Strong winds by the water in Sauble Beach, Ontario.
Strong winds by the water in Sauble Beach, Ontario.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
Two more Saskatchewan residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.One person was from the north zone and was in the 80 and up age category. The second person was from Regina and was in the 60 to 79 age category. The province reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.The seven-day daily average of new cases is 274 — 22.6 new cases per 100,000 population. As of Tuesday, Saskatchewan's rate of new cases remains the third highest in Canada, after Manitoba and Alberta. Of the 8,982 reported cases in the province, 3,970 are considered active. Six of the new cases Wednesday are located in the far north west, three are in the far north central, 16 are in the far north east, 17 are in the north west, 25 are in the north central, three are in the north east, 109 are in the Saskatoon area, four are in the central east, 36 are in the Regina area, eight are in the south west, one is in the south central and three are in the south east zones. Seven of the new cases have pending locations. There are currently 132 people in hospital, 106 of whom are receiving in-patient care. One person is in the far north west, seven are in the north west, seven are in the north central, one is in the north east, 42 are in the Saskatoon zone, two are in the central east, 23 are in the Regina zone, two are in the south west, one is in the south central and 20 are in the south east. Twenty-six people are in intensive care, with five in the north central zone, 12 in Saskatoon and nine in Regina.Eighty-four people were reported recovered on Wednesday. To date a total of 4,959 people have recovered.
Fossil fuel production around the world must start winding down now, dropping by six per cent per year for the next decade to avoid the more extreme consequences of the climate emergency, according to a major new study backed by the United Nations. Instead, governments around the world, including Canada, expect to go in the opposite direction — producing more coal, oil or natural gas “far in excess of the levels consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature limits,” states the 2020 Production Gap report, released Wednesday. Researchers working in collaboration with the UN’s Environment Program looked at publicly available energy strategies of eight major fossil fuel-producing countries that collectively account for 60 per cent of the global fossil fuel supply. They found a planned average annual increase of about two per cent per year to carbon-intensive energy production. Such production levels would result in more than double, or 120 per cent more, high-carbon fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with holding global heating below 2 C above pre-industrial levels. “Governments are altogether still planning on producing far too many fossil fuels,” said Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, a scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the corresponding author of the report’s chapter on the production gap. This includes Canada, which expects its crude oil and natural gas production to keep steadily climbing over the next two decades, even as the federal Liberal government commits to net-zero emissions nationwide by 2050 and promises to increase the stringency of its 2030 emissions target. Canadian crude oil production isn’t expected to peak until at least 2039, and natural gas production isn’t expected to peak until 2040, according to projections from the federal energy regulator that were released last week. Wednesday’s report cites Canadian projections showing 6.4 million barrels of oil per day and 187 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2030. Julia Levin, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence, said the report sounds the alarm over the disconnect between the climate commitments of countries and their plans for their energy sectors. As a wealthy nation, said Levin, with expertise in renewable energy and clean technology, Canada has the ability to start down a path of a managed decline of fossil fuel production, while ensuring such a transition is just and equitable for workers in the sector. “It will require courage and leadership from our elected leaders to start having honest conversations about what achieving zero emissions really means, and to stop dancing around an obvious truth: That we must transition off of fossil fuels,” she said. Canada is one of four countries examined in the report, along with Australia, the United States and Russia, that are forecasting increases in their oil and gas production. The eight countries studied also include China, India, Indonesia and Norway. The researchers — who also hailed from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and European think tank E3G — said the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures meant to stop the spread of the virus did take a bite out of fossil fuel production, but not nearly enough to stave off harsher climate disruptions. They said preliminary estimates suggest global fossil fuel production will drop by seven per cent in 2020, relative to last year. Coal will drop by eight per cent, oil will drop by seven per cent and natural gas will drop by three per cent. Pre-COVID-19 energy plans, as well as government stimulus and recovery measures, however, could “prompt a return to pre-COVID production trajectories that lock in severe climate disruption.” “To date, governments have committed far more COVID-19 funds to fossil fuels than to clean energy,” the report states. “As of November 2020, G20 governments had committed US$233 billion to activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption, as compared with US$146 billion to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon alternatives.” One very important fossil fuel player is missing from the report: The researchers could not find data from Saudi Arabia. But the state-controlled fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco has indicated in a Reuters story that it will ramp up production as soon as demand returns “before a shift to cleaner energy makes crude all but worthless.” The federal government gets credit in the report for committing $1.7 billion towards cleaning up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells, and for launching a methane emissions reduction program. Canada, with its carbon pricing system, is also one of several governments that have introduced reforms and limits to fossil fuel consumption. It is also one of three countries to have set up bodies that are helping design policies to facilitate a “just transition” away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Alberta is also noted for contributing $180 million to its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction system, meant to help large industrial emitters cut their pollution. Michael Lazarus, director of SEI’s U.S. centre and co-ordinating lead author of the report, noted that even though Canadian oil production is forecasted to continue to rise, the Canada Energy Regulator had “substantially ramped down” the projections in its latest report. “I think we may begin to see other countries starting to do the same,” he said. “But the point is they need to be encouraged to do so. It doesn’t necessarily come automatically.” Canada is also listed as a “leading provider of fossil fuel producer subsidies” and Alberta’s equity and loan guarantees for the Keystone XL pipeline are also singled out. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
South Okanagan climber and filmmaker Dave Mai has plenty of adventures and beautiful climbing photos on his social media feed, but the stories, risks, heart and heartbreak leading to those shots often go untold. To gain that perspective, Mai would have to climb higher. Mai’s second climbing film, Higher Perspective, was released online this year and explores the life behind the lens. He wanted to go beyond the surface-level sharing of social media, and ended up exploring himself as well as those who spend their career behind the camera capturing breathtaking images and daring feats. “This film was a way to dive deeper than just a social media post and share what I’m going through in my life and my hobbies. Just give a different perspective and hope someone resonates with that,” Mai said. Mai started rock climbing roughly six years ago. While shooting his previous film, Ephemera, he realized he should probably learn a bit more about ice climbing. “That first film was interesting because somehow I managed to get a really high-profile climber, Tim Emmett, to do this first ascent,” Mai said. “I remember standing at the bottom of this waterfall, like, ‘yeah I’ve never really climbed ice and I’m about to go up with this world-class ice climber.’ So that kind of sparked that I need to step my game up if I’m going to survive this game.” The film follow’s Mai’s journey as a climbing photographer and along the way he joins others who pursue the craft in both B.C. and Alberta. “At first it was going to be a film about climbing photographers, and then I realized I needed a central character to pivot around. That kind of became me. I didn’t intend it to be that way at first, but I had the most control over me so I had to kind of create myself as the central character,” Mai said. Mai met many of the climbing photographers featured in the film through Instagram. He meets and interviews climbers, photographers mountain guides and joins them on their journey to capture sometimes-tense moments and breathtaking views. “Usually you are seeing the climbers and you have no idea who is behind the lens. The climbers usually get all the glory,” Mai said with a laugh. “Not that I need any glory.” Climbing photographers often have to get ahead of their subjects, either hiking around to a good vantage point or climbing up first. Preparation and planning are as important as climbing skills. Sometimes hidden away in backcountry areas, ice walls usually require a journey before climbers even arrive, so being prepared and efficient are key during the long shoots. “It can make for some long days, so you’ve got to be pretty proficient at what you’re doing. There’s also that safety factor, so you’ve got to be with a team that you trust and have confidence in their skills,” Mai said. “A lot of these times these ice falls we are going to are a four hour hike in, in waist-deep snow, to get there.” Much of the film was shot in the Okanagan, with rock climbing scenes taking place at the Skaha Bluffs south of Penticton, Apex Mountain, the Keremeos/Hedley area and the Carmi area. “I tried to film as much in the Okanagan as possible. I also went down to Squamish to film Alex Ratson, who is a photographer down there,” Mai said. “We ended up hiring a chopper, flying to the top of Mount Habrich to do some marketing shots up there.” In the film, Mai also visits the Rocky Mountains working with Calgary-based photographer Tim Banfield. Funded by Telus STORYHIVE and CreativeBC as well with support from multiple sponsors, Mai spent roughly a year and a half working on the film. As he was just putting the final pieces together, COVID-19 struck the world. “I have mixed feelings about it. I had these big plans of putting it in big film festivals, and all the film festivals are online now. I just ended up releasing it independently online,” Mai said. Mai ended up working on the audio mix down alone in a theatre, which made for an odd experience. “I was at the Frank Venables Theatre by myself just watching this film. It felt so surreal just finalizing this film by myself,” Mai said. Putting himself as the main character at the centre of Higher Perspective was a unique experience for Mai. “It feels really vulnerable,” Mai said. “At the end of the film I come to the realization that I’m going to keep pursuing this adventure photography, climbing, filmmaking thing. It may be uncommon and some people may have things to say about it, it might be dangerous, but I’m OK with the risks to feel fulfilled and not be afraid to go chase what feels right to me, and honest.” The film started out as a reaction to the shallowness of the social media world, a world Mai hopes to brighten with the project. “There’s this weird energy in the world. Social media can be pretty ugly and I hope this film can be kind of like a shiny rock in this weird world we work in,” Mai said. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump teased running again for president in 2024 as he hosted a holiday reception at the White House. “It’s been an amazing four years,” Trump told the crowd, which included many Republican National Committee members. “We’re trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.” The video of Trump's appearance Tuesday was streamed live on Facebook by one attendee, Pam Pollard, who is national committeewoman for the Oklahoma GOP. It showed dozens of people crammed into the broad Cross Hall of the White House state floor, standing closely together. Many seen in the video were not wearing masks. The Trumps began hosting holiday receptions this week, intent on celebrating a final season before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20. According to social media postings reviewed by The Associated Press, the events have featured large crowds of often maskless attendees gathered indoors — violating the very public health guidance the U.S. government has pressed the nation to follow this holiday season as cases of COVID-19 skyrocket across the country. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended the Trumps' decision to host the parties. She noted that the guest lists are smaller than past years, hand sanitizer is made available to guests and social distancing is encouraged. “So you know if you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protest, you can also go to a Christmas party,” said McEnany, who noted that Trumps also plan to host Hanukkah celebrations. In the video, Trump is heard continuing to air baseless allegations of election fraud to explain his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden despite his attorney general, William Barr, telling the AP earlier Tuesday that the Justice Department had not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud and had seen nothing that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Coughing can be heard from the audience as Trump addressed the gathering. “It’s certainly an unusual year. We won an election. But they don’t like that," Trump told the group, adding: “I call it a rigged election, and I always will.” The White House has been the site of at least one suspected COVID-19 superspreader event, and dozens of the president's aides, campaign staffers and allies have tested positive in numerous outbreaks. Trump himself was hospitalized for the virus in October, and the first lady and two of his sons have tested positive. Numerous others have had to quarantine. Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman and chief of staff, had said last month that the White House would be moving forward with events, “while providing the safest environment possible." She said that would include smaller guest lists, that "masks will be required and available, social distancing encouraged while on the White House grounds, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the State Floor.” “Attending the parties will be a very personal choice,” she added. ___ Miller reported from Wilmington, Del. Zeke Miller And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Schools across Nova Scotia will be getting new touchless water stations and extra school supplies, as well as money to test drive new online math, language and literacy programs.Teachers, students and staff will also receive new face masks and have access to more personal protective equipment as part of a spending spree to use up almost all of the almost $48 million promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August.Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill laid out his department's shopping list during a virtual news conference Wednesday from the Tri-County Regional Centre of Education office in Yarmouth."Today I am pleased to announce the province is providing $14.3 million to our students and staff for well-being and learning," he told reporters.That spending includes: * $4.1M to pilot new online math and literacy programs * $3.8M for 950 touchless water stations in every school * $2.7M for additional inspections to ventilation systems and needed repairs * $1.5M for breakfast and lunch programs or for food deliveries if schools are closed * $1.5M for personal protective equipment * $700,00 to move furniture and supplies if students need to change schools as part of blended learningIn August, Trudeau announced the creation of a $2 billion Safe Return to Class Fund. Nova Scotia was promised almost $48 million from the fund to "ensure a safe return to school and (to) protect the health of students and staff."The Nova Scotia government has announced where all but $6 million of that money has been or will be spent. Churchill is holding back the remaining money in case it's needed down the road."We do have approximately six million left that we're going to deploy in areas that we believe are necessary moving forward, but we don't just want to spend it all," he said. "There's nothing to spend it on."We want to respond to issues that are emerging as challenges that we want to deal with, and having some additional resources in place to do that, I think is a wise thing to do."On Nov. 23, Churchill announced the purchase of 32,000 Chromebooks to go home with students if they are forced to move to online learning. That $21.5 million expenditure is from the fund. So too is the $5.5 million announced Nov. 3 to hire cleaning staff and buy supplies so that school gyms could reopen to community groups and sports teams.Although the province was ready Wednesday to announce the purchase of 950 water stations, Churchill was unable to provide a timeline for when they might be installed."That's going to be managed at the regional level so I don't have a schedule on which schools are going to be done (and) when, but the work on this will commence immediately," he said.The $1.5 million earmarked for school breakfast and lunch programs will be used to meet the increased demand for both programs, as well as for food hampers or to but grocery gift cards if students are sent home again if COVID infection rates warrant the closure of schools.Deanna Rawding, principal at West Northfield Elementary School near Bridgewater, said her school has seen an increase in demand for both its free breakfasts and its equity meal program, which offers a free lunch to students who cannot afford to pay for it."I've seen an increase in need ... because we had some families that lost jobs due to COVID or were unable to get the hours they needed to support their family," said Rawding.She said the extra funds to be able to continue to help those students would make a difference in the classroom."That makes them feel good and that makes them better learners throughout the day," she said.MORE TOP STORIES
The County of Grande Prairie launched its newly redesigned website recently, intended to be more mobile-friendly and easier to navigate, according to county communications. The website serves as “a digital one-stop-shop for information about county programs, services and initiatives,” according to county communications. “Council approved the development of a new external website for the County of Grande Prairie to better meet the evolving needs of residents and the public,” said Allison Richels, county communications advisor. “The new website (will) ensure visitors to the site will have the best experience possible when engaging with the county online.” The previous version of the website was created in 2012 and a survey on a new design was open in January and February, she said. The survey drew a response from 90 people and an additional 10 participated in focus groups in March and April, Richels said. The focus groups discussed what the website should offer and how it should be organized. She said the feedback given had an influence in “every stage of the website development.” Users can continue to give feedback by scrolling to the bottom of the page at www.countygp.ab.ca, where “Website Feedback” can be clicked. To celebrate the website launch, the county is holding a ’Tis the Season contest now until noon Dec. 14 on the website. Residents of the county and the towns and village within it, the City of Grande Prairie and Greenview can enter by subscribing for events calendar updates and filling out their contact information. Four vouchers worth $100 will be awarded to those whose names are drawn, and Richels said these gift cards can be used at any business that accepts credit cards. Community groups can also enter by submitting an event to the county calendar, with two vouchers worth $150 available.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Despite the month of December just barely underway, St. Marys residents are already planning to do something special for members of the community. Rachael O'Neill and Joe Robson said they were chatting recently about how difficult this year has been and what they could do to give back and make this holiday season a bit more jolly for their fellow residents. That was when they came up with the idea of a free Christmas dinner for those in need. The duo has teamed up with Gordy's to deliver a limited number of free dinners on Christmas Eve to St. Marys residents. Please remember that quantities are limited and this is meant only for people truly in need. If you or someone you know is in need, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or, for those who don't email, you can send your request to Box no. 9, N4X 1A9, in St. Marys. Donations will also be accepted via e-transfer or can be picked up by O'Neill. When submitting the name of yourself or someone else to receive a free Christmas Eve dinner, make sure to include the following information: • Name • Address • Phone number and email address (if applicable)Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Wearing a mask in public indoor places is now mandatory in Yukon, and people in the territory are adjusting to the new public health measure.Matthew Hitchcock, store manager at Coast Mountain Sports, said that all their employees were given masks and many customers were prepared and following the new rules on Tuesday. "It's that assurity you have that everyone's on the same page. Everyone's trying," he said. "I think it makes everyone feel a little bit safer."The mask mandate was announced last month and came into effect on Tuesday, as case counts of COVID-19 have risen sharply in the past few weeks.It's applicable to all people in Yukon over the age of five in indoor public spaces, unless they are able to provide an exemption.Hitchcock said customers were very positive about wearing masks, and that there was a real sense of community with everyone wearing one."I think that everyone's of the understanding now that it's for the safety of everyone, and I think everyone's on the same page. It's been working well," Hitchcock said.Those who had forgotten their masks were able to pick up a disposable one at the entrance of the store.Maryann Etzel was out shopping on Monday, and said she felt more comfortable being out and about with others wearing masks."I feel a lot safer like I can go into the stores and not worry about people coughing and stuff, now they have masks."Etzel said she thinks the rules should have been put in place a long time ago, to keep Yukoners safe in public spaces.'Incredibly impressed with level of uptake'Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, said at Tuesday's news conference that he had already seen more public acceptance toward masks within the first day they were made mandatory."I am incredibly impressed with the level of uptake in the population. And just walking through downtown [Monday] I was noticing, even outside, the degree of uptake of mask use was astounding," Hanley said.Hanley said people may need time to adjust, but he expects an increase in uptake, with the goal of having "as close to 100 per cent of the population wearing masks as possible."Graeme Tennant has already been wearing a mask while working at the library, and he said he has gotten used to it. He suspects others in the territory will adapt quickly as well."You get used to it and you go with it. "Everyone knows why it's being done and I have personally not encountered anyone who's really aggressive about it," he said. However, one thing Tennant is still getting used to is guessing people's facial expressions."It's kind of hard to judge when you just see people's eyes … are they smiling, are they sticking their tongue out at me with that mask on? I don't know!"
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament. The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting. The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance. By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country. Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution. Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.” The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic. In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail. Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region. He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz. “In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.” Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic. “We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.” Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted. If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March. Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held. There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held. Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better. By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial. Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case. “Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer. One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran. Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign. “Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Halifax councillors want to crack down on landlords who purposely make rental units unlivable as a ploy to pressure tenants to move out of their homes. Rosanna Chilton, a renter in Halifax, said the door to her basement apartment on Joseph Howe Drive was removed on Dec. 1 for 24 hours."My roommate was there when he removed the door and ran away with it," she said. "He wanted to bully us out of here."Chilton had to miss work and make a number of calls before the door was put back. She is looking for another place to live, but has not been able to find one that she can afford.Councillors are hearing from other tenants with similar stories."I just had another note from a young woman who had her doors and windows taken off," said Coun. Pam Lovelace. "Landlords should know that Halifax will not put up with this."Councillor calls for $10K finesThe province handles landlord-tenant disputes, such as overdue rent, through the tenancy board. The municipality is responsible for health and safety standards of rental buildings."If the tenancy board has problems, that's an issue for landlords to take to the province," said Coun. Waye Mason. "But in the interim, they can't do these things that put people's lives at risk."Mason said there should be a $10,000 fine per day, per incident, and the municipality should have the ability to send in a contractor to immediately replace a door or window.HRM officials are already working on a new rental bylaw that will have occupancy standards and a rental registry. Mason is calling for new fines for health and safety violations to be included in the bylaw, which is expected to be ready by April."I think our bylaw officers need the biggest stick possible," he said. "You cannot make a unit dangerous because you have a tenant dispute."MORE TOP STORIES
Dental services are resuming in six N.W.T. communities, the territorial government announced on Wednesday. Health facilities in Fort Providence, Sambaa K’e, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution, and Aklavik have been cleared to once again host visits from private dentists. On Wednesday, the GNWT said facilities in the six communities had met standards and been approved by the chief public health officer. Private dentistry clinics in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik had all kept services open throughout most of the pandemic, but all non-urgent dental travel to smaller communities was suspended by the federal government in March. "The remaining N.W.T. communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to resume operations when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place, and facilities are inspected and meet COVID-19 safety protocols," read a statement from the territorial government. "The necessary assessments and required work are expected to continue throughout 2021-2022. Further updates will be provided as health facilities in additional communities are confirmed to be able to accommodate visiting dentists." In communities where dental services remain unavailable, the federal ageny Indigenous Services Canada will support travel for Non-Insured Health Benefit clients to receive services elsewhere.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
VANCOUVER — The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says November home sales were down from October — but still well above the same time last year, as the market catches up to the effects of COVID-19.The board says real estate agents sold 3,064 homes last month, down 16.9 per cent from October, but up 22.7 per cent from November 2019.The board's report says the benchmark price of a Vancouver home hit $1,044,000, up 5.8 per cent from November 2019.Vancouver is a seller's market, board chairwoman Colette Gerber said, as demand for detached houses and townhomes is pushing prices higher while the rate of new listings lags. Although the number of homes listed for sale in November rose 36.2 per cent year-over-year to 4,068, new listings were down 27 per cent from October. That left the sales-to-active listings ratio — a closely watched figure in the industry — at 27.6 per cent, still above the 20 per cent level where prices tend to rise.Meanwhile, November sales passed 3,000 for the first time since 2015, marking the second-best November in the past decade.“The supply of homes for sale are a critical factor in understanding home price trends," Gerber said in the report.The Vancouver area has seen near-record home sales since the summer, said Gerber, after COVID-19 restrictions tamped down on the usual home buying season, which tends to peak in spring and slow down by winter.The was a surge of sales in the far reaches of the metro area, such as the Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Squamish, as homebuyers looked toward less dense neighbourhoods amid work-from-home arrangements and physical distancing policies, according to Gerber. The Sunshine Coast, in particular, saw home sales jump 82.8 per cent.The trend of buyers seeking space was also apparent in the type of homes sold. Detached home sales were up 28.6 per cent during the month, with prices up 9.4 per cent from a year ago. More than 40 per cent more attached homes were sold this November than last, and prices for properties such as townhomes were up 5.6 per cent from November 2019.Apartment sales growth was slower, up 12.2 per cent, as apartment prices rose 3.4 per cent from last year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Christmas is still a few weeks away, but Mariah Carey is already orchestrating her dinner menu. “I do my father’s linguini with white clam sauce every Christmas Eve,” says the legendary songstress. “Then we do that traditional, more of a Southern-style Christmas dinner.” But is the woman known for her grandeur nearly as much as her 19 No. 1 hits really going to sweat over a hot stove? “I do so with the help of several sous-chefs,” Carey said with a laugh, before noting like many families around the world, she’ll scale back Christmas slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I am going to have to have maybe one person helping me and then we’ll figure it out. We’re making it through the holidays.” Helping others get in the holiday spirit is part of the legacy of her iconic holiday tune, “All I Want For Christmas is You.” But the Christmas chanteuse will soon gift the world with a new present: the Apple TV+ event “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special.” Carey hopes to provide some Christmas cheer during a time some may need it more than ever. “(Apple TV+) was able to help realize this dream of really doing something special and spectacular and not having … a regular concert,” said Carey. “During COVID, people made magic happen with this … it feels like another very big, historic kind of a moment.” After “All I Want for Christmas” historically hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during its 25th anniversary last year, Carey says the idea of a special was sparked just a couple of months later. Starring Carey and narrated by actor-comedian Tiffany Haddish, the production centres around a holiday cheer crisis, with Santa’s friend Mariah coming to save the day. Premiering Friday, performers include Ariana Grande, Snoop Dogg, Misty Copeland, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Eichner and more. Carey's nine-year-old twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe, also join in the festivities. “Magical Christmas Special” is another example of diverse, family-friendly holiday programming that hasn’t always been allotted by Hollywood. But productions like this, along with others such as the John Legend-produced “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” signals a promising shift. It’s of particular significance this year after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked global social justice protests, attempting to force America to again reckon with its racist history. “Representation was really not there very much growing up, and I think that contributed to the way that I felt because I always loved Christmas,” 50-year-old Carey said. “As a kid, if I had to select one holiday, of course I’m going with Christmas. So, I tried to make it inclusive and I think everybody involved with the project did.” If the “Magical Christmas Special” wasn’t benevolent enough, the five-time Grammy winner is also releasing a companion soundtrack with new song interpretations. And while the pandemic has halted a number of projects, 2020 has been busy for Carey: In September she released her candid memoir “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” which debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers. And later that week she dropped “The Rarities,” an album filled with unreleased songs and B-side cuts. Carey said though she's grateful for her awesome year, she has one Christmas wish — especially during a time when political partisanship in America is as fractured as anyone can remember. “I would hope that we can feel less divided. It’s really sad, but it’s not new — it’s just more in people’s face right now,” said Carey. “All I can do in my own little way is do what I’m doing right now with music and specifically with this Christmas special, because … it’s a gift to me. I’m thankful this has happened — this is probably the biggest gift I’ve had for Christmas in years.” _____ Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at twitter.com/GaryGHamilton Gary Gerard Hamilton, The Associated Press
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 8, 2020 Barrie police has released an artist’s rendition of a sexual assault suspect and created a dedicated tip line. Investigators are looking for any information in connection with sexual assault in Hurst Park on Oct. 1 between 9 and 10 p.m. The tip line is 705-728-5629. Police say a woman was walking her dog in the park located at Hurst Drive near Pert Court when she was attacked by a male stranger. Police are releasing few details, including whether the victim was physically injured. Officers have already done a door-to-door canvas of the immediate neighbourhood looking for information. The suspect is described as: • A white male between the ages of 16 and 26, about 5-feet, 8 inches tall, with a slim build and shaved blond hair. • Wearing an Under Armour top of unknown colour. Anyone with information is asked to call 705-728-5629 or 705-725-7025, ext. 2700, send an email to email@example.com, by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or leave an anonymous tip online at www.p3tips.com. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, is launching her bid for a third two-year term heading the GOP's governing organization after the party’s stronger-than-anticipated showing in November’s election, even though President Donald Trump lost. In a letter Wednesday to the 168 members of the RNC announcing her candidacy, McDaniel said she has the support of Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader McCarthy of California, as well as a supermajority of committee members — all but assuring her victory. McDaniel was selected by Trump for the role four years ago and he endorsed her for a new term about a week after the Nov. 3 election. That could give the outgoing president additional sway over the party as he ponders his own future, including a potential presidential run in 2024. McDaniel, in her letter, echoed Trump's rhetoric about the election and said she would step up the RNC's voting-related litigation efforts and form a committee on election integrity "to continue battling the Democrats’ unprecedented attempts to change election laws." While she did not repeat Trump's false claims that he won the election, McDaniel said the GOP continues “to fight for President Trump" as he makes legal challenges across the country. McDaniel also promised “to explore ways to transition” from what she called the “biased” Commission on Presidential Debates.” Trump has vented about the nonpartisan commission, which instituted tight safeguards against the coronavirus after Trump came down with COVID-19. Trump refused to participate after the commission decided the second debate would be virtual; it ended up being cancelled. Despite Trump's musing about running again in four years, McDaniel pledged to uphold the party's neutrality in primaries. The GOP "will remain neutral and focus on laying the groundwork," she wrote. “I will work to ensure that all Republican candidates can be successful.” Under McDaniel, the GOP deployed the largest field operation in politics, including more than 3,000 staffers and 2.6 million volunteers, and raised more than $1.3 billion for GOP candidates. Republicans restored much of their field program this summer despite the pandemic while Democrats largely kept to all-virtual voter contacts. Republicans believe that helped them outperform expectations by retaining vulnerable Senate seats and narrowing Democrats’ majority in the House. “President Trump earned more minority votes than any Republican candidate in decades, and a record number of women, minorities and veterans were elected to office,” McDaniel wrote. “This is a legacy our Party can be proud of, and we must continue to build on this historic momentum.” Zeke Miller, The Associated Press