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The Masters is back in its right place — and a Canadian has a puncher’s chance

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The Masters is back where it belongs

Golf’s most prestigious tournament was bumped to November last year because of the pandemic, and it wasn’t the same. Augusta National looked different, played different and just generally had a less-satisfying vibe in the fall — especially with no fans allowed on the course.

But everything we simultaneously love and love to make fun of about the Masters and the way it’s presented — the iconic holes, the impossible landscaping, the over-the-top reverence, the tinkling piano music — is all back in its traditional springtime slot. Well, almost all of it. Only a “limited” number of patrons (Augusta-speak for fans) are being granted entry, and the popular Wednesday Par 3 Contest was cancelled. Otherwise, though, it’ll be a pretty traditional Masters.

Here’s a look at some of the key players competing for the green jacket starting Thursday:

Dustin Johnson is the favourite. The 36-year-old American won his first green jacket (and second major title) in November by shooting the lowest score in Masters history — a 20-under 268. Sure, the course played softer in the fall and scores were down across the board. But Johnson produced a truly dominant performance, winning by five strokes. He’s currently the No. 1-ranked player in the world and the betting favourite to repeat as Masters champion. If he does, DJ will join Jack Nicklaus (1965, ’66), Nick Faldo (’89, ’90) and Tiger Woods (2001, ’02) as the only players to win back-to-back green jackets.

Bryson DeChambeau is the wild card. The most interesting man in golf is always worth watching because he’s the longest player on tour and the most aggressive. DeChambeau riled some of Augusta’s stuffed blazers last year when he said he was treating their hallowed par-72 course as a par-67. He wound up shooting only 2-under for the tournament — tied for 34th. But the 27-year-old American’s monster drives and willingness to try anything make him potentially golf’s most disruptive force since a young Tiger Woods.

Jordan Spieth is back. When he won the 2017 British Open shortly before his 24th birthday, it looked like Spieth was on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats. The 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion now owned the three most respected major titles and had already won 11 tournaments in just five years on the PGA Tour. But that victory at Royal Birkdale would turn out to be his last for nearly four years. The former world No. 1 even dropped as low as 92nd earlier this year. But something must have clicked because, since then, Spieth has five top-10 finishes in seven starts, and he snapped his victory drought Sunday by winning the Valero Texas Open. Suddenly, Spieth is a top-five betting favourite for the Masters, which he won in 2015 and has finished third or better in four times.

A Canadian has a puncher’s chance. Corey Conners is about a 90/1 longshot at the more respected online books. But he might have what it takes to become Canada’s first green jacket winner since Mike Weir in 2003. Somewhat ironically, considering its manicured beauty and the soft touch needed on its tricky greens, Augusta is a bomber’s track. It favours big hitters more than most courses. Conners isn’t super long, but the 29-year-old from Listowel, Ont., has been above average in driving distance over the last few years, and this season he ranks 10th in strokes gained off the tee — a stat that measures the overall quality of all tee shots. Other encouraging signs: Conners tied for 10th at last year’s Masters, and he’s playing really well right now. Over the last month, he finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and seventh at the high-end Players Championship. Conners is 43rd in the official world rankings — eight spots above Mackenzie Hughes, the only other Canadian with a legitimate hope of contending this week. But the more-astute Data Golf model puts him 16th. So don’t be surprised if Conners is in the hunt this weekend.

Bryson DeChambeau is capable of overpowering Augusta with his length off the tee and go-for-broke approach. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)


North Korea says it’s pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics over COVID-19 concerns. It’s always tough to get a handle on the dictatorship’s true motives, but a website run by North Korea’s sports ministry said the decision was made to protect athletes from a “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.” The South Korean government expressed disappointment, saying it had hoped the Tokyo Games would be another opportunity to improve relations with its neighbour. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, athletes from the North and South marched into the opening ceremony together and the two countries entered a joint team in the women’s hockey tournament. Since then, their relationship has cooled. Read more about North Korea’s decision to skip the Olympics and the current state of its relations with South Korea here.

Baylor ruined Gonzaga’s perfect season. The Zags’ bid to become the first undefeated NCAA men’s basketball champion in 45 years crashed and burned last night with an 86-70 rout by Baylor in the tournament final. It was the lowest point total of the season for Gonzaga (31-1), which averaged an NCAA-best 91.6. Star freshman Jalen Suggs scored a team-high 22 points for Gonzaga after hitting that instantly iconic buzzer beater from just inside the halfcourt logo to win Saturday’s semifinal vs. UCLA. He’s expected to declare for this year’s NBA draft and be among the top picks. Read more about the sour end to Gonzaga’s season here.

The NHL’s Canadian division is dealing with its first big crisis. All the major COVID-19 outbreaks in the first couple of months of the season happened on U.S.-based teams. But with vaccinations now proceeding much faster in that country while Canada experiences a troubling rise in cases and hospitalizations, the tables have turned. Seventeen of the 22 players on the Vancouver Canucks’ active roster are now on the COVID-19 protocol list, meaning they’ve either tested positive or had close contact with someone who did. Four Vancouver games have already been postponed, and it appears the team will be out at least through the end of the week. This is throwing the North Division schedule out of whack, but NHL deputy commissioner insists the Canucks will be able to complete their full 56-game season. Read more about Vancouver’s situation here.

And finally…

This photo of a baseball crowd was taken yesterday, on planet Earth:

(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

If you’ve engaged with any Americans over the past few weeks — in real life, on social media, listening to a podcast, or wherever — you’ve probably been struck by the feeling that we’re living in two different worlds. On this side of the border, we’re doing virtual Easters, debating whether to keep our kids in school and hoping our parents and grandparents can get vaccinated soon. Down there, they’re posting second-dose selfies, going on trips and having family gatherings. But nothing illustrated the divide quite like yesterday’s Blue Jays-Rangers game at Whatever Corporate Name Field in Arlington, Tex. It was played in front of an announced sellout crowd of 38,238. Judging by the photo, that’s considerably higher than the number of people who took the mask “requirement” seriously. Read more about the jarring crowd and the game here.

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‘Right now, I’m scared,’ CDC head says as she warns of potential 4th pandemic surge in U.S.

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

What’s new

U.S. officials issued what was intended to be a sobering warning Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic could still get a whole lot worse.

Their unusually emotional message carried obvious international implications, especially given that the U.S. has already vaccinated its citizens at a rate triple Canada’s.

The theme of a White House briefing Monday was that this is a terrible time for the country to let down its guard and reopen as some states are doing.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control, Rochelle Walensky, said she plans to speak with state governors Tuesday to encourage continued mask-wearing and physical distancing.

She said U.S. case loads had risen 10 per cent in a week, and hospitalizations and deaths are ticking up again. She said the country is on the same trajectory as some European countries were a few weeks ago before they hurtled into their latest wave.

“We are not powerless; we can change this trajectory of the pandemic,” she said. “But it will take all of us recommitting to following public health-prevention strategies.”

Walensky said she was pleading with Americans as a physician who had seen the death and human suffering caused by COVID-19, and as a wife, mother and daughter.

“I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she said as she went off script.

“We have so much to look forward to … so much reason for hope, but right now, I’m scared.”

When later asked to elaborate on her reference to “impending doom,” Wilensky said:

“We know that travel is up, and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw in the summer and the winter again.”

Cases are still way down in the U.S. since January. What has the CDC worried is a 10 per cent uptick last week, along with more hospitalizations. It sees the coming days as a race between vaccinations and a new pandemic wave. (U.S. Centers For Disease Control)

It’s an abrupt change in tone after weeks of growing confidence in the U.S. The country is expecting to have vaccines for 90 per cent of its adults by the end of April and for all adults in May.

Numerous states have already dropped restrictions.

Yet the federal government is telling states it’s too soon to do that: only 15 per cent of the country is fully vaccinated, while the virus continued to kill 1,000 Americans per day last week as case numbers rose to 63,000 a day. 

Why it matters to Canada

Any U.S. setback would hold a series of cross-border consequences. Starting with the obvious point involving public health: that the virus and its new variants are outpacing vaccinations.

It’s especially true in places with a slower vaccination rollout.

It could also have repercussions on the economic recovery and on cross-border travel. Businesses and politicians have been urging governments, without success so far, to define a plan for reopening the border. 

Some of the states experiencing the worst surges happen to be near the Canadian border, including New York, and Michigan, which has seen its case totals more than triple in a single month. 

The virus is still infecting, and killing, a far higher proportion of Americans than Canadians, although the gap had been narrowing in recent weeks with cases growing faster in Canada.   

Lots of states have eased restrictions. However, Miami subsequently imposed a local curfew, for public health reasons, during spring break festivities seen here earlier this month. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, said that if this recent spike turns into another wave, it’s because Americans let their guard down too soon. “We’re essentially pleading,” he said.

What’s the good news

At the same news conference, officials delivered encouraging details on a new CDC study showing vaccines performing extraordinarily well in limiting infection and transmission.  

This is atop clinical trials that, Fauci said, showed 100 per cent effectiveness in avoiding hospitalization and death from vaccines approved in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.  

Another Biden adviser, Andy Slavitt, said Monday: “Hope is around the corner. But we’re not there yet… The worst thing we could do now would be to let up. We cannot get complacent. We cannot let our guard down.”

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Swipe right to consent? Australian police commissioner’s proposed sexual-consent app met with criticism

A senior Australian police official who suggested an app could be used to document sexual consent in an effort to improve conviction rates in sex crime cases was met with a largely negative response Thursday.  

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said that the same dating apps that have brought couples together could also provide clarity on the question of consent.

“Technology doesn’t fix everything, but … it plays such a big role in people meeting at the moment. I’m just suggesting: Is it part of the solution?” Fuller asked.

The commissioner said the number of sexual assaults reported in Australia’s most populous state was increasing while a prosecution success rate of only two per cent stemming from those reports showed the system was failing.

“Consent can’t be implied,” Fuller wrote in News Corp. newspapers. “Consent must be active and ongoing throughout a sexual encounter.”

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Mick Fuller addresses the media during a press conference in Sydney on Thursday. Fuller suggested a phone app be developed to document sexual consent in a bid to improve conviction rates in sex crime cases. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image/The Associated Press)

Skeptical response

Responses to the suggestion of a consent app have been largely negative or skeptical, with many saying technology was not the answer.

“It’s good (the NSW police are) acknowledging the need for affirmative consent, but this isn’t a safe way forward,” said Hayley Foster, the chief executive at Women’s Safety NSW, the state’s domestic violence service.

“The abuser can simply coerce the victim to use the app,” she tweeted in response to Fuller’s comments.

“I’m mystified by the ongoing belief that technology must be a good solution in situations where we are dealing with power, nuance and complex human behaviour,” said Annabelle Daniel, head of Women’s Community Shelters, a charity.

Catharine Lumby, a Sydney University specialist in ethics and accountability, described the app as a quick-fix that misunderstood the circumstances of sexual assaults.

“Fundamentally, what we are now having a reckoning with is the fact that there is a very small minority of men in this society who are opportunists, who make the decision to sexually assault women,” Lumby said.

“They don’t care where, how or why they do it. They will take the opportunity and I’m sure they are more than capable of manipulating technology,” Lumby said.

Lesley-Anne Ey, a University of South Australia expert on harmful sexual behaviour involving children, said she didn’t think the app would work.

“I don’t think they’re going to interrupt the romance to put details into an app,” Ey told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Meanwhile, State Premier Gladys Berejiklian congratulated Fuller on “taking a leadership position on having the conversation” about the sexual assault problem, but declined to share her opinion on the app.

A woman holds up a placard during a protest against sexual violence and gender inequality in Melbourne on Monday. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

Top Australian officials accused of rape 

More than 100,000 women protested in rallies across Australia on Monday demanding justice while calling out misogyny and dangerous workplace cultures.

The public anger erupted after the Australian attorney general denied an allegation that he raped a 16-year-old girl 33 years ago. As well, a former government staffer alleged that she was raped two years ago by a colleague in a minister’s Parliament House office.

Fuller said his app suggestion could gain popularity in time.

“To be honest with you, the app idea could be the worst idea I have in 2021, but the reality is in five years, perhaps it won’t be,” he said. “If you think about dating 10 years ago, this concept of single people swiping left and right was a term that we didn’t even know.”

A consent app similar to Fuller’s proposal was launched in Denmark last month. But the app hasn’t been widely adopted, with fewer than 5,000 downloads, according to mobile intelligence site Sensor Tower.

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Canada women’s soccer headed in right direction despite frustrating SheBelieves Cup

In their first action in nearly a year, it was a mixed bag for the Canadian women’s soccer team at the SheBelieves Cup.

With a new coach and a plethora of injuries and roster challenges, what should we make of their one-win, two-loss performance?

Did the tournament help answer any roster questions ahead of the Tokyo Olympics five months from now? What are the main areas that need to be worked on? We address those questions and more.

Was the tournament a success for Canada?

Yes and no.

It was a bit of a mystery what to expect from Canada going into the SheBelieves Cup given it had been 11 months since they last were together.

They have a new coach in Bev Priestman along with major roster challenges prior to the tournament, like injuries and club commitments.

WATCH | CBC Sports assesses Canada’s performance at the SheBelieves Cup:

Signa Butler is joined by John Molinaro and Harjeet Johal, to assess Team Canada’s performance in their debut at the SheBelieves Cup and which players made the most of their opportunity, for the notably short-handed Canadian side. 7:20

Given those hurdles, the team played fairly well. With half the players on in-season form and the rest just getting started, they put up a stout performance against the world champion United States, keeping a clean sheet until Rose Lavelle’s goal in the 79th minute.

Priestman also had the opportunity to build the program’s depth, giving four players (Evelyne Viens, Jordyn Listro, Jade Rose and Samantha Chang) their first cap.

Can we already give Bev Priestman a fair assessment?

No, but the team seems to be heading in the right direction.

No coach, especially one thrust into the position just four months before, should be judged based on a team missing six to seven starters, including three of its top players — Christine Sinclair, Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence.

The team defended very well outside of the miscues versus Brazil where it conceded two goals. Centre back Shelina Zadorsky’s leadership and quality was on display as the only defender consistently in the starting 11.

Canada also played quite well out of the back and stayed patient, which was something Priestman had hoped the team would accomplish. There was rarely a panicked clearance or ill-advised pass up the pitch.

From all player accounts, they’ve been impressed with Priestman’s preparation and communication. According to Desiree Scott, who wore the captain’s armband in Sinclair’s absence, there was a “good vibe” at camp.

Priestman’s next appearance on the sidelines with Canada will be in an April 13 friendly against her native England, with whom she served as an assistant for over two years.

What areas must Canada address ahead of Tokyo?

Canada’s goal for Tokyo is well-stated. After back-to-back bronze, it’s about changing the colour of the medal.

However, to do that Canada will need to beat top tier opposition and score goals. Two things the Canadians have been lacking the last couple years.

In its last 10 matches against top 10 nations, Canada has zero wins, eight losses and two draws. Not exactly confidence-boosting results. The last win against a top nation came against England in April 2019.

Goal scoring has been even more of a concern.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler explains the SheBelieves Cup:

Signa Butler breaks down the basics of the SheBelieves Cup, and what participating in the tournament means for Team Canada 2:41

Canada scored just one goal in three games at the SheBelieves Cup and if you look at those last 10 games against top 10 nations, Canada was outscored 20-3. Remember, these are the majority of teams you have to beat en route to the medal round in Tokyo.

But Priestman looks to the opening game against the No. 1 Americans as a reference point in this tournament of what Canada is capable of, even without key players.

“I think the group is more determined than ever. They’ve told me they want to change the colour of the medal and to do that we need to get fitter, we need to keep pushing forward, we need to be more clinical,” she said post-tournament.

Other than Sinclair, Janine Beckie is Canada’s top goal scorer among active players with 31 and she was among those irked by missed chances at the SheBelieves.

“It’s frustrating to look at this tournament and see that we only put one chance away. As a forward, I take that on my back, along with the others who play in the front line,” Beckie said after Canada’s final game.

Biggest battles going into Tokyo squad selection?

Goalkeeping appears set in stone with Kailen Sheridan and Stephanie Labbe. Sheridan suffered an injury early in the opening match against the U.S., so that will need to be monitored. It’s a position of depth with McLeod, Sabrina D’Angelo and uncapped Rylee Foster, a former youth international who made the roster for SheBelieves.

To make the 18-player roster, having the versatility to play multiple positions is definitely an asset.

The fullback situation is intact from Rio with returnees Allysha Chapman, Buchanan, Zadorsky and Lawrence. Two leading candidates to join them are Gabrielle Carle and Jayde Riviere, who suffered an injury in the Brazil game. Both can play wingback and move forward in attack.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler chats with Canadian soccer player Deanne Rose:

Deanne Rose speaks with Signa Butler about going in the first round of the NWSL draft, dealing with the pandemic, and the SheBelieves cup. 3:07

Playing her way onto the radar in a big way was Bordeaux centre back Vanessa Gilles. What she may lack in pace, she makes up for in positioning and hard-nosed defending.

The biggest battle will be in the midfield and it’s a position Canada needs to solidify especially if they expect to compete against those top nations.

The five returning midfielders are Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Diana Matheson, Quinn, and Jessie Fleming. Julia Grosso, who did not play at the SheBelieves, Canada’s lone goalscorer Sarah Stratigakis and Listro wait in the wings.

To inject some youth into the midfield lineup, Priestman may have to make tough choices or make room through carrying less forwards or defenders. The 2023 World Cup isn’t far off, so having some younger players at the Olympics will be crucial for carrying on the team’s legacy once the veteran core retires.

As for the strikers, four of the five from Rio are still playing and appear to be locks — Sinclair, Beckie, Nichelle Prince and Deanne Rose. Again, if Priestman carries five strikers there is just one position up for grabs and several candidates to take it — Huitema, Adriana Leon and Évelyne Viens.

The 19-year-old Huitema (13 goals in 33 appearances) and 28-year-old Leon (19 goals in 69 caps) have the upperhand on Viens, who made her first appearance for Canada at any level in the SheBelieves, coming in as a substitute in all three matches.

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Astronomers Detect Another Possible Exoplanet Right Next Door

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

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

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

The possible exoplanet is labeled here as C1.

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

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

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Chris Armas already feeling right at home as head coach of Toronto FC

One day into the job and new Toronto FC coach Chris Armas is already feeling right at home.

The former New York Red Bulls boss has extensive ties to his new club. Toronto GM Ali Curtis was sporting director at the Red Bulls while Armas was an assistant coach prior to getting the top job there.

Back in the early ’90s, Armas played for Puerto Rico alongside current Toronto president Bill Manning. Both men spent time in the USL with Armas at the Long Island Rough Riders and Manning — who went on to become the Rough Riders GM prior to working in MLS — at the New York Fever. 

And Armas has known Michel Bradley since the Toronto FC captain was a pre-teen. Bradley’s father Bob coached Armas and the Chicago Fire when the expansion team won the MLS title in its inaugural season in 1998.

The 48-year-old Armas succeeds Greg Vanney, who stepped down Dec. 1 after more than six years at the MLS club. Vanney subsequently was named head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Armas’ introduction via Zoom call Thursday was essentially a love-in.

“He’s such a great human being and he attacks his work and his life with such integrity,” said Curtis. “His work ethic is unmatched he has all the different elements of what we need in a coach.”

“I’ve know Chris a long time and he is a winner first and foremost that was the main important ingredient for us in a new head coach,” added Manning.

Armas said he already feels in sync with Manning and Curtis. “They are in this together with the head coach,” he said.

While both front office men said Armas will be involved in all decision-making, the new coach does not have the technical director title that Vanney held.

“Essentially all player personnel falls under Ali,” said Manning.

As for Armas, he said he welcomes the pressure of succeeding Vanney, TFC’s most successful coach.

“That’s exactly where, I think, real competitors want to be and that’s one of the biggest reasons I came to the club,” he said. “Yes, I want to win. The pressure’s to win.

“This will wake me up early and it will put me to bed late. And then I’ll sleep well. But I’m going to work, I’m going to work hard to deliver excellence, trophies. And I can guarantee that I will coach a team that is clear — they’re clear with roles, we are together, we don’t cut corners and we have a style of play that is on the front foot and we go after every game.”

Asked about his preferred style of play, Armas said: “It starts with energy and passion.”

He said he favours an up-tempo game, “making the game fast, playing vertical and, now of course with this roster, with real intelligence and decision-making.”

On defence, he said he wants his team to take time and space away from the opposition. While the Red Bulls were known for their high press, he says more is needed in the toolbox.

He called it “attacking football” on and off the ball.

Thumbs-up from captain Bradley

Armas, who won 66 caps for the U.S national team, was an elite defensive midfielder over 12 MLS seasons with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago. He served as Red Bulls assistant before being elevated to the top coaching job in July 2018.

He led the Red Bulls to the Supporters’ Shield and Eastern Conference final, losing to eventual champion Atlanta United. Armas was fired last September with the Red Bulls at 3-4-2.

Armas’ appointment has already got a thumbs-up from Bradley.

“I was a young guy fortunate enough to spend a lot of time around that team,” the 33-year-old Bradley told the club website. So for me to have the opportunity now to play for Chris, I’m really excited.

“I think his personality, his leadership, the way he can engage everybody around him, the standards that he’ll have for the team, for every single guy, I think it sets up in a really really good way for us.”

Curtis said the search for Vanney’s replacement was “vast, exhaustive and methodical,” involving everything from checking references to analyzing international clubs to see if their style of play matched Toronto so as to target their coaching search.

“Like everything it’s both a science and an art and then it’s gut,” said Curtis.

A father of two boys, Armas’ wife is a nurse.

Akinola out of Canadian national team camp

Canada Soccer’s plan to showcase its men’s national program to Toronto FC striker Ayo Akinola has been derailed by medical issues.

Canada Soccer said Thursday that Akinola was one of four players who did not make the camp in Bradenton, Fla., due to medical reasons. The other three are Toronto’s Liam Fraser, Orlando City’s Tesho Akindele and Vancouver’s Michael Baldisimo.

Canadian team officials did not detail the medical reasons or explain why news of the players missing camp only came out Thursday when players started arriving days earlier.

All players and staff had to record at least two negative COVID-19 test results in the week before their travel. One player, who has not been identified, tested positive upon arrival in camp and is currently in isolation.

The 20-year-old Akinola, who was born in Detroit but moved to Canada when he was one, is eligible to play for Canada, the U.S. and Nigeria. He made his debut for the U.S. senior side in December, scoring in a 6-0 win over El Salvador, but is not cap-tied since the match was a friendly.

Akinola, whose Canadian-born younger brother Tom has featured in the Canadian youth setup, has come up through the U.S. ranks and played at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

The Florida camp was seen as a chance to show Akinola what Canada offered.

Two English-based players invited to camp have since withdrawn. Theo Corbeanu, an 18-year-old forward, is staying with Wolves’ first team while 17-year-old forward Marcelo Flores remains with Arsenal’s under-18 squad.

The Canada camp is slated to run through Jan. 24 at the IMG Center in Bradenton, where the U.S. team is also training.

Canada coach John Herdman has added Vancouver’s Theo Bair, Toronto’s Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Jacob Shaffelburg, and FC Edmonton’s Amer Didic to the camp roster.

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Why baseball did the right thing by elevating the Negro Leagues to ‘major’

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

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

Major League Baseball righted a wrong

It announced today that it’s elevating the Negro Leagues of 1920 through 1948 to “major league” status. This means that the records and stats of many great Black ballplayers who were denied the chance to compete in the big leagues will finally be folded into MLB history.

Quick history lesson: the Negro Leagues is the collective name given to the set of seven independent circuits formed in the 1920s and ’30s, when segregation was still the law of the land in much of the American South. It was also an unwritten rule in Major League Baseball, where the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” prevented teams from hiring Black players. So the Negro Leagues represented the highest level of professional baseball available at the time to Blacks. Many Latinos also found a home there, making up an estimated 10-15 per cent of the rosters. Jackie Robinson played in the Negro Leagues briefly, before his breaking of the MLB colour barrier in 1947 started a talent drain that sealed their demise.

For many Black baseball legends, though, integration came too late. Josh Gibson, for example. Sometimes called “the Black Babe Ruth,” his mythology rivals the Bambino’s. Gibson’s plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame credits him with hitting “almost 800 home runs” in his 17-year career, and The Sporting News once reported that he smashed a 580-foot bomb during an exhibition at Yankee Stadium. Another is Cool Papa Bell, a prototypical lead-off man who hit for a high average and was said to be so fast that he could flip the light switch and be in bed before the room got dark.

The guy who invented that line, Satchel Paige, was the Negro Leagues’ greatest pitcher and best storyteller. He was lucky enough to still be playing when MLB integrated, and he debuted for Cleveland in 1948. Though he was already 42 years old, Paige managed to spend five quality seasons in the majors (mostly as a reliever) and came back for a stunt start late in the ’65 season — when he was 59! Pitching for the Kansas City Athletics against the Boston Red Sox, he worked three shutout innings and gave up just one hit.

Paige, Bell and Gibson were all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the 1970s. But that honour can’t make up for their exclusion from the majors.

Adding to the injustice of this shameful period in baseball (and American) history, an all-white panel in the 1960s decided to classify four defunct leagues as “major leagues” for record-keeping purposes — right up there with the current American and National Leagues. Not only were the Negro Leagues left out — they weren’t even discussed. This despite the fact that many baseball historians and statisticians (including sabermetrics godfather Bill James) consider the quality of play in the Negro Leagues to be close or even roughly equal to the AL and NL of the time. One historian even found that the Black teams had a winning record in their exhibition games against big-leaguers.

Calls for the Negro Leagues to be granted “major” status intensified this summer as MLB celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League (the first of the seven) at the same time that the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam. Today, MLB finally answered.

The next step is for MLB to work with statisticians from the Elias Sports Bureau to figure out how exactly to incorporate Negro Leagues stats. Record-keeping was spotty, so it’s unlikely that there will be enough documentation for, say, Gibson to surpass Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 762 home runs. But Willie Mays could have 16 hits added to his career total from his cup of coffee in the Negro Leagues, and it’s expected that Paige will add 146 more major-league wins. He’s currently credited with only 28.

Today’s move doesn’t erase the horrendous treatment of Black players for much of baseball history. But it’s the right thing to do. And it’s not often Major League Baseball comes through like this. So that’s worth celebrating. Just like the lives and careers of those players who never got a fair shake.

MLB found a more meaningful way than this to honour Negro Leagues greats. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


Canada won its first two medals of the World Cup ski cross season. On the second of back-to-back days of medal races in Switzerland to open the season, Marielle Thompson took silver in the women’s event and Kevin Drury grabbed bronze in the men’s. Thompson is the 2014 Olympic women’s champion and 2019 world champ. Drury took bronze at the ’19 worlds. Reigning Olympic men’s champ Brady Leman was eliminated in the 1/8th final today. Read more about the races and watch highlights here.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer passed the legendary Pat Summitt to become the winningest coach in women’s college basketball history. VanDerveer earned her 1,099th victory last night when the No. 1-ranked Cardinal routed Pacific 104-61. The 67-year-old started at Idaho in 1978 before moving to Ohio State and then Stanford in ’85. She’s won both her NCAA titles and all four national coach of the year awards there. Summit racked up all her wins at Tennessee, where she won eight NCAA championships. Her career was cut short by dementia and she died in 2016 at age 64. Read more about VanDerveer’s record-breaking night here.

The WHL postponed its season again. It hoped to open on Jan. 8 but has pushed the start date back indefinitely because of public health restrictions in Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, where the league’s 22 teams are located. The QMJHL is the only one of Canada’s three major-junior hockey leagues to start its season, but it was forced to hit pause in late November. The OHL hopes to start in early February, but who knows? And yet, the world junior championship is still scheduled to start Christmas Day in Edmonton. Read more about the WHL delay here.

And finally…

This is a sacred date for Canadian curling. December 16 is the birthday of Colleen Jones, John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes. Between them, they’ve won seven Scotties, three Briers, four world championships and four Olympic gold medals. Hat tip to CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux for this factoid. His birthday is also in December, and he would add two Saskatoon high school curling titles to the list of accomplishments if these four formed a mixed team. Read Devin’s latest story, on the Paralympics adding a wheelchair mixed doubles curling event, here.

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Alphonso Davies out 6-8 weeks with right ankle injury suffered in Bayern Munich win

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick to help Bayern Munich continue where it left off in the Bundesliga with a 5-0 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday in Berlin.

However, the winning side suffered an early blow with midfielder Alphonso Davies of Edmonton going off with a right ankle injury in the third minute. Lucas Hernandez came on for the 19-year-old Canadian.

Bayern later confirmed the former Vancouver Whitecaps star would be sidelined up to two months with ligament damage.

Lewandowski didn’t score in Bayern’s 4-0 defeat of Atletico Madrid in their Champions League opening game on Wednesday and evidently felt the need to atone as the Polish star took his tally to 10 goals in five Bundesliga games.

WATCH | Canada’s Alphonso Davies suffers ligament damage in right ankle:

19-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder Alphonso Davies of Edmonton injured his right ankle at the start of their match against Eintracht Frankfurt and is expected to be out of action for 6-8 weeks. 1:59

The forward was left in too much space and broke the deadlock in the 10th, then grabbed his second with a header inside the left post from a corner in the 25th, and he completed his hat trick in the 61st.

His job done, Lewandowski was taken off in the 68th as Bayern coach Hansi Flick made three changes at once.

Leroy Sane came on for his injury comeback and marked the occasion with a fine goal inside the far post five minutes later, and the 17-year-old Jamal Musiala wrapped up the scoring in the last minute.

WATCH | Alphonso Davies’ meteoric rise through soccer ranks:

Canada’s breakout soccer star, 19-year-old Alphonso Davies, is now the first member of Canada’s national team to play for — and win — the coveted Champions League as a member of the victorious German team Bayern Munich. Davies, born in a refugee camp in Ghana, has become an inspiration to a new generation of Canadian soccer fans. 2:02

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Kim Kardashian Has No Plans to Divorce Kanye West Right Now, Source Says

Kim Kardashian Has No Plans to Divorce Kanye West Right Now, Source Says | Entertainment Tonight

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Deadly DRM: Right to Repair a Life-or-Death Problem During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Up until now, so-called ‘right to repair’ legislation was a topic that touched on important questions, like whether or not farmers could repair their own tractors, or if end-users were allowed to repair their own electronics goods, but wasn’t viewed as a literal life-or-death issue. Now, however, the question of whether or not people and companies are allowed to fix hardware they’ve purchased has a real chance of becoming one.

The advocacy group US Public Interest Research Group has released a report detailing the results of interviews it conducted with 222 biomedical repair professionals. It writes: “Nearly half reported they had been denied access to ‘critical repair information, parts or service keys’ since March.”

Manufacturers claim these lockouts and other hoops are in place to protect patient safety, but such claims fly in the face of an FDA report, written in 2018, which found no evidence that third-party repair carries any risk whatsoever after reviewing 2.1 million medical device failure reports submitted over the past decade. Manufacturers are already supposed to provide “schematics, wiring diagrams, mechanical layouts, and other pertinent data for the appliance,” as well as, “preventative and corrective maintenance, inspection, and repair procedures.” According to US-PIRG, these standards are not being upheld.


Some of the survey quests asked by US-PIRG

According to multiple biomedical repair professionals, repairs in the time of coronavirus require a heavy reliance on online forums, because manufacturers will not distribute training and repair manuals adequately. In one case, the head of a biomedical college engineering program deliberately requires students to attempt to obtain repair manuals as part of their training in order to illustrate how difficult it is and how much begging they may have to do in order to get the documentation. US-PIRG also details how manufacturers have attempted to use copyright claims and legal threats to force websites to remove repair manuals. Steris, a company that manufacturers sterilizers, has requested iFixit remove manuals from its website.

Manufacturers, of course, want to handle these repairs themselves. The problem is, in some cases, quarantine protocol prevents hospitals from allowing random service technicians from entering the buildings. In others, manufacturers are no longer sending technicians out due to the pandemic. Both situations cause the same problem: Broken equipment no company-certified technician is going to be fixing any time soon.

In at least one case, a manufacturer booby-trapped an ultrasound machine to require software calibration if anyone removed the outside cover. This was not disclosed to the hospital, who attempted to troubleshoot the piece of equipment and found themselves locked out of it as a result. GE has only recently begun waiving the requirement that technicians complete an in-person, four-day training course to receive any documentation on its ventilators. Siemens refuses to allow already-trained colleagues to train co-workers under any circumstances.

According to one biomedical technician, an unnamed manufacturer charges $ 28,000 to train one technician in how to repair one device. The actual cost of the device? $ 35,000. Another manufacturer initially attempted to de-certify all of a hospital’s technicians due to their failure to complete a bi-annual recertification requirement during the pandemic, when the manufacturer was offering no recertification courses of any kind.

According to the survey results, 30.4 percent of technicians had equipment in their facilities they could not use, due to limited access to parts or training manuals, while 91.8 percent stated they had been denied service information for life-saving, critical equipment. 88.7 percent reported that manufacturers have refused to sell spare parts (4.5 percent “Most of the time,” 36.2 percent “Somewhat frequently,” and 48 percent reporting “Sometimes, but infrequently.”)

In the COVID-19 epidemic, you’d expect manufacturers to be prioritizing ventilator repairs above all else. You’d also be wrong. 69.5 percent of the 222 engineers and repair people surveyed are responsible for ventilator repair. Of that group, 29.2 percent report they have ventilators they cannot use due to a lack of either spare parts or servicing information. 24.2 percent of technicians have been denied access to information since March. 51.9 percent of technicians have ventilators on-site they cannot service or repair if they break.

A month ago, it might have been tempting to think such issues were receding behind us and would not need to be dealt with in the future. The current state of the pandemic in the United States belies such pleasant dreams. Technicians need permission to repair life-saving medical equipment the instant it breaks. They need to be able to purchase repair parts as soon as possible. If the pandemic continues to worsen, and America’s stockpiles of emergency medical equipment are stretched nationwide, these sorts of failures could start leading to deaths.

However much revenue device manufacturers might lose off repairs, we suspect they’ll lose more if people start dying because local, qualified technicians weren’t allowed to read a frickin’ manual.

DRM is a lot of things. It’s not supposed to be a death sentence. If it starts becoming one, device manufacturers will have bigger problems than just their profit margins to consider. iFixit has published a database of medical device repair information, if you are looking for manuals.

Feature image shows a NASA/JPL-designed ventilator, whose design is specifically intended to be easy to maintain, cheap, and repairable in the field. 

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