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Tokyo Olympics hit by another scandal over sexist comment

Tokyo Olympics creative director Hiroshi Sasaki is resigning after making demeaning comments about a well-known female celebrity.

It is yet another setback for the postponed games and another involving comments about women. The Olympics are to open in just over four months, dogged by the pandemic, record costs and numerous scandals.

In February, the president of the organizing committee Yoshiro Mori was forced to resign after making sexist comments, saying women talk too much in meetings.

Two years ago, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda was also forced to step down in a bribery scandal connected to vote-buying involving International Olympic Committee members.

Sasaki was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics, which are to begin on July 23. Last year he told planning staff members that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig.”

Watanabe is a heavy-set woman and very famous in Japan, and “Olympig” was a play on the word “Olympic.”

‘It is unforgivable’

Sasaki released a statement early on Thursday saying he was stepping down. He said he had also called Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee, and tendered his resignation.

“For Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable,” Sasaki said. “I offer my deepest regrets and apologize from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this.”

“It is truly regrettable, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he added.

Hashimoto, who replaced Mori, was scheduled to speak later on Thursday.

Sasaki formerly worked for the giant Japanese advertising company Dentsu Inc., which has been a key supporter of these Olympics. It is the official marketing partner and has helped to raise a record of $ 3.5 billion in local sponsorship, almost three times as much as any previous Olympics.

The torch relay for the Olympics kicks off next week from northeastern Japan and will be a severe test with 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four months, heading to the opening ceremony and trying to avoid spreading COVID-19.

Organizers and the IOC insist the Olympics will go forward during the pandemic with 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Japan. Official costs for Tokyo are $ 15.4 billion but several government audits show the real cost might be twice that much.

A University of Oxford study says Tokyo is the most expensive Olympics on record.

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CBC | Sports News

Despite another Scotties heartbreak, Homan and Miskew continue to amaze

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Kerri Einarson’s team joined elite company

The 33-year-old skip and her rink from Manitoba won their second consecutive Scotties Tournament of Hearts with a 9-7 victory over Rachel Homan’s Ontario team in last night’s final in Calgary.

Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur are just the eighth team in the 61-year history of the Canadian women’s curling championship to go back-to-back — and the first since Homan and third Emma Miskew did it in 2013 and ’14 with a different front end than the one they play with now.

By beating Homan’s team in the final for the second straight year, Einarson’s rink also has to be considered the early favourite to win the Olympic trials later this year and represent Canada at the 2022 Games in Beijing.

A few other takeaways from the Scotties:

Homan and Miskew are an incredible duo.

Yes, they’ve now lost three consecutive Scotties finals. But they’ve also won three, and it easily could have been more. Their previous two defeats came in extra ends, and Homan was eight months pregnant for this one. In any case, just getting to the title game three times in a row is a pretty remarkable accomplishment. And there’s a very plausible alternate universe in which Homan and Miskew have reached five straight finals. After winning the Scotties in 2017, they opted to pull out of the ’18 event so they could focus on the Olympics, which started only a few days later.

So, to recap, Homan and Miskew have made it to the final of six of the last eight Scotties they’ve played in and won three of them. They also own a world title and they’ve won the Canadian Olympic trials — arguably the toughest event in the sport. That resumé is already among the greatest in curling history, and it’s probably going to get better. Miskew just turned 32 years old. Homan is still 31.

Einarson’s team might get to play for a world championship after all.

They were denied that opportunity last year when the pandemic hit, and this year’s worlds in Switzerland were also called off. But CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux reports that planning is underway to try to bring the women’s worlds to the Calgary bubble.

Only thing is, the place is pretty booked. The Brier starts Friday and runs through March 14, followed by the Canadian mixed doubles championship March 18-25, the men’s world championship April 2-11, and back-to-back Grand Slam of Curling events that run from April 14-25. So, if they can pull it off, it seems like the women’s worlds would have to start at the tail end of April or early May.

The bubble worked.

Sure, the atmosphere was a little eerie with no fans in attendance (those cardboard cutouts were awfully quiet), but from a health standpoint the entire tournament went off with only one minor hitch. A Draw 3 game between Einarson’s team and the Northwest Territories was postponed after a Northwest Territories player came down with food poisoning. But coronavirus tests for everyone on the team came back negative, and the game was made up two days later.

The Brier is only four days away.

Brad Gushue’s Team Canada begins defence of its national men’s title on Friday night in the Calgary bubble vs. John Epping’s Ontario rink. More good news for curling fans: by popular demand, That Curling Show with Devin Heroux and six-time Scotties champ Colleen Jones will return Friday and run every night of the Brier on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages.

WATCH | That Curling Show:

1998 Scott champion Cathy King recalls playing against the great Sandra Schmirler and the time she played five games in 27 hours. 53:00

Quickly…

Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake says he’d rather miss the Tokyo Olympics than get a COVID-19 vaccination. Sounds bold, but it’s probably a moot point because the IOC has already said it won’t require athletes to get vaccinated. Blake, 31, is eyeing a third consecutive Olympic appearance. He took silver in both the 100 and 200 metres at the 2012 Games and was part of the Usain Bolt-anchored teams that won back-to-back 4×100 golds in 2012 and ’16. Blake also won the 100 and 4×100 world titles in 2011 — the year Bolt was disqualified for a false start in the individual final. “I’d rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine,” Blake told a Jamaican newspaper. He added: “Follow your mind, don’t follow the crowd.” Read more about his anti-vax stance here.

Tiger Woods received a nice tribute. Several golfers wore his signature red shirt and black pants for the final round of a World Golf Championships event in Florida yesterday. Woods is still recovering at a hospital in Los Angeles after suffering major injuries to his right leg, ankle and foot in a car accident last week. He’s already undergone additional procedures on top of the initial surgery performed by orthopedic trauma specialists shortly after the crash, and his golf future remains uncertain. But Sunday’s gesture seemed to raise his spirits. “It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the TV and saw all the red shirts,” a tweet from Tiger’s account read. “To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.” Read more about the Tiger tribute here.

Hockey history was made last night. For the first time ever, New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden hosted a women’s pro hockey game. It was the second game in the second season of the Dream Gap Tour, a series of barnstorming events put on by the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association. That’s the group that includes basically the entire Canadian and U.S national team rosters and is refusing to play in the NWHL or any other women’s pro league until a stronger one that offers better pay and benefits is created. The next Dream Gap Tour stop is in Chicago this weekend, and you can watch Sunday’s game live at 11:30 a.m. ET on CBC Gem, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

And finally…

Lest you think NBA Top Shot is the only overheated market for basketball collectibles, a Luka Doncic card sold for $ 4.6 million US. That’s the highest price ever paid for a basketball card, destroying the $ 1.857M someone dropped on a Giannis Antetokounmpo in September. Like that one, the Doncic is a rookie card, it’s autographed and, most importantly, only one was made. The record for a card in any sport still belongs to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle that went for $ 5.2 million in January. And if you’re still wondering what NBA Top Shot is about, read our explainer.

Coming up from CBC Sports

Snowboard alpine world championships: Watch the men’s and women’s parallel slalom events live at 8:45 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

CBC Sports U: Anyone pursuing a career in sports media might want to check out this free, interactive virtual summit on Wednesday. CBC Sports is bringing together some well-known sports-media personalities to give students an inside look at their experiences and an opportunity to ask questions. Get more details and sign up here.

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CBC | Sports News

Astronomers Detect Another Possible Exoplanet Right Next Door

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In the last few decades, we’ve gone from zero known exoplanets to more than 4,000. Scientists have even found a few orbiting the closest stars to our own. A project called Near Earths in the Alpha Center Region (NEAR) has just spotted tantalizing signals that could point to a planet in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri, which is a mere 4.37 light years away. That’s right next door in astronomical terms. 

Our solar system is pretty simple — one star, and a whole mess of planets orbiting it. Centauri is a bit different and consists of three stars. For starters, there’s Proxima Centauri, which is a red dwarf that sits a fraction of a light year closer to Earth. Proxima orbits Alpha Centauri A and B, which are larger, warmer stars like the sun. We know of at least two exoplanets orbiting Proxima Centauri, but a world around the sun-like members of the system would be even more interesting, and there might be one. 

The NEAR team used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to check out our celestial neighbors. The project pushed for an upgrade to the VLT that included an instrument called a thermal chronograph. This allows astronomers to block out the light from a star to make faint thermal signals easier to detect. After more than 100 hours of cumulative observations, the researchers pinned down what appears to be a thermal signal in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri A. No one is willing to say this is definitely a planet, but it could be. 

The possible exoplanet is labeled here as C1.

The exoplanet, if it exists, is in the habitable zone of the star. That means it could have liquid water, and therefore, the possibility of life. Early analysis suggests the exoplanet is a bit smaller than Neptune. That could mean it’s a small gas giant or possibly a very large rocky planet. If it’s a gas giant, life as we know it is off the table. However, there could be moons orbiting the world that have both liquid water and a solid surface on which life could evolve. 

There’s still more work to do before we can add another exoplanet to the list. The team notes the thermal signal could have other explanations, like a region of unusually hot cosmic dust or a warmer, distant object in the background. We’ll need more sophisticated instruments to know for sure. Luckily, the James Webb Space Telescope might finally launch later this year. Its infrared instruments should be able to determine if the thermal signature around Alpha Centauri A is a planet or just background noise.

Now Read:

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

How hot was 2020? It depends who you ask, but it was another one for the record books, agencies say

Once again, 2020 was a hot one.

According to NASA and recent findings from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, last year tied 2016 as the warmest on record.

It was the second-warmest according to the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — with a global average temperature that was 0.98 C higher than the pre-industrial average. 

But the differences between the findings are negligible, the scientists say, with a 0.02 C difference on either side. But the message is still the same: Earth is continuing to warm.

“Year to year, there are always differences,” said Chris Derksen, a senior researcher at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “We don’t always expect every year to break the record set the previous year. But what’s important is the long-term trend and the consistency of this trend that has emerged.”

That long-term trend pegs the past decade as the warmest on record, dating back to 1880. 

The slight differences between the agencies are due to a few factors, including how they analyze the raw temperature data and how they account for missing temperatures in polar regions.

Ultimately, though, “It’s a statistical tie,” Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said at a news conference on Thursday.

The record heat comes amid almost a year of lockdowns around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But the researchers found that didn’t really affect the upward temperature trend.

That’s because Earth is basically playing catch-up with the greenhouse gases that have already been released in the atmosphere, said Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a physical scientist who compiles global temperature data at NOAA’s National Centres for Environmental Information.


This graphic illustrates how the global land and ocean temperatures differ from the pre-industrial average. (NOAA)

Greenhouse gases live for thousands of years in the atmosphere, acting like a blanket. 

“Just think about yourself, when you’re in bed, and you keep adding extra layers of blanket over you: there’s a point where you’re going to start getting hot,” she said. “[With] COVID, we’ve seen a decrease in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. That does not mean that we’re peeling off these layers that we’ve already added to Earth, it just means that we’re not adding more layers.”

Change in the Arctic

According to NOAA, the Northern Hemisphere experienced its hottest year ever, with the Arctic warming at twice the global average, and some parts as high as three to four times the average.

No one needs to tell Fred Sangris, the community negotiator for the Yellowknife Dene in the Northwest Territories. He said his community is seeing the changes firsthand.

“In the last 30, 40 years, climate change is starting to warm up a bit,” he said. “We have cougars that moved into this area. We have coyotes that moved here from the south. We also have birds like magpies. We have other animals that are moving north. Birds that we’ve never seen before are migrating here.”

But more importantly, it’s changing the way of life in the Arctic, one that has existed for generations: Lakes are drying up, caribou numbers are dwindling, the permafrost is thawing and the ice isn’t as thick as it once was, posing a serious danger for those who depend on it for hunting and fishing. And it’s threatening lives.


Aerial view of melting permafrost tundra and lakes near the Yupik village of Quinhagak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska on April 12, 2019. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

“The rivers are not freezing like they used to,” Sangris said. “I used to cross the river here with the sled dogs, dog teams way back. But now that the rivers are thin ice, they’re not freezing … People are going through the ice as they travel. And if they don’t get injured, then they lose their life.”

Sangris is trying to find a way to make it safer for the younger generation to travel in an ever-changing Arctic, one where the traditions no longer seem to apply.

“In the past year, we’ve been trying to develop a map for a young generation, a community map that they can take with them saying this area is soft here, that river is soft, this point here is open water,” he said. “So we’re trying to educate the younger generation so that they have safe travel.”

While the changes aren’t as dramatic south of the Arctic, Canadians can expect to see more climate-change linked events.

“We should expect temperatures to continue to increase,” Derksen said. “We can expect changes in precipitation, so more extreme precipitation events during the summer. But in overall reduction in water availability, we have changes in glaciers happening in Western Canada that also affects freshwater access for Canadians.”

44 consecutive years 

Canadians can expect more heat waves, a potential increase in fires and more precipitation. 

Weather events across the country in 2020 had an insured loss estimate of close to $ 2.5 billion. And while it was a quiet fire season in the west, southern B.C. was plunged into darkness as smoke from fires in California and Oregon sent thick smoke high into the atmosphere, blanketing the region.

WATCH | 2020 tied for hottest year on record, NASA says:

Last year was also the 44th in a row that Earth’s temperature has been above the pre-industrial average. 

“I’m of the age where Earth has had warmer-than-average temperatures for 44 consecutive years … That means I’ve lived almost my entire life on a planet that’s warmer than average,” Derksen said. “So Canadians should anticipate and expect to continue living in that environment.”

So what does that mean for the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit pre-industrial warming to 1.5 C by 2100?

“Using baselines now, it’s likely that we will have one year or so of 1.5 C before around 2030,” Schmidt said. “Personally, I don’t think that there’s much that will change [in upward trajectory] that barring a massive volcano that would slow things down for a few years.”

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CBC | World News

Government secures another 20M COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the federal government has reached an agreement to purchase another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive this year to 80 million.

That’s enough to vaccinate the entire Canadian population with the two doses required for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the federal government has reached an agreement to purchase another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive this year to 80 million.

That’s enough to vaccinate the entire Canadian population with the two doses required for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.

“From our agreements with Pfizer and Moderna alone … we are on track to have every Canadian who wants a vaccine receive one by September,” Trudeau said at a press conference outside Rideau Cottage.

The news comes as Canada experiences a post-holiday surge in daily new cases, and as provinces warn that they are administering doses faster than they are being delivered.

The federal government published a delivery schedule this week that includes shipment dates and the number of doses expected to be delivered to the provinces over the next two months.

“This will make sure [the provinces and territories] have the vaccines and information they need to keep rolling out doses as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said. 

Trudeau’s announcement comes days after Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the federal government had chosen not to exercise its option to buy up to 16 million more doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, although those doses would not have arrived until the end of 2021.

Canada gave the green light to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s messenger RNA vaccines last month. Independent regulators at Health Canada are still reviewing other vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca-Oxford and Janssen Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

As of Monday night, more than 377,560 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Canada, according to a third-party tally.

More to come

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CBC | Health News

Britain halts flights from South Africa after finding another new coronavirus strain

The latest:

Britain’s transport minister has ordered flights and arrivals from South Africa to be halted after a potentially more infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spread to Britain.

“I’ve taken the decision to temporarily stop flights and arrivals entering England from South Africa from 9 a.m. tomorrow following an outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Earlier on Wednesday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says scientists have identified another new variant of the coronavirus in two people, both of whom are contacts of recent arrivals from South Africa.

Hancock said the evidence gathered so far suggests that the new variant has “mutated further” than the one that recently prompted the British government to tighten restrictions across large parts of England and led to many countries imposing travel bans on the U.K.

WATCH | Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be modified to tackle variants, says expert:

According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, vaccines that use mRNA technology can be reverse engineered quite quickly to take on variants — such as the recent U.K. variant of the coronavirus. 1:42

The health secretary also announced that more areas in England would be placed into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of a more transmissible variant of COVID-19.

Hancock said beginning Dec. 26, large regions across southern England would join London and neighbouring areas in Tier 4 with restrictions similar to that of a lockdown.


What’s happening in Canada

On Wednesday, Health Canada approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month’s end. Moderna’s is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by Health Canada.

Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is committing another $ 70 million to the Canadian Red Cross as it faces growing demand for help from long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec that have been overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Trudeau also announced Canada was extending a ban on flights from Britain for another two weeks until Jan. 6 as the United Kingdom struggles with a new strain of COVID-19 that experts suggest is more contagious than other variants.

As of 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 527,837, with 75,665 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,578.

In British Columbia, a group of 11 teenagers who allegedly refused to follow COVID-19 protocols and gathered at a high school parking lot were fined $ 230 over the weekend, according to RCMP in Nanaimo.

Alberta announced 1,301 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths on Wednesday. 

In Calgary, police have issued 47 tickets under the Public Health Act since its second state of local emergency due to COVID-19 was declared on Nov. 25, the city said on Wednesday.

WATCH | Scene from weekend rallies held in Calgary:

Calgarians took to the streets on Dec. 19 and 20 to protest COVID-19 restrictions. 0:50

Saskatchewan announced 159 new COVID-19 infections and five new deaths on Wednesday.

Manitoba health officials reported 155 new COVID-19 cases and 18 more deaths. The number of new cases continues to trend downward following restrictions that were imposed last month on public gatherings and business openings. Health officials say intensive care units, however, are still running well above their normal capacity.

Ontario on Wednesday registered 2,408 new cases, its second-highest single-day tally, and 41 new deaths. There were 1,002 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, including a record 275 in intensive care. The entire province will be moving into lockdown after midnight on Dec. 26.


Paramedics take away an elderly patient at the Tendercare Living Centre in Toronto amid an outbreak at the long-term care home. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Hard-hit Quebec recorded 2,247 new cases of COVID-19, another daily high. Hospitalizations stood at 1,067, with 142 patients in Quebec’s intensive care units, according to provincial data.

New Brunswick saw five new cases. Meanwhile, vaccinations for health-care workers began in Moncton.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new caseNova Scotia added four.

WATCH | N.S. business supports charities through mask sales:

Sherrie Kearney of Maritime Tartan has made more than 18,000 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and donated thousands to charity. Their latest fundraiser includes a tie signed by Dr. Robert Strang, who just gave them a big shout-out. 4:30

Prince Edward Island announced it is making a new mental health and addictions resource available to Islanders online. Demand for access to mental health services has been a pressing topic on P.E.I. throughout the pandemic, with the number of Islanders consulting mental health professionals doublingthe closure of the psychiatric unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and challenges faced by those struggling with addictions. 

In the North, officials welcomed news of the Moderna vaccine’s approval. Both Yukon and the Northwest Territories are expected to receive shipments by the end of the month, and plan to start rolling out vaccinations in early January.

Meanwhile, Nunavut reported two new cases on Wednesday.


What’s happening around the world

As of early Wednesday, more than 78.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 44.1 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.


In Europe, Italy recorded another 14,522 new positive coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the last day before more severe restrictions take effect for the Christmas holidays.

Despite measures that have been in place since late October, Italy has yet to successfully flatten the curve of the fall resurgence.

Starting Thursday, Italians will have to fill out declarations of their reasons for leaving home, just like during the strict 10-week lockdown in the spring. The holiday restrictions, running through Jan. 6, give some leeway for visiting friends and relatives in the same region.


People wearing face masks are seen in Rome on Wednesday. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)

In Asia, South Korea has added 1,092 new coronavirus cases in a resurgence that is erasing hard-won epidemiological gains and eroding public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the outbreak.

The national caseload has jumped by a quarter in the last two weeks alone, the death toll is rising and the number of sick patients is raising concerns of a shortage in intensive care beds.

South Korea had been seen as a success story against COVID-19 after health workers managed to contain a major outbreak in its southeastern region in the spring. But critics say the country gambled on its own success by easing physical-distancing restrictions to help the economy.


People are seen at a COVID-19 testing site in Seoul on Wednesday. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa’s health minister says the country has seen more than 14,000 confirmed new coronavirus cases in the past day, with a positivity rate of 26 per cent, as overall cases edge toward 1 million.

Heath Minister Zwelini Mkhize says the “alarming rate of spread” of infections is much faster than during the first wave in midyear. His daily report doesn’t say how many of the new infections are attributed to the new variant of the virus in South Africa.

The country has more than 950,000 confirmed cases, including more than 25,000 deaths. More than 400 people have died in the past day.


In the Americas, Peru has passed one million confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. It is the fifth nation in Latin America to report that number as the region struggles with the pandemic’s economic and health effects.

Peru’s government was quick to declare lockdown measures for its 32 million people last March as the pandemic spread in Europe. But in spite of closing its airports for almost six months and ordering most of its residents to stay at home, it has struggled to contain the virus. Officials said they had recorded 1,000,153 cases as of Tuesday evening.

More than 37,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Peru. That gives the Andean nation the world’s second-highest per-capita death toll from the pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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CBC | World News

Things to watch for as ‘Tampa Bay Raptors’ chase another championship

There is no incoming star to impress, no title to defend.

Instead, the Toronto Raptors enter the 2020-21 season as wanderers, for at least the first half of the schedule, playing out of Tampa Bay as the only NBA team displaced from its home market by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the Blue Jays before them, the Raptors were denied an exception to travel back and forth between the U.S. and Canada while forgoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Tampa Bay Raptors it is, then.

Two seasons ago, the Raptors inherited a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard, who led them to a championship. After Leonard left, this past campaign was the title defence, a “prove-it” run that showed the prior version wasn’t solely fuelled by Leonard.

But as things are in 2020, the pandemic picked the major storyline for the latest iteration of the Raptors: how they’ll handle being away from home.

Here are eight other things to watch for during the shortened 72-game season:

Masai Ujiri’s contract is expiring. The architect behind the greatest era in Raptors history is set to become a free agent after the season. Ujiri recently said the team’s relocation pushed his own contract status off the front burner, but ownership group MLSE has been open about its willingness to re-sign its president of basketball operations. The fact that nothing has been completed suggests that Ujiri is at least considering other options. We know he has interests outside of basketball, and with no major job openings within the sport, perhaps that’s the 50-year-old’s next move. General manager Bobby Webster’s contract is also expiring, though that deal is reportedly close to done. 

Kyle Lowry’s contract is expiring, too. The star behind the greatest era in Raptors history is set to hit the open market after his current one-year, $ 30.5 million US deal expires following this season. At 35, Lowry may be looking to join more of a championship contender than the Raptors. And if the season goes sideways, the team may investigate dealing its leader before he can bolt for nothing in free agency. Having signed a one-year extension on the eve of last season, Lowry is ineligible to sign another. Barring a trade, we won’t have a conclusion to this storyline until next summer.

WATCH | 3 things to look for in upcoming Raptors’ season:

CBC Sports Senior Contributor Vivek Jacob breaks down three things Raptors fans need to know before the new season kicks off. 2:59

OG Anunoby seems primed for a breakout. The 23-year-old signed a four-year, $ 72 million contract extension on the eve of the season Monday. Anunoby played hero in the playoffs when he hit a self-proclaimed “cool” buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Game 3 of their playoff against the Celtics. He was perhaps the only Raptor to outperform expectations in that series, shooting the ball well and showing flashes of a dribble-drive game. Anunoby’s defensive game is already elite, but he could start to receive more recognition if given more responsibility against opponents’ top options. With the new contract, the Raptors are betting Anunoby will make good on that potential.

The Raptors’ success may hinge on Pascal Siakam. The power forward from Cameroon has transformed from miscast rookie starter into a fourth-year all-star. That type of trajectory is rare in the NBA and could signal there is more still to come from the 26-year-old. With Giannis Antetokounmpo re-signed in Milwaukee, Siakam could be the Raptors’ best hope at gaining a superstar.

Who will replace Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka? The Raptors saw two key pieces from their championship season depart with this centre duo. Two lesser players, Aron Baynes and Alex Len, were brought in as replacements. Baynes will likely start (alongside Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Anunoby and Siakam) in an effort to approximate Gasol’s role. The Aussie sets hard screens and showed some flair for three-point shooting last season. He’s a presence in the post defensively, though he lacks the acumen of Gasol. Ibaka’s mid-range offence in the halfcourt will be missed as well. Len is fighting Canadian Chris Boucher for backup minutes, with the early edge seeming to go to the Montreal native.

Terence Davis may not be a Raptor for long. The 23-year-old is facing several charges after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend in October. Davis’ next court appearance is Wednesday, the same day the Raptors open their season in Tampa against the New Orleans Pelicans. Davis’ lawyer said she hopes to have the charges dismissed. The NBA is conducting its own investigation and can punish Davis regardless of the legal outcome. While some are calling for the Raptors to waive Davis, such a move would likely invite a grievance from the NBA Players Association, given the ongoing status of both the league and judicial investigations.

WATCH | 3 Canadian NBA players to watch out for:

With Canadians slowly taking over the NBA, Vivek Jacob points out three key players to look our for this season. 1:59

Fred VanVleet bet on himself and won. To the tune of a four-year, $ 84 million contract he landed in the off-season. The undrafted guard and 2019 playoff hero made good on his bet from draft day, when he told teams not to pick him in the second round so that he could choose his own destination. Now, after a pair of short-term contracts, VanVleet has cashed in. But with money comes pressure: VanVleet has struggled against bigger defenders in the playoffs, and he’s one of the worst guards in the league at finishing at the rim. But his Lowry-like defence, sweet side-spinning shot and leadership already make up for those flaws. If everything breaks right, VanVleet could make his first all-star team.

The East is suddenly loaded. For years the Eastern conference was much weaker than the Western, where it could sometimes take 50 wins just to make the playoffs. But with the arrival of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo in Brooklyn, the gap between the conferences is narrower than ever. That, obviously, is a problem for the Raptors. The Nets, led by Steve Nash, are just one more contender among a group already including Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Toronto. The Raptors, in the Ujiri-Lowry era, have always been a strong regular-season team. A top-three finish this season should ensure an easier first-round playoff matchup. Just one more twist for what promises to be a grinding season in Tampa Bay.

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CBC | Sports News

Trump asks Supreme Court to let him join another legal attempt to overturn his election loss

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let him join a long-shot lawsuit by Texas seeking to overturn his election loss by throwing out the voting results in four states, litigation that also drew support from 17 other states.

In a court filing, Trump asked to intervene in the Texas lawsuit, the latest litigation to try to undo Democratic president-elect Joe Biden’s victory over the Republican incumbent in the Nov. 3 election. In a separate brief, lawyers for 17 states led by Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt also urged the nine justices to hear the case.

Efforts in the courts on behalf of Trump challenging the election results so far have failed.

The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday by the Republican attorney general of Texas Ken Paxton, targeted four states that Trump lost to Biden after winning them in the 2016 election. Trump has falsely claimed he won re-election and has made baseless allegations of widespread voting fraud. Election officials at the state level have said they have found no evidence of such fraud.

Writing on Twitter earlier on Wednesday, Trump said, “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

‘Zero chance’ 

Election law experts have said the Texas lawsuit stands little chance of success and lacks legal merit.

“Both procedurally and substantively, it’s a mess,” Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in California, said of the Texas lawsuit. “There’s zero chance the court agrees to take the case.”

In addition to Missouri, the states joining Texas were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia. All of the states were represented by Republican officials in the filing. All but three of the states have Republican governors.

Officials from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have called the lawsuit a reckless attack on democracy. It was filed directly with the Supreme Court rather than with a lower court, as is permitted for certain litigation between states.

The Texas suit argued that changes made by the four states to voting procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic to expand mail-in voting were unlawful. Texas asked the Supreme Court to immediately block the four states from using the voting results to appoint presidential electors to the electoral college.

Biden has amassed 306 electoral votes — far higher than the necessary 270 — compared to Trump’s 232 in the state-by-state electoral college that determines the election’s outcome. The four states contribute a combined 62 electoral votes to Biden’s total.

Texas also asked the Supreme Court to delay the Dec. 14 date for electoral college votes to be formally cast, a date set by law in 1887.

Democrats and other critics have accused Trump of aiming to reduce public confidence in U.S. election integrity and undermine democracy by trying to subvert the will of the voters.

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CBC | World News

Changes to women’s tennis solve one problem but may create another

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Women’s tennis announced big changes — but are they really?

The Women’s Tennis Association just launched a “comprehensive rebrand” of the WTA Tour that includes a new logo, new slogan and, more interestingly, new names for its tournament tiers. So goodbye to confusing designations like Premier Mandatory, Premier 5, Premier and International. Tournaments that fell into those first two tiers are being merged into the new WTA 1,000 category. The old Premier events are now WTA 500, and International is WTA 250.

At first glance, this is a good call. It’s easier for fans to understand numbers than to, say, decipher the difference in quality between a Premier 5 and just plain Premier event. But the new naming system isn’t as airtight as it might look, and it could lead to some unintended consequences for the WTA.

The main reason given for switching to the numbered tiers is that the men’s ATP Tour does it this way and it makes sense to align with them. Sounds good, but the reason an ATP 1,000 event is called that is because the winner earns 1,000 rankings points. Same idea for ATP 500 and ATP 250. But the women’s tour isn’t making corresponding changes to the points awarded at the newly-named events. They’ll stay the same as they are now. So, for example, the winner of the Miami Open (a Premier Mandatory under the old nomenclature) will still earn 1,000 points. And the winner of the Canada-hosted Rogers Cup (formerly a Premier 5) still gets 900. Even though they’re both WTA 1,000 events now. So much for eliminating confusion among fans.

Then there’s a thornier issue: prize money. Equal pay was the core issue for Billie Jean King and the other women who launched the precursor to the WTA Tour 50 years ago. And tennis loves to trumpet the equal purses awarded at several of its events, including all four Grand Slams. By pro-sports standards, that puts tennis on the vanguard of gender equality. So give it credit.

But what’s often ignored is how some other men’s and women’s events that are seemingly on equal footing don’t pay the same. A great example is the Rogers Cup. The men’s and women’s tournaments take place in different cities (alternating between Toronto and Montreal) but they’re played at the same time under the same name. And yet, the last time they were held, in 2019, Rafael Nadal earned $ 1.049 million US for winning the men’s tourney while Bianca Andreescu got only $ 521,530 — half as much — for winning the women’s.

This is where a lot of people say Yeah, but the men’s tournament brings in more revenue from sponsorships, TV rights, etc., than the women’s. This is true for the Rogers Cup and most other events that feature both a men’s and a women’s draw. But it’s not the justification tennis gave. Instead, the devil was in the details of the promise the sport made years ago to pay equal prize money for men’s and women’s tournaments held under the same name — if those tournaments are of equal importance.

That last part is the key. The men’s Rogers Cup is an ATP Tour Masters 1,000 event — so worth 1,000 rankings points to the winner. The women’s Rogers Cup was a WTA Premier 5 event — worth 900 points to the winner. Since it’s not as important in terms of rankings points, it’s OK for the women’s event to pay less than the men’s. This wouldn’t fly at the Grand Slams, which are worth 2,000 points to both the men’s and women’s winners. Nor at Indian Wells, Miami or Madrid, where the winners each get 1,000 points.

Which brings us back to the WTA tournament name changes. Just as the rankings points awarded in the old Premier 5 events aren’t being automatically levelled up to the old Premier Mandatory ones — even though they’re all called WTA 1,000 now — it’s the same with prize money.

This could cause the sport some headaches. Before, whether you agreed with the practice or not, at least tennis could lean on the differently named tiers of men’s and women’s events as an indication (if not a justification) of their varying quality and pay structures. But now that the tiers are named pretty much identically — WTA 1,000 and ATP 1,000 — it might become harder to explain to everyone why the women earn less.


Us trying to figure out the difference between Premier Mandatory and Premier 5. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Quickly…

Canadian soccer coaches and media made the easiest call ever. They voted Alphonso Davies the winner of the men’s share of Canada Soccer’s Canadian Players of the Year Award. Davies, who turned 20 last month, had probably the best season ever by a member of the Canadian men’s national team, playing a key role in Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga and Champions League titles and winning the German league’s rookie of the year award for 2019-20. The women’s half of the Canadian Players of the Year Award will be announced tomorrow. Read more about Davies here.

Mikael Kingsbury is hurt. For years, we’ve wondered if anything could stop the greatest moguls skier of all time from continuing to pad his record World Cup victory totals. Turns out, a fractured spine. The Canadian revealed today that he cracked two vertebrae while training for this weekend’s season opener in Finland, which will result in his missing an event for the first time in his World Cup career. Kingsbury is expected to be out four to six weeks, which covers the first three events of the season. Read more about his injury here and watch the moguls opener live Saturday at 9 a.m. ET here.

The Rockets and Wizards swapped problems. John Wall and Russell Westbrook both have contracts that guarantee them $ 80 million US over the next two years, plus a player option of more than $ 45 million for the following year. In this economy? Those payouts would be hard enough to swallow if they were going to LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard. But Wall hasn’t played in nearly two years because of injuries and Westbrook still wants to be treated like an MVP even though he’s four years removed from winning one he probably didn’t deserve. Houston and Washington found a solution, though: swap ’em for each other. So Wall and a lottery-protected first-round pick are heading to the Rockets and Westbrook to the Wizards. Read more here about a deal that would have been a blockbuster three years ago but is now just kind of sad.

And finally…

Beth Harmon > Bobby Fischer?

The Queen’s Gambit is a massive hit for Netflix, and it’s inspiring a lot of people to take up chess. Sales of sets and books are way up since the show came out in late October. On a more anecdotal level, the president of the Calgary Chess Club told CBC’s Jackson Weaver that he hasn’t seen this much interest in the game since Fischer’s heyday in the ’70s.

The fact that the show’s protagonist (and most gifted chess player) is a young woman also seems to be broadening the game’s appeal — perhaps in a way even Fischer never did. But some of the sexism depicted in the 1950s-and-’60s-set story still exists in real life. Canadian chess champion Qiyu Zhou — a Harmonesque figure who’s only 20 and won a Finnish national title at age five — says she receives more criticism than her male counterparts during her popular chess streams on the Twitch platform. But she still sees the beauty and magnetism of a game she calls “an art, a science and a sport, all in one.” Read more here about how The Queen’s Gambit could change the male-dominated chess world here.

New on CBC Sports

Bring It In with Morgan Campbell: If you like to hear smart people with smart angles on the places where sports, culture, business, politics and race collide, check out this show. In the debut episode, Morgan talks with boxing commentator Corey Erdman about how last weekend’s Mike Tyson “comeback” fight was also an infomercial for a short-video app that’s hoping to unseat TikTok — and has links to the Trump administration. Then, basketball broadcaster Meghan McPeak and sports/politics commentator Dave Zirin discuss the value of novelty sporting events, Sarah Fuller’s historic college-football kickoff and more. Watch the show here:

In the pilot episode of Bring It In with Morgan Campbell, panelists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin discuss the history made by Sarah Fuller, debate the need for novelty events in sports and participate in a rapid game of In or Out on this week’s biggest stories. 34:24

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CBC | Sports News

MLS cancels game, postpones another due to pandemic

Major League Soccer postponed the Los Angeles FC’s scheduled game Sunday night at San Jose, and cancelled Minnesota’s match at Sporting Kansas City because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league made the moves Saturday.

LAFC had three positive cases among their player group. While the remaining players and staff have continued to test negative, the match was postponed to allow for additional testing and evaluation. MLS said it is evaluating whether the match can be rescheduled.

After confirming a case Wednesday, Minnesota had a second player Saturday with a confirmed positive test.

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CBC | Soccer News