Is American democracy suffering from an overload of politics?


The polls tell us that roughly a third of all U.S. citizens believe — wrongly — that U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s victory was achieved through fraud.

That finding is more alarming than surprising. Trust in the federal government dipped below 30 per cent among Americans at the beginning of this century and has only declined since then.

Canadians, meanwhile, have much more trust in their governments and public institutions. So what explains the difference?

Political scientists on both sides of the border say the current U.S. crisis of trust is partly the consequence of a system that permits partisanship to run wild in the name of unfettered democracy.

An independent election authority, a non-politicized judiciary and a non-partisan media might all be pillars Americans could cling to to keep from being sucked deeper into a vortex of mistrust and dysfunction.

But there are no such handholds, say experts — since the bodies that administer elections, the media that report on them and even the judges that may ultimately decide them are now all associated with one party or the other. So are the prosecutors who might bring charges in cases of malfeasance or fraud.

“The solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy,” said American philosopher John Dewey. But a lack of institutions that all Americans can agree to trust is showing the limits of that notion.

Constitutional experts say Canada has always had a lot less raw democracy than the United States — but may do a better job of actually implementing voters’ wishes.

Top-down or bottom-up

“Authority flows in two diametrically opposed directions” in the two countries, said constitutional expert Philippe Lagasse of Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

“In the United States, since its founding, sovereignty, authority, politics have very much flowed from the bottom up. That seemed to be a far more democratic system, and it’s seen as one where people have more influence over certain decisions and you’re able to have referenda, binding term limits, election of different office-holders.

“Whereas our system is much more top-down. We have, federally, one body that’s elected, the House of Commons, and every other office effectively is appointed or contractual.”

Americans can vote for everyone from the president to local sheriffs and dog-catchers. Canadians can only vote for their local representative. 

Consequently, says Lagasse, “in the United States, large numbers of offices that would be neutral — or should be neutral — are elected offices. We rely on apolitical office-holders to make these decisions.”

A supporter of President Donald Trump holds a sign during a rally in front of City Hall in Dallas, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (LM Otero / Associated Press)

3,000 systems

No one personifies that apolitical role in Canada more than the chief electoral officer, who is empowered to spend whatever it takes to conduct elections and only has to account for the budget afterwards.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley served as Canada’s chief electoral officer for 17 years.

“Their system was set up by their Founding Fathers, whom they revere, and it’s very difficult for Americans to change this system,” said Kingsley. “They thought that by diffusing authority throughout the land, they would be able to prevent any kind of fooling around with the system.

“The effect of that is that you get 50 different laws, but you also get 3,000 different election authorities, because the elections are run at the county level.”

Kingsley said the system provided more opportunities for politicians and parties to put their fingers on the scale during elections — as southern states did through a century of Jim Crow voter suppression tactics following the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment that gave African-Americans the vote.

“The appointment of the officials that are responsible is done through the political network, and we see this being used by the president right now,” he said. “If the electoral authorities were appointed by Democrats, he’s making comments about that.”

Awash in money

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates that candidates and outside groups spent $18.4 billion Cdn on this U.S. election cycle.

The total spent by parties on Canada’s election last November was somewhere in the range of $75 million. So the U.S., with nine times Canada’s population, has nearly 250 times as much election money sloshing around.

The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2009 case of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission gutted a 2002 law that sought to reform campaign finance, using the argument that campaign money is protected political speech.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the decision “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation … A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

“If the system doesn’t control the money, then the money controls the system,” said Kingsley.

Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer as his motorcade drives past a rally of supporters near the White House, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Billions for ads, peanuts for elections

Spending limits for parties and candidates in Canada are imposed by the bureaucrats at Elections Canada, based on a standard mathematical formula.

Kingsley points to the billions of dollars spent by candidates, Super PACs and outside groups in the U.S. and contrasts it with the often miserly budgets given to local authorities who have to administer an election during a pandemic.

“They’re caught having to go and ask for additional money and so on,” he said. “If the lines are long, the lines are long. They can’t afford to open more polls. People just have to wait in line for five, six or 10 hours.”

All that inconvenience has an effect. The turnout in the recent U.S. election was 66 per cent — the highest turnout in a century but still below the average turnout for federal elections in Canada.

Lines on a map

Jonathan Rodden, a political scientist at Stanford University in California, is an expert on gerrymandering — the practice of drawing election maps to favour one side over another.

“I draw a lot on comparisons with Canada in my work,” said Rodden, “to think about what might we get if we had a Canadian-style commission, as opposed to what we get when we have districts drawn up by self-interested incumbent politicians.”

He notes that in both Canada and the U.S., urban voters skew progressive and rural voters skew conservative. But in the U.S., political parties use redistricting as a wedge to drive those two solitudes even further apart and give themselves an advantage.

He said Pennsylvania — ground zero for the recent post-election chaos — is a classic example of a GOP gerrymander, in which the goal is “to stuff as many Democrats as possible into as few districts as possible.”

The Democrats have played similar games in states like Maryland and Illinois (though less effectively).

Strange bedfellows

Rodden said Cincinnati is an example of a city where gerrymandering has combined with racial politics to produce an outcome that appears intended to deprive African-American voters of electoral clout. Ohio Republicans split the city in two and attached each part to a suburban hinterland, he said, producing two GOP-leaning districts and effectively nullifying Cincinnati’s heavily black Democratic majority.

And Republicans have sometimes found allies among incumbent Democrats who want to create districts they can’t lose, Rodden said.

“There can be strange incumbent bedfellows in that process,” he said.

Rodden said U.S. voters tend to dislike seeing state legislators draw up federal election boundaries and have voted to replace the partisan system with bipartisan or citizen commissions on several occasions when the topic has come up through ballot initiatives.

Canada already has an independent body drawing electoral boundaries.

“Our system is less susceptible to partisan influence in the drawing of those boundaries,” said Lagasse, “and this is in keeping with the Canadian tradition of neutrality of the civil service.”

Powers that aren’t separate enough

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court again revealed the all-too-narrow wall that separates the American judiciary from the other two branches of government.

Like many nominees, Barrett — widely seen as arch-conservative — spent much of her confirmation hearing sidestepping questions about her political views. The 6-3 partisan split on the U.S. Supreme Court is hardly a state secret.

In a recent speech to the Federalist Society, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito waded even further into politics while discussing his dissent in the ruling that legalized gay marriage.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, shown with other justices at the White House on July 23, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

Nowadays, he claimed, “you can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.”

(Of course, the First Amendment protects Americans’ rights to say anything they want about marriage.)

Alito also used his speech to attack five senators, all Democrats.

So it’s not hard to see why many Democrats doubt that a Justice Alito would rule impartially on the outcome of the 2020 election, should he be called on to do so.

Meanwhile, the attorneys-general who run the justice system in individual states are even deeper in the political fray. For proof, just take a look at the “Lawless Liberals” ads run by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).

“If hurricanes Kamala and Joseph make landfall, the Republican attorneys general, as the nation’s ‘insurance policy,’ will defend America from complete annihilation,” said RAGA executive director Adam Piper.

Canadian judicial appointments are much less controversial — but this is one area where some experts say Canada is slipping toward a more partisan approach.

The federal government is currently defending its nomination process in court from allegations that it gives politicians too much discretion — a concern voiced just two weeks ago by the Canadian Bar Association.

But Canada’s system of appointments is still a far cry from what’s in place in the U.S., where 90 per cent of state judges must run for office.

“Some might see that as less grassroots, but there’s wider public trust [in Canada] that these office-holders view their jobs in terms of the public interest, as opposed to advancing the perspectives of a particular subset of the population,” said Lagasse.

“This effort to constantly devolve decisions down to the grassroots seems more democratic, but it ultimately ends up having nefarious effects on your politics. It allows smaller groups of people to take hold of nominations of candidates. And similarly, this decision to replace the vast majority of the executive branch with every change of chief executive does not bring stability to the system.

“But primarily — and paradoxically — this constant effort to devolve power has actually left people dissatisfied. Strangely enough, in our system, we centralize power but we end up with governments that can do things, that can provide for people, and it creates more public trust.”



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Along Russia’s ‘Road of Bones,’ Relics of Suffering and Despair


The Kolyma Highway in the Russian Far East once delivered tens of thousands of prisoners to the work camps of Stalin’s gulag. The ruins of that cruel era are still visible today.


The prisoners, hacking their way through insect-infested summer swamps and winter ice fields, brought the road, and the road then brought yet more prisoners, delivering a torrent of slave labor to the gold mines and prison camps of Kolyma, the most frigid and deadly outpost of Stalin’s gulag.

Their path became known as the “road of bones,” a track of gravel, mud and, for much of the year, ice that stretches 1,260 miles west from the Russian port city of Magadan on the Pacific Ocean inland to Yakutsk, the capital of the Yakutia region in eastern Siberia. Snaking across the wilderness of the Russian Far East, it slithers through vistas of harsh, breathtaking beauty dotted with frozen, unmarked graves and the rapidly vanishing traces of labor camps.

There was little traffic when a photographer, Emile Ducke, and I drove last winter along what is now R504 Kolyma Highway, an upgraded version of the prisoner-built road. But a few long-distance trucks and cars still trundled through the barren landscape, oblivious to the remnants of past misery buried in the snow — wooden posts strung with rusty barbed wire, abandoned mine shafts and the broken bricks of former isolation cells.

More than a million prisoners traveled the road, both ordinary convicts and people convicted of political crimes. They included some of Russia’s finest minds — victims of Stalin’s Great Terror like Sergei Kovalyov, a rocket scientist who survived the ordeal and in 1961 helped put the first man in space. Or Varlam Shalamov, a poet who, after 15 years in the Kolyma camps, concluded, “There are dogs and bears that behave more intelligently and morally than human beings.” His experiences, recorded in his book “Kolyma Tales,” convinced him that “a man becomes a beast in three weeks, given heavy labor, cold, hunger and beatings.”

But for many Russians, including some former prisoners, the horrors of Stalin’s gulag are fading, blurred by the rosy mist of youthful memories and of Russia’s status as a feared superpower before the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Antonina Novosad, a 93-year-old who was arrested as a teenager in western Ukraine and sentenced to 10 years in Kolyma on trumped-up political charges, labored in a tin mine near the “road of bones.” She recalled vividly how a fellow prisoner was shot and killed by a guard for wandering off to pick berries just beyond the barbed wire. Prisoners buried her, Ms. Novosad said, but the corpse was then dragged away by a bear. “This was how we worked, how we lived. God forbid. A camp is a camp.”

Yet she bears Stalin no ill will, and also remembers how prisoners cried when, assembled outside in March 1953 to hear a special announcement, they learned that the tyrant was dead. “Stalin was God,” she said. “How to say it? Stalin wasn’t at fault at all. It was the party and all those people. Stalin just signed.”

A big factor obstructing the preservation of more than just snatches of memory is the steady disappearance of physical evidence of the Kolyma camps, said Rostislav Kuntsevich, a historian who curates an exhibit on the camps at the regional museum in Magadan. “Nature is doing its work, and soon nothing will be left,” he said.

When the snow melts or mining work disturbs the frozen earth, the buried past sometimes still surges to the surface along the road.

Vladimir Naiman, the owner of a gold mine off the Kolyma highway whose father, an ethnic German, and maternal grandfather, a Ukrainian, came to the area as prisoners, stumbled during a thaw into a morass of soggy coffins and bones while working as a geologist in the district of Yagodnoye in the 1970s. Trying to reach gold buried off the road, he had hit a cemetery for prisoners with his bulldozer and got stuck in the charnel for five days.

He later put up eight wooden crosses at the site “in memory of those sacrificed.” But as a firm believer that Russia cannot thrive without sacrifice, he today reveres Stalin. “That Stalin was a great man is obvious,” he said, citing the leader’s role in defeating Nazi Germany and in turning a nation of peasants into an industrial power.

Compared with the countless Native Americans killed in the United States, Mr. Naiman said, “nothing really terrible happened here.”

Under President Vladimir V. Putin, memories of Stalin-era persecution have not been erased, as evidenced by a large government-funded Gulag History Museum that opened in Moscow in 2018. But they have frequently been drowned out by celebrations of rival memories, notably of Russia’s triumph under Stalin’s leadership over Hitler in World War II. Rejoicing over that victory, sanctified as a touchstone of national pride, has obscured the gulag’s horrors and raised Stalin’s popularity to its highest level in decades.

At the other end of the country from Magadan, in Karelia next to Finland, the amateur historian Yuri Dmitriev challenged this narrative by digging up the graves of prisoners who were shot by Stalin’s secret police — not, as “patriotic” historians claim, by Finnish soldiers allied with Nazi Germany. In September, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on the basis of flimsy and, he and his supporters say, fabricated evidence of sexual assault on his adopted daughter.

An opinion poll published in March indicated that 76 percent of Russians have a favorable view of the Soviet Union, with Stalin outpacing all other Soviet leaders in public esteem.

Disturbed by another survey, which found that nearly half of young Russians had never heard of Stalin-era repression, Yuri Dud, a Moscow blogger with a huge youth following, traveled the full length of the “road of bones” in 2018 to explore what he called the “Fatherland of Our Fear.”

After the online release of a video Mr. Dud made about the trip, his travel companion, Mr. Kuntsevich, the Kolyma historian, faced a barrage of abuse and physical threats from die-hard Stalinists and others who resented the past being dredged up.

Mr. Kuntsevich said he had initially tried arguing with his attackers, citing statistics about mass executions and more than 100,000 deaths in the Kolyma camps through starvation and disease. But he quickly gave up.

“It is best not to argue with people about Stalin. Nothing will change their minds,” he said, standing in his museum near a small statue of Shalamov, the writer whose accounts of life in the camps are routinely dismissed by Stalin’s fans as fiction.

Even some officials are appalled by reverence for a murderous dictator. Andrey Kolyadin, who as a Kremlin official was sent to the Far East to serve as deputy governor of the region that covers Kolyma, recalled being horrified when a local man erected a statue of Stalin on his property. Mr. Kolyadin ordered the police to get it taken down.

“Everything here is built on bones,” Mr. Kolyadin said.

The coastal city of Magadan, the start of the “road of bones,” commemorates past misery with a large concrete statue called the Mask of Sorrow, erected in the 1990s under President Boris N. Yeltsin. But local rights activists say that the authorities and many residents now mostly want to turn the page on Kolyma’s bleak past.

“Nobody really wants to recognize past sins,” said Sergei M. Raizman, the local representative of the rights group Memorial.

So tenacious is the grip of ever-present but often unspoken horror along the “road of bones” that many of those living in the settlements it spawned, outposts that are now shrinking rapidly and often crumbling into ruins, look back with fondness at what are remembered as better, or at least more secure, times.

About 125 miles out of Magadan, the road reached what would become the town of Atka in the early 1930s, a few years after geologists, engineers and then prisoners began arriving by sea at Magadan, the coastal headquarters of the Far North Construction Trust, an arm of the Soviet secret police and constructor of the Kolyma Highway.

“Our whole life is connected to this road,” Natalia Shevchuk, 66, said in her kitchen in Atka as her gravely ill husband, a former road engineer, lay coughing and groaning in the next room.

One of her four sons died in an accident on the road, and she worries constantly about her youngest son, who recently started work as a long-distance truck driver on the highway.

A side road off the main highway leads to Oymyakon, the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the world. Known as the Pole of Cold, Oymyakon has an average January temperature of minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius). The coldest recorded temperature there is minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

The weather is so forbidding that engine trouble or a flat tire can mean freezing to death, a fate that the authorities have tried to avoid by making it illegal for drivers to pass a stranded vehicle without asking whether its occupants need help.

With hundreds of miles separating the road’s few inhabited settlements, shipping containers fitted with heaters and communication equipment have now been placed in some of the most remote areas so that stricken motorists can warm up and call for help.

Although Atka never hosted a major labor camp, it thrived for years as a result of the gulag, serving as a transport hub and refueling stop for convoys of trucks carrying enslaved workers and supplies to the gold, tin and uranium mines, and to camps filled with the laborers used to repair roads and bridges washed away by avalanches and storms.

When the prison camps closed after Stalin’s death in 1953, Atka kept going, and growing, as forced labor gave way to volunteer workers lured to the area’s mines by the promise of salaries far higher than in the rest of the Soviet Union.

At its peak, the town had more than 5,000 residents, a large modern school, an auto-repair shop, a fuel depot, various stores and a big bakery. Today, it has just six residents, all of them pensioners.

The last school-age resident left with his mother last year. His grandmother stayed behind and runs the only store, a tiny room stacked with groceries on the ground floor of an otherwise empty concrete apartment block.

The natural forces that are wiping out physical traces of the gulag threaten to eliminate Atka, too. Its largely abandoned apartment buildings are rotting away as snow pours in through broken windows, cracked roofs and smashed doors.

Until this year, Atka’s only employer, aside from a truck stop cafe and gas station on the edge of town, was a heating plant. The plant shut down in late September after the district government, which has for years been pushing residents to move to more viable settlements, cut funding.

This left apartments without heat, forcing people to install their own devices to avoid freezing to death. Tap water has also been cut off, leaving residents dependent on deliveries of canisters filled from a well.

Ms. Shevchuk’s building has 30 apartments, but only three are occupied. She relies on a wood-burning stove that she installed in her bathroom to keep warm.

Valentina Zakora, who until recently was Atka’s mayor, said she had tried for years to persuade the few remaining residents to move away. As a relative newcomer — she came to Atka 25 years ago with her husband, a mechanic — she could not understand why people did not want to take up a government offer of money and free housing elsewhere.

“I cried every day for three years when I first saw this place,” she recalled. After raising a family there, she moved away this past spring to a well-maintained town closer to Magadan.

She would like to see Atka survive, but “it is already too late for places like this.”



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Arecibo Observatory telescope to be closed down after suffering damage from falling support cables


The US National Science Foundation (NSF) says it will close down the massive space telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, ending 57 years of astronomical discoveries, after suffering two destructive mishaps in recent months.

Operations at the observatory, one of the largest in the world, were halted in August when one of its supportive cables slipped loose from its socket, falling and gashing a 30-metre hole in the telescope’s 305m-wide reflector dish.

Another cable then broke this month, tearing a new hole in the dish and damaging nearby cables as engineers scrambled to devise a plan to preserve the crippled structure.

“NSF has concluded that this recent damage to the 305-metre telescope cannot be addressed without risking the lives and safety of work crews and staff,” said Sean Jones, assistant director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at NSF.

Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the initial cable’s failure, a NSF spokesperson said.

The support cables fell and ripped large gashes in the telescope’s reflector dish.(Arecibo Observatory)

The observatory’s vast reflector dish and a 900-tonne structure hanging more than 100 metres above it, nestled in the humid forests of Arecibo, in the Caribbean nation, had been used by scientists and astronomers around the world for decades to analyse distant planets, find potentially hazardous asteroids and hunt for signatures of extra-terrestrial life.

The telescope was instrumental in detecting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 1999, which laid the groundwork for NASA to send a robotic probe there to collect and eventually return its first asteroid dirt sample some two decades later.

The damaged dish of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico is seen amid the trees of the forest
An engineering firm has ruled out efforts to repair the observatory and recommended a controlled demolition.(AP: Danica Coto)

An engineering firm hired by the University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory for NSF under a five-year $US20 million ($20 million) agreement, concluded in a report to the university last week “that if an additional main cable fails, a catastrophic collapse of the entire structure will soon follow.”

Citing safety concerns, the firm ruled out efforts to repair the observatory and recommended a controlled demolition.

Reuters



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Ex-Miss America Leanza Cornett dies at 49 … after suffering head injury earlier this month


Ex-Miss America Leanza Cornett has died at 49, less than three weeks after suffering a severe brain injury following a fall at her Florida home.  

The former beauty queen, who won the national title in 1993, passed away in hospital on Wednesday after undergoing emergency surgery earlier this month, friends said. 

The tragic news was shared in a Facebook group titled, Leanza Cornett’s Circle of Love, which had provided friends and fans with updates on her condition.

‘Dear Disney family, I’m here to let you know Leanza passed this afternoon,’ a friend said in a post. ‘She was so loved. I don’t feel like writing a lot right now; my heart is broken.’ 

Cornett, 49, was crowned Miss America in 1993

Tragic: Leanza Cornett (pictured left in 2018) died Wednesday at a Jacksonville hospital where she was being treated for a head injury she suffered less than three weeks ago. Cornett was crowned Miss America in 1993

Cornett, 49, was married to news presenter Mark Steines from 1995 until 2013. He took to social media on Wednesday to pay tribute to his ex-wife and mother of their two sons

Cornett, 49, was married to news presenter Mark Steines from 1995 until 2013. He took to social media on Wednesday to pay tribute to his ex-wife and mother of their two sons 

The Miss America Organization subsequently shared a statement on Facebook confirming her passing. 

‘Leanza had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious. We know she meant so much to so many, including all of you,’ the organization said.  

‘We are devastated by this sudden loss in our Miss America family and we are deeply sorry for her family and close friends for their loss.

‘At the moment, we do not have any further information regarding a service for Leanza and we ask that you please respect her family during this difficult time. Hold on tight to those you love today. Time is certainly precious.’

No cause of death was given, however, posts from her support page reveal Cornett ‘sustained an enormous blow to the back of her head’ and underwent emergency surgery after falling in her kitchen on October 12.   

‘The surgery she had on Tuesday was to stop the bleeding in her brain,’ Close friend Sue Roberts said in an October 18 post.

‘Right now there is some continued bleeding and swelling. Brain injuries are not black and white. We have to just take this day by day.’ 

During beauty pageant career, Cornett had won the Miss Florida title a year before being crowned Miss America

During beauty pageant career, Cornett had won the Miss Florida title a year before being crowned Miss America

The Miss America Organization confirmed the beauty queen's death in a statement shared on Facebook

The Miss America Organization confirmed the beauty queen’s death in a statement shared on Facebook

The beauty pageant organization said Cornett 'had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious'. She is pictured alongside Miss Florida 2017 Sara Zeng and Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti during a competition in Atlantic City

The beauty pageant organization said Cornett ‘had a bright and beautiful spirit and her laugh was infectious’. She is pictured alongside Miss Florida 2017 Sara Zeng and Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti during a competition in Atlantic City 

Roberts did not provide further details of the accident but revealed it had occurred in a moment that ‘could have happened to anyone.’

‘A fall in the kitchen. I am a self-proclaimed dork and have fallen a million times in my house. Accidents happen. I’m saying this because I think all of us need to just hug each other a little tighter and love each other a little longer,’ she added.   

During her pageant career, Cornett, who grew up in Jacksonville, won the Miss America title in 1993 a year after being crowned Miss Florida.

She was also known as the first actress to play a live-action version of Ariel in the production of The Little Mermaid at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort in 1991, according to WJXT.

Cornett was married to Mark Steines (right) from 1995 until 2013

He is now married to author Julie Steines (right)

Cornett was married to Mark Steines (pictured together left) from 1995 until 2013. He is now married to author Julie Steines (right)

Cornett went on to appear as an actress on TV shows including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Weeds and Saved by the Bell: The New Class.

She married former Entertainment Tonight host Mark Steines in 1995 before the pair divorced in in 2013.  

She is survived by their two sons, Avery Steines, 16, and Kai Steines, 18.

Steines, 56, who is now married to author Julie Steines, paid tribute to his ex-wife in an emotional Instagram post on Wednesday.  

‘It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the passing of my ex-wife, Leanza the mother to our two extraordinary sons Kai and Avery,’ he wrote.

‘We will always remember the wonderful times shared during her short time here on earth I find comfort knowing Kai and Avery will forever have the best guardian angel watching over them as they navigate life’s path.

‘I ask that you please keep them as well as Leanza’s parents and her family in your prayers.’



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Kane doubtful for Belgium clash after suffering muscle injury – reports


England captain Harry Kane could miss Sunday’s Nations League game against Belgium after sustaining a muscle injury in training, British media said.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – October 4, 2020 Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their third goal Pool via REUTERS/Oli Scarff

REUTERS: England captain Harry Kane could miss Sunday’s Nations League game against Belgium after sustaining a muscle injury in training, British media said.

Kane sat out England’s 3-0 friendly win against Wales on Thursday but was expected to return to the side for the game against top-ranked Belgium.

The 27-year-old has been plagued by injuries, with a hamstring tear last season prompting doubts over his participation in the European Championship before the tournament’s postponement because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho expressed concerns this month over Kane’s workload and called on Southgate to protect the striker by not playing him in all of England’s games during the international break.

If Kane misses out, in-form Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who scored the opener against Wales, should retain his spot in the side.

Winger Jadon Sancho and striker Tammy Abraham are in line to return after missing Thursday’s game due to a breach of virus regulations.

England, second in League A Group 2 in the Nations League, play Denmark on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



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Montreal tourism suffering historic lows due to coronavirus pandemic – Montreal


Tourisme Montréal reports that the summer of 2020 shattered a multitude of records due to a sharp drop in tourists in the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization says in its more than 100 years of existence, it has never seen so many historic lows — including in entries at the Quebec borders, passenger traffic at the Montreal airport, the number of tourists, their spending and hotel occupancy rates.

Yves Lalumière, president and CEO of Tourisme Montréal, says the tourism sector will take several years to recover from the health crisis.

Read more:
Old Montreal tourist, souvenir shops struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19 pandemic

In comparison with the 2019 tourist season, entries into Canada through Quebec’s borders have plummeted by 97.8 per cent. The number of passengers boarding and disembarking at Montreal’s Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport has also dropped by 94.5 per cent.

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Tourisme Montréal says the average amount of spending by international tourists fell by 95 per cent for the period of April to June, when lockdown was in effect.

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The Association of Hotels of Greater Montreal also notes that occupancy rates were only at 15 per cent for hotels in the Montreal area from June to September.

Tourisme Montréal says there could be an opportunity to overhaul tourism for the future in a way that’s more in line with Montrealers.



© 2020 The Canadian Press






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Unusual employment – Why poor Britons in prosperous places are suffering | Britain




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MUNGO MACCALLUM: Australia suffering full-scale depression


Last week’s numbers brought us the bad news we were expecting: Australia has fallen into the worst recession in nearly a century.

But now for the worse news: it is now clear that the recession has collapsed into a full-scale depression, three consecutive quarters of what the economists euphemistically call negative growth, with the likelihood of a fourth to follow.

The official figure was a fall of seven per cent in the June quarter, catastrophic enough. But the human cost is still direr.

Whatever jiggery-pokery our Treasurer can devise, unemployment will go into double figures by Christmas – unhappily, the latest date Prime Minister Scott Morrison has fixed on for his wildly optimistic turnaround. And it will be months, possibly years, before they subside to an acceptable level.

Confidence at all levels is at rock bottom: both consumer spending and business investment have plummeted. And with much of the government support that has had the survivors hanging by their fingernails about to be reduced or removed entirely, the chances of a revival in hope are slim indeed.

Morrison’s plan, if it can be dignified with such a name, is, as usual, tax cuts for the medium-to-rich, cutting red tape, tweaking industrial laws. At least, that is what the well-informed leaks are telling us will underpin the budget next month.

But this formula has been tried before, numerous times, without success, and in any case has been so well trumpeted that the likely response will be indifference at best and at worst disappointment. Infrastructure programs already in the pipeline may help in the medium to long term and starting new ones will always be welcome, but will be no panacea.

What Morrison needs – what we all need – is a big jolt; shock treatment to bring our timorous and torpid economy to some semblance of life. If Morrison and his indefatigable Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have the electrodes in their kit bag, they have kept them securely hidden.

They are, however, still determined to look on the sunny side; things may be tough here, but you should see the rest of the world. Not all of it, perhaps, but with a little judicious cherry-picking we can find a few countries in an even more parlous position.

And sure, there has been, is, and still will be, a huge price to be paid, but Australia has got through the COVID-19 pandemic better than almost anyone. Our rates of infections and deaths are surely something to be celebrated. Well, they certainly were. But unfortunately, those days have come and gone; we are now back in the pack, even if we only consider the developed world.

Global agencies mark Morrison Government FAIL on economy

The advantage Australia had was that we were always a bit behind; as the virus raged around the northern hemisphere, it paused at the equator and Australia was able to learn from the depredations and profit from the experience of others.

Hence, we closed our borders, implemented lockdowns, refined social distancing rules and brought the public, horrified by the figures in places like Italy and the United States, largely on board. So we came through the first wave better than most and all governments and their agencies deserve considerable credit.

But then, in spite of all the warnings, complacency crept in. The feds failed to heed the vulnerability of aged care, Victoria was negligent over quarantine, the public decided that it wasn’t really too bad and now it was just about over. So when the second wave broke, as it was always going to, Australia was reduced to playing catch up.

And the disillusionment spilt through into a widespread resentment: why haven’t the authorities fixed it by now – as they had promised? Why have we missed out on the curve flattening, snapbacks and the return to normal? Trust was broken and an unintended (certainly from Morrison) consequence was that so was confidence. Restoring it will be far harder the second time around.

So the budget cannot be just more of the same. There will have to be a genuine circuit breaker and perhaps – just perhaps – this might mean jumping outside the square, devising a new, exciting, even visionary approach. Anyone for a real energy policy?

MUNGO MACCALLUM: Scott Morrison appeals to Team Australia

After about 20 failed attempts, it is obviously time for one and as the consensus moves inevitably away from coal, and towards renewables, there just may be an opportunity now that gas, once the remedy for the transition, is being shown not to be a saviour but a Trojan horse.

It has always been argued that gas, while not a squeaky clean fuel, is at least a better bet than coal. But now it turns out that it may be even dirtier, because methane leaks that cannot be contained will probably nullify any advantages over the emissions of coal.

Methane is a far more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so just a little can be a big problem. Add in the damage wreaked on agricultural land and, crucially, water supplies and gas looks a lot less attractive than its proponents claim.

It has, however, one big plus; unlike coal power or renewables, gas can easily be turned on and off. But with the advances in batteries, this last advantage is becoming obsolete. As former government Chief Scientist, Penny Sackett points out, that ship has sailed.

Recession: With recovery comes hidden risk

The current Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, is still a gas pusher, but he is becoming increasingly isolated; not just the environmentalists, but business and agriculture are jumping aboard the renewables bandwagon. And if it is not already, renewables are rapidly becoming not just the cleanest, safest and most acceptable option available, but also the cheapest.

Many in the Coalition ranks will never be persuaded. But the evidence is irrefutable. And what a coup it would be for Morrison if, on top of stellar polling, he could bring this one-off – forget bothering with feasibility studies and inquiries to try to justify throwing taxpayer money at his bankers in the mining industry – and embrace the science, engineering and even the economics he constantly invokes.

Of course, it won’t happen. But he needs to do something and quickly. He is already the leader who gave us the second depression in a century. If he is to salve his legacy, nothing less than another of his miracles will suffice. 

Mungo MacCallum is a veteran journalist who worked for many years in the Canberra Press Gallery.

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Danny Frawley was suffering from concussion-linked brain condition at time of death, his wife reveals


St Kilda great Danny Frawley was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurological disorder, at the time of his sudden death.

Frawley’s wife Anita said an analysis of the former Richmond coach’s brain showed signs of Stage II CTE.

The former Saints captain died in a car crash in September last year, the day after his 56th birthday.

Anita said the Victorian coroner was yet to release the official report, but she wanted to speak out about it immediately to help others.

“This is an issue for the community, it is not about a particular sport or sports, we need more research to diagnose and assist people living with the disease,” she told the Herald Sun.

“As his wife for over 30 years, I strongly suspected there was more going on with Danny than straightforward depression.

“I am very grateful for the work of the Australian Sports Brain Bank in shining a light on this disease.”

Frawley spoke publicly about his mental health struggles before his death.(Facebook)

Frawley is the second prominent Australian football figure to be diagnosed with CTE, a degenerative condition linked to concussions and brain trauma.

In February it was revealed legendary Geelong ruckman Graham “Polly” Farmer was suffering from Stage III CTE when he died last year following tests on tissue from his brain at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

CTE can only be diagnosed after a person’s death.

Frawley, also a leading media figure after his coaching career finished, spoke publicly about his mental health battles in the years leading up to his death.

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Danny Frawley was suffering from chronic brain disease when he died


Sources familiar with Frawley’s case indicated that his CTE was severe, and that a lawyer acting for Anita Frawley, Danny’s wife, had taken steps to conceal the contents of the brain analysis.

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His is only the second case of CTE diagnosed posthumously in an Australian rules footballer; in February this year scientists from the Australian Sports Brain Bank revealed they had found the disease in the brain of the legendary Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer.

CTE, caused by repeated concussions, has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anger and aggression issues.

Anita Frawley told the Herald Sun she wanted to save other families from enduring similar problems arising from repeated head trauma.

“Our hearts would break seeing others go through the emotions we went through,” she said.

“This is an issue for the community, it is not about a particular sport or sports, we need more research to diagnose and assist people living with the disease.”

Anita said Frawley, who was 56 when he died, had endured depression for many years.

“His mental health battles, and his strong advocacy for mental health issues, were well known,” she said.

“As his wife for over 30 years, I strongly suspected there was more going on with Danny than straightforward depression.

“I am very grateful for the work of the Australian Sports Brain Bank in shining a light on this disease. We want to prevent other families from going through what we did.

“We are waiting for the release of the coroner’s report before any further comment, however I want people to know about the problem now, and not wait, as I believe this may help families understand the issues.”

Anita did not respond to a request for further comment on Monday night.

The AFL had been made aware of the Frawley diagnosis, but declined to comment on his case.

If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1800 512 348.

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