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Trump faces calls to work with Biden team on transition

WILL WEISSERT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Nov 9th, 2020

President Donald Trump is facing pressure to co-operate with President-elect Joe Biden’s team to ensure a smooth transfer of power when the new administration takes office in January.

The General Services Administration is tasked with formally recognizing Biden as president-elect, which begins the transition. But the agency’s Trump-appointed administrator, Emily Murphy, has not started the process and has given no guidance on when she will do so.

That lack of clarity is fueling questions about whether Trump, who has not publicly recognized Biden’s victory and has falsely claimed the election was stolen, will impede Democrats as they try to establish a government.

There is little precedent in the modern era of a president erecting such hurdles for his successor. The stakes are especially high this year because Biden will take office amid a raging pandemic, which will require a comprehensive government response.

“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signalling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” Jen Psaki, a Biden transition aide, tweeted Sunday.

The advisory board of the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition also urged the Trump administration to “immediately begin the post-election transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act.”

Biden, who was elected the 46th president on Saturday, is taking steps to build a government despite questions about whether Trump will offer the traditional assistance.

He is focusing first on the virus, which has already killed nearly 240,000 Americans. Biden will announce details on Monday of a task force that will create a blueprint to attempt to bring the pandemic under control that he plans to begin implementing after assuming the presidency on Jan. 20.

Biden has already named a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and an ex-Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs.

Biden was also launching agency review teams, groups of transition staffers that have access to key agencies in the current administration. They will collect and review information such as budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current Trump administration staff at the departments to help Biden’s team prepare to transition.

But that process can’t begin in full until the GSA recognizes Biden as president-elect. The definition of what constitutes a clear election winner for the GSA is legally murky, making next steps unclear, especially in the short term.

The GSA’s leadership is supposed to act independently and in a nonpartisan manner, and at least some elements of the federal government already have begun implementing transition plans. Aviation officials, for instance, have restricted the airspace over Biden’s lakefront home in Wilmington, Delaware, while the Secret Service has begun using agents from its presidential protective detail for the president-elect and his family.

There were other signs that some leaders were preparing for a new administration.

Biden aides said the president-elect and transition team had been in touch with Republican lawmakers. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump’s closest allies, opened a Cabinet meeting on Sunday by congratulating Biden, a former vice-president and longtime senator.

“I have a long and warm personal connection with Joe Biden for nearly 40 years, and I know him as a great friend of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

George W. Bush, the only living Republican former president, called Biden “a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.”

But other Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, urged Trump to continue pursuing legal challenges related to the election, making a bumpy transition more likely.

Biden started his first full day as president-elect on Sunday by attending church at St. Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Wilmington, as he does nearly every week. After the service, he visited the church cemetery where several family members have been laid to rest, including his son Beau.

He otherwise spent most of the day inside his home while some of his staff spent hours on a conference call focused on transition planning.

Those plans also may hinge on two Senate races in Georgia that have advanced to a Jan. 5 runoff. If Republicans hold those seats, they’ll likely retain the Senate majority and be in a position to slow confirmation of Biden’s top Cabinet choices and complicate his legislative goals, including sweeping calls for expanding access to health care and bolstering the post-pandemic economy with green jobs and infrastructure designed to combat climate change.

That could test Biden’s campaign pledge to move past the divisiveness of the Trump era and govern in a bipartisan manner.

During his victory speech on Saturday, he vowed to be a president who “seeks not to divide, but unify” and appealed to Trump supporters to “give each other a chance.”

Those close to Biden say he will navigate the period ahead by harnessing his sense of empathy that became a trademark of his campaign. Biden often spoke of the pain he experienced following the death of his wife and young daughter in a 1972 car crash, and Beau’s 2015 death due to brain cancer.

“My brother knows how to feel,” said Valerie Biden Owens, Biden’s sister and longtime top adviser. “Joe’s strength has been resilience and recovery and that’s what we need as a country.”

Man shot near Queen Street West and Niagara Street

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Nov 9th, 2020

A man has been shot in Toronto’s Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood, police say.

Police tweeted at around 5:35 p.m. that they had been called to the Queen Street West and Niagara Street area for a report that people had been seen shooting at each other.

When officers arrived, they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound.

EMS said they transported a man with serious, non-life-threatening injuries.

Several bullet casings were located as well.

Investigators are searching for one suspect in connection to this incident. Police describe the suspect as a male, about five-foot-eight-inches tall, with a slim build. He was wearing a black bandana over his face and a black vest. He was also carrying a handgun.

The incident remains under investigation.


‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek dies after battle with pancreatic cancer

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Nov 9th, 2020

Alex Trebek, who presided over the beloved quiz show “Jeopardy!” for more than 30 years with dapper charm and a touch of school-master strictness, died Sunday. He was 80.

Trebek, who announced in 2019 that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, died at his California home, surrounded by family and friends, “Jeopardy!” studio Sony said.

The Sudbury-born host, who made a point of informing fans about his health directly, spoke in a calm, even tone as he revealed his illness and hope for a cure in a video posted March 6, 2019.

In the video, Trebek said he was joining the 50,000 other Americans who receive such a diagnosis each year and that he recognized that the prognosis was not encouraging.

But Trebek said he intended to fight it and keep working, even joking that he needed to beat the disease because his “Jeopardy!” contract ran for three more years. Less than a week later, he opened the show with a message acknowledging the outpouring of kind words and prayers he’d received.

“Thanks to the – believe it or not – hundreds of thousands of people who have sent in tweets, texts, emails, cards and letters wishing me well,” Trebek said. “I’m a lucky guy.”

“Jeopardy!” bills itself as “America’s favourite quiz show” and captivated the public with a unique format in which contestants were told the answers and had to provide the questions on a variety of subjects, including movies, politics, history and popular culture.

They would answer by saying “What is … ?” or “Who is …. ?”

Trebek, who became its host in 1984, was a master of the format, engaging in friendly banter with contestants, appearing genuinely pleased when they answered correctly and, at the same time, moving the game along in a brisk no-nonsense fashion whenever people struggled for answers.

He never pretended to know the answers himself if he really didn’t, deferring to the show’s experts to decide whether a somewhat vague answer had come close enough to be counted as correct.

“I try not to take myself too seriously,” he told an interviewer in 2004. “I don’t want to come off as a pompous ass and indicate that I know everything when I don’t.”

The show was the brainstorm of Juann Griffin, wife of the late talk show host-entrepreneur Merv Griffin, who said she suggested to him one day that he create a game show where people were given the answers.

“Jeopardy!” debuted on NBC in 1964 with Art Fleming as emcee and was an immediate hit. It lasted until 1975, then was revived in syndication with Trebek.

Long identified by a full head of hair and trim moustache (though in 2001 he startled viewers by shaving his moustache, “completely on a whim”), Trebek was more than qualified for the job, having started his game show career on “Reach for the Top” in his native country.

Moving to the U.S. in 1973, he appeared on “The Wizard of Odds,” “High Rollers,” “The $128,000 Question” and “Double Dare.” Even during his run on “Jeopardy!”, Trebek worked on other shows. In the early 1990s, he was the host of three – “Jeopardy!”, “To Tell the Truth” and “Classic Concentration.”

“Jeopardy!” made him famous. He won five Emmys as its host, and received stars on both the Hollywood and Canadian walks of fame. In 2012, the show won a prestigious Peabody Award.

He taped his daily “Jeopardy!” shows at a frenetic pace, recording as many as 10 episodes (two weeks’ worth) in just two days. After what was described as a mild heart attack in 2007, he was back at work in just a month.

He posted a video in January 2018 announcing he’d undergone surgery for blood clots on the brain that followed a fall he’d taken. The show was on hiatus during his recovery.

It had yet to bring in a substitute host for Trebek – save once, when he and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak swapped their TV jobs as an April’s Fool prank.

In 2012, Trebek acknowledged that he was considering retirement, but had been urged by friends to stay on so he could reach 30 years on the show. He still loved the job, he declared: “What’s not to love? You have the security of a familiar environment, a familiar format, but you have the excitement of new clues and new contestants on every program. You can’t beat that!”

Although many viewers considered him one of the key reasons for the show’s success, Trebek himself insisted he was only there to keep things moving.

“I’m introduced as the host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ not the star,” he said in a 2012 interview. “My job is to provide the atmosphere and assistance to the contestants to get them to perform at their very best,” he explained. “And if I’m successful doing that, I will be perceived as a nice guy and the audience will think of me as being a bit of a star.”

Statistics Canada to release October jobs report

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada will say this morning how the country’s job market fared in October, with experts expecting the pace of gains to slow from September.

Job growth in Canada accelerated rather than slowed down in September, as the economy added 378,000 jobs coming out of the summer.

That brought overall employment to within 720,000 of pre-pandemic levels, or about three-quarters of the three million jobs lost at the outset of the pandemic in Canada.

The gains also dropped the unemployment rate to nine per cent.

The country is expected to get a little closer to recouping the losses with the figures for October.

Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a gain of 100,000 jobs in October and an unemployment rate of 8.8 per cent.

A tsunami of disinformation is coming from the White House

THE BIG STORY | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, almost everything the President of the United States has been saying since election day is false. His family and supporters are following suit. How is the internet handling a flood of misleading claims and outright lies? What makes the post-election disinfo so hard to debunk? How did we end up so far down this rabbit hole and is it even possible to climb back out?

GUEST: Jane Lytvynenko, Disinformation Reporter, BuzzFeed News

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

Freeland grilled over cost of pandemic aid as House fast tracks rent relief bill


Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was grilled Thursday over the mounting cost of providing relief programs to help Canadians and businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a four-hour question-and-answer session in the House of Commons, Freeland refused to provide any new numbers about the size of this year’s deficit, the overall federal debt or the potential ballooning cost of servicing that debt should record-low interest rates begin to rise.

She told MPs that those projections would come in a fiscal update later this fall, not before. She declined to set a date for that update.

“I don’t think the minister has given a single number with regards to any of these questions,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre complained at one point during a series of sharp exchanges with Freeland.

“She won’t tell us the limits on the debt, she won’t tell us how much the Bank of Canada has printed to fund her government’s debt, she won’t tell us whether the debt will be paid back before interest rates rise. Is there anything mathematical or numerical that anyone on the government side can share with the Canadian taxpayers who will have to repay that debt?”

Freeland countered with two numbers, arguing that debt servicing charges as a share of GDP “are the lowest in 100 years” and that 76 per cent of Canadians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic are back at work.

But Poilievre accused Freeland of a coverup and of being afraid of disclosing the real costs of the billions in relief programs the government has created.

“I’m not afraid of much,” Freeland countered, challenging Poilievre to come clean with Canadians.

“The Conservatives need to decide, are they the party of austerity or do they believe in supporting Canadians through this crisis.”

The grilling took place as part of an agreement among all parties to fast-track the government’s latest emergency aid bill, which would provide rent relief for businesses and extend the wage subsidy program.

Bill C-9 would extend the federal wage subsidy until next summer, cancelling a previously planned decline in its value, as well as expand a popular business loan program.

The legislation would also redo a rent relief program that was widely criticized because its original design needed buy-in from landlords, many of whom did not participate.

And it would also provide top-up help for businesses whose revenues crash because of local lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Freeland referenced the bill in a tweet earlier Thursday as she voiced support for an extension of restrictions in Canada’s largest city for another week.

“I know these restrictions are difficult for many Toronto businesses. That is why we (are) working very hard to extend the wage subsidy, create a new rent subsidy, and provide extra lockdown support.”

The Liberals reached an agreement with opposition parties on Wednesday to fast-track the legislation through the House of Commons and have it passed by Friday.

It will still need Senate approval before being enacted. The Senate agreed Thursday to have its finance committee launch a pre-study of the bill, which is expected to occur next week while the rest of Parliament is on a break.

Earlier Thursday, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet told reporters he wants to make sure the bill includes a provision to prohibit political parties from benefiting from the wage subsidy.

The Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens all used the program earlier this year when their donations dried up from the pandemic.

“They should never, even if they would have been in difficulty, have touched that money,” Blanchet said.

The bill comes on top of billions already rolled out to sustain individuals and businesses across the country during the pandemic.

The government’s last look at the books in July estimated a deficit of $343.2 billion this fiscal year, but that was before added promises laid out in September’s throne speech.

Freeland has warned against rolling back aid too soon because it would cost the country more in the end.

Statistics tracked by The Canadian Press show there have been about 1.8 million claims for employment insurance since the system came back online at the end of September (after having been temporarily replaced by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit), and about $1.15 billion paid in benefits.

About one million more people have applied for the new Canada Recovery Benefit, which is paid to those who don’t qualify for EI.

The parliamentary budget officer will report Friday on how much spending he believes the federal treasury can handle before deficits spiral out of control.

The New Democrats put a proposal to the House of Commons on Thursday to cover the aid bill via a wealth tax on those worth more than $20 million, which the PBO estimated would rake in $5.6 billion, and tax what the party called excess profits for large corporations.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said excess profits would be anything well above the normal trend lines for business earnings, with an assessment of how much of that was due to COVID-19.

“Instead of putting the burden on people, we should ask those who have done really well in this time to pay their fair share,” he said.

Markham man who slaughtered entire family in their home set to be sentenced

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

A 24-year-old man who slaughtered his entire family before they discovered his double life is expected to be sentenced today.

The sentencing of Menhaz Zaman was initially scheduled for Monday but was delayed due to videoconferencing problems.

Zaman has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder for killing his parents, sister and grandmother on July 27, 2019, in their home in Markham, Ont.

All counts come with an automatic life sentence, and both defence and Crown lawyers are seeking a 40-year period of parole ineligibility for Zaman.

Zaman said in an agreed statement of facts that he killed his family because they were about to find out he had lied for years about going to university to become an engineer.

Autopsies showed Zaman had hit each of his family members in the head, likely with a crow bar and then cut their throats.

Ontario government to present first pandemic budget, lay out next steps for recovery

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is set to unveil its first pandemic-era budget Thursday.

The province has said the budget will lay out the details of the next stage of its COVID-19 response.

That includes the new standard for long-term care announced earlier this week, which would see nursing home residents receive an average of four hours of direct care every day.

The Tories put off delivering a full fiscal plan earlier this year, citing the economic uncertainty caused by the global health crisis.

The fiscal update it gave in March instead initially included $17 billion in COVID-19 relief, though that projection was updated to $30 billion by the end of 2020-21.

The province also originally predicted a deficit of $20.5 billion, which was later raised to $38.5 billion because of the added spending.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips says the document released today will be a three-year budget that aims to “protect,” “support” and “recover.”

“As COVID-19 continues to cause uncertainty in the global economy, we need to position Ontario for a strong recovery, even while being focused on the urgent needs of today,” Phillips said.

Premier Doug Ford also promised in October that he would spend $9 billion in program spending that had not been allocated.

That unspent money was flagged by the Financial Accountability Office, which noted that the cash could be used to bring down a projected $37.2-billion deficit for 2020-21.

The Ford government has also said the financial demands of the pandemic mean it won’t balance the books by 2023-24 as promised.

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