Here are the top stories for Tuesday, December 22nd: Congress passes COVID aid bill; Fauci gets COVID vaccine; truck drivers stuck in UK; coronavirus-sniffing dogs deployed in Chile.
Here are the top stories for Tuesday, December 22nd: Congress passes COVID aid bill; Fauci gets COVID vaccine; truck drivers stuck in UK; coronavirus-sniffing dogs deployed in Chile.
VANCOUVER — Residents of British Columbia's south coast are being urged to prepare for a blast of wintry weather this weekend. Environment Canada warns that snow is in the forecast for parts of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast. The federal weather agency expects snowfall to begin on Saturday night and continue Sunday morning on Vancouver Island and in the southwest area of Metro Vancouver, including Richmond and Delta. It says two to four centimetres of snow are forecast in Richmond and Delta, while on the island, amounts could range from two centimetres on the coasts to five to 10 centimetres inland. By Sunday afternoon, the snow is expected to become mixed with rain in many areas. Meanwhile periods of snow are anticipated Saturday night through Monday morning in the Fraser Valley, including Chilliwack and Hope, with the potential for significant snowfall Sunday night. Environment Canada warns that wet and slushy snow may make for a messy commute in the valley Monday morning and power outages are also possible if heavy, wet snow accumulates on trees. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
PARIS — When Kylian Mbappe's two goals took him back to the top of the French league's scoring charts on Friday night, the move seemed natural and inevitable. What is far less certain is whether Mbappe will stay at PSG, or accept the challenge of moving to a more demanding club like Real Madrid next season. After his brace in the 4-0 win against Montpellier took him to 14 goals — and 106 overall for PSG — the 22-year-old Mbappe said he has yet to decide whether to sign a new deal. “We're in discussions with the club to find a plan. I'm thinking it over, because I think that if I sign then it's to commit myself long term to Paris Saint-Germain,” Mbappe told broadcaster Telefoot following the match. “I'm very happy here, I've always been very happy here. The fans and the club have always helped me. For that, I'll always be thankful.” Mbappe's contract expires at the end of June next year, as does striker partner Neymar's, and PSG sporting director Leonardo is working hard to persuade the two global stars to sign new contracts. But the club faces stiff competition. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is reportedly interested in making Mbappe a marquee signing to form a potentially prolific partnership with veteran Karim Benzema. Mbappe has also been linked with Premier League champion Liverpool. Because of his young age — he is six years younger than Neymar and 11 years younger than Benzema — Mbappe would represent the brightest future of any club. “I want to think about what I want to do in the years to come, where I want to be,” said Mbappe, who grew up in the Paris suburbs. “Yes, the time will soon come to make a choice ... If I had the answer now I would already have given it. I'm not trying to buy some time, I'm really thinking about it." The Frenchman has already won the World Cup, scoring in the 2018 final against Croatia, but has yet to win the biggest trophies at club level. A key part of his reflection is whether he thinks he can do so with PSG. Last season’s defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final profoundly frustrated Mbappe, and to many observers seemed like an opportunity missed for PSG to finally win on the biggest stage after years of falling short in Europe. Mbappe's current market value is estimated at 180 million euros ($220 million), which is the same amount PSG paid to buy him from Monaco four years ago. But the longer he stays without putting pen to paper, the lower the fee becomes should PSG eventually sell him. With all clubs losing vast amounts of money because of the coronavirus pandemic, and a collapsed TV deal further harming French soccer, Mbappe and Neymar are huge assets. “I don't want to sign a contract and one year later say I want to leave,” Mbappe said. “No, if I sign it's to stay and this calls for thought.” PSG fans will hope his heart rules his head. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The developer of the Pebble Mine in Alaska has filed an appeal with the Army Corps of Engineers that asks the agency to reconsider the developer's application to build a gold mine upstream from Bristol Bay. The Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership's application in November on the grounds that the mine would not comply with the Clean Water Act. The proposed mine was to be built on state land, but dredging and filling in federal waters and wetlands requires a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska Public Media reported. Pebble CEO John Shively said the Corps' decision was rushed and came only days after the company filed its final document. Opponents to the proposed mine have said the project would pose a threat to important salmon spawning streams and could ruin the area's sport and commercial fisheries. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy had announced two weeks ago that the state would appeal the permit rejection. Dunleavy said the decision endangers the state’s right to develop its own resources. The Associated Press
Spain's top general resigned on Saturday after allegations he had received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of priority groups, one of a number of public officials who have sparked public anger because of reports they have jumped the vaccination queue. Defence Minister Margarita Robles had asked General Miguel Angel Villaroya, chief of defence staff, for explanations after media reports on Friday that he had received the vaccination.
WASHINGTON — Inside the White House, President Joe Biden presided over a focused launch of his administration, using his first days in office to break sharply with his predecessor while signing executive orders meant as a showy display of action to address the historic challenges he inherited. But outside the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., there are signs everywhere that those crises are as deep and intractable as ever. The coronavirus pandemic surges, the economy teeters and Republicans in Congress have signalled objections to many of Biden’s plans. Biden is looking to jump-start his first 100 days in office with action and symbolism to reassure a divided and weary public that help is in the offing. He also knows that what a president can do on his own is limited so he is calling for Congress to act while he is being candid with Americans that dark days are ahead. “The crisis is not getting better. It’s deepening,” Biden said Friday about the impact of pandemic. “A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted again. Job losses are mounting. We need to act.” “The bottom line is this: We’re in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency,” he said. Biden’s first moments as president were meant to steady American democracy itself. He took the oath just before noon Wednesday in front of a Capitol that still bore scars from the insurrection that took place precisely two weeks earlier and was aimed at stopping Biden’s ascension to power. The violence underscored the fragile nature of the peaceful transfer of power and led to the historic second impeachment of Donald Trump. Biden resisted calls to move the inauguration to a more secure indoor setting. He was intent on preserving the usual inauguration trappings as a signal that normalcy could be achieved even though there were signs everywhere that things were far from normal: a military presence that resembled a war zone, guests on the dais wearing masks, a National Mall filled with 200,000 American flags standing in for the American people who were asked to stay away because of the pandemic. Biden was plain-spoken and direct about the confluence of crises the nation faces. More than 410,000 Americans have lost their lives to the pandemic, millions are out of work and the aftershocks of a summer reckoning with racial justice are still felt. “You can hear this collective sigh of relief that Trump is gone, but we have no time for a sigh of relief because of the cascading crises,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the department of African American studies at Princeton University. “We don’t want to assume that the election of Biden solves everything. The scale of the problems is immense and the question for us is do we respond at scale.” The changes within the White House have been swift. After Trump’s departure, his final staffers cleared out and a deep clean began. The White House had been the site of multiple COVID-19 outbreaks and, in a physical manifestation of a new approach to the virus, plastic shields were placed on desks and scores of new staffers were told to work from home. New pictures were hung on the West Wing walls and the Oval Office received a fast makeover. Gone were a painting of Andrew Jackson and the Diet Coke button of the desk; in came images of Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez. But the most important symbol, the clearest break from the previous administration, came from the president himself. When Biden sat down at the Resolute Desk to sign his first batch of his executive orders on Wednesday, he was wearing a mask. Trump had resisted wearing one, putting one on only occasionally and instead turning mask-wearing into a polarizing political issue Biden urged all Americans to wear a mask for the next 100 days and used his platform to model the same behaviour, one of several ways he tried to change the tone of the presidency in his first few days. Daily press briefings returned, absent the accusations of “fake news” that marked only sporadic briefings in the Trump era. Biden held a virtual swearing-in for hundreds of White House staffers, telling them to treat each other with respect or they would dismissed, a marked change from the contentious, rivalry-driven Trump West Wing. Calls to the leaders of Canada and Mexico were made without drama. The executive actions Biden signed during the week were a mix of concrete and symbolic actions meant to undo the heart of Trump’s legacy. Biden halted construction of the border wall, rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord and bolstered the means for production for vaccines. But the might of the executive actions pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that he requested from Congress. Biden has not ruled out asking Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to push it through by tactics requiring only Democratic support. But the president, who spent decades in the Senate, hoped to persuade Republicans to support the measure. “Leaning on executive action makes sense at the start, you can get things going and show momentum right away without waiting for Congress,” said Robert Gibbs, former press secretary for President Barack Obama. “But this is going take a while. Like it was for us in 2009, change doesn’t come overnight." "Everything he inherited is likely to get worse before we see improvement,” Gibbs said. “One thing you learn on January 20th is that you suddenly own all of it.” Just two Cabinet nominees were confirmed by week's end, to the frustration of the White House. But with the Friday night announcement that Trump’s impeachment trial will not begin until the week of Feb. 8, Biden aides were optimistic that the Senate would confirm more before then. The trial looms as an unwelcome distraction for the Biden team. But while Trump will shadow the White House, Biden aides have noted that the former president commands far less attention now that his Twitter account is gone. They have expressed confidence that the Senate can balance the impeachment proceedings with both Cabinet confirmations and consideration of the COVID-19 relief bill. Biden has made clear that steering the nation through the pandemic will be his signature task and some Republicans believe that Trump’s implosion could create an opening to work across the aisle on a relief deal. “There is a very narrow permission structure for congressional Republicans who want to move past the Trump era and want to establish their own political identities,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Romney is now a Utah senator. “There is an old saying: ‘Make the main thing the main thing.’ And the Biden White House knows that’s the main thing,” Madden said. “If they can improve the pandemic response in the next 100 days, then they can move on to other priorities, they’ll have the capital for legislative fights. But they need to get it right.” ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
FREDERICTON — Public health officials in New Brunswick reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, just hours before the province's Edmundston region was set to enter a 14-day lockdown at midnight. Ten of the new cases are in the Edmundston region in the northwest of the province, while there were five in the Moncton region and one case each in the Campbellton and Saint John regions. There are currently 328 active cases in the province. Five patients are hospitalized, with three in intensive care. There have been 1,104 positive cases and 13 COVID-related deaths in the province since the pandemic began. Health officials say the strict health order of a lockdown is needed to curb a steady rise in daily infections that they fear is about to get out of control. "Our objective with the implementation of the lockdown measures ... is to reduce opportunities for transmission by having people limit their movements to the greatest extent possible," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Saturday in a statement. "When we stop moving and interactions, we stop COVID-19," she said. Starting Sunday, non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of the Edmundston area, which borders northern Maine and Quebec's Bas-St-Laurent region. The health order forces the closure of all non-essential businesses as well as schools and public spaces, including outdoor ice rinks and ski hills. All indoor and outdoor gatherings among people of different households are prohibited. The province says the situation in the region will be evaluated every seven days and that the provincial cabinet may extend the lockdown if required. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
BERLIN — Bayern Munich’s closest challengers, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, both lost in the Bundesliga on Saturday to give the eight-time defending champions a chance to move seven points clear at the top. Second-place Leipzig lost 3-2 at relegation-threatened Mainz and third-place Leverkusen lost 1-0 at home to Wolfsburg. Bayern visits last-place Schalke on Sunday. American midfielder Tyler Adams got Leipzig off to a great start with a goal in the 15th minute, but Moussa Niakhaté scored twice for Mainz, either side of Marcel Halstenberg’s 30th-minute strike for the visitors. New signing Danny da Costa set up Leandro Barreiro for Mainz’s winner in the 50th. Midfielder Ridle Baku’s 35th-minute header was enough for Wolfsburg. Leverkusen made a good start but Nadiem Amiri and Lucas Alario missed early chances, with Alario striking the post before Wolfsburg gradually settled. Leverkusen maintained its pressure but the defence took a break and left Baku to head in Renato Steffen’s cross against the run of play. Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz reacted at the break by bringing on former Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah for his Bundesliga debut, but Wolfsburg saw out the win. Luka Jovic scored his third goal in as many substitute appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt since returning from Real Madrid to seal a 5-1 win at Arminia Bielefeld. Augsburg goalkeeper Rafa Gikiewicz saved a penalty to secure a 2-1 win over his former team Union Berlin. Gikiewicz denied Marcus Ingvartsen in the 56th, then produced a fine save to also thwart Taiwo Awoniyi. Florian Niederlechner, who conceded the spot kick, had already scored twice for the home side. Freiburg beat Stuttgart 2-1. Hertha Berlin hosted fellow struggler Werder Bremen later Saturday. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP CiaráN Fahey, The Associated Press
Dutch police have arrested the alleged leader of a large Asian drug syndicate who is listed as one of the world's most-wanted fugitives and has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was detained on Friday at the request of Australian police, who led an investigation that found his organisation dominates the $70 billion-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade, Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said on Saturday. Tse is expected to be extradited after appearing before a judge, Aling said, adding that his arrest by national police took place without incident at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Deux endroits sur la Côte-Nord, soit le Lac Petapan et l’Allée du Chafaud, sont en nomination au palmarès 2021 de la Commission de toponymie qui choisit chaque année une douzaine de lieux en fonction notamment de l’originalité de leur nom et de leur capacité à inspirer des images fortes. La Toponymie s’intéresse à la signification de noms de lieux, ainsi qu’au contexte derrière sa détermination historique. Les gens intéressés à voter pour leur nom coup de cœur ont jusqu’au 9 février pour le faire. L’Allée du Chafaud est une voie de communication qui rappelle la présence de chafauds sur les plages de l’île Harrington utilisés par les pêcheurs locaux. Le mot chafaud désigne un quai sur pilotis qui est démonté pour la saison hivernale pour être reconstruit au printemps. Ce mot pouvait aussi désigner le bâtiment adjacent à ce quai. Le lac Petapan, Lac-au-Brochet est situé en Haute-Côte-Nord. Il se trouve à environ 20 kilomètres au nord-est du réservoir Pipmuacan , un peu plus de 30 kilomètres au nord de Labrieville. Le lac a une superficie de près de 45 kilomètres carrés. Cinq prix, de 100$ en carte cadeau chez Renaud-Bray, seront remis suite à un tirage au sort parmi les personnes qui auront voté en ligne pour choisir le Toponyme coup de foudre du public. Le tirage aura lieu le 10 février prochain. Douze noms figurent à ce palmarès coup de cœur dont la chute des pitounes volantes du lac Jacques-Cartier dans la région de la Capitale nationale. Pour voter, il suffit de se rendre au : www.toponymie.gouv.qc.ca/ct/vote-toponyme.Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
The United States is closely watching the more infectious variant of COVID-19 after British officials warned that it may also be more deadly, two top U.S. health officials said on Saturday, cautioning more data is needed. Officials are somewhat more worried about a separate variant from South Africa, although it has not yet been identified among U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's top COVID-19 medical adviser, also said.
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says he was once willing to give his former leadership rival Derek Sloan the benefit of the doubt, but no longer. And he dismissed the idea that kicking Sloan out of caucus this week has pitted him against one of the party's most powerful wings, social conservatives, whose support O'Toole courted directly during the leadership race last year in part by backing Sloan at the time. In an interview with The Canadian Press, O'Toole said he didn't believe Sloan meant to be racist last year in his characterization of chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam. That's why he opposed efforts then to kick him out of caucus, O'Toole said. "I always will give a colleague, or anyone in Parliament, in public life, the benefit of the doubt or, you know, listen to them the first time," O'Toole said. "And that was the case early on with Derek, when he said he did not mean to malign the intentions of Dr. Tam." But O'Toole said a "pattern developed" since then, and frustrations mounted that Sloan's extreme social conservative views posed an ever-present danger to the party's goal of forming government. It all appeared to come to a head last week. In the aftermath of riots in the U.S. led by extreme right wing supporters of now-former U.S. president Donald Trump. O'Toole faced pressure from caucus, conservative supporters and his rivals to firmly disavow any elements of extremism in his party's ranks. Last Sunday, O'Toole issued a statement doing just that. The next day, media organization PressProgress reported O'Toole's outrage over Sloan's leadership campaign accepting a donation from a known white nationalist. While O'Toole moved swiftly to start the process of kicking Sloan out — getting 20 per cent of MPs on side as required by law — he insisted the demand was driven by caucus, as evidenced in the majority vote to remove him. "The caucus was ready to make that decision and send a strong message that we are a welcoming party, we respect one another, and we respect Canadians," he said. O'Toole disputed accusations from Sloan and anti-abortion groups that the decision to kick him out had nothing to do with the Ontario MP's previous statements. In recent weeks, Sloan has been pushing to get as many socially conservative delegates as possible registered for the party's policy convention in March. Sloan, as well as the Campaign Life Coalition and RightNow, want enough delegates in their camp so motions they support will pass, including one that would remove the existing policy stating a Conservative government would never regulate abortion. They also want to elect a slate of directors to the party's national council to entrench their strength. Sloan said the decision to kick him out was a kneejerk reaction to what happened in the U.S. But he also contends the move was driven by anger from his fellow MP's unhappy to se him actively courting money and support in their ridings. He's pledged to name them so social conservatives know who is trying to silence their voices, he said. "They think they are little petty princes ruling these fiefdoms and no one else can have a say," Sloan said. O'Toole rejected the idea that Sloan's efforts amount to an attempt to take over the party, and O'Toole's own move was a bid to stop it. "There is no such effort to the extent that Mr. Sloan is suggesting," he said. Sloan had little national profile when he entered the Conservative leadership race just a few months after becoming an MP. But early on, he garnered attention for suggesting he wasn't certain of the scientific basis for a person being LGBTQ. From there, he quickly became well known for his often extreme social conservative views. His comments about Tam, in which he suggested her loyalty lay with China rather than Canada, sparked outrage and took criticism against him to the next level. Last spring, in discussing the Liberal government's pandemic response and Tam's use of suspect World Health Organization data from China, Sloan provocatively asked whether Tam was working for Canada or China. Tam was born in Hong Kong. Questioning someone's loyalty is considered a racist trope. Sloan denied he was being racist. Still, a number of Ontario MPs — some who were supporters of leadership contender and longtime Conservative Peter MacKay — began an effort to have him removed from caucus. O'Toole shut it down, for reasons he wouldn't divulge then, but to observers, it smacked of politics. MacKay was running a progressive campaign. O'Toole's was aimed at the more centre right, while Sloan and Leslyn Lewis were targeting the socially conservative right. With Sloan gone, his backers would have more likely gone to Lewis, splitting the vote on the right between her and O'Toole, giving MacKay a path to victory. Except O'Toole backed Sloan, and would later take out social media ads hyping his decision. It was one of several steps he took to directly court Sloan's supporters, and when it came to voting time, they would ultimately help put O'Toole over the top to beat MacKay. The way the race played out has led to questions for O'Toole ever since about how he'd balance the demands of the social conservative wing of the party with his stated intent to broaden its overall appeal. O'Toole said he's aware people have "trust issues" with his party, suggesting social media contributes to the issue and noting he must break that online bubble if he hopes to see his party win. "The Prime Minister has to try and bring the country together: the diversity of its people, its geography, its industries, and the points of view and backgrounds of everyone," he said of the office he hopes to hold. "No one ever said it's easy." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Genome sequencing has confirmed that a variant of COVID-19 first detected in the United Kingdom is present at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., according to the local public health unit. This variant is considered highly contagious and can be transmitted easily. In a news release on Saturday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said the testing done on Friday has determined that six samples taken from the Roberta Place Long Term Care Home are of the variant that is known as the B.1.1.7 variant. The home is north of Toronto. On Wednesday, preliminary testing of the six cases at the home had shown a high likelihood of that they were of this COVID-19 variant. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, said in the statement that the development is of great concern. "The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all," Gardner said. "Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread." Public health unit concerned about further spread The public health unit added in the release: "This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion." In a media briefing on Saturday, Gardner said 127 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, all but two of the residents at the home. Six residents are currently in hospital. Eighty-four staff members have tested positive for the virus, which Gardner says account for nearly half of the home's staff. Gardner also said there have been 32 deaths at the home, as of Saturday. The outbreak was declared on Jan. 8. He said he is "very concerned about potential impact with spread into the community." Garder said the variant has spread to 21 household members of staff at the home and other people who have entered the home. "This progressed so rapidly," he said. "I'm very concerned it'll make it a challenge in future outbreaks in other LTC facilities." Two essential visitors and three others have tested positive. The Canadian Red Cross was deployed to the home on Jan. 17 to help stop the ongoing outbreak. As of Jan. 16, eligible residents of all long-term care facilities in the region have received their first dose of immunization. Officials said they planned to immunize residents at the other retirement homes throughout Simcoe Muskoka over the weekend. Known variant strains of the virus were first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. In an email on Saturday, the Ontario health ministry expressed concern. "The province continues to determine the impact the delay in shipments from the federal government will have on the province's vaccine rollout," ministry spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said. "We continue to vaccinate our most vulnerable and remain committed to vaccinating long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents as quickly as we receive vaccines from the federal government."
A woman who was found dead in an apartment unit near York University on Thursday night has now been identified by Toronto police. Officers say they responded to a medical call at 9:41 p.m. on Thursday near Murray Ross Parkway and Sentinel Road. When they arrived, they said they found a woman suffering from serious injuries. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said the homicide unit was called in to take over the investigation. In a release issued Saturday, police identified the victim as 32-year-old Leah St Jean of Toronto. Police also said they have arrested and charged a 26-year-old man from Toronto with second-degree murder. He is set to appear in court on Saturday. Anyone with information is asked to contact Toronto police or CrimeStoppers.
Reece Howden is accustomed to leading ski cross competitions but on Saturday employed a different strategy, purposely sitting back before waiting for a break on the way to a second World Cup victory in 33 days. The 22-year-old from Cultus Lake, B.C., settled in the middle of the pack for much of the big finals until the final turn on the full-length course in Idre Fjall, Sweden. "The plan was to not come out in front, the draft was too strong," he told Alpine Canada. "I wanted to chill in the middle of the pack and give my legs a bit of a break and once I made that last turn fire up those engines and get out in front," said Howden, who sits atop the season rankings. "Today was a day of racing, not a day of leading, so I was super happy with my execution and it couldn't have gone any better." WATCH | Reece Howden earns his 3rd World Cup medal: Howden captured silver and the next day gold in late December in Val Thorens, France. He has been able to devote more time to skiing this season after graduating from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the spring. Howden's teammate, veteran ski cross racer Chris Del Bosco of Montreal, was third in the small finals on Saturday and seventh overall for his best finish since 2018. "It's been a while since I've been back in the small finals," said Del Bosco, who ruptured his Achilles last summer. "It felt really good to get the monkey off my back. I made a few small mistakes in that last round, but I am heading in the right direction." Hoffos, Thompson inside top 10 Ottawa's Jared Schmidt delivered a career-best 29th-place finish while Brady Leman (27th), Kris Mahler (32nd) and Carson Cook (48th) rounded out the Canadian contingent. In the women's event, Tiana Gairns of Prince George, B.C., placed a career-best fifth, followed by Courtney Hoffos (Invermere, B.C.) and Marielle Thompson (Whistler, B.C.) in sixth and eighth, respectively. "Idre is interesting since it's such a long track with such a long straight section that you don't want to pass at the beginning," Gairns said. Added Hoffos: "You almost want to be patient and hold your composure in fourth place so you can boost ahead of everyone at the last second." Zoe Chore (16th) and Hannah Schmidt (17th) were the other Canadian competitors. The men and women return to the Swedish course on Sunday at 6 a.m. ET.
Houses of worship in Quebec are now allowed to reopen, but with strict limits on the number of people that can show up. Two weeks into the province's latest round of restrictions, which include an overnight curfew, the government has changed course. It's now possible for a place of worship to host a maximum of 10 people for religious gatherings. All places of worship were ordered to close earlier this month, except for funeral ceremonies. The changes come by way of a government decree published on Thursday, and provide exceptions to public health rules put into place Jan. 9, which ban all gatherings — indoors and outdoors — across Quebec. "By limiting the number to 10 people, it allows people to continue practicing their religious rites in a secure space, because with 10 people, social distancing can easily be respected," said a spokesperson with the province's Health Ministry. The rules may have been softened, but religious community leaders are expected to show "exemplary rigour" and encourage their members to respect physical standing rules, wear masks, wash their hands when entering and exiting the building, and refrain from singing, the spokesperson said. A registry of the people who attend ceremonies will also be mandatory, in order to help trace them in the event of an outbreak. The decree maintains the maximum size of gatherings for funerals at 25 people. "Places of worship cannot serve as a refuge," the Health Ministry spokesperson said. "However, if a person needs to get in touch with a representative of a place of worship to find support or comfort, it will be allowed to do so inside the place of worship, outside of the usual ceremonies."
Yulia Navalnaya was taking part in a protest to demand the release of her husband when she was taken into a police vehicle.
The Scottish National Party published a "Roadmap to Referendum" on Saturday, laying out plans for another vote on Scottish independence just as the United Kingdom grapples with COVID-19 and the impact of Brexit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who would have to agree to a new referendum, argues there is no need for a new vote after independence was rejected by Scottish voters in 2014. But the SNP has said that if it wins a parliamentary majority at elections scheduled for May 6, it will pass its own bill so that a referendum can take place once the pandemic is over.
People are turning to different coping mechanisms during life amid the pandemic, but for some coastal-dwelling British Columbians, dipping into icy cool water has been a source of relief and respite this winter. Craig Stewart, president of the Vancouver Open Water Swim Association, says there's nothing like swimming outside under open skies. "I usually compare it to cycling in a gym versus cycling outside. For me, there's no comparison. I want to be outside. I want to be in nature and swimming is no different," Stewart said. The waters around B.C. can dip to a frigid 6 C or 7 C. The water itself can be quite opaque in the winter, Stewart said, and it can be unnerving to not see to the bottom. But Stewart says the challenge is part of the draw. "Part of the draw is it's like an inoculation. You are choosing to suffer a little bit and then endure it, and you feel good for having done that," he said. Deborah Calderon of Powell River is part of a local swimming group — the Powtown Popsicles — who go for a socially distanced swim or dip every day. "Everybody's got a completely different reaction," Calderon said. "When I get out [of the water], I get calm, which is what I need." She says the activity has been a huge source of comfort during the pandemic. "It's probably the biggest thing I've done to reduce isolation, to make sure I get outside with a bit of a purpose, to feel that kind of rush and then come out and then on with your day," Calderon said. Tips for open water swimming Like any new activity, Stewart says it's important to be prepared and do your research. Here are some other tips if you want to try cold water swimming. 1) Don't swim alone. It's always good to go with other people so that you can look out for one another, said Stewart. This is especially important if your body temperature plunges after coming out of the water and you need help. 2) Take it slowly. "The worst thing you can do is to jump into cold water and think you're going to be fine. No, that gives you cold water shock," Stewart said, noting the last time he went cold water swimming, it took him 10 minutes to get used to the cold water. Getting slowly acclimatized is important to help your body adjust to the conditions. Wearing proper gear — like layering on a swim cap and a wetsuit — can also help you stay warm in the water. 3) Know your water. "Don't jump into water you don't know. You don't know how deep it is, you don't know where the currents are," said Stewart, noting that ocean currents in particular can be very, very strong. 4) Listen to your body. It's important post-swim or post-dip to make sure you refuel and have hot beverages on hand. "It gives your body fuel because you've just been spending at an incredible rate. And have layers of warm clothing," he said. Finally, Stewart said, learn about the sport and try it out with people who are experienced. "It's inherently rewarding. You feel good. You feel tough. But joyful."
TORONTO — Health officials say a U.K. variant of COVID-19 is behind a deadly outbreak at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., north of Toronto. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says genome sequencing on six COVID-19 samples from Roberta Place Retirement Lodge have been identified as the highly contagious variant. The local health unit announced earlier this week that they had found a variant at the home and were conducting tests to determine what it was. Known variant strains of the virus were first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. An outbreak at Roberta Place was first declared on Jan. 8. A news release says as of Friday, 124 of 127 residents, and 84 staff were positive for the virus, resulting in 29 deaths. The health unit, in partnership with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, says it accelerated its immunization program on Friday and vaccinated all eligible residents and staff. Officials say they're also immunizing residents at the other retirement homes throughout Simcoe Muskoka this weekend. As of Jan. 16, eligible residents of all long-term care facilities in Simcoe Muskoka have also received their first dose of immunization against COVID-19. "The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all," Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said in a statement Saturday. "Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread." Ontario reported 2,359 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 52 more deaths related to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 708 new cases in Toronto, 422 in Peel Region, and 220 in York Region. She said there were also 107 more cases in Hamilton and 101 in Ottawa. Nearly 63,500 tests have been completed in Ontario over the past 24 hours. The province reported that 11,161 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the province's last report. A total of 276,146 doses have been administered in Ontario so far. Since the pandemic began, there have been 252,585 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. Of those, 222,287 have recovered and 5,753 people have died. Saturday's numbers were down from Friday's figures of 2,662 new cases and 87 more deaths. Meanwhile, the Ontario government has announced it's expanding its "inspection blitz" of big-box stores to ensure they're following COVID-19 guidelines this weekend. The workplace inspections, which started in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas last weekend, will now stretch out to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham regions. Officials want to ensure workers and customers at the essential businesses are properly protected from COVID-19 during the provincewide shutdown. The blitz was developed in consultation with local health units and also includes a variety of other workplaces, including retail establishments and restaurants providing take-out meals. The province's labour ministry says more than 300 offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, will conduct the inspections. Corporations can now be fined $1,000, and individuals can be fined $750 or charged for failing to comply with the orders. Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the province is confident that the majority of workplaces in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham are following orders. "However, if we find that businesses are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, our government will not hesitate to take immediate action," McNaughton added in a statement Saturday. "The only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and end the provincewide shutdown is for everyone — owners, customers and staff alike — to follow the proper guidelines." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
LAHTI, FINLAND — Canadian Katherine Stewart-Jones had a career-best 24th place finish Saturday in a women's World Cup cross-country ski event. Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., posted a time of 41 minutes 8.6 seconds in the women's 15-kilometre skiathon. Cedrine Browne, of Saint-Jerome, Que., was 27th - her best-ever skiathon finish - in 41:30.0, marking the first time since 2014 that two Canadian women registered a top-30 finish on the World Cup. And Russell Kennedy of Canmore, Alta., finished 29th in the men's 30-kilometre skiathon. The skiathlon, which combines classic and skate skiing, was the first World Cup start in nearly 10 months for the Canadians. They trained at home for the first half of the World Cup season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was good to get the first race of the season done, and I’m also very happy to get a new personal best result,” said Stewart-Jones after just her second career top-30 result. “I wanted to ski as relaxed as possible in the classic part and get myself in good position. "My legs started to feel heavy in the skate, so I just held on to the skiers around me. The wax techs did an incredible job with the skis today. They were very fast.” Browne registered her fourth top-30 result despite getting tangled up in an early crash. “There was a big fall in the first kilometre of the race that I couldn’t avoid and ended up nearly last," she said. "I had to be very strong mentally, be patient and trust myself for the rest of the race.” Norwegians Therese Johaug, Helene Marie Fosssesholm and Heidi Weng swept the top-three positions. Laura Leclair, of Chelsea, was 44th in her first-ever World Cup start in 44:26.8. Kennedy, who shared guiding duties for Brian McKeever at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, was quite happy with his finish. "That was a sweet first race to start the season off,” he said. "It’s a hard way to get into the World Cup season but it was so nice to finally race again." Emil Iverson led another Norwegian sweep of the medals. Sjur Roethe was second ahead of Paal Golberg. Antoine Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., was 37th (1:14:08.5) while Philippe Boucher, of Levis, Que., was 47th (1:15:52.6). Remi Drolet, of Rossland, B.C., finished 49th (1:16:48.5). This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021 The Canadian Press