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Scrutiny of Epstein’s death and co-conspirators intensifies

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Epstein

NEW YORK — Amid revelations about the circumstances around Jeffrey Epstein’s death , federal authorities have intensified parallel inquiries into what went wrong at the Manhattan jail where he was behind bars and who now may face charges for assisting or enabling him in what authorities say was his rampant sexual abuse of underage girls.

One of the new details provided by people familiar with the Metropolitan Correctional Center was that one of Epstein’s guards the night he died in his cell wasn’t a regular correctional officer.

Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, told The Washington Post that one of the guards was a fill-in who had been pressed into service because of staffing shortfalls.

In addition, Epstein was supposed to have been checked on by a guard about every 30 minutes. But investigators have learned those checks weren’t done for several hours before Epstein was found, according to one of the people familiar with the episode. That person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A second person familiar with operations at the jail said Epstein was found with a bedsheet around his neck. That person also wasn’t authorized to disclose information about the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Epstein, 66, was found Saturday morning in his cell at the MCC, a jail previously renowned for its ability to hold notorious prisoners under extremely tight security. At the time of his death, he was being held without bail and faced up to 45 years in prison on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month.

Attorney General William Barr at a police conference on Monday said that he was “frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”

He added: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”

At the same time, Barr warned on Monday that any co-conspirator in the ongoing criminal probe “should not rest easy. … The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”

In the days since Epstein’s death while awaiting charges that he sexually abused underage girls, a portrait has begun to emerge of Manhattan’s federal detention centre as a chronically understaffed facility that possibly made a series of missteps in handling its most high-profile inmate.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found in his cell a little over two weeks ago with bruises on his neck. But he had been taken off that watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit.

The manner in which Epstein killed himself has not been announced publicly by government officials. An autopsy was performed Sunday, but New York City Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said investigators were awaiting further information.

The Associated Press does not typically report on details of suicide, but has made an exception because Epstein’s cause of death is pertinent to the ongoing investigations.

In the criminal case, authorities are most likely turning their attention to the team of recruiters and employees who, according to police reports, knew about Epstein’s penchant for underage girls and lined up victims for him. The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of pages of police reports , FBI records and court documents that show Epstein relied on an entire staff of associates to arrange massages that led to sex acts.

If any Epstein assistants hoped to avoid charges by testifying against him, that expectation has been upended by his suicide.

“Those who had leverage as potential co-operators in the case now find themselves as the primary targets,” said Jacob S. Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.

Jim Mustian, Michael R. Sisak And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press


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Canadian Press NewsAlert: B.C.’s Site C dam to cost $16 billion, delayed until 2025

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VICTORIA — The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown by $6 billion, bringing the price tag of the megaproject to $16 billion and stretching the completion date to 2025.

The provincial government says the skyrocketing expenses are due to construction setbacks, geotechnical issues, COVID-19 and other cost and schedule pressures.

Premier John Horgan’s announcement comes weeks after a former deputy finance minister completed his report on the status of the northeastern B.C. dam and submitted the study for cabinet consideration.

The review was ordered last July after Crown-owned BC Hydro reported concerns about risks and delays, and the province says it has accepted all 17 of Peter Milburn’s recommendations, including a strengthened project assurance board.

The government also released a review by two independent experts that found changes to the foundation to address geotechnical issues on the project’s right bank will ensure Site C meets safety standards.

The province says terminating Site C now would mean an immediate writedown of about $10 billion, which would result in an average 26 per cent increase in BC Hydro rates over the next 10 years if covered by ratepayers.

It says continuing with the project means the costs will be recovered through rates over the 70-year lifespan of the dam.

Horgan also announced new leadership at BC Hydro as Doug Allen — who has held top positions at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and TransLink — replaces Ken Peterson as chairman of the board. 

The premier said in December 2017 that the NDP government would reluctantly support completion of the dam across the Peace River just west of Fort St. John, but he would never have started the project commissioned by the previous B.C. Liberal government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Canada announces partnership with India-based company to secure more AstraZeneca jabs

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Canada’s vaccine rollout received a significant boost Friday with the approval of a third COVID-19 inoculation, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced another partnership with an India-based institute that will deliver two million additional doses of the newly authorized jab to Canadians by the spring.

Trudeau spoke on Friday hours after Health Canada announced it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca. 

The new partnership also means Canada will receive two million doses of the CoviShield vaccine, which is the same as AstraZeneca’s product, through an agreement with Mississauga, Ont.’s Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India.

Trudeau says the first shipment of half a million of CoviShield doses will arrive by March.

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said in a briefing Friday that the CoviShield and AstraZeneca products are “for all intents and purposes” the same vaccine.

The difference is in where they are manufactured, she said, using the analogy of the same recipe made in two different kitchens. 

The two million doses of CoviShield are in addition to the 20 million doses Canada already secured with AstraZeneca that will start arriving in the spring.

Trudeau said as vaccinations ramp up across the country, many provinces have expanded the number of health professions able to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, and he asked for dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians and retired nurses to lend a hand in the rollout.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

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