Jan. 21. Port Colborne and Lincoln have not issued a single ticket since the beginning of the pandemic. The City of Welland did not provide information for earlier than Jan. 14. City bylaw manager, Ali Kahn, said in an email that no tickets have been issued since the province’s stay-at-home order took effect. Across the peninsula, the region has taken the most enforcement action in the shortest amount of time, according to data provided by communications consultant Andrew Korchok. Between Sept. 18, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2021, region staff have issued 134 tickets. Niagara Regional Police Service has issued 75 tickets between April 5, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2021 — with 14 having been issued since Jan. 13. The “severity” of enforcement action can vary, depending on what charge is laid under the Provincial Offences Act. A Part One offence can be a set fine settled out of court, while a Part Three offence requires a person to attend court where a conviction and penalty can be imposed. According to solicitor general spokesperson, Brent Ross, Part One fines for individuals range between $750 for “fail to comply with an order,” and $1,000 for an offence such as “obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order.” But Part Three offences carry a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in prison. Corporations and their officers face harsher limits. Ross said an imposed fine could be as high as $10 million, if convicted. Those wanting to put on a party or host an event over gathering limits may also face more stringent penalties, Ross said. “On conviction, this offence carries a $10,000 minimum fine.” Niagara This Week also inquired about the amount of warnings given and complaints received, but data is tracked and reported in vastly differently ways across the region. Some municipalities group together the amount of inquiries and complaints, while others don't track certain data, like complaints or warnings, making it difficult to discern exactly how many warnings are given versus tickets, for example. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Jan. 5 report shows 2,611 inquiries and complaints were received between March and December last year, with a total of 1,475 educational outcomes. Niagara Falls also reported a high number of complaints, at 2,946, but the data also includes “information.” There were 2,142 times where a business or the public were educated. The City of St. Catharines was unable to provide the amount of warnings given, but said 436 complaints had been received. Niagara Regional Police could not provide the number of complaints received, but said they've given 67 warnings. In Fort Erie, “in excess of 200 warnings” have been given, according to enforcement co-ordinator, Paul Chodoba. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
A lot can change over the course of a year. A vehicle crashed through the wall of the Hockley General Store in late Aug. 2019 and as a result, the retailer was closed for an entire year as it underwent renovations. When the store near the intersection of Mono-Adjala Townline and Hockley Road in Mono reopened last fall, things had changed significantly. For starters, there was a global pandemic and retailers have had to integrate new measures to allow them to be agile in a constantly changing landscape. To this end, the store has integrated a new point of sale system to gather more insight into their business and allow for that needed agility. Square for Retail by Square, Inc. has enabled Hockley General Store to sell their inventory online, in-store and on social media. “It’s definitely made our lives, as an essential business, a lot easier,” said Katie Wookey, general manager of Hockley General Store. "It’s super user-friendly. It allows us to cater to our customer’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis.” The store’s original backend systems were antiquated, cumbersome and not user-friendly, The new system allows Wookey and her staff to see what their top-selling items are and what products aren’t. “It’s iCloud-based, which is great for us because it integrates with the other iCloud stuff we’re using as a business, as everything communicates with each other,” said Wookey. As Ontario entered the lockdown, the new system allowed the store to offer their customers options when it came to shopping for essentials. “With the current situation, people can order online and pick up their groceries as curbside,” said Wookey. "That has been another awesome aspect. We can use the website that square has already. That enables us to sell the products that we put up on our website.” Business has been good since reopening, Wookey said. “Our customers have been really supportive in the community, and they’ve been loyal to us." Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
When drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna learned to successfully incorporate messenger RNA technology into a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say they likely opened the door to a significant shift in the future of immunization.The milestone in vaccine development was met with enthusiasm from most, but the seemingly swift pace and novel approach is causing hesitancy in others. Experts say the new technique shouldn't dissuade people from getting the vaccine. While the mRNA method is new to inoculations, the actual technology has been around for decades. The difference now, they say, is scientists have ironed out the kinks to make a useful product."It sounds fancy, mRNA, but there's nothing outlandish about it," said Dr. Earl Brown, a virology and microbiology specialist with the University of Ottawa. "This is the way our cells operate — we live by mRNA."Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first inoculations approved for humans to use mRNA, which provides our cells with instructions to make proteins. In the case of COVID vaccines, the injected material shows cells how to make a harmless piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which then teaches our immune system to recognize the virus and fight off a future infection.Scientists made the vaccine by programming genetic material from the spike protein into mRNA, a process that theoretically could work for other viruses."As long as you know how to create those instructions — that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target — you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen," said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill."But the question is whether it will be effective, and whether it will be safe."The development of future mRNA vaccines might be quick, Basta says, but they would need to go through the usual evaluation process and clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. So vaccines for other viruses won't be popping up overnight.Still, Basta adds, there's potential for using mRNA to either improve upon existing vaccines or to develop new ones against other pathogens.Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, sees mRNA vaccines as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary."Part of the reason COVID vaccines came together so quickly was the technology had been developing for years, Halperin said. The global pandemic offered scientists a pressing opportunity — and unprecedented funding and collaboration — to try again for a viable injection.Previous research had been done on creating mRNA vaccines against Zika and other viruses, Halperin added, and there were earlier efforts focused on cancer treatments. Coronavirus-specific research was further sped up by spike protein analysis from SARS and MERS.While the mRNA technology itself is impressive, Halperin says improvements need to be made to create a more temperature-stable product before these types of vaccines and treatments "truly take over.""The logistics of delivering mRNA vaccines right now, we wouldn't want to have to do that for every vaccine we produce," he said, referencing the ultra-cold storage temperature that's currently needed. "But I do think it's an important milestone."Scientists are expected to continue advancing the technology, just as they did recently in solving two confounding problems with mRNA — its fragility and instability.Brown says fragility was resolved by packaging the mRNA in a fat coating, giving it something to help bind onto cells so it wouldn't disintegrate upon injection. The instability was conquered by modifying the uracil component of RNA, one of the four units of its genetic code."The technology application is new, but the science is mature," Brown said. "We've just reached the point at which we can apply it." Traditional vaccines typically contain a killed or weakened virus, Brown said. Those methods are still being used in COVID vaccine development, including by AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose product has not yet been approved in Canada.A benefit to using mRNA is the speed at which a vaccine can be developed or updated once scientists know what to target, Brown says. While experts believe current vaccines will work against recent variants of the COVID virus — including one originating in the U.K. that's more transmissible — Brown says mRNA's adaptability could theoretically come in handy if new strains emerged that necessitated an update. "In six weeks they could produce something," he said. "It would still have to go through Phase 3 trials, but it does give you more flexibility and a big leg up."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
GENEVA — The candidate for FIFA’s top decision-making body who lost after facing gender bias and improper influence said on Tuesday the Asian Football Confederation should re-run its tainted election. Mariyam Mohamed said the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s verdict Monday -- after she alleged misconduct by the AFC and Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah -- undermined the winning candidates at Asian soccer elections in 2019. The court found the allegations of discrimination against women and inducements offered to be proven in Mohamed’s appeals but let the election results stand. “The currently elected officials at the AFC and FIFA have no legitimacy and there should be new elections as soon as possible,” she said in a statement to the Associated Press. The AFC said on Tuesday it would “review the CAS awards to understand what appropriate action(s) can be taken.” “The AFC notes that it is always determined to maintain the highest possible standards in these important areas.” Mohamed filed formal complaints to the AFC in April 2019 saying pressure put on her by its officials and Sheikh Ahmad left her feeling “unsafe (and) threatened.” She alleged the Kuwaiti sheikh offered her inducements to withdraw from a vote to join the FIFA Council as Asia’s female delegate. In 2017, U.S. federal authorities implicated him in buying influence in soccer elections. He denied wrongdoing but was forced out of his own FIFA Council seat. She said Sheikh Ahmad told her at a luxury hotel in Kuala Lumpur she would have no future in soccer if she stood against his favoured candidate. Mohamed lost to her opponent from Bangladesh 31-15 in a poll of AFC member federations. All 15 candidates for AFC positions on a list circulated before the vote, and reportedly backed by the Olympic Council of Asia which Sheikh Ahmad leads, ended up winning. The OCA declined to comment after the elections. Mohamed filed two appeals at CAS in the Olympic home city of Lausanne, Switzerland. The court said its judges agreed with both, finding fault with the AFC election committee’s refusal to investigate Mohamed’s complaint of discrimination, and the disciplinary committee’s failure to do a timely investigation of improper third-party influence. “The CAS panel found denial of justice, serious corruption and discrimination,” Mohamed said, hailing the verdict “a fabulous result.” However, it was a partial win for the Maldives soccer official as the three judges did not annul the vote or order new AFC elections. The court decided the proven offer of inducements had no effect because Mohamed did not withdraw her candidacy. The judges also said the AFC’s electoral and disciplinary committees had no authority to annul or re-run polls, nor amend the soccer body’s legal statutes. The AFC legal director in 2019, Benoît Pasquier, declined comment on the case on Tuesday to the AP. He cited having left the soccer body and now being on the CAS list of approved arbitrators. The court has not yet published the full written verdict of its judging panel chaired by John Boultbee, an Australian barrister and former long-time official at rowing’s governing body. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
More than two weeks after Canada implemented a rule that incoming airline passengers must show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a plane, the country still appears to be seeing some travel-related cases and the federal government is exploring ways to make it harder to go on trips. As more transmissible variants of the COVID virus emerge across the globe, experts say tightening the leaks around travel becomes even more important, and that the new testing requirements are not likely to catch all cases. COVID projections from Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, show a potentially grim picture for the next few months, with a skyrocketing spring wave fuelled by community spread of a more contagious variant. Colijn says clamping down on travel is her "top recommendation right now." "There's still a good chance that we can prevent — or at least really delay — large numbers of this high-transmission variant coming into Canada," she said. "And if we can push that peak out to September, we may be able to avert it if most of us are vaccinated by then." Colijn says essential travel needs to be more clearly defined by leaders, and quarantine rules more strongly enforced once people arrive. More stringent restrictions on land border crossings and further limitations on travel within the country will also help, she adds. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canadians should cancel all upcoming non-essential trips they may have planned, other options the government is looking at include implementing a mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers. On Jan. 7, the government implemented a requirement that airline passengers entering Canada must show proof of a negative PCR test that was taken within 72 hours before their flight. Colijn and other experts are hopeful this rule is catching a large number of positive COVID cases, but the 72-hour window — necessary to ensure people have enough time to get results back — also allows the virus more chances to wiggle through. In some cases, very small amounts of the virus, which could grow to infectious levels days later, aren't picked up in testing. Others cases could contract the virus between taking the test and boarding the plane. Dr. Christopher Mody, the head of the microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases department at the University of Calgary, says PCR tests offer "a snapshot in time," meaning the result is only valid on the day the test is taken. "A positive test means you're infected, but a negative test doesn't absolutely exclude infection," Mody said. A Government of Canada online database that keeps track of possible exposure on domestic and international flights shows that since Jan. 7, hundreds of planes have had at least one passenger on board who tested positive for the virus days after landing, and may have been contagious on their flight. Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University, says while the negative test requirement is likely helping on a large scale, "it's gonna miss a few people for sure." "Clearly it isn't a perfect system, but there are also a number of people who have been rejected for flights based on their tests," he said. "This just isn't enough to say everyone coming into Canada is completely not infectious at the border." Some experts have suggested the use of rapid antigen tests at airports, either right before boarding or right after landing, as a potential way to ensure positive cases aren't travelling between countries or regions. Dr. Don Sin, a respirologist and UBC professor who's co-leading a rapid test pilot project with WestJet at Vancouver International Airport, says rapid testing could offer a measure of insurance — a second step to be used in addition to the PCR negative test requirement. Rapid antigen tests, which turn results around in 15 minutes, aren't as sensitive as the PCR nasal swab, Sin says, but they work very well in catching positive cases. "If you test positive on the antigen test, you'll test positive with a PCR," he said. "So I think the public can have confidence in the ability of these tests to accurately pick up those who are infectious." Experts say testing can only be part of the strategy to contain the spread of new cases though. The mandatory 14-day quarantine period, which Canada is still implementing, needs to be followed properly. Mody says people also need to understand that a negative test taken days before flying isn't a free pass to skip that isolation period. "We are in a very tenuous time with these variants," Mody said. "If there is community transmission of the variants, we will be in a very serious situation." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version erroneously reported that travellers flying from city to city within Canada must show a negative COVID-19 test. In fact, the requirement is for air travellers coming from international destinations.
OTTAWA — A man accused of ramming through a gate at Rideau Hall while heavily armed is slated to enter a plea in Ontario court Feb. 5.Corey Hurren, a Manitoba military reservist and sausage-maker, faces 21 weapons charges and one of threatening Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Hurren allegedly drove a truck onto the grounds of the official residence July 2 and set out on foot toward the house where the prime minister lives.Hurren is accused of uttering a threat to "cause death or bodily harm" to Trudeau, who was not home at the time.He was allegedly armed with several guns, including one with an illegal magazine.Hurren made a brief court appearance Tuesday as a judge and lawyers worked out a date for the plea.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
NDP MP Charlie Angus urges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop disputing Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings on First Nations child welfare. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the Liberal government is committed to fair compensation for those affected by inequitable First Nations child welfare and welcomes the appointment of a mediator to help Ottawa go through the process.
The death toll in Britain from the coronavirus pandemic passed 100,000 people on Tuesday as the government battled to speed up vaccination delivery and keep variants of the virus at bay. Britain has the world's fifth highest toll from COVID-19 and reported a further 1,631 deaths and 20,089 cases on Tuesday. The 100,162 deaths are more than Britain's civilian toll in World War Two and twice the number killed in the 1940-41 Blitz bombing campaign.
TORONTO — Few things have lifted Rojhan Paydar’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like a Netflix watch party.Isolated inside her home, the Toronto resident is too often short on social opportunities and long on streaming options. So like many people, she’s recreated the experience of watching Netflix with friends through an unofficial web browser application called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party.It’s been an opportunity for Paydar to gather with pals on a virtual couch while they gasp over the twists of true crime series, “Unsolved Mysteries." Even more often, she's used the app with her boyfriend for date nights watching the dysfunction unfold on “Tiger King" and other bingeable series.“Sometimes we’d eat dinner and set up our webcams to see each other,” she said.“Knowing he was there and we were doing something in real-time — it felt really good and made me less lonely."Not long ago, viewing party technology was a tool reserved for unique situations: a long-distance couple or fans of a niche TV series searching for like-minded people.But a year into the pandemic, weekly rituals have evolved, and online watch parties have proven many of us are desperate for some semblance of connection.As the winter months stretch on, and strict stay-at-home orders grip large parts of the country, observers say the watch party, and apps that help make it happen, are due for a second wave of popularity.“I think we may have seen a cultural shift,” suggested Daniel Keyes, associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia.“The pandemic and the fact we had to self-isolate totally accelerated it. It made it more mainstream.”For younger generations raised on YouTube and Twitch, watch parties are already part of the zeitgeist. Everyone else, including streaming giants themselves, seem to be playing cultural catchup.Last year, as the pandemic wore on, Amazon Prime Video introduced group chat elements into the laptop version of its platform. Disney Plus took a more restrained approach with a feature that allows up to seven people to sync their screens, but only communicate through emojis.Other streamers, such as Netflix and Crave, have so far chosen not to launch social elements on their platforms. That move could be strategic as the companies observe a sea change in how some viewers consume television, suggested Carmi Levy, director at technology advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group."It's almost as if the snow globe has been shaken and companies like Netflix are waiting for everything to settle down before they decide where to place their bets," he said."Social TV is a thing and it isn't going anywhere. It's very much like remote work: considered the exception before the pandemic, but now the rule."Levy said the entertainment industry couldn't have predicted how quickly the change took hold with casual viewers. For years, upstart tech companies launched second-screen watch party innovations, and most of them failed miserably.That's left the door open for the latest generation of alternatives to capitalize on filling the void, among them TwoStream, a paid monthly watch party option, and Syncplay, which is free.One of the most ambitious newcomers is Scener, a venture-funded operation out of Seattle that currently supports the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Vimeo and horror platform Shudder. In a few clicks, viewers can react to a show through their webcam or type out thoughts on their keyboard.Co-founder Joe Braidwood said replicating the in-person experience, in particular, “the laughter, the screams and the horror,” was a goal of his company long before the pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy getting others to see the value.“Two years ago I would talk to investors about social TV and they would laugh at me,” he recalled over a Zoom chat.“They told me, ‘People don't want social experiences when they're watching television.’ But all you need to do is look on Twitter.”Even before the pandemic, he said, people were engaging over social media platforms about their favourite shows. Now, since everyone's holed up in their homes, Scener's growth has been exponential. Cumulative weekly minutes of programming watched grew nearly 42,000 per cent from March 2020 to January 2021 (57,785 minutes versus 24.2 million minutes), according to data provided by the company.“People who haven't hung out with their best friend while watching ‘The Flight Attendant’ or shared a family Christmas while watching an old classic movie on Scener, they just don't know what this feels like,” he added.“There's this real texture to it... it's warm engagement with people that you care about.”Hoovie, a Vancouver-based virtual watch party service, aims to bridge the gap between art house cinema outings and the comfort of a living room chat.Hosts can dive into the company’s independent film catalogue and book ticketed showings for small groups, typically in the range of 10 to 20 people. After the movie, they’re encouraged to engage in a webcam conversation on the platform that’s inspired by the film’s themes.Co-founder Fiona Rayher describes Hoovie as a platform meant to evoke those experiences outside the cinema where groups of people – sometimes strangers – would passionately discuss what they’d just watched and maybe head to a nearby restaurant for drinks."You’d meet new people and you’d stay connected," she said. "It was all serendipitous."Hoovie plans to debut a "book club for movies" early this year that'll build on connecting movie fans. Every month, subscribers will gather for online screenings that include a post-film conversation with members, filmmakers and critics. Each film will be rounded out with a wine pairing sent by mail.Selling nostalgia for the pre-pandemic days may sound appealing in lockdown, but the question remains on how attractive watch parties will be once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.It's a question Paydar said she thinks about often as she logs onto a watch party for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries.""Whenever someone asks, 'If COVID ended right now, where would you go?' the first thing I say is, 'I'd like to go to a movie theatre,'" she said."There's something about being in a physical theatre and going with a group of friends...Those end-of-the-night goodbyes, getting late-night eats with my friends.. (we're) creating memories I get to hold on to forever," she said."I don't think that can be replaced."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
When the COVID-19 pandemic first turned video calls into the prevailing platform for social interaction, there was a voyeuristic thrill to peering inside people's homes in all of their poorly lit, pixelated and bare-walled non-glory. But in the months since Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other video chats became a facet of daily life, new standards have been set for virtual presentation, prompting people to consider how to best frame themselves on a computer screen. The Canadian Press asked experts for tips on how people can take their video calls to the next level by upgrading their production skills, digital manners and background décor. If you wouldn't do it in person, don't do it on camera While the shift from the boardroom to the Zoom room has given rise to a new digital etiquette, many of the rules of in-person decorum still apply, says Carolyn Levy, president of technology for human resources consultancy Randstad Canada. For example, she said most professionals wouldn't check their emails, get some work done or talk to a colleague in the middle of an office presentation, but such attention slips have become all too common online. "The rule of thumb is (if you wouldn't do it) when you were in person, don't do it if you're virtual." Eye contact is crucial to virtual communication, Levy said, so participants should look directly into the camera when talking, and turn their gaze to the speaker's window to show they're listening. Levy said hosts can help prevent digital faux pas by establishing expectations in their meeting invites, such as whether cameras should be on and when to use the mute button. She also urged attendees to check their setups before they click to join a meeting to avoid technology-related mishaps. Lights, camera, Zoom Cinematographer and photographer Gary Gould says all it takes is a few simple steps to put yourself in the best possible light on your next video call. The Ryerson University professor said one way to show your best angles is to put your laptop on a stack of books so the camera is at eye level. Gould suggested people position themselves as if they were posing for a "passport photo" — your face should take up most of the frame, but leave some space around your head and shoulders so it doesn't seem claustrophobic. Placing yourself close to the camera has the added benefit of ensuring that your laptop's microphone can pick up the sound of your voice when speaking at full volume, said Gould. While a little sunshine never hurts, Gould warned that having a window in the back of your shot will likely obscure your face in shadows. He said the issue can often be fixed by turning the camera 180 degrees. He also recommended arranging your desk lamps so the light is shining toward your face, noting that warm-coloured bulbs such as LEDs tend to be the most flattering. Learn from the pros: YouTubers and video-game streamers Kris Alexander, an assistant professor at Ryerson University's media school, warns his students that it takes more than an impressive resume to win a position. In the Zoom marketplace, Alexander says, "your camera feed is a job interview." For tips on professional virtual presentation, Alexander encourages people to turn to those who have built lucrative livelihoods based on at-home digital production — the stars of YouTube and the video-game streaming platform Twitch. "Currently, we are all in competition with Twitch streamers and YouTubers, whether we want to believe it or not," said Alexander, a video games researcher and Twitch streamer. Thankfully, these video gurus have uploaded their secrets in tutorials on lighting, sound, colour correction and graphics, often using tools that can be found in your own home, said Alexander. "The beautiful thing about it is it starts with you," he said. "It starts with what technology you have available to you." You should be the focal point of your video call Toronto interior designer Nike Onile says the background for your video calls can serve as a palette to show off your esthetic tastes, but the centrepiece of every Zoom room should be the same. "You want you to be the focal point," said Onile, founder of the spatial design studio Ode. "The backdrop should be subtle enough that you still remain the thing that people are looking at." You don't want to compete for your audience's attention by overwhelming the frame with cluttered walls, contrasting loud colours or busy patterns, said Onile. She suggested adding a large piece of art, curtains or a plant to liven up a plain background and create dimension. Décor with uniform, repetitive patterns, such as a bookcase, is also visually engaging without risking distraction, she said. Onile said video call users should also consider how their outfit fits into the frame. Wearing black against a dark backdrop can make you seem like a floating head, she said, while clothes that contrast with the colour of the wall can help you pop onscreen. There's nothing like a personal touch Jessie Bahrey of Port Moody, B.C., and her partner, D.C. politico Claude Taylor, have established themselves as the reigning connoisseurs of video-call backdrops as the minds behind Room Rater, a Twitter account that has racked up more than 350,000 followers by scoring the setups of at-home news segments on a scale out of 10. Bahrey said Zoom rooms with a personal touch tend to earn higher points than those with professional-grade production. She said media figures can show a more relatable side of themselves with details such as sports jerseys, political messages, meaningful quotations, family heirlooms and children's artwork. Some even shake up their set dressing with hidden symbols, she said. Bahrey said simple knick-knacks can serve as conversation starters that help people feel more connected on video calls, even when they can't be in the same room. "I think working from home is going to be the new norm," said Bahrey, who works at a greenhouse. "So people better get their rooms ready." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2020. The Canadian Press
An Australian gold mining company was arraigned on a slew of environmental charges in provincial court in Dartmouth, N.S., Tuesday morning. Atlantic Mining NS Inc. faces 32 charges under the province's Environment Act related to its gold mining operation in eastern Nova Scotia. Atlantic Mining NS Inc. is a subsidiary of St Barbara Limited, but is better known for its corporate name, Atlantic Gold Corp. The company is accused of "failing to comply with the conditions of an approval" and "releasing substances into the environment in amount, concentration or level in excess of approval level or regulations." The offences allegedly took place between February 2018 and May 2020. Most of the charges are related to the area of Mooseland and Moose River Gold Mines, where the company has an open pit gold mine. The other alleged offence locations named in the charging information are 15 Mile Stream, Jed Lake and Seloam Brook. The company was granted a request to adjourn the case until March 15, when it will enter a plea. Atlantic Gold plans to develop three more open pit gold mines on the Eastern Shore and truck the ore to a central processing facility at Mooseland where it operates the Touquoy mine. The company recently told investors it will proceed next with 15 Mile Stream and Beaver Dam locations. The startup date for its controversial Cochrane Hill site on the St. Marys River has been delayed by several years. There is uncertainty over whether the province will allow the company access to the water supply it wants to use at Cochrane Hill. There is some local opposition because of its proximity to the St. Marys River, home to a remaining Atlantic salmon population. MORE TOP STORIES
At 10 a.m. on Monday, Chatham-Kent’s first COVID-19 vaccine shipment was dropped off at public health to the surprise of the chief medical officer of health; hours later, vaccinations were underway at local long-term care facilities. Dr. David Colby, C-K’s chief medical officer of health, knew the shipman was coming sometime during the week, but did not have an exact time or date. Within the next four hours, the first shot was given at Riverview Gardens. By the end of the night, hundreds of doses were gone. “We had a team primed and ready to go so it didn’t stress us out at all. We were eager to get going and had all our ducks in a row,” Colby said. There were 750 long-term care (LTC) residents waiting for a vaccine and almost 400 were given out, according to Jeff Moco, spokesperson for CK Public Health. Moco added that public health was still trying to figure that out if there are any more doses left to give and will provide more details throughout the day. The Ministry of Health asked the local public health units not to divulge how many doses they received in their first shipments. LTC residents received doses of the Moderna vaccine after Pfizer announced there would be delays in shipments as it refits its factory in Belgium. Colby said although there are delays in vaccine shipments, he will not be reserving second doses and plans to use up the vaccines as they come in. The provincial government set a hard deadline of Feb. 5 to get the first vaccine dose in all its LTC residents. Colby said he would not comment on the ministry’s decision to have public health units keep the shipment numbers from the public. He had no comment as to why public health was only aware of the shipment once it arrived. “I’m just grateful to have gotten the vaccine,” he said. “It’s an epic and momentous occasion for Chatham-Kent to begin vaccinating its high-risk residents.” In late fall, C-K Public Health partnered with IPSOS on a local survey, asking 540 residents by phone how they felt about the vaccine. The survey was conducted before Moderna and Pfizer had been approved by Health Canada. The results found that only 33 per cent of the local population will “definitely” take a COVID-19 vaccine, while 21 per cent will “probably” follow suit. Seventeen per cent are likely to not get vaccinated. The remaining 29 per cent are undecided. Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said he wanted to encourage everyone to get the vaccine when they have the opportunity to do so. “I’m just thrilled that we're getting some and let's get the party going here,” he said. It still remains unclear whether LTC homes will loosen visitor restrictions once all residents and staff have received their two doses of the vaccine, and whether or not staff will still have to get tested daily. Colby said these decisions lie with the province. Moco said CK Public Health is expecting a second supply next week. As of Tuesday morning, there were 28 COVID-19 recoveries reported with 18 new cases bringing the active total down to 93. Three individuals remain hospitalized and the death toll sits at five. Chatham-Kent continues to deal with three institutional outbreaks, four workplace and two congregate living outbreaks. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
Plusieurs pays ont pris l’engagement de réduire leurs émissions de gaz à effet de serre à zéro d’ici le milieu du siècle. Mais de nouvelles recherches montrent que ce n’est pas suffisant.
Movies US charts: 1. Tenet 2. News of the World 3. Promising Young Woman 4. American Skin 5. The War with Grandpa 6. National Treasure 7. Honest Thief 8. The Croods: A New Age 9. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets 10. Let Him Go Movies US charts - Independent: 1. Promising Young Woman 2. Our Friend 3. MLKFBI 4. The Dissident 5. No Man’s Land 6. Some Kind of Heaven 7. Love Sarah 8. Assassins 9. Kajillionaire 10. PG: Psycho Goreman The Associated Press
Whether it's a slight cough or a scratchy, sore throat, some may be tempted to dismiss mild symptoms as "just the flu" amid a serious global pandemic. But experts say a drastic drop in the circulation of the influenza virus this season means signs of flu are more likely to be COVID-19 than another respiratory virus. A FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released last week shows laboratory-confirmed incidents of flu are exceptionally rare this season, despite "elevated testing" for it during the pandemic. Experts say a confluence of factors are playing a role in the abnormally light flu season, including public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 and the reduction of international travel. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says the low prevalence of flu underscores the need to get tested for COVID if people develop symptoms. "You can't tell by looking if somebody has influenza or COVID," he said. "And right now, depending on where they live, if someone has acute viral symptoms, the chances of it being COVID over other things is much higher." PHAC's report shows there have been 51 influenza detections in Canada to date this flu season — significantly lower than the nearly 15,000 cases averaged by this point in the past six seasons — and there were zero lab-detected cases (from 13,000 tests) over the first week of 2021. Chakrabarti expects there to be more cases of influenza than what PHAC's data shows, since not everyone with flu-like symptoms is tested for that virus. But in the segment of the population that is getting tested — typically older adults seeking medical care — influenza isn't coming up. People admitted to hospital with symptoms are given respiratory multiplex tests that can detect multiple viruses at once, Chakrabarti said. "And we've picked up very little in the way of other viruses. So if you're seeing a reduction in those cases, it suggests that the overall amount of flu in the community has dropped." While experts assumed public health measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing would also lessen flu prevalence, the level of drop-off has been surprising, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University. He believes travel restrictions have likely played a significant role. Whereas COVID-19 can continue to spread easily because the virus is already entrenched here, Chagla says influenza is usually brought in each winter from tropical climates. A population confined largely indoors due to cold weather helps it spread. "Border restrictions, quarantine rules, that probably limits the amount of influenza coming in in the first place," Chagla said. "And the odd case that does come in, it's harder to spread because people aren't congregating." Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, agrees that a reduction in international travel likely explains the light flu season more than just the implementation of public health measures. He says places in South America are also seeing dips in flu numbers even though mask-wearing hasn't been as widespread there. A level of immunity to influenza may also be contributing to the stifling of the virus, he added. "More people got a flu vaccine this year," Deonandan said. "That can't be underestimated." Chagla says other respiratory viruses also seem to have decreased this season. While there was an uptick in the common cold rhinovirus in the fall — usually correlated with children going back to school — PHAC data shows it's been dropping since. Hand-washing and sanitizing high-touch areas may be playing a role in controlling viruses that are more transmissible on surfaces, experts say. Chagla says cold or flu-like symptoms should raise a red flag for anyone right now, and he worries about people mistaking COVID signs for another virus. "In years past you could say: 'this is just a cold,' doctors would say: 'don't even come in,'" Chagla said. "And now we have to switch the mentality to say: 'actually, no, go get tested.'" Chakrabarti warns the "just the flu" mentality also diminishes the significance of influenza, which can lead to serious disease in vulnerable people too. So there's need for caution, even if symptoms are from the flu virus. "A lot of people say 'it's the flu, who cares? I get it all the time,'" he said. "This is going to sound familiar, but the reason it matters is because you can spread it to somebody else." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Canada will seek exemptions to a U.S. effort to ensure federal agencies buy American-produced goods, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, as business groups expressed concern about the potential impact. U.S. President Joe Biden vowed on Monday to leverage Washington's purchasing power to strengthen domestic manufacturing by clamping down on foreign suppliers. Asked whether he would seek exemptions to the "Buy American" program when it is unveiled, Trudeau told reporters: "We will continue to be effective in advocating for Canada's interests with this new administration."
Orangeville Hydro plans to borrow $1 million to sustain its capital works plan, half the amount it originally planned, as it attempts to cut costs. A report, presented to Grand Valley council on Jan. 12, states this is done to fund regulatory-related payments, such as increased Hydro One low voltage, network and connection charges. “Historically, Orangeville has provided safe and reliable and cost-effective power to our customers, and our business plan shows that,” said Rob Koekkoek, president of Orangeville Hydro. A $2-million loan was previously budgeted in 2021, but with some expenditures deferred due to COVID-19, as well as a corporate-wide attempt to reduce expense, including financing costs, the forecasted loan was reduced to $1 million. The business plan calls for another $1 million increase in borrowing in 2022 and $2 million in borrowing in 2024. In terms of revenue, the total cost per customer is calculated as the sum of Orangeville Hydro’s capital and operating costs and dividing this cost figured by the total number of customers it serves. Orangeville Hydro’s cost performance increased in 2019 to $568 per customer, above the cost performance in 2018 at $551 per customer. Koekkoek states the number of the company’s customers go up, as the population continues to grow, and infrastructure is constantly upgraded. Orangeville Hydro’s service areas have a population of about 32,000 and are expected to grow to 42,540 by 2036, according to forecasts contained within the Dufferin County Official Plan. Koekkoek said he understands the devastating impacts COVID-19 may have had on customers' budgets and he discussed a way for them to save money. “For businesses and residential that are struggling with their bills, that have been economically impacted by COVID-19, we have the energy response program available for residential and business customers,” he said. “They can get, basically a rebate, on their electricity bills to help them with their costs if they are falling behind.” Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner