While off the eastern coast of South Africa, this free diver came face to face with a large whale!
While off the eastern coast of South Africa, this free diver came face to face with a large whale!
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Tuesday's Games NHL Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 3 (OT) New Jersey 4 N.Y. Rangers 3 Philadelphia 3 Buffalo 0 Florida 5 Chicago 4 (OT) Pittsburgh 5 Washington 4 (OT) Detroit 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Colorado 3 Los Angeles 2 Dallas at Tampa Bay — postponed Carolina at Nashville — postponed --- NBA Denver 119 Oklahoma City 101 Utah 118 New Orleans 102 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alphabet Inc's Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. Axios, which first reported the latest investigation around a member of Google's AI team, said Margaret Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru, a former employee in the AI team who was fired. Gebru, who is Black, was a top AI ethics researcher at Google and was fired in December.
More than 100 British musicians, from Ed Sheeran, Sting and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to classical stars like conductor Simon Rattle, have said tours of Europe by British artists are in danger because of Brexit. In a letter to The Times newspaper published on Wednesday, the musicians said the government had "shamefully" broken a promise to negotiate a deal allowing musicians to perform in the European Union without the need for visas or work permits. "The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be: everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment," they wrote.
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls for an inquiry into his government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday as the country's death toll neared 100,000 and his chief scientist said hospitals were looking like war zones. There have been calls for a public inquiry from some doctors and bereaved families into the management of the crisis. As hospital admissions soared, the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said there was enormous pressure on the National Health Service with doctors and nurses battling to give people sufficient care.
WASHINGTON — For more than two centuries, the top ranks of American power have been dominated by men — almost all of them white. That ends on Wednesday. Kamala Harris will become the first female vice-president — and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the role. Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary will fall away, expanding the idea of what's possible in American politics. But it's particularly meaningful because Harris will be taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities. Those close to Harris say she'll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the incoming administration. “In many folks' lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States," said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world." Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard." Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first went to Washington as a senator from California, where she'd previously served as attorney general and as San Francisco's district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump's victory quickly scrambled the nation's capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars. Her swearing-in comes almost two years to the day after Harris launched her own presidential bid on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019. Her campaign fizzled before primary voting began, but Harris' rise continued when Joe Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer. The inauguration activities will include nods to her history-making role and her personal story. She'll be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of colour to serve on the high court. She'll use two Bibles, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, a longtime family friend who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris' alma mater, Howard University, will join the presidential escort. She'll address the nation late Wednesday in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War and two weeks after a largely white mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the election results. “We’re turning the page off a really dark period in our history,” said Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, a Harris ally. As Democrats celebrate the end to Trump's presidency, Garcia said he hopes the significance of swearing in the nation's first female vice-president isn't overlooked. “That is a huge historical moment that should also be uplifted,” he said. Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity. “I was raised to not hear ‘no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'" she recalled during a “CBS Sunday Morning” interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.'" While Biden is the main focus of Wednesday's inaugural events, Harris' swearing-in will hold more symbolic weight than that of any vice-president in modern times. She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All." People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn about what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school. They will have to understand Harris' traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Jones said. “Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said. Her election to the vice presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election. “We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said. Kathleen Ronayne And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
South Korea's LG Electronics said on Wednesday it was considering all options for its loss-making mobile division, which analysts said could include shutting its smartphone business or selling off parts of the unit. LG said in a statement that 23 consecutive quarters of losses in its mobile business had totalled around 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) amid stiff competition. "In the global market, competition in the mobile business including smartphones has gotten fiercer," LG said in the clearest sign yet that it could be considering a winding down of the troubled business.
Jessica Henwick may be known to fantasy and sci-fi nerds, but she's about to breakout onto the mainstream.
Thirty-five homeowners in the small B.C. community of Old Fort — just south of Fort St. John — are suing the province and BC Hydro after two landslides they claim were caused by Site C dam construction rendered their properties worthless. On Monday, the group filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court saying the excavation activities carried out by BC Hydro on the $10-billion dam project have destabilized the soil that supports their properties. The first landslide, which happened in September 2018, damaged the only road that provides access in and out of Old Fort and put the entire community under evacuation for a month. Another landslide damaged the same road in June 2020. The homeowners also accuse Deasan Holdings of causing soil instability with mining activities near Old Fort. Malcom MacPherson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the families involved cannot sell, mortgage or insure their homes because there is no property value. He says they support industrial development but don't feel they should pay for it with their homes' worth. "They shouldn't be de facto subsidizing the broader wealth creation, which is good for the whole province," he said. "It's not fair that they have to unreasonably bear that burden." In October, the B.C. government posted a report saying despite geotechnical assessments, the root cause of the slide in 2018 remains "inconclusive." The report doesn't address the slide in 2020. In 2018, BC Hydro said there was no evidence the slide was related to the Site C project. Last week, Premier John Horgan said Site C dam construction would continue while his office awaits geotechnical reports written by experts from outside B.C. The lawsuit names the province and the Peace River Regional District for approving the construction work of BC Hydro and Deasan Holdings. They are also suing the City of Fort St. John for operating a sewage lagoon they claim has led to soil instability in the Peace River community. None of the five defendants has responded in court. CBC News has contacted the City of Fort St. John, the Peace River Regional District and BC Hydro. The municipality didn't respond, and the other two parties declined to comment.
New York-listed Best Inc, a Chinese logistics firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is considering a sale as part of a strategic review, six people with knowledge of the matter said. With the endorsement of Alibaba, its biggest shareholder, Best has tapped financial advisers to explore options as its shares have been underperforming and are worth a fifth of its IPO price in 2018, two of the people involved in the discussions said. Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba, which owns 33% of the firm, as well as Best founder and CEO Johnny Chou, who has a 11% stake on a fully diluted basis, could both end up selling their stakes, five of the people said.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Months-old embers from a deadly California fire were blown back to life Tuesday by powerful winds that raked the state and prompted safety blackouts to tens of thousands of people. Firefighters chased wind-driven blazes up and down the state, trees and trucks were toppled, Yosemite National Park was forced to close and two coronavirus vaccination centres were shut down. South of San Francisco, the state’s firefighting agency said it responded to 13 vegetation fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 12 hours, and isolated evacuations were ordered for a total of 120 homes near two of them. The fires were small, with the largest no more than a couple dozen acres, and by nightfall were “creeping" rather than racing, according to state fire website descriptions. Two were within the area burned by last year's CZU Lightning Complex inferno. “Fires within the CZU Lightning Complex burn area were regenerated by high winds,” the local unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted. The complex started Aug. 16, 2020, during a barrage of lightning strikes. Separate fires merged, torching 1,500 buildings across 135 square miles (350 square kilometres) in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. One person died. The Santa Cruz Mountains have a thick layer of “duff,” dead vegetation under heavy timber in which deep smouldering embers can be revived by the wind, said Cecile Juliette, a Cal Fire spokeswoman. Cal Fire received nonstop reports of toppled trees and branches during the windstorm, Juliette said. Small fires blazed throughout the state, though most were quickly stopped from spreading and posed no serious threat to homes. The largest, near Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, burned about 1 square mile (2.77 square kilometres) but was mostly surrounded. In both the north and south, residents were blacked out by utilities to prevent downed or damaged power lines from sparking blazes. Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 78,000 homes and businesses in seven counties and was considering blacking out well over a quarter-million more. Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to more than 5,000 customers. Most of California is experiencing drought conditions and the remainder is considered abnormally dry. Winter snowfall and rain have largely been woeful. Gusts howled at speeds up to 95 mph (152.8 kph) in the Mayacamas Mountains to the north of San Francisco Bay, and winds raised clouds of ash and dust from wildfire burn scars across Monterey County, the regional National Weather Service office said. High wind warnings were posted in the Sierra Nevada and adjacent foothills. “People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches,” the Hanford weather office wrote. “If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows. Use caution if you must drive.” Yosemite National Park closed for the day, citing the winds and downed trees that smashed trucks and at least one building. In Southern California, the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were ramping up, making travel hazardous for big rigs. Some were blown over. One gust hit 86 mph (138.4 kph) in northern Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service said. The wind forced closure of a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley. Another site at a Disneyland parking lot was closed in advance of the gusts. The city of Los Angeles instituted its program of restricting parking in hilly neighbourhoods where narrow, winding streets can be difficult for fire engines to manoeuvr. Downtown Los Angeles has had only 1.95 inches (4.95 centimetres) of rain since the Oct. 1 start of the “water year,” nearly 4 inches (10.16 centimetres) below normal. The Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisian youth clashed with police overnight, maintaining their protests and riots over economic difficulties despite efforts by the president and the prime minister to calm tensions. "Your voice is heard, and your anger is legitimate, and it is my role and the role of the government to work to realize your demands and to make the dream of Tunisia to become true,” Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi appealed to the protesters on national television Tuesday night. Hours later, dozens of people throwing projectiles and setting barricades on fire faced off with police firing tear gas in the Tunis suburb of Ariana. Unrest was reported in other cities as well, the fifth straight night of protests that prompted Tunisia to deploy the army to try to keep order. The unrest has shaken the country just as it marks 10 years since an uprising over similar frustrations that pushed out a longtime autocrat, ushered in a new democracy and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings. A third of the North African nation’s young people are unemployed. This and Tunisia's prolonged economic crisis — aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic — have fueled the anger. Protests have notably rocked impoverished towns in the interior of the country but also reached bigger cities on the coast. “I know that the economic and social situation is a crisis deepened by COVID and the necessary measures that we have taken to preserve the health of Tunisians, and that they (lockdown measures) have limited some personal freedoms such as the freedom of movement,” the prime minister said. However he condemned looting and violence by protesters, who have sometimes targeted police. “I make a distinction between the peaceful protests and acts of robbery and sabotage,” he said, adding that while Tunisia's post-revolution Constitution guarantees the right to protest, his role is to maintain the peace. The Associated Press
Premier François Legault on Tuesday nixed the idea that homeless people could be exempt from the 8 p.m. provincewide curfew. The premier said he trusts police officers to use their judgment and said he could not exempt homeless people from the rule, because then other people could pose as homeless to take advantage of the loophole. "They do not intend to give tickets to homeless people," Legault said of the police. "If we put in the rules the fact that a homeless person could not receive a ticket, then anybody could say, 'I'm a homeless person, so you don't have the right to give me a ticket." Earlier in the day, Mayor Valérie Plante called for homeless people to be exempt from the curfew. "What I want is for people to feel safe in Montreal. I don't want to exacerbate that fragility, that vulnerability that is already present," she said, clarifying that she still wants the homeless to find safe spaces to spend the night, but without the added pressure of the curfew. "I'm not encouraging people to sleep in the streets. That is not my message. My message is to use the resources." Plante made the declaration to reporters near city hall two days after a homeless man was found dead inside a portable toilet, steps away from a warming station where he could have spent the night had it not been closed because of COVID-19 concerns. It was another example of how the pandemic and the curfew have combined to complicate life for some of Montreal's homeless and the shelter workers who care for them. "They're giving their all," Plante said of the workers, "but it's certain that the curfew is raising the level of stress and anxiety and, at a certain point, the sense of security among the visitors as well." Plante said she hoped the police would use their judgment and that homeless people would not feel persecuted, but she said she was hesitant to go against Quebec and direct Montreal police officers not to ticket the homeless. City councillor and head of the official opposition, Lionel Perez, said the mayor needs to be more clear. "Simply asking for tolerance isn't sufficient," he said. "She has to, with the chief of police, give clear orientation that this is not what we want." Despite the creation of a record number of beds for Montreal's homeless since the start of the pandemic, overnight capacity is strained. The mayor said 95 per cent of shelter beds are occupied on some nights, and there have not been enough beds on others. She pleaded for the Quebec government to provide more resources. "What we're learning is that some nights, it overflows," she said. "Some nights there are still beds available, but other nights there are not." At The Open Door on Tuesday, safety inspectors arrived to see if it could reopen as a warming station for the homeless overnight. John Tessier, an intervention worker and coordinator at the drop-in centre — which is located steps away from where Raphaël André's body was found on Sunday morning, said they were hoping they would soon get permission to stay open overnight. "We knew that something like this was very likely to happen, and sure enough it did. Now, after tragedy strikes, everybody and the powers that be seem to be moving their feet to try to get something done," he said. Tessier said the police in the area have, for the most part, been tolerant and understanding of the plight of the homeless, but the curfew still "adds another layer of stress to an already difficult life." "Of course it's unhelpful," he said. "It's nice that they're talking about not ticketing people, but curfew or not, it's Montreal, Canada in January and February. Curfew or not, people need somewhere to be." Matthew Lapierre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Gazette
“Enough is enough,” Premier Moe said during Tuesday’s provincial COVID-19 update, referring to a video taken over the weekend at a pub in Regina. In the video some patrons without masks dance and defy the Public Health orders. However, the government plans to stay the course with the current measures despite the continuing high seven-day average of new cases. Today’s average rebounded to 300 and remains the highest in the country. The current measures which were introduced in mid-December have been extended to January 29, 2021. The Premier said he does not want to roll out more restrictive measures, but did hint that venues which allow for the contravention of the public health orders may be facing more serious consequences. “I’ve asked public health to look at if there is [sic] other opportunities, in addition to fines, including closing these bad actors indefinitely.” Dr. Shahab asserted that the current measures would work if there was 100% compliance across the board, but obviously that isn’t happening. The province is “stuck”, Shahab said, in that 300 new cases per day range and obviously he would prefer that number to be trending downward instead. With baseline transmission so high, it continues to feed the growth of the virus and hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths slowly but steadily are creeping up and increasing the stress on our healthcare system. Shahab has said that while the health system is not at the breaking point yet, when it gets there, the “hammer” needs to come down. “We may not be there yet, but that hammer is a very blunt instrument. It causes many unintended consequences, It’s not the preferred instrument but when the health-care system is on the brink of collapse, then unfortunately those desperate measures have to be taken as well.” The question that begs asking is do we really want to push the health system to that brink? Lang McGilp, Research Director of Insightrix Research Inc. says that surveys taken over the past couple of months show the longer the pandemic goes on the less people are inclined to follow the restrictions and that mental health is playing a part in that. Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
TORONTO — Another Ontario COVID-19 official has resigned over foreign travel. Premier Doug Ford's office says he has accepted the resignation of Linda Hasenfratz as a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Task Force.Ford's office says she stepped down after it was brought to his attention that she travelled outside the country in December.No other details were released other than that she has apologized.Earlier this month, Dr. Tom Stewart resigned from a group of experts that help guide the provincial government's response to COVID-19 after travelling to the Dominican Republic over the holidays.At the time, Stewart said he regretted the non-essential travel and recognized that everyone should be avoiding non-essential trips.Stewart later stepped down as chief executive officer of the Niagara Health System and the St. Joseph's Health System.Ford's office gave a brief statement Tuesday about Hasenfratz's resignation."Thanks to the efforts of all Ontarians, we are starting to see early signs of progress in bending the curve," reads the statement. "Now is not the time to let up. We continue to urge everyone to stay home." Last week, Dr. Paul Woods, the CEO of a hospital network in London, Ont., was ousted from his post after concerns were raised about his international travel during the pandemic.Woods travelled to the U.S. five times since March, including during the December holidays, the London Health Sciences Centre said.Last month, Rod Phillips, Ontario's former finance minister, resigned from his post after it was revealed he travelled to St. Barts for a December vacation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 The Canadian Press
Some Yukon snowmobilers are stuck in the White Pass area south of Whitehorse, after heavy snowfall and avalanches closed the South Klondike Highway — their only road home. They're not complaining much, though. Darren Domkosky of Whitehorse says they're safe, and making the best of it. "Just sledding, burning some gas. And it's nice weather," he said over the phone from a highway maintenance camp at Fraser, near the Canada-U.S. border, on Tuesday morning. Domkowsky and some friends drove to the area on Monday after a fresh snowfall. "So we were like, 'oh, we'll go hit up that new snow before everyone hits it.' So we came up, started sledding, and it was a wicked day," he recalled. When they came back to their vehicles, they found a note from a highways crew telling them the road was closed, and they should head to the nearby highway camp. Domkowsky said the local workers gave them beds for the night and fed them. "They're the best people around ... it's amazing," Domkowsky said. He's not sure when the road might open again, but he hopes it will be soon. On Tuesday afternoon, he said he was told it might happen on Wednesday, or possibly Thursday. Yukon highways officials confirmed that there had been avalanches in the area, and the government's website 511Yukon refers to drifting, blowing snow and low visibility. Officials said about 60 centimetres of snow fell on the area between Carcross, Yukon, and the border camp at Fraser, B.C. Domkowsky said he's doing his best to enjoy himself while waiting. By Tuesday afternoon, he was out of gas for his snowmobile. "My family's at home waiting for me to get home, but what can you do, right? Just make the best of what you have." WATCH — Acting Skagway Police Chief Jerry Reddick shared this video of avalanches on the South Klondike Highway:
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has pardoned former chief strategist Steve Bannon as part of a late flurry of clemency action benefiting nearly 150 people, including rap stars and former members of Congress. The pardons and commutations for 143 people, including Bannon, were announced after midnight Wednesday in the final hours of Trump's White House term. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below. President Donald Trump is expected to pardon his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as part of a flurry of clemency action that appeared to be still in flux in the final hours of his presidency, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, stressed that Trump has flip-flopped repeatedly as he mulls his final actions, and warned the decision could be reversed until it's formally unveiled. The last-minute clemency would follow separate waves of pardons over the last month for Trump allies, including associates convicted in the FBI’s Russia investigation as well as the father of his son-in-law. It would underscores the president’s willingness, all the way through his four years in the White House, to flex his constitutional powers in ways that defy convention and explicitly aid his friends and supporters. Whereas pardon recipients are generally thought of as defendants who have faced justice, often by having served at least some prison time, a pardon for Bannon would nullify a prosecution that was still in its early stages and likely months away from trial in Manhattan, effectively eliminating any prospect for punishment. Though other presidents have issued controversial pardons at the ends of their administration, perhaps no commander in chief has so enjoyed using the clemency authority to benefit not only friends and acquaintances but also celebrity defendants and those championed by allies. Critics say such decisions result in far more deserving applicants being passed over. “Steve Bannon is getting a pardon from Trump after defrauding Trump’s own supporters into paying for a wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on Twitter. “And if that all sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves.” Trump is expected to offer pardons and commutations to as many as 100 people in the hours before he leaves office at noon Wednesday, according to two people briefed on the plans. The list is expected to include names unfamiliar to the American public — regular people who have spent years languishing in prison — as well as politically connected friends and allies. Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of investors who believed their money would be used to fulfil Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, he allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself. Bannon did not respond to questions Tuesday. Trump has already pardoned a slew of longtime associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone; and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. A voice of nationalist, outsider conservatism, Bannon — who served in the Navy and worked at Goldman Sachs and as a Hollywood producer before turning to politics — led the conservative Breitbart News before being tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 campaign in its critical final months. He later served as chief strategist to the president during the turbulent early days of Trump’s administration and was at the forefront of many of its most contentious policies, including its travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries. But Bannon, who clashed with other top advisers, was pushed out after less than a year. And his split with Trump deepened after he was quoted in a 2018 book making critical remarks about some of Trump’s adult children. Bannon apologized and soon stepped down as chairman of Breitbart. He and Trump have recently reconciled. In August, he was pulled from a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut and brought before a judge in Manhattan, where he pleaded not guilty. When he emerged from the courthouse, Bannon tore off his mask, smiled and waved to news cameras. As he went to a waiting vehicle, he shouted, “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.” The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group portrayed themselves as eager to help the president build a “big beautiful” barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. They raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that 100% of the money would be used for the project. But according to the criminal charges, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon. ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Jonathan Lemire, Eric Tucker And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
A 59-year-old man has died in hospital after the vehicle he was driving collided with two others in Etobicoke on Tuesday afternoon, Toronto police say. The crash happened in the intersection of Kipling Avenue and Belfield Road. Emergency crews were called to the area for reports of a crash at about 1:35 p.m. According to police, the man was driving a blue 2019 Volkswagen Jetta westbound on Highway 409 and was exiting onto the Kipling off-ramp when he struck a 2015 Toyota RAV-4 northbound on Kipling Avenue. Police said the man then struck a 2017 cargo van southbound on Kipling Avenue. The man suffered life-threatening injuries. Toronto paramedics took him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead later in the day. A 64-year-old woman, who was a passenger in the Volkswagen Jetta, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The drivers of the two other vehicles suffered minor injuries and remained at the scene. Police said they are urging residents, businesses and drivers, who may have security or dashboard camera footage of the area or crash, or saw the vehicle before the collision, to come forward.
LANSING, Mich. — Attorneys for former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder are striking back, telling prosecutors Tuesday that the Flint water case should be dismissed because he was charged in the wrong county. Snyder was charged last week with two misdemeanour counts of wilful neglect of duty. He was indicted by a Genesee County judge who sat as a grand juror and considered evidence presented by prosecutors. “Neither of these allegations of non-feasance, or failure to act, occurred while the former Governor was in the City of Flint. At all times set forth in the Indictment, our client was the presiding governor of the State of Michigan with the Executive Office of the Governor located at the Romney Building in downtown Lansing,” attorney Brian Lennon said in a letter to prosecutors. The letter was attached to a request for documents and other evidence possessed by prosecutors, a typical step by the defence in a criminal case. Lennon indicated in the letter that he soon would formally ask Judge William Crawford to dismiss the case against the Republican former governor. A hearing took place Tuesday in Snyder’s case. The next hearing was scheduled for Feb. 23. “The reason we didn't file a motion to dismiss is we're trying to give the government an opportunity to recognize this mistake and voluntarily dismiss the indictment against Gov. Snyder,” Lennon told the judge. Assistant Attorney General Bryant Osikowicz sought time to see and respond to the pending dismissal motion. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office declined to comment on the venue issue. Snyder was one of nine people charged in a new investigation of the Flint water crisis, including former state health department director Nick Lyon. The catastrophe in the impoverished, majority-Black city has been described as an example of environmental injustice and racism. The city, under Snyder-appointed emergency managers, used the Flint River for drinking water in 2014-15 without properly treating it to reduce corrosion. Lead from old pipes contaminated the system. Separately, the water was blamed by some experts for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which killed at least 12 people in the area and sickened dozens more. Lyon and former state chief medical executive Eden Wells face nine counts of involuntary manslaughter. Snyder's lawyer said the defence will soon seek grand jury records. It also wants potentially millions of documents and hundreds of electronic devices that were seized, and to know if steps were taken to ensure investigators did not have access to attorney-client communications or other privileged materials. “If a taint team was not used, it challenges and could undermine the integrity of the entire investigation against Gov. Snyder and others,” Lennon said. As it did during the old criminal probe, the state will cover the legal expenses of former state officers and employees who face charges. But in a change, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration will cap costs. The maximum hourly rate for attorneys cannot exceed $225. Some lawyers were paid two to three times that previously. The state also will impose a “ceiling” of $175,000 for a defendant's legal services before and during a trial, which can only be raised if a contract administrator recommends it. The goals are to ensure consistent treatment across the defendants' former departments and to control costs to ensure accountability, the governor's office said. Jim Haveman, a former state health director who supports Lyon, criticized the new policy. Legal fees and expenses in the first case against Lyon totalled $1.6 million over 19 months, he said. In 2019, prosecutors working under a new attorney general, Dana Nessel, dismissed charges against Lyon and seven other people and began a new probe. In an email, Haveman called on Whitmer and lawmakers to “correct this capping injustice and to assure all defendants have the best defence possible.” ___ White reported from Detroit. Ed White And David Eggert, The Associated Press