ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
Canadian children and teens may have to wait to get any vaccines to protect people against COVID-19 because so few kids have been part of the clinical trials to test the immunizations so far.Babies, children and teens aren't just small adults who can receive vaccines in the same way as adults, medical experts say.Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC's Meet the Press that it could take months before those younger than 18 in the U.S. general public could get a coronavirus vaccine, if approved by regulators.Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), said children have suffered in numerous ways during the pandemic, including disruptions to their education, harms to their mental and emotional health as well as reduced access to critical medical services.The AAP wrote an open letter to federal health officials in the U.S. to call on researchers to act quickly to ensure children are not left out of vaccine efforts.There is currently no human pediatric data for vaccine candidates to protect against COVID-19, said Dr. Anne Pham-Huy, who sits on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that provides independent advice to federal health officials on the use of vaccines in Canada.Here are some questions and answers about the potential rollout of pediatric vaccines in Canada.Are vaccine makers testing candidates in children and teens?Yes.The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine with German partner BioNTech, announced in October they were expanding testing of their vaccine trials to those 12 and older.Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Monday that the company expects to test the vaccine on children between the ages of 12 and 17 later this year and on younger children in 2021.Pham-Huy, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Ottawa, said companies in China have opened their coronavirus vaccine studies to children as young as three years old.Why do the vaccines need to be tested in children and teens?Immunology experts say the coronavirus vaccine candidates can't be widely given to babies, kids and teens until the vaccines are tested specifically in pediatric volunteers because: * Their immune systems are more active than adults. * Children often show stronger immune reactions to vaccines than grown-ups. * The immune system matures from infancy through childhood and adolescence.Why test in adults first?Shannon McDonald, an assistant professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta, does public health research, including on vaccines. McDonald said it's not unusual to test vaccines on adults before kids."Children often will need either a slightly different formulation or a smaller dose of a vaccine, so it's appropriate to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective in adults and then move on to that testing," McDonald said.When will the pediatric vaccine trials be done?Dr. Joanne Langley co-leads Canada's vaccine task force. She's also a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax where, clinical trials for vaccines like one for Ebola were first tested."As a study site in the Canadian Immunization Research Network, we have been approached by companies who are planning trials in children and in pregnant women." Langley said."We expect those will be expedited and that they will start in 2021."Pham-Huy said she hopes some pediatric vaccine data will start to become available worldwide in the next six months.Would immunizing adults also protect kids?That's not yet known."Some vaccines contribute to herd immunity because the person who gets the vaccine doesn't spread any infection," Langley said. "We don't know for sure yet whether that occurs with the COVID vaccines and how effective it is."Those who get vaccinated are less likely to be severely ill, she said.Children generally don't get severely ill from COVID-19. Why do they need the shots? Federal statistics show at 8.1 million, children and teens make up one-fifth of Canada's population.While about 1.4 per cent of COVID-19 hospitalizations have been pediatric, those aged 19 and under account for more than 15 per cent of cases, or 50,000 infections, according to Statistics Canada."Although children don't have the severe lung problems that adults do with COVID-19, they do have important illness and so I think it's as important to prevent children from getting illness as it is for adults," Langley said.
We don’t know nearly enough about what the climate crisis will cost Canada — but what we do know is already troubling, and should inspire greater action. That’s the conclusion from the first of several sweeping reports on the economic, social and environmental costs of climate change in Canada by the independent, publicly funded Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. The institute pored over decades of data on the costs of weather-related disasters from both government relief and insurance industry payouts. Its findings make it clear that volatile weather events have already become more frequent, and more costly. But it also revealed how climate change-related costs are still barely understood today, and these unknown costs are likely to explode far beyond those that are known. “The lack of understanding of risk, plus the lack of tools to be able to address risk, create this dead zone, where it’s really hard to do anything,” said adaptation director Ryan Ness in an interview. “What we’re suggesting is, we have to act on the knowledge we have, and we have enough knowledge to move forward.” What is already known is stunning: the average cost per weather-related disaster has soared by 1,250 per cent since the 1970s, and the number of catastrophic events has more than tripled since the 1980s. In the nine years from 2010 to 2019, there was over $14 billion in disaster costs — the same amount as over the previous 40 years, save for the one-time $7-billion Eastern Canada ice storm in 1998. As the title of the Dec. 3 report, “Tip of the Iceberg,” indicates, these numbers are just the beginning. There are many more long-term impacts from climate change, such as an estimated $1.3-billion cost to dozens of communities across the Northwest Territories due to permafrost thaw. Such a cost will add to the stretched budgets of northern governments already coping with unaffordable food prices and other stressors such as long-term drinking water advisories. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the many impacts that are just not recorded at all in Canada — things such as the impact on health care that climate change is creating. “Canada lacks up-to-date evidence on the potential economic impacts of climate change,” reads the report. The institute said the last effort to “examine a broad range of costs at a national scale” was done in 2011, by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Over the next two years, it expects to publish further reports on health, infrastructure, macroeconomics and the North. Ness said there are many reasons why it is difficult to cost out climate impacts, but one main issue is that there are so many different ways that climate change affects Canada in the first place. Not only are disasters and extreme weather linked to death, disease and mental health challenges, for example, but there are a range of other consequences. Wildfire smoke harms lungs, for example, while extreme heat makes kids miss school. The Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016 was the “largest single weather-related insurance loss event in Canadian history,” the report states. Ocean warming and acidification will also likely impact fisheries, and therefore the food security and prosperity of First Nations that depend on them, while early heat waves can cause havoc for farmers depending on seasonal harvests. Then there are the economic impacts of extreme weather on Canadian small business operations, or the disruptions to household budgets, as well as the impact of climate refugees on domestic politics and international conflict. “Pick an economic sector, pick an infrastructure type, pick a health impact — each one of those is extremely complex to try and figure out what a changing climate means for those impacts, and then how those impacts play out in terms of costs,” Ness said. Another concern is how all these issues will interact with each other. Ness gave the example of how climate change could impact the electricity supply, causing power outages in the summer, at the same time as climate-driven heat waves drive up demand for air conditioning. “We don’t know how much the climate’s going to change in the end. We don’t know if there’s weird things that are going to happen in those systems ... we could see impacts that are way bigger than science might predict, because science is based on past climate and past behaviour,” he said. The institute said this all suggests that the debate over Canada’s progress in tackling climate change needs to broaden from its current focus on reducing carbon pollution to one that also addresses adaptation — or the ways that Canadians can adjust to account for the widening range of climate impacts. “Current adaptation policies and investments in Canada fall far short of what is needed to address the known risks of climate change, let alone those that are still unclear and unknown. This has to change,” the report states. Its three recommendations are for all orders of government to increase funding for adaptation, more closely co-ordinate their adaptation efforts and examine the current levels of transparency over climate risks. While the federal and provincial governments have come together previously over climate change, such as the Pan-Canadian Framework, Ness said more detail was needed over which authorities do what and how they work in unison. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
À 11 mois du scrutin municipal, Action Laval confirme la candidature d’un second nouveau candidat en l’espace d’une semaine. Il s’agit de Yanie Langevin Charbonneau qui briguera les suffrages dans le district Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, actuellement représenté par le chef de Parti Laval et opposition officielle, Michel Trottier. Comptable professionnelle agréé, Mme Langevin Charbonneau agit présentement à titre de conseillère en matière de finances publiques et comptabilité municipale auprès de la cheffe du parti, Sonia Baudelot, et du caucus. Dans un communiqué publié le 2 décembre, elle dit souhaiter apporter ses «connaissances» et son «expertise» pour une «meilleure gestion des finances publiques». Diplômée de l’École des hautes études commerciales HEC Montréal, la nouvelle recrue de 28 ans est à la tête de son «propre cabinet de comptable dont les bureaux sont à Laval», souligne-t-on. Yanie Langevin Charbonneau succède ainsi à Francine LeBlanc, qui avait défendu les couleurs du parti lors de l’élection partielle du 24 novembre 2019 dans Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. L’ex-candidate d’Action Laval avait mené une chaude lutte, obtenant 1251 voix et 29,4 % des suffrages dans une course à trois remportée à l’arrachée par Michel Trottier. Mme LeBlanc devait toutefois rompre tous ses liens avec cette formation politique l’hiver dernier. Une décision qu’elle avait communiquée au chef intérimaire Achille Ciffeli au début du mois de mars 2020, quelques semaines après que les conseillers David De Cotis, Isabella Tassoni et Paolo Galati eurent annoncé leur retrait du caucus alors qu’ils étaient sous enquête à la Commission municipale du Québec (CMQ) relativement à ders omissions en lien avec leur Déclaration d’intérêts pécuniaires. Précisons que l’enquête administrative menée en vertu de la Loi sur l’éthique et la déontologie en matière municipale s’était soldée sans qu’aucune accusation ne soit portée. Les trois élus ont depuis réintégré le caucus du parti.Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Patricia Young describes her home of Walker’s Point as a place where people believe in the importance of community. “I think if you look up ‘community’ in the dictionary, you’ll see Walker’s Point listed,” she said. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada, that community often gathered at the Walker’s Point Community Centre for activities and socializing: people went to check out books at the library inside, attend exercise classes, crafting sessions or the monthly potluck dinners. Paola Randall, like Young, has lived in Walker’s Point for over 20 years. She spent a lot of time at the community centre before the pandemic: she’s part of the library’s executive board and used to play pickleball there. “We see it as a hub,” she said. “It really connects us to all the services of the township, as well as bringing us together.” Young, who’s part of the community centre’s hall board, said while people are understanding of the situation they’re in, the loss of some of their traditional events is felt. “I’ve run into a few people and they have specifically said, ‘We really miss the potluck suppers,’” she said. She added, however, no one wants to “jeopardize people’s health and safety.” Community centres in Bala, Port Carling, Minett and Milford Bay reopened Nov. 2, allowing 10 people maximum in their facilities at a time for an hour a day, booked in advance. However, many feel they aren’t out of the woods yet. Residents, particularly seniors, don’t want to take the risk of infection by going out and are still leaning on the adjustments and virtual support systems they’ve developed during the pandemic in lieu of these in-person gathering places. Part of the Walker’s Point Community Centre is open to the public for limited use. The library, which has 500 members, reopened on Nov. 4. It’s open Wednesdays and Fridays, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and allows one person at a time into the library to check out or return books. The reopening, limited in its capacity, has been a mood-booster for many. "I think people are just happy to have it there," Young said. Heather Elliott works with the District of Muskoka, where she’s in charge of running free service programs for seniors in the region, including community centres in Torrance Bay, Milford Bay, Port Carling and Ullswater. They host a handbell choir, a course on learning to use the computer and various social events — all held virtually now. Once the pandemic began and people were confined to their homes for several weeks, Elliott said her team began reaching out to residents to see how they were faring physically and mentally. “Many of them are living alone and life is very different for them during a pandemic,” she said, “but we see them logging in and participating in ways that I don’t think they ever would a year ago.” While Young said she and the people she knows in the community have been doing well throughout the pandemic, she understands many must be feeling isolated. Connections through Facebook, email and over the phone have become essential in Walker’s Point. “We are definitely there for each other. It’s a very strong community,” Randall said. Elliott said, for the health and safety of their elderly population, who are more vulnerable to the consequences of the virus, they haven’t transitioned into hosting indoor events. “We’re hearing from seniors at this point that they’re not comfortable resuming in-person programming,” she said. She said they’re prioritizing plans for outdoor events like walking groups in Muskoka Lakes trails this winter. Walker’s Point residents, like Young, know one thing for certain: things are likely not going to change before the year is over. A clear sign of this is the cancellation of their annual holiday potluck, a hit event with local families and children, which ran out of the community centre. Young is planning for a more quiet, subdued Christmas in town: “We just won’t have any of the normal socializing,” she said. STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Our reporter wanted to see how residents are faring in places where the community centre is a cornerstone of local socialization and togetherness given limited openings during the pandemic. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Parents of students with special needs are struggling to adapt as states decide whether to close schools again as a second wave of COVID-19 hits the country. (Dec. 3)
WASHINGTON — In the modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the U.S. military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbour but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections. The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China. Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation. The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more — including in foreign countries — to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets. The Defence Department has worked to highlight that more aggressive “hunt forward” strategy in recent years, particularly after Russia interfered through hacking and covert social media campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. American officials were on high alert for similar interference in 2020 but described no major problems on Nov. 3. “When we look at the threats that we face, from Russia or other adversaries, it really is all about the partnerships and our ability to expand really the scope, scale and pace of operations in order to make it more difficult for adversaries to execute operations either in the United States, Estonia or other places,” Brig. Gen. William Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, said in a conference call with a small group of reporters this week. Estonia, a former Soviet republic, was in some ways a natural fit for a partnership with Cyber Command because in years past it has been a cyber target of nearby Russia, including crippling attacks on government networks in 2007. Estonian officials say they have since strengthened their cyber defences, created a cybersecurity strategy and developed their own cyber command, which like the U.S. version is part of the country’s military. While nothing malicious was found on the networks during the exercise, “what we did learn is how the U.S. conducts these kinds of operations, which is definitely useful for us because there are a lot of kind of capability developments that we are doing right now,” said Mihkel Tikk, deputy commander of Estonia’s Cyber Command. Tikk added: “In some areas, it is wise to learn from others than having to reinvent the wheel.” Hartman declined to discuss specifics of the operation but said the networks in Estonia were “very well defended.” “I don’t want anyone to leave here with the impression that Estonian networks were full of adversary activity from a broad range of nation states” because that is not the case, he added. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has hinted at a more aggressive, proactive federal government approach to cyber threats. In an August piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, Nakasone wrote that U.S cyber fighters have moved away from a “reactive, defensive posture” and are increasingly engaging in combat with foreign adversaries online. Cyber Command has worked in past years with countries including Montenegro and North Macedonia on similar missions. Estonian officials say they believe the partnership could be a deterrent to countries such as Russia. “These kinds of operations, I think, they will continue,” said Undersecretary of Defence Margus Matt. But, he added, “I don’t know how much we will speak of them publicly.” U.S. officials say they think the risks of a proactive approach — a country could regard such an operation as a provocation toward a broader international cyber conflict — are outweighed by the benefits. “We believe that inaction in cyberspace contributes to escalation more than reasonable action in cyberspace,” said Thomas Wingfield, deputy assistant secretary of defence for cyber policy. Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Councillors from local townships met Nov. 25 to digest a massive services delivery review with 12 recommendations for more collaboration that could save upwards of $1.18 million annually. Toronto-based consultant, StrategyCorp., presented 12 initiatives for more intermunicipal partnerships. Their report follows months of work and more than 100 interviews/workshops with councillors and staff. The firm said between operational efficiencies, productivity gains, and $74,000 in more revenue, the implemented strategies could provide that $1.18 million. StrategyCorp principal, John Matheson, said they did not approach the job like auditors but to work alongside staff. He said there is a clear willingness on the part of municipalities for more collaboration. “We’re not saying we found great big problems with waste here,” Matheson said. “We’re saying we were invited to come work with the team, to try and find better ways of doing things and not surprisingly, you spend this kind of effort, that we found some.” The recommendations do not directly address the idea of amalgamation, which was never in the terms of reference for the review. Instead, it tackles where municipalities could improve services with different levels of co-operation, including places where services could be integrated to one provider – whether the County, a special body or a lead municipality. Matheson praised the council for being open-minded about possible improvements and being willing to do a review, as well as creating a safe space for staff to consider different ideas. “What you’ve really done is wiped away a lot of the historical stresses that come out of the air about forced amalgamation. Where people are worried about hanging onto their right to continue providing governance for fear of being stripped away from them by a provincial government,” Matheson said. “There’s lots of different ways to achieve things to the benefit of better public administration, better value for money.” Councillors spent four hours delving into the report and questioning each of its recommendation sections. Coun. Bob Carter of Minden Hills questioned the fire service recommendations only extending to joint training, noting common issues across the municipalities such as succession planning, increased demand and escalating costs. “It seems to me the process for determining what was looked at was not only a quantitative process but a qualitative assessment,” Carter said. Matheson said that is accurate, adding their recommendations focused on improvements that could achieve more for fewer or similar dollars, rather than improvements that could be more costly. He added they decided on the subjects of deeper dives after their estimate of what was most worthwhile after the first phase of the process. “It’s not that theoretically, you couldn’t do more,” Matheson said. “We would just evaluate those opportunities as being a little less ripe in the light of the state of readiness of the organizations.” Next steps The review recommends implementation over several years, but divides recommendations into short, medium, and long-term. It suggests addressing some things, such as communications, economic development and collaborative procurement starting in 2021. The review recommends the County begin implementation of other initiatives like planning, building, septic and bylaw in 2022. Warden Liz Danielsen said the review should be a standing item on the County committee of the whole. She added a special meeting should be called in January or early February to start working through it and the proposed timelines. “We’ve got a lot to absorb and lots to talk about,” Danielsen said. “We need to start thinking about how we’re going to move forward.” Coun. Carol Moffatt said some of the ideas in the report are not new, such as the County having an economic development position. “To me, it seems like some of the reason why some of this collaboration isn’t already happening will be the same reasons why some of it doesn’t move ahead going forward,” she said. “We all sitting around this table today need to really, genuinely understand – that whether and how any of this moves forward depends on the will of each and all of us to conceive something for the greater good. For the benefit of the community.” The Highlander will detail more aspects of the 138-page report in the coming weeks. Significant changes recommended • Roads, bridges, and drainage: Implement capital bundling, allowing contractors to secure multiple projects at once. Formalize joint planning of road maintenance. • Fire services: Integrate fire training and explore a joint-training facility. • Waste management: Approve a working group to standardize waste management processes across the County and/or do a Countywide review of landfills and transfer stations. • Building, septic, bylaw: Explore either shared service agreements or integrate services. • Planning: Create one, central official plan with secondary plans below it. Standardize more of the planning processes across the townships. Create a new County-level planning position to assist. • Economic development: Create a new economic development staff position. • Collaborative procurement: Approve a new staff position for the process and approve a new shared-service agreement. • Integrated digital strategy: Integrate long-term IT planning and municipal IT investment decisions. • Co-ordination of legal services: Hire a county-level in-house municipal barrister and solicitor and approve a shared service agreement for it. • Human resources co-ordination: Explore the benefits of a centralizing human resource information system. Pool benefits together and create shared-service agreements for key HR functions. • Communications: Approve a new central communications position, which would also include grant writing. • Co-ordination: Create a new implementation committee of County council to promote effective collaboration between local municipalities.Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Islanders who would like to donate reusable, non-medical masks can now drop off donations at all eight Access PEI locations across the province. And for Islanders who may need a reusable mask and can't afford one, free masks will now be available at 14 food banks and pantries around P.E.I. Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson made the announcement about both organisations in the legislature Wednesday. "For many Islanders, purchasing masks may not fall within their budget. Every Islander deserves access to protection against COVID-19," Hudson said as part of the announcement.> It's great to see that the government is kind of answering the call and getting up to the plate \- Alyssa MacKinnon, co-founder of Mask Central PEIAlyssa MacKinnon, co-founder of Mask Central PEI, said her group helped facilitate the mask donation drop-offs at Access PEI.Mask Central PEI is a Facebook group that helps connect people who want to donate masks with organizations looking for mask donations. MacKinnon said Premier Dennis King and his staff reached out to her group, wondering how they could help get masks out to Islanders as quickly as possible. "We're very excited and we're really overwhelmed with the support that we've been getting," said MacKinnon. "It's great to see that the government is kind of answering the call and getting up to the plate, and implementing getting these masks out to low-income Islanders where they need it the most."Islanders' generosity overwhelming MacKinnon said that since she helped launch the new group just eight days ago, the support and generosity they've gotten from Islanders has been overwhelming. She said that with donation drop-offs at Access PEI locations from Souris to Tignish, the Island is well-covered. "Those, I think, are amazing strides coming not only from us, but from the province and from Islanders to kind of address what low-income Islanders' needs are," said MacKinnon. The 14 food bank locations where people can pick up a donated mask also range across the province. You can see a full list of the food banks and the Access PEI locations on the Mask Central PEI Facebook page.More from CBC P.E.I.
ATHENS, Greece — The body of a woman was recovered Thursday on the Greek island of Lesbos and identified as that of a woman reported missing after a migrant boat sank the previous day.The coast guard said the body was recovered from a rocky part of the coast, bringing the death toll from the sinking to two.Another 32 people, all from Somalia and including three children, had been rescued from the sea after the dinghy they had been travelling in from the nearby Turkish coast sank off Lesbos early Wednesday morning, Greek authorities said.Government spokesman Stelios Petsas accused the Turkish coast guard of refusing to help the migrants when they issued a distress call.“It is clear that the Turkish vessel, despite the request for help, didn’t help, didn’t rescue the passengers of the fatal boat while they were in Turkish territorial waters,” Petsas said Thursday. "On the contrary, it urged them to move forward, it carried out manoeuvrs against the boat so that it would continue its course toward Greek shores.”Petsas said smuggling gangs were knowingly endangering people’s lives by sending them out to illegally cross the European Union’s borders in unseaworthy vessels.“People who are not in danger on land, Turkey sends them into danger at sea, in boats that don’t fulfil any safety requirements and are driven by people without permits or knowledge of the rules of the sea,” he said, adding that turning a blind eye to such practices was a “usual practice” by neighbouring Turkey.Turkey's coast guard vehemently denied the allegation, saying in a statement that it dispatched a boat after the distress call but found the dinghy to be in Greek waters with a Greek coast guard boat close enough to help.“Due to the fact that the scene of said incident was within the Greek waters and there was no response to the calls in any manner, it had not been possible to intervene in the scene of incident; nevertheless, Turkish assets continued to stay and wait within the Turkish territorial waters," the Turkish statement said.The coast guard also provided a recording of a Turkish unit telling its Greek counterparts in a call that the migrants “need to be rescued immediately" or otherwise Greece would be responsible.Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing poverty and conflict in the Mideast, Africa and Asia. The vast majority make their way from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, often in unseaworthy and grossly overcrowded dinghies and boats.The Associated Press
Seven classrooms have been shut down at Diamond Trail Public School in Welland after an individual there tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” District School Board of Niagara said in a news release. Whether the individual who contracted the coronavirus is a student or staff member was not publicly known Wednesday. “The preventative COVID-19 practices that Diamond Trail has been following since the beginning of school, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue,” DSBN said. The same day DSBN reported the case at Diamond Trail, Niagara Catholic District School Board confirmed that the case count at St. Martin Catholic Elementary school in Stevensville had climbed to double digits. The province’s database is indicating that three of the school’s10 cases have been resolved. Of the remaining cases, four have been identified as students and three as staff. The Niagara Catholic website indicated these seven cases are the only active cases for the board. An outbreak was declared at St. Martin on Nov. 19. For DSBN, there are seven active cases from six schools; two at Prince Philip and one case at Martha Cullimore in Niagara Falls, two cases at Eden High School in St. Catharines, one at Port Colborne High School and one at Diamond Trail. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
THUNDER BAY — A Toronto man under court-ordered conditions to not be within the city of Thunder Bay was denied bail following a court proceeding on Tuesday. Anthony Omar Talbert, 27, of Toronto is charged with a series of firearm-related offences following an incident on McLaughlin Street on Sunday, Sept. 27. Some of his charges include obstructing a peace officer, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and tampering with a serial number of a firearm. Talbert appeared by audio in a Thunder Bay courtroom on Tuesday, Dec. 1, where he was ordered to be detained by a justice of the peace following a bail hearing. The accused was arrested by Thunder Bay police in late September after officers had received reports of a man possibly armed with a handgun. Officers attended to an apartment and located a male suspect who provided officers with a false identity, according to a previous police media release. Once officers confirmed the suspect’s identity, they learned he was on a court condition to not be within the city of Thunder Bay and not possess any weapons. Officers located and seized a modified handgun. Talbert’s previous release order which prevented him from being in the city of Thunder Bay stems from similar firearm-related offences from January 2019. He was granted bail on these charges in February 2019, according to documents. His previous recognizance of bail was granted on Feb. 12, 2019, and he was released to two sureties. He paid a cash deposit of $5,000 for his release on conditions. There is a publication ban on these offences. Talbert will remain in custody and is scheduled to appear in court next later this month.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
The Powassan and District Food Bank is the big winner after Kathie Hogan spent the night on the rooftop of the local Home Hardware. A few weeks ago, Hogan, the events coordinator at 250 Clark, announced she would spend a night on the roof if residents and businesses raised $1,000 for the food bank. Not only was the target met, it was shattered as $9,400 was raised. True to her word and wearing several layers of clothing, Hogan climbed a ladder to the roof of the Main Street business and spent overnight Tuesday huddled in a tent with a wool blanket and lantern. Hogan admits when she first set the target of $1,000 she didn't believe it was achievable. “I guess people were excited to see me freeze my a.. off,” Hogan said Wednesday morning after climbing down at 7 a.m. Hogan decided to help the food bank ensure its shelves remain stocked because COVID-19 has made it tough this year for many families. “Incredible is the word I would use to describe people's generosity,” she said in response to the response. “It's been a devastating year for many people, many jobs are on the line and businesses will be shuttered in 2021. But people are still generous. Christmas is coming and we know there will be quite a few families that are going to have a hard time. So people gave.” When Hogan decided last month that Dec. 1 would be the night for her rooftop adventure, little did she know the region would get a heavy dumping of snow under windy conditions. Environment Canada had forecast the blast of winter a few days ago, but Hogan wasn't going to let it deter her. At 6 p.m., when Home Hardware closed for the day, Hogan climbed up the ladder staff had put in place at the rear of the store. Prior to that, the employees also set up the tent Hogan would call home for the next 13 hours. The launch was a low-key affair with only a food bank official on hand. Afterwards, friends, neighbours and co-workers showed up to encourage Hogan. She did some FaceTime with her friends and did a live Facebook story reading before settling in for the night at 9 p.m. and going to sleep. Hogan says the amount of snow and strong wind made her a little nervous at first. But Hogan wasn't afraid, adding she spends a great deal of time outdoors. Hogan says the tent did its job keeping her dry. In fact, she had to remove some of her clothing because she was becoming too warm. As the evening marched forward and the street became quieter, Hogan became more aware of little things. One thing she noticed was how the snow would accumulate on the sides of the tent and then fall off. Hogan says the sound of that falling snow was similar to mice running on a floor. Hogan woke up once at about 2 a.m., and then was awoken two hours later by the horn blasts of the public works crew driving by in their plow as they got ready to remove the snow off the streets for morning traffic. But Hogan says she had no problems falling asleep again. In fact, she says, “I slept more on the roof than I do at home.” Hogan says Home Hardware was behind her all the way. “Their generosity is unsurpassed,” she says. Not only did co-owner Tom Morrow make sure Hogan had all the equipment she would need to stay on the rooftop, Hogan says the business also contributed $2,000 to the fundraiser. “My thanks to Home hardware,” she says. “They went over and above. It's things like this that help make small towns great.” After climbing down the ladder and warming up with a coffee at Echoes Restaurant just down the street, Hogan began the job of collecting all the donation jars she had placed in the businesses in Powassan and Trout Creek. Asked if she would do it again Hogan said “in a heartbeat because it's for a good cause.” But, she quickly adds, she would prefer nicer weather next time. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
NEW YORK — Poets Terrance Hayes and Natasha Trethewey are receiving honours from the Library of Congress.The Library announced Thursday that Hayes' book "American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin” has won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. Trethewey is being given a Bobbitt prize for lifetime achievement. The Bobbitt awards are presented every two years and named for former President Lyndon B. Johnson's late sister, whose family funds the awards.Hayes and Trethewey, who each will receive $5,000, are two of the country's most honoured poets. Hayes won the National Book Award in 2010 for “Lighthead” while Trethewey won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for “Native Guard.” She is also a former U.S. poet laureate.Previous Bobbitt winners include Jorie Graham, Claudia Rankine and Gerald Stern.The Associated Press
LRT service on Ottawa's Confederation Line will be suspended between Blair and Hurdman stations this weekend for more work on the track's switch heaters.That eastern section of the line will close Saturday and Sunday. Similar work led to closures over the last two weekends.Last winter, snow accumulation appeared to cause switches on the eastern leg of the Confederation Line to malfunction, one of the key causes of the delays that beset the transit system.The Trillium Line has switch heaters powered by propane and natural gas, whereas the newer Confederation Line's were originally electric. The new heaters being installed will be powered by natural gas.Replacement buses will run in place of trains on that part of the line, while trains will continue to run between Hurdman and Tunney's Pasture stations.
When Tanya Talaga thinks of Indigenous innovation, she thinks about moving into uncharted territory. “[It’s about] moving into areas where we haven’t traditionally been, but we have every right to be,” she says. “We can be there strongly and with an absolutely beautiful different perspective of many different nations and many different people.” Talaga is an award-winning author, a columnist and — now — the CEO of an Indigenous production company called Makwa Creative. She will be giving a keynote speech at the first annual Indigenous Innovators Gathering hosted by Victoria-based digital agency Animikii which aims to drive social innovation through “Indigenous technology.” The gathering will be held virtually on Dec. 3. In her keynote, Talaga says she will incorporate the Seven Anishinaabe Grandfather Teachings that have guided much of her work and life — humility, truth, honesty, wisdom, respect, courage and love. Talaga recently wrote and produced a seven-episode Audible Original podcast with the title “Seven Truths,” with each episode delving into different stories around each teaching. “We think a lot about those seven truths and we think a lot about how people today are really looking for something to hold onto and something to believe in,” she says. “The seven grandfather teachings are just that really. You don’t have to be Anishinaabe to believe in the seven teachings. Many different nations have different variations of the teachings.” As Talaga moves forward to new projects — including a new book that’s in the works — she says she is grateful to be part of a community of Indigenous innovators who are blazing trails in their own respective fields. “It makes the work that we do so much more meaningful and true,” she says. Talaga says that talent is exemplified by the second speaker at the Indigenous Innovators Gathering: Teara Fraser. Fraser is the first Indigenous woman to start an airline in Canada — Iskwew Air. “She is a pilot, she owns her own business, she owns her own airline. How incredible is that? I think she is so incredibly inspiring,” Talaga says. Event co-facilitator Samantha Vanderdonck, a project coordinator with Animikii, and Tyler McLeod, Business Development Strategist, say the purpose of the three-hour gathering is to highlight the innovation that’s happening across Turtle Island. “[It] isn’t solely just about technology and software development,” McLeod says. “It spans across arts, communication, culture, health, education … It’s about inspiring the next generation.” At the gathering, there will also be a performance by hoop dancer Notorious Cree, who has gained hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok and Instagram, as well as facilitated breakout sessions where participants can ask questions. The event will be recorded for those who aren’t able to attend live. Vanderdonck says this is the first Indigenous Innovators Gathering of many, as Animikii plans to host similar events four times per year going forward. “Highlighting the fact that there are so many incredible people already working in the industry … helps for others to know that they can do it too,” she says.Catherine Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
EASTERN SHORE – Former Moser River resident Marie Turner entered Northwood Continuing Care facility last November. While it was her first placement, it was not her first choice. When she applied, she selected Harbourview Lodge (HVL) in Sheet Harbour as her first choice, to allow her to live in the same community as her family. Turner’s sister, former Dartmouth mayor Gloria McCluskey, is unhappy her sister has not, after a year, been transferred back to her home. McCluskey looked into the policy posted on the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) website. “The policy reads ‘as soon as a vacancy becomes available – you are transferred to your first choice’ – but that’s not true. She’s housed now – they have no compassion. There have been vacancies in HVL over the past year but no transfer for Marie,” she says. Turner contracted COVID-19 last spring as a Northwood resident and spent months unable to have any visits from family members, especially while she was ill. “Marie was in a room with another woman and they didn’t even move her,” complains McCluskey. “She suffered from pains in her legs and headaches. She was lucky and did not become extremely ill – and she survived.” The former politician with a 23-year history in municipal government stresses long-term care facility workers are underpaid for the work they do. “They work hard. Administration undervalues the work they do so they can have a lower pay scale. They’ve dropped the ball. COVID should never have been in there [Northwood].” Turner will turn 93 on Dec. 6 and her sister says she should have been given the opportunity months ago – before the pandemic – to transfer to HVL to spend these years near her children and grandchildren. “They don’t care,” McCluskey tells The Journal by phone. “They have such little empathy for seniors. The dear soul has already had COVID, she could have been transferred before this second wave.” McCluskey does not feel there is any hope her sister will get moved now. “They’ve closed the facilities again. They had given false hope and now there is no solution – they are not going to move anybody now,” she said. McCluskey and Turner are two of the four sisters left from a family of nine. “How little do our seniors mean? They seem to think seniors only die anyway. They built our country and deserve dignity,” McCluskey says. Arthur Turner, Marie’s son, tells The Journal how difficult it was for his family when his mom was diagnosed with coronavirus. “I feel frustration about her being there – and not here – as her choice was. The system should be in place that puts her where she chooses to live.” The last time Arthur saw his mother, in person, was this fall at Northwood. “I had all the COVID gear on and was able to hug her – but only for a second.” When Turner heard of his mother’s COVID diagnosis he felt there had been no consideration for either his mother or her family. “We might never see her again. She was quite low and we couldn’t visit and maybe had seen her for the last time….” Communication with his mother, while she lives in a facility 90 kilometres away from him, has proven to be a challenge. “We try to reach her by phone – but we usually can’t get a hold of her. It’s always an ordeal,” Arthur says. “We have to wait until the nurses are available to help us set it up and get Mom to the phone. She is in her room a lot.” Arthur remains hopeful his mother will ultimately get the transfer she desires and become a resident at Harbourview Lodge. “It would be so good for her to return to her home community. I feel she deserves it, really. You know, she taught school down here and worked for the Guild faithfully,” he shares. “She was a real good person – she was a member of the Eastern Star and helped raise a lot of money for her community. She set a good example.” Arthur’s sister, Ann Martin, is a registered nurse at HVL. “It would be wonderful for Mom to be here and have my sister so close – helping to care for her. We could all see her. I know during COVID they were not moving anybody but there have been quite a few openings here – but there always seems to be red tape,” she says. The Journal contacted NSHA to inquire about the transfer and placement policy, but did not receive a reply by press time.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Leading up to her graduation from Dalhousie University, Fatou Secka had her eyes on the prize: to find a job in her field and get one step closer to permanent residency in Canada. “I was very hopeful of getting into the work field, getting more practical experience, applying myself ... and being part of an organization,” she told The Chronicle Herald. “I was really looking forward to that.” But after receiving a master's degree in civil engineering at the university in May, the international graduate from The Gambia has been job hunting nearly everyday to no avail. “(A few days) ago, my alarm went off and I felt so anxious and so nervous and worried that I would be unable to find work,” she said. Due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, thousands of international graduates in Canada like Secka are unable to find work and meet the requirements of their post-graduate work permits (PGWPs), according to Migrant Students United, an advocacy group for international students and graduates. International graduates are eligible for time-restricted PGWPs that allow them to remain in Canada post-graduation and gain work experience here. If they complete a minimum of 12 to 24 months of work in certain skilled positions, they can then qualify for permanent residency. While Secka has a three-year PGWP, some international graduates have shorter permits that are either set to expire before year’s end or have already expired, which has left them in a state of limbo, said Sarom Rho, an organizer for Migrant Students United. “With the second wave of COVID-19 related job losses spiking all over Canada and the economic shutdown and economic impact of this, most migrant student workers don’t have access to these jobs,” said Rho. “Even in the best of times, these jobs are difficult to get as migrant workers, but in the middle of a pandemic, when there’s a global economic shutdown, it’s nearly impossible.” The federal government has allowed people with work, study and visitor permits that expired before Jan. 30 to “restore their status” until the end of the year if they stayed in Canada. But PGWPs are currently non-renewable, said Rho, so international graduates are unable to do so. Migrant Students United delivered two petitions with thousand of signatures to federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office this week, calling for changes to Canadian immigration rules surrounding PGWPs. They’ve asked the federal government to make PGWPs renewable so former students can complete “realistic requirements” for permanent residency in the COVID-19 job market and to lower the threshold for gaining permanent residency by lowering points requirements and counting work that is part-time, in-school or in any occupation. Rho said international graduates have made multiple sacrifices and poured thousands of dollars into education in Canada only to be faced with COVID-19 setbacks at no fault of their own. During this “unprecedented crisis,” they’ve also contributed to Canada by working in the essential industries “that sustain our economy and our communities,” Rho added, but none of that work is counted toward their PGWPs. “You’ll see that it’s migrant students who are working overnight stocking shelves in grocery stores, handling packages in warehouses, working in food service and retail and delivery,” she said. John Paul Patrick Corpus is one of those international graduates. Corpus completed a diploma in business intelligence analytics from Nova Scotia Community College and received his PGWP, which is valid for one year, in July. He’s currently working as a sales associate at the Atlantic Superstore and as a data analyst with the federal government. Although his work with the federal government counts toward his PGWP, Corpus said only 30 hours of the 37.5 hours he puts in each week are counted. This means he has to work straight through to July 2021, which is when his PGWP expires, in order to achieve the 1,560 hours required to satisfy the requirements of the permit, he said. “It’s really pushed my work permit up to the very end,” said Corpus. Corpus is concerned that he may lose his job with the federal government during the pandemic. “I try to work as many hours as I can because you’ll never know if one day, all of a sudden, you lose your job and they don’t issue a permit or visa,” he said. At his grocery store job, Corpus said many of his coworkers are also PGWP holders that are stuck in a similar state of uncertainty. He said they all share the same sentiments: “Hopefully the government will give us at least another year once the pandemic stabilizes, because they should try to be reasonable. How can you find a job if there’s no job? Or how can you prove your work if there’s no grounds to prove your work?” “We just study here and all of a sudden we’re kicked out of the country because, OK, your post-graduate work permit is expired. That’s so sad,” Corpus added. As she continues to look for an engineering job, Secka said she’s trying her best to keep occupied by networking with people in her field and pursuing professional training to make herself “indispensable.” She’s also found work as a caregiver at the Shannex nursing home in Halifax and at the Dalhousie Writing Centre. Secka encourages other international graduates to do the same. “Although I have not been able to find work, I’ve been talking to people in my field and learning from them. So these are things you can do so you have something to look forward to in your day,” she said. The Chronicle Herald reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ask if the department is considering renewing expired or soon-to-expire PGWPs. In an email statement, IRCC spokesperson Rémi Larivière said that with COVID-19 causing "significant disruptions," the federal government has taken steps to support international students "and we hope to help more of them make the transition to permanent residency." This includes the government's "ambitious" 2021-2023 immigration levels plan that creates more opportunities through Canada's economic immigration programs, he said. According to Larivière, a person whose status will expire has "options to extend it before it does, and a period of time to restore their status if it does expire." He noted the period that temporary residents have to restore their status has been extended during the pandemic. Larivière said the federal government has also "made it easier for former PGWP holders who had to maintain their legal status in Canada as a visitor to quickly start working for a new employer when they find a new job, and for those with employer-specific work permits to be able to quickly switch and start working for a new employer while their new (work permit) application is processed, cutting the delay on working for a new employer from 10 weeks to 10 days." "We will continue to work closely with international students and the wider community to examine new ways to help international students thrive in this country," he added.Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
MORRISBURG – Alight at Night may be open for the holidays, but don’t expect to see bus tours arriving this year. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission kicked off the 20th annual light event at Upper Canada Village on November 27th with limited numbers of people able to attend. Tickets are sold online only and limited to blocks in 30 minute intervals between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights it is open. Already, the SLPC reports that the first two weeks of tickets have been sold out. However there was concern from area residents that bus tour companies were bringing visitors from areas where higher levels of COVID-19 infection are located. Several tour companies have listings on their websites for bus trips to Alight At Night from previous years, or for 2021. No bus tour packages have been advertised for 2020. “For the 2020 season, group sales have been paused,” said SLPC spokesperson Rosalyn Gambhir. “Upper Canada Village does not have tour operators/companies or buses groups booked for our winter event Alight at Night.” She said that the SLPC has been working to ensure the event continues during the holiday season, even with the current pandemic situation. “This year, like our fall event Pumpkinferno, there are a limited number of tickets available each night and attendance has been drastically limited every half hour,” Gambhir said. “If needed, numbers will be adjusted based on COVID-19 protocols.” This July, the provincial government provided a $7 million funding infusion to the cash-strapped agency, to assist with operating during the pandemic. Two million of that funding was specifically for Upper Canada Village, which ran a shorter season for 2020 with fewer parts of the attraction open. The SLPC was able to run the popular Pumpkinferno event throughout October. Alight at Night runs on select nights until December 17th, then operates nightly except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until January 2nd.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
NEW DELHI — Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth said Thursday he plans to launch his own political party in southern India in January, ending years of speculation by millions of his fans on his political future.He said in a tweet that he will make an announcement on Dec. 31, apparently in relation to legislative elections in Tamil Nadu state expected around June next year. He started taking an active part in politics in 2017.Rajinikanth, 69, is one of India’s most popular stars with more than 175 films since 1975, mostly in the Tamil and Telugu languages.“In the upcoming Assembly elections, the emergence of spiritual politics will happen for sure. A wonder will happen,” he tweeted. An announcement on matters connected to the party's launch will be made Dec. 31, he said.His political prospects appear bright following a vacuum created by the deaths of Jayaram Jayalalithaa, an actor-turned politician with the governing party in the state, and Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the leader of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party.Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians.C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi were scriptwriters who went on to become chief ministers. M.G. Ramachandran, a top actor-turned-politician, also had a strong following.Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth worked as a bus conductor for three years before joining an acting school. He started in small roles as a villain in Tamil cinema and worked his way up, landing roles in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan also tried his hand in politics as a member of India’s Parliament, representing the Congress party in support of his friend, then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in the 1980s. He resigned after three years following allegations that he accepted bribes in the purchase of artillery guns. His name was later cleared in the scandal.Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press