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Canada’s 1st female in-game dunker ready to make mark on March Madness

Coming off the weak side, Laeticia Amihere leaped to deflect her opponent’s pass, batting it toward halfcourt.

The six-foot-three Canadian chased after the ball, retrieved it with no one around her near the timeline, dribbled once, took two strides and made history.

Amihere, then 15, became the first Canadian woman to dunk in a game.

“A lot of people would tell me that’s not typical for girls to do that. And I don’t know how many other Canadians have been able just to do it, even in practice. So I knew that when I did it, it was something remarkable,” Amihere, now 19, told CBC Sports.

The dunk, which came in a 2017 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament game, left the rim rattling and college scouts turning their heads.

“It was crazy. Like none of my teammates expected it. The coaches didn’t expect it. But I think it was really just the momentum that carried me,” Amihere said.

Amihere, of Mississauga, Ont., now plays collegiately for the South Carolina Gamecocks, a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. South Carolina’s first game is Sunday against No. 16 Mercer at 6 p.m. ET.

She’s one of four Canadians representing each of the top seeds among 27 total competing.

Amihere typically serves as a versatile sparkplug off the bench for the Gamecocks. She averaged 6.2 points and five rebounds over 17.4 minutes per game in her 2020-21 sophomore season — both improvements over her freshman campaign when a serious knee injury zapped some athleticism and left her in a bulky knee brace.

“It kind of held me back, but just being able to be more explosive this year, definitely, I feel like is a big [improvement on] last year,” Amihere said.

In the next five months, she’ll try to win a college national championship and follow it up with Olympic gold in Tokyo.

“I really hope this can be a breakout tournament for me. I feel it. And I’ve been putting in the work,” Amihere said.

Amihere, one of four NCAA players invited to the Canadian women’s basketball virtual training camp in February, says she’ll play in Tokyo if asked.

“Making an Olympic team and competing for my country has always been my one of my biggest dreams. [My ultimate goals in basketball are] competing in the Olympics and making the WNBA,” she said.

Amihere said she envisions herself fitting right into coach Lisa Thomaidis’ high-pace system with Team Canada as a disruptive forward who is agile and can run the fast break.

She was part of the team representing Canada at the Olympic qualifying tournament in February 2020.

“She just looks comfortable — confident scoring around the basket, handling the ball a little bit away from the basket [and] just seems to fit in. Great rebounder. She’s such a presence around the hoop as well,” Thomaidis said.

At South Carolina, Amihere plays for head coach Dawn Staley, who doubles as the American national team coach. While they may have the book on each other as opponents in Tokyo, Amihere says Staley has been a massive influence on her burgeoning basketball career.

“She’s on me every single play and telling me what I need to do better. And I think that’s helped me so much, and especially in games, letting me work through what I need to work through in order to be who she thinks I can be. She instills a lot of confidence in me so I definitely don’t take that lightly,” Amihere said.

Thomaidis, meanwhile, sees no issues in having one of her national-team players develop under an opposing coach.

“Laeticia during the recruiting process was very open, but her goal was to get to the Olympics, play for the national team. So Dawn really respects those wishes and is doing everything she can to prepare Laeticia for that,” Thomaidis said.

Canadian content

But first, Amihere may have to go through some Canadian teammates in the NCAA tournament.

The only time she could meet UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards, with whom she said she shares a friendly rivalry, is in the championship game.

She could also see Canada training camp invitees Merissah Russell of No. 2 Louisville and Shaina Pellington of No. 3 Arizona in the Final Four.

“Even last year at training camp, we would talk about when our teams would meet, but it’s awesome. I love those guys and it’s just awesome to be able to compete with them,” Amihere said.

Connecticut’s Aaliyah Edwards, right, could face off against Amihere in the NCAA national championship game. (Jessica Hill/The Associated Press)

A freshman with the Huskies, Edwards averaged over 10 points and five rebounds per game, earning her conference’s sixth woman of the year award. She finished the season shooting 68 per cent from the field.

Alongside American phenom Paige Bueckers, Edwards represents the next wave of talent at traditional powerhouse UConn.

“She sure hasn’t disappointed. She’s had some very impressive games and I think probably the most impressive, aside from her rebounding prowess, is her efficiency from the floor. … She’s really perfected her role this year,” Thomaidis said.

Pellington, meanwhile, came off the bench for the Canadian qualifying team last February. The explosive guard is playing the same role with the Wildcats.

“An exceptional talent and has done well with us. And it’s been fun to watch her for sure,” Thomaidis said.

Russell was a late addition to training camp when the roster expanded to 20 players. Though she may not wind up in Tokyo, the 19-year-old shooting guard is firmly on the radar.

“She’s pretty versatile. She can play a number of different positions and we like what we’ve seen from her. She definitely competes. She knows the game, just young, inexperienced and is just going to continue to get better and better,” Thomaidis said.

The NCAA tournament begins Sunday, and a national champion will be crowned April 4. The Canadian women’s team is planning on holding training camp in May ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup tournament in June, which is followed by the Olympics.

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CBC | Sports News

India’s farmers’ protests mark 100 days — here’s what’s happening now

Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a massive expressway on the edges of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws they say will devastate their income.

Farmers stood on tractors and waved colourful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage.

Thousands of them have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by India’s Parliament last year.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture, but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations.

What’s happening now?

Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Joint Farmers’ Front, said the blockade would last five hours.

“It is not our hobby to block roads, but the government is not listening to us. What can we do?” said Satnam Singh, a member of the group.

The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But they could soon run into problems.

WATCH | Tensions in January

For 100 days, Karnal Singh has lived inside the back of a trailer along a vast stretch of arterial highway that connects India’s north with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was under the grip of winter and smog. Now, the city is bracing for scorching summer temperatures that can hit 45 C.

But Singh, like many other farmers, is unfazed and plans to stay until the laws are completely withdrawn.

“We are not going anywhere and will fight till the end,” Singh, 60, said on Friday, as he sat cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck.

The mood at the Singhu border, one of the protest sites, was boisterous on Friday, with many farmers settling into their surroundings for the long haul.

A major highway near New Delhi was blocked on Saturday, as ongoing protests against new farm laws in India reached their 100th day. (Altaf Qadri/The Associated Press)

Huge soup kitchens that feed thousands daily were still running. Farmers thronged both sides of the highway, and hundreds of trucks have been turned into rooms, fitted with water coolers in preparation for the summer. Electric fans and air conditioners are also being installed in some trailers.

Protests expected to continue during harvest season

Farmers say the protests will spread across the country soon. The government, however, is hoping many of them will return home once India’s major harvesting season begins at the end of the month.

Karanbir Singh dismissed such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbours back in the villages, would tend to farms while he and others carried on with the protests.

Protesters are seen blocking the KMP Expressway in Haryana, India, on Saturday. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

“We’ll help each other to make sure no farm goes unharvested,” Singh said.

But not all farmers are against the laws. Pawan Kumar, a fruit and vegetable grower and ardent Modi supporter, said he was ready to give them a chance.

“If they [the laws] turn out to not benefit us, then we will protest again,” he said. “We will jam roads and make that protest even bigger. Then more common people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be beneficial for us, we will keep them.”

Support in Canada for farmers

The farmers have drawn support for their cause from far outside of India’s borders, including in Canada.

Supportive rallies have been held in Ottawa, Vancouver and other Canadian cities since the farmers in India began pushing back against the agricultural reforms.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has weighed in on the protests, with remarks he made in December drawing counter-comment from the Indian government.

What’s next? 

Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal.

The legislation is not clear on whether the government will continue to guarantee prices for certain essential crops — a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help India shore up its food reserves and prevent shortages.

A portion of Saturday’s protest actions in Haryana, India, are seen in the reflection of a farmer’s sunglasses. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

Farmers also fear that the legislation signals the government is moving away from a system in which an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces.

They worry this will leave them at the mercy of corporations that will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price anymore.

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CBC | World News

U.S. defence secretary Mark Esper fired, Trump announces on Twitter

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Twitter on Monday that Mark Esper, his defence secretary, “has been terminated.”

Trump, who thanked Esper for his service, said Christopher Miller, who has been head of the National Counterterrorism Center, would serve as replacement.

The move adds more uncertainty to the transition period after the Nov. 3 vote. Trump has refused to concede last week’s election to president-elect Joe Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Esper, 56, was confirmed in the role in July 2019. Previously the secretary of the U.S. army, he had succeeded interim leader Patrick Shanahan as the Pentagon’s top official.

Presidents who win re-election often replace cabinet members, including the secretary of defence, but losing presidents have kept their Pentagon chiefs in place until the inauguration to preserve stability in the name of national security.

WATCH l Transition figures to be unusual by modern standards:

The transition period between presidential administrations is the most perilous time in U.S. politics, even in less contentious times, says Rebecca Lissner of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. 4:38

Since the creation of the Defence Department and the position of defence secretary in 1947, the only three presidents to lose election for a second term — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — all kept their secretary of defence in place until inauguration day.

Esper seemed prepared for departure

Esper’s departure has appeared inevitable ever since he publicly broke with Trump in June over the president’s push to deploy military troops in the streets of the nation’s capital in response to civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd. Esper publicly opposed Trump’s threats to invoke the two-centuries-old Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to use active-duty troops in a law enforcement role. And Trump was furious when Esper told reporters the Insurrection Act should be invoked “only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” and “we are not in one of those situations now.”

Mark Esper, centre, is seen along with U.S. Attorney General William Barr, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley, right, on the now-controversial photo-op outside a Washington, D.C., church during protests over the police custody death of George Floyd on June 1. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The June civil unrest initially drew Esper into controversy when he joined a Trump entourage that strolled from the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op with Trump holding a Bible. Critics condemned Esper, saying he had allowed himself to be used as a political prop.

Esper said he didn’t know he was heading into a photo-op but thought he was going to view damage at the church and see National Guard troops in the area. He was accompanied by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who later expressed public regret at having been present in uniform.

The defence secretary also encouraged a review of the naming of military installations after Confederate leaders, another action Trump expressed his opposition to.

Trump hinted at Esper’s shaky status in August, making a snide response to a reporter’s question about whether he still had confidence in Esper’s leadership. “Mark ‘Yesper’? Did you call him ‘Yesper?”‘ Trump said, in what appeared to be an allusion to suggestions that Esper was a Yes man for the president. Asked if he was considering firing Esper, Trump said, “At some point, that’s what happens.”

Recently, Esper was widely expected to quit or be ousted if Trump won re-election. That impression was bolstered by the fact Military Times published an interview with Esper minutes after the firing on Monday, in which the ousted defence secretary talked about his tenure and disputed the notion he didn’t push back on Trump when warranted.

Biden reportedly considering Michele Flournoy for post

Before his current role, Miller was a deputy assistant defence secretary and top adviser to Trump on counterterrorism issues. He has a long background with the military, having served as an enlisted infantryman in the Army Reserves and after that as a special forces officer. He also served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. After his retirement from the military, Miller worked as a defence contractor.

Christopher Miller, the new man in charge, is shown Sept. 24 testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Reuters)

Biden has not said who he would appoint as defence chief but is widely rumoured to be considering naming the first woman to the post. Among the candidates is Michele Flournoy, who has served multiple times in the Pentagon, starting in the 1990s and most recently as the undersecretary of defence for policy from 2009 to 2012. She is well known on Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat and is regarded among U.S. allies and partners as a steady hand who favours strong U.S. military co-operation abroad.

Trump’s first defence secretary, James Mattis, lasted until December 2018 before his departure, which was hastened by disagreements over U.S. policy in Syria. Trump’s abrupt decision to pull American troops out of Syria was later rescinded. 

Aside from the church controversy, during Trump’s tenure, the Pentagon has also been at the centre of debates over the use of American troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the U.S. border with Mexico border.

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Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows has been diagnosed with the coronavirus as the nation sets daily records for confirmed cases for the pandemic.

Two senior administration officials confirmed Friday that Meadows had tested positive for the virus, which has killed more than 236,000 Americans so far this year.

They offered no details on when the chief of staff contracted the virus or his current condition.

His diagnosis was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Meadows travelled with Trump in the run-up to Election Day and last appeared in public early Wednesday morning without a mask as Trump falsely declared victory in the vote count.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrive for a campaign rally at Cherry Capital Airport, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Traverse City, Mich. At right is White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

He had been one of the close aides around Trump when the president came down with the virus more than a month ago, but was tested daily and maintained his regular work schedule.

It marked the latest case of the virus in the West Wing, coming not even two weeks after Marc Short, Vice-President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, and other aides tests positive for the virus.

Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and at least two dozen others tested positive for the virus in early October, after Trump held large gatherings of people not wearing face-masks, including the ceremony announcing the nomination of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Trump has repeatedly said that the nation is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, which was top of mind for voters in Tuesday’s election.

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have increased more than 50 per cent in the past two weeks. According to an AP analysis of data from John Hopkins University, the 7-day rolling average for daily new cases rose from 61,166 on Oct. 22 to 94,625 on Nov. 5.

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A nation on edge: Uncommon threats, fears mark this U.S. election day

Just a few years into the birth of their new country, George Washington warned Americans that all-consuming hostility between political parties could be the toxin that would kill their young republic and fling it down a dark ditch toward despotism.

That experiment in self-government has endured through 231 years, 58 presidential elections and one civil war, and is by some assessments the world’s oldest democracy.

Now, the old republic faces uncommon strain in today’s election.

Years of escalating enmity between political parties has led to a place where different risk-assessment firms that usually deliver warnings involving less-developed countries now express fear of instability in the global superpower.

The warnings run a gamut from threats of violence, to legal fights over whose votes will count, to the potential reactions of one inimitable American president, Donald Trump.

So a campaign that’s already produced an anthology of unusual moments for a mature democracy now ends with storefront windows being boarded up in several cities and an unscalable fence being erected around the White House.

Workers board up a store on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles in preparation for election day. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Americans have been expressing angst for a while about this election. In everyday conversations lately, you hear casual utterances of hair-raising concerns.

“I’m hoping love will prevail. … that there won’t be race wars,” community activist Taleah Taylor said near a ballot drop-box location in downtown Philadelphia, Pa.

“That’s the only thing I do fear — that a race war will start out. Just because [Republicans] didn’t win.”

A man nearby about to cast his ballot paused to ask whether this was indeed a legitimate drop box.

Jackson Golden’s fear was that it might be a counterfeit site erected by Republicans to collect, and possibly destroy, votes from people in Democratic-leaning Philadelphia.

“I just want to make sure this thing gets counted,” said Golden, before casting his ballot Monday in the very real drop box near city hall. 

“Some people in America are not treating this election fairly and can only win if they cheat. … It seems pretty clear that’s the plan. I think it’s been broadcast, in pretty clear daylight.”

Many Republicans feel the same mistrust of Democrats. Some have pointed out it’s cities that vote Democratic putting up those storefront barriers in anticipation of post-election vandalism from progressives.

Candis Houston protests the fact that Republican lawyers went to court to try to have 127,000 ballots cast at drive-thru voting locations in Houston, Texas, tossed out. A judge rejected the suit on Monday. (CBC)

Around the same time Golden was voting, Candis Houston was down in Texas protesting an effort to cancel her vote.

Republican lawyers attempted to have a judge toss out 127,000 votes cast at drive-thru polling locations in Houston.

“This illegal underhanded vote grab, it could sway the election,” said Candis Houston, president of a local branch of a teachers union.

“It’s just another form of voter suppression.”

She said her two daughters, who voted in the drive-thru with her, are now away at college and could not get back to vote on time if their ballots were cancelled. 

The good news for those 127,000 voters is the suit was rejected by a federal judge on Monday.

The risks

Yet, there’s already talk of an appeal, amid scores of other court cases, which, in the event of a tight race, could open the floodgates to a turbulent few weeks of litigation.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is favoured to win the election, according to the polls, though it could be close and the outcome is by no means guaranteed.

Merely counting the mail-in ballots could take days in some swing states, especially in the north.

That adds a new variable to the formula for potential turmoil that has political risk-assessment experts unusually worried about the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have made their final pitches to the American people in the race for the White House. (Carlos Barria/Reuters, Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A report from the International Crisis Group, a global think-tank headquartered in Brussels, lays out three broad categories of risk: Armed violence, efforts to delegitimize or disqualify mail-in ballots, and fights over deadlines for counting votes.

“It’s unprecedented,” Stephen Pomper, ICG’s senior policy director and former official with Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said of the level of fear in a modern U.S. election.

“The tinder here is pretty dry.”

WATCH | Trump supporters shut down a bridge in New York: 

A caravan of Donald Trump supporters were seen slowing traffic in the New York City area on Sunday. A spokesperson for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority said northbound traffic on the Garden State Parkway was blocked for a time. 0:38 

ICG cites four causes that could set the kindling aflame. It says these four factors, when occurring in combination, would spell trouble for any democracy, anywhere.

They include the country’s politics being polarized along racial and identity lines, the rise of armed groups with political agendas, and the possibility of a contested outcome.

Then comes the final combustible variable: Trump himself.

WATCH | Can Trump refuse to leave the White House if he loses?: 

Legal expert weighs in on potential challenge if U.S. President Donald Trump refuses to step down if he loses. 6:40

The president, who revels in torching conventions as much as he recoils at admitting defeat, employs behaviour without recent precedent for a U.S. president, says the report.

Trump has called this election rigged — just as he preemptively called the 2016 election rigged, and also repeatedly called the 2012 election rigged. He has said he will use lawyers to try ending the late counting of ballots received by mail. Trump has also refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose.

WATCH | Pomper on the risk of violence: 

A transnational think-tank says the 2020 U.S. election presents risks for conflict and violence not seen in recent history. Stephen Pomper of the International Crisis Group says political polarization seen in the U.S. and the presence of armed groups are both risk factors.    7:44

Pomper made clear — and it’s a critical point worth emphasizing — that his firm’s report does not project any sort of protracted conflict like a civil war. 

What he does worry about is sporadic violence that could begin in one area and spread, amid debates over the election’s integrity.

There’s already been an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over restrictions she imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 and criminal charges over an alleged scheme to use robocalls to scare voters away from casting ballots.

In addition, for the second straight election, Trump has called for the arrest of his political opponents, while calling for the FBI to drop an investigation into his supporters. 

That probe opened after Trump supporters used their vehicles to surround a moving Democratic campaign bus in Texas. The highway confrontation included one collision and resulted in the Democratic team cancelling an event.

WATCH | A caravan of Trump supporters surrounds a Biden-Harris bus:

The FBI is investigating after a caravan of Donald Trump supporters surrounded a Biden-Harris campaign bus on a Texas highway between San Antonio and Austin on Friday. During a rally in Opa-Locka, Fla., on Monday, Trump called his supporters in the caravan ‘very good people.’ 0:26

There have been hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules, and court challenges to toss out previously cast ballots.

It’s worth noting that a blowout win, one way or the other, could prevent weeks of turmoil. 

And we’ll get our first indication tonight whether this election will be close or not from the results of southern swing states that count mail-in ballots quickly.

Florida and North Carolina should offer near-complete results tonight. 

If Trump has clearly won those southern swing states, we could then face a confusing days-long nail-biter as Pennsylvania and other northern states count ballots more slowly.

Where this is all headed

Steve Levitsky, co-author of the popular book How Democracies Die, says this election is by no means a make-or-break event for the American republic.

He says the president is a driver of discord: “Trump is infinitely reckless,” said Levitsky, a Harvard University expert on democratic decline.

“He will say anything without any regard for the consequences. … So I worry a lot about chaos and violence on election day.”

WATCH | Fear of voter intimidation, violence ahead of U.S. election:

Municipal authorities in the U.S. have vowed to keep voting safe, but the fears of voter intimidation and even violence at polling stations remain. 2:05

Levitsky expects a clear result would douse some of the tension.

However, the institutions of American democracy have been eroding over a couple of decades as the two major parties morph into increasingly bitter enemies, he said. 

And he expects that toxicity will persist regardless of who wins this election.

In other words, he agrees with the general takeaway of the ICG report:

The old republic will live on. But it’s in for a very rocky ride.

What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Your questions help inform our coverage. Email us at Ask@cbc.ca

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CBC | World News

Kenya’s Jepchirchir sets world mark in women’s half marathon

Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya broke her own world record in the women’s-only half marathon Saturday, clocking one hour, five minutes and 16 seconds.

The 27-year-old Jepchirchir improved on her record by 18 seconds on a four-lap course, taking gold at the World Athletics half marathon championships in Gdynia, Poland.

Jepchirchir broke the record for the first time on Sept. 5, when she ran 1:05:34 in Prague.

Six women finished in under 66 minutes in what was a fast course on the streets of Gdynia along the Baltic coast of northern Poland.

Melat Yisak Kejeta of Germany finished second in 1:05:18, followed by Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia at 1:05:19.

Uganda’s 19-year-old Jacob Kiplimo won the men’s race with a championship record time of 58 minutes and 49 seconds to upset Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie who took silver. Ethiopia’s Amedework Walelegn finished third.

Kandie was the fastest man over the distance this year having run 58:38 in Prague last month.

Kiplimo’s compatriot Joshua Cheptegei, who holds both the 5,000m and 10,000m world records, finished in a time of 59:21 on his half marathon debut to earn fourth place.

The event was originally scheduled for March but was postponed to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more coverage of the half marathon championships, tune into Road to the Olympic Games at 5 p.m. ET. 

Earlier this week, Athletics Canada withdrew its team from the competition after the organization’s chief medical officer deems travel too risky due to COVID-19 concerns.

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CBC | Sports News

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip Pose for Portrait in Quarantine to Mark Philip’s 99th Birthday

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip Pose for Portrait in Quarantine to Mark Philip’s 99th Birthday | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Mark is wrong’: Facebook employees go public regarding site policy on political speech

Facebook employees critical of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to act on U.S. President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about protests across the United States went public on Twitter, praising the rival social media firm for acting and rebuking their own employer.

Many tech workers at companies including Facebook, Google and Amazon have actively pursued issues of social justice in recent years, urging their employers to take action and change policies.

Even so, the weekend criticism marked a rare case of high-level employees publicly taking their chief executive to task, with at least three of the seven critical posts seen by Reuters coming from people who identified themselves as senior managers.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavour in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” wrote Ryan Freitas, whose Twitter account identifies him as director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed. He added he had mobilized, “50+ likeminded folks” to lobby for internal change.

Jason Toff, identified as director of product management, wrote: “I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up. The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

A spokesperson said the company is open to employee feedback.

“We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our black community,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone wrote in a text, referring to company employees.

“We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership. As we face additional difficult decisions around content ahead, we’ll continue seeking their honest feedback.”

‘Respect to Twitter’s integrity team’

Twitter affixed a warning label late last week to a tweet from Trump in which he had included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” with respect to Minneapolis protests over the death of George Floyd, which had taken a violent turn. Twitter said the tweet violated its rules against glorifying violence but was being left up as a public service exception.

Facebook declined to take action on the same message, with Zuckerberg saying in a Facebook post on Friday that while he found the remarks “deeply offensive,” they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence and people should know if the government was planning to deploy state force.

This image from the Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump shows a tweet he posted on May 29 after protesters in Minneapolis torched a police station. The tweet drew a warning from Twitter for Trump’s rhetoric, with the social media giant saying he had ‘violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.’ (Twitter/The Associated Press)

In the post, Zuckerberg, who last week took pains to distance his company from the fight between Twitter and Trump, also said Facebook had been in touch with the White House to explain its policies.

But some of the dissenting employees directly praised Twitter’s response.

“Respect to @Twitter’s integrity team for making the enforcement call,” wrote David Gillis, identified as a director of product design. In a long Twitter thread he said he understood the logic of Facebook’s decision, but: “I think it would have been right for us to make a ‘spirit of the policy’ exception that took more context into account.”

Jason Stirman, in research and development at Facebook, said Trump’s posts “clearly incite violence.”

“There isn’t a neutral position on racism.”

Andrew Crow, head of design for the Portal product, said he disagrees with Zuckerberg’s position and vowed to work to make change.

“Giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless who you are or if it’s newsworthy,” Crow wrote.

Toff was one of several Facebook employees who were organizing fundraisers for racial justice groups in Minnesota. Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Monday that the company would contribute an additional $ 10 million US to social justice causes.

Mail-in voting tweet got 1st warning

Twitter’s first warning for Trump last week said his claims on a post about mail-in ballots were false and had been debunked by fact-checkers.

The blue exclamation mark notification on May 26 prompted readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots,” and directed them to a page with news articles and information about the claims aggregated by Twitter staffers. Trump, who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter, had claimed in tweets earlier in the day that mail-in ballots for the election in November would be “substantially fraudulent” and result in a “rigged election.”

“We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this,” Zuckerberg told Fox News in an interview recorded after Twitter’s decision and broadcast on May 28.

Tensions between social media platform Twitter and President Donald Trump escalated today… For the first time ever, Twitter added a warning to two of the president’s tweets saying he violated the platform’s rules of glorifying violence. In one of the tweets he said quote “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” referring to protests in Minneapolis right now. This move comes after Trump signed an executive order that could limit social media companies in how they police content. Ramona Pringle is Here and Now’s technology columnist. 7:33

Zuckerberg has said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t want Facebook to be the “arbiter of truth,” though Facebook announced last year that it would take action on some campaign posts encouraging voter suppression and spreading voter misinformation, which are the areas the Twitter fact-check concerned.

As well, Facebook has banned some accounts and groups related to the QAnon political conspiracy theory, as well as those violating the site’s terms by spreading coronavirus misinformation.

After Twitter’s action concerning the tweet on voting by mail, Trump signed an executive order challenging the liability protections from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms, but it is unclear if the order would survive a likely court challenge.

Technology companies blasted the move, saying it would stifle innovation and speech on the internet. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has supported Trump most of the time with respect to economic policy, shared its objections.

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Mark Consuelos Tried and Failed to ‘Catch’ Kelly Ripa Cheating With a Fake Flower Delivery

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In empty churches, Orthodox Christians mark Easter amid COVID-19 restrictions

A handful of Eastern Orthodox priests held mass for the Christian holiday of Easter on Sunday in an empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem due to restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Eastern Christian rites mark Easter, the day Christians believe Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion, on April 19, a week after the Catholic calendar.

Ordinarily, the church would be filled with faithful and tourists, but travel restrictions imposed in Israel to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have prevented the arrival of pilgrims to Jerusalem for the springtime holiday and limited the gathering of worshippers at the church.

Easter mass was performed by a small group of clergy at the Holy Sepulchre, the site where it is believed Jesus was entombed. The square outside was empty, the church’s large wooden doors barred shut, but a few individual worshippers came to pray outside.

A day earlier a small group of clerics at the church celebrated the ancient Holy Fire ceremony, which normally draws enormous crowds as a flame is transferred to Orthodox faithful around the globe from within a chamber where Christians believe Jesus was buried and rose from the dead.

A priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Nazariy blesses Easter cakes in his church, which is closed due to the coronavirus, prior to delivering them to people in the village of Nove close to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. (Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)

In Egypt, Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of the country’s Coptic Orthodox Christians, held Easter services in an empty monastery in the desert, amid coronavirus restrictions that kept congregations from gathering at churches and monasteries across the country.

The services were held at the Monastery of Saint Pishoy, in a desert valley west of Cairo known as Wadi Natrun. A few clergymen attended the services, which was aired on a Coptic Orthodox television station. The clerics were seen practicing physical distancing during the prayers.

The Coptic Orthodox Church, one the world’s oldest Christian communities, decided earlier this month to suspend Easter prayers and celebrations at churches and monasteries because of the spread of the deadly virus.

Christians constitute around 10 per cent of Egypt’s more than 100 million population, who are predominantly Muslim.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Christians on the Orthodox Easter in a video message on Sunday. Putin said the religious festival would strengthen Russians’ hope and faith because the resurrection of Christ was a powerful symbol of rebirth and a reminder that life goes on.

Russian authorities and clerics have urged Christians to stay at home during the Orthodox Easter weekend for their own safety, though a senior cleric urged police on Saturday to be lenient on those who still try to make it to church.

Globally, there are roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians, primarily living in Eastern Europe, Russia and parts of the Middle East. 

A Lithuanian Orthodox priest and congregants standing well apart pray during the cakes and Easter eggs blessing ceremony at the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Saturday. (Mindaugas Kulbis/The Associated Press)

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