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Ontario's vaccine rollout plan and charges in Beirut blast: In The News for Dec. 11


In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kick-start your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 11 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Ontario is expected to provide an update today on its plans to rollout the COVID-19 vaccine.

The province has said that it will begin immunizations with its first shipment of 6,000 doses on Tuesday.

Retired gen. Rick Hiller says University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital will administer the first shots to health-care workers.

An additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected later this month in the province are to be provided to 13 hospitals across Ontario.

Hillier says the province also expects to receive between 30,000 and 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the new year, pending its approval by Health Canada.


Also this ...

Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement signed by 196 countries promising to fight climate change.

But a United Nations annual report released this week says greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow and reached record levels in 2019.

Experts say change is starting to come, though, and it may come quicker than many expect.

Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University in B.C., points out more and more financial institutions are backing away from fossil fuel investments.

The UN says 126 countries — including China — have either adopted net-zero carbon goals or are considering them.

The cost of renewable energy is dropping and an increasing number of countries are putting time limits on the sale of gas-powered vehicles. 

Keith Stewart of Greenpeace says the climate movement is getting stronger, especially among young people. 

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says he knows Canada needs to step it up and is promising stronger action


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate president-elect Joe Biden’s victory has quickly become a conservative litmus test, as 106 members of Congress and multiple state attorneys general signed onto the case even as some have predicted it will fail.

The last-gasp bid to subvert the results of the Nov. 3 election is demonstrating U.S. President Donald Trump’s enduring political power even as his term is set to end. And even though most of the signatories are far-right conservatives who come from deep red districts, the filing meant that roughly one-quarter of the U.S. House believes the Supreme Court should set aside election results.

Seventeen Republican attorneys general are backing the unprecedented case that Trump is calling “the big one" despite the fact that the president and his allies have lost dozens of times in courts across the country and have no evidence of widespread fraud. And in a filing Thursday, the Congressional Republicans claimed “unconstitutional irregularities” have “cast doubt” on the 2020 outcome and “the integrity of the American system of elections.”

To be clear, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud and Trump has been seeking to subvert the will of the voters. Election law experts think the lawsuit will never last.

“The Supreme Court is not going to overturn the election in the Texas case, as the President has told them to do," tweeted Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. "But we are in bad shape as a country that 17 states could support this shameful, anti-American filing" by Texas and its attorney general, Ken Paxton, he said.

The lawsuit filed against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin repeats false, disproven, and unsubstantiated accusations about the voting in four states that went for Trump's Democratic challenger. The case demands that the high court invalidate the states' 62 total Electoral College votes. That's an unprecedented remedy in American history: setting aside the votes of tens of millions of people, under the baseless claim the Republican incumbent lost a chance at a second term due to widespread fraud.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

The Lebanese prosecutor probing last summer's port explosion in Beirut filed charges on Thursday against the caretaker prime minister and three former ministers, accusing them of negligence that led to the death of hundreds of people, Lebanon's official news agency said.

The four are the most senior individuals to be indicted so far in the investigation, which is being conducted in secrecy. And though it is too early to predict whether any of the four would end up on trial, the development was significant in Lebanon, where a culture of impunity has prevailed for decades, including among the entrenched political elites.

Judge Fadi Sawwan, the prosecutor responsible for the investigation, filed the charges against Hassan Diab and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, as well as Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Fenianos, both former ministers of public works. All four were charged with carelessness and negligence leading to death over the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut's port, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.

The explosion was caused by the ignition of a large stockpile of explosive material that had been stored at the port for six years, with the knowledge of top security officials and politicians who did nothing about it.

Anger has been building up over the slow investigation, lack of answers and the fact that no senior officials have been indicted. About 30 other security officials and port and customs officials have been detained in the probe so far.

Diab is a former professor at the American University of Beirut who became prime minister late last year. Although he served as minister of education from 2011-14, he is considered to be an outsider to the political ruling class that has run Lebanon since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Since the shipment of ammonium nitrates arrived in Lebanon in late 2013, four prime ministers have been in office. It was not clear why Sawwan has singled out Diab, who was prime minister for less than a year among the ex-premiers who have held the post while the nitrates were improperly stored at a port warehouse, a ticking bomb.---

On this day in 1948 ...

Newfoundland signed an agreement to enter Confederation as Canada's 10th province. The agreement was to take effect March 31, 1949. After a series of debates between Newfoundland and the federal government, Newfoundlanders held two referendums before deciding to join Confederation.


In entertainment news ...

A new series depicting railway workers in the historically Black Montreal community of Little Burgundy in the 1920s is bound for the CBC.

The public broadcaster says it's partnered with the U.S. streaming service BET Plus on the eight-part original drama, which is inspired by real events and has the working title "The Porter."

A news release says the show follows four characters "who hustle, dream, cross borders and confront barriers in the fight for liberation, on and off the railways that crossed North America."

With its proximity to train stations, Little Burgundy became a central point of migration, had a thriving jazz scene, and is where acclaimed pianists Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones grew up.

The CBC says the show will feature railway porters and their families, and the impact they had in Black communities in cities across North America.

The show, from Inferno Pictures and Sienna Films, is set to debut in the CBC's 2021/22 season.



Winnipeg's police chief says an officer who gave a ticket to a couple who questioned why he wasn’t wearing a mask during a traffic stop acted inappropriately.

“We’ve been very clear with our officers that we expect them to wear their protective masks when they are dealing with the public,” Danny Smyth says. 

The vehicle was pulled over Tuesday evening for not moving into a far lane while passing the officer’s police car when the cruiser was stopped with its emergency lights on. 

A woman who was a passenger in the vehicle recorded a video while the officer gave the driver a warning about the infraction. But she was concerned because the officer was not wearing a mask and was leaning in near the vehicle’s open window.

When she asks the officer why, the officer says he's not within six feet of the couple and is standing outside. The officer then says, “You know what? If you want to do it that way, I will just write a ticket.”

Smyth says the officer was shaken by the vehicle driving so close to his cruiser before the encounter on camera.

 “I think this was an officer who lost his composure,” Smyth says. 

He has directed the force's professional standards unit to review what happened. 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2020

The Canadian Press

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