Falling COVID-19 case numbers in hard-hit Ontario communities and increased testing of students could help more schools open by Feb. 10, says Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.
Falling COVID-19 case numbers in hard-hit Ontario communities and increased testing of students could help more schools open by Feb. 10, says Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.
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.
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
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts ventured out Sunday to install support frames for new, high-efficiency solar panels arriving at the International Space Station later this year. NASA’s Kate Rubins and Victor Glover emerged from the orbiting lab lugging 8-foot (2.5-meter) duffle-style bags stuffed with hundreds of pounds of mounting brackets and struts. The equipment was so big and awkward that it had to be taken apart like furniture, just to get through the hatch. “We know it's super tight in there,” Mission Control radioed. The astronauts headed with their unusually large load to the far port side of the station, careful not to bump into anything. That’s where the station’s oldest and most degraded solar wings are located. With more people and experiments flying on the space station, more power will be needed to keep everything running, according to NASA. The six new solar panels — to be delivered in pairs by SpaceX over the coming year or so — should boost the station’s electrical capability by as much as 30%. Rubins and Glover had to assemble and bolt down the struts for the first two solar panels, due to launch in June. The eight solar panels up there now are 12 to 20 years old — most of them past their design lifetime and deteriorating. Each panel is 112 feet (34 metres) long by 39 feet (12 metres) wide. Tip to tip counting the centre framework, each pair stretches 240 feet (73 metres), longer than a Boeing 777's wingspan. Boeing is supplying the new roll-up panels, about half the size of the old ones but just as powerful thanks to the latest solar cell technology. They’ll be placed at an angle above the old ones, which will continue to operate. A prototype was tested at the space station in 2017. Sunday’s spacewalk was the third for infectious disease specialist Rubins and Navy pilot Glover — both of whom could end up flying to the moon. They’re among 18 astronauts newly assigned to NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. The next moonwalkers will come from this group. Last week, Vice-President Kamala Harris put in a congratulatory call to Glover, the first African American astronaut to live full time at the space station. NASA released the video exchange Saturday. “The history making that you are doing, we are so proud of you,” Harris said. Like other firsts, Glover replied, it won't be the last. “We want to make sure that we can continue to do new things,” he said. Rubins will float back out Friday with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to wrap up the solar panel prep work, and to vent and relocate ammonia coolant hoses. Glover and Noguchi were among four astronauts arriving via SpaceX in November. Rubins launched from Kazakhstan in October alongside two Russians. They’re all scheduled to return to Earth this spring. ___ 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. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
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
(Canadian Community Services Organization handout - image credit) Volunteers masked up outside Flemingdon Health Centre on Saturday to hand out free healthy snack kits, along with masks and hand sanitizer, for hundreds of the neighbourhood's children. Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people live close together in the community in high-rise buildings. Many of the residents are racialized, living off low incomes and working essential jobs — all of which puts them at increased risk for catching and spreading the virus. The kits are a gesture of support for struggling parents, and the reaction has been "amazing," said Masood Alam, president of the Canadian Community Services Organization, a volunteer effort which launched back in April in response to the pandemic and only recently incorporated into a non-profit. "We started with 50 families," Alam said. "Now, they're helping us out… volunteering with us." To date, he said the group has distributed 2,500 adult masks and 900 kid masks. Moving forward, the Kids Healthy Snacks Drive will provide 300 children weekly with healthy snacks and personal protective equipment, including more masks for their parents. It's a small but meaningful volunteer initiative, and Saturday's efforts were bolstered by the latest report from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. WATCH | COVID-19 means sacrifices, stress for residents of Thorncliffe neighbourhood The provincial group released a report Friday recommending vaccines be distributed based not just on age but neighbourhoods too. The recommendation stems from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 "on residents of disadvantaged and racialized urban neighbourhoods throughout the province," said the report. "This vaccine strategy will maximize the prevention of deaths … and best maintain health-care system capacity." Per expert projections, a strategy involving age and neighbourhoods could prevent an additional 3,767 cases, as well as 168 deaths, compared with a strategy that prioritizes based on age alone. "There's a big need in this community," said Alam, who added that the group is also trying to spread awareness about the vaccine "to help the community be ready to get [vaccinated]." Ahmed Hussein, executive director of The Neighbourhood Association, is one of the community advocates who's been pushing for the prioritization of vulnerable communities like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park. "The science advisory group really followed the science so that's the logical thing," he said. "We hope the government will do that." A neighbourhood approach makes sense as part of a public health approach, said Jen Quinlan, the chief executive officer at Flemingdon Health Centre. "You want to make sure you can vaccinate and address the pandemic in the quickest way, and in my opinion it only makes sense to start with those who are most vulnerable to negative health outcomes," Quinlan said. She said she understands that conversations around vaccine access are "very sensitive" and that many people are concerned and worried the rollout isn't fast enough. However, Quinlan said, the stakes are different for Torontonians who are able to work from home safely and haven't seen a big drop in income throughout the pandemic. "Many Torontonians are not in that position," she said. "They're delivering your food, they're stocking your grocery aisles, they're packing all of your Amazon orders, and if we want to address the spread of COVID-19 across Toronto we should start with those who are most likely to spread it and who are most exposed." WATCH | The push to prioritize some neighbourhoods for COVID-19 vaccines Until neighbourhood residents start getting injected with the vaccine, Quinlan said a key part of the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park approach is encouraging more people to get tested. They're even using decommissioned TTC buses to set up testing facilities in the parking lots at the base of high-rise apartment buildings, she said. Despite the fatigue after a long winter under stay-at-home orders, Quinlan said she's "really proud of community leaders" and intends to "keep public health messaging alive and well."
(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."
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
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
(Submitted by Shyla Augustine - image credit) Shyla Augustine is hoping to help give her children and others a chance to learn a bit of the language of her ancestors. Along with illustrator Braelyn Cyr, Augustine has created an alphabet book that includes the Mi'kmaw word for the animals used to highlight each of the letters from A to Z. Augustine is a member of Elsipogtog First Nation now studying education at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. In an interview with CBC's Shift-NB, she said she got the idea for the book while volunteering at the University of New Brunswick's Early Childhood Centre. "The kids were really curious about the Mi'kmaq language and how to count in Mi'kmaw, and words, and because my son was actually attending the childhood centre at the time, he just so happened to be there." After realizing that she didn't know many words in the language herself, she decided to create an alphabet book she could share with the children at the centre. Augustine, an education student at St. Thomas University, has created an alphabet book that includes the Mi'kmaw word for the animals featured in it. "[I thought] maybe my son could read through it with them and teach them some more of his own language, and so he could learn some more of his own language as well." Growing up, Augustine said she spoke some Mi'kmaw while going to school on-reserve, and she picked up some listening to members of her household speak it. She later transferred to a school off-reserve, where the language wasn't spoken or taught. She said her shyness as a girl also kept her from practising it much. As an adult, she's hoping to reconnect with her language and give that same opportunity to her children. "I really want my children to know their own language and who they are and where they come from, because that's an important thing to know about yourself. And I want them to be proud of who they are." The book features a series of animals representing each letter of the alphabet, along with the Mi'kmaq translation of each animal. Augustine said her family members even offered some inspiration for the animals to include in the book. Deer, her son, Laken's spirit animal, is the one used to represent the letter D. That animal is called "Lentuk" in Mi'kmaw, she said. And otter, which is used to represent the letter O, was inspired by her brother, who lives with cystic fibrosis. "My children are very close with him and they love him too, so we decided that we were going to put a representation in my book of him as well. "It was really made with love." Augustine said the book is being published by Monster House Publishing and copies will go on sale next month.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, among the last in Southeast Asia to secure the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region. A Chinese military transport aircraft carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by China arrived in an air base in the capital. President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials expressed relief and thanked Beijing for the the vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in a televised ceremony. “COVID-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to all, rich and poor alike,” Duterte said, warning that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” China's ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, said China has exported vaccines to 27 countries despite its own domestic needs, adding “no winter lasts forever” when China and other countries help each other in solidarity when crisis strikes. Vaccinations initially of health workers and top officials led by the health secretary were scheduled to start in six Metropolitan Manila hospitals Monday. Aside from the donated Sinovac vaccine, the government has separately ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the delivery of an initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine that was initially scheduled for Monday would be delayed by a week due to supply problems. The initial deliveries are a small fraction of at least 148 million doses the government has been negotiating to secure from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign. The bulk of the vaccine shipments are expected to arrive later this year. The Philippines has reported more than 576,000 infections, including 12,318 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Lockdowns and quarantine restrictions have set back Manila’s economy in one of the worst recessions in the region and sparked unemployment and hunger. Duterte’s administration has come under criticism for lagging behind most other Southeast Asian countries in securing the vaccines, including much smaller and poorer ones like Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. The tough-talking Duterte has said wealthy Western countries have cornered massive doses for their citizens, leaving poorer nations scrambling for the rest. In a sign of desperation, the president said last December that he would proceed to abrogate a key security pact with the United States that allows large numbers of American troops to conduct war exercises in the Philippines if Washington could not provide at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. “No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said then. The Chinese vaccine delivery was delayed due to the absence of an emergency-use authorization from Manila’s Food and Drug Administration. Sinovac got the authorization last Monday. Western pharmaceutical companies also wanted the Philippine government to guarantee that it would take responsibility for lawsuits and demands for indemnity arising from possible adverse side effects from the vaccine, officials said. Aside from supply problems, there have been concerns over the vaccine’s safety, largely due to a dengue vaccine scare that prompted the Duterte administration to stop a massive immunization drive in 2017. ___ Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report. Jim Gomez, The Associated Press
(Public Domain - image credit) His paintings adorn the walls of some of the most important buildings in the United States. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has dozens of his landscapes, and his works are considered by experts to be some of the best examples of 19th century American art. They have sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. He was also an outspoken advocate for the end of slavery and worked to better the lives of African-Americans through much of his life. But Edward Mitchell Bannister is still little known in the country where he was born. Some people would like to change that. Born in Saint Andrews in 1828, it has been said he was the son of a white Canadian woman and a Black man from Barbados, but scholars are now beginning to doubt whether his mother was white. The Saint Andrews home that was once owned by merchant Harris Hatch, who took Bannister in after his parents died when he was young. It is believed he was born in the Black community on the outskirts of the town, and either his mother or grandmother worked as a cook and housekeeper in the home of Judge Harris Hatch. He was orphaned as a young man, and Hatch apparently took on the role of raising him. Peter Larocque, the curator of art at the New Brunswick Museum, said that relationship seems to have been an important part of Bannister's early artistic development. And recently, the New Brunswick Museum received three examples of his early work that suggest the judge encouraged Bannister's artistic leanings. They're large watercolours, which Larocque believes he painted in his early teens. "They are actually copies of what I believe to be British engravings," Larocque said. An early watercolour of Elgin Cathedral, Moray, Scotland, believed to have been painted by Bannister when he was in his teens. It is likely a copy of an etching from a book. It is one of three early paintings recently acquired by the New Brunswick Museum. The watercolours had been in Britain and still belonged to the family of the man who first purchased them. Larocque said he was a British naval officer who was a friend of Judge Hatch. Larocque describes the watercolours as "very competent," despite the unforgiving nature of watercolour paint, signed "E.M.B," and show the signs of a young artist trying to learn by copying other works. Whether commissioned by the officer, or just a purchase of something Bannister had been working on, it's not a stretch to think Hatch played a role in the deal. Larocque said the support Bannister received from his community in the early days in Saint Andrews was vital to his success in later years. Those watercolours join an oil painting titled Evening that is already part of the museum's collection and is regularly on display there. A Bannister painting acquired by the New Brunswick Museum in 1959. It is on regular exhibit at the museum. He left New Brunswick in his late teens, and went to sea as a ship's cook. That eventually took him to Boston, where he began his career as an artist. Diane Heller is a New Hampshire-based filmmaker who has been working to make a documentary about Bannister's life for nearly a decade. She became fascinated by his story while attending Brown University in Providence, R.I., the city that would become Bannister's home. Her goal is to tell the story of his life and legacy, beyond his skill as an artist. "All the articles you read were just imagery," Heller said, lamenting the lack of detail around the other aspects of his life. New Hampshire-based filmmaker Diane Heller has devoted the last decade to researching Bannister's life. She is currently working on a short film that will feature Bannister's coastal paintings and his love for the sea. Bannister was also an activist, an abolitionist, a philanthropist and, on top of all that, a capable yachtsman, Heller said. "He literally was always successful," she said. That included his choice of a partner, who is the reason he ended up in Rhode Island. Christiana Babcock was born in the state and was of African-American and First Nations descent, 10 years older than Bannister. She was known to Boston society as Madame Carteaux, the owner of a chain of successful hairdressing shops. The story goes that the couple met when a 24-year-old Bannister applied for a job as a barber in one of her shops. They were married five years later. A portrait of Christiana Babcock Bannister painted by her husband. During part of their time in Boston, they lived in the home of Lewis Hayden, an escaped slave and abolitionist who often sheltered Blacks in his home as part of the Underground Railroad. Christiana's shops became meeting places for abolitionists, and the pair would also become involved in the fight to get equal pay and treatment for Black soldiers in the Union Army. "His world included all the abolitionists in Boston," Heller said. He was even very close to Frederick Douglass, abolitionist writer, orator and former slave, who would become the first Black person nominated to run as a vice-presidential candidate. But breaking into the established art community in Boston was difficult for anyone, let alone a Black man. So not long after the end of the Civil War, they moved to Providence. There Bannister co-founded the Providence Art Club, which Heller said had the goal "to promote real New England artists." He also sat on the founding board of the Rhode Island School of Design. Bannister's headstone in Providence. Christiana continued her work by creating the Home for Aged Colored Women, a nursing home to support Black domestic servants who found themselves jobless in old age. All those organizations still exist, with the latter now called Bannister House. And Edward Bannister painted prolifically. It's estimated there are at least 500 of his works in existence. His talent was appreciated in his day, and he was the first Black artist to receive a national art prize. He died in 1901, and Peter Larocque said Bannister's style of landscape painting fell into disfavour after the First World War and disappeared from art galleries and museums for decades. In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in his works. Until recently, this Bannister painting was hanging in the official residence of the vice-president of the United States, one of two on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Smithsonian has a large collection of his paintings, and in 2017 lent two of them to hang in the official vice-president's residence at One Observatory Circle — Woman Walking Down Path, 1882, and Landscape near Newport, R.I., ca.1877-1878. They were part of six selected by Karen Pence, a former art teacher and the wife of former vice-president Mike Pence. A spokesperson for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Laura Baptiste, said in an email that those paintings are typically returned to the museum once the term is over and the new administration makes new requests. Larocque thinks Bannister's works would have special meaning to the new vice-president, Kamala Harris, who lived in Quebec and attended school there. "You would think Kamala Harris would, given her background, and the Canadian connection, be interested in keeping them there." The official residence is currently undergoing renovations, and there's no word yet on whether the new administration has made requests to the Smithsonian. This Bannister painting has been hanging in the White House since 2006. Five kilometres away from the vice-president's residence, on the walls of the White House, hangs Bannister's The Farm Landing, which was purchased for display in the building in 2006, during the term of George W. Bush. But does all this mean the artist is beginning to get his due? "Oh gosh, not yet," said Heller. "People still want to call him a Black artist. Until people call him an activist artist, he won't [get his due]." Some people are trying to change that. Heller is working on a short film, using Bannister's many paintings of coastal scenes, along with postcards of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to recreate a trip around New England's waters Bannister would have sailed in his day. And, she has plans for a series of films looking at other aspects of his life. Nova Scotia arts curator David Woods told CBC News last fall he is planning a retrospective on Bannister's career, which he hopes will happen in Sackville sometime in 2023. The Saint John Theatre Company's We Were Here production, recognizing New Brunswick's Black history, includes a piece on Bannister. And British art historian Anne Louise Avery has a book in the works on Bannister. Heller believes New Brunswickers should take pride in what Bannister accomplished, and the role the province and the community of Saint Andrews played in his formative years. "It's no accident that he flourished from there, it couldn't have happened anywhere else and you can quote me on that." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. 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(Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit) A historic brick building familiar to anyone who's driven through Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley has developed an unplanned skylight. A passerby on Highway 101 could be forgiven for not noticing the damage to the old textile mill in Windsor, N.S., but a closer look shows a significant chunk of the snow-covered roof is now resting on an angle on the second floor of the vacant three-storey building. It isn't clear when the collapse happened, but it was brought to the attention of the building's owners and local officials on Saturday. Word seemed to be spreading through the community the same day, with a steady stream of cars passing slowly for passengers to gawk; some stopping to take photos. Abraham Zebian, mayor of the Region of Windsor-West Hants Municipality, said he understands the interest and the attraction to the site, given its 140-year history in the community. Regardless, he said, "It's very important to stay away." Locals noticed the collapsed roof on Saturday. The owners of the building sent a structural engineer to assess the damage and prevent anyone from going inside — a not uncommon occurrence, despite 'no trespassing' signs. Owners assessing the damage Mike Gallant — a project manager for United Gulf Developments Ltd., which bought the property in 2018 — was on his way to inspect the site Saturday afternoon. He told CBC News the company was sorting out how to keep the public from going inside. Commissioning private security and putting up fences were both on the table. "It's an unfortunate situation, obviously. We're doing what we can to mitigate the issue. It's all about protecting the health and safety of the public and that's our first priority," he said. Gallant, who is a structural engineer, said prior to the collapse, he had been leading an assessment of the building. He said he hadn't yet learned enough about it to have predicted something like a roof collapse. "We'd just started wrapping our heads around it," Gallant said. The question he was trying to answer was whether a tear-down, renovation or sale would make the best business sense. Gallant said that question still remains. Representatives from the company and the municipality met earlier this month. From that meeting, Zebian said he believed the property owners were "very motivated to do something with the actual structure." He said he figured the roof collapse was "just a slight setback." Abraham Zebian, mayor of the Region of Windsor-West Hants Municipality, says he still thinks a revitalization of the building is possible. Zebian said many in the community keep close watch on the building. "It's an icon. Every day over 16,000 cars pass along the highway here and they see the building [from] its former glory, with the old smoke stack that stood at an angle, to what it is today." A 140-year history Built as a cotton spinning mill around 1881 (or 1884, by some accounts), the 74,631 square-foot building was an operational textile plant until 2005. According to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, that's the year Nova Scotia Textiles, Inc. consolidated with its Truro-based competitor, Stanfield's. The building has been vacant since then, but there were once plans to convert it into a retail and condo complex. In 2009, units were listed for sale ranging in price from about $200,000 to $585,000. It was marketed as "Mill Island — not just a home, but a destination, only a short hop from Nova Scotia's premier destinations!" This artist rendering was included in a 2009 real estate listing for 'Mill Island,' a complex that was supposed to have upscale condos, fine dining and specialty shops. The developers behind the project put the building up for sale in 2013. New windows were installed around the same era, but the project stalled and many of those same windows — designed to fit the 19th century esthetic, but some still bearing modern manufacturer stickers — have since been smashed. Photos and videos from inside the building are easy to find online, making it clear that it isn't difficult, or uncommon, for trespassers to visit. Interior walls are covered with graffiti, from elaborate, multi-coloured pieces to a simple, white "I love my mom," punctuated with a heart. 'It was a dangerous spot to be left wide open like that' Alex Hanes said he suspects he might have seen it all for the last time when he visited the site last weekend. The hobby photographer and life-long Windsor resident went to take some photos of the dilapidated building, suspecting that its end was near. "I know I shouldn't have been in there," Hanes said. But, he said, he didn't want to miss his chance to photograph it. "I figured if I was going to take some pictures of the interior I better just go ahead and do it." United Gulf Developments Ltd. bought the dilapidated structure in 2018. Hanes said he was glad to hear the owners were going to seal it off to the public. "It's a wonder someone wasn't hurt. There was big gaping holes in the floor. It was a dangerous spot to be left wide open like that." Still, Hanes said he hopes the structure can be saved. "It's a beautiful building, it's an icon of the community. A lot of the families raised their families, they raised their kids working at that mill." His family, included. Hanes said his grandmother worked at the mill for decades. MORE TOP STORIES
Hong Kong police on Sunday detained 47 pro-democracy activists on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the city's national security law, in the largest mass charge against the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's opposition camp since the law came into effect last June. The former lawmakers and democracy advocates had been previously arrested in a sweeping police operation in January but were released. They have been detained again and will appear in court on Monday, police said in a statement. They allegedly violated the national security law that was imposed by Beijing for participating in unofficial election primaries for Hong Kong's legislature last year. The defendants include 39 men and eight women aged between 23 and 64, police said. The move is part of a continuing crackdown on the city's democracy movement, with a string of arrests and prosecutions of Hong Kong's democracy proponents — including outspoken activists Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai — following months of anti-government protests in 2019. The pro-democracy camp had held the primaries to determine the best candidates to field to win a majority in the legislature and had plans to vote down major bills that would eventually force Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign. In January, 55 activists and former lawmakers were arrested for their roles in the primaries. Authorities said that the activists' participation was part of a plan to paralyze the city's legislature and subvert state power. The legislative election that would have followed the unofficial primaries was postponed by a year by Lam, who cited public health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. Mass resignations and disqualifications of pro-democracy lawmakers have left the legislature largely a pro-Beijing body. Among those arrested on Sunday was former lawmaker Eddie Chu. A post on his official Twitter account confirmed that he was being charged for conspiracy to commit subversion and that he was denied bail. “Thank you to the people of Hong Kong for giving me the opportunity to contribute to society in the past 15 years,” Chu said in a post on his Facebook page. Another candidate in the primaries, Winnie Yu, was also charged and will appear in court on Monday, according to a post on her official Facebook page. American lawyer John Clancey, a member of the now-defunct political rights group “Power for Democracy” who was arrested in January for his involvement in the primary, was not among those detained on Sunday. "I will give full support to those who have been charged and will be facing trial, because from my perspective, they have done nothing wrong,” Clancey told reporters. The security law criminalizes acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong's affairs. Serious offenders could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Nearly 100 people have been arrested since the law was implemented. Zen Soo, The Associated Press
Saudi Arabia's sovereignty is a red line, Saudi columnists said on Sunday, ramping up rhetoric in defense of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a U.S. intelligence report implicated him in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Mohammed, de facto ruler of the U.S.-allied Gulf powerhouse, has denied any involvement in the 2018 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
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!
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
SHANGHAI — Chinese Super League champion Jiangsu FC announced Sunday it would “cease operations” with immediate effect, just three months after winning its first title. Nanjing-based Jiangsu, which is owned by retail giant Suning that also holds a majority stake in Italian league leader Inter Milan, said on social media that it hoped that a new backer could be found after the company pulled out. “Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement,” a Jiangsu FC statement said. “From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.” Suning had reportedly tried to sell Jiangsu, which has debts estimated to be around $90 million. Also folding are Jiangsu’s successful women’s team and various youth teams. Earlier this month, Suning owner Zhang Jindong said the group would cut back on non-retail activities after a difficult year in which revenues had been hit by COVID-19. “We will focus on retail business and close and cut down our businesses that are not connected to businesses,” he said. There have been reports in Italy that Suning, which bought a majority stake in Inter in 2016, is looking to sell the Milan club. Jiangsu will be the second Chinese team to withdraw from the Asian Champions League that kicks off in April. Shandong Luneng was kicked out of the competition for breaching rules regarding outstanding salary payments. There are concerns that Jiangsu may soon be followed by Tianjin Tigers. Club owner Teda has cut investment in the team it has owned since 1998 after the Chinese Football Association ruled this year that all team names must be free from corporate titles. Last year, the city’s other club, Tianjin Tianhai, went bankrupt. Chinese soccer became one of the biggest-spending leagues in the world over the past decade. Star players including Hulk, Oscar and Paulinho arrived in the country along with World Cup winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe-Scolari. In a bid to cut costs, a new salary cap has been imposed for the 2021 season that will limit club expenditures to $90 million a year. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press