Illinois man arrested in bomb threats made to southern Alberta schools

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Police in a southern Alberta town say a man in the U.S. has been charged in connection with bomb threats made to schools and a business in the community last week.

Taber Police announced in a statement from Chief Graham Abela late Saturday that a man in Illinois faces 10 counts of felony bomb threats.

The Horizon School Division said last week in a letter sent home to parents that two schools were the focus of bomb threats in anonymous voicemail messages early Friday.

Police said they investigated and determined the threats to be hoaxes.

Abela thanked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Jackson County Sheriffs Department in Illinois, as well as the Medicine Hat Police Service.

He says the investigation is ongoing and police will be releasing more info on Tuesday.

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New calf spotted with endangered southern resident killer whale pod

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After months of bad news, there finally may be a glimmer of hope for B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales.

On Friday, researchers confirmed that recent helicopter video filmed by the Seattle TV station King 5 News shows a new baby orca swimming with members of L pod.

The video, shot Thursday near Vachon Island in Washington state, shows the calf swimming next to the killer whale known as L77, who had previously been pregnant.

Ken Balcomb, founding director of the U.S.-based Center for Whale Research, confirmed that that this is the first sighting of the new calf. The young whale’s gender is unknown.

Watch helicopter video of the young calf swimming beside its mother

Helicopter footage from Washington State shows a new southern resident killer whale swimming beside L77 0:59

The southern residents have not had a successful pregnancy in three years.

The sighting follows ominous news about the West Coast’s southern resident killer whale population in recent weeks.

The population is at a 35-year low after three deaths in 2018, and earlier this month, scientists said they expect two more whales to die of starvation by summer.

The plight of the struggling population attracted attention from around the world this summer, when grieving mother J35 spent 17 days carrying her dead baby on her head as she travelled more than 1,600 kilometres.

Weeks later, another member of J pod, J50, was declared dead after a cross-border rescue effort to inject the calf with antibiotics and fight an apparent infection.

Scientists say the killer whales have been struggling to find enough food because of a decline in the Chinook salmon population.

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Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence cod could be extinct by mid-century: report

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There is a high probability that Atlantic cod will be locally extinct in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence by mid-century — even with no commercial fishing, according to a new report.

The paper, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, says the death rate now stands at 50 per cent for adult Gulf cod five years and older. 

The likely culprit? Grey seals.

« That high a natural mortality is not sustainable, » says Doug Swain, a federal Fisheries Department scientist who co-authored the study.

Why recovery has failed for cod 

Swain says this stock is particularly vulnerable because it tends to gather in the same places every year.

That includes predictable patterns of migration, spawning and overwintering in dense congregations off Cape Breton in numbers still large enough to attract grey seals that eat them.

Samples showed adult cod made up a large part of the grey seal diet in the overwintering area off St. Paul’s Island, Cape Breton.

Swain and other researchers used models to predict what that could mean for the future of this cod population.

« In these projections, if we assume natural mortality were to stay where it is now and there was no fishing, then cod would be gone by middle of the century, » he says.

« There is nothing to say it will stay where it is but if it is due to predation by grey seals and they continue to prey on cod like they are now, then there is no way this population recovers and it may decline to negligible levels. »

The research found grey seals are likely responsible for an unsustainable rate of mortality among adult cod in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The seals pictured here belong to the Sable Island herd. (Sarah Medill/University of Saskatchewan)

Swain, who is based at DFO’s Gulf Fisheries Centre in Moncton, N.B., has spent years looking at why the southern Gulf cod population has not recovered since the epic groundfish collapse in Eastern Canada in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Not only did the stock not rebuild, the natural death rate increased to unprecedented levels.

Researchers looked at 10 hypotheses for an explanation, including fish health, environmental conditions, unreported fishing and the possibility cod simply left the area.

« Since the late ’90s none of the other hypotheses really had support except for the possibility the high natural mortality is due to predation by grey seals, » says Swain.

Grey seal population growth

The Gulf grey seal population grew to 100,000 in 2014 from about 8,000 in 1960. In summer, they gather everywhere from Nova Scotia’s Pictou Island to the Magdalen Islands of Quebec.

The Sable Island population has also increased dramatically. That herd is now estimated at 400,000 individuals.

The eastern Scotian Shelf cod population near Sable Island also has not recovered and adults have an even higher death rate, though the report does not directly link their mortality with seals.

‘They won’t always bounce back’

Dalhousie University biologist Jeff Hutchings says the downward spiral facing Gulf cod is a good example of what can happen to an overfished species.

« When we deplete fish stocks to very low levels, they won’t always bounce back or rebuild if we stop fishing them. »

Swain agrees. He says society will have to decide whether to intervene to reduce seal numbers or accept that Gulf cod will not recover.

« The ecosystem isn’t going to change if we leave it like it is now. If nature is allowed to run its course, it’s not going to return to the balanced level it was 150 years ago. »

But Hutchings says even a seal cull would not guarantee a cod comeback.

« Many species are feeding upon one another, competing with one another, interacting with one another, » he says. 

« And we simply don’t have enough information to draw any scientifically legitimate and defensible conclusions about what a cull of grey seals would do to cod. »

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What’s so wrong about a national park in B.C.’s southern Interior? Many locals still strongly opposed

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Doug Boult looks out over the rolling mountains behind his orchard in Cawston B.C., covered with sage brush.

Where his fields of Gala and Ambrosia apples ends, the foothills begin. It’s also the start of the proposed boundary for the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve. 

« When I was a young lad we hiked these mountains continuously, hiking around and enjoying things, » he said. « It taught us a lot of disciplines that are great for later on in life. »

Doug Boult on his apple orchard near Cawston B.C., at the base of the mountain range that could soon all be national park reserve land. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Boult is one of a vocal group of people in the area who are worried the way of life he’s enjoyed will drastically change if the national park is established.

« We are going to lose our ability — our freedom to just go and enjoy [the back country], » he said. « It will now cost money to go and enjoy. It’s just a loss of freedoms. »

Park plan 15 years in development

The idea of a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen has been discussed and debated for the past decade-and-a-half

Provincial and federal governments have run and developed a series of feasibility assessments, engagement processes with First Nations, public consultations and park concept plans.

Progress stopped in 2011 when the B.C. government decidied not to proceed with the park reserve. Parks Canada soon stepped away citing lack of support from the provincial government.

The view from Mt. Kobau looking out over much of the area the proposed national park reserve area in the South Okanagan. (Province of B.C.)

But in October 2017, B.C., Ottawa and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation announced a renewed commitment to establishing the park reserve.

Now, Parks Canada is conducting a public consultation process to develop the concept and park boundary.

The government agency cites protection of the sensitive ecology and more than 60 provincially listed species living in the region, including badger species, birds and reptiles.

Local First Nations have recognized the need to protect the land through the establishment of a national park reserve.

« [It] will create greater protections for our siwɬkʷ [the water], tmxʷu’laxʷ [the land], and tmixʷ [all life on our traditional lands] within our unceded territory, » said Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow in a statement. 

Federal, provincial and First Nations leaders, including Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow, right, during a group photo from October 2017 at the tripartite announcement of establishing a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen (Parks Canada)

Other park proponents cite the expected influx of tourists to the region.

However, many of their neighbours, like Doug Boult in Cawston, see it differently.

« It is a fragile area. We understand that. That is why we are doing everything we can to protect it, » he said. « The park and the visitors it will bring will end up doing more damage than what the locals have done to protect the land all these years up to now. »

Ranching concerns

A few miles north of Boult’s orchard, Mark Quaedvlieg inspects cattle at his feedlot.  Quaedvlieg’s grandparents settled in Keremeos in 1910 and provided pork, milk and butter to mining communities.

Now his cattle roam the Crown grasslands that could soon be within the national park boundary.

Keremeos rancher Mark Quaedvlieg’s cattle graze on Crown land that will be within the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve boundaries, if the park is established. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Parks Canada has promised ranchers it will continue to allow grazing within the national park, but Quaedvlieg fears it won’t be easy to renew grazing tenure.

« I don’t want to ranch on a piece of ground where people aren’t happy to see me there. Everything I hear from Parks Canada is that cattle are not a part of a national park, » he said.

More than a decade ago, Quaedvlieg erected a large white sign along the highway between Keremeos and Cawston saying ‘No National Park.’

« It’s stood there every since and never been tampered with, » he said.

Anyone driving through the region will come across similar signs at the end of driveways — a stark reminder that despite the progress governments and proponents have made on the national park reserve idea, there are many who may never be won over.

A ‘No National Park’ sign along a road in Cawston, B.C. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

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First Saudi Arabia, now China — Canada has a new foe, and its southern ally isn’t helping – National

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First U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Canada on trade. Then Saudi Arabia punished it for speaking up for human rights. Now China has the country in its cross-hairs, detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive on behalf of the United States.

Canada is caught between two super powers and taking the punishment — and its ally to the south has been conspicuously absent in coming to its aid.

WATCH: Tim Kaine: Trump has alienated Canada on USMCA, Huawei arrest






“We’ve never been this alone,” historian Robert Bothwell said. “We don’t have any serious allies. And I think that’s another factor in what the Chinese are doing. … Our means of retaliation are very few. China is a hostile power.”

The two Canadians, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat in China, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who lived in northeastern China near the North Korean border, were taken into custody Monday on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. Canadian consular officials have had no access to them.

WATCH: Morneau calls detained Canadians in China a “challenge,” but sticks to trade relations rhetoric






Their detentions ratchet up pressure on Canada, which arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States. The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she and her company misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. A Canadian judge released Meng on bail Tuesday.

The case has set off a diplomatic furor among the three nations in which Canada has been stuck in the middle.

Until now, Canada had a largely good relationship with China, forged by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who helped establish the one-China formula that enabled many other countries to recognize China in the 1970s. Canada acknowledged there is one government of China and does not officially recognize Taiwan.


READ MORE:
Why China is trying to bully Canada (and not the U.S.) into releasing Huawei CFO

China has since become Canada’s second-largest trading partner, after the United States. Chinese investment has powered real estate booms in Vancouver and Toronto. And one-third of foreign students in Canada are Chinese. Justin Trudeau has even talked about a possible free-trade agreement with China in a bid to diversify Canada’s trade, which relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports.

But the Canadian prime minister has said little since news of this week’s arrests became public. Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau isn’t being forceful enough with the Chinese.

“This situation demonstrates that Justin Trudeau’s naive approach to relations with China isn’t working,” Scheer said.

It’s Canada’s second dispute with a major power this year. In June, Trump vowed to make Canada pay after Trudeau said he wouldn’t be pushed around in talks to hammer out a new North American trade agreement, an unprecedented attack on America’s closest ally. Trump called Trudeau weak and dishonest, words that shocked Canadians.


READ MORE:
‘China will take revenge’ if Canada doesn’t free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Global Times editor

Then Trump said this week that he might intervene in the Huawei case if it would help clinch a trade agreement with China, upending U.S. efforts to separate the court proceeding from U.S.-China trade talks and contradicting Canadian officials who said the arrest was not political.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took a swipe at Trump, saying it was “quite obvious” any foreign country requesting extradition should ensure “the process is not politicized.”

“Normally, Canada can count on the United States to back them up on such an issue,” said Laura Dawson, a former economic adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. Dawson said it’s unusual for Washington to “leave Canada hanging high and dry.”

“President Trump has made it clear that old alliances don’t matter so much anymore,” she said. “He has made no secret of his preference for a go-it-alone approach and his lack of regard for traditional alliances.”

WATCH: Trade minister continues to endorse commerce with China in wake of Huawei, diplomat arrest






In years past the U.S. might have defended Canada when came it under attack and other countries would know the U.S. had Canada’s back. Not now. In August, the Saudi government expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted support for an arrested Saudi activist. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave. No country, including the U.S., spoke out publicly in support of Canada.

And now the stakes are much higher. Canada is one of the few countries in the world unabashedly speaking out in defense of human rights and the international rule of law. And Chinese trade with Canada is increasingly key as Canada looks to boost its exports in Asia as its trade with the U.S. is threatened by Trump’s tariffs on Canadian goods.

WATCH: Amid Huawei CFO arrest, B.C. trade mission to end trip early, foregoing China visit






“At the beginning of Trump there was this idea that maybe the Chinese would replace the Americans” as Canada’s pre-eminent trade partner “but that’s just nuts,” said historian Bothwell, a University of Toronto professor. “Relations for any smaller country with China are really grave.”

Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called China’s actions toward Canada “thuggish.”

“You detain a Canadian because the Canadians can’t do anything. It’s bullying behavior,” he said.

WATCH: Huawei CFO’s arrest triggers questions about Canadians in China






Noting Canada was just following a routine extradition process with the United States, Scissors said America should be saying:  ‴Why are you picking up Canadians? You have a problem with us.’”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said not only the U.S. but other Western nations should be standing up for Canada.

“It would be nice if publicly and also behind the scenes if countries like the United States, the U.K., Australia and France would put in a word on our behalf and let the Chinese know how damaging this is to their reputation and to the notion that China is a safe place to work and pursue a career,” Mulroney said.

“I think a lot of foreigners in China are looking over their shoulder right now,” he added.

Christopher Sands of the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington said the world took note of how Trump treated Canada during trade negotiations and how the U.S. stayed silent when Saudi Arabia overreacted to Canada’s expression of human rights concerns over treatment of the Saudi dissident.

“In normal times, the U.S. sends a signal, usually discreetly, to allies to cut it out and play nice,” Sands said.

“What makes this worse is that China is lashing out at Canada not for Canada’s initiative, but for Canada’s honoring of a U.S. warrant. The damage done by our silence in terms of alliance relations is truly awful,” he said.

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6.6 magnitude earthquake rocks Anchorage, tsunami warning issued for southern Alaska

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A 6.6 magnitude earthquake has rocked buildings in Anchorage and caused lamp posts and trees to sway, prompting people to run out of offices and seek shelter under office desks.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake Friday morning was centred about 12 kilometres north of Alaska’s largest city. 

The USGS initially said it was a 6.7 magnitude quake but reduced it to 6.6.

The National Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for coastal zones of southern Alaska following an earthquake that rocked buildings in downtown Anchorage.

The centre said Friday that the warning was in effect for parts of the state’s Cook Inlet and the southern Kenai peninsula.

The warning means tsunami waves are expected.

People went back inside buildings after the earthquake, but a smaller aftershock a short time later sent them running back into the streets again.

An Associated Press reporter working in downtown Anchorage saw cracks in a two-storey building after the quake. It was unclear whether there were injuries.

Anchorage lawyer Justin Capp says he was getting ready for work when he felt the shaking start. He grabbed on to the doorframe in the hallway and the door slammed into his hands, scraping his fingers and hand.

Another lawyer, Hank Graper, was driving when the quake struck. He first thought his vehicle had a flat tire, then thought it was exploding. He realized it was an earthquake after he saw traffic poles swaying.

Graper called it the most « violent » earthquake he’s experience in his 20 years in Anchorage.

The National Weather Service Seattle tweeted a tsunami warning is in effect for Cook Inlet, but it is not expected to affect Washington or B.C.

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Chef Mashama Bailey Honors Zora Neale Hurston With a Southern Feast

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Rumor has it, the cornbread got her walking.

Zora Neale Hurston’s mother had gone out to the yard to do some laundry and left her daughter inside with a crumbly golden square to munch on. Suddenly, a wild hog broke into the house and went straight for the cornbread. Not about to be hog bait, the toddler hoisted herself up against the arm of a chair and started shuffling as fast as her tiny legs could carry her, leaving a trail of crumbs in her wake.

“She got up and tried to run away from the pig!” Mashama Bailey says with a laugh. “Apparently that’s how she learned to walk. It’s one of those things about her childhood: cornbread and buttermilk.”

Bailey, the James Beard-nominated executive chef and partner at The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, found the anecdote in Valerie Boyd’s seminal biography of Hurston, Wrapped in Rainbows. It was just one of many books she read to prepare for cooking a lunch honoring the late literary icon, who has been called the most significant black woman writer of the early 20th century. She was also one of the most controversial, due to the particular way she chose to celebrate black culture: writing in dialect and refusing to champion desegregation.

“I’m not really from the South,” Bailey tells me. “My mom was raised in Georgia but I was born in New York. Zora grew up in coastal Florida and then moved to Harlem [where she became a pivotal figure in the Harlem Renaissance]. I felt like even though we went opposite ways as far as destination, our stories concerning food were quite similar.”

That’s why, when John T. Edge called her up asking if she’d like to prepare lunch for 350 people based around a literary figure for the annual Southern Foodways Alliance fall symposium in Oxford, Mississippi, Bailey chose Hurston. “Zora left the South to support herself, but she never ran away from it,” Bailey says. “She told real stories of her place, and she had a real connection to working-class folks. She exploded the reality of Southern living for her time.”

mashama bailey lunch

Photo by Hilary Cadigan

The tablescape, with pages from Hurston’s books.

Inside a high-ceilinged former power plant nestled beside Oxford’s historic main square, long communal tables are set for a feast. Shamrock green table clothes are spread beneath a runner made of pages pulled from Hurston books and glued together, their edges scalloped like lace. Clusters of lemons, pears, and oranges strewn with baby’s breath frame platters piled with pulled rabbit, bread and butter pickles, and pillowy hot buns fresh from the oven.

Bailey’s first course is titled “Jook Snacks” as a nod to the ramshackle establishments where southern black folks, barred from most restaurants under Jim Crow, would gather to eat, drink, and dance. “Zora wrote beautifully about juke joints and the people who gathered there,” the menu reads. We make miniature sandwiches out of the buns, slathering them with homemade preserves and piling them high with tender strands of rabbit meat. Pickle chips add a sour snap.

“The menu is very homey,” Bailey says. “One thing about Zora is that she had a very sensitive stomach. I think because she was so controversial in her time, that’s where all of those things went. If you’re always anxious or always putting yourself out there, it has to go somewhere.”

The meal strikes an interesting balance between Bailey’s interpretations of Hurston, a mysterious figure dead 58 years, and the chef’s own life. The Savannah-style red rice with shrimp and stewed okra that comes next feels particularly potent. “I took some of the things that I liked about her, and took some of the things that I liked about being in Savannah, and made something new out of it,” Bailey says. “I’m trying to channel myself, if I was her. What would I want on my table? What would I have in my refrigerator? What would I cook for my guests?”

mashama bailey lunch 2

Photo by Hilary Cadigan

Smoked whiting and grit cakes.

The answer: smoked whiting layered over creamy grits cakes; Tabasco-braised collards with smoked pig tails (perhaps a nod to that cornbread-hungry hog); and sweet potatoes, ash-roasted and bathed in a deep, smoky mole. Guests reach across the tables to heap food onto mismatched china plates with floral patterns straight out of grandma’s dining hutch.

“I think when you have conversations with people that you are comfortable with, food always comes up,” Bailey says. “And I thought that was interesting, and so embedded into Zora’s writing. You can tell where a person’s from by what they eat.” The chef reminds me that Hurston herself once opened a small restaurant, and always grew her own vegetables. Then she harkens back to her own upbringing in the Bronx, where her Georgia-born mother would serve roast chicken and rice, gravy and greens every Sunday for supper. Those meals wove themselves into her roots, and even back then Bailey would refer to herself as a Southerner, once-removed. Food, family, literature, politics, the struggle to find one’s place in the world: They’re all connected.

For her finale, Bailey nods to Hurston’s most famous work, controversial in its time but found now on most high school reading lists: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Cornmeal buttermilk tea cakes, in honor of protagonist Janie’s one true love (the flawed yet thoroughly human Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods), set beside sticky peanut brittle and candied pears. “These were some of Zora’s favorite things,” Bailey tells me. “They signify courtship, love, a sweet treat for your sweet.”

When the meal is over I meet Bailey under the tent in the parking lot that’s served as a sprawling outdoor kitchen. She’s breathless with relief as satisfied diners shake her hand. I ask her to explain in as few words as possible why she chose to center perhaps the biggest lunch she’s ever served around Zora Neale Hurston. She doesn’t skip a beat.

“Because of black girl magic.”

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