Yahoo Sports’ Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski discuss the importance of versatile RBs in today’s NFL, fantasy football.
Yahoo Sports’ Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski discuss the importance of versatile RBs in today’s NFL, fantasy football.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
The “Shop Local” movement is in full swing as we endure a second lockdown, but there’s another movement one resident says we should take to heart as well: grow local – at least when it comes to eggs. That was the message delivered to Council last week by local resident Darryl Moore. Mr. Moore, a long-time proponent of a being able to keep backyard hens in Aurora, said going down this road and adopting the necessary bylaws to make it happen could pave the way not only for home-raised food in the form of eggs, but also pets, companionship, and even educational opportunities. “These are small things, but they’re important,” said Mr. Moore. “I know I have autistic children and animals are a very good thing for them, and chickens work very well that way. As well, people are learning where their food comes from.” This is not the first time Council has considered a backyard hen program, but previous efforts have fallen on the issues of odour, noise, and potentially attracting predators into neighbourhoods. Mr. Moore tackled these issues point by point, contending that backyard hens have no greater impact than dogs, cats or other conventional pets when it comes to odour and any scents are easily mitigated. As for noise, roosters would be the main culprits and would fall outside of any backyard hen program. But the issue of predators, however, was less clear cut. “It depends on where you live,” said Mr. Moore. “Where I live on Victoria Street, wolves and coyotes are not a big issue. Next to a ravine, they might be. It is easy enough to fortify the coops so it is not a big issue and you fortify them as much as you need depending on the types of predators you can expect. Chickens are on the bottom of the food chain, so animals are going to want to eat them, but it is easy enough to take care of.” The impact of backyard hens on property values, he admitted, was harder to evaluate but research and conversations with realtors, he contended, indicate it is minimal. “The main issue is people’s perceptions,” he said. “Property value is a perception. It isn’t really there because there isn’t an issue – people often don’t notice the chickens. Everyone has the right to enjoy their property to the best they can and that is probably the thing that comes up: they don’t want the nuisance of a chicken next door. There’s a lot of interest in this Town for backyard hens and I am really hoping that given the experience other municipalities have had, including ones right next door, that we can move quickly and implement based on knowledge and come up with some pilot project to get started and then move from there.” If Aurora adopted a backyard hen program, they wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. Similar programs have been piloted in the City of Toronto while the Town of Newmarket has incorporated provisions into their bylaws whereby all one has to do is apply for a permit with the Town, with some restrictions tied to yard size. Mr. Moore’s pitch received a mixed reception from Council. One lawmaker to signal their tentative support was Councillor Rachel Gilliland, who questioned the best method of getting a pilot project up and running. While the earliest a motion to do can be brought forward is February, she said there is much to consider. “It seems there is an appetite and other municipalities have taken that step,” she said. “Maybe there is some room to foster this idea and something we can implement here.” Less enthusiastic, however, was Councillor Harold Kim, who said he would not be able to support the idea “at this time.” “It is not because I don’t necessarily agree with your project, because it is certainly a noteworthy one…but this reminds me of when a couple of members of Council, including the then-mayor introduced the transparent garbage bags [initiative]. It was a very worthy project to move forward with, but do we have acceptance from the general community and the public? They have also inherited an intrinsic right to enjoy their property. Even though everything you say might be scientifically correct, it is about convincing everyone around you and that is a big problem and the challenge for me. I think it is just a matter of time. “It is about convincing our fellow neighbours and our community members to adopt it. It is not necessarily an overcoming [of] the fears of coyotes or salmonella…even though we have all the facts on the presentation. It is about convincing the general public. For those reasons, it is going to be challenging for me to sponsor it.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Mayor George Pirie’s State of the City address coincided with a major announcement. During his address, Pirie announced the sale of the former Tweed & Hickory and Bucovetsky’s retail building on Third Avenue. Due to the pandemic, the annual event, hosted by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, was held virtually over Zoom. The mayor was tasked with giving an overall update on the city, its operations, the local economy, and hot-button issues, as well as answering questions from chamber members and the media. After a question came about encouraging new construction and developments in the city centre as opposed to on the outskirts, Pirie was happy to state that the historic three-storey building at 227 Third Ave. will finally be undergoing major refurbishment in the near future. Things Engraved and Bloomex are the named purchasers. “I’m very, very excited about this,” said Pirie, adding that it is a significant announcement for the city and the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Association. Pirie said it wasn’t an easy property to sell. “It takes a long time to find the right partner.” He added that much of the leg work was done with another local business owner who felt there was a major opportunity at that location. “We’ve got a good environment. The situation is improving on the ground. We've got a major corporation who says, 'Yeah, this looks like a great place to locate.’” While it is promising news to have another retailer open up shop in the downtown core, given the current circumstances, many local businesses are struggling to keep up with bills. Pirie said the city is doing everything it can to help, such as freezing tax payments and not implementing late fees, and said that everyone in the community has a role to play as well by making a concerted effort to shop at locally owned businesses whenever possible. “Shop there. Yes, you can go to Walmart or whatever, I guess. No. 1, you’re not going to get the same quality of service and more than likely, you’re not going to get the same quality of goods. Help them. Stop in and shop there. Pick something up. That’s what we can all do to help. It’s not just an idle phrase ‘shop local.’” In the meantime, renovation work on the recently purchased building is expected to begin later in 2021, and will run for approximately one year. The city said the goal is to bring the historic building “back to its former glory.” The company said its vision is to use the space to create a multi-retail “European Market” vibe with various departments such as home decor, clothing, wedding and bridal, gardening, and floral. Once fully operational, approximately 20 jobs will be created. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
Amazon Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney, who announced the plan in a news conference with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, said a company executive will be working with Washington State's Vaccine Command Center. The clinic will be hosted in partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.
Thursday's Games NHL Montreal 7 Vancouver 3 Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 1 N.Y. Islanders 4 New Jersey 1 Tampa Bay 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Boston 5 Philadelphia 4 (SO) Los Angeles 4 Colorado 2 Florida at Carolina -- postponed --- NBA L.A. Lakers 113 Milwaukee 106 New York 119 Golden State 104 Utah 129 New Orleans 118 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. "It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber," said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration.
Elected president of the Métis Nation B.C., Clara Morin Dal Col, has been suspended from her position amid escalating tension within its leadership. Nine members of the board voted to suspend her from her role as president in an unexpected meeting on Monday, tapping vice-president Lissa Dawn Smith to step in as acting president. Tension between Dal Col and board members has been playing out publicly for weeks, with waves of reactions from Métis people in B.C. throughout the turmoil. There are more than 21,000 registered citizens with Métis Nation B.C. which has 11 board members, including Dal Col. Some citizens have publicly taken sides, while others are expressing confusion and concern. Many are calling for more transparency around the events that led up to Dal Col's suspension after it was publicly announced on Tuesday. "This was not a decision taken lightly by the board," read a public statement released by Métis Nation B.C. on Tuesday. The specific reasons for the suspension were unclear in the statement — beyond broad allegations that Dal Col had contravened the oath of office and breached policies and procedures. The statement said, "the board was left with no other option but to issue a suspension." Métis National Council calls suspension a 'shocking coup' Leadership of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Métis National Council published a joint press release about Dal Col's suspension on Thursday, characterizing the board's actions as a "shocking coup." "This is a black eye for democracy," wrote Métis National Council president Clément Chartier. "We are disgusted by this underhanded attempt to eliminate a rightfully elected leader." The press release also stated that the federation and national council will not recognize Smith as the Métis Nation B.C. president. The mandate and direction of the national council flows from regionally elected leadership from the Métis governing bodies in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. There is ongoing tension and disagreement around the standing of the Métis Nation of Ontario at the national council. Public statements from Métis Nation B.C. and Dal Col in the lead-up to her suspension show that dispute over the status of the Ontario organization is among many points of disagreement between board members and Dal Col. Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation B.C., was limited in what he would say about the suspension citing due process and Dal Col's right to appeal. "For us as public servants working at Métis Nation, our role is really to make sure that due process is undertaken. We want to make sure that all of our bylaws, our constitution, everything is properly adhered to," he said. "I'm confident that the process is unfolding as it should and we'll see what happens." When asked about the statement put out by the Manitoba Métis Federation and the National Council, Fontaine said he anticipates the board will issue a response soon. Dal Col was first elected president of the Métis Nation B.C. in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, securing 48 per cent of the votes cast for three candidates. Dal Col was not available for an interview prior to publishing.
Although it might be at least another week before Aurora’s Community Energy Plan receives its final ratification from Council, local youth have given the goal to slash greenhouse gas emissions and find efficiencies an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Council, meeting at the Committee level, gave its tentative approval to the Town’s draft Community Energy Plan, one which identifies sources of emissions and proposes solutions, all with a goal of cutting emissions down by 80 per cent from 2018 levels by 2050. Before the official debates could even get under way, however, three elementary students stepped up to have their voices heard on the issue. And their message was clear: it’s time to get moving to improve the environment. “I have always loved the environment and the older I get the more I see what climate change is doing to our planet,” said Alexandra L. “I love our community and I would love to help as much as I can. Because I realize what is happening to our earth, I would like to change the environmental impact we’re having on our plants and animals. “This is a huge step in the right direction and hopefully in the future we will be able to see the change it has made. I am well aware of what is happening to our earth and humans are the cause. We are also noticing how it is already impacting ecosystems, some more than others, and communities play a huge role in these impacts. Luckily, just as we are the problem, we can also be part of the solution.” By taking these steps towards sustainability, we will be on the road towards healthier lives, she said. “By activating this plan, it can also create job opportunities for citizens as we need people to create these electric car stations and solar panels,” she said. “It can be extremely beneficial financially for you and the community as well. I don’t see how there could be any downsides to this plan and I really hope it becomes a reality as it will impact the environment in the most positive way possible. I can finish growing up in this community in the years to come by watching how this plan evolves to create a better world.” Students Valerie S. and Sumaya C. offered similar viewpoints, presenting together, albeit separately, during last week’s Committee meeting held over Zoom. “The next years are the last we can really make a difference,” said Valerie. “The plan will help the community of Aurora to develop an eco-friendly environment which can really help us in the future. We think the ideas in this plan…are beneficial and can be put to great use by our Town.” Added Sumaya: “We think that becoming more sustainable is immensely important. Becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly would be more cost-effective and could help save money in our community. We could use that money for more eco-friendly and sustainable changes throughout the Town or [for] new programs in the future.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Leaders from across Canada recently gathered to talk about Indigenous child and family wellbeing, and the implementation of the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. “This legislation ensures that First Nations laws are paramount, so we can focus on prevention, as opposed to apprehension,” says Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), in a welcome letter to those participating in the virtual gathering on Jan. 19. Since the Act came into force, “there has been significant effort by First Nations across Canada to take back authority for child and family services,” says University of British Columbia law professor Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who broke down the Act’s key principles in her keynote presentation. This was the first of five virtual leadership gatherings focused on the Act — which came into force on Jan. 1, 2020 — to be hosted by the AFN. Over the course of the series, attendees can expect to “hear presentations and updates about the Act and its implementation, learn about tools and resources for First Nations leadership implementing the Act, and discuss the changes that will come with implementation,” says Bellegarde. The Act was co-developed with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care, according to the Government of Canada. “We are in a moment of change,” says Turpel-Lafond, who served as B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth from 2006-2016. Under the Act, there are two options for Nations to exercise their jurisdiction over child and family services, according to the Government of Canada. Nations can give notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction to the Minister of Indigenous Services and relevant provincial or territorial governments. In this case, the Indigenous governing body’s laws on child and family services would “not prevail over federal, provincial and territorial laws.” Or Nations can request a “tripartite coordination agreement with Indigenous Services Canada and relevant provincial or territorial governments.” In the latter case, if parties can reach an agreement within 12 months “or reasonable efforts to reach an agreement were made” during that year — “including use of alternative dispute resolution mechanism” — the Indigenous governing body would exercise its jurisdiction and its laws on child and family services would “prevail over federal, provincial and territorial laws.” As of Dec. 23, 2020, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) had “received requests and notices to exercise jurisdiction under the Act from 26 Indigenous governing bodies, representing 64 Indigenous groups and communities,” according to an ISC spokesperson. Nine Nations have sent notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction while 17 Nations have requested coordination agreements. Not only does the Act create pathways to self-determination for nations working to reclaim jurisdiction over child and family services, but Turpel Lafond says it also “reframes’’ the best interests of the child — a key concept in Canada’s child welfare system. “There’s a concept or doctrine in the provincial child welfare system to remove the kids, and to say it’s not in the best interest of First Nations kids to be with their families.” Under the new legislation, the best interests of the child are reframed to include the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, she says. “We know [that UNDRIP] has very important protections and provisions,” she says, pointing to Article 8 of the declaration, which calls on the state to “provide effective mechanisms” to prevent “any form of forced assimilation.” “The best interest is no longer about the removal,” says Turpel-Lafond. ”The best interest is about keeping children with community.” The next virtual gathering in AFN’s series will be on Feb. 9, with a continued focus on navigating Indigenous child and family services legislation. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
PUNE, India — At least five people were killed in a fire that broke out Thursday at a building under construction at Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, officials said. The company said the blaze would not affect production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Murlidhar Mohol, mayor of Pune city in southern Maharashtra state, said five bodies were found in the rubble after the flames were extinguished by firefighters. Mahol said the victims were probably construction workers. He said the cause of the fire had not been determined and the extent of damage was not immediately clear. Serum Institue of India's CEO, Adar Poonwala, said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life. He said there would be no reduction in vaccine manufacturing because the company has other available facilities. The company said the fire was restricted to a new facility it is constructing to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure it is better prepared for future pandemics. It said the fire did not affect existing facilities making COVID-19 vaccines or a stockpile of around 50 million doses. Images showed huge plumes of smoke billowing from the building and dozens of company workers in lab suits leaving the compound as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest maker of vaccines and has been contracted to manufacture a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. Poonawalla said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that it hopes to increase production capacity from 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion doses per year by the end of 2021. The new facility is part of the expansion. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. As a result, Serum Institute is likely to make most of the vaccines that will be used by developing nations. Rafiq Maqbool, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back. In truth, the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert never really went away. But after enduring nearly a year of darts and undermining comments from former President Donald Trump, Fauci now speaks with the authority of the White House again. He called it “liberating” Thursday to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle COVID-19. “One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. “Just say you don’t know the answer.” Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration's confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment. His day began with a 4 a.m. virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organization, which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4 p.m. appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room. The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office. Fauci made clear that he believed the new administration would not trade in the mixed messages that so often came from the Trump White House, where scientific fact was often obscured by the president’s political agenda. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know and what the science is ... it is something of a liberating feeling,” Fauci told reporters. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had invited Fauci to take the podium first at her daily briefing. While choosing his words carefully, Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, refused to consistently promote mask-wearing and often touted unproven scientific remedies, including a malaria drug and even injecting disinfectant. “It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Fauci said. He added that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president, a move that often drew Trump’s wrath. Biden, during his presidential campaign, pledged to making Fauci his chief medical adviser when he took office, and the 80-year-old scientist was immediately in motion. Fauci was up well before dawn Thursday for the virtual meeting with WHO, which Biden had rejoined the previous day after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the group out of anger over how it dealt with China in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci told the group that the United States would join its effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries. In the afternoon, the doctor stood alongside Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in the White House as they unveiled a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is killing more than 4,000 Americans a day, as well as bolstering the nation’s sluggish vaccine distribution program. Fauci had chatted amiably with reporters while awaiting the tardy new president. He acknowledged it was a long day and said that while he’d prefer to go for a run, he planned to powerwalk a few miles Thursday evening. It was all a stark contrast after being kept on a tight leash by the Trump administration. Their West Wing press shop had tightly controlled Fauci’s media appearances — and blocked most of them. The doctor went from being a constant presence in the briefing room during the first weeks of the pandemic to largely being banished as Trump grew jealous of the doctor's positive press and resentful of Fauci's willingness to contradict him. Moreover, Trump frequently undermined Fauci’s credibility, falsely insisting that the pandemic was nearly over. The president regularly referenced Fauci's early skepticism about the effectiveness of masks for ordinary Americans, a position that Fauci quickly abandoned in the face of more evidence. And he even made fun of Fauci's first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. The president's attacks on Fauci — and his dismissiveness of the science — handicapped medical professionals trying to get Americans to take the virus seriously. “There was clear political influence on the message of the pandemic. It became political to say that the pandemic was devastating our community because it was interpreted as a judgement on Trump,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. “It actively created enemies of the public health folks in a segment of the population.” Having Fauci return to a central role, Bhadelia said, is a sign “that science was being repressed and now back.” As his handling of the pandemic became the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, Trump insisted on portraying the virus as a thing of the past. He also mercilessly attacked Fauci, retweeting messages that called for the doctor’s dismissal and reveled in “Fire Fauci!” chants at some of his rallies. Trump sidelined Fauci but dared not dismiss him, after aides convinced him of the move’s political danger. But Fauci, who has now served under seven presidents, persevered, telling friends that he would keep his head down and aim to outlast Trump and the obfuscations of his administration. “Clarity of message is the most important thing the government can be doing right now; the single biggest disservice Trump did was constantly telling people that pandemic was about to be over,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who has known Fauci for more than 20 years. In his return to the briefing room, Fauci joked with reporters, seemingly far more relaxed than at any point last year. And as he stepped off the stage, Psaki said she'd soon have him back. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
Citing “long-standing and glaring systemic issues,” in Brampton’s bail court, a judge has stayed a string of serious criminal charges, including 10 gambling and 53 illicit gaming counts, against two men who waited 12 days for a bail hearing. In a damning ruling released last week, Superior Court Justice David Harris said he reviewed more than two dozen cases and found “pervasive” bail delays had occurred with “alarming frequency” in violation of accused persons’ charter right to a bail hearing in a reasonable amount of time — typically within 24 hours or three days for more complex hearings requiring a special bail hearing. “It is most regrettable that it has come to this,” Harris wrote. “Sadly, the long-standing nature of this problem and the profoundly detrimental effect on countless others not before the court, coupled with the virtually inevitable perpetuation of delays into the future, requires a stay.” In his ruling, Harris slammed a culture of indifference and complacency. “The alarm bell has been sounding for decades now. But at least in Brampton, no progress seems to have been made. A blind eye has often been turned to the delays. Maybe it is hoped the problem will go away on its own,” he wrote. Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Brian Gray declined to comment on the judge’s findings, saying “as this matter is within the appeal period, it would be inappropriate to comment.” In his ruling, Harris cited a memo written by a Peel Crown attorney acknowledging significant and persistent systemic problems in scheduling special bail hearings in Brampton. “The specific concern of the Peel Crown Attorneys’ office is the delay in scheduling these hearings beyond the three-day remand allowed in the Criminal Code without the explicit consent of the defence,” wrote Crown Darilynn Allison. “However, because of the volume and resourcing issues, this is precisely what is taking place on a near-daily basis in the bail courts.” The case at the centre of Harris’s ruling involved Raffaele Simonelli and Michael Simonelli, cousins who were arrested on Dec. 12, 2019, along with two dozen others after a two-year police investigation known as Project Hobart. The Simonellis had been facing a slew of charges related to allegedly operating an illegal gaming house in Mississauga as part of a criminal organization — charges Harris called particularly serious due to the aggravating factor of their alleged links to organized crime. According to transcripts presented to Harris by defence lawyer Sonya Shikhman, 26 Brampton special bail hearings conducted in 2019 had delays ranging from five days at the low end to 35 days at the high end. The average delay was approximately 13 days; none was conducted within three days, Harris wrote. In the Simonellis’ case, lawyers for both men were ready to proceed with special bail hearings on Dec. 13, 2019, the day after their arrest, but the Crown, emphasizing the complexity and seriousness of the matter, asked for it to be adjourned until Jan. 3, 2020. The police had “ample time to prepare the paperwork necessary for the Crown and defence to conduct a bail hearing” and to alert the court more resources would be needed that day. But instead of an executive summary focused on three grounds for bail, the police provided a 95-page synopsis that was of “little real assistance in the conduct of a bail hearing,” Harris wrote. The justice of the peace agreed to the three-week adjournment sought by the Crown, citing a variety of factors including lack of courtroom availability “I can’t speak to the issue of resources other than they do not exist,” the justice of the peace said, in response to an outcry by numerous defence lawyers in court that day. Harris called the three-week delay over the holidays “egregious.” As a result of an application filed by Shikhman, the bail hearing was held 12 days later, on Dec. 24, 2019. Ultimately, both men were released on bail, with strict house arrest conditions. Shikhman told the Star that although Brampton stands out for the frequency and length of delays, it is a systemic problem seen provincewide. “The system needs a remember that if you let things fall through the cracks and don’t keep up with the growing population and the amount of resources required, then you’re violating constitutional rights of a systemic nature,” Shikhman said. Last May, the Ontario Court of Justice issued new directives to speed up special bail hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic, which began after the Simonellis’ hearing. However, Harris wrote, no evidence was provided by the Crown to show these measures have had any effect on reducing delays. “Whether the problem is scarcity of resources, inefficient use of available resources or both in combination, the evidence adduced shows that nothing significant has been done to address the situation besides Ms. Allison’s memo and the practice directions,” Harris wrote. “These efforts have failed to wrestle with the root of the problem or lead to meaningful change.” Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
When Kerri Thompson was allowed to see her mother once again as an essential visitor to her assisted living residence, it was a lifeline for the family. Kerri’s mother, Joyce, was a regular visitor to the Alzheimer Society of York Region’s D.A.Y. program six days a week. Her visits to their Edward Street facility offered social interaction that was not only craved, but needed. She was busy, staying active and, in doing so, remained vital, engaged and interested. But, when COVID-19 forced the shut-down of the regular D.A.Y. programs and Joyce was largely confined to her room, Kerri saw Joyce begin a rapid decline. “My mom’s world was narrowing with COVID and now it’s literally one room,” says Kerri. “Each day, all she wants to do is do what she always loved to do, which is go for a walk. That one small pleasure and a sense of normalcy has been taken away. For her own health, she cannot leave her room and yet, for her mental health, all this is just devastating. She is losing her strength and her confidence to walk.” Kerri being deemed an essential visitor helped to a degree. Although her mother was still confined to her room, Kerri was allowed to visit after following all protocols, but four days after Joyce was out of lockdown, Kerri tested positive for COVID-19. Not being able to visit her mother as an essential visitor during that trying time was understandable and necessary, but no less difficult. While Kerri was sick with mild symptoms, Joyce, who tested negative, saw isolation set in even deeper. It goes without saying that COVID-19 is devastating, but “COVID-Alzheimer’s” is another thing altogether. “Thank God for the wisdom of the government officials and general managers at the respective retirement homes to understand that COVID is absolutely too isolating for seniors and that we had to do something different from what we did in March, April and May, which was to lock them in their rooms,” says Kerri. “For the people lucky enough to be on the first floor, they got to wave to their loved ones and all the rest, but others missed even that little glimmer of interaction. There were a lot of people trying to do the right things for the right reasons, but not looking at the total impact of keeping people alive. There’s more to it than that that we have to consider. It is a no-win situation. If just one person gets sick from this idea [of essential visitors] then the public is in an uproar.” By the time Kerri was first deemed an essential visitor, she had to re-learn the rules of the game. Not only were there new and strict screening measures, she couldn’t take her mother into common areas. Confined to their room, both Joyce and her daughter were required to mask up. They couldn’t hug, hold hands or otherwise touch. They could not eat or drink when they were together and they had to sit six feet apart. “But, the fact that we were able to be in the same room was wonderful,” says Kerri. “With my mum having Alzheimer’s, which is an isolating disease because they get lost in their own locked room in their mind, kind of being in that locked room physically too, I lost a lot of her. Her Alzheimer’s came on harder and faster, not to the fault of anybody, but just to the reality of a pandemic. She’s less interactive. She wouldn’t get as excited. It was just so long that she had done anything but stare at those four walls that there wasn’t that same amount of energy, desire and remembrance of some of the fun things she had done more recently while having Alzheimer’s. She even lost that.” Joyce was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease 18 months ago, but Kerri says the reality of the situation was her fight has been “twice as long as that.” It was a difficult but necessary decision to put her in an assisted living facility so she could get the help, care and safety that she needed. “I knew she was fraying around the edges, specifically because she had lost her sense of time,” Kerri shares. In a pandemic, that has been a mixed blessing. While Kerri says Joyce doesn’t have a concept of how long this pandemic has been going on, there is a huge negative in that every day there could be a disappointment in waking up and not fully understanding why you can’t leave your room or receive visitors. “At the first stages of this pandemic, I couldn’t even visit her. I was the person standing outside her window every single day, usually with my then-15-year-old son just waving to her. We weren’t even allowed to have the window open to try and communicate with her out of logical fear of the virus. Some days you would see her in tears and some days you saw a smile on her face, but you didn’t know what you were going to get. Every day I was distracted – never with her safety, because the retirement home does a great job – but it was more her happiness. “Sitting alone in her room has taken away the joy. She knows enough about what she is missing to say, ‘Kerri, sometimes I just want to scream.’ I get you, mom. Go ahead and I will scream with you. Please, we need the vaccine faster so mom can go to the Alzheimer Society of York Region D.A.Y. program and fight to keep what abilities she has.” Kerri’s quarantine ended on January 8 – 14 days are an “eternity” when it comes to Alzheimer’s, she says – and she can’t wait to be with her mother once again, but this difficult journey has only underscored that the isolation that is a by-product of COVID can have unintended consequences. “I have nothing but applause to give to the caregivers and management of the facility that my mom is at,” says Kerri. “To be honest, there isn’t a single thing that I truly think they could do differently, except one little thing that would make me and my mother happy is if I could bring her in the car and just drive her around. “We’re trying to be smart but at the end of the day the most important thing is their happiness in the last years of their life. Let them have meals together as opposed to going into these outbreak situations where everyone has to stay in their room and there are no activities. I am hoping once the vaccination moves through retirement homes, essential workers, that they can look ahead and say, ‘We have the vaccine. What did this allow us to do different from where we were a month or six months ago because to die of loneliness – that, to me, is the cruellest thing of all, when there are all these people around who are loving and caring and just can’t get access. That goes for the people who work in the retirement home: they are loving and caring and they are not allowed right now to do the activities, to give hugs, to hold people’s hands. They would if they could, but they dare not to.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Today's announcement that B.C. will not impose an interprovincial travel ban went over just fine with one northern mayor. “It really doesn’t matter where folks come from,” Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson said. “What matters is their behaviour once they are in Valemount.” So far, local residents and non-essential visitors are adhering to provincial health protocols, said Torgerson, whose village is about a 1.5-hour drive from Jasper, AB. Besides being a popular outdoor adventure tourist destination year round, the village of Valemount and surrounding communities in the Robson Valley are currently hosting up to 100 Trans Mountain workers, he said. “Much of current interprovincial travel is work-related and therefore cannot be restricted,” Premier John Horgan said, nixing a potential travel ban via press release this afternoon. “Public health officials tell us what is most important is for everyone to obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules,” Horgan said. “Therefore, we will not be imposing travel restrictions at this time.” Last week, Horgan said the provincial government would investigate the legal options of restricting travel after he heard from citizens concerned out-of-province visitors were spreading COVID-19 in B.C. British Columbians were frustrated at seeing other people travel out of the province and country over the holidays, while they stayed home, Horgan said on Jan. 14. “Canadians and British Columbians are making sacrifices and one of those sacrifices is staying close to home, not traveling to see loved ones, not going to tend to what would have been traditions or pressing matters,” Horgan said. “On the surface, it would seem an easy thing to do, just tell people not to come here,” he said, responding to media questions about imposing a ban. “That's not part and parcel of who we are as Canadians.” Getting a legal opinion would resolve the matter once and for all, Horgan said at the time. “People have been talking about (a travel ban) for months and months, and I think it's time we put it to bed finally,” he said. “Either we can do it, and this is how we would do it. Or we can't, and this is the reason why.” Today, the Premier said a ban was unworkable. The province can’t restrict interprovincial visitors unless they’re harming the health and safety of British Columbians during non-essential travel, he said. Instead, Horgan asked the other Premiers to send a united message to their citizens that now is not the time for non-essential travel. "We ask all British Columbians to stay close to home while vaccines become available," he said. "And to all Canadians outside of B.C., we look forward to your visit to our beautiful province when we can welcome you safely." Meanwhile, the issue may be revisited if there is an uptick in virus transmission linked to people involved in non-essential travel, Horgan said. Torgerson is comfortable with that. “So long as actual mandates are followed,” Torgerson said. “Layers of protection are what will get Valemount through this pandemic, and we expect this of all folks.” Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
Nearly a year into the pandemic, economists believe it’s abundantly clear that COVID-19 has psychologically and materially transformed Canada’s consumer behaviour. But with lockdowns and restrictions still in effect across much of the country, business experts say the dust has yet to settle around these “tectonic shifts” in the state of commerce. That means for retailers — big and small; local or national — preparing a pathway to adapt beyond the pandemic remains a muddy prospect. A new report by fintech firm PayBright released this week suggests the key to navigating future strategies for businesses is to use concrete data about where potential customers and clients stand in 2021. Surveying over 2,500 people from coast to coast, the 24-page study points to statistics that show how Canadians are approaching, and not approaching, their future shopping habits. Trends indicate significant changes have been seen in the “5 Ps” of consumer behaviour: products, payments, planning, place and psychology. “If 2020 was a year of disruption and uncertainty for Canadians, this will certainly be the year of building safety, security, and long-term solutions,” said Wayne Pommen, senior vice-president of Affirm Holdings Inc., which owns PayBright on Wednesday. “This is especially crucial as Canadians gain access to vaccines and look ahead to living in a post-pandemic world.” Findings in the report show shoppers are becoming increasingly discerning about where and how they spend their money. Around 55 per cent said they now read several product reviews before making a purchase, and 38 per cent said they prefer to spend more money to purchase premium brands or products to avoid lower-quality items that do not last. Around 52 per cent also said they are likely to avoid doing business with a brand that does not align with their ethics and values. On top of that, the pandemic has caused people to hold back on their overall spending. While 49 per cent anticipated no significant change to their planned 2021 budget, 36 per cent predicted a decrease and only 3 per cent said they would increase their spending. From an age perspective, those most likely to experience a decrease in their 2021 budget are those in the 18-24 and 35-44 age ranges. In terms of clothing and basics (such as groceries or pharmaceuticals), only about 10 per cent of respondents said they would spend more in those categories. But 43 per cent said they’ll be spending less on clothing versus only 22 per cent for basics. Authors of the report believe retailers with basics in their catalogue should emphasize essential products both in-store and online, citing a rise in earnings for supermarket chains who have done this such as Loblaw who have done this. They also said stores should ramp up on their reviews because fewer of them could mean less likelihood of making a sale. Deals and sales, however, will continue to be significant drivers behind consumer purchases in 2021, they added, noting personal protection is almost just as important when it comes to in-store purchases. “Frankly though, no matter what time period you compare this to, we haven’t seen trends like this ever before,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert who’s a professor at Dalhousie University. “COVID’s legacy is concerning because it’s pretty much changed everything.” From skyrocketing e-commerce as businesses quickly moved online, to the lasting trends predicted for in-store shopping such as sanitization stations and social-distancing measures, Charlebois explained how none of those changes would have ever happened without the pandemic. “Even if everyone does get vaccinated, people are just generally very risk-averse now,” he said. “That’s a massive psychological shift which translates to the fact that businesses will also not be taking risks by eliminating these measures anytime soon.” Dan Pontefract, a strategist who consults for large companies like Salesforce and TD Bank, said businesses will need to get creative and unique with their solutions. “And it has to happen fast,” he said, “or they probably won’t survive.” Pontefract said those ideas could range from pairing up to compete with larger chains to creating ads “that have chutzpah and can actually make fun of the big guys.” He also said creating the “perfect COVID shopping experience is incredibly important,” whereby customers can seamlessly be moved from shopping in-person to shopping online. “Ultimately, it’s all about the consumer,” said Pontefract. “And for better for worse, what we do know is that they’re the ones making these trends go all over the place — so they’re the ones you should follow.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential.
WASHINGTON — Seven Democratic senators on Thursday asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the actions of Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley “to fully understand their role” in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Thousands had gathered that day as Congress voted to formally certify President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in November. Hawley and Cruz led objections in the Senate to Biden’s victory, despite the widespread recognition that the effort would fail. In the end, Congress certified Biden’s Electoral College victory, but not before thousands marched to the Capitol at Trump’s urging, overwhelmed security and interrupted the proceedings. In the end, the violence led to five deaths, injured dozens of police officers and caused extensive damage to the Capitol. The Democratic senators said the question for the Senate to determine is not whether Cruz and Hawley had the right to object, but whether the senators failed to put loyalty “to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department.” They also said the investigation should determine whether Cruz, of Texas, and Hawley, of Missouri, engaged in “improper conduct reflecting on the Senate.” “Until then, a cloud of uncertainty will hang over them and over this body,” the Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Ethics Committee. The Democratic senators said Cruz and Hawley announced their intentions to object even though they knew that claims of election fraud were baseless and had led to threats of violence. “Their actions lend credence to the insurrectionists’ cause and set the stage for future violence. And both senators used their objections for political fundraising,” the Democratic senators said in their letter. Cruz and Hawley have condemned the violence on Jan. 6. Cruz called it a "despicable act of terrorism.” Hawley said those who attacked police and broke the law must be prosecuted. Cruz helped force a vote on Biden's victory in Arizona, while Hawley helped force one on Biden's victory in Pennsylvania. “Joe Biden and the Democrats talk about unity but are brazenly trying to silence dissent," Hawley said in a prepared statement. “This latest effort is a flagrant abuse of the Senate ethics process and a flagrant attempt to exact partisan revenge." “It is unfortunate that some congressional Democrats are disregarding President Biden’s call for unity and are instead playing political games by filing frivolous ethics complaints against their colleagues," said a Cruz spokesperson, Maria Jeffrey Reynolds. Those Democrats requesting the investigation are Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Kevin Freking, The Associated Press
Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants' efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google "news source", making it the country's first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a "news source" tag.
Surrounded by snow and ice — with sleet starting to fall — Ellen Lamont had all the teaching tools she could ever want to explain the states of matter to her elementary students this week. “What happens to our masks when we breathe outside?” Lamont asked her Grade 4/5 immersion students, each one seated in a homemade snow seat in their outdoor classroom, during a natural sciences lesson taught in French. She told them what they first exhale is a gas that condenses on their face coverings, and if they are outside long enough in the cold, that liquid may freeze and turn into a solid. Lamont could never have predicted she would be using personal protective equipment to conduct a lesson, nor she would ever be teaching in what her students have come to affectionately call “snow class” (classe de neige). The first-year teacher said she has taken all the pivots required during the COVID-19 pandemic in stride — and that’s how Laura Secord School’s snow class came to be. On Rupert DePape’s first day back after the holiday break, the fifth grader said he came across a sign posted near the designated school door for his class. The 10-year-old followed Lamont’s written instructions, and instead of entering the Wolseley area school as usual, built himself a snow chair. “We’re stuck in our seat, and have to stay far apart, and can’t really talk much (this year). Outside, it’s a lot more flexible with all the things you can do,” said Rupert, whose favourite subjects are history and math; the latter of which is taught outside, unless the wind chill makes the temperature feel -28 C or colder. While noting snow class can get “a bit chilly,” he said it’s superior to in-class learning, because all of the students can learn together and move freely. Lamont and David Seburn, an educational assistant, have been overseeing a duplex classroom, with Grade 4s in one room and Grade 5s in another, since Manitoba schools entered a restricted level (code orange) on the province’s pandemic response system. “I thought to myself, ‘It would be so nice — if just for this morning, we could all be outside so I could deliver this material once, altogether,’” Lamont said, recalling the moment she first decided to hold class outdoors Jan. 4. Engagement levels immediately spiked and students were more focused when they returned to their indoor classrooms to do pen-and-paper activities, she said. The success of an initial outdoor period has led to daily snow class lessons, which involve physical activity and the use of natural manipulatives, such as tree branches and ice cubes. Community members have donated Christmas trees, food colouring and a tree stump to decorate the space. The students also went on a nature walk to find items to make ice art with to spruce up the space. “To immerse children in nature and to create a love and reverence of nature is very important for this generation so we have kids that care about the environment and will protect it as they grow older,” said Seburn, an educational assistant and forest school practitioner-in-training who is currently enrolled in a course at the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. It’s not only easier to engage students outdoors, he said, but also safer, at present. Lauren Phillips said she is incredibly appreciative of how her children’s teachers, at both Laura Secord and River Heights School, have put emphasis on the importance of fresh air this year, in recognition COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosols. “There’s this notion of schools being safe, but schools aren’t safe if the behaviours aren’t safe,” Phillips said. While her seventh grader’s teacher keeps the windows open during the school day, she said her son is ecstatic about snow class with Lamont. “Most people say school sucks, but I don’t really get why,” said Callie Neek, a fourth grader in the class. The nine-year-old said she would much rather be in school than at home, so she can see her friends and learn outside. As long as students are getting something out of it, Lamont said snow class will continue throughout the school year. “They’ve been so adaptive, so flexible, so willing to happily go along with whatever we’re doing and show up and try their best,” the Winnipeg teacher said. “They have really truly amazed me.” One of her students has suggested the class collect more stumps, so they can continue to learn outside when the snow melts. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
MEXICO CITY — Mexico posted new one-day highs for the pandemic Thursday, with 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths from COVID-19 recorded for the previous 24 hours. The recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals. Mexico City is the country's epicenter of the pandemic, and its hospitals are at 89% capacity, while nationwide 61% of hospital beds are filled. The difficulty in finding space in hospitals has led many families to try to treat their relatives at home, which has created spot shortages of oxygen and tanks. That has been accompanied by a jump in prices as well as an uptick in thefts targeting oxygen tanks. The situation has also sparked home remedies, including home-made oxygen concentrators that officials warned are dangerous. One video circulating on Facebook shows a Mexican couple connecting a fish-tank air pump to a hose in an effort to boost the man's oxygen levels. The head of civil defence for the city of Puebla, Gustavo Ariza, issued a public warning against such improvised devices, noting they do not increase oxygen concentration and simply re-circulate air. “This is trickery. Please, people, don't do this," Ariza said. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell joined in the warnings. “We are concerned that people might waste time in te hope that this would work, and over the course of hours or days, very few days, the person's condition worsens,” hel said. López-Gatell said the Mexican government is going to pass rules that would give priority to medicinal oxygen production over industrial uses to free up supplies. The government is also looking to buy oxygen tanks abroad. The Associated Press