There has recently been lots of hopeful chatter about how and when professional sports will emerge from the Coronavirus lockdown.
The NBA has announced players could soon start practising again. And the NHL and MLB continue to float scenarios that would see its players get back into action.
All of these plans must confront serious health and logistical hurdles. For Canadian teams, there are additional barriers that will need to be overcome.
Take the NBA’s plan to allow its teams to start opening their practice facilities on May 8th, albeit under very restrictive conditions.
That would be especially challenging for the world champion Toronto Raptors. During this prolonged shutdown, many of its players have returned home to the United States.
With Canada-U.S. currently restricting all non-essential travel across the border, would those members of the Raptors be permitted to return to Toronto to resume practice?
A number of concessions would have to be made.
Is traveller’s trip essential?
“All travel of an optional or discretionary nature, including tourism and recreation, are covered by these measures,” Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Judith Gadbois St-Cyr told CBC Sports.
“It comes down to whether the purpose of a traveller’s trip is essential or not. If the reason they are seeking entry is not considered essential under the current restrictions, they would not be allowed to enter Canada.”
At this point in time, there has been no determination as to whether athletes or professional sport would be considered essential.
“I would not speculate on future decisions or changes as this situation remains fluid,” Gadbois St-Cyr added.
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Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas says under the current rules, it would be very difficult for professional athletes and teams to make the case that they are an essential service.
“I would say that the governments of both the United States and Canada would have to come up with a joint plan to allow the restrictions to either begin to be lifted or carve out more exceptions slowly. One of those exceptions would be professional sports,” Karas said.
Karas said leagues would likely have assurances from officials on both sides of the border that player movement would be allowed before moving forward with any plan.
“The sports leagues in North America are extremely sophisticated and extremely powerful. They have a very large voice,” Karas said. “They’re not going to do anything without having something firmly in place.”
Karas said it’s also likely leagues will need to find a way around current rules that require anybody travelling from the United States into Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. As Karas points out, such a rule would make competition nearly impossible.
There would have to be a deal that would have to be an exemption created for sport.– Sergio Karas, immigration lawyer
“There would have to be a deal that would have to be an exemption created for sport,” he said. “If they are trying to come from Europe, that’s a different issue. They can still come. There is a way for them to obtain special permission.”
Beyond travel issues, there are local health and safety regulations to overcome as well. In Ontario, a provincial emergency order that runs at least until May 6 prohibits gatherings of more than five people. The NBA is hoping some teams can re-open facilities on May 8. The Raptors referred CBC Sports to a list of safety measures outlined by the NBA that would have to be in place before any players return to a team’s practice facility.
“We intend to be fully in compliance with local, provincial and federal orders and we will follow all public health guidelines with regards to gatherings and travel. The safety of our communities, staff, and players is our highest priority,” Raptors spokesperson Jennifer Quinn said.
In a memo circulated to teams this week, the NBA outlined a lengthy list of safeguards including:
- No more than four players permitted at a facility at one time
- Coaches and players remaining 12 feet apart
- Only one player per basket allowed (two players cannot shoot on the same basket).
“Obviously the paramount concern continues to be, as it always has been, about everyone’s health including that of the Toronto Raptors themselves and we will sort out with the province whatever seems best in terms of allowing that kind of very limited activity to happen at the practice centre,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told a local television station this week.
These measures appear to comply with current provincial regulations.
But officials were non-committal on whether the Raptors would be able to return to their practice facility on May 8th, even in a limited capacity.
“We will continue to provide sector stakeholders and the public updates as the situation evolves based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and other experts including our federal and municipal partners,” a spokesperson for the province’s Minister of Heritage, Sport and Culture Lisa MacLeod told CBC.
“We look forward to returning to Ontario’s fields, rinks and courts when it is safe to do so.”
Beyond practice, what fans really desire (if the through-the-roof ratings for the recent NFL draft are any indication) is a return to games or anything resembling live sport competition, even if it happens in empty stadiums. Any plan that would allow that would require almost constant testing of players and support staff.
WATCH | Sports plans return without fans:
And that could present further issues. Both the NBA and the NHL have already faced scrutiny when seemingly healthy players received tests when members of the general public couldn’t get access to them.
In Ontario, the province has been criticized for its inability to implement more widespread testing. It has recently ramped up efforts and is now testing more than 10,000 people a day, with a goal of 14,000 by the end of the month.
“Professional sport could have a contract with a pharmaceutical company that manufactures these tests and makes them available,” said Paul Melia, president of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.
Melia said it would be acceptable if testing for professional athletes didn’t divert from the ability of the public health system to develop and deliver tests.
“For a professional sports franchise or the sport itself to have a contract with a test provider that doesn’t negatively impact our ability to meet our public health needs. I don’t see a problem with it.”
In Germany, where the Bundesliga soccer league has targeted a May return for games without spectators, a massive amount of testing would be required. Officials say it will cost about $ 3 million dollars Cdn to administer 25,000 coronavirus tests on a weekly basis to the league’s 1,100 players.
“There is a huge appetite for sport to return at all levels and in all forms. At the same time, the priority has to be our public health authorities at the provincial level and at the local level having sufficient tests to do the testing they feel they need to do to phase us back to work in the province of Ontario,” Melia said.
“If that isn’t compromised in any way shape or form by professional sport doing the things they need to do to get up and running I think people would probably be comfortable with that.”
Consumers should avoid inhaling talcum powder or using the products on the female genital area, as exposure may cause potentially serious respiratory problems and possibly ovarian cancer.
Baby powder should also be kept away from a child's face to avoid inhalation, Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada said Wednesday in releasing a draft screening assessment of products containing talc.
The draft assessment focuses on the safety of talc in such self-care products as cosmetics; baby, body, face and foot powders; diaper and rash creams; and genital antiperspirants and deodorants.
"When you inhale talc, the fine talc particles will get lodged inside of the lung, and over time there's a cumulative effect associated with that," said David Morin, director general of Health Canada's safe environments directorate.
Inhaling talc, a naturally occurring mineral, can cause difficulty breathing, decreased lung function and pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs.
Products containing talc also have been linked to ovarian cancer in some women, and the Canadian Cancer Society identifies its use on the female genitals as a possible risk factor.
A number of class action lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada launched against Johnson & Johnson contend that longtime use of its talcum powder for feminine hygiene resulted in the development of the plaintiffs' ovarian cancer. The cosmetics giant has denied its product, which has been on the market since 1894, causes the disease.
Despite studies suggesting a link, Health Canada has not mandated that labels on talc-containing products carry specific warnings about the possible link with the development of ovarian cancer or the respiratory risks to adults who inadvertently inhale talcum powder particles.
Ottawa only requires label warnings related to the use of loose talc powder for infants and children, said Tolga Yalkin, head of Health Canada's consumer products safety directorate.
"Essentially, those warnings are: 'Keep out of reach of children' and 'Keep out of the way of a child's face to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems,"' he said.
Final assessment in new year
Yalkin said the department is investigating the possibility of updating its cosmetic ingredient hotlist to include expanded warnings on product labels, but any decision would follow a 60-day consultation process that will end Feb. 6, and the final version of the screening assessment.
That consultation offers members of the public, talc-products manufacturers, academics and others to provide comment and information on the issue. Their input, as well as any new scientific evidence, will help inform the final assessment.
"It's possible you will see additional warnings that are mandated by Health Canada," Yalkin said.
Morin said that if the final screening assessment confirms that talc in certain products is harmful to human health, regulatory action will be taken to manage the identified risks.
Britney Spears busted out her comedic chops on Thursday’s The Tonight Show.
Dressed in a coral mini skirt and a baby blue cropped sweater with white lace and pineapple patches, Spears frolicked down the stairs to reunite with the former Saturday Night Live cast member. The two showed off adorable throwback photos they were going to post on Instagram and played “Fashion Freeze,” a game where they count down from three and then show off their best model poses. The two gal pals also discussed whether they would be returning to their favorite summer spot.
“I’m not sure, we’d be the oldest campers there,” Spears replied after Fallon asked if they should go back to camp.
“But we’re still too young to be counselors. We’re stuck between two worlds. It’s like, I’m not a girl…,” Fallon expressed, with Spears then singing, “not yet a woman,” referencing the pop star’s 2001 song.
After a call from Sara’s step-dad, Gary, the two finished off the sketch by playing an “EW” speed round, which included matcha-flavored ice cream (“ew”), those “weird pop-up phone holder things” (“ew”), sun-dried tomatoes (“ew”) and Steve Carell (“so cute”).
Spears is currently on the North American leg of her Piece of Me tour. ET caught up with the pop star earlier this month, where she dished how she stays in shape while on tour, her cheat meals and more.
Watch the video below to hear what she shared.
It’s a battle of the superhero wits!
Gal Gadot seems to have spotted a strikingly familiar gesture in the new Deadpool 2 trailer. In the latest teaser for the upcoming Marvel film, Ryan Reynolds can be seen posing with his arms crossed — an iconic move that was consistently seen in Gadot’s Wonder Woman movie when she wanted to unleash the power of her gold cuff bracelets.
“Dude stole my look!” the 32-year-old actress jokingly stated on Instagram, tagging Reynolds.
Always armed with a clever comeback, Reynolds quipped in response, “Imitation is the sincerest form of larceny.”
This isn’t the first time the stars have engaged in a bit of friendly competition. After 2017’s Wonder Woman grossed more than 2016’s Deadpool, the 41-year-old actor was quick to congratulate the warrior princess on her box-office success.
“The Merc May Be Filthier, but Her B.O. is Stronger,” Reynolds wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of the mercenary’s hands forming a heart around a Wonder Woman necklace. “Congrats #WonderWoman #BoxOfficeBoss.”
For more on the highly anticipated Deadpool sequel — in theaters May 18 — watch the video below.
One of the most interesting aspects of self driving cars, and one too often passed over by car companies extolling the virtues of this new technology, is the ethical dilemmas inherent to autonomous vehicles. Yes, I’m talking about the undergraduate philosophical thought experiment called the trolley dilemma. In this old chestnut, a runaway trolley is barreling towards five people and as a bystander you have a choice to pull a lever, changing the direction of the trolley and putting it on a course that will result in a single person’s death. What do you do?
Such choices are occasionally the stuff of roadside reality, and autonomous vehicles will have to be equipped with some method for dealing with them. Now a new study published in the Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience offers a model of human morality, with the goal of teasing out our own internal ethics engine and suggesting how it might be transposed onto cars.
One of the problems with the trolley dilemma, and one that makes it difficult to use for modeling any sort of ethical decision, is that people are notorious liars. Faced with such a hypothetical thought experiment, we routinely answer how we wish we’d act rather than how we actually would act. The reason for this probably owes in part to the fact that we are not comprised of a single self, but rather a multitude of selves, a fact thoroughly documented in the pioneering research of Nobel prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman. His extensive research on the “narrating self” versus the “experiential self” put to bed any notion of the human as a single consistent locus of decision-making.
For this reason, such thought experiments rarely make any sense, at least so far as they pertain to self-driving cars. Which is not to say humans are not without an ethical code — just that we require more inventive ways than thought experiments to discern it. Now, thanks to virtual reality, researchers at the University of Osnabrück claim to have drawn a bead on how to model such ethical problems in a way that reveals our inner ethics engine and makes it applicable to self-driving cars.
With the aid of immersive virtual reality, the researchers placed study participants in unexpected unavoidable crash situations while driving a virtual car. Faced with choices between hitting people, cars, trees, and inanimate objects, the participants had to make split-second decisions revealing how they valued each item. Using a multitude of such scenarios, the authors were able to create a value-of-life table for every human, animal, and inanimate object the drivers experienced.
Hypothetically, when faced with an unavoidable crash, a self-driving car could simply consult the value-of-life table and choose to hit the entity with lowest value of life. This at least would succeed in transposing a fairly accurate facsimile of human values onto automobiles. This is all assuming a branch in the self-driving car’s logic that reads “hit person or bridge abutment?” when in fact millions of data points may be analyzed in a second, and in an order such that the decision may never come up as stated. So the situation may not apply as such in most real-life situations, but the ethical dilemma does remain in an extreme case.
Still, there are at least two major flaws with the value-of-life table approach. One is choosing which cross section of the population to use when creating the table. Different cultures and regional groups may have very different value-of-life tables. The second, and more pernicious flaw is that the sum of our ethical choices may reveal us to be despicably selfish and racist, broadly known as implicit bias. Applying a value-of-life system informed by our implicit biases to autonomous vehicles would only succeed in transferring our most embarrassing ethical shortcomings onto machines.
Naturally, the temptation to correct for such biases would be overwhelming. But once we start correcting for these biases, we’re back where we started: facing the question of whether to have machines behave how we wish we would act, or as we actually would act. Going forward, this is sure to remain one of the most interesting questions in artificial intelligence and robotics, with no simple answers on the horizon.