The Omicron flood and bells peel for Desmond Tutu: In The News for Dec. 27

·7 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 27 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

UNDATED — COVID-19 cases continue to mount across Canada as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus becomes further entrenched in the country.

Ontario reported more than 9,800 new cases of the virus yesterday, Quebec counted roughly 8,000, and in Nova Scotia more than 1,100 were confirmed over the weekend.

The high case counts came as new restrictions went into force in Quebec, capping private gatherings at six people or two household bubbles.

And an increasing number of athletes testing positive for the virus prompted Curling Canada to cancel Olympic mixed doubles trials yesterday.

Meanwhile, public health experts expect case counts to continue to climb, given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

And that has renewed their concerns about the capacity of Canada's hospitals and health-care workers to handle another wave of the pandemic.

Several provinces have asked people to get tested only if they have symptoms as hospitals and centres have reached their testing limits.

Health-care analysts have said this means there are likely far more cases than have been reported.

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Also this ...

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the world has lost one of the strongest moral voices with the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Tutu, South Africa's Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon, an uncompromising foe of apartheid and a modern-day activist for racial justice and LGBT rights, died Sunday at 90.

Trudeau says in a statement that he was "deeply saddened" to learn of Tutu's death.

The prime minister called Tutu's life "remarkable," saying the archbishop used his vision of interconnectedness, equality, and forgiveness to fight for a better, more peaceful world.

He also noted Tutu's visit to Canada, in which the archbishop advocated for truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Trudeau also highlighted Tutu’s fight to eradicate poverty, child marriage and racism, and the archbishop’s encouragement of young people to be more engaged in creating a peaceful world.

"On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to Archbishop Tutu's family and friends, and the South African people," Trudeau said.

"His unwavering optimism against great odds, along with his boundless faith in humanity, will continue to inspire us all."

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

SAN JOSE — The jury weighing fraud charges against former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes will start their second week of deliberations today.

Holmes faces 11 criminal charges alleging that she duped investors and patients by hailing her company’s blood-testing technology as a medical breakthrough when in actuality it didn't work.

The eight men and four women on the jury have been meeting in a San Jose, California, federal courthouse after absorbing reams of evidence during a high-profile trial that has captivated Silicon Valley since it began in early September.

The jurors deliberated for three days last week before adjourning Thursday afternoon for the holiday weekend.

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Also this ...

NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell reached her 60th birthday behind bars this past Saturday, as a jury in New York prepares to go back to work today to decide her sex trafficking trial.

The British socialite returns to court to await word from a jury entering a third day of deliberations.

The panel got the case last week after hearing more than two dozen witnesses over three weeks.

Prosecutors say Maxwell recruited teenage girls for sex acts with financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Her attorneys say the government is using her as a scapegoat after Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial.

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

JOHANNESBURG — Bells will ring at midday in Cape Town from St. George’s Anglican Cathedral to honor Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a day after his death at the age of 90.

The bells at the cathedral, where Tutu urged South Africans of all races to work together against apartheid, will toll for 10 minutes at noon for five days starting today to mark Tutu’s life.

The current archbishop asked everyone who heard the bells to pause for a moment and remember Tutu.

Tutu’s body will lie in state at the cathedral in Cape Town on Friday before a requiem mass is held Saturday.

In addition, an ecumenical service will be held for Tutu on Wednesday in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.

The activist prelate worked against South Africa's apartheid regime that oppressed the country's Black majority.

Following the end of apartheid in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that documented atrocities and sought to promote national reconciliation.

He also became one of the world's most prominent religious leaders to champion LGBTQ rights.

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In entertainment ...

LOS ANGELES — Director and producer Jean-Marc Vallée, who won an Emmy for directing the hit HBO series “Big Little Lies” and whose 2013 drama “Dallas Buyers Club” earned multiple Oscar nominations, has died. He was 58.

His representative Bumble Ward said Sunday that Vallée died suddenly in his cabin outside Quebec City, Canada, over the weekend.

Vallée was acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking, directing stars including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal over the past decade.

He directed Emily Blunt in 2009's “The Young Victoria” and became a sought-after name in Hollywood after “Dallas Buyers Club,” featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, earned six Academy Awards nominations, including best picture.

He often shot with natural light and hand-held cameras and gave actors freedom to improvise the script and move around within a scene’s location. The crew roamed up and down the Pacific Coast Trail to shoot Witherspoon in 2014's “Wild."

“They can move anywhere they want,” the Canadian filmmaker said of his actors in a 2014 interview with The Associated Press. “It’s giving the importance to storytelling, emotion, characters. I try not to interfere too much. I don’t need to cut performances. Often, the cinematographer and I were like, ‘This location sucks. It’s not very nice. But, hey, that’s life.’”

He re-teamed with Witherspoon to direct the first season of “Big Little Lies” in 2017, and directed Adams in 2018′s “Sharp Objects,” also for HBO. Vallée won DGA awards for both.

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ICYMI ...

HALIFAX — Chris Harvey-Clark says a close underwater encounter earlier this year with one of the ocean's great predators has changed his diving plans for 2022.

On Nov. 9, 2021, as Dalhousie University's veterinarian was scuba diving in waters off Halifax, hoping to see torpedo rays, he was hunted by a great white shark 23 metres below the surface.

In a recent interview, the diver recalled how the juvenile shark's length of two to three metres indicated the animal was at its most dangerous stage of development — when it stops focusing on hunting fish and starts seeking large mammals. Rather than being intimidated by the bubbles, noise and lights of the underwater human, the shark seemed curious and appeared to go into stalking mode, the researcher said.

"These days we don't have the opportunity much to be hunted by large predators, but I can tell you large parts of your brain light right up when you're on the receiving end," he said. The animal cruised by him three times, he said, adding that it was a clear sign of its interest in him as prey.

Harvey-Clark said the experience changed his approach to diving at the site.

"My willingness to get in the water in that area from August to November is going to go way down," said Harvey-Clark, who teaches a summer course on sharks at Dalhousie.

The waters of the coastal Atlantic are warming, and researchers are reporting more shark sightings. Harvey-Clark suggests it's reaching a point where it's wise for frequent divers and students of the ocean to consider the risks and be aware of their presence.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2021

The Canadian Press

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