Tag Archives: change

Minneapolis struggles to change policing as officer’s trial set to begin

A police officer’s trial in the death of George Floyd is about to pull a spotlight back to the place that launched conversations around the world about policing and racial equity: Minneapolis.

Opening arguments Monday in the murder and manslaughter trial of officer Derek Chauvin will return this city to the news and prompt scrutiny over whether policing has actually changed since last year.

Justice-reform advocate Billie Jean Van Knight was blunt in her assessment of how far Minneapolis has gotten in terms of changing policing in her city.

“Nowhere,” says the activist with the Racial Justice Network. “Unfortunately, we have not changed. We’ve actually stepped back a little bit.” 

A headline-grabbing vow last year from city officials to disband the Minneapolis police department has quietly dissolved. Talk of defunding the police has been replaced by the funding to hire new officers, amid a flood of personnel departures, with a surge in violent crime unfolding in the backdrop.

At the federal level, reform efforts have lost steam. Yet, despite all this, several activists say they remain hopeful, including Van Knight, as numerous reform initiatives persist in cities across the country — including in Minneapolis where there’s talk of a referendum this fall on reorganizing the role of police.

Knight likened the current situation in Minneapolis to the cleaning of a messy room: Sometimes, she says, the mess gets worse before it gets better.

Members of the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, seen here marching with relatives of those killed by the police carrying cardboard coffins at a protest last fall, say they provide security and act as a liaison between police and a skeptical community. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s certainly been a messy year.

How crime surge led to ‘re-fund’ the police

In the tumultuous aftermath of Floyd’s death, a majority of the local city council supported defunding and dismantling the police force. 

That’s not what happened. Instead what happened was a city budget cut of $ 8 million, followed by a $ 6.4 million boost in funding to recruit more police officers. 

The rush to recruit was prompted by an exodus of officers — nearly one-quarter of the force is gone, after veterans retired or took leave.

In the meantime, homicides were up more than one-third in major U.S. cities last year, according to analysis from the Council on Criminal Justice, a non-partisan criminal justice think-tank, and criminologists have attributed that to twin factors: the pandemic and a breakdown in communication between communities and police.

When asked where police-reform efforts have gotten since last year, activist Billie Jean Van Knight says: “Nowhere.” Yet, like several others interviewed here, she’s optimistic change is coming. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

That mistrust was underscored in Minneapolis just a few days ago. A crowd gathered around police during a carjacking arrest, and an officer was recorded punching a teenager at the scene, which prompted the department to launch an investigation.

Minneapolis has still taken some steps in changing. 

Chokeholds were banned. An African-American officer who once sued the department for racial discrimination became the new police chief. A police union boss who was vocally antagonistic toward past reforms retired early.

And even if municipal leaders now dodge talk about defunding, they’re still talking about wide-ranging structural change.

Reforms still happening

An example of one such effort is a possible referendum in this November’s municipal election where residents might be asked to reorder the city charter.

The police would be stripped of its departmental status and be placed under a new public safety department; police would be recognized as just one component of public safety, alongside mobile units of mental-health professionals.

Philippe Cunningham, a 33-year-old city councillor, says reimagining public safety was always going to be hard work and that city officials never expected it would be simple.

A Minneapolis Police officer seen at a crime scene last year. A flood of officers left the force last year, amid heavy scrutiny and civil unrest. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“If we had the easy answers, it would have already been done now,” Cunningham said. “What we fundamentally need is a new system of public safety that doesn’t 100 per cent rely on an armed police officer to show up to every need people have.”

But one longtime former councillor and public-safety official says he was flabbergasted that elected officials initially embraced talk last year of defunding the police.

Don Samuels called it irresponsible and naive.

Despite being a well-known figure in the Black community, and living in a Black neighbourhood, Samuels said he didn’t hear anything in the way of consultation — and when he first heard about it on TV, he couldn’t believe his ears.

‘We looked at each other aghast’

“My wife and I sat on our sofa and watched CNN and saw them announce the defunding of the police,” said Samuels, who now runs an organization that provides small loans to low-income people. 

“We looked at each other with our mouths open, aghast.”

Former city councillor Don Samuels says the pledge to defund the police was hastily made and made his neighbourhood more dangerous. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Samuels said public officials should have considered how their words might be interpreted by criminals and the effect that might have in communities.

Just a few days ago, he said, he heard six separate bursts of gunfire over the course of about nine hours; 20 rounds popping one time, 10 pops another, with bullet holes left in houses and cars around his place.

A few months ago, someone was shot about eight houses up from his home in North Minneapolis, and another person was shot just around the corner.  

“We knew that as a result of this the [criminals] around here would become so emboldened,” Samuels said.

“They [already] feel like this is their territory, wearing a red bandana or a blue bandana, to suggest one gang or another. And it’s like, ‘We own this street.’

“So now you’re telling them, ‘Actually, now, we’re going to remove the only restraint on your behaviour’ — which is the police.”

An IT worker by day, Charles, who would not give his last name, carries licensed weapons for what he says is an effort to ensure community safety on behalf of the group Minnesota Freedom Fighters. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Samuels chalks it down, in part, to youthful naivete from idealistic young members of council; he agrees, however, that police reform is desperately needed. 

He said what’s also needed is broader societal change, including to an education system he calls riddled with racism. 

Nationwide, schools in richer areas tend to receive more funding through property taxes. Those schools, and those areas, tend to be whiter. In Minneapolis, both the city and the schools are highly segregated by race.

Few expect imminent solutions from the national level.

Change happening locally

Reform efforts in Washington appear stalled in the way so many other issues have faltered there: with partisan gridlock. 

Democrats stalled a Republican police-reform bill they called insufficient last year, and Republicans aren’t backing Democrats’ proposals, such as officer immunity from lawsuits, which leaves little hope of major reform getting the 60 per cent required for a vote in the Senate.

WATCH | Changes to policing in Minneapolis have been slow:

In the 10 months since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the city struggles to change policing and some have little hope Derek Chauvin’s murder trial will change much. 2:30

One advocate for dramatic change said he isn’t looking to Washington. But he’s visiting multiple cities a month, and excited about many ideas he’s heard from local officials.

“That’s where my focus is — [the local level],” says Alex Vitale, a professor at Brooklyn College and author of The End Of Policing

A number of jurisdictions are studying new models of public safety, and potentially shifting responsibilities from police — that’s the sweeping approach Vitale favours. 

Others are studying narrower reforms to policing, like better training — which Vitale calls insufficient, based on past studies, and a “PR stunt.”

Chauvin, in a courtroom sketch, is seen being introduced to potential jurors during jury selection earlier this month. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

Already, Austin, Texas, has reallocated some funds from the police budget to support housing for homeless people. 

Denver now has non-police officers dealing with mental-health crises. Los Angeles is shifting funding to social services and jail-diversion programs. Oakland is dissolving a policing unit that works in schools.

“There have been some small but significant changes to the scope of policing,” Vitale said in an interview. 

As for Minneapolis, he says: “I think it’s going to have some radical changes. It just takes time.” 

First, there’s the Chauvin trial. 

The case is fraying nerves locally about the verdict, how people will react, and how it might affect reform.

Armed group ready to defend neighbourhoods

One armed group of mostly Black volunteers with legal firearms permits is on alert, ready to patrol areas struck by vandals last year.

A man who works in information technology and volunteers with the group — the Minnesota Freedom Fighters — says he’s ready with his Glock 34 handgun and a Glock 19 with an extra magazine.

Charles, who declined to have his last name published, said people don’t trust the police and his group acts as a go-between, responding to calls, communicating with law enforcement, and patrolling at risk-areas to deter property destruction.

A number of businesses remain boarded up from last year, even if they’re operating inside. 

Toussaint Morrison, an actor and community activist in Minneapolis, says anxiety and tension are building in advance of the trial. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

As he walked with CBC News down West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, Charles expressed his fear: “They might go after this corridor again.” 

One community activist, Toussaint Morrison, said the upcoming case feels like a trial about racial attitudes and American society as a whole, and not just about one officer.

“There’s just an anxiety and a tension that’s been brewing,” Morrison said.

So this community is acutely aware that the world is watching it again. And that others will draw inferences from what happens, not just inside the courtroom.

“We know that we are the centre of attention right now,” Van Knight said.

“And if we don’t get these things done, how are we going to expect other people to to get these things done?”

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CBC | World News

George Floyd murder trial tests how much — if anything — will change in U.S.

Bishop Richard Howell Jr. thundered from his North Minneapolis pulpit Sunday that the city “is under great stress right now” as the George Floyd murder trial tests how much, if anything, will change in the U.S. almost 10 months after the killing sparked global outrage.

Jury selection for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, whose knee pressing on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes was captured on graphic video last May, is expected to get underway Monday.

“This officer coldly refused to respond to his plea and kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, snuffing the very life out of him,” preached Howell as his congregants shouted out their acknowledgement.

“A senseless, cold, hideous act of hate, bigotry and brutality,” said Howell, who is opening his church to those who may struggle watching the live-streamed trial.

WATCH | Security high in advance of trial in George Floyd’s killing:

Emotions are high and security is heavy as the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is slated to begin. The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, touched off numerous protests and an ongoing racial reckoning. 3:37

Benjamin Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, told CBC News that the upcoming case is “one of the most important civil rights cases in the last 100 years. It is the Emmett Till of today.”

Till, a 14-year-old Black teenager, was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman in a grocery store. His killers were swiftly acquitted.

“Mississippi or Minnesota, I don’t see much difference,” Deborah Watts, one of Till’s cousins, said at a Minneapolis news conference on Friday surrounded by dozens of families whose relatives have been shot or killed by police. “Emmett Till was murdered in August 1955, and we are still fighting for justice.

“Something is wrong with that … we have not made much progress.”

Last summer, millions of people protested across the U.S. against Floyd’s killing in scenes not witnessed since the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Protests against racial injustice and police brutality spread to Canada and many cities internationally.

WATCH | Lawyer for George Floyd’s family discusses upcoming trial:

Benjamin Crump tells CBC’s Susan Ormiston that if the officer’s involved in George Floyd’s killing aren’t convicted, it would be ‘one of the worst miscarriages of justice’ in U.S. history. 1:59

Crump said the video of Floyd — handcuffed, face down on the pavement, gasping for breath — is “ocular proof” of a man being “tortured to death by the very people who are supposed to protect and defend.”

“The world had gotten used to seeing reality TV, but we were still shocked,” he told CBC News from his office in Tallahassee, Fla.

The criminal trial against Chauvin will be prosecuted by the state of Minnesota. While Crump is not directly involved in this case, its outcome will inevitably impact the family’s civil case against the city of Minneapolis and the four police officers involved in Floyd’s death.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, with the potential addition of a third-degree murder charge. Three other officers involved in Floyd’s death go on trial in August.

Increased security around courthouse

Cameras in the courtroom will capture the trial and live stream it for broadcast on some TV channels — a first for Minnesota. The trial is being compared to that of the Los Angeles police officers who were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King 30 years ago, as well as the O.J. Simpson murder trial, which commanded large TV audiences.

“The killing of George Floyd by Officer Chauvin is akin for many Americans to some type of public lynching, the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades,” said Kami Chavis, a law professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

“I don’t want people to underestimate the power and the importance of this case and what might happen,” she said. “It’s a huge signal, I think, to law enforcement about what they can and can’t do.”

The Hennepin County courthouse and many federal buildings in Minneapolis are barricaded and surrounded by concertina wire ahead of the trial. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

The Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis is now surrounded by three rings of cement barriers, three-metre high fencing and concertina wire. The state has allocated $ 36 million US to security and has activated the Minnesota National Guard. Staff in the building, which includes the county government office, have been told to stay home.

The courtroom has been modified to accommodate physical distancing due to COVID-19, restricting the number of people allowed inside. One person per family, four each for the defence and prosecution teams and two media members are allowed in at a time. Masks are mandatory, but cannot have anything written on them. 

Challenges in selecting a jury

Three weeks have been allotted to jury selection as lawyers try to screen potential jurors for bias, a complicated task in such a highly publicized case.

Activists in Minneapolis say Chauvin is the fourth police officer to be prosecuted in the death of a citizen in Minnesota. Two were acquitted, while one other was convicted in the death of a white woman.

“For the most part, officers are pretty sympathetic figures in a lot of these cases. And juries give a great deal of deference to what police officers do. So that will be a challenge as well,” Chavis said.

The courtroom for Chauvin’s trial has been modified to allow for physical distancing due to COVID-19. (Hennepin County)

One of those acquittals involved the death of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by police in July 2016 in a St. Paul suburb while stopped at a traffic light with his girlfriend and a four-year-old in the car. The officer, who was charged with second-degree manslaughter, was acquitted — but fired from the force.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, sent a message to legislators during Friday’s emotional news conference.

“We’re gonna have to be brutally honest about what’s going on in this country”, she said. “To the State of Minnesota: we are not going to shut up, we are not going to sit down, we are going to stand in unity and we’re going to bring it to you”.

‘Many other people were murdered before George Floyd’

The death of Floyd, who was originally from Texas, has propelled the fight against anti-Black racism and police brutality back into the forefront.. Artwork of the 46-year-old’s face has popped up on billboards, buildings and in museums, and his death has become a lightning rod for thousands of Black families whose relatives have been stopped, shot or killed by police in their communities.

“What happened after George Floyd’s death — the riots, the uproar — did not happen as a result of one man’s life. It happened because many other people were murdered before George Floyd. And nothing happened. Nothing changed”, Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, told CBC News.

Garraway’s fiancé, Justin Teigen, died following a run-in with police 12 years ago. According to St. Paul police, Teigen was fleeing police and did not die in their custody.

A mural showing his face along with dozens of others, including Floyd’s, covers the side of a building in North Minneapolis. It serves as a visual reminder of the more than 400 people who’ve been killed in altercations with police in Minnesota in the last 20 years, according to the Communities United Against Police Brutality advocacy group.

“If George Floyd did something wrong, if all the rest of our loved ones did something wrong, [police] were to arrest them. Not take their lives, not destroy our lives,” Garraway said.

Toshira Garraway, who founded Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, stands in front of a mural of Minnesotans who have died after police encounters. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Crump said the Floyd family is “very, very anxious” and wants “a conviction to the fullest extent of the law.” He said anything less has the potential to unleash more unrest.

Violence and riots last summer in the days after Floyd’s killing burned blocks of the city, with damage estimated at $ 350 million US. Minneapolis is bracing against heightened tensions when the case goes to the jury, which is expected to happen late April or May.

“Historically in America, the police have not been held accountable for killing African Americans,” said Crump, who has taken on dozens of cases where Black men and women have been shot or injured by police.

“The George Floyd case will be a referendum on how far America has come in this quest for equal justice under the law.”

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CBC | World News

How approval of Johnson & Johnson’s ‘one and done’ COVID-19 vaccine could change Canada’s vaccination game

A one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for use in Canada — and vaccine experts say the shot from Johnson & Johnson could give a major boost to countrywide vaccination efforts while offering a “real solution” to hasten the end of the pandemic.

Health Canada authorized its use and released details during a Friday morning announcement.

The vaccine, made by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is a non-replicating viral vector option and, unlike the three other vaccines previously approved for Canadian use, was tested during clinical trials as a single shot. 

So far, Canada is expecting 10 million doses, with options to purchase up to 28 million more if necessary, with most of those shots set to arrive by the end of September.

From a logistical standpoint, Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the benefits are clear.

“You can vaccinate more people in a shorter period of time,” he said. “You don’t have to clog up the vaccine centres with people getting their second dose — it’s one and done.”

The storage requirements are also less stringent than the early freezer requirements for the two mRNA-based vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, with Johnson & Johnson estimating its single-dose option should remain stable for two years at -20° C — and can be stored for at least three months in most standard refrigerators.

Wondering how each of the leading coronavirus vaccines compares? Click here for a closer look at the vaccines Canada is betting on to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“You can way more easily get a vaccine like this into primary care clinics and pharmacies, which means that you can distribute it so much more broadly,” said Bogoch, who is also a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force.

That’s good news in this country and beyond, said Dr. Zain Chagla, a Hamilton-based infectious disease specialist and professor at McMaster University.

“In remote areas of Canada, it’s a big vaccine in that sense that it’s easy to transport and get around, and it’s big for the rest of the world,” he said. 

“This is a vaccine that could go into mass vaccine clinics in low- and middle-income countries that could be stored on the back of a motorcycle to make it into a very, very remote setting. That is very, very different than anything we have in that sense.”

WATCH | J&J vaccine good for less accessible, marginalized communities, doctor says:

As a single dose COVID-19 vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson product will be especially helpful for people who sometimes have difficulty accessing health care, says Dr. Lisa Bryski, a retired ER doctor in Winnipeg. 1:23

85% effective at stopping severe disease

But where the vaccine excels at convenience, it may fall short on overall efficacy — though there are a lot of factors at play, and it’s crucial to note the shot is proving highly effective at reducing cases of serious illness.

According to February briefing documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Johnson & Johnson’s shot was both safe and effective in clinical trials, where it reduced the risk of COVID-19 and prevented PCR-test confirmed cases at least 14 days after vaccination.

A month earlier, the company had announced its vaccine was 66 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 against multiple variants in a global trial involving nearly 44,000 people.

That effectiveness varied from 72 per cent in the United States to 66 per cent in Latin America and 57 per cent in South Africa, where a new variant has spread.

In January, Johnson & Johnson announced its vaccine was 66 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 against multiple variants in a global trial involving nearly 44,000 people. (Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

That’s in contrast to the even more powerful protection witnessed in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which showed efficacy levels — in terms of preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection — of 94 per cent and 95 per cent respectively after two doses.

Those trials, however, took place before the rise of several concerning variants of this virus. Each company also tested for slightly different outcomes, meaning the efficacy levels aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons.

On Friday, Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco likened it to comparing the scores of golfers who teed off during a calm moment to those who teed off when “winds were howling.”

“While it’s hard to make precise adjustment,” he said in a tweet, “it’s clear that equally good play will result in different scores.”

WATCH | Doctor who helped create Johnson & Johnson vaccine talks about its efficacy:

Dr. Dan Barouch, director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine he helped to create is highly effective against COVID-19 and new variants of concern. 5:11

Crucially, Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose option did prove 85 per cent effective overall when it came to stopping severe cases of the disease specifically.

The company’s main study also showed that 28 days or more after vaccination, the shot 100 per cent prevented hospitalizations and deaths.

“I think people discount how much practicality means to this vaccine rollout,” Chagla said. “You do see severe illness going down with this vaccine. You see hospitalizations coming down with this vaccine.”

One-dose could offer ‘real solution’

Virologist and vaccinologist Alyson Kelvin, who is working on Canadian COVID-19 vaccine development at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac research institute, said for all vaccine developers, a safe and effective single-dose option has been the ultimate goal.

“Because people will be more interested in taking a vaccine if they don’t have to go back for their second shot, and which means that a vaccine will be more effective at getting to that community immunity that we need,” she said.

Like Chagla, she’s not alarmed by a slightly lower overall efficacy level.

“The goal of the vaccine is to protect people. Keeping them out of hospitals, keeping them from succumbing to disease,” she said.

And Chagla stressed that ultimately, this one-dose option could offer a “real solution” that helps countries like Canada tackle this year-long pandemic and alleviate the current burden on the health-care system from a virus that’s still widespread.

“It may not be the final strategy for vaccination,” he said. “But it’s a pretty good ‘right now’ strategy for vaccination.”

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CBC | Health News

Trudeau, Biden pledge to work together on climate change and freeing detainees in China

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden emerged from their meeting today promising a new tone in Canada-U.S. relations to help the two countries tackle key issues such as climate change, the imprisonment of two Canadians in China and the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“The president and I discussed the ambitious new partnership roadmap, based on shared values and priorities, that will guide our countries’ work together over the coming years,” Trudeau said.

“In the face of COVID-19, of climate change, of rising inequality, this is our moment to act. So we’re not wasting any time in getting down to work. Job one remains keeping people safe and ending this pandemic,” he added. 

Biden stressed the importance of tackling the pandemic but also spoke about working with Canada to influence other countries to step up their game on global challenges such as climate change.

“We also doubled down on our efforts to tackle climate change. It was really really encouraging,” Biden said. “Now that the United States is back in the Paris agreement, we intend to demonstrate our leadership in order to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions.

WATCH | Trudeau and Biden commit to collaboration on climate change, freeing detainees:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden held their first bilateral talks on Tuesday, committing to work together on climate change and building the economy back up after the pandemic. 2:36

“Canada and United States are going to work in lockstep to display the seriousness of our commitment at both home abroad,” the president said.

A key part of that effort, Biden said, would be working to align the two countries’ climate goals to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Biden also reaffirmed his administration’s pledge to help Canada secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been imprisoned in China for the past two years. 

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in December 2018 shortly after Huawei telecom executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested by Canadian officials while she was changing planes in Vancouver. Meng was arrested on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei’s control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said. “We’re going to work together to get their safe return. Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedoms.”

Biden said the two countries also agreed to better coordinate their approach toward China to protect against threats to both countries’ interests and values.

Building back better

Trudeau said the two leaders agreed to work together to help create “well-paying jobs and to help people who have been hardest hit get back on their feet.” Biden said the two leaders would work to ensure that the post-pandemic recovery benefits all genders and people of colour.

“That’s especially important because we know this pandemic is not affecting everyone the same way. Women are dropping out of the workforce at alarming rates …  Black, Latino and natives are also, and other minorities are particularly hard hit,” the president said. 

Biden said he and Trudeau spoke of working together on a range of other challenges, such as stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, encouraging multilateral institutions to promote transparency, strengthening supply chain security and to modernizing NORAD.

A “road map” released after the meeting said the leaders have directed their ministers of foreign affairs and national defence and, on the U.S. side, the secretaries of state and defence “to meet in a two+two ministerial format to further coordinate … joint contributions to collective security.”

Those meetings will effectively be a series of government-to-government negotiations over the future of NORAD, the modernization of which could cost upwards of $ 11 billion; with 40 per cent of that bill being picked up by Canada. 

WATCH | Biden, Trudeau, Harris, Freeland deliver opening remarks at virtual meeting:

U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland share opening remarks ahead of their virtual meeting. 9:23

Fighting climate change

Before the meeting with Biden, Trudeau said it’s good to once again be working with an administration that is serious about fighting climate change.

“Thank you again for stepping up in such a big way on tackling climate change,” Trudeau said today before going into the virtual meeting.

“U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years, and I have to say, as we’re preparing the joint rollout and communique from this one, it’s nice the Americans are not pulling out all references to climate change and instead adding them in. So we’re really excited to be working with you on that.”

Trudeau said he has been looking forward to sitting down with Biden to discuss renewing the Canada-U.S. diplomatic relationship and getting both countries through the pandemic.

Biden, who spoke first during the brief pre-meeting appearance, said he was looking forward to working with Canada to tackle the pandemic and the economic recovery. The president also said he looked forward to discussing both nations’ approaches to tackling climate change, refugees and migration, and standing up for democratic values at home and on the global stage.

“As leaders of the major democracies, we have a responsibility to prove that democracy can still deliver for our people. There are a lot of leaders around the world who are trying to make the argument that autocracy works better,” Biden said. 

“Equity for everybody, ensuring the benefits of growth are shared broadly, that’s how we are going to win the battle for the future.”

WATCH | The full, closing remarks from Biden and Trudeau:

U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau share closing remarks after their virtual meeting. 10:52

Biden told Trudeau that both countries need to get the pandemic under control as soon as possible, and that he was looking forward to seeing Trudeau in person in the future.

“The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada. That’s why you were my first call as president, my first bilateral meeting and of course my vice president spent some time living up in Montréal for high school,” Biden said, adding that the communication channels between Canada and the U.S. are “wide open.”

Trudeau said the meeting will address ways the allies can work together to ensure a post-pandemic economic recovery.

“We’re also going to dig into the recovery, how we move forward on creating good jobs for Canadians and Americans, strengthening the middle class, helping those working hard to join it. As we move forward, there’s a lot to rebuild,” Trudeau said.

Plan for renewed partnership

Tuesday evening the two leaders released their five-page road map for co-operation, saying in a joint statement a revitalized partnership is necessary to “overcome the daunting challenges of today and realize the full potential of the relationship into the future.”

The document covers the same areas as the leaders’ closing statements, but with much more specifics about where the two countries would co-operate. 

On battling the pandemic, it said Biden and Trudeau agreed “on the importance of a transparent and independent evaluation and analysis, free from interference, of the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

It also said the two countries would co-ordinate their approach to reopening the Canada-U.S. border “based on science and public health criteria.”

On climate, both leaders have agreed to partner with Indigenous-led conservation efforts and to safeguard the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds important to the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit peoples, culture and livelihood. 

On the issue of diversity and inclusion the road map says both leaders agreed to direct their law enforcement agencies to modernize their approaches to policing to address systemic racism and discrimination. 

They also agreed to promoting gender equality, arguing that “empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to eradicating poverty and building a more peaceful, more inclusive, and more prosperous world.”

WATCH | U.S. congressman wants border open by July 4:

Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins told Power & Politics that, with vaccines on the horizon, he’d like to see U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau work toward opening the U.S.-Canada border by the Fourth of July. 2:24

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CBC | World News

How the spread of coronavirus variants could completely change the pandemic in Canada 

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

More contagious strains of the coronavirus have rapidly spread to more than 50 countries around the world, raising concerns that they may already be silently driving spikes in cases in Canada that threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system. 

Variants recently identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil are transmitting much more easily than the original strain, with the first estimated to be at least 56 per cent more transmissible.

But while early research shows the variants don’t necessarily lead to an increase in severe illness, health experts are growing more concerned about the effect the more transmissible variants could have on our already strained hospitals.

“We’re already at a breaking point,” said Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. 

“It’s happening at a time when the system’s already stressed to the point of potentially being overwhelmed.”

Paramedics transport a patient to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, the day that Ontario entered a state of emergency. Health experts are growing increasingly concerned about the effect the more transmissible variants could have on our already strained hospitals. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dr. Eric Topol, a U.S. physician, scientist and clinical trials expert who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, said he’s “deeply concerned” about the spread of the new variants globally. 

“If a strain is more infectious, substantially more, that means more deaths, more hospitalizations, more ‘long COVID,'” he told CBC News. 

“We keep hearing it doesn’t cause worse illness. Well, it doesn’t have to — it just causes more people to have that same illness.”

Topol said the variant first found in the U.K., also known as B117, exhibits changes in the spike protein — a key component of how the coronavirus binds to human cells. He said that those changes are likely behind its higher transmission, with the altered spike protein potentially allowing the coronavirus to infect cells more easily.

“A virus that was substantially more fit to infect more people was the last thing we needed right now, and we’ve got it and it’s not going away,” he said.

“The only thing we can do is slow its spread.” 

How bad is the situation with variants in Canada?

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday officials “continue to monitor” the spread of the variants in Canada, with at least 25 known cases to date.

Ontario has already identified 14 cases of B117, three of which have no known link to international travel. That prompted concerns from officials it could already be driving spread more than detected in hard-hit regions of the province. 

“If that’s confirmed, we have evidence then of community transmission and that is a very serious concern that the vaccine will not be able to address quickly enough,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said this week. “It’s very likely that we have more that we’re not aware of.” 

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said if B117 continues to spread in Ontario the rate of new cases could rise to “scary,” “almost near-vertical” levels. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time we prove that there is community transmission definitively, it’s already spread like wildfire,” said Hota. “It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Brown added the variant could already be driving “a very dramatic growth in cases” in certain parts of the province, similar to the way it did in the United Kingdom despite strict public health restrictions. 

WATCH | Ontario issues stay-at-home order amid dire COVID-19 projections:

Ontario’s latest modelling data has painted a dire picture and prompted a provincewide stay-at-home order. But in many long-term care homes and ICUs, it may already be too late. 2:57

“What we’re detecting is likely only the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont. “We absolutely cannot discount the possibility that it is here and it’s already having some kind of influence on the spread.”

British Columbia identified its first case of the variant first found in South Africa on Thursday, in addition to four previously discovered cases of B117.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday officials are investigating how the latest case became infected with the variant, due to the fact that they also had no known link to travel. 

“It is, of course, concerning we don’t know where this arose,” she said, signalling the variants could be spreading more widely in the community.

Five cases of B117 have also been confirmed in Alberta, along with one case of the variant first discovered in South Africa, but officials say all of those cases are travel-related.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said during a press conference Thursday that the mutation of the coronavirus is “normal” and that the “emergence of variants is not unusual or unexpected.” 

WATCH | WHO says new U.K. studies confirm variant of COVID-19 more transmissible:

The World Health Organization says a third round of U.K. studies related to a variant of the coronavirus in Britain confirms it is more transmissible and also that infected people have a higher viral load than with the original virus. 1:59

He added that while Canada initially stopped all flights from the UK over fears the variant could spread here, that ban was lifted last week in favour of mandating all travellers into the country present a negative COVID-19 test.

On Friday, scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released modelling data that warned by March, B117 could become the dominant strain in the United States.

Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair of emerging viruses, said he’s concerned Canada may be unprepared for cases of the variant increasing “underneath the surface.”

“We can’t judge when there’s going to be that sudden rise,” he said. 

“You get a sense of the storm that could be coming and you’re watching that tsunami warning getting louder and louder — we need to be ready for this.” 

A person wearing a face mask walking in Vancouver on Wednesday. B.C. has identified four cases of the variant B117 first found in the United Kingdom, and one of the variant identified in South Africa. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Kindrachuk says the fact B117 took over as a main circulating strain in Ireland, England and Denmark in just a matter of weeks is “gravely concerning” for Canada because of the risk it could spread more widely here.

“The increases in cases we’re seeing right now are already concerning, but that’s not due to the variants,” he said. “So what happens when the variants start to take hold in different regions?” 

Saskatchewan is the only province that currently says all of its COVID-19 testing will detect the B117 variant, while other provinces said that they only send positive test samples for further scrutiny if the context warrants.

“We’re not necessarily picking up on the cases of the known variants,” said Hota. “There may be other variants that are evolving as well under our noses.” 

“The bottom line is, you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where by the time you have that information, it’s already your dominant strain.”

While efforts are underway to find a quicker way to test for variants, the current “deep sequencing” required is both expensive and time consuming — taking days to over a week to get results, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont.

What can be done to prevent the spread of variants? 

While many of the public health guidelines recommended to stop the spread of the coronavirus are thought to be effective against the variants, experts say we should be doubling down on them and avoiding risky situations. 

“Think of it this way, we don’t need to do more of the same — we need to do better of the same,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC told CBC News. “It’s all about limiting risk.”

Physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene and avoiding crowds are all effective, but Frieden says people should also reduce their time spent indoors with those they don’t live with, wear better quality masks such as N95s or surgical masks and have as few in-person interactions with others as possible.  

WATCH | What scientists know about the new coronavirus variant (Jan. 8):

The B1-17 coronavirus variant, first discovered in the U.K., is now in at least 40 countries, including Canada. It has 23 mutations, including one that attaches to healthy cells like a key going into a lock. 1:56

Frieden said that means, if possible, spending a few minutes in the grocery store to pick up essential items, or ordering online, as opposed to going in for an extended period to shop. 

“In the past, with the earlier strain it was harder to get infected with it — you might have been in the same room, you might have been the same distance, and you would have evaded it,” said Topol. “But now, this has a more aggressive ability to infect.” 

Former CDC head Dr. Tom Frieden says people should spend only a few minutes in the grocery store to pick up essential items, or order online, as opposed to going in for an extended period to shop. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Frieden said at a population level, countries like Canada should focus on vaccinating as many people as they can as quickly as possible — especially older age groups and long-term care residents.

“Vaccines are enormously important. They’re the single most powerful tool that we have,” he said, “but a vaccination program is going to take a long time to go out.” 

“The more we don’t take precautions, the more we can see explosive exponential spread.”

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CBC | Health News

Will the Queen meet any of her family outside at Christmas? How royal festive traditions change with the times

Hello, royal watchers. This is your regular dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.

For the past few years, there has been much anticipation before Christmas over how members of the Royal Family would come together to mark the festive season.

Amid rumours of rifts involving Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, public appearances at Christmas became an opportunity to try to suss out the true nature of royal relationships. Maybe a sideways glance during a walk to church would indicate who was getting along — or not — with whom?

Such glimpses might not come anywhere close to revealing much of anything, but the interest was there.

It is still there, even in this year turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, complete with the recommended abandonment of large family get-togethers — royal or otherwise — over the holidays.

Queen Elizabeth has decided she and Prince Philip will mark Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle — where they have been living in virtual isolation for most of the pandemic — rather than with the large family gathering that has taken place over Christmas at her Sandringham estate northeast of London for more than three decades.

New, stricter pandemic restrictions announced Saturday that cover the area around Windsor could mean further changes to any plans some members of the Royal Family may have had for Christmas Day.

“Under these restrictions, individuals may meet with one person from another household outdoors, and there will be interest in whether one of the Queen’s children or grandchildren meets with her outside Windsor Castle at Christmas in accordance with these requirements,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author.

Kate, left, William, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, keep their physical distance as they thank volunteers and key workers at Windsor Castle on Dec. 8. (Richard Pohle/Getty Images)

Already there has been notable interest in another outdoor — and physically distanced — pre-Christmas meeting of some senior members of the family at Windsor Castle. 

The Queen stood outside, well apart from William and Kate, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as they thanked volunteers and workers from local charitable organizations.

It’s hardly the first time the Royal Family has altered its actions to accommodate the world around them.

“During times of crisis, the Royal Family adjusts their own routines to reflect the conditions experienced by the wider public,” said Harris.

In the Second World War, food was rationed at Buckingham Palace, even on formal occasions, when more modest meals were served to visitors — albeit still on the fancy china.

The announcement earlier this month of the Queen’s decision to mark Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle “just shows how … clear the palace [is] about understanding the nation, or particularly the Queen is, in her 95th year,” said British public relations expert Mark Borkowski, adding that the announcement was a further reflection of her ability to do “the right thing at the right time in the right way.”

William and Kate walk with their children, Prince Louis, left, Princess Charlotte and Prince George, on the red carpet — their first such appearance as a family — to attend a special pantomime performance in London on Dec. 11 to thank key workers and their families for their efforts throughout the pandemic. (Aaron Chown/Getty Images)

Harris said public interest in royal Christmas celebrations mirrors the interest in royal weddings and births — they’re milestones that average people also experience and ones that could provide “a glimpse of more personal moments.”

That was seen this year, she said, when William and Kate took their children to see a Christmas pantomime, and there was public curiosity about how Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis responded to the performance, and how their parents explained the jokes to them.

Watching how the royals celebrate Christmas goes back several generations.

Some of the traditions they followed then found favour with the wider public, especially during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria, when her husband, Prince Albert, brought his own traditions from Germany, particularly the Christmas tree.

Christmas trees had been in use during previous royal Christmases, but the unprecedented expansion of that era’s mass media helped to spread the word about what the royals were doing in the festive season. 

William and Kate sit with Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte at the pantomime performance. (Aaron Chown/Getty Images)

“An image in the London Illustrated News of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their children and Queen Victoria’s mother gathered around the Christmas tree provided a famous image of the royal Christmas, which was widely admired and emulated,” said Harris.

In that instance, there was also some royal image management going on in an attempt to counter public perception of the monarchy at the time.

“After the scandalous reigns of Queen Victoria’s uncles, George IV and William IV, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were determined to demonstrate that the monarchy was once again respectable and mirrored the prevailing middle-class views of the importance of domesticity and the home as a refuge from the concerns of the wider world,” said Harris.

Ready for his shot

Prince Charles, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, arrives to meet with workers at a vaccination centre in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Glouscestershire, England, on Thursday. (Chris Jackson/The Associated Press)

Prince Charles, who had COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, says he will get a vaccination against the coronavirus.

But he’s not expecting his shot will come any time soon.

His comments came Thursday as he and Camilla toured a vaccination centre in western England and met front-line health-care workers administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Charles chats with front-line workers administering and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. (Chris Jackson/The Associated Press)

“I think I’ll have to wait for the AstraZeneca one before it gets to my turn. I’m some way down the list,” Charles said, according to a report from ITV.

Speculation has swirled about whether or when his mother, the Queen, might also receive a coronavirus vaccine, with palace comments widely reported that she might let it be known once she and Prince Philip had received the shot.

Flash back more than six decades, to a time when the British government wanted members of the public to take another vaccine, and Elizabeth let it be known that Charles and his sister Anne had received shots to protect them against polio.

“As a result, public mood over the vaccine thawed and millions of others went on to take the drug, which the National Health Service said helped cases ‘fall dramatically,'” the Daily Express reported recently.

No formality here 

Zara and Mike Tindall attend the 2019 Magic Millions official draw at Surfers Paradise Foreshore on Jan. 8, 2019 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

When it comes time to declare another royal baby is on the way, the general modus operandi is a formal announcement from Buckingham Palace.

So it caught people’s attention and spawned headlines the other day when Mike Tindall, husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall, shared news via his sports podcast that they are expecting another child.

“Had a little scan last week, third Tindall on its way,” the former rugby player told the 150,000 weekly listeners of The Good, the Bad & the Rugby podcast. 

“Z is very good … obviously always careful because of things that have happened in the past. But so far, so good. Fingers crossed. I’d like a boy this time. I’ve got two girls, I would like a boy. I will love it whether it’s a boy or a girl, but please be a boy,” he said, holding up those crossed fingers and waving  in the podcast video.

“Things that have happened in the past” refers to two miscarriages Zara had between the birth of their elder daughter Mia, 6, and younger daughter, Lena, 2.

Zara Tindall and daughter Mia Tindall pose with Mike Tindall after he finished a quadrathlon on July 11, 2015, in Aberfeldy, Scotland. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

According to The Telegraph, the announcement was very much in keeping with the couple’s casual, down-to-earth manner, and their “reputation as the Royal Family’s most relatable couple.”

The baby will be the Queen’s 10th great-grandchild, and is the second royal birth expected in 2021. Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, are also expecting a child in the new year.

Royally quotable

“You just disappeared, all of you.”    

— Queen Elizabeth takes a technical glitch in stride during a virtual meeting with staff at the accounting giant KPMG, as it marked its 150th anniversary. The pandemic has led to numerous online firsts for the Queen, as she carries out duties remotely. Last week, she conducted her first diplomatic audience via a video call.

Queen Elizabeth speaks with, top row from left, Cheryl Valentine and John McCalla-Leacy, and bottom row from left, David McIntosh, Bill Michael and Jennifer Lee, during a virtual visit with KPMG staff to mark the firm’s 150th anniversary. (Royal Communications/The Associated Press)

Royal reads

  1. A three-day rail tour through the U.K. by William and Kate to meet and thank front-line pandemic workers ran into a lukewarm welcome in Scotland and Wales. [The Guardian]

  2. Harry and Meghan will host and produce podcasts as part of a deal the couple, now living in California, have made with the streaming service Spotify. [BBC]

  3. Netflix says it has “no plans” to include a disclaimer with The Crown to make it clear that the award-winning drama about Queen Elizabeth’s reign is a work of fiction. [Los Angeles Times]

  4. Christmas means Christmas cards, often including a happy family photo from the past year. For their 2020 festive mailing, Charles and Camilla are relaxing in their garden at their home in Scotland, while William and Kate are all smiles with their kids at their country home northeast of London. [BBC]

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CBC | World News

Cleveland MLB team to change name: reports

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will discontinue the use of the word “Indians” in the team’s name, according to the New York Times and ESPN. 

Citing three people familiar with the decision, the Times reported Sunday night that the team is moving away from a name considered racist for decades. The team has been internally discussing a potential name change for months.

CBC Sports has not independently confirmed the reports.

A team spokesman told The Associated Press the franchise has no immediate comment on the report.

The Times said the team could make a formal announcement later this week. It’s not known when the name change will take effect or if the team has settled on a new moniker.

Cleveland’s move follows a similar decision earlier this year by the NFL’s Washington Football Team, which was previously known as the Redskins.

In Canada, Edmonton’s Canadian Football League team announced in July it would discontinue the use of the word “Eskimo” in the team’s name.

For years, Native American groups and others have protested against Cleveland’s use of Indians as its name as well as other imagery used by the American League charter franchise founded in 1901. Last year, the team removed the contentious Chief Wahoo logo from its caps and jerseys, but the smiling, cartoonish mascot has remained popular and merchandise is still sold bearing its image.

The Indians have dealt with a backlash from fans upset over Chief Wahoo’s removal and the club is certain to hear more with the decision to change its name.

“Oh no! What is going on?” President Donald Trump tweeted. “This is not good news, even for ‘Indians.’ Cancel culture at work!”

In July, just hours after Washington’s plans became known after being pressured by several sponsors, including FedEx which holds naming rights to the football’s team’s stadium, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan released a statement saying the team would review “the best path forward with our team name.”

In the months since, the team has consulted players, front office members, coaching staff, community leaders, share holders and Native American groups.

A few days after Dolan’s statement, Indians manager Terry Francona said it was time to “move forward” with the name change.

“I’ve been thinking about it and been thinking about it before we put out that statement,” said Francona, who has been with the club since 2013. “I know in the past, when I’ve been asked about, whether it’s our name or the Chief Wahoo, I think I would usually answer and say I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful.

“And I still feel that way. But I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today. I think it’s time to move forward. It’s a very difficult subject. It’s also delicate.”

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CBC | Sports News

Justice Department finds no evidence of fraud that would change U.S. election result, Barr says

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Barr’s comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the Nov. 3 election was stolen and his refusal to concede his loss to president-elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. Barr was at the White House Tuesday afternoon for a previously scheduled meeting.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” he said.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as people in the U.S. feared going to the polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the presidential election was certified — despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.

That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around long-standing Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified.

Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.

Trump files lawsuit in Wisconsin

The Trump campaign’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence.

The legal team also responded to Barr’s comments, saying the Justice Department didn’t do enough to investigate voter fraud allegations.

They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed, including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence. Local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making similar unsupported claims.

U.S. President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin in a longshot attempt to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the battleground state. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

Most recently, Trump filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin on Tuesday seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two most Democratic counties, a longshot attempt to overturn Biden’s win in the battleground state that Trump lost by nearly 20,700 votes.

The president filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state’s 10 electoral college votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court, and order Evers to withdraw the certification.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Evers until 8:30 p.m. CT Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit, an unusually tight deadline that speaks to how quickly the court is likely to decide the case.

Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The electoral college is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14, and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.

WATCH | Trump says he’ll step down if electoral college votes for Biden:

U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time said he would leave the White House if Joe Biden is confirmed as president, even as he continued to insist, without evidence, ‘This election was a fraud.’ 4:31

Trump is not challenging any ballots cast in conservative counties he won. The Biden campaign issued a statement calling the lawsuit “completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground.”

“The hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites targeted by this lawsuit did nothing wrong,” Biden campaign spokesperson Nate Evans said. “They simply followed long-standing guidance from elections officials issued under the law.”

Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews, even though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he has still refused to admit he lost.

Special counsel appointed in Russia probe investigation

Barr has also given extra protection to the prosecutor he appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, giving him the authority of a special counsel to complete his work without being easily fired.

Barr told The Associated Press that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel in October under the same federal statute that governed special counsel Robert Mueller in the original Russia probe. He said Durham’s investigation has been narrowing to focus more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

The Russia investigations grew out of allegations of co-operation between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russians to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Barr also appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as special counsel and assigned him to keep investigating the origins of the U.S. government’s own probe into the role that Russia played in Trump’s 2016 election win. (U.S. Department of Justice/The Associated Press)

The current investigation, a criminal probe, had begun very broadly but has since “narrowed considerably” and now “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI,” Barr said. He said he expects Durham would detail whether any additional prosecutions will be brought and make public a report of the investigation’s findings.

Appointing Durham as a special counsel would mean that he could only be fired for very specific reasons under the law.

Under the regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons, such as misconduct, dereliction of duty, conflict of interest or other violations of Justice Department policies. An attorney general must document those reasons in writing.

The focus on the FBI, rather than the CIA and the intelligence community, suggests that Durham may have moved past some of the more incendiary claims that Trump supporters had hoped would yield allegations of misconduct, or even crimes — namely, the question of how intelligence agencies reached their conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

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Climate change creating major security threat for Brazil, military experts warn

Climate change will increase the burdens on Brazil’s armed forces and endanger the country’s energy and water security, military experts predicted Monday.

A group of senior military leaders said deforestation in the Amazon region could alter rainfall patterns in Brazil, hitting hydropower plants — the country’s major source of energy — and water supplies for major urban centres.

Brazil’s armed forces also could be stretched thin as they respond to an uptick in humanitarian crises caused by climate change in the country, the officials said in a report by the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

“Brazilian leaders should make climate change and counter-deforestation a security priority,” said Oliver-Leighton Barrett, the council’s liaison for the Americas, during an online presentation of the report.

Brazil is highly dependent on hydropower, with about 63 per cent of the country’s electricity coming from water-related sources, according to government data from 2019.

The country is also already struggling to cope with worsening drought, which helped drive fires that scorched 30 per cent of its vast western Pantanal wetlands this year.

Between 2014 and 2016, Brazil’s most populous state of Sao Paulo faced unprecedented water shortages that led to street protests.

“If it had gone much longer it would have been a major humanitarian crisis,” Barrett said of the Sao Paulo drought.

Military called in to help in humanitarian crises 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is an outspoken critic of efforts to curb climate change, and also has said he wants to develop the Amazon region to lift it out of poverty.

The president, a former army captain, has relied on Brazil’s military to alleviate humanitarian crises in the country and to monitor the Amazon, where deforestation has surged again after years of advances in cutting losses.

Deforested and burned area is seen in the municipality of Lábrea, Brazil in the south of the Amazon in August. (Sandro Pereira/Fotoarena/Sipa USA/The Associated Press)

The report said that whole military forces across Latin America are called in regularly to help with humanitarian crises, and “this will continue as climate change drives more disasters.”

The Amazon rainforest — the world’s largest tropical forest — is a major absorber of planet-heating carbon dioxide.

Its continuing loss threatens to accelerate global climate-related disasters — from worsening droughts, floods and storms to soaring temperatures and rising sea levels. 

Sustainability key for Amazon

To preserve the forest and protect Brazil’s water supplies, the country needs to develop the Amazon, but in a sustainable way, said Raul Jungmann, Brazil’s defence minister from 2016 to 2018.

Brazil’s armed forces are conservationists, he said — but they see protecting national security, including from foreign interference, as a top priority.

“The armed forces have environmental actions as subsidiary. This is not their main focus,” said Jungmann. “The armed forces are primarily concerned with national sovereignty.”

He said he believes Brazil’s Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, who leads the government’s Amazon Council, is dedicated to stopping deforestation but lacks support within the government.

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‘Change the Game’ panel dissects progress of women’s leadership in sport

A lack of representation for women in sport and leadership roles wasn’t going to stop Carmelina Moscato.

The former Canadian national soccer team star and Olympic bronze medallist has led the charge to build the professional game for Canadian women.

Among many leadership roles within Canada Soccer, Moscato serves as commissioner of the League1 Ontario Women’s Division and aims to be responsible for creating pro opportunities for female players within the league.

“I never felt intimidated by the opportunities and I always felt there was something to prove,” said Moscato, who joined the ‘Change the Game’ panel hosted by CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo. “To show I definitely can and women can.

“If somebody is talking about soccer in the men’s game, it’s soccer and you’re not going to outsmart me in that. This has to normalize, [women] can’t be the minority in a room.”

WATCH | Panel discusses importance of women’s leadership in sport:

CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo is joined by Canadian athletes of all levels to discuss why we need to Change the Game. 57:31

Canadian national soccer team member Desiree Scott, Canadian Olympic track and field athlete Khamica Bingham, and play-by-play broadcaster Meghan McPeak completed the panel group discussing supportive leadership in sport for women.

ESPN analyst Doris Burke made history this summer becoming the first woman to call NBA conference finals and NBA finals games.

Although another milestone was made for professional women in sport this year, McPeak believes that shouldn’t be the case.

“It’s 2020, we should not be making firsts,” said McPeak, who calls games for both the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Capital City Gogo, the G League affiliate of the Washington Wizards.

“Knowing my job and what I do with the NBA umbrella, we still don’t have a full-time female play-by-play announcer, which is crazy to me.”

Elevating women into leadership roles

For Scott, a two-time soccer bronze medallist, awareness is a key issue for promoting current athletes into leadership roles.

“We need to educate more on what’s available,” Scott said. “We’re just as capable of filling those roles and just as passionate. It’s about encouragement and the knowledge of seeing it.

“You start to think about the potential for you as a woman.”

Only 28 per cent of women fill athletic director roles in post-secondary institutions in Canada. At the U Sports level, just three per cent of women have coaching roles on the men’s side as compared to 26 per cent on the women’s.

‘It also falls on media coverage’

Bingham, who represented Canada in track and field at the Rio 2016 Games, believes having a larger number of women in leadership roles affects more than just today’s current generation of athlete.

“I think if we have more women in positions of power you get different perspectives,” Bingham said. “You’re going to have a lot more athletes who are more comfortable and happy in an environment, who are going to stay there.

“We can increase the participation for female athletes.”

The 26-year-old believes increased media attention on women’s athletics could be consequential in achieving balance.

“It also falls on media coverage — we need more coverage in women’s sports,” the sprinter said. “In track and field we’re so quick to know who the fastest man in the world is. When it comes to the female side it isn’t the same. If we have more people understand our stories and be role models to young girls, it could make a difference.”

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CBC | Sports News