Boys in the bucket
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald
Boys in the bucket
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald
Scuffles broke out between rival protesters in the southern Mexican city of Iguala on Wednesday amid growing anger over President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's backing of a gubernatorial candidate accused of rape. Video shared on social media showed one woman hitting another woman with a megaphone, bloodying her face, following a joint event between Lopez Obrador and Argentina's president, Alberto Fernandez. The injured protester, Yolitzin Jaimes, was demonstrating against Felix Salgado, a gubernatorial candidate for the southern state of Guerrero and a member of Lopez Obrador's ruling MORENA party.
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova became a United Nations goodwill ambassador on Wednesday, pledging to promote the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls and tackle stigmas surrounding their bodies. She will be a campaigner for the U.N. Population Fund, which now calls itself the U.N.’s sexual and reproductive health agency, known as UNFPA. UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, who announced her appointment, called Vodianova “above all a passionate, longtime advocate for the rights and the needs of women and girls and in particular people living with disabilities.” Working with UNFPA for the last three years, Kanem said, Vodianova has focused on “breaking harmful taboos and tackling the stigmas that surround women’s bodies and health, including menstrual health even during humanitarian crises, and all forms of gender-based violence.” Vodianova, who will celebrate her 39th birthday on Sunday, said she was honoured by her new role and told a U.N. press conference by video link: “I look forward to continuing my work to tackle the myths and taboos that billions of women, girls and vulnerable young people have to live with and raise the standards of women’s health and dignity.” Vodianova was raised in poverty by a single mother with a half-sister who has cerebral palsy and autism. She signed with Viva Model Management at the age of 17 and has worked for fashion companies including Calvin Klein, Balmain, Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton and appeared on many magazine covers, including Vogue. She made the Forbes top models list in 2012 and is nicknamed Supernova. Vodianova founded the Naked Heart Foundation to help children with special needs and their families in 2004 and is a member of the Special Olympics International board of directors. She told reporters that one focus of her work as a goodwill ambassador will be on the taboo and stigma surrounding menstruation, a monthly challenge for girls and women. On any given day, UNFPA said more than 800 million girls and women between ages 15 and 49 are menstruating, and may face exclusion from public life, barriers to opportunities, lack of proper sanitation and health, and neglect. “These stigmas and taboos are deeply rooted in our cultures and held there with such an overwhelming power,” Vodianova said. “And it doesn’t matter where you’re born ... you will face these issues growing up in one way or another.” She said a good example is that “period products, something that is a right for women, not just something nice to have” are still not widely publicly available in many countries. “It is now our responsibility to culturally redefine what is normal,” Vodianova said. “As UNFPA goodwill ambassador, I want to work to build a world where we no longer need to explain this.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
(Grant Linton/CBC - image credit) Simcoe Muskoka's medical officer of health says a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region last week is "worrisome" and it may prompt him to ask the province to put the region back into lockdown. Dr. Charles Gardner, of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), said COVID-19 cases rose 30 per cent in the region last week compared to the previous week. There were 277 new cases reported to the health unit for the week of Feb. 14, an increase from the 210 cases reported for the week of Feb. 7. Gardner said the region also has a "very large number" of cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom and is more transmissible than the original novel coronavirus. A total of 174 cases in the region have tested positive for the B117 variant and another 270 cases have screened positive for variants of concern, according to the health unit's website. Gardner said the increase in cases, particularly in the Barrie, Ont. area, indicates the pandemic is growing instead of shrinking. He said the numbers suggest the region is going in a different direction from that of the rest of the province. "I am concerned that if that continues, and we have a rise in these cases of the U.K. variant, that the combination could leads to us having another wave," Gardner told CBC Toronto on Wednesday. Gardner said he has spoken to Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, about the rising numbers. "I have provided our epidemiological data and expressed our concerns, as well as my thoughts that it is really the stay-at-home order that is essential." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka, says: 'We need to be prepared to go into a shutdown again in the near future if, in fact, we continue to see this.' Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he understands the need for more provincial restrictions. "You need to act more quickly than you would normally. This variant is different from COVID classic. It's moves faster, so government needs to move faster." Some variant cases not linked to institutional outbreaks On Tuesday, Gardner told reporters at a weekly news briefing that the region has increasing case counts of the B117 variant, there is geographic spread and some of the variant cases are not linked to institutional outbreaks. "Our trajectory overall is not headed in the right direction," he said. "We need to be prepared to go into a shutdown again in the near future if, in fact, we continue to see this. This something that I think people need to be aware of," he added. "What we're seeing is probably the beginning of another wave. We need to get on top of it." Region in province's red-control zone Simcoe Muskoka is now in the province's red-control zone of the colour-coded framework, but Gardner said people should act as though there is a stay-at-home order in place. There were 111 new COVID-19 cases reported to the health unit for the current week. Gardner reported eight new deaths on Tuesday, bringing the region's cumulative total to 187 since the start of the pandemic. Eighty-four per cent of the deaths in the past week were due to institutional outbreaks. There have been 29 deaths of people with COVID-19 since the beginning of February. Currently, there are 24 people in hospital, with four in intensive care units. Simcoe Muskoka is now in the province's red-control zone of the colour-coded framework. The province moved the region into the zone on Feb. 16. Gardner said the majority of new cases that have occurred in South Simcoe are in the communities of Barrie, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil and New Tecumseth. In Barrie, the weekly incidence rate was 109 new cases per 100,000 population this past week, which is double that of the previous week, mainly due to non-outbreak related transmission, household- and workplace-related cases, he said. "This is the first increase we've seen in Barrie residents in last three weeks. No other municipality has this incidence rate," he said. Cases of the B117 variant are clearly rising, he said. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, the region had 64 variant of concern cases. In the week of Feb. 7 to Feb. 13, it had 132. And in the week of Feb. 14 to 20, it had 151. Region has 6 outbreaks of B117 variant Overall, the region has six outbreaks of the B117 variant and nine institutional outbreaks where people have screened positive for a variant of concern but are awaiting confirmation of the strain. Roberta Place Long Term Care Home, which was devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, has had 87 positive test results of the B117 variant and 22 samples that have tested positive for a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. The outbreak there began on Jan. 8 and was declared over on Feb. 18. All 129 residents of the home, 106 staff members, five external partners and four essential caregivers tested positive for the virus. A total of 71 residents with COVID-19 died. Roberta Place Long Term Care Home, which was devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, has had 87 positive test results of the B117 variant and 22 samples that have tested positive for a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. The outbreak there began on Jan. 8 and was declared over on Feb. 18. The region also has non-institutional outbreaks.: An apartment complex in Simcoe County has one case of the B117 variant and 15 cases of a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. A retail location in Simcoe County has two cases of the B117 variant. An emergency services location in Simcoe County has one case of the B117 variant and one case that has screened positive for a variant of concern not yet confirmed to be B117. A manufacturing facility in Simcoe County has seven cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. An agricultural location in Muskoka has two cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. A manufacturing location in Simcoe Country has two cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. A food and beverage facility in Muskoka has five cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern. Ontario could apply new 'emergency brake' David Jensen, spokesperson for the Ontario health ministry, said in an email on Wednesday that the chief medical officer of health provides advice to the provincial government on "appropriate and effective measures" that can be taken to protect Ontario residents and actions can be taken immediately if need be. Jensen said local medical officers of health can also issue orders to target specific transmission risks in the community. "Ontario has introduced an 'emergency brake' where the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission," Jensen said.
(Submitted by Chris Haines - image credit) Grace Haines has always enjoyed a challenge, but she is now facing the biggest challenge of her life — recovering from devastating injuries from a hit-and-run. "She took pride in being able to out-lift boys at the gym," said her father Chris Haines, who often trained with her. "She could deadlift just under 250 pounds, which when you weigh 120 pounds is pretty good." But one month after being hit by a car, the 17-year-old has almost no movement on her left side and is struggling to speak. 17-year-old Grace Haines enjoyed weightlifting with her father before she was injured in a hit-and-run crash. Haines went for a run in North Vancouver around 9:45 p.m. PT on Jan. 25, 2021 after a long day of studying for exams, according to her father. She was found around half an hour later, injured and unconscious near Keith Road East and St. Andrews Avenue. Haines was rushed to Lions Gate Hospital where she had emergency surgery for bleeding on her brain. The accident damaged her corpus callosum — the part of the brain that allows both sides to communicate. Her father says the damage was clear after she awoke from her coma. "She could open her right eye, but not her left eye. She can move her right hand, but not her left hand," he said. Grace Haines (right) enjoyed weightlifting and often trained with her father Chris (left). Signs of progress Last week Haines was moved to the Sunny Hill Health Centre at BC Children's Hospital for rehabilitation. Her father says she still has some confusion, but understands she was in an accident. On the bright side, he says they are already seeing small signs of improvement. "There are some little movements in the left hand and left leg... Take those little victories as you can," he said. Investigation continues North Vancouver RCMP say a driver was arrested the same night of the crash, but the person was released and no charges have been laid yet. Several witnesses have come forward, but police are still appealing for information from anyone who may have seen anything in the area around the time of the accident. Sgt. Peter DeVries says these types of investigations are complex, and can take a few months as it may involve accessing video and technical information from the car computer. Focusing on Grace But Chris Haines isn't thinking about any of that. "I'm not focused on a month from now or a year from now, that scares me, that depresses me. I'm focused on tomorrow. What can we do today to make it for a better tomorrow," he said. Grace Haines underwent emergency surgery to relieve bleeding on her brain. He says he has been overwhelmed with community support, including from people who are still dropping off food and offering to raise funds. He's encouraging people now to donate to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation or Children's Hospital. Haines says a social media campaign titled "#liftingforgrace" is also bringing inspiration. People from as far away as Brazil and Australia have posted videos of themselves weight-lifting or doing other fitness activities in her name. Even Canada's Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan did chin-ups in Haines's honour. Sajjan served in the military with her father. Haines says he has shown his daughter the videos, which have elicited a thumbs-up. Grace Haines has been moved to the Sunny Hill Health Centre for rehabilitation, and her father says she is already asking him to wheel her to the gym where they lift small weights together. He says she is already asking him to wheel her to the gym where they lift small weights together. "She will outlift the boys of the gym, again. She will outlift me one day, probably very soon. I've got no doubt about that," he said. "She's very strong, and she's very driven, and she's very intelligent and none of that is going to change."
LOS ANGELES — Emilio Estevez said “The Mighty Ducks” TV series wooed him out of the director’s chair and back into acting, but only because it was a worthy successor to the 1990s movie franchise. Estevez reprises his role as youth hockey coach Gordon Bombay for the Disney+ streaming service's “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers," debuting March 26. When approached for the project by Steven Brill, screenwriter for the movies and executive producer of the series, Estevez said he'd be interested if it could capture the “magic” of the films and not just “cash in on the nostalgia.” “I think that's ultimately what we've done,” he said during a virtual panel to promote the 10-episode series Wednesday. Set in contemporary Minnesota, the Ducks are now a successful, win-at-all costs team. When they suddenly boot 12-year-old Evan (Brady Morrow), he and his mom, played by Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” and “Parenthood,” decide to form their own team and conscript Gordon to help. Estevez, part of an acting family that includes father Martin Sheen ("The West Wing") and brother Charlie Sheen ("Two and a Half Men"), said he had largely stepped away from acting to make independent films, including 1996's “The War at Home.” The Associated Press
Provincial police demonstrated life-saving measures when falling through ice at Lower Reach Park in Smiths Falls last week, on Friday, Feb. 18. After a hole was cut into the ice, Ontario Provincial Police Constable Sean McCaffrey jumped into the Rideau River waters to exhibit how to survive such an incident. The 1-10-1 rule was used as a helpful reminder for best course of action. The first 1 is for one minute, when a person is to likely gasp with shock. Breathing calmly is important in this first minute. The 10 is for the first 10 minutes, which is how long effective use of fingers, arms and legs will likely last. Because of this, it is in the first 10 minutes that self-rescue is at its most critical. The second 1 is for one hour, which is the time before hypothermia could potentially set in. Self-rescue is still recommended past the 10-minute mark, but police note it is important to be calling for help and continuing to focus on breathing. Other tips recommended by PC McCaffrey include ensuring anyone venturing out onto ice carries ice picks, wears appropriate clothing and never goes alone or at night. Assisting PC McCaffrey with the demonstration was the Ontario Provincial Police's East Region Snowmobile, ATV, and Vessel Enforcement (SAVE) Unit, Smiths Falls police and other emergency services. More safety tips can be found online at www.redcross.ca/. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
ORLANDO, Fla. — Megan Rapinoe scored twice and the United States won the SheBelieves Cup title with a 6-0 victory over Argentina on Wednesday night The United States is undefeated in 37 games in a row overall and 53 on American soil. Carli Lloyd, Kristie Mewis, Alex Morgan and Christen Press also scored, and the U.S. women also become the first team to have three straight shutouts in the SheBelieves Cup, which is in its sixth year. The United States shut out Canada in the round-robin tournament opener and then downed Brazil 2-0 on Sunday. Earlier Wednesday, Brazil beat Canada 2-0 at Exploria Stadium. Brazil finished second. Argentina, a late addition after Japan dropped out because of coronavirus concerns, did not win a match but did impress with gritty performances. Rapinoe scored in the 16th minute with a well-timed strike on a through ball from Rose Lavelle for the early lead. Rapinoe added another in the 26th minute, tapping in a cross from Lloyd. Rapinoe is the top all-time SheBelieves scorer with seven goals, including three in this edition. Lloyd added a goal in the 34th. It was Lloyd's 124th international goal and it came in her 299th appearance with the national team. Kristie Mewis scored on an angle into the far corner for her fourth career international goal in the 41st minute, and the United States took a 4-0 lead into the half. Morgan scored in 84th, her first goal since giving birth to her daughter Charlie last May. It was her 108th international goal, moving her into sole possession of fifth place on the team's career list. Press scored on a header a short time later for her 11th goal in her last 15 games. The United States improved to 4-0 against Argentina. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
For eight years, Waheeda Giga has struggled with an eating disorder that was triggered by the death of her father. She viewed food as an enemy that needed to be restricted, and if she failed, she’d throw herself into a punishing routine of vigorous exercise. “I use food and exercise to control and feel safe when I can’t deal with heavy emotions or grief,” she says of her ongoing battle with anorexia nervosa and compulsive exercise. Giga, a 37-year-old city of Toronto employee, is now a year into her recovery at the eating disorders outpatient program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, which she participates in virtually from home. It’s a journey that took place under the unusual backdrop of the global pandemic, for better and for worse. It’s also a journey that isn’t unique to Giga. Hospital data from the Greater Toronto Area points to an alarming rise in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia during the pandemic, as people try to cope with widespread grief from losing loved ones, income, or even a sense of routine and normalcy. The pandemic has also disrupted the way eating-disorder care is provided, shedding light on cracks in the system and the continued need for access as more people struggle. Ontario’s public health officials nodded to the issue in their latest COVID-19 projections on Feb. 11, where they noted a substantial increase in eating-disorder-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among young people aged three to 17. In July 2020, the hospitalization rate for youth was three per 100,000, higher than the average of around 1.8 per 100,000. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre helpline has seen a 70 per cent increase in calls and texts, said Alexa Giorgi, a spokesperson for the University Health Network, which runs the helpline. This includes an 87 per cent increase in chats from individuals 25 and younger. Experts and people with lived experience say it’s a problem that has affected adults too. Dr. Michele Laliberte, a clinical psychologist and lead of the eating disorders program at St. Joseph’s Hospital, which treats adults, said wait-times for the program have doubled from three months to five or six months since the pandemic began, partly due to COVID’s interruption of the admission process while the program was transitioning to virtual care. But a virtual outpatient program may stay for the long-term beyond the pandemic, Laliberte added, as it could improve access to an already-scarce type of eating-disorder care in the region. It’s been especially helpful for Giga, who was able to attend her recovery program from the comfort of her own home instead of commuting weekly to Hamilton — the closest city to Toronto that houses an outpatient eating disorder program covered by OHIP. “I was scared to start because I didn’t know what it would involve with getting accommodations from work, and I was anxious because of the commute,” said Giga, who began treatment a month before the pandemic after being on a five-month long wait-list. At that point, Giga’s Body Mass Index (BMI) reached a critical point of 17.5 — what is considered to be close to severely underweight. She had weighed about 102 lbs. at that time, and was told she would require more intensive treatment if her BMI slipped any further. “I think that was a wake-up call for me,” she said. Limiting barriers to care is now paramount with more people looking to access eating-disorder care as a result of the pandemic. Kyle Ganson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said COVID-19 has presented many triggers for eating disorders, all tied to how our lives have changed in the last year. “The major disruptions in routines for people is key,” Ganson said. We’ve been forced to stay home where opportunities for exercise are limited, which could trigger changes in eating habits for some who worry about maintaining “a healthy lifestyle.” Some anticipate they will gain weight as a result of these changes, Ganson added, which creates stress, anxiety and even feelings of stigma. “There’s also a lot of loss and a lot of trauma,” Ganson said. “Food is a way to control some of that.” Maria Estrada, a 25-year-old woman who struggled with an eating disorder at age 15, said some elements of the disorder have resurfaced during the pandemic, mainly due to isolation and feelings of losing control over her life. “Nobody’s supervising you, nobody’s seeing you, nobody’s gonna notice,” Estrada said. “You’re not seeing your friends. They’re not going to feed you, or ask to go out for lunch. I don’t have that anymore.” Ganson is careful to add that these issues affect both women and men, albeit in different ways. For men, eating disorders can sometimes manifest in the form of seeking masculinity or leanness through excessive exercise or the use of supplements. “In our culture, we are much more OK with these types of behaviours and we don’t necessarily shun them or acknowledge there might be a problem,” Ganson said. For youth in particular, the pandemic has meant more time spent on screens and social media as schools transitioned online. Research has shown that increased time spent consuming social media can lead to issues like body dissatisfaction, Ganson said. “We also know that kids with eating disorders are known to have what we call co-occurring mental health issues, specifically anxiety and depression,” said Christina Bartha, the executive director of the brain and mental health program at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. At Sick Kids, the number of admissions for eating disorders began to dramatically increase in late August of last year, said Dr. Debra Katzman, co-founder of the hospital’s eating disorders program. It’s a trend that continues to be observed well into 2021. “We’re seeing a 35 per cent increase in the number of kids we are admitting in the hospital, and they’re coming in primarily in the latter half of the year,” Katzman said. Since April of last year, Sick Kids admitted 175 children for eating-disorder-related issues, compared to 120 children in the same time-frame before the pandemic. The wait-times for the outpatient program at Sick Kids have also more than doubled as a result, Katzman said. “Our systems were not designed for this sort of level of necessary clinical intervention, so we’re trying to adjust to that,” she said. Eating disorders are hard to treat, Katzman added. It’s not a health issue that is treated with prescription medication, but rather one that requires intensive care with a multidisciplinary team of experts that can continue for weeks to months on end. “I think we are taxing the system right now given the number of kids that are presenting to care,” Katzman said. The Ontario government announced a few funding initiatives geared towards eating disorders last October, though none involve directly supporting existing services. One includes $3.7 million for a new eating disorders program for youth aged 25 and under, with four pilot sites to start. “At this time, the program is in development as it is brand new,” said Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, in an email. Another $800,000 has been put forward to support the creation of Eating Disorders Ontario, a pilot program to train and deploy eating disorder prevention experts who will work with local communities and schools in the province. The program is also currently in development, Hilkene said. At St. Joseph’s Hospital’s eating disorders program, demand has quadrupled since 2010, Laliberte said. Despite that, staffing hasn’t increased in that time due to lack of resources. “Eating disorders are never at the table,” Laliberte said. But the pandemic hasn’t been all bad, especially for patients like Giga who have endured lengthy waits to receive adequate treatment. For example, the closure of gyms in Toronto heightened her anxiety as she tried to increase her food intake, a necessary and early component of her recovery plan. But gym closures also meant she had to increase her calorie-count knowing she wouldn’t be able to offset it by vigorous exercise — a feat that would have been harder to achieve with the temptation of open gyms and yoga studios. Being able to receive treatment in her own home, she added, meant she could receive treatment in a space she considered safe without the pressure of commuting. “My nutritionist at treatment called it a divine intervention,” Giga said. “Sometimes I feel like it honestly probably took a pandemic for me to recover.” Giga is now close to a fully-restored weight of 112 lbs. and a BMI of 20.3. It’s a small hopeful note in an otherwise difficult time for many. With a renewed focus on eating disorders, Laliberte and others hope the pandemic could be an opportunity to revamp what has been traditionally an inaccessible care system for the long term. Nadine Yousif is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering mental health. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Follow her on Twitter: @nadineyousif_ Nadine Yousif, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Despite various changes in how the province releases information about COVID-19 cases in schools, parents still aren’t satisfied with the data being made public. Halfway through the academic year, families behind a new letter-writing campaign are calling for more detail about cases in both school and child-care settings, citing heightened concerns about the risk of new coronavirus variants. The group wants daily updates on exposures that include facility names, dates and total cases broken down into student and staff categories, historical data so the public can track trends, and information about variants identified. “In terms of what they’re publicly reporting on, it’s very, very limited. I think it undermines confidence in the statement that schools are safe and they aren’t seeing transmission,” said Susan Wingert, a mother of two K-12 students in Winnipeg. Wingert said reporting via an online dashboard, which launched earlier this month, falls short of providing all the information parents need to weigh decisions about sending children to school. The provincial dashboard shows cases among student and staff populations within the last 14 days, as well as totals dating back to Sept. 1. A map allows users to view recent cases in specific schools, including people who might not have been infectious in a classroom; there is no information on which — if any — cases were acquired at school. It’s a stark contrast to the first-ever alert, which detailed the grade, classroom and time frame at Churchill High School for a student who was asymptomatic but tested positive Sept. 8. Following pushback after that notice, the province began to publish a running list of less-specific notices, including exposure dates and letters sent to families until mid-December. That’s when letters disappeared online for more than a month while the province finalized its dashboard. Child-care centres are not included in the provided information. The most recent data shows there were 75 cases, involving 59 students and 16 staff members, during the incubation period prior to Feb. 21. Michelle Driedger, who researches health-risk communication at the University of Manitoba, questions the usefulness of that information if it isn’t contextualized. “There has to be a happy medium between full disclosure of absolutely everything and, ‘Here, we’re giving you some information, but in such an opaque environment that you can almost interpret what you want from it,’” said Driedger, a professor of community health sciences and parent of two K-12 students. Buy-in to COVID-19 protocols requires confidence in the system, she said, adding the province should be frank about how exactly it has come to the conclusion schools are safe. Education Minister Cliff Cullen was not made available for an interview Wednesday. In an email statement, he wrote the province is confident parents are receiving the “appropriate information” on the dashboard while noting letters are still being sent to parents when there is an outbreak. School-related cases represent approximately seven per cent of the number of confirmed cases in Manitoba, to date. On the subject of asymptomatic testing, Cullen said in the email the province is seeing its COVID-19 curve bend significantly. “Our government will continue to listen to our public health leaders and take action accordingly,” he wrote. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
NEW YORK — A public service ad campaign unveiled Thursday aims to convince Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, telling them “It's Up to You.” The campaign by the Ad Council and its partners is focused on those who may be hesitant to get the shots. One print ad reads: “Getting back to hugs starts with getting informed,” and directs readers to a website with information about vaccines in seven languages. “Our goal is to move them from being hesitant to being confident” in vaccines, said Lisa Sherman, the Ad Council’s president. As many as 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Some scientists estimate that more than 2 in 3 Americans will need to get vaccinated to stop the epidemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the U.S. The large, national campaign is producing an array of English and Spanish ads for TV, billboards, bus shelters, social media and publications that will be rolled out over the next few months. A few of the ads are expected to feature celebrities like the actors Angela Bassett and John Leguizamo, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The spots are expected to run throughout the year. The effort includes materials specifically for church leaders, doctors, pharmacists and others in Black and Hispanic communities The new campaign was funded by $52 million in donations — supplemented with donated labour and resources, said Sherman. The advertising industry-backed group calls it one of the largest public education efforts in U.S. history. It’s famous for many iconic public service campaigns that include “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” campaign for the Peace Corps. Print versions show an adhesive bandage framing the words “It’s Up to You.” One video spot shows a series of illustrated arms of different colours and one robotic, all with a bandage on the upper arm, blending in to a mosaic of the U.S. map. “You’ve got questions. And that’s normal” reads another ad. It invites viewers to go to a website, GetVaccineAnswers.org, to get more information. Although vaccines have been available — in limited supplies — in the U.S. since mid-December, the timing of the ad campaign is actually good, said Jay Winsten, a Harvard University public health communications expert. It takes a while for people who question the effectiveness or safety of vaccines to gain faith in shots, said Winsten, who is known as the architect of a national designated driver campaign that aimed to reduce drunk driving injuries and deaths. But it also helps that millions of Americans have already gotten shots, and they did not suffer serious side effects, he added. “People will be more open to the messaging now” because of that, he said. The federal government is involved in the Ad Council’s campaign, but also has its own in the works. A $300 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services campaign was put on pause late in the Trump administration. Biden administration officials have picked it up but have not said when it will launch. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s laws forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news are ready to take effect, though the laws' architect said it will take time for the digital giants to strike media deals. The Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code agreed between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Rod Sims, the competition regulator who drafted the code, said he was happy that the amended legislation would address the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gateways to the internet. “All signs are good,” Sims told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “The purpose of the code is to address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair added. The rest of the laws had passed in Parliament earlier, so they can now be implemented. Google has already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks including News Corp. and Seven West Media. Frydenberg said he was pleased to see progress by Google and more recently Facebook in reaching commercial deals with Australian news businesses. But Country Press Australia, which represents 161 regional newspapers across the country, has raised concerns that tiny publications outside large cities might miss out. Sims said he was not surprised that the platforms would strike deals with the large city businesses first. “I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said. “There things take time. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to go around talking to everybody. I think this has got a long way to play out,” he added. Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s Business School, said the latest amendments amounted to a “small victory” for Zuckerberg. Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payouts for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if negotiations broke down. The legislation was designed to curb the outsized bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer. Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements. A statement Tuesday by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice-president for news partnerships, added that the deal allows the company to choose which publishers it will support, including small and local ones. Frydenberg said his department will review the code within a year to “ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with government's policy intent.” Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
The European Space Agency is currently recruiting astronauts from EU member states - and one country is serious about getting their candidate amongst the stars.
Paramount Pictures is joining other major Hollywood studios in slashing the traditional 90-day theatrical window. ViacomCBS on Wednesday announced that some of the studio’s films, including “Mission: Impossible 7” and “A Quiet Place Part II,” will go to its fledgling streaming service, Paramount+, after 45 days in theatres. Like all studios in the past year, Paramount has had to adapt. Paramount sold some of its films to streaming services, including “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which went to Netflix, and “Coming 2 America” to Amazon, but held back its biggest titles, including “Mission: Impossible 7” and “Top Gun: Maverick” for more traditional theatrical releases. “A Quiet Place Part II” has been delayed several times over the past year. It was originally set to come out last March, but was pulled from the schedule when theatres closed nationwide. Both it and “Mission: Impossible 7” are currently scheduled to open in the fall. The 45-day plan is yet another sign of how quickly the pandemic has changed the business of Hollywood. In the past theatre owners have been able to insist upon exclusive 90-day theatrical windows, but most have had to compromise to stay afloat during the pandemic. In the past few months, Universal Pictures reached an agreement with many theatre chains to shorten the theatrical window for its films. Warner Bros. and parent company WarnerMedia followed with the more controversial decision to debut films simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max. And there's also the pressure to get premium content to new streaming services faster. Paramount+ launches March 4 and has some hefty competition for audience dollars and attention in Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max. A few films are being produced to go directly to to the service, including a new “Paranormal Activity” and a new “Pet Sematary” origin story. The company has also struck a deal with EPIX that will add thousands of other movies to Paramount+. Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors' offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year. Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades. Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people travelling, they say. Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don't fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan. Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals say the usual steady stream of flu-stricken patients never materialized. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, the state's largest hospital, "I have seen zero documented flu cases this winter,” said Dr. Nate Mick, the head of the emergency department. Ditto in Oregon's capital city, where the outpatient respiratory clinics affiliated with Salem Hospital have not seen any confirmed flu cases. “It's beautiful,” said the health system's Dr. Michelle Rasmussen. The numbers are astonishing considering flu has long been the nation's biggest infectious disease threat. In recent years, it has been blamed for 600,000 to 800,000 annual hospitalizations and 50,000 to 60,000 deaths. Across the globe, flu activity has been at very low levels in China, Europe and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. And that follows reports of little flu in South Africa, Australia and other countries during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months of May through August. The story of course has been different with coronavirus, which has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States. COVID-19 cases and deaths reached new heights in December and January, before beginning a recent decline. Flu-related hospitalizations, however, are a small fraction of where they would stand during even a very mild season, said Brammer, who oversees the CDC's tracking of the virus. Flu death data for the whole U.S. population is hard to compile quickly, but CDC officials keep a running count of deaths of children. One pediatric flu death has been reported so far this season, compared with 92 reported at the same point in last year’s flu season. “Many parents will tell you that this year their kids have been as healthy as they’ve ever been, because they’re not swimming in the germ pool at school or day care the same way they were in prior years,” Mick said. Some doctors say they have even stopped sending specimens for testing, because they don't think flu is present. Nevertheless, many labs are using a CDC-developed “multiplex test” that checks specimens for both the coronavirus and flu, Brammer said. More than 190 million flu vaccine doses were distributed this season, but the number of infections is so low that it’s difficult for CDC to do its annual calculation of how well the vaccine is working, Brammer said. There’s simply not enough data, she said. That also is challenging the planning of next season's flu vaccine. Such work usually starts with checking which flu strains are circulating around the world and predicting which of them will likely predominate in the year ahead. "But there's not a lot of (flu) viruses to look at," Brammer said. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
(Don Pablo/Shutterstock - image credit) Vancouver city council has approved a temporary parklet in the Downtown Eastside to be used as a COVID-safe drinking place for people enrolled in a program for severe alcohol use disorder. The parklet will be installed in front of the Drinker's Lounge at 111 Princess Ave. as part of the Portland Hotel Society's Community Managed Alcohol Program, which provides beer and wine to people who might otherwise consumer dangerous substances like hand sanitizers and mouthwash. "Providing safe, low-barrier spaces for people to consume alcohol in the Downtown Eastside will help those most at risk in this community to socialize and look out for each other's safety," Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said in a news release. "Managed consumption sites also provide opportunities to link people to much needed support services, which is critical as part of our response to both public health crises — the overdose emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic." The parklet is set to be installed from March 1 to July 31. According to a press release from the city, the idea was developed in response to concerns from people and businesses in the area, who reported an increase in people drinking the street after COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. That raised the possibility that both community members and drinkers could be injured by falling or being hit by vehicles. City staff are also looking into creating more washroom facilities in the area, the press release says. The parklet pilot project follows last summer's temporary program allowing people to drink at four public plazas in the city. This spring, city staff expect to report back to council about how that worked out and make recommendations about whether to repeat it this year.
The government dropped drunken driving and reckless driving charges against Bruce Springsteen on Wednesday stemming from an incident in November, admitting that the rocker's blood-alcohol level was so low that it didn't warrant the charges. Springsteen pleaded guilty to a third charge, consuming alcohol in a closed area, the Gateway National Recreation Area. Better known as Sandy Hook, it is an Atlantic Ocean peninsula with views of the New York City skyline. Facing a judge and more than 100 onlookers in a video conference, Springsteen sat next to lawyer Mitchell Ansell and admitted he was aware it was illegal to consume alcohol at the park. “I had two small shots of tequila,” Springsteen said in response to questions from an assistant U.S. attorney. The case was heard in federal court because the park is considered federal land. U.S. Magistrate Anthony Mautone fined Springsteen $500 for the offence, plus $40 in court fees. “I think I can pay that immediately, your honour," Springsteen told Mautone. In an emailed statement, Ansell wrote that Springsteen “is pleased with the outcome" of the court hearing. According to a probable cause document written by park police at the time of the incident, Springsteen told a park officer he had done two shots in the previous 20 minutes but wouldn’t take a preliminary breath test before he was arrested. Mautone said Wednesday that the preliminary test is not required, and is not admissible in court. When he took a breath test at the park’s ranger station, Springsteen's blood-alcohol came back .02, a quarter of the legal limit in New Jersey, prosecutors said Wednesday. The officer wrote that he saw Springsteen take a shot of tequila and then get on his motorcycle. The officer wrote that the rocker “smelt strongly of alcohol” Nov. 14 and “had glassy eyes” and that there was a bottle of Patron tequila that was “completely empty.” The report described Springsteen as “visibly swaying back and forth” during a field sobriety test and said he declined to provide a sample on an initial breath test. After news of the arrest, Jeep put on pause an ad that ran during the Super Bowl featuring Springsteen in Kansas urging people to find common ground. Jeep said in a statement Wednesday it was unpausing the ad now “that the matter has been resolved.” “As we stated previously, we paused the commercial until the facts were established," Jeep said. Springsteen performed Jan. 20 as part of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. ___ Follow Porter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP David Porter, The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The hand-picked successor to former House Speaker Michael Madigan's seat abruptly resigned Wednesday, under pressure from his sponsors, who accused him of unspecified “questionable conduct." Edward Guerra Kodatt submitted his resignation to the House clerk Wednesday morning, according to Democrat Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, citing a spokesman for the new House speaker. Kodatt quit just three days after he was chosen from among 10 candidates to replace Madigan, a Democrat from the Southwest Side of Chicago who had held the post for more than 50 years. “After learning of alleged questionable conduct by Mr. Kodatt, it was suggested that he resign as state representative for the 22nd District. We are committed to a zero tolerance policy in the workplace,” Madigan and Chicago Alderman Marty Quinn, who share office space, said in a statement. They did not elaborate on the allegations against Kodatt, who was previously a bilingual outreach and budget assistant in Madigan and Quinn's constituent services office. Technically, Madigan's replacement is chosen by ward committee members for the 22nd House district — volunteer Democratic Party officials responsible for organizing elections and boosting turnout. But Madigan, committeeman for the 13th Ward since 1969, controls 56% of the weighted vote, based on the number of ward votes cast for the seat in the 2020 election. So, he single-handedly chose Kodatt and retains that control for another selection hearing scheduled Thursday morning. The 26-year-old Kodatt's rise and demise marked another curious turn in the meteoric crash of Madigan's own career. The product of the old-style Chicago political machine, Madigan was head of the House for all but two years since 1983, the longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history. But utility company ComEd admitted in a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors last summer that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme to influence Madigan for favourable legislation. After that, support for Madigan, 78, began to peel away, with 19 formerly loyal Democrats announcing they would not support him for a 19th term at the helm. He failed to collect the necessary 60 votes in January and suspended his campaign while the caucus coalesced around Welch. Madigan then resigned his job as state representative last week and relinquished control of the state Democratic Party by stepping aside as its chairman on Monday. Enthusiasm for Madigan had been deteriorating since the resurgence of the #MeToo movement more than three years ago, with critics questioning his handling of reported incidents of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation by campaign workers, lawmakers, and legislative staff, including Madigan's longtime chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, who was forced to resign in June 2018. One highly publicized case involved Kevin Quinn, a Madigan political consultant and Marty Quinn's brother. Veteran campaign worker Alaina Hampton complained in early 2018 that Madigan and party officials had reacted too slowly after she reported that Quinn had sent her unwanted text messages commenting on her appearance and asking her for dates, beginning in 2016 and continuing despite her requests that he stop. She reported Quinn to Marty Quinn, his supervisor, in February 2017 and later wrote Madigan a letter, but Kevin Quinn was not fired until after Hampton quit her campaign job and was about to go public. In November 2019, Hampton received $275,000 in settling a federal lawsuit against several Madigan political committees alleging her complaints about Quinn halted her career advancement. ___ Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor John O'Connor, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped down as chief of the defence staff as he is investigated on unspecific allegations. Sajjan said in a release late Wednesday that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is doing the investigation. Sajjan said he takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and continues to take strong action on any allegation of misconduct that is brought forward "no matter the rank, no matter the position." Sajjan said as of Wednesday he has appointed Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre as acting chief of the defence staff. He said he will have no further comment at this time due to the ongoing investigation. Military investigators are probing allegations of sexual misconduct against McDonald's and Eyre's predecessor, Gen. Jonathan Vance. Global News has reported that Vance allegedly had an ongoing relationship with a woman he significantly outranked, and that he made a sexual comment to a second, much younger soldier in 2012, before he was appointed chief of the defence staff. Vance has denied the allegations raised by Global and The Canadian Press has not verified them independently. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
There’s a special recipe for “meat-counter economics” that’s simmering across grocery stores in Canada. The not-so-secret ingredient? COVID-19. Leading food economists believe spiralling pricing and consumption trends won’t just last during the course of the pandemic, but will likely result in sticker shocks for any kind of protein for many years to come. That includes plant-based products along with the “industry trifecta” of chicken, pork and beef, said Sylvain Charlebois, speaking to more than 700 nutritionists and food-sector professionals at a virtual conference Tuesday. Charlebois, a keynote speaker at the event hosted by the Canadian Nutrition Society and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, talked at length about the many ways in which the coronavirus has “rampaged” the trajectory of food-related commerce. “Before the crisis, vegetable proteins were truly rising and very much in fashion, plastics were the new threat and shopping online was seen by many as a far-fetched idea,” said the supply management professor, based at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “That hasn’t only changed now, but it’s impacted everyone — from restaurants, grocers, abattoirs, online services and those that are customers for them, down to the suppliers and manufacturers, and even delivery people.” Through studies and polls conducted last year, food experts have many reasons to believe meat prices will likely continue to rise. At the same time, pricing for plant-based products is expected to remain stagnant, with fewer competitors in the market. “I like to think of those two food categories as the different dimensions of proteins,” said Charlebois. “Right now, there’s no equilibrium between them. Prior to the pandemic, we were thinking that would happen very soon. And it seems that that peace might still come, it just won’t happen for a while.” According to polling from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab shared Tuesday, the Prairies rank the highest across Canada in terms of daily consumption for meat — with 72.58 per cent saying they consume meat daily, 17.74 per cent once or twice a week, and 4.84 per cent monthly. Although they’re about 20 points down for daily consumption in other provinces such as Quebec or British Columbia, those trends are fairly consistent across Canada. In Manitoba, data from Statistics Canada for beef prices alone shows that, stewing cuts jumped to $17.20 per kilogram from $13.50; sirloin cuts climbed to $24.04 from $17.84; and striploin cuts came to a staggering $31.57 from $18.15. But those are figures from the summer of 2020, and experts believe they will continue bumping up across the board for several years. For Charlebois, a lot of that has to do with “the many economic anomalies” created by the pandemic. “We’ve never seen our trifecta of meats on sale with rising prices at the same time really, never ever before,” he said. “The only way I see this changing though is if consumption itself changes, and there’s some inclinations to show it could happen.” Since the pandemic has caused meat prices to rise, Charlebois believes Canadians might eventually start buying more plant-based products not just due to dietary desires, but also because of comparatively cheaper costs. “Think about it this way,” he said. “You’re doing your groceries and about to buy some meat, but you’re sticker-shocked at the price. Wouldn’t you want the cheaper alternative, which in this case is the greener choice and probably even healthier for you?” At the end of Tuesday’s presentations, moderator Mary L’Abbé asked questions on behalf of the attendees, poring from more than 50 that came in. L’Abbé is a much-lauded nutritional science professor at the University of Toronto. Questions ranged from how to navigate post-pandemic markets to the language that could be used to create awareness for nutritional products which aren’t performing well in terms of sales. It all depends on how companies and store chains market their products, Charlebois said, and whether nutritionists can fulfil the “heavy task” of educating widely and readily. “We’ve seen that food literacy is a pretty big issue for Canadians through our polls across the year,” he said. “We’d expected people would become more aware because of the pandemic, but the reality is, they’re just not. It’s like they know it’s good to be vegan or vegetarian and they respect those who are, they just don’t know why they should be one themselves. “To combat many of these interesting consumption and economic issues, I think it may be time to realize the entire trajectory has changed. Maybe then we can find the solutions.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
American forward Daryl Dike scored his first goal for Barnsley, in the 90th minute of a 2-0 win over Stoke on Wednesday night that extended its unbeaten streak to five in England's second tier League Championship. Dike, on loan from Orlando in Major League Soccer, put a low, right-footed shot from the edge of the 6-yard box past onrushing goalkeeper Angus Gunn at Oakwell. The 20-year-old debuted for Barnsley on Feb. 1 after he was obtained on a loan for the rest of the season. Callum Styles had put Barnsley ahead in the ninth minute. Barnsley is eighth with 48 points after 31 matches in the 46-game league season. It is one point behind Cardiff, which has played 32 games, for the final berth in the promotion playoffs. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press