Tag Archives: defend

Western governments defend Oxford-AstraZeneca shot after South Africa halts rollout

Several Western governments rushed to offer support for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination after South Africa halted its rollout when research showed it offered minimal protection against mild infection from a variant spreading there.

The arrival of vaccines has given hope that scientists can tame a pandemic that has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide. But if vaccines are less effective against new variants, they may need to be tweaked and people may need booster shots.

South Africa announced its pause after researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said Sunday that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided only minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the B1351 variant, now the dominant form of the virus in that country.

The research, which is not yet peer reviewed, included about 2,000 volunteers with a median age of 31. The researchers defined mild disease as at least one symptom of COVID-19. There was no data on whether the vaccine would prevent severe illness, and researchers said that was still possible.

“This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected,” said Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial. “But, taken with the promising results from other studies in South Africa using a similar viral vector, vaccines may continue to ease the toll on health-care systems by preventing severe disease.”

French Health Minister Olivier Veran voiced support for the AstraZeneca vaccine, arguing it provided sufficient protection against “nearly all the variants” of the virus.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said current evidence suggests all three vaccines approved in Europe — which include AstraZeneca — provided effective protection against serious infections.

Britain and Australia urged calm, citing evidence that the vaccines prevented grave illness and death, while AstraZeneca said it believed its vaccine could protect against severe disease.

“We think that both the vaccines that we’re currently using are effective in, as I say, in stopping serious disease and death,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters. Britain also uses the Pfizer shot.

WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine approvals and concerns:

Health Canada is expected to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week, which would make it the third COVID-19 vaccine approved in Canada. In South Africa, authorities have paused rollout of this vaccine after a study found it offers only limited protection against the coronavirus variant first identified there. 3:42

“We also think in particular in the case of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that there’s good evidence that it is stopping transmission, as well — I think 67 per cent reduction in transmission.” (Oxford investigators suggested, based on swabs from U.K. volunteers, a 67 per cent reduction after the first dose.)

Australia is expected to approve the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine within days and expressed confidence in it. 

“There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death. That is the fundamental task: to protect the health,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Health Canada is also reviewing data submitted by AstraZeneca to decide on its approval. 

But if vaccines do not work as effectively as hoped against new and emerging variants, then the world could be facing a much longer — and more expensive — battle against the virus than previously thought.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was the big hope for Africa as it is cheap and easy to store and transport. South Africa, which had hoped to roll out the AstraZeneca shot this month, is storing around one million doses it has received from the Serum Institute of India.

The B1351 variant dominant in South Africa, also known as 20I/501Y.V2, is also circulating in at least 40 other countries, including Canada and the United States. Other major variants include one first found in Britain, known as 20I/501Y.V1 or B117, and one found in Brazil known as P.1.

Vaccine hopes

An analysis of infections by the South African variant showed there was only a 22 per cent lower risk of developing mild-to-moderate COVID-19, more than 14 days after being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot, versus those given a placebo.

Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalization or death could not be assessed in the study of around 2,000 volunteers who had a median age of 31, as the target population were at such low risk.

Prof. Shabir Madhi, lead investigator on the AstraZeneca trial in South Africa, said the vaccine’s similarity to another produced by Johnson & Johnson, which reduced severe disease by 85 per cent, suggested it would still prevent serious illness or death.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said efforts were underway to develop a new generation of booster shot vaccines that will allow protection against emerging variants.

“This is the same issue that is faced by all of the vaccine developers, and we will continue to monitor the emergence of new variants that arise in readiness for a future strain change.”

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CBC | Health News

Doctor who caught COVID-19 variant vows to ‘vigorously defend’ against charge she obstructed contact tracing

An Ontario physician and her husband — the first people in Canada known to have caught the coronavirus variant originally detected in the U.K. — are vowing to fight public health charges alleging they hindered contact tracing efforts. 

Dr. Martina Weir and her husband, Brian Weir, who works for Toronto’s paramedic service, both said in statements issued through their respective lawyers that they are not guilty, intend to plead not guilty and will “vigorously defend” themselves against the charges.

As CBC News previously reported, it was only by chance the lab that handled the couple’s COVID-19 tests identified the variant, according to Public Health Ontario. The province does not check each positive case of COVID-19 for the B117 strain.

The couple, from Durham Region east of Toronto, are each accused of three non-criminal counts under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act that were laid last week but only formalized Tuesday. The charges include:

  • 2 counts each of “failing to provide accurate information on all persons that [they] may have had contact with during their period of communicability for COVID-19.”
  • 1 count each of obstruction for “providing false information” to public health officials.    

In Martina Weir’s case, the obstruction count alleges she gave the false information to Durham Region’s associate medical officer of health during contact tracing in relation to the coronavirus strain first reported in the U.K.

Brian Weir’s obstruction count alleges he provided false information about whether he had contact with anyone who had travelled from the U.K.

CBC News has learned that a close family member who lives in Britain flew to Canada in mid-December to spend time over the holidays at the Weirs’ home.

Initially, in its Boxing Day announcement that a then-unnamed Durham couple had tested positive for the coronavirus variant first reported in the U.K., Ontario’s Health Ministry said they had “no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.” 

But a day later, the ministry issued a second statement alleging the couple had withheld information.

“Additional investigation and follow-up case and contact management has revealed that the couple had, indeed, been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K., which is new information not provided in earlier interviews,” the ministry said in a Dec. 27 statement.


Signage at Winnipeg’s airport warns international travellers they have to isolate for 14 days. The charges against an Ontario doctor and her husband allege they obstructed health officials by not providing accurate information related to contact with anyone who travelled to the U.K. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

No indication of workplace risk

Martina Weir works as a physician at two publicly run nursing homes and three hospitals in Durham Region. 

A spokesperson for the nursing homes said Weir wasn’t at work between Dec. 11 — well before she is believed to have tested positive for COVID-19 — and earlier this week. The spokesperson said there are no concerns about any risk to the homes’ residents but that Weir’s contract employment there is under review. 

A spokesperson for the hospitals, Sharon Navarro, said staff coming to work there “must attest that they have not travelled outside the country and or had contact with anyone travelling outside the country.”

She did not answer questions about whether Martina Weir had been to work in mid-December or whether any other staff or patients who may have tested positive for COVID-19 are being screened for the B117 variant.      

Neither Weir nor her lawyer would say whether she went to work at the hospitals during the period when she was potentially contagious. 

CBC News has no indication that Weir went to work and put anyone at risk at any of her workplaces.

WATCH | What do we know about the variant 1st identified in U.K.

The B1-17 coronavirus variant, first discovered in the U.K., is now in at least 40 countries, including Canada. It has 23 mutations, including one that attaches to healthy cells like a key going into a lock. 1:56

College of Physicians aware of charges

By law, Weir has to report the charges against her to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the provincial regulator for doctors. The college can then follow up with an investigation, and results are forwarded to a committee that decides whether to take no action, issue a caution, ask a doctor to undergo remedial training, or send the matter to a disciplinary hearing.  

The college said in a statement on Tuesday that, in general, “Countering public health best practices at any time — including during a pandemic — represents a risk to the public and is not acceptable behaviour.”

Toronto Paramedic Services, where Brian Weir works as a senior scheduler for the city’s emergency medical service, said it wasn’t aware of the charges against him and wouldn’t comment on something pertaining to its “staff as private citizens.” 

Brian Weir’s lawyer didn’t answer a question from CBC about whether Weir was at work during the period when he was potentially contagious.

CBC News has no indication Brian Weir went to work and put anyone at risk at his workplace.

The Weirs’ first appearance is set for March 10 in provincial offences court. The charges carry a maximum penalty of $ 5,000 each.  

Health workers have ‘elevated moral responsibility’

Martina Weir is believed to be the second doctor in Canada charged with a public-health offence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. A doctor was charged in New Brunswick last year with failing to self-isolate for 14 days after he returned from a trip to Quebec to pick up his daughter. 

Bioethicist Kerry Bowman of the University of Toronto said that, in his view, health-care workers have “an elevated moral responsibility” because they are “in a position of trust with the public.” 

“We’re in this awful race right now, over these difficult winter months, with vaccines and the variant and everything else,” he said. “So it’s very … very serious.”


University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman says health-care workers have ‘an elevated moral responsibility’ because they are ‘in a position of trust with the public.’ (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

According to Statistics Canada, 17 of the country’s biggest police forces responded to more than 16,800 potential violations of provincial laws and regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic between March and August. The data does not indicate how many of those cases resulted in fines or charges.

At the federal level, the Public Health Agency of Canada said earlier this month that between late March 2020 and Jan. 5, 2021, police have laid eight charges, given out 126 tickets and issued around 200 warnings for alleged violations of the Quarantine Act, which applies to people entering Canada from abroad.


Have a tip to share on this story? Contact Zach Dubinsky at 416-205-7553 or zach.dubinsky@cbc.ca, or send us a secure, anonymous message through SecureDrop.

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CBC | Health News

Janine Beckie, City set to defend FA Cup title against Everton

Canada’s Janine Beckie will be looking for her chance to help Manchester City defend their title as they take on Everton in the women’s FA Cup final on Sunday. 

The match, to be played at London’s Wembley Stadium without fans, marks the 50th edition of the contest.  

City, the current holders, will be going for their third FA Cup in four years. 

Meanwhile, two-time winners Everton enter the match unbeaten in their last five WSL games. The Toffees sit behind only Arsenal in the league standings.

City, on the other hand, have paid for their scoring woes and sit fifth. 

If Beckie is to help the Citizens it will probably have to be from off the bench.

Even though the 26-year-old Canadian international recently signed a 2-year extension in April, the Sky Blues are brimming with talent. 


In August, Manchester City added World Cup champions Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis from the United States. They also added UEFA player of the year Lucy Bronze and fellow England international fullback Alex Greenwood from French powerhouse, and Champions League winners, Olympique Lyonnais.

The moves have certainly paid off as City defeated 14-time winners Arsenal to book their spot at Wembley.

Equally deserving, Everton completed an incredible comeback against Chelsea in the quarters, before thumping Brighton in the semis. 

With both sides set to collide, kickoff is at 9:30 am. ET.

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CBC | Soccer News

‘We’re not going to apologize’: U.S. officials defend crackdown in Portland

Top U.S. Homeland Security officials say they have no intention of pulling back in Portland, Ore., and defended the federal crackdown on anti-racism protests in the country, including the use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers in camouflage.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent law enforcement units to Portland to back up the Federal Protective Service responsible for guarding government facilities after receiving intelligence about planned attacks around July 4, the DHS officials said.

“DHS is not going to back down from our responsibilities. We are not escalating, we are protecting,” Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, told Fox News.

President Donald Trump condemned protests in Portland and violence in other “Democrat-run” cities on Sunday as his administration moves to intervene in urban centres he said have lost control of demonstrations. Protests began across the country after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis in late May.

Last week, federal officers started cracking down on crowds, using tear gas to disperse protesters and taking some into custody in unmarked cars.

WATCH | Tear gas fired at demonstrators during a protest in Portland:

Protests over racism and police brutality have been going on in Portland, Ore., almost daily for over 50 days since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. The Trump administration has deployed federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on the protests. 4:22

Officers without clear identification

On Monday morning, Portland Police provided details on another tense night between protesters and federal law enforcement in the city, saying federal agents used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered outside a federal courthouse downtown.


A Black Lives Matter protester burns an American flag in Portland. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

Wolf said federal law enforcement was doing its job.

“We’re not going to apologize for it,” he said. “We’re going to do it professionally and do it correctly.”

The clampdown in Portland has drawn widespread criticism and legal challenges as videos surfaced of officers without clear identification badges using force and unmarked vehicles to arrest protesters without explanation.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputy secretary, said the federal officers wore the same uniforms every day and the crowds knew who they were. He also defended the use of unmarked cars as routine.

“Unmarked police vehicles are so common it’s barely worth discussion,” he told CNN.


Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Department of Homeland Security deputy secretary, said the department would respond the same way as it has in Portland if federal authorities received the same kind of intelligence in other places in the U.S. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)

Cuccinelli said if federal authorities receive the same kind of intelligence threat in other places, they would respond the same way.

“It’s really as simple as that,” he said.

Democrats demand answers

On Sunday, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives demanded internal investigations into whether the Justice and Homeland Security departments “abused emergency authorities” in handling the Portland protests.

Portland’s mayor called the intervention an abuse of federal power and said it was escalating the violence. Oregon’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the federal agencies, saying they had seized and detained people without probable cause.

Cuccinelli dismissed local leaders’ calls to leave the city.

“We will maintain our presence,” he said.

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CBC | World News

Amanda Nunes dominates Montreal’s Felicia Spencer to defend featherweight title

Amanda Nunes became the first UFC fighter to defend a championship belt while holding titles in two weight classes Saturday night, earning a dominant unanimous decision over featherweight contender Felicia Spencer in the main event of UFC 250.

Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt also knocked out Raphael Assuncao with one second left in the second round in the co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

UFC 250 was the second event held at the UFC Apex gym in the promotion’s hometown since its resumption in competition amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Apex octagon is 25 feet in diameter instead of the typical 30 feet, and those close quarters resulted in several entertaining finishes, including spectacular knockouts by Garbrandt and fellow bantamweight star “Suga” Sean O’Malley.

Nunes (20-4), widely considered the greatest female fighter in mixed martial arts history, is the UFC’s champion of the bantamweight and featherweight divisions.

While Nunes’ dominance was tested in her last bout against bantamweight Germaine De Randamie in December, the relatively inexperienced Spencer (8-2) provided little challenge to the champ.

Nunes battered the slower Spencer with her fearsome striking power from the start, cutting the challenger’s face and later sending her mouthpiece flying away during the third round. Spencer had a nasty hematoma growing on her forehead after the fourth round.


Nunes comfortably defended her featherweight belt for the first time since taking it from Cris “Cyborg” Justino in December 2018. She has defended the bantamweight belt five times since 2016.

Garbrandt (12-3) had lost three straight fights before this impressive performance ended with a right cross that knocked out Assuncauo in the final second of the second round. Garbrandt retreated to the fence, dodged Assuncao’s right hand and landed a perfect shot to the face, sending Assuncao tumbling backward and face-first to the canvas.

The win was Garbrandt’s first since December 2016, when he beat Dominick Cruz to win the bantamweight title.

The ‘Suga’ show rolls on

O’Malley (12-0) opened the pay-per-view portion of UFC 250 with a vicious one-punch knockout of veteran Eddie Wineland just 1:54 into their bout.

O’Malley’s right hand to the jaw deposited Wineland flat on his back with his hands still raised. O’Malley imperiously walked away from his single punch before the senseless Wineland or the referee knew what happened.

“When you’re as fast and accurate as I am, I’m gonna land first and I’m going to land early,” O’Malley said. “And I landed on the button.”

Later, Aljamain Sterling rendered Cory Sandhagen unconscious with a rear naked choke just 88 seconds into a fight to determine the next contender for the bantamweight title. Sterling (19-3), who has five straight victories, swiftly locked in a full body triangle and a deep choke to finish Sandhagen, who tapped out right before going to sleep.

Light heavyweight Devin Clark took a knee with his fist raised in the air during his pre-fight introduction from Bruce Buffer. Clark then earned a unanimous-decision victory over previously unbeaten prospect Alonzo Menifield, persevering through a left eye closed by punches.

Clark and teammate Jon Jones spent time on the streets of Albuquerque last weekend, speaking to protesters and helping in the cleanup effort for property damage.

Clark didn’t speak to the media after his fight, instead heading to a hospital for immediate care.

But Sterling spoke out in support of the widespread protests following the death of George Floyd in his post-fight interview.

“The world is in shambles right now, especially America,” Sterling said. “We’ve got a lot going on in this country. It’s a great country, but there’s a lot of things that need to be changed, especially the injustices happening to minorities all across America. This one is for everybody back home fighting the good fight, protesting. I support you guys. I’m with you guys all the way.”

Stamann earns win days after death of his younger brother

Featherweight Cody Stamann earned a dominant decision over Brian Kelleher just 10 days after the death of Stamann’s 18-year-old brother, Jacob.

“It’s been real hard,” said Stamann, who was visibly emotional in the cage. “I’ve been fighting tears all day. I had to buckle up and be a man and get this done for my family, for myself.”

The UFC led North American sports’ return last month with three shows in Florida. President Dana White is determined to hold near-weekly shows going forward, and he still intends to stage fights this summer on a private island dubbed “Fight Island.”

Although White has been secretive about the location where he will stage bouts between fighters unable to reach the U.S. due to coronavirus travel restrictions, lightweight Herbert Burns let slip that Fight Island is in Abu Dhabi after he beat Evan Dunham in the opening bout of UFC 250.

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CBC | Sports News

Fun to watch, almost impossible to defend, ‘lacrosse’ goal causing fits for NHL goalies

Johnny Gaudreau stood on the Calgary Flames bench in a state of shock after Andrei Svechnikov scored the first lacrosse goal in NHL history against David Rittich.

It was Oct. 29, and the left-shooting Svechnikov had cradled the puck on the blade of his stick, wrapped around the right side of the Calgary net, and whipped it through the tiny gap between the post, the cross bar and Rittich’s head.

Sure, Gaudreau hoped the goal would be waved off because of a high stick. And sure, he bemoaned the fact that Svechnikov pulled off the seemingly impossible in a game Calgary would go onto lose 2-1. 

But at the same time, he couldn’t help but realize he was witnessing the start of something the NHL had never before seen.

“That’s a very hard thing to do,” Gaudreau said with admiration. “When you try it in summer or practice — even without a goalie — it’s tough to do. So to see him pull it off in the NHL, and against an NHL goaltender, it’s pretty cool to see.

WATCH | The evolution of the lacrosse goal:

We first saw it done by Mike Legg in 1996 at the University of Michigan. It took 24 years to be done in the NHL, but now the lacrosse goal has happened three times this season. How’d the unique move reach hockey’s highest level? 2:43

“We were just in shock and awe when that happened. Not many guys can pull that off. It’s fun to watch.”

Fun to watch for forwards, perhaps. But for goalies — and the defencemen paid to protect them — the lacrosse goal is a problem to be solved.

It’s a new threat to consider when certain players are parked in the area known as Wayne Gretzky’s office behind the net.

“It’s tough,” says St. Louis Blues netminder Jordan Binnington. “It’s a new play, and I think it’s kind of fun for coaches to find a way to adapt and for goalies to figure out a new way to stop. You just use your hockey sense and trust your reads to try and handle it.”

In truth, the lacrosse goal is nothing new. In the 1996 NCAA West Regional semifinal, Michigan forward Mike Legg shocked the hockey world when he scooped the puck and whipped it behind Minnesota goalie Steve Debus.

Legg’s stick on the play ended up residing for a time in the Hockey Hall of Fame for its part in what is simply known as “The Michigan.”

Flash forward 26 years. Svechnikov scored the first NHL lacrosse goal on Oct. 29. He repeated the feat on Dec. 17 against Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets. 

On Jan. 14, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg proved the lacrosse goal is not a one-man phenomenon, lifting the puck on his blade and shovelling it under the glove of Edmonton netminder Mike Smith.

“The young kids are super skilled coming up now,” says Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom. “With social media and YouTube, they learn new tricks and all that stuff is going to be more creative.

“Players are getting more creative and more confident to pull it off in games. It’s obviously fun for the fans.”

The lacrosse goal is clearly fun, but debate rages around the actual legality of the play — especially considering Rittich took a stick through the face mask on the Svechnikov marker.

Stick must be below shoulders, crossbar

Under the current rules, a lacrosse goal is legal as long as the stick of the shooter is below the shoulders and the crossbar. As for the safety issue, “accidental contact” on a high stick is permitted “if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion.” 

“I really think it’s just the risk you have to take playing the position,” says Calgary goalie Cam Talbot. “I know more guys are trying it now they’ve seen it done. It’s not going to change the way I play on my post or anything like that.

“They’re exciting goals. If you’re skilled enough to pull that off, all the power to you.”

Talbot is also relying on his defencemen to read the play in real time and, if possible, hack the would-be attacker’s stick before the puck is launched.

Defencemen are becoming aware that it’s an option for some players– Calgary’s Noah Hanifan

“The more you see it, the more D-men are becoming aware of it,” says Calgary rearguard Noah Hanifin. “You’re aware of what players tend to do those things. It’s pretty unique, but defencemen are becoming aware that it’s an option for some players.”

Option or not, Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko isn’t about to reinvent his playing style in the name of preventing lacrosse goals.

“It’s kind of one of those in-game reads where whatever you’re seeing might help you stop the puck,” Demko says. “You just do it, whether it’s throwing your head or maybe using your opposite hand and knock it down. It’s just a quick read. 

“I don’t think it’s a thing where you need to change your system of play. You have to have some awareness for it, like ‘oh this guy has a little bit more time than normal, what are his options?’ That kind of thing, but you’re not going to change anything really.”

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CBC | Sports News

'Bachelor in Paradise' Sneak Peek: Kenny Gets in the Ring to Defend Krystal's Honor (Exclusive)

Kenny King is getting in the ring!

The Bachelorette fan favorite is showing off his wrestling moves on next week’s episode of Bachelor in Paradise, and we’re totally here for it. ET has an exclusive sneak peek of Kenny’s date with Krystal (not sure how they end up together, to be honest), in which he heroically defends her honor with some kickass moves. 

“The date card said, ‘Who will be your match? Kenny’s a wrestler, we’re in Mexico. I knew it was Lucha Libra,” Krystal explains, as they’re shown enjoying a match ringside, though things quickly heat up when she’s approached by one of the wrestlers. The metaphorical gloves come off, and Kenny’s literal shirt does too. 

The single father jumps into the ring, where he battles it out with some of his signature moves, using his insane muscles — and a chair — to defeat his opponent. 

“It was so cool to see Kenny like, get up onstage and just, like, shine,” Krystal says. “It was like, beautiful! … It just made me feel so happy and grateful that, like, he took me on this date.”

Watch the clip in the video player above. 

ET spoke with Krystal as Paradise kicked off earlier this summer — and she told us that she had “saged” her soul in preparation for the show. 

“I just developed a really strong morning routine… I wanted to clear emotional space coming into Paradise and work through some growing pains I had, so, yeah, I burned a lot of sage, girl,” she hilariously revealed. 

“When I got back from The Bachelor, in all honesty, I was really defeated and I was just depleted, and I was down. It took a while, and just a lot of anxiety, like how is everything going to go down ’cause I was aware toward the end I was the villain and it was so not my intention to never be anything close to that,” she continued. “I really just lost control and it was a very stressful experience for me.” 

The former Bachelor villain is clearly back in the driver’s seat for Paradise, however. See more in the video below. 

Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. 

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‘Bachelor’ Villain Krystal Nielson Says She ‘Saged My Soul’ for ‘Paradise’ (Exclusive)

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Erica Wiebe goes around the world and back to defend her Commonwealth gold

GOLD COAST, Australia — Erica Wiebe’s to-do list here was short, but ambitious.

“My goal was to pet a koala, get a tan and get a gold medal.”

The Canadian freestyle wrestling superstar quickly took care of the first two items at the Commonwealth Games athletes’ village.


Wiebe completed the third on the mat Thursday at the Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre — with authority.

The Stittsville, Ont., native began her Commonwealth title defence in the women’s 76-kilogram category with a speedy victory, pinning Hajaratu Kamara of Sierra Leone a little more than a minute into their quarter-final match.

Next up was a semifinal against England’s Georgina Nelthorpe, who the Canadian handled in a time not much longer than her first match, via technical superiority, by a score of 11-0.

The final saw Wiebe give up her first and only points of the tourney before she pinned Blessing Onyebuchi of Nigeria to claim gold and repeat as Commonwealth champion.

Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Erica Wiebe was one of 4 Canadian medal winners on the wrestling mat during day 8 of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.1:45

The last time she won this title, in 2014 in Glasgow, Wiebe spun it into Olympic gold two years later. That’s the aim once again for Wiebe, who says she takes a lot of confidence from her Commonwealth Games victories.

“In 2014 when I came here it was really my first big multi-sport Games, my first big event — bright lights in a big stadium,” she says. “Competing on a big major stage like that gave me the confidence and experience that when it came time for the finals in Rio, I knew what to expect, I knew what I was capable of and had confidence in myself.”

The Olympic champion wrestler is competing for Canada in Gold Coast, Australia.3:28

To say it’s been a busy few years for Wiebe would be an understatement of global proportions.

After winning Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, the Canadian has been on a whirlwind tour, the latest stop of which has her in Australia to defend her Commonwealth Games title.

So, in a way, the 28-year-old is back where her wild ride began.

“It’s so crazy being back here four years later,” she says. “Everything has changed, but in some ways it’s still a wrestling match and anything can happen. I still love this sport, I’m still growing and learning so much. I just hope to be there for the ride and be there in Tokyo.”

Wiebe’s road to Rio went through Glasgow, but she got to the Gold Coast via… well, let’s just say her passport is full of stamps.

“I always have a lot going on in my life, she says. “I’ve always loved having balance with my personal goals, academic goals and having sport goals. After Rio, it got super crazy.

“I love adventures, so I went on quite the adventure.”

Wiebe, top, wrestles Nigeria’s Blessing Onyebuchi in the women’s freestyle 76kg title match at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Wiebe pinned her opponent to win gold.(Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

WWE comes calling

Her Olympic success landed her a huge gig in the India’s Pro Wrestling League, where she was team captain of the Mumbai Maharathi. Wiebe’s participation fee was 4.3 million Indian rupees, which equates to more than $ 80,000 Canadian, making her one of the highest-paid wrestlers out of many world-class women and men.

Wrestling-related adventures have also had Wiebe globe-hopping to Sweden, Ukraine, Iceland and across Canada. She also received an invite from WWE.

The sports-entertainment behemoth offered Wiebe a chance to visit and watch the Mae Young Classic finale in Las Vegas, with a follow up-stop at the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

Becoming an Olympic champion also means increased demands on her time. However, if her results here in the Gold Coast are any indication, she’s well equipped to deal with the growing attention and has found her balance.

“I took a look at what I wanted to accomplish in Tokyo in 2020, so I’m really focused on what I want my schedule to look like,” Wiebe says. “I’m actually working in a flexible work role at Deloitte in Calgary, so that’s keeping me focused and grounded. It gives me so much balance outside of the wrestling world [and] the padded wrestling room that we train in every single day.

“I’m really intentional about what I do every day.”

Special relationship

Helping to keep her on track is coach Paul Ragusa, himself a silver medallist in wrestling at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. He says Wiebe’s work ethic is second to none, and it’s helped her cope with being a hot commodity.

“She’s a Commonwealth Games champion and an Olympic champion. There’s a lot of expectations on her,” he says. “She always feels a lot of pressure but she’s managing it well.

“She’s a great champion and a great role model. She’s someone you can really get behind because she works so hard.”

The relationship with her coach is a special, and emotional, one for Wiebe.

“In [Glasgow] we won that gold medal together and he started really focusing on me and being that mentor for me. He pushes me and challenges me. He’s the best technical coach in the world and I know that he supports me, no matter what,” Wiebe says, tears running down her cheek.

Now that she’s taken care of her three goals here in Australia, Wiebe will stick around to cheer on her teammates who are looking to check off their own podium finishes. Her gold was one of four medals won by Canadians on the night, with Diana Weickel, Steven Takahashi and Jevon Balfour also hitting the podium.

“I love the Wrestling Canada team. I think we’re going to have a really strong performance,” Wiebe says. “Tonight was just the beginning.”

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Ministers to defend cannabis legalization in televised Senate meeting

Three Liberal cabinet ministers will defend the government’s cannabis legislation to members of the Red Chamber Tuesday as the self-imposed legalization deadline of July 1 fast approaches.

The ministers will appear before a committee of the whole inside the Senate. In an unusual move, senators have allowed television cameras to capture the proceedings. CBCNews.ca will carry it live starting at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Bill Blair, the parliamentary secretary tasked with seeing the cannabis bill passed, will field questions for two hours from senators.

The legislation passed through the House of Commons, largely along partisan lines, but the Senate has proven to be a more tricky chamber to navigate with some Conservative senators signalling they will do all they can to stall the bill’s passage.

Some provincial officials and law enforcement agencies have said they will not be ready for legal cannabis by July 1, and, thus, the Tories believe implementation should be delayed by at least year to allow the other levels of government to play catch-up.

The legislation, as currently written, stipulates the legislation does not come into force until a date is fixed by an order of the governor in council (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet).

Defenders of the bill, including its sponsor in the Senate, Tony Dean, say the government does not have the luxury of time as illegal cannabis use will continue unabated — a $ 7-billion industry, according to government research, that funnels funds into the hands of organized crime — without the benefit of federal regulations.

The government maintains the prohibitionist approach has done little to stop young Canadians from using the drug, and does not protect the health and wellness of Canadians.

Independent Senate officials, speaking to CBC News on background, have said there is an openness to using time allocation, a procedural tool used to shut down debate and move to a vote, if Conservatives prevent the bill’s passage in a timely manner.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada and Jane Philpott, then-minister of health listen to parliamentary secretary Bill Blair respond to a question after announcing the legalization of marijuana during a news conference in 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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U.S. commanders stress 'ironclad' commitment to defend South Korea

U.S. naval commanders on Saturday reiterated Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to defend South Korea against North Korean threats as an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier visited a South Korean port following a joint naval drill.

Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of Naval Forces Korea, said aboard the USS Ronald Reagan that the drills enhanced the allies’ ability to co-ordinate operations.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears at a ceremony marking a nuclear weapon test, in an undated photo released on Jan. 13, 2016. (Korean Central News Agency/Reuters)

The five-day drills that ended Friday involved fighter jets, helicopters and 40 naval ships and submarines from the two countries training for potential North Korean aggression. In an apparent show of force against North Korea, the United States also sent several of its advanced warplanes, including four F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and two B-1B long-range bombers, for an air show and exhibition in Seoul that began on Tuesday.

The drills came ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Asia next month that’s likely to be overshadowed by tensions with North Korea.

The allies regularly conduct joint military exercises that Pyongyang condemns as invasion rehearsals. North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Saturday that the latest naval drills have driven the situation of the Korean Peninsula to a “touch-and-go situation” and accused the allies of “getting frantic with the move to start a nuclear war.”

The United States has been sending its strategic assets to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid increased efforts by North Korea to expand its nuclear weapons program.

In recent months, North Korea has tested developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. It also flew two powerful new midrange missiles over Japan between threats to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

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