Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq provides the latest personal finance updates to manage your financial health through the pandemic.
Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq provides the latest personal finance updates to manage your financial health through the pandemic.
LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep roadway in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery. Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median shortly before 7:15 a.m., crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved. The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. Both of his legs were seriously injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odor of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and did not find any. They did not say how fast he was driving. The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to arrive at the wreck, told reporters that he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and has seen fatal crashes there. “I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said. Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club. Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019. He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport. The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event. Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time. He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter. During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he was feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities. He was not sure when he would play again. Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery. “I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.” Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away Tuesday afternoon. This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder. Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and five surgeries on his back. ___ Ferguson reported from Jacksonville, Florida. Stefanie Dazio And Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Fueled by Black turnout, Democrats scored stunning wins in Georgia in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Now, Republicans are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. GOP lawmakers in the once reliably red state are rolling out an aggressive slate of voting legislation that critics argue is tailored to curtail the power of Black voters and undo years of work by Stacey Abrams and others to increase engagement among people of colour, including Latino and Asian American communities. The proposals are similar to those pushed by Republicans in other battleground states: adding barriers to mail-in and early voting, major factors in helping Joe Biden win Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take the two Senate seats that gave Democrats control of the chamber. But one aspect of their plans, a proposal to eliminate early voting on Sundays, seems specifically targeted at a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign used by Black churches, referred to as “souls to the polls." It's led many to suggest Republicans are trying to stop a successful effort to boost Black voter turnout in Georgia, where they make up about a third of the population and have faced a dark history of attempts to silence their voices in elections. “It's a new form of voter suppression, the Klan in three-piece suits rather than white hoods,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which has participated in souls to the polls events. “They know the power of the Black vote, and their goal is to suppress that power.” In previous elections, souls to the polls campaigns were festive, with vehicles and people parading to election offices during early voting windows. Churches would sometimes playfully compete to see which could bring the most voters, said McDonald, who described the GOP legislation as “spiteful.” In Georgia and elsewhere, Republicans say proposals to tighten voting access are meant to bolster confidence in elections, though they have been some of the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the election was fraudulent. The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 165 bills in 33 states this year meant to limit access to voting. In Georgia, Republicans control state government and have introduced dozens of legislative measures that would restrict voting access. GOP state Rep. Barry Fleming is chief sponsor of a wide-ranging proposal that would ban Sunday early voting, require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit the time when an absentee ballot could be requested, restrict where ballot drop boxes could be placed and curb the use of mobile voting units, among other changes. In committee hearings, Fleming has cast the legislation as “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public in our election system.” He didn’t respond to an email or phone message requesting comment. Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project that Abrams founded in 2014, called the GOP measures a backlash “to our multiracial, multilingual progressive majority that is winning elections." Biden beat former President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win a presidential contest in Georgia since 1992. Biden received nearly double the number of absentee votes as Trump in a state that became a major target of Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. Biden's win there was confirmed in three separate counts, including one by hand. "These measures, in our opinion, are not based on any objective, data-driven, evidence-based assessment of the issue but solely with the intention to undermine Black voters and other communities of concern,” said Democratic state Rep. Michael Smith, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Policy Committee. Because Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, at least some form of their proposals are likely to become law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, has called for a photo ID requirement for absentee voting but has yet to back a specific proposal. His office said it was still reviewing the legislation. Republicans are trying to limit ways to vote that have been wildly popular. After states expanded access to mail-in and early voting during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 70% of all ballots cast nationwide came before Election Day. An estimated 108 million people voted by mail, early in person or by dropping off absentee ballots. In Georgia, over 4 million voters cast early or absentee ballots. “They realize if they continue to allow individuals to vote by mail, it is going to be an uphill battle for Republicans to win at the polls and maintain their position,” Democratic state Rep. Debra Bazemore said. At the federal level, Democrats are pushing for a sweeping overhaul of how Americans vote. House Democrats are expected to vote next week on a measure that would establish federal election standards like early voting periods, same-day voter registration and other policies that Republicans have dismissed as federal overreach. And they are expected to introduce another bill to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that had triggered federal scrutiny of election changes in certain states and counties with histories of discrimination. Georgia was among the states that previously had to get approval for voting changes. “If left to their own devices, Republicans will try to limit the ability of minority voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat co-sponsoring the bill on federal election standards. “It's open season on voting rights in Georgia,” he said. ___ Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. ___ Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Anthony Izaguirre And Ben Nadler, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law, Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia will permanently allow restaurants, bars and tourism operators to buy liquor at wholesale prices, a move that industry hopes will help revive the struggling sector. The provincial government made temporary changes last June to allow the hospitality industry to buy alcohol at the same cost as liquor stores and it has now made that decision permanent. Previously, restaurants, pubs and tourism businesses with liquor licences paid full retail price — the wholesale price, plus a markup set by the government — on most alcohol purchases. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says in a news release that the government is making the change permanent to give businesses certainty and to help the estimated 190,000 residents who work in the sector. Trevor Kallies, beverage director for the Donnelly Group, which owns several bars in Vancouver, says in the release that wholesale liquor pricing will help alleviate some financial pressures so businesses can focus on other areas, such as the health and safety of staff and customers. Restaurants Canada says in a statement that the move fulfils a long-standing recommendation from the industry group and it thanked the B.C. government for levelling the playing field between the province's retail and hospitality sectors. "This move will go a long way to help British Columbia's hard-hit restaurant sector transition from survival to revival," said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president for Western Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Crown prosecutors are asking that a Manitoba man be sentenced to six years minus time served after he pleaded guilty to eight charges related to an incident at Rideau Hall.Corey Hurren, 46, rammed through a gate at Rideau Hall and headed on foot toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s home at Rideau Cottage while heavily armed on July 2.Police were able to talk Hurren, a Canadian Ranger and sausage-maker, down and arrested him peacefully after about 90 minutes.Crown prosecutor Meaghan Cunningham told an Ottawa courtroom today that Hurren's actions posed a serious threat to public safety and set up a potentially dangerous situation.Defence lawyer Michael Davies is seeking a sentence of three years, less time served, and acknowledged Hurren's bad choices before noting his client gave himself up peacefully.Davies said Hurren was a hardworking member of society before the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to face financial difficulties and depression. Justice Robert Wadden is expected to deliver his sentence on March 10.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Canadian men's soccer team will join the Raptors and Blue Jays in Florida next month. Canada Soccer announced Tuesday that Canada, ranked 73rd in the world, will shift its first home game in World Cup qualifying to Orlando's Exploria Stadium — on March 25 against No. 169 Bermuda — due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. The game will be considered a home match in a neutral venue. There will be no fans allowed in the stands. After facing Bermuda, Canada has two away matches — March 28 at the 193rd-ranked Cayman Islands and June 5 at No. 200 Aruba. Canada's other home game in the first qualifying round is June 8 against No. 141 Suriname. Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association, said no decision has been made yet on the site for the Suriname matchup. "We're going to continue to work with our provincial and Public Health Canada authorities for the best venue for us for June," he said in an interview. "No decisions have been made. "But it's a changing landscape. We certainly want to play in Canada and we'll do our best to be playing in Canada." The Orlando stadium is currently hosting the SheBelieves Cup, which features the Canadian women and three other teams including the U.S. Montopoli said the Canadian women's experience in Orlando and CONCACAF's positive view of the venue and its COVID-19 protocols had prompted Canada Soccer to choose it. The Canadian men played at Exploria Stadium in November 2019, losing 4-1 to the U.S. in CONCACAF Nations League play. The stadium is home to Orlando City SC of MLS and the NWSL's Orlando Pride. Toronto FC is also looking at shifting its base of operations to Florida, with Orlando a possible site at least for the start of the MLS season, which kicks off April 17. The Toronto Raptors are playing home games in Tampa this season, while the Blue Jays are starting their season with home games in Dunedin. Canada is one of 30 CONCACAF nations, divided into six groups for the first round of World Cup qualifying in the region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean. The group winners advance to a round of head-to-head knockout matches with the three victors joining No. 9 Mexico, the 22nd-ranked Americans, No. 47 Jamaica, No. 50 Costa Rica and No. 64 Honduras in the final round The top three teams from the eight-team final qualifying round-robin round will qualify directly to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place team qualifies for a FIFA intercontinental playoff. Several previous qualifying road maps were rendered useless by the global pandemic, with international match windows coming and going without play. The Canadian men, who are co-hosting the 2026 World Cup along with Mexico and the U.S., have only ever qualified for one World Cup — 1986 in Mexico where they exited after failing to score in losses to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy in Liverpool and North Queens Community School in Caledonia are among the Queens County schools engaging students in various activities in recognition of February as Nova Scotia’s African Heritage Month. The theme in this year’s celebration is Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share and Act. Erica Langille, the teacher for Grades 1 to 2 at Wickwire, said the students began discussions in January about the famed American social rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. They read a book about him and watched part of his speech. “It wasn’t so much about what he said, for my students, but how he said it,” observed Langille. The discussions focused on his dream, racism and segregation, and culminated in what the students could do to change the world. Earlier this month, discussions also touched upon different symbols that represent African culture. According to Langille, Kente cloths that are bright and worn for celebrations are what stand out for her. The students made some with paper and discussed what the colours they chose meant to them. They also talked about African American inventors. “I think it’s very important, because for many years we suppressed these people and did not allow them to speak about their history and culture,” commented Langille. ‘I think they need to be celebrated and their culture expressed. If we don’t teach our students about their history, how do we ever build upon that culture?” Meanwhile, Phil Prendergast, a behaviour support and resource teacher at North Queens Community School, has been leading activities in that school this month. “We are focusing on achievements and celebration – historical and contemporary,” he said. “Usually the standard for African Heritage Month is to just put up a poster. We didn’t want to stop there, but to go above and beyond that.” While the students did put up posters, the artwork included cut-outs of different colours of hands from elementary students that were placed around the poster. Staff and students also started a trivia contest for the school. Each day Grade 7 students ask a question during the announcements. Students from Grades 2 to 12 then can look up the answers. The classes with the most participation can win a weekly prize and, at the end of the month, a pizza party will be held for the winning class. Elementary students also were expected to begin making bracelets adorned in African colours, and one class had started a “history gram,” highlighting the accomplishments of African Canadians. The aim of African Heritage Month is to recognize the important legacy of people of African descent and their long-standing history in the development of Canada. It also brings focus and increased awareness of racialized issues and further calls on people to listen, share and act to make society a better place. Paul Ash, the regional executive director for the South Shore Regional Centre of Education, maintained that recognizing the contributions and learning about African Nova Scotians is “absolutely critical.” “It is extremely important that our students and communities see themselves reflected in our formal and informal curriculum,” Ash, who is of Canadian-African descent, commented in an email. “It is equally important that all of our students are exposed to learning opportunities to understand different lived experiences and histories as they prepare to enter into a much smaller world than previous generations.” While Ash recognized the value in having a designated month recognizing African Nova Scotians, he suggested more has to be done to break down social barriers. “Celebrations and activities are extremely important, but it will be the daily conversation and interactions that will impact our student level of knowledge and understanding of our African Nova Scotian/African Canadian Community,” he said. Nova Scotia has more than 50 historic African Nova Scotian communities with a history dating back more than 400 years. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
WASHINGTON — She's guided the Senate through two impeachment trials, vexed Democrats and Republicans alike with parliamentary opinions and helped rescue Electoral College certificates from a pro-Trump mob ransacking the Capitol. She also does spot-on impersonations of senators including Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth MacDonough, an English literature major and the Senate's first woman parliamentarian, is about to demonstrate anew why she's one of Washington's most potent, respected yet obscure figures. Any day, she's expected to reveal if she thinks a federal minimum wage boost, progressives' most prized plank in Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, should fall from the bill. Her decision, a political minefield likely to elicit groans from whichever side she disappoints, will play an outsized role in deciding the wage increase's fate. It may not be definitive — majority Democrats might try overriding an opinion they don't like. “Elizabeth has a soul-crushing job, to which she brings an enormous amount of soul," said her predecessor, Alan Frumin, whom she replaced when he retired in 2012. Part of MacDonough's job, in which she's supposed to be nonpartisan, is enduring high-stakes lobbying from both parties when she's making pivotal decisions. But she’s found a home in the Capitol, where she’s spent most of the past three decades after starting as an assistant Senate librarian in 1990. “She knows the names of every police officer and janitor,” Frumin said. Sometimes, the pressure can be extraordinary. Frumin said that when the Senate was enacting former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law — which was opposed by Republicans and infuriated grassroots tea party conservatives — he had police protection at his home as a precaution. “And the political climate hasn’t gotten friendlier," he said. Even so, MacDonough, 55, has garnered high marks from both parties. Underscoring that, while she was initially appointed in 2012 by Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate majority leader at the time, she was retained by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., when he became majority leader in 2015. “She’s very solid. She listens to all the evidence,” Sanders, the independent Vermont senator and chief sponsor of the minimum wage proposal, said in a recent interview. “She is a brilliant lawyer, a thorough and fair referee and a walking encyclopedia of Senate precedent and procedure,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said Tuesday. She's also used the time to hone an ability to replicate the voices and cadence of several senators including Sanders, associates say. MacDonough's earned her reputation for fairness while helping steer the Senate through some of its highest-profile moments. Rulings she issued striking anti-abortion and other provisions from numerous failed GOP attempts to repeal Obama's health care law weakened their bills. She helped Chief Justice John Roberts preside over then-President Donald Trump's 2020 Senate impeachment trial, and was beside Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., for Trump's second trial this month. Trump was acquitted both times. And as Trump supporters fought past police and into the Capitol last month in hopes of disrupting Congress' certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, MacDonough and other staffers rescued those ballots and hustled mahogany boxes containing them to safety. MacDonough's office, on the Capitol's first floor, was ransacked and declared a crime scene. Raised by a single mother in the comfortable Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland, MacDonough graduated with an English literature degree from George Washington University. She began her Senate career in its library before leaving to get a law degree at Vermont Law School. She worked briefly as a Justice Department trial attorney before returning to the Senate in 1999, this time as an assistant in the parliamentarian’s office. Less than two years later, she helped Vice-President Al Gore preside over Congress’ certification of electoral ballots that sealed his own 2000 election defeat to George W. Bush. “It was very exciting and humbling,” MacDonough said in a Vermont Law School alumni profile. As Democrats begin pushing Biden’s sweeping relief package through Congress, they’re using a special procedure that shields the bill from Senate Republican filibusters, which require 60 votes to thwart. That's out of reach for Democrats in a 50-50 chamber they control with Vice-President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. But Senate rules require that items in such a bill must have a substantial budget impact that is not “merely incidental” to the language’s main intended purpose. MacDonough has been meeting with Democrats who've tried persuading her that their minimum wage provision meets that test, and Republicans who've told her it doesn't. Democrats want to raise the federal floor, fixed at $7.25 hourly since 2009, to $15 over five years. The Senate usually heeds the parliamentarian's advice, which is whispered to the senator presiding over the chamber. But the majority party will on rare occasion force a vote to overrule the parliamentarian. If MacDonough decides the minimum wage hike should remain in the bill, it would likely survive because GOP opponents would need an unachievable 60 votes to remove it. But at least two Democrats have expressed opposition to the $15 proposal, so it still could be amended or even dropped. If MacDonough says it should be stricken, Democrats would have no chance of garnering 60 votes to overrule her. But they might choose the rarely utilized, hardball tactic of having the presiding officer, presumably Harris, ignore her and announce that the minimum wage language meets the test to stay in the overall legislation. That would force Republicans to find 60 votes to strip the provision, which they'd fail to do. Such a tactic is called the nuclear option because Democrats would be using their majority to muscle through rules changes, enraging Republicans and inviting a future tit-for-tat retaliation. Majority Democrats overruled MacDonough in 2013, eliminating filibusters for executive branch and most judicial nominees. In 2017, Republicans extended that to Supreme Court picks. “It was a stinging defeat that I tried not to take personally,” she said during a 2018 commencement speech at her law school. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
THUNDER BAY — A new website launched this week features various services and tools to support victims and survivors of local human trafficking, says the co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Thunder Bay has been identified as one of the top six hubs in Ontario for human trafficking says Kristal Carlson, human trafficking youth and transition worker at Thunder Bay Counselling and co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “This crime is rampant in Thunder Bay,” she said Monday, Feb. 22. The website was created to provide victims and survivors of human trafficking with access to free services and to also spread awareness and education in the community about the crime. “The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking created the website to help community members, potential survivors and business people alike to be able to acknowledge, identify and potentially intervene if they should see human trafficking in young peoples’ lives,” Carlson said, adding the crime is often under-reported. For women, only one in 10 will report and for men only one in 20 will report to police, Carlson said. “It is such an under-reported crime so any sex-based crime we know that only six per cent will ever end in conviction so it is really hard to convince people to come forward when there is not the likelihood that something will happen,” she said. And while groups such as the Thunder Bay Coalition To End Human Trafficking exist to support victims of the crime, it is important to note they do not classify themselves as a “rescuing people” group, Carlson said. “We support individuals to move forward when they are ready in the way that is going to best suit them in their current situation,” she said. Last year alone, through various programs across the Coalition more than 60 people were successful in leaving their current situation, Carlson said. The creators of the new website also hope to address misconceptions around human traffickers that are often presented in media and movies. “Human trafficking, more times than not, is somebody being exploited by the person they identify as their boyfriend, their best friend or somebody that they know so that happens in more than 85 per cent of cases,” she said. The other most common form of trafficking is the exploitation of young people by family members, extended family members, caretakers or guardians. “More times than not it’s happening by the person they believe to be their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend,” Carlson said. The website also teaches individuals how to identify signs and risk factors of human trafficking. “We also want to raise the education in the city of Thunder bay because we are identified as one of the top six hubs in the province of Ontario and Ontario makes up two-thirds of all human trafficking that takes place in our country,” Carlson said. Carlson also points out that coming forward doesn’t mean individuals have to report to the police. “The Thunder Bay Police have started to do some really amazing work in being able to meet survivors exactly where they are at and not needing to move forward with charges but to support them for when they are ready to do that if they are ever ready to do that,” she said. “We just want [survivors] to know they are not alone and that there are people to support you no matter where you are, whether you are currently at risk, entrenched, or you looking to exit, there are people here to support you.” For more information, visit Thunder Bay Coalition’s new website by clicking here. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Le recrutement à l’international reste l’une des voies privilégiées par les entreprises et les sociétés québécoises afin de répondre à leurs besoins en manque de main-d ’œuvres professionnelles et ouvrières. L’Abitibi-Témiscamingue est l’une des régions qui souffre davantage de cette problèmqtique et son milieu d’affaires ne cesse pas de multiplier ses efforts afin de combler leurs besoins. « Depuis bientôt cinq (5) ans il nous a été impossible de combler nos besoins de main d’œuvre. Nos offres d’emploi sont publiées sur le site d’Emploi Québec et sur le site Guichet Emplois du Gouvernement du Canada. Nous constatons encore aujourd’hui que les besoins de main d’œuvre en Abitibi-Témiscamingue vont continuer d’augmenter. Nous avons donc à la fin de 2019 décidé d’avoir recours au recrutement international » nous explique la Vice-Présidente d’Agrimax à St-Bruno-de-Guigues, madame Madeleine Paquin. Jusqu’aux Philippines ! Plusieurs stratégies sont utilisées par les ressources humaines de ces sociétés et les directeurs des entreprises pour mieux cibler les compétences voulues et combler les postes vacants dans leurs départements. « En novembre 2019 nous avons donc entamer le processus via Solution Recrutement International, et, nous nous sommes rendus à Manille, capitale des Philippines, pour rencontrer des candidats potentiels. Nous avons alors retenu la candidature de deux d’entre eux pour occuper des postes de mécaniciens de machineries agricoles (lourdes) » indique madame Madeleine Paquin. Le défi de la bureaucratie… C’est la phase bureaucratique qui est la partie la plus complexe à gérer puisque le processus administratif de l’immigration et des vérifications prend beaucoup de temps. Généralement, les employeurs doivent s’armer d’une patience de fer avant de finir toutes les étapes et voir arriver leurs nouveaux recrus. « Les documents ont été signés sur place pour l’embauche de deux (2) d’entre eux pour un contrat de trois (3) ans. Nous avons donc donner le mandat à la firme SRI de procéder aux démarches pour leur venu au Canada. À ce moment-là on nous avait dit que nous pourrions espérer leur arrivée en juin ou au plus tard en septembre 2021 » ajoute la Vice-Présidente. Toujours en attente Bien que les entreprises engagent parfois des firmes spécialisées en recrutement, ils tiennent à faire un suivi de près auprès de leurs futurs employés. « Nous sommes en communication régulièrement avec Mark et Ruel, ils ont tous deux très hâte de rejoindre l’équipe d’Agrimax. Nous sommes toujours en attente d’une confirmation de leur arrivé; Ruel en est à l’étape finale du processus soit l’obtention de son visa; pour Mark il reste certains examens à compléter et, il attend toujours la communication de l’IRCC pour remettre son passeport et ensuite obtenir son visa » poursuit-elle. Les services essentiels d’abord ! « On comprend que la fameuse COVID-19 est venu brouiller les cartes. Selon nos informations le gouvernement traite en priorité les personnes devant travailler pour des services essentiels. Nous avons récemment pu faire valoir qu’Agrimax offre des services essentiels aux entreprises agricoles, et, espérons que nous aurons été entendus » conclut-elle. Moulay Hicham Mouatadid, Initiative de journalisme local, Reflet Témiscamien (Le)
Le Rocket de Laval a débuté sa nouvelle saison le vendredi 12 février, et ce, près d’un an après l’annulation du reste de la campagne 2019-2020 en raison de la pandémie de la COVID-19. Les joueurs du club lavallois ne semblaient pas trop rouillés par cette longue pause. Malgré la défaite en prolongation subie lundi, ils présentent toujours une fiche positive de 3-1-1. Les quatre premiers matchs les opposaient aux Senators de Belleville, tandis que le cinquième était disputé contre le Moose du Manitoba. «Je suis content pour les joueurs, car ils avaient tous hâte de jouer, mentionne l’entraîneur-chef Joël Bouchard. […] C’était un peu la continuité d’il y a neuf mois [quand l’équipe connaissait une excellente séquence] derrière le banc.» Jordan Weal, qui fait ses débuts avec le Rocket après avoir passé la dernière saison avec les Canadiens de Montréal, a eu un impact immédiat. Il a obtenu cinq points en autant de rencontres, ce qui le place au premier rang du club à ce chapitre. Le joueur de centre est suivi par Lukas Vejdemo et Jesse Ylönen qui ont tous deux obtenu quatre points depuis le début de la saison. Joseph Blandisi a quant à lui obtenu un doublé lors du match d’ouverture. Devant le filet, Cayden Primeau a obtenu trois des cinq départs des siens. Il présente une fiche de 2-1-0, un taux d’efficacité de ,897 et une moyenne de buts alloués de 2,34. En raison de la pandémie, les rencontres du Rocket seront disputées au Centre Bell pour l’ensemble de la saison. Aucun spectateur n’est admis sur place. Les joueurs doivent aussi s’habituer à jouer plusieurs rencontres consécutives face à la même formation. Côté hockey, d’autres adaptations sont de mises. Joël Bouchard compte sur une trentaine de joueurs disponibles tout au long de la saison, car ceux-ci ne pourront être retournés dans les rangs inférieurs quand l’effectif affichera complet. «Chaque joueur doit obtenir le temps de glace dont il a besoin, précise-t-il. Certains doivent être prêts pour le rythme de jeu de la LNH [Ligue nationale de hockey], d’autres doivent travailler pour devenir des professionnels. Tout cela est en prenant compte qu’ils n’ont pas tous le même âge et la même capacité physique. C’est un gros défi que de gérer autant de joueurs.» Rappelons aussi que le début de saison des équipes canadiennes de la Ligue américaine de hockey (LAH), qui jouent cette année dans une division commune, avait été retardé d’une semaine en raison de détails administratifs. Pour le moment, seul le calendrier de février a été diffusé. Également, aucune information n’a été dévoilée quant à la possibilité de disputer des séries. L’édition 2020-2021 de la formation lavalloise compte plusieurs nouveaux visages. Parmi ceux-ci, notons Ylönen et Joël Teasdale qui font très bien à leurs débuts dans l’uniforme rouge et bleu. Joël Teasdale disputait d’ailleurs ses premières rencontres en près de deux ans. Il avait subi une blessure importante au genou droit. L’ailier gauche a obtenu un but et une passe à son premier match. «J’étais vraiment excité pour cette première game, mentionne le principal intéressé. Je voulais essayer de faire les choses simples et ç’a porté fruit. Je veux continuer comme ça pour les matchs à venir.» Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, choix de septième tour des Canadiens en 2019, est un autre jeune joueur qui s’est démarqué jusqu’à maintenant. Il a été félicité par son entraîneur-chef lors d’un point de presse. «Je ne suis pas surpris et je le mets dans des situations importantes, car je sens qu’il est à sa place, explique Bouchard. Il joue vite dans sa tête. Il est un travaillant et il a l’éthique de travail. Il est un joueur le fun à diriger.» Les jeunes joueurs d’âge junior Kaiden Guhle et Jan Mysak se retrouvent aussi avec le club en raison de l’arrêt des activités dans leur ligue respective. L’échantillon des deux joueurs est toutefois limité: Guhle a seulement disputé un match en raison d’une légère blessure subie avant la saison, tandis que Mysak a joué dans les deux défaites de l’équipe. Malgré cet essor de jeunes joueurs, le Rocket compte sur les retours d’Alex Belzile, Yannick Veilleux, Laurent Dauphin et du capitaine Xavier Ouellet. Ceux-ci avaient tous contribué au succès du club qui a connu la meilleure saison de sa jeune histoire en 2019-2020. Leur contribution sera importante et Joël Bouchard se dit déjà satisfait de l’aide qu’ils apportent aux jeunes de l’organisation. Le pilote lavallois a aussi été questionné sur le désir de gagner de l’équipe malgré l’incertitude qui plane pour la suite. Sa réponse ne pouvait être plus convaincante. «Tant qu’il y aura un tableau indicateur, on va tout faire pour gagner. Dans la réalité de la ligue américaine, je me dois de développer les joueurs, mais on veut le faire dans un environnement gagnant», de conclure celui qui dirige le Rocket de Laval depuis mai 2018. Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Brooklyn’s organic licensed cannabis producer, Aqualitas, is partnering with Colorado-based Sana Packaging to bring ocean-sourced packaging to the recreational and medical markets. Aqualitas CEO Myrna Gillis described the arrangement as a significant step for the company. “We think, from a leadership perspective, this is really important to us as being in a coastal community. Obviously, taking garbage from our oceans is really important, and we’re just very happy that we were able to work with a forward-thinking company that had the same sort of ideas and visions about bringing it to fruition,” she said in an interview with LighthouseNOW. In a recent press release, Josh Adler, Aqualitas’s director of operations, suggested that while the facility is a low energy and low water consumer due to its LED lights and aquaponic systems, “we wanted to do more.” He added that it’s been two years in the making to source packaging material, connect with a manufacturer, get the product certified, conduct impact investigations and make the whole thing work during a pandemic. Sana Packaging is working with Oceanworks, a global marketplace for reclaimed ocean materials and products, to make its 100-per-cent reclaimed plastic packaging. “It’s basically packaging that is taken from our oceans, waterways and shorelines. It’s separated and graded, and the product we would use would be food-grade [food safe], reclaimed plastics. “It’s a way to effectively recycle waste that didn’t make its way into our recycling stream.” According to the release, the first order for packaging from Sana reclaimed 1.8 million tonnes of ocean plastic. The packaging will be used for the company’s flower products and exclusively in all its medical offerings, along with for some of its branded products and for lids on glass jars of other products. “We have a fully sustainable package line that consists of ocean-sourced packaging, including the ocean-sourced lids on glass jars, as well as omnidegradable and biodegradable bags and cardboard,” said Gillis. “We are now at the point where all of our products are in sustainable packaging.” Gillis said the changeover in packaging will not affect the cost of any of their products, despite a rise in cost for the company to introduce the sustainable packaging. She added that Sana Packaging has offered competitive pricing and they are able to absorb the extra cost. The new packaging will launch coast-to-coast via Aqualitas’s medical platform in five-gram jars, and in Nova Scotia in the recreational market, via its Reef Organic product line later this month. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
TORONTO — An isolation centre where migrant farm workers in southwestern Ontario recover from COVID-19 may have to close next month due to a funding shortfall created by a shift in federal support. In a letter to federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, the mayor of Windsor, Ont., says a decision by Ottawa to shift responsibility for the centre's funding from one government department to another resulted in $2 million in costs not being covered. That means the city, which already pays to staff the centre located at a local hotel would have to take on additional costs it can't afford as pandemic expenses continue to mount. "The City of Windsor has been forced to consider if we are able to continue with this temporary foreign worker isolation and recovery centre," Mayor Drew Dilkens said in his letter on Feb. 17. When the centre first opened in November, the program was funded through Public Safety Canada, and administered by the Canadian Red Cross. In December, the federal government notified the city it would shift funding to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and required the local officials to complete a new application form. During the lengthy application process, Dilkens said it became clear that a 12 per cent fee paid to the Red Cross to administer the centre would not be covered and the city would be on the hook for it. He said additional new criteria from the public health agency would require the centre to shift its mandate and make its services available to the general public. Dilkens said the city already maintains a second centre for the homeless and people in vulnerable communities and adding new "complexities" of an additional open site would require further resources. In his letter to Hajdu, he proposes a compromise - grandfathering the current agreement and conditions into the new terms with Public Health Canada. "Should (public health) reject these modest amendments, included in our application, then the City of Windsor will not be in a position to accept any grant funding and the (isolation centre) will close at the end of March 2021," he wrote. The city's chief administrative officer also wrote the federal public health agency last week to make the case for maintaining the current funding arrangement. Onorio Colucci said the city is projecting a $38-million budget shortfall this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that does not include the additional costs for the isolation centre. "The current funding for the isolation and recovery centre will end on March 31, 2021, but the need for this site remains," Colucci said. "We expect site usage to grow in the coming weeks as the region welcomes thousands of temporary foreign agri-farm workers ... this spring." He said the isolation centre has been used by 490 farm workers who have contracted COVID-19. Health Canada did not immediately provide comment. Thousands of migrant workers take up jobs at Ontario farms and greenhouses every spring. During the first wave of the pandemic, dozens of farm outbreaks were reported across the province. More than 1,780 temporary foreign workers in Ontario tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020, and three died of the virus. NDP MP Brian Masse, who represents a Windsor riding, said he can't understand why the previous arrangement needs to change. "It seems like an incredible amount of effort to sabotage something that was really working well," he said. Masse said if the federal government allows the centre to close it will likely have to set up some kind of alternative in the months ahead, and that will cost time, money and possibly lives. "We had people die by themselves in hotel rooms," he said. "So, we know we have a record of heartbreak, sorrow and regret. .... I think we're going to be liable in different ways." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
More than 250 COVID-19 tests were performed over two days as the Nova Scotia Health Public Health Mobile Units rolled into Liverpool. “It was a great weekend. We had a huge community response, which was awesome, and we were really, really happy with everything,” commented Holly Gillis, public health manager, public health mobile units. “We had a great location and the legion was a fabulous host.” The testing took place February 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and February 14 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 38 on Henry Hensey Drive. Those wanting tests could pre-book appointments or simply drop in. The Public Health Mobile Unit project hit the ground with a fleet of 10 vans in December 2020, with the goal of reaching out to communities across the province and thereby increasing the number of people getting tested for the coronavirus. “We know in Nova Scotia that getting tested is fast, easy and free, and it’s a good way to protect ourselves and our communities from the spread of COVID-19,” said Gillis. The mobile clinics offer another option for Nova Scotians in addition to the primary assessment centres that exist across the province and the rapid pop-up testing clinics that are also being held in various locations across Nova Scotia. Gillis conceded the different options may be a bit confusing, but their goal is the same – to get as many people tested as possible. “Some people may find it tricky to go online or call 811 to book an appointment,” she said, explaining that she’s been advised seniors in particular find it difficult. Whereas the idea of the mobile clinics is that people can just show up and get the test done. While all Nova Scotians are encouraged to review the screening tool located on the Nova Scotia Health website and check for symptoms regularly, Public Health Mobile Units offer support for outbreak, contact tracing and testing for people without symptoms. At the mobile clinics, Nova Scotia Health staff use the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test administering a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, or gargle/swish option for those under 18 years of age. According to Gillis, NP swabbing is the optimal specimen collection method for COVID-19 PCR testing because it pulls from deeper in the nasopharynx and has been proven to have a high viral concentration. This is why the NP swab is the standard for reliable testing, she explained, adding that all samples collected through the Public Health Mobile Units go to the lab. The rapid (Antigen) test detects protein fragments specific to the coronavirus. This allows the results to be obtained quickly, however it is not considered to be as accurate as the PCR alternative. To do a self-assessment or book a test, call 811 or go to: www.covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca. For testing locations go to www.nshealth.ca/coronavirustesting. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
OTTAWA — Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says the central bank is seeing early signs that people may be purchasing homes solely because they believe prices may go up. Macklem says rising prices in particular for single-family homes are still a long way from the heated market the country observed about five years ago. Fuelling the increase has been a combination of demand for more space as millions of workers do their jobs remotely, constrained supply and rock-bottom interest rates driven low by central bank actions. The bank's key policy rate has been at 0.25 per cent for about 11 months, and its quantitative easing program is trying to reduce the rates paid on things like mortgages to drive spending. Macklem says the central bank is surprised by the rebound in the housing market. He adds there are early signs of what he called "excess exuberance," with people maybe expecting the recent increases in prices to go on indefinitely. "What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolated expectations, when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price increases we've seen recently go on indefinitely," Macklem said during a question-and-answer session with chambers of commerce in Edmonton and Calgary. "We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance, but we're a long way from where we were in 2016-2017 when things were really hot." The central bank plans to keep its key rate low until the economy recovers, expected sometime in 2023, and adjust its bond-buying program over time. Macklem says there is still a need for considerable monetary policy support to generate a complete recovery. In the meantime, the bank will keep an eye on debt levels, as mortgage debt rises as households pay down other debt like credit cards and personal loans, Macklem says. "We are acutely aware that in a world of very low interest rates, there is a risk that housing prices could get stretched, households could get stretched, and certainly that's a risk we want to guard against," Macklem told reporters following the speech. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada and Australia are banding together to ensure the revenues of web giants are shared more fairly with creators and media. A statement from Ottawa says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have agreed to continue "co-ordinating efforts" to address online harm and ensure social media companies pay for journalism. The statement says the two leaders spoke Monday on a range of topics including the growing co-operation between Canada and Australia on the regulation of online platforms. The increasing alliance between the two countries on legislating internet giants to pay for news comes as Facebook backs down on its ban on Australians viewing and sharing news on its platform. The social media company announced Tuesday it would lift the ban, saying it had struck a deal with the Australian government on proposed legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism. Facebook caused alarm with its sudden decision last week to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the draft law. With files from The Associated Press. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening.
WABASCA-DESMARAIS, Alta. — RCMP have arrested a man on 15 sex charges in a remote northern Alberta community and say there could be more. Police say the allegations involve five women and took place between 2013 and 2018 in the Desmarais area, about 275 kilometres north of Edmonton. Mounties say they began investigating in December after receiving reports of sexual offences. Police say the suspect and the women know each other. Daniel Michael Balanger, who is 36, is charged with five counts of sexual assault, five counts of sexual interference and five counts of sexual exploitation. Balanger has been remanded in custody and is to appear in Desmarais provincial court on Thursday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021 The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s choice to lead U.S. diplomacy at the United Nations on Tuesday. Linda Thomas-Greenfield's confirmation reflected the Biden administration’s determination to reengage with the world body and former President Donald Trump’s diplomacy that often left the U.S. isolated internationally. Senators voted 78-20 to confirm Thomas-Greenfield to the post, which will be a Cabinet-level position. Thomas-Greenfield, a retired 35-year veteran of the foreign service who resigned during the Trump administration, will be the third African American, and the second African American woman, to hold the job. Her confirmation was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations, who had lamented the Trump administration's unilateral approach to international affairs. “This confirmation sends a message that the United States is back and that our foreign service is back,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who chairs a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health and global human rights. "We as a country and as a world are safer with Linda Thomas-Greenfield serving as the United States ambassador to the United Nations.” “We can count on Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to work with international partners to confront our collective challenges head on, and play an active role in ensuring the U.N. evolves with the demands of our era as an essential forum for collective problem-solving and catalyst for global progress,” said Elizabeth Cousens, president of the United Nations Foundation, a private group that supports the world body’s endeavours. “Hers is the leadership America needs at the UN at this critical moment for the U.S. and world." Republicans who opposed her said she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield had rejected those concerns during her confirmation hearing, telling senators that a 2019 speech she gave to the Chinese-funded Confucius Institute had been a mistake and was not intended to be an endorsement of Chinese government policies. In the speech, she had praised China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road global infrastructure program in Africa and called for “a win-win-win situation” where the U.S. and China would promote good governance and the rule of law. She told senators that China is a strategic adversary and that “their actions threaten our security, they threaten our values and they threaten our way of life, and they are a threat to their neighbours and they are a threat across the globe.” Thomas-Greenfield spoke of China’s diplomatic inroads during the Trump administration, which pursued an “America First” policy that weakened international alliances. And she made clear there would be a change under Biden to reengage internationally and promote American values. She stressed that American leadership must be rooted in the country’s core values — “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security.” And she said that effective diplomacy means developing “robust relationships,” finding common ground and managing differences, and “doing genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy.” At her hearing, she recalled attending a segregated high school and then Louisiana State University “as a consequence of a lawsuit.” She said she was “not the norm” among the Ivy League graduates who also joined the Foreign Service in 1982. “And yet, I had an extraordinary 35-year career that culminated as the assistant secretary of state of African affairs,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “To me, that represents the progress, and promise, of America.” Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
ROME — The Republic of San Marino finally can start its coronavirus vaccination drive after the first shots arrived Tuesday. But the city-state surrounded by Italy had to resort to its “Plan B” and buy Sputnik V jabs from Russia after plans to get European Union-approved doses from Italy got delayed. A pink and yellow truck escorted by police cars brought the first 7,500 Sputnik V vaccines into San Marino and delivered them at the main hospital. Officials said the Russia-made doses will eventually be enough to vaccinate some 15% of the microstate’s population of around 33,800. San Marino bought Sputnik V shots at the last minute after an agreement to have Italy send a proportion of the vaccines it received through the EU's vaccine procurement system got delayed. San Marino, located near Rimini on the Adriatic coast, isn’t an EU member, and as such was excluded from the deals the 27-nation bloc negotiated with pharmaceutical firms. The San Marino secretary of state, Luca Beccari, said during a news conference last weekend that the negotiations with Italy took a long time and that under an agreement signed Jan. 11, San Marino was to receive one dose for every 1,700 that Italy received from the EU. But the deal hit a snag as Italy and other EU countries faced delivery delays for the three EU-approved vaccines, the ones from: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. Italy has administered some 3.7 million doses. “Unfortunately, the time required to define these procedures and the fact that San Marino is a country that has not yet started its vaccination campaign has forced us to seek alternative solutions,” Beccari said in explaining the Sputnik purchase. “As for all other countries, it is necessary to start the vaccination campaign as soon as possible in order to ensure the safety of its citizens,” he said. The European Medicines Agency has said the developers of Sputnik V recently asked for advice on what data they needed to submit for the vaccine to be licensed across the European Union. Hungarian health authorities have approved both Sputnik V and the vaccine developed by state-owned Chinese company Sinopharm. San Marino has had a proportionately devastating outbreak, with 3,538 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 73 deaths. Roberto Ciavatta, San Marino’s secretary of state for health, said Sputnik V was safe and effective. “It is not that it did not pass any controls. On the contrary, as all the research and data available show, it is a vaccine that is already administered in 30 countries, About 70 million people have been vaccinated with it. It has extremely high safety standards,” he said. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press