Glass Fire wreaked havoc across the state of California in the United States. The fire was ablaze and black smoke choked the city as conditions got worse.
Glass Fire wreaked havoc across the state of California in the United States. The fire was ablaze and black smoke choked the city as conditions got worse.
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
A $2 million family healing and wellness centre is scheduled for construction on Muskowekwan First Nation. The First Nation, which is about 330 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, expects the project to be completed in 2021. Funded by an Indigenous Services Canada initiative, the centre will be built in the spring and summer, a government statement announced on Monday. The prepared statement said the centre will have four family log homes, each holding two to four bedrooms. The First Nation will use a fifth home for healing program delivery. Operations support will come from community Elders, in addition to counsellors and staff. In a prepared statement, Chief Reginald Bellerose said the project is an "urgently needed" step on a "healing journey from the historical effects of attending residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, among other traumas." While he said communities like his are in crisis, he hopes the model of care will produce tangible results for his First Nation. The project is "driven by the community, for the community," he said. The goal is to "provide a welcoming, homelike environment where families in crisis referred to the Centre can get the support they need to help heal together," the federal government's statement added.Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
NEW YORK — Jawan M. Jackson recently got to do something he's been yearning to do for months — sing and dance again with his Broadway cast.Jackson is one of the stars of “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations” and he reunited with castmates for the first time since theatres shuttered to prepare for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.“I was most happy with just seeing all my old friends I haven’t seen in months, some who flew in specifically for the show to do this,” he said. “It was different, but it was still great to do.”The pandemic, which shut down theatres in March, may have upended most traditions this holiday season, but the annual New York City parade will march on with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa — albeit heavily edited for safety.“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year's parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it's a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.The biggest change this year is that the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan has been scrapped in favour of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances have been pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.In addition to “Ain’t Too Proud," the parade will feature performances from the Broadway casts of “Hamilton,” “Mean Girls” and “Jagged Little Pill,” a musical built around the music of Alanis Morissette. The Broadway performances were taped days before the parade.Things felt a lot different for actor Derek Klena, who was in the 2017 parade as part of the cast of “Anastasia.” This year, he's Tony Award-nominated for his role in “Jagged Little Pill” and helped perform “You Learn” from the Tony-nominated show.The cast was quarantined for two weeks before taping and tested regularly for the virus. Cast members rehearsed in masks until the moment cameras started rolling and kept socially distant. They sang live this time instead of years past when casts lip-synched."Although the circumstances were much different, it was still so magical and fulfilling to get to share that experience with your fellow castmates after being distant for so long," said Klena.“I think it was important to everybody to find a way to still celebrate this event and celebrate the shows and the companies that all get to share in this amazing event.”Both Jackson and Klena said everyone adhered to the show's strict safety protocols — enforcing the 6-foot rule, frequent testing and requiring face masks plus face shields, as well as a fresh mask after their performance. “I’m appreciative of it because it is built to keep you safe,” said Jackson, though he noted “dancing in a mask is a tough feat.”This year's lineup of balloons includes Snoopy, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “The Elf on the Shelf,” Chase from "Paw Patrol," Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants and “Trolls.” New this time are “The Boss Baby” and Red Titan from “Ryan’s World.”The giant cartoon-character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 rope-pulling handlers assigned to each inflatable and will instead be tethered to specialized vehicles.Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jordin Sparks will perform, and there will be floats from “Blue’s Clues,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and Lego. There will be a New York City Ballet ballerina with a performance from “The Nutcracker,” an all-female samba drumline and acrobats from “The Big Apple Circus,” and the Rockettes will be out in force. The parade ends with an appearance from Santa Claus.Another change this year was the decision to spotlight many of the New York City parades that were cancelled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and NYC Pride March.“We’re going to be highlighting them, and we’re going to be really giving them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’re going to be able to see creativity in this entertainment come to life that has sort of been dormant for the past seven months.”For the Broadway performers, there's a silver lining to the changes this year. Usually on Thanksgiving Day, they'd be freezing in Midtown, having woken at dawn and been dancing and singing for hours. This year, they get to watch themselves from the warmth of their apartments, a job already well done.“It’s the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I either don’t have a show or I’m not taping something,” said Klena. “So in that way it’ll be kind of fun to just celebrate with some of my friends here in the city and my wife.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
TORONTO — A judge accused of lying about his involvement in a Black activist organization will face a disciplinary hearing starting next month, the Ontario Judicial Council has announced.The four-person panel will delve into whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians. McLeod was cleared in the earlier process and denies the current unproven allegations.If the complaints are proven, the panel could impose punishment up to suspension with or without pay. It could also recommend to the attorney general that McLeod be forced from the Ontario court bench.In its notice of hearing filed earlier this year, the council alleges the judge behaved in a manner "incompatible with the due execution of the duties of his office."The earlier hearing focused on McLeod's involvement with the non-profit federation, which advocates on legal and policy issues affecting the community. Key was his role in the group's advocacy related to a Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.In December 2018, the panel dismissed the complaint based on an agreed statement of facts and McLeod's evidence that he was no longer involved in Abdi advocacy. That wasn't true, the new complaint alleges.Among other things, McLeod is alleged to have either arranged or taken part in a meeting with then-refugee minister, Ahmed Hussen, on the federation's behalf. "Contrary to his evidence at the hearing, Justice McLeod was involved in (the federation's) efforts in this regard," the hearing notice states. "In light of the above, His Honour committed perjury and/or misled the hearing panel regarding his involvement in the Abdi case."Similarly, the notice alleges the judge resumed his leadership role during which time the federation sought funding from government and met various officials.It also says he spoke at a political summit in Ottawa in February 2019. At one point, a security guard ordered a group of Black attendees to leave the Parliament Hill cafeteria in an allegedly racist incident.McLeod, according to the notice, counselled two witnesses against speaking out about the incident which, the complaint asserts, amounted to giving legal advice or using his position to influence them.Overall, the complaint alleges, McLeod's conduct could undermine public confidence in the judiciary.In his response, the judge maintains his meeting with Hussen in January 2018 was not about Abdi. He also states the allegations are based on claims from people who did not directly witnesses the various events."The evidence will show Justice McLeod did not commit perjury or intentionally mislead the 2018 hearing panel," his response states. "(He did not) engage in impermissible advocacy or lobbying, or attempt to pressure or intimidate two youth delegates."McLeod says the earlier panel recognized that racialized judges "legitimately feel and act upon a moral obligation to serve as leaders and role models" in their communities.His return to the federation in a "limited capacity" was in line with the panel's decision and his advice to the youth delegates about the cafeteria incident was based on his personal experience as a Black man, he says. "The choice not to investigate this matter thoroughly led to a notice of hearing that contains unnecessary allegations," his response states.The hearing panel will comprise an Appeal Court and a Superior Court justice, a lawyer and a community member. The virtual hearing, scheduled for 20 days over three weeks, is set to begin Dec. 7 and will be open to the public.Several groups of Black Canadians have called for the misconduct charges to be dropped.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — When Jenna Powell gets in front of a camera, she can sell $10,000 worth of sparkly dresses and tie-dye hoodies in 40 minutes.Powell, whose three Jennaration shops in Alabama were closed at the start of the pandemic, has put all her focus on selling through live videos, broadcasting live several times a week to 400 people who watch on Facebook or her store’s app. She puts on clothes from her shop, spins for the camera and tries to get viewers to buy.“This top is a deal for $22!,” Powell says in a recent video about a leopard print sweater she's wearing. “It’s just very, very well made, y’all!”Livestream selling, already popular in China, is taking off in the U.S., ushering in a new way for Americans to shop online. Instead of searching for what they want, they pick up their phones, sit back, and click to buy if they like what they see.This way of shopping is expected to ring up nearly $5 billion in sales this year, and reach $25 billion in 2023, according to retail data firm Coresight Research.The pandemic is helping to fuel the boom. Business owners with closed stores have taken to livestreaming to sell animal print tops, heated eyelash curlers and just about anything else. They have a captive audience: Many Americans stuck at home with nowhere to go are looking for something to watch. At the same time, tech companies, including Facebook, Instagram and Amazon, have made it easy for businesses to livestream from their smartphones.No one would confuse these videos for the more polished programing on home shopping channels QVC or HSN. Cameras fall. Sometimes the video is upside down. And the WiFi crashes. But Powell, who livestreams from Jennaration's 5,500-square-foot warehouse, says people tune in because her videos are relatable, like when her son shows up and makes faces at the camera.“It’s real life. It’s not like looking at a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. I’m a real person,” says Powell, whose livestreams helped her 7-year-old business nail its bestselling month in April, even though her stores were shut.She plans to go live Thanksgiving night, hoping to catch the attention of bargain hunters who have to stay home after their turkey meals because Walmart, Target and other major stores won't be holding in-store doorbuster sales that night for the first time in years. “Those people still want to shop,” she says.CommentSold, which makes the software that Jennaration and more than 4,000 other stores use to livestream, expects users to sell $1 billion worth of goods this year, more than triple last year. Most of the shoppers tend to be women over the age of 35, who chat with each other in the comments about which outfits they like or what they want to buy.“It’s like going on a shopping trip together,” says CommentSold founder Brandon Kruse.LaKesha Williamson says she watches about 30 hours of live sales a month, spending about $50 a week on tops, jewelry or smartphone chargers.“That’s the only way I shop now,” says the 42-year-old from Calera, Alabama, who works at a domestic violence shelter.The videos let her see how clothing fits on real people. She also likes that the hosts call out her name when she asks questions or comments on an outfit.“It’s like having a conversation with somebody on TV," Williamson says.Dan Hodges, CEO of retail advisory firm Consumers in Motion, thinks livestreaming will transform online shopping because it adds a human touch missing from e-commerce: a live person who can answer questions and make recommendations.He envisions a future where department stores will launch their own livestreaming channels, featuring workers from the beauty counter or the shoe department, giving shoppers tips and fashion advice without having to walk into a store.Online shopping giant Amazon has been experimenting with livestreaming for five years, but last year it offered a free app allowing businesses that sell goods on the site to livestream from their smartphones. Shoppers can ask questions in a chat box, and the products that the hosts are talking about show up near the video, making it easy click to buy. During its two-day Prime Day sales event last month, Amazon says it aired 1,200 livestreams.Beauty brand Chella started livestreaming on Amazon about a year ago, showing shoppers how to use its eyebrow gels, heated eyelash curlers and mascaras. The average video gets about 3,000 views, which Chella says is a big audience for a small brand.Kayla Parks, who works at Chella and hosts the Amazon livestreams, has noticed viewers have gotten chattier during the pandemic, complementing her nail polish or asking which eyeliner colour matches their hair colour. She thinks its either because it's harder to speak to workers at makeup stores, or, they're just lonely.“Maybe they want someone to talk to,” says Parks. “They don’t always feel like they’re being sold to. It’s like you’re talking to your friends.”Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
SOCIÉTÉ. Le 25 novembre marque le début de la 11e édition des 12 jours d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes. Une initiative toujours aussi pertinente pour la ministre responsable de la Condition féminine Isabelle Charest. «Je veux remercier les organismes qui se mobilisent à la grandeur du Québec pour porter ce message important. La violence faite aux femmes, c’est l’affaire de tout le monde et je joins ma voix aux membres du Comité des 12 jours pour dénoncer ce fléau. Même après 11 ans d’action, le portrait de la violence faite aux femmes est extrêmement inquiétant au Québec. Les femmes sont toujours les principales victimes de crimes contre la personne, et sont aux prises avec des formes de violence parfois invisibles, qui prennent place dans toutes les sphères de leur vie», indique Isabelle Charest qui invite les Québécoises et les Québécois «à dénoncer, à s’éduquer et à s’entraider afin d’enrayer une bonne fois pour toutes ce phénomène extrêmement préoccupant».Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
The raft of musicians who were snubbed by the 2021 Grammy Award nominations on Tuesday highlight the Recording Academy's scattershot efforts at inclusion, say industry observers, pointing out that ironically, those snubs might have been inadvertently caused by the academy's attempts to do the opposite. "I was a little bit surprised by the dearth of albums by Black artists in the album of the year category," said Jeremy Helligar, a journalist with the trade magazine Variety. The category is the most-coveted award of the night, and among the eight nominees — Jacob Collier, HAIM, Dua Lipa, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Black Pumas and Jhené Aiko — only the last two include Black or biracial members. Beyoncé's anthem about Black pride, Black Parade, scored nine nominations, including song and record of the year, making her the leading contender and the second-most nominated act in the history of the awards show. But other high-performing albums were ignored in favour of those that largely went under the radar — most notably, Coldplay's Everyday Life.Music fans critiqued the Recording Academy, which hands out the awards, on Twitter for ignoring Lil Baby's My Turn and Roddy Ricch's Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, both double-platinum albums.Rapper Nicki Minaj also threw her support behind the two artists soon after the list was announced, reminding fans that she herself was ignored for best new artist in 2012 in place of "white man Bon Iver.""It's like they try to embrace as diverse a group as they can to try to show that they're thinking outside of the box," Helligar said. "But by thinking outside of the box, they miss some of the obvious choices that are really worthy."Dropping 'urban' category not enoughOne of the academy's recent attempts to think outside of the box was the decision to drop the word "urban" from the "best urban contemporary album" category — now called "best progressive R&B album." Helligar has written about the decision, which he says seemed like a good-faith attempt to move away from a term that lumped Black musicians together regardless of genre but ended up being little more than lip service. It was also undercut by the continued use of the "urban" designation in Latin music categories. Organizers also changed the best world music album to "best global music album" as "a departure from the connotations of colonialism." This came among similar changes at other awards shows — such as the Oscars renaming best foreign language film to "best international feature film" and the Junos renaming the Indigenous album of the year to "Indigenous artist or group of the year" in late 2019."This is the year when the academy could have really made a statement about its support of Black music," said Helligar.But despite those efforts, Helligar says, the "hand-wringing" and the focus on categories in general by the Recording Academy could result in Black artists being lumped together once again — something he feared he saw evidence of in the best album category this year.The Weeknd ignoredMusic and culture journalist Gary Suarez, who has written for Vulture and other publications, says the academy's focus on categories and genres, and its difficulty fully nailing them down, could have played a role in the passing over of other contenders.For example, despite Canadian musician The Weeknd having produced one of the biggest albums of the year with After Hours, winning big at the American Music Awards and being named as the Super Bowl halftime performer, he didn't receive a single Grammy nomination.The singer responded to the snub Tuesday, writing: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…"Suarez says the reason for the snub could be that The Weeknd's music fits into so many different genres, including electronic, pop and R&B. The academy's concern with categories and genres, he says, can cause artists to fall through the cracks. "The simple fact is that when you create these genre categories, you're ghettoizing artists whether you intend to or not," Suarez said. "It's entirely possible that The Weeknd could have had his votes split in too many ways so that he didn't make the long list."After the Weeknd called out the academy, Harvey Mason Jr., the academy's interim president and CEO, released a statement explaining that, "unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.""We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he's feeling," Mason Jr. said.A 'silent hierarchy' of decision makersThe concern over the academy's decision making was echoed by Justin Bieber later Tuesday. The Canadian singer thanked the Grammys for putting his album Changes up for best pop vocal album but questioned why it was selected for the category."Changes was and is an R&B album," Bieber wrote on Instagram."For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!"The apparent disconnect between the academy's categories and how people listen to music, Saurez says, is only serving to further alienate fans from the industry."When you have artists who do the extraordinary things that we as listeners, as journalists celebrate artists for, but the institutions in the industry can't find a home for them in their little boxes," Suarez said, "then we have to ask ourselves: What does this industry serve? Who does this industry serve?"Music journalist A. Harmony doesn't think the Grammys are doing a good job of fixing that. In her view, the awards have a "silent hierarchy," that determines what qualifies as "real music," and people of colour are more often shut out of broader categories with universal appeal. But, she said, the lack of recognition is hurting artists less now than in the past. As organizers continue to break away from what people are actually listening to, she says, people are paying less attention to who is nominated for the Grammys and who wins."It seems as though the consumer now is dictating what they like and what they want to listen to, and they seem to be a lot more inclusive and accepting of a wider range of artists than the Grammys," said Harmony, who contributes to CBC's q."So, I think if the Grammys don't learn the lessons that they're meant to learn soon, they will just fade into the abyss."
Trying to make sense of the shakeup at city hall? It's a bit of a puzzle, but a comparison of the old and new organizational charts - aided by a memo from acting city manager Walter Babicz that was leaked to CKPG - provides a certain amount of clarity. In essence, one half of a department has been scrapped and another has taken on a significantly bigger workload under a COVID-induced revamping at city hall. At its centre, the infrastructure and services department is being eliminated and replaced, in part, with a new civic operations department that will take on five divisions largely related to the public works side of its predecessor: transportation and technical services, project delivery (previously named infrastructure delivery), parks and solid waste, roads and fleet, and utilities. With the move, the old department's general manager, Dave Dyer, has gone into retirement and public works director Gina Layte Liston and infrastructure services director Adam Homes are no longer on the payroll. In turn, the planning and development department has been renamed the planning, development and infrastructure services department and has taken on two divisions previously under infrastructure and services - asset management and infrastructure and planning and engineering. As well, Babicz said in the memo that the environmental services division, previously part of infrastructure and services, has been reduced and split between civic operations through its utilities division, and the development services division within the planning, development and infrastructure services department. The bylaw services division, meanwhile, has been moved to the community services and public safety department from planning, development and infrastructure services department, while the financial services department has taken on the financial management functions for both the community services and public safety department and the old infrastructure services department. In an email, city spokesperson Mike Kellett confirmed that in addition to their roles as acting city manager and acting deputy city manager, Babicz and Ian Wells will continue as the heads, respectively, of the administrative services and planning, development, and infrastructure services departments. Blake McIntosh, who has been manager of the roads and fleet division, is acting director of the civic operations department, while Kris Dalio remains head of finance, Adam Davey head of community services and public safety and Rae Ann Emery head of human resources, now known as human resources and corporate safety. And strategic Initiatives and partnerships, which is led by Chris Bone, now reports to Wells in planning, development, and infrastructure services. Babicz has said the changes were made to reduce costs in the face of a major hit to revenue due to the pandemic. He has declined to say publicly who has lost their jobs as a result but in an emailed statement to the Citizen early this month, he did say six management and four unionized positions were eliminated. One of the management positions was to be refilled and one of the unionized jobs was vacant prior to the changes. Exactly how much savings they will deliver will be known as part of a bigger presentation staff will make to council's finance and audit committee meeting on December 7 at city hall.Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
WASHINGTON — Gripped by the accelerating viral outbreak, the U.S. economy is under pressure from persistent layoffs, diminished income and nervous consumers, whose spending is needed to drive a recovery from the pandemic.A flurry of data released Wednesday suggested that the spread of the virus is intensifying the threats to an economy still struggling to recover from the deep recession that struck in early spring.The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs more than eight months after the virus hit. Before the pandemic, weekly jobless claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. Layoffs are still historically high, with many businesses unable to fully reopen and some, especially restaurants and bars, facing tightened restrictions.Consumers increased their spending last month by just 0.5%, the weakest rise since the pandemic erupted. The tepid figure suggested that on the eve of the crucial holiday shopping season, Americans remain anxious with the virus spreading and Congress failing to enact any further aid for struggling individuals, businesses, cities and states. At the same time, the government said Wednesday that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.The spike in virus cases is heightening pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose curbs on businesses. The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, is expected to eke out a modest gain this quarter before weakening — and perhaps shrinking — early next year. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts annual GDP growth of around 2% in the October-December quarter, with the possibility of GDP turning negative in the first quarter of 2021.Economists at JPMorgan Chase have slashed their forecast for the first quarter to a negative 1% annual GDP rate.“This winter will be grim,” they wrote in a research note.Zandi warned that until Congress agrees on a new stimulus plan to replace a now-expired multi-trillion-dollar aid package enacted in the spring, the threat to the economy will grow.“The economy is going to be very uncomfortable between now and when we get the next fiscal rescue package,” Zandi said. “If lawmakers can’t get it together, it will be very difficult for the economy to avoid going back into a recession.”Some corners of the economy still show strength, or at least resilience. Manufacturing is one. The government said Wednesday that orders for durable goods rose 1.3% in October, a sign that purchases of goods remain solid even while the economy's much larger service sector — everything from restaurants, hotels and airlines to gyms, hair salons and entertainment venues — is still struggling. But economists caution that factories, too, remain at risk from the surge in coronavirus cases, which could throttle demand in coming months.And sales of new homes remained steady in October, the latest sign that ultra-low mortgage rates and a paucity of properties for sale have spurred demand and made the housing market a rare economic bright spot.But at the heart of the economy are the job market and consumer spending, which remain especially vulnerable to the spike in virus cases. Most economists say the distribution of an effective vaccine would likely reinvigorate growth next year. Yet they warn that any sustained recovery will also hinge on whether Congress can agree soon on a sizable aid package to carry the economy through what could be a bleak winter.“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,? said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.The government said he total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week. That figure has been declining for months. It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months.More Americans are collecting benefits under programs that were set up to cushion the economic pain from the pandemic. For the week of Nov. 7, the number of people collecting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don't qualify for traditional aid — rose by 466,000 to 9.1 million.And the number of people receiving aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program — which offers 13 weeks of federal benefits to those who have exhausted state jobless aid — rose by 132,000 to 4.5 million.The data firm Womply says that 21% of small businesses were shuttered at the start of this month, reflecting a steady increase from June’s 16% rate. Consumer spending at local businesses is down 27% this month from a year ago, marking a deterioration from a 20% year-over-year drop in October, Womply found.The heart of the problem is an untamed virus: The number of confirmed infections in the United States has shot up to more than 170,000 a day, from fewer than 35,000 in early September. The arrival of cold weather in much of the country could further worsen the health crisis.Meanwhile, another economic threat looms: The impending expiration of the two supplemental federal unemployment programs the day after Christmas could end benefits completely for 9.1 million jobless people. Congress has failed for months to agree on any new stimulus aid for jobless individuals and struggling businesses after the expiration of a multi-trillion dollar rescue package it enacted in March.The expiration of benefits will make it harder for the unemployed to make rent payments, afford food or keep up with utility bills. Most economists agree that because unemployed people tend to quickly spend their benefits, such aid is effective in boosting the economy.When the viral outbreak struck in early spring, employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April, sending the unemployment rate rocketing to 14.7%, the highest rate since the Great Depression. Since then, the economy has regained more than 12 million jobs. Yet the nation still has about 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic erupted.All of which has left many Americans anxious and uncertain. The Conference Board, a business research group, reported Tuesday that consumer confidence weakened in November, pulled down by lowered expectations for the next six months.And the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers reported Wednesday that sentiment declined slightly this month, and remained far below where it was before the pandemic struck. With the resurgence of the virus depressing the outlook of consumers, the sentiment index fell to its lowest point since August.“Gloomier consumer expectations will weigh on spending as the holidays approach,” cautioned Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.___AP Business Writer Ken Sweet contributed to this report from Charlotte, North Carolina.Martin Crutsinger And Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press
The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association is a not-for-profit registered charity that provides therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults with diverse abilities, while also working with at-risk youth. The association is one of five organizations being helped this year by the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund. The association works with riders from throughout the Thompson-Nicola region, with some riders coming as far as from Lillooet to participate. As a social enterprise, the association also provides a community riding program for Kamloopsians interested in getting on a horse. In a normal year, there would be between 80 and 100 participants per session, with a 12-week session in the spring and an eight-week session in the fall. But 2020 has not been a normal year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We were unable to do our 12-week spring session, so we did a small summer session for independent riders only,” said Ashley Sudds, executive director of the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association. But that meant numbers dropped to about 30 participants. The organization tried to offer a longer session in the fall — once again for independent riders — with a bit more success, managing close to 50 riders for those sessions. With lower numbers, and some of the horses nearing retirement, the therapy horse herd was downsized a bit. Sudds is hopeful the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund money can help improve the situation for the association in 2021, saying funds can go toward sponsoring a horse or perhaps sponsoring a rider or two who might have aged out of financial support for the program. but would still like to continue with it. The riding programs are tailored for each individual according to their diagnosis and the association is able to work with a variety of different individuals, including those who are in wheelchairs. “We have an electric lift,” Sudds said. “It can lift them out of their wheelchair.” Information on volunteering with the association, as well as rider information and information on the Parent A Horse program can be found on their website at www.ktra.ca People can also take a virtual tour of the facility online and get a chance to see what the location is all about. It’s also where people can go to find out how to support the group directly or to find out more about volunteering. For more information on the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association, go online to ktra.ca.Todd Sullivan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
A Halifax-area man has received an eight-month conditional sentence for a violent incident four years ago involving his then-girlfriend.Christopher Bruce Duffett, 32, was convicted of assault, dangerous driving and driving while impaired by drugs following an incident on April 28, 2016, on the Beaver Bank Road outside of Halifax. Witnesses at his trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court described seeing a woman, her legs dangling out the open passenger door of a car, screaming for help as the driver backed up and tried to pull her into the vehicle. Passersby managed to rescue the woman and called police.Duffett was originally charged with two counts of assault, assault with a weapon and administering a noxious substance and motor vehicle offences.At his trial, he pleaded guilty to the charge of impaired driving, while Justice Ann Smith also found him guilty on two additional charges. Police evidence at his trial showed there were traces of cocaine and a benzodiazepine in Duffett's system at the time of the incident.Ex-girlfriend feels 'terrified,' court hearsHis former girlfriend gave a victim impact statement during a sentencing hearing Wednesday, in which she described becoming addicted to alcohol, being depressed, stressed and having nightmares and flashbacks."I am terrified of people leaving the house, feelings of suicide and attempts, angry and irrational at times and unable to sleep, thinking you would come back, it would happen again," she said.She told the judge she still suffers from neck and back pain and gave up her job because of her fears. That forced her to declare bankruptcy and she lost her apartment.As part of his sentence, Duffett must live with his mother and observe an overnight curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Once he's completed his sentence, he will be on probation for a year. He's also prohibited from driving for a year.MORE TOP STORIES
Canadian service workers are faring even worse during the pandemic than previously thought with hundreds of thousands of those who still have jobs not actually putting in any hours at all, and a grim holiday season could add to the pain. Canada has so far clawed back nearly 80% of the jobs lost to the COVID-19 crisis, official data shows. There are 391,300 Canadians employed but working zero hours because of the pandemic, data provided to Reuters shows, and another 42,100 working less than half their usual hours.
Jan Morris leaves behind an incredible legacy, says her son Mark Morris, who has been teaching at the University of Alberta since 2000. The prolific Welsh writer died Friday at 94. "A bit of history has gone with her," Mark Morris said in an interview. Jan Morris was the only reporter allowed on the historic climb of Mount Everest in 1953, when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit. Before her death, she was the last member from that mission still alive. It's a story Mark Morris heard a lot while growing up. "In fact, I can remember her building a model of Everest in the snow for us instead of a snowman. And she showed us how it all worked and where the routes were," he said. Mark Morris has been in Canada since the late 80s. He's a full lecturer in the English and Film Studies Department at the U of A. Morris is also a librettist and has written 13 operas and is currently the music critic for the Edmonton Journal. Hear Mark talk about this father on CBC Radio's Radio Active: Despite Jan Morris' impressive body of work in a variety of styles, her son said she'll be remembered "for her staggeringly good writing." "She's one of the great stylists of writing and I see that in The Guardian newspaper in Britain today, six other travel writers have done tributes today to say how her writing influenced them," Mark said. Morris, a transgender woman, very publicly documented her transition in the book Conundrum, which was published in 1974. Mark said this is also an important piece of her legacy. He said he knew of many people to whom her example was so important. Edmonton: A six day week In 1990, Jan wrote a book of essays chronicling different cities across Canada. According to her essay on Edmonton, called A six day week, there was something about the city that didn't quite agree with her. Despite the fact that Jan couldn't last a week here in winter, Mark said he loves the essay. "How could the Edmontonians stand it, I wondered, for a whole winter —or a whole lifetime? Was it only to strangers that the city seemed so bewilderingly unresolved, or did its citizens too feel their navigations vague? So flat, so far away, so bitter half the year — what profits or pleasures could compensate for the disadvantages of Edmonton?" one section in the essay reads. Mark teaches the essay to writing students in his classes at the U of A, and said there's always a big divide in how students feel about the piece. "It strikes me that Edmonton is one of those places that half of us love all the time while the other half hate it. And then we all switch positions," he said. "I think my father got that perfectly in this article." She was, after all, "a poet of places," according to Mark.
The president of the Canadian Labour Congress is hoping Joe Biden’s efforts while in office will put pressure on Canada and the provinces to “move much faster” in adopting ambitious climate and employment policies. Hassan Yussuff said he felt Biden, the United States president-elect, has been signalling that he’s determined to take the climate crisis seriously, and there is now widespread recognition in the U.S. that there can be millions of new jobs for workers in a low-carbon economy — with the right government leadership and significant investments. “I’m hoping with the new administration, there will be accelerated and aggressive action to get back into the game as quickly as possible. And I think that will help Canada recognize that we only have one choice here: We’ve got to set some very hard targets that are going to need to be achieved,” said Yussuff. The labour leader, who co-chaired a federal task force that looked at how to fairly provide for workers in coal mines and coal-fired power plants across Canada as the government moves to end coal power nationwide, also said setting climate targets will have to go hand-in-hand with developing a strategy around protecting workers. “An absence of that will put people’s livelihoods in jeopardy,” he said. “We’ve got to create jobs to replace the jobs that might be lost in the transitional period ... I’m hoping their (Biden’s) strong leadership and aggressive leadership can certainly boost the efforts here at the provincial and federal level to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to move much faster,’ because our American friends are going to keep the pressure on Canada." On Tuesday, Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris announced their administration’s national security and foreign policy positions, naming former secretary of state John Kerry to the post of presidential envoy for climate change. Biden said Kerry would sit on the National Security Council, bringing a climate perspective to the White House Situation Room. Kerry is credited with helping negotiate the Paris climate accord, and has a long history of working on environmental issues, from representing the U.S. at international climate summits to working on bipartisan climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate. In a short speech after Biden introduced him, Kerry wasted no time putting foreign nations on notice, saying, “No country alone can solve this challenge” and that “to end this crisis, the whole world must come together.” At next year’s international climate conference in Glasgow, Kerry said, “all nations must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option.” “The road ahead is exciting, actually — it means creating millions of middle-class jobs, it means less pollution in our air and oceans. It means making life healthier for citizens across the world. And it means we will strengthen the security of every nation in the world,” said Kerry. Any broad-based U.S. climate action is going to have an impact on Canada, as the largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the U.S., noted Yussuff. Canada accounts for almost half, or 48 per cent, of U.S. crude oil imports and over a fifth of U.S. refinery input. The U.S., in turn, is practically Canada’s only oil customer: 98 per cent of Canada’s oil exports flow south across the border. Biden said during the presidential debate that his intention was to “transition from the oil industry ... over time” to renewable energy, and his platform called for the U.S. to achieve net-zero carbon pollution “no later than 2050.” Last week, the Trudeau government tabled Bill C-12, which, if passed, would require that Canada set national carbon emissions targets every five years from 2030 until it reaches net-zero emissions in 2050. Canada already has a 2030 emissions reduction target — reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels — that federal government projections have shown the country will overshoot unless more is done to cut pollution. Nevertheless, the Trudeau government committed in the last election campaign to exceed that 2030 target, although it has not yet explained exactly how it will get there. The bill also requires the government to draw up emissions reduction plans for achieving the targets, and provides a range of public reporting requirements to demonstrate progress, as well as an advisory body tasked with providing advice to the minister. Advocates say the bill itself will create a powerful legal incentive that could help Canada finally achieve its targets after missing every one since 1992. Yussuff said it was clear that any greenhouse gas reduction plan from the federal government will necessarily impact fossil fuel employment in some way, although it was difficult to judge precisely how without a target and a timeline in place. He said federal and provincial governments will need to outline how they intend to assist workers going forward. The Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities that he co-chaired toured facilities, visited communities and met with workers. It discovered a pervasive fear over the impact to communities of a coal shutdown, as well as deep mistrust and suspicion of government and a frustration over being labelled as dirty. The group recommended significant federal spending on new infrastructure and financial, jobs and training programs for workers. The lessons learned from that task force include the importance of starting early, said Yussuff, and creating an inventory of skills that workers currently have, as well as identifying who is likely to retire before facilities close or are converted to other technology. Some of those workers will need a bridge to retirement, which could mean better support on the company pension plan, while others will need updated skills where governments could provide support for new programs. It was important to get the ball rolling while workers are still at their current jobs, he said. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Rocky the stowaway owl is back in the wild.The tiny Saw-whet owl was named Rockefeller after it was found by a worker setting up the holiday tree Nov. 16 at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. The owl was apparently trapped in the 75-foot-tall (23-meter-tall) Norway spruce when it was cut down 170 miles (275 kilometres) north, in upstate New York on Nov. 12.The female owl, initially thought to be male, was uninjured but hadn't eaten for at least three days when she was discovered and sent to Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in the Hudson Valley town of Saugerties. There, a rehabilitator nursed her back to health for a week with plenty of mice before Rocky was cleared to continue her migratory journey south.On Tuesday evening, rehabilitator Ellen Kalish held the winsome raptor aloft in a field against a backdrop of rounded mountains. In a video posted on Ravensbeard's Facebook page, Rocky sits quietly on Kalish's fingers before winging her way over to a nearby grove of pines.“She is a tough little bird and we’re happy to see her back in her natural habitat,” the centre wrote on Facebook. “We are sure that Rocky will feel your love and support through her journey south.”___This story has been corrected to show the Rockefeller Christmas tree is 75 feet (23 metres) tall, not 71 feet (22 metres) tall.The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Cleaning wipes are harder to find on store shelves, and businesses are reassuring customers with stepped up sanitation measures. In New York, the subway system is shut down nightly for disinfecting. To avoid any traces of the coronavirus that might be lurking on surfaces, Americans have been wiping down groceries, wearing surgical gloves when they go out and leaving mail packages out for an extra day or two. But experts say the national fixation on scrubbing sparked by the pandemic can sometimes be overkill. “It’s important to clean surfaces, but not to obsess about it too much in a way that can be unhealthy,” said Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the COVID-19 response at the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control. Health officials knew less about the virus in the early days of the pandemic, but say it's become clearer the main way it spreads is between people — through the respiratory droplets they spray when talking, coughing, sneezing or singing. It's why officials emphasize the importance of wearing masks and social distancing. That doesn't mean surfaces don't pose any risk — cleaning is still recommended — especially frequently touched spots like door knobs or elevator buttons that infected people might have recently touched. Other germs that sicken people, like gastrointestinal bugs, haven’t gone away either. But with COVID-19, experts say to keep the risk in perspective: The virus is fragile and doesn’t survive easily outside the body for long. Early studies finding it could linger on surfaces for days used large viral loads and were in laboratory conditions, not the real world. Other tests might just detect remnants of the virus, rather than live virus capable of infecting people. Viruses also don't leap off surfaces to infect people, and infection would require a sequence of events: There would have to be enough surviving virus on whatever the person is touching, the person would have to get it on their hands, then touch their mouth, nose or eyes. All that means there could be diminishing returns to all the disinfecting, especially if people have good hand washing practices. For public health experts, the challenge is telling people exactly where they should draw the line, especially if cleaning isn't doing any harm. What counts as overkill could also vary depending on the situation, said Justin Lessler, an expert in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University. While Lessler wouldn’t wipe down his own groceries, for example, he said it might not be a bad idea for people caring for someone at high-risk for becoming severely ill if infected. “These are things that maybe are on the lower end of how much they actually reduce risk. But they’re relatively easy and cheap,” he said. And in nursing homes, Lessler said vigilance about disinfecting surfaces makes sense. Even if it doesn't meaningfully reduce risk, regularly disinfecting surfaces can be a way for people to exert control when they feel they don't have any, said Stephen Morse, an infectious disease researcher at Columbia University. In public places, he said stepped up cleaning — what some refer to as “hygiene theatre” — can be a way to reassure people. “People want to make it evident that they really care,” Morse said. But Emanuel Goldman, a professor of microbiology at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, said that reassurance could also create a false sense of safety — and detract from measures that matter more. “They worry less about what they breathe. And breathing is your primary source of infection,” said Goldman, who wrote a commentary in a medical journal in July saying the fear of transmission through surfaces was being overblown. "I'm not saying don't do routine maintenance. I’m not saying don’t do cleaning. But you don’t have to go to extraordinary measures," he said. In some cases, Goldman noted there are significant financial costs. In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending $8.1 million a week on COVID-19 related expenses, including subway cleanings throughout the day and overnight. The agency says it's approaching safety in multiple ways. And Mark Dowd, the agency's chief innovation officer, said surfaces could still pose a risk, and that understanding of the virus has continued to evolve. “We don’t think taking our foot off the pedal with regard to disinfecting our surfaces is the right approach,” he said. The MTA is also looking at ways to improve ventilation, Dowd said, but that is far more complicated. Americans are wiping store shelves clean of disinfecting products, too. Since the pandemic hit, sales have been up about 30% in the The Clorox Co.'s business unit that includes cleaning products. Whether those habits will last remains to be seen. At the start of the pandemic in March and April, Paige Zuber said she would come home from her corporate food service job in New York and leave her mask in a bag by the door, immediately change out of her clothes and shower. “It was like disinfecting chaos to make sure I was not bringing anything into our apartment,” said Zuber, who has since been laid off and moved to Rhode Island. Zuber is still cleaning a lot more than she did before the pandemic, but not going to the same extremes. At the CDC, Brooks said he tells people to do what makes them comfortable, but to keep in mind the relative risk of different routes of transmission. “As long as you don’t touch your face when you’re unpacking those groceries, and wash your hands afterwards and are careful, I think that may be sufficient,” he said. ___ Follow AP's Health & Science coverage on Twitter: @APHealthScience ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Candice Choi, The Associated Press
As a kid, Delbert Good remembers that he would come home from a day of picking potatoes to find a meal made from the fruits of his family’s garden. “While I was growing up, we were pretty self-sufficient,” said Good, economic development officer for the Gitanyow Band and a lifelong resident of Gitanyow, a community northeast of Terrace, in northern B.C. Not anymore. In the past hundred years, a suite of colonial policies suppressed traditions that were essential to many Indigenous people’s access to food, including agricultural ones that were practised for generations. For Good, reawakening them could help pave a better-fed future for his community. About 17 per cent of households in northern B.C. were food insecure before the pandemic, according to the province’s Provincial Health Services Authority. The area around Gitanyow is particularly hard hit: about 27 per cent of the population in the census area is classified as low-income by Statistics Canada, with poverty the driver of food insecurity. The region is also a 15-hour drive from Vancouver, the distribution hub for roughly 78 per cent of the province’s food. That distance means that the food on grocery store shelves — particularly produce — is expensive and of low nutritional value when compared to urban centres further south. This year, the pandemic exacerbated the problem. Disruptions in global supply chains and high demand for some products emptied local grocery store shelves and highlighted a need to revitalize the community’s self-sufficiency. “In history, when they had stock market crashes and droughts and stuff like that, it never really affected the First Nations because they were used to living off the land,” Good said. That doesn’t surprise John Lutz, a professor of history at the University of Victoria who has studied Indigenous agriculture in the province. “There was an agriculture here that wasn’t immediately recognizable to Europeans,” he explained. For instance, Coast Salish people on the province’s south coast used controlled burns to maintain camas and wild potato plantations, but these well-tended clearings weren’t recognized by early Europeans as cultivated fields. As more Europeans arrived in present-day B.C., those practices started adapting to a new import: potatoes. The potato trade wasn’t limited to the north coast. Lutz said communities from southern Vancouver Island to Alaska picked up the potato trade and usually grew them in fertile and moist pockets of land scattered across their territories. That trade came to a halt in the late 1800s when the Canadian government started forcing Indigenous people onto miniscule reserves. And because the potato patches were rarely recognized as such by the white surveyors who mapped reserve boundaries, most were left out. The reserve system also made it difficult for Indigenous people provincewide to profitably practise European-style agriculture — like ranching or crop farming — because most of B.C.’s water rights had been stolen by settlers and reserves were rarely large or fertile enough for farming. While the reserve system and other federal policies made farming commercially almost inaccessible to most Indigenous people in B.C., growing food was still a widespread practice, Lutz explained. “In the early 20th century, you see a lot of extensive kitchen gardens, people who are living out of their gardens. In part, this is an economic necessity. Indigenous people in large parts of the province didn’t have much access to the cash economy,” he said. “They would take much of their food off the land in terms of hunting and their kitchen garden if they could. And, of course, like white settlers, they would preserve food for the winter. They would can their peas and preserve their vegetables and have root cellars, and so on.” That period ended in the 1950s, he said. Racist policies prevented Indigenous people from entering many industries, everything from law to hospitality. Jobs in industries that had once been key employers, like fishing and forestry, were becoming automated, a combination of policy and economics that pushed many First Nations out of the workforce. And at the same time, increasingly strict hunting and fishing regulations crafted and imposed without consultation made subsistence harvesting difficult. In addition, intergenerational trauma and loss of cultural knowledge inflicted by the federal government’s assimilationist policies — including residential and day schools — exacerbated already difficult social and economic conditions. Those factors continue to influence Indigenous people’s well-being, Lutz said, including food security. About 40 per cent of on-reserve Indigenous households in B.C. are food insecure, according to researchers at the University of Northern B.C. And Health Canada data shows that Canada-wide, about a third of off-reserve Indigenous households don’t have enough food. These are issues Good hopes next year’s community agricultural training program can help resolve — and that a similar program in the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) community of Bella Bella on B.C.’s central coast has been successfully addressing for several years. In 2017, the Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, a Haíɫzaqv youth- and family- focused non-profit, started a community garden in the 1,400-person town, which is only accessible by sea or air. The project was a big success, said ‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty), the organization’s executive director, especially this year: Due to the pandemic, the organization decided against making a single communal garden, and instead distributed gardening supplies to households and taught them how to grow food in “grannie gardens.” “This year, we supported over 100 households,” she said. “And in a recent community food security assessment we conducted, we learned that a third of households in Bella Bella are growing a portion of their own food and another third of households really want to start next year.” It’s a level of interest that isn’t only driven by food, she explained. Growing food is also good for mental health, particularly when people are facing uncertainty related to the pandemic or other factors out of their control. Nor is the practice new. “I really want people to understand that gardening is actually a Haíɫzaqv ancestral practice … We wanted to remind people that our people have a long history of nourishing themselves through their deep knowledge of plant systems and the climate where they live, and how all things around them interconnect,” she explained. A connection actively undermined by federal policies to assimilate Indigenous people across the country. “We had generations where that sense of connection to certain ancestral food was really deliberately attacked and that is tragic and unfortunate, but I really strongly believe that that knowledge is still in us and that we can wake it up again,” she said.Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer