A driver in Astana, Kazakhstan underestimates the height of a bridge while transporting a giant deer statue.
A driver in Astana, Kazakhstan underestimates the height of a bridge while transporting a giant deer statue.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
BALTIMORE — The president of a historically Black university in Maryland was so captivated by inaugural poet Amanda Gorman’s poem during President Joe Biden’s inauguration that he offered her a job -- on Twitter. Morgan State University President David Wilson joined the many people lauding Gorman, 22, Wednesday after her recital of “The Hill We Climb,” a poem that summoned images dire and triumphant and echoed the oratory of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among others before the global audience. “Ms. Gorman, I need you as our Poet-in-Residence at the National Treasure, ?@MorganStateU,” Wilson tweeted. “Outstanding!!!!! Consider this a job offer!” Wilson’s offer is certainly not the only opportunity that Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, will receive since her widely praised performance. The Harvard University alum and Los Angeles native is already the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She, along with Vice-President Kamala Harris, inspired many people to tweet about #BlackGirlMagic on Wednesday. And Gorman hasn't been shy to say she'll run for president herself one day. Her career is already taking off: Penguin Young Readers announced Wednesday that “The Hill We Climb” will be published in a special edition this spring. Within hours after her performance, her illustrated “Change Sings” book was No. 1 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list, her September poetry collection was No. 2, and her Instagram followers grew to 1.3 million. But Wilson, who says he was “glued to the TV” while Gorman spoke, has hope. “I’m very serious about opening an opportunity for her to come here as a poet in residence. We have all kinds of authors on campus, and we think that being at Morgan for a year would give her an even deeper and wider perspective on the issues she is addressing. If she would accept this offer, I would move on it in a heartbeat,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “I will be watching my emails.” The Associated Press
Drugmaker Eli Lilly said Thursday its COVID-19 antibody drug can prevent illness in residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care locations. It's the first major study to show such a treatment may prevent disease. Residents and staff who got the drug had up to a 57% lower risk of getting COVID-19 compared to others at the same facility who got a placebo, the drugmaker said. Among nursing home residents only, the risk was reduced by up to 80%. The study involved more than 1,000 residents and staff at nursing homes and other long-term care locations. The research was conducted with the National Institutes of Health. Results were released in a press release and the company said it would publish results in a journal soon. The Food and Drug Administration in November allowed emergency use of Lilly antibody drug as a treatment for mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 that do not require hospitalization. It’s a one-time treatment given through an IV. Lilly said it will seek expansion of that authorization to include using the drug to prevent and treat COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. Nursing homes and other long-term care locations have been hard hit by the pandemic. In the United States, they account for less than 1% of the population, but nearly 40% of deaths from COVID-19. These long-term care locations have been given priority to vaccinate residents and staff with recently authorized COVID-19 vaccines. The Associated Press
ORANGEVILLE, Ont. — A senior staff member at an Ontario hospital has retired after a relative was vaccinated against COVID-19 at a clinic intended for health-care workers. Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville, Ont., has apologized for what it’s calling an isolated incident on Jan. 14. The centre won’t name the individual beyond the title “staff director,” citing privacy reasons. The CEO says the employee's relative was at the hospital for another reason and was vaccinated during a break in scheduled appointments. Kim Delahunt calls it one person's “failure in sound decision-making,” and that health-care leaders must be held to a higher standard. Delahunt says the individual decided to retire after the incident, adding that the hospital is “deeply sorry.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
With the nadir in civic discourse at last year’s U.S. presidential debates fresh in their minds, high school students from across Ontario are preparing to receive an antidote by competing in a high-minded tournament of ideas. Students on 20 teams from 16 schools are getting acquainted with the ways an “ethics bowl” differs from the debating competitions many of them have previously taken part in, and participants say the exercise holds valuable lessons for those in positions of power, too. In a typical debate, “the way you win isn't necessarily by trying to get to the truth, but rather by rhetorical mastery, or trickery, one-upmanship over your opponent,” Jeffrey Senese, president of the Ontario High School Ethics Bowl, explained to a group of students from Assumption College Catholic High School in Windsor this week. “An ethics bowl is different. We're trying to solve problems, get down to the truth. And so to this end, you can ... concede a point to your opponent and this is a sign of collegiality” that is rewarded in the scoring rubric that judges fill in, said Senese, who also runs outreach for the philosophy department at the University of Toronto. “We’re not looking for mic drop moments,” he added, noting the exercise aims to acknowledge that issues are complicated and nuanced, and frames the topic as the target of attention, not the opponent. In fact, incorporating the other team’s valid arguments into your response to an ethical dilemma is actively encouraged, whereas in many debate formats, “you’d be laughed offstage if you admit your opponent said something that was helpful to furthering the conversation,” Senese said. The university’s Mississauga campus hosted 11 schools at the initial Ontario event last year, but the provincial tournament on Feb. 27 will be virtual. The winning team will move on to a national event, also virtual, which will likely happen in late April. By the end of Senese’s presentation to the assembled Assumption students (including the school’s top tennis player and its reigning stock trade simulation champion), all warmed to the concept once they’d worked out how the competition was being scored. “When you start considering the other side, you become even more open-minded and you realize that not every case is black or white, but it's really focusing on that grey area and where you stand there,” said Gaby Ruggero. Mekhi Quarshie describes last September’s chaotic presidential debate, which saw former president Donald Trump constantly interrupting his challenger Joe Biden and the moderator, as the worst he’d ever seen, but said the style is prevalent elsewhere in society, too. “If one person puts up a very good point, even if we might find some validity within it, we want to just bash it down and contradict it,” Quarshie said. As potential future leaders, the event is “training all of us (that) instead of shooting each other down, to really collaboratively come up with great ideas and strengthen our own ideas,” he said. The idea for ethics bowls emerged out of the United States, and was picked up initially out west in Canada, with the involvement of the universities of Manitoba and British Columbia and B.C.’s Simon Fraser University, among others. “I like the idea of an ethics bowl that puts truth and principles above ideology,” said Assumption College's business teacher Jeremy Bracken, who is coaching the school's ethics bowl team as well as its debate team, finance club and numerous business competitions and public speaking events this year. For Ontario's 2021 competition, judges will include professors and professionals, graduate students and other academics in law, political and social science, history, science and medicine. Teams will be judged on whether they clearly address questions and comments from the moderator and opposing team, stay on topic, consider conflicting viewpoints, and engage with counterpoints raised in respectful dialogue. A moderator will tally the number of judges who give a win to each team, rather than tallying their scores, which are not revealed to participants. The finalists will be asked to wrestle with the real-world question of COVID-19 vaccination, including whether health-care workers should be required to get it or if schools should be allowed to restrict access to only vaccinated students. Other examples of issues to be discussed include free speech versus hate speech, drones as weapons, cultural appropriation, toxic masculinity, the call-out culture, and whether police should be invited to Pride parades. Stephanie Gibson took a team from Toronto’s Humberside Collegiate to last year’s event and will be back this year. The school’s Grade 12 philosophy teacher says the bowl encourages the pursuit of ethical truth and forces students to hold their own ideas to account. It is critical to equip young people with critical thinking skills, Gibson says, especially in the current climate, arguing that her subject should be mandatory starting in elementary school to help students “improve upon the clarity of their thinking, their ability to see through illusion, to try to look at different ideas and entertain them without having to take them in as their own.” Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
The city says 160 trees are being cut down along the south side of the Bow River for new construction projects and flood mitigation work. Just between the Reconciliation Bridge and Jaipur Bridge, Calgarians will start to hear the woodchippers soon and trees cleared out. The city says the rough budget for all of the projects in the Eau Claire area — including the flood mitigation, a replacement for the Jaipur Bridge, a new plaza and upgrades to the Centre Street pathway ramp — is around $55 million. Joyce Tang, the Eau Claire area improvements program lead for the City of Calgary, says the plans will help invest into the community. "The (cutting of) trees are part of our projects that will also protect Calgarians and the downtown, our economic driver, from floods. So there's going to be three projects happening in the area. So that's why all the trees are coming down," she told the Calgary Eyeopener. She says Calgary has always aimed to protect its trees and that the plan was a last resort, but a needed one. "What we need to do in order to do the flood work, in order to do lifecycling and maintenance work, we do need to remove these trees," she said. She said that a number of them also have structural defects and need to come down for safety reasons. "We are putting back in 114 trees and shrubs and flowers. What this allows us to do is … to re-establish the canopy coverage, but it also gives us a diversity succession planning," she said. "So not all of the trees are all the same age and that will certainly help with the resiliency of the banks as well." Trees will be repurposed Tang adds that a lot of the downed trees will be put to use, such as spread for flower beds in the area. "We're going to break it down and it'll be organic matter,"she said. As well, she says in the Eau Claire Plaza around 50 trees will be repurposed and integrated into its new design. "Whether that be through benches or fixtures, which is is really neat because it really helps us celebrate the architectural elements and the history of the area," said Tang. Some lumber will also be donated to Bowness High school's construction technology and trade center department, she said. Construction on the project will start this year, with tress being removed up until the summer. Tang says the project in its entirety is expected to be completed by 2023. For more information, the city will be updating the matter on its website. With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
The government of the Northwest Territories on Thursday said it will open 900 more spots at the COVID-19 vaccine clinics next week in Yellowknife to inoculate the city's priority population — people aged 60 years and older. The government has been holding a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for people over 60 in the territory's capital this week, at which all 1,000 spots have been filled. A government spokesperson said there are about 2,000 people over 60 in Yellowknife and the government expects to cover all of them who want it, by the end of next week. The clinic next week will run Monday Jan. 25 to Thursday Jan. 28, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Yellowknife Multiplex DND Gymnasium. People over 60 can book online right now, with the territory's new system, to make their appointments to get vaccinated at the clinics next week.
WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, lowering claims to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to further job cuts in a raging pandemic. The Labor Department's report Thursday underscored that President Joe Biden has inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases spiked, cold weather restricted dining and federal rescue aid expired. The government said that 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That signals that fewer people who are out of work are finding jobs. New viral infections have begun to slow after months of relentless increases, though they remain high and are averaging about 200,000 a day. The number of deaths in the United States from the pandemic that erupted 10 months ago has surpassed 400,000. Economists say one factor that likely increased jobless claims in the past two weeks is a government financial aid package that was signed into law in late December. Among other things, it provided a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit on top of regular state jobless aid. The new benefit, which runs through mid-March, may be encouraging more Americans to apply for jobless benefits. Once vaccines become more widely distributed, economists expect growth to accelerate in the second half of the year as Americans unleash pent-up demand for travel, dining out and visiting movie theatres and concert halls. Such spending should, in theory, boost hiring and start to regain the nearly 10 million jobs lost to the pandemic. But for now, the economy is losing ground. Retail sales have fallen for three straight months. Restrictions on restaurants, bars and some stores, along with a reluctance of most Americans to shop, travel and eat out, have led to sharp spending cutbacks. Revenue at restaurants and bars plunged 21% in 2020. Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press
A full-throated, supremely confident Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem at President Joe Biden's inauguration in a very Gaga way — with flamboyance, fashion and passion. The Grammy winner wore a huge dove-shaped brooch and an impressively billowing red sculpted skirt as she sang into a golden microphone, delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” She was followed at Wednesday's ceremony by Jennifer Lopez, dressed all in white, who threw a line of Spanish into her medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful" — a pointed nod to multiculturalism, just two weeks after white supremacists and other violent rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to undermine the peaceful transfer of power. And country star Garth Brooks, doffing his black cowboy hat, sang a soulful a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his eyes closed for much of the song. He asked the audience to sing a verse with him: “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.” The three superstars were among a slew of glittery celebrities descending on Washington — virtually or in person — to welcome the new administration of Biden and Kamala Harris, a duo popular in Hollywood, where former President Donald Trump was decidedly not. While stars mostly eschewed Trump's inauguration four years ago, the A-list was back for Biden. Brooks was careful to call his decision to perform on Wednesday non-political, and in the spirit of unity. He had performed during the inaugural celebration for Obama in 2009, but turned down a chance to perform for Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict. Gaga went on Twitter later to explain that the giant brooch accompanying her Schiaparelli haute couture outfit was “a dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other.” Lopez was in all-white Chanel, and Brooks kept it real in jeans, an open-collared black shirt and blazer. While the podium was full of high-wattage star power, there was little question that a new star had also emerged: 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, whose poise and urgency as she recited “The Hill We Climb” enthralled a global audience. None other than Bruce Springsteen launched the evening's entertainment: “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with Biden and Harris watching along and giving brief remarks. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side," he sang. "You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.” Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancour in our land” over the past few years. "But tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” he said. Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis. John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honour of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles. A starry collection of Broadway's most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labour leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings ended with a lavish fireworks show in the Washington night sky, watched by Biden (at the White House) and Harris (at the Lincoln Memorial) and their families to — what else? — “Firework,” performed by Katy Perry. The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin, says Lina Mann of the White House Historical Association. “Chaplin performed his monologue from ‘The Great Dictator,’” Mann notes. The celebrity component only increased over time, and one of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. That celebration, hosted by Frank Sinatra, drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities. Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball. ___ AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles. ___ For complete coverage of the inauguration, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/biden-inauguration Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Early in the morning last Friday, Marissa Murphy and her partner were asleep in bed when they heard "aggressive banging" on the doors and windows of their home in Inuvik, N.W.T. "We were kind of scared we didn't know what was going on … as soon as I got downstairs I could see that the whole street was filled with smoke and people were running around, and somebody was at my door looking very panicked," said Murphy. "She was saying that there was a fire and we need to leave." That woman was Murphy's neighbour from across the street, Elise Decarie-Jean, who is being praised by the other tenants for her courage when she stopped to wake up people sleeping during the fire. 'You could feel the heat' No one was injured during the fire on Natala Drive, but there was significant damage to the four-unit townhouses, which included Murphy's unit. Decarie-Jean said she was getting ready for work when she went outside and saw dense smoke. In the past, she has smelled the wood stove burning from the unit where the fire started, but this time was different. That morning, it also smelled like chemicals, and she realized it was a bigger fire. Outside, another woman was calling the fire department, but Decarie-Jean noticed no one else was standing outside and she thought people might still be asleep. I would've never woken up without them pounding on the door - Jerry Lennie-Inglangasuk, resident "That's when I dropped my bags and went to the first door closer to the unit on fire because it was too smoky to go to the first unit where the fire started," said Decarie-Jean. She knocked on the windows and doors of two of the units on both sides of the building. She said someone else had alerted the person in the fourth unit. Murphy, who is new to Inuvik and has only been living in her home since September, praises Decarie-Jean's actions. "I just went into pure adrenaline mode," Murphy said. "I have four parrots and two rabbits. I wasn't exactly prepared to do something, but luckily I had a couple of carriers in the room and I just kinda shoved them in the carriers and we ran out. I was still in PJs." Murphy, her partner and animals all waited at Decarie-Jean's house as they figured out what to do. "It was just incredible the heroism that it took to go and to make sure that everyone was awake and that the fire department was called. It could've been really dangerous," said Murphy. I don't think anyone would've been able to stand there and do nothing. - Elise Decarie-Jean, resident Jerry Lennie-Inglangasuk and his partner live in one of the units Decarie-Jean knocked on. "My room was right behind where the fire was, and that was full of smoke already," said Lennie-Inglangasuk. "You could feel the heat … I would've never woken up without them pounding on the door … true northerners." Fire being investigated Both Lennie-Inglangasuk and Murphy say the unit where the fire started doesn't have power. They say the person living there creates his own heat, which they suspect is either a generator or wood stove. They also say this isn't the first time the fire department has been called to the unit; sparks were flying from the same unit's chimney back in November. "I feel really ticked off because he endangered my family," said Lennie-Inglangasuk. Fire Chief Cynthia Hammond confirmed to CBC that the fire is still under investigation. Lennie-Inglangasuk, whose granddaughter lives in the fourth row house, says the units are still out of water and they have all been cleaning tirelessly due to the smoke damage. He couldn't be more thankful to Decarie-Jean, and gave her a painting to express his gratitude. "I would just like to thank them for saving my life, and my granddaughter's life, and my family's life," said Lennie-Inglangasuk. But for Decarie-Jean, she says anyone would've done the same thing if they were in her position. "What else would you have done? I don't think anyone would've been able to stand there and do nothing," said Decarie-Jean. "You do good, and you receive good."
LONDON — Britain’s Glastonbury music festival has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic for the second year in a row. Organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said Thursday that “In spite of our efforts to move heaven & earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year.” “We are so sorry to let you all down,” they said in a statement. They said everyone who had put down a deposit on tickets for the 2020 festival, which also was cancelled, would be able to attend in 2022. The festival has been held almost annually since 1970, drawing up to 150,000 people to the Eavis’ Worthy Farm in southwest England. Last year’s 50th anniversary event, which had been due to feature Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, the Pet Shop Boys and Paul McCartney, was cancelled in March as the virus began to sweep the U.K. Father and daughter Michael and Emily Eavis thanked fans “for your incredible continued support and let’s look forward to better times ahead.” The Associated Press
COVID-19 has been far from sweet for Godiva, which has decided to sell or close its stores across North America. The luxury chocolatier says 128 brick and mortar locations, including 11 in Canada, will shut by the end of March. The company declined to say how many jobs will be affected by the decision. Godiva will maintain retail operations across Europe, the Middle East and China. The closures mark a reversal from its strategy announced in 2019 to open 2,000 cafe locations worldwide, including more than 400 in North America. It says a key part of its moves has been to focus on retail food and pharmacy locations as well as online. It noted that in-person shopping at its own stores has waned because of the pandemic and changes in consumer shopping behaviour. “Godiva is already available in many retailers in North America and we will continue to increase our presence there while always upholding the premium quality, taste, and innovation that we have been renowned for since we were founded in Brussels in 1926,” stated CEO Nurtac Afridi. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
French hospital workers demand more resources to cope with the relentless influx of COVID-19 patients.View on euronews
Farming in Canada has long been filled with family and legacy farms bringing new workers into the industry, but a new program for aspiring farmers aims to offer a helping hand to the industry's next generation. The Business Bootcamp for New Farmers is a new program created by Young Agrarians, a farmer-to-farmer educational resource network that started in 2012. The program offers lessons for new and aspiring farmers from experts in the field. Alexandra Pulwicki, e-learning coordinator for Young Agrarians, said her organization noticed a lot of the available resources were geared toward conventional, large-scale farms with one or two crops. But they heard from a lot of aspiring farmers, Pulwicki said, who were interested in diversified farms and had backgrounds outside the industry. "There's just kind of an eagerness in the people who have signed up to get going," Pulwicki said on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Wednesday afternoon. "But it seems like there's this barrier of not knowing where to turn for supports. This kind of small-scale diversified farming is different than conventional agriculture." The program covers 10 topics over as many weeks, teaching new farmers about the market, business structure and financing for farms, among other things. Each camp has 30 spots, and sign-ups are charged on a sliding scale between $250 and $350. The bootcamp was launched at the start of January, but Pulwicki says it filled up so quickly with a long enough waitlist that Young Agrarians is already starting a second program in February. Instructors in the program include ranchers, florists, marketing and finance experts, and a variety of farmers from across western Canada. Pulwicki says roughly two-thirds of new farmers in Canada are coming from non-farming backgrounds, which represents a dramatic change from previous generations, who mostly grew up on a farm or had relatives working in the industry. Having that family history in farming makes for a smoother transition that many new farmers today don't have. But less than 10 per cent of farmers in Canada are 35 or younger, Pulwicki said, meaning there's a lot of land and knowledge that will need to be passed on in the coming years. "Right now we're really seeing a surge of people coming often from cities who want to grow food and provide for their communities," Pulwicki said. "There's a big transition of farming knowledge that needs to happen, and a big group of new farmers that need to come up and take the reins of these farms."
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dr. Salomon Melgen once held political fundraisers at his palatial Florida home, hung out with prominent Democrats including New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and made millions of dollars through his eye care practice. The problem, according to federal prosecutors, was that Melgen was also bilking Medicare out of at least $73 million by persuading numerous elderly patients to undergo tests and get treatment for diseases they did not actually have. Eventually, he was put on trial in West Palm Beach federal court. He was convicted in April 2017 on 67 counts, including health care fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying patient records. A judge put Melgen, now 66, in prison for 17 years. But on Wednesday, Melgen was released after he was included on a list of more than 140 people who were either pardoned or had their sentences commuted by President Donald Trump during his last hours in the White House. A White House statement credited Menendez with supporting clemency for Melgen, who was a donor to Democratic politicians and a longtime friend of the Cuban-American New Jersey senator. The statement said clemency for Melgen also was supported by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and members of Brigade 2506, the Cuban exile group involved in the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. “Numerous patients and friends testify to his generosity in treating all patients, especially those unable to pay or unable to afford healthcare insurance,” the White House statement said. In a statement of his own, Menendez said he did very little on Melgen’s behalf and did not expect the clemency decision from Trump. There’s also scant evidence of any relationship between Trump and Melgen. “I don’t pretend to know what motivates President Trump to act, but I am pretty sure it’s not me,” Menendez said. “Months ago, I was asked if I could offer insight about an old friend, and I did, along with what I understand were more than 100 individuals and organizations, including his former patients and local Hispanic groups familiar with Sal’s leadership and philanthropy in the South Florida community.” Melgen, originally from the Dominican Republic and a Harvard-trained ophthalmologist, became a notable Democratic fundraiser, hosting numerous events at his home in North Palm Beach. He once treated former Florida Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who appointed him to a state board. Several months after Melgen's conviction on the Medicare fraud charges, he and Menendez went on trial together in a separate corruption case in New Jersey involving trips and gifts the doctor gave the senator. A federal jury in New Jersey failed to reach a verdict on charges that Melgen used his relationship to bribe Menendez. A mistrial was declared and prosecutors decided against a second trial. During the corruption trial, testimony showed Melgen paid for numerous trips with Menendez to locations including France and a home the doctor owns at a Dominican resort. Once those trips became public, Menendez reimbursed Melgen $58,500 for the costs. Menendez was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for his relationship with Melgen but still won a third Senate term in the 2018 election. Curt Anderson, The Associated Press
TC Energy Corp will eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs in coming weeks and halt work on the Keystone XL oil pipeline after U.S. President Joe Biden revoked the project's presidential permit, the company said in an email to employees. Biden's decision to cancel the permit is seen as the project's death knell, after more than a decade of legal battles and shifting fortunes based on who held office in the White House. "I believe this will send a concerning signal to infrastructure developers that resonates far beyond our project and will stifle innovation for a practical transition towards sustainable energy," said KXL President Richard Prior in the email, sent on Wednesday and seen by Reuters.
BAGHDAD — Twin suicide bombings ripped through a busy market in the Iraqi capital Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens, officials said. The rare suicide bombing hit the Bab al-Sharqi commercial area in central Baghdad amid heightened political tensions over planned early elections and a severe economic crisis. Blood was splattered on the pavement of the busy market amid piles of clothes and shoes as survivors took stock of the disarray in the aftermath. No one immediately took responsibility for the attack, but Iraqi military officials said it was the work of the Islamic State group. Iraq's health minister Hassan Mohammed al-Tamimi said at least 32 people were killed and 110 were wounded in the attack. He said some of the wounded were in serious condition. Iraq's military previously put the number of dead at 28. The Health Ministry announced that all of its hospitals in the capital were mobilized to treat the wounded. Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes an array of Iraqi forces, said the first suicide bomber cried out loudly that he was ill in the middle of the bustling market, prompting a crowd to gather around him — and that's when he detonated his explosive belt. The second detonated his belt shortly after, he said. “This is a terrorist act perpetrated by a sleeper cell of the Islamic State,” al-Khafaji said. He said IS “wanted to prove its existence" after suffering many blows in military operations to root out the militants. At the Vatican, Pope Francis denounced the attack in Baghdad as a “senseless act of brutality” and urged Iraqis to keep working to replace violence with fraternity and peace. The telegram of condolences sent to the Iraqi president was particularly heartfelt, given Francis is due to visit Iraq in early March to try to encourage the country’s Christian communities that have been devastated by IS persecution. Thursday's twin suicide bombings marked the first in three years to target Baghdad's bustling commercial area. A suicide bomb attack took place in the same area in 2018 shortly after then-Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State group, a Sunni militant group. Iraq has seen assaults perpetrated by both the Islamic State group and mostly Shiite militia groups in recent months. Militias have routinely targeted the American presence in Iraq with rocket and mortar attacks, especially the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. The pace of those attacks, however, has decreased since an informal truce was declared by Iran-backed armed groups in October. The style of Thursday's assault was similar to those IS has conducted in the past. But the group has rarely been able to penetrate the capital since being dislodged by Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition in 2017. IS has shown an ability to stage increasingly sophisticated attacks across northern Iraq, where it still maintains a presence, three years after Iraq declared victory over the group. Iraqi security forces are frequently ambushed and targeted with IEDs in rural areas of Kirkuk and Diyala. An increase in attacks was seen last summer as militants took advantage of the government's focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The twin bombings Thursday came days after Iraq's government unanimously agreed to hold early elections in October. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had announced in July that early polls would be held to meet the demands of anti-government protesters. Demonstrators took to the streets in the tens of thousands last year to demand political change, and an end to rampant corruption and poor services. More than 500 people were killed in mass demonstrations as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds. Iraq is also grappling with a severe economic crisis brought on by low oil prices that has led the government to borrow internally and risk depleting its foreign currency reserves. The Central Bank of Iraq devalued Iraq's dinar by nearly 20% last year to meet spending obligations. ___ Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj in Baghdad contributed to this report. Samya Kullab And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
HEERENVEEN, Netherlands — Canada's long-track speedskating team has entered a Dutch "bubble" to compete in its first international races in over 10 months. Olympic and world champion Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary and world champion Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa lead a Canadian contingent of 13 skaters into Heerenveen, the Netherlands for their first World Cup races of the season starting Friday. Their racing season has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadians will compete in World Cup races crammed into a pair of weekends, and remain in the Netherlands for next month's world championship. Canada's long-track team had its most successful season in a decade in 2019-20 with 10 world championship medals, including three gold, and 31 World Cup medals. The team has been without ice in the Calgary Oval since Sept. 5, however, because of a mechanical failure. Ice isn't expected to be restored before May. Aside from two weeks in an indoor oval in Fort St. John, B.C., in November and outdoor skating in Red Deer, Alta., the athletes' training has been limited to dryland and short-track workouts. "The focus over the next month will not be on podium performances, but more so on skaters to continue their preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing," Speed Skating Canada said in a statement. "They will look to utilize the valuable ice time in Heerenveen to regain their form, before lining up for their first races in over 10 months." Toronto's Jordan Belchos, Ottawa's Isabelle Weidemann, Calgary's Kaylin Irvine and Gilmore Junio, Winnipeg's Heather McLean, Valérie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., Laurent Dubreuil of Lévis, Que., Alex Boisvert-Lacroix of Sherbrooke, Que., Abigail McCluskey of Penticton, B.C., Quebec City's Béatrice Lamarche and Connor Howe of Canmore, Alta., round out Canada's team. Participation was the choice of each athlete, coach and staff member, Speed Skating Canada said in the statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania woman facing charges that she helped steal a laptop from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the attack on the U.S. Capitol will be released from jail, a federal judge decided Thursday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson directed that Riley June Williams be released into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions, and instructed her to appear Monday in federal court in Washington to continue her case. “The gravity of these offences is great,” Carlson told Williams. “It cannot be overstated.” Williams, 22, of Harrisburg, is accused of theft, obstruction and trespassing, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Carlson noted Williams has no prior criminal record. The FBI says an unidentified former romantic partner of Williams tipped them off that she appeared in video from the Jan. 6 rioting and the tipster claimed she had hoped to sell the computer to Russian intelligence. Williams' defence lawyer, Lori Ulrich, told Carlson the tipster is a former boyfriend who had been abusive to Williams and that “his accusations are overstated.” Video from the riot shows a woman matching Williams' description exhorting invaders to go “upstairs, upstairs, upstairs” during the attack, which briefly disrupted certification of President Joe Biden's electoral victory. “It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president's bait and went inside the Capitol,” Ulrich told the judge. Williams surrendered to face charges on Monday. She was expected to leave the county jail in Harrisburg later Thursday, and will be on electronic monitoring to await trial. She did not respond to questions as a federal marshal led her in handcuffs out of the courtroom. Carlson made direct reference to the attack on the Capitol, saying a howling crowd tried unsuccessfully to prevent the peaceful transition of power. “It has been honoured by generations of Americans for 232 years,” Carlson said. “It has become so commonplace that we often think very little of it.” In adding the theft-related charges on Tuesday, a Virginia-based FBI agent said Williams was recorded on closed-circuit cameras in the Capitol going into and coming out of Pelosi's office. The agent's affidavit said a cellphone video that was likely shot by Williams shows a man's gloved hand lifting an HP laptop from a table, and the caption read, “they got the laptop.” Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, has said a laptop used only for presentations was taken from a conference room. The current location of the computer has not been disclosed in court documents, and was not discussed in court on Thursday. Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press
BETHEL, Alaska — A fire in an Alaska village burned a plant that served as the community's only source of clean, running water, leaving residents waiting for a delivery of water by plane. Alaska State Troopers said the fire at the water plant in Tuluksak burned from about noon until 4:30 p.m. last Saturday, KYUK-AM reported. Residents of the Alaska Native community northeast of Bethel hauled water from the Tuluksak River with snowmachines while attempting to douse the flames that eventually destroyed the plant. “When I looked out the window, my husband and a few other men were trying to get into the water plant and washeteria. They had to break the door, but they were a little too late," said Tribal Council Secretary Kristy Napoka, who lives next door and works at the plant. Napoka’s husband unsuccessfully attempted to use a hose to stop the blaze before her family brought water from the river, she said. "They started splashing water into the fire, but it didn’t do any good. It just kept getting bigger and worse,” Napoka said. Villagers who did not have potable water saved in their home tanks had the option of hauling water from the nearby Kuskokwim River or awaiting a shipment of bottled water. Cases of donated bottled water were delayed in Bethel because of airport runway closures and thin river ice. Tuluksak’s runway was unusable for some time because of poor weather conditions. The person who usually plows the runway was in Anchorage being treated for COVID-19. Napoka said her family had 20 gallons (76 litres) of drinkable water left to share between nine household members. They used water from the Tuluksak River for dishes and cleaning, but were not planning to drink it, she said. Residents have previously made complaints to the state Legislature about sediment making Tuluksak River water unsafe to drink. The Associated Press