U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband delivered two baskets of cookies to essential healthcare workers at the VA Medical Center in Washington on Saturday. (Feb. 13)
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband delivered two baskets of cookies to essential healthcare workers at the VA Medical Center in Washington on Saturday. (Feb. 13)
TUCSON, Ariz. — It is now illegal in Tucson, Arizona, to enforce dress code or grooming policies that discriminate against hair texture and hairstyles in the workplace and public schools, officials said. The Tucson City Council voted Tuesday to adopt the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN Act, joining multiple cities across the country in passing the ordinance, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The ordinance has been part of a national campaign promoted by Dove, the National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty. It also prohibits workplace discrimination based on headdresses worn for cultural or religious reasons. “We want to be sure there are no barriers for people in the workplace and in schools,” said Annie Sykes, president of Tucson’s Black Women’s Task Force. “These barriers are usually rooted in discrimination and prejudice.” Sykes cited a study showing that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair and 80% more likely to feel like they have to change their hair to fit in at work. “Your hair is your crown and it connects us to our culture and to our ancestry,” said Desiree Cook, a licensed hair stylist and founder of the local organization, I AM YOU 360. “So we ask that those crowns are honoured, whether it be in schools, in the community or the workplace.” The Tucson ordinance will be enforced through the human relations section of the city code and will apply to any facility or business with public accommodations, officials said. Violations can bring civil penalties. The Associated Press
Several international travellers arriving at Toronto's Pearson International Airport have refused to comply with a new rule requiring a three-day hotel quarantine, local police said Wednesday. Peel Region police said that while most cases were resolved after conversations with officers, some people refused to follow the rules that took effect this week and were fined $880 under Ontario regulations. Police said they will not detain anyone for breaking the hotel quarantine rule unless there are aggravating circumstances involved, such as a criminal offence. They added that the Public Health Agency of Canada would be responsible for any further potential fines for travellers under the Quarantine Act. The Quarantine Act states that anyone arriving in Canada must stay in an isolation hotel for three nights. They may only leave after a negative COVID-19 test, but are expected to self-isolate for a total of 14 days. Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region's medical officer of health, said Wednesday that the quarantine measures are in place to protect the public. "It's unfortunate (...) that this might be occurring," said Loh. "Please remember that it's a disease that spreads from person to person and it takes all of us to do our part." Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., just north of the airport, said that people who choose to ignore the regulations are being selfish. "By not being mindful that you can bring dangerous variants into the country, you're being selfish to your neighbours, to your city," said Brown. "I hope that people do abide by the new stricter guidelines." Staying in a government-approved isolation hotel costs up to $2,000 for the three-night stay. The hotel stays, which must be paid for by the travellers, are among a series of measures that came into effect on Monday to limit the spread of COVID-19 and more contagious variants of the virus. Most incoming air travellers will need to get tested for the virus upon arrival and again toward the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantine. Travellers arriving at land borders will be given self-swab kits, and testing will be provided on-site at five high-volume border crossings. The new rules are in addition to previous orders that require a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival. Travellers will need to complete a second test on Day 10 of their self-isolation period. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the tighter border controls are meant to keep everyone safe. -- with files from Denise Paglinawan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — In November, Paula Mont did something new: The 86-year-old, who hasn't left her New Jersey senior living community in nearly a year, went shopping — online. Mont used an iPad, equipped with a stylus to help her shaky hands, to buy a toy grand piano for her great-granddaughter. She picked it out from more than a dozen versions of the instrument on Amazon. “It is like a wow feeling. I found it!” Mont said. The internet has become a crucial link to the outside world during the pandemic, one that millions of people still don't have access to. Among older adults, the lack of internet has even impeded their ability to get vaccinated. But the pandemic has also motivated many who have been isolated at home or unable to leave their senior communities to learn something they may have resisted until now: how to buy groceries and more online. People 65 and older rang up nearly $187 per month online last year, up 60% from a year earlier, according to market research firm NPD Group's Checkout Tracking. They still spend less than the total population, who paid about $238 per month, but they are the fastest-growing group of online shoppers by age group. Shopping is one of a slew of activities that older Americans now have to do over the internet, like doctor’s appointments and socializing via digital video like FaceTime. Such behaviour was forced by necessity — older people face the biggest risk of infection, so it’s more dangerous for them to go out. The transition online hasn't always been easy, and children and senior living staff often have to help, an experience that can be both gratifying and difficult. Barbara Moran, director of social programs for Atria Senior Living where Mont lives, says one of the biggest challenges residents face with their devices is that they are used to pushing, not tapping, as if they’re using a touch-tone telephone. She has to repeat tips often. “I would lie if I didn’t say I was frustrated sometimes,” said Moran, who sits with Mont — masked and gloved — in the facility’s dining room for weekly shopping sessions. Internet retailers and delivery services hope people over 65 keep up the online shopping habit. Freshly, which delivers prepared meals, is adding smaller portions and low-sodium options aimed at seniors; grocery delivery service Instacart set up a phone support line; Target's delivery service, Shipt, is scrapping its $99-a-year fee for some low-income seniors. Diane Shein, 73, from Bonita Springs, Florida, turned to Instacart and Amazon-owned Whole Foods for groceries because of the pandemic. “I’m not sure how much it costs, but I don’t care,” Shein said. “It’s very easy and safe.” Instacart president Nilam Ganenthiran predicted that online groceries will be a “new normal” for older people even when the pandemic ends. Still, there are many barriers, from struggling to use new technology to high prices to access. People 65 and older are less likely than younger people to have home internet or a smartphone. Nearly 22 million, or 42% of Americans 65 and older, lack broadband at home, according to a 2021 study from non-profit Older Adults Technology Services. Low-income and Black and Latino older adults are more likely to be left out, the study says. “We are asking them to stay at home, and yet a lot of seniors are not connected,” said Lauren Cotter of the Community Tech Network, a San Francisco non-profit that trains low-income residents on technology and provides free tablets and hotspots. Those with devices and internet may wrestle with how to use an app or fear giving out personal information because they worry about fraudsters. Online shopping scams cost Americans $245.9 million last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And online grocery shopping, which includes tips and delivery charges, costs more than going to stores. The pandemic has also exposed the shortcomings of the internet, which often fails to accommodate people with disabilities or an aging population with visual and hearing issues. Iris Berman, 93, lives in an assisted living centre in San Francisco and used to buy her shoes online. As her eyesight worsened, her son Eric Berman, who works in technology, would help her by sharing her screen virtually. He took over her shopping completely during the pandemic because her vision loss was so severe. “None of these websites works well when they’re enlarged,” he said. Then there's the simple fact that older people did not grow up with the internet so things may not come as intuitively compared with those who have. Lynette White, 72, buys clothes and household items from Amazon and Target online on her iPhone. But she finds other apps, including the Safeway grocery one, too hard to navigate. When she tries to check out her shopping cart, she finds herself starting all over again. She says it’s frustrating that there are are too many steps. Still, she said she likes learning new skills and her grandchildren, who she sends Amazon gift cards as presents, approve. “They’re very impressed that at my age I am excited about technology,” White said. ______ Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press
Ontario's booking system for COVID-19 vaccines, both online and via telephone, will launch on March 15.
(Lea Storry/Twitter - image credit) If this week's big flash in the early morning sky has you itching to hunt for meteorites, you're not alone. But for Alberta's scientific community, space detritus has more value than being a stellar addition to your rock collection. At the University of Alberta, for example, researchers are using bits of space debris to figure out how to eventually handle parcels arriving on Earth from far, far away. "We're trying to advance curation techniques — that is, how do we handle this extra terrestrial material without contaminating it by the terrestrial environment," Patrick Hill, a planetary geologist at the U of A, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Wednesday. "[That will] prepare us for sample-return missions such as Perseverence on Mars or Hayabusa 2 or OSIRIS-REx. And so that's our main interest. But meteorites provide us with a wealth of information about the history of the solar system and the geology of the solar system." Researchers are now checking images collected on an array of specialized cameras that document the night sky, looking for clues about the location of the fireball, which was reportedly seen in places like Jasper, Calgary and Saskatchewan. Those images will also offer insight into whether any fragments of the meteor survived the trip through the atmosphere to land on the ground, Hill said. "As long as it's captured by two or more of our cameras — because we know the GPS location of those cameras and the orientation in the night sky, we can, in essence, triangulate and the hone in on where this happened in Alberta," he said. Following the brilliant streak, captured on umpteen dashboard and doorbell cameras, the meteor enters what scientists call "the dark flight" of its freefall to the Earth's surface. Using speed and altitude data from the cameras, scientists will try to figure out what might have made it to the ground. "There's still some uncertainties in our models about powering down the exact location of where this happened and if any debris was formed. But if so, yes, it most likely would have fallen in Alberta," Hill added. For those who go hunting, Hill said a meteorite will be dark black or brown, with an eggshell-like outer layer, created during its fall through the sky. A 13-kilogram meteorite found in 2009 in Buzzard Coulee, Sask., approximately 40 kilometres from Lloydminster, Alta. The space rock was among 1,000 pieces collected from the Buzzard Coulee meteorite which fell Nov. 20, 2008, making it a Canadian record for number of fragments recovered from a single fall. Because nearly all meteorites contain iron, nickel or other metals, they will be fairly heavy for their size — and they should be magnetic, he said. As for size, Hill said it could vary between a couple of centimetres to a metre or more. A meteorite that falls on private property belongs to the landowner, while space debris that ends up on roads or public land falls under the finders-keepers principle, Hill said. But if you really want to know what you've found, you'll need to call in the experts. The U of A science faculty has a website titled Meteorites (and meteowrongs) to help guide people through the process. "Usually we work with the finder because the value of these meteorites comes from the classification," he said. "For example, they could be much more valuable, like lunar meteorites or Martian meteorites, where something hit Mars or the moon and that debris has been sent to Earth."
Taisto Eilomaa’s daughter said there are two words spring to mind when thinking of her father. One is Skype. Barbara Major said her 91-year-old father is the only person she has ever known that speaks to so many people via the internet-based communication that he required a monthly paid account. The other is not a word you may be familiar with: Sisu. Eilomaa passed away Jan. 30 due to complications from COVID-19 at Finlandiakoti, an apartment building that is part of the Finlandia Village complex. If you are one of the many people of Finnish descent who make up the Sudbury community, then you’ll recognize this word, even if you can’t quite describe it. If you are English-only, there is not really a translation for it, but more of a ‘you know it when you see it,’ meaning. Start with the translation of the root word, sisus, which means ‘guts’ or ‘intestines’ and you begin to get an idea. It is reserved for the challenging moments in life. It defines those who overcome regardless of the obstacle they face and who do so with aplomb, intestinal fortitude, resilience, determination. Ténacité, or in Italian, tenace, for a passion that seems crazy to undertake, almost hopeless. The Finnish say it is the reason they survive, the reason they thrive. There is a common saying: “Sisu will get you through granite.” Taisto Eilomaa had sisu. It got him through coming to a new country at the age of 22 with no ability to speak the language. It got him through starting businesses from the ground up, like Lockerby Auto Service, later investing in business and creating success — Brown's Concrete Products Ltd., for one, as well as the Wanup Sand and Gravel Pit and Taisto’s Trucking. It allowed him to keep connections with his family wherever they were in the world, to contribute to his community as well as to his own family. You could say it also helped him when he lost his wife of 53 years; and when he was at his lowest, it could be sisu that allowed him to find love again. Also, it may have been the driving force behind a man who raced stock cars he built, loved scuba diving and got his pilot’s licence, Sisu got Eilomaa through granite and his community is better for it. Born Nov. 18, 1929, to Saima and Frances Eilomaa in Lohja, Finland, Eilomaa decided to immigrate to Canada in search of a better life. It might be fate that put him on that ship in 1951, for it was on that voyage he met a lovely woman named Laura Akkanen. They wed in 1952 and were married for 53 years before her passing at age 77, in 2005. Major, their daughter, wasn’t sure her father would survive. “When my mother passed away, I thought we would lose my dad as well. After 53 years of marriage, he seemed unable to move on.” But for sisu, he may not have. Though it took time, Eilomaa began to get re-acquainted with a long-time family friend, Riitta Nurmikivi, at a weekly card party and they soon formed a close relationship, and spent more than 14 years together. “Ironically,” said Major, “My mother would often joke that Riitta would take her place if she ever died before my father.” Nurmikivi would bring to Eilomaa’s life more family for him to dote over and he did just that. Major says they were a welcome addition who will also mourn for Eilomaa. “We will always cherish her in our family,” said Major. It was family that always gave Eilomaa his greatest joy; perhaps the source of his sisu. “If there is one thing my father had plenty of,” said Major, “is love for everyone he met, especially his family.” He loved his daughter dearly and he loved her daughter, his granddaughter, perhaps even more says Major. “As much as they showered me in love and compliments,” she said, “my parents took great pride in their granddaughter.” He adored her and told her so often. “In his later years,” said Major, “I would often catch my daughter wiping away tears only to learn that her grandfather had taken a moment to mention how much he loved her and how proud he was of the woman she became.” He also dearly loved his great-grandchildren, Clarke and Laura. He was also dedicated to his Finnish family as well, spending as much time in Finland — and on Skype — as possible. He learned to operate a computer at 60, “A two-finger keyboarder,” said Major and began extensive research and interviews to build a family tree. “Those connections were worldwide,” said Major. On one of his trips to Finland, Eilomaa filled a suitcase with 50 bound copies of the family tree to distribute to family. And that isn’t the only history Eilomaa was dedicating to preserving. Eilomaa was a member of the Finnish Canadian Historical Society since 1968 and dedicated so much of his time to preserve history of those of Finnish descent who settled in Sudbury, particularly through photography collection and archiving. Major remembers visiting her father at times and finding him surrounded in photos that he would arrange and display for Finnish celebrations, allowing everyone to see their history. The Finnish Canadian Historical Society have presented him with two awards in recognition of his outstanding service and lasting contribution. Eilomaa also received a certificate of appreciation and is an honorary member of the Voima Athletic Club, which he has been actively involved with since 1952. And as one of the founding members and a previous past president of the Finlandiakoti Finnish Rest Home Society, many in the community say his commitment to the vision is a large part of what made Finlandiakoti what it is today. He was also active in the Freemasons and the Shriners for more than 30 years. Of all the words that are used to describe the small bits of character that are revealed through actions, there are another few for Eilomaa: ‘My sweetheart’, ‘my darling’, ‘I love you’. But not for the reasons you might think. “One of his favourite things he used to say,” said Major, “is that when my mom and dad arrived in Canada, between the two of them, they had three suitcases and $50. But my dad knew how to speak only a little English and what he knew how to say in English was: ‘my darling, my sweetheart, I love you’.” And truly, with a little sisu, that will get you pretty far. Due to the pandemic, no funeral service will be held, but a Celebration of Life for Taisto Eilomaa will be held in both Sudbury and Finland, on a date to be determined. Jenny Lamothe is a Local Journalism Reporter at Sudbury.com, covering issues in the Black, immigrant and Francophone communities. She is also a freelance writer and voice actor. Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
LEICESTER, England — Leicester midfielder James Maddison will miss the Europa League match against Slavia Prague because of a hip injury, manager Brendan Rodgers said Wednesday. While the Foxes prepared to host the Czech champions on Thursday in the second leg of the round of 32, Maddison was in London seeing specialists for a hip problem that required surgery last summer. “We don't believe he needs more surgery,” Rodgers said. “It's irritable where he's had the issue before. We're just getting all the information on it.” Rodgers didn't offer a timeline for Maddison's return: “He won’t be available for the game. He’s in consultation with our doctor and some specialists and they’re just trying to see where we’re at, but certainly for tomorrow night, he misses out.” The 24-year-old attacking midfielder saw specialists Tuesday and Wednesday. He scored Leicester’s first goal in a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday but walked off gingerly midway through the second half, having complained of both foot and hip injuries after a heavy but fair tackle by Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz. Maddison has tallied 11 goals and 10 assists in 32 appearances across all competitions this season. Leicester drew 0-0 in the first leg last week in Prague. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Laurence Martin/Radio-Canada - image credit) In the municipality of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., about an hour's drive north of Ottawa, one of the easiest ways to rile up local residents is to ask them about their internet connections. Whether it's through wireless service, satellite providers or copper lines, the usual response is that working out of home, having kids attend online classes or watching movies is a frustrating — and sometimes impossible — task. Adding to the frustration is the fact that a small portion of the municipality lives in another world, digitally speaking, after getting hooked up to Bell Fibe in recent months. What makes matters even worse, according to some, is the fact that Bell CEO Mirko Bibic owns one of the cottages along the southern portion of Pemichangan Lake — which now has broadband access. While the region is officially one of the poorest in Quebec, some of the cottages along Pemichangan are worth over $1 million, with many owners having primary residences in Ontario or the United States. About 100 households on Pemichangan, the majority of cottages and homes on the southern side of the lake, have high-speed access through Bell Fibe — a service currently unavailable for the hundreds of other residences in the municipality of Lac-Sainte-Marie and in the surrounding area. And one made even more important by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown orders. Chantal Lamarche, prefect of the regional body called the MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, said all residences in the area need to be "treated equally." "The owners of residences that live here all year round should receive the same level of service as those who own a million-dollar cottage," she said. "Everyone deserves an equitable treatment." Bibic listens during a CRTC hearing in Gatineau, Que., on Feb. 19, 2020. CEO played no role, Bell says The project to expand Fibe into that portion of cottage country was developed by Bell and approved for government funding by the federal and Quebec governments in early 2018. Bell spokesperson Charles Gosselin told Radio-Canada that Bibic played no role in developing the project or obtaining government funding. He said the company plans to expand its network according to factors such as population density, the quality of existing infrastructure and long-term growth. "I can guarantee that our rollout is in no way influenced by anyone's presence or absence. Bell is a serious company that decides on its investments based on factors of cost effectiveness and viability," said Gosselin, who is the company's director of government relations. "Mirko Bibic's presence in the Outaouais region has nothing to do with our project in Pemichangan Lake or [elsewhere]. There is no link." Pemichangan Lake is located just east of Highway 105, about an hour's drive north of Ottawa-Gatineau. Bell is already working on a number of other projects in the area, including providing high-speed access through a wireless system to hundreds of residences in Lac-Sainte-Marie, Gosselin said. "The network reached [Bibic's residence] in January 2020, so it was far from the first to have access to high-speed internet in the area or the Outaouais, and it won't be the last," he added. Bibic and his wife bought land in the area in 2004 when he was senior vice-president of regulatory matters at Bell. He was named chief operating officer at the company in 2018 and became CEO in January 2020. That's also when his cottage was hooked up to Fibe. The governments of Canada and Quebec provided subsidies to build the "backbone" of the project, bringing optical fibre to Pemichangan Lake, while Bell paid the costs of the individual connections of its new clients. The cost of the Pemichangan project is not publicly known, but it was part of a bundle of $3.8 million in projects to connect seven communities, for which the federal and provincial governments paid a total of $2.6 million. Canada's digital divide The arrival of Bell Fibe along the southern edge of Pemichangan Lake has created an enclave of wired, high-speed data exchanges within a broad swath of cottage country north of Ottawa-Gatineau that is known for spotty or non-existent access. On one side of this digital divide, there are those who enjoy the benefits of high speed for work, business, communications and recreational purposes. Alan Smith, who owns a cottage on Pemichangan, said he's extremely satisfied with Bell Fibe, which replaced his previous internet access through a satellite provider. "It was very expensive to have poor-quality receptions. [It's] as simple as that," he said. "Now, for a cheaper price, we've got high-quality reception." On the other side of the digital divide are those who are waging a battle to obtain high-speed access, or who have to contend with a service that can be slow, unpredictable or at the mercy of the weather. Having failed to convince Bell to bring its network to the northern portion of Pemichangan Lake, some property owners there are trying to get a connection to the Starlink satellite network, which is currently being developed by American billionaire Elon Musk. "It's time we brought high speed to the lake!" wrote Cameron Jackson on the group's Facebook page. Bell's project to extend its Fibe network to some cottages on Pemichangan Lake was approved for federal and provincial funding in early 2018. Pauline Sauvé, a longtime resident of Lac-Sainte-Marie, said the high-speed lines going into the southern portion of Pemichangan Lake seem like a case of "preferential treatment." "I think it's not fair," she said. "People who work from home [and] kids with schoolwork to do — it's hard for them." In the area to take care of her mother, Rachelle Gauvreau said she's struggling as she deals with slow internet service and tries to do her work remotely. One of her solutions is working late in the evening, when there are fewer people online clogging up the system. "I brought work with me and it's a problem," she said. "Internet doesn't work well here." Bell understands the growing levels of impatience, Gosselin said, noting the company is part of a broad effort involving other providers and various levels of government to connect the minority of unconnected households in the country. "We are getting to the last communities that are not yet connected," the spokesperson said. "Obviously, we are now in areas that are less densely populated and where offering the service is more complex." Quebec Premier François Legault, who's trying to fulfil an electoral promise to offer broadband service across the province, has called on Bell to connect new customers more quickly. Political pressure building According to federal data, the quality of internet service around Bibic's cottage stands in sharp contrast with the rest of the region, where residents in nearby municipalities like Lac-Sainte-Marie and Kazabuzua don't all have access to high-speed service. "It's obviously frustrating," said Gary Lachapelle, the mayor of Lac-Sainte-Marie. "We are in 2021, we should have internet. People in the cities have it, why shouldn't people in rural areas have it too?" Caryl Green, the mayor of Chelsea, just north of Gatineau, said there's often a lack of logic in the development of high-speed networks. Some residents have access while their immediate neighbours can't get hooked up. "They feel left behind by the big companies," she said. Green said governments and companies should prioritize connections to primary residences and businesses, especially now. "That's where people are working from home, where they're schooling their children and where they're trying to buy online and to support local businesses," Green said. "So I think if secondary residences, cottages are getting hooked up… we have to demand that these large companies respond to the pockets of need that we see within our municipality." 'We are in 2021, we should have internet. People in the cities have it, why shouldn't people in rural areas have it too?' asked Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green. Neither the governments of Canada nor Quebec restrict the use of subsidies to hook up secondary residences or cottages to the internet. Access to high-speed internet is an increasingly hot-button political issue across Canada, with pressure growing on governments to expand the service to remote parts of the country. The COVID-19 pandemic and a series of stay-at-home orders have highlighted the fact that high speed has become an essential service for most families and companies. In late January, Quebec Premier François Legault directly called on Bell to connect new customers more quickly, or to provide access to its telephone poles to other providers such as Videotron. Legault is trying to fulfil an electoral promise to offer broadband services across the province. "There were 340,000 houses to connect, there are still 280,000 to connect to high speed internet. We have two summers left to do all of this," Mr. Legault said at a news conference. Last November, the federal government launched a $1.75-billion fund to expand broadband services across the country, which was on top of a $585-million program launched in 2016 to connect 975 communities by 2023. Overall, Ottawa is estimating that at least another 1.2 million households still need a broadband connection. Liberal MP Will Amos, who announced federal funding for the Pemichangan project in 2018, said he was unaware that Bibic was one of the property owners who was set to receive a broadband connection. He said the government is working to connect nearly all Canadians by 2026. "Every Canadian deserves high-speed internet," Amos said. "Comprehensive, 100 per cent coverage will take billions of dollars of investments, but it is money well spent because it is going to connect all Canadians and that is what people expect."
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's auditor general is warning of a crisis in the nursing home sector if the government doesn't address the shortage of spaces. Kim Adair-MacPherson says the number of seniors in the province is expected to double by 2036 and there are currently almost 800 seniors waiting for a nursing home placement. She says it's unclear how the province plans to address the demand. Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch says 600 new nursing home beds will be opened over the next five years. He says the procedure the government uses to request proposals for new nursing homes has been streamlined, which he says should speed things up. Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, says the government should concentrate on helping seniors remain in their own homes instead of putting them into nursing residences. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
“Kill Shot: A Shadow Industry, a Deadly Disease,” by Jason Dearen (Avery) Lower back pain. Spinal stenosis. Cataracts. All those conditions are treated with drugs manufactured by compounding pharmacies. And those drugs can blind or kill you, due in large part to an almost total absence of regulatory oversight. In his terrific but unnerving new book, “Kill Shot,” Associated Press investigative reporter Jason Dearen explores the shadow industry of compounding pharmacies and various unsuccessful efforts to rein it in. The story centres on the New England Compounding Center, which in 2012 produced mould-infested batches of an injectable steroid that killed more than 100 people and sickened nearly 800 others across 20 states. Eventually, the lab in Framingham, Massachusetts, half an hour west of Boston, was shut down, and 13 people, including co-owner Barry Cadden and supervising pharmacist Glenn Chin, were convicted of federal crimes. But as Dearen makes clear in his gripping, tautly written narrative, the problems posed by pharmacy compounding — which accounts for at least 10% of the country’s drug supply — are far from over. Relying on transcripts, interviews, FDA inspection reports and other sources, he reconstructs this slow-moving tragedy in scenes of almost cinematic intensity. We meet the sympathetic victims, many of them elderly people living with chronic pain, who, after receiving the injections, died slow, horrible deaths from fungal meningitis and its complications. We also meet the callous lab owners, who set out to enrich themselves by cutting corners, hiring unqualified staff, running a filthy operation and relying on payoffs to drum up business. And while some NECC employees were eventually held accountable, they had a host of enablers. These included the lobbying group Alliance for Pharmacy Compounding; members of Congress, who accepted their campaign contributions and killed meaningful reform; and the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2002 struck down a section of a law designed to give the FDA more oversight. Thankfully, there were good guys as well: mostly, the dedicated doctors and scientists in hospitals, state health labs and federal agencies, including the FDA and CDC, who tracked the mysterious outbreak of deadly infections in real time and limited its scope by alerting the public. “Kill Shot” is coming out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the overall fragility of the U.S. health care system. By calling attention to just one facet of it, Dearen has performed a tremendous public service. He includes a handy checklist of questions to ask prescribers about compounded drugs, but his takeaway is inescapable. Consumers would do well to educate themselves about treatment options and press for tougher regulations. Their lives — and those of their loved ones — may depend on it. — Ann Levin worked for The Associated Press for 20 years, including as national news editor at AP headquarters in New York. Since 2009 she’s worked as a freelance writer and editor. Ann Levin, The Associated Press
BERLIN — Germany's foreign minister on Wednesday urged Iran to accept diplomatic overtures coming from the West in order to preserve the 2015 nuclear accord. Heiko Maas accused Tehran of further undermining the transparency it is required to show under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, after Iran began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities Tuesday. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20% to its stockpile as of Feb. 16 — far past the 3.67% purity allowed under the JCPOA. "In the end, Iran needs to understand that what’s important is to de-escalate and accept the offer of diplomacy that’s on the table, including from the United States,” Maas said. Iran’s violations of the JCPOA pose a significant problem for U.S. President Joe Biden, who is seeking to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to pull the U.S. unilaterally out of the deal three years ago, triggering the re-imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Iran. Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift those sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities Maas said the transparency required of Iran under the JCPOA wouldn't be fulfilled during that period. "But we still want to use these three months, together with other partners in the nuclear agreement, to discuss step by step how the U.S. can return to this accord,” Maas said. “And in particular (the discussion) will be about the sequence of measures. That is, who needs to take which step so that a general agreement can be achieved at the end of which the U.S. are part of this agreement again.” Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear late Tuesday that his country doesn't have confidence in the accord with Tehran. “We have already seen the quality of agreements with extremist regimes such as yours, in the past century and in this one, with the government of North Korea,” he said. "With or without agreements – we will do everything so that you will not arm yourselves with nuclear weapons.” The Associated Press
(Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit) Mayor John Tory says Toronto is extending the cancellation of in-person major events to July 1 as the city looks ahead to another summer in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the events that will once again be moved online: the Toronto Marathon, Canada Day celebrations, the Juno Awards and the NXNE music festival. You can see the full list of events that are impacted here. The mayor's announcement came on the same day as news that the the Canadian National Exhibition was planning for an in-person fair event this summer, running from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6. Tory says it's too soon to predict whether or not the Ex will be able to open as planned. 700+ possible VOC cases in Toronto That update also comes as Toronto's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa laid out new numbers for the city's variant cases, revealing a growth of about 200 possible cases in just two days. Toronto currently has 72 cases that have been confirmed to be variants of concern (VOC). There are, however, 710 cases that have screened positive for "mutations of interest" and are expected to soon be lab confirmed as VOC — an increase of just under 200 from Monday. WATCH | Mayor John Tory explains Toronto's event closure extension "The only trend I'm prepared to cite at this point is that the screened positive total marches up daily and that should be a matter of concern to all of us," said de Villa. The city is also reporting 389 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as well as 30 additional hospitalizations, and 1 death. Province updates vaccine plan The briefing came on the same day as a major update on Ontario's vaccination plans, with the province revealing a staggered plan to vaccinate adults according to age through the spring and early summer. Adults over age 60 are expected to begin getting their shots by July 1st, but the province was unable to say when anyone younger than that could expect to be vaccinated. It also comes a day after COVID-19 outbreaks were confirmed at two Toronto police facilities.
As Oshawa and Durham Region have moved into the Red Zone of the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework, Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter says while that’s good news, residents still need to remain vigilant. “That means wearing a mask, washing our hands, staying apart, and try and stay within our family units to be able to make sure that we’re part of the flattening of the curve,” he says. With Oshawa now in the red zone, the city is preparing to reopen some facilities, beginning March 1, including City Hall, Civic Recreation Complex, South Oshawa Community Centre, the Donevan Complex, and Delpark Homes Centre. However, Carter says there will be some changes at these facilities. “Here at City Hall and at all of our facilities, we’re asking people to book ahead,” says Carter, noting attending city facilities is by appointment only. “Our facilities are asking you to take the opportunity to book ahead to make sure you get your spot to utilize our facilities,” he adds. Residents interested in booking an appointment at one of the city facilities can do so through Service Oshawa at 905-436-3311. Bookings will be open beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Oshawa residents now also have the option of advance booking privileges, including bookings for fitness centres, indoor tracks, tennis and pickleball courts, and leisure swimming and skating. Residents who have an active Fitness Membership will have 10 days advance booking privileges, while community members who are not Oshawa residents but have an active Fitness Membership will have seven days. Oshawa residents who do not have an active Fitness Membership will have three days advance booking privileges, and other community members without an active membership will have one day advance booking privileges. Residents looking to take advantage of the 10- or three-day booking privileges are asked to call Service Oshawa, while all other booking requests can be done online at www.register.oshawa.ca. Ice rental is available at Delpark Homes Centre by contacting the Facility Booking Office. Ice is also available at the Tribute Communities Centre for on-ice instruction to specific sport affiliations and organizations. Futhermore, the Delpark and Northview branches of Oshawa Public Libraries will reopen on March 1 as well for in-library browsing, computer use and takeout service. The Jess Hann branch will reopen to the public on March 1, while the McLaughlin branch will continue to provide take-out service only. The OSCC55+ Delpark Homes Branch will reopen by appointment only in conjunction with the Depark Homes Centre. Carter says now is the time for the community to continue to be vigilant, noting residents have done a “tremendous job” thus far. “I’m asking us to stay local, shop local, support local, but we’re in this together,” he adds. “We will get through this together.” Carter noted it’s been almost one year that COVID-19 has been around. “We’ve got a little more journey to go through, but I’m optimistic and hopeful that 2021 will be a tremendous year.” Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Oshawa Express
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities say a fifth person in the province has died from COVID-19. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald teared up and paused for a moment during today's pandemic briefing and asked people to focus on the future. Officials are also reporting eight new cases of COVID-19 and say six people are in hospital with the disease. All of the infections announced today are in the eastern health region of the province, which includes the capital, St. John's, and where an outbreak has been flaring for several weeks. Officials say the outbreak was caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. Fitzgerald says though case numbers have been low over the past few days, the province remains in lockdown and people must stay on guard. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
SAN FRANCISCO — A new report from Uber Technologies Inc. says its Canadian drivers and couriers don't think they receive dependable earnings. The survey of 23,428 people earning money through the company's platform says only 31 per cent rated Uber as "good" for dependable earnings. About one quarter described it as "poor" and 43 per cent says they were just "OK." The survey was conducted by Uber and Qualtrics last October and was released after UberEats couriers complained that a change in the company's pay system resulted in their average earnings sliding from as much as $10 a trip before tips to as low as $3.99 during the pandemic. Drivers called for more transparency around how their fares are calculated, release of details on minimum earnings before accepting trips and lower commissions on long trips. Almost 20 per cent of Uber users griped about the quality of customer service, robotic responses and the long response time to get an issue resolved, while 17 per cent had concerns about the app's performance and its navigation and GPS system. Despite the issues raised, Uber says 80 per cent of those surveyed were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the company and 65 per cent think it has either done enough or gone above and beyond for workers during the pandemic. “What drivers want and care about matters, and we will use this feedback to help improve the experience on Uber for now and in the future," an Uber spokesperson said in an email. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit) Nova Scotians looking to make their homes or vehicles more energy efficient are now able to apply for rebates of up to several thousand dollars from the province. In their first official announcement since being sworn in, Premier Iain Rankin and Environment Minister Keith Irving announced $19 million in funding for rebates on energy-efficient home upgrades and electric vehicles. "We'll have the program up and running soon, but the rebates will apply as of today," Rankin said at the announcement, which was made at a dealer of electric vehicles in Dartmouth, N.S. Half of the funding, or $9.5 million, will go toward rebates for new and used electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and e-bikes. The rebates will be $3,000 for new electric vehicles, $2,000 for used vehicles and $500 for e-bikes. The provincial rebates will stack with federal rebates of up to $5,000 from the federal government for new electric vehicles. Electric vehicle charging stations in the United States. Rankin said Nova Scotia would work toward further investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. There are nearly 500 electric vehicles registered in Nova Scotia presently, according to the provincial government. Rankin said uptake of electric vehicles is higher in other provinces with provincial rebates. He also said the Nova Scotia government will work to augment the roughly 100 charging stations across the province. "More and more as the markets have the vehicles in, it's in the interest of businesses to have those charging stations," he said. "There has been work underway and we'll support more work to make sure that we have the infrastructure as well." Irving introduced Rankin at their first official announcement Wednesday. The other half of the $19 million will go to rebate programs that aim to make home energy efficiency upgrades accessible to low-income Nova Scotians. The programs are administered by Efficiency Nova Scotia, with some rebates for low-income homeowners and some for property owners that offer multi-unit affordable housing. The province estimates this will help 1,200 low-income families. 80 per cent renewable by 2030 Rankin also announced a new renewable energy target that would see the entire province have 80 per cent of its electricity use come from renewable sources by 2030. Rankin promised he would introduce the target during the Nova Scotia Liberal leadership race. The previous target of 40 per cent renewable by the end of 2020 was not met. Rankin said currently the province's renewable use is in the "high 30s," but when the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador comes online he expects that number to rise to 60 per cent. He anticipated mostly wind energy and some solar will take the province from the final 60 per cent to 80 per cent, calling the target "very achievable." "Research tells us that wind power is inexpensive and reliable in Nova Scotia. It's the quickest and most cost-effective way to add more renewables to the grid," he said. A wind turbine is framed by a sun dog, an atmospheric phenomenon, on Dalhousie Mountain, N.S., on Friday, April 23, 2010. Rankin said in the next few weeks the Department of Energy will start looking at contracts for the lowest bidders for wind farms, a new Renewable Energy Standard will be released next month, and by 2025 all electricity for provincial government offices will come from renewable energy. "It's also an economic opportunity that Nova Scotia should be part of shaping that change, and not be dragged along with it," Rankin said, adding that he wants to be the first province in Canada to get to net zero emissions. About half of the money for the rebate program is coming from the Green Fund, which is Nova Scotia's cap-and-trade program that collects money through auctions where the largest greenhouse gas emitters and energy companies are required to participate. The Ecology Action Centre estimated the auctions will generate between $27 to $32-million each year for renewable energy projects. MORE TOP STORIES
Nikola Dimitrov of AIS Technologies Group in Windsor, Ont., discusses how the pandemic has affected supply lines.
In honour of National Pink Shirt Day, a local author who wrote a book on anti-bullying wants to remind victims they are not alone and that it’s okay to speak out. Growing up in Oshawa, Ryan Doyle, now 33, was bullied badly, which he says defined his future in a positive way. “Because I successfully overcame bullying, I felt the need to try to help other victims try to overcome bullying as well,” he says. That’s when he decided to write his book, Tears of Loneliness: The Angel Within, which was published in March 2016. A partial memoir, Doyle writes of his personal experiences involving bullying, followed by a self-help section which provides victims of bullying with effective coping strategies that can help them to overcome bullying. “Through my experiences and being able to overcome bullying in my own life, I’m able to help other victims realize they’re not alone and it can help victims realize that there is hope.” Doyle says Pink Shirt Day, which is celebrated on Feb. 24, is an excellent initiative that can help victims, noting he will be wearing his pink shirt proudly. For those who are currently experiencing bullying, Doyle says he wants them to know they are not alone and that it’s about finding a way, although difficult, to not allow the words and actions of others to bother them in any way. “Sometimes what it’s really about is loving and believing in themselves and realizing that people who are victims are not the problem, but that it’s the bullies in the world that need to change their ways. It’s not the victims that are in need of changing,” he says. To the bullies, Doyle says it’s time to change. “I think they do it because something in their life is making them unhappy. It’s about realizing that and finding effective coping strategies for dealing with it as opposed to taking it out on other victims,” he continues. He says bullies need to look into their victim’s eyes and see the suffering that victim is going through. “Maybe if they can have some empathy for the victims they’re victimizing, maybe they can making those changes in their life,” he adds. Looking ahead, Doyle has started working on his second book on anti-bullying and how former victims can develop an optimistic future for themselves. For now, he says he hopes his book will continue to help other victims. Doyle’s book, Tears of Loneliness: The Angel Within, can be found on Amazon. Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Oshawa Express
MONTREAL — Veteran defender Laurent Ciman has returned to Montreal, where he started his MLS playing career, this time as an assistant coach. The 35-year-old Belgian spent three seasons in Montreal before an unwanted trade to expansion Los Angeles FC in December 2017. After one season as LAFC captain, he joined Toronto FC in December 2018 after a brief stint in France with Ligue 1's Dijon. Ciman, named MLS Defender of the Year in his first season in Montreal, became a free agent after his TFC contract expired at the end of last season. For Ciman, retirement as a player means a return home. He retained his house in Montreal and wife Diana and their two kids remained there while he played in Toronto. After a successful career in Belgium, Ciman opted to come to Canada in 2015 because of the support available here for daughter Nina, who has autism spectrum disorder. "I'm very happy to be back home," Ciman said in a statement Wednesday. "It's been my wish for a long time, and this is a great opportunity for myself and my family. I just want to contribute to the club’s growth." Ciman, who won 20 caps for his country, played in the Belgian top flight from 2004 to 2015 with Charleroi Sporting Club, Club Brugge, KV Kortrijk and Standard de Liège. He played six seasons in MLS, appearing in 136 regular-season games including 126 starts. He also played in nine playoffs games, nine Canadian Championship games and eight CONCACAF Champions League matches. "We are very happy that Laurent is joining the coaching staff and that he is back with the club," said Montreal sporting director Olivier Renard. "It is a logical and beneficial association, especially knowing the attachment Laurent has always had for this club and this city. We can now count on his experience after a fruitful career in Europe, in MLS, and on the international stage." Ciman who played 515 pro matches during his career, saw limited action with Toronto but provided key backup for the injured Omar Gonzalez in the 2019 playoffs. He was a popular member of the Toronto squad. "He's got an incredible personality … a very playful personality that I think is infectious in our group," then coach Greg Vanney said during Ciman's time in Toronto. "It's something that our group needs at times, just to be able to banter, have fun, make something sometimes that is challenging or difficult into some kind of a game within the game." Ciman was a member of the Belgian squad that reached the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and saw action in Euro 2016. He missed out on the 2018 World Cup, one of Belgium's final cuts. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021 The Canadian Press
Despite rising COVID-19 cases, especially in Metro Vancouver, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry didn’t announce new measures to curb the spread of the virus in a briefing today. Henry urged British Columbians to continue to stay home when sick, wear a mask in public spaces and not socialize outside their households — public health orders that have been in place for nearly five months. “It is concerning that we’re seeing an increase in our per-cent positivity and in our weekly average, particularly in the Lower Mainland,” she said. “We know what to do to manage.” The province need only stay the course to lower transmission as it continues to roll out vaccines to the most vulnerable to serious illness, she said. But recent data shows the number of people infected is beginning to climb again after a slow decline. Earlier this month, the province was reporting about 450 new COVID-19 cases each day. On Thursday, the province reported 617 new cases. Today, Henry said 559 new cases had been identified. And the rolling seven-day average of new daily cases has surpassed 500 for the first time since early January. Recent polling also suggests British Columbians are less likely to consistently follow COVID-19 guidelines than people in other provinces. Concerns have also increased after seven schools reported students and staff had been exposed to COVID-19 variants that are believed to be more easily transmitted and potentially more likely to cause serious illness. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside acknowledged the issue in a briefing Monday. “I can appreciate the anxiety,” she said. But she added that testing has shown the variants are not being spread within schools. Henry said the province is testing all positive cases for evidence of a variant, and genomic sequencing has been ramped up to confirm the extent of variants in the community. “We are paying extra attention, so we better understand how and where these are spreading,” she said. “We’re learning about the impacts of these variants of concern,” Henry said. “But we know what we have to do to manage it.” Henry said there are signs the province’s vaccination effort has saved lives, particularly in long-term care. More than 220,000 people have been vaccinated, and at least 55,057 of those have had two doses. The province reported one death due to COVID-19 today, an individual in assisted living. There have been no new cases or deaths in long-term care in the last 24 hours, and 92 per cent of residents have had their first dose of the vaccine, Henry said. Outbreaks in long-term care have also dropped from almost 60 in December to 12. There are five outbreaks in assisted living facilities. On Monday the province will announce the plan for vaccinating seniors over 80 living in the community, Henry said, which will begin shortly. “We are in a period of vaccine hope and pandemic reality,” she said. Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee