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Toronto FC camp remains closed amid 9 cases of COVID-19

Toronto FC’s camp remains closed as the MLS team works with local health authorities on a plan to resume training in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak.

There have been nine positive tests in the TFC camp, according to figures released Friday by the city of Toronto.

“I’ve spoken to everyone on our staff who’s been affected and everyone feels good,” team president Bill Manning said in an interview. “So that’s good news.”

Toronto has not trained since March 3. Manning said the cases involve players and staff.

“We’ve had full confidence in the health and safety protocols,” he said. “Our group has been diligent but, as we’ve seen, almost every team in every league has had to deal with it at one point or another.

“I think it actually reinforces the success of the process because the testing protocols allowed us to identify very quickly and we were able to remove everyone from the situation so that we can get on top of it.”

Dr. Ira Smith, the club’s chief medical officer, has been the point man in working with Toronto Public Health.

“You listen to them and you follow their guidelines and their advice,” said Manning.

Players and staff were initially tested every other day during camp and are now being tested daily as the club looks to put together the consecutive negative tests needed to resume training.

First game set for April 7

There is a clearer view of what lies ahead, however. Manning says the team hopes to leave for Florida the week of March 22 to get in some pre-season scrimmages ahead of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie against Club Leon.

The first leg is April 7 in Mexico. The return leg will be played April 14 at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla., where Orlando City’s USL team used to play.

Toronto, which finished out last season playing out of East Hartford, Conn., has chosen Orlando as its U.S. base for the start of the 2021 campaign. The hope is pandemic-related border restrictions will ease at some point and the team can return to BMO Field, which only hosted four league games last season.

TFC opens the regular season April 17 against CF Montreal at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, where Montreal will be based. Toronto’s “home” opener will be April 24 against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium. The Whitecaps will be based out of Sandy, Utah, to start the season.

Considering vaccination in Florida

Friday marked the one-year anniversary of TFC cancelling training to await word from the MLS after the NBA suspended its season due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

The Toronto players were at BMO Field, ready to train for a weekend game against expansion Nashville SC, when the club sent them home. The team did not play again until July 13 at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.

Toronto, which had already played one game at home, only played three more at BMO Field before relocating to East Hartford.

Manning says the three Canadian MLS teams have shared information about vaccines. The trip to Florida might help, given that the state appears to be looking at giving shots to the general public, including tourists, at the end of April, he said.

“If we have the opportunity to get vaccinated, it’s certainly something we’re going to consider,” he added.

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Amazon Un-Launches Crucible, Puts Game Back in Closed Beta

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The advent of games-as-a-service has driven a great deal of change throughout the industry. New content delivery models have proliferated. The industry, as a whole, has pivoted away from single-player. Cosmetic purchases and loot crates have been major points of controversy. Games that arrived DOA and previously would’ve been written off as bombs (No Man’s Sky, Anthem) instead receive a great deal of long-term work and, in some cases, wind up eventually delivering something like they promised.

And sometimes, a company does something it could never have practically done before, like un-launching a game. Today, Amazon announced it was taking its new shooter, Crucible, offline and back into closed beta. In the past, only an MMO could really have pulled this off.

The company’s blog post avoids any mention of “un-launching” or “shutting down public servers,” in favor of “Starting tomorrow, Crucible is moving to closed beta.”

In its previous dev blog, dated June 4, Amazon had given a list of goals and projects it would work on now that the game was live, including retiring unpopular game modes, building out the one mode people liked most (Heart of Hives), and tools that players were asking for, including a voice chat system, a system to deal with players AFKing and ruining matches, an expanded ping system, and “potentially some form of mini-map.” The second phase was more vaguely described as adding “systems and polish.”

Crucible, in panoramic view.

Now, all of that is changing. The game is going back into closed beta and you have until 12 PM Wednesday EST to download the game on Steam if you want to take part in the beta tests. One cool change that’s coming — at least, assuming you are enjoying Crucible — is that the developers are going to start joining players to actively solicit feedback. The dev team suggests joining their Discord server to find players to play with. Players are still invited to stream, write, and talk about the game online, almost certainly due to Amazon’s desire to ignite buzz about it in some fashion.

Crucible was developed by Relentless Studios and is the first major game release from Amazon Studios. It’s been in development since 2014 and launched on May 20, 2020, where it made more or less no splash whatsoever. Reviews were decidedly mixed when the game shipped, with ratings in the 4-6 range among sites that use numerical scores. With so many titles to choose from — Overwatch, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Valorant are just a few — it’s never been clear what was supposed to draw players to the game. Comparisons to Battleborn (never a good thing) note that the game’s audience had vanished just eight days after launch. Kotaku noted on that day, there were fewer people watching Crucible streams than watching original EverQuest. The only time it put up serious signs of life is when Amazon paid streamers to play it. The same article notes that the matchmaking service has major problems, which isn’t the sort of thing you want to hear with a brand new multiplayer title.

As of today, there were only 150 players online in the game.

It’s entirely possible that Crucible will reemerge as a killer title. A number of games have. But it’ll have to try much harder to make a splash. Between the number of multi-player games competing for player attention and the ongoing difficulty of the Covid-19 pandemic, people’s attention spans are a bit shorter than typical.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

Every New Movie You Can Stream Early While Theaters Are Closed

Every New Movie You Can Stream Early While Theaters Are Closed | Entertainment Tonight

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‘You must stay at home’: Boris Johnson orders British shops closed, no gatherings in coronavirus lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered Britons to stay at home to try to halt the spread of coronavirus, closing non-essential shops, telling people not to meet with friends or family and warning those who do not follow the rules face fines.

Deaths from the virus in Britain jumped to 335 on Monday as the government said the military would help ship millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to health-care workers who have complained of shortages.

“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, replacing his usual daily news conference.

Johnson said people would only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for basic necessities, exercise, for a medical need, to provide care or traveling to and from work where absolutely necessary.

“That’s all — these are the only reasons you should leave your home,” he said, adding that people should not meet friends or family members who do not live in their home.

“If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings,” he warned.


People ride on a crowded underground train in London on Monday, in this picture obtained from social media. (Peter Fellows/via Reuters)

The new measures would be reviewed in three weeks, and relaxed if possible.

The government will close all shops selling non-essential goods, Johnson said, including clothing stores, as well as other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.

Advice to stay at home and avoid social gatherings went unheeded by millions at the weekend who took advantage of sunny weather to flock to parks and beauty spots, ignoring instructions to stay two metres apart.

Under the new measures, the government will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public who do not live together, and stop all social events, including weddings and baptisms but not funerals.

Parks would remain open for exercise but gatherings would be dispersed, Johnson said.

Later on Monday, Britain’s lower house of Parliament is expected to approve emergency legislation giving authorities sweeping powers to tackle the outbreak, including the right to detain people and put them in isolation to protect public health.

“Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses,” Johnson said in his address.

Earlier, in a letter pleading with him to increase PPE supplies, more than 6,000 frontline doctors warned they felt like “cannon fodder” and were being asked to put their lives at risk with out-of-date masks, and low stocks of equipment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been issues but promised action was being taken. He said the army would drive trucks throughout the day and night to get supplies to medical staff.

“It’s like a war effort — it is a war against this virus and so the army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we can get the supplies to protect people on the front line,” he told the BBC, saying the health service now had 12,000 ventilators, 7,000 more than at the start of the crisis.

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Closed stores, grounded airlines as COVID-19 limits business

A growing number of retailers are closing stores or limiting their operating hours as customers remain home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Over the weekend, some Canadian mall owners announced they would cut back shopping hours by as much as 30 per cent for at least the next two weeks.


A shopper uses a hand sanitizer station at a mall in Toronto on Saturday. (Carlos Osorio/Canadian Press)

Starting Monday, Cadillac Fairview, which owns 70 malls across six provinces, will limit operating hours at all its locations to between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

Ivanhoe Cambridge, which owns almost 30 malls across six provinces, is suggesting reduced operating hours to its tenants, although mall doors will remain open according to their usual schedules.

Starbucks Canada said people will still be able to make purchases in-store and online, but they’ll be encouraged to take items to go and have taken the step of removing seating from its stores.


Starbucks Canada said people will still be able to make purchases in-store and online, but they’ll be encouraged to take items to go and have taken the step of removing seating from its stores. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

The coffee chain also said  it’s also temporarily closing stores in “high-social gathering locations” such as those in shopping malls and on university campuses and workers whose hours will be affected by the pandemic will get “catastrophe pay.”

Outdoor retailer MEC said in an email to its members that it was reducing store hours to noon to 6 p.m. every day — except noon to 5 p.m. on weekends in Quebec — starting today.

Retailers aren’t the only ones making changes, as some health clubs are also being affected. Beginning Monday, all GoodLife Fitness and Fit4Less clubs are shut down. Goodlife said all member payments are being suspended as of Tuesday and any paid-in-full memberships will be put on freeze until further notice and expiry dates will be extended. 

Additionally, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced on Sunday that it would temporarily close all casinos in the province by Monday.

As of Sunday afternoon, Canadian health officials have recommenced people avoid gatherings of 250 people or more but have not advised retailers to shutter. However, some businesses are limiting their operations on their own initiative.

U.S. retailers cut hours, close outlets

Walmart in the U.S. said over the weekend it is limiting hours to ensure stores can keep sought-after items such as hand sanitizer in stock. More than 4,700 Walmart and Neighborhood Market locations in the U.S. will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 pm. until further notice. Most Supercentre stores are typically open 24 hours while some Neighborhood stores also have 24-hour service.

Other retailers are following Apple and closing their stores, including Urban Outfitters, Everlane, Lush, Patagonia and Vancouver-based Lululemon.

Some states in the U.S. are closing dine-in restaurants, while locked down European countries like Spain, France and Italy ordered the closures of cafés and restaurants.

New York City’s mayor said in a statement late Sunday he’s signing an executive order limiting restaurants, bars and cafés to food takeout and delivery only — and also said nightclubs, movie theatres and concert venues will close — while the governor of hard-hit Washington state announced a statewide shutdown of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

Ireland is ordering all pubs and bars to close for two weeks and is urging people not to hold house parties for St. Patrick’s Day.


People stand outside a closed bar in Dublin, Ireland, on Sunday. (Aine McMahon/PA via AP)

Infected employees

U.S. supermarket chain Kroger said two of its employees have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and are recovering. One was employed at the King Soopers grocery chain in Colorado, and the other at Fred Meyer, a grocery chain in Washington state. Both are subsidiaries of Kroger’s.

The company also said it has enacted an emergency leave policy that allows for paid time off for workers diagnosed with the coronavirus and those placed under a mandatory quarantine by a doctor or public health authority.

Ontario, which has seen the most COVID-19 cases in Canada, planned to table a bill aimed at helping workers affected by the outbreak.


An employee wearing a protective mask is seen in clothing store in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday. (Matias Delacroix/Associated Press)

A statement from Premier Doug Ford’s office says the new bill will direct employers to offer protected leave for people affected by the pandemic. It will also waive the requirement for employees to obtain sick notes if they need to go into self-isolation or care for anyone in quarantine. The government did not immediately say when the bill would come before the legislature.

Federally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will help people financially to ensure they can pay their rents or mortgages and buy food, as an increasing number of Canadians are being forced to work from home as more people test positive for the coronavirus.

Airlines, trains pulls back

American Airlines said late Saturday that it is suspending about 75 per cent of its long-haul international flights, starting Monday and lasting through May 6, in response to “decreased demand” and U.S. government travel restrictions. The airline did not announce any layoffs, but is grounding about 135 planes.

It will continue to fly three routes: One daily flight from Dallas to London, a daily flight from Miami to London, and three per week from Dallas to Tokyo. Short-haul flights to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America will continue.

Amid U.S. travel restrictions, travellers coming back to the U.S. faced long lines and hours-long waits for required medical screenings. The dense crowds Saturday at some of the 13 airports where travellers from Europe are being funnelled — among the busiest across the country — formed even as public health officials called for “social distancing” to stem the spread of the pandemic.

United Airlines said it booked $ 1.5 billion US less revenue in March compared to the same time last year. The airline also said it would cut corporate officers’ salaries by 50 per cent and reduce flight capacity by about 50 per cent in April and May, with deep capacity cuts also expected into the summer travel period.

On Sunday, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office said no Canadian airports will be closing to domestic flights, but some international flights will be diverted to certain airports. The list of what flights and airports will be affected has not yet been decided.

The union representing WestJet flight attendants is expecting layoffs of more than 50 per cent of its staff as the number of flight cancellations and restrictions continues to mount amid the outbreak — although Mark Porter, an executive vice-president with WestJet, says the numbers being reported were communicated as one of several scenarios being contemplated.  

VIA Rail said it’s scaling back service in its corridor from Windsor to Quebec City to comply with government guidelines for social distancing. The company said it will reduce service by 50 per cent in the busy corridor, which includes routes between Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and London, Ont.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said it was temporarily halting most of its flights starting Monday due to travel restrictions and the “non-existent demand” for air travel. The company said it will resume flights when “there are yet again conditions to conduct commercial aviation.” SAS said it will have to temporarily lay off about 10,000 employees, or about 90 per cent of its workforce.

Air New Zealand said job losses would be necessary as it cut long-haul capacity by 85 per cent over the coming months — in response to strict measures announced by the government — and suspended flights to destinations including San Francisco, London, Buenos Aires, Honolulu and Tokyo.

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‘Catastrophe’ looms as displaced Syrians flee toward closed Turkish border

“The children. Thousands of children under the trees.”  

That’s the answer that came crackling back from Dr. Tammam Lodami on the phone from the northern Syrian town of al-Dana when asked for a description of conditions on the ground.  

North of Idlib city and west of Aleppo, the town is caught between a two-pronged advance by Syrian government troops and their Russian backers as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeks to regain control of the last opposition enclave in the country.  

“This is the case,” Lodami said as he struggled to convey the scale of the crisis he’s witnessing, the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by the conflict and headed towards a closed Turkish border with no shelter and temperatures dipping as low as –7 C.  

“My English is humble,” he said. “I want to reach my voice to the world.”  

But very little seems capable of permeating the indifference of the world and that elusive body known as the diplomatic community these days, not even when warnings sound of another possible escalation in a war about to enter its 10th year.  


Dr. Tammam Lodami, a dentist who now works as an administrator for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations in the northern Syrian town of al-Dana, says the town where he normally practises is overflowing with people displaced from elsewhere in the country. (Submitted by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations)

“You can consider these days as a catastrophe,” said Lodami, a dentist by trade who now works for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM).

“Families leave their towns and homes for fear of indiscriminate bombardment. [The Syrian regime forces] target hospitals, medical centres, ambulances, schools, markets and civilians. Everything.”

‘Fastest-growing displacement’

Syria has spent the war systematically corralling rebel opposition fighters, extremist groups, political activists and hundreds of thousands of displaced people into Idlib province.

Now the Assad regime seems to be coming for its opponents, among them al-Qaeda-linked miliants, with Russian airstrikes paving a brutal path for troops on the ground.  

Regime forces began their advance in April 2019,  but it has been picking up steam.  Some 800,000 Syrians have fled their homes in northwestern Syria since early December, according to the UN’s office for humanitarian affairs.

On Tuesday, spokesperson Jens Laerke described it as the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the start of the Syrian crisis almost nine years ago.

It’s “the fastest-growing displacement we’ve ever seen in the country,” he said at a news conference in Geneva.  


An internally displaced girl looks out from a tent in Azaz, Syria, on Thursday. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

It’s not difficult to understand why when faced with the daily images of the damned coming out of Idlib:  relatives weeping over the charred bodies of loved ones killed in airstrikes, White Helmet rescue workers plucking bloodied and crying children out of the rubble.  

Roads leading toward the Turkish border are clogged with vehicles loaded down with families lucky enough to have them or to clamber on carrying what they can.

Many are headed toward Atmeh, a sprawling camp of about one million people along Syria’s still-closed border with Turkey.

‘Emergency conditions’

Dr. Okbaa Jaddou, a pediatrician there, said their hospital has only 40 beds.

“On [these] beds, we put 80 [children] or maybe 120 [children], because [there are]  so many people now,” he said in a Skype interview on Wednesday. “We are operating in emergency conditions.”

Originally from Hama, a city further south, Jaddou has been living at Atma for two years.  

“I was displaced and I [haven’t] found any place more safe than the Syrian-Turkish border because the [Syrian] regime has bombed everywhere.”  

“If the situation [continues], we are going to see a very big crisis on the Turkish-Syrian border.”


Internally displaced people receive bread at a makeshift camp in Azaz, Syria, on Thursday. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

Idlib was supposed to be a “de-escalation zone,” agreed to in a ceasefire deal worked out between Turkey, which supports some rebel groups inside Idlib, and Russia.

An estimated 1,800 civilians, according to new reports, have been killed since then.  

The recent deaths of a number of Turkish soldiers killed by Syrian shelling has raised tensions considerably. Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered troop reinforcements to the border.

Alarm bells

“If there is the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I am declaring from here that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today,” he said to thundering applause in the Turkish parliament, “regardless of the lines of the [ceasefire].”  

The prospect of Syrian and Turkish troops trading fire in a direct confrontation has sounded alarm bells.  

“What we must absolutely prevent is this developing into wider conflict between the Turks, the Syrians and the Russians,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a director of the group Doctors Under Fire and an adviser to NGOs working in Syria.

An ex-soldier and chemical weapons expert, he would like to see NATO countries, including Canada, do more to support Turkey in the current crisis.

But Turkey has also angered Western allies in recent months by moving against Syrian Kurds in the northeast credited with helping allied troops fighting the Islamic State or ISIS.  


Roads leading towards the Turkish border are clogged with vehicles loaded down with families. (Submitted by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations)

De Bretton-Gordan said the view in the United Kingdom at least is that it shouldn’t get involved until it’s all over and then help to pick up the pieces.  

“You know, I’ve had meetings with British government ministers asking for this but there is a view certainly here in London that the whole of Idlib that’s not under Turkish or Russian control is being run by the Jihadis. That’s just not the case.”  

Doctors on the ground at the Bab al Hawa hospital near the Turkish border estimate that 95 per cent of the victims of the latest offensive are civilian, with two-thirds women and children.  

Morale threatened

“Three million civilians trapped,” said de Bretton-Gordon. “If there’s no medical support to help them, their morale completely goes. And as we know at the moment, most of them are rushing towards the Turkish border.”  

The presence of a stronger Turkish military presence along that border offers comfort to those sheltering nearby, according to Jaddou, but few believe Turkey is strong enough to face Syria given the Russian and Iranian allies supporting Damascus.  

“Ten minutes ago, I heard four bombings from Turkish cannons,” he said.  

“But these four bombings cannot change the situation because Russia supports the Assad regime with their war planes.

“Idlib, the last opposition castle, is going to surrender. Because people with only rifles cannot fight war planes.”  


Lodami described an ever-growing ‘catastrophe’ to CBC News by phone from al-Dana in Idlib province, where for the past few days he says he’s witnessed thousands of Syrians trying to escape fierce fighting. (Submitted by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations)

In al-Dana, Lodami doesn’t want to talk about the Turkish-Syrian confrontation. It’s a political question and he is concerned with helping the needy, he said.  

“How we will [face] our God with the children?” he asks. “All the world.  All the world there is a very big problem. They don’t give any care or interest in these children and women under the trees.”  

Ask him what their immediate needs are and the answer comes without a pause.

“We need peace. Just peace.” 

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Trump impeachment report to be unveiled behind closed doors Monday

The House impeachment report on U.S. President Donald Trump will be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House’s declaration it will not participate in the first judiciary committee hearing.

The Democratic majority on the House intelligence committee says the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff called the evidence of “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the Republican president over his actions toward Ukraine.

The report is being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the judiciary committee for Wednesday’s landmark hearing.

On Monday, Trump criticized the timing of the impeachment inquiry hearing, which will occur while he is out of the country at a NATO summit in the U.K. 

Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing Monday, Trump says the NATO trip is “one of the most important journeys we make as president” and the summit date was established a year ago.

He said Republicans are united in opposing impeachment and the inquiry is backfiring on Democrats, adding, “I think it is going to be a tremendous boost for the Republicans.”


Late Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” In a letter to judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, Cipollone also declined the invitation for the president’s counsel to appear before the panel on Wednesday.

In continuing the West Wing’s attack on the House process, Cipollone said the proceeding “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.” 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday it’s “very unfortunate” the judiciary committee is holding its hearing at the same time that Trump is representing the U.S. at the NATO summit.

“I regret that they’ve chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters,” Pompeo said.

As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, Wednesday’s hearing will be a milestone. It is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the intelligence committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.

Democrats are focused on whether Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress and a White House meeting as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals. The report also is expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress by Trump’s instructions that officials in his administration defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.

Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House presses forward on an ambitious schedule toward an impeachment vote, the president and his Republican allies are aligned against the process.

Cipollone’s letter applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate in them. House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.


Democrat Adam Schiff, chair of the House intelligence committee, says the Trump impeachment report being presented to the judiciary committee shows evidence of ‘wrongdoing and misconduct’ by the Republican president in his actions toward Ukraine. (Bill O’Leary/Pool Photo/Associated Press)

Republicans, meanwhile, wanted Schiff, the chairman who led the inquiry report, to testify before the judiciary committee, though they have no power to compel him to do so, as they joined the White House effort to try to cast the Democratic-led inquiry as skewed against the Republican president.

“It’s easy to hide behind a report,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the judiciary committee. “But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions.”

Schiff has said “there’s nothing for me to testify about,” that he isn’t a “fact” witness and that Republicans are only trying to “mollify the president, and that’s not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness.”

Democrats were aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.

“I do believe that all evidence certainly will be included in that report so the judiciary committee can make the necessary decisions that they need to,” said Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida and a member of both the intelligence and judiciary committees.

Trump has previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.

Democrats had pressed Trump to decide by Friday whether he would take advantage of due process protections afforded to him under House rules adopted in October for follow-up hearings, including the right to request witness testimony and to cross-examine the witnesses called by the House.

“If you are serious about conducting a fair process going forward, and in order to protect the rights and privileges of the President, we may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the Administration the ability to do so meaningfully,” Cipollone said in the Sunday letter.

Collins called Wednesday’s hearing “a complete American waste of time.” He wanted the witness list expanded to include those suggested by Republicans. “This is why this is a problematic exercise and simply a made-for-TV event coming on Wednesday.”

Still, Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican judiciary committee member from California, said he believes Trump would benefit if he presents his own defence. McClintock said he doesn’t believe Trump did anything wrong in the July 25 call with Zelensky that is at the heart of the investigation.

“He didn’t use the delicate language of diplomacy in that conversation, that’s true. He also doesn’t use the smarmy talk of politicians,” McClintock said.

To McClintock, Trump was using “the blunt talk of a Manhattan businessman” and “was entirely within his constitutional authority” in his dealings with Ukraine’s leader.

Collins appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and Demings and McClintock were on ABC’s “This Week.”

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2 B.C. oyster farms closed after norovirus outbreak

Two B.C. Vancouver Island oyster farms have been closed following an outbreak of norovirus associated with eating the raw shellfish.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says about 40 cases of acute gastrointestinal illness have been connected to the consumption of raw oysters since March. Testing has confirmed some of the cases were norovirus.

Federal officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) confirmed the affected farms are located on the east coast of Vancouver Island at Deep Bay and Denman Island.

While the two farms are no longer harvesting oysters for consumption, no recall of oysters has been issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Human sewage suspected

While the precise sources of contamination have not been identified, human sewage in the marine environment is currently believed to be the most plausible cause of shellfish contamination, according to BCCDC epidemiologist Marsha Taylor.

In late 2016 and early 2017, more than 400 norovirus cases associated with raw or undercooked B.C. oysters led to the closure of 13 farms.

The outbreak was declared over in April 2017. Human sewage was also suspected as the cause.

Anyone who falls ill with diarrhea and vomiting after eating shellfish should call B.C. HealthLink at 811, said Taylor. Most people recover from norovirus on their own with proper hydration and rest, but in some cases dehydration can be severe and require medical attention.

In order to kill norovirus and other pathogens, the BCCDC recommends consumers cook oysters thoroughly, to an internal temperature of 90 C for 90 seconds. Consumption of raw oysters is not encouraged. 

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Lombok airport near Bali closed after Mount Agung eruptions

Lombok International Airport just east of the Indonesian island of Bali is closed to all flights due to volcanic ash spewing from Mount Agung.

A total of 29 in and outbound flights were impacted, said the airport operator Angkasa Pura in a statement. Most of the affected flights were serving domestic routes except two Kuala Lumpur-bound AirAsia flights and one SilkAir flight to Singapore.

It is unclear how many passengers were stranded at the airport, where operations were expected to resume early Monday.

Indonesian and regional authorities heightened flight warnings around Bali’s Mount Agung on Sunday as the volcano’s eruptions sent a plume of volcanic ash and steam more than 6,000 metres into the sky above the popular holiday island.

Ash covered roads, cars and buildings near the volcano in the northeast of the island, while scores of flights were cancelled and overnight a red glow of what appeared to be magma could be seen in photographs by Antara, the state news agency.

“The activity of Mount Agung has entered the magmatic eruption phase. It is still spewing ash at the moment but we need to monitor and be cautious over the possibility of a strong, explosive eruption,” said Gede Suantika, an official at the volcanology and geological disaster mitigation agency.

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These Balinese stayed the night at an evacuation centre after the Mount Agung volcano erupted for a second time within a week. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)

Bali, famous for its surf, beaches and temples, attracted nearly five million visitors last year but business has slumped in areas around the volcano since September when Agung’s volcanic tremors began to increase.

Agung rises majestically over eastern Bali at a height of just over 3,000 metres. When it last erupted in 1963 it killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VACC) in Darwin issued maps showing an ash cloud heading southeast over the neighbouring island of Lombok, away from Bali’s capital, Denpasar, where the main international airport is located.

‘Red’ aviation warning

Indonesia also upgraded its Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) to red, its highest warning, and said the ash-cloud top could reach 6,142 metres or higher.

However, officials said the Bali airport would remain open for now as the ash could be avoided.

“The volcanic ash has only been detected in a certain area,” the airport and other officials said in a joint statement.

All domestic flights and the airport itself were operating as “normal” and tests for ash had been negative, it said.

Yunus Suprayogi, general manager of Angkasa Pura, said food and entertainment would be provided as well as extra bus services if conditions changed and passenger numbers increased.

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A villager walks near a rice field on Sunday following the eruption of Mount Agung, which has disrupted some international flights to the popular tourist destination. (Firdia Lisnawati/Associated Press)

The airport would also “make it easier” for passengers to seek refunds and make other arrangements, he said, while noting that airlines had their own rules.

After resuming flights on Sunday morning, Virgin Australia again cancelled flights on Sunday afternoon following a change in the aviation colour code from orange to red.

“Due to the significant volcanic ash and current weather conditions, we have made the decision to cancel the rest of today’s flights to and from Bali as a precautionary measure,” Virgin said in a statement on its website.

AirAsia also cancelled its remaining flights to Bali and Lombok.

Qantas and Jetstar flights were continuing as of Sunday afternoon but Jetstar warned on its website that flights could be subject to change at short notice for safety reasons.

Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda said it was cancelling all flights to and from Lombok.

Indonesia’s disaster agency has said Bali is “still safe” for tourists except for a 7.5-kilometre zone around Mount Agung.

“Despite the string of eruptions, there has not been an increase in volcanic activity,” it said in a statement, noting that the emergency status for Agung remains at level 3, one below the highest.

China’s consulate in Denpasar warned citizens on Sunday to “be prepared for the possibility of being stranded” in Bali. 

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