Using a DJI Phantom 2 drone equipped with a GoPro Hero 4 camera, 'Volafs Photography' captured these stunning sights of South Iceland.
Using a DJI Phantom 2 drone equipped with a GoPro Hero 4 camera, 'Volafs Photography' captured these stunning sights of South Iceland.
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Atlanta rapper YFN Lucci is accused of being the driver in a gang-related drive-by shooting that left one man dead and another wounded, authorities said. The 29-year-old rapper turned himself in Wednesday, a day after Atlanta police announced murder charges against Lucci, whose real name is Rayshawn Bennett. Police said Bennett and other “gang members” drove through rival gang territory on Dec. 10 and two people inside the car opened fire, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported citing an arrest warrant. The rivals returned fire, hitting James Adams, 28, in the head, police said. Adams was “manually ejected” from the car and police later found his body lying in the road. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Later that day, Kevin Wright, 32, arrived at a fire station with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. He survived. Police said Ra’von Boyd, 23, was also in the vehicle during the shooting. Boyd and a 17-year-old juvenile were charged in the incident and were both arrested in Miami. A warrant was put out for Bennett's arrest Tuesday, charging him with murder, aggravated assault, participating in criminal street gang activity and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Before he surrendered to authorities Wednesday night, he released his latest music video on his Twitter and Instagram pages. Bennett's attorney Drew Findling said a “review of the initial evidence” provided “no basis for any criminal charges.” Lucci is best known for his 2016 song “Key to the Streets” featuring the Atlanta-area-based rap group Migos. The Associated Press
Regina– On Jan. 14, the Saskatchewan Health Authority provided an update on its COVID-19 immunization campaign and delivery plan, as part of the regular COVID-19 update delivered from the Legislature in Regina. Derrick Miller, Executive Director of Infrastructure Management with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said by phone, “Our immunization campaign goals include minimizing serious illness and death, protecting those that are most vulnerable, protecting our healthcare capacity, minimizing spread and also protecting our critical infrastructure. There really guide us in what we're trying to achieve with our overall campaign.” He noted, “Our supply limitations that are being experienced with the COVID-19 vaccine require us to take a very diligent approach to sequencing the vaccine rollout.” This requires establishing priority populations, which are based on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations. In Phase 1, there are approximately 109,000 in that group. “And based on federal allocations that have been identified, so far, going to the end of March this year, that’ well have enough vaccines to vaccinate approximately 50 per cent of this group. That’s short about half, obviously, of immunizing all of the priority populations approved in this framework.” On Jan. 13, there were 1,393 doses of the vaccines delivered, the highest to date. The average per day, so far, as been just over 1,000 doses per day. He said they anticipate running out of doses before the next allocations, as the speed of delivery means they get it out as quickly as possible and wait for the arrival of the next delivery. Miller said there are “three key planks to our strategy as part of our vaccine campaign.” “The first one is faster. Speed really maters in this. Every day counts to save lives and reduced the overall impact of COVID-19.” They are establishing distribution hubs throughout for the different type of vaccines. “We're adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach to delivery, leveraging all of our appropriate health care providers that can deliver vaccines, as well as looking for and seeking support from external resources to really bring all resources to bear, as part of this strategy,” he said. This includes mobile immunization teams to go to places like long-term care and personal care homes. Locally, they are testing different delivery methods. He said, “Being able to forecast vaccine distribution, with more accuracy will help us be more prepared for rapid distribution. And we know a stable, predictable and large volume allocations will really enable us for rapid delivery.” Every corner of the province is ready, in a posture of readiness, to administer the vaccine as it is received. “The second plank of our strategy is ‘smarter,’ Miller said. “Learning matters. Using improvement is already resulting in more rapid delivery and we can see that just by the results over the last week. The health system is very experienced in delivering the influenza vaccine and other vaccinations. And we're going to leverage that as we go forward, because we know how to do this. “However, we also recognize that this is different. And there are pretty significant differences that are impacting this campaign. We do have limited variable and unpredictable allocations. They vary from week to week, and the timing varies as well. We need to sequence priority populations, based on that. We’re not able to offer a mass immunization right off the start.” This includes multiple vaccines with different logistical challenges across a geographically dispersed province. Transportation changes allow them to move vaccines in a more efficient manner. Being a single health authority makes it easier, he noted. Miller said we are learning from our partners, including Metis and First Nations partners. The third plank is safety. “Safety matters. High uptake requires strong communications to ensure the public knows the vaccine is safe. We know the COVID vaccine is safe. It is Health Canada-approved and has gone through the various regulatory reviews, and approval processes. We also know that it's effective, or 90 per cent effective, in reducing the risk of infection. And it's simple. It's just like getting a flu shot for Saskatchewan residents, our health care workers are highly experienced and have many years of successfully delivering flu vaccine to the residents of Saskatchewan, and ensuring that all safety requirements are achieved.” Challenges include delivery to high-risk populations in remote areas. The Pfizer vaccine has temperature constraints and special handling needs. The consent process can be time-intensive, especially in long-term care homes. Unpredictable allocations should hopefully be resolved in coming weeks. Adverse weather can be an issue. “At the same time, we are preparing for widespread immunization in Phase 2, or we will open up access to the general population and conduct Saskatchewan’s largest-ever immunization campaign. One of our key tasks is to ensure that our teams are ready to deliver the vaccine as soon as possible on arrival, and enhance speed of delivery. This is true in Phase 1, as we're focusing on those priority populations, and it will also be true when we go into Phase 2, and get to the point where we’re vaccinating the general public,” Miller said. He added that “Currently, our health system is at its most fragile point yet for their highest hospitalization rate, and a high case count.” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingston added, “We want to make sure we're getting the vaccine out as quickly as we can to those vulnerable populations and get vaccine in arm as quickly as possible. So, it won't be in the freezer as long. As the vaccines come in, we will get them out and they will go and get administered as fast as we can in the arms of those who need it very most.” He pointed out that limited supplied are limiting their capabilities, but they are focussing on the most vulnerable. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
The Township of Perry held a special meeting on Jan. 13 to address the use of the outdoor rinks and parks during the provincial stay-at-home order. While the outdoor rinks could remain open under increased restrictions, the township decided to close both rinks as well as the parks. “We understand with the order we could have (the rinks) open but the spirit of the (resolution) was stay at home,” said Beth Morton, clerk-administrator for the township. Ontario announced on Jan. 12 the province would head into another state of emergency as of 12:01 a.m. Jan. 13. The province is further restricting the limit of outdoor gatherings from 10 people to a maximum of five with limited exceptions. The wearing of masks or face coverings is now recommended for the outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres. Prior to the Jan. 12 announcement, people could use outdoor rinks during the provincewide lockdown with guidelines in place for a maximum of 10 people, wearing a face mask or covering, no hockey and maintaining two-metres distancing. However, Morton said people weren’t adhering to the previous guidelines. “We’re having a lot of increased enforcement,” she said, which is why council decided to close the rinks and parks. “People aren’t willing to wear masks, they’re not willing to follow restrictions and guidelines that are in place, and so we’ve had no alternative but to close (the rinks).” The resolution comes into effect on Jan. 14. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
RESTAURATION. Québec solidaire dénonce tant les frais pouvant aller jusqu’à 30% imposés par des applications de livraison de repas que le refus du gouvernement Legault d'imposer une limite à Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash. Le député de Rosemont Vincent Marissal voudrait qu’on impose un plafond de 20% comme l'ont fait l'Ontario et la Colombie-Britannique. «Nos restos de quartier ferment à gauche, à droite, et tout ce que la CAQ trouve à faire, c'est de demander gentiment aux applications de réduire leurs frais abusifs. Quel aveu d'impuissance! Le gouvernement Legault a pris assez de retard. Aujourd'hui, il doit choisir entre les profits de Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash et la survie pure et simple de nos restaurants de quartier. Le milieu de la restauration est déjà accablé par des mois de fermeture et l'indifférence du ministre Fitzgibbon. Des frais de 30%, c'est la goutte de trop», plaide le responsable solidaire en matière de justice fiscale. Pour Québec solidaire, le gouvernement doit éviter de répéter les erreurs commises avec le projet de loi sur les taxis. «En donnant à Uber un beau projet de loi fait sur mesure, on a fait entrer le loup dans la bergerie. Bien maintenant, le loup a fait le tour de la bergerie et il est entré dans le resto du village! Tout le monde commande plus souvent depuis le début de la pandémie, c'est normal. Ce qui est moins normal, c'est qu'on laisse les applications de livraison fixer les règles du jeu. Alors que les restaurants et les clients paient des frais qui coûtent les yeux de la tête, les livreurs touchent des salaires dérisoires. S'il n'est pas encadré, le modèle économique de Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash est ruineux pour le Québec», martèle Vincent Marissal. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — The coronavirus vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the U.S., but four states in the Deep South have had particularly dismal inoculation rates that have alarmed health experts and frustrated residents. In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, less than 2% of the population had received its first dose of a vaccine at the start of the week, according to data from the states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As in other parts of the country, states in the South face a number of challenges: limited vaccine supplies, health care workers who refuse to get inoculated and bureaucratic systems that are not equipped to schedule the huge number of appointments being sought. But other states have still managed — at their best — to get the vaccines into the arms of more than 5% of their populations. Though it’s not clear why the Deep South is falling behind, public health researchers note that it has typically lagged in funding public health and addressing disparities in care for its big rural population. "When you combine a large percentage of rural residents who tend to be the hard-to-reach populations and have lower numbers of providers with trying to build a vaccine infrastructure on the fly, that’s just a recipe for a not-so-great response,” said Sarah McCool, a professor in public health at Georgia State University. In Georgia, the state’s rural health system has been decimated in recent years, with nine hospital closures since 2008, including two last year. Local health departments have become the primary vaccine providers in some locations, as officials work to add sites where doses can be administered. “If we’re the only game in town, this process is going to take a long time,” Lawton Davis, director of a large public health district that includes Savannah, said at a news conference on Monday. The district had to stop taking appointments in the face of an onslaught of requests after Georgia opened up the vaccine to people over 65. Other health districts in the state saw their websites crash. Alabama and Mississippi have also been hit hard by rural hospital closures. Seven hospitals have shut down in Alabama since 2009 and six in Mississippi since 2005, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Sheps Center. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi ranked in the bottom five of U.S. states in their access to health care, according to a 2020 report from a not-for-profit foundation connected to insurance giant UnitedHealth. But overall, experts say it's too early in the vaccine rollout to draw conclusions about the region's shortcomings, and they can't easily be attributed to a particular factor or trend. “We’re sort of building this plane as we’re flying, and there are going to be missteps along the way,” said Amber Schmidtke, a microbiologist who has been following vaccine dissemination in the South. Officials in the individual states have cited a number of challenges, but have also acknowledged shortcomings. “We have too many vaccines distributed that are not in arms yet,” said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who noted that some hospitals in the state are not using their vaccine doses. He said that practice “has to stop.” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp cited a similar challenge and warned providers holding on to vaccines that the state would take their unused doses even if that required “firing up” his pickup truck and doing it himself. But in South Carolina, hospital officials say it is the state that has moved too slowly to expand access to the vaccinations, leaving them with unused doses. The state recently did offer the vaccine to those 70 and older. Mississippi's Reeves said one of the biggest weaknesses in the state’s vaccination system is the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations in long-term care facilities. The pharmacy chains have been slow in hiring enough people to do the work in Mississippi, the governor said. CVS Health said in a statement that it has “the appropriate resources to finish the job" at long-term care facilities. Walgreens did not respond to an email. During an online forum hosted by Jackson State University in Mississippi on Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is Black, noted the reluctance of many African Americans to be vaccinated. He cited a general mistrust of medical systems stemming back to a now-defunct government study that started in the 1930s and left Black men untreated for syphilis for decades. So far, only 15% of COVID-19 vaccinations in Mississippi have gone to Black people, who make up about 38% of the population, state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during the forum. Officials in all four states also said some health care workers — among the first groups eligible for a vaccine — are choosing not to get inoculated. And some stressed that states were dealing with limited supplies and high demand and implored people to be patient. “Yes, the phone lines will be busy. Yes, the websites will certainly crash,” Kemp said Tuesday. “There are simply vastly more Georgians that want the vaccine than can get it today.” Mississippi officials said the state's website and telephone hotline were overwhelmed after the governor announced Tuesday that vaccinations were available to people 65 or older or people who have underlying medical conditions. Liz Cleveland, a 67-year-old retired state employee who lives in Jackson, waited hours on the website using her cellphone, computer and tablet only to encounter unknown errors. “It’s like gambling. You may hit or you may bust,” Cleveland said. About 2 a.m. Wednesday, she was finally able to book appointments for herself and her husband next week in Hattiesburg, which is 90 miles (145 kilometres) away. Mississippi officials said Thursday that they will open an additional drive-thru site for vaccinations soon in the state's largest county. Alabama officials also have been inundated with requests for appointments since announcing the state will begin vaccinations for people over 75 next week. A state hotline received more than a million calls the first day it was open. Celia O’Kelley of Tuscaloosa said she couldn’t get through to anyone to get an appointment for her 95-year-old mother. “I am scared because Tuscaloosa is a hot spot,” she said. ___ Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; and Michelle Liu in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report. Sudhin Thanawala, The Associated Press
SaskPower says the rural areas of the province still without power from this week's storm should see their lights back on by Friday afternoon. Wide swaths of the province have been without electricity in the wake of the blizzard and high winds this week. Areas still without power Friday morning include southwest of Elrose, including Beechy, Saskatchewan Landing, White Bear, Lucky Lake and areas south of Weyburn. SaskPower said power has been restored to areas near Glenavon and for customers east of that community with power lines down. Saskpower spokesperson Scott McGregor said the areas still without power suffered major damage to the power infrastructure. "That's really what's keeping the power off, is that some larger transmission lines have been damaged and we're just working on getting those fixed," McGregor said. That will be good news for Natalie Braun and other residents of Beechy, who have been without power since Wednesday afternoon. "I don't know what our wind got to, but our visibility was zero [Wednesday] late afternoon and went on into the evening," Braun said. "I mean, it was crazy." Braun said they have a generator that has helped them cook meals and stay warm, though even it wouldn't work at the height of the storm. The generator was plugged in at the back of the house and she said the night of the storm the snow and wind kept freezing up the generator. Braun said others in the community who don't have generators are still in the dark and cold. "We have gotten quite accustomed to having power outages," she said, adding that's many people have generators. "But there's definitely a lot without. And it's yeah, it's been a long go. Thankfully, it's not freezing freezing cold." She said community organizations have arranged to drop off hot meals to some elderly residents and that the community hall, which has a generator, is open to residents to come warm up. "It's amazing how a small community can really come together," Braun said. "Yesterday we witnessed a lot of people just going out of their way, checking in on the elderly people in our community. And it just is pretty amazing how everybody, especially in these circumstances and obviously going through this in a pandemic there, it takes it to a whole new level." McGregor said a transmission line went down in the Beechy area. "We're still working in that area and [power] should be up around noon, maybe two o'clock at the latest," he said. "I know that it's been it's been out for a long time over two nights ... and we appreciate everyone's patience while we all get through this." More than 100 communities have had power outages because of the storm and roughly 78,000 people were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. McGregor said high winds and blowing snow continued to hamper crews trying to restore power to some communities. Since the storm began, SaskPower recorded more than 780 outages affecting more than 100,000 customers. McGregor said there could be a few people that remain without power if more problems arise. "We're still taking inventory of a lot of the damage out there," he said. McGregor said it's like clearing a major highway after a snowstorm. "You have the highway reopened, but then you have to deal with the side streets. Same with a transmission line being damaged and then re-energise," he said. "They can repair the transmission lines, but then once that is energized, then other problems coming off of that at the distribution level become evident and then we can work on those.." Braun said while the power outage has been stress for the adults, her two children, aged six and three, have been having a blast. "Our street was impassable yesterday so they were loving seeing all the commotion around. And they love all the snow," she said. Coincidentally the kids got a pair of head lamps in the mail a few days ago and are putting them to good use. "We don't run our generators through the night so in the mornings, they're hiding under the blankets with the head lamps on."
Firefighter Morrison was able to break a path through the ice out to the dog while safely secured by ropes. Just before he got to the dog, it gave out a crying type howl and as soon as he grabbed it, it went completely limp from exhaustion. Video credit Alpena City Firefighters
The Township of Seguin and the other six municipalities that make up west Parry Sound have signed off on a letter, dated Dec. 1, to Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks. The letter states that they would like the ministry to reconsider the transition of the blue box from 2025 to 2024. What exactly is the blue box transition program? The Blue Box Transition program is being legislated by the Province of Ontario and means the responsibility of collecting and processing recyclable products will be on the manufacturers who make the items. What that means is the duty of recycling is being shifted to the manufacturers who produce the material rather than society. Will this effect how I put out my recycling? The government says there shouldn’t be any change of service. You may have to go to a different location to drop off your recycling, if rural, or you may have a new company that picks up your curbside blue box materials. When is this supposed to come into effect? For the municipalities that make up west Parry Sound — Parry Sound, Archipelago, Seguin, McKellar, McDougall, Carling and Whitestone — the change is supposed to come into effect in 2025; however, all seven municipalities have signed a letter to Minister Jeff Yurek requesting the transition take place in 2024. Why? The District of Muskoka is transitioning in 2024 and, currently, the west Parry Sound municipalities process blue box materials in Bracebridge. They are concerned about issues that may happen if the transition happens at a different time than Muskoka. Another concern is the fact the Greater Toronto Area is transitioning in 2023 and the expanded list of recyclables there will differ from what is offered in west Parry Sound for a time. Residents who migrate north for the summer may expect to recycle the same list of items, which may cause contamination in waste systems. Will this transition raise my taxes? Once the producers and manufacturers take over the recycling process, it’s going to save the taxpayers; however, prices for products may go up to pay for the manufacturers’ cost of processing the recycling. The Township of Seguin said at its Jan. 11 council meeting that the mayors from the seven municipalities would follow up on the letter once a response was received. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in December led by a the biggest jump in energy costs since June. The Labor Department reported Friday that the gain in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, followed a modest 0.1% gain in November and matched the 0.3% rise in October. The December increase reflected a 5.5% surge in energy costs, the biggest gain since a 9.6% jump in June. That offset a 0.1% drop in food costs, the first decline since August. Over the past 12 months, inflation at the wholesale level has risen a modest 1.5%. The government reported Wednesday that consumer inflation was also well-behaved last year, rising just 1.4% over the past 12 months. These low inflation reading are giving the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels in an effort to help lift the economy out of a pandemic-induced recession. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
The regular weekly price review of petroleum product prices by P.E.I.'s Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission saw some big increases overnight. The minimum price of a litre of regular, self-serve gasoline is up four cents Friday morning to $1.11. Following a collapse at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, prices for gas rose to hover around a dollar for much of the spring and fall. They fell into the low 90s in early November, but have been on a steady rise since. The minimum price of a litre of diesel is up five cents to $1.16. The maximum price for heating oil is up 4.4 cents to $0.85. Propane prices were also up across the board, and varied by retailer. Irving: up 2.9 cents. Island Petroleum: Up 3.3 cents. Kenmac: Up 3.5 cents. Noonan: Up 3.5 cents. Superior: up 4.4 cents. The next scheduled price review is Jan. 22. More from CBC P.E.I.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A partnership with the Trump administration has reduced disparities in Alaska Native access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and protective equipment, tribal health care leaders said. The administration’s coronavirus initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday. Operation Warp Speed, as the initiative is known, designated vaccine doses for tribes in the same manner as for the Department of Defence, Veterans Health Administration and Bureau of Prisons. The federal government distributed more than 35,000 doses to Alaska tribes, in addition to 78,000 doses to Alaska’s state government. More than 250,000 doses were dedicated to tribes nationwide through the Indian Health Service. “It’s something to celebrate,” Alaska Native Health Board CEO Verné Boerner. “When you embrace tribes and tribal sovereignty, you can bring so much more to the state.” Tribal shipments have afforded broad vaccine access for rural and Indigenous Alaskans and expanded availability of doses beyond older people. Providers acknowledge part of their ability to offer expanded access is because about a third of health care workers and older residents have declined to immediately take vaccines. While tribal providers are vaccinating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, state and Native leaders said there is a legal basis for separate shipments because of longstanding recognition of tribes as sovereign governments. Officials said the decision also is appropriate from a scientific and medical standpoint because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Alaska Native people and the dynamics in many rural communities that make the virus difficult to control. Factors include crowded, multi-generational homes, lack of running water and sewer and distance from advanced medical care. “It’s never been about equal distribution of the vaccine. It’s about equitable distribution,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. chief of staff. “The congregate living settings that exist in most of our villages are a setup for the virus to just spread like wildfire, and there’s no defence against that.” For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
MILAN — Italy’s fashion chamber is opening on Friday the first Milan Fashion Week that won't have VIPS populating runway front rows, as the reality of Italy's persistent resurgence of the coronavirus has forced an all-virtual format for presenting menswear previews. The National Fashion Chamber maintained a live element during the July and September fashion weeks in Milan. But after planning to stage live shows with guests during this round, Fendi, Etro and outdoor brand Kway announced their events will be livestreamed from behind closed doors. Dolce & Gabbana cancelled its runway show entirely, citing restrictions in place due to COVID-19. The other 36 participating fashion houses on the pared-down calendar -- including Zegna and Prada -- will all have digital-only presentations. “We did everything to preserve some runway shows, but the anti-COVID norms in this moment don’t allow us to have guests, and therefore, the runway shows will be closed-door,” fashion chamber president Carlo Capasa said. The organizers of Paris Fashion Week plan to hold audience-free men’s and haute couture shows later this month. Prospects for Milan's February shows of mostly womenswear previews remain unclear; the Italian government on Friday announced a new round of virus-control restrictions through Feb. 15 that extend a ban on travelling between regions. Capasa acknowledged that closed-door shows deprive fashion of some of its energy. But the pandemic, which has all but shut down global travel and closed retail stores for long periods , has made fashion houses quickly update their digital communication strategies and e-commerce platforms, he said. There is some evidence the investments are paying off, with one-quarter of online luxury sales last year to consumers who went high-end for the first-time, Capasa said. The Italian fashion chamber found that 45 million people streamed Milan Fashion Week shows in September, a number that Capasa said was beyond his wildest dreams a year ago. Still, the fashion industry is in dire financial straits. The Italian industry recorded a 25% drop in revenues to 50.5 billion euros ($61.2 billion) in 2020 compared with 2019, with exports down 22% to nearly 43 billion euros ($52.1 billion). A more drastic decline was avoided thanks to so-called “revenge shopping” in China, with eager consumers returning to luxury shopping as soon as lockdowns expired, and moves toward e-commerce and a bump in global luxury sales in October, Capasa said. In Europe, where governments have ordered new lockdowns, the market remained weakest. Capasa said the industry, one of the biggest generators of Italy's gross domestic product, is seeking a share of the government’s recovery funds to help improve innovation and to keep small artisanal businesses from failing. He said he hopes to see a gradual return to normality in fashion show calendars and travel this summer, as vaccines reduce the threat of the coronavirus. “For now, we need to do the best we can, in the moment we are living,’’ Capasa said. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
With snowmobiles in high demand, there may be a lot of newcomers to the winter sport, which is why safety on the trails is always important. Out alone on the pristine waterfront in the McKellar area, Morely Haskim has volunteered with the Dun Ahmic Snowriders for over 30 years. He suggests that people educate themselves first by going online to mto.gov.on.ca where there is a snowmobile safety category or the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s website where there are six courses someone can take online. “As far as anybody starting out, there’s the obvious things such as wearing proper gear: helmet, snowmobile suit and boots,” said Haskim. “And usually try to snowmobile with somebody else — don’t go alone.” Another important tool for snowmobiling safety is making sure to check the trails on the interactive trail map provided by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s website. “Do your own homework before you get out there,” said Haskin. “You’re in control of your own destination even though the clubs are doing the best they can to make sure all the trails are safe and open.” Safety on the trails is important because it can be life threatening and Haskim advised that snowmobilers shouldn’t be speeding. “We have a lot of families out there now with their young kids on the machine with them and if they meet a bunch of people racing it may not end up being the best situation,” he said. The speed limit on most trails is 50 km/hour. While there are risks that come with snowmobiling, Haskim says his favourite thing about it is volunteering on the trails. “I used to be a real snowmobiler,” he said with a laugh. “I would go out in big groups back years ago and have pretty much snowmobiled everywhere around our area but eventually I phased out of personally snowmobiling.” Now, he tries to get out two times a week to groom, stake or inspect trails. “I report our trail conditions to our district who then puts the condition of the trails on the interactive trail guide.” Out along the Hwy. 522 corridor, Matthew Wagenaar, who manages the popular snowmobiling Instagram page The Daily Doo with his friends, rides the Argyle Riders trails. “The place I stay is right off the C105D trail,” Wagenaar said. “A large portion of that trail is crown land. So, early in the winter season, myself and a few friends go up and try to clean up the trail by cutting up trees and getting them off the trail.” When it comes to snowmobile safety, Wagenaar said that the most important thing he would say to newcomers is to know your machine. “Snowmobiles don’t behave like most other off-road vehicles,” he said. “Get familiar with the sled by riding but riding with added caution.” However, the biggest risk, according to Wagenaar, who does a lot of backcountry riding as well, is riding over open water. “(You) could go through the ice but that can be easily taken care of by waiting until you have over eight inches of ice and also knowing where the open water is,” he said. But, echoing Haskim in McKellar, the good times are worth it. “The best part is the time spent in nature with friends — the awesome part about Port Loring is it truly is God’s country up there,” he said. “There’s nothing like waking up and seeing a fresh couple of inches of snow on the sled, heading out at dawn and watching the snow-covered trees get hit by the first sun rays.” “Though safety is important at work and at play,” he said. “We all have someone we want to go home to.” Story behind the story: With snowmobile sales through the roof and snowmobile clubs anticipating new riders on the trail, our reporter wanted to find out the best safety tips for new and seasoned sledders. So, she reached out to local club volunteers and trail enthusiasts to find out what the best practices for snowmobiling the Parry Sound and Almaguin trails were. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative., Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden has picked a former Food and Drug commissioner to lead vaccine science in his drive to put 100 million shots into the arms of Americans in his administration's first 100 days and stem the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. David Kessler, who will have the title of chief science officer of COVID response, headed the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s under presidents of both political parties. He has been acting as a top pandemic adviser to Biden and his appointment was announced Friday by the presidential transition office. Kessler will work out of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, assuming responsibility for the scientific side of Operation Warp Speed, an effort launched under the Trump administration to rapidly develop vaccines and treatments. The drive has already produced two highly effective vaccines, and more are on the way. Nonetheless, the nation's vaccination campaign has gotten off to a slow start, and most of the vaccine being delivered to states by the federal government is not being used right away. A person advising the Biden transition team said Kessler will take on the role now being carried out by Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a prominent vaccine scientist and innovator who has been serving as chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed. Several vaccine candidates in the pipeline are in final clinical trials, and one company is expected to soon apply for FDA emergency approval for its formulation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Kessler will co-ordinate vaccine review and approval, as well as the logistics of manufacturing millions more doses. Experts say the U.S. will need to vaccinate upwards of 250 million people to approach the goal of “herd immunity," where there is widespread resistance to virus allowing for a return to normal life. So far fewer than 12 million doses have been administered. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press
New modelling released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests the number of daily COVID-19 cases could more than triple to 30,000 if people increase their contacts during a time of widespread community transmission. The report also projects that if Canadians simply maintain their current levels of contact with people outside their households, case counts will still rise to roughly 13,000 a day from 7,900 now. The modellers said that, based on current case counts, Canada "remains on a rapid growth trajectory," with roughly 2,000 more people expected to die over the next 10 days as the country approaches a death toll of 20,000. As many as 100,000 more people could contract the virus over the next week and a half, PHAC said. "Quick, strong and sustained measures are needed to interrupt rapid growth and maintain COVID-19 control," PHAC said in its report. "Reducing COVID-19 activity is urgently needed as rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines begins." Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told a news conference that the vaccine rollout, which is now protecting priority groups of high-risk Canadians, will not have a big impact on the numbers in the short term. WATCH / Dr. Theresa Tam on the impact of vaccine on COVID-19 transmission: "In terms of the national projections and the transmission in communities, you're not going to see that in the initial months, which is why I think our message ... is [to] absolutely get on with the public health measures," she said. "Do all of those things, don't do non-essential travel. All that really counts. It works. And when you can suppress that projection, the vaccines have a longer runway." Data to determine impact of vaccine rollout Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said government and external experts are working to determine the impact of vaccine rollouts on the numbers mid- and long-term. "But at the present time, it's really difficult to say. There are so many factors involved. Even today, we're seeing issues in terms of vaccine supply, how vaccines are being rolled out across the country," he said. "There's other factors in terms of the increasing rates of infection in various parts of the country. So there are many different factors in play." Right now, Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec are the provinces reporting the highest infection rates per 100,000 people. Rise in cases post-holidays Tam said many provinces, including some that had been on a downward trajectory, saw a sharp rise in daily case numbers after the holidays. That's likely due to people having more contacts over the holidays and reduced testing during those weeks, she said. Since the holidays, stronger community level public health measures have been adopted across Canada and some areas are showing that public health measures are working to slow growth. "However, we have yet to see the widespread and sustained declines in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control nationally," she said. Some 10 months into this pandemic, long-term care homes continue to report hundreds of daily cases. There are now more than 400 outbreaks nationwide — a situation which is expected to push hospitalization rates higher still. Alberta and Manitoba are reporting the highest rates of hospitalization per 100,000 people. PM calls LTC deaths 'tragic' During a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the outbreaks now occurring in long-term care homes in Ontario and across the country are "tragic." "Our parents and grandparents built this country. They raised us. And they deserve so much better," he said. "It is vital that we continue to get vaccines to vulnerable people as quickly as we can. And that's exactly what we're focused on. But remember – no one is invincible. Even if you're young and healthy, this virus can be very dangerous. And that's why we all have to keep doing our part." Trudeau said that while vaccines are rolling out across the country, Canadians must reduce their in-person contacts. "For the moment, that's the only way to get these numbers down," he said. "Since yesterday, Ontario is now under a stay-at-home order. This is the kind of tough but necessary decision that provincial governments are having to make." PHAC said COVID-19-related deaths are steadily rising and may soon exceed levels seen during the first peak. Calling the new modelling "alarming," NDP health critic Don Davies called for stronger federal measures to reduce the spread of the virus. "The numbers released today paint a very sobering picture," he said. "COVID-19 is claiming the lives of 145 Canadians every single day and the situation is getting worse. Clearly, what we've been doing isn't working. PHAC's forecast shows that a stronger response is necessary to slow the alarming spread of COVID-19."
Wednesday's storm brought high winds to southern Alberta and up to 50 cm of snow in the southern Rockies — increasing the risk of avalanches. Avalanche Canada said there is a "considerable" risk warning and forecaster Kate Devine said the heavy snowfall and high winds can have a big impact on the snow pack. "A natural avalanche cycle, which means that avalanches start running just because they are getting new load from snow and wind … they don't need a trigger like a person standing on a slope or something like that." Devine says people recreating in the backcountry this weekend should be aware that storm slabs are widespread and easy to trigger. "So although it is a step down from that high danger rating where we are expecting a lot of natural avalanches, it is still a dangerous avalanche condition and requires very careful terrain selection and a certain level of understanding of snowpack to be able to manage those conditions safely," she said She reminds the public that those heading to the mountains should get avalanche training, have the proper gear and check the avalanche forecast. Tips and risks A guide by Canmore resident Doug Latimer called Avalanche! The Guide's Guide to Safer Travel in the Mountains, is an interactive e-book that offers some tips. He says research shows 80 per cent of avalanche fatalities are caused by human error — enforcing the need to improve avalanche safety. "Statistically speaking, you have about a 50 per cent chance of still being alive after about 12 minutes in a full burial. People do survive longer, but the odds decrease," he said. The writer explains that the book includes tips in case backcountry visitors are in a compromised situation. For example, remember to pack a bag that includes an avalanche transceiver, a probe, shovel and helmet. "The equipment is essential, but what I consider even more important is knowledge," he said. That means that the area you're travelling to should be well-researched before you go, which you can do online at Avalanche Canada. With files from Rick Donkers and The Homestretch.
SILVER SPRING, Md. — U.S. industrial production rose 1.6% in December, a third straight monthly gain, but remains below its pre-pandemic level. The December gain in industrial output followed a 0.5% increase in November and a 1% increase in October, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. Even with those gains, industrial output is still about 3.3% below its level in February before the pandemic hit. Manufacturing increased 0.9% while mining production rose 1.6%. Utilities' output rose 6.2% as a rebound in December demand followed unseasonably warm weather in November. U.S. industry operated at 74.5% of capacity in December, still below the pre-pandemic rate of 76.9% in February. Matt Ott, The Associated Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Divers found parts of the cockpit voice recorder on Friday as more personnel joined the search for wreckage and victims from an Indonesian plane that crashed last weekend in the Java Sea with 62 people on board. The aerial search for the crashed Sriwijaya Air jet was being expanded as well, said National Search and Rescue Agency mission co-ordinator Rasman, who uses one name. More than 4,000 search and rescue personnel are supported by 14 airplanes, 62 ships and 21 inflatable boats. They are using an underwater metal detector and remotely operated vehicle to search for human remains, the cockpit voice recorder and more wreckage. Divers narrowed the search for the cockpit voice recorder after finding some of its parts. “We have found the casing, the beacon and the CVR batteries. We need to search for the memory unit,” the commander of the navy's First Fleet Command, Abdul Rasyid, said Friday. “We hope it will be not far from them,” he said. Investigators have downloaded information from the plane's flight data recorder, which was recovered earlier this week. “There are 330 parameters and everything is in good condition. We are learning about it now,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Committee. Families of those on board have been providing DNA samples to help identify them. National Police spokesperson Rusdi Hartono said 12 of the 62 victims had been identified as of Thursday, including a flight attendant and an off-duty pilot. The committee has said the crew did not declare an emergency or report any technical problems before the plane plunged into the sea minutes after taking off from Jakarta in heavy rain. They said it broke apart upon impact with the water, ruling out a midair explosion, because the debris field is concentrated and engine parts indicate it was running until impact. The 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 was out of service for almost nine months last year because of flight cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The airline and Indonesian officials say it underwent inspections, including for possible engine corrosion that could have developed during the layoff, before it resumed commercial flying in December. Indonesia’s aviation industry grew quickly after the nation’s economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. Safety concerns led the United States and the European Union to ban Indonesian carriers for years, but the bans have since been lifted due to better compliance with international aviation standards. Edna Tarigan And Fadlan Syam, The Associated Press