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Amateur treasure hunter’s shilling discovery could rewrite Canadian history

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An amateur treasure hunter with a hand-held metal detector has turned Canadian history on its head after finding a 16th-century shilling buried in clay on the shores of Vancouver Island.

The 435-year-old coin discovered in western-most Canada has rekindled a theory that a British explorer made a secret voyage here two centuries before it was discovered by Spanish sailors.

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Official historical records show the Spanish were the first Europeans to set foot in what is now Canada’s British Columbia province in 1774, followed four years later by British Royal Navy Captain James Cook.

Retired security systems installer Bruce Campbell found the coin in mid-December, along with a rare 1891 Canadian nickel, a 1960s dime and penny from 1900.

“I was getting fat and tired of watching TV,” he said about what got him into his hobby, surrounded in his Victoria, British Columbia, home by a trove of adventure novels and a few dug up treasures.

He never imagined, he said, stirring up controversy with his latest find.

According to conspiracy theorists and some historians, the silver coin (produced between 1551 and 1553) is evidence that English explorer Sir Francis Drake travelled as far north as Canada’s Pacific Coast during an expedition to California in 1579, in search of the famed Northwest Passage.

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But he covered it up at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I, who supposedly wished to avoid confrontation over the new territory with Spain.

At the time, Spanish explorers had kept to more southern parts of the continent after disappointment (seeing few apparent resources and natural ports) in California.

Samuel Bawlf, a leading proponent of the so-called Drake theory and author of a 2003 book on the subject, says the coin is proof the English arrived here first.

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He noted two other finds that support the theory: a 1571 sixpence dug up in 1930 in the backyard of a Victoria home and another Tudor-era coin unearthed on nearby Quadra Island.

Drake would have given the coins to aboriginals he met “to show to later comers that England had already found (and staked a claim to) these lands,” Bawlf told AFP.

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Royal British Columbia Museum curator Grant Keddie, tasked with examining the evidence, is skeptical.

He said his analysis typically looks at “what was written at the time, and archeological artifacts.” And there is currently not enough evidence to support this theory, he said, noting that Drake’s logs were burned in a London fire a century later.

If it is ever corroborated, it could have implications for Canada and the United States, whose shared border was drawn based partly on past European colonial land holdings.

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The 49th parallel was chosen in 1818 as the western boundary between the United States and the British colony, but disputes over interpretations of the treaty erupted on several occasions since then.

The last row was settled in 1903 by a joint British, Canadian and U.S. tribunal establishing Canada’s boundary with Alaska.

For Campbell, the coin is nothing more than a lucky find that will be hard to match. “It’s gonna be impossible to find something older,” he quipped.


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Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers

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The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report

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The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.

But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.

"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."

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Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report

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According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.

As it turned out, that test was flawed.

Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."

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