Canadians pessimistic on Omicron, new Ont. COVID modelling : In The News for Dec. 7

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 7 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Since the announced detection of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, a new poll suggests Canadians bracing for the worst.

More than four in five respondents to an online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they support closing the Canadian border to travellers coming from countries where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is present.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said people are expecting the new variant to be as bad if not worse than the Delta variant.

Sixty-eight per cent say they would approve of reintroducing restrictions in Canada like social distancing and temporary lockdowns for certain public places and certain activities.

A majority of respondents say they are in favour of possibly closing Canada's border with the United States for a period of time.

Seventy-eight per cent say they would support the Canadian government accelerating plans to introduce a "booster" or third dose of approved COVID-19 vaccines to certain populations.

In response to the detection of Omicron, Canada quickly put in place travel measures, including banning visitors who have recently travelled through 10 African countries, to curb the spread.

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Also this ...

Ontario's science advisory table is set to release new modelling today, as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the province.

The province's chief medical officer of health is also scheduled to provide an update about the COVID-19 situation in Ontario today, in addition to his regular Thursday briefing.

Dr. Kieran Moore will also likely face questions about the Omicron variant, with at least 13 cases detected so far in the province and the London, Ont., area health unit investigating a potential cluster of 30.

Ontario's seven-day average of daily new cases is up to 940, a level not seen since the decline of the third wave in early June.

Officials have said a rise in cases this fall and winter was expected, as the weather gets colder and more activities move indoors.

The science advisory table's last modelling, released Nov. 12, didn't make daily case count projections, saying the immediate future was uncertain, though a rise in ICU occupancy since then has been in line with their predictions.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — Some of the deepest U.S.-Russian tensions in years has been created over how closely Ukraine can ally with the West, an issue that's at the centre of talks scheduled for Tuesday between President Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden.

The dispute over Ukraine’s status and its growing alignment with U.S.-led NATO is seen as an unresolved issue from when the Cold War ended 30 years ago.

The Biden administration says an extensive Russian military buildup near Ukraine points to a potential invasion. Russia denies it has any intention of invading and blames Washington and Kyiv for the tensions.

Putin has his own demands: A binding assurance that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the Western alliance will not add forces in states near Russia.

“I want to make it crystal clear: Turning our neighbours into a bridgehead for confrontation with Russia, the deployment of NATO forces in the regions strategically important for our security, is categorically unacceptable,” Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said last week, echoing Putin.

That demand is a non-starter for Biden.

A key principle of the NATO alliance is that membership is open to any qualifying country. And no outsider has membership veto power. While there's little prospect that Ukraine would be invited into the alliance anytime soon, the U.S. and its allies won't rule it out.

“NATO member countries decide who is a member of NATO, not Russia. And that is how the process has always been and how it will proceed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Ahead of his Putin meeting, Biden was consulting with European allies France, Germany, Britain and Italy by phone Monday to co-ordinate messaging and potential economic sanctions against Russia in response to the Ukraine situation.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

LONDON — British parliamentary authorities say they are calling in the police after a newspaper reported traces of cocaine had been found at numerous sites in Parliament.

The Sunday Times reported traces of cocaine were found in 11 locations that are only accessible by accredited parliamentary lawmakers, staff and journalists, including a washroom near Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s parliamentary office.

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said the reports were “deeply concerning” and he would raise them with police “as a priority.”

The allegations emerged as the government announced a new strategy to combat drug abuse and drug-related crime. The plans published Monday call for more resources to rehabilitate addicts, alongside a police clampdown on drug dealers and traffickers.

The government also plans to target recreational drug users to suppress demand for narcotics, including by contacting clients found in drug dealers’ seized phones “with a range of messages to discourage their drug use.”

Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said Monday the reports “are concerning.”

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said reports of drug use in Parliament weren't surprising.

“There are obviously several thousand people who work on the estate and I would be surprised if there weren’t some lifestyle users of drugs amongst them,” he told Sky News.

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On this day in 1960 ...

The RCMP told then-justice minister Davie Fulton that the defence minister at the time, Pierre Sevigny, was having an affair with East German prostitute Gerda Munsinger. Sevigny ended the affair, no further action was taken and the incident remained secret for six years when it became a major scandal.

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In entertainment ...

Drake is dropping out of the Grammys race, marking another twist in the Toronto-raised artist's contentious relationship with the music prize.

A representative for the Recording Academy, the organization behind the awards, said it withdrew Drake's two nominations at the request of the rapper and his management.

Drake was up for best rap album with "Certified Lover Boy," and his track with Future and Young Thug, "Way 2 Sexy," was in the running for best rap performance.

The academy representative said Drake would be removed from the ballot as the final round of voting opened on Monday.

Representatives for the rapper, born Aubrey Graham, declined to comment on the record, and his reasons for pulling out were unclear.

Drake has a patchy history with the Grammys, despite having won four trophies and racking up dozens more nominations.

He rose to the Weeknd's defence after the fellow Toronto native was snubbed by the Grammys last year, writing on Instagram that the awards "no longer matter" and suggesting it was time to "start something new."

In 2018, Drake decided not to submit his album "More Life" for consideration.

He upended expectations a year later by showing up at the ceremony to accept the best rap song title. While holding his trophy, he told the audience that winning awards wasn't necessary as long as musicians have fans showing up to their live shows.

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ICYMI ...

"Cheugy" is apparently a lot to chew on. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and Philadelphia Eagles centre Jason Kelce have something in common _ broadcasters butcher their names.

And virtually everyone is having trouble with "omicron."

All four made it onto this year's list of most mispronounced words as compiled by the U.S. Captioning Company, which captions and subtitles real-time events on TV and in courtrooms.

The list released Tuesday identifies the words that proved most challenging for newsreaders and people on television to pronounce this year.

The caption company said it surveyed its members to generate the list, which is now in its sixth year and was commissioned by Babbel, a language-learning platform with headquarters in Berlin and New York.

"Newscasters in the U.S. have struggled with 2021's new words and names while reporting on key sporting events, viral internet trends and emerging celebrities,'' said Esteban Touma, a standup comedian and teacher for Babbel Live.

"As a language teacher, it's always interesting to see that some of these terms are usually new colloquialisms, or are rooted or borrowed from another language,'' he said. "As a non-native speaker, I must confess it's fun to see English speakers stumbling a bit for a change.''

Other words that made people stumble were dogecoin, a cryptocurrency, and Glasgow, the Scottish city that hosted last month's U.N. Climate Conference.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2021

The Canadian Press

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