Finance expert Rubina Ahmed Haq shares the results of a new study that suggests many companies will freeze salaries, and how Canadians should plan around it.
Finance expert Rubina Ahmed Haq shares the results of a new study that suggests many companies will freeze salaries, and how Canadians should plan around it.
WASHINGTON — China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II, outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said Thursday as the Trump administration ramps up anti-Chinese rhetoric to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to be tough on Beijing.“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Ratcliffe wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”“I call its approach of economic espionage ‘rob, replicate and replace,'" Ratcliffe said. “China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.”Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months, especially during the presidential campaign as President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the spread of the coronavirus . On the campaign trail, Trump warned that Biden would go easy on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.The Trump administration, which once boasted of warm relations with China's President Xi Jinping, also has been ramping up sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has moved against the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and sought restrictions on Chinese social media applications like TikTok and WeChat.China’s embassy in the U.S. did not respond to a request for comment on Ratcliffe’s op-ed, although China has routinely denied many of these allegations in the past.Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who has been accused of politicizing the position, has been the nation's top intelligence official since May. In his op-ed, he did not directly address the transition to a Biden administration. Trump has not acknowledged losing the election.Ratcliffe said he has shifted money within the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to address the threat from China. Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the U.S., which must be addressed, he said.“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge. Americans have always risen to the moment, from defeating the scourge of fascism to bringing down the Iron Curtain,” Ratcliffe wrote in what appeared to be call for action to future intelligence officials.Biden has announced that he wants the Senate to confirm Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, to succeed Ratcliffe as the next national intelligence director.“This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower," Ratcliffe wrote.He cited several examples of Chinese aggression against the United States:The Justice Department has charged a rising number of U.S. academics for transferring U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China.He noted the theft of intellectual property from American businesses, citing the case of Sinoval, a China-based wind turbine maker, which was convicted and heavily fined for stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based manufacturer formerly known as American Superconductor Inc. Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel hatched a scheme to steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology, causing the loss of almost 700 jobs and more than $1 billion in shareholder equity, according to the Justice Department.Ratcliffe and other U.S. officials have said that China has stolen sensitive U.S. defence technology to fuel Xi's aggressive military modernization plan and they allege that Beijing uses its access to Chinese tech firms, such as Huawei, to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten the privacy of users worldwide.Ratcliffe said he has personally briefed members of Congress about how China is using intermediaries to lawmakers in an attempt to influence legislation.Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
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
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a lower federal court to reexamine California restrictions on indoor religious services in areas hard hit by the coronavirus in light of the justices' recent ruling in favour of churches and synagogues in New York. The high court's unsigned order, with no noted dissent, leaves the California restrictions in place for now. But it throws out a federal district court ruling that rejected a challenge to the limits from Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, which has more than 160 churches across the state. Last week, the Supreme Court split 5-4 in holding that New York could not enforce certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues. With a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has put most of the state under heightened restrictions, which include a ban on indoor singing and chanting. The Associated Press
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
For decades, Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities in Canada have disproportionately experienced the health impacts of toxic dumps, pollution, tainted water and climate change — and they’ve stood up to put an end to such environmental racism. Ingrid Waldron, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who researches social inequality in Nova Scotia, has been working to bring such issues to light for years in Nova Scotia. As director of the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health (ENRICH) project, Waldron has spent the last eight years analyzing the socio-economic, political and health effects of environmental racism in the province. In 2018, she penned the book There’s Something in the Water, which explores the disproportionate effects of environmental damage on Black and First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. Last year, the book was developed into a documentary film. Now, Waldron is taking her work to the national level. “I’ve always wanted to go beyond Nova Scotia and start looking at issues of environmental racism across Canada,” she said. Alongside Naolo Charles, of the Black Environmental Initiative (BE Initiative), Waldron is creating a national coalition to address environmental racism across Canada. According to Waldron, the new coalition will connect allies, raise awareness and support organizations that are currently working to address environmental racism with funding and resources. One of the coalition’s main objectives, said Waldron, is to engage in policy dialogue to encourage the passage of Bill C-230. The bill looks to develop a national strategy to “redress environmental racism in Canada.” MP Lenore Zann will be re-introducing the bill for second reading and it will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday, Dec. 3. “It will put on the books for the first time, really, the idea of a rights-based environmental bill, so the fact that it would be the human right of people across Canada in racialized communities to be able to have the right to clean air and clear water, for instance,” said Zann. This is not the first time Zann has introduced legislation on this subject. In 2014, then an NDP member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia, Zann introduced Bill 111, An Act to Address Environmental Racism. It didn't pass, but at the time it was touted as the first such bill in North America. According to Zann, it was Waldron who approached her with her research on the topic and gave her the idea for the provincial bill. Now that more people understand what environmental racism is, Zann said it’s time to “address and redress” it and make sure that laws are enacted throughout the country “so this cannot continue.” “The difference really, I think, between the provincial bill and the national bill, is that in Nova Scotia there are Black communities that have been hit by environmental racism and sadly have been affected by it. We can name them, we have a map, we can see that,” she added. “But the same thing has not been done yet in Canada and Ingrid is starting that work, but it’s time for governments and other people to start to do that work as well.” Waldron said the national coalition is “a work in progress,” but is slated to set up by the end of the year. She said there are many ways people can support the coalition. They’re currently looking to raise $200,000 by the end of this year. Funds will provide direct support for the ENRICH Project, BE Initiative and the development of the new coalition. People can also participate in a campaign to support Bill C-230 by visiting enrichproject.org/billc-230, Waldron added. While Waldron praised Nova Scotians for being aware of environmental racism happening around them, she hopes the coalition will be able to bring “greater, broader attention" in Canada. “There’s a history of environmental racism over the last several decades in Canada. It’s real and there are health consequences for communities that live next to waste sites, serious health consequences like cancer and for women, reproductive illnesses, this is serious, it’s real,” she said. “Bringing all of us together with our partnerships, with our activism, I think it’s going to make for an extremely powerful coalition.” With files from Andrea GunnNoushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
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
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
At the end of last month, 28-year-old office administrator Ashley Lees found herself with $2 left over after paying rent and other bills, including $362 due on her student loan. Lees and thousands of other students and recent graduates in Canada face renewed financial uncertainty after the federal Liberal government did not extend a six-month repayment freeze, forcing them to pay back more than they can afford in a ravaged economy where young people have found it especially difficult to find and keep work. Lees, who graduated in 2016 with $31,000 in student debt, tried in early October to extend the repayment assistance plan she’d been on before the COVID-19 pandemic, but was rejected for earning over a threshold amount that, at $25,000 a year before taxes, is below the poverty line. “If our MPs were living on some of the wages that we are, this wouldn’t be a thing,” she said, speaking days after the government released a fiscal update that provided little comfort to students. “Me paying student loans in the middle of a pandemic while they hand out money to everybody else feels like you just need me so you can hand out money to everybody else,” she said. Lees says she didn’t learn about the rejection until a pre-authorized payment was rejected and she’d waited on hold with the National Student Loan Service Centre (NSLSC) for two hours earlier this week. Patty Facy, who graduated from a master's program in technology design at the University of Toronto this spring and has since only managed to secure contract work, echoes the frustration of Lees and thousands of other students unable to reach the bureaucracy meant to help them. She says her application for relief, also filed in early October, is still pending at NSLSC (meaning payments should be paused pending a decision), but that her account informs her that payment is past due. “People have given up expecting any coherent or consistent information,” she said, noting that students are expressing their frustrations on Twitter in stories collected under the nslsc hashtag. “There's no policy that’s really helping young Canadians who are feeling very vulnerable financially, but a huge part of this is also a matter of infrastructure — where is the digital infrastructure to actually support people right now?” she said. Ottawa had announced a freeze on student loan payments in March, but let it expire at the end of September and assigned no funding to that task in its budget update released on Monday. The government did say it would extend a halt to interest accrual of the federal portion of student and apprentice loans for 2020-21, which they expect would cost them $321 million. The lack of an extension of student loan relief is particularly confounding given it appears to ignore that the House unanimously adopted a private motion put forward by NDP MP Heather McPherson last week to extend the moratorium for eight months, from Oct. 1 to May 31, 2021. McPherson said she is hearing from many of her constituents — the Edmonton Strathcona riding includes the University of Alberta’s campus — facing dire circumstances and that government officials “don’t seem to care.” “It’s crazy how students have been left out in the lurch here,” she said, adding that the NDP planned to keep fighting. “This is a pretty giant injustice that’s happening.”Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade – Richard Lachance, l'ancien grand président de Cogeco Média est «en réflexion» en vue des élections municipales de 2021 à Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade. Celui qui a cédé les commandes de la filiale du géant des télécommunications en 2018 pourrait ainsi prendre la place de la mairesse sortante, Diane Aubut. Aujourd'hui conseiller spécial pour l'entreprise, notamment en ce qui a trait aux stations radiophoniques détenues par Cogeco, M. Lachance soutient être aux premiers balbutiements de sa réflexion. «J'analyse et je réfléchis à tout ça. Je regarde ce qui pourrait m'intéresser», explique-t-il. «Beaucoup de gens m'ont approché. J'étudie et je regarde», ajoute l'homme reconnu pour son dynamisme contagieux. Plusieurs questions mériteront des réponses avant que le principal intéressé ne confirme une candidature. «Est-ce que j'ai le goût de m'investir à un autre niveau? Est-ce que je suis prêt à servir la population? Ça demanderait beaucoup d'heures dans mon cas parce que je m'implique à fond. J'ai connu des ennuis de santé l'an dernier, mais ma condition s'améliore de plus en plus. La santé jouera un rôle déterminant», confie Richard Lachance. Il concède par ailleurs que le contexte pourrait peser dans la balance.Marc-André Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nouvelliste
We need all the cosyness we can get around here.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's daughter and senior White House adviser said Thursday that she was deposed for more than five hours by attorneys alleging that the president's 2017 inauguration committee misused donor funds — an inquiry Ivanka Trump claimed is a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”The Washington, D.C., attorney general's office has filed a lawsuit alleging the committee made more than $1 million in improper payments to the president’s Washington, D.C., hotel during the week of the inauguration in 2017.Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $1 million to book a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel as part of a scheme to “grossly overpay” for party space and enrich the president’s own family in the process, the District of Columbia’s attorney general, Karl Racine, alleges.Ivanka Trump, who was deposed on Tuesday, tweeted that she gave attorneys from the D.C. attorney general’s office an email she wrote on Dec. 14, 2016, where she instructed the Trump hotel to charge a “fair market rate," which she said the the hotel did.“This ‘inquiry’ is another politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness & waste of taxpayer dollars,” she tweeted.Her deposition on Tuesday was first reported by CNN.As part of the suit, the attorneys have subpoenaed records from Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Thomas Barrack Jr., a close friend of the president who chaired the inaugural committee, and others. Barrack was deposed last month.Racine has accused the committee of misusing non-profit funds and co-ordinating with the hotel’s management and members of the Trump family to arrange the events.“District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies,” Racine has said. “In this case, we are seeking to recover the non-profit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business.”The committee raised an unprecedented $107 million to host events celebrating Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, but its spending has drawn continued scrutiny.In a statement, Alan Garten with the Trump Organization said that “Ms. Trump’s only involvement was connecting the parties and instructing the hotel to charge a ‘fair market rate,’ which the hotel did.”The Associated Press
'This is damage control,' said Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician in Edmonton, speaking about an internal government draft plan to treat 750 COVID-19 patients in field hospitals.
MIAMI — Brad Six becomes Santa Claus, pulling his black boots over his red pants in the office of a Miami outdoor supply company. It's hot, so he forgoes the traditional heavy jacket for a lightweight vest and grabs his Santa hat.But before sliding it on, the gray-bearded 61-year-old dons a plastic face shield and then takes his chair positioned behind a plexiglass sheet."Getting paid is nice, but to get your battery recharged and to really get something lasting out of it requires interacting with the kids — you don’t get a lot of that this year,” said Six, who first portrayed Santa 35 years ago.This is Santa Claus in the Coronavirus Age, where visits are conducted with layers of protection or online. Putting hundreds of kids daily onto Santa's lap to talk into his face — that's not happening for most. The physical attributes that make the perfect Santa align perfectly with those that make COVID-19 especially deadly.“Most of us tick all the boxes: We are old, we are overweight, we have diabetes and if we don’t have diabetes, we have heart disease,” said Stephen Arnold, the president of IBRBS, an association formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.That has spurred creativity in Santa's workshops. Santas conducting in-person visits are using some combination of masks, the outdoors, barriers and distance for safety. Others are doing virtual visits, where children chat with Santa online for prices typically ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the length and extras, such as whether customers want a recording. Some Santas are taking the season off.“Santa safety is our No. 1 concern” and negotiated into every contract, said Mitch Allen, president of HireSanta, one of the nation's largest agencies. He said the pandemic initially dried up his business, but it bounced back, especially online.The average Santa makes $5,000 to $10,000 during a normal season, Allen said. That's a welcome bonus for men often retired on a fixed income, but many Santas say revenue is down as corporate parties and other lucrative gigs evaporated.Jac Grimes, a Santa in Greensboro, North Carolina, gave up home visits, about a third of his business. He did it not just for his own health, but to prevent becoming a superspreader, fearing he'd pass the virus from one family to the next.At a farmers market he annually works, Grimes and his wife dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and sit in a parking lot where they to talk to people who remain inside their cars. Some homeowners associations are moving their annual Santa-visitation parties outdoors; Grimes will arrive in his red convertible to greet the crowds from afar.One of the hardest adjustments Santas have made is wearing masks that hide their painstakingly grown beards.“Santa performers are fairly vain people — if they are good,” Grimes said.The virus has many Santas and parents turning to virtual visits, which are booked through each Santa's personal website or agencies like Allen's. That often has Santas turning to their children and others for help mastering the computer skills needed.“It has been a challenge,” said Christopher Saunders, a Santa performer in Tool, Texas, a small town near Dallas.But Saunders and others say virtual sessions are a good if imperfect substitute for in-person visits. Parents fill out questionnaires, allowing performers to personalize their patter, and a side benefit is that the sessions aren't rushed. Many Santa mall visits last no more than two minutes to keep the line moving.“You get a different energy,” Saunders said of the virtual visits. “You can see the child’s expressions, as pure as they are.”Jim Beidel, a Santa performer near Seattle, said knowing the children's personal stories, such as their friends and school, helps Santas sell their Christmas magic.“It really enhances the engagement, the suspension of disbelief, especially among the older children," he said.But even Santas with the best gigs are hurting. Howard Graham usually portrays Santa in the grand foyer of New York's Radio City Music Hall during its Christmas show featuring the Rockettes. That's gone, so he's doing virtual visits and five days with a historic railroad in Pennsylvania. Still, he's taking a financial and emotional hit.“I love what I do ... bringing them (children) a little bit of smiles and hope,” said Graham, who has played Santa at Radio City for eight years. “I am going to do what I can not to change that.”That was also Six's goal as he settled recently into Santa's throne for a three-hour shift at Miami's Bass Pro Shops.As families sat in front of the plexiglass for photos, Six tilted his head so his face shield didn't reflect the camera's flash. He cheerfully waved children around the plexiglass so they could tell him their wish list, keeping them 6 feet (1.8 metres) back. As he wished them a Merry Christmas, an elf swooped in with disinfectant, wiping the plexiglass and bench before the next group sat.Six said the arrangement is “a little easier physically on Santa's back because he doesn't have to pick anybody up, but it's not as enjoyable because Santa doesn't get the interaction he normally gets.”But for families, sitting with Santa, even if behind a shield, is a bit of normalcy in abnormal times.Paul and Sarah Morris and their children, 5-year-old Theo and Sophy, 4, were among the first to visit Six that night. An Air Force family visiting from Hawaii, the Morrises cajoled their children into hugging for their photo. “Stop wiggling,” Theo said, scolding his sister before each sibling told Santa their Christmas wish. Sophy wanted candy; Theo, a remote control Ford Mustang.“This is definitely different," Sarah Morris said of the setup, “but the kids are excited and that's what matters.”Terry Spencer, The Associated Press
At West Coast Helicopters’ office in Port McNeill, Mike Aldersey and his team are excited. Aldersey has been named as the recipient of the Agar/Stringer Award – a coveted award bestowed by the Helicopter Association of Canada on select few Canadians for their outstanding contribution to the industry. In his 42-year long career, Aldersey holds an impeccable record of over 30,000 accident-free-hours as pilot in command. But that didn’t stop him from being “shocked” when he found out he was getting an award. “I didn’t even know I was nominated,” said the 65-year-old pilot, who lives in Courtenay when he is not at his Port McNeill office. “The past recipients of this award are some pretty impressive people in the Canadian helicopter industry so I feel quite humbled and quite proud to be considered to be in that league.” But even for an industry giant like Aldersey, excitement comes along with existential troubles that online conventions bring along. As he prepared to accept his award - which was presented virtually on Dec. 1 - he had a few lingering questions. “How are they going to do this online? Will they just announce my name? Do they expect a speech from me? I don’t know.” Either way, the 65-year-old kept a speech ready, just in case. Aldersey grew up with aircrafts zooming overhead in Trenton, Ontario. Living near an air force base was a strong influence on him as a 10-year-old boy. Even then, Aldersey knew that he wanted to fly in a bush environment as opposed to airline routes. And he got his wish. Aldersey has flown for air ambulance services, forest firefighting across the country, logging industry operations, tourism charters and heli-skiing adrenaline junkies. He’s been a part of many exciting journeys, including wildlife surveys in the high Arctic, rescue missions, and medical evacuations among others. But forest firefighting is an experience that has been the closest to his heart. “Supporting the forest firefighting industry is one aspect that I have quite enjoyed in my career,” he said. That’s also because he can put to good use his specialty in vertical referencing – also called long line work, which includes slinging loaded 50- 100-foot length long lines from place to place. In 1978 he got his helicopter license from Canadore College in North Bay, Ont., and since then he has had the opportunity to work across provinces. But that also meant remote locations and 16 years of being away from home for almost 240 days a year. His wife Paula was “extremely supportive,” and Aldersey makes it clear that without her, they wouldn’t have gotten far in his career at all. Their family of five moved to Vancouver Island in 1993 and since then Aldersey has been the Port McNeill base manager with West Coast Helicopters. “I was able to spend more time with my family.” Now, apart from being home, B.C.’s coast has become the most soothing sight from up above for Aldersey. With bases in Port McNeill, Campbell River, Nanaimo and Bella Coola, he gets to see a lot of the coastline. “I never get tired of the B.C. coast. It’s pretty spectacular and although it’s my daily routine, I still have to pinch myself sometimes.” Along with mind-blowing hawk-eye views from the sky, his career also gifted him some of the most “interesting experiences.” Aldersey has had the opportunity to meet and work with various people who do different types of profound work. “With this type of work – helicopter support– you’re transporting a lot of different industries and people. And it’s like my career, I mean, I’m involved in many many other different careers,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it! It’s a fairly exciting job because you get to see and experience a lot of different jobs along with your own.” A lot has changed in the past 42 years – Aldersey is a grandfather to five, his favourite chopper Hughes 500 is now an MD 500D and the helicopter industry reflects the passage of time too. But even then the adrenaline rush that floods him when he powers his MD 500D for a take-off is still the same. And that’s a feeling that Aldersey is not yet ready to hang up. “Flying has been my passion for 42 years, I still quite enjoy it and I don’t have plans on retiring anytime soon, he said. “We’ll see how much longer I can keep up it.” Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
LOS ANGELES — Mark Cuban, Anthony Anderson and Skylar Diggins-Smith will take part in a series of panel discussions on YouTube that are focused on racial justice.The video-sharing platform announced the lineup on Thursday for “Bear Witness, Take Action 2.” The two-hour special featuring the various panels and musical performances will premiere Saturday at 6 p.m. EST on the YouTube Originals channel.Common and Keke Palmer return as hosts of the forum, which will include sports figures, entertainers and activists. The first event took place in June.Patti LaBelle, Rapsody and SAINt JHN will perform.“I’m excited to return for the second installment to continue these necessary discussions centred around racial injustices in order to nurture, enhance and protect Black lives,” Common said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to the talented and intelligent people we have joining us this time around for more compelling and impactful conversations that we believe will lead to action.”The panels will venture into several topics including criminal justice reform, dealing with mental health during the pandemic and the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality.Some of the highlighted panels include a discussion between Cuban and New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. The Dallas Mavericks owner and Jenkins are expected to talk about what happens when a team owner holds a conversation with a player about white privilege, civil responsibility and political activism.Diggins-Smith will appear on panel with reporter Jemele Hill and activist Harry Edwards about athletes’ impact on today’s political movement.Famed author Isabel Wilkerson will talk with Soledad O’Brien about making society more equitable.“It is so important that we keep a dialogue about racial justice going beyond any particular moment,” Palmer said. “I want to encourage my peers to continue to have thoughtful and powerful conversations that will lead us to change. Let’s talk about it, take action, and see change realized.”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
Chatham-Kent council supported the opportunity to hire a dedicated recruitment and retention co-ordinator to focus on physician recruitment for the community. “We are proposing that Chatham-Kent fund a part-time recruitment co-ordinator. Our rationale is based on the pressing needs for additional family physicians and the economic benefit a successful program will bring to the area,” said Denise Waddick, co-chair of the Chatham-Kent Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force. Waddick gave council an update on the one-time $100,000 funding for physician recruitment approved for the 2020 budget. Currently there are 60 family physicians in Chatham-Kent, with each roster averaging 1,500 patients. Of the more than 104,000 health card holders that live in Chatham-Kent, 78,000 have a family physician and about 6,000 are enrolled into a Chatham-Kent community health centre. “So when you do the math and you look at the formula, it looks as though there's about just under 20,000 patients that do not have primary care. And when you base it off of the average patient roster that looks as though we need about 13 additional physicians to address our current needs,” Waddick said. “ We do not have sufficient family physician coverage to provide the Comprehensive Primary Care to its population.” Waddick said her statistics do not include residents that are seeking care outside of Chatham-Kent that may return if a provider is located locally. Chatham-Kent could need up to 25 new physicians in the coming years. Forty per cent of patients are currently patients of a doctor who is over the age of 60. An additional 18 would be needed to fill those roles once the physicians retire. The process to replace one doctor could take up to a year, Waddick explained. The recruitment position will officially be set in stone once the next yearly budget is approved. The recruitment task force was formed in January 2020 as an independent community committee, with representation from the Thamesview, Chatham-Kent and Tilbury District family health teams, the Chatham-Kent community health centers, and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. Waddick said because of the pandemic, not all the planned work for the task force could be completed, resulting in the use of only $52,000 of the funds. To date, the task force recruited two new physicians who took over existing practices and one solo family physician who was able to take on new patients. Waddick and her team also lobbied to have Tilbury District Family Health Team designated as an underserved area which gives it the power to add more doctors to its group. The funds are also used to pay a physician's site visits, attend conferences, and used as a start-up subsidy for moving expenses. “The task force also developed unique and creative strategies to mark market practice opportunities in Chatham Kent, with a stronger online presence by developing a website and a social media campaign,” Waddick said about some of the other highlights in their first year. “We established a brand, and an image for recruitment with our community.” Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
MADRID — The lower house of Spain's parliament approved a proposed 2021 budget Thursday in what was seen as a vote of confidence in the left-wing coalition government’s plans for increased spending on infrastructure, education, employment and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of 188 lawmakers in the 350-seat chamber voted to pass the budget plan. Representatives from the main conservative and right-wing parties voted against it. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had to rely on support from myriad small and regional nationalist parties to get the spending plan through, leading to charges he is reliant on groups that aim to damage Spanish unity. But Sánchez's supporters said the variety of the lawmakers endorsing the budget showed strength and confidence. "Never has a budget received the support of so many groups and so many parties,” said the Socialist Party's Congress of Deputies spokeswoman, Adriana Lastra. She said the vote indicated Sánchez's government would “be around for many years.” The vote was one of the biggest shows of support for Sánchez since he first took office in mid-2018. The government previously had to run the country with extensions to a budget drawn up by the previous conservative government, which severely curtailed social spending. The new budget must still be approved in the Senate before the end of the year but is not expected to face obstacles there. Spain is struggling to recover from the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic, which has raised unemployment and stymied economic growth. The Associated Press
Two men charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of Braden Richard Bull of Little Pine First Nation appeared in Lloydminster court Dec. 2 and their matters were adjourned. Twenty-four-year-old Vega Bear was arrested in September and twenty-six-year-old Branden Dillon was arrested in October. Bull’s body was found near a highway on Onion Lake Cree Nation Jan. 21, 2020. Bull was last seen on Jan. 7 and he was reported missing on Jan. 20. Bull’s death was one of three murders in a span of two months that prompted Onion Lake Cree Nation to declare a state of emergency. Conrad Mooswa’s body was found Oct. 23, 2019, at a residence on Onion Lake Cree Nation. Marvin Stanley was arrested in October 2019 and charged with second-decree murder. Braeden Sparvier’s body was found Jan. 1, 2020, along a road in the R.M. of Frenchman Butte, which borders Onion Lake Cree Nation. Shari Heathen, 27, was arrested in July and charged with second-degree murder. “The Nation has now experienced three deaths directly related to drugs and gang activity within the last two months, along with numerous high speed chases and violent crimes,” said Onion Lake Cree Nation when declaring a state of emergency Jan. 24, 2020. If anyone has any information that could assist investigators, please contact Onion Lake RCMP at 306-344-5550. Information can also be submitted anonymously to Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submitting a tip online at www.saskcrimestoppers.com. Onion Lake Cree Nation borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster. Bear and Dillon remain in custody. They are both scheduled to appear next in Lloydminster Provincial Court Jan. 6, 2021, to speak to their matters. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
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
Bernadette McGregor is worried about her future after an unexpected 50 per cent rent increase.The Fredericton-area senior says she can't afford the steep jump in cost for the apartment she's lived in almost eight years.The Lincoln resident said a note on her door on Nov. 23 informed then rent will be going up $400 dollars from the $800 a month she currently pays. Utilities are not included."I just couldn't get over it, I was in shock," she said. "All these things started going through my head. Where am I going to live, what am I going to do?"The note said it was necessary to keep up with rising operating costs, McGregor said.Renovations at some New Brunswick apartment buildings have resulted in steep rent increases, leaving some tenants unable to stay. The province's Residential Tenancies Act does not restrict rent increases.Tenants are required to receive three months notice before an increase.No pandemic protectionsThere are also no protections against evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government has permitted new ownership to force out tenants in entire buildings.Premier Blaine Higgs has been asked if measures to prevent evictions in orange-level regions were in place."No, not at all," he said. "Not at this time."McGregor's 10-unit apartment building was sold about a month ago to Canada Homes for Rent, a Saint John property management company. She wrote to the new company to express her concerns — but said they didn't respond.."As I figured, they don't really care, and they don't want to hear from us," McGregor told Information Morning Fredericton.Jason Fillmore, regional director of Canada Homes for Rent, declined an interview with CBC News.FIllmore said in a statement that he's sympathetic, but the increase to $1,200 a month is typical of the market in that area of Lincoln.'There has to be something in place'Rents are continuing to climb high in Saint John as developers renovate properties, driving some tenants searching for a new place to live.Greg Mazerolle said rent in this current building, owned by Historica Developments, increased by 25 to 30 per cent."The housing for low- to moderate-income is starting to dissipate in this city," he told Information Morning Saint John.Rent has increased from $1,700 to $2,000 per month and utilities are no longer included.Historica, one of the city's largest real estate companies, purchased 20 more buildings from Hazen Property Management last month.The company now owns about 400 units spread across 40 buildings.Mazerolle is planning to leave his apartment as a personal decision to save on housing costs."It's exciting to see the city grow," he said. "However, there has to be something in place at a provincial level to kind of control what's already here for the people that live her. It's great that people want to come, but there's already people here."Historica President Keith Brideau sent a statement to CBC News in response to a request for an interview.Brideau said in most cases rents are only increased after a tenant moves out and if the company invests in extensive renovations."With respect to rising rents, most people don't realize the costs involved in owning a property," he said."For example, the majority of properties we've bought over the years were purchased from people who owned them for a long time — sometimes over 100 years — meaning they had no mortgage to pay."Brideau said increasing operating costs for insurance, heating, electricity, property taxes and other expenses have also contributed. He said increased housing supply in the city will improve affordability.Struggling to find housingTenants unable to pay rent were protected against evictions at the start of the pandemic in March. But the Higgs government lifted those measures on June 1.Now McGregor is left scrambling to find a new apartment within her budget in Fredericton's tight housing market."It's very stressful, very upsetting," she said."I hope they get rent control going very soon."Despite an increase in residential development in 2019, the capital city's vacancy rate remains below two per cent. New Brunswick's Residential Tenancies Tribunal, formerly known as the Rentalsman's office, said no one was available for an interview.The office told CBC News to ask McGregor to contact them.Green Party Leader David Coon said he is hearing similar stories in Fredericton and the issue of affordable housing needs to be addressed."There's a real gold rush going on when it comes to snapping up rental properties, and the victims of this are the current residents who are being forced out," he said.