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Exxon continues drilling offshore Guyana as Venezuela lodges complaint

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp said on Wednesday its oil drilling and development activities offshore Guyana were unaffected by a weekend incident in which Venezuela’s navy stopped two exploration vessels the company had hired.

The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 30, 2015. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said on April 26, 2016, it had cut Exxon Mobil Corp’s corporate credit rating to “AA+” from “AAA,” citing the impact of low oil prices. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Venezuela’s navy halted seismic data collection by the boats on Saturday. The governments of each of the two South American neighboring countries said the exploration vessels were in their territorial waters.

A century-long border dispute has heated up in recent years as Irving, Texas-based Exxon has discovered more than 5 billion barrels of oil and gas off Guyana’s shores and said it could be producing 750,000 barrels of oil by 2025 from wells there.

Its 10 oil finds are at least 110 km (68 miles) away from the northwest part of the Stabroek block where the incident took place, the company said. The company has a permit from Guyana to explore the Stabroek block.

“Exploration and development drilling is continuing in the southeast area of the Stabroek Block,” the company said in a statement. An Exxon spokeswoman declined to say whether the two vessels, owned by Norway’s Petroleum Geo-Services, planned to continue their survey.

Exxon shares rose about 4 percent on Wednesday as oil prices jumped, both recovering from sharp declines earlier in the week. Hess Corp, which owns 30 percent of the project, also surged 9.3 percent after plunging more than 12 percent on Monday.

Markets were closed on Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.

Venezuela’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it had sent a formal protest to Guyana’s government over its decision to allow “unilateral and arbitrary” exploration and other activities in the area without consultation.

The ministry said it had previously protested to Georgetown over a “notice to mariners” that it said was issued Dec. 6 and which it said detailed how Exxon’s Guyana subsidiary would start a seismic survey in the area lasting until Dec. 31. Guyana’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A notice of the survey published on Guyana’s Maritime Administration Department’s website was dated Dec. 7, and said the work was scheduled for a six-month period. Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the discrepancies over the dates.

In OPEC-member Venezuela, crude output is near its lowest levels in 70 years amid an economic crisis and mismanagement under military rule.

Critics say socialist President Nicolas Maduro is using the dispute over the Essequibo, a sparsely populated jungle region making up two-thirds of Guyana’s land which Venezuela also claims, to distract from hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods that have prompted millions of Venezuelans to emigrate.

Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Jonathan Oatis 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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