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Raptors go cold in 2nd half, drop season opener in Tampa

It was a Toronto Raptors home opener unlike any other, played a couple of thousand kilometres from home, in front of a tiny bipartisan crowd, on a day that saw the league postpone a game — on just Day 2 of the season — due to COVID-19.

Also unusual for the Raptors: a loss.

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points, JJ Redick added 23 and the New Orleans Pelicans shot the lights out in the third quarter en route to a 113-99 win, handing Toronto its first loss on opening night in eight years.

“[The third quarter] … zapped our energy pretty big time,” coach Nick Nurse said. “We did seem to lose a little energy and maybe ran out of a little gas, too.”

WATCH | Raptors fade against Pelicans in season opener:

Toronto Raptors lost in their opening game of the season at their new temporary home in Florida, falling to New Orleans Pelicans 113-99. 0:57

Pascal Siakam had 20 points in one of Toronto’s bright spots. Kyle Lowry added 18 points and 10 assists, Aron Baynes had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Norman Powell and Chris Boucher chipped in with 12 points apiece.

The Raptors led for most of the first half but went ice cold in the third quarter. While the Pelicans knocked down seven threes in the frame, the Raptors went 0-for-10 and were outscored by 16 points.

Leading 88-79 to start the fourth, the Pelicans kept their foot on the gas. When Redick knocked down a three-pointer with 5:15 to play, New Orleans led by 14 points.

Siakam was solid in the loss, which is good news for the Raptors after his disappointing performance in the Walt Disney World bubble last summer.

He’d been enjoying a career year before the NBA shut down due to COVID-19 and was never quite himself when the league resumed. Fans weren’t kind to the 26-year-old when the Raptors were eliminated by Boston in the second round of the playoffs.

He not only scored on an array of shots Wednesday, but pitched some excellent passes out of crowds, finishing with six assists, six rebounds, and three three-pointers.

“I’m getting back to just running and attacking, making plays and stuff, so I felt good about it,” Siakam said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the win and we didn’t play like we wanted to and [the Pelicans had] a good stint out there where they made a lot of shots and we weren’t able to stop them, but I think for the most part I like what I brought.”


The Toronto Raptors hosted the New Orleans Pelicans in their season opener at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The night marked the beginning of the most bizarre season in Raptors history. A limited crowd of 3,800 fans — who seemed to be cheering for both teams — dotted Amalie Arena, Toronto’s temporary home for at least the first half of the season due to Canada’s travel restrictions around COVID-19.

“I don’t know if it’s all Raptors fans or what the case might be, but I thought it was cool, just having people around it,” Siakam said. “Obviously we’re blessed that we have some people, some type of energy in the crowd to make the atmosphere a little better.”

In a sign of these strange times, the Raptors mascot waved the team flag before the game clad in a black protective face mask.

The Raptors tipped off a few hours after the league announced Houston’s game against Oklahoma City was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests. James Harden’s violation of the league’s coronavirus protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight available players.

It was a discouraging blow on Day 2 of a season that feels like the league is playing with its collective fingers crossed while the pandemic continues to rage in the U.S.

Virus scare for Powell

The Raptors had their own COVID-19 scare this week. Powell had missed a couple of days of practice, and was listed as questionable after some inconclusive tests with someone close to him.

“It’s tough, you know?” Powell said. “But that’s pretty much what you have to do. I did everything right in terms of following the protocol, making sure that I was good, I was safe, people around me were safe. But still, you can get caught up in inconclusive tests and whatnot.

“It was kind of frustrating, you know, to sit out the important days leading up to the game.”

Nurse said despite the rocky start, he’s “fairly comfortable” about playing.

“I understand that there are some people — players and staff, et cetera — testing positive,” he said. “I’d be much more concerned if there was a number of players going to the hospital, a number of staff going to the hospital, and I just don’t see that as the case with all these colleges and universities and all the athletes that test.”

Amalie Arena is one of just a few facilities around the league that is permitting a limited number of fans this season.

The Raptors now depart on their first road trip of the regular season, playing against former teammate DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs in San Antonio on Boxing Day. They play at Philadelphia on Dec. 28.

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It’s winter. It’s cold. How do I deal with a mask that freezes?

There is a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon. But first, winter. 

We’ve been hearing the warnings for weeks. It’s going to be a long, hard few months. 

People who live in Canada fashion themselves as cold weather warriors — able to withstand -20 C temperatures. This year, that could be an especially good thing. 

The advice from medical experts is to resist retreating indoors where COVID-19 is much more easily transmitted. Bundle up, mask up if necessary, and get outside as much as possible.   

“You know, if you’ve ever wanted to learn broomball, this is your chance,” said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital and an assistant professor at McGill University. 

But what about masks in winter? Do they still work if they get wet? Do you really need to wear them outside anyway? 

Here’s some advice for how best to tackle the coming winter pandemic months.

Will my mask work if it gets wet and/or freezes?

The short answer is probably not. Oughton, officials from Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States pretty much agree that once a mask gets wet, it’s no longer fully effective. 

And that’s why you should always have back-up masks.

There is no concrete, scientific data on mask efficacy in cold weather. However, when you breathe through a mask in cold conditions, the moisture from your warm breath collects on the mask. It tends to stay warm enough on the inside due to your body temperature to remain liquid, but will freeze on the outside. 

WATCH | Why health experts recommend three-layer masks: 

Doctors answer viewer questions about COVID-19 including why three-layer masks are now being recommended to protect against the virus. 5:22

That leads to two mask issues Oughton said: they become harder to breathe through; and become less effective at “capturing respiratory droplets and preventing them from leaving the proximity of someone’s mouth and nose.”

But that doesn’t mean they are completely useless, according to Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. 

“Masks offer a little bit more [protection], particularly in those settings where people are bunched up outdoors, where there may be a bit more risk of transmission.”

Oughton said if you are going to wear a mask outdoors in the cold for a long period of time, you should have two or three back-ups, so you can keep a dry one on.

And most important: make sure the mask is cloth. The paper kind — the surgical style ones — degrade and tear far more easily when they get wet, said Oughton. 

All in a Day9:44Anti-fogging tips and tricks

Tired of contending with foggy glasses while wearing masks? Help is on the way. 9:44

Do you really need a mask out in the cold? 

It depends on the circumstances. 

Being outdoors while observing proper distancing measures is “really, really protective” on its own, according to Chagla. He said the documented cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 have involved situations like barbecues or people watching a sports event, gathered together for longer periods of time.

For activities like going for a walk in your neighbourhood or skating on a not-too-crowded rink, he said the risk of transmission is very low. But he does advise that if you are going in and out of stores, or getting on and off transit while doing errands, it is best to just keep the mask on the whole time to minimize touching the mask and potential contamination.  

The advice is the same if you are planning to gather with others over the holidays for an outdoor gift exchange or short visit. If you can maintain distance, you should be fine as long as there is no eating and drinking or singing, all of which create more droplets in the air. If you’re going to be closer, exchanging gifts perhaps, best to put on a mask. 


Wearing a mask in the cold can make is less effective. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Is a scarf a good alternative to a mask?

No. Medical experts point out that there is too much variation in scarves and neck gaiters for them to be used as masks. Stitching can be too loose and the material too thin to be an effective barrier to potentially infected droplets — both going out or coming in.

But both physicians agree it might keep your mask from freezing and therefore be more comfortable for the wearer to put a scarf up over it.

Cold temps bring runny noses. Here’s how to deal with that joy when you’re wearing a mask. 

Unfortunately, people tend to pull their mask aside or off when they sneeze or cough, which kind of defeats the purpose of it, Chagla said. 

“It is horrible to sneeze in a mask,” he said. “I give you that.” But he urges people to make sure they are in an area away from people if they are going to pull it off to sneeze, or even to blow their nose, as that is one of the best ways to spread infection. 

And be careful when you pull your mask aside to blow your nose. Don’t let it get snotty, both doctors say, and after blowing your nose, sanitize your hands before you replace your mask. 

So with all the issues with masks, is it best just to stay indoors this winter?

The resounding answer to this one is no. On the contrary.  

“The indoor stuff is like a hundred times more worrisome than the outdoor stuff,” Chagla said.  

He cites factors including poor ventilation, crowded rooms, people being together for prolonged periods of time, eating and drinking together. 

He said this year, people are going to have to change the way they think about socializing if they don’t want to just get stuck for months with the people they live with or having nothing but virtual get-togethers. 

“I think we have to start changing our attitudes and saying the outdoors is going to be the way. We just have to make it appropriate for people to do it.”

Municipalities across the country are coming up with guidelines for outdoor activities, such as skating, to make sure they don’t get too crowded. Many are restricting the number of people allowed on the ice at any given time in order to better maintain a safe distance between skaters, with some bringing in online pre-registration to book ice time.

If you go, change your skates in the car or out on a bench, rather than in a public hut, Oughton said.


It’s best to put your skates on outside, or in your own vehicle, rather than in a public hut. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Among other outdoor measures, Toronto is also adding an additional 60 kilometres of paved recreational trails and pathways with snow maintenance and is encouraging communities to apply for permits to build and maintain new rinks. 

The City of Calgary is also adding to its outdoor options with the North Glenmore Ice Trail,  where people can skate 730 metres of connected track and the installation of fire pits in key spots around the city.

Todd Reichardt, a Calgary parks manager, said the plans should enable people to maintain social distance and make the most of the season. 

“There’s something about being outside when it’s cold and you smell like wood smoke,” he said. “It just puts a smile on people’s faces.” 

In Manitoba, ski resorts have been working on plans to make skiing a safe pandemic activity, while Montreal is setting up cross-country ski trails at each of the city’s large parks, as well as trails for snowshoeing and walking. 

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‘It’s heartbreaking’: Homeless during pandemic left out in the cold — figuratively and literally

Red and blue tents dot the landscape in Montreal’s Cabot Square. It’s not a farmers market or a craft show, but a makeshift place for the homeless to go during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These tents aren’t where the city’s most vulnerable — estimated to be more than 3,100, but likely much higher — can seek shelter. They’re where they can get food, perhaps a small blanket or a mask to protect themselves against the deadly coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. It’s an illness that has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 people globally and 1,273 people in Canada, with 630 in Quebec alone.

Advocates for the homeless say Canada’s homeless are being neglected during the outbreak and are calling on governments to step up and provide housing to the most vulnerable. While the public’s attention is focused on seniors’ residences hit hard by COVID-19, the homeless, too, are at a greater risk of succumbing to the illness, as they often have underlying health conditions.

With most shelters full and operating at a lowered capacity to adhere to physical distancing rules, some cities, such as Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, are putting up the homeless in hotels. But advocates say there are too few beds and not enough being done.


One of many signs put up in Cabot Square by Resilience Montreal. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Nakuset (she doesn’t use a surname) is the executive director for the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal and co-administrator at Resilience Montreal, a collaboration between the shelter and Nazareth Community, a non-profit day shelter in the city. She is frustrated that the homeless are being left out in the cold — figuratively and literally — during this pandemic.

So it’s kind of like everyone just kind of turned their backs.​​​​– Nakuset, executive director of Native Women’s Shelter

“It’s really difficult to see that the city could declare a state of emergency for the homeless and just offer 222 rooms. That’s not enough,” she said of Montreal’s declaration on March 27. “They have no where to go. All the shopping malls are shut down. All the accesses to the metro are pretty much shut down.… There’s not enough food. There’s not enough warmth. There’s not enough of anything. So it’s kind of like everyone just kind of turned their backs.” 

To date, there are 10 COVID-19 cases in Montreal’s homeless community.

At the best of times, if there are any, the homeless face incredible challenges, but no time as great as now, Nakuset said. Those who exhibit symptoms face stigma or the inability to be housed at one of the few empty hotels taking in those who test positive for the disease. Some who have pets may be turned away. For others, there is a fear of people in positions of authority, such as police or even paramedics.


Nakuset urged the city to provide more access to hotels that are empty amid the crisis so the homeless can at least keep warm as well as stick to the physical distancing guidelines.

“God, you know, we have to do better,” she said. “If this mayor is going to call a state of emergency for the homeless, you have to do better. Be like Toronto: open 500 rooms.”

She’s also frustrated with the federal government’s response. 

“When Justin Trudeau does his messages, his messages are for those that are privileged to have an apartment or home. His message is never to the homeless,” she said. “The fact that … the government is going to give $ 1,500 to migrant workers to self-isolate? Wait a minute. You’re not offering that to the homeless population.… Everyone, leave the country and come back as a migrant because you’re better off.” 

City hall protest

While Toronto’s public health agency said it has moved more than 1,000 people “to programs that meet a range of client needs, including spaces in community centres, hotel rooms and permanent housing, we are on track to move another 1,000 into new spaces by April 30.”

The agency also said it has “secured” more than 1,200 spaces at 12 hotels. Eleven new facilities have been mobilized with more than 470 spaces to allow for physical distancing.

But some advocates think Toronto isn’t doing enough or acting fast enough.

WATCH | How physical distancing can reduce the spread of coronavirus: 

Social distancing measures like working from home, school closures and cancelling sporting events could lead to a drop of new infections of coronavirus. 1:54

On Wednesday, doctors, nurses and front-line workers joined together with advocacy groups to stage a physically distanced protest at city hall calling on the city to speed up its efforts to safely house the city’s homeless population.

To date, there have been 60 confirmed cases in shelters across Toronto among the estimated 5,000 people using the facilities, according to Toronto Public Health. 

Sanctuary Toronto, a Christian charitable organization, is offering a place for the homeless and more vulnerable in the community. It has distributed roughly 100 tents with more than a dozen at its downtown location.

‘You kind of wonder if anyone cares’

“This is not what we prefer,” said Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor at Sanctuary Toronto. “We prefer for everybody to have safe, affordable housing where they can distance on their own. The best would be to get everybody into housing right away. That’s not possible given the state of housing in Toronto, but there are thousands of empty hotel rooms.”


Doug Johnson Hatlem of Sanctuary Toronto, right, distributes a mask to Robert Dods. Dods’s tent, seen in the background, is pitched beside Sanctuary. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

And while Sanctuary Toronto is open a few hours of the day, it can’t provide housing. That’s why it has allowed people to set up tents. 

Nikki Renaud and Romeo Pratt are using Sanctuary’s services, but they have their own concerns.

“I feel safer, but I mean it’s hard at the same time, because people come and go, and we can’t self distance properly,” Renaud said.

The couple have seen their share of deaths in recent weeks, and they mourn alone, unable to hold even a memorial for their friends.

“You kind of wonder if anyone cares,” Pratt said.


Nikki Renaud and Romeo Pratt, seen here outside Sanctuary Toronto, have been using the services during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC )

Staff safety a concern

In an unprecedented move, Doctors Without Borders, which usually operates in developing countries, is building a 400-bed facility for the homeless who test positive for COVID-19. It will be run by local health-care workers in Toronto. 

“It’s an important effort and one that is really vital, but is also, I think, a sobering reminder of the potential magnitude of the problem that we would be facing if there’s extensive spread of COVID-19,” said Stephen Hwang, a staff physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and director of MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions. 


Johnson Hatlem discusses plans to expand the tent capacity of Sanctuary Toronto’s backyard with a client. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Hwang understands first-hand the vulnerability the homeless population faces. On top of his two roles, he runs a clinic at Seaton House, a Toronto men’s shelter. But because he works in the hospital and wants to mitigate the risk to those using Seaton House, he’s not going to the shelter.

‘Very concerned’

He’s not just concerned about the homeless. He also worries about the safety of staff working in shelters.

“They are very concerned about the potential for an outbreak in their shelter and getting it themselves,” Hwang said.

WATCH | How to stay safe during a pandemic:

Infection control expert Dr. Susy Hota breaks down what we need to know to protect ourselves amid the coronavirus outbreak — from taking public transit to cleaning in the kitchen. 6:36

Back in Montreal, Nakuset continues to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, meeting with city representatives to find solutions and to act quickly, and hopefully even provide a doctor on site at Cabot Square.

But she’s also trying to boost the spirits of those who are seeking some sort of shelter during these challenging times.

“All those people that are usually used to being indoors, have not been for a month,” Nakuset said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

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‘Saturday Night Live’ Mocks Government’s Coronavirus Efforts and Democratic Candidates in Jam-Packed Cold Open

‘Saturday Night Live’ Mocks Government’s Coronavirus Efforts and Democratic Candidates in Jam-Packed Cold Open | Entertainment Tonight

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Access to chemo ‘cold caps’ varies, patients find

A “cold cap” treatment that aims to limit hair loss during chemotherapy is available in Gatineau, Que., but not in Ottawa, in part because the medical community remains unsure about the treatment’s effectiveness.

A cold cap is worn on a patient’s head immediately before, during and after a chemotherapy session, reducing the temperature of the scalp and restricting blood flow to hair follicles.

While doctors caution results of the treatment may vary, it is currently available for free at the Gatineau Hospital for patients whose doctors recommend it, thanks to funding from the hospital’s foundation.

But across the Ottawa River in Ontario, it’s up to patients to arrange for access to cold-capping machines, and to pay for it out of their own pockets. Currently, the treatment isn’t available anywhere in Ottawa.

Hair loss ‘not an easy thing to deal with’

Ottawa mother Kelly Richer, 32, said she wishes she had easier access to the treatment while undergoing chemotherapy for a rare liver cancer.

“I just feel like having that option would be phenomenal for quite a number of people,” said Richer, who has lost all of her long blond hair from her chemotherapy treatments.

“I’d be in the shower, I’d notice chunks of my hair coming out in the back and you know, kind of just watching it go down the drain. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.”

Kelly Richer, who was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in 2017, says losing her hair was a visible and often uncomfortable sign of her illness. 2:39

Richer said it’s “aggravating” to know there is different care available for free “across the bridge.”

Gatineau success story

Nadia Drouin, 42, received the treatment free of charge at the Gatineau Hospital thanks to the Fondation Santé Gatineau. She said the scalp-cooling treatment allowed her to keep most of her hair during her chemotherapy treatment.

“Having hair, I feel more healthy, because when I don’t have hair I’m kind of skinny, so I look sick. But when I have hair, it’s like if I have confidence that I will survive from cancer. So I’m really happy about that,” Drouin said.


Gatineau, Que., resident Nadia Drouin, 42, says keeping her hair during chemotherapy gave her ‘confidence’ that she would survive cancer. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

“When my doctor told me about the cold cap, I said, ‘I will do some research on the Internet,’ and I saw that in some countries it’s pretty popular and people are doing it very frequently,” said Drouin, who began undergoing the treatment in 2018.

She said her doctor warned her the treatment isn’t always effective. Drouin said it was uncomfortable at first, likening the sensation to sticking your head in a snowbank. But it worked.

“Even the nurse was kind of surprised, because I was one of the first one trying it in Gatineau. So it was fun to see [the hair] growing every time I was going for a treatment, and they were seeing me having more hair, more hair. So it was really nice to see, and I was really happy, too,” Drouin said.

Not for every patient

Chemotherapy drugs target all rapidly dividing cells in the human body, including hair cells. That’s why some types of chemotherapy cause hair loss, according to Julie Lemieux, an oncologist at the Centre hospitalier de Québec-Laval University in Quebec City.


Dr. Julie Lemieux, an oncologist in Quebec City, said cold-capping is only an option for certain patients. (Hans Campbell/Radio-Canada)

Lemieux confirmed cold-capping results vary, and it’s only an option for patients receiving certain types of chemotherapy.

“For some cancer, you would not want to use cold cap. For example, for a patient with leukemia, because there’s cancer in the blood cells and blood goes through your scalp, you don’t want to have cold cap because you don’t want to decrease the chemo that will get everywhere.”

Lemieux, who mainly treats women with breast cancer, said she has been offering scalp-cooling to her patients since 2006. She doesn’t have access to the same machine that Nadia Drouin used in Gatineau, which keeps the cap cold. Instead, the caps Lemieux’s patients wear must be frequently switched out with fresh ones stored in a freezer.

Treatment requires resources

Lemieux said the cap is placed on the patient’s head about 20 minutes before treatment starts, and kept on for up to 90 minutes after, so providing the treatment requires resources.

“If there’s the resources, [cold-capping] will be a good idea for patients. But we need also to have the resources, because it takes more time for each patient,” she said. “It’s difficult to find the time.”


Nadia Drouin wore the cap before, during and after chemotherapy sessions at the Gatineau Hospital. (Fondation Santé Gatineau)

Neither Ontario’s Ministry of Health nor Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services provide direct funding for cold-capping, and said availability in each province depends on individual hospitals.

In Toronto, for example, there are currently scalp cooling machines at Princess Margaret Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Mount Sinai Hospital, but none of those machines was purchased by the province. No hospital in Ottawa currently offers cold-capping, and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation said it doesn’t provide funding for the treatment.


A patient receives a cold-capping treatment at Hôpital du Saint-Sacrement in Quebec City. (Hans Campbell/Radio-Canada)

The Ontario Medical Association said it can’t comment on the treatment’s effectiveness, but the ministry said in a statement it will request Cancer Care Ontario, the government’s cancer adviser, to provide an opinion on the treatment’s effectiveness and “possible use for Ontario patients, at all facilities.”

Health Canada’s website shows it has issued a licence for the same scalp cooling device Nadia Drouin used at the Gatineau Hospital. Asked by CBC if it’s currently conducting any studies into scalp cooling machines, Health Canada said it’s “not reviewing the effectiveness of these devices.”

A “cold cap” treatment that aims to limit hair loss during chemotherapy is available in Gatineau, Quebec, but not in Ottawa, in part because the medical community remains unsure about the treatment’s effectiveness. 8:05

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50 dead as cold wave sweeps through Bangladesh

At least 50 people have died in Bangladesh as cold weather continues to sweep across the country, officials said.

The country’s lowest temperature this year was recorded at 4.5 degrees Celsius early on Sunday in Tetulia, a border town in Bangladesh’s north, the weather office said.

At least 17 people died of acute respiratory infection and 33 from diarrhea caused by rotavirus and other diseases across Bangladesh from Nov. 1 to Dec. 28, said Ayesha Akhter, a senior official of the government’s health directorate.

Hospitals have been crowded with people suffering from cold-related illnesses, such as influenza, dehydration and pneumonia, she said.

Those on low incomes, particularly labourers, are the worst affected by the cold weather because they lack clothes while many others, especially children and the elderly people, are prone to diseases such as pneumonia, Akhter said.

The weather office said the cold snap, accompanied by chilly winds and dense fog, was likely to continue for few more days.

Thick fog forced authorities to divert several flights and delay others, aviation officials said.

“I have no choice. I have to work regardless of the harsh weather to feed my family,” said Abdur Rahim, a rickshaw puller in the capital, Dhaka.

“The number of passengers has reduced sharply as people are avoiding going out. It is also getting difficult to pull the rickshaw as I feel like my body is frozen.”

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Cold Quasars Could Change Our Understandings of Galactic Death

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Scientists have long believed the formation of a quasar in a galaxy would spell the end of star formation there. A new analysis from Allison Kirkpatrick, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, suggests that may not be the case. Kirkpatrick found that some galaxies hosting quasars do still seem to have the requisite conditions for new star formation. This discovery could change the way astrophysicists model the later stages of galactic evolution.

Most large galaxies have supermassive black holes in their centers, but a quasar is an entirely different animal. These “quasi-stellar radio sources” have an accretion disk of matter spiraling toward them. The intense X-ray radiation makes these galaxies extremely bright and hot, and they pull in all the comparatively cold gas in a galaxy that could otherwise go toward the formation of new stars. Often, the magnetic field of a quasar is so powerful that it creates a relativistic jet of material that drains the galaxy of cold gas.

According to Kirkpatrick, most quasars do signal that a galaxy is done producing new stars, but it’s not akin to the stellar “off” switch we thought. Her analysis of distant galaxies pointed to a population of objects dubbed “cold quasars.” The first hits of cold quasars popped up in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a highly detailed digital map of the universe. The team called this region of unusual quasar activity “Stripe 82.” They used the XMM Newton telescope to survey the area and map the locations of growing quasars via X-rays. Then, they went back with the Herschel Space Telescope to scan the region in far infrared.

Seeing galaxies in both “hot” X-ray and “cold” infrared indicates there is still a supply of star-generating gas in active quasar galaxies. According to Kirkpatrick, this doesn’t mean quasars can exist indefinitely alongside star-forming regions. They do still leach away cold gas over time, ending star formation in the galaxy.

What we are seeing here is a new transition period between the growth of quasars and the end of star formation, lasting up to 10 million years. Only about 10 percent of galaxies in the study exhibited this behavior, though. The next step for Kirkpatrick is to determine if specific classes or sizes of galaxies go through this transition period.

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Astronomers Image Cold Gas Ring Around Our Galaxy’s Central Black Hole

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Scientists recently produced the first images of a giant black hole in a distant galaxy, but there’s a supermassive black hole much closer to home. In the center of our own galaxy lurks an invisible monster, the gravity of which may help hold the Milky Way together. We can’t see this black hole, but observations have detected some of its effects like a sphere of superheated gas. A new study has now revealed the other side of the coin, a ring of comparatively cool gas around the black hole.

This black hole, known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A Star”) lies about 26,000 light years from Earth. It’s difficult to observe because we have to look through the disk of the Milky Way, but observations have shown that this region of space has densely packed stars, nebulae, and clouds of hot and cold gas. The gas should form a rotating accretion disk that extends several tenths of a light-year from the black hole’s event horizon.

Previously, all we’ve been able to see is the hot portion of that gas via millimeter wave observations, which gives an incomplete picture of the black hole’s effects on nearby space. All scientists have been able to say before now is that there was a cold gas component, but now we’ve got a true picture of it.

Of course, “cold” gas is a relative term here. The hot gasses around Sagittarius A* are around 18 million degrees Fahrenheit (10 million degrees Celsius), which is two-thirds the temperature of the sun’s core. This gas emits X-rays, one of the hallmark signs of a black hole. The cold hydrogen gas, by comparison, is only about 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit (10,000 degrees Celsius). Researchers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to scan for the faint radio frequency signal from this ring of cooler gas.

Black Hole

The resulting image (top) shows the flow of cold gas around Sagittarius A*. Mapping the Doppler shift in the spectrum as the gas moves toward and away from us revealed a ring-like structure. The red part is moving away from Earth and the blue part is moving toward Earth. The team says this ring of gas extends to just a hundredth of a light year from the event horizon (about 1,000 times the distance from Earth to the sun).

This data could provide new insights into how black holes consume nearby matter. Hopefully, that’s something we’ll never have to worry about on Earth, but it may help us understand the happenings in other parts of the universe.

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The hot cold war: Inside Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine

It’s a long way from the killing fields of Kandahar to the laneways of Lviv, Ukraine — but for Lt.-Col. Pierre Leroux, the newer conflict carries some echoes of the older one.

When Leroux arrived in Afghanistan in the fall of 2010, the Canadian army was helping to train Afghan forces to fight in the middle of a shooting war with the insurgent Taliban.

In 2019, Leroux leads the Canadian task force training Ukrainian soldiers to fight an equally deadly, hot-and-cold conventional war with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

There are important differences between the two wars — for starters, Canadians were on the frontlines in Kandahar and are not in Lviv — but in both conflicts Leroux arrived on the scene at a watershed moment, just as the war was about to evolve into something different.

His tour of Afghanistan as a company commander in the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Regiment came just after an American military surge had tamed the wildly dangerous Kandahar province, giving the Canadians an opening to finally help establish some semblance of governance.

Lt.-Col. Pierre Leroux, left, speaks with an unidentified American soldier in Zangabad, Afghanistan, in June 2001. At the time, Leroux was a major leading a combat company. He is now the commander of Canada’s training mission in Ukraine. (Murray Brewster/CBC News)

Ukraine is on the cusp of a transformation of its own, with the possible election of a new president whose opaque platform has some international analysts worried that he is pro-Russian.

A runoff election in a few weeks will decide whether Volodymyr Zelensky unseats Petro Poroshenko, whose pro-Western outlook and dogged military campaign in two restive districts (known as ‘oblasts’) has worn thin with ordinary Ukrainian voters.

The Liberal government recently renewed Canada’s military commitment of 200 training soldiers in western Ukraine until 2022.

Leroux said there’s no shortage of work for them to do.

“There are so many things that we can improve,” Leroux told the CBC in a telephone interview from the military training centre in Yavoriv, near Lviv. “It’s pretty incredible. There’s still a lot of doors open.”

Canadian troops first deployed to help train Ukrainian army units in advanced combat skills — including the detection and defusing of roadside bombs and booby traps, which presented a major problem in the early stages of the conflict.

Leroux said the Ukrainians have advanced to the point where they can train their own bomb disposal troops. The Canadians are now helping them with what’s known as ‘sapper’ training: breaching fortifications, demolition and bridge-building under fire. They’re also providing advanced courses to train snipers.

One of Canada’s biggest contributions, however, has been in the field of advanced combat medical training.

When the Canadians arrived in September 2015, Ukrainian soldiers were only being given short, basic combat medic training by U.S. troops. In Canadian hands, that training has been expanded into a three-month course that delivers advanced life-saving skills.

A better chance of survival

It’s important knowledge, given the Ukranian army’s high attrition rate, Leroux said. Knowing the wounded have a better chance of survival has boosted the confidence levels of frontline troops.

Leroux said the politics of Ukraine is far removed from the work he and his troops are doing, but he’s convinced the work has value.

“So I see this mission can keep on going for a while,” he said.

The commander of HMCS Toronto, which is currently cruising the Black Sea off Ukraine and taking part in exercises with other NATO warships, expressed similar optimism in a ship-to-shore interview on Friday.

Commander Martin Fluet said that — unlike previous patrols, when his frigate and other allied ships faced low-flying Russian warplanes buzzing them — this latest foray into the region has been quiet.

Shadowed by the Russians

According to reports published in Moscow, two Russian warships — one of them an intelligence-gathering vessel — are shadowing the NATO task force.

Fluet confirmed those reports, but said it’s all part of the routine.

“It is a very standoff approach, where they are following from a distance,” he said. “There was nothing hostile directed towards us.”

The U.S. has proposed sending even more ships into the Black Sea and stepped-up port visits along the coast in eastern Europe — partly in response to the capture of small Ukrainian naval vessels by the Russians in the disputed Kerch Strait last November.

After a meeting with alliance foreign ministers in Washington this week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he hopes allies “agree on new measures to improve our knowledge of the situation in the [Black Sea] region.”

That’s a signal that rotating naval deployments — which include Canadian ships — will also continue for some time to come.

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CBC | World News