A woodpecker scouts out a good starting point on a tree
A woodpecker scouts out a good starting point on a tree
China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year.
NEW YORK — February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors' offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year. Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades. Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people travelling, they say. Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don't fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan. Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals say the usual steady stream of flu-stricken patients never materialized. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, the state's largest hospital, "I have seen zero documented flu cases this winter,” said Dr. Nate Mick, the head of the emergency department. Ditto in Oregon's capital city, where the outpatient respiratory clinics affiliated with Salem Hospital have not seen any confirmed flu cases. “It's beautiful,” said the health system's Dr. Michelle Rasmussen. The numbers are astonishing considering flu has long been the nation's biggest infectious disease threat. In recent years, it has been blamed for 600,000 to 800,000 annual hospitalizations and 50,000 to 60,000 deaths. Across the globe, flu activity has been at very low levels in China, Europe and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. And that follows reports of little flu in South Africa, Australia and other countries during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months of May through August. The story of course has been different with coronavirus, which has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States. COVID-19 cases and deaths reached new heights in December and January, before beginning a recent decline. Flu-related hospitalizations, however, are a small fraction of where they would stand during even a very mild season, said Brammer, who oversees the CDC's tracking of the virus. Flu death data for the whole U.S. population is hard to compile quickly, but CDC officials keep a running count of deaths of children. One pediatric flu death has been reported so far this season, compared with 92 reported at the same point in last year’s flu season. “Many parents will tell you that this year their kids have been as healthy as they’ve ever been, because they’re not swimming in the germ pool at school or day care the same way they were in prior years,” Mick said. Some doctors say they have even stopped sending specimens for testing, because they don't think flu is present. Nevertheless, many labs are using a CDC-developed “multiplex test” that checks specimens for both the coronavirus and flu, Brammer said. More than 190 million flu vaccine doses were distributed this season, but the number of infections is so low that it’s difficult for CDC to do its annual calculation of how well the vaccine is working, Brammer said. There’s simply not enough data, she said. That also is challenging the planning of next season's flu vaccine. Such work usually starts with checking which flu strains are circulating around the world and predicting which of them will likely predominate in the year ahead. "But there's not a lot of (flu) viruses to look at," Brammer said. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
The Chinese military criticised the United States on Thursday for undermining regional peace and stability after a U.S. Navy warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait a day earlier. A spokesman for the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command said in a statement the Chinese military tracked the USS Curtis Wilbur as the destroyer made what the U.S. Navy called a "routine Taiwan Strait transit".
The government dropped drunken driving and reckless driving charges against Bruce Springsteen on Wednesday stemming from an incident in November, admitting that the rocker's blood-alcohol level was so low that it didn't warrant the charges. Springsteen pleaded guilty to a third charge, consuming alcohol in a closed area, the Gateway National Recreation Area. Better known as Sandy Hook, it is an Atlantic Ocean peninsula with views of the New York City skyline. Facing a judge and more than 100 onlookers in a video conference, Springsteen sat next to lawyer Mitchell Ansell and admitted he was aware it was illegal to consume alcohol at the park. “I had two small shots of tequila,” Springsteen said in response to questions from an assistant U.S. attorney. The case was heard in federal court because the park is considered federal land. U.S. Magistrate Anthony Mautone fined Springsteen $500 for the offence, plus $40 in court fees. “I think I can pay that immediately, your honour," Springsteen told Mautone. In an emailed statement, Ansell wrote that Springsteen “is pleased with the outcome" of the court hearing. According to a probable cause document written by park police at the time of the incident, Springsteen told a park officer he had done two shots in the previous 20 minutes but wouldn’t take a preliminary breath test before he was arrested. Mautone said Wednesday that the preliminary test is not required, and is not admissible in court. When he took a breath test at the park’s ranger station, Springsteen's blood-alcohol came back .02, a quarter of the legal limit in New Jersey, prosecutors said Wednesday. The officer wrote that he saw Springsteen take a shot of tequila and then get on his motorcycle. The officer wrote that the rocker “smelt strongly of alcohol” Nov. 14 and “had glassy eyes” and that there was a bottle of Patron tequila that was “completely empty.” The report described Springsteen as “visibly swaying back and forth” during a field sobriety test and said he declined to provide a sample on an initial breath test. After news of the arrest, Jeep put on pause an ad that ran during the Super Bowl featuring Springsteen in Kansas urging people to find common ground. Jeep said in a statement Wednesday it was unpausing the ad now “that the matter has been resolved.” “As we stated previously, we paused the commercial until the facts were established," Jeep said. Springsteen performed Jan. 20 as part of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. ___ Follow Porter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP David Porter, The Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa House Republicans cast the final vote needed Wednesday to send a bill to the governor that sharply limits early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP candidates. The bill passed with only Republican votes just a day after it similarly passed the Senate. Supporters of the legislation cited fraud concerns as the reason early voting must be reined in. However, like in many other Republican-led states where similar steps are being considered, there historically haven't been widespread concerns about irregularities in the election system. “When we go back home and talk to people in the gas stations, at the grocery stores and at the hardware stores there is no disputing there are tens of thousands of Iowans that tell this Republican caucus every single week when we go home we emphatically support this bill, we want this bill, we think this bill is necessary and we support it,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who managed the bill in the House. Democrats who are outnumbered in both chambers were left aghast but in no position to stop the changes. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, has indicated she'd consider them. “Last fall we had elections overseen by a Republican secretary of state in which Republicans gained seats in the Iowa House and the U.S. House, so if there is any significant voter fraud in this state then two things are true," Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames said. “It’s your fault, and second, it raises questions of the legitimacy of your own elections.” The bill written by Republicans would shorten the early voting period to 20 days from the current 29, just three years after Republicans reduced the period from 40 days. It also would require most mail ballots to be received by county election officials by the time polls close on Election Day, rather than counting votes as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and arrived by noon on the Monday following the election. The bill prohibits the use of a U.S. Postal Service postmark as a way to verify when a ballot was mailed. Polling times also would be reduced by an hour, closing at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. And there would be new rules on absentee ballot request forms, banning officials from sending out the forms unless a voter requests one. Satellite voting sites also could only be set up if enough voters petition for one, and voters would be removed from active voting lists if they miss a single general election and don't report a change in address or registered as a voter again. Rep. Chris Hall during House debate told Kaufmann his bill “is a cruel trick on the very voters we are here to serve. It is morally hollow.” The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 253 bills across the country this year meant to limit access to voting. Republican lawmakers have said the proposals are meant to bolster confidence in future elections, though they have been the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the previous election was fraudulent. Sylvia Albert, director of the voting and elections project at Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization that advocates to expand access to voting, said the GOP is moving to depress turnout following their losses in the last election cycle. “Instead of dealing with real issues these legislatures are revoking access to the ballot,” she said. “The motivation is not to secure an election, the motivation is to undermine access to the ballot.” Democratic Sen. Pam Jochum pointed out that 76% of Iowa Democrats voted by mail in November and 52% of Republicans as mail voting surged in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic. Iowa Republicans backing the bill argue there was voter fraud in states where Trump narrowly lost to Democrat Joe Biden, though courts have repeatedly ruled there was no significant fraud. Still, Republicans said that belief has caused their constituents to lose faith in the integrity of elections, so changes are needed. Their action follows repeated claims by Trump that mail balloting was vulnerable to fraud, again without any evidence. During Senate debate, Sioux City Republican Sen. Jim Carlin said “most of the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen.” He added, “Who believes that Joe Biden got 12 million more votes than Obama on his best day? I don’t believe that he did better than Barack Obama.” Iowa City Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom said those kind of conspiracy theories and cult behaviour toward Trump are what has led some people to lose faith in elections. “I for one am not going to normalize this bizarre irrational conspiracy theory thinking and behaviour,” he said. In a public hearing held Monday night nearly 1,200 people signed up to comment on the measure. All but 28 opposed the legislation. Janice Weiner, a retired U.S. foreign service officer, said the section of the bill that shortens the time for absentee voting will hurt people who go south for Iowa winters, victims of domestic violence, voters in rural areas and the elderly. She cautioned lawmakers against believing debunked lies about election fraud. “Just as Sen. (Joni) Ernst won her election and each of you won yours, President Biden won freely and fairly,” she said. “The remedy for the big lie of a stolen election is not to take an axe to election laws that worked exceedingly well, it’s simply to tell the truth.” Gary Leffler, a West Des Moines resident who supports the bill, said he was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and could attest that people are concerned about voter integrity. “Right now you’ve got half the people who voted in a national election who are feeling like yesterday’s newspaper in the bottom of a birdcage and they’re trying to figure out how in the world did this happen. You must restore integrity back into our voting. I think this bill goes a long way to getting that done," he said. ___ Associated Press writer Anthony Izaguirre in Lindenhurst, New York, contributed to this report. David Pitt, The Associated Press
Provincial police demonstrated life-saving measures when falling through ice at Lower Reach Park in Smiths Falls last week, on Friday, Feb. 18. After a hole was cut into the ice, Ontario Provincial Police Constable Sean McCaffrey jumped into the Rideau River waters to exhibit how to survive such an incident. The 1-10-1 rule was used as a helpful reminder for best course of action. The first 1 is for one minute, when a person is to likely gasp with shock. Breathing calmly is important in this first minute. The 10 is for the first 10 minutes, which is how long effective use of fingers, arms and legs will likely last. Because of this, it is in the first 10 minutes that self-rescue is at its most critical. The second 1 is for one hour, which is the time before hypothermia could potentially set in. Self-rescue is still recommended past the 10-minute mark, but police note it is important to be calling for help and continuing to focus on breathing. Other tips recommended by PC McCaffrey include ensuring anyone venturing out onto ice carries ice picks, wears appropriate clothing and never goes alone or at night. Assisting PC McCaffrey with the demonstration was the Ontario Provincial Police's East Region Snowmobile, ATV, and Vessel Enforcement (SAVE) Unit, Smiths Falls police and other emergency services. More safety tips can be found online at www.redcross.ca/. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped down as chief of the defence staff as he is investigated on unspecific allegations. Sajjan said in a release late Wednesday that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is doing the investigation. Sajjan said he takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and continues to take strong action on any allegation of misconduct that is brought forward "no matter the rank, no matter the position." Sajjan said as of Wednesday he has appointed Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre as acting chief of the defence staff. He said he will have no further comment at this time due to the ongoing investigation. Military investigators are probing allegations of sexual misconduct against McDonald's and Eyre's predecessor, Gen. Jonathan Vance. Global News has reported that Vance allegedly had an ongoing relationship with a woman he significantly outranked, and that he made a sexual comment to a second, much younger soldier in 2012, before he was appointed chief of the defence staff. Vance has denied the allegations raised by Global and The Canadian Press has not verified them independently. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Jeremy Cohn/CBC - image credit) One person is dead and one person is in custody after a homicide in a Richmond Hill, Ont. home on Wednesday night, York Regional Police say. Police were called to the residence in the area of King Road and Yonge Street just before 7:45 p.m. for a report of unknown trouble. The incident is now being investigated as a homicide, police said. One person was pronounced dead on the scene, according to York Region Paramedic Services. The other was taken to a local hospital with undisclosed injuries. According to police, there is no public safety concern and the incident was contained to the home. Police are remaining at the scene as the investigation continues.
LOS ANGELES — Emilio Estevez said “The Mighty Ducks” TV series wooed him out of the director’s chair and back into acting, but only because it was a worthy successor to the 1990s movie franchise. Estevez reprises his role as youth hockey coach Gordon Bombay for the Disney+ streaming service's “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers," debuting March 26. When approached for the project by Steven Brill, screenwriter for the movies and executive producer of the series, Estevez said he'd be interested if it could capture the “magic” of the films and not just “cash in on the nostalgia.” “I think that's ultimately what we've done,” he said during a virtual panel to promote the 10-episode series Wednesday. Set in contemporary Minnesota, the Ducks are now a successful, win-at-all costs team. When they suddenly boot 12-year-old Evan (Brady Morrow), he and his mom, played by Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” and “Parenthood,” decide to form their own team and conscript Gordon to help. Estevez, part of an acting family that includes father Martin Sheen ("The West Wing") and brother Charlie Sheen ("Two and a Half Men"), said he had largely stepped away from acting to make independent films, including 1996's “The War at Home.” The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The hand-picked successor to former House Speaker Michael Madigan's seat abruptly resigned Wednesday, under pressure from his sponsors, who accused him of unspecified “questionable conduct." Edward Guerra Kodatt submitted his resignation to the House clerk Wednesday morning, according to Democrat Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, citing a spokesman for the new House speaker. Kodatt quit just three days after he was chosen from among 10 candidates to replace Madigan, a Democrat from the Southwest Side of Chicago who had held the post for more than 50 years. “After learning of alleged questionable conduct by Mr. Kodatt, it was suggested that he resign as state representative for the 22nd District. We are committed to a zero tolerance policy in the workplace,” Madigan and Chicago Alderman Marty Quinn, who share office space, said in a statement. They did not elaborate on the allegations against Kodatt, who was previously a bilingual outreach and budget assistant in Madigan and Quinn's constituent services office. Technically, Madigan's replacement is chosen by ward committee members for the 22nd House district — volunteer Democratic Party officials responsible for organizing elections and boosting turnout. But Madigan, committeeman for the 13th Ward since 1969, controls 56% of the weighted vote, based on the number of ward votes cast for the seat in the 2020 election. So, he single-handedly chose Kodatt and retains that control for another selection hearing scheduled Thursday morning. The 26-year-old Kodatt's rise and demise marked another curious turn in the meteoric crash of Madigan's own career. The product of the old-style Chicago political machine, Madigan was head of the House for all but two years since 1983, the longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history. But utility company ComEd admitted in a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors last summer that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme to influence Madigan for favourable legislation. After that, support for Madigan, 78, began to peel away, with 19 formerly loyal Democrats announcing they would not support him for a 19th term at the helm. He failed to collect the necessary 60 votes in January and suspended his campaign while the caucus coalesced around Welch. Madigan then resigned his job as state representative last week and relinquished control of the state Democratic Party by stepping aside as its chairman on Monday. Enthusiasm for Madigan had been deteriorating since the resurgence of the #MeToo movement more than three years ago, with critics questioning his handling of reported incidents of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation by campaign workers, lawmakers, and legislative staff, including Madigan's longtime chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, who was forced to resign in June 2018. One highly publicized case involved Kevin Quinn, a Madigan political consultant and Marty Quinn's brother. Veteran campaign worker Alaina Hampton complained in early 2018 that Madigan and party officials had reacted too slowly after she reported that Quinn had sent her unwanted text messages commenting on her appearance and asking her for dates, beginning in 2016 and continuing despite her requests that he stop. She reported Quinn to Marty Quinn, his supervisor, in February 2017 and later wrote Madigan a letter, but Kevin Quinn was not fired until after Hampton quit her campaign job and was about to go public. In November 2019, Hampton received $275,000 in settling a federal lawsuit against several Madigan political committees alleging her complaints about Quinn halted her career advancement. ___ Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor John O'Connor, The Associated Press
A former employee at Rideau Hall tells CBC News that racial discrimination forced her to quit her job after she was reprimanded for speaking out against anti-Black racism following the killing of George Floyd.
American forward Daryl Dike scored his first goal for Barnsley, in the 90th minute of a 2-0 win over Stoke on Wednesday night that extended its unbeaten streak to five in England's second tier League Championship. Dike, on loan from Orlando in Major League Soccer, put a low, right-footed shot from the edge of the 6-yard box past onrushing goalkeeper Angus Gunn at Oakwell. The 20-year-old debuted for Barnsley on Feb. 1 after he was obtained on a loan for the rest of the season. Callum Styles had put Barnsley ahead in the ninth minute. Barnsley is eighth with 48 points after 31 matches in the 46-game league season. It is one point behind Cardiff, which has played 32 games, for the final berth in the promotion playoffs. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Submitted by Chris Haines - image credit) Grace Haines has always enjoyed a challenge, but she is now facing the biggest challenge of her life — recovering from devastating injuries from a hit-and-run. "She took pride in being able to out-lift boys at the gym," said her father Chris Haines, who often trained with her. "She could deadlift just under 250 pounds, which when you weigh 120 pounds is pretty good." But one month after being hit by a car, the 17-year-old has almost no movement on her left side and is struggling to speak. 17-year-old Grace Haines enjoyed weightlifting with her father before she was injured in a hit-and-run crash. Haines went for a run in North Vancouver around 9:45 p.m. PT on Jan. 25, 2021 after a long day of studying for exams, according to her father. She was found around half an hour later, injured and unconscious near Keith Road East and St. Andrews Avenue. Haines was rushed to Lions Gate Hospital where she had emergency surgery for bleeding on her brain. The accident damaged her corpus callosum — the part of the brain that allows both sides to communicate. Her father says the damage was clear after she awoke from her coma. "She could open her right eye, but not her left eye. She can move her right hand, but not her left hand," he said. Grace Haines (right) enjoyed weightlifting and often trained with her father Chris (left). Signs of progress Last week Haines was moved to the Sunny Hill Health Centre at BC Children's Hospital for rehabilitation. Her father says she still has some confusion, but understands she was in an accident. On the bright side, he says they are already seeing small signs of improvement. "There are some little movements in the left hand and left leg... Take those little victories as you can," he said. Investigation continues North Vancouver RCMP say a driver was arrested the same night of the crash, but the person was released and no charges have been laid yet. Several witnesses have come forward, but police are still appealing for information from anyone who may have seen anything in the area around the time of the accident. Sgt. Peter DeVries says these types of investigations are complex, and can take a few months as it may involve accessing video and technical information from the car computer. Focusing on Grace But Chris Haines isn't thinking about any of that. "I'm not focused on a month from now or a year from now, that scares me, that depresses me. I'm focused on tomorrow. What can we do today to make it for a better tomorrow," he said. Grace Haines underwent emergency surgery to relieve bleeding on her brain. He says he has been overwhelmed with community support, including from people who are still dropping off food and offering to raise funds. He's encouraging people now to donate to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation or Children's Hospital. Haines says a social media campaign titled "#liftingforgrace" is also bringing inspiration. People from as far away as Brazil and Australia have posted videos of themselves weight-lifting or doing other fitness activities in her name. Even Canada's Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan did chin-ups in Haines's honour. Sajjan served in the military with her father. Haines says he has shown his daughter the videos, which have elicited a thumbs-up. Grace Haines has been moved to the Sunny Hill Health Centre for rehabilitation, and her father says she is already asking him to wheel her to the gym where they lift small weights together. He says she is already asking him to wheel her to the gym where they lift small weights together. "She will outlift the boys of the gym, again. She will outlift me one day, probably very soon. I've got no doubt about that," he said. "She's very strong, and she's very driven, and she's very intelligent and none of that is going to change."
Despite various changes in how the province releases information about COVID-19 cases in schools, parents still aren’t satisfied with the data being made public. Halfway through the academic year, families behind a new letter-writing campaign are calling for more detail about cases in both school and child-care settings, citing heightened concerns about the risk of new coronavirus variants. The group wants daily updates on exposures that include facility names, dates and total cases broken down into student and staff categories, historical data so the public can track trends, and information about variants identified. “In terms of what they’re publicly reporting on, it’s very, very limited. I think it undermines confidence in the statement that schools are safe and they aren’t seeing transmission,” said Susan Wingert, a mother of two K-12 students in Winnipeg. Wingert said reporting via an online dashboard, which launched earlier this month, falls short of providing all the information parents need to weigh decisions about sending children to school. The provincial dashboard shows cases among student and staff populations within the last 14 days, as well as totals dating back to Sept. 1. A map allows users to view recent cases in specific schools, including people who might not have been infectious in a classroom; there is no information on which — if any — cases were acquired at school. It’s a stark contrast to the first-ever alert, which detailed the grade, classroom and time frame at Churchill High School for a student who was asymptomatic but tested positive Sept. 8. Following pushback after that notice, the province began to publish a running list of less-specific notices, including exposure dates and letters sent to families until mid-December. That’s when letters disappeared online for more than a month while the province finalized its dashboard. Child-care centres are not included in the provided information. The most recent data shows there were 75 cases, involving 59 students and 16 staff members, during the incubation period prior to Feb. 21. Michelle Driedger, who researches health-risk communication at the University of Manitoba, questions the usefulness of that information if it isn’t contextualized. “There has to be a happy medium between full disclosure of absolutely everything and, ‘Here, we’re giving you some information, but in such an opaque environment that you can almost interpret what you want from it,’” said Driedger, a professor of community health sciences and parent of two K-12 students. Buy-in to COVID-19 protocols requires confidence in the system, she said, adding the province should be frank about how exactly it has come to the conclusion schools are safe. Education Minister Cliff Cullen was not made available for an interview Wednesday. In an email statement, he wrote the province is confident parents are receiving the “appropriate information” on the dashboard while noting letters are still being sent to parents when there is an outbreak. School-related cases represent approximately seven per cent of the number of confirmed cases in Manitoba, to date. On the subject of asymptomatic testing, Cullen said in the email the province is seeing its COVID-19 curve bend significantly. “Our government will continue to listen to our public health leaders and take action accordingly,” he wrote. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Les délais d’entrée au pays compliquent le recrutement de travailleurs étrangers. Le manque criant de main-d’œuvre qui frappait de plein fouet la région de Chaudière-Appalaches avant la pandémie hante de nouveau la région, où le taux de chômage a chuté à 4 % le mois dernier. Pour ajouter au casse-tête des employeurs, les délais d’immigrations freinent l’embauche à l’international. « On a actuellement une trentaine de travailleurs au Nicaragua qui attendent de venir ici », raconte en entrevue Louise Couture, conseillère en ressources humaines pour le fabricant de semi-remorques Manac. Leur usine de Saint-Georges, en Beauce, emploie déjà près de 80 personnes venant de l’étranger, sur un total de 700 employés. Cette trentaine d’ouvriers « partiellement embauchés » peine à entrer au pays en raison surtout des délais administratifs dans leur pays d’origine. La pandémie retarde l’obtention d’un examen médical, d’une photo d’identification et d’un relevé d’empreintes digitales, tous nécessaires pour entrer au Canada. « Les bureaux sont fermés ou partiellement ouverts, explique Mme Couture. [Les travailleurs] ne sont pas capables de franchir toutes les étapes nécessaires avant de rentrer dans l’avion. Ils ne sont pas capables de quitter le pays parce qu’il leur manque des documents. » Son entreprise sollicite ainsi le gouvernement fédéral pour autoriser les immigrants à fournir leurs données biométriques après leur arrivée au Canada. « Ce n’est pas un processus tellement long, ils pourraient faire ça quand ils arrivent ici », précise Louise Couture. Cette pratique existe déjà pour les travailleurs agricoles du Mexique et du Guatemala qui viennent travailler l’été dans les fermes québécoises, et qui sont considérés comme essentiels par Ottawa. Les retards actuels d’embauche de travailleurs étrangers touchent autant les petites, les moyennes que les grandes entreprises. « Tout le monde a de la misère avec leur personnel », déplore la directrice générale de la Chambre de commerce de Saint-Georges, Annie Gilbert. Pour répondre à ce « besoin criant », elle travaille actuellement à créer une foire de l’emploi virtuel. « 70 entreprises figurent déjà dans la liste, mais je vais faire quelques appels et je suis sûr que ça va ajouter un autre 20 kiosques. Ils ont tous le même problème », avance-t-elle. Or, l’embauche à l’étranger ne convient pas à tous les employeurs, nuance Mme Gilbert, qui dit privilégier l’embauche de citoyens canadiens. « Quand on se décide d’embaucher du côté de l’immigration, ça prend un an, un an et demi avant d’avoir quelqu’un. » En attendant ses nouveaux employés, l’entreprise Manac voit des contrats lui filer entre les doigts et accuse une perte de compétitivité. « Ce sont des heures supplémentaires qu’on est obligé de payer. Tant mieux pour les travailleurs, mais pour l’entreprise, c’est sûr que les profits sont moindres », indique Louise Couture. L’usine beauceronne de Manac est également aux prises avec un niveau d’absentéisme élevé en raison de la pandémie, ce qui plombe la chaîne de production. « C’est une grosse charge pour les contremaîtres. Ils doivent parfois conjuguer avec un quart de travail de soir où il peut y avoir trois employés de moins dans le département parce qu’il y en a un qui a été déclaré positif à la COVID-19 et qu’il habite avec les deux autres, relève Mme Couture. Toutes les semaines, il arrive quelque chose. » Chaudière-Appalaches n’est pas la seule région où le manque d’employés se fait sentir. Dans la Capitale-Nationale, selon un sondage publié le mois dernier par la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Québec, 80 % des entreprises comptent recruter dans la prochaine année. Et 60 % des gestionnaires de la région comptent embaucher du personnel issu de l’immigration, note l’enquête réalisée auprès de 500 d’entre eux. La pandémie a également freiné la croissance continue de délivrance de permis de travail. Pour l’ensemble du Québec, le Canada avait autorisé en 2019 près de 41 000 nouveaux immigrants à travailler. En 2020, ce chiffre a chuté à 31 265. Quant aux quelque 16 000 travailleurs étrangers attendus dans les champs québécois cet été, tous devraient pouvoir entrer au pays, selon Fernando Borja, de la Fondation des entreprises en recrutement de main-d’œuvre agricole étrangère (FERME). L’an dernier, environ 80 % des travailleurs temporaires prévus avaient réussi à franchir la frontière. Des vols nolisés et des tests de dépistage de la COVID-19 au préalable sont prêts pour satisfaire aux exigences du Canada, assure M. Borja « Le gouvernement du Mexique s’est mis aussi à la tâche pour que les travailleurs se préparent. » « Ceux qui rentrent au pays doivent faire trois jours à l’hôtel, mais les travailleurs pour le moment font leur quarantaine dans leur logement », ajoute Fernando Borja. « Mais, ça se peut que ça change. La COVID-19 nous a appris que la situation peut changer en une heure. Il faut qu’on soit prêt, mais on a une bonne expérience de l’année dernière. » Le gouvernement fédéral doit détailler le protocole sanitaire pour l’arrivée des travailleurs étrangers temporaires le 14 mars prochain. Jean-Louis Bordeleau, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
President Joe Biden on Wednesday formally revoked a series of presidential orders and memorandum signed by Donald Trump, including one that sought to cut funding from several cities the 45th president deemed “anarchist” havens and another mandating that federal buildings should be designed in a classical esthetic. Since taking office last month, Biden has revoked dozens of Trump orders and issued dozens more of his own as he’s sought to target foundational aspects of Trump's legacy and promote aspect of his own agenda without going through Congress. The latest slate of revocations targeted a grab-bag of issues, including a few that Trump signed in his last months in office. Trump issued a memorandum in September that sought to identify municipal governments that permit “anarchy, violence and destruction in American cities.” The memorandum followed riots during anti-police and anti-racism protests over George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. The Justice Department identified New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle as three cities that could have federal funding slashed. Those cities in turn filed a lawsuit to invalidate the designation and fight off the Trump administration’s efforts to withhold federal dollars. Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes welcomed the Biden revocation, saying he was “glad to have this nonsense cleared from the decks." Trump in his “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture” intoned that America’s forefathers “wanted public buildings to inspire the American people and encourage civic virtue." The memorandum added that architects should look to “America’s beloved landmark buildings” such as the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Department of the Treasury and the Lincoln Memorial for inspiration. Another order halted was one Trump issued in the final days of his presidency dubbed the “Ensuring Democratic Accountability in Agency Rulemaking." It called for limiting the ability of federal agency employees in making regulatory decisions. Biden also revoked a 2018 order that called for agency heads across the government to review welfare programs — such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing aid — and strengthening work requirements for certain recipients. ___ Associated Press writer Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report. Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Nathan Todd had two goals and an assist as the Manitoba Moose downed the Laval Rocket 4-2 on Wednesday in American Hockey League action.Mikhail Berdin stopped 29-of-31 shots and Tyler Graovac had three helpers to lead Manitoba to its fourth win in a row.Kristian Reichel and Nicholas Jones also scored for the Moose (4-2-0), AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.Brandon Baddock and Jesse Ylonen supplied the scoring for the Rocket (3-2-1), the Montreal Canadiens' AHL club.Charlie Lindgren turned aside 12-of-15 shots for Laval.---This report by The Canadian Press was first published February 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova became a United Nations goodwill ambassador on Wednesday, pledging to promote the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls and tackle stigmas surrounding their bodies. She will be a campaigner for the U.N. Population Fund, which now calls itself the U.N.’s sexual and reproductive health agency, known as UNFPA. UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, who announced her appointment, called Vodianova “above all a passionate, longtime advocate for the rights and the needs of women and girls and in particular people living with disabilities.” Working with UNFPA for the last three years, Kanem said, Vodianova has focused on “breaking harmful taboos and tackling the stigmas that surround women’s bodies and health, including menstrual health even during humanitarian crises, and all forms of gender-based violence.” Vodianova, who will celebrate her 39th birthday on Sunday, said she was honoured by her new role and told a U.N. press conference by video link: “I look forward to continuing my work to tackle the myths and taboos that billions of women, girls and vulnerable young people have to live with and raise the standards of women’s health and dignity.” Vodianova was raised in poverty by a single mother with a half-sister who has cerebral palsy and autism. She signed with Viva Model Management at the age of 17 and has worked for fashion companies including Calvin Klein, Balmain, Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton and appeared on many magazine covers, including Vogue. She made the Forbes top models list in 2012 and is nicknamed Supernova. Vodianova founded the Naked Heart Foundation to help children with special needs and their families in 2004 and is a member of the Special Olympics International board of directors. She told reporters that one focus of her work as a goodwill ambassador will be on the taboo and stigma surrounding menstruation, a monthly challenge for girls and women. On any given day, UNFPA said more than 800 million girls and women between ages 15 and 49 are menstruating, and may face exclusion from public life, barriers to opportunities, lack of proper sanitation and health, and neglect. “These stigmas and taboos are deeply rooted in our cultures and held there with such an overwhelming power,” Vodianova said. “And it doesn’t matter where you’re born ... you will face these issues growing up in one way or another.” She said a good example is that “period products, something that is a right for women, not just something nice to have” are still not widely publicly available in many countries. “It is now our responsibility to culturally redefine what is normal,” Vodianova said. “As UNFPA goodwill ambassador, I want to work to build a world where we no longer need to explain this.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
(Grant Linton/CBC - image credit) Simcoe Muskoka's medical officer of health says a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region last week is "worrisome" and it may prompt him to ask the province to put the region back into lockdown. Dr. Charles Gardner, of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), said COVID-19 cases rose 30 per cent in the region last week compared to the previous week. There were 277 new cases reported to the health unit for the week of Feb. 14, an increase from the 210 cases reported for the week of Feb. 7. Gardner said the region also has a "very large number" of cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom and is more transmissible than the original novel coronavirus. A total of 174 cases in the region have tested positive for the B117 variant and another 270 cases have screened positive for variants of concern, according to the health unit's website. Gardner said the increase in cases, particularly in the Barrie, Ont. area, indicates the pandemic is growing instead of shrinking. He said the numbers suggest the region is going in a different direction from that of the rest of the province. "I am concerned that if that continues, and we have a rise in these cases of the U.K. variant, that the combination could leads to us having another wave," Gardner told CBC Toronto on Wednesday. Gardner said he has spoken to Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, about the rising numbers. "I have provided our epidemiological data and expressed our concerns, as well as my thoughts that it is really the stay-at-home order that is essential." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka, says: 'We need to be prepared to go into a shutdown again in the near future if, in fact, we continue to see this.' Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he understands the need for more provincial restrictions. "You need to act more quickly than you would normally. This variant is different from COVID classic. It's moves faster, so government needs to move faster." Some variant cases not linked to institutional outbreaks On Tuesday, Gardner told reporters at a weekly news briefing that the region has increasing case counts of the B117 variant, there is geographic spread and some of the variant cases are not linked to institutional outbreaks. "Our trajectory overall is not headed in the right direction," he said. "We need to be prepared to go into a shutdown again in the near future if, in fact, we continue to see this. This something that I think people need to be aware of," he added. "What we're seeing is probably the beginning of another wave. We need to get on top of it." Region in province's red-control zone Simcoe Muskoka is now in the province's red-control zone of the colour-coded framework, but Gardner said people should act as though there is a stay-at-home order in place. There were 111 new COVID-19 cases reported to the health unit for the current week. Gardner reported eight new deaths on Tuesday, bringing the region's cumulative total to 187 since the start of the pandemic. Eighty-four per cent of the deaths in the past week were due to institutional outbreaks. There have been 29 deaths of people with COVID-19 since the beginning of February. Currently, there are 24 people in hospital, with four in intensive care units. Simcoe Muskoka is now in the province's red-control zone of the colour-coded framework. The province moved the region into the zone on Feb. 16. Gardner said the majority of new cases that have occurred in South Simcoe are in the communities of Barrie, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil and New Tecumseth. In Barrie, the weekly incidence rate was 109 new cases per 100,000 population this past week, which is double that of the previous week, mainly due to non-outbreak related transmission, household- and workplace-related cases, he said. "This is the first increase we've seen in Barrie residents in last three weeks. No other municipality has this incidence rate," he said. Cases of the B117 variant are clearly rising, he said. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, the region had 64 variant of concern cases. In the week of Feb. 7 to Feb. 13, it had 132. And in the week of Feb. 14 to 20, it had 151. Region has 6 outbreaks of B117 variant Overall, the region has six outbreaks of the B117 variant and nine institutional outbreaks where people have screened positive for a variant of concern but are awaiting confirmation of the strain. Roberta Place Long Term Care Home, which was devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, has had 87 positive test results of the B117 variant and 22 samples that have tested positive for a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. The outbreak there began on Jan. 8 and was declared over on Feb. 18. All 129 residents of the home, 106 staff members, five external partners and four essential caregivers tested positive for the virus. A total of 71 residents with COVID-19 died. Roberta Place Long Term Care Home, which was devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, has had 87 positive test results of the B117 variant and 22 samples that have tested positive for a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. The outbreak there began on Jan. 8 and was declared over on Feb. 18. The region also has non-institutional outbreaks.: An apartment complex in Simcoe County has one case of the B117 variant and 15 cases of a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. A retail location in Simcoe County has two cases of the B117 variant. An emergency services location in Simcoe County has one case of the B117 variant and one case that has screened positive for a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. A manufacturing facility in Simcoe County has seven cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. An agricultural location in Muskoka has two cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. A manufacturing location in Simcoe Country has two cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. A food and beverage facility in Muskoka has five cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. Ontario could apply new 'emergency brake' David Jensen, spokesperson for the Ontario health ministry, said in an email on Wednesday that the chief medical officer of health provides advice to the provincial government on "appropriate and effective measures" that can be taken to protect Ontario residents and actions can be taken immediately if need be. Jensen said local medical officers of health can also issue orders to target specific transmission risks in the community. "Ontario has introduced an 'emergency brake' where the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission," Jensen said.
The work depicts a rarely seen view of Paris in the nineteenth century. 'Scène de rue à Montmartre' shows how the busy suburb used to be a rural, tranquil place.View on euronews