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Nor’easter, blizzard conditions sock winter-weary Northeast



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  • BOSTON — A nor’easter that could deliver up to 2 feet of snow to some areas socked New England on Tuesday, bringing blizzard conditions to parts of coastal Massachusetts, covering highways with snow and knocking out power to tens of thousands.

    A blizzard was confirmed in Boston, as well as parts of Massachusetts’ South Shore and Cape Cod. Blizzard warnings were issued for the entire coast of Maine, New Hampshire and most of Massachusetts.

    The rest of New England was under a winter storm warning, and a winter weather advisory blanketed most of New York and portions of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina.

    Although the latest storm was not expected to bring as many power outages as a nor’easter last week because the snow is lighter and fluffier, more than 150,000 customers in Massachusetts lost power by late Tuesday morning.

    The Boston-area public transit system operated on a limited weekday basis. Usually-packed subway trains were nearly empty as many workers stayed home and schools closed.

    Joe Rotella ducked into a train station as he tried to find his way to a hotel that’s hosting a convention where he’s speaking. Organizers were scrambling to find ways to video conference in speakers whose planes were delayed or cancelled, said Rotella, chief medical officer with the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

    “As a visitor to Boston, I’ve been looking forward to this for months and this is kind of an adventure for me,” the Louisville, Kentucky, man said. “I didn’t have to go through the last two nor’easters so this still feels like fun.”

    The storm was expected to last through most of Tuesday, disrupting road and air travel.

    The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported more than 1,300 cancelled flights within, into or out of the U.S. on Tuesday. Amtrak suspended all service Tuesday from Boston to New York’s Penn Station.

    At the Yotel hotel in Boston’s Seaport neighbourhood, guests were busy rescheduling their flights over breakfast or, in the case of 80-year-old Roy Zaloom of Ramsey, New Jersey, preparing for a morning drive back home with his family.

    “Let’s’ hope this is the end of it, the end of the snow. We’ve had too much of it at one time,” said Zaloom, recalling that he got a foot in New Jersey last week.

    The weather service defines a blizzard as three or more hours of sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater; and falling or blowing snow that reduces visibility frequently to less than one-quarter of a mile.

    Boston and eastern Massachusetts, as well as Rhode Island, could get a foot and a half of snow, with less to the west of the city.

    In Rhode Island, the storm closed schools and businesses across the state, knocked out power and made driving treacherous. Gov. Gina Raimondo urged residents to stay off the roads and let the plows and work crews do their jobs.

    “I know we’re all ready for winter to be over. This is the third storm in a row. I know folks are weary with power outages but hang in there with us,” the governor said.

    In New Hampshire, as much as 14 inches of snow is forecast, and the storm is wreaking havoc with the age-old town meeting tradition.

    More than a foot of snow was expected in parts of Connecticut.

    Maine braced for a hard hit. The Portland International Jetport has had 75.5 inches (1.9 metres) of snow, far above the normal for the date of 51.8 inches (1.3 metres). Another 12 to 18 inches is expected, said James Brown, of the National Weather Service.

    “We’re not out of winter yet, that’s for sure,” Paul Knight, of Portland, said as snow accumulated on his eyebrows during a stroll. “The groundhog was right. Six more weeks of winter, and probably then some.”


    Associated Press reporters Mark Pratt and Michael Casey in Boston, Michelle Smith in Providence, Rhode Island and Bob Bukaty in Portland, Maine contributed to this report.

    Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press

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    Alberta suspends caribou protection plan, asks for assistance from Ottawa



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  • EDMONTON — Alberta is suspending portions of its draft plan to protect threatened woodland caribou, saying more research needs to be done and that Ottawa needs to help out.

    Environment Minister Shannon Phillips told the house Monday that the province is acting on concerns about the economic impacts of the protection plan.

    “The federal Species at Risk Act is an extremely inflexible instrument that has already had negative economic consequences (in Alberta),” said Phillips.

    “We are going to do our best to make sure that we protect jobs on this.”

    She said she has sent that message in a letter to her federal counterpart, Catherine McKenna.

    Phillips is urging the federal government to help Alberta come up with a workable solution rather than have Ottawa impose an environmental protection order.

    Alberta’s draft plan is in response to a federal deadline under the Species at Risk Act passed last October and is designed to help threatened woodland caribou recover in 15 different ranges.

    The province released its draft plan on Dec. 19 and then held a series of town hall meetings.

    “The public meetings were attended by thousands of Albertans who are concerned about the impact caribou range plans will have on their communities and on the industries that support those communities,” stated Phillips’ letter, which was co-signed by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

    The province plans to spend more than $85 million in the next five years to restore caribou habitat by eliminating seismic lines, building birthing pens and bringing in other measures.

    It has already invested $9.2 million and the estimated cost over the next 40 years is $1 billion.

    Phillips said the feds need to step up on planning and consultation, and on the money side as well.

    “Caribou recovery cannot occur without an infusion of federal funds to restore habitat necessary to ensure population growth,” she wrote.

    “While we need more time and partnership from the federal government on this matter, we also need your support in not prematurely implementing federal protection orders that will not have effective outcomes for Canadians and Albertans.”

    The federal government has the option of imposing an environmental protection order if a province doesn’t come up with a plan to protect the caribou. The order would halt any development, such as oil drilling, that could harm the animals.


    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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    Five Things to know about Canada’s forthcoming peacekeeping mission in Mali



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  • OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled Canada’s 12-month UN peacekeeping commitment to the west African country of Mali. It includes two Chinook helicopters to provide medical evacuations and logistical support, along with four smaller, armed Griffons to act as escorts for the larger transports. Here are five things to know about Mali and the mission.

    1. Lots of Canadian aid dollars. Mali has relied heavily on Canadian foreign aid, with only the United States and France contributing more. In 2014-15, Canadian development spending reached $152 million. Since 2012, Canada has also contributed $44 million in humanitarian aid following the country’s 2012 crisis (more on that below) and about $10 million to support the UN peacekeeping mission, making Canada its ninth-largest supporter.

    2. The 2012 crisis. It started when soldiers overthrew the country’s president, creating a power vacuum that was filled by an Islamic insurgency. The fall of Libya in 2011 busted the locks off Moammar Gadhafi’s arsenal, spreading weapons across north Africa, which armed various militia groups, including al-Qaida linked organizations. France led a war in 2013 that succeeded in driving the jihadists out of the stronghold they established in northern Mali. A UN peacekeeping force was established that year, and it has become its most dangerous mission with more than 160 fatalities.

    3. Canada’s drop in the peacekeeping bucket. Canada’s contribution of 250 personnel is far less than many of its allies. The UN mission comprises more than 13,000 troops. Germany, the country whose air support operations Canada will be replacing, has authorized the deployment of more than 1,000 troops. In addition to the UN mission, Germany has contributed 350 troops to a training mission for Mali’s military. France has 4,000 troops deployed to a counter-terrorism mission in northern Mali separate from the UN’s peacekeeping efforts. “This announcement is a small but important step towards Canada’s re-engagement in peacekeeping,” said peacekeeping expert Walter Dorn of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, noting that Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping has hit an “all-time low” of a couple of dozen.

    4. The political peace process. In June 2015, a peace agreement was signed between the Malian government, Tuareg rebels and other rebel groups. The Tuareg first sparked the 2012 rebellion, but that was soon hijacked by the better-armed jihadists. Those jihadists are outside the peace process. Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, said “there is a prospect of a brighter future for Mali” but that “the basic deconstruction of Libya and the rise of terror groups, terror armies” has to be addressed.

    5. The human rights situation. The UN’s latest report on the human rights situation, tabled last month, offers a grim update of the situation in Mali. Between January 2016 and June 2017, it documented 608 cases of human rights violations involving almost 1,500 victims. These occurred across the country, including Gao, where the Canadian air contingent is expected to be based, and further north in Timbuktu. The perpetrators include signatories to the peace process and “non-signatory and splinter armed groups.” The vast majority of the victims are men. The abuse included illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence.

    Sources: Government of Canada, The United Nations, Deutsche Welle

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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