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A COVID-19 Black Friday and stricter rules in Saskatchewan: In The News for Nov. 27

2 hours 23 min ago
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 27 ... What we are watching in Canada ... Black Friday, the one-day shopping bonanza known for its big bargains and large crowds, has arrived. While rising COVID-19 cases and weeks of staggered deals have muted the usual fanfare of the shopping event, retailers are banking on today's sales to bolster their bottom line. Retail analysts say some bargain hunters are still expected to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, where possible, in the hopes of snagging a doorbuster deal. But they say the majority of this year's Black Friday purchases are expected to be made online.  Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic. He says given ongoing lockdowns and in-store capacity limits, online sales are expected to be strong today and remain heightened over the holiday shopping season. Indeed, big box stores, which often attract the largest lineups and crowds on Black Friday, have moved most promotions online. Yet although Black Friday's top sellers tend to be big-ticket electronics, some shoppers might be on the hunt for deals on more basic items.  Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group, says some shoppers may take advantage of today's sales to "stock up and hunker down for the winter." --- Also this ... REGINA - Group sports are suspended in Saskatchewan starting today and no more than 30 people are allowed to gather inside public venues as the province tries to contain its spread of COVID-19.  The cap applies to bingo halls, worship services, casinos, and receptions for weddings and funerals. The Saskatchewan Party government announced added health measures on Wednesday after weeks of rising cases that have driven up hospitalizations. Although formal competition is prohibited, athletes and dancers who are 18 years old and younger can still practise in groups of eight if they stay far enough apart and wear masks - now required in all indoor fitness facilities.  No more than four people can sit together at a bar or restaurant and tables must be three metres apart if they are not separated by a barrier.  Large retail stores have to cut their capacity by half. The measures are to be in place until Dec. 17. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... Americans are marking the Thanksgiving holiday amid an unrelenting pandemic that has upended traditions at dinner tables all around the country.  Zoom and FaceTime calls are fixtures this year, and people who have lost family members to the virus are keeping an empty seat to honour their loved ones.  Far fewer volunteers will help at soup kitchens or community centres.  A Utah health department has been delivering boxes of food to residents who are infected with the virus and can't go to the store.  A New York nursing home is offering drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... SEOUL - South Korea's spy agency has told lawmakers that North Korea executed at least two people, banned fishing at sea and locked down its capital as part of frantic anti-coronavirus steps.  The lawmakers cited the National Intelligence Service as saying that North Korea also ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke the United States because it is worried about president-elect Joe Biden's expected new approach toward the North.  One lawmaker cited the agency as saying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is displaying excessive anger and taking irrational measures over the pandemic and its economic impact. --- On this day in 1998 ... Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher was acquitted of killing two Quebec prison guards. --- ICYMI ... A Venezuelan woman who believes she was used as part of Jason Kenney's argument not to lockdown restaurants in Alberta remembers her encounter with the premier as less dramatic than he suggested. Carolina De La Torre says Kenney got her central feelings correct, but she said she did not break down into tears the way Kenney recalled. "No crying," the 57-year-old woman said with a laugh during a phone interview Thursday. She also said it was Kenney who approached her Calgary food court booth called Arepas Ranch for lunch in October, not the other way around as the premier told it. After weeks of mounting COVID-19 cases, as more than 1,000 new cases and 16 deaths were reported on Tuesday, Kenney announced new rules that included making indoor private social events illegal. During the news conference, Kenney gave an example of how much a lockdown would hurt businesses by telling the story of a Venezuelan refugee he met. "A couple of weeks ago, I was in my constituency, at a little food court thing and a new Albertan, a refugee from Venezuela socialism, came up to me," Kenney said. "She had just opened a little food kiosk, she recognized me, she came up to me, and she broke down in tears in front of me saying, 'sir, I put my entire life savings as a refugee into this business, we're struggling to pay the bills, if you shut me down, I'm going to lose it all, everything, and I'll be in abject poverty.'" "For some, perhaps, it is a little bit too easy to say just flick a switch. Shut them down," Kenney said. "I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses." --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020 The Canadian Press

Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

2 hours 44 min ago
Black Friday, the one-day shopping bonanza known for its big bargains and large crowds, has arrived. While rising COVID-19 cases and weeks of staggered deals have muted the usual fanfare of the shopping event, retailers are banking on today's sales to bolster their bottom line.  Retail analysts say some bargain hunters are still expected to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, where possible, in the hopes of snagging a doorbuster deal. But they say the majority of this year's Black Friday purchases are expected to be made online.  Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic. He says given ongoing lockdowns and in-store capacity limits, online sales are expected to be strong today and remain heightened over the holiday shopping season.  Indeed, big box stores, which often attract the largest lineups and crowds on Black Friday, have moved most promotions online. Yet although Black Friday's top sellers tend to be big-ticket electronics, some shoppers might be on the hunt for deals on more basic items.  Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group, says some shoppers may take advantage of today's sales to "stock up and hunker down for the winter." Black Friday, which started as a post-Thanksgiving sale in the United States, has gained in popularity in Canada in recent years.  It's also become an increasingly important sales event for retailers, along with Cyber Monday, overshadowing Boxing Day.  Robin Sahota, managing director and Canadian retail lead for professional services firm Accenture, says retailers might be saving some special discounts for Cyber Monday. "It's going to be a day where retailers look to add some sweeteners to entice consumers, particularly with the pull forward of Black Friday," he says. "I think folks will be seeking out something special on Cyber Monday." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020. The Canadian Press

Top officials weighed Canadian warship’s passage through sensitive strait near China

2 hours 44 min ago
OTTAWA - Newly released documents have shed light on the secret government talks and debate that took place ahead of a Canadian warship's passage through a sensitive waterway near China last year. Those discussions included a private meeting between the top bureaucrats at the Department of National Defence and Global Affairs Canada, weeks before HMCS Ottawa sailed through the Taiwan Strait. Defence officials were also told to keep quiet about the frigate's trip in September 2019, three months after Chinese fighter jets buzzed two other Canadian ships making the same voyage.  And they were ordered to keep the Privy Council Office, the department that supports the prime minister, in the loop as the Ottawa was making its way through the waterway. The unusual level of attention from the highest levels of government laid out in the documents, obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information, underscores the sensitivities surrounding the trip. That is because while much of the world considers the 180-kilometre strait to be international waters, Beijing claims ownership of the strait separating mainland China from Taiwan. Beijing, which regards the self-ruled island of Taiwan as a rogue province, has repeatedly condemned such passages by foreign warships from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere as illegal. HMCS Ottawa ended up sailing through the Taiwan Strait twice in early September. Media reports at the time said the frigate was shadowed by the Chinese navy. The heavily redacted memo to Global Affairs deputy minister Marta Morgan dated Aug. 7, 2019 starts by saying the Defence Department was looking for a risk assessment for the Ottawa's planned transit. Defence Department deputy minister Jody Thomas "has also requested a meeting with you on Aug. 12 to discuss this deployment," the memo adds. While HMCS Ottawa was in the region at the time helping enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea, the memo noted that the frigate was due to make a port visit in Bangkok in mid-September. Defence officials have publicly stated that the decision to have the Ottawa sail through the strait was because the route was the fastest way for the frigate to reach Bangkok from its position near North Korea. The memo backs that assertion, noting that going around Taiwan would add one or two days to the trip each way. Yet it also says the navy's presence in the South China Sea, of which the Taiwan Strait is a part, "has demonstrated Canadian support for our closest partners and allies, regional security and the rules-based international order." Global Affairs ultimately agreed to the Ottawa's sailing through the strait, but called on defence officials to keep the trip quiet, in large part because of fears the trip would coincide with the federal election campaign. "Finally, GAC will ask DND to ensure that it keeps PCO informed as this naval deployment progresses," the memo adds. Former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney described the discussions leading up to the Ottawa's transit of the Taiwan Strait as "an illustration of smart and effective consultation producing the right decision." "It is tremendously important that China sees that, in addition to the United States, other serious countries like Canada will not be intimidated into surrendering the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan itself to China's complete control," he said. "The RCN, working closely with Global Affairs, is promoting the national interest and asserting our sovereignty from the far side of the world." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Psychiatrist to continue testimony at the Toronto van attack trial

2 hours 44 min ago
TORONTO - A renowned forensic psychiatrist will continue his testimony today at the murder trial for the man who killed 10 people when he drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk. Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.The defence argues the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., should be found not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018 due to autism spectrum disorder.Dr. John Bradford said Thursday that Minassian is not psychotic and does not meet the "traditional" test to be found not criminally responsible for his actions.Minassian has admitted in court to planning and carrying out the attack and the only issue to be decided at trial is his state of mind at the time.Another psychiatrist has testified that Minassian's autism spectrum disorder left him fixated on mass killings and vulnerable to the ramblings of an American mass murderer.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020. The Canadian Press

Academic detained in Iran for 2 years returns to Australia

3 hours 49 min ago
CANBERRA, Australia - British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert arrived back in Australia on Friday and will soon reunite with her family after more than two years in an Iranian prison. Moore-Gilbert was met by public health officials and members of the Australian Defence Force after leaving her plane at Canberra Airport, less than 24 hours after being released from prison in Iran. Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said Moore-Gilbert, 33, will have to undergo quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns. The academic from Melbourne University was released after 804 days behind bars on spying charges. She was freed in exchange for the release of three Iranians who were held in Thailand. Australian media reported on Friday that Iranian authorities had detained her after discovering she was in a relationship with an Israeli citizen, which led to claims she was a spy for Israel. Fairfax Media reported that the Australian government played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in bringing Thailand to the table and engineering the prisoner swap. Fairfax said the discovery of Moore-Gilbert's Israeli boyfriend led to Iranian authorities stopping her at Tehran's airport as she was about to leave the country in 2018 after attending an academic conference. Authorities sentenced her to 10 years in prison for espionage. The Australian government and Moore-Gilbert rejected the allegations as baseless. Fairfax Media cited unidentified Australian government sources as saying the at-times delicate negotiations took more than six months. In Bangkok, Thai officials said they transferred three Iranians involved in a botched 2012 bomb plot back to Tehran. While they declined to call it a swap and Iran referred to the men as "economic activists," the arrangement freed Moore-Gilbert and saw the three men, who were linked to a wider bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats, return home to a hero's welcome. They wore Iranian flags draped over their shoulders, their faces largely obscured by black baseball caps and surgical masks. It was a sharp contrast to other prisoner exchanges Iran has trumpeted in the past, in which television anchors repeatedly said their names and broadcasters aired images of them reuniting with their families. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he was "thrilled and relieved" that Moore-Gilbert had been released but added that it would take time for her to process her "horrible" ordeal. "The tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through," Morrison told Australia's Network Nine. Despite her ordeal, Moore-Gilbert said in a statement that she had "nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people." Asked about the swap, Morrison said he "wouldn't go into those details, confirm them one way or the other." However, he said he could assure Australians there had been nothing done to prejudice their safety and no prisoners were released in Australia. The Associated Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Friday, Nov. 27, 2020

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 23:48
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EST on Nov. 27, 2020:There are 353,100 confirmed cases in Canada._ Quebec: 136,894 confirmed (including 6,947 deaths, 118,491 resolved) _ Ontario: 109,361 confirmed (including 3,575 deaths, 92,915 resolved) _ Alberta: 51,878 confirmed (including 510 deaths, 37,316 resolved) _ British Columbia: 29,973 confirmed (including 384 deaths, 19,998 resolved) _ Manitoba: 15,288 confirmed (including 266 deaths, 6,177 resolved) _ Saskatchewan: 7,362 confirmed (including 40 deaths, 4,176 resolved) _ Nova Scotia: 1,257 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,078 resolved) _ New Brunswick: 465 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 353 resolved) _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 327 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 295 resolved) _ Nunavut: 155 confirmed (including 5 resolved) _ Prince Edward Island: 70 confirmed (including 68 resolved) _ Yukon: 42 confirmed (including 1 death, 29 resolved) _ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved) _ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved) _ Total: 353,100 (0 presumptive, 353,100 confirmed including 11,799 deaths, 280,929 resolved)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020. The Canadian Press

Brazilians mourn death of Argentinian archrival Maradona

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 23:08
SAO PAULO - Brazil and Argentina are long rivals for soccer supremacy in South America, and Brazilians naturally think of their own Pel as the best footballer in history. But they are putting aside the argument to mourn the death of Argentine superstar Diego Maradona. Ex-presidents, author Paulo Coelho and former competitors were among Brazilians paying tribute to Maradona for his influence on the game and charisma off the field. Brazilian newspapers that only put sports in their top headline when the national team wins a World Cup had Maradona's death in that position Thursday. A mural of Maradona was even painted on a wall in the Vila Cruzeiro favela in Rio de Janeiro, an honour that proud and soccer-crazy Brazilians rarely, if ever, give to foreigners. "He was an example of persistence and perseverance because he grew in life as a human being," said graffiti artist Angelo Campos, who painted an energic Maradona in a blue shirt under an inscription with his nickname, "El Pibe de Oro" (the Golden Kid). "He finished his life as a human being because he fought to overcome his problems." Maradona suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, which for many years led Brazilian fans to make chants to mock the Argentinian hero and his hardcore fans. But not now. The Neo Quimica Arena in Sao Paulo displayed a triumphant Maradona image on a giant screen by its main entrance. That is the same stadium where most Brazilian fans cheered against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup semifinal against Holland. Argentina won on penalties but went on to lose the final to Germany 1-0. All top-tier Brazilian clubs paid tributes, including Santos, where Pel played nearly all of his career. Brazilians' respect for Maradona also shows up in a curious statistic - the Spanish name Diego was one of the most picked names for boys in this Portuguese-speaking nation in 1990, the year that Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 at the World Cup. More than 180,000 Brazilian children were named after Maradona that year. The 1990 win was Maradona's only victory over Brazil in six matches. He lost three times to Argentina's archrival, with the most bitter coming in the 1982 World Cup. The young Maradona, who was already seen by many as one of the best players in the world, was sent off in the last minutes of the match after a foul and the Argentine later confessed he also had wanted to punch Brazilian player Paulo Roberto Falco because of the rivalry. Falco said Thursday that he didn't remember Maradona saying that. "With the ball, he was a God. Without the ball, he was human," Falco said in his social media. Maradona was a frequent visitor to Brazil's Carnival festivities, made ads for local companies, and played a charity match in Rio de Janeiro organized by another soccer great, Zico. In 1998, a year after his retirement, Maradona showed up at Rio's Carnival parade, which he called the most beautiful show in the world. "I would like to feel Brazilian," Maradona said then. Brazilian player Careca played with Maradona at Napoli in the Italian league and was one of his closest friends. "In the beginning of his career he was a bit bitter against Brazil, but I think over time he was softened by me and others he got to know," Careca told a local radio. "He then saw Brazilians loved him after the 1986 World Cup. Brazilians love dribbling players, no matter where they come from." Also despite the national rivalry, Maradona often expressed reverence for the play of Roberto Rivelino, a player on the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup who was known for his short dribbles and powerful shots. Rivelino lamented Maradona's death in a social media post that included a picture of the Argentina holding a Brazil jersey that he had autographed. "We lost one of the best players in the world," Rivelino wrote. "And a special person in my life." Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press

Trump says he’ll leave if Electoral College seats Biden

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 22:02
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will leave the White House if the Electoral College formalizes President-Elect Joe Biden's victory - even as he insisted such a decision would be a "mistake" - as he spent his Thanksgiving renewing baseless claims that "massive fraud" and crooked officials in battleground states caused his election defeat. "Certainly I will. But you know that," Trump said Thursday when asked whether he would vacate the building, allowing a peaceful transition of power in January. But Trump - taking questions for the first time since Election Day - insisted that "a lot of things" would happen between now and then that might alter the results. "This has a long way to go," Trump said, even though he lost. The fact that a sitting American president even had to address whether or not he would leave office after losing reelection underscores the extent to which Trump has smashed one convention after another over the last three weeks. While there is no evidence of the kind of widespread fraud Trump has been alleging, he and his legal team have nonetheless been working to cast doubt on the integrity of the election and trying to overturn voters' will in an unprecedented breach of democratic norms. Trump spoke to reporters in the White House's ornate Diplomatic Reception Room after holding a teleconference with U.S. military leaders stationed across the globe. He thanked them for their service and jokingly warned them not to eat too much turkey, then turned to the election after ending the call. He repeated grievances and angrily denounced officials in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two key swing states that helped give Biden the win. Trump claimed, despite the results, that this may not be his last Thanksgiving at the White House. And he insisted there had been "massive fraud," even though state officials and international observers have said no evidence of that exists and Trump's campaign has repeatedly failed in court. Trump's administration has already given the green light for a formal transition to get underway. But Trump took issue with Biden moving forward. "I think it's not right that he's trying to pick a Cabinet," Trump said, even though officials from both teams are already working together to get Biden's team up to speed. And as he refused to concede, Trump announced that he will be travelling to Georgia to rally supporters ahead of two Senate runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate. Trump said the rally for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler would likely be held Saturday. The White House later clarified he had meant Dec. 5. One of the reasons Republicans have stood by Trump and his baseless claims of fraud has been to keep his loyal base energized ahead of those runoffs on Jan. 5. But Trump, in his remarks, openly questioned whether that election would be fair in a move that could dampen Republican turnout. "I think you're dealing with a very fraudulent system. I'm very worried about that," he said. "People are very disappointed that we were robbed." As for the Electoral College, Trump made clear that he will likely never formally concede, even if he said he would leave the White House. "It's gonna be a very hard thing to concede. Because we know there was massive fraud," he said, noting that, "time isn't on our side." "If they do," vote against him, Trump added, "they've made a mistake." Asked whether he would attend Biden's inauguration, Trump said he knew the answer but didn't want to share it yet. But there were some signs that Trump was coming to terms with his loss. At one point he urged reporters not to allow Biden the credit for pending coronavirus vaccines. "Don't let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me and I pushed people harder than they've ever been pushed before," he said. As for whether or not he plans to formally declare his candidacy to run again in 2024 - as he has discussed with aides - Trump said he didn't "want to talk about 2024 yet." All states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. States have already begun that process, including Michigan, where Trump and his allies tried and failed to delay the process, and Georgia and Pennsylvania. Vote certification at the local and state level is typically a ministerial task that gets little notice, but that changed this year with Trump's refusal to concede and his unprecedented attempts to overturn the results of the election through a fusillade of legal challenges and attempts to manipulate the certification process in battleground states he lost. Biden won by wide margins in both the Electoral College and popular vote, where he received nearly 80 million votes, a record. Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Tory MP Duncan pushes Health Minister to finally end the gay blood ban

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 21:12
OTTAWA - Eric Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP, laced into the federal health minister Thursday over the Liberals failure to end a ban on gay men donating blood. In a heated and emotional exchange during a late-night committee hearing in the House of Commons, Duncan pressed Patty Hajdu repeatedly, including a direct question on whether she'd accept a blood donation from him.Hajdu didn't directly answer, pointing to ongoing work to end a ban on donations from men who have sex with men. Canada banned blood donations from gay men since 1992 before allowing it in 2013 if the donor abstained from sex with another man for at least five years.That was changed to one year in 2016, and then three months in 2019.But the Liberals promised to end the ban completely in both 2015 and 2019.Duncan said there is a desperate need for blood donations during the second wave of COVID-19."I want to donate and make a difference, but I can't because I'm gay," he said. "In the year 2020, why is that?Hajdu said both Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec are independent from government and they have to do the right amount of research to end the ban entirely. She said the organizations have been funded by the government to do that, but Duncan accused Hajdu of hiding behind bureaucrats."She had no problem during an election campaign telling gay men this would end," he said.Three times, he asked Hajdu directly if she'd accept a blood donation from him, and three times she did not directly answer."Does she not feel comfortable, from me as a gay man, taking my blood," he asked.Hajdu said as soon as the blood agencies submit their recommendations on how to end the ban, they will be reviewed and changes will be made. "I think the gay blood ban needs to end," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Venezuela judge convicts 6 American oil execs, orders prison

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 20:11
CARACAS, Venezuela - Six American oil executives held for three years in Venezuela were found guilty of corruption charges by a judge Thursday and immediately sentenced to prison, defence lawyers said, dashing hopes of a quick release that would send them home to their families in the United States. Some relatives had been bracing for the disheartening outcome, which came on the evening of Thanksgiving Day. Alirio Rafael Zambrano, brother to two of the men, said they were "undeniably innocent" and victims of "judicial terrorism." No evidence in the case supports a guilty conviction, he said. "We, the family, are heartbroken to be separated even further from our loved ones," Zambrano said. "We pray that the leaders of our nation step forward and continue to fight unceasingly for their freedom and human rights." Attorney Mara Alejandra Poleo, who helped represent three of the men, said the case was "void of evidence." "Of course, the defence will appeal the decision," she said. The so-called Citgo 6 are employees of Houston-based Citgo refining company, which is owned by Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA. They had been lured to Venezuela three years ago for a business meeting and were arrested on corruption charges. Their arrest launched a purge by President Nicols Maduro's government of PDVSA and at a time when relations between Caracas and Washington were crumbling as Venezuela plummeted into economic and social crisis. Five of the men were sentenced to prison terms of 8 years and 10 months, while one of them received a 13-year sentence. Defence attorney Jesus Loreto said the five with lesser terms could be released on parole in a couple of years. Venezuelan officials did not immediately comment. One of the men, Tomeu Vadel, has said in a letter written in a Caracas jail and provided exclusively to The Associated Press before the verdict that he had hopes for a fair trial so he could walk free with his name cleared and go home to his family in the United States. Despite his circumstances, Vadell held out hope. "During the trial, the truth has proven undeniable," Vadell said in the four-page hand-written letter. "It proves that I am innocent." "I'm now reaching an intersection where if justice is done, I will be able to rebuild my life and try to compensate my family for all the lost moments," he added. "The light is intense -- the hope is great -- give me freedom." Videll said it was especially painful to be separated during the Thanksgiving season from his wife, three adult children and a newborn grandson he has never held. "Before living this tragedy, these celebrations were very special times for our family," Vadell wrote, saying he embraced the traditional American holiday after moving in 1999 from Caracas to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for a job with Citgo. "Now, they bring me a lot of sadness." It's the first time Vadell, or any of the so-called Citgo 6, had spoken publicly since being arrested and charged with in a purported big corruption scheme. He has been held at a feared Caracas jail called El Helicoide. The others convicted are Gustavo Crdenas, Jorge Toledo, brothers Jose Luis Zambrano and Alirio Zambrano, all now U.S. citizens. Jose Pereira, a permanent resident, received the longest sentence. They were also charged with embezzlement stemming from a never-executed proposal to refinance some $4 billion in Citgo bonds by offering a 50% stake in the company as collateral. Maduro at the time accused them of "treason." They all pleaded innocence. The men were summoned to the headquarters of PDVSA for what they were told was a budget meeting on Nov. 21, 2017. A corporate jet shuttled them to Caracas and they were told they would be home for Thanksgiving. Instead, military intelligence officers swarmed into the boardroom and hauled them off to jail. Their trial started four months ago and closing arguments took place Thursday. The judge immediately announced her verdict. The proceeding played out one day a week in a downtown Caracas court. Due to the pandemic, sessions were held in front of a bank of dormant elevators in a hallway, apparently to take advantage of air flowing through open windows. News media and rights groups were denied access to the hearings. There was no response to a letter addressed to Judge Lorena Cornielles seeking permission for The Associated Press to observe. The office of Venezuela's chief prosecutor said prior to the verdict in a statement to AP that investigators found "serious evidence" that corroborated financial crimes potentially damaging to the state-run company. "The Citgo case has developed normally during all the stages established by the Venezuelan criminal process," the statement said. Loreto said his client appeared to have been caught up in a "geopolitical conflict" of which he was not a part. He said Vadell's name never appeared on any of the documents prosecutors read into evidence. "There's nothing that refers to Tomeu in any way -- directly or indirectly," the lawyer said. "This is the story of a good guy being held against his will for all the wrong reasons." Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has negotiated the release of other Americans held by hostile governments, travelled to Caracas in July and met with Maduro. He didn't win their freedom, but days later two of them - Crdenas and Toledo - were freed from jail and put in house detention. Two weeks later, the long-delayed trial began. Richardson told AP that conversations with the Venezuelan government continue despite his meeting with Maduro being "a little stormy." He said he he believes there is an opening tied to President-elect Joe Biden and a desire by Maduro to improve relations with Washington. "I think the Venezuelans have been straight with me, but more progress needs to be made," Richardson said before the verdict. "My hope is to have something positive by Christmas." It is not clear what approach Biden will take toward Maduro. Trump aggressively pressed to remove Maduro through sweeping financial sanctions and the U.S. Justice Department has indicted Maduro as a "narcoterrorist," offering a $15 million reward for his arrest. Vadell's letter steered clear of politics. He didn't mention Maduro or speak about his jailers, though he did express concern about the "consequences of repercussions" of speaking out. With encouragement from his family, Vadell broke his silence, taking a risk relatives said was necessary. "I believe it's more important that the light of hope illuminates us," Vadell wrote. "May the light of hope put an end to the sadness of my family." The five other men did not respond to invitations AP made through their lawyers to comment. Vadell's daughter, Cristina Vadell, said in a phone interview from Lake Charles that her father isn't the kind of person who seeks attention. Rather, he prefers to focus on work and his family. During his 35-year career with PDVSA and Citgo, Vadell ended up running a refinery in Lake Charles and then became vice-president of refining. The letter attempts to expose this side of his life, she said. "I think he was willing to take some risks and open some hearts to allow him to come home," she said. "I think he's still wondering 'What happened?' He went to a work meeting and never came home." ___ Scott Smith on Twitter: @ScottSmithAP ___ Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman in Miami contributed to this report. Scott Smith, The Associated Press

‘No crying’: Venezuelan refugee Kenney cited says interaction was less dramatic

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 19:52
EDMONTON - The Venezuelan woman who believes she was used as part of Jason Kenney's argument not to lockdown restaurants in Alberta remembers her encounter with the premier as less dramatic than he suggested.Carolina De La Torre says Kenney got her central feelings correct, but she said she did not break down into tears the way Kenney recalled."No crying," the 57-year-old woman said with a laugh during a phone interview Thursday.She also said it was Kenney who approached her Calgary food court booth called Arepas Ranch for lunch in October, not the other way around as the premier told it.After weeks of mounting COVID-19 cases, as more than 1,000 new cases and 16 deaths were reported on Tuesday, Kenney announced new rules that included making indoor private social events illegal.During the news conference, Kenney gave an example of how much a lockdown would hurt businesses by telling the story of a Venezuelan refugee he met. "A couple of weeks ago, I was in my constituency, at a little food court thing and a new Albertan, a refugee from Venezuela socialism, came up to me," Kenney said."She had just opened a little food kiosk, she recognized me, she came up to me, and she broke down in tears in front of me saying, 'sir, I put my entire life savings as a refugee into this business, we're struggling to pay the bills, if you shut me down, I'm going to lose it all, everything, and I'll be in abject poverty.'""For some, perhaps, it is a little bit too easy to say just flick a switch. Shut them down," Kenney said."I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses."De La Torre and her husband run the booth, which is located a 10-minute drive from Kenney's constituency office. Born in Venezuela, De La Torre said she and her husband came to Canada with refugee status in 1989 when it became no longer safe to live there. They settled in Montreal for 25 years before they packed their bags and moved to Calgary to follow their daughter who was starting school at the University of Alberta.They have been living in Alberta for seven years and have been running Arepas Ranch for two years. They are known for making specialty arepas, which is a cornmeal patty, filled with a choice of shredded beef, chicken salad, black beans, ham, cheese, or other vegan and veggie options.At first, De La Torre said she didn't recognize Kenney when he stopped to order food and then someone from another booth told her it was the premier.De La Torre doesn't recall exactly what Kenney ordered, but she remembers the "very short" conversation they had when he came back to let them know the meal was "fantastico." She posted a picture of the premier on her Instagram. De La Torre said Kenney got her feelings right.She said it's true that the couple put their money into the business and closing the economy would be bad for them. But she understands it's about people's health, which is what she told Kenney."What I said is, 'There has to be a balance between the economy and the health. There is not only me in this food court, we are more than 40 small businesses in the court that need to be open to make a way of life'."No one from Kenney's office immediately responded to a request for comment. De La Torre said when she heard Kenney mentioned her during a news conference, she was at first surprised.But now, "I didn't know what to think about it," she said."I don't know. What can I say? It's OK."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker named Canadian Premier League player of the year

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 19:16
Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker has been named Canadian Premier League player of the year. The 30-year-old Bekker was announced as the 2020 winner on Thursday, taking the nod over finalists Marco Bustos of Pacific FC and Akeem Garcia of HFX Wanderers FC.  Bekker, from Oakville, Ont., led the CPL in minutes played by an attacking player (879) and scored three goals and one assist with five shots on target.  He's the second Forge FC player to take home the award in its two years of existence, following 2019 winner Tristan Borges.  Forge FC's Triston Henry captured the 2020 Golden Glove, awarded to the goalkeeper voted to be the best at this position. Mohamed Farsi of Cavalry FC was named under-21 Canadian player of the year. Coach of the year went to Stephen Hart of the Wanderers. Garcia captured the Golden Boot with six goals in 10 appearances. The winners of the 2020 CPL Awards were selected by media writers and reporters from across Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 26, 2020. The Canadian Press

85 active COVID-19 cases reported in Saskatoon Correctional Centre outbreak

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 18:35
The Saskatchewan government reported 72 new COVID-19 cases located at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre on Thursday. There were 299 new cases reported in the province Thursday, a number that included four staff members and 68 inmates at the correctional centre. Noel Busse, the executive director of communications with the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, said the large influx of cases came after a large round of testing at the facility with a majority of the inmates being asymptomatic. “We’re working with public health authorities on strategies to reduce the spread within the facility and the correctional system,” he said during a conference call. “We’ll also be doing ongoing testing with offenders and staff.” There won't be any new admissions to the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, with remanded and sentenced offenders being sent to facilities in Regina and Prince Albert instead. Busse isn’t worried about overpopulating other centres for the time being. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to manage the extra offender population in the short term. In the long term, we may look at using additional space at other correctional facilities to ensure we can effectively manage the population,” he said. Without offering specifics, Busse said corrections officials will work with public prosecution, policing and the courts to limit the outbreak’s impact on the justice system. However, there aren’t any plans to release offenders or other measures to manage populations. “We won’t be releasing any sentenced offenders as a result of the outbreak,” Busse said. “We will continue to approve reintegration leaves for offenders who qualify, but no offenders will be released who didn’t meet the criteria prior to the pandemic.” New inmates entering the facility will continue to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine and starting Monday, all new admissions in the province will be tested. Testing frequency for staff and inmates will increase over the coming days and weeks, but Busse couldn’t say if that included every person at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. People in custody will also be required to wear a mask at all provincial correctional facilities. There’s a total of four active cases at the other major correctional centres in the province: Two staff members and one inmate in Regina, and one staff member at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre. The Pinegrove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert doesn’t have any active cases.

Marion Graham band students’ video is music to the ears

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 18:03
Who would have thought COVID-19 could be an inspiration? It was for Marion Graham Collegiate music teacher Deb Flynn. With the pandemic wiping out all concerts and performances, she wanted to come up with something her students could look forward to. She says when she first heard the song ‘Crabbuckit’ by k-os, she got an idea. “The feel of that song when I first heard it, it made me so happy. I thought it was the perfect song to do a COVID arrangement of,” said Flynn. Flynn rewrote the singing parts of the song with a COVID theme. “It was pretty fast. I think COVID was rolling around in my brain quite strongly so when I wrote it, it came together pretty fast,” said Flynn. “The rap, it was written by the student who did the rap in the video.”   Students at @MMGCI are making music together even though the pandemic keeps them apart. Band students, vocals, guitar, and rap combined for a re-worded version of @kosinception‘s Crabbuckit about making music in the time of COVID-19. WATCH: https://t.co/iCyswKzVnS #spslearn #yxe - Saskatoon Public (@StoonPubSchools) November 24, 2020 Flynn says she did most of the filming because they are not allowed to mix cohorts. The band played their instruments socially distanced at the school, while the singing students filmed themselves. And she got some help from a former student to put it all together. “I had a former student who graduated two years ago, and he’s studying music at Humber and he’s home for the year because of COVID and he called me up at the beginning of September and asked, ‘Is there anything I can do to help you with?’ So I called him up and said, ‘Do you want to edit a video?’ So I sent him a very disorganized track and he put it together,” said Flynn. She says the students were really excited about the project and they have now entered the music video in a competition. “I thought this was the perfect year to do it because we can’t perform and we can’t play together so we thought it would be a great opportunity for the students to have something in the fall to be excited about,” said Flynn.

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:48
Alberta's spike in COVID-19 infections and the virus's infiltration of Canada's team is concerning for the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton, according to a health and law expert and an epidemiologist. The 10-country tournament, scheduled from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5 ,is modelled on the same "bubble" used by the NHL to complete the Western Conference playoffs and Stanley Cup final at Edmonton's Rexall Place in August and September. But active cases of infection in Alberta are over 10 times higher than when NHL playoffs began Aug. 1. Lorian Hardcastle, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law and Cummings School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, said that makes the optics of hosting the world junior tournament difficult. "A lot of people's recreational pursuits have been taken away and people were very happy to have sports to watch on TV," Hardcastle told The Canadian Press. "We do need to give people some satisfaction and happiness where we're able to, but I am concerned with this tournament. With Alberta's numbers as high as they are, it's difficult to endorse this. "The number of cases that we now have is completely different than what we had then." Alberta had 1,386 active cases Aug. 1 compared to 14,052 on Thursday. Of the 510 deaths in the province attributed to COVID-19, 221 were in the Edmonton area. The provincial government has banned all team sports until at least Dec. 15, but leagues can apply for exemptions if they have "well-developed COVID safety plans," according to Premier Jason Kenney. "I think it's just all-around a bad idea to be bringing people into this region and this province when we are already facing a situation where our health-care system is overwhelmed and is going to have difficulty coping with those individuals that are here," said Ilan Schwartz, an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta.  "The NHL showed that it can be done, but the stops that were pulled out in order to create and maintain a bubble for the NHL playoffs were enormous.  "It's not safe for the players to be coming into a place where there's a surge in infections. While the players themselves are going to be young and healthy and low risk of serious complications from the virus, they are still very much able to transmit it to those people around them." Despite screening for the virus upon arrival at Canada's 46-player selection camp in Red Deer, Alta., two players and a "non-core" staff member who didn't have direct contact with them have tested positive for the virus. The host country's players, coaches and staff are quarantined at the team hotel until Dec. 6.  The three are asymptomatic, according to Hockey Canada. The nine other international teams are scheduled to arrive by charter flight Dec. 13. Exhibition games are planned for Dec. 20-23. Hockey Canada's vice-president of events insists stringent protocols and testing required for international players to enter Edmonton's "bubble" will make the world junior championship safe to proceed. "We are putting in place in Edmonton what I'm going to call a more secure bubble environment for the event," Dean McIntosh said Thursday on a conference call.  International players will be required to test negative in quarantine for seven days before travelling to Canada. They'll be quarantined and tested daily for five days in their individual hotel rooms after arrival.  Personnel in the "protected zone" will be required to use apps for daily self-assessment as well as providing their location. "We know where everybody in the bubble is at all times," McIntosh said.  "That may sound a little high level, but our goal is to ensure that we know the athletes, administrators of teams and well as people delivering the bubble are in a very safe environment and are following the protocols we put in place.   "That, combined with the support we've had from both the federal and provincial governments, we feel strongly about our ability to deliver a great event in Edmonton in December." The tournament for the world's top male players under the age of 20 would include 250 players, plus staff, for a total of 400.  That cohort is slightly smaller than the dozen NHL teams that started the Western Conference playoffs in Edmonton. No personnel tested positive for the virus from the time players entered the bubble July 26 to the hoisting of the Stanley Cup on Sept. 28, according to the NHL. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

AOC Among Us: progressive firebrand to join NDP leader for online gaming sesh Friday

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:40
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The leader of the New Democrats has thrown down the gauntlet to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Canada-U. S. relations may never be the same.  Jagmeet Singh challenged the firebrand member of Congress to a round of "Among Us," a popular online multiplayer game, and she accepted.  AOC, as she's known, livestreamed her debut on the game last month in an effort to lure younger voters to the polls for the Nov. 3 election, attracting a staggering 439,000 viewers. Friday's matchup, which will stream on the online gaming site Twitch, begins at 7 p.m. eastern time.  A controversial standard-bearer for left-wing progressive politics, the 31-year-old Ocasio-Cortez was first elected to represent her New York district in the House of Representatives in 2018. Since then, she has become one of the most familiar faces on Capitol Hill, part of a progressive wing of the Democrats that includes former presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  "Among Us" pits a team of tiny astronauts trying to return to Earth against one of their own, an anonymous saboteur whose objective is to kill off other crew members before they can repair their ship and identify the impostor.  "Canadian members of Parliament and U.S. members of Congress venting each other into space. What could go wrong?" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to Singh's invitation.  "See you tomorrow."  Ocasio-Cortez's Oct. 20 livestream, which included fellow progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar, was one of the most-viewed events in the nine-year history of Twitch, which has become a popular way for politicians to attract young supporters.  The record still belongs to a professional gamer who played the popular game "Fortnite" with Canadian superstar Drake, rapper Travis Scott and NFL wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, with 628,000 viewers watching at the same time.  This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. The Canadian Press

Quebec premier promises action on child abuse following report of abused teenager

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:19
MONTREAL - Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Thursday his government will do everything it can to protect young people after a Quebec woman was recently sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for severe child abuse. In the Nov. 13 sentencing decision, Quebec court Judge Conrad Chapdelaine described the woman's actions as showing "extreme cruelty." The 37-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect her victim, pleaded guilty to three charges in May. Her son, then 17, was found in February 2019 by a bailiff who was serving an eviction order and who called police after seeing the victim malnourished and suffering from open wounds. His mother admitted to beating him with a metal bar. Chapdelaine wrote that youth protection authorities in the Estrie region, east of Montreal, were notified at least 10 times over an 11-year period by people concerned about the victim. It's the second time that youth protection authorities in the region have been accused of ignoring repeated reports of child abuse. In March, the local authority was placed under provincial trusteeship.  Legault told reporters Thursday that a preliminary report on the failings of the region's child services agency is expected within the next few days.   "Our government will do everything that's possible to do to protect children, to protect young people," Legault told reporters in Quebec City. He described the situation as "appalling" and "shocking" and said child protection authorities in Estrie have already been provided with additional staff. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press

A list of British Columbia Premier John Horgan’s cabinet

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:07
VICTORIA - NDP Premier John Horgan has announced his new cabinet. Here is a list: - Selina Robinson, finance.  - David Eby, attorney general and the minister responsible for housing.  - Anne Kang, advanced education and skills training. - Lana Popham, agriculture, food and fisheries.   - Lisa Beare, citizens' services. - Mitzi Dean, children and family development.  - Jennifer Whiteside, education - Bruce Ralston, energy, mines and low carbon innovation and minister responsible for the consular corps.  - George Heyman, environment and climate change strategy, and minister responsible for TransLink.  - Katrine Conroy, forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development. - Adrian Dix, health and minister responsible for francophone affairs. - Murray Rankin, Indigenous relations and reconciliation.  - Ravi Kahlon, jobs, economic recovery and innovation.  - Harry Bains, labour.  - Sheila Malcolmson, mental health and addictions.  - Josie Osborne, municipal affairs.  - Mike Farnworth, public safety and solicitor general. - Nicholas Simons, social development and poverty reduction.  - Melanie Mark, tourism, arts, culture and sport. - Rob Fleming, transportation and infrastructure.  - Katrina Chen, minister of state for child care.  - Bowinn Ma, minister of state for infrastructure.  - Nathan Cullen, minister of state for lands, natural resource operations - George Chow, minister of state for trade.  This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.  The Canadian Press

Saskatoon man charged with shooting at house in Parkridge area

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:05
A 21-year-old Saskatoon man is facing charges in connection with a home in the Parkridge area being shot at Wednesday morning. The Saskatoon Police Service said in a media release Thursday that officers conducted a traffic stop Wednesday at about 1:30 p.m., in the 800 block of Marr Avenue. A man was arrested without incident. At about 5:30 p.m. that afternoon, a search warrant was executed at a house in that same block. The search turned up a sawed-off rifle, ammunition and cannabis. The accused is facing 10 gun-related offences, including recklessly discharging a firearm. He’s also charged with wearing a disguise for the purpose of committing an indictable offence, possession of the proceeds of crime under $5,000, unlawful possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling, and breach of release.

Horgan expands cabinet to fight pandemic; keeps Dix in health, Robinson to finance

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:03
VICTORIA - B.C. Premier John Horgan's new cabinet relies on some familiar faces in key positions with Adrian Dix remaining in health, while giving the task of guiding the economy through the COVID-19 pandemic to Selina Robinson with her appointment as finance minister. Robinson has been tapped to replace longtime legislature member Carole James, who didn't seek re-election in last month's provincial election for health reasons. Robinson was previously the minister of municipal affairs and housing. The premier has kept some of his most senior ministers in their previous cabinet posts, including Mike Farnworth as solicitor general and David Eby as attorney general, but with the added responsibility of housing. Three former MPs were handed cabinet posts, with Murray Rankin being named Indigenous relations and reconciliation minister; Nathan Cullen as minister of state for lands, natural resource operations; and Sheila Malcolmson, who served in the last legislature after leaving federal politics, becoming the minister of mental health and addictions. Among the other newcomers to cabinet are Mitzi Dean as children and family development minister; former Tofino mayor Josie Osbourne at municipal affairs; and Jennifer Whiteside in education. Rob Fleming moves from education to transportation. Horgan was with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin at the University of Victoria for the swearing-in ceremony, while all ministers, except Eby, were sworn in virtually.  "Those sworn in today reflect the diversity and dynamism and resilience of B.C. Joining me at the cabinet table are 24 individuals, 12 men and 12 women. Each one of them committed to making sure we leave B.C. better than we found it by focusing on the enormous potential of all British Columbians." The premier said families across B.C. are struggling with the burdens of a pandemic now in its ninth month with little chance of that receding in the short term.  "But we are buoyed by the good news of vaccines on the way, but until then, we have to continue to do our level best to keep the second wave of COVID-19 under control and prepare for the new year."  Horgan's cabinet unveiling comes after the NDP won a majority government in last month's election, capturing 57 of the 87 seats in B.C.'s legislature. Horgan has recalled the legislature for a brief session with a throne speech Dec. 7. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020. The Canadian Press

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