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SpaceX, NASA Sign Agreement to Avoid Space Collisions

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SpaceX is one of several companies that want to launch megaconstallations of communication satellites into Earth orbit, and that has NASA and other space agencies a little spooked. With that many new objects up there, the chances of a collision skyrocket. SpaceX now has more than 1,000 Starlink nodes around Earth, and NASA has announced an agreement that will ensure those satellites (and future ones) don’t get in the way of any of its missions. 

The accord, which has just been released by NASA (PDF), is what’s known as a “nonreimbursable agreement.” That means no money changes hands, but both parties are getting something they want. The document explains that SpaceX is in a unique position right now, and that gives NASA authority under the Space Act to negotiate an agreement that ensures it can fulfill its mission. 

SpaceX is the largest satellite operator in the world, and its access to cheap Falcon 9 launches essentially guarantees its network will grow quicker than the ones planned by Amazon and others. In addition, all of its satellites are maneuverable. So, SpaceX will commit to reorienting its constellation to avoid any possible “conjunctions” with NASA assets. It will also tell NASA about upcoming “cut-outs” when Starlink satellites are unable to maneuver to avoid a collision. This is mostly the time between the deployment of satellites and when they reach their assigned orbit. SpaceX will also make some changes to its launches to ensure Starlink satellites never get too close to the International Space Station. 

On the other side, NASA says it will provide detailed data about where all its spacecraft will be, allowing SpaceX to steer clear. It will also contribute expertise to making Starlink satellites less reflective, something that has irked astronomers and astrophotographers ever since SpaceX started launching the constellation. Although, SpaceX is expected to share data with NASA on the effectiveness of its ongoing satellite dimming work. 

This is more than a theoretical risk — in 2019, the ESA called for more stringent rules about how megaconstallations share the skies after it had to redirect its Aeolus satellite to avoid colliding with a Starlink node. There was no effective way to tell SpaceX what was happening, and the danger will only become more serious as the industry scales up to thousands of satellites.

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Why side-effects from COVID-19 vaccines are a sign they may be working

A sore arm, fatigue, muscle pain and fever are some of the side-effects being reported in those receiving COVID-19 vaccines, and experts say that’s mostly a good thing.

Vaccines are supposed to trigger an immune response, they say. That’s how you know they’re working.

“If you have a vaccine that doesn’t produce a reaction in people, the resulting immune response is weaker,” said Earl Brown, a microbiologist at the University of Ottawa.

Brown said vaccines work by stimulating our immune cells to grow and communicate with each other, giving directions on where to set up for an impending attack by the virus. That results in inflammation, with some of those cells travelling to lymph nodes and causing swelling.

The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna give immune cells instructions to make the COVID spike protein and produce antibodies. Viral vector vaccines such as those produced by AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, force an immune response from the harmless version of the virus that’s injected with those jabs.

Earl Brown, a microbiologist at the University of Ottawa, says inflammation from vaccines strengthen the immune system. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

“The vaccines get your immune cells to start recruiting more of their buddies, saying, ‘We’re making a new response. We need all you guys here,”‘ Brown said. “So the inflammation is good. It makes the immune system stronger.”

The World Health Organization says side-effects to COVID vaccines have been mostly “mild to moderate and short-lasting” and include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, diarrhea and pain at the injection site.

How often do side-effects happen?

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said cases of adverse effects are increasing because so many people are now getting vaccinated. The percentage of those that develop these mild to moderate side-effects is still quite low compared with the number of people being immunized.

She said that while more severe effects are possible — a small number have experienced serious allergic reactions — those events are rare.

Fever was common after the first dose of Pfizer and “very common” — defined as present in 10 per cent of participants or more — after the second dose. It was uncommon after the first dose of Moderna but very common after the second.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta, says cases of adverse effects are increasing because so many people are now getting vaccinated. (CBC)

Brown said effects are generally more apparent following second doses because the body has built up a stronger immune response from the initial jab.

While Saxinger said a fever is a “strong reaction” to a vaccine, it shouldn’t last more than a few days. She also said that taking anti-inflammatories before a vaccine to lessen possible effects isn’t advised, since you want to illicit that immune response.

“It looks like mRNA vaccines are particularly talented at mimicking infection,” she said. “That very targeted and strong immune response is what we ultimately want.”

WATCH | COVID-19 vaccine booking is a patchwork of provincial plans:

Each province is using different systems for people to book COVID-19 vaccinations. Ontario’s online booking system will go live Monday morning, while in B.C. only one health authority currently offers online booking. 2:48

Data from Health Canada shows 0.085 per cent of doses administered in the country from mid-December to March 5 resulted in an adverse reaction, with 0.009 per cent considered serious. Pain, redness and swelling at the vaccination site were the most common effects.

Most of those doses would have been mRNA vaccines, which are generally eliciting stronger reactions than the viral vector jabs.

Saxinger said that could be related to the initial efficacy of the vaccines. Whereas Pfizer and Moderna offer higher levels of effectiveness right away, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson build up over time.

“It’s more of a slow-and-steady profile versus the hot-off-the-presses, quick response from the mRNA,” she said. “So there’s a parallel there with the vigorousness of the initial immune reaction.”

Why do some experience side-effects and other don’t?

Brown said age is perhaps the biggest determining factor, noting older people, who tend to have less robust immune systems, report fewer reactions. Canada’s vaccine supply to date has mostly been administered to older populations.

The absence of side-effects doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working, Brown added. Some people simply won’t show outward reactions.

News out of Europe last week caused concern over AstraZeneca’s product after some adverse events, including blood clots, were reported following vaccination. That spurred nearly a dozen countries to pause their use of the product while experts investigate a possible link.

WATCH | Several EU states suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine:

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, tells Power and Politics the vaccine is still safe to use in Canada. 2:02

Canadian health authorities said they were keeping a watchful eye on the European investigations but added there is no evidence the clots were caused by the vaccine.

AstraZeneca released a statement on Sunday saying a review of 17 million patients who received the shot in Europe and the U.K. showed no elevated risk of blood clotting.

Ann Taylor, the company’s chief medical officer, said there’s no increased risk of either pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia in any age group, gender, batch of vaccines or country.

A nurse holds a vile of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Senftenberg, Germany, on March 3. Germany is among several countries suspending use of the vaccine due to blood clot concerns. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The company said there are reports of 15 patients experiencing deep vein thrombosis and 22 pulmonary embolisms as of March 8, which is much lower than what would occur naturally in a population of more than 17 million people.

Blood clots are fairly common, Saxinger said, so investigators will look at overall numbers of people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine compared with those who reported the condition.

“There’s so many people receiving vaccines daily that any health event that happens to anyone around the time they get their shot may or may not be related,” Saxinger said.

Brown said news of possible side-effects shouldn’t dissuade people from getting vaccinated.

“Look at it as short-term, manageable discomfort without damage, compared to a real disease that could be life-altering or life-ending.”

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CBC | Health News

Canadian legal luminaries sign letter accusing Iranian courts’ of persecuting Baha’i faith

The rulings of a court in a rural corner of northeastern Iran have brought together a Who’s Who of Canada’s legal profession to denounce the mistreatment of members of a religious minority who are being driven from their homes.

One former prime minister — Brian Mulroney — three former attorneys-general (including Jody Wilson-Raybould and Irwin Cotler) and four former Supreme Court justices are among those who signed their names to a letter calling for justice for the Baha’i residents of the village of Ivel, where 27 families were recently evicted from their homes.

The letter was also signed by several former provincial Supreme Court and appeals court judges and professors of law.

Cotler said it was the “punitive and predatory” nature of Iranian court rulings against the Baha’i that struck a chord with Canada’s jurists, along with the judges’ use of openly discriminatory arguments.

The Iranian courts’ claim that they were following Islamic law in confiscating property from non-believers has been rejected by many Muslim groups outside Iran, including the Canadian Council of Imams.

“I think that what was so outrageous here was the judicial complicity, brazenly acknowledging that they were engaged in this persecution based solely on what they called ‘the perverse sect of Bahaism,’ which is known to all the signatories to be a peaceful religious minority,” said Cotler.

“I might add that in this legal process, the Baha’is’ counsel were not allowed to see any evidence against them, not allowed to adduce any evidence, not permitted to make any representations. In other words, [the ruling was] not only an abandonment of due process, [it] adds to the entire shocking legal and judicial complicity in this.”

Crimes of faith

Cotler said Ivel’s Baha’is have suffered years of official persecution.

“There’ve been a series of home raids, assaults, confiscations, arrests, imprisonment,” he said.

“In 2020 we saw an alarming new chapter — two courts sanctioning the confiscation of their property based on religious belief.”

The confiscation was carried out by members of a state-affiliated organization called Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) that answers directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The U.S. Treasury Department accuses EIKO of controlling “large swaths of the Iranian economy, including assets expropriated from political dissidents and religious minorities, to the benefit of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian government officials.”

The Canadian letter is addressed to Iran’s chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, who is in charge of Iran’s investigation into the destruction of Flight PS752 with 176 people on board. Raisi is often touted as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp fired two surface-to-air missiles at Flight PS752 killing all 176 people onboard on Jan, 8, 2020. Iran’s Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi is in charge of Iran’s investigation of the aircraft’s destruction. (Reuters)

A history of persecution

“The Baha’is have been persecuted since the inception of their faith in Iran in the 19th century,” said Winnipeg Baha’i Payam Towfigh. He said that persecution caused him to leave Iran for Canada, while his parents already had been exiled internally in the country because of local hostilities.

“Right after they got married in the 1940s, they moved to a village close to Ivel named Damghan, which had a number of Baha’is there,” he said.

But local mullahs incited the village’s Muslim population against the “heretics” living among them, he said.

“A few of the Baha’i were murdered. My father ended up in jail because of the Baha’i belief that he had,” he said.

“After a year or two they had to leave at night because some of their neighbours told them there were rumours they were going to come and burn their house down. So they had to leave town in the night.”

Since the Islamic Revolution, said Towfigh, the persecution has become national and organized. “It’s no longer just local religious leaders inciting the population against the Baha’i,” he said. “Now it’s systematic and it’s the leader of the country.”

He said the estimated 300,000 Baha’is across Iran have watched their situation grow worse.

“Over the last couple of years, Baha’is have lost their shops, their stores, they’ve been kicked out of their homes,” he said. “Government agents feel very comfortable coming to their homes at night and just taking them away to jail.

“What really we are worried about is that this is a test case that could now be replicated and copied around Iran.”

Change of heart unlikely

While Cotler said he believes the letter to Iran from some of the best-known legal minds in Canada “is unprecedented,” he’s “not sure that Chief Justice Raisi will pay attention.”

With little hope of a change of heart by the Islamic Republic regime, Cotler said the letter-writers intend to pursue their case in international courts and to call on the Canadian government to use Magnitisky sanctions to punish those who have benefited from the expropriations.

Foreign Minister Marc Garneau has tweeted about the evictions, but the Trudeau government — which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran — has taken no substantive actions.

Canada has used Magnitsky sanctions against Russia, Venezuela, South Sudan and Myanmar, but no Iranian official has been subjected to the measure. The U.S. Treasury Department, meanwhile, has sanctioned Raisi as an individual.

Towfigh said he has no illusions about the letter changing hearts and minds within the regime.

“I am certain that they will dismiss it,” he said. “From what I’ve seen in the past, that will be the posture they will have.”

But he said it’s still a worthwhile effort, for two reasons.

“The more important one is the effect on the Baha’i who are in Iran right now, when they see and hear that they are not forgotten,” he said.

“Because the authorities — not only in Iran but under all of these despotic governments — want to remind oppressed individuals that everyone has forgotten about you, you may as well give up, change your religion. So this brings hope and reminds people that the world has not forgotten about them.

“Secondly, Iran may dismiss this but they are still mindful of their image in the world. Prominent people bringing this up in the United Nations — I personally believe it does have an effect on their behaviour.”

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CBC | World News

Sign of the times in plane business as Amazon buys 11 no longer needed jets from WestJet and Delta

Amazon is buying four jets from WestJet and seven from Delta as the e-commerce giant moves to beef up its delivery fleet at a time when passenger jets are no longer so in demand.

In a release, the company said the 11 jets, which are all Boeing 767-300s, are all currently set up to carry passengers but are in the process of being converted to carry only cargo. The WestJet jets will join Amazon’s fleet some time this year and the Delta ones in 2022.

“Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the U.S. in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal,” Sarah Rhoads, vice-president of Amazon Global Air, said in a release.

The 767 was a key jet for WestJet in its evolution as it was the airline’s only wide-body jet, but the airline has recently decommissioned its entire fleet of them and moved to larger 787 Dreamliners for many long-haul flights.

“Last year our 767s were removed from service as we gauged market interest for the procurement of the 767 fleet,” spokesperson Morgan Bell told CBC News in a statement. “We are pleased they found a home with Amazon.”

The four jets represents WestJet’s entire fleet of 767s.

Amazon building delivery network

Amazon launched its own air cargo fleet in 2016 and, prior to Tuesday’s news, the company leased 80 planes, but the move is the first time the company has bought their own.

The company uses parcel services such as UPS and FedEx for its current deliveries, but is moving to build its own delivery network as it increasingly views itself as a competitor to those services, not a partner.

Amazon owns tens of thousands of its own delivery trucks, and has been experimenting with its own fleet of autonomous delivery drones. But those are for the last leg of the delivery journey — it still relies on planes to get packages across vast distances, quickly.

Tuesday’s news is the first purchase of jets, but also the second time in the pandemic that the company has added to its number of planes.

In June of 2020, the company leased a dozen 767s from Air Transport Services Group, Inc.

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed. 

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CBC | World News

Raptors sign Aron Baynes, Marc Gasol inks deal with Lakers: report

The Toronto Raptors managed to assemble a solid front-court despite losing two centres to free agency.

The Raptors have reportedly signed New Zealand-born Australian forward Aron Baynes and re-signed Montreal’s Chris Boucher, but Marc Gasol left for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to multiple reports, a day after Serge Ibaka joined the Clippers.

Baynes signed a two-year deal worth $ 14.3 million US according to The Athletic. Meanwhile, Boucher added another chapter to his storybook career, reportedly signing a deal worth $ 13.5 million according to ESPN.

Boucher re-posted a documentary of his journey to his Instagram page, and wrote “Home is Toronto.”

The 33-year-old Baynes spent the past season with the Phoenix Suns where he averaged a career-best 11.5 points per game. The eight-year veteran has also played for the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics.

Nerves were rising among Raptors fans after Ibaka left, and then reports surfaced about Gasol’s departure.

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Gasol, who turns 36 in January, is a cerebral, savvy play-maker, and was a key member of Toronto’s 2019 championship run. Images of the likeable Spaniard guzzling wine while revving up the crowd that choked the streets of Toronto during the celebratory parade will be some of the most memorable from the championship run.

Gasol reported for national team duty days later, and led Spain to a FIBA World Cup victory in August, but the long stretch of games took a toll. The 6-11 centre suffered a hamstring injury that kept him on the bench for 28 of the Raptors’ 64 games this past before COVID-19 shut down the league on March 11.

When the league resumed in June, he was noticeably slimmer, but he was never able to replicate his earlier success with Toronto, particularly on the offensive end. He attempted 3.4 shots per game during the playoffs in the Walt Disney World bubble. He shot just 18 per cent from three-point range.

Gasol was originally drafted by the Lakers in 2007, but was dealt to Memphis as part of the package that would net them his brother Pau in return. Pau went on to win two championships with the Lakers.

Boucher went undrafted in 2017 after rupturing his ACL in the conference tournament of his senior season with the Oregon Ducks. After a two-way stint with Golden State, he signed with Toronto, and earned both player of the year and defensive player of the year with G League affiliate Raptors 905.

The athletic forward averaged 6.6 points per game last season to go with 4.5 rebounds per game.

The Raptors also added DeAndre’ Bembry, signing him to a two-year deal worth US$ 4 million, according to ESPN. Bembry, 26, spent the last four seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged 5.8 points a game in 49 games last season.

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CBC | Sports News

Armenia, Azerbaijan sign peace deal to end Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement early Tuesday local time to halt fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan under a pact signed with Russia that calls for deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and territorial concessions.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a 1994 truce ended a separatist war in which an estimated 30,000 people died. Sporadic clashes occurred since then, and full-scale fighting began on Sept. 27.

People storm the parliament in Yerevan, Armenia, after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed an agreement with leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the conflict. (Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure/Reuters)

Several ceasefires had been called but were almost immediately violated. However, the agreement announced early Tuesday appeared more likely to take hold because Azerbaijan has made significant advances, including taking control of the strategically key city of Shushi on Sunday.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Facebook that calling an end to the fight was “extremely painful for me personally and for our people.”

Protest in Armenian capital 

Soon after the announcement, thousands of people streamed to the main square in the Armenian capital Yerevan to protest the agreement, many shouting, “We won’t give up our land!” Some of them broke into the main government building, saying they were searching for Pashinian, who apparently had already departed..

The agreement calls for Armenian forces to turn over control of some areas it held outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the eastern district of Agdam. That area carries strong symbolic weight for Azerbaijan because its main city, also called Agdam, was thoroughly pillaged, and the only building remaining intact is the city’s mosque.

Armenians will also turn over the Lachin region, which holds the main road leading from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The agreement calls for the road, the so-called Lachin Corridor, to remain open and be protected by Russian peacekeepers.

In all, 1,960 Russian peacekeepers are to be deployed in the region under a five-year mandate.

People in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, celebrate on Nov. 8 after the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, said its forces had taken Shusha, which Armenians call Shushi, during the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Monday (Tuesday local time) that he had signed a peace deal with Azerbaijan and Russia to end the conflict. (Reuters)

The agreement also calls for transport links to be established through Armenia linking Azerbaijan and its western exclave of Nakhcivan, which is surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey.

Azerbaijani forces on Monday shot down a Russian helicopter that was flying over Armenia near the border with Nakhchivan, killing two servicemen. Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said the helicopter was flying low and “in the context of these factors and in light of the tense situation in the region and increased combat readiness in connection with possible provocations of the Armenian side, the duty combat crew decided to open fire to kill.”

Strategic advantage

The seizure of Shushi, which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed Sunday and was confirmed by Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidential spokesman Monday, gave Azerbaijan a significant strategic advantage. The city is positioned on heights overlooking the regional capital of Stepanakert, 10 kilometres to the north.

“Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that a series of failures still haunt us, and the city of Shushi is completely out of our control,” Vagram Pogosian, a spokesman for the president of the government in Nagorno-Karabakh, said in a statement on Facebook. “The enemy is on the outskirts of Stepanakert.”

Since the 1994 end of the previous war, international mediation efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s “Minsk Group” to determine the region’s final status faltered and the region was separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a demilitarized zone.

Rescuers carry the body of a victim following what is said to be recent shelling in a military conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in this handout photo released Nov. 6. (Armenian Unified Infocentre/Reuters)

Aliyev on Monday urged U.S. president-elect Joe Biden to intensify mediation efforts. In a congratulatory letter to Biden on his election victory, Aliev said, “Azerbaijan expects the United States and other OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to step up their efforts to find a just solution to the conflict.”

Armenia says more than 1,200 Armenian troops have been killed in the war. Azerbaijan hasn’t stated its losses.

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CBC | World News

Oilers sign former Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie

The Edmonton Oilers added to their blue line and brought back a familiar face on the second day of NHL free agency.

The club inked a one-year, US$ 3.75-million contract with defenceman Tyson Barrie before re-signing veteran goalie Mike Smith for $ 2 million at the same term on Saturday.

Barrie has registered 80 goals and 346 points in 554 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs to go along with 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 26 post-season contests.

The Victoria native was acquired by Toronto in July 2019 as part of the trade with Colorado for centre Nazem Kadri, but had a rough start under former Leafs head coach Mike Babcock and never really got going with his new team. Things improved after Babcock was fired and replaced with Sheldon Keefe, but Barrie still finished with just five goals and 39 points in 70 games.

That was far below the 59- and 57-point campaigns he produced during his final two seasons with the Avalanche.

“For me, it was a no brainer,” Barrie, who got a call from Edmonton captain Connor McDavid this week about a potential fit, said of joining the Oilers. “It wasn’t about money this year, (but) coming in to re-establish myself and show the league that I’m still a pretty good player.”

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Barrie, who is coming off a four-year deal that carried an annual-average value of $ 5.5 million, was also held off the scoresheet in Toronto’s five-game loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round of the NHL’s restart before hitting unrestricted free agency.

“I was the top guy in Colorado as far as power play went and played a lot of minutes,” he said. “Going in and trying to adjust to not being in that role and not being that guy, it got off to a bit of a rocky start.

“It’s hard to reel things in when they’re spiraling. Hockey is a big confidence game.”

Smith signs 1-year deal

The Oilers are also bringing Smith back to tandem with Mikko Koskinen for a second season despite there being a plethora of options on the goalie market when free agency opened. The 38-year-old from Kingston, Ont., finished 2019-20 with 19-13-6 record, a .902 save percentage and a 2.95 goals-against average, but was pulled after stopping just 18 of 23 shots in Game 1 of the qualifying round against Chicago this summer.

Chicago would go on to take the best-of-five series 3-1.

Set to enter a 15th NHL season on his fifth team, Smith owns a career record of 262-248-74, a .911 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA.

The 29-year-old Barrie, meanwhile, looked to be 12 months from a massive payday after the trade to Toronto’s talent-rich lineup that includes Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but his sub-par performance coupled with the economic realities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans.

He will, however, get another shot to line up alongside some elite scorers in Edmonton after inking a short-term deal that should see him play big minutes with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Barrie’s addition and Smith’s return on the second day of free agency came after the Oilers signed centre Kyle Turris to a two-year, $ 3.3-million contract and winger Tyler Ennis to a one-year, $ 1-million pact on Friday.

“I think we’ve got a pretty great team,” Barrie said. “I’m looking forward to getting involved.”

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CBC | Sports News

Writers, academics sign open letter criticizing ‘ideological conformity,’ cancel culture

Dozens of artists, writers and academics have signed an open letter decrying the weakening of public debate and warning that the free exchange of information and ideas is in jeopardy amid a rise in what they call “illiberalism.”

J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are among dozens of writers, artists and academics to argue against ideological conformity in an open letter in Harper’s Magazine.

The names hail from a host of different sectors, from cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky to activist Gloria Steinem, jazz great Wynton Marsalis to chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Academics on the list of more than 150 signatories hail from American universities such as Princeton, Yale, Harvard Law, Brown, Rutgers and more.

In addition to Atwood, other Canadian signatories include political pundit David Frum, longtime New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, former federal Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff and literary critic and writer Jeet Heer.

The letter comes amid a debate over so-called cancel culture — where prominent people face attack for sharing controversial opinions.

“The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy,” the letter said.

“But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.”

Rowling, for example, has attracted criticism over her views on transgender issues, which have angered many activists. In a series of tweets, Rowling said she supported transgender rights but did not believe in “erasing” the concept of biological sex.

The comments prompted Daniel Radcliffe and other cast members of the Potter films to publicly disagree with her. Rowling was unmoved, but has been trading barbs with critics online.

The letter criticized the state of public debate and the “swift and severe retribution” dealt out to any perceived wrongs. It decried an “intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.”

“The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away,” the letter said. “We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.

Heated debate online

The letter garnered pushback and has sparked heated debate since being posted Tuesday by Harper’s and circulated by a number of the signatories on social media.

Critics have pointed out that some of those who signed have engaged in the same toxic behaviour they decry in the letter. Others cited the disconnect over signatories holding such prominence, positions of power and with large public platforms complaining about having their speech stifled. 

Historian Kerri Greenidge, who was listed among the original signatories, said she did not endorse the letter and asked for a retraction. A writer on the list, Jennifer Finney Boylan, apologized for her participation, saying she thought she was “endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming” and was not aware of the full list of signatories.

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CBC | World News

Patriots sign quarterback Cam Newton to 1-year deal: report

The New England Patriots have reached an agreement with free-agent quarterback Cam Newton, bringing in the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player to help the team move on from three-time MVP Tom Brady, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press.

The one-year deal is worth up to $ 7.5 million with incentives, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly. A Patriots spokesman said the team had nothing to announce Sunday night.

The signing was first reported by ESPN.

The Patriots had been heading to training camp with 2019 fourth-round draft choice Jarrett Stidham as the heir apparent to Brady, who led the team to six Super Bowl championships since 2001 but signed with Tampa Bay this off-season. Stidham appeared in three games last season, completing two passes for 14 yards with one interception.

The only other experienced quarterback on the defending AFC East champions’ roster was 34-year-old Brian Hoyer, who has started 38 games in an 11-year career with seven NFL teams, including the Patriots twice.

The Panthers released Newton on March 24 following nine seasons, a move that saved the team $ 19.1 million under the NFL salary cap.

The 31-year-old Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft after leading Auburn to a national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy. He helped the Panthers reach the playoffs four times, including the Super Bowl in 2015.

Patriots fined, lose pick for filming game last season

The New England Patriots have been fined $ 1.1 million by the NFL for inappropriately filming the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline during a game last season.

On Sunday, the league also took away a third-round pick in the 2021 draft.

Also, the team’s production crew will not be allowed to shoot any games in the 2020 season.

ESPN first reported the penalties. An NFL spokesman confirmed the discipline to The Associated Press.

The filming occurred at the Bengals game at Cleveland on Dec. 8 of last season. The Bengals hosted the Patriots the following week and lost 34-13.

When the taping became known last season, the team said at the time a three-person crew producing a web series titled “Do Your Job” “inappropriately filmed the field from the press box” as part of a feature on the scouting department.

The filming took place “without specific knowledge of league rules,” the statement said.

Also, the team’s statement last season said that while they were granted credentials for the crew from the Browns, “our failure to inform the Bengals and the league was an unintended oversight.”

When confronted, the team said the crew “immediately turned over all footage to the league and co-operated fully.”

Severely punished before 

At the time, Patriots coach Bill Belichick says neither he nor his coaching staff had watched any of the video footage.

“I personally have never viewed any video footage at all, anything that those production people have done, other than what’s shown on public television or something like that,” Belichick said in December.

Previously, New England was fined $ 250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick in 2007 for violating NFL rules against using video to steal signals in a scandal dubbed “Spygate.” Belichick was also fined $ 500,000.

Spygate fueled a distrust of the Patriots that persisted when the team was accused of illegally deflating the footballs used in the 2015 AFC championship game.

The punishment by the NFL in that case was also severe. Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, and the team was fined $ 1 million and docked another first-round draft pick.

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NBA releases restart schedule after sides sign off on final terms of Florida plan

Acknowledging that no option would have been risk-free during a pandemic, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday that the concern shared by the league and its players surrounding next month’s restart of the season is rising as coronavirus cases in Florida keep climbing.

That said, the league and the National Basketball Players Association are moving forward — finalizing the deal that will bring the game back and see teams start arriving at the Disney campus near Orlando, Fla., in less than two weeks.

The defending champion Toronto Raptors will resume their season on Aug. 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Raptors, along with the NBA, announced their revised eight-game schedule on Friday.

Under the format for the restart, the 22 participating teams will have eight “seeding games,” selected from their remaining regular-season matchups.

Toronto will also play Miami, Orlando, Boston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Denver, with the seeding games concluding by Aug. 14.

All games will be played at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida with no fans in attendance.

The Raptors held down the second seed in the Eastern Conference when play was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA’s reopening night on July 31 will see New Orleans against Utah and the Clippers versus the Lakers.

Many of the details of the return-to-play agreement were already known: that “stringent health and safety protocols” would be in place for the participating teams, that no fans will be present and that games will be held in three different arenas at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

But when those protocols were completed, the Orange County, Fla., area — which includes Orlando — had seen a five per cent rate of positive coronavirus tests over the preceding 10 days. In the 10 days that have followed, the rate of positive tests there has soared to just over 15 per cent.

“We ultimately believe it will be safer on our campus than outside it,” Silver said Friday afternoon. “But the signal we are sending is this is definitely not business as usual. This is far from an ideal way to finish our season, and it will require tremendous sacrifices from all those involved.”

WATCH | Former Raptors star Vince Carter calls it a career:

After playing for a record 22 seasons, 43-year-old Vince Carter, who launched his career with the Raptors, announced his retirement, leaving behind a complicated legacy in Toronto. 2:42

Silver said the league is working with Disney to test at least some of its on-site employees who could be in the same room as NBA players, which he believes will make the setting even safer.

Once players get to Disney, they will be tested daily. Testing is currently in an every-other-day mandatory phase for the teams set to participate in the restarted season. The results from Tuesday’s first 302 tests showed that 16 players were positive for the virus.

“I think one would have been concerning,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said. “But, God forgive me, I was frankly to some extent relieved that the number was not higher…. If nothing else, it told me that the great majority of our players have been doing exactly what they should have been doing to keep themselves safe.”

Silver said it may be possible that, if there was a significant spread of the virus within the Disney campus, “that might lead us to stopping.” He said the league has not precisely concluded what number of positive tests it would take to shut down the season once it resumes, and he continues working with the players and health officials to determine what that number should be.

Social justice a priority

The league and the union announced earlier this week that addressing racial issues and inequality in the country will be a priority during the restarted season. Silver, Roberts and others — including union president Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder — stressed Friday that those matters will be an extremely critical component of what happens at Disney, both on and off the floor.

While dealing with the plans for pulling off a restarted season and then playing a full post-season during a pandemic, the league and the union have had numerous meetings to discuss options for how to address issues such as the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the ongoing problem of police brutality and furthering the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We all understand how powerful our voice is,” Paul said. “Even if we’re back to playing, our voice can still be heard … on an unbelievable platform. You’re going to continue to hear us. It’s never a `shut up and dribble’ situation. You’re going to continue to hear us.”

Silver said the NBA sees itself as a key partner to the messages that players want to be seen and heard at Disney during a time of what he called enormous social unrest.

“We may be the most uniquely qualified organization in the world to effect change,” Silver said, noting that the league’s players are some of the best-known Black personalities on the planet.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 because of the virus. It took the league more than three months just to get to this point, and it would seem very unlikely that once teams get into what the league hopes is a secure environment at Disney, issues such as more positive tests wouldn’t be a factor.

There are countless business reasons to play, with massive revenue streams at stake for players, the league and the NBA’s media partners — Disney included. And Silver acknowledged that even though the league “hasn’t worked through every scenario” regarding the possibility of on-site positive tests at Disney, he believes coming back is the best move.

“Ultimately, whether it’s fighting racism or a pandemic, we’re coming back because sports matter in our society,” Silver said. “They bring people together when we need it the most and they can show how we can balance public health and economic necessity.”

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