New COVID-19 air travel regulations are off to a bumpy start, with complaints from some travellers that they can't get through on the government phone line to book their hotel.
New COVID-19 air travel regulations are off to a bumpy start, with complaints from some travellers that they can't get through on the government phone line to book their hotel.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it intercepted a missile attack over its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on Yemen’s rebel Houthis. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s yearslong war announced the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan, with a fourth toward another southwestern city and other drones being monitored. No casualties or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis. The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019. The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV broadcast footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile. Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in “a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.” The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.” Flight-tracking websites showed a number of flights scheduled to land at Riyadh’s international airport diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack. A civil defence spokesman, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said scattered debris resulted in material damage to one house, though no one was hurt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks. The Houthis overran Yemen’s capital and much of the country's north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign. __ Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report. Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
Security forces battling a decades-long insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir are alarmed by the recent arrival in the disputed region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan. "Sticky bombs", which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, three senior security officials told Reuters. "These are small IEDs and quite powerful," said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask President Joe Biden to consider sharing part of the U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply with its poorer southern neighbor when the two leaders hold a virtual summit on Monday, U.S. and Mexican officials said. Biden is open to discussing the matter as part of a broader regional effort to cooperate in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but will maintain as his “number one priority” the need to first vaccinate as many Americans as possible, a White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Lopez Obrador has been one of the most vocal leaders in the developing world pressing the richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to the vaccines.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
(Bob WIlson - image credit) With the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including job losses, the widespread need for government assistance, the switch to working from home, and recommendations against travel, many northerners have questions about the implications all of this could have on their income taxes. Yellowknife-based tax consultant Andy Wong appeared on CBC's Trail's End earlier this week to answer listeners' questions about their 2020 income tax returns. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. Q: There are some new boxes on people's T4s this year. What are those for? Those boxes, 57, 58, 59 and 60, they are on the bottom of the T4 slip. They are for the employer to tell CRA (the Canada Revenue Agency) what your income was during the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) period (between March 16 and Sept. 26, 2020), which is not for you to think about. It's for the CRA to process and to follow up on. Q: For people who were eligible for CERB, what do they need to know for this tax season? Really not much ... because if you had applied for CERB in any period, you will get what's called a T4A slip. It will say how much you received from CERB. You put that on the tax return. That's all. It's just one extra tax slip. Q: What about those folks who claimed CERB, but were not eligible for it? This is where it can get complicated. In order to qualify for CERB, you must have lost your employment (or were unable to work), or your business must have been affected, because of COVID. (Those that didn't qualify but received CERB) will get a letter from the CRA that says you don't qualify, give it back. It's interest free. So I guess you can take all of 2021 to pay it back, or pay it back as soon as you can. So let's say you're a pensioner and you're kind of getting enough, but not really enough, and you heard that all you have to do is phone into a toll-free number, answer a couple of questions, and voilà, three days later, actually, less than that, the cheque's in the bank account. Could anyone have done it? Certainly they could have. But in a situation like this, it's very easy for the CRA to pick you out, because the CRA will look at your tax returns from 2019. The information is all there in the system. Q: What's the best way to get in touch with the CRA? Forget calling the CRA on the 1-800 toll-free line. That one is the national helpline. There is a dedicated phone helpline for the territories. It's 1-866-426-1527. Q: Is money received for medical travel or escorting someone for medical travel taxable income this year? No. It never has been, and I am not aware that it is taxable for 2020. Q: Does it really matter if you don't have all of your travel receipts, particularly for box 32, the employer travel benefit? I would say, if you took a trip, and you know what those expenses are, claim them. If you don't claim them, you get nothing. Now, if you claim the trips and in fact you end up being picked by the CRA for a review, you're going to have to explain to the CRA why you have missing receipts and basically, tell the story. Q: We rented an apartment for the mandatory two-week self-isolation period when we came back to N.W.T. from the United States. We are wondering if any of those quarantine expenses will be deductible. What you can claim are trip expenses, and obviously, the trip includes the stop at the quarantine location. So I would say yes, the expense of quarantine should count because you're not back at home yet. Q: Employees who are required to work from home, can we claim a certain amount, say, for power that the employer would be paying for, or for equipment such as our personal laptop? If you are required to work from home, you are allowed, essentially, to claim $2 per working day, and you don't need receipts for that. Now, it's up to only 200 days in 2020, so that's $400 maximum. No receipts, no questions asked. The form you use is called T777.
HYDERABAD, India — A man was killed by a rooster with a blade tied to its leg during an illegal cockfight in southern India, police said, bringing focus on a practice that continues in some Indian states despite a decades-old ban. The rooster, with a 3-inch knife tied to its leg, fluttered in panic and slashed its owner, 45-year-old Thangulla Satish, in his groin last week, police inspector B. Jeevan said Sunday. The incident occurred in Lothunur village of Telangana state. According to Jeevan, Satish was injured while he prepared the rooster for a fight. “Satish was hit by the rooster’s knife in his groin and started bleeding heavily," the officer said, adding that the man died on the way to a hospital. Jeevan said police filed a case and were looking for over a dozen people involved in organizing the cockfight. If proven guilty, the organizers can be jailed for up to two years. Cockfights are common in the southern Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka despite a countrywide ban imposed in 1960. Animals rights activists have for long been calling to control the illegal practice, which is mainly organized as part of local Hindu festivals usually attended by hundreds of people, though the crowds sometimes swell to thousands. The cockfights are often held under the watch of powerful, local politicians and involve large sums of betting money. Last year, a man was killed when a blade attached to his bird’s leg hit him in the neck during a cockfight in Andhra Pradesh. In 2010, a rooster killed its owner by slashing his jugular vein in West Bengal state. According to police, the rooster involved in last week's incident was among many other roosters prepared for the cockfight betting festival in Lothunur village. As the practice goes, a knife, blade or other sharp-edged weapon is tied to the leg of a bird to harm its rival. Such fights continue until one contestant is either dead or flees, declaring the other rooster the winner. Officer Jeevan said the rooster was brought to the police station before being taken to a local poultry farm. “We may need to produce it before the court,” he said. Images of the rooster tied with a rope and pecking on grains at the police station were widely viewed on social media. Omer Farooq, The Associated Press
BELGRADE, Serbia — The president of Serbia's Football Association was on Sunday questioned by police in connection with recent arrests of several members of soccer fan groups accused of murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. Serbian media said Slavisa Kokeza was quizzed over his links to leaders of Partizan Belgrade supporter groups who were arrested earlier this month in what officials say is a major crackdown against soccer's links with organized crime. Details from the police investigation leaked to the media include alleged killings by group members of their rivals, including decapitations and torture in a special “bunker” at the Partizan stadium in the Serbian capital. Populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who has often boasted about his youth as a radical supporter of Partizan’s rival Red Star Belgrade, said Saturday that some of the “shocking” details of the investigation will be made public next week and that children will be warned not to watch. Serbia has a history of tolerating hooliganism that often resulted in violence and outbursts of nationalism at stadiums. During the Balkan wars in the 1990s, many of them joined notorious paramilitary groups linked to war crimes against other national groups in the former Yugoslavia. With the return of nationalists to power in Serbia nine years ago, far-right soccer supporters were often seen at pro-government rallies promoting a nationalist political agenda. In exchange, analysts say, the hooligans have been allowed to pursue their illegal business activities. More than a dozen prominent figures from the country’s soccer supporters’ groups have been murdered in recent years. Most have perished in gangland-style killings. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting. The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct. The high court's consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters. A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday. President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators. The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the portion of the law known as Section 5 could no longer be enforced because the population formula for determining which states were covered hadn’t been updated to take account of racial progress. Congress “must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a conservative majority. “It cannot rely simply on the past.” Democrats in Congress will try again to revive the advance approval provision of the voting rights law. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act failed in the last Congress, when Republicans controlled the Senate and President Donald Trump was in the White House. But another part of the law, Section 2, applies nationwide and still prohibits discrimination in voting on the basis of race. Civil rights groups and voters alleging racial bias have to go to court and prove their case either by showing intentional discrimination in passing a law or that the results of the law fall most heavily on minorities. The new Supreme Court case mainly concerns how plaintiffs can prove discrimination based on the law’s results. The arguments are taking place against the backdrop of the 2020 election, in which there was a massive increase in early voting and mailed-in ballots because of the pandemic. Trump and his Republican supporters challenged the election results by advancing claims of fraud that were broadly rejected by state and federal courts. But many Republicans continue to question the election’s outcome, despite the absence of evidence. GOP elected officials have responded by proposing to restrict early voting and mailed-in ballots, as well as toughen voter identification laws. The challenged Arizona provisions remained in effect in 2020 because the case was still making its way through the courts. But Brnovich said last year’s voting is another reason the justices should side with the state. “I think part of the lesson of 2020 was that when people don’t believe that elections have integrity or that their vote is being protected, it will lead to undermining the public’s confidence in the system,” Brnovich said. Civil rights groups said the court should not use this case to make it harder to root out racial discrimination, which “still poses a unique threat to our democracy,” as the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund put it in a brief. Nearly 75 businesses, including PayPal, Levi Strauss and Impossible Foods, joined in a brief urging the court to “fully preserve the Voting Rights Act." The Justice Department will not be part of Tuesday’s arguments, a rarity in a voting rights case. The Trump administration backed Arizona. The Biden administration, in a somewhat cryptic letter to the court, said this month that it believes “neither Arizona measure violates Section 2’s results test,” but doesn’t like the way its predecessor analyzed the issues. The suggestion from the new administration could give the court a narrow way to uphold the Arizona provisions without making any significant changes to voting discrimination law. A decision is expected by early summer. Mark Sherman, The Associated Press
(Supplied by Amanda Simms - image credit) When Amanda Simms was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis six years ago, her aspirations for her career in nursing ended abruptly. She found herself seeking a new purpose even as the disease ravaged her body. Simms became an ardent volunteer, doing anything in her power to help others with MS, including speaking in public to create more awareness in the larger community. This month, her efforts were honoured by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, which named her as recipient of its Young Leadership award for 2020. "MS has made me face a lot of things," Simms told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM this week. "It's shown me that my plans don't really matter, that life is going to happen anyway," she said. "I had big career plans of my nursing and where I was going to go. It wasn't just my job. It was my passion. "I have to take those values that I found interesting and reapply them into my life and into my volunteer work to keep pursuing and keep on living life to the fullest. Even though MS has really given us a turn for the worst." Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with about 77,000 people living with MS and 11 new cases diagnosed each day, according to the MS Society of Canada. The autoimmune disorder affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms including dizziness, depression and difficulty walking. Simms was 26 and working as a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Stollery Children's Hospital when she was diagnosed with MS. Hospitalized with severe pneumonia, she had lost her ability to walk. Her physiotherapist flagged that to her doctors. "I was rushed down for emergency MRIs and actually received a diagnosis that day of multiple sclerosis, which isn't usual," she said. Early on after her diagnosis, Simms became a top fundraiser in events like the MS Bike and MS Walk. Now, with her physical mobility affected, she is part of a national youth committee and volunteers doing one-to-one peer support with other MS patients. 'Disability can look like anyone' When her neurologist delivered the news, Simms realized how little she knew about MS, despite being a health-care professional. "I truly thought that I was going to have a rough time and then go back to my baseline and carry on as normal," she said. That realization is part of why she tells her story, putting a face to a disease that so affects so many people but is still poorly understood. "I started sharing my personal story with fundraisers and different companies just to help bring awareness to the cause, to say thank you for the money that the research goes to — and also to show that disability can look like anyone."
Check out this heartwarming clip of a little girl bringing a blanket over to her Alaskan Malamute named Dude. She says it's for him to snuggle with then tells him to "Bundle Up". Dude seems to be relaxed with the blanket!
ISLAMABAD — A trio of gunmen shot and killed a religious cleric, his teenage son and a student on the outskirts of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, police said, amid a rise in militant attacks. Police officer Shahzad Khan said the killing took place in the Bhara Kahu neighbourhood when Mufti Ikramur Rehman was heading toward his car with his 13-year-old son and a seminary student late Saturday night. He said three assailants fired several shots before fleeing the scene. The cleric, his son and the student received multiple gunshot wounds and died at a hospital. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and Khan said an investigation was underway to ascertain the identity of the assailants and the motive behind the killings. Ikramur Rehman was affiliated with the party of firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads an 11-party opposition alliance to topple the government. Militant violence in Pakistan is on the rise. Last week, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were travelling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls who heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable. In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions. The Associated Press
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony outside Moscow to serve his prison sentence, a public commission said on Sunday, weeks after he returned to Russia after being poisoned. Navalny's whereabouts had been unknown since Thursday when his allies learned that he was transferred out of one of Moscow's most infamous jails to an undisclosed location. He has been transferred to a penal colony in the Vladimir region, the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission that defends the rights of prisoners and has access to people in custody, said on its website.
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Schalke fired coach Christian Gross on Sunday after two months in charge along with three senior club staff in a desperate bid to avoid Bundesliga relegation. The Gelsenkirchen-based club is last in the league and nine points from safety with 11 rounds remaining. Gross was fired a day after a 5-1 loss at Stuttgart, leaving Schalke looking for its fifth coach of a turbulent season. The 66-year-old Swiss coach arrived in December with more than 30 years of coaching experience around the world, including a spell with Tottenham in 1997 and 1998, but hadn’t coached in Europe since 2012. He led the team to its only win of the season to end a 30-game winless run in the Bundesliga, but couldn't build on that, with Schalke earning two points from nine games since then. David Wagner was fired as coach in September before his successor Manuel Baum followed in December. The team played two games under stand-in coach Huub Stevens before appointing Gross. Sporting director Jochen Schneider, who was due to leave at the end of the season, was also fired, as was the team co-ordinator Sascha Riether and lead fitness coach Werner Leuthard. Schneider on Saturday denied reports of mutiny within the squad amid reports that several players had asked for Gross to be replaced. Schalke didn't name a new coach and said Monday's training session would be conducted by fitness coaches. The club said Peter Knäbel, who heads the youth department, would take over Schneider's sporting director role until further notice, with “a view to planning for the new season”, a sign the club is preparing for its first season in the second tier since 1991. Former Germany striker Gerald Asamoah moves up from overseeing the under-23 team into Riether's co-ordinator role. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia lawmakers gave final approval Saturday to a bill that will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales of the drug would also begin. With a compromise bill clearing the House and Senate, Virginia becomes the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The legislation now goes to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports legalization. The bill was a top priority for Democrats, who framed legalization as a necessary step to end the disparate treatment of people of colour under current marijuana laws. But talks between Democrats in the House and Senate grew tense in recent days, and a compromise version of the massive bill did not emerge publicly until late Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would say that we’re on the path to an equitable law allowing responsible adults to use cannabis,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, the chief sponsor of the Senate bill. Several Democrats said they hoped Northam would send the legislation back to them with amendments, including speeding up the date for legalization. “If we have already made the decision that simple possession should be repealed, we could have done that today and ended the disproportionate fines on communities of colour,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan. “Let's be absolutely clear — this bill is not legalization, and there are a lot of steps between here and legalization,” she said. Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said the governor “looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation.” “There's still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities and reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” she said. Under the legislation, possession of up to an ounce (28.3 grams) of marijuana will become legal beginning Jan. 1, 2024, at the same time sales will begin and regulations will go into effect to control the marijuana marketplace in Virginia. Under a provision Senate Democrats insisted on, the legislation will include a reenactment clause that will require a second vote from the General Assembly next year, but only on the regulatory framework and criminal penalties for several offences, including underage use and public consumption of marijuana. A second vote will not be required on legalization. The Senate had sought to legalize simple possession this year to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana, but House Democrats argued that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market. Lawmakers last year decriminalized marijuana, making simple possession a civil penalty that can be punished by a fine of no more than $25. House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said that while the legislation isn’t perfect, it was a “justice bill.” “This moves us in a ... direction to strike down and to address those institutional barriers, and over-policing, over-arrests, over-convictions of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than our white counterparts, but we seem to get the brunt of criminal convictions,” Herring said. A recent study by the legislature’s research and watchdog agency found that from 2010-2019, the average arrest rate of Black individuals for marijuana possession was 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate for white individuals. The study also found that Black people were convicted at a rate 3.9 times higher than white people. The bill calls for dedicating 30% of marijuana tax revenue — after program costs — to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The money would be used to help communities that have been historically over-policed for marijuana crimes, with funds going toward scholarships, workforce development and job placement services, and low- or no-interest loans for qualified cannabis businesses. Virginians who have a marijuana-related conviction, have family members with a conviction, or live in an area that is economically distressed could qualify as social equity applicants who would get preference for licenses to get into the marijuana marketplace as cultivators, wholesalers, processors and retailers. The largest portion of the tax revenue from marijuana sales would go toward funding pre-K for at-risk kids. The bill drew sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and and other racial justice advocacy groups. “Today, the Virginia General Assembly failed to legalize marijuana for racial justice. Lawmakers paid lip service to the communities that have suffered decades of harm caused by the racist War on Drugs with legislation that falls short of equitable reform and delays justice,” the ACLU said in a tweet. Groups that opposed legalization entirely have said they are concerned that it could result in an increase in drug-impaired driving crashes and the use of marijuana among youth. Republican lawmakers spoke against the measure Saturday night, saying such a critical issue deserved a less rushed approach. “I would say there are not more than two or three members of this body that have a clue about the comprehensiveness of what this bill does,” said Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment. Denise Lavoie And Sarah Rankin, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding and mind foggy from his yearlong battle with COVID-19, he wonders when a clinic to treat his symptoms might emerge in Atlantic Canada. "My fear is that I'm going to be like this forever," the 50-year-old Halifax resident said in a recent interview. The issue of a lack of timely treatment for the so-called "long haulers" — people who suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath and physical exhaustion months after their first bout of the illness — has been raised across the country by support groups. Specialized clinics have opened in Western and Central Canada, in some instances offering access to occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses and referrals to specialists. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service announced the formation of a network of 60 such clinics in December. However, on Canada's East Coast, patients say they are still searching for a similar, one-stop site to treat symptoms that range from difficulty drawing a breath to tingling pain in their limbs. "In Atlantic Canada, we're at the mercy of how well we've done containing the virus, leading to our low numbers of infected patients," Hoskin said. "It's had an impact on what we can expect to see from the provincial government in terms of specialized clinics." International studies currently predict about 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients develop longer term symptoms. In Atlantic Canada, where about 4,100 cases have been officially documented, this suggests long haulers may eventually number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands expected in larger provinces. But Hoskin argues the lower infection rates shouldn't mean he and others are left to rely solely on family doctors, who may be unaware of how to treat their symptoms, while they spend months awaiting appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists. In New Brunswick, which is fighting a second wave of infections that emerged earlier in the year, Emily Bodechon says she has largely assembled her own treatment effort. "While it's great that our COVID-19 case count is low, it's not been great as a patient to find out nobody knows how to treat you," she said in an interview last week. Almost a year since her infection, the 45-year-old health worker still has respiratory issues, searing headaches and "brain fog" that makes it hard to process new information. Bodechon sought online information from a post-COVID-19 clinic in New York and took part in video calls for patient information. "I went through a six-week program on my own, and it was the most helpful thing I had," she said. She said she hopes provincial governments in the region collaborate to set up centralized clinics that employ telemedicine, so that she can actually speak to doctors with expertise. In Halifax, a senior physician with Nova Scotia Health says doctors with the province's health authority are turning their attention to potential pilot projects. Dr. Christy Bussey, the medical lead for COVID-19 in-patient care in the authority's central zone, said in an interview on Thursday that in the longer term, family doctors will need training on how to care for the lingering impacts of the illness. But in the short term, she's advocating for a post-COVID-19 clinic, potentially attached to an existing clinic in Fall River, N.S., which already treats people with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. She said she has noticed "a gap in the system for following patients who developed new or ongoing symptoms." The physician added it's too early to know how much additional provincial or national funding is needed for an Atlantic post-COVID-19 clinic, as a formal proposal has yet to be completed, but she argues the need for added resources is evident. "Some of these patients are nearly completely disabled by the symptoms they're having," she said. Dr. Alexis Goth, a lead physician at the Fall River clinic, said the first long haulers are starting to trickle into her clinic. She is hopeful resources can be added to pay for a larger numbers of patients by early summer. She said one model for COVID patients may be an adapted version of an eight-week, Zoom-based treatment the clinic uses for fibromyalgia, an illness that can cause muscle pain, fatigue and sleep issues. She said the online treatment could be combined with one-on-one therapy, making use of the occupational therapist, nurses and other experts at the clinic. Susie Goulding, the leader of a national long-haulers support group, cautions that as new clinics and research projects emerge, they should be open to the many patients who didn't receive a formal diagnosis of COVID-19, often due to a lack of testing in the early months. “Most people don’t have a positive test,” she said in a recent interview. “They should still be included." Meanwhile, Hoskin said he's continuing to search for placement in a research study that includes treatment, finding he still feels like collapsing after a brief trip to buy groceries. "At 50 years old, my heart rate is often at 110 (beats per minute) when I stand up, and I still can't smell and taste other than very basic odours," he said. "We really need to find out what is causing this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
MEXICO CITY — Ten men and a boy were killed and a woman and another boy were wounded in a shooting attack on a home in western Mexico Saturday. Prosecutors in the state of Jalisco said the bullet-ridden bodies of the 10 men were found by police on the sidewalk in front of the home. The body of a boy was found inside, and a woman and another boy were located at a local hospital. The prosecutors’ office said the attack was carried out by unidentified assailants travelling in an SUV. The state is home to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, one of Mexico’s most violent and powerful. More bodies have been found in clandestine burial pits in Jalisco there than in any other state in recent years. The cartel has been fighting a breakaway faction in and around Guadalajara. Earlier this month, police found 18 plastic bags full of hacked-up body parts on the outskirts of Guadalajara, the state capital. In November, Jalisco authorities recovered 113 bodies and additional human remains from a secret grave in the town of El Salto, just outside Guadalajara. A total of 189 corpses were discovered in the town throughout 2020. The Associated Press
(PARO - image credit) Reginald (Dutch) Thompson's column The Bygone Days brings you the voices of Island seniors, many of whom are now long-departed. These tales of the way things used to be offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. Every few weekends CBC P.E.I. brings you one of Dutch's columns. Back in the days when most Islanders lived on a farm, they had only to say "I just got home from the Royal," and their friends would turn green with envy. The Royal was and is the Royal Winter Fair, held every November in Toronto — except 2020, when it was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of spectators come to mingle with judges and entrants and see the best in Canadian agriculture. According to its website, organizers are planning for the 99th annual fair to go ahead in 2021. Dutch Thompson is an award-winning historian and storyteller. He has published a book about P.E.I.'s bygone days. A win at the Royal was a big deal then as it remains today, whether it's for pickling or prize-winning pork, horses or Holsteins. Islanders have always won more than their share of ribbons and trophies at the Royal, for things like Guernsey or Jersey cattle, Percheron or Belgian heavy horses, fancy chickens, or potatoes. 6 generations of winners Vimy Jones was born in 1917, to Katherine and J. Walter Jones. They farmed in Bunbury and in 1940, Walter became premier of P.E.I. He was an innovator, and was instrumental in introducing the potato crop to the Island. In 1935, he received the King George V medal as the best farmer in the province and so later was known as the "farmer premier." Vimy Jones Siegrist of Bunbury, P.E.I., was the last surviving child of famous 'farmer premier' J. Walter Jones. "He was the first master breeder of Holsteins in Canada," Vimy told Dutch. "He really had, for some years in the '30s, the best herd of Holsteins in Canada, and he started it all himself right from scratch." That began around the time Vimy was born, she said. "So as far as I was concerned, it was cattle and horses." Her grandfather Franklin Bovyer also farmed in Bunbury, and was famous for breeding prize-winning silver foxes. J. Walter Jones grew up on his family's farm in Pownal and first become an educator, teaching at several P.E.I. schools, an award-winning athlete, and later an agronomist and then premier. He won the King George V medal in 1935 for the best farm in P.E.I. "We still have trophies that he won at The Royal in 1924," Vimy said. "When my granddaughter [Vimy Henderson] showed a pony at The Royal last fall, she was the sixth generation to have exhibited at The Royal." Vimy Jones Siegrist died in 2011 at age 93. Vimy Henderson with her pony Flirt was champion in the pony hunter class at The Royal in 1997, and was the 6th generation of her family to show at the fair in Toronto. Calves were fox feed Another frequent winner from P.E.I. was Angus Johnston from White Sands, who collected dozens of red ribbons For years, he and his father, Albert, were butchers and meat peddlers in Murray River. Angus Johnston of Murray River was a meat peddler and an award-winning chicken showman. "I used to sell meat to Mrs. MacKay when she had the old cookhouse," Johnston told Dutch. "Probably in 1929, '30.... She fed the fishermen. Great woman she was, and a great family, yeah." Johnston said he and his father would go to different farmhouses or see cows out at pasture, and drop in to see if the farmers wanted to sell any. They were all kinds of cattle, too — beef and dairy cows. "When my father first started butchering in Murray River, there were no young cattle — the calves were sold the minute they were born, for fox feed." Some of those foxes may have belonged to the Joneses in Bunbury, and become champions at the Royal. Quite a school project But Johnston didn't become famous for raising cattle — as a boy, he raised barred rock chickens. The barred Plymouth Rock chicken breed was developed in the U.S. in the late 1800s and was the most popular breed for about 100 years. Angus Johnston of Murray River won many prizes for his barred Plymouth Rocks. "I used to bring in eggs from Ontario, and set them and raise chickens out of them. Showed them at school fairs. When I was 12," he said, showing Dutch where he had accidentally sawed off the end of his thumb while making a cage to carry the chickens to school. Those barred rock poultry are handsome birds, with their eye-catching black-and-white stripes. In 1947, Johnston packed up his knives and meat saws and moved to Toronto. Then in 1954, the family moved to Fonthill and Welland just west of Niagara Falls. Angus went back on the road, making lots of new friends as a meat peddler. However he didn't travel by horse and wagon this time, but instead had a refrigerated Chevy truck. The family owned a few acres where they could keep some hens, and Angus rekindled his chicken-raising hobby. Soon he was setting records at the Royal: one year he won 86 of 91 prizes at the fair. He also showed and won with his poultry at dozens of other fairs in Ontario. 'Shipped cornies to B.C.' "I just happened to have an eye on the type. Type means a lot, feather means a lot," he said. "Sold a lot of them, I shipped cornies to B.C." Them big shows, you have to wash your chickens, soap and water then rinse them with vinegar and warm water. — Angus Johnston Johnston was more proud of shipping his chickens across North America than all the prizes he won. You might wonder how one prepares a chicken for judging at the Royal. For Johnston, it was with a bottle of shampoo and a bar of Irish Spring soap. "Oh sure, them big shows, you have to wash your chickens, soap and water then rinse them with vinegar and warm water," he said. "Make sure their toenails are clean. You got to make sure they don't have too many spikes in their head, their comb." Johnston moved home to P.E.I. in 1974 and worked as a butcher in Montague, where some of his customers were the same ones he'd had more than 25 years earlier as a meat peddler. He eventually retired, but kept his hand on the knife working part-time at the Co-Op and at the Queen Street Meat Market in Charlottetown, and dusting off all the red ribbons he'd won at the Royal. More from CBC P.E.I.
(Matt Jonsson Recovery/Facebook - image credit) Family and friends are mourning the loss of a 24-year-old Winnipeg man who passed away after suffering brain damage in a freak accident earlier this month. On Feb. 6, Matt Jonsson hit his head on a low basement ceiling and suffered a severe spinal injury that left him paralyzed below the chest. He was hospitalized and put on a ventilator as doctors worked to stabilize the fracture and wait for the swelling to go down. In that time, family members worked to raise money to renovate his home so it was wheelchair accessible. "It's very hard. It's just very unexpected because in the beginning we were faced with him being paralyzed, which I was very upset about. But now in hindsight, I wish that that's all that was happening," said his mother Tish Jonsson. Matt suffered severe brain damage as a result of the injury and doctors told his family he'd never wake up. He was taken off life support last week. Matt Jonsson (right) was taken off life support on Feb. 20. For a man who loved to ride BMX and dirt bikes and play sports, the accident that took his life seems unfathomable. "[Matt and his brother Cole] got hurt so many times and so many times that they should have broken their necks, I think. And then for a senseless thing like this to happen, I don't understand. I just don't understand it at all," Jonsson said. She says her son was loved by many and will be remembered as a generous, sweet man who loved adventure. Once Matt saw a $100 bill floating down the street and ran out of the house to grab it. "My mother and I tried to convince him to put it in the bank, but he wasn't having it. He went to the skate park and he ordered pizza and drinks for everybody," Jonsson said. "It didn't matter who it was. And I think that sums him up pretty good." She says her son, who she worked with and lived with, always wrapped her in a big hug and told her how much he loved her. Dedicated basketball player, coach Evan Cox knew Matt as his teacher, coworker and friend. Cox, who is a physical education teacher at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, coached boys basketball when Matt was a student there. Last year, Matt joined Cox as an assistant coach on the girls basketball team at the school. Ever since he was a player, Cox said Matt was driven. "He kind of left a legacy of playing the game the right way, an insanely hard worker [who] dedicated so much of his time to just pursuing excellence, just trying to get better every single day," he said. "I think he was doing the same thing to get the girls to have that kind of intensity, that kind of drive and focus and of building hope in them that they can try to get to where they want to get to." Another coach, Stephen Tackie worked with Matt throughout high school and said he was a truly unique student. "He recognized he was part of something bigger than himself, and I think he took that role on that he had to give back." Matt was also instrumental in getting Skate Park West off the ground in Charleswood. He went to planning meetings, worked to raise money to have it built and when it did open, he took first aid training and volunteered to keep watch in case anyone got hurt. Jonsson says the money her family raised for Matt when he was in the hospital — nearly $87,000 — will go to building memorial benches at Skate Park West and starting a fund at to help people play basketball who may not have the means. "He touched so many people," Jonsson says. "We're going to use that money to honour him, to keep his legacy going."
(Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit) Each government job posting in the N.W.T. has a caveat — that applicants provide a "satisfactory criminal record check" if they want to be considered for a position. With high crime rates in communities, that requirement could be deterring potential applicants from seeking those jobs, said Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lıı̀deh MLA Steve Norn. "I fully support anyone who has paid their debts to society who are genuinely trying to make strides to better themselves," he said in the legislature Wednesday. "Everyone deserves a second chance." "I do support firm rules, though, when it comes to working with our vulnerable populations, and I don't expect that we stray from that," he said. Before politics, Norn worked closely with human resources at the mines. He found criminal records were a common barrier for potential applicants. Many needed support getting pardons, he said. At the Legislative Assembly, Norn has been vocal about what he says are "glaring gaps" in the territory's hiring process, including direct appointments which impede "chances of Indigenous candidates from successful job competitions." Norn pressed the justice minister on the territory's hiring practices and how people with criminal records can overcome these barriers. "It should not be a barrier if one wants to work in our public service," he said, recognizing that certain positions will always warrant vulnerable sector checks. Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the government's assessment process only prevents an applicant from taking a job if the offence they are convicted of is related to the job duties. Once someone is offered a position, they could be asked to return a criminal record check to be reviewed by a deputy minister. If they do not get an offer as a result of their criminal record, an applicant has two days to raise their concerns with the deputy minister of human resources, the policy states. The Government of the Northwest Territories conducts criminal record checks and in some cases, a vulnerable sector check. This is to keep clients and employees safe and to preserve public confidence, the website states. There are some positions where having no criminal record is a prerequisite, said Wawzonek. "Someone who may see that advertised wouldn't necessarily want to apply if they have a criminal record," she said. "People may well feel shame around having a criminal record," she said, and encouraged people to use the federal record suspension process. The cost of seeking a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon) will go up to $657 by March 31st. In 2010, it cost an applicant $50 to seek a record suspension. "I very much want to emphasize that people can get criminal record suspensions and that often is a tool that is not adequately used by many who have past criminal records," she said. Getting a record suspension can be a costly and time-consuming process. Update laws to prevent discrimination in all hiring: commissioner N.W.T. Human Rights Commissioner Charles Dent says under the Human Rights Act, people with pardons for offences unrelated to a job duty are protected under the territorial government's hiring policies, but there are gaps for those applying to other workplaces in the N.W.T. "Right now people can be screened out whether the conviction is related to the job or not. We don't think that's the way to go," he said. Dent said in at least one report the commission recommended the Human Rights Act be updated to prohibit this type of screening, unless the conviction affects someone's ability to perform a job. "Our argument is a lot of people in the North … don't even apply for a job because they haven't figured out how to get a record suspension. It's not something that's easy to do," he said. "We want northerners to be able to get jobs," he said. "We know that a lot of people in the N.W.T. don't have access to someone who can help them through the process of getting a record suspension." The legislation also doesn't explicitly prohibit discrimination against those with criminal records who have not received a suspension. At public meetings, some residents have told the commission they face barriers to employment even if the conviction is not related to the job they are applying for. Defence lawyer Paul Falvo said people are held back from seeking record suspensions because of burdensome wait times, costs, and requirements to prove the suspension will provide a measurable benefit. They also state they cannot get employment because of their conviction.
VATICAN CITY — Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him. No one wants to tell Francis to call it off, and the Iraqi government has every interest in showing off its relative stability by welcoming the first pope to the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip is expected to provide a sorely-needed spiritual boost to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians while furthering the Vatican’s bridge-building efforts with the Muslim world. But from a purely epidemiological standpoint, as well as the public health message it sends, a papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not advisable, health experts say. Their concerns were reinforced with the news Sunday that the Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the main point person for the trip who would have escorted Francis to all his appointments, tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating. In an email to The Associated Press, the embassy said Archbishop Mitja Leskovar's symptoms were mild and that he was continuing to prepare for Francis' visit. Beyond his case, experts note that wars, economic crises and an exodus of Iraqi professionals have devastated the country’s hospital system, while studies show most of Iraq’s new COVID-19 infections are the highly-contagious variant first identified in Britain. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Dr. Navid Madani, virologist and founding director of the Center for Science Health Education in the Middle East and North Africa at Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Iranian-born Madani co-authored an article in The Lancet last year on the region's uneven response to COVID-19, noting that Iraq, Syria and Yemen were poorly placed to cope, given they are still struggling with extremist insurgencies and have 40 million people who need humanitarian aid. In a telephone interview, Madani said Middle Easterners are known for their hospitality, and cautioned that the enthusiasm among Iraqis of welcoming a peace-maker like Francis to a neglected, war-torn part of the world might lead to inadvertent violations of virus control measures. “This could potentially lead to unsafe or superspreading risks,” she said. Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an infectious disease control expert at the University of Exeter College of Medicine, concurred. “It’s a perfect storm for generating lots of cases which you won’t be able to deal with,” he said. Organizers promise to enforce mask mandates, social distancing and crowd limits, as well as the possibility of increased testing sites, two Iraqi government officials said. The health care protocols are “critical but can be managed," one government official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. And the Vatican has taken its own precautions, with the 84-year-old pope, his 20-member Vatican entourage and the 70-plus journalists on the papal plane all vaccinated. But the Iraqis gathering in the north, centre and south of the country to attend Francis’ indoor and outdoor Masses, hear his speeches and participate in his prayer meetings are not vaccinated. And that, scientists say, is the problem. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic. And it is important to get the correct messages out,” Pankhania said. “The correct messages are: the less interactions with fellow human beings, the better.” He questioned the optics of the Vatican delegation being inoculated while the Iraqis are not, and noted that Iraqis would only take such risks to go to those events because the pope was there. In words addressed to Vatican officials and the media, he said: “You are all protected from severe disease. So if you get infected, you’re not going to die. But the people coming to see you may get infected and may die.” “Is it wise under that circumstance for you to just turn up? And because you turn up, people turn up to see you and they get infected?” he asked. The World Health Organization was diplomatic when asked about the wisdom of a papal trip to Iraq, saying countries should evaluate the risk of an event against the infection situation, and then decide if it should be postponed. “It’s all about managing that risk,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19. “It’s about looking at the epidemiologic situation in the country and then making sure that if that event is to take place, that it can take place as safely as possible.” Francis has said he intends to go even if most Iraqis have to watch him on television to avoid infection. The important thing, he told Catholic News Service, is “they will see that the pope is there in their country.” Francis has frequently called for an equitable distribution of vaccines and respect for government health measures, though he tends to not wear face masks. Francis for months has eschewed even socially distanced public audiences at the Vatican to limit the chance of contagion. Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine, said the number of new daily cases in Iraq is “increasing significantly at the moment” with the Health Ministry reporting around 4,000 a day, close to the height of its first wave in September. Head said for any trip to Iraq, there must be infection control practices in force, including mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and good ventilation in indoor spaces. “Hopefully we will see proactive approaches to infection control in place during the pope’s visit to Baghdad,” he said. The Iraqi government imposed a modified lockdown and curfew in mid-February amid a new surge in cases, closing schools and mosques and leaving restaurants and cafes only open for takeout. But the government decided against a full shutdown because of the difficulty of enforcing it and the financial impact on Iraq’s battered economy, the Iraqi officials told AP. Many Iraqis remain lax in using masks and some doubt the severity of the virus. Madani, the Harvard virologist, urged trip organizers to let science and data guide their decision-making. A decision to reschedule or postpone the papal trip, or move it to a virtual format, would “be quite impactful from a global leadership standpoint” because “it would signal prioritizing the safety of Iraq’s public,” she said. ___ Kullab reported from Baghdad. Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Nicole Winfield And Samya Kullab, The Associated Press