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Number of daily coronavirus deaths spikes in China

KEN MORITSUGU AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 13th, 2020

After first reporting the number of new cases of the coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day, health officials in the central Hubei province said the death toll actually jumped by a record 242 on Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths so far to 1,310.

The new deaths were more than twice the prior provincial daily record of 103 set on Monday.

The number of new cases in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, also jumped to 14,840 as the province’s health commission said that it had begun including people who are diagnosed through new clinical methods from Thursday.

It also said it had revised its old data and suspected cases to include over 100 clinically diagnosed cases.

Earlier in the day world health officials cautioned against a possible glimmer of hope that the number of new cases were declining.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organization, said it is “way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end” of the crisis in China. But he said: “The stabilization in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring and it is to a great extent the result of the huge public health operation in China.”

China has locked down an unprecedented 60 million people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which has hit hardest in the city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that the numbers “must be interpreted with extreme caution,” adding: “This outbreak could still go in any direction.” At the same time, he noted that the number of other countries reporting cases – about two dozen – has not changed since Feb. 4.

All but one of the deaths recorded so far have been in China, as have more than 99 per cent of all reported infections in the world.

“In principle at the moment, there’s no evidence out there that this virus is out there causing efficient community transmission in other countries,” Ryan said. “We have a window of opportunity to shut this virus down.”

At the end of a two-day meeting aimed at speeding the development of new tests, drugs and vaccines for the new virus, WHO said scientists had agreed upon a set of global research priorities but warned it could still take considerable time before any licensed products might be available.

Hamilton police issue arrest warrant in shooting of 7-year-old boy

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Feb 13th, 2020

Hamilton police have issued an arrest warrant in connection with the shooting of a 7-year-old boy inside his home last month.

Police say 20-year-old Jayden Pitter is wanted on 13 charges including discharging a firearm with intent, aggravated assault and careless use of a firearm.

Investigators say Pitter fired shots into the boy’s home from the backyard on January 23, striking the young boy several times.

Police say the child is out of hospital but faces a long road to recovery.

Following the shooting, police say they believe Pitter fled the scene in a vehicle that was waiting on Gordon Street. The vehicle has been identified but the firearm involved is still outstanding.

Police say Pitter is considered dangerous and he should not be approached.

Man killed after being struck by truck at warehouse

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Feb 13th, 2020

Toronto police are investigating what they are calling a “work-related” incident at a warehouse in Scarborough.

Police say they were called to the HBC warehouse on Metropolitan Road in the area of Warden Avenue and Highway 401 around 6:30 p.m. following reports of a collision involving a pedestrian and a truck.

“We did locate a male victim who had been struck by a truck. Unfortunately the injuries the male received were very severe and he succumbed to those injuries,” said Insp. Jim Gotel.

Traffic services have been called in to assist in the investigation and the Ministry of Labour has also been notified.

Various teachers strikes staged after announcement of joint walkout

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 13th, 2020

Teachers in Ontario’s French system are holding a strike today, as public elementary and high school teachers walk out at select boards.

The strikes come one day after all four of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions — including the one representing English Catholic teachers — announced a joint one-day strike for next Friday, Feb. 21.

It’s a bid to ramp up pressure on the government as months of contract talks are at a standstill.

Today’s one-day strike by 12,000 French teachers is the first such job action since the inception of French-language school boards in 1997.

Elementary teachers have been holding rotating strikes as well as weekly provincewide strikes. Today they are targeting the Bluewater, Grand Erie, Hamilton-Wentworth, Keewatin-Patricia, Lakehead, Ontario North East, Ottawa-Carleton, Peel, Penetanguishene, Protestant Separate, Simcoe County, Superior-Greenstone, Trillium Lakelands and York Region school boards, as well as the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre.

High school teachers are striking at the Algoma, Superior-Greenstone, Greater Essex, Avon Maitland, Niagara, Limestone, and Renfrew school boards.

Elementary teachers to protest outside education minister’s talk

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 12th, 2020

TORONTO – Elementary teachers are planning to protest outside a downtown Toronto hotel today where Ontario’s education minister is set to speak.

Stephen Lecce is scheduled to talk to the Canadian Club at the Royal York hotel about preparing students for the jobs of the future.

It comes as teachers across the province have been engaging in rotating strikes amid stalled contract negotiations.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario says it will have members protesting outside the hotel while Lecce speaks.

ETFO held a province-wide strike Tuesday and today its teachers are on strike at about a dozen boards and authorities, including the Toronto District School Board.

The union representing teachers in the French system has agreed to return to the bargaining table today, a day ahead of a planned province-wide strike, making it the only teachers’ union currently in talks with the government.

$7.1M paid out to parents by province during Ontario teachers’ strikes so far

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Feb 12th, 2020

The provincial government says they have paid out a total of $7.1 million so far to parents dealing with child care costs during the Ontario teachers’ strikes.

Over 560,000 parents have applied for support during rotating one-day strikes by all four teacher’s unions, according to new numbers released to CityNews by the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education announced back in January that they would provide parents with a credit of up to $60 for when strike actions close schools or school-based child care centres.

If you would like more information on how to apply, you can find more information here. Parents have up to four weeks to apply for compensation after the labour disruption has ended.

One-day strikes have continued this week, including on Thursday when three unions, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (EFTO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and Association des Enseignantes et des Enseignants Franco-Ontariens (AEFO) will be holding strikes.

The province came under fire last week after it was revealed by CityNews some parents had been overpaid. The Ministry said it was due to an error when calculating the number of days that schools have been closed.

The union representing teachers in the French system announced Tuesday it had agreed to return to the table Wednesday for one day of talks ahead of its first scheduled province-wide strike set for Thursday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said compensation is the main issue in the labour dispute, and teachers are calling for higher wages at the expense of their students.

Unions are asking for wage increases of around two per cent to keep up with inflation, but the government passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

EFTO has also asked for the government to increase supports for students with special needs and address violence in classrooms.

Young, liberal voters key to Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire win


WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders won the young, the liberal and the disaffected in New Hampshire. Their votes were enough to deliver him a victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, while Pete Buttigieg earned a slight edge among more moderate and conservative voters, with Amy Klobuchar close behind.

The New Hampshire Democratic primary revealed a mountainous ideological divide among Democrats, as voters try to identify which candidate will be most effective in challenging President Donald Trump in November’s general election.

A majority of voters who considered themselves “very liberal” supported Sanders, according to AP VoteCast. The 78-year-old Vermont senator, who has championed universal government health care and high taxes on the wealthy, also won support from voters younger than 45 and had a slight advantage among those without a college degree. Roughly 3 in 10 of those who deemed the U.S. economic system “very unfair” favour Sanders to oversee the world’s leading financial power.

But about 6 in 10 New Hampshire Democrats identified as moderate or conservative. Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held a slight advantage with this group of voters. Roughly another quarter of moderate voters went with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, while about 1 in 10 went for former Vice-President Joe Biden.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders are avowed liberals.

AP VoteCast is a wide-ranging survey of more than 3,000 Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

The scrum of conflicting ideologies could set up a bruising round of election contests in the weeks ahead as Democratic voters choose whether it is better to lean into an overtly liberal contender or embrace a more moderate challenger. And once the nominee is picked, it is unclear whether the Democrats can fully set aside their differences and bond back together.

Only 15% of New Hampshire Democrats said they were “very confident” that the process for picking a presidential nominee would be fair, a sign of possible doubts lingering in voters’ minds at the state’s Tuesday primary.

The trouble tabulating results in last week’s Iowa caucuses, an issue that has yet to be fully resolved, may have rattled the faith of some voters amid uncertainty about who is the Democratic front-runner. The skepticism was clearest among Sanders’ backers, with about 6 in 10 saying they had little or no confidence in the Democratic primary process. Majorities of voters for every other top Democratic contender described the primary process as fair.

The results from AP VoteCast suggest that Sanders’ younger and generally more liberal supporters distrust their fellow Democrats, a potential reflection of the Vermont senator losing the 2016 nomination to Hillary Clinton.

Matthew Gage, a 40-year-old EMT attending a Sanders party in Manchester, New Hampshire, said he was angered by the use of super delegates in the 2016 election and remains “suspicious” that the process is fair this time around.

This year, he said, “I have more confidence only because there’s more eyes watching them and they know they can’t hide stuff.”

Yet after months of campaigns and debates, New Hampshire voters are still settling on the ideal moderate choice. Of the state Democrats who made a decision in the days before the primary, about half went to Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

The only clear candidate on the outs in a state that is largely white and older was Biden. He departed Tuesday for South Carolina, where there is a significant population of African American voters who will test which candidate appeals most to a diverse electorate that was largely absent from the opening two contests.

Voters see liabilities in many of the Democrats vying to run against Trump. About 6 in 10 said a candidate with strongly liberal views would have difficulty competing with the incumbent president, evidence that Sanders and Warren may be struggling to make the electability argument outside their base of supporters. But roughly 6 in 10 also said a gay nominee — Buttigieg — would face greater hardship in the general election.

Still, New Hampshire Democrats say they are willing to rally around their party’s nominee. At least 6 in 10 said they would be satisfied with Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders or Warren as their presidential candidate. Fewer — half — said they would be pleased if Biden became the nominee.

Broader questions about fairness in U.S. society have been a central concern for the Democratic candidates.

An overwhelming share of New Hampshire Democrats — nearly 8 in 10 — view the economy as unfair. But there is little consensus on which candidate would do the best job of stewarding the world’s largest economy.

Yet among the roughly 2 in 10 who believe the economy is fair, there was an opening for a Democrat whose name was not on the ballot in New Hampshire. These voters gave a slight edge on leading the economy to Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City Mayor with a personal fortune in excess of $60 billion.

AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News. The survey of 3,111 voters in New Hampshire was conducted for seven days, concluding as polls closed. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The survey is based on interviews with a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.

CN says parts of network will close if blockades remain, Via cancels service

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 12th, 2020

MONTREAL — Canada’s rail system was under stress Tuesday as Via Rail cancelled passenger service on key routes and Canadian National Railway Co. warned it will be forced to close “significant” parts of its freight network unless blockades impeding its lines are removed.

Via Rail cancelled service on its Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes because of a blockade near Belleville, Ont., in support of opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern B.C.

“Although we remain hopeful that a resolution will be reached, in view of the current uncertainty, VIA Rail is cancelling all departures until Thursday end of day on the Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes, in both directions,” Via spokeswoman Marie-Anna Murat said in an email.

A blockade near New Hazelton, B.C., means normal rail activities are also being interrupted between Prince Rupert and Prince George, she said.

Via Rail’s announcement followed the warning from CN, which has halted more than 150 freight trains since Thursday evening when demonstrators set up the blockades in B.C. and Ontario.

The Montreal-based railway said Monday that long-distance freight shipments in Central and Eastern Canada were already at a virtual standstill.

Chief executive JJ Ruest stressed the limited parking space in its network, with traffic, backed up from Halifax to Windsor, Ont., and in parts of B.C. approaching Prince Rupert.

“CN will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in key corridors unless the blockades come to an end,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

“The impact is also being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner.”

The ongoing blockades are near Belleville, Ont., and New Hazleton in B.C.’s northern interior, while demonstrations cropped up Tuesday in locations ranging from the Halifax port to the B.C. legislature.

Industry groups are expressing concern about the shutdown as shipments to and from the U.S. and China are delayed or cancelled.

“It’s a real crisis,” said Joel Neuheimer, head of international trade with the Forest Products Association of Canada.

Wood, pulp and paper producers have lost tens of millions of dollars so far, he said.

“We ship massive amounts of pulp to the United States and to places like Asia, so big negative impacts there,” Neuheimer said in a phone interview.

“We have members whose customers aren’t placing orders right now in the U.S. because they know that it’s not going to get there as soon as it needs to get there.”

Olin Corp., a Missouri-based chemical maker with a facility near Trois-Rivieres, Que., cautioned Ottawa that its tight distribution schedule means the 50-odd Canadian companies it serves will soon stop receiving chlorine — used in part to treat drinking water — which it says is only shipped by rail.

“Olin is alarmed by the current freight rail situation in Canada, and we are concerned that customers and municipalities will not receive shipments of vital chemicals including chlorine within one week,” chairman and CEO John Fischer said in a letter to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau on Tuesday.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, whose members typically load about 4,500 rail cars a day, is urging government officials to work with police to restore service on the tracks.

“In Canada, there’s not really other alternatives to move stuff around. The highways and trucks _ especially in Quebec and southern Ontario _ are already at a very, very high utilization of available capacity,” association president Dennis Darby said in a phone interview.

Stakeholders from chemical companies to Dannon Yogurt called this week to raise concerns, he said. “They can’t get their stuff out.”

Garneau said he is working with the railways and his Ontario counterpart Caroline Mulroney to find a solution, and that blockage of tracks is “dangerous and illegal.”

Despite the countrywide impact, he underscored that responsibility for enforcing court injunctions against the anti-pipeline protesters lies with provincial politicians and police.

“Obviously, we hope it’s going to be resolved, but it is up to the provinces to make those injunctions effective by taking action,” Garneau told reporters in Calgary. “It’s having an important impact on the economy of the country.”

Earlier Tuesday, Via Rail said 157 passenger trains have also been cancelled, affecting 24,500 travellers on its Montreal-Toronto, Ottawa-Toronto and Kingston-Toronto routes.

Ontario Provincial Police said officers are in talks with protesters behind a blockade that sits metres from the tracks, though not across them.

OPP spokesman Bill Dickson said an officer of the court read an injunction to the protesters Tuesday morning ordering them to abandon the blockade, which bisects Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, about 20 kilometres east of Belleville.

While CN obtained the injunction on Friday, Tuesday marked the first time it was read aloud in accordance with court procedure, Dickson said.

Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Chief R. Donald Maracle expressed solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en community in northwestern B.C. and called out actions by the RCMP, which has been enforcing a court injunction on the First Nation’s traditional territory and arresting those attempting to block access to the pipeline route.

“We call on both federal and provincial governments to demand the RCMP immediately reconsider how it addresses peaceful protests and demonstrations, and allow the opportunity for sound discussion with a common-sense approach to achieve peaceful outcomes,” Maracle said in a statement.

Brendan Marshall, head of economic and northern affairs at the Mining Association of Canada, said buyers of natural resource products were as vulnerable as producers — some of whom are already curtailing production.

“If you’re a facility that’s reliant on rail service in order to get your product to a site, then it’s kind of like sand through the hourglass — when it runs out, the plant can’t work anymore,” he said.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2020.

— With files from Michelle McQuigge

Companies in this story: (TSX:CNR)

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