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Come From Away plays to (almost) packed crowds in Australia, restoring sense of community

While most theatre companies wait to safely welcome back audiences, Come From Away is playing eight shows a week in Melbourne, Australia, to an almost packed house.

The musical retelling of how the citizens of Gander, N.L., responded during the events of 9/11 is one of the most successful Canadian theatrical exports, spawning numerous productions in North America, Britain and Australia.

Nine months into its run in Melbourne, Come From Away was forced to close its doors as the country worked to get the coronavirus under control.

Now, with the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne down to single digits, Come From Away has raised the curtain again. The Australian production, which resumed on Jan. 19, was one of the first shows to welcome back audiences, with new safety measures.

Contact tracing is required for all ticket holders, as is mandatory mask-wearing, and the 1,003-seat Comedy Theatre is limited to 85 per cent capacity.


Musical director Luke Hunter describes how ‘moving’ it was to hear a live audience roar after living through months of Australia’s restrictive lockdown measures. (CBC News)

Luke Hunter, the company’s musical director, remembers all too well the months of strict lockdown stuck in his apartment. He says the feeling from audiences when the cast returned to work surprised him.

Come From Away ends with a dramatic flourish as the lights go out and Hunter stands on a chair playing the accordion.

On the show’s opening night, the crowd roared. “I’d forgotten how impactful it is to hear the sound of a group of people that have been through an experience together…. It was really moving,” Hunter said.


In Melbourne, fans such as Mike Benjamin are returning to see the show again because of what it represents.

“With the show being uplifting, it is that sense [that] I’m able to return to a sense of normality. It does warm the soul.”

As Benjamin drove home after the show, he listened to a news item about a new case of COVID-19 discovered in the community. While he said he doesn’t relish the idea of another lockdown, he thinks that’s why the musical’s message resonates.

“I think the big theme there is about looking out for other people and recognizing that we’re in this together.”


A big fan of Come From Away, Mike Benjamin, shown with a friend, went to see the musical again as soon as it reopened in Melbourne. (Submitted by Mike Benjamin)

American actor Sharriese Hamilton plays Hannah in the Australian production and understands all too intimately the toll the virus can take.

When the production first shut down, she flew home to Chicago, where restrictions were less effective.

Hamilton lost some of her relatives to COVID-19, including the family’s matriarch. She went from performing for hundreds to trying to grieve over loved ones via Zoom.


Sharriese Hamilton went home to Chicago when Come From Away first shut down in March 2020. After losing family members to COVID-19, she now channels that experience into her nightly performances. (CBC News)

Now she finds herself back on the other side of the globe, where the sun is shining and theatres are open. Seeing the audience there waiting, Hamilton choked back tears.

“Being in that room with all of those people who came out and put their masks on, it was an overwhelming feeling. I think we all were just like, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.'”

For Hunter, Hamilton and the rest of the cast and crew, the pandemic has changed what Come From Away stands for.

“It’s definitely deepened the message,” Hamilton said. “There’s a very different energy amongst us on stage and amongst the audience that we’ve been through something and we need each other.”

Performers talk about providing a service and feeling the audience respond and revel in the shared experience. But Hunter says the Australian company is also acting as a beacon for the the other Come From Away companies, still waiting to return.

“I’m acutely aware … when I sit down to conduct the show that there are four other companies of this show that are not doing what we get to do,” he said.

WATCH: Come From Away theatre companies send messages for opening night:

While the show goes on in Melbourne, the four other Come From Away productions sent messages to be played on opening night. ‘Chookas’ is an Australian expression that means good luck or break a leg. 1:18

For opening night, the Come From Away teams on Broadway, in Toronto and London, as well as with the touring company contributed a special video message played for the audience.

In the now-familiar mosaic of Zoom squares, the cast and crew members wished the Melbourne company “Chookas,” an Australian expression similar to break a leg or good luck.

“It has been unexpected to feel that responsibility, heartwarming as well,” Hunter said.

WATCH | Australian audiences return to theatre for Come From Away:

With its low COVID-19 case numbers, Melbourne, Australia, has reopened its theatres to audiences, and Come From Away — set in Gander, N.L., after 9/11 — is one of the first productions returning to the stage. 2:03

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Hyundai Is Buying Boston Dynamics for Almost $1 Billion

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If you’ve ever seen a video of an unsettlingly lifelike robot, it was probably a Boston Dynamics machine. The company just started selling its first product, the Spot quadruped robot. Owner SoftBank apparently feels this is the best time to unload the company, which it purchased from Google in 2017. Now, Hyundai Motor Company is set to acquire Boston Dynamics for $ 921 million

The history of Boston Dynamics reaches back 28 years to 1992 when engineer Marc Raibert spun the company off from an MIT project. For most of its history, Boston Dynamics did research and robotics work for the US military and DARPA, showing off incredible bots like the load-hauling Big Dog and the super-fast Cheetah. There’s also the humanoid ATLAS, which you can see going for a jog below. Boston Dynamics’ profile rose in the early 2010s thanks to videos of its robots in action. The company would go quiet for months at a time and then post a video of robots doing parkour, karate, and sprinting. You know, all the things you don’t want robots able to do in case of a robot apocalypse. 

Interest in the company led Google to purchase it in 2013 as a plaything for Android founder Andy Rubin — this was, of course, long before Rubin’s troubling behavior led to his departure from Google. With the robotics nut no longer on the payroll, Google handed Boston Dynamics off to SoftBank, and now it’s changing hands again. 

Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS robot can get up to a respectable trot.

Unfortunately, Google and SoftBank never announced a purchase price, so we don’t know if SoftBank is losing anything on the nearly $ 1 billion deal. Boston Dynamics is worth a tidy sum if only for its patent portfolio, but the value is no doubt helped by its first semi-consumer product. Spot launched earlier this year, priced at $ 74,500. The canine-style robot can carry small loads, perform inspections, and just generally creep everyone out. You can go to the Boston Dynamics store and order a Spot for delivery in 6-8 weeks, but you probably don’t have any use for it. There are plenty of companies that do, though. 

Hyundai is a fitting home for Boston Dynamics — the company has been investing heavily in robotics technology in recent years and plans to invest up to 1.5 trillion won (US$ 1.4 billion) in the industry by 2025. Buying Boston Dynamics is a big step in the direction. Most of Hyundai’s bots have been of the wheeled variety, but Boston Dynamics is building the most impressive walking robots in the world right now. Hyundai is expected to approve the deal in a board meeting today (December 10).

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Why Trump’s 4-front attack on U.S. election result is almost certain to fail

Several world leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made a bet this week when they congratulated Joe Biden on his U.S. election win.

They were wagering on normalcy.

Because normally, the loser of a U.S. election accepts the result, colleagues acknowledge he’s the loser and the loser helps the successor prepare for the transition of power.

Donald Trump, however, is not a normal loser.

He has not conceded, he’s not assisting president-elect Joe Biden’s transition, and most of his Republican colleagues are remaining silent or urging him to fight on.

WATCH | U.S. attorney general authorizes election probe despite lack of evidence:

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has authorized federal prosecutors to pursue ‘substantial allegations’ of voting irregularities, despite a lack of evidence that voter fraud occurred during the presidential election.   5:52

In fact, more foreign leaders have declared the election over than the number of U.S. Senate Republicans to do so: just a few of the 53 Republicans have conceded their former Senate colleague, Biden, has won.

The president and his allies, meanwhile, are fighting Biden’s win on four fronts: on the street, in the courts, in the bureaucracy and in state legislatures.

And, of course, on social media. They’re deluging the internet with claims about irregularities — claims either being disputed, debunked, contradicted, mocked, or which involve too small a number of ballots to affect the result.

Will any of this change the election outcome? Not a chance, according to several election-law experts, including two interviewed for this story and others who have weighed in elsewhere

“Trump is just not going to get a majority of electoral [college] votes,” said Trey Hood, who studies election administration at the University of Georgia in Athens.

“It doesn’t matter whether Trump concedes or not.”

His colleague Michael Hanmer at the University of Maryland agrees the rules are too clear and Biden’s lead too large for Trump’s gambit to have any chance of success.

But it could be a disruptive moment for the country, as the president stokes the anger of his base on the following fronts.


Biden says he’s getting on with his transition. However, he’s not allowed access to government offices, or personnel, or public funding. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

On the street: protests ahead

Several pro-Trump events are planned Saturday in Washington, D.C., and they’re being promoted online by Trump’s allies.

That has some locals worried about the potential for conflict, pitting residents of the capital, who overwhelmingly oppose Trump, against pro-Trump tourists.

Local authorities have expressed concern about one far-right rally and warned that guns will not be allowed to be carried openly in the city.

“We continue to follow those activities and be prepared for those activities,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

WATCH | Trump’s election response not a surprise, says former Gore advisor: 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to results showing Joe Biden won the election was expected, said Elaine Kamarck, former Al Gore campaign adviser, who also suggested that ongoing challenges to results are designed to stir up resentment and bitterness among Trump supporters.   8:33

The city also said this week that no permits had been requested for the events. 

Demonstrations elsewhere in the country have become tense. There have even been death threats against election officials — including Republicans, in several states

These events illustrate the uncommon pressure on Republican officials at the state level who play a role in the election certification process.

One conservative organizer said Trump supporters are right to be skeptical if they see irregularities. He said they expect the same of their party leaders.

“Republicans want to fight,” said Matt Batzel, the Wisconsin-based organizer of the conservative group American Majority. 

“The base does not want this election taken from them. They want leaders who want to fight.”

WATCH | Trump campaign continues to push back against U.S. election results:

The Trump campaign has launched a lawsuit challenging election results in Michigan, while the White House continues to keep president-elect Joe Biden’s transition team in limbo. 1:50

Pressure on state officials

This grassroots pressure on officials extends to legislatures in swing states, which are virtually all controlled by Republicans. A number of Trump supporters are demanding they overturn the reported result.

From the very moment Biden pulled ahead, some voices on the right demanded that state legislatures push aside governors and election boards and declare that they have the constitutional power to name electoral college slates for their state.


Republicans, represented in red, control the legislatures in the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. (National Council of State Legislatures)

Trump has even alluded to this idea in a tweet. 

He referred to an event that would usually not warrant his attention: votes in the Pennsylvania legislature to decide who will hold key leadership positions. Trump said he hoped Republicans will choose fighters, and he added: “We will WIN!!”

Senior Pennsylvania Republicans have repeatedly said they won’t flip the result as state law gives the governor, a Democrat, power to name the electoral college slate.

Hanmer called the idea of a legislature overturning a result democratically radioactive: “It would call into question our most basic assumptions about elections,” he said.

It would also be electorally pointless, Hood said, as Trump has lost in too many states for such a radical gambit to work.  

Legislatures could, in theory, take the lesser step of trying to hamper their state’s certification process.


Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has come under attack from Republican colleagues who support Trump’s questioning of the integrity of election results and demanded his resignation. He has announced a recount of every ballot cast in the state. (Brynn Anderson/The Associated Press)

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Georgia are pushing for their states’ top election officials to resign. They are also demanding audits of all votes in their states.

That could take time. 

Under attack by his own party, the top Georgia official, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, has announced that every ballot will be recounted by hand.

He intends to have the count done by next week despite reports Raffensperger is now quarantining after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. 

A Pennsylvania Republican leader says he won’t interfere in the electoral college:


Such recounts face real deadline pressure.

Key states must announce the final result within weeks: Georgia’s result-certification deadline is next Friday; Pennsylvania’s and Michigan’s are Nov. 23; Arizona’s is Nov. 30; and Wisconsin’s is Dec. 1.

They must then formally report their results a week before Dec. 14, when the electoral college meets to officially pick the president.

These deadlines are serious. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the Bush vs. Gore case in 2000, suggested that missing such deadlines could cancel a state’s votes.

So recounts might slow the process. But could they affect the result? Not if history is any guide. Recounts in 2016 produced a net change of 131 votes in Wisconsin and 103 votes in Michigan, for example.


A number of protests have erupted as Trump supporters doubt the election result, such as this one at a vote-counting site in Phoenix on Nov. 6 ( Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

That’s not close to the game changer Trump would need. He’s losing by 50,000 votes in Pennsylvania, and the gap is growing, by 145,000 votes in Michigan, by 20,000 in Wisconsin, by 14,000 in Georgia and 13,000 in Arizona.

To win, he would need a minimum of three states to flip his way.

Court fights failing so far 

Republicans have launched and lost about a dozen post-election legal cases. Yet Trump has said he wants to keep pushing the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One Trump lawsuit seeks to suspend Pennsylvania’s process for certifying the vote result. 

Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner who runs elections in Philadelphia and has received death threats, said lies and exaggerations about the result are popping up faster than he can debunk them.

“I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact,” he told CNN.

“One thing I can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies — consume information that is not true.” 

WATCH | Trudeau asked about his call with Biden and his relations with Trump:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by phone yesterday with U.S President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris. 0:45

He said he inspected rampant rumours that people who had died were illegally registered as voters in Philadelphia. Not a single example turned out to be true, he said.

Yet some allegations linger. In one suit filed in Michigan by a conservative group, a Detroit city employee who was reportedly furloughed earlier this year said she witnessed some election irregularities before she left in September, such as city election workers ignoring ID requirements and encouraging people to vote for Democrats.

Groups are even offering money for more witnesses to come forward. One group, Project Veritas, is offering up to $ 25,000 US.

It said a Pennsylvania postal worker alleged the backdating of some votes to meet a Nov. 3 deadline. He later recanted his story under questioning from postal service investigators, then changed it one more time.


Chester County, Pa., election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots a day after the election. It was Pennsylvania that ultimately gave Biden the electoral college votes he needed to be declared the winner, but the tight margins in that state have made it a focus of the Trump teams efforts to contest some ballots. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press)

In Texas, the state’s lieutenant-governor said he’s paying up to $ 1 million US for fraud tips.

Hood and Hanmer, for their part, saluted the work of election officials, whom they said did a great job under difficult circumstances given the pandemic. Hood even monitored about a dozen polling stations in Georgia as a non-partisan observer: “I observed no problems. Things were very efficient.” 

The bureaucracy weighs in

Biden’s transition is being impeded financially and logistically at the bureaucratic level. 

A Trump appointee who runs the General Services Administration has refused to sign a letter authorizing the start of the transition process.

WATCH | Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge Biden won is ‘not of much consequence’: 

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden said Monday his transition is ‘well underway’ despite some Republicans’ denial of his victory. 0:50

That has deprived Biden of the use of government resources, office space and funding to plan the transition in various government departments. 

Biden is also not receiving the daily intelligence briefing that he normally would as president-elect. 

Meanwhile, Trump has in recent days made a series of unusual national security moves for a president who’s supposed to be on his way out of office. 

He has just fired the top civilian leaders of the military — and brought in some partisan appointees. 

He’s also reportedly wanted to fire the head of the CIA, who is now being criticized online by the president’s allies, including his son

WATCH | Biden calls Trump’s unwillingness to concede ’embarrassing’: 

Donald Trump and most of his team still refuse to admit that the Republican president lost last Tuesday’s U.S. election, resisting the usual transitional protocols. Joe Biden calls it embarrassing, as he prepares to move into the White House in January. 2:03

Biden insists he’s not worried. 

He downplayed the drama about him not getting security briefings or transition funding and said it will all work out.

He called the president’s behaviour “an embarrassment” for him and his legacy, and expressed confidence when asked if his old Republican colleagues in the Senate would come around. “They will,” he said.

What’s Trump’s goal?


Trump supporters are angry and are even turning on Fox News for allegedly not being supportive enough of the president, as seen in a protest outside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Democrats and some media outlets have floated a variety of theories on the U.S. president’s endgame. 

Does he actually hope to flip the result? Is he raising money for his new political action committee? Is it a face-saving exercise? The news site Axios this week reported that Trump intends to launch a competitor to Fox News, and that he may hold rallies to bash Fox for being insufficiently loyal to him.

There are reports Trump plans to start a competitor to Fox News:


There are also varying theories about why elected Republicans are slow to acknowledge the result. A common one is that they’re fearful of angering Trump supporters right now.

Republicans need Trump fans to turn out for two critical elections in Georgia that will decide control of the U.S. Senate.

There’s one weakness, if that’s the strategy. It’s the calendar. Republicans can’t sit on the fence for long. Those Georgia elections aren’t until January, and the next president will be chosen far sooner. 

The electoral college vote, on Dec. 14, wouldn’t usually be dramatic — at least not in normal times.  

WATCH | Former head of U.S. Homeland Security under George W. Bush on dangers of delaying transition of power:

Michael Chertoff, former head of U.S. Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, explains why facilitating the incoming administration’s transition to power is urgent — and why refusal to do so, endangers the lives of the American people. 1:27

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Daily coronavirus cases, deaths on the rise in almost every U.S. state

Texas on Wednesday became the first state with more than one million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and California closed in on that mark as a surge of coronavirus infections engulfs the U.S.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.

Texas, the country’s second-most populous state, has recorded 1.02 million coronavirus cases and more than 19,000 deaths since the outbreak began in early March, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. California, the most populous state, has logged more than 995,000 cases.

The U.S. has recorded more than 240,000 deaths and more than 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions.

Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39. A month ago, the U.S. was seeing about 730 COVID-19 deaths per day on average. It has now surpassed 970.


According to the COVID Tracking Project by The Atlantic, there have been about 15,000 new hospitalizations since the Nov. 3 election.

Among the many health officials sounding the alarm is Dr. Julie Watson of Integris Health in Oklahoma.

“We are in trouble,” she said. “If nothing is done soon to slow the rise in cases, our hospitals will be more overwhelmed than they already are and we won’t be able to be there for all of those who need it.”

Subdued Veterans Day ceremonies

Oklahoma’s health department said Wednesday that 1,248 people were hospitalized for confirmed or probable coronavirus, shattering the previous one-day record of 1,055.

Texas reported 10,865 new cases on Tuesday, breaking a record set in mid-July. One of the hardest-hit places is the border city of El Paso; its county has nearly 28,000 active cases and has suffered more than 680 COVID-19 deaths.


A person enters a tent for a coronavirus test at a test site in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The United States recorded its 10 millionth case of the coronavirus this week. (Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

The American Medical Association renewed its plea for mask-wearing, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.

“With the holidays quickly approaching, each of us must do everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” AMA president Susan Bailey said. “Failing to do our part will prolong the suffering and disruption to our lives and inevitably lead to more deaths of our friends, neighbours and loved ones.”

Meanwhile, many traditional Veterans Day celebrations gave way to sombre virtual gatherings on Wednesday. Many veterans homes have barred visitors to protect their residents from the virus.

In New York City, a quiet parade of military vehicles, with no spectators, rolled through Manhattan to maintain the 101-year tradition of veterans marching on Fifth Avenue.


Medical workers operate a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on Wednesday. Restaurants, bars and gyms will have to close at 10 p.m. across New York state in the latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

More than 4,200 veterans have died from COVID-19 at hospitals and homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nearly 85,000 have been infected, according to the department.

Here are some other steps being taken around the country:

Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine issued new orders on mask enforcement at businesses, while threatening to close bars, restaurants and fitness centres if infections keep surging. The Republican governor shifted the authority over mask enforcement from the counties to the state. But DeWine’s orders Wednesday were not as far-reaching as in March, when Ohio became one of the first states to go into lockdown.

Nebraska: New restrictions took effect Wednesday, including a requirement to wear masks at businesses where employees have close contact with customers for more than 15 minutes, such as barbershops, and a limit on large indoor gatherings to 25 per cent of a building’s capacity. Gov. Pete Ricketts and his wife have gone into quarantine after being exposed to someone with the virus.

Kentucky: The governor implored people to wear masks as the state posted a record daily high for new confirmed cases, at 2,700.

Minnesota: The NFL’s Vikings will close their remaining home games to fans, as the state blew past its record for new deaths in a day. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants and said he wishes the neighbouring Dakotas would take more aggressive steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He said this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was “absolutely unnecessary” and helped spread the virus beyond that state.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken cast a tie-breaking vote that defeated a proposed mask mandate. 

North Dakota: The state continues to have the most new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data, with one in every 83 residents testing positive in the past week.

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85% of Ont. nursing homes break the law repeatedly with almost no consequences, data analysis shows

When Von took his mother out of his home and placed her in Craiglee Nursing Home in Scarborough, Ont., he and his wife, Mary, thought they were doing what was best for her.

But instead of loving care, Von’s mother, Kostadinka, was met with physical and emotional abuse at the hands of at least four different care workers, caught on a camera they had hidden in her room.

“It was like a horror film,” said Mary. “I will never be able to unsee those things.”

What they didn’t know at the time was that the home had a long and repeated history of staff physically abusing the residents. They didn’t know — but the government did.

WATCH | Son says he ‘couldn’t believe’ what hidden camera caught workers doing to his mother:

This man installed a hidden camera in his mother’s room at a long-term care home in Scarborough, Ont. The videos showed different employees physically and verbally abusing the 82-year-old. She was “holding onto the bed rails for dear life,” her son said. 5:00

A data analysis of the most serious breaches of Ontario’s long-term care home safety legislation reveals that six in seven care homes are repeat offenders, and there are virtually no consequences for homes that break that law repeatedly.

CBC Marketplace reviewed 10,000 inspection reports and found over 30,000 “written notices,” or violations of the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Regulations (LTCHA), between 2015 and 2019 inclusive. The LTCHA sets out minimum safety standards that every care home in Ontario must meet.

Marketplace isolated 21 violation codes for some of the most serious or dangerous offences, including abuse, inadequate infection control, unsafe medication storage, inadequate hydration, and poor skin and wound care, among others. The analysis found that of the 632 homes in the Ontario database, 538 — or 85 per cent — were repeat offenders.

Jane Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, said the high number of repeated incidents shows that non-compliance with the law has been normalized within care homes.


Meadus said lack of proper care can lead to bedsores, for example, which residents can die from.

“If that person was in your home, if you were caring for your parent and they had these giant bedsores, you would likely be charged criminally for that,” she said. 

“A home has never been charged criminally for what I think is criminal behaviour.”

‘We couldn’t believe what we saw’

Craiglee Nursing Home was one of at least 248 homes that have been written up twice or more for abuse and 101 homes that have repeatedly failed to report abuse.

Craiglee also had repeated violations for neglect, lack of infection control, medication errors, and poor skin and wound care. 

Unaware of the home’s history, Von and Mary entrusted the home with Kostadinka’s care in 2017 when her needs became more than a two person job.

Marketplace has agreed to tell their story using only their first names because they fear retaliation against them and their business.


Kostadinka, pictured here at 80 years old, lived at Craiglee Nursing Home for two years. While there, she encountered physical and verbal abuse from the workers who were entrusted with her care. (Submitted by Von and Mary)

When they saw Kostadinka’s health declining, the couple put a camera in Von’s mother’s room as a precautionary measure in April of 2019, not expecting to see any problems. The camera ran for weeks before they were able to see what it had captured.

“We couldn’t believe what we saw,” said Von. “Abuse, torture, her holding onto the bed rails for dear life.”

The videos showed several employees yanking on Kostadinka’s arms, swatting her hands, or rubbing spilled food in her face. Although the videos have no audio, employees could be seen yelling at Kostadinka as she lay in bed, unable to move without their help.

More residents abused after videos submitted to ministry

After Von and Mary saw the extent of the abuse, they decided to call police. A personal support worker was arrested and ultimately entered into a three-year peace bond, agreeing not to work with vulnerable people. Kostadinka was moved to a different care home, where she died late last year. 

The home would not agree to an interview with CBC. But Candace Chartier with Southbridge Care Homes, Craiglee’s parent company, offered a statement.

“We strongly condemn the actions of the individuals involved,” Chartier said in the statement. She said the home investigated Kostadinka’s abuse in July of 2019 and reported it to police, after which one staff member was criminally charged and “several others were terminated.”


Candace Chartier, the chief seniors’ advocate and strategic partnerships officer at Southbridge Care Homes — the parent company of Hope Street Terrace — says she ‘strongly condemns’ the abuse that went on in the home. (CBC)

Chartier said they also “re-educated all staff in the home on [the] zero-tolerance policy” for abuse, and enhanced their training.

The Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care’s inspection report from September 2019 that detailed Kostadinka’s abuse revealed a lack of staff training on abuse policies. Yet, four months later, another report revealed 9.2 per cent of actively working staff had still not completed the mandatory training. Six months later, another incident of staff-to-resident abuse was documented in yet another report. There have also been incidents of financial abuse and resident-on-resident abuse.

Von said he was “disgusted” to learn that even after he sent video evidence of his mother’s abuse to the ministry, there have been more written notices at Craiglee for abuse.

“What does it take?” said Von. “We brought it to the ministry’s attention, brought it to the director of care’s attention, we brought it to the authorities, to the police.”

“Everything my mom endured was all for naught.”


Von shares a moment with his mother, Kostadinka, at Craiglee nursing home before he finds out she is being physically abused by staff members there. He managed to have her transferred to a different long-term care home, where she died in 2019. (Submitted by Von and Mary)

Family fights for criminal charges for nursing homes

While physical abuse is fairly clear, neglect can take on many forms such as lack of hydration or failure to provide baths. Two hundred and twenty-six homes had repeat offences for failing to “ensure that residents are not neglected by the licensee or staff,” but many more incidents were filed under different codes for specific acts of neglect, like improper skin and wound care — 278 homes had repeat offences.

Beverley Haines died in February of this year, only six weeks after she moved into Hope Street Terrace in Port Hope, Ont., because of large bedsores she sustained at the home. Sparky Johnson and Sherry Schernitzki, Haines’s niece, are fighting to have the home’s administration held criminally responsible for her death.

The partners, now separated, said that on the day Haines moved from a hospital into the home in January 2020, the staff identified a “hot spot,” or patch of red skin. These spots must be monitored or treated so they don’t get worse, and the pair left with confidence that it would be taken care of.

But the pair weren’t informed that the hot spot had become an open bedsore until 23 days later. At that point, it had already progressed to a wound the size of a saucer with bone exposed. 

“If the treatment had started when this bedsore was small, it should never ever have gotten to that,” said Schernitzki.

“It’s horrific. It’s criminal,” said Johnson.

The home had been written up for lack of proper wound care before. Reports from 2016 and 2018 both found the home was not following proper protocols for caring for “altered skin integrity.”

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE


A sign depicting graphic images of Beverley Haines’s bedsore rests against a stop sign beside Queen’s Park in Toronto. Sparky Johnson brought the sign to a rally for long-term care outside the Ontario Legislature, but was asked to take it off the property because it was too graphic. (Katie Pedersen/CBC)

Johnson called the ministry to report the bedsore, but was told an inspection would take some time. She made another call to police, and an investigation was launched.

She began documenting problems at the home, including multiple instances where Haines was left in bed all day, lying on her back on the open bedsore.


Sparky Johnson, left, and Sherry Schernitzki, right, want criminal charges laid after Schernitzki’s aunt, Beverley Haines, died from her bedsore at a Port Hope, Ont., long-term care facility. They are pictured here in a memorial garden where they plan to lay a plaque for Haines. (Katie Pedersen/CBC)

The ministry published a report in June finding the home’s records didn’t show proper monitoring of the bedsore, which should have included repositioning every one to two hours to ensure she wasn’t lying on the wound.

“It was an excellent report, but what happens now? Who follows up?” said Schernitzki. “There are no consequences.”

By the time that report was released, it was too late to address the issues within it. Haines died on Feb. 29. The family says they were told by the investigating coroner that she died of sepsis from the bedsore. 

The couple felt strongly that the home was criminally negligent, but the police investigation was closed after Haines died without charges being laid. They continue to fight, filing a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a civilian body that oversees complaints about police in Ontario. The case has since been reopened.


Haines, pictured here at 75, was an accountant throughout her life who enjoyed painting and spending time at her cottage in Harcourt, Ont., about 100 kilometres north of Peterborough. She died at Hope Street Terrace in Port Hope at 85. (Submitted by Sherry Schernitzki)

The home said it is “deeply saddened about the passing of this resident” and that its “utmost priorities are the safety and well-being of our residents.”

‘No tolerance’ for abuse, says minister

Most homes have not faced any punishment for failure to comply with the law. Only two Ontario homes have been shut down in the last decade for repeatedly failing to meet safety standards. Other sanctions available to the ministry appear to be ineffective in preventing future repeat offences.

Marketplace host David Common called into a press conference with Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton earlier this week to ask her to speak to the fact that despite orders that are available to inspectors, homes still appear to make the same behaviours repeatedly.

“There’s no tolerance whatsoever for negligence or abuse,” she said, noting that she feels her government is prioritizing serious offences in their inspections. 

“They must be dealt with in a fulsome way.”

‘No consequence,’ says former inspector

But a former inspector said that in her experience, issues weren’t dealt with in a fulsome way, and that’s part of the reason why she left the job.

Rebecca de Witte, who worked as an inspector for three years up until March of 2017, said she felt identifying problems in the homes wasn’t helping get rid of them. 

“When you arrive, everything looks really good. And then as time goes by, old habits crop up again,” she said.

She said she would often inspect a home and find the same problems that she saw when she had last been there.

“There is no consequence if the homes completely ignore everything you find,” she said.


Rebecca de Witte used to inspect long-term care homes. She said she often found the same problems over and over again in the homes, and that there were no consequences when homes ignored the findings of her reports. (CBC)

Federal government proposing new rules

In its speech from the throne in October, the federal government promised to work with the provinces and territories to set out a national standard of care for long-term care, and would amend the Criminal Code in order to “explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care.”

For de Witte, governments need to focus on the big picture instead of what she calls “band-aid” fixes.

“Funding for air conditioning isn’t going to help long-term care, but changing the buildings will,” she said. “Pandemic pay isn’t going to help long-term care, but changing the funding model will.” 

Meadus wants to see criminal charges for negligence and monetary penalties for repeat offenders.  

“If the home is not able to provide safe care they shouldn’t be in business,” she said.

Click here to see the methodology of our investigation and statements from those featured in our story.

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CBC | Health News

Protesters gather after Polish court supports almost total ban on abortion

Protesters gathered across Poland on Thursday after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional, banning the most common of the few legal grounds for ending a pregnancy in the largely Catholic country.

After the ruling goes into effect, abortion will only be permissible in Poland in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s health and life are in danger, which make up only about two per cent of legal terminations conducted in recent years.
 
“[A provision that] legalizes eugenic practices in the field of the right to life of an unborn child and makes the right to life of an unborn child dependent on his or her health … is inconsistent … with the constitution,” said Julia Przylebska, president of the Constitutional Tribunal.
 
Hundreds marched toward the house of governing party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Thursday night after the ruling, some carrying candles and signs that read “torture.” Most wore face masks to comply with coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
 
Police in riot gear had cordoned off the house, and private broadcaster TVN showed police using tear gas as protesters threw stones and tried to push through the police line.
 

Small protests also took place in the cities of Krakow, Lodz and Szczecin.
 
“It’s sick that such controversial things are being decided at a time when the entire society lives in fear [of the pandemic] and is afraid to go into the streets,” said 41-year-old, Marianna Dobkowska.

A ‘devastating sentence’ for women

Conservative values have played a growing role in public life in Poland since the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came into power five years ago on a promise to defend what it sees as the nation’s traditional, Catholic character.
 
Curbing access to abortion has been a long-standing ambition of the party, but it has stepped back from previous legislative proposals amid widespread public backlash.
 

Police officers in Warsaw are shown after protests broke out on Thursday against a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposes further restrictions on abortions in the country. ( Jedrzej Nowicki/Agencja Gazeta via Reuters)

A group of right-wing lawmakers asked the tribunal in December 2019 to rule on the legality of abortion when there is serious, irreversible damage to the fetus.

“Today Poland is an example for Europe, it’s an example for the world,” said Kaja Godek, a member of the Stop Abortion public initiative.
 
Women’s rights and opposition groups reacted with dismay.
 
“The worst-case scenario that could have come true has come true. It is a devastating sentence that will destroy the lives of many women and many families,” said lawyer Kamila Ferenc, who works with an NGO helping women denied abortion.
 

“It will especially force the poor to give birth to children against their will. Either they have no chance of surviving, or they have no chance of an independent existence, or they will die shortly after giving birth.”
 
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it a “sad day for women’s rights.”
 
“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights. Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”


Protesters gathered across Poland after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Thursday that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Critics allege courts are politicized     

Opponents say the Constitutional Tribunal may have acted on the ruling party’s behalf. While the tribunal is nominally independent, most of its judges have been nominated by the Law and Justice party, some to replace candidates picked by the opposition but whose appointment was refused by President Andrzej Duda, a party ally.
 
“To throw in the subject of abortion and produce a ruling by a pseudo-tribunal in the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynicism. It is political wickedness,” said Donald Tusk, head of the main centre-right group in the European Parliament and a former prime minister of Poland.
 
PiS denies trying to influence the court or taking advantage of the pandemic to push through the changes. Its justice reforms, which included the tribunal, have attracted wide international accusations of undermining democratic norms.
 

Abortion rights activists say access to the procedure was often declined in recent years in Poland, even in cases when it would be legal.
 
Many doctors in Poland, which already had some of the strictest abortion rules in Europe, exercise their legal right to refuse to terminate pregnancies on religious grounds. Some say they are pressured into doing so by their superiors.
 
“We are glad with what the Constitutional Tribunal ruled because one cannot kill a child for being sick,” Maria Kurowska, a lawmaker from the United Poland party, said.

“This is not a fetus, it is a child.”

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The Chicks, Formerly the Dixie Chicks, Reveal What They Almost Changed Their Name To

The Chicks, Formerly the Dixie Chicks, Reveal What They Almost Changed Their Name To | Entertainment Tonight

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Tesla Slashes Prices By Up to $5,000 on Almost Every Vehicle Line

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Tesla has cut its prices on multiple models, with price cuts of up to $ 5,000 on specific vehicles. The cuts may be an attempt to stimulate demand after the pandemic, but Tesla hasn’t announced an official rationale.

First up, the Standard Range Plus variant of the Model 3 has picked up a $ 2,000 price cut, dropping from $ 39,990 to $ 37,990. The Model S Long Range Plus is now $ 74,990, a $ 5,000 reduction from its previous price of $ 79,990. Both vehicles dropped by ~5-6 percent, so the degree of reduction is equivalent on both cars.

Click to enlarge.

Similarly, the Model S Performance is now $ 94,990, and the Model X Long Range Plus is down to $ 79,990. The only product line that doesn’t seem to have been impacted by price cuts is the Model Y, but that vehicle only recently launched, and cutting its price by $ 5,000 now would be a slap in the face to people who’ve just recently purchased the car.

The automotive market is currently in bad shape. A report from Meticulous Research suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic could knock 12-15 percent off the global automotive industry in 2020. Industry tracker ALG believes May 2020 vehicle sales will be 21 percent below May 2019. Include the impact of reduced fleet sales, and the decline is larger, down an estimated 32 percent from last year.

So, should we all expect great deals? Unclear. Hertz’s recent bankruptcy could flood the market with used vehicles because the company has already stated it intends to begin some fleet liquidation as part of its Chapter 11 proceedings. If buyers head for used vehicles instead of new ones, we could see more manufacturers offering aggressive discounts to move new vehicles.

As for Tesla, specifically, opinions are divided. Some investors think this is a sign of improved profitability at Tesla thanks to larger economies of scale and that the company has the room to cut prices and attempt to stimulate demand. Those who are more bearish on Tesla see the move as intended to ward off a potential demand cliff. I’m scarcely an automotive analyst, but judging by the reports coming out of the industry, you don’t have to be to see that manufacturers are spooked by the idea of a long-term decline in car-buying thanks to COVID-19. That’s the kind of cliff that every manufacturer could fall off, not just Tesla. If car sales don’t pick up in the near future as the economy reopens, auto manufacturers may face serious problems in the months ahead.

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

‘It was mandatory’: Calgary Stampede cancelled for 1st time in almost a century due to pandemic

The Calgary Stampede will not go forward this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials announced Thursday.

This year’s event was scheduled for July 3-12, but was deemed unworkable given the ban on large gatherings and the need for physical distancing.

“This is very, very tough. Stampede is such an important part of who we are as a community, and it’s hard for me to even imagine what a July without a Stampede will look like,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “But this year, with this risk, we simply cannot continue to do that.”

Tom Sampson, chief of Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said these types of decisions are mandatory given the state of the pandemic in Alberta.

“I think I’ve been in denial. But there was no choice here,” Sampson said. “It was mandatory. It was a decision that needed to take place.”

Economic impact

The cancellation is a major blow to a city and province already reeling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns coupled with the collapse of energy prices.

On average over the past five years, the summer event has brought in $ 79.2 million in gross revenue and turned a profit of $ 21.4 million after expenses.

The Calgary Stampede draws more than one million visitors to the city each year and, according to the Conference Board of Canada, it pumps $ 540 million into the provincial economy annually.

The Stampede’s year-round events contribute about $ 110.9 million to Calgary’s GDP, the board says.

Watch: City officials discuss cancellation of the 2020 Calgary Stampede:

‘The biggest magnet’

Nenshi said though the city is currently focused on the physical and mental health of local residents, Calgary’s road to economic recovery will be a challenge.

“Oil and gas is a very large contributor to our economy. [But other contributors] include retail. Those include travel and tourism. You just heard we are cancelling the biggest magnet for travel and tourism in the city,” Nenshi said. “The province of Alberta and the government of Canada do need to think about Calgary differently.

“One-size-fits-all programs will not work for Calgary.”

WATCH | How to fight for a refund for your cancelled flight:

Most airlines are only offering credit and no-fee rebooking for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Airline passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs offers tips on how to fight for a refund. 4:29

Local businesses also rely on tourism during the annual event, including restaurants, hotels, retailers and more. 

“We knew this decision went far beyond ourselves,” Stampede president Dana Peers said. “This is a much larger decision than our own not-for-profit.”

Peers said the organization would continue to plan for fall and winter events at Stampede Park, as well as the 2021 Stampede.

‘Hell or High Water’ slogan

Even in the aftermath of the destructive 2013 floods, organizers still managed to pull off the annual event, just a couple of weeks after the disaster, as weary Calgarians rallied to the slogan of “Hell or High Water.”

But the global health and economic emergency created by COVID-19 proved insurmountable.

Last month, the Stampede announced it was laying off 80 per cent of its staff, 890 people, temporarily due to the impacts of the pandemic.

In addition to its own functions, the Stampede hosts around 1,200 events from external groups each year, which include business, tourism, sporting, hospitality and community functions, but has held none since the province implemented a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. 

The first Calgary Stampede was in 1912. From 1923 onward, it has been an annual event in the city.

Officials in Edmonton announced Thursday that K-Days, that city’s 10-day exhibition, will not take place this summer.

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