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B.C. Election 2020: Leaders square off in high-stakes debate


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Furstenau, who has only led the Greens for a month, was fighting to introduce herself to British Columbians and not let the two more-established politicians dominate the stage. She succeeded as a confident, well-informed, well-spoken debater on the stage.

During a testy exchange over health care, Horgan held Wilkinson accountable for a decision made by the former Liberal government to cut care aid jobs.

“You fired 10,000 people, largely women, to give a tax break to wealthy people in B.C.,” Horgan said.

Wilkinson fired back: “Calling names and talking about things that happened 17 years ago will not help us in the future.” He said the Liberals built hospitals during their time in power, and accused the NDP of failing to build one.

“You sold the land, man,” an outraged Horgan responded, in reference to a Liberal program that sold government land, including a plot that was meant for a Surrey hospital.

Wilkinson also accused Horgan of not acting quickly enough to help struggling businesses, such as tourism operators, facing bankruptcies during the pandemic, and of having an affordable housing plan that is “a complete fiasco.”

“That’s not leadership, John,” he said.

Wilkinson was asked by moderator Shachi Kurl about the controversy over one of his incumbent MLA candidates making sexist remarks towards a NDP MLA, and the leader repeated again that the incident should not have happened. The other two leaders didn’t make hay of the scandal, but Horgan referenced it after Wilkinson accused the NDP leader of dividing people, rather than pulling them together.



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Mali coup leaders meet mediators seeking return to civilian rule | Mali News


A key meeting between Mali’s coup leaders and mediators from West Africa’s regional bloc seeking a return to civilian rule ended after just 20 minutes.

The talks on Saturday were set to last 90 minutes, according to a provisional schedule set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). But the meeting ended after just 20 minutes, according to Reuters.

It was not clear if the schedule had been changed or talks were cut short.

Tuesday’s overthrow of Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been condemned abroad, but celebrated by many in a country battling an armed uprising and months of political unrest.

A delegation from the 15-nation  earlier arrived in the capital, Bamako, for talks aimed at reversing the overthrow of Keita.

The bloc has taken a hard line on the coup, shutting borders and halting financial flows – a move diplomats said was as much about warning opponents at home as stabilising Mali.

Before a series of meetings with the mutineers and other groups, the head of the delegation, Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, sounded optimistic.

“I believe at the end of the day we will come up with something that is best for the people and is good for ECOWAS and the international community,” he told journalists.

The most-anticipated meeting was held in the defence ministry, where ECOWAS mediators in face masks sat at a long table opposite military government leader Assimi Goita, who wore a desert camouflage uniform and was flanked by other military officers in berets and fatigues.

ECOWAS and the coup leaders, who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), have yet to comment on the discussions.

Mali - coup leaders

The coup leaders have controlled Mali since Tuesday, when the mutineers detained President Keita at gunpoint and forced him to resign [Mamadou Keita/Reuters]

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from neighbouring Nigeria, said that ECOWAS is looking to resolve the impasse as soon as possible, to prevent outside forces from plunging the country into total crisis that could be exploited by armed fighters.

The CNSP has controlled the country since Tuesday, when the mutineers detained Keita at gunpoint and forced him to resign. They have promised to oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” amount of time.

The overthrow of Keita, known as IBK, has been welcomed by many in Mali, which was rocked by months of protests calling for his resignation for alleged corruption and worsening security in areas where affiliates of al Qaeda and ISIL are active.

Reinstating Keita ‘out of the question’

The presidents of Ivory Coast and Guinea are among those pushing for the tough ECOWAS response, one diplomat said, as both have faced violent public protests to their third-term bids and want the bloc to show it will not allow power grabs in its own back yard.

“They cannot tolerate this taking place. They are taking it very personally. It is on their doorstep and they think they are next,” a second regional diplomat said.

After three days of post-coup calm in the capital Bamako, police used tear gas earlier on Saturday when a scuffle broke out between a group of 50 pro-Keita protesters and local residents who threw stones, a witness told Reuters News Agency.

“Reinstating IBK is out of the question. The only thing they (the delegation) can achieve is the transition. Under the rules of ECOWAS, ECOWAS should midwife the transition,” one of the diplomats said, referring to the outcome of the delegation’s visit.

On Friday, thousands of the coup’s supporters gathered in a central square in Bamako to celebrate the takeover. There is no outward sign ECOWAS’s suspension of financial relations is yet being felt.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies



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Coronavirus: Church leaders call for wearing of face coverings


A sign directing people located inside a church

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Church leaders ask worshipers to wear face coverings

The leaders of NI’s four main Christian churches have asked parishioners to wear face coverings during services.

The heads of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church, Catholic and Presbyterian Churches said it was their responsibility “to ensure that our services of worship are safe places”.

The move comes following consultations with health authorities.

The statement said face coverings should be used alongside two-metre social distancing.

“We join with Christian church leaders all over this island in formally recommending and encouraging the use of face coverings at all services of worship, along with the ongoing maintenance of two-metre physical distancing, from Sunday 30th August 2020, and earlier if practicable,” the statement said.

“It has become increasingly clear that the wearing of face coverings, in conjunction with hand washing etc… is likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others.

“Their use is therefore one way in which we can evidence protection for the most vulnerable, support for our health workers, and practical love for our neighbours.”



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House Republican leaders condemn GOP candidate who made racist videos



Republicans had just felt relief after they finally ousted Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a controversial member with a long history of making racially charged remarks, in a primary earlier this month.

Now GOP lawmakers, aides and operatives fear Greene — a wealthy businesswoman who already drew national attention because of her belief in a trove of “QAnon” conspiracy theories — could create an even bigger black eye for the party if she wins the nomination. Greene will face neurosurgeon John Cowan in the Aug. 11 primary runoff.

“These comments are appalling, and Leader McCarthy has no tolerance for them,” said Drew Florio, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) went further, throwing his weight behind Greene’s opponent.

“The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great,” Scalise said in a statement. “I will be supporting Dr. Cowan.”

In recordings obtained by POLITICO, Greene described Islamic nations under Sharia law as places where men have sex with “little boys, little girls, multiple women” and “marry their sisters” and “their cousins.” She suggested the 2018 midterms — which ushered in the most diverse class of House freshmen — was part of “an Islamic invasion of our government” and that “anyone that is a Muslim that believes in Sharia law does not belong in our government.”

In other videos, she directly compared Black Lives Matter activists to the Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who marched at a white nationalist rally three years ago in Charlottesville, Va., denouncing them all as “idiots.” And Greene forcefully rejected the notion there are racial disparities in the U.S. or that skin color impacts the “quality” of one’s life: “Guess what? Slavery is over,” she said. “Black people have equal rights.”

When asked for comment on quotes from the videos, Greene campaign manager Isaiah Wartman did not deny their veracity but declined to elaborate.

“Thank[s] for the reminder about Soros. We forgot to put him in our newest ad. We’re fixing that now,” he wrote in an email to POLITICO. “Would you like me to send you a copy?”

Sitting cross-legged on the floor and sporting an American flag baseball cap, Greene said in one video that unemployment — which affects people of color at disproportionately higher rates — is simply the product of “bad choices” and being “lazy.”

Minorities, Greene added, are being held back in society by gangs, drugs, a lack of education, Planned Parenthood and abortions — “not white people.”

“I know a ton of white people that are as lazy and sorry and probably worse than black people,” she said. “And that has everything to do with their bad choices and their personal responsibility. That is not a skin-color issue.”

Greene later implied that black women have it easier because of affirmative action, complaining they are more likely to get into a college than a white male if they have the same G.P.A.

“The most mistreated group of people in the United States today are white males,” Greene said as she wrapped up one of the videos.

The recordings, in which Greene spends hours ranting to her social media followers, were taped direct-to-camera. The date of the videos is not clear, but they appear to have been recorded between late 2017 and early 2019. She initially launched a campaign in June of last year for Rep. Lucy McBath’s (D-Ga.) seat in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, but switched to the staunchly conservative 14th District when Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) announced his plans to retire.

The top three House GOP leaders, as well as the head of the party’s campaign arm, denounced Greene’s rhetoric upon learning from POLITICO of her derogatory comments about blacks, Muslims and Jews.

While the National Republican Congressional Committee does not get involved in primaries, NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is “personally disgusted by this rhetoric and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”

And a spokesman for GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — who forcefully rebuked King and called on him to step down — said, “obviously, Rep. Cheney opposes these offensive and bigoted comments.”

McCarthy already pulled his support for another controversial GOP candidate in California, Ted Howze, after POLITICO uncovered dozens of social media posts that demeaned Muslims and immigrants.

Despite Greene’s penchant for controversy — she has already faced public criticism for taking a photo with a white supremacist, floating a conspiracy theory that the Las Vegas shooting massacre was a plot to abolish the Second Amendment and calling one of the student activists from Parkland high school “little Hitler”— Greene has earned some congressional support.

She nabbed endorsements from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus; Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill; Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), a Freedom Caucus member and former pastor; and the House Freedom Fund, the political arm for the Freedom Caucus. Jordan and Hice both said they disagree with her statements but have not yet pulled their endorsements; Biggs did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

There is now a growing effort in the GOP to rally around Greene’s opponent. Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) both backed Cowan on Wednesday morning, as did Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.). Ferguson called her comments “abhorrent” and said in a statement that she “shouldn’t have a place in Congress.”

Scott echoed a similar sentiment, saying “her statements would render her incapable of being an effective member of Congress.”

“This isn’t something that happened 10 years ago, when she said something out of context,” Scott said in an interview.

House Democrats have also pounced on Greene, even before the publication of the videos. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chair of the House Democratic campaign arm, called her a “next-generation Steve King” in a statement.

And Greene’s opponent, Cowan, is making a similar argument ahead of the runoff.

“These comments do not reflect the views of the people of the 14th District,” he said in an interview. “I think she would embarrass our state, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep her from representing northwest Georgia in Congress.”

In one of the videos, Greene offered a full-throated defense of Confederate statues, saying that if she were a black person she would be “proud” to see a Confederate monument “because I’d say, ‘Look how far I have come in this country.’”

Her comments are surfacing amid a heated national debate over whether Confederate statues should be removed and whether military bases named after Confederate leaders should be renamed — a debate that is also unfolding in Congress.

Greene blamed the country’s racial wounds on “identity politics” and President Barack Obama, whom she said only won black voters because of “the color of his skin.” She also suggested that’s why Obama identifies as black, even though he is “half-white” and “American,” Greene noted.

And during another offensive diatribe, Greene accused Democrats of “trying to keep the black people in a modern-day form of slavery” and said black Republicans get called “coon” and “Uncle Toms” by liberal black voters.

“It’s a slavery system to keep their vote,” she said.

In her videos, Greene is particularly preoccupied with the increase in Muslim members of Congress. She referred to freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as “that woman out of Minnesota” who “has got to wear a head covering.” She said members should not be able to take the oath of office on a Koran: “No! You have to be sworn in on the Bible.”

In 2018, Omar and freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) became the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. They have become top targets of the right, along with freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who are also women of color.

“There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now,” Greene said. “You saw after midterm elections what we saw so many Muslims elected. I don’t know the exact number but there were quite a few.”

She said that Muslims “are not being held back in any way” because the Constitution guarantees equality. “But what you people want,” she said, “is special treatment. You want to rise above us, and that’s what we’re against.”

And in another rant, she urged adherents of Sharia law to stay in their own countries and leave the U.S. alone.

“If you want Islam and Sharia law, you stay over there in the Middle East,” she said. “You stay there, and you go to Mecca and do all your thing. And, you know what, you can have a whole bunch of wives, or goats, or sheep, or whatever you want. You stay over there. But in America, see, we’ve made it this great, great country. We don’t want it messed up.”

She also spends several minutes attacking Imtiaz Ahmad Mohammad, a man who was running for the Florida state House, because he is Muslim and an immigrant.

“So let me tell you something. This man is not born in America. He’s from Pakistan. Ok?,” she said, warning he was the only candidate who had filed for the seat, and that “his last name is Mohammad.”

She then attempted to recruit a challenger: “Anyone that lives in that district, you better sign your butt up and run against this guy,” she said. “Because we cannot let him win.”

In a video and on social media, Greene has also touted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Soros, a Holocaust survivor, collaborated with the Nazis.

“George Soros says dark forces have been awakened by Trump’s win. I don’t think so,” she said in one video. “George Soros is the piece of crap that turned in — he’s a Jew — he turned in his own people over to the Nazis.”

In February 2019, Greene replied to a tweet that included several memes accusing Soros of being part of a secret totalitarian world government. One picture showed Soros as a vampire who controls “every single Democrat politician.” In her reply, Greene called Soros “the Nazi himself trying to continue what was not finished.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition was one of the first GOP groups to denounce her publicly after the primary.



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US, European leaders weigh reopening risks without a vaccine


NEW YORK —
On a weekend when many pandemic-weary people emerged from weeks of lockdown, leaders in the U.S. and Europe weighed the risks and rewards of lifting COVID-19 restrictions knowing that a vaccine could take years to develop.

In separate stark warnings, two major European leaders bluntly told their citizens that the world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by a vaccine.

“We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said, acceding to a push by regional leaders to allow restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open Monday, weeks ahead of an earlier timetable.

The warnings from Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came as governments worldwide and many U.S. states struggled with restarting economies blindsided by the pandemic. In the U.S., images of crowded bars, beaches and boardwalks suggested some weren’t heeding warnings to safely enjoy reopened spaces while limiting the risks of spreading infection.

Britain’s Johnson, who was hospitalized last month with a serious bout of COVID-19, speculated Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.

“There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition,” Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

President Donald Trump, by contrast, promised Americans a speedy return to normalcy that sounded far more optimistic than most experts say is realistic.

“We’re looking at vaccines, we’re looking at cures and we are very, very far down the line,” he said while calling into a charity golf tournament broadcast Sunday broadcast on NBC. “I think that’s not going to be in the very distant future. But even before that, I think we’ll be back to normal.”

Trump said events would likely resume with small crowds — if any — but hopes that, by the time the Masters Tournament is played in November, the crowds can return.

Health experts, however, say the world could be months, if not years, away from having a vaccine available to everyone, and they have warned that easing restrictions too quickly could cause the virus to rebound.

With 36 million newly unemployed in the U.S. alone, economic pressures are building even as authorities acknowledge that reopening risks setting off new waves of infections and deaths.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed optimism Sunday that the U.S. economy could begin to recover in the second half of the year, assuming there isn’t a second wave. But he suggested that a full recovery won’t likely be possible before the arrival of a vaccine.

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Powell said that, once the outbreak has been contained, the economy should be able to rebound “substantially,” while warning it would take much longer for the economy to regain its health than it took for it to collapse.

The coronavirus has infected over 4.6 million people and killed more than 314,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say under counts the true toll of the pandemic. The U.S. has reported over 89,000 dead and Europe has seen at least 160,000 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.

Some experts noted recent infection surges in Texas, including a 1,800-case jump Saturday, with Amarillo identified as a growing hot spot. Texas officials said increased testing was playing a big role — the more you look for something, the more you find it. Many are watching hospitalizations and death rates in the weeks ahead to see exactly what the new Texas numbers really mean.

But Texas was one of the earliest states to allow stores and restaurants to reopen, and Dr. Michael Saag at the University of Alabama at Birmingham called Texas “a warning shot” for states to closely watch any surges in cases and have plans to swiftly take steps to stop them.

“No one knows for sure exactly the right way forward, and what I think we’re witnessing is a giant national experiment,” said Saag, an infectious diseases researcher.

In the U.S., many states have lifted stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, allowing some types of businesses to reopen.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, told CNN on Sunday that he was concerned to see images of a crowded bar in Columbus, on the first day that outdoor dining establishments were allowed to reopen.

“We made the decision to start opening up Ohio, and about 90% of our economy is back open, because we thought it was a huge risk not to open,” he said. “But we also know it’s a huge risk in opening.”

The Isle of Palms, one of South Carolina’s most popular beaches, saw a rush of visitors this weekend— with Mayor Jimmy Carroll calling Saturday the busiest day he has seen in his more than 60 years there. But police said almost everyone on the beach and in the ocean was staying a safe distance apart.

Houses of worship are beginning to look ahead to resumption of in-person services, with some eyeing that shift this month. But the challenges are steeper in states with ongoing public health restrictions.

In Elgin, Illinois, Northwest Bible Baptist Church had sought to welcome back worshipers on Sunday, preparing to scan people’s temperatures and purchasing protective equipment. But that was postponed after local authorities raised questions.

The church’s preparations were “more than what they’d had to do if they were at Home Depot or Lowe’s or Walmart,” said Jeremy Dys, a counsel at First Liberty Institute, the legal nonprofit representing Northwest Bible Baptist. “Somehow people going to church are incapable, it’s insinuated, of safely gathering.”

Underscoring the tradeoffs involved in resuming such gatherings, officials in California’s Butte County announced Friday that a congregant had tested positive for the virus after attending a Mother’s Day church event that drew more than 180 people.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested that early predictions were overblown. On Monday, Florida restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, as can retail shops, museums and libraries.

Paula Walborsky, a 74-year-old retired attorney in Tallahassee, Florida, has resisted the temptation to get her hair done and turned down dinner invitations from close friends. But when one of her city’s public swimming pools reopened by appointment, she decided to test the waters.

“I was so excited to be back in the water, and it just felt wonderful,” Walborsky said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got tested for the coronavirus on live television Sunday. Any New Yorkers experiencing flu-like symptoms or those returning to work can now get tested, Cuomo said.

“We’re all talking about what is the spread of the virus when you increase economic activity. Well, how do you know what the spread of the virus is? Testing, testing, testing,” he said.

———

Kunzelman reported from Silver Spring, Maryland. Associated Press writers Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida; Michael R. Sisak in New York; and AP writers around the world contributed.

———

Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.



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Labour leaders threaten general strike as they protest outside Ontario PC convention


NIAGARA FALLS, ONT.—Ontario is careening toward a general strike unless Premier Doug Ford changes his ways, a key labour leader warned outside a convention hall where the Progressive Conservatives debated their next steps in running the province.

Carrying protest signs and waving union flags, about 1,000 people gathered in biting cold winds Saturday as Ford and an equal number of cabinet ministers, MPPs and party activists started developing the PC platform for the June 2022 election.

“If the Conservatives don’t listen to us … we will shut this province down,” declared Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which organized the event to fight what she called Ford’s “regressive agenda.”

Inside the convention later in the day, Ford said the government is sticking to its “pro-business, pro-jobs, pro-people government” and repeated a promise he has not yet been able to keep – putting beer and wine in corner stores.

“My friends, the 2022 campaign starts today, starts now,” he told delegates during an 18-minute dinner speech in which he boasted of cancelling unnecessary green energy projects, planning new subway lines in Toronto and pledging “we’re here for the little guy.”

“Absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to stop us,” Ford vowed. “Our economy is firing on all cylinders.”

He took aim at the Liberals who will elect a new leader in two weeks after a campaign that has seen former cabinet minister Steven Del Duca take a commanding lead.

“The people we’re up against are the same ones who ran this province into the ground.”

Ford did not take questions, but Government House Leader Paul Calandra brushed aside the prospect of a broad labour disruption.

“We’re always willing to listen to anybody who wants to bring their opinions forward,” he told reporters amid unusually tight security and restrictions for a political convention by any party.

Journalists’ identities were checked and bags searched before they were escorted to a news conference with Calandra and Ford’s speech under instructions not to roam the convention hall where delegates were emerging from policy discussions.

“There is hot debate,” Calandara added. “Grassroots members would like to have that opportunity to have those discussions in private.”

Behind closed doors, former Ford campaign head Kory Teneycke advised delegates to hold steady in the face of opposition, particularly “those who have gotten fat from the largesse of past regimes” as the government works to balance the budget in 2023.

“Being a party of responsible choices is not just thankless, it’s often met with protests, anger and vitriol,” he says in a video obtained by the Star.

Other sources inside the convention told the Star party members were voting, among other items, on resolutions from social conservatives, including one from former PC leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen to axe the old Liberal sex education curriculum which Ford initially opposed and later relented after a consultation with parents.

In education sessions, there were concerns raised that the government is not getting its message out on countering the rotating teacher strikes and there was talk of more “choice” in education, particularly for faith-based schools – a promise that former PC leader John Tory made in the 2007 election campaign only to be soundly defeated by then-premier Dalton McGuinty.

Calandra apologized “unreservedly” to CBC reporter Mike Crawley who was repeatedly interrupted by a guard from Viking Security Corp. while doing a live report on the sidewalk outside the convention centre on Friday night.

“It wasn’t something that the PC party had asked to be done,” Calandra maintained.

But a co-owner of Viking challenged Calandra’s response.

“It was laid out ahead of time and in that moment,” Tammy Rolland said in a telephone interview with the Star, referring to an advance briefing with party officials and orders given on the scene. “He told me he was told to do it,” she added, referring to the guard.

At the rally outside Saturday, leaders of several unions, from teachers to health care and grocery store workers, hopped on the back of a flatbed truck to take the government to task for its 1 per cent public sector wage cap, plan for larger class sizes, more online learning, changes to autism funding that have left parents scrambling, and stalling the rise to a $15 minimum wage.

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“Let this government know that we will hold them accountable … for what they’re doing to working families,” Coates added.

“They need to change course.”

The crowd arrived on buses from as far away as Windsor and Ottawa, with two protesters bearing elaborate effigies of Ford and many sporting buttons saying “I am the people,” a twist on the premier’s victorious 2018 campaign slogan and theme song “for the people.”

The event followed Friday’s much larger encirclement of Queen’s Park by thousands of teachers from four unions whose one-day strike shut down every school in the province.

“This isn’t just about education,” Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said during 90 minutes of speeches.

“Next comes health care. Next comes all our public services — unless we push back.”

Sarah Labelle of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents tens of thousands of civil servants, echoed the OFL’s threat of widespread labour unrest.

“If it takes a general strike down the road we’re not scared.”

New Democrat MPP Wayne Gates, who represents Niagara Falls in the legislature, said the government has proven itself incapable of managing the province with a number of high-profile policy reversals after measures have backfired.

“They can’t even make licence plates,” he added in a mocking tone, referring to a problem that dogged Ford’s administration all week.

New double-blue plates which went into distribution Feb. 1 are hard to read in the dark because they give off a glare under some lighting conditions.

After initially denying the problem first raised by a Kingston police officer in a tweet that went viral, Government and Consumer Services said Thursday a fix is the works and plates already issued will be replaced.

The plates have been dubbed “propaganda plates” because they are in Conservative blue colours.

Rob Ferguson





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Jeff Davis High School band leader’s real story


Lee High School lead drum major Justin Heideman leads the band during a performance at the annual Magic City Classic parade in downtown Birmingham on October 26.

MONTGOMERY, ALA. – It’s dusk and just outside the windows of Room 107 at Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama, the final remnants of the band are leaving practice the same way they came: blaring and filling the now chilled crisp of the December air with the powerful and royal tones of brass.

Justin Heideman, better known as “Vanilla Funk” or “that boy John,” shifts his position in his chair and postures up from a slouch, clutching the ever so familiar mace drum majors wield. There is a calm intensity that covers him as if he is still in front of his band – as if he’s still in control.

That’s because he is.

Justin Heideman, a drum major who went viral recently, leads his Jeff Davis band to the shouts of many adoring fans.

Heideman raises his hand, as if to say, “Hold on one second,” reaches for his iPhone and dials the number of his band director Brandon Howard.

“Can you tell the guys outside to be quiet? They are interrupting what’s going on in here.”    

He hangs up, slouches back, tilts his head toward the tiled ceiling and takes a breath before moving his fingers through his hair against the grain. Now, back in his position of comfort, Heideman focuses in; it’s time for another interview. 

This is his life now, but he hasn’t changed a bit, despite the few who misunderstand who he is and what it took for him to be in the position he is in now.     

This isn’t a game for Heideman. It never has been. 

Music is his passion, and before he went viral in October, a white boy leading an all-black band, Heideman carried out his job as head drum major the same way he does now: with discipline, fervor, an intense desire to learn at all costs and a dedication to uphold the legacy of Jeff Davis drum majors who came before him.



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At UN Climate Summit, Greta Thunberg Lifts Up Science, Blasts World Leaders


MADRID ― At a high-level event Wednesday at the United Nations climate summit, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed world leaders for “misleading” the public with insufficient emission-reduction pledges and dove into the growing science that shows governments must act quickly to prevent catastrophic warming. 

Thunberg kicked off her speech at the 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP25, by telling world leaders that she wouldn’t have any personal or emotional headline-grabbing one-liners, like when she told world leaders she wanted them to panic.  

“I will not do that, because then those phrases are all that people focus on,” she said. “They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place. We no longer have time to leave out the science.” 

Thunberg highlighted numbers from last year’s sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying human-caused temperature rise. It found that to have a 67% chance of keeping the global temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels ― the aspirational goal of the Paris climate agreement ― the world can only emit 570 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Studies show we are on track to blow past that carbon budget within a decade, and that meeting the 1.5-degree target requires cutting global emissions 7.6% every year from 2020 to 2030. 

“How do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic?” Thunberg asked a room full of delegates and others gathered at the summit. “How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger?”

CRISTINA QUICLER via Getty Images

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech during a high-level event on climate emergency Wednesday during the U.N. climate change conference in Madrid.

Thunberg noted that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that since the Paris agreement, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuels. She accused political leaders from rich countries of “misleading” people about the crisis and “finding clever ways around having to take real action,” including outsourcing emissions overseas to poorer countries and refusing to compensate vulnerable nations for climate-related damages.

The U.N. climate talks, she said, “have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.” 

She continued:

The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.

In just three weeks, we will enter a new decade ― a decade that will define our future. Right now we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well I’m telling you there is hope, I’ve seen it. But it does not come for the governments or corporations. It comes from the people. 

Wednesday’s “High-Level Event on Climate Emergency” also included speeches from Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, and Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a youth climate activist from Uganda. As the panel discussion came to an end, dozens of young activists from the Fridays for Future movement stormed the stage, where they chanted and staged a sit-in to demand immediate action. 

“We need leadership on climate action, not talks,” an emotional Nakabuye said. “You’ve been negotiating for the last 25 years, even before I was born. Do you want the whole of Africa to first perish before you start acting?”





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Leaders of UK, France, Germany, Turkey discuss Syria



Ahead of the two-day NATO summit in London, four countries discussed their efforts to end the conflict in Syria.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at the prime ministerial residence in London.

According to a statement from the British Prime Minister’s office, the leaders agreed that attacks against Syrian civilians, including in the rebel-held area of Idlib, must end.

The leaders vowed to work for creating conditions for safe return of refugees, and agreed the fight against terrorism in all its forms must continue. They also discussed Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring targeting the terrorist YPG/PKK in northern Syria. Merkel described the meeting as “good and useful”.

Erdogan also described the meeting as good, and added that developments regarding the operation “will be evaluated”.

In October, Turkey launched Peace Spring to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria, in order to secure Turkey’s borders and aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees. Later, the operation was paused to allow the withdrawal of the terrorists from the planned Syria safe zone, but they, instead, continued attacking soldiers and civilians.



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Trump calls Trudeau ‘two-faced’ over video that shows world leaders joking about U.S. president


LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly on Tuesday night about U.S. President Donald Trump,

Hours later, the backlash materialized.

“Well, he’s two-faced,” the president said Wednesday when asked about the video. After a long pause, he added, “He’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy.”

Trump, who was taking questions from reporters before a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, attributed Trudeau’s frustration to the president’s pressure campaign to increase Canada’s military spending to 2% of its economic output.

“He should be paying more than he’s paying,” Trump said. “I called him out on that and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is.”

Trump later said on Twitter he would leave the NATO summit early and skip a closing news conference.


Britain’s Princess Royal Anne talks to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a reception on December 3, 2019.

Yui Mok/Pool via REUTERS

At a news conference Wednesday, Trudeau explained he was talking to Macron and Johnson in the video about Trump’s announcement earlier in the day that the next G7 summit in June would be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

“Last night, I made a reference to the fact there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with president Trump, I was happy to take part in it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau told reporters.

“We were all surprised and I think pleased to learn that the next G7 will be at Camp David, I think that was an unscheduled announcement and … I think every different leader has teams who every now and then their jaws drop at unscheduled surprises, like that video itself for example,”

Trudeau said he did not believe the video would come back to haunt Canada.

“The relationship with the United States is extremely strong and I have a very good relationship with the president and his team,” he said.


Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, departsafter speaking to reporters at the NATO summit on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The video was shot by the British host’s pool camera during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.

Snippets of the conversation involving Trudeau, Princess Anne, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands rose above the din and were captured in the short video.

“Is that why you were late?” a smiling Johnson asks Macron in the 25-second clip.

“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau chimes in.

The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but hours before the reception, Trump had turned what were “expected to be brief photo opportunities” with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau into what The Washington Post described as “his own personal daytime cable show”.

In his meeting with Trudeau, Trump questioned the Canadian prime minister about how much his country spends on its own defence. Canada does not meet NATO’s target for member countries to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their militaries.

“What are you at? What is your number?” Trump asked.


President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greet each other at the NATO summit at the Grove Hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Trudeau tried to evade answering directly, saying: “The number we talk about is a 70% increase over these past years. We are increasing significantly our defence spending from previous governments that cut it.”

But Trump followed up. “Okay, where are you now, in terms of your number?”

After some discussion with an aide, Trudeau answered: “1.4.”

Trump said on Wednesday that he had called out Trudeau for failing to meet the 2% target for national output on defence.

By early Wednesday, the Tuesday video had been watched nearly 5 million times.

Others quickly noticed that a member of the royal family was also involved in the exchange, identifying Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, by her distinctive hair.

Earlier in the evening, Anne was seen in another viral video appearing to shrug off a “scolding” from the Queen for not joining the royal receiving line to greet the president and first lady.

Trump on Tuesday did not publicly address the Trudeau video, only tweeting early Wednesday morning that he “enjoyed” his post-reception meeting with Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where the pair “talked about numerous subjects including @NATO and Trade.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

By Tuesday afternoon, Johnson claimed at a news conference that he had not been party to any discussion about Trump.

“That’s complete nonsense, and I don’t know where that has come from,” he said. “I really don’t know what is being referred to there.”

When Trudeau arrived at the summit early Wednesday, he walked briskly by reporters and did not answer shouted questions regarding his remarks allegedly about Trump.

Later, as leaders sat down for their meeting, Trudeau could be seen going over to Trump and shaking his hand politely. The two men said something quickly to each other, then Trudeau walked away.

The video had prompted concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president would react.

“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.

“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”

Trump has long bridled at the idea of other world leaders poking fun at the United States.

“The world is laughing at us,” he said frequently during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing the leadership of President Barack Obama.

In June 2017, when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Trump said that “we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be. They won’t be.”

In 2018, after laughter broke out at the United Nations General Assembly when Trump claimed his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the president insisted that he was not the target.

“They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me,” he said.

While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.

The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Chris Rands, a producer at the CBC’s Parliamentary news bureau in Ottawa, said he had first unearthed the video while searching for images of Trudeau in footage from Buckingham Palace.

Rands added that based on his listening, Trudeau was discussing Trump’s surprise announcement that a Group of 7 summit meeting next June would be held at CampDavid rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

Meanwhile, social media was flooded with reactions.

Some viewers were shocked to witness the leaders seeming to act like “mean girls,” as one person put it.

“Oh my God,” a Twitter user wrote. “This is quite something,” another person opined.

With files from The Canadian Press, Washington Post, New York Times and Bloomberg News






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