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Top Trump official calls U.S. bank CEOs amid financial market rout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary called America’s top bankers on Sunday and said he got reassurances about the health of the nation’s banks amid an ongoing rout on Wall Street.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during his interview with Reuters in Jerusalem October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

U.S. stocks have plunged in recent weeks on concerns over slowing economic growth, with the S&P 500 index .SPX on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression.

“Today I convened individual calls with the CEOs of the nation’s six largest banks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Twitter shortly before financial markets were due to open in Asia.

The Treasury said in a statement that Mnuchin talked with the chief executives of Bank of America (BAC.N), Citi (C.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N), JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N).

“The CEOs confirmed that they have ample liquidity available for lending,” the Treasury said.

Mnuchin “also confirmed that they have not experienced any clearance or margin issues and that the markets continue to function properly,” the Treasury said.

Mnuchin’s calls to the bankers came amid a partial government shutdown that began on Saturday following an impasse in Congress over Trump’s demand for more funds for a wall on the border with Mexico. Financing for about a quarter of federal government programs expired at midnight on Friday and the shutdown could continue to Jan 3.

The Treasury said Mnuchin will convene a call on Monday with the president’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which includes Washington’s main stewards of the U.S. financial system and has been known colloquially as the “Plunge Protection Team.”

The group, which was also convened in 2009 during the latter stage of the financial crisis, includes officials from the Federal Reserve as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wall Street is also closely following reports that Trump has privately discussed the possibility of firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Mnuchin said on Saturday Trump told him he had “never suggested firing” Powell.

Trump has criticized the U.S. central bank for raising interest rates this year, which could further dampen economic growth. The Fed’s independence is seen as a pillar of the U.S. financial system.

Mnuchin’s calls come as a range of asset classes have suffered steep losses.

In December alone, the S&P 500 .SPX is down nearly 12.5 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC has slumped 13.6 percent. The Nasdaq is now in a bear market, having declined nearly 22 percent from its record high in late August, and the S&P is not far off that level.

Corporate credit markets have been under duress as well, and measures of the investment grade corporate bond market are poised for their worst yearly performance since the 2008 financial crisis.

The high-yield bond market, where companies with the weakest credit profiles raise capital, has not seen a deal all month. The last time that happened was in November 2008.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O’Brien

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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