China has banned Canadian meat products after finding fake inspection certificates on an imported pork product. Experts say it looks like food fraud: a scamming industry worth billions that trades on Canada's reputation.
China has banned Canadian meat products after finding fake inspection certificates on an imported pork product. Experts say it looks like food fraud: a scamming industry worth billions that trades on Canada's reputation.
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
SANTIAGO, Chile — A powerful earthquake struck in northwestern Argentina near the border with central Chile just before midnight Monday, shaking people in parts of both countries. There were no reports of injuries or serious damage, though some power outages were reported in the quake area. The U.S. Geological Survey said the tremor had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4. Its epicenter was 27.6 kilometres (17 miles) southwest of the Argentine town of Porcito and struck at a depth of 14 kilometres (nearly nine miles). The quake was followed by a magnitude 5.0 aftershock about a quarter hour later and then at least five more strong aftershocks in the next hour ranging from magnitude 5.3 to 4.8, the USGS said. Argentine media said some houses reportedly were damaged in the small down of Media Agua and at least one road was said to have been disrupted, but there were indications of injuries. Electricity also failed in spots and some goods were shaken from supermarket shelves, the reports aid.. People in the quake zone reported there was panic when the initial quake struck and said they spent anxious hours as the aftershocks brought new shaking. Strong movement was felt in Chile's capital, Santiago, which is about 300 kilometres (186 miles) from the area hit by the quake. Chilean officials said there were no damage reported in that nation. The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Authorities in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Veracruz said Monday that 12 men were killed and their bodies dumped on a roadside in what may have been a dispute between cattle ranchers. The killings occurred in the rural town of La Choapas, near the border with the neighbouring state of Tabasco. Veracruz Gov. Cuitláhuac Garcia wrote in a statement that “initial investigations suggest a division between ranchers and helpers from La Choapas and Uxpanapa.” He added that “abuses and threats between them led to this unfortunate outcome.” The region is south of the crime-ridden city of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The Associated Press
Ankara has imposed advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest after they failed to appoint local representatives in Turkey under a new social media law, according to decisions published on Tuesday. Under the law, which critics say stifles dissent, social media companies that do not appoint such representatives are liable for a series of penalties, including the latest move by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). It has caused concern as people turn more to online platforms after Ankara tightened its grip on mainstream media.
TOLEDO, Ohio — An Ohio police officer was shot and killed after an hourslong armed standoff that resulted in gunfire Monday, police said. Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker, 24, died after the shooting that sent both him and the suspect to the hospital, Police Chief George Kral said at a Monday night news conference. Negotiators had tried for hours to get the suspect to surrender peacefully. Stalker leaves behind a fiancée and a child. He had joined the police department in July 2018. “Very sad day for the city of Toledo and specifically the Toledo police department,” Kral said. "He was an amazing police officer.” The suspect's condition wasn't disclosed. Kral said the standoff started at about 4 p.m. when officers noticed a man with warrants out for his arrest in connection to cathedral vandalism smoking outside a home in a residential neighbourhood. Officers approached the man, who fled brandishing a firearm and entered a nearby home. Police set up a barrier around the home and a SWAT team was called in, Kral said. After hours of unsuccessful negotiation, police used tear gas to force him out. He then exited holding two guns, firing. Police shot back, striking the subject. One of the suspect's shots hit Stalker, Kral said. Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said his city's department “has had to endure too many dark and terrible days in the last six months," with the July on-duty killing of 26-year-old Officer Anthony Dia and the unexpected death of an officer just a few weeks ago. “This has been a very difficult time,” Kapszukiewicz said. “It is a very difficult day for the city." Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. Police said they would provide an update on the standoff Wednesday. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen is calling on Congress to do more to fight a deep pandemic-induced recession, saying the threats of a longer and even worse downturn are too great to cut back on support now. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee. Yellen, who will be the first female treasury secretary in the nation's history, is expected to have little trouble winning approval in a Senate that will be narrowly controlled by Democrats once two Democratic senators from Georgia are seated. In her testimony, Yellen, who was also the country's first female chair of the Federal Reserve, said that the quick action Congress took by passing trillion-dollar rescue packages last spring and an additional $900 billion relief measure last month were successful in “averting a lot of suffering.” But she said that even with the extraordinary government help, the pandemic has still caused “widespread devastation.” “Eighteen million unemployment insurance claims are being paid every week. Food bank shelves are going empty. The damage has been sweeping and as the president-elect said last Thursday, our response must be too,” Yellen said. “Over the next few months, we are going to need more aid to distribute the vaccine, to reopen schools, to help states keep firefighters and teachers on the job,” Yellen said. She said more support would also be needed to keep unemployment benefit checks going out and to help families who are going hungry or in danger of being homeless. Biden last week unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief plan that would provide more aid to American families, businesses and local communities and provide more support for vaccine production and distribution. While Democrats have endorsed the effort, many Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about the price tag given soaring federal budget deficits. Yellen said that she and Biden were aware of the country's rising debt burden. “But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big,” she said. “In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time.” The Senate Finance Committee hearing with Yellen on Tuesday is one of several that the Senate will be holding as the incoming Biden administration tries to get its top Cabinet officials in office quickly. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China is now dealing with coronavirus outbreaks across its frigid northeast, prompting additional lockdowns and travel bans. The country reported a total of 118 newly confirmed cases Tuesday — most of them in Jilin province, the Hebei region just outside Beijing and Heilongjiang province bordering Russia. A fourth northern province, Liaoning, has also imposed quarantines and travel restrictions to prevent the virus from further spreading, part of measures being imposed across much of the country to prevent new outbreaks during during February’s Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — Japan’s prime minister vows to hold the already postponed Olympics this summer as proof of victory over virus — Israel trades Pfizer vast troves of medical data for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine — Brazil approves two coronavirus vaccines, ones by Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca — China's economy grows in 2020 as it rebounds from virus, likely only major economy to expand — Britain vows to give all adults 1st shot of the virus by September — Tennis players find ways to keep fit even during hotel room quarantines in Australia __Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Travelers to New Zealand from most other nations will need to show negative coronavirus test results before boarding as of next Monday. New Zealand recently imposed the test requirement for travellers from the U.S. and Britain, and authorities said Tuesday that it is being extending to all other countries, with the exception of Australia and a handful of Pacific Island nations. Travelers returning from Antarctica are also exempt. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand has some of the strictest border measures in the world. There is currently no community spread of the virus in New Zealand, with all known infections among travellers who have been put into quarantine at the border. Most travellers are required to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival. ___ WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House press secretary says his administration does not intend to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K., Ireland and Brazil. The message from Jen Psaki came Monday evening after the White House said President Donald Trump had lifted the restrictions for those countries, effective Jan. 26. Psaki then tweeted: “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.” She added, “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” Trump imposed the travel restrictions early in the pandemic to slow the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S. They prevented most people without American citizenship or residency from travelling to the U.S. from the affected regions. ___ OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a plan to set up coronavirus vaccination sites statewide with help from the National Guard and others as part of an overall goal to vaccinate 45,000 people a day. Inslee said Monday that while the goal is currently higher than the current allotment of vaccine the state is receiving from the federal government, the state is working to get the infrastructure in place now for when the supply increases. He says the state is now vaccinating between 13,000 and 15,000 people a day. The governor also announced a public-private partnership with business, health care and labour entities on areas ranging from co-ordination of volunteer vaccinators to communications support. ___ JACKSON, Miss. — More than 100,000 people in Mississippi have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and officials are taking further steps to administer the state’s supply of shots more efficiently, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday. Inoculation rates in Mississippi have lagged far behind most of the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Reeves insisted Monday that health officials are making changes to speed things along. The state’s website for making vaccine appointments has been upgraded to handle increased traffic, and more people are answering calls from those booking by phone, he said. Meanwhile, state officials are working to free up more shots for the general population aged 65 and older by getting several thousand doses from nursing homes that received more than they need, Reeves said. ___ LOS ANGELES — California’s state epidemiologist is urging a halt to more than 300,000 coronavirus vaccine doses by Moderna because some people who received it needed medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions. Dr. Erica S. Pan is recommending that vaccine providers stop using one lot of the Moderna vaccine pending completion of an investigation. She says less than 10 people who were inoculated at a single vaccination site needed medical attention. But she also said serious reactions to vaccinations are extremely rare. The virus has claimed more than 33,000 lives in California. ___ MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Monday the state will open nine community sites this week to vaccinate adults over 65, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educators, school staff and child care workers. The program opens the state’s vaccine rollout beyond the first high-priority group that includes healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff. The nine sites will start inoculating people Thursday by appointment-only due to the small number of available doses. The announcement comes after the Democratic governor accused the Trump administration of “lying” when he and six other governors asked for permission to receive their states’ second doses from a national stockpile to ramp up vaccination efforts. The governors were told by federal officials that the administration would release the federal reserve of doses, but later learned the stockpile had already been exhausted. ___ BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota reported on Monday zero coronavirus deaths for the fifth time this month, although the fatality rate by population continues to be among the worst in the country. The state’s death count, which stands at a total of 1,384, is the sixth highest per capita in the country at 185 deaths per 100,000 people, according to John Hopkins University researchers. North Dakota’s 14-day rolling average of daily new cases has decreased by more than 27%, according to The COVID Tracking Project data. The state has experienced a steady decline in daily new cases since the virus case count peaked in mid-November. It now ranks 48th per capita in the U.S. for new cases over the last two weeks. A statewide mask mandate that was enacted in mid-November was allowed to expire Monday morning. ___ ST. LOUIS -- More than 172,000 people in St. Louis County have registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the the local health department so far has only received 975 doses, county Executive Sam Page said Monday. The county expects more doses to arrive Tuesday but it was unclear how many, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Page also urged residents to be honest about the information they use to register for vaccinations, saying some have falsely claimed to be health care workers or brought along family members who are ineligible at this time. A new inoculation phase began Monday in Missouri that allows older people and those with certain pre-existing conditions to be vaccinated. ___ PRAGUE — The fast-spreading coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. has been found in the Czech Republic, a health official said Monday. The National Institute of Public Health confirmed its findings after it announced over the weekend it was testing suspected samples. Health Minister Jan Blatny says the variant accounts for about 10% of all sequenced samples in in the country. No further details were provided. The country of 10.7 million has reported 891,852 confirmed coronavirus cases and 14,449 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The daily infection rate has been in decline since Jan 6., prompting the government to allow stores selling stationary and children’s clothes and shoes to reopen. The country still remains under a tough lockdown with a nighttime curfew. ___ MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry has confirmed 84,287 new known coronavirus cases since Friday amid a post-Christmas virus surge. The ministry also reported 455 deaths over the weekend. Monday’s figures brought the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 2.34 million and known deaths to 53,769. Spain’s 14-day incidence rate for 100,000 inhabitants rose to 689, from 575 on Friday. Coronavirus patients currently occupy 33% of ICU beds, up from 30% on Friday. Despite the substantial daily increases, Health Minister Salvador Illa on Monday insisted the measures taken by each of Spain’s 17 regions are enough to quell the increase, ruling out a total lockdown. Spain’s health emergency chief Fernando Simon said that the country could be at the peak of the latest surge or getting close to it. ___ ROME — For the first time in three weeks, Italy’s daily caseload of known coronavirus infections dropped below 10,000 on Monday. Health Ministry figures reported 8,825 additional cases since Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 2.4 million since the start of the pandemic. Sicily has the nation's highest daily caseload. Italy registered 377 deaths for a second straight day. The nation’s known COVID-19 death toll of 82,554 is the second highest in Europe. ___ MADRID — The tiny British colony of Gibraltar says it has lost more people to the coronavirus since the start of the year than from any other single cause in the past century. Gibraltar, with a population of some 34,000, has posted 38 deaths since Jan. 1. “Even in war, we have never lost so many in such a short time,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Monday. He said 21 people had died from the virus in the past three days, bringing the colony's total virus deaths to 45 since the start of the pandemic. Located on Spain’s southern coast, Gibraltar has recorded some 4,000 cases. It has been under lockdown since the beginning of January. ___ BERLIN — Swiss authorities say they have placed two hotels under quarantine and ordered all guests and employees to be tested after a new variant of the coronavirus was detected among them in the upscale skiing resort of St. Moritz. Local authorities said Monday they have also closed down skiing schools, regular schools and kindergartens. Officials did not reveal the names of the two affected facilities, but Swiss media said both were luxury hotels. In addition to tests at the hotels, all residents of St. Moritz were being asked to be tested on Tuesday. Authorities ordered all residents to wear protective masks, and asked people to reduce their contacts to prevent the further spread of the virus. “The health office is concerned,” authorities of the Graubuenden canton said in their statement. “The variant of the virus is clearly more contagious than the one that’s currently predominant globally.” Swiss media reported that the variant of the virus detected in St. Moritz was the one first found in South Africa. ___ MOSCOW -- Backers of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V say it has been approved in Turkmenistan, an ex-Soviet nation in Central Asia that hasn’t officially reported any infections so far. The Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the development of the shot announced Monday that health officials in Turkmenistan approved Sputnik V “under the emergency use authorization procedure.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether Russia would ship the vaccine to Turkmenistan any time soon. The vaccine is still undergoing advanced studies among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Nevertheless, the shot last month was rolled out in a large-scale vaccination campaign in Russia. It has also received regulatory approval in several other countries, and immunization with Sputnik V has started in Belarus and Argentina. Turkmenistan, a gas-rich nation of 5.9 million, hasn’t reported any coronavirus infections, but authorities have shut restaurants and non-food stores and recommended that the population wears masks to protect against dust and unspecified infectious agents. However, the British ambassador to the capital, Ashgabat, said last month that he had contracted the virus. The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Shea Weber's goal held up as the game-winner as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 Monday night. Rookie Alexander Romanov and Arttuti Lehkonen also scored for Montreal (2-0-1), which beat Edmonton (1-3-0) for the second time in three nights. The Habs also trounced the Oilers 5-1 on Saturday. Goalie Jake Allen made 25 saves in his debut for the Canadiens Montreal’s penalty kill was key in the victory, shutting down Oilers snipers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on seven power plays. Mikko Koskinen stopped 31-of-34 shots for Edmonton. He conceded a short-handed goal 12:15 into the third period after Lehkonen broke up a pass in his own zone and sprinted up the ice with the puck on his stick. He put a quick snap shot past Koskinen for his first of the season, and put Montreal up 3-0. Edmonton clawed a goal back with just over two minutes to go, though, with Devin Shore popping a snap shot past Allen for a short-handed tally. Koskinen allowed one to get past earlier in the game on a Montreal power play with seconds to go in the second period. Edmonton had the man advantage when McDavid was called for hooking, leading to 1:20 of 4-on-4 hockey before the Habs got a 40-second power play to close out the frame. With about 11 seconds left on the clock, Montreal's Jeff Petry drove through the slot and Shore careened into Koskinen. Meanwhile, Weber launched a shot from the side of the net and Koskinen made the initial stop. He couldn't control the rebound, though, which bounced back out to Weber. The defenceman batted it in off Koskinen's back as he lay in the crease with Shore underneath him. The goal was instantly called off, with the official saying Petry caused goalie interference when he sent Shore crashing into his netminder. Montreal coach Claude Julien elected to challenge the call and, upon review, the officials agreed, giving Weber his first goal of the season and a 2-0 lead for Montreal. Montreal already had a first-period tally from Romanov, who opened the scoring 9:53 into the game with a shot from just below the blue line. The puck rocketed through traffic and past Koskinen stick side for the Russian rookie's first NHL goal. Montreal selected Romanov, 21, 38th overall in the 2018 draft. The Canadiens scored on one of its five power plays. Montreal had to kill off three penalties in the first period alone, including more than 30 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Edmonton had some promising opportunities across the stretch -- including a big shot from McDavid that ricocheted off the knob of Allen's stick -- but the Habs didn't surrender a goal. As a crucial part of the penalty kill, Weber played 9:10 in the first frame alone. Montreal will open a three-game series with the Canucks in Vancouver on Wednesday. The Oilers will be in Toronto the same night to battle the Leafs. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
A grieving Vancouver mother wants answers after the shrine she maintained for years in her daughter's memory was removed without any notice. The shrine, near East 7th Avenue and St. Catherines Street in East Vancouver, was established near the spot where Marlene Thistle's daughter, Janice Nicole Bryant, 33, was shot and killed on May 23, 2017. Bryant's killer has not been found. "Someone took it upon themselves to remove the memorial, and dump it right there like it was garbage," said Thistle. "My daughter is not garbage." Thistle put up the memorial — which had flowers, statues of angels and a cross — just a few metres from where Bryant was shot. "She was a genuine human being. She had a huge heart, was very loving," Thistle said. "She'd give the shirt off her back to anyone in need." Thistle said the memorial was both a way of honouring her daughter and keeping a light on her unsolved case. The removal of the memorial has been devastating, she said. "When I witnessed it, it was like her being gone all over again, the moments of her being shot," Thistle said. "What if this memorial site was for your daughter, your sister or your mother? Really sit back and think about the impact of how you would feel as an individual to find a memorial destroyed like it was." In an email to CBC, both the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board say their staff were not responsible for taking down the memorial. City officials did note, however, that there had been several requests from the public to remove it due to its location and sight lines from the adjacent roads. Thistle said the memorial had taken years to build up, but she is committed to putting it back together for her daughter. "Until her murder case is solved, I will set it up again."
DETROIT — The resiliency, culture and heroism of Black Americans and the African diaspora will be the central theme of a virtual event that will celebrate the nation’s diversity on the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris is slated to speak at Tuesday's event, “We Are One,” which will also honour the historic nature of her being the first Black and South Asian woman to become U.S. vice-president. Black voters nationwide helped deliver Biden’s presidency, overwhelmingly supporting him from the start of his White House bid. Black-led organizing work across the nation galvanized voters of colour and contributed to historic turnout in key battleground states. Tony Allen, CEO of the inaugural committee, said the programming will “honour acts of resilience, heroism, and commitment to unity” from Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities "as the coalitions that make up our nation come together to celebrate a new chapter in our history." Several of the nation’s top Black leaders will deliver remarks, including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a close ally of Biden whose endorsement in South Carolina widened Biden’s winning margin and started his avalanche of March primary victories. Among other speakers: Stacey Abrams, whose voter registration and education efforts helped flip Georgia blue for Biden; Rep. Cedric Richmond; Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty; Sen. Cory Booker; and the incoming senator from Georgia, Rev. Raphael Warnock. The event will pay homage to the legacy of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, as well as Black sororities and fraternities. Harris is the first HBCU graduate and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority member to be vice-president. The sorority’s international president and CEO, Dr. Glenda Glover, and Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick will deliver remarks. The event will feature musical performances and appearances from activists and celebrities. It'll be hosted by Terrence J and feature Leslie Jones, DJ D-Nice, and Black cultural icons such as Frankie Beverly, The O’Jays, and Rapsody. The celebration also includes a Battle of the Bands and features several HBCUs, including: Delaware State University, Howard University, the Texas Southern University Debate Team, Florida A&M University Marching 100, Grambling State University World Famed Marching Band, Jackson State University Sonic Boom of the South, Louisiana Leadership Institute All-Star Marching Band, South Carolina State University Marching 101, Southern University Human Jukebox Marching Band, and the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands. The event is part of five planned days of programming under the inaugural’s theme of “America United.” It will air Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET on social media and on select channels, including Urban One, Revolt TV and The Choice channel on Peacock, NBCUniversal's streaming service. ___ Kat Stafford is an investigative reporter on The Associated Press’ Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kat__stafford. Kat Stafford, The Associated Press
HSINCHU, Taiwan — Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill Tuesday aimed at repelling an attack from China, which has increased its threats to reclaim the island and its own displays of military might. “No matter what is happening around the Taiwan Strait, our determination to guard our homeland will never change,” said Maj. Gen. Chen Chong-ji said, director of the department of political warfare, about the exercise at Hukou Army Base south of the capital Taipei. Chen said the exercise was intended as a show of Taiwan’s determination to maintain peace between the sides through a show of force. The drills are also meant to reassure the public the military is maintaining its guard ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year festival, when many troops take leave. Hukou base lies in Hsinchu county, a centre for Taiwan's high-tech industries that have thrived despite the constant threats of invasion by China, which considers the self-governing island democracy part of its own territory to be conquered by force if necessary. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sought to bolster the island's defences with the purchase of billions of dollars in weapons from key ally the U.S., including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both ships and land targets. She has also boosted support for the island's indigenous arms industry, including launching a program to build new submarines to counter China's ever-growing naval capabilities. China's increased threats come as economic and political enticements bear little fruit, leading it to stage war games and dispatch fighter jets and reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis toward the island of 24 million people, which lies 160 kilometres (100 miles) off China’s southeast coast across the Taiwan Strait. Along with world’s largest standing military, numbering around 2 million members, China has the largest navy, with approximately 350 vessels, including two aircraft carriers and about 56 submarines. It also possesses around 2,000 combat fighters and bombers and 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles, considered a key strategic and psychological weapon against Taiwan. Taiwan’s armed forces are a fraction of that number, with much of its ground force consisting of short-term conscripts, and its fleet numbers only around 86 vessels, roughly half of them missile boats for coastal patrol. The Associated Press
Ethel Lockrey, 97, and a resident of Silver Fox Estate in Salisbury said people might be surprised at what she and some other seniors have come up with while under lockdown at their retirement residence: floor curling. The game bears some resemblance to regular curling, except there are little wheels under the stones, and of course the absence of ice, said another resident, Doug Sentell, 83, adding that a smooth surface is still important. "I think people would be surprised to know such a game exists. It's fantastic,” said fellow resident Glenna Brugess, 91, adding that she really enjoyed playing and thinks she could be good at it. This week, the seniors had a faceoff: women versus men, said Sentell. The women's team won, he said The women’s team’s most senior senior was certainly a big part of their success, though she is very humble, Sentell said. Lockrey, who many referred to in interviews as “Speedy Ethel” said she thinks “people would be surprised that at 97 years old I can play." "I like to curl. It exercises my whole body and I feel that's important,” she said. Sentell said this week’s game was only the second time he and his fellow residents have given the new game a shot, but noted their skills have improved considerably. “The first time we were flipping the stones upside down,” he said, sharing that his biggest tip would be not to push too hard initially. “We had 10 playing this time. The first time there were maybe four or five that tried, with more as spectators,” said Sentell, adding that people have been learning by watching. Jason Wilson, operator of Silver Fox Estate, said the home, which opened in May during the pandemic, has hired a full-time wellness coordinator, who has been organizing everything from curling to chair fitness. Residents can’t have visitors nor can they participate in off-site visits right now, he said. The home is their household bubble, he said. But while opening during a pandemic was a nightmare from a business perspective, Wilson said, the positive side has been really getting to know each resident slowly and watching residents grow closer to each other than they perhaps would have been otherwise. “They rely on each other. They take care of each other,” he said. From crib, to bingo, to chair exercises, they do activities together, said Wilson. And now, of course, they curl together. Sentell said he thinks as they get more players interested they could explore the possibility of a tournament. “I think this could take off,” he said. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
If you think the world of politics could do with more consensus making and working across the aisles (and at this point, really, who doesn’t), then a new series from TVO might be right up your alley. Political Blind Date returns Tuesday, Jan. 19at 9 p.m. ET on TVO, tvo.org, and the TVO YouTube channel. Each of the six half-hour shows matches two politicians with differing points of view and sends them out into the community on a “date.” There likely won’t be any hook ups…But hopefully they’ll find some common ground? Of particular interest to Sun Peaks Independent News readers is the Jan. 26 episode on pipeline politics. In it, Green Party MP Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) and Cathy McLeod, shadow minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Conservative MP (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, B.C) will unwrap the pros and cons of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and its impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across British Columbia. What does the building of a second parallel pipeline mean for those living along its route is among the issues that will be discussed. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
Justin Timberlake may just have had a second baby boy, but he's got an album about to pop, too!
Extreme racism festering in the city's fire halls is "horrifying" and "unacceptable," says Calgary's mayor, reacting to a CBC News story about the toxic culture in the fire department. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the accounts of several current and former BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) firefighters who detailed racism in the fire stations is "unacceptable in today's society and it's unacceptable in this organization." The firefighters say life in the halls has been more traumatizing than the calls they've respond to. "I am most interested in making sure we change the culture and that the culture is actively anti-racist," said Nenshi. A group of active and retired members penned a letter to Chief Steve Dongworth demanding change after the City of Calgary held a three-day public consultation on racism in the summer. Two of the presenters spoke about incidents including one where a stuffed animal was painted black and hung from a noose at a fire hall where a Black firefighter worked. Local Cree Elder Doreen Spence also told the story of Indigenous fire captain Barry Dawson, who took his own life in November 2017, the day after visiting her and speaking about the "unbearable" racism he had experienced at work. "It hurts me to hear that my colleagues are being subjected to this," said Nenshi. "I'm going to do everything I can in my power and authority in my own hands to make sure that every single person who joins the City of Calgary, whether in the fire department or any other role, has the opportunity to have an outstanding career." Other firefighters report hearing racial slurs, suffering physical assaults and enduring many micro-aggressions like eye-rolls and scoffs at any mention of issues such as Black Lives Matter. Coun. Joyti Gondek says she listened to the public consultations in the summer and remembers the presentations detailing racism at the fire department. "I left those hearings with a sense that those people's words had been heard and if there were specific examples they would be looked into," says Gondek, who represents Ward 3. "I'm left wondering, did we not look into this, and if we did, where's the report?" The city says it doesn't keep track of the number of BIPOC hires within its departments but estimates put the number around 40, or less than three per cent of the 1,400 firefighters. There are also about 40 women in the department. Mayor wants to read workplace review reports Nenshi says the city has been largely focused on gender issues within the fire department but in hindsight after attending CFD graduations, he's noticed a lack of BIPOC fire recruits. "It is clear to me that it is not a particularly diverse workforce compared to say Calgary Transit or Calgary Police, and it's always been in the back of my head," said Nenshi. When asked if he still has faith in the fire chief, Nenshi said he does. "Yeah, until I know otherwise, because I know the chief very well and I know the issues of inclusion have been very important to him, and frankly it's one of the reasons we hired him." CBC News also reported two reviews of the department's workplace culture have been commissioned over the past six years but neither has been made public. Nenshi says he should know what's in those reports. "I, too, am curious; what did we know, when did we know about it and what did we do about it at that time, and those are the answers I'm looking for as well." Group wants BIPOC, female trailblazers recognized In its letter, the group demands nine changes, including a public inquiry into job-related suicides and a permanent place for the department's BIPOC and female trailblazers to be recognized. They also want a zero-tolerance policy on workplace racism, bullying, harassment, assaults and other toxic behaviour, with breaches resulting in discipline up to and including termination. In a written statement, Chief Dongworth said he is committed to "acknowledging shortcomings, listening and learning." Dongworth said his department is working with the city to create a Safe Disclosure Office for fire department employees to report concerns and access advice. "One of my top priorities is to ensure that CFD focuses on enhancing diversity and inclusion and fostering a work environment where employees feel valued and respected."
More than four months into the school year, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District is still waiting for laptops that were to be distributed to students in case the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools again. But Tony Stack, CEO and director of education for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, says the district is still ready to transition to online learning if necessary, and larger shipments of the computers are expected next month. "Laptops have been provided to all teachers, and we're awaiting the next iterations of the Chromebooks for Grade 7 to 12 students to move out," he said. "We've looked after Labrador, our most remote areas, and we're expecting the next shipment very soon." While schools are closed in some parts of Canada due to rising COVID-19 numbers, the Newfoundland and Labrador education system has been relatively unscathed so far this school year. "We've been very fortunate in this province to have such a low prevalence of the virus, and that's due in large measure to our population doing the right thing," Stack told CBC Radio's On The Go. "We have the good protocols in place, based on the public health guidance. So we're ready. We've done a lot of professional learning around this with teachers." Stack said about 2,000 teachers have had additional training on pandemic protocols. While there has been no in-school transmission of the virus, one case cropped up in an elementary school in Deer Lake in November, in a student connected to a case outside the school. Plugged-in and unplugged learning Stack says the school's online learning plan includes a blend of teaching methods. "Nobody expects younger students, or even students in the higher grades, to be online continuously during a normal five-hour instruction period — 300 minutes a day is not what we're aiming for," he said. "It could be a 10-minute check in at the beginning of a period, and then the student interacts offline, [then] the teacher goes and deals with another student one-on-one. Or, you bring the whole group together for a period of time. It doesn't replicate completely what happens in a normal classroom. We never said it would. But it is a much more robust form of interaction than … in the spring." Stack said there are still areas of concern for areas of the province with limited internet access. But, he said, devices have already been distributed to students in those areas that allow a student to connect to cellular signals. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
WASHINGTON — Back when the election was tightening and just a week away, Joe Biden went big. He flew to Warm Springs, the Georgia town whose thermal waters once brought Franklin Delano Roosevelt comfort from polio, and pledged a restitching of America's economic and policy fabric unseen since FDR's New Deal. Evoking some of the nation's loftiest reforms helped Biden unseat President Donald Trump but left him with towering promises to keep. And he'll be trying to deliver against the backdrop of searing national division and a pandemic that has killed nearly 400,000 Americans and upended the economy. Such change would be hard to imagine under any circumstances, much less now. He's setting out with Democrats clinging to razor-thin House and Senate control and after having won an election in which 74 million people voted for his opponent. And even if his administration accomplishes most of its top goals in legislation or executive action, those actions are subject to being struck down by a Supreme Court now controlled by a 6-3 conservative majority. Even so, the effort is soon underway. Washington is bracing for dozens of consequential executive actions starting Wednesday and stretched over the first 10 days of Biden's administration, as well as legislation that will begin working its way through Congress on pandemic relief, immigration and much more. Has Biden promised more than he can deliver? Not in his estimation. He suggests he can accomplish even more than he promised. He says he and his team will “do our best to beat all the expectations you have for the country and expectations we have for it.” Some Democrats say Biden is right to set great expectations while realizing he'll have to compromise, rather than starting with smaller goals and having to scale them back further. “You can’t say to a nation that is hungry, uncertain, in some places afraid, whose economy has stalled out ... that you had to slim down the request of their government because you have a narrow governing margin,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Biden's onetime Democratic presidential primary rival. New presidents generally enjoy a honeymoon period that helps them in Congress, and Biden's prospects for getting one were improved by Democratic victories this month in two Georgia special Senate elections. He may have been helped, too, by a public backlash against the deadly, armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. Biden's advisers have acknowledged they'll have bitter fights ahead. One approach they have in mind is a familiar one in Washington — consolidating some big ideas into what is known as omnibus legislation, so that lawmakers who want popular measures passed have to swallow more controversial measures as well. Another approach is to pursue goals through executive orders. Doing so skirts Congress altogether but leaves the measures more easily challenged in court. Trump made hefty use of executive orders for some of his most contentious actions, on border enforcement, the environment and more, but federal courts often got in the way. Biden's top priority is congressional approval of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to administer 100 million vaccines by his 100th day in office while also providing $1,400 direct payments to Americans to stimulate the virus-hammered economy. That's no slam dunk, even though everyone likes to get money from the government. Any such payment is likely to be paired with measures many in Congress oppose, perhaps his proposed mandate for a $15 national minimum wage, for example. And Biden's relief package will have to clear a Senate consumed with approving his top Cabinet choices and with conducting Trump's potential impeachment trial. Nevertheless, the deluge is coming. On Day One alone, Biden has promised to extend the pause on federal student loan payments, move to have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization and Paris climate accord and ask Americans to commit to 100 days of mask-wearing. He plans to use executive actions to overturn the Trump administration's ban on immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries and wipe out corporate tax cuts where possible, while doubling the levies U.S. firms pay on foreign profits. That same day, Biden has pledged to create task forces on homelessness and reuniting immigrant parents with children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. He'll plan to send bills to Congress seeking to mandate stricter background checks for gun buyers, scrap firearm manufacturers' liability protections and provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. The new president further wants to relax limits immediately on federal workers unionizing, reverse Trump’s rollback of about 100 public health and environmental rules that the Obama administration instituted and create rules to limit corporate influence on his administration and ensure the Justice Department's independence. He also pledged to have 100 vaccination centres supported by federal emergency management personnel up and running during his first month in the White House. Biden says he'll use the Defence Production Act to increase vaccine supplies and ensure the pandemic is under enough control after his first 100 days in office for most public schools to reopen nationwide. He's also pledged to have created a police oversight commission to combat institutional racism by then. Among other major initiatives to be tackled quickly: rejoining the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, a $2 trillion climate package to get the U.S. to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a plan to spend $700 billion boosting manufacturing and research and development and building on the Obama administration's health care law to include a “public option.” Perhaps obscured in that parade of promises, though, is the fact that some of the 80 million-plus voters who backed Biden may have done so to oppose Trump, not because they're thrilled with an ambitious Democratic agenda. The president-elect's victory may not have been a mandate to pull a country that emerged from the last election essentially centrist so far to the left. Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak predicted early Republican support for Biden's coronavirus relief and economic stimulus spending plans, but said that may evaporate quickly if “they issue a bunch of first-day, left-wing executive orders.” “You can't be bipartisan with one hand and left-wing with the other,” Mackowiak said, “and hope that Republicans don't notice.” Biden had a front-row seat as vice-president in 2009, when Barack Obama took office, with crowds jamming the National Mall, and promised to transcend partisan politics. His administration used larger congressional majorities to oversee slow economic growth after the 2008 financial crisis, and it passed the health law Biden now seeks to expand. But Obama failed to get major legislation passed on climate change, ethics or immigration. He failed, too, to close the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which remains open to this day. Falling short on promises then hasn't made Biden more chastened today. He acknowledges that doing even a small portion of what he wants will require running up huge deficits, but he argues the U.S. has an “economic imperative” and “moral obligation” to do so. Kelly Dietrich, founder of the National Democratic Training Committee and former party fundraiser, said the divisions fomented by Trump could give Biden a unique opportunity to push ahead immediately and ignore conservative critics who “are going to complain and cry and make stuff up" and argue that socialists are "coming to kick your puppy.” Biden and his team would do well to brush off anyone who doesn't think he can aim high, he said. “They should not be distracted by people who think it’s disappointing or it can’t happen," Dietrich said. "Overwhelm people with action. No administration, after it’s over, says, ’We accomplished too much in the first hundred days.’” Will Weissert, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta has decided to cancel recently issued coal leases in the Rocky Mountains, as public opposition grows to the United Conservative government's plan to expand coal mining in the area. Late Monday afternoon, Energy Minister Sonya Savage issued a press release saying the sale of 11 recently purchased coal leases would be cancelled. Savage added that no further leases would be sold on lands that were protected from open-pit mines under a policy the government revoked last May. "We have listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thank those who spoke up with passion," she said in the release. “This pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected." She also said the move will have no impact on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review. The cancelled leases are a small portion of the coal exploration leases the government has issued since revoking a policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies — home to endangered species as well as the water source for millions downstream — since 1976. The decision came as more than 100,000 signatures had been collected on two petitions opposing increased mining on two related fronts. One, sponsored by environmental groups on Change.org, was addressed to the provincial government and had 77,000 signatures Monday afternoon — an increase of about 10,000 over the weekend. Another, sponsored by a private citizen and addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, had nearly 28,000 names opposing the Benga coal project in southern Alberta, which is undergoing a federal-provincial environmental review. As well, a Facebook site called Protect Alberta's Rockies and Headwaters has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000. The Benga review has received more than 4,000 statements of concern from members of the public, the vast majority opposing the project. Members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have sent more than 700 postcards to Wilkinson asking him to block coal development in the Rockies and another 2,000 have joined an online group to that end, said organizer Latasha Calf Robe. Edmonton New Democrat MP Heather McPherson has received hundreds of calls on the issue, a spokeswoman said. The Opposition New Democrats also started a petition that garnered nearly 2,900 names in a week. A spokesman said the number nearly doubles every day. New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension Monday, but said it raises more questions. "They're not committing to reinstating the coal policy, so they're not ruling out future development in these areas like people are demanding. It's a partial victory, but it's a clear signal that Albertans need to keep pushing to put permanent protections in." Schmidt asked if the cancellations create any financial obligations for the province. "How much are taxpayers on the hook for?" Neither Savage nor Alberta Energy staff were available to take questions on the issue. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021 Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
LOS ANGELES — California has become the first state to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections. That’s according to a tally Monday by Johns Hopkins University. The grim milestone wasn’t entirely unexpected in a state with 40 million residents but its speed was stunning. California only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24. The count is also far ahead of other large states, such as Texas. California also has seen more than 33,600 deaths due to COVID-19. A caseload surge that began last fall has strained hospitals. Although there’s been a slight downward trend, officials warn that could reverse when the full impact from holiday gathering transmissions is felt. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below: California's state epidemiologist is urging a halt to more than 300,000 coronavirus vaccinations using a Moderna vaccine version because some people received medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions. Dr. Erica S. Pan on Sunday recommended providers stop using lot 41L20A of the Moderna vaccine pending completion of an investigation by state officials, Moderna, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration. “Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory," Pan said in a statement. She said more than 330,000 doses from the lot arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12 and were distributed to 287 providers. Fewer than 10 people, who all received the vaccine at the same community site, needed medical attention over a 24-hour period, Pan said. No other similar clusters were found. Pan did not specify the number of cases involved or where they occurred. However, six San Diego health care workers had allergic reactions to vaccines they received at a mass vaccination centre on Jan. 14. The site was temporarily closed and is now using other vaccines, KTGV-TV reported. Moderna in a statement said the company “is unaware of comparable adverse events from other vaccination centres which may have administered vaccines from the same lot.” The CDC has said COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects for a few days that include fever, chills, headache, swelling or tiredness, “which are normal signs that your body is building protection." However, severe reactions are extremely rare. Pan said in a vaccine similar to Moderna, the rate of anaphylaxis — in which an immune system reaction can block breathing and cause blood pressure to drop — was about 1 in 100,000. The announcement came as California counties continue to plead for more COVID-19 vaccine as the state tries to reduce its rate of infection, which has led to record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. California, with a population of 40 million, has shipped about about 3.2 million doses of the vaccine — which requires two doses for full immunization — to local health departments and health care systems, the state's Department of Public Health reported Monday. Only about 1.4 million of those doses, or around 40%, have been administered. So far. the state has vaccinated fewer than 2,500 people per 100,000 residents, a rate that falls well below the national average, according to federal data. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that anyone age 65 and older would be eligible to start receiving the vaccine, Los Angeles County and some others have said they do not have enough doses to vaccinate so many people and are first concentrating on inoculating health care workers and the most vulnerable elderly living in care homes. On Monday, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District sent a letter to state and county public health officials asking for authorization to provide COVID-19 vaccinations at schools for staff, local community members and for students once a vaccine for children has been approved. “Doing so will help reopen schools as soon as possible, and in the safest way possible,” Superintendent Austin Beutner wrote. California is nearing 3 million coronavirus cases and more than 33,600 people have died since the start of the pandemic last year, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The death rate from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County — the nation's most populous and an epicenter of the state pandemic — works out to about one person every six minutes. On Sunday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on the number of cremations for at least 10 days in order to deal with a backlog of bodies at hospitals and funeral homes. “The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years," the agency said. On average, California has seen about 500 deaths and 40,000 new cases daily for the past two weeks. Although hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions remained on a slight downward trend, officials have warned that could reverse when the full impact from transmissions during Christmas and New Year’s Eve gatherings is felt. “As case numbers continue to rise in California, the total number of individuals who will have serious outcomes will also increase,” the state health department said in a statement Monday. Adding to concerns, California is experiencing new, possibly more transmissible forms of COVID-19. The state health department announced Sunday that an L452R variant of the virus is increasingly showing up in genetic sequencing of COVID-19 test samples from several counties. The variant was first identified last year in California and in other states and countries but has been identified more frequently since November and in several large outbreaks in Northern California's Santa Clara County, the department said. Overall, the variant has been found in at least a dozen counties. In some places. testing has found the variant in a quarter of the samples sequenced, said Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California San Francisco. However, not all test samples receive genetic sequencing to identify variants so its frequency wasn't immediately clear. However, health officials said it was linked to a Christmas-time outbreak at Kaiser Permanente San Jose that infected at least 89 staff members and patients, killing a receptionist. The outbreak has been blamed on an employee who visited the hospital emergency room wearing an air-powered inflatable Christmas tree costume. The variant is different from another mutation, B117, that was first reported in the United Kingdom and appears to spread much more easily, although it doesn't appear to make people sicker. That variant has already shown up in San Diego County and Los Angeles County announced over the weekend that it had detected its first case. Robert Jablon, The Associated Press
U.S. lawmakers are moving ahead with efforts to ban facial recognition software even as the technology helps identify supporters of President Donald Trump who ransacked their workplace and forced them to evacuate this month. Researchers and law enforcement have been running photographs from the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol through facial recognition, which looks for similar faces in databases of mugshots, social media headshots or other images. "It's a great tool," said Michael Sheldon, research associate at the nonprofit Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, whose mission includes protecting democratic institutions.