Tag Archives: ‘soaring

Alberta bans all outdoor and indoor social gatherings in bid to curb soaring COVID-19 infection rates

The Alberta government ordered the closure of all casinos and gyms, banned dine-in service at restaurants and bars, and imposed a mandatory provincewide mask requirement on Tuesday under new restrictions aimed at curbing the province’s soaring COVID-19 infection rates.

The province also banned all outdoor and indoor social gatherings, and imposed mandatory work-from-home measures.

Premier Jason Kenney says he recognizes the measures will change how Albertans celebrate Christmas.

But they are necessary to slow the growth in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, he said, citing at-home social gatherings as the biggest single source of viral transmissions.

“If we relax the public health measures to permit large family gatherings in just three weeks’ time, we will, without a shadow of a doubt, see a large increase in hospitalizations and fatalities,” Kenney said at a news conference Tuesday.

“We simply cannot let this Christmas turn into a tragedy for many families.” 

Both the masking mandate and the ban on social gatherings take effect immediately. The work-from-home measures — and other new restrictions — will go into effect at midnight on Sunday. Farms are excluded from the mask mandate.

Indoor and outdoor social close contact will be limited to those in the same household, while people who live alone may still have up to two non-household close contacts.

The ban on gatherings includes those in indoor workplaces, for example in lunchrooms. Workplace meetings will still be allowed but in-person attendance, under the restrictions, will be limited to the extent possible and physical distancing should be followed.

Rising numbers

On Tuesday, the province reported 1,727 new cases of the illness and set another record with 20,388 active cases. Across the province, 654 people were being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, including 112 in intensive care units.

Another nine deaths were added to the toll on Tuesday, bringing the total to 640 since March.

The hospitalization numbers have grown by 600 per cent since the last week of October, Kenney said.

“I also understand that to many people these policies, these restrictions, seem unjust,” he said. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that Alberta’s government has been reluctant to use extraordinary powers to damage or destroy livelihoods in this way.”

Kenney said his government sees the latest restrictions as the only way to try to bend the infection curve.

‘Devastating’ measures

“I know how devastating today’s announcement and these measures are for tens of thousands of small business owners who have been coping through an impossibly difficult year, for hundreds of thousands of their employees and so many others who have found themselves without work,” Kenney said.

“But we are now at a place where viral transmission is so widespread in the community that it does not any longer matter how careful business operators are. Because community transmission means that staff and clients, the general public, represent a risk of transmission.”

The mandatory restrictions will be in place for at least four weeks. The restrictions do not apply to service visits from caregivers, health- or child-care providers, or co-parenting arrangements.

Retail businesses, as of Sunday, will be allowed to remain open but must reduce capacity to 15 per cent of the occupancy allowed under the fire code. Places of worship will face the same restriction. 

The closures taking effect at midnight Sunday include all:

  • Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes to in-person service. Only takeout, curbside pickup and delivery services will be permitted.
  • Casinos, bingo halls, gaming entertainment centres, racing entertainment centres, horse tracks, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls, legions and private clubs.
  • Recreational facilities such as fitness centres, recreation centres, pools, spas, gyms, studios, camps, indoor rinks and arenas.
  • Libraries, science centres, interpretive centres, museums, galleries, amusement parks and water parks.
  • Businesses offering personal and wellness services such as hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlours and massage businesses.

Funerals and wedding ceremonies will be limited to 10 people.

Regulated health services such as physiotherapy, social or protective services, shelters for vulnerable persons, emergency services and soup kitchens can remain open for in-person attendance.

Hotels may remain open but must follow all relevant restrictions. Outdoor recreation is permitted but facilities with indoor space will be closed except for the washrooms.

New support for small business

At Tuesday’s news conference, Doug Schweitzer, the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, said the government will expand the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant, with a new lower threshold and increased grant amounts.

“We have reports saying that 40 per cent of these small businesses may not be able to turn the lights back on if we don’t provide them with supports,” Schweitzer said. “That’s the extent of what we’re facing here in our province — 40 per cent may not come back, unless we step in and provide them with supports now.

“So that’s why the premier, our cabinet, last night met as a team to try to figure out how we could support them to get them through to the other side.”

Businesses will be eligible to apply for a second payment through the program, for a total of up to $ 20,000 in potential funding each, up from the original $ 5,000.

Up to 15,000 more businesses may be eligible for government funding, the province said in a news release.

The program will also expand to include businesses that have experienced revenue losses of at least 30 per cent due to the pandemic, lowering the threshold from the former requirement of 40 per cent revenue losses.

Pandemic hit hospitals hard

The spread of the virus and the surge in cases has hit hospitals hard. Edmonton alone has 357 patients being treated for COVID-19, including 66 in ICU beds, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital is currently caring for 102 COVID-19 patients, she said, and with 13 units on “outbreak” or “watch” status the entire hospital has been placed on “watch.” .=

“This is a precautionary measure which brings enhanced measures to every unit not on an outbreak,” she said. “Our hospitals, including the Royal Alex, continue to be safe places to receive care, but I know that staff and physicians are working under incredible stress.

In the Edmonton zone, to make room for COVID-19 patients, hospitals will begin postponing up to 60 per cent of non-urgent scheduled surgeries that require hospital stays, Hinshaw said. Diagnostic imaging or other clinical support services could be reduced by as much as 40 per cent.

A regional breakdown of active cases was:

  • Edmonton zone: 9,383 cases.
  • Calgary zone: 7,529 cases.
  • Central zone: 1,526 cases.
  • North zone: 1,212 cases.
  • South zone: 646 cases.
  • Unknown: 92 cases.

Two weeks ago, the province imposed a 10-person limit on outdoor private social gatherings. Such gatherings will be banned under the new restrictions.

“Now, obviously people in a family household cohort can enjoy the outdoors together,” Kenney said. “And I don’t think any bylaw officer is going to ticket you if you say hi to your friends in passing as you pass them on the sidewalk or in the park, on the ski hill, or on an outdoor skating rink.

“But if you call up 20 of our closest personal friends and say let’s … have some beers around the firepit, that is definitely a social gathering. So we ask people to apply a common-sense definition to what constitutes a social gathering. It’s not incidentally crossing friends, family or acquaintances while outdoors.”

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With COVID cases soaring, Russia shuns lockdown but doubles down on enforcement

Standing in a BMW showroom full of beautiful new automobiles, the man in the military uniform seemed unimpressed.  

“Where are your masks?” he demanded of the worried-looking car salesman. The hand sanitizer for customers was missing from the front of the store too, he continued, berating him.    

The penalty for the dealership on Zorge Street in northwest Moscow could be up to $ 10,000 Cdn. It’s one of more than 15,000 fines handed out to businesses, along with another 100,000 fines imposed on individuals by Moscow’s COVID bylaw inspectors since May.

For businesses alone, the fines amount to the equivalent of $ 15 million Canadian — though it’s unclear just how much of that actually gets paid.

With the city of 13 million bearing the brunt of a worrisome new outbreak of coronavirus, the Putin government has resisted a new lockdown but instead stressed the need for Russians to do what thus far they have been reluctant to do: restrict their movements, stay physically distanced and pay attention to a strict regime of anti-COVID-19 cleanliness.

The heavy enforcement is meant to give those measures a prod.

On Moscow’s metro, uniformed inspectors patrol station platforms looking for passengers not wearing masks — and rebuking the many who have them but are wearing them below their noses. 

The TASS news agency reports that in the past two weeks alone as cases spiked,  more than 10,000 passengers were fined and 100 “raids” were conducted on a single day,  an indication of the stepped up enforcement.

Moscow bylaw officers fined this BMW dealership for not having hand sanitizer for customers when they enter the showroom. (Moscow Trade and Transport Department)

More than 60 food stores in Moscow have already been shut down, at least temporarily. A hookah bar was fined for having dirty tables and countertops, and not enough masks available for employees. 

“The main thing is people’s health, the second is the economy — of course we don’t want to close anything,” said Sergei Sobyanin, Moscow’s mayor for the past decade.

WATCH | COVID inspectors patrol Moscow subways, businesses:

An army of COVID inspectors patrol subways, businesses, looking for violations and handing out fines. 1:02

Russia has soared past its peak daily infection rates from the spring and is now in uncharted territory. On Tuesday, new daily infections topped 13,000 for the third day in a row. The national health agency also reported 244 deaths — nearly twice as many as the 125 the day before.

Moscow reported 4,600 of those new cases alone, and last week Sobyanin said hospitalizations were running at about 1,000 patients a day.

WATCH | Russia’s health system strained by rise in COVID-19 infections:

The rapid rise of COVID-19 cases has hit Russia hard and its underfunded health-care system is showing the strain even though authorities had made a big deal about fighting the virus with high-tech surveillance measures and heavy enforcement. 2:11

COVID fatigue

In the spring, Moscow endured one of the strictest lockdowns anywhere in the world, with people required to download an identifying barcode onto their smartphones and get it scanned just to go outside.

The economic consequences were severe. The national economy crashed by 8.5 per cent. It was not as bad as some had feared, but there is little appetite to go through that again, and so Sobyanin has brought in a series of less restrictive measures that may be easier for Russians to adhere to.

A medic of the regional hospital receives Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine shot against COVID-19 in Tver, Russia, on Monday. (Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters)

Schools have been temporarily closed and businesses ordered to send 30 per cent of their employees home. Anyone over the age of 65 is also restricted to the place they live.

“It is clear that people are tired of COVID, but we need to hold out for a few more months before mass vaccination,” said Sobanyin, echoing President Vladimir Putin’s reassurances that Russia’s much-hyped Sputnik V vaccine will soon be a game-changer.

The vaccine is being given to Russian health care workers and other volunteers even as its maker, the Gamaleya Research Institute, continues to conduct Stage 2 and 3 clinical trials to determine whether it’s safe and effective.    

3 days for an ambulance

Still, the more pressing concern is the state of the vast nation’s health care system, which doctors, nurses and other health care workers complain is woefully underfunded.

The union Deystviya, or Action, which represents paramedics and ambulance drivers, held a news conference Monday to press Russia’s government for more funding, citing long hold times to reach an emergency department and even a shortage of ambulances.

This Moscow hookah bar faces a fine of around $ 10,000 Cdn for having staff serving customers who aren’t wearing masks. (Moscow Trade and Transport Department)

“There are more sick people, and now it’s difficult to even get a call through to emergency — you could be waiting 45 minutes for the operator to answer,” said ambulance driver Alexander Mitrofanov, who is from the city of Samara, near the Kazakhstan border.   

“You could be waiting up to three days for the ambulance to arrive! Up to three days.” 

His complaints appeared to be validated by the regional governor, who this week ordered government workers to give up their complimentary vehicles so they could be pressed into service as ambulances.

Even closer to Moscow, such as in the city of Vladimir two hours to the north, the problems are equally severe, say the workers.

“We don’t even have oxygen in all the vehicles,” said paramedic Ekaterina Yasheva. “I’m supposed to administer this oxygen to the patient, but often there is just no oxygen at all in the ambulances.”

‘Not the best equipment’

Among those who’ve been infected with the virus is Kremlin-friendly TV pundit Sergey Markov, who has been a frequent commentator on CBC News.

CBC News reached him in Moscow’s Slifasovsky hospital, where he had been recovering from COVID-19 since becoming symptomatic while at a political conference in Crimea earlier this month.

“I think the Russian health system is not financed enough, and this is one of the major criticisms directed at Vladimir Putin,” said Markov, who was discharged Tuesday evening after battling back a high fever.    

He says doctors told him they needed his bed for more seriously ill patients.

“We have the best doctors but not the best equipment.”

Inspectors on Moscow’s metro have handed out 97,000 fines or warnings to passengers for not wearing masks. (Moscow Trade and Transport Department)

Putin himself has rarely been seen in public since March. State media shows him conducting the nation’s business mostly via video conference. Independent media reports have suggested anyone who meets with Russia’s president in person must first spend two full weeks in a special quarantine hotel.    

In resisting a nationally mandated lockdown or the provision of paid leave days to keep people at home, as he did in the spring, Russia’s president has essentially left it to local authorities to figure out how to handle the surge of cases.

In Moscow, the answer at least in part has been tickets, fines and a lot of cajoling not to get too close.

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Russia clearing out people near where rocket accident sent radiation levels soaring

Russian authorities have recommended residents of Nyonoksa leave their village while cleanup work is carried out nearby following a rocket engine accident that caused a spike in radiation last week, Interfax news agency reported citing local officials.

“We have received a notification … about the planned activities of the military authorities. In this regard, residents of Nyonoksa were asked to leave the territory of the village from Aug. 14,” authorities in Severodvinsk were quoted as saying.

Russia’s state weather service said radiation levels spiked in nearby Severodvinsk — a city of some 190,000 — by up to 16 times on Aug. 8 after what officials say was an explosion during a rocket engine test on a White Sea platform.

Nyonoksa hosts a navy facility that serves as a base for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles intended for nuclear submarines, and it is believed several hundred people are currently posted there.

The Kremlin boasted Tuesday it was winning the race to develop new cutting edge nuclear weapons despite the mysterious rocket accident in northern Russia last week, which killed at least five and injured three more.

In this video grab taken from footage provided by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM press service, hundreds gathered in Sarov for the funerals of five Russian nuclear engineers killed by the rocket explosion last week. (Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM via AP)

It has pledged to keep developing new weapons regardless, portraying the men who died in the test as heroes.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday the United States was “learning much” from the explosion which he suggested happened during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin last year.

‘Not good!’: Trump takes note

Russia, which has said the missile will have an “unlimited range” and be able to overcome any defences, calls the missile the 9M730 Burevestnik (Storm Petrel). The NATO alliance has designated it the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.

Trump said on Twitter that the United States had “similar, though more advanced, technology” and said Russians were worried about the air quality around the facility and far beyond, a situation he described as “Not good!”

But when asked about his comments on Tuesday, the Kremlin said it, not the United States, was out in front when it came to developing new nuclear weapons.

“Our president has repeatedly said that Russian engineering in this sector significantly outstrips the level that other countries have managed to reach for the moment, and it is fairly unique,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Putin used his state-of-the nation speech in 2018 to unveil what he described as a raft of invincible new nuclear weapons, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater nuclear-powered drone and a laser weapon.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington over arms control have been exacerbated by the demise this month of a landmark nuclear treaty. Russia says it is also concerned that another landmark arms control treaty will soon expire.

Medics who treated victims of last week’s accident have been sent to Moscow for a medical examination, the TASS news agency reported.

It said the medics had signed non-disclosure agreements about the nature of the accident.

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Record Australian heat shows soaring cost of climate change

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • The effects of climate change are felt worldwide, but the cost of inaction in the face of growing scientific research is inspiring a new protest movement. 
  • Allowing some risky behaviour by seniors to give them independence is the approach one care home in Saskatoon is taking.
  • Parents and leagues are grappling with the issue of brain injuries and whether young people should be playing full-body-contact football.
  • The Super Bowl halftime show is stirring up controversy.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

The cost of climate inaction

As much of North America shivers through an extreme cold snap that has killed at least 21 people, Australia has just turned the calendar page on its hottest month ever. 

The country's Bureau of Meteorology confirmed Friday that the mean national temperature in January exceeded 30 C for the first time in modern history. And five 40 C-plus days last month now rank among the 10 warmest on record

The extreme summer heat, which contributed to mass deaths of fish and wild horses, sparked wildfires and heat emergencies and worsened an ongoing drought in New South Wales. 

And it has now been followed by another weather crisis — heavy monsoon rains in the north of the country. 

The municipality of Townsville in Queensland State received a year's worth of rain over the past week. A full 1.1 metres of precipitation that has unleashed flash floods, closed roads and schools, and has dams ready to burst. More rain is in the forecast. 

Scientists say the extreme weather events are linked to changes in climate that have already seen average temperatures in Australia rise by more than 1 C over the past century

Last year was the country's third-hottest on record, and 2017 was its fourth.  

A beachgoer sits in the sun on Glenelg Beach in Adelaide, Australia on Jan. 24, 2019. (Kelly Barnes/AAP Image/AP)

Those who try to tune out such findings, like America's climate-change-skeptic-in-chief Donald Trump, should note that the polar vortex that sent temperatures plummeting in this hemisphere is also a product of global warming

This week has brought plenty of bad news on the climate front. 

A paper from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, published in the journal Science Advances, reveals that Antarctica's giant Thwaites Glacier has been melting from the inside out at a rapid pace. Radar satellites have detected a 300-metre deep chasm beneath its surface, covering an area two-thirds the size of Manhattan. Caused, they calculate, by the disappearance of 12.7 billion tons of ice over the past three years — directly responsible for four per cent of the current rise in sea levels. And if the rest of the glacier goes, the world's oceans will end up 65 centimetres higher, they say.

Another new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, predicts a rise in congenital heart defects due to climate change. Research has already linked pregnancies during extreme summer heat to increased heart problems for newborns. But this paper quantifies the risk, saying the weather changes might create another 7,000 cases in the United States alone between 2025 and 2035. 

And researchers tracking HIV in Lesotho have released data that shows that severe droughts are driving up infection rates, as the accompanying economic hardships lead young women in affected areas to become more sexually active.

U.S. intelligence authorities included a stark warning about the "negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change," in a report tabled before the U.S. Congress this week. They ranked the changing weather alongside terrorism and transnational crime as a global threat to human security.

And a story from Bloomberg Friday reveals that the U.S. navy is quietly planning to build a 4.3-metre-high wall around Washington's historic Navy Yard to protect its buildings from an anticipated rise in sea levels. 

There are also more positive developments. 

Oil giant BP is pledging to set hard greenhouse gas reduction targets for its operations — and tie bonuses for 36,000 employees to the fight against climate change. The move, spurred by activist investors, follows a similar promise from Royal Dutch Shell in December.

And young people across Europe have found inspiration in a 16-year-old Swedish girl and started organizing demonstrations demanding more government action on global warming. 

On Thursday, more than 35,000 students took to the streets in Belgium, marching for the fourth Thursday in a row. Friday saw similar protests in Denmark and Germany, spurring a #FridaysForFuture social media hashtag. 

The movement is set to expand to the Netherlands next, with more than 7,000 kids already registered for a Feb. 7 demo.

Although not everyone is down with them missing a day of school to try and save the planet.

"Education is education and we are not going to give way to truancy," Arie Slob, the Dutch education minister, told a television program last night. 

The benefits of risk

Allowing some risky behaviour by seniors to give them a measure of independence is the approach one care home in Saskatoon is taking, reporter David Common writes.

Sylvia is probably going to fall.

It seems so likely, the staff at the long-term seniors care home we visited in Saskatoon has put a helmet on her head. But they're encouraging her to stand. To walk. To dance.

It might seem like they're not doing everything possible to minimize the risks, but that's the idea.

"Our residents live at risk," says Sylvia's nurse, May Abigania. "Let them lead their life according to how they want to live."

While some seniors homes sedate or restrain patients with a history of falling, Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon offers things like dance sessions involving residents and caregivers. It's all part of giving people more independence and personal choice. (Melissa Mancini/CBC)

At other homes, to prevent Sylvia from falling they might take measures to keep her from standing at all. Or confine her to her room. Perhaps even sedate her.

At the Sherbrooke Community Centre, Sylvia is given the freedom to do what she wants, even if there is a risk of injury. She has dementia and is kept on her floor by locked doors, but otherwise has free rein.

Like all residents here, she wakes up when she wants to, bathes at the time she chooses. The thinking is that if she isn't being told what to do, she is more likely to be happy and not feel confined. Otherwise, like many dementia patients, she could lash out aggressively, even violently.

Emma may be the only dog at Sherbrooke Community Centre, but she's not the only animal. Many cats and birds live at the facility and are all part of efforts to make it a home. (Melissa Mancini/CBC)

Some staff and family members aren't OK with the approach at Sherbrooke. Some leave as a result. And there have been incidents, including a vulnerable senior getting outside in frigid temperatures.

But that doesn't discourage Sherbrooke's CEO from the path the facility is on with its 263 residents.

"Traditionally, the philosophies that have been used in long-term care have been kind of patriarchal, where we say we know what's best for you," says Suellen Beatty, the longtime CEO of Sherbrooke. "But the bulk of suffering for people who are frail or disabled is really due to a malaise of the spirit, to the loneliness, the helplessness and the boredom."

Sherbrooke CEO Suellen Beatty says she considers some risk acceptable if it ensures elderly residents are given greater personal freedom. (Melissa Mancini/CBC)

It's one of just a handful of homes recognized by the Alzheimer's Society of Canada for promoting this type of independence. Inside, there are cats, birds and a dog. Staff don't rotate between floors, they are assigned to one area. Residents get to know them and count some of them as friends, not just care-workers.

"It's all about choices here," says Kari Prodahl, as she makes pizza and salad for a handful of residents. "Which makes it easy, because it is like a home-like atmosphere."

The home and its staff seek to be a model for the rest of the country — and the CEO is frequently asked to talk to other facilities.

Sherbrooke is publicly funded and receives an amount of money similar to other seniors homes across the country. It has basically the same number of staff. But it takes a substantially different approach to care.

That involves risk. And that can mean injury.

But the people running the facility prefer that to a loss of freedom. Many of the residents we talked to agree.

– David Common

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Is football safe for kids?

Parents and leagues are grappling with the issue of whether young people should be playing full-body-contact football, writes the Los Angeles bureau's Kim Brunhuber.

The story started with a question: Would I allow my four-year-old son to play tackle football?

It might seem too early to even contemplate that question, but at several of my neighbourhood parks here in the Los Angeles area, boys as young as five are already strapping on helmets and pads. Watching them practise, I can't help but cringe every time those tiny little heads collide.

A youth takes a hit during an under-14 tackle football practice in El Segundo, Calif. The team plays in a league run by Pop Warner Little Scholars, the largest youth football program in the U.S. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Most of the media's focus surrounding chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is on NFL players, not the young athletes who make up the vast majority of the players in Canada and the U.S.

I played football in high school in Ottawa, and simply put, I loved the sport and wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't become one of the city's skinniest outside linebackers. But "putting a hat on someone" and "getting your bell rung" were daily rituals of practice, and with the growing body of research on the effects of repetitive blows to the head, I was on the fence about whether my son should play at all, let alone at such a young age.

But then I visited two mothers who claimed they'd lost their sons to youth football and are now suing the largest league in the country.

When I met them, they were keen to insist they weren't "typical" anti-football crusaders. Both came from staunchly Republican football-supporting homes, and one, as a girl, had even been a cheerleader in the very league they were now suing. They'd happily signed their sons up and became avid fans — until their sons died years after they'd hung up their cleats. The autopsies showed their boys' brains had been affected by CTE.

It was clear where they placed the blame. They claimed the hundreds of football hits the boys had sustained each year had damaged their brains, and that the league had done little to mitigate or warn parents about the risk. They told me that signing my son up for youth football would be like "playing Russian roulette" with his brain.

But surely the link between youth football and brain damage couldn't be so clear cut?

To find that out, I sought one of the country's leading experts, Dr. Christopher Giza, a neurologist at UCLA's Brain Injury Research Center who specializes in sport-related brain injuries. His opinion: there are physiological reasons why playing football at a young age might be more harmful to kids' brains.

Dr. Christopher Giza, a neurologist at UCLA’s Brain Injury Research Center, says a young person has less natural insulation protecting the connections in the brain than an adult does, making them more susceptible to some types of head injuries. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

"The insulation on the wires in the brain is called myelin, and the young brain has less of that insulation," Giza says, "so that's a vulnerability of being young."

He pointed to the changes Hockey Canada made, prohibiting body-checking under the age of 13, in part to help lower the chance of brain injury in young players.

After the interview was over, I told him about what had precipitated this story and asked his advice.

"When I work with parents, a lot of it comes down to how can we make the different sports as safe as they can be — and for each individual player, how can they decide what's the best risk-benefit for them," he told me. "There's no black or white answers in these things."

But from what I've seen and heard, my kid probably shouldn't be doing hitting drills while he's still obsessed with Paw Patrol. And if in Grade 9 he chooses to become a 100-pound linebacker like his dad, I probably won't stop him.

– Kim Brunhuber

  • WATCH: Kim Brunhuber's story about youth football and brain injuries Sunday night on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

Halftime hate-on

This weekend it's Super Bowl Sunday, and it seems like this year more than ever the game and its halftime show are mired in controversy, writes producer Tarannum Kamlani.

Super Bowl Sunday is much like Thanksgiving — love it or hate it, it's a day many people plan around.

For some the fascination is with the intricacies of the game. For others it's the snacks. And for many, it's the halftime show.

That halftime stage has helped propel the performers chosen to grace it to icon status: The Rolling Stones, U2, Michael Jackson, Prince, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. But this year's headlining act is a sign to some that the show, like everything else these days, has become politically charged.  

The Super Bowl is taking place in a city that many consider the epicentre of southern black culture and hip hop … and the NFL chose Maroon 5.

Maroon 5 members Adam Levine, left, and James Valentine are seen performing in March 2018. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Both Rihanna and rapper Cardi B — who had a hit song with Maroon 5 — turned down what was once a highly coveted platform. They rebuffed the NFL in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose peaceful protests against police brutality became a lightning rod, exposing the systemic issues around racism in America and indeed the NFL itself.  

Joining us to break it all down on the Pop Panel tonight with host Andrew Chang are Donnovan Bennett, staff writer and host at Sportsnet, Flare.com senior editor Ishani Nath, and writer Katie Underwood. Hope you'll join us!

– Tarannum Kamlani

A few words on … 

Agave enthusiasts. 

Quote of the moment

"I'm not a vindictive person because I told them where it was."

The woman now known as Lorena Gallo recounts the June 1993 night when she infamously took her revenge on then husband John Wayne Bobbitt, cutting off his penis and tossing it out a car window.

What The National is reading

  • No 'imminent' military intervention in Venezuela, says Trump adviser (Reuters)
  • Asia Bibi reunited with family in Canada: German lawyer (Deutsche Welle)
  • Loss of newspapers contributes to political polarization, study finds (Associated Press)
  • Margaret Thatcher's hometown fears new statue will be vandalized (The Times)
  • The Dutch historian who savaged the Davos elite (Guardian)
  • Woman steals wallet, buys winning lotto ticket, gets arrested, policy say (CBC)
  • Hong Kong find record haul of pangolin scales in shipping container (BBC)
  • Iguana-sized cousin to the dinosaurs discovered in Antarctica (CBC)

This weekend in history

Feb. 2, 1969: Inside racism protest at Montreal's Sir George Williams University 

It took administrators the better part of year to start taking a discrimination complaint from a group of black students against their white professor seriously. But as the investigating committee squabbled, the residual goodwill dissipated and activists staged a computer lab takeover. What started out with singing, dancing and limbo contests ended in a riot on Feb. 11. Almost 100 people were arrested, and the damage was pegged at $ 2 million in 1969 dollars.

Black students occupy a computer centre to protest discrimination at a Montreal university in 1969. 8:41

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New World of Warcraft Optimizations Send DirectX 12 Performance Soaring

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For a 14-year-old game, World of Warcraft has continued to evolve and grow at a surprising rate. Earlier this year, the game added DirectX 12 support as part of the run-up to the launch of its current expansion, Battle for Azeroth. We benchmarked the addition at the time but found the change to be of minimal value on both AMD and Nvidia hardware. Nvidia GPUs performed sharply better in DirectX 11 mode (which isn’t surprising) but even AMD cards were hitting higher minimum frame rates in that API as well.

There are now four additional flags for multi-threaded CPU optimizations that users on the PTR (Public Test Realm) can set and experiment with, including Apple users (Metal support, apparently, is also included). WoWhead took the game out for some testing in Boralus, the new capital city of the expansion for the Alliance, and saw some interesting results. The test itself was primitive — standing only, with DX11, DX12 (standard) and DX12 (with new optimizations enabled at the same time).

The game was tested in 1080p with 8x MSAA on a Core i7-8700K overclocked to 5GHz using an Nvidia GTX 1070 and 32GB of DDR4-3200. The improvements are… substantial.


Image by WoWHead

Even better, they carry through to 4K, though WoWHead didn’t graph those figures. For 4K, however, a Core i9-7980XE was used, paired with a GTX 1080 Ti.


Image by WoWHead

These are truly impressive gains at 4K — though they also imply that WoW has been leaving a great deal of performance on the proverbial table. We’d expect 4K to show relatively smaller performance enhancements simply because at that resolution, most GPUs aren’t being tripped up by waiting on the CPU any longer (as we’ve discussed before, DirectX 12 is more of a performance improvement for low-end CPUs than a direct boon for lower-end graphics cards). At least, that’s been the typical thinking. But a six-core Core i7-8700K at 5GHz isn’t anyone’s idea of a low-end CPU — and WoW is picking up major performance. A 23 percent gain for the 1080 Ti is still quite large relative to what we’d expect to see in 4K.

As always, keep in mind that how much performance you pick up in DX12 will always be a function of your GPU architecture. We don’t know yet how these gains play on AMD cards or if Maxwell GPUs from Nvidia can benefit (if you have to bet, it’s safer to bet they won’t). But we’ve been meaning to revisit WoW to see how the DX12 update was coming along — once this patch goes live on the main server we’ll have to pay another visit to Azeroth to see how things are shaping up.

The two features already enabled in DX12 by default are gxMTBeginDraw and gxMTShadow. The two new functions you can test on the PTR are gxMTPrePass and gxMTOpaque. Instructions on how to set these variables and their results can be found on WoWHead. The updates will arrive in Patch 8.1, Tides of Vengeance.

Hat-tip to Twitter user Nyn, who notified us about the improvements.

Now Read: World of Warcraft Subscriptions Surge Thanks to LegionWorld of Warcraft No Longer Requires Game Purchase, Just Subscription, and Benchmarking World of Warcraft in DirectX 12

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Canada's Jared Kerr soaring to new heights under Carl Lewis's tutelage

TORONTO — A Canadian record holder, an Olympian, a future medallist — those are the first things that come to mind when Carl Lewis thinks about the potential of Canadian long jumper Jared Kerr.

The future is bright for the Brampton, Ont., native despite finishing in eighth place after a jump of 7.58 metres in the men's long jump final at the NACAC (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) track and field championships in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

This past May, Kerr soared to a new personal best of 8.14 metres becoming the first Canadian to crack the eight-metre barrier in 16 years — just six centimetres shy of the mark set by Edrick Floreal in 2001.

Lewis is in his second season coaching Kerr at the University of Houston and believes in the 23-year-old because of the adversity he has already faced.

"He's been through a struggle. He went to a college, got injured, came home, and now he appreciates it [more]. He's old enough to say, 'Hey, I'm thankful I had a second chance,'" says the nine-time Olympic gold medallist.

A torn meniscus had Kerr questioning his future in track as he missed the entire 2015-16 season, including the Rio Olympics.

"That kind of derailed me mentally and took me off my game because since I was young, I always wanted to be in an Olympics … a big goal in my life was just stripped from me," Kerr says.

More injuries followed and Kerr credits his inner circle for believing in him and preventing those doubts from creeping in further.

"It really kept me sane," Kerr says.

'The sky's the limit'

Fortunately for Kerr, his luck was about to turn around.

After two years of college at Maryland Eastern Shore, Kerr had a falling out with his coach and was in search of a new school.

Lewis caught wind of this and gave Kerr a phone call. The rest is history. Just from that initial conversation, Kerr could already tell that things were going to be different.

As they talked about their respective visions, Kerr felt a "symbiotic" relationship that he feels is essential in any successful coach-athlete partnership that wasn't present with his old coach.

CBC Sports' Scott Russell spoke with the nine-time Olympic champion about the need for track and field to develop the next superstar. 2:04

"With Carl, the sky's the limit," Kerr says. "Having someone in my corner that has done such things telling me that I can be great or even greater — that really is a confident booster."

Lewis believes Kerr has what it takes to be a consistent jumper at 8.50 metres and beyond. As a 19-year-old, Lewis says he wasn't much faster than Kerr is right now but could routinely jump that distance.

The eight-time world champion describes long jump as "the most difficult event in track and field" because everything is done in one second and teaching someone to do something in such a period means there's "no thought process" — it's 100 per cent muscle memory and repetition.

Separate styles

However, communication was initially difficult with Lewis, who in their first year together was only in his third year of coaching overall.

"He had to learn that I'm not him and he's not me. We work on two different wavelengths," Kerr says. "He had to find a way to bridge that. I always told him [that] as soon as I comprehend something, I can do it. But if I don't understand it, I can't replicate it."

Under Lewis, Kerr learned to be more efficient on the runway where top-end speed should be reached when contact is made with the board. When he's barrelling down the runway, Kerr compares it to an airplane. It doesn't instantly take off from the ground — it progressively builds up speed first.

Like his mentor, Kerr has also adopted the hitch kick as opposed to the hang technique he initially used.

"The hitch is just running in the air. When you hang, you're bringing and moving your weight around and it affects how far you can get," Kerr says. "With the hitch, it's fluid motions and keeps your momentum forward and that's how you maximize the amount of distance you can get out of it."

Kerr notes that he needs to do a better job with his body positioning. When he plants his foot down on the board, Kerr's body is sometimes slightly tilted back as opposed to being vertically aligned with his foot — something that can cause ankle and knee problems.

But Lewis already believes the young Canadian is on the edge of greatness.

"To jump far, you have to want to fly," Lewis says. "It sounds funny but genetically you're predisposed to not want to fly because you're afraid you're gonna fall.

"Once you get over the fear of flying, then obviously you can go [far] and right now Jared is right on the edge of that."

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