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Iran withdraws from nuclear arms agreement

Early Sunday morning, the United States announced it was suspending most operations against ISIS (Daesh).

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Events continue to unfold in the Middle East after the United States’ air strikes in Iraq that killed Iranian general and accused terrorist organizer Qassem Soleimani and alleged Iranian-sponsored “powerful” militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Sunday morning, Iran announced they would rescind their commitment to the “Nuclear Deal”, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, adopted October 15, 2015. This follows the United States’ withdrawal in 2018.

The deal, which was an agreement between Iran and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (plus Germany), included requiring Iran to give up 97 per cent of its enriched uranium stockpile, reducing the amount on hand from 10,000 kg to 300 kg, and to restrict enrichment (grade) to 3.67 per cent. Weapons-grade enrichment is high, around 90 per cent.

Iran also agreed to give up three quarters of its centrifuges (machines that are used in the uranium enrichment process), bringing its total from 20,000 down to 5,000. Iran also agreed to inspections and monitoring by the United States to ensure compliance.

In return, Iran received relief from economic sanctions, effective January 16, 2016.

The United States withdrew from the deal in May of 2018 and imposed further economic sanctions on Iran in November.

Ali Arouzi, NBC News Tehran bureau chief and correspondent wrote on Twitter Saturday that it was “very unusual to see a red flag flying over (the) holy mosque of Jamkaran in Qom, Iran’s holiest city. (It is) almost always blue. The red flag symbolizes revenge” (main photo).

Early Sunday morning, the United States announced it was suspending most operations against ISIS (Daesh) and that it would instead focus on protecting Iraqi bases from attack by Iran and its allied militias.

Iraqi parliament, however, passed a resolution Sunday calling for the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq, effectively cancelling the request for assistance against ISIS from the coalition, led by the United States.

“The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” read the resolution.

“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using is land, airspace or water for any reason.”

The resolution is not binding on the government of Iraq but Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had, according to sources, encouraged parliament to pass measures that would end foreign military presence in the country.

“We’re confident the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said cryptically.

“The prime minister is… under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that we are pushing back against.”

Both the United States and Canada issued warnings over the weekend for American and Canadian citizens in Iran and Iraq to leave the region as soon as possible due to the potential for escalating violence in the area “without warning”. The United States has deployed more troops to the region as of Sunday morning.

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UPDATED: Alberta MPs issue declaration on province’s future

Four Alberta MPs are speaking out – with what they are calling their Buffalo Declaration – aimed at fixing the province’s role in Confederation.

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Four Alberta MPs are speaking out – with what they are calling their Buffalo Declaration – aimed at fixing the province’s role in Confederation.

Saying “Canada is in crisis”, Michelle Rempel Garner, of Calgary Nose Hill, Blake Richards, of Banff-Airdrie, Glen Motz , of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, and Arnold Vierson, of Peace River released their manifesto to the Western Standard on Thursday afternoon.

Buffalo Declaration

The group said there are four main reasons why Alberta is not working within Confederation.

They say Alberta has not been recognized as being culturally distinct, it has never been an equal partner, is physically and practically separated from power structures and is “treated as a colony”.

Michelle Rempel Garner
MP for Calgary Nose Hill

“Our federation has reached a crossroads at which Canada must decide to move forward in equality and respect, or people in our region will look at independence from Confederation as the solution,” the four write.

“We believe a Canada united in equality is in the best interests of its inhabitants. However, that is not the current state of Canadian federation.  Immediate action must be taken to permanently correct inherent inequities that privilege some at the expense of others.”

Blake Richards
MP for Banff-Airdrie

“The economic and social challenges faced by Canada today are not the cause of the strains on our union, but rather are the symptom of the colonial power structures from which Alberta and Saskatchewan were born.

“Defeating the incumbent Liberal government, or building a pipeline, will not permanently address the systemic inequities Albertans face. For confederation to be sustainable, Canada must commit to permanent nation-building structural change within its institutions of power.”

Glen Motz
MP for Medicine Hat-Cypress

The quartet has listed numerous points in order for the situation to be resolved.

• Recognize Alberta is not an equal partner in Confederation.

• Balanced representation in Parliament, including an elected Senate.

• Recognize Alberta – or Buffalo – as a culturally distinct region within Confederation.

• Acknowledge, in the House of Commons, the devastation the National Energy Program caused to the people of Alberta.

• Fix the Equalization program.

• Retrench and clarify free-trade provisions in Canada in the Constitution.

• Constitutionally entrench resource projects as the sole domain of the provinces. 

• In the event Alberta begins to collect its own taxes, enable the province to also collect federal taxes and remit the federal share to Ottawa.  

• Enact structural change within Canada’s federal government to ensure all regions have a voice within its political and justice system.

• Mandate regional balance in all federal infrastructure funding programs.

• Mandate equitable regional distribution of funding to arts and culture as part of federal spending programs. Ensure Western art is prominently displayed in national museums.

• Recognize rural areas of Western Canada are isolated from the power structures of urban Eastern Canada and face unique challenges.

The Declaration continues: “The tone has changed because gains made during previous governments were erased in the first months of the current Trudeau Liberal government, and worse, more inequities have been put in place.

“Therefore, we acknowledge without immediate and permanent structural change, this cycle of paternalism towards Alberta is doomed to continue. This is especially true as Eastern Canada continues to urbanize, and the divide between our way of life and the power elites of the Laurentian consensus becomes more acute.”

Arnold Viersen
MP for Peace River

“The path forward starts today. One way or another, Albertans will have equality.”

In an exclusive interview with the Western Standard, Rempel-Garner said she came to the realization after the last election something needed to be done.

“After the last election it was just a case of history repeating itself. Nothing was going to change and that’s a statement of fact,” she said.

She praised the three other Alberta MPs for signing onto the declaration.

“A lot of people in our caucus have expressed their concerns. I think others will sign on,” she said.

Asked how optimistic she was about getting the declaration accomplished, Rempel Garner said: “It has to be done.”

And any further talk about Alberta independence would depend on “how the rest of Canada reacts.

“I worry about independence. Unless a clear effort is made in all of Canada to address these inequities, I think, in a very short period of time, that’s a question my constituents will be asking themselves.”

And she said it was critical that candidates in the federal Tory leadership race discuss the issue.

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall praised Rempel Garner in a tweet.

The Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta also lauded Rempel-Garner.

The FCP fully supports this action and is encouraged to hear that mainstream politicians in Alberta are beginning to champion the ‘Equality or Independence’ stance. We know all to well that it takes guts to break from a party line and defy establishment politics. We support this 100 per cent,” said FCP president Bill Jones.

The entire Buffalo Declaration can be read here.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor on the Western Standarddnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter: Nobby7694

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Alberta health minister announces new funding framework for doctors

Alberta doctors were using the complex modifiers in more than 50 per cent of patients but the Minister said that only 25 per cent of the population has additional complexities.

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Changes to medical billing and physician wages go into effect in April 2020 and 2021 but there are also changes to insured services.

“To protect the safety of patients, we will limit the amount of patients doctors can see to 65 per day,” Shandro said.

The impetus for this change was research out of the U.S. which showed doctors suffer from burnout and that affects patient care. The new rules will not apply to either rural practices or emergency rooms.

Shandro said that even with a freeze on expenditures, the government expected billing to increase by $2 billion dollars over three years. Currently, physician wages and benefits cost $5.4 billion annually.

The complex modifier billing will be reduced from $18 to $9 at minute 16, and $18 at minute 26 and will come into effect in April. That will be phased out in 2021 with only one complex modifier being allowed at minute 26 of $25. The complex modifier is in addition to the base rate of $41 per patient.

Alberta doctors were using the complex modifiers in more than 50 per cent of patients but the Minister said that only 25 per cent of the population has complexities that should require additional billing.

“The patient population in Alberta is not that complex,” Shandro said.

“The billing model was definitely being used incorrectly.”

Other changes include discontinuing clinical stipends for physicians who are also being paid by AHS, disallowing additional billing for overhead, and eliminating the continuing education reimbursement.

There will also be a reduction in insured services. Referrals coming from chiropractors or physiotherapists will no longer be covered by Alberta Health, and driver medical exams for seniors will not longer be covered.

Shandro said talks with the Alberta Medical Association broke down last week and since there is no mandate for the province have an agreement with the Alberta Medical Association, the government will end the requirement with an Order in Council, effective Feb. 20.

Doctors will still be able to bill for their services and they will still be paid, he said.

Deirdre is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard

dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com, @Mitchell_AB on Twitter

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Chocolate money tastes bitter to taxpayer’s group

Chocolate money tastes bitter to taxpayer’s group

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A Sherwood Park chocolate shop is getting $116,238 of government money to expand its operations.

The decision was quickly slammed Thursday as being unpalatable by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Minister Devin Dreeshen needs to stop smiling in photographs like he’s Willy Wonka handing out Golden Tickets to businesses,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director of the CTF.

“Alberta has a $70 billion debt – this will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of taxpayers.

“We need to stop this nonsense. Government needs to get out of the business of being in business.”

Minister Devin Dreeshen smiles Thursday with representatives from Jacek Chocolate Couture Government handout

The $116,238 comes under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership – a five-year, $3 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments, to strengthen the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector

Jacek Chocolate Couture will use the funding to upgrade its operations, increase exports and create new jobs under the partnership’s Value Added Products Markets program.

“We are very grateful for the support of the local, provincial and federal government over the last 10 years. This support has allowed us to not only grow our business, but it has helped us improve our systems to ensure food safety, access new markets and most recently advance our environmental stewardship goals,”said company founder Jacqueline Jacek.

Dreeshen, Alberta minister of agriculture and forestry, said: “Small businesses are critical to Alberta’s economic growth. Our government is supporting local businesses by helping them reach the global market and remain competitive.”

Dave Naylor is News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: Nobby7694

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