Saturday, July 31, 2021

Charlotte Worthington produces new move to win Olympic gold in BMX freestyle

Worthington fell in her first run but landed a front flip and a huge backflip on her way to a first-place finish.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington during the Women’s
 Cycling BMX Freestyle (Marijan Murat via DPA) / PA Media

By Alexander Britton
1 hour ago

Former cook Charlotte Worthington served up a gold medal for Team GB in the BMX freestyle as British success in Tokyo continued on Sunday.

Worthington, from Manchester, landed the first-ever 360 backflip to be performed in women’s competition, having worked in a Mexican restaurant as she trained for this year’s Games.

The 25-year-old’s gold was followed by a bronze for Declan Brooks in the men’s freestyle, while a British quartet snared a silver in the last swimming event in the pool, the 4×100 men’s medley.

Worthington fell in her first run but landed a front flip and a huge backflip on her way to a first-place finish, with Britain’s most successful female Olympic track cyclist Laura Kenny saying: “I think that’s one of my favourite ever Olympic golds!”

Speaking afterwards, she said: “In 2018, I was working in a restaurant.

“At that time it was the Racconto Lounge in Bury, but I started working in restaurants in the Beagle in Manchester.

“In 2018, I went to a couple of events and contests and got speaking to people and found out about BMX being in the Olympics and British cycling were putting together a team.

“At the time, I was just taking a lot of really cool opportunities that I enjoyed doing and it just kind of snowballed from there.”

Her victory came after Bethany Shriever secured the Olympic title in the BMX racing, while Kye Whyte finished second in the men’s event.

Brooks’ bronze means Team GB finished on the podium in all four BMX competitions in Tokyo.

Stephen Park, British Cycling’s performance director, said people should remember her name.

He tweeted: “The route hasn’t been smooth but to nail @Tokyo2020 this after the 1st run fail is huge testimony to her belief & resilience.

“@chazworther A Top @TeamGB @BritishCycling athlete. Remember her name.”

Adrenaline Alley in Corby, where both Worthington and Brooks train, posted of their pride at the BMX performances on social media, saying: “This is unbelievable!! 2 medals are coming home! We are so proud @chazworther @declanbrooks.”

Olympics-Cycling-Britain’s Worthington, Australian Martin win memorable BMX freestyle golds
By Martyn Herman
Posted on August 1, 2021

BMX Freestyle - Women's Park - Final

TOKYO (Reuters) -Former chef Charlotte Worthington served up the ride of her life as the Briton became the first-ever Olympic champion in BMX freestyle at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on Sunday.

The 25-year-old recovered from a crash landing in the first of her two runs in the final on a baking hot BMX park but produced a sensational range of tricks in her second to shoot to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 97.50.

American favourite Hannah Roberts, who scored 96.10 in a superb opening run and looked set for gold, could not improve in her second and had to make do with silver.

Swiss Nikita Ducarroz took the bronze.

Men’s favourite Logan Martin won the men’s event later, beating Venezuelan veteran Daniel Dhers to the top of the podium with Britain’s Declan Brooks in third place.

Martin soared off the ramps to score 93.30 in his first run and that proved sufficient for gold.

“I have no words. This is crazy. It’s been such a long journey to get here,” the 27-year-old world champion, who built a BMX park in his back garden on the Gold Coast, told reporters.

While Martin’s victory was expected, Worthington was not considered the gold medal favourite, having only taken up BMX seriously in 2017 while she was working in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant in her native Manchester.

But she had a special ingredient to throw into the mix — a backward flip with a 360 degree rotation, a trick no woman had ever successfully pulled off in competition.

She stacked her first attempt to sit in seventh place in the leaderboard, but with each of the nine riders allowed to scratch their worst run, she still had a shot at gold.

And at the second time of asking, with no margin for error if she were to displace Roberts, she executed the head-spinning trick that she said had left her giddy earlier.

With a daring forward flip thrown in near the end it wowed the judges and she shot to the top of the leaderboard. That piled pressure on Roberts who had celebrated her first ride with the statement that it was “one of the best I’ve ever done”, and then tossing away her bike as if to say ‘job done’.

Roberts, limping from a crash in training this week, was faced with finding something extra, but baled early in her second run, sparking wild celebrations in the British camp where Worthington was hugged by coach Jamie Bestwick, a BMX great, and team mate Brooks who was preparing for his rides.

“I’m over the moon. I’m still sitting here waiting to wake up,” Worthington said. “It feels like a dream.”

Asked how she had managed to compose herself after crashing on her first attempt at the 360 backflip, a stunt she had pulled off for the first time on wooden boards this week, she said there was no way she would not try it again.

“All I wanted to do was just give myself the best chance of landing it,” she said. “It was a huge relief to do it and after that I feel like I probably zoned out the rest of the ride.”

World champion Roberts was magnanimous in defeat.

“Charlie did some crazy things,” she said. “I’m super stoked for her. She absolutely killed it.”

Worthington’s win and Brooks’ bronze shortly afterwards continued an incredible few days for Britain at the BMX park after Bethany Shriever won racing gold and Kye Whyte silver.

BMX freestye was making its debut at the Olympics after being voted onto the programme in 2017.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Shri Navaratnam)

BMX Freestyle – Women’s Park – Final
BMX Freestyle – Women’s Park – Final
BMX Freestyle – Women’s Park – Final

North Korea's economy contracts most in 23 years, bank figures show

The coronavirus pandemic, climate change and economic sanctions had an impact on North Korean economic growth in 2020, Seoul’s Bank of Korea said in a report Friday.
 File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

July 30 (UPI) -- North Korea's economy shrank 4.5% in 2020, registering the greatest contraction in 23 years, according to South Korea's central bank.

Bank of Korea said Friday that the negative growth in North Korea's gross domestic product could be attributed to Pyongyang's decision to close its borders last year amid the global coronavirus pandemic and international sanctions, Newsis reported.

North Korea is estimated to have witnessed the greatest decrease in economic activity and output in 1997, during the Great Famine. The South's central bank has said the North's economy that year shrank 6.5% as hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions of people, died amid a food shortage.

The regime's economy was exhibiting signs of negative growth before the pandemic, the Bank of Korea said.

North Korea's economic growth rate was -0.5% in 2010, and then grew about 1% annually for four years starting in 2011.

The economy shrank by 1.1% in 2015m but posted a 3.9% gain in 2016. It then declined for two consecutive years before recording a positive 0.4% growth rate in 2019.

The Bank of Korea's numbers generally correspond to estimates from Seoul's National Statistical Office, which compiles its own numbers. North Korea's economy registered negative growth in 2017 and 2018 before recovering in 2019, the statistical office said last year.

Choi Jung-tae, head of the National Income Statistics Team of the Bank's Economic Statistics Desk, said the North's economy contracted in 2017 and 2018 because of "strong international sanctions," Kyunghyang Shinmun reported Friday.

Choi also said that COVID-19, flooding and typhoons have had an impact on North Korean economic growth.

North Korea's gross national income per capita in 2020 was $1,197.50, or 3.7% of South Korea's, the Bank said.

The Bank of Korea has estimated North Korea's GDP growth since 1991 and uses South Korean relative prices to estimate real GDP, according to reports.
Orca stranded on rocks during Alaska's low tide, returns to sea

A 13-year-old killer whale was stranded along the Alaskan coast for 6 hours before floating back into the ocean at high tide. File photo by qingqing/Shutterstock

July 31 (UPI) -- A 20-foot orca that was stranded on a rocky southeast Alaskan beach floated back to sea later the same day during high tide, local officials said.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said a ship off Prince of Wales Island called in the marine mammal -- also known as a killer whale -- to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday morning.

They authorized the crew to keep pumping seawater on the animal to keep it wet and keep birds away from it. People gathered on the shore, taking pictures and dumping water on the whale.

A NOAA officer reached the beach early Thursday afternoon, asking people to stay away from the whale.

"This animal is in a situation where it is exceedingly stressed," NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said, according to Anchorage Daily News. "The more humans nearby, the more it will be stressed."

Speegle said the whale was making clicks, whistles and pulsing calls. More killer whales were seen near the area offshore. A high tide came in around 2 p.m. and the whale floated away.

Bay Cetology marine biologists identified the whale as a 13-year-old part of a transient population last seen off the Haida Gwaii archipelago on July 3.

Altogether, five whales have been recorded as stranded on the West Coast in the past two decades, according to The New York Times.
Without genetic variation, asexual invasive species find other ways to adapt

Some species of white fringed beetles, a common invasive weevil, reproduce asexually. 
Photo by Analia Lanteri/Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo de La Plata, Argentina

July 30 (UPI) -- Invasive all-female weevils pass along epigenetic changes to their offspring, helping them adapt to new environs, according to a new study.

Across most of the animal kingdom, an organism's ability to adapt and evolve is largely dependent on genetic variation.

Sufficient genetic diversity makes it more likely that favorable traits will emerge and proliferate as the fittest specimens populate subsequent generations.

Some species, however, reproduce asexually, which means their genetic reservoir is limited. So how do they adapt to new environs?

RELATED Competition leaves a permanent genetic imprint on the brains of songbirds

To find out, researchers collected specimens of two asexually reproducing, invasive weevil species, Naupactus cervinus and N. leucoloma, from Florida, California and Argentina.

Despite sharing the exact same DNA, researchers found the weevil populations in each place produced different proteins to help them digest local plants.

Gene expression analysis -- detailed Friday in the journal Plos ONE -- showed some plants elicited a more pronounced epigenetic response than others
RELATED New grafting technique yields more productive, resilient plants, crops

"We found that some host plant groups, such as legumes, appear to be more taxing for weevils and elicit a complex gene expression response," study co-author Andrea Sequeira, professor of biological sciences at Wellesley College, said in a press release.

"However, the weevil response to taxing host plants shares many differentially expressed genes with other stressful situations, such as organic cultivation conditions and transition to novel hosts, suggesting that there is an evolutionarily favorable shared gene expression regime for responding to different types of stressful situations," Sequeira said.

Researchers also found weevil mothers, which practice clonal reproduction, are able to "prime" their offspring with these epigenetic changes.

RELATED Stickleback study shows epigenetic changes key to climate change adaptation

"Originally, we thought that these changes would only be seen in a single generation," said lead study author Ava Mackay-Smith, a 2020 graduate of Wellesley College.

"When we studied larvae, who do not yet have mouths or eat plants, we found evidence of the same proteins and adaptations from their mothers," Mackay-Smith said.

The findings undermine previous assumptions that epigenetic instructions are lost between generations.

Researchers hope that by studying the mechanics of epigenetic inheritance, researchers can develop better strategies for protecting ecosystems from invasive, asexual species.

"Knowing what is in this insect's repertoire, you could imagine that since we've now identified the proteins that are regulated differently, you could target a specific protein and design a targeted pesticide that removes only that species of weevil, without harming other native insects or fauna," Sequeira said.
Study: Understanding negative vaccine view of skeptics could get more people vaccinated

Understanding the concerns of vaccine-hesitant people could help to convince more of them
 Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 30 (UPI) -- Survey data collected at an anti-vaccine conference in Poland suggests most vaccine skeptics and antagonists are motivated by a generalized negative attitude to vaccines, not direct experience.

Previous studies suggests those opposed to vaccines are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, at least in the short term, but the latest findings -- published Friday in the journal Social Psychological Bulletin -- may help public health officials get through to those who are "vaccine hesitant."

For the study, scientists surveyed attendees of a conference where speakers presented anti-vaccine arguments.

Researchers found most survey participants reported their antagonism was based on their own or observed negative experiences with vaccines. However, the same participants were vague when citing those experiences and the sources of their information.

RELATED Study: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy holding constant among some groups

Most critics of vaccines cited concerns about autism, allergies or children getting sick from vaccines, though were unable to cite evidence of correlation.

Psychological research suggests it is common for negative reports to stand out in people's minds. As well, when negative misinformation spreads, people who receive said misinformation from multiple sources are likely to forget where it came from.

Instead, people misattribute their negative beliefs about vaccines to direct experience or the experiences of close friends and relatives.

"Confirmation bias consists of an individual actively seeking information consistent with their pre-existing hypothesis, and avoiding information indicative of alternative explanations," researchers wrote in their paper.

"Therefore, a pre-existing negative attitude toward vaccines may cause individuals to interpret negative symptoms as consequences of vaccines, further reinforcing the negative attitude," the researchers wrote.

In addition to harboring fears about negative side effects, vaccine opponents claim vaccines are insufficiently tested and fail to protect society against infectious diseases. They also believe anti-vaccine leaders are more devoted to protecting the public than physicians who advocate for vaccines.

Those who identified as vaccine hesitant were more confident about efficacy of vaccines, as well as the reliability of research and testing, but these skeptics were still sympathetic to claims made by the anti-vaccine proponents about side effects and the "Big Pharma conspiracy."

Surprisingly, opponents of vaccines were more confident than those who were vaccine hesitant about the ability of modern medicine to handle the pandemic.

The findings suggest public health officials may be able to get through to those that are hesitant about vaccines by addressing their specific concerns about side effects, the researchers said.

The authors of the new study also suggest vaccine outreach should feature positive, prosocial arguments, such as the reasons medical professionals recommend vaccines.
Ban on ‘Soul Cap’ spotlights lack of diversity in swimming


Simone Manuel, of United States, leaves the pool after a women's 50-meter freestyle semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

TOKYO (AP) — Alice Dearing has an afro, a voluminous puff nearly impossible to protect in most swimming caps. Her hair shrinks if it gets wet. And the chlorine? The chemicals in a pool can cause severe damage that requires substantial time and money to treat.

The first Black female swimmer on Britain’s Olympic team uses the the Soul Cap, an extra-large silicone covering designed specifically to protect dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, braids, and thick and curly hair. But Dearing has been forbidden from using the cap in her Olympic debut next week in the women’s 10k marathon swim.

FINA, which oversees international competitions in swimming, rejected the application from the British makers of the Soul Cap for use in the Tokyo Games, citing no previous instance in which swimmers needed “caps of such size and configuration.” It also wondered if the cap could create an advantage by disrupting the flow of water.

On social media and in Black swimming circles, the outcry was swift and the conversation went on for days. A petition was launched and Dearing, an ambassador for the cap and co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, openly expressed disappointment.

For people of color, this was so much more than a ban on a swimming cap. Dismissing it represented yet another injustice.

Donata Katai is seen during a swimming practice session in Harare, Zimba. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)


It’s been five years since the Rio Games, when American Simone Manuel became the first Black female swimmer to win Olympic gold. Since then, there has been little uptick in swimmers of color at the elite level.

Like Dearing, Donta Katai of Zimbabwe is the first Black swimmer to represent her country. And at almost any meet at the international level, swimmers of color are extremely rare. The U.S. team has only two black females, Manuel and Natalie Hinds.

Those familiar with the situation say the reasons for that shortage — and the racism behind them — run deep in history.

Neither Manuel nor Hinds understands the dismissal of the Soul Cap. Both Americans have sponsorship from other companies that make caps to protect their hair, but they were disappointed that a cap made by a Black-owned business specifically to aid swimmers of color was outlawed.

“It doesn’t do the best for inclusivity in the sport,” Manuel said.

The tenuous relationship between Black people and water goes back a long way. In the era of segregation in the United States, Black swimmers were barred from pools; those that did permit swimmers of color were often unsafe and neglected.

“The predominance of white athletes in swimming is a key example of a racial disparity in sport that can be linked to histories of institutional racism,” said Claire Sisco King, an associate professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University and editor of the Women’s Studies in Communication international journal.

Simone Manuel, of United States, leaves the pool after a women's 50-meter freestyle semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Accessibility to public pools is another barrier, King notes, and wealth inequality makes an often expensive sport like swimming inaccessible. She said the banning of the Soul Cap “risks perpetuating the racist assumption that Black athletes don’t belong in the sport of swimming.”

According to the USA Swimming Foundation, 64% of Black children do not know how to swim compared to 40% of white American children. Additionally, 79% of children in American families that earn less than $50,000 a year do not know how to swim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1999 and 2010, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for Blacks was significantly higher than white swimmers; for every white child between 5 and 18 years old who drowned, 5.5 Black children drowned.

Danielle Obe co-founded, with Dearing, the Black Swimming Association not long after the 2019 Christmas Eve drowning of a father and two children while on holiday in Spain.

“We just thought, we’ve got to do something for our community,” Obe said. After conversations with Swimming World magazine, she found that 95% of Black adults in London do not swim and 80% of Black children leave primary school not yet able to swim.

Said Obe: “We thought the only way to get more Alice Dearings in the pool, with Alice being Black and among the 5% in the water, we had to reduce the 95% not in the water.”

Simone Manuel, top, of the United States, swims alongside Emma Mckeon, of Australia at the 2020 Olympics. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


Dearing is among the Black swimmers who balance love of the water with the difficulties of protecting hair.

Obe suspects Dearing will have her afro braided into cornrows in order to use an approved cap in the marathon swim, but Dearing had been using the Soul Cap. It was created by schoolmates Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman, who both did not learn how to swim until their late 20s.

“The perception has always been that swimming isn’t for Black people; my mom doesn’t swim, Michael’s mom doesn’t swim, none of our friends swim,” Ahmed said, “and it was like, ‘This is nuts, — we need to learn how to swim.’”

A woman in the class struggled to keep her bathing cap on her head, which sparked the Soul Cap idea.

“We both wondered why there wasn’t swim caps made to accommodate that more voluminous hair and afro textures and bigger hair,” Ahmed said. “We spoke to our moms and our sisters and they both all said, to be fair, a big barrier to swimming is the fact our hair gets soaked, we haven’t got a swimming cap that works.”

What they thought would be a niche product received such favorable feedback that the duo realized “we were filling a gap, providing something that removed a barrier to women and children who did not want to swim.”

In 2017 they self-funded 150 black extra-large caps, another 60 in burgundy, and are now taking orders for about 25,000 caps. The caps started with the two understated colors; then they were contacted by open-water swimmers who needed brighter hues. Then came queries from swimmers who didn’t have full afros and wanted the caps in smaller sizes.

The attention created by the federation’s rejection has been effective, though Dearing wasn’t available to talk about it. Her team wouldn’t make her available for comment until after her Aug. 4 competition.

Simone Manuel of the United States, left, reacts with teammate Katie McLaughlin, right, at the pool during a swimming training session at the 2020 Summer Olympics. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)


Manuel and Hinds were part of the bronze medal-winning 4x100 meter freestyle relay and Manuel, a four-time medalist, made history when she won gold in the 100-meter free at Rio.

Black swimmers’ success can be a change agent, but there must also be specific steps toward creating more interest and opportunity, said Shontel Cargill, a former competitive swimmer who is Black. She is now a therapist and assistant clinic director at Thriveworks in Cumming, Georgia.

“Due to the discriminatory and segregated past of swimming, Black families have been taught to fear swimming instead of embrace it,” Cargill said.

FINA is now in talks with Soul Cap and said in a statement it will review the application again later this year. The governing body said it is “understanding of the importance of inclusivity and representation,” and the review of the Soul Cap and similar products “are part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill.”

The federation’s swimwear approval committee chairman “is fully aware of the cultural issues that Soul Cap has raised, and we are reviewing the process,” Brent Nowicki, an American named executive director of FINA in June, said Saturday.

Ahmed feels encouraged after conversations with Nowicki, who he said was “quite apologetic for the way the application was handled.”

“I think it’s testament that if there was more representation at that level, and more representation at the approval process, someone might have said ‘Hey, let’s consider this because there are people out there who want to swim competitively, but don’t want to cut their hair down short and maybe don’t want to compromise,’” Ahmed said. “It’s just about giving people an option.”


More AP Olympics: and
Census: 1 in 5 dorms, prisons had no data at end of US count


FILE - College students begin moving in for the fall semester at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, July 31, 2020. By the end of the U.S. head count last year, the Census Bureau lacked data for almost a fifth of the nation's occupied college dorms, nursing homes and prisons, requiring the statistical agency to make eleventh-hour calls to facilities in an effort to collect resident information or use a last-resort statistical technique to fill in the gaps. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, file)

By the end of the U.S. head count last year, the Census Bureau had no data for almost a fifth of the nation’s occupied college dorms, nursing homes and prisons, requiring the statistical agency to make eleventh-hour calls to facilities in an effort to collect information or use a last-resort statistical method to fill in gaps.

Residents of 43,000 of the 227,000 occupied dorms, prisons, military barracks, homeless shelters, group homes and nursing homes remained uncounted as late as December, according to new documents and slide presentations released recently by the Census Bureau in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a Republican redistricting advocacy group.

The documents hint at the scope of the challenges the bureau faced in conducting the massive count in the midst of a global pandemic, an effort made more difficult by wildfires, hurricanes and attempts by the Trump administration to interfere with the census.

The facilities — known collectively to the bureau as group quarters — were among the most difficult places to count people during the 2020 census because the pandemic forced colleges to shutter dorms and send students home, and nursing homes and other facilities restricted access in an effort to protect vulnerable residents from the virus.

Bureau officials are confident that they have since filled in the gaps using a statistical method they consider reliable, though they acknowledge that the challenge was formidable.

Census Bureau official Barbara LoPresti said recently that data collected from group quarters accounted for a large share of irregularities the statistical agency encountered but the data processing “has not shown any critical errors in data collection that we could not fix.”

“Anomalies in processing aren’t errors, but they can turn into errors if we don’t evaluate them and fix them,” LoPresti told a virtual meeting of outside experts who are evaluating the quality of the 2020 census data. “Our quality (check) process was therefore working.”

Fixing irregularities, though, forced the Census Bureau to delay the release of numbers used for divvying up congressional seats among states in a process known as apportionment. It also pushed back by five months the release of redistricting data used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts.

Though people living in group quarters account for a small share of the overall population — under 3% of the 331 million people living in the U.S. — any inaccurate information can have a big impact on college towns or areas with a large prison population or a military base. That in turn can diminish representation in Congress and the amount of federal funding they are eligible to receive.

“Individual group quarters can be huge in some areas,” Connie Citro, a senior scholar at the Committee on National Statistics, said during the virtual meeting of outside experts.

The Republican advocacy group, Fair Lines America Foundation, sued the Census Bureau for information about how the group quarters count was conducted, saying it’s concerned about its accuracy and wants to make sure anomalies didn’t affect the state population figures used for apportionment. The apportionment numbers were released by the Census Bureau in April, and the redistricting numbers used for drawing congressional and legislative districts are being made public next month.

The group quarters count is under added scrutiny this census because the Census Bureau, for the first time, decided in the middle of crunching numbers to use a last-resort statistical technique called imputation to fill in the data gaps for the dorms, nursing homes and prisons. The method has been used for some time to fill in missing information on individual households.

“If the Census Bureau is permitted to conduct these sorts of methodology changes and implementations behind closed doors ... electoral chaos may result from the states’ reliance on potentially defective numbers in conducting redistricting,” Fair Lines said in court papers.

In addition to the 43,000 group quarter addresses that lacked data last December, another 3,500 addresses had counts that were implausible because they were listed as having zero people or were way too high, suggesting there were duplicates. Statisticians removed duplicates, such as college students who were counted at both their dorms and parents’ homes, the documents said.

If they didn’t have any information about residents in a dorm, nursing home or prison, Census Bureau statisticians applied information they already knew about the facility, either from previous surveys, earlier contacts or administrative records, to arrive at the count.

After imputation and duplicate removal, the revised numbers appeared to artificially inflate the count for group quarters by 444,000 people. Instead of an expected 8.1 million residents living in group quarters, there were almost 8.6 million people. The group quarters count in the revised data was noticeably higher for California, New York, Florida and Washington state, the documents and slide presentations showed.

The Census Bureau said in a statement that the numbers in the documents weren’t the final figures and that the 444,000-person difference was addressed in later numbers-crunching. The statistical agency didn’t say what the final figures were or provide details about how the difference was handled.

“The Census Bureau made several improvements to its methodology after the date these slides were created,” the statement said.


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Ammunition shelves bare as U.S. gun sales continue to soar


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FILE - In this July 16, 2019, file photo, officers taking part in training load gun clips with ammunition at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien, Wash. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with record sales of firearms have created a shortage of ammunition in the United States that has impacting competition and recreational shooters, hunters, people seeking personal protection and law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with record sales of firearms, has fueled a shortage of ammunition in the United States that’s impacting law enforcement agencies, people seeking personal protection, recreational shooters and hunters -- and could deny new gun owners the practice they need to handle their weapons safely.

Manufacturers say they’re producing as much ammunition as they can, but many gun store shelves are empty and prices keep rising. Ammunition imports are way up, but at least one U.S. manufacturer is exporting ammo. All while the pandemic, social unrest and a rise in violent crime have prompted millions to buy guns for protection or to take up shooting for sport.

“We have had a number of firearms instructors cancel their registration to our courses because their agency was short on ammo or they were unable to find ammo to purchase,” said Jason Wuestenberg, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association.

Doug Tangen, firearms instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the police academy for the state, said the academy also has had trouble obtaining ammo.

“A few months ago, we were at a point where our shelves were nearly empty of 9mm ammunition,” he said. In response, instructors took conservation steps like reducing the number of shots fired per drill, which got them through several months until fresh supplies arrived, Tangen said.

Officer Larry Hadfield, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said his department also has been affected by the shortage. “We have made efforts to conserve ammunition when possible,” he said.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group, says more than 50 million people participate in shooting sports in the U.S. and estimates that 20 million guns were sold last year, with 8 million of those sales made by first-time buyers.

“When you talk about all these people buying guns, it really has an impact on people buying ammunition,” spokesman Mark Oliva said. ”If you look at 8.4 million gun buyers and they all want to buy one box with 50 rounds, that’s going to be 420 million rounds.”

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System database also documented an increase in sales: In 2010, there were 14.4 million background checks for gun purchases. That jumped to almost 39.7 million in 2020 and to 22.2 million just through June 2021 alone.

The actual number of guns sold could be much higher since multiple firearms can be linked to a single background check. No data is available for ammunition because sales are not regulated and no license is required to sell it.

As the pandemic raced across the country in early 2020, the resulting lockdown orders and cutbacks on police response sowed safety fears, creating an “overwhelming demand” for both guns and ammo, Oliva said. Factories continued to produce ammunition, but sales far exceeded the amount that could be shipped, he said.

“Where there is an increased sense of instability, fear and insecurity, more people will purchase guns,” said Ari Freilich of the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

As supplies dwindled, Feilich said, some gun owners began stockpiling ammo.

“Early on in the pandemic, we saw people hoarding toilet paper, disinfectant, and now it’s ammo,” he said.

Wustenberg emphasized the danger in first-time gun buyers not being able to practice using their new weapons.

Going to the gun range entails more than trying to hit a target, he said. It’s where shooters learn fundamental skills like always pointing their guns in a safe direction and keeping their fingers off the trigger until they’re ready to fire.

“It’s that old adage: Just because you buy a guitar doesn’t mean you’re a guitar player,” Wustenberg said. “Some have the misconception of ‘I shot this target 5 yards away and did just fine so I’m OK if someone breaks into my house.’ You’ve got to go out and practice with it.”

The U.S. military is not affected by the shortage because the Army produces ammunition for all branches of the military at six sites across the country, according to Justine Barati, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command.

The U.S. shooting team, which won four medals at the Tokyo Olympics, also had the ammo needed to train thanks to a commitment from sponsors, but membership and junior programs have struggled, said Matt Suggs, chief executive officer for USA Shooting.

The U.S. Biathlon team, training for the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, also has been supplied with ammo from its sponsor, Lapua, made in Finland. But local clubs face shortages, said Max Cobb, president of U.S. Biathlon Association.

Jason Vanderbrink, a vice president at Vista Outdoor, which owns the Federal, CCI, Speer and Remington ammunition brands, said the companies are shipping ammo as fast as they can make it.

“I’m tired of reading the misinformation on the internet right now about us not trying to service the demand that we’re experiencing,” he said in a YouTube video produced for customers aimed at quashing speculation suggesting otherwise.

Imports of ammunition from Russia, South Korea, the European Union and others were up 225% over the past two years, according to an analysis by Panjiva Inc., which independently tracks global trade. But at least some U.S.-made ammo is heading out of the country.

Winchester has logged 107 shipments since January 2020, according to Panjiva. Most went to Australia to fulfill a contract Winchester secured with NIOA, the country’s largest small-arms supplier. Nigel Everingham, NIOA’s chief operating officer, said he could not disclose how much ammo Winchester is supplying.

A few shipments also went to Belgium and Israel.

Meanwhile, most of the ammunition pictured on the website for Champion’s Choice, a gun store in LaVergne, Tennessee, is listed as “out of stock.”

“We keep ammo on order but we’re not sure when it’s going to come available, “sales manager Kyle Hudgens said. “It does put us in a bad position with our customers. They’re asking what the deal is.”

And Bryan Lookabaugh at Renton Fish & Game’s skeet and trap range in Renton, Washington -- where shooters try to hit discs flying at 35 to 70 mph -- said the limited availability means fewer people show up for shooting practice and some couldn’t participate in a recent competition.

“We have not had a full shipment in a year,” he said.

Duane Hendrix, the range master at the Seattle Police Athletic Association, a police and civilian gun range in Tukwila, Washington, said he now limits ammo sales to two boxes per customer.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Hendrix said. “There’s stuff we can’t get, especially rifle ammo. If you don’t have ammo for your customers, there’s no point in having your doors open.”
Families paying off rent, food, debts with child tax credit

July 30, 2021

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In this July 28, 2021 photo, Christina Darling plays with her sons Kayden, 10, left, and Brennan, 4, at home in Nashua, N.H. Darling and her family have qualified for the expanded child tax credit, part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. "Every step closer we get to a livable wage is beneficial. That is money that gets turned around and spent on the betterment of my kids and myself," said Darling, a housing resource coordinator who had been supplementing her $35,000-a-year salary with monthly visits to the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter's food pantry. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Christina Darling finally replaced her 2006 Chevrolet Equinox after it broke down several times while picking her children up from day care. But the 31-year-old mother of two was struggling to keep up with the car payments.

Brianne Walker desperately wanted to take her three children and two siblings camping for the first time but wasn’t sure how she could pay for it. After all, she was behind on her rent, and day care and grocery costs were adding up.

Then, the two women from New Hampshire got a surprise in their bank accounts this month. They qualified for the expanded child tax credit, part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Families on average are getting $423 this month; the Treasury Department estimates that 35.2 million families received payments in July.

“The additional money does help alleviate the pressure,” said Walker, 29, who took custody of her two siblings last year after her mother overdosed. The $800 credit will help make up for losses she incurred after quitting a kitchen design job to care for the five youngsters, ages 3 to 19.

Biden increased the amounts going to families and expanded it to include those whose income is so little they don’t owe taxes. The benefits begin to phase out at incomes of $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples. Families with incomes up to $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for married couples can still receive the previous $2,000 credit.

In the past, eligible families got a credit after filing their taxes — either as a lump sum payment or a credit against taxes owed. But now six months of payments are being advanced monthly through the end of the year. A recipient receives the second half when they file their taxes. The credit is $3,600 annually for children under age 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. Eligible families will receive $300 monthly for each child under 6 and $250 per older child.

Advocates argue the monthly payments make more sense for low-income families.

“One of the problems with the big check in a year, if your car broke six months before, that is a long time to wait,” said Michael Reinke, executive director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter, which serves many families making less than $26,000 a year.

“When people have money over a consistent period of time, it’s easier to make sure it’s going to the expenses you really need,” he said. “Sometimes, if you get it all at once, it’s hard to budget.”

Robin McKinney, co-founder and CEO of the CASH Campaign of Maryland, a Baltimore nonprofit organization that helps low-income residents file taxes, said the credit is providing people money in their pockets now, when they need it most.

“We know right now that peoples’ hours are down or they’re still struggling to get back to the same level of income that they had before, and this will create some stability for those families to know that over the next six months that they’re going to be getting this payment,” McKinney said.

If all the money goes out, the expectation is that could significantly reduce poverty — with one study estimating it could cut child poverty by 45%. And it comes at a time when unemployment benefits are being phased out and the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire Saturday.

The payments are also a test case of sorts. Biden ultimately would like to make them permanent — and the impact they have could go a long way to shaping that debate later this year.

Brianne Epps of Jackson, Miss., 28, background, is a single mother with sons Micah Epps, 4, in front, and Nolan Epps, 11 months in her arms and daughters Laila Barnes, 6, second from left, and Kaylee Barnes, 8, center, outside her apartment complex in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Epps earns $9 an hour working with infants and toddlers in a childcare center, but she has a bigger dream of operating a soul food catering business. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

“It infuses money into the family home,” said Suzanne Torregano, director of Family Services at Kingsley House in New Orleans, who estimated that 85%-90% of the parents the group serves are getting the monthly payments.

Still, some advocates argue the money may never reach the neediest because their incomes are so low they aren’t required to file a tax return, they don’t have a fixed address or bank account, or don’t have the internet savvy to apply.

“What we are finding is that homeless families … while many of them are eligible for the tax credit, they have significant barriers to obtaining it,” said Larry Seamans, president of FamilyAid Boston, which serves 900 families daily.

“We have some counter-intuitive struggles of families who may be unfamiliar with tax forms, tax laws and the fact that by filing a tax return, you can actually get money to support your family,” Seamans said.

“Many families ... are not on the tax rolls. They now have to find sufficient documentation to prove that they are eligible.”

Families who do receive the credit are mostly spending it on rent, child care and groceries, as well as catching up on cellphone and other bills. For Darling, the $550 she gets will go to car payments, more fresh produce and a babysitter so she can attend Nashua Board of Education meetings. She is running for a seat on the board. Eventually, she hopes to put money aside to save for a home with a yard.

“Every step closer we get to a livable wage is beneficial. That is money that gets turned around and spent on the betterment of my kids and myself,” said Darling, a housing resource coordinator who had been supplementing her $35,000-a-year salary with monthly visits to the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter’s food pantry.

McKinney, who is married with a 5-year-old son and qualifies for the tax credit, is getting $167 a month. She said it’s all going to help pay for child care, which costs $288 a week.

“Right now, it’s out-of-school time because it’s the summer, so people have to pay for camps and babysitting support so that the parents can go to work,” said McKinney, of Columbia, Maryland. “I know a lot of people who are like: ‘This money is coming at just the right time, because this summer is more expensive for me for child care.’”

Many families in higher-income brackets who receive less money are socking it away for things like a family trip, school supplies or Christmas gifts.

Carleigh Steele, who received several hundred dollars, said the money is giving her peace of mind a month after she moved into a house in Baltimore with the help of Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s sitting in my bank account for all the home-buying things that I need, and for the rainy day fund for my house — just to make sure that I can keep myself economically stable,” said Steele, who has a 6-year-old daughter.

Brianne Epps, a mother of four from Jackson, Mississippi, is using the money to pay bills but also to finance her dream of opening a soul food catering business. “It will help me, for one, to promote my catering business — to get that off the ground,” she said.

Molly Vigeant, of East Hartford, Connecticut, a 25-year-old single mother who works as a special needs paraprofessional in a high school, hopes to spend the money to repair or replace her car. But she’s had trouble accessing a portal aimed at helping applicants and hasn’t yet received anything.

“It doesn’t hurt yet,” she said of the delayed payment. “But, it’s a 20-year-old car with over 200,000 miles on it and I make 20 grand a year. A new one is not going to fall from the sky, when your debt-to-income ratio is garbage and you know you can’t finance a car.”


Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, and Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

Families pay for rent, food with child tax credit

Brentwood, New Hampshire – 23 July 20211. Tracking shot of Brianne Walker, who is raising three children and including two siblings, interacting with her daughter at a day care center

Families are starting to spend money from the expanded child tax credit. 

Many say they are using the money to pay rent, supplement their grocery budget and for catching up on bills, including cellphone and car payments.

Beneficiaries include Brianne Walker, who is raising five children on her own – including two siblings in her legal custody.

She says she used her first check to make a late rent payment.

She also plans to take the children camping, hoping to create their first memorable experience of the summer season.

The 29-year-old Walker was forced to quit a home-designing job in Maine when she got custody of her siblings at the beginning of the pandemic.

She now works part time at a body shop because caring for five children on her own does not give her enough time or flexibility to take on a full-time job.

Still, she hopes to save some of the child tax credits for down payment for a family home that will eventually allow her to sleep in a bedroom, instead of her current sleeping arrangement in the living room.

President Joe Biden increased the amounts going to families and expanded it to include those whose income is so little that they don't owe taxes. 

The benefits begin to phase out at incomes of $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples. Higher-income families with incomes up to $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for married couples can still receive the previous $2,000 credit. 

SOUNDBITE (English) Brianne Walker, Raises Five Children:"About two weeks ago, I had received the initial Child Tax Credit payment. I received $250 for my 13-year-old brother, is that what it is, and then $300 for my 3-year-old daughter. That was immediately deposited into my bank account federally because that's who I claim on my taxes. It was great. I immediately paid my rent, which was late. So that covered for the remaining portion of my rent this month."3. Brianne Walker watchers her daughter and other children play at the day care center4. Brianne Walker interacts with her daughter at the entrance of the day care center

SOUNDBITE (English) Brianne Walker, Raises Five Children:"When they're gonna give me Child Tax Credits and they say this is for your children, it's going right back into the economy where my children reside. So it's it's going back into the daycare, it's going into the food, it's going to the grocery store. It's going into the camp trip that we're gonna take. We've never been real-tent camping. So my children are gonna go real-tent camping and that was, you know, at a state park."6. Brianne Walker interacts with her daughter in the playground of the day care center

SOUNDBITE (English) Brianne Walker, Raises Five Children:"So any time any extra money comes in, that covers my tax, my car payment as well to help me be able to get to and from work, to get me to and from daycare, to get my children to and from dentist appointments."8. Brianne Walker with her daughter at the entrance of the day care center

SOUNDBITE (English) Brianne Walker, Raises Five Children:"The Child Tax Credits, within the next few months, will be turned into savings. As long as everything continues to go well, the it will be turned into savings for the house so that we can put a down payment on the house – and that's something that's for my children, my entire family."10. Jennifer Briggs-Legere, director of A Place To Grow day care center, joins children searching for worms and other creatures in the play ground

SOUNDBITE (English) Jennifer Briggs-Legere, Director, A Place To Grow Child Care Center:"I think the child care tax credit, providing that on a month-to-month basis, provides those families that are struggling with the opportunity to be more successful in, you know, paying their bills and they're not feeling quite so like they're living on the edge as much as they had been. So it's really beneficial if you were on that poverty line or you were on that line of struggling."12. Jennifer Legere interacts with children in her child care center

 SOUNDBITE (English) Jennifer Briggs-Legere, Director, A Place To Grow Child Care Center:"About 20% of our client base receives child care scholarship. Rockingham County is one of the most expensive counties to live in in southern New Hampshire. So we see a split in what the needs economically are of our families. Those who are on child care scholarship really are benefiting from the monthly tax credit coming to them. Those funds are getting used primarily for child care based on what our parents are reporting, food on the table, money towards their rent and their mortgage. Rents are extremely high around here."14. Children returning to the child care center building from the playground

Bishop: Albany diocese covered up priest abuse for decades
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The longtime former head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany says the diocese covered up sexual abuse by priests for decades and protected clergy by sending them to private treatment instead of calling police.
© Provided by The Canadian Press

Bishop Howard Hubbard, who ran the diocese in New York's Capital District from 1977 to 2014 and has himself been accused of sexual abuse, made the admission in a statement issued through his lawyer to the Albany Times-Union in response to questions from the newspaper.

The Times Union reported Hubbard's statement on Saturday.

“When an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received in the 1970s and 1980s, the common practice in the Albany diocese and elsewhere was to remove the priest from ministry temporarily and send him for counseling and treatment,” Hubbard said.

“Only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined the priest was capable of returning to ministry without reoffending did we consider placing the priest back in ministry," he added. "The professional advice we received was well-intended but flawed, and I deeply regret that we followed it.”

About 300 lawsuits have been filed against the Albany diocese under a state law that allows people until Aug. 14 to sue over sexual abuse they say they endured as children, sometimes decades ago.

In the past, the 82-year-old Hubbard has denied allegations that he sexually abused minors. In an August 2019 statement, he said: “I have never sexually abused anyone in my life. I have trust in the canonical and civil legal processes and believe my name will be cleared in due course.”

Responding to allegations in lawsuits that he ignored, disregarded or covered up abuse by others, Hubbard told the Times Union in his statement that he was a leader on church efforts to prevent abuse, including support for background checks and compensation for victims.

Hubbard's statement was not sanctioned by the diocese, the newspaper reported.

The Associated Press
‘This is a travesty’: Albertans protest COVID-19 rule rollback for second day

For the second day in a row, hundreds of Albertans protested the provincial government's plan to lift mandatory COVID-19 isolation rules, scale back contact tracing and limit testing.© Michael King/Global News Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician based in Calgary, speaks at a rally on Saturday, July 31, 2021.

Kaylen Small 
JULY 31,2021

Rallies were held in Edmonton and Calgary on Saturday.

Read more: Albertans protest ending mandatory COVID-19 isolation, masking and testing changes

The restrictions rollback was announced on Wednesday.

Effective July 29, close contacts will no longer be notified of exposure by contact tracers nor will they be legally required to isolate. Asymptomatic testing is "no longer recommended," the government said.

Read more: Alberta to adjust COVID-19 masking, isolation, testing rules over next month

On Aug. 16, infected individuals won't need to isolate. Isolation hotels will close as quarantine supports end. Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted but face coverings in some acute care facilities might be required.

Wednesday's announcement by Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, came as the province recorded 194 cases of COVID-19 — the highest daily case count since early June.

In Alberta's capital city, approximately 250 people went to the legislature to protest on Saturday.

“We’re going to keep saying the same thing until the government listens,” said Dr. Tehseen Ladha, assistant professor at the University of Alberta in the faculty of medicine.

“This time with community organization and public protest, it really is owned by everyone who’s there. I think that’s really the message. There have been so many decisions by the provincial government that people have been upset, angry, anxious about. This [rally] is the culmination of everything.”

Ladha cited the Alberta Medical Association as one of several provincial and federal medical organizations that have been criticizing the government's decision. The Canadian Paediatric Society and the Edmonton Zone Medical Association have sent formal letters.

Read more: Alberta Medical Association head concerned over province lifting COVID-19 protocols

Alda Ngo said she went to Saturday’s event because of concerns for her seven-year-old son.

“He’s not vaccinated, and I just want to keep him safe,” she said. “I understand that we need to move on but I feel like it’s a bit premature.”

When asked about COVID-19 policies for the government and staffers, the province told Global News its policies are “aligned with direction and guidance from the chief medical officer of health and in accordance with OHS.”

Video: Alberta physician talks about COVID-19 restrictions being lifted on Canada Day
(Global News)

“Just under half of government workers are currently working remotely, and the vast majority will return to their workplaces in a phased approach starting next week and continuing until Sept. 7,” a statement read.

“Employees are free to continue to use face masks in the workplace as a personal choice, even if they are not required."

Read more: 65% of eligible Albertans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but active cases rising

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees' vice-president, Susan Slade, said in a statement to Global News that the union is aware some members are "uneasy with the wholesale lifting of all restrictions and want to assure them that their union will do everything in our power to ensure they are safe at work."

"It is the employer's legal responsibility to make sure their workers are safe at work, and the union will address any member's concerns when they do not feel safe," Slade said.

With signs in hand, about 200 people turned out at McDougall Centre.

Read more: Alberta taking ‘risky gamble’ by ending COVID isolation: Canadian Paediatric Society

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician based in Calgary, is calling for Hinshaw's resignation.

"It's quite evident now that public health is not actually putting in policies to protect the health of the public. I think this is a travesty, and I think she should resign," he said to applause.

"Pretty much every other doctor I know went into medicine for the explicit purpose of helping people. I can't believe we have somebody who went into the practice of medicine for the specific purpose of protecting community health — the health of entire populations — and is putting that entire population at risk. I don't know what to say, people. That's crazy."

Read more: Amid pushback, Alberta health minister defends plan to ease COVID-19 isolation, masking, testing rules

Brett Boyden, a spokesperson for Health Minister Tyler Shandro, said in an emailed statement to Global News on Saturday: "Dr. Hinshaw’s recommendations are informed by science, not politics. Attempts to sully her reputation by the leader of the Opposition and others are repugnant. Dr. Hinshaw deserves to be commended for her efforts to lead Alberta out of the pandemic and has the full support of Alberta’s government."

Video: Calgary E.R. doctor fears kids will pay for Alberta’s plan to drop most COVID-19 restrictions

Vipond feels unsafe in these dark times.

"I've never even heard at any time in Canadian history where a jurisdiction has decided to put its entire population at risk from a deadly disease that can also cause long-term disability," he told the crowd.

Now, we won't be able to monitor our numbers, and the disease is going to infect anyone who is susceptible, like the unvaccinated or those under 12, he explained.

"I call on the attorney general of Canada to reach out to our premier and say that you are not allowed to violate the charter rights of 4.5 million Albertans," Vipond said, citing the right to life, liberty and security.

"As far as travel restrictions, I can't speak for other provinces, but I wouldn't want — especially when we get deep into the fourth wave with the Delta variant and possibly new variants — I would not want Albertans to be in their province, and I would not be travelling here."

Read more: Canada’s top doctors say Alberta’s COVID-19 plan could have ripple effects across the country

Parent Natasha Brubaker, whose child is considered high risk for the virus, said she was horrified by the rule changes. She said the government is choosing to put people at risk "by reducing reasonable protections."

"Our children are, by definition, vulnerable. They have no option to protect themselves beyond these health measures and the decisions made by the adults they are counting on to care for them," she said.

"I'm not suggesting a lockdown or reducing store capacity or closing restaurants. I am asking for reasonable steps to be taken to protect them and to prevent illness, deaths and possibly having to close our schools again."

– With files from Morgan Black
"Not a coincidence:" Indigenous leaders praise historic election victories by women

© Provided by The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — It's no coincidence that a wave of Indigenous women have won leadership roles previously held only by men, say leaders and advocates.

They argue it's a sign of the times that Mandy Gull-Masty was elected the first female Grand Chief of the Cree Nation in northern Quebec this week, after Kahsennehawe Sky-Deer and RoseAnne Archibald became the first women voted in to lead the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and the Assembly of First Nations, respectively.

"The communities are asking for change and how do you get that change? Well, women come forward with a different perspective," said Lynne Groulx, CEO of the Native Women's Association of Canada.

"Communities are pushing, they want change. They're in crisis. We know that we have matriarchal societies, women were involved in leadership roles before."

Groulx said the crisis includes the legacy of residential schools and the lack of clean drinking water on reserves.

While Groulx said that winning elections takes sacrifices -- and that women face sexism and other systemic barriers, sometimes within their own communities -- she expects more Indigenous women to come forward and stand for election.

Gull-Masty, who won 64 per cent of the vote in a run-off election held Thursday, said breaking the glass ceiling in her nation was "absolute pleasure," but that other Cree women helped pave the way.

"There have been many influential women, they may not have held an official title, but they've played important roles in developing who we are," she said in an interview Friday.

Gull-Masty, who was elected deputy chief in 2017, said she focused on connecting with as many people as possible as she campaigned across the 300,000-square-kilometre territory of Eeyou Istchee.

Now, she said, her first priority is returning to those communities to meet with local leadership, youth councils and elders.

"I wanted our youth to really feel engaged in this process, so that whatever election comes up next, they feel that they can participate and they understand the governance and the Cree Nation."

For Gull-Masty, incorporating Cree values and Cree traditions into the nation's decision-making process is major priority, adding that protecting the Cree language, culture and land are a big part of that.

She said she also wants to create opportunities for young people who leave the community to pursue higher education to return, particularly to start businesses.

"This was my path, I had to leave my community to go to college and university and when I came home, it was a big challenge to reintegrate into my community and find employment," she said.

In Kahnawake, south of Montreal, Sky-Deer said she's pleased to see other women being elected.

She feels it's important to move back towards traditional forms of governance, which include having women in positions of power. Traditionally, she noted, clan mothers selected chiefs.

She said she wants to meet with other women who have recently won Indigenous elections and hopes that there will be opportunities for them to work together.

"That to me is inspiring and if women can band together and show a different way of doing things, I think that's where some changes will come," she said in an interview Saturday.

Michèle Audette, who was appointed to the Senate on Thursday, said the election wins -- and the appointment of Governor General Mary Simon, the first Indigenous person in the role -- come after years of effort.

"It's more than a coincidence, it's the hard work of our ancestors and the people and allies that walk with us," Audette said in an interview Saturday.

Audette, a former commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, said the victories send a positive message to young women and girls.

"The message that it's sending is that no matter which part of this huge Turtle Island you're from, there is no limit, you can achieve a dream" she said. "For me it's showing that we're amazing, we're capable and we can do it."

While Indigenous women are finding success in a wide variety of fields, as scientists, business owners and fishing boat captains, she said the political victories are important because of their high profile.

Gull-Masty, meanwhile, said she's happy to be a role model.

"When I was a young girl, not too long ago, there were not very many female role models. Now I'm pleased to be part of a group that's going to create a space for young girls to look up to women in leadership," Gull-Masty said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Michigan GOP candidate predicts 'end times' after claim vaccines include 'aborted baby tissue'

Bob Brigham
July 31, 2021


Michigan Republican Mellisa Carone was ridiculed by "Saturday Night Live" in February for being gullible enough to believe Donald Trump's debunked conspiracy theories about election fraud

Now Carone, who has formed a committee to run for the Michigan legislature, is pushing a conspiracy theory that vaccines are a sign of biblical apocalypse.

"This is an experimental vaccine that has aborted baby tissue in it," Carone falsely claimed.

"This right here, this is solid evidence we are definitely in the end times," she said. "It is the end of times, it's in the Bible. This, this has something to do with, I believe, the mark of the beast. I do."


British vegans having a row over COVID vaccine 'jab' rules — and the issue could come to America

Ray Hartmann
July 31, 2021

The conspiracy originally took root in the United States but has spread to Europe Joseph Prezioso AF

Vegans who object on ethical grounds to receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the United Kingdom have raised the issue loudly enough that it has recently garnered coverage from several top media outlets there.

The issue is whether British employment law would shield employees from being forced to take a "jab" over their objections -- possibly linked to animal testing of vaccines --
 that mirror the views of those taking exception on religious grounds. It could affect American companies in that country and possibly those in the U.S. if the issue is raised here.

Here's how the U.K. Evening Standard framed the issue:

"Vegans would be exempt from compulsory workplace Covid vaccinations and employers risk legal action if they insist workers are double-jabbed, experts say.

An estimated half a million Britons who do not consume animal products would not have to adhere to so-called "jabs for jobs" rules under employment laws, it has been claimed.

Big firms, including Netflix and Google, have already told many US staff they must be vaccinated before returning to work and Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that the rule was "smart policy."

"While the UK Government has introduced legislation stating care home staff must be jabbed. The Covid vaccine does not contain animal products, but all medications currently go through animal testing. Ethical veganism was ruled to be a protected characteristic at a tribunal last year.
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"A spokesman for Lewis Silkin, a law firm, told the Telegraph: 'Some ethical vegans may disagree with vaccinations on the basis that they will inevitably have been tested on animals. Ethical veganism has previously been found to amount to a belief, capable of being protected.'"

"The protections mean that vegans and people in other categories, including some religious groups as well as those with certain disabilities or medical conditions, could mount a claim of constructive dismissal if forced to get the jab.

"It comes as the Government faces challenges over making the jab mandatory and the introduction of "vaccine passports", which it has been claimed could help prevent further lockdowns."
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The issue has not yet been as high profile in the U.S., but with an increasing trend of companies requiring employees to become vaccinated to return to work, similar issues related to religious objectors -- and possibly groups such as vegans -- could surface soon.

Here's how the issue was summarized by the Prinz Law Firm in Chicago:

"Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, individuals have the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion. As part of their religious beliefs, many individuals object to vaccines. Employers are required to accommodate religious observances and practices, unless doing so imposes an undue hardship on the business.
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"Religion" is very broadly defined and encompasses not only organized religions, but also informal beliefs. "Religion" under the law can also encompass non-theistic and moral beliefs.

In Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 182139 (S.D. Ohio, 2012), the court recognized that veganism, in some circumstances, may constitute a sincerely held religious belief. That court exempted an employee from a flu shot requirement.

Once an employer determines that a true religious exemption exists, the employer must make an accommodation for the employee. Such accommodations may include reducing a mask requirement, modifying work duties to comply with social distancing, adjusting an employee's schedule, or allowing an employee work from home."
'Seditious conspiracy': Trump critics stunned after Mark Meadows mentions 'cabinet' meetings at Bedminster

Tom Boggioni
July 31, 2021

Mark Meadows. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

An appearance on Friday night on Newsmax by Donald Trump's last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, set off a flurry of angry comments by critics of the former president after Meadows said they are holding "cabinet" meetings at the Trump National Golf Club.

Repeating "cabinet members" multiple times while speaking with Newsmax host Steve Cortes, Meadows added, "Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I'm not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this Steve, we wouldn't be meeting tonight if we weren't making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket."

Twitter commenters were quick to question what they are discussing with others wondering if they realize the Trump administration was ousted in last November's presidential election.