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Canucks’, Habs’ COVID-19 setbacks should serve as wake-up call to all Canadians

Recent COVID-19 outbreaks on two Canadian NHL teams are concerning but should not come as a surprise, says a medical expert.

On Saturday the NHL announced seven additional members of the Vancouver Canucks were added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, bringing the total number to 14. The Canucks already had four of their games postponed. Vancouver also has an unnamed coach under COVID protocols.

In late March, two members of the Montreal Canadiens were placed on the COVID protocol list and the team had four games postponed.

“You have to look at the cities they’re in,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont. “Vancouver has a higher burden [of cases] than many other places in Canada. They just locked down the province because things are getting out of control.

“Montreal is not as bad as some of the other places, but still getting higher rates.”

Last week the B.C. government announced a three-week “circuit breaker” lockdown, resulting in sweeping restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants, group fitness and worship services.

Vancouver forward Adam Gaudette and defenceman Travis Hamonic tested positive for COVID-19 early last week. Since then defencemen Alex Edler, Tyler Myers and Quinn Hughes; forwards Zack MacEwen, Bo Horvat, Tyler Motte, Travis Body, Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Sutter and Antoine Roussel; plus goaltenders Braden Holtby and Thatcher Demko have been added to the list.

A player under COVID-19 protocols has not necessarily tested positive for the virus.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo recaps week 11 in the NHL’s all-Canadian division:

In our weekly segment, Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 3:54

Chagla said rising COVID cases in the general community increases the odds for a case sneaking through the NHL’s protective protocols. With some of the new variants, a player could be spreading the virus even before beginning to show symptoms.

“You really do have to get serious testing to really identify people right away,” said Chagla. “Even when you do identify them, it’s 24 or 48 hours later.”

The close proximity of a hockey environment allows for quick spreading.

“They’re in close contact, they’re sitting beside each other on the bench, they’re in contact in scrimmage, they’re training together,” said Chagla. “They’re so many different high risk encounters.”

At one point in February, of the 35 games the NHL had postponed due to COVID, none had involved Canadian teams.

U.S. seeing growth in herd immunity

Since March 20, of the 10 games postponed due to COVD, only two involved U.S.-based teams.

As of Friday, of the 13 players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, only four played on American teams.

Chagla attributes the drop in numbers to more people in the U.S. receiving vaccines and a growth in herd immunity.

“They are definitely seeing a rise in cases, but it’s not been as abrupt as Canada,” he said. “There’s still some vulnerabilities but that infection pressure is a whole lot less.”

David Legg, a professor of sports management at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the COVID cases affecting NHL teams should serve as a wakeup call to all Canadians.

“Maybe it’s hubris on our part, because we were mocking the Americans for so long,” he said. “Now it’s our teams that are getting tested positive.

“We still perhaps need to be careful and the light is maybe not as close as we had thought to the end of the tunnels as we’re hoping for.”

The NHL has not said if more Canuck games will be postponed. Currently, Vancouver’s next game is scheduled for April 8 with no practices before April 6. Heading into Saturday night the Canucks sat six points out of the final playoff spot in the NHL’s North Division with 19 games remaining.

Make-up games extend regular season

Postponing games will mean revamping the NHL’s already shortened 56-game schedule, said Legg.

“They don’t really have to stress about arena availability because it’s really just the primary tenants that are using the facilities at the moment,” he said. “It’s not like they’re going to have to bump out a bunch of concerts or other events.”

Both the NFL and NBA were forced to reschedule games due to COVID. Major League Baseball’s opening day match Thursday between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals was also postponed.

The NHL season was originally scheduled to end May 8. The NHL built in a week window to reschedule games if necessary and already games are planned up to May 11.

“Maybe they’ll just have to push it back further then they would have originally wanted,” said Legg. “Or they just could cut back games in hand of other teams.

“I don’ know if that hurts the NHL because I don’t think they have necessarily figured out the playoff system yet.”

Legg doubts the challenges the NHL faced this season will leave an asterisk beside who ever wins the Stanley Cup.

“In some respects, you could probably argue the opposite and that it was a more arduous and difficult task because they had to deal with all these extraneous factors.”

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Denmark latest European soccer side to call for workers’ rights in World Cup host Qatar

Denmark became the latest European soccer team on Sunday to use World Cup qualifying games to direct attention to workers’ rights in Qatar, which hosts the 2022 tournament.

Denmark players wore red T-shirts with the slogan “Football supports change” for the team photo before kickoff against Moldova. The Danes won 8-0 to extend a strong start in Group F.

The Danish soccer federation said the shirts will be signed and auctioned to raise money for projects with Amnesty International that help migrant workers in Qatar.

Denmark followed the Netherlands team on Saturday which wore T-shirts with the same slogan.

Players from Norway and Germany also wore T-shirts during their respective pre-games to draw attention to human rights issues in Qatar. The Norwegian national team made a point about rights again ahead of its game against Turkey on Saturday.

Germany’s players made a more subtle gesture in the team photo Sunday in Romania. They wore shirts reversed with each name and number facing the front in a photo published on official social media accounts with the message “We are for 30” and the hashtag “HUMANRIGHTS.”

Qatar facing renewed scrutiny

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer confirmed to German broadcaster RTL it was reference to the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We are all in favour of fair play, both on the field and off the field too, and we stand for these 30 articles,” Neuer said.

Since winning the World Cup hosting vote in 2010, Qatar has faced scrutiny for living and working conditions of migrant workers helping to build stadiums, transport and other construction projects ahead of the tournament, which starts next November.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino defended Qatar this month, saying that becoming the World Cup host had accelerated social progress in the emirate.

Although FIFA’s disciplinary code states players and federations can face disciplinary action in cases of “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature,” it said after the first Norway protest that no investigation would be opened.

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Referee banned from working NHL games after being caught on live mic wanting to call penalty on Predators

Referee Tim Peel has been banned from officiating future NHL games after he was caught saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators during a game on Tuesday.

Peel was wearing a microphone for the Detroit-Nashville game Tuesday night and was heard making the comment over the TV broadcast.

“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a [expletive] penalty against Nashville early in the,” Peel was heard saying before his microphone was cut off after Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson was called for a tripping penalty at 4:56 of the second period.

Peel worked the game with referee Kelly Sutherland. The Predators were called for four penalties and the Red Wings three in Nashville’s 2-0 win.

WARNING: Clip contains profane language

“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” Colin Campbell, the league’s senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, said in a statement issued by the NHL Wednesday. 

“Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve,” he said in the statement. “There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity our game.”

The NHL’s statement was unclear on whether Peel had been fired, but TSN reported Wednesday he planned to retire following this season.

NHL players weigh in

Nashville’s Matt Duchene on a local radio appearance Wednesday wondered aloud what would have happened if Detroit scored on the power play, won the game and the Predators missed the playoffs by a point.

“The crazy part is he was talking to [teammate Filip] Forsberg in that clip, and he told our bench that,” Duchene said. “Really bizarre. I don’t think there’s a place in hockey for that.

“You’ve got to call the game. I’ve always been frustrated when I’ve seen even-up calls or stuff like that. If one team is earning power plays, you can’t punish them because the other team is not.”

Even-up — or make-up — calls are when referees will penalize one team to compensate for what they perceive to be an incorrect penalty imposed on the opposing team. 

Duchene and other players around the league cast doubt on “make-up calls” being a regular part of hockey, though he acknowledged “there’s definitely nights where you’re skeptical of it.”

“Some of the good refs definitely have a feel for the game and they know the ebbs and flows, and they know to try to keep the game as even as possible unless the play dictates otherwise,” New York Rangers forward Ryan Strome said. “But as players, all you can ask for is that they try to call it as fair as possible.”

‘The league had to do what they had to do’

Washington centre Nicklas Backstrom, a 14-year veteran, said the incident was a first for him.

“I’ve never heard anything like that,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s maybe unfortunate that it happened and came out that way. But at the same time, the league had to do what they had to do.”

Predators coach John Hynes said it probably doesn’t matter how he feels about what the official said.

“But the referees are employees of the league and rather than me comment on it, it’s an issue that I think the league will have to take care of,” Hynes said.

Most players and coaches expressed respect for on-ice officials and lamented how difficult their jobs are in keeping track of the fast-paced game. Buffalo interim coach Don Granato said he has “full faith” in the people who work for the NHL.

“[Peel] made a mistake, but unfortunately you don’t want make-up calls to be part of the game,” Edmonton’s Adam Larsson said. “I don’t think it’s right. I think if it’s an obvious one I don’t think it should be made up for.”

Peel, 54, from Hampton, N.B., has been an NHL referee since 1999.

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Canada and allies call on Myanmar military to refrain from violence against protesters

Western embassies in Myanmar on Sunday called on the country’s military to “refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians” after security forces opened fire to disperse a protest and deployed armoured vehicles in cities.

In a statement released late Sunday, the embassies of Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom and 11 other nations condemned the arrests of political leaders and harassment of journalists after a coup on Feb. 1 and denounced the military’s interruption of communications.

“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity. The world is watching,” the statement said.

Demonstrations are now in their ninth day, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest the coup that deposed the civilian government led by elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The junta, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said it was forced to step in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide. The state election commission refuted that contention, saying there is no evidence to support it.

There was no official word about why armoured personnel carriers traversed the streets of Yangon in broad daylight Sunday, making their way through busy traffic. As night fell, there were videos and other reports on social media of the movement of other military vehicles.

An order that appears to be from the Ministry of Transport and Communications told mobile phone service providers to shut down internet connections Monday morning. It circulated widely on social media, as did a notice said to be from service provider Oredoo Myanmar containing the same details.

As well as mass protests around the country, the military rulers were facing a strike by government workers.

Security forces fire to disperse protesters

Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern state of Kachin, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators, some of whom said they believed the army intended to cut off the electricity.

The security forces fired to disperse protesters outside one plant in Kachin’s state capital Myitkyina, footage broadcast live on Facebook showed, although it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live fire.

Two journalists from The 74 Media, which was broadcasting live from the site of the confrontation, were arrested, along with three other journalists, the news outlet said in a Facebook post.

A Buddhist monk holding a sign stands next to an armoured vehicle during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon on Sunday. (Reuters)

As evening fell, armoured vehicles appeared in the commercial capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, live footage broadcast online by local media showed, the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the coup.

The government and army could not be reached for comment.

American citizens urged to shelter in place

The U.S Embassy in Myanmar earlier urged American citizens to “shelter in place,” citing reports of the military movements in Yangon. It also warned there was a possibility of telecommunications interruptions overnight between 1 and 9 a.m. local time Monday.

In the latest sign of disruption by workers, the Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement many staff had stopped coming to work since Feb. 8, causing delays to international flights. It added that on Thursday, four air traffic controllers had been detained, and had not been heard from since.

A pilot, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said hundreds of staff from the department were striking. Soldiers were surrounding the international airport in Yangon late Sunday night, he said.

Trains in parts of the country also stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported, while the military deployed soldiers to power plants, where they were confronted by angry crowds.

WATCH | Thousands take to the streets to protest Myanmar’s coup:

Myanmar police fired water cannons into pro-democracy crowds in at least three different cities as protests continue against the military’s seizure of power on Feb. 1. 0:46

The junta has ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action. The army has been carrying out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.

But hundreds of railway workers joined demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday, even as police went to their housing compound on the outskirts of the city to order them back to work. The police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast by Myanmar Now.

Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had effectively ground to a halt.

“This has the potential to also affect vital functions…. The military can replace engineers and doctors but not power grid controllers and central bankers,” he said.

Protests across Myanmar

Hundreds of thousands of people protested across the country on Sunday.

Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the biggest city, wearing white and carrying placards demanding the release of Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup and charged with importing walkie-talkies.

A fleet of highway buses rolled slowly through the city with horns blaring, part of the biggest street protests in more than a decade.

A convoy of motorbikes and cars drove through the capital Naypyitaw. In the southeastern coastal town of Dawei, a band played drums as crowds marched under the hot sun. In Waimaw, in Kachin state, crowds carried flags and sang revolutionary songs.

People walk on an image depicting Myanmar’s army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, with his face crossed out during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Sunday. (Reuters)

Suu Kyi’s detention is due to expire on Monday. Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached for comment on what was set to happen.

More than 384 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, in a wave of mostly nightly arrests.

Late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report overnight visitors to their homes, allowed security forces to detain suspects and search private property without court approval, and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests.

Fearing raids as well as common crime, residents banded together late on Saturday to patrol streets in Yangon and the country’s second-largest city, Mandalay.

Worries about crime rose after the junta announced on Friday it would free 23,000 prisoners, saying the move was consistent with “establishing a new democratic state with peace, development and discipline.”

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Senate to call witnesses, delaying Trump impeachment vote

The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to allow witnesses to be called in its impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, who faces a charge of inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The 55-45 vote will allow Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state to testify. Herrera Beutler, one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, released a statement late Friday detailing a conversation she said with House Republican Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy told her that during the attack on the Capitol, he asked Trump to publicly call off the riot and that Trump told him, “‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,'” according to Herrera Beutler’s statement.

Before the vote, U.S. senators were poised to vote on whether Trump will be held accountable for inciting the horrific attack. Until now, the impeachment trial has moved quickly, laying bare the danger to lawmakers’ lives and the fragility of the country’s tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power.

But senators are now seemingly confused about what should happen next. After the vote, some huddled on the floor of the chamber and strategized about how to proceed. Some also expressed confusion about what, exactly, they had voted for earlier.

WATCH | Trump’s team delivers final arguments in impeachment trial:

Donald Trump’s legal team has rested its case in the former U.S. president’s second impeachment trial. Lawyers argued that Democrats have, many times, also used aggressively charged language for political ends and that nothing Trump said, before or after Jan. 6, rose to the level of incitement of insurrection as it’s defined by law. 2:43

Impeachment trials are rare, especially for a president, and the rules are negotiated for each one at the outset.

For Trump’s trial, the agreement said if senators agree to hear witnesses, votes to hear additional testimony would be allowed.

The nearly week-long trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

Acquittal expected

Acquittal is expected in the evenly divided Senate. That verdict could heavily influence not only Trump’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for his presidency just as Congress was convening Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden’s election victory was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump faces a single charge of inciting insurrection after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forced their way into the building and clashed with police. Five people died in the Jan. 6 riot, including an officer. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

Trump’s lawyers countered in a short three hours on Friday that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-vice-president Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos. Hundreds of rioters stormed into the building, taking over the Senate. Some engaged in hand-to-hand, bloody combat with police.

While it is unlikely the Senate would be able to mount the two-thirds vote needed to convict Trump, several senators appear to be still weighing their vote. Many Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular doubt whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response. Democrats appear all but united toward conviction.

Conviction would make history

Trump is the only president to be twice impeached and the first to face trial charges after leaving office.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair — a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden — this one brought an emotional punch over the unexpected vulnerability of the U.S. tradition of peaceful elections. The charge is singular: incitement of insurrection.

On Friday, Trump’s impeachment lawyers accused Democrats of waging a campaign of “hatred” against the former president as they wrapped up their defence.

WATCH | Democrats wrap up case for Trump’s impeachment: 

House prosecutors wrapped up their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday insisting the Capitol invaders believed they were acting on ‘the president’s orders’ to stop Joe Biden’s election and warning that he would do it again if not convicted. 2:44

His lawyers vigorously denied that Trump had incited the riot, and they played out-of-context video clips showing Democrats, some of them senators now serving as jurors, also telling supporters to “fight,” aiming to establish a parallel with Trump’s overheated rhetoric.

“This is ordinarily political rhetoric,” Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said. “Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles.”

But the presentation blurred the difference between the general encouragement that politicians make to battle for health care or other causes and Trump’s fight against officially accepted national election results, and it minimized Trump’s efforts to undermine those results. The defeated president was telling his supporters to fight on after every state had verified its results, after the electoral college had affirmed them and after nearly every election lawsuit filed by Trump and his allies had been rejected in court.

Democratic senators shook their heads at what many called a false equivalency to their own fiery words. “We weren’t asking them to ‘fight like hell’ to overthrow an election,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.

Democrats say that Trump was the “inciter in chief” whose months-long campaign against the election results was rooted in a “big lie” and laid the groundwork for the riot — a violent domestic attack on the Capitol unparalleled in history.

“Get real,” the lead prosecutor, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said at one point. “We know that this is what happened.”

The Senate has convened as a court of impeachment for past presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump. But the unprecedented nature of the case against an out-of-office president has provided Republican senators one of several arguments against conviction.

Republicans maintain the proceedings are unconstitutional, even though the Senate voted at the outset of the trial on this issue and confirmed it has jurisdiction.

Republican votes will be closely watched

Six Republican senators who joined Democrats in voting to take up the case are among those most watched for their votes.

Early signals came Friday during questions for the lawyers.

Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republicans from Maine and Alaska, respectively, asked the first question. Two centrists known for independent streaks, they leaned into a point the prosecutors had made, asking exactly when Trump learned of the breach of the Capitol and what specific actions he took to end the rioting.

Democrats had argued that Trump did nothing as the mob rioted.

Another Republican who voted to launch the trial, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, asked about Trump’s tweet criticizing Pence moments after being was told by another senator that Pence had just been evacuated.

Van der Veen responded that at “no point” was the president informed of any danger. Cassidy told reporters later it was not a very good answer.

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Schilling closest call, but no one elected to Baseball Hall of Fame for 2021

The Baseball Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on-the-field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown on this year’s ballot.

Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were among the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It’s the first time the BBWAA didn’t choose anyone since 2013.

Schilling, a right-handed ace who won three World Series, finished 16 votes short of the 75 per cent threshold necessary for enshrinement after coming up 20 votes shy last year. His on-field accomplishments face little dispute, but Schilling has ostracized himself in retirement by directing hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others.

“It’s all right, the game doesn’t owe me anything,” Schilling said during a live video stream on his Twitter account. He later wrote on Facebook that he has asked the Hall of Fame to remove his name from the ballot.

Bonds (61.8 joined Schilling in falling short on their ninth tries on the ballot. Both face strong PED suspicions, but Bonds has also been accused of domestic violence and Clemens of maintaining a decade-long relationship with a singer who was 15 when they met.

Schilling, Clemens and Bonds will be joined on next year’s ballot by sluggers Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Rodriguez was suspended for all of the 2014 season for violating MLB’s PED policy and collective bargaining agreement, and Ortiz’s name allegedly appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003.

Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, dropped from 52.6 per cent last year to 49.1 per cent after his wife accused him of repeated domestic abuses in December. Braves star Andruw Jones, arrested in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, got 33.9 per cent in his fourth year. Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to two days in jail last year, got 44.9 per cent in his third time on the ballot.

Some players missed out over old-fashioned baseball disagreements, too. Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen moved from 35.3 per cent to 52.9 per cent and hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner from 31.7 per cent to 46.4 per cent.

It’s the 19th time the BBWAA has failed to elect a Hall member and just the third time since 1971. With the Hall of Fame’s Era Committees postponing their scheduled elections until next off-season because of the pandemic, there won’t be a 2021 Hall class.

Cooperstown won’t be without celebration next summer, though. After the 2020 ceremony in the upstate New York village was cancelled due to the pandemic, Yankees great Derek Jeter and five-tool star Larry Walker will take centre stage on July 25, a year later than planned. They’ll be honoured alongside catcher Ted Simmons and late players’ association chief Marvin Miller.

BBWAA members are instructed to elect Hall members “based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team[s] on which the player played.”

At a time when social justice movements are pushing for a broader reckoning on sexual misconduct and racial inequality, character evaluation took on an outsized role in this election cycle. While the Hall’s inductees already include racists, cheaters, philanderers and criminals, the current voting bloc has — narrowly, in many cases — taken a stand against candidates they think have insufficient integrity.

WATCH | Remembering the life of Hank Aaron:

Sports legend Hank Aaron has died at age 86. The baseball hall-of-famer, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, is being remembered for his skill and his perseverance in the face of hate. 2:10

Schilling — a six-time All-Star over 20 seasons with Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, Arizona and Boston — has been embroiled in controversy throughout his retirement.

He launched a video game company, 38 Studios, that went bankrupt shortly after receiving a $ 75 million loan guarantee from Rhode Island, then was fired as an ESPN analyst after he sent tweets comparing Muslim extremists to Nazi-era Germans and posted derogatory Facebook comments about transgender people.

Months later, Schilling was again criticized after using social media to applaud a T-shirt calling for journalists to be lynched.

On Jan. 6, the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, he said the following in a message on his Twitter account:

“You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens, sit back …. and watch folks start a confrontation for [expletive] that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption.”

That tweet was sent a few days after Hall of Fame ballots were due.

Bonds’ ex-wife testified in 1995 during divorce proceedings that he beat and kicked her. Bonds said he never physically abused her but once kicked her after she kicked him.

In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and he was a star for the Boston Red Sox. Clemens apologized for unspecified mistakes in his personal life and denied having an affair with a 15-year-old. McCready later told “Inside Edition” she met Clemens when she was 16 and that the relationship didn’t turn sexual until several years later.

The BBWAA recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the name and imprint of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from MVP plaques. Landis became commissioner in 1920, and there were no Black players in the majors during his more than two decades in charge.

Further down the ballot, outfielder Gary Sheffield jumped from 30.5 per cent to 40.6 per cent on his seventh time on the ballot and Jeff Kent improved from 27.5 per cent to 32.4 narrowly surpassed the 5 and Mark Buehrle (11 per cent) in their initial turns.

Aramis Ramirez, LaTroy Hawkins and Barry Zito drew votes but were eliminated from future consideration.

The 2022 ballot also will include Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

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White House sends a message about foreign policy in announcing Biden call with Trudeau

In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House’s intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs.

The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada’s prime minister.

She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn’t an immediate priority.

“[Biden’s] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau,” she said.

“I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it’s important to rebuild those relationships.”

U.S. plans to investigate Russia

Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as “reckless” and “adversarial.” 

She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already.

Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada’s No. 1 export to the United States: oil.

WATCH | The National’s report on Keystone XL: 

Many officials are hoping for improved relations between Canada and the United States under President Joe Biden, but his executive order cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline dealt some of those hopes an early blow — especially in Alberta. 2:02

Biden’s foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. 

Here is what we already know about the Biden administration’s approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office.

The moves so far

The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing.

It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia’s doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, seen here in 2018 holding a chart of military hardware sales to Saudi Arabia, had a warm relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left. Biden will release a report on the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen alive on Oct. 2, 2018, entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord).

These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea.

There will be contradictions in Biden’s approach — as there were in Trump’s. 

For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China.

Biden, seen here with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011, has demanded a series of intelligence reports on Putin’s actions against the U.S. (Alexander Natruskin/Reuters)

Also, don’t count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations.

“I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama’s — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious,” said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

“The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time.” 

Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution.

Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel 

On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures.   

Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China.

For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. 

Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing.

“President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China,” Blinken said. “The basic principle was the right one, and I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy.”

He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. 

When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia’s neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia.

Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO’s shield, he said.

Keystone XL: The early irritant

Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska.

So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist.

WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the federal government ‘folded’ in response to U.S President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the Keystone XL pipeline. 2:14

But they’re skeptical they will achieve much.

Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project.

He said the Alberta government and the project’s developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments.

“[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit,” Miller said.

“One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this].”

Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project.

The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: “They’re high hurdles.”

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‘They call us every day’: COVID-19 case monitors are a lifeline, but provinces vary in how they use them

When Shaleen Erwin became sick with COVID-19 in November, the pregnant mother from Springside, Sask., wasn’t surprised that she had a hacking cough and slept 16 hours a day.

What astonished her was that she received a phone call every day from a public health worker at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to check on her, her husband and their three-year-old son — all of whom had contracted the virus.

“I was blown away…. It’s hours and hours of time, and time is such a valuable resource,” Erwin, 33, said. “I think there’s this misconception that if you’re not using an ICU bed or you’re not using oxygen, that you’re not using resources.”

Provincial public health authorities are advised by the Public Health Agency of Canada to contact people with COVID-19 at home every day to monitor both their symptoms and compliance with isolation rules, depending on available resources to make those phone calls. Some provinces, including Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are attempting daily phone calls while others, such as Alberta, are not.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health advises public health units to notify people of their COVID-19 positive status with a phone call, then make followup phone calls on Day 5 and Day 10, at a minimum. On other days, the person is supposed to receive at least a text message or email.

Shaleen Erwin, 33, of Springside, Sask., became sick with COVID-19 when she was five months’ pregnant. She was surprised to receive a daily phone call at home from a public health worker. (Submitted by Shaleen Erwin)

Thousands of 10-minute phone calls a day

If contact tracers, who investigate the spread of the virus, are considered the public health detectives, then case monitors are the parents — checking on how you are and making sure you follow the rules.

Pamela de Bruin, clinical standards and professional practice lead with the SHA who does planning in public health surveillance, said the health authority uses a database to investigate, track and actively monitor positive cases and close contacts.

She said the “standard of care” is a daily phone call to every person in the province with COVID-19 — currently 4,121 people — except to those already receiving care inside long-term care homes, hospitals or jails. They monitor symptoms, check on compliance and offer access to resources, such as mental health services.

“There are many social barriers that can come up when people have to be isolated for a long period of time, and they may be faced with making a choice between getting groceries or staying isolated,” de Bruin said, adding that public health workers are able to connect people with resources and services to help them comply with mandatory isolation.

A public health nurse conducts a contact-tracing phone call in Wyoming in July. Public health workers with the Saskatchewan Health Authority make 10-minute phone calls to active cases each day, requiring more than 600 staff hours. (Mike Moore/Gillette News Record/The Associated Press)

The 10-minute phone calls to active cases require more than 600 staff hours a day. The SHA uses 66 people from Statistics Canada for case-monitoring calls, as well as some nurses and licensed health workers.

“We’re constantly evaluating the capacity against the number of cases,” de Bruin said, adding that the SHA has so far been able to meet the demand, and she believes it’s a worthwhile use of resources.

“We’re speaking to an individual, but when we implement measures, like all public health measures, we’re looking for an impact at a population level.”

University of Saskatchewan medical student Helen Tang drew this illustration after working as a contact tracer for the SHA. She discovered that the financial, emotional and mental burden on people with COVID-19 was often worse than their physical symptoms. (Helen Tang)

In addition to active cases, the SHA makes a daily call to monitor their close contacts who have symptoms or comorbidities, as well as close contacts who are red-flagged in the database as being potentially non-compliant with public health restrictions.

“Sometimes right at the first [notification] call, we have indication to believe someone might not be compliant. Sometimes they tell us. And so those would be called daily,” de Bruin said.

Alberta doesn’t have active monitoring

In Alberta, where there are roughly 12,230 active cases at the moment, Alberta Health Services (AHS) does not actively monitor people who are sick with COVID-19 at home. Instead, from the start of the pandemic, it has advised people to seek medical attention from a doctor or call 811 or 911, depending on their condition.

That was sufficient for Talana Hargreaves, a 38-year-old mother of three from Edmonton whose entire family tested positive for COVID-19 in November. She was initially concerned by the lack of personal followup from AHS but was eventually satisfied with a one-hour phone call from a contact tracer.

The Hargreaves family at their Edmonton home in December after recovering from COVID-19. From left, Hayden, Talana, Landon, Carys and Jack, along with dogs Amigo and Monica. (Submitted by Talana Hargreaves)

Hargreaves, who had spent a lot of time researching COVID-19 online and following news reports, discussed her family’s mild symptoms with their doctor and didn’t have any questions about the isolation rules.

“My partner and I are both conscientious rule-followers,” she said. “I think that COVID check-in could actually be very valuable for some people who honestly don’t know what they should be doing.”

She said she is more concerned about the backlog of contact tracing in the province and allocating resources to investigating cases.

“They still don’t know where roughly 50 per cent of our positive cases have come from … so even though it would be nice to have that followup, I don’t know that it’s realistic at this point,” Hargreaves said.

Health worker sent thermometer to home

Jony Rahaman, a Regina restaurant owner who tested positive for COVID-19 in early October, did not have mild symptoms. He felt like he was choking to death.

Rahaman, 36, said the public health workers who called his family were like “guardian angels.”

“They call us every day,” he said. “Me and my wife, especially my wife, would wait for their call because we had so many questions. They’re so patient.”

Anti-mask protesters rally outside the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in Regina on Dec. 12. Provincial health authorities have been advised by the Public Health Agency of Canada to contact people with COVID-19 at home every day to monitor their symptoms and compliance with isolation rules. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

The family didn’t have a thermometer to check their temperatures, so a public health worker sent one to their home.

Rahaman — who contracted COVID-19 before the rest of his family — initially self-isolated in his bedroom away from his wife, Sabina, and two children and could barely speak to them through the door.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “My wife was crying on the other side of the door, kids were crying on the other side of the door and I couldn’t breathe.”

During one phone call, a public health worker called an ambulance for him.

“They’re, like, my lifesaver,” Rahaman said.

Removing barriers to compliance

The SHA’s de Bruin said providing equipment, such as a thermometer, isn’t the norm, but she noted that each case is unique, and the goal is to remove barriers to compliance.

“I have heard the types of ends of the Earth that some of this staff have gone to, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit,” she said.

At five months’ pregnant in November, Shaleen Erwin was nervous about having the disease and scared by what she found online when she did a Google search for “pregnant covid.” The constant access to public health workers was comforting, she said.

Erwin said some of the questions from public health workers who called were likely “subtle” checks on whether her family was following the rules, which they were, but she “never felt like it was accusatory.”

Now fully recovered, she has watched the case count climb in Saskatchewan and thinks about all of the phone calls happening every day.

“People see [case] numbers and they think, ‘Oh, 99 per cent of people will be OK,’ but don’t assume that that means that you’re not a burden on the health system,” she said.

WATCH | Premier explains Saskatchewan’s slow rollout of vaccines:

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe admits the province’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been slow, but he says inoculations will continue to increase in the weeks ahead. 2:07

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‘Worrying’ number of tourists from outside B.C. prompts Whistler doctor to call for travel ban

An emergency room doctor in Whistler is calling on the B.C. government to restrict travel from other provinces after seeing a “worrying” number of patients from Ontario and Quebec over the holidays.

Dr. Annie Gareau, an emergency physician at Whistler Health Care Centre, told Radio-Canada she’s concerned that an influx of visitors from outside the region could lead to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, overwhelming the health-care system.

“We have a limited capacity. Our waiting room is small, so definitely at one point in time between Christmas and New Year’s it was unsettling the amount of patients that were in the clinic,” she said.

“I think we need to do like the Atlantic provinces did and I think we need to restrict inter-provincial travel until the numbers are going down.”

A public health advisory has been in place across B.C. since Nov. 19 cautioning against all non-essential travel. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said skiers should stick to their local slopes — for example, people who live in Metro Vancouver should limit themselves to the North Shore mountains.

However, an advisory does not have the legal power of a public health order.

Reliance on personal responsibility

Some ski resorts have cancelled reservations from non-local visitors in response to Henry’s advice, but a representative of Vail Resorts, which owns Whistler Blackcomb, told CBC last month that it is asking guests to take “personal responsibility” for following public health advice.

Little of that personal responsibility was apparent at the Whistler Health Care Centre over the holidays in December, said Gareau.

“I would say the majority of patients that came to the clinic between Christmas and New Year were not Whistlerites. The majority were from the Lower Mainland,” Gareau said.

“And then — surprising and worrying — was a lot of people from out of province, mainly Ontario and Quebec.”

Some residents of the Sea-to-Sky region are concerned about an influx of out-of-province visitors to Whistler. (Eric Berger/Whistler Blackcomb)

According to Tourism Whistler, people from outside of B.C. represent a bit more than 10 per cent of overnight visitors so far this season.

Both Ontario and Quebec are currently struggling to bring rampant COVID-19 transmission under control.

Ontario is implementing a stay-at-home order on Thursday and Premier Doug Ford has said “the system is on the brink of collapse.” Quebec now has an 8 p.m. curfew for residents to prevent spread of the disease.

‘We just need to stay in our provinces’

Gareau’s concerns are shared by Maude Cyr, a resident of nearby Pemberton, who said she was shocked to encounter a large group of tourists from Quebec during a recent day of skiing at Whistler.

Cyr said when she questioned them about the wisdom of travelling cross-country right now, they told her B.C. has fewer cases than Quebec and is therefore safer for them.

“It was hard to say anything,” she recalled.

Cyr worries about the stress these travellers are causing for people who work in the tourism industry and don’t want to bring COVID-19 home to their families and neighbours.

“I’d like to remind people from other places that small communities have small facilities and clinics, so if there is an expansion of cases here, we are in trouble,” she said.

“We just need to stay in our provinces and enjoy what we have in our own provinces.”

Her concerns come as another B.C. ski resort community has seen significant transmission of the novel coronavirus connected to staff housing and parties. As of Tuesday, a total of 162 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, according to Interior Health.

Representatives of the B.C. health ministry have yet to respond to requests for comment on calls for stricter travel regulations.

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Lawmakers, world leaders condemn chaos at the U.S. Capitol while some call for Trump’s removal

The chaotic breach of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump on Wednesday was met with swift condemnation by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, with some observers blaming the president for inciting the riot, and others suggesting he be impeached.

Long after rioters had overwhelmed Capitol Police and stormed the building where lawmakers were to vote to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, Trump tweeted a video message in which he repeated the same falsehoods about the election being stolen from him that he’s been feeding his supporters for more than two months.

“I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace,” he told his supporters.

“This was a fraudulent election but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace, so go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

Trump is seen making remarks on a television monitor in the White House briefing room after his supporters interrupted the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election results. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President-elect Joe Biden took a different tone, tweeting: “What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It borders on sedition, and it must end. Now.”

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden addresses the protests taking place in and around the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress’s formal approval of Biden’s win in the general election. Several Republican lawmakers have backed his calls and said they plan to object to the certification of the electoral college vote despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud or wrongdoing in the election.

Following a rally Trump hosted before the joint session of Congress, his supporters marched to the Capitol and eventually forced their way into the building, sending the lawmakers and their staff into hiding and the building into lockdown. 

Washington police said at least one woman was shot inside the Capitol and died later at an area hospital. It was not immediately clear how she was shot.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement that called on Trump “to demand that all protesters leave the U.S. Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately.”

Vice-President Mike Pence also condemned the actions of the rioters in the building.

“The violence and destruction taking place at the U.S. Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now. Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building,” he tweeted.

Law enforcement officers scuffle with Trump supporters attempting to enter the U.S. Capitol. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Other lawmakers, strategists and commentators directed some of their outrage at the president.

Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Trump’s video statement was “an absolute failure in leadership.”

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Trump supporter from Wisconsin, implored the president during an interview on CNN to “Call it off! Call it off!” He also posted a video in which he said, “This is banana republic crap that we’re watching right now.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska and a vocal critic of Trump, said in a statement that the U.S. Capitol was “ransacked” while “the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard.”

“Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president’s addiction to constantly stoking division,” he said.

Trump supporters set off a fire extinguisher after breaching security defences at the Capitol. (Mike Theiler/Reuters)

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat from Virginia, said the president had been encouraging these “domestic terrorists” since before the election.

“He could have stopped them at any moment, but instead he whipped them into a frenzy and sicced them on the Capitol,” she tweeted. “The cabinet must remove him today or the House must impeach.”

WATCH | A look at how the day’s events unfolded:

CBC News’ David Common breaks down what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and how U.S. President Donald Trump stoked discontent among his supporters before he lost the election. 3:44

Conservative commentator David Frum, a critic of the president, said action to impeach the president should be taken tonight.

“Remove this treasonous president. Invite his own party to join the effort to remove him now, or to share now and forever Trump’s guilt,” Frum wrote in the Atlantic.

In a statement, Jay Timmons, the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents 14,000 companies in the U.S., blamed Trump for inciting the violence and said Pence should “seriously consider” invoking the constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

‘Disgraceful scenes’

World leaders also offered their reactions to the chaos.

“Obviously, we’re concerned and we’re following the situation minute by minute as it unfolds,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a radio interview with News 1130 in Vancouver.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to the “disgraceful scenes” at Capitol Hill, and said it’s “vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”

European Parliament President David Sassoli called the rioting “deeply concerning,” but said he’s “certain the U.S. will ensure that the rules of democracy are protected.”

WATCH | When Trump goes, what happens to Trumpism?

U.S. President Donald Trump’s term is almost over, but many expect his brash style of politics, which has come to be known as Trumpism, to be present in the Republican party long after he’s gone. 7:25

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