Tag Archives: help

Cristiano Ronaldo’s discarded armband raises $75K US to help Serbian baby

The captain’s armband that Cristiano Ronaldo angrily threw to the ground during Portugal’s World Cup qualifier in Belgrade last week has been sold to an unidentified bidder for $ 75,000 US at a charity auction, Serbian state TV reported on Friday.

A Serbian humanitarian group put the blue armband up for online bidding to raise money for medical treatment for a 6-month-old boy suffering with spinal muscular atrophy.

The three-day auction didn’t pass without controversy as some participants tried to disrupt the process by putting up unrealistically huge sums. The fake bidding triggered public outrage with authorities pledging to find and punish the culprits.

Moments before last Saturday’s match with Serbia ended in a 2-2 draw, Ronaldo walked off the field after his injury-time goal was disallowed. The Portugal great dinked the ball over the Serbia goalkeeper and it looked as if it crossed the line before being cleared by a defender.

While heading to the dressing room before the final whistle, Ronaldo angrily threw down his armband near the touchline. After the match, it was picked up by a firefighter on duty and given to the charity group.

Ronaldo was criticized for his actions and some believe his angry display could lead to FIFA sanctions.

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CBC | Soccer News

Canadian Janine Beckie’s scoring not enough to help Man City get past Barcelona

Canadian Janine Beckie scored the opening goal in Manchester City’s 2-1 win against Barcelona in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals but it wasn’t enough as Barcelona advanced on aggregate, 4-2.

Beckie swept in a loose ball after a corner kick in 20th minute to give City hope of a comeback.

But just before the hour mark, Barca striker Asisat Oshoala tapped in from close range for a crucial away goal. She had earlier come close to scoring several times but had been denied by defender Lucy Bronze and goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.

American international Sam Mewis converted a penalty in the 68th minute for City.

WATCH | Canada’s Beckie sweeps in opening goal as Man City ousted by Barcelona:

Canadian striker Janine Beckie scored the opening goal as Manchester City beat Barcelona 2-1, but fell 4-2 on aggregate scoring in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals. 0:43

Along with Barcelona, Chelsea also advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Champions League on Wednesday.

Pernille Harder scored against her former team to lead Chelsea to a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg, and 5-1 on aggregate. 

Chelsea will face either Bayern Munich or Rosengård — who features Canadian national team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé — in the semifinals. Bayern defeated the Swedish club 3-0 in the first leg, and they play again Thursday in Malmo.

Barcelona awaits either five-time defending champion Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain. The Lyon-PSG second leg was moved to April 18 after a coronavirus outbreak in the Lyon squad.

The battle of French rivals features Toronto’s Kadeisha Buchanan for Lyon and the pair of Jordyn Huitema of Chilliwack, B.C., and Ashley Lawrence of Toronto for PSG.

In Budapest, Harder converted a penalty in the 27th minute and Sam Kerr doubled the lead five minutes later. Both players had scored last week in the first leg. Fran Kirby added the third goal in the second half.

Chelsea and Wolfsburg played their quarter-final legs in Budapest because of travel restrictions. Chelsea was the “away” team on Wednesday.

Harder, who joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg in September, sent a long ball for Kerr, who was taken down by defender Sara Doorsoun. From the penalty spot, the Denmark captain then sent goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek the wrong way, rolling the ball into the corner.

Kerr scored in the 32nd minute, collecting a chipped pass with her back to the goal. The Australia striker turned and fired a right-footed shot low just inside the post.

Kirby worked a give-and-go with Ji So-Yun and beat Kiedrzynek from close range in the 81st minute. Jessie Fleming, from London, Ont., subbed into the game for Chelsea with 10 minutes to go.

The final is scheduled for May 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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CBC | Soccer News

Larin, Davies team up to help Canada crush Bermuda in World Cup qualifier

One down, 19 more to go.

Canada opened its oft-delayed World Cup qualifying campaign Thursday with a comfortable 5-1 win over Bermuda. It’s the start of a long road, with at least 19 more matches needed to get to Qatar in 2022.

Cyle Larin scored three goals, with Alphonso Davies playing provider each time, as the Canadian men played their first competitive match since a 4-1 CONCACAF Nations League loss to the U.S. on Nov. 16, 2019, at the same venue — Exploria Stadium.

Richie Laryea and debutant Theo Corbeanu also scored for Canada. Kane Critchlow replied for Bermuda with a second-half goal against the run of play.

WATCH | Larin hat trick leads Canada past Bermuda:

Canada dominates Bermuda 5-1 as they start World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. 3:19

It was a scrappy opening 15 minutes for the Canadians, perhaps unsurprising given their time apart. But once the engine warmed up, it was one-way traffic.

“It took us a while to get started, but once we did get started you could see the quality in that team,” said coach John Herdman.

“All in all a good night, but loads to build on,” he added. “I mean you look at the potential in this group now. It’s one game and as I keep saying there’s 19 more to go. I just can’t wait to see these guys in 19 games time.”

The degree of difficulty will escalate as the qualifying road unfolds. But this Canadian squad, which was missing Jonathan David and Jonathan Osorio on the night, is brimming with promise

“This is a very very good team,” said Laryea. “We’ve got some really good pieces, some guys that we’re missing, that aren’t here right now that are also extremely huge pieces. It’s only going to get better but we can’t settle for anything.”

Canada is ranked 73rd in the world, compared to No. 169 for Bermuda. The Bermudians’ task was complicated by the fact that some of its players — and coach Kyle Lightbourne — did not make it to the match because of COVID-19 protocols.

Bermuda managed just five players on its bench, compared to 12 for Canada,

“We had to do quite a bit of quarantining to keep ourselves safe so we could even get the amount of players that we did to the match today,” said Maurice Lowe, technical development director at the Bermuda Football Association, who ran the team from the sidelines.

While officially a Canadian home game, the match was shifted to Orlando because of pandemic-related travel restrictions. The Canadians face the Cayman Islands on Sunday in Bradenton, Fla., in a game that was to have been hosted by the Caymans but was moved to ease similar quarantine hurdles.

WATCH | Breaking down Canada’s path to Qatar:

Canada’s men’s national team squad, filled with as much raw talent as there is experience, has to win the group stage in the First Round of qualification to keep their hopes of participating in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 alive. 10:08

Bermuda gave up a number of early free kicks and Canada made them pay in the 19th minute when Larin, in a crowd, got his head to a curling set-piece delivery from Davies.

The goal seemed to discombobulate the Bermudians, whose shape began to evaporate.

Larin, upping his Canada goals total to 11 in 32 matches, continued his banner season. The 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., ranks third in the Turkish Super Lig with 14 goals for Besiktas and looks full of confidence.

“He’s an absolute predator,” Herdman said of Larin, who used to play at Exploria Stadium for Orlando City SC.

Davies, meanwhile, was a constant threat. The Bayern Munich star fullback, moved into a more attacking position by Herdman, tormented defenders on the left flank while providing quality service to teammates.

Larin made it 2-0 in the 27th after Bermuda goalkeeper Dale Eve left his penalty box in search of the ball. Davies got there first and — as Eve scrambled to get back into position — fed it to Larin, who coolly beat a defender and slotted it in.

Laryea scored his first for Canada in the 53rd minute, beating Bermuda’s sloppy attempt at an offside trap before putting the ball past Eve.

Critchlow cut the margin to 3-1 in the 63rd minute after goalkeeper Milan Borjan spilled a cross from Lejaun Simmons. Critchlow was Johnny-on-the-spot, poking the ball in.

WATCH | Referee Nesbitt makes history:

Kathryn Nesbitt, 2020 MLS Assistant Referee of the Year, makes history by becoming the first woman to referee a CONCACAF men’s World Cup qualifier. 0:34

Larin scored his third in the 68th minute, set up again by Davies who had his choice of teammates to choose from in the box. The 18-year-old Corbeanu made it 5-1 in the 81st, tapping home a perfect low cross from fellow substitute Liam Millar.

Larin and Laryea both came up through the Sigma FC program in Mississauga, Ont.

8 of starting XI Canadians based in Europe

Herdman positioned Lucas Cavallini at the tip of the Canadian spear with Davies, Larin and Junior Hoilett behind him in a potent attack.

With MLS teams in pre-season, eight of the 11 Canadian starters came from European-based dreams. Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), Laryea (Toronto FC) and Kamal Miller (CF Montreal) were the MLS starters.

Atiba Hutchinson earned his 85th cap for Canada, moving him past Paul Stalteri into second place among Canadian men behind Julian de Guzman. Borjan earned his 50th cap.

For the 38-year-old Hutchinson, it marks his fifth round of World Cup qualifying. Only goalkeeper Pat Onstad, with six, has taken part in more among Canadian men.

Hutchinson, playing in his 28th World Cup qualifier, wore the captain’s armband for the 12th time. After the game, Herdman said his skipper was leaving Friday to return to Turkey.

Canada’s starting 11 Thursday took the field with a combined 266 caps under their belt. Some 191 of those came from Hutchinson, Borjan, Larin and Hoilett. The 20-year-old Davies earned his 18th cap.

Cavallini robbed

Cavallini could have had a hat trick in the first 35 minutes.

He was put in alone in the 16th minute but Eve got a hand to his low shot from the edge of the penalty box. The Whitecaps striker had another chance in the 34th minute, after a defender whiffed on a Davies cross, but shot just wide.

A minute later, Cavallini’s shot off another fine Davies feed slammed off the crossbar. The burly striker held his head in his hands and kicked the goalpost in frustration.

Eve made a fine reflex save to stop Cavallini’s header in the 56th from close range.

Herdman credited Cavallini with occupying the Bermuda centre backs, allowing space for Larin and Davies to exploit.

Nashville SC fullback Alistair Johnston came on in the 69th minute to earn his first Canada cap. Corbeanu, an 18-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for Wolves under-23 side in England, followed in the 77th and essentially scored in his first touch.

“That was brilliant,” said Herdman, who told him to “go make an impact.”

Samuel Piette came off the bench to earn his 50th cap for Canada, which improved to 6-0-4 all-time against Bermuda.

Bermuda, whose population of 72,000 is about the same as Sarnia, Ont., was without Bristol City forward Nahki Wells due to quarantine issues.

After the Caymans, Canada faces two more Group B games — June 5 at No. 200 Aruba and June 8 at home to No. 141 Suriname, which blanked the visiting Caymans 3-0 on Tuesday.

Thirty countries, split into six groups, are taking part in the first round of qualifying in the region which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Only the group winners move on.

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CBC | Soccer News

Could Nvidia’s DLSS Help the Nintendo Switch Hit 4K Resolutions?

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Last week, rumors broke that Nintendo’s rumored Switch update will feature capabilities like an OLED panel, larger display (said to be 7 inches, up from 6.2 inches), and 4K output when docked.

Two of these things are unlike the others. A larger display and an OLED, with the associated benefits of that technology, could both be fitted to the Switch as it currently exists. The third — a boost to 4K rendering when docked — isn’t something the current Switch hardware can pull off without some kind of additional upgrade.

Be advised that all of the below is speculation. Nintendo has not released any comments on any future Switch designs and ExtremeTech does not possess inside information regarding the future of the console.

The Switch poses a unique upgrade challenge that consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series S|X don’t have to deal with. Sony and Microsoft only have to concern themselves with the living room experience. Nintendo has to address the handheld market, too. That means any changes to the Switch can’t destroy its battery life or risk making the console too hot. Keeping the handheld at 720p achieves these goals in handheld mode, but how will Nintendo deliver the horsepower required for 4K rendering in docked mode? 4K packs 4x the pixels of standard 1080p, but it’s a 9x jump from the Switch’s current 720p target.

Nvidia and Nintendo can tackle this problem from a few different directions. While Nintendo could theoretically pay Nvidia to port the Switch’s T210 SoC from 16nm to 7nm, that chip only offers 25.6GB/s of main memory bandwidth and is unlikely to support docked 4K play with such a thin pipe.

If Nintendo wants to go with a new SoC architecture, Nvidia has plenty to choose from. Nvidia’s Jetson TX2 uses Pascal instead of Maxwell, and it’s possible the company has built a new SoC variant for Nintendo based on its Turing or Ampere GPU architectures. One of these two architectures would give Nintendo a better chance to hit 4K.

Nvidia and Nintendo have three paths available to them. First, brute-force. It’s unlikely that a second port of the aged T210 down to 7nm would deliver enough performance or memory bandwidth. The Pascal-based Jetson TX2 seems to be the minimum chip for the job, and Nintendo could always pay Nvidia to build an SoC based around either Turing or Ampere. This is the most straightforward option, the simplest, and probably the least likely to deliver a great 4K gaming experience. Even the 2.3x jump in memory bandwidth from the current Switch (25.6GB/s) to the Nvidia Jetson TX2 (59.7GB/s) isn’t nearly enough to pay for the 9x increase in pixels from 720p to 4K.

There are two alternative approaches we know of: Checkerboard rendering and DLSS.

Checkerboard rendering is a technique Sony popularized with the PlayStation 4 Pro a few years back. It’s a method of rendering that leaves gaps in between the drawn pixels, like a checkerboard. Used properly, the impact on visual quality compared with native 4K is small.

Checkerboard rendering doesn’t require any features specific to Turing or Ampere and could potentially be used by the Pascal-based TX2. It’s proven and it would save bandwidth and compute horsepower compared with the pure brute-force approach.

DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) is a technique Nvidia has developed for anti-aliasing that leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve real-time image quality. Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0 is said to provide near native-quality images while rendering between 25-50 percent of the pixels. Nvidia trains its DLSS model on DGX-equipped supercomputers and runs the workload on your local GPU (or, in this hypothesis, on your local Switch).

The Turing and Ampere GPU micro-architectures include specialized tensor cores for handling DLSS, so any attempt to add the feature to the Switch would require upgrading to an SoC based on one of these architectures. DLSS 1.0 didn’t work particularly well, but it also relied on a game-by-game approach to improving overall image quality.

DLSS 2.0 adopted a more generic architecture and allowed for the implementation of various quality modes. Bringing this technology to a handheld device would involve some heavy lifting, but Nintendo might be able to save power by only turning DLSS on when the console is in docked mode. If the tensor cores can be kept otherwise deactivated, Nintendo wouldn’t lose power in handheld mode just from including them on-die.

There are two reasons to be dubious of this idea. First, it requires Nintendo to make a pretty big leap forward for a mid-generation upgrade. Typically, Nintendo mid-cycle updates like the 3DS XL are faster, more efficient versions of the base platform. A Turing SoC might show up on 14nm, but any Ampere design would likely be on 7nm. Nintendo doesn’t usually leap for the latest and greatest CPU and GPU tech, so this kind of update would be a bit out of band for them.

Second, this idea assumes Nintendo would use tensor cores for upscaling, but not integrate ray tracing or other prominent Turing/Ampere features. Nvidia and AMD have packaged all these technologies together in other contexts, so it would be unusual to see them split now.

The advantages of DLSS or checkerboard rendering are big enough that we still think we’re more likely to see them than not, but Nintendo would have to be willing to push a bit out of its comfort zone to adopt them. We’ll see what the company has to say as the year progresses.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

DeBues-Stafford donates track winnings to help homeless Texans after winter storm

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford was joking Saturday night about losing a bet and having to buy Bowerman Track Club teammate Sinclaire Johnson drinks after winning a women’s 1,500-metre race at the Texas Qualifier. It didn’t take long for the generous runner to make use of $ 750 US in prize money — but not at a local watering hole.

On her way back to the hotel, DeBues-Stafford decided during a phone call with husband Rowan to donate the winnings to Austin Mutual Aid, a citizen volunteer group that provides direct relief and housing to those on the streets.

Two weeks earlier, failing electrical infrastructure led to many Texans losing power, heat, clean water and having little access to food during below-freezing temperatures from Winter Storm Uri. DeBues-Stafford, who had previously donated to AMA, liked the fact the group offered a variety of services and support to the community.

Austin Mutual Aid was launched last March to assist Texans experiencing homelessness in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following Winter Storm Uri, it accepted monetary donations to help the city’s unhoused population while volunteers also collected donations of blankets, coats and non-perishable foods.

“I wasn’t looking at this race as a pay-day,” the Toronto native told CBC Sports, noting Beer Mile Media came in late to sponsor Saturday’s 1,500. “It didn’t feel right to fly in [from Portland, Ore.], make [money] off the hospitality of Austinites devastated by a storm and fly out.

“I thought about Texas and the devastation of the storm a lot in the weeks leading up to the race and feel very lucky the running community was still able to host us at a meet. I’m happy the money will go to rehabilitating the community.”

In an Instagram post, DeBues-Stafford provided details to her followers for a chance to win a pair of Nike shoes, or another Nike item, along with a signed card. The first requirement is to donate any amount to a charity in Texas focused on rehabilitating and uplifting the community.

DeBues-Stafford has set a March 8 deadline after receiving 30 entries in the first 24 hours.

During her short stay in Austin, DeBues-Stafford didn’t have the opportunity to speak with anyone who is unhoused.

“I did see several groups of tents [homeless camps] during drives and runs,” she said, “which unfortunately isn’t uncommon in any city I’ve visited, especially since the start of the pandemic.”

Serious Olympic medal contender

Fortunately, DeBues-Stafford added, she has been in a financial position since 2019 to donate more regularly to organizations. In the past, she has supported the Red Cross Society during the Australian wildfires, Black Legal Action Centre and Black Health Alliance in Toronto, TAIBU Community Health Centre in the Greater Toronto Area, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

On the track, world No. 4 DeBues-Stafford will be a serious medal contender at her second Olympics this summer in Tokyo.

Surprised by the slow pace of Saturday’s race, she clocked a time of 4:10.09 in her first outdoor 1,500 since the world championship final on Oct. 5, 2019 in Doha, Qatar, where the 25-year-old lowered her Canadian record to 3:56.12.

WATCH | DeBues-Stafford runs 3:56.12 PB at 2019 worlds:

Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford places 6th with a time 3:56.12, Sifan Hassan claims gold. 7:02

DeBues-Stafford pointed out her two previous 1,500s — each indoors in Scotland (4:05.89) and Liévin, France (4:05.27) in February 2020 — were huge disappointments.

She recalled being “burned out emotionally and broken physically” following an [altitude] training camp, too much travel in [2019] and after the Feb. 8 Millrose Games in New York City, where she set Canadian indoor marks in the 1,500 and women’s mile.

“I could barely walk, let alone run, without a limp,” said DeBues-Stafford, who joined the Bowerman group last summer. “I felt so weak and powerless in those races [and it] really hung over my psyche. On top of that, a relapse of Graves’ disease — an autoimmune condition causing the thyroid to become hyperactive — [in the summer of 2020] left me very weak going into the fall.

“Questions like, ‘Will I ever be the same athlete as I was in 2019 [when I set eight national records and 11 personal-best times]’? fuelled anxiety.

“The biggest takeaway [on Saturday] was the relief of feeling strong and in control in a race again,” DeBues-Stafford continued. “I feel like my old self and that is huge for my confidence.”

And when will she get around to buying Johnson drinks?

“Likely sometime after [Johnson’s] race this weekend,” DeBues-Stafford said. “The weather has been very nice in Portland lately, so we’re hoping for an outdoor drink.”

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CBC | Sports News

Bill Gates says innovation sparked by COVID-19 pandemic could help eradicate global diseases

The innovation sparked by the coronavirus will better prepare the world for the next pandemic and could help eradicate global diseases in lower-income countries, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told CBC’s The Current.

“The pandemic is an incredible tragedy. We weren’t prepared for it. We bungled it once it came. But there’s some brilliant things going on,” said Gates in an interview broadcast Monday with The Current host Matt Galloway.

“We’ll be doing postmortems and we have to get this pandemic done and we have to invest so that the next time a pandemic comes we’ll get on top of it and the number of cases can be kept very small,” said Gates, who has written a new book titled How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

Gates, who is co-chair the Bill & Melinda Foundation and has donated $ 1.75 billion to the fight against COVID-19, said lessons have been learned from the current pandemic, and that countries that have lost trillions of dollars are now willing to spend the money for innovation.

WATCH | Bill Gates on how the world ‘bungled’ the pandemic:

Gates says that while the world botched its response to COVID-19, ‘there’s some brilliant things going on.’ 0:33

He said the pandemic had led to great strides in global health and the development of vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, that could help end other deadly diseases found in lower-income countries.

“The amount of innovation which countries, because they’ve lost trillions, are now willing to fund … we’re going to make great progress in global health and that will help us not just be ready for the next pandemic,” he said. “It’ll help us with polio eradication, malaria, measles, all that area that causes so many deaths, mostly in poor countries.”

WATCH | Gates on innovation sparked by pandemic:

Microsoft co-founder explains why innovation as a result of the coronarvirus could better prepare the world for the next pandemic and help with other diseases. 1:05

For years, Gates had warned that the world was not prepared for a global pandemic. In 2015, his TED talk was titled: “The Next Outbreak? We’re not ready.”

“There were mistakes made when we didn’t get ready before the pandemic hit,” Gates said. “My 2015 talk was about the infrastructure we needed in place and even practising what I called germ games, which are like war games. But you’re simulating the disease.

“It would have been obvious that you have to deploy the commercial diagnostic sector as fast as possible, which the U.S bungled.”

Canadian COVAX controversy

Gates was asked about the Canadian government’s decision to receive COVID-19 vaccines from the global initiative known as COVAX, which was set up to distribute vaccines to lower-income countries. Canada has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in COVAX but has faced criticism for its plan to take vaccines from that pool.

“I think it’s predictable that when there’s a shortage of medical intervention like this, that the rich countries who funded the R&D and trials will be early in line,” Gates said.

Asked whether he would support companies turning over their intellectual property rights to vaccines, Gates said he might, if it would mean the creation of one additional vaccine. 

“But in fact, making vaccines is not about the the IP here, it’s about these factories being exactly right and passing strict regulatory review,” he said. “And IP is not the issue.”

Gates was asked about the issue of the so-called “Bill chill,” that some academics and organizations are reluctant to criticise his work.

“Any idea that somebody has on how we can do better on polio, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea — the more critics we have, the better,” he said. “The main thing is people don’t care about that stuff. They don’t know about it.

“I wish there were 10 times as many experts saying: ‘You should have done this and you should have done that,’ because, hey, we’re just trying to have people live healthy lives.”

Target of conspiracy theories

Gates has also been the target of a series of conspiracy theories, including that he created COVID-19 in a lab and that he’s behind a plan to implant microchips in people to fight the virus. 

WATCH | Gates on conspiracy theories:

Gates addresses being the target of COVID-19-related conspiracy theories and how he hopes the media can get people more interested in the truth 1:27

“There’s like millions of messages saying those things,” he said. “I hope that we can make the truth more interesting than the conspiracy theory,” he said.

“The pandemic has people reaching for simple solutions to explain, ‘OK, why did this happen? And isn’t there some evil person behind the curtain there?’ “

Gates said he hopes mainstream or digital media can be more creative about how they get more people aware of the truth.

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CBC | Health News

With help from sister, Kyle Alexander making most of time in Spain after 97 days in NBA bubble

Kyle Alexander spent 97 days in the NBA bubble — and didn’t see a single meaningful minute of game action.

A rookie on the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, Alexander arrived in Disney on July 7, three weeks before the regular season resumed. He left on Oct. 12, one day after the Los Angeles Lakers won the championship.

“It definitely had its moments, but it was awesome,” Alexander said, “to be in that kind of environment with one of the hardest working teams in the league with one of the best cultures, and then go to the Finals, get to experience what it takes to win at that level.”

The NBA’s March shutdown came at an unfortunate time for Alexander. The 24-year-old Canadian suffered a knee injury in January while playing for Miami’s G League team, but was verging on a return when Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

Alexander finally made his NBA debut in the bubble, playing garbage time in a pair of Heat blowout losses in August.

“I wasn’t in the best state to compete for [playing time]. That part sucked. But as far as jump starting back into my activities and getting healthy and shaking the rust off and getting my touch back on my jump shot, it was the best place to be,” the Milton, Ont., native said.

Kyle Alexander, centre, dives for a loose ball during a game against the Indiana Pacers in August. (Ashley Landis/Pool/Getty Images)

Now, Alexander starts for Fuenlabrada of Spain’s top league. After the NBA playoffs, he took a month off before moving to Phoenix to ramp up off-season training, under the assumption the NBA might not return until March.

The season began Dec. 22, news of which left Alexander scrambling. He went to a Toronto Raptors minicamp in Los Angeles, but could not secure a deal with his hometown team.

“To have that jersey on my chest and to be representing them, I went in there really motivated. And like I said, I was proud of how I did, but it just didn’t end up working out or making sense at the moment,” Alexander said.

(After waiving Alex Len last week, the Raptors have an open roster spot and a need for a big man. Adding Alexander, a defensively responsible centre with some outside touch, could make some sense.)

When Alexander left Raptors camp without a deal, his agent suggested he look to Europe for an opportunity to get immediate playing time and regain some rhythm. An injury on Fuenlabrada presented such a chance.

Through seven games with the team, he is averaging 7.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in just under 20 minutes per game.

Late start to basketball career

Overseas basketball is something in which Alexander’s sister Kayla has plenty of experience. The eight-year WNBA veteran has also played in Australia, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Belgium, where she’s currently stationed.

Kayla, 30, missed Kyle throughout their childhood as they passed through high school and college at different times. With both now in Europe, this is the closest their basketball careers have come to overlapping.

“I would hear about my pops telling me that he was playing now or seeing this [coach] and he’s getting better. He grew, but I wasn’t there to witness much of the growth, to be honest, which kind of sucks,” Kayla said.

Kyle didn’t begin playing basketball until 16, despite both parents and older sister spending lots of time with the game.

Before then, his father, Joseph, would drive him and Kayla to school early because Kayla needed to get shots up and there was no point in making two trips back and forth. Kyle would rebound for Kayla and a friend, with some occasional defence.

Kayla Alexander rises up for a shot during an August game in the WNBA bubble. (Mike Carlson/The Associated Press)

One time, Kayla, who had a penchant for flaring her elbows, sent Kyle to class with a bloody nose and lip. One-on-one between the siblings was never particularly close.

“She used to kill me. She really used to kill me. Like, it was bad,” Kyle recalled.

Video games were Kyle’s preference until his father finally brought him to a training camp.

“I went there first day smoking layups off the wrong foot against 12-year-old kids and they’re more skilled than me, it’s embarrassing,” Kyle said.

“So I went home that day, set my sister’s net up and just started going at it. And the next day I went in there, I was able to do different things. And that kind of just showed me that I had a work ethic and that I had a drive to want to get better.”

Now, Kayla says the tables have turned.

“Because back then, I was swatting his shots and now he’s swatting mine.”

‘Take care of yourself’

Kayla’s overseas experience has aided Kyle in his transition from the NBA to Europe. She says the advice she had for her brother wasn’t so different from what she tells her teammates on the Canadian national team.

“Have fun, it’s a privilege we get to play and get paid for it, that’s what we love to do. So that’s first and foremost, having fun with it. Advocate for yourself, speak up. If you don’t like something or if you notice anything, it’s good to be vocal. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body as well.”

A self-proclaimed “picky eater,” Kyle says he’s even started to cook — something which Kayla experienced firsthand.

“I didn’t know he was like ‘Chef Kyle.’ That’s amazing,” she said, before adding that he’d made one meal for her — jerk chicken over the summer — which was good, if too spicy.

Kyle’s first couple weeks in Spain even came with a reminder of home, when the country experienced its first snowfall in nearly 50 years.

Still, the goal remains to get back to the NBA. He was recently contacted by Canada Basketball, for whom he’d be able to contribute at the FIBA AmeriCup qualifier — which contains 2024 Olympic ramifications — in Puerto Rico at the end of February.

“It’s a good opportunity to come out here, find yourself play and make money playing the game you love. And then you keep working on it while you’re out here, kind of isolated from your friends and family, you use that as motivation to get better and try and fight your way back,” he said.

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Video captures patient crawling out exit after hospital dismisses pleas for help

David Pontone’s voice still shakes as he recalls having to crawl out of Toronto’s Humber River Hospital on his hands and knees. 

“The pain was unbearable,” said Pontone. “To be able to walk properly was impossible.”

It happened on April 18, 2018 but involved a lengthy battle for his family to obtain video footage of the event. 

The 45-year-old had gone to emergency, complaining of excruciating pain in his legs. 

Pontone also told medical staff he took medication for bipolar affective disorder — a mental illness that causes severe depression and episodes of mania — but that he’d been stable for seven years. He says that disclosure affected his treatment.

“They thought I was faking it because I was bipolar,” Pontone told Go Public. “There are no words to describe what I went through that night.”

One of Canada’s leading psychiatric experts says overlooking serious physical health issues in people who struggle with mental illness is a widespread problem — and that it can severely shorten their lifespans.

“We are failing this population miserably,” said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, psychiatrist and physician-in-chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital. 

WATCH | Video shows man crawling from hospital after calls for help dismissed:

CBC News has obtained surveillance video of a man forced to crawl away from a Toronto-area hospital after being refused treatment. The video has raised questions about how people with mental health issues are treated when they need medical help. 2:01

“They go in for a broken leg and get sent to psychiatry to check their head.”

Pontone says he hopes sharing his story will prevent others from experiencing an ordeal like his. 

“I was mistreated. Misjudged. It should never be repeated, with any person,” he said.

When Pontone arrived at emergency he was seen by a doctor who ordered an MRI but also referred him to an on-call psychiatrist after learning about his mental illness. 

Pontone reacts to seeing closed circuit video from the hospital of his ordeal. (Mike Cole/CBC)

In medical records obtained by Go Public, the psychiatrist noted that “anxiety” seemed to be Pontone’s most dominant symptom — despite Pontone having said he was in a great deal of pain and had been suffering from increasing leg pain for a month.

Another note says the reason for Pontone’s visit is “bipolar” — not his inability to walk.

When the MRI didn’t find anything unusual, the psychiatrist discharged Pontone.

“As soon as they got the results … they took off the blankets and started saying, ‘Come on, get up! You’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with you!'” said Pontone.

‘Totally helpless’

Video cameras at the exit captured Pontone as he was ordered to leave. The footage shows Pontone lying on the hallway floor, struggling to stand. 

As he gets to his hands and knees and crawls toward the exit, a nurse walks next to him, escorting him out. Passersby stop to look at the spectacle, but the nurse encourages Pontone to keep going.

Pontone is seen lying on his back near a hospital exit, unable to walk due to excruciating leg pain. (Humber River Hospital)

“The nurse kept saying, ‘You’re a big boy! You’re strong! Come on, big boy, stand up!'” said Pontone.

“I’ve always been a gentleman, but I was angry. I felt totally helpless.” 

It took Pontone about 20 minutes to reach the exit. A security guard later helped him to a waiting taxi.

He says the doctors had made him think his pain was “all in his head,” so a few days later, he made his way to CAMH, where a psychiatrist immediately determined that his suffering had nothing to do with his mental health. 

An ambulance took him to Toronto Western Hospital in downtown Toronto, where a neurologist diagnosed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. 

Five weeks later, the family met with Humber management. They hadn’t seen the video yet, but chief nursing executive Vanessa Burkoski had screened it and told them she was disturbed by what she saw. 

Lucia Pontone says she was in disbelief when she saw the footage of her son crawling out of Humber River Hospital. (Mike Cole/CBC)

She apologized, and told the family they could have the video once people’s faces had been blurred for privacy. 

In a follow-up meeting two months later, the family viewed the video for the first time.

“They let him go, like a dog, outside,” said Pontone’s mother, Lucia. “Nobody should be treated like that.”

“It’s hard to understand how the hospital thought this was OK,” said Pontone’s sister Laura. “It was humiliating. It was not OK.”

Pontone wanted a copy of the video, but in spite of Burkoski’s earlier assurances, the hospital now said it couldn’t hand the footage over, in case Pontone unblurred the faces of other people. 

The hospital took the matter to Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner, stating it didn’t feel comfortable giving Pontone the video and that a cybersecurity expert would have to be hired for about ten hours to use multi-layered obscuring technology, so Pontone couldn’t unblur the faces later.

Humber River Hospital fired the nurse who watched Pontone crawl out, but it won’t say whether any doctors who saw him were disciplined. (CBC)

It also said Pontone would have to pay the cost and sign an agreement, promising not to share the video.

The Pontones met with Toronto personal injury lawyer Harrison Cooper, who offered to work pro bono after hearing about his ordeal.

“In Canada we pride ourselves on evolving to understand mental illness,” said Cooper. “And we don’t want incidents like this — where someone who has a mental illness isn’t treated the same way someone without mental illness is treated.”

The fight took two years to resolve. The privacy commissioner ruled Pontone could have the footage if basic blurring was done, stating that Pontone had shown no indication he wanted to reveal other people’s faces. 

The hospital paid for the blurring and shared the footage.

Hospital ‘deeply troubled’

Go Public requested an interview with a spokesperson for Humber River Hospital, which was declined. 

In a statement spokesperson Joe Gorman said the hospital was “deeply troubled” by Pontone’s experience and that the staff involved “were dealt with accordingly.”

“Every patient at Humber River Hospital deserves compassionate, professional and respectful care from our staff,” Gorman wrote. 

Go Public has learned that the nurse who escorted Pontone out of the hospital was fired. Gorman wouldn’t say whether any of the doctors were disciplined. 

‘Diagnostic overshadowing’

Stergiopoulos was not involved when Pontone visited CAMH. But she says it’s so common for health-care professionals to blame mental illness for people’s physical health concerns that there’s a term for it — “diagnostic overshadowing.”

She recalls, several decades ago, “having to take a patient of mine with serious mental illness to the oncologist who had refused to treat her just because she had a mental illness.” 

“It was through advocacy that I managed to get her into treatment and she was treated successfully,” she said. “And to see that persist so many years later, it’s really heartbreaking. I think we can do better and I think we should do better.” 

Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos says more training is needed for health-care professionals so patients with mental illnesses are treated with respect. (Jon Castell/CBC)

A 2019 Lancet Psychiatry Commission reviewed the findings of almost 100 systemic reviews that examined the presence of medical conditions among people worldwide with mental illness. It found that people with serious mental illness have a life expectancy that’s up to 25 years shorter than the general population.

“The statistics are indeed shocking,” said Stergiopoulos. “And what is most shocking is that they’re persisting despite us knowing about these issues for many years now.”

She says several factors can be behind the shortened life expectancy for people with mental health issues — such as a sedentary lifestyle or a lack of disease prevention services — but a key reason is stigma and discrimination by health-care workers. 

At the root of the problem, says Stergiopoulos, health-care professionals see physical and mental health as separate.

“This is flawed and we need to do a better job at seeing people as human beings.”

Pontone spent almost four months undergoing intensive rehabilitation, but considers himself lucky to be able to walk again — Guillain-Barre Syndrome can worsen rapidly and attack the organs. It can also lead to full-body paralysis and possibly death.

His mother hopes that speaking out will benefit other people with mental illness who need help with a physical problem.

“I want the hospital to change the way they look at mental health,” she says. “So that this doesn’t happen again.”

Pontone is seen on his hands and knees, while passersby stop beside him. (Humber River Hospital)

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Brock Boeser cashes in pair to help Canucks spoil Oilers’ home opener

Brock Boeser scored twice, including the winner, as the Vancouver Canucks downed the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on Wednesday in the 2020-21 NHL season opener for both teams.

Bo Horvat, Adam Gaudette, and rookie Nils Hoglander also scored for Vancouver. Braden Holtby made 28 saves for his first win as a Canuck.

Kailer Yamamoto, Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson replied for Edmonton. Mikko Koskinen stopped 30-of-35 shots for the loss.

It was a back and forth game in front of no fans and canned crowd noise at Rogers Place.

The Canucks won despite not having winger J.T. Miller in the lineup. Miller, their top scorer from last season, and depth defenceman Jordie Benn had to sit out as per COVID-19 protocol.

WATCH | Boeser’s pair lifts Canucks over Oilers:

Brock Boeser records 2 goals in Vancouver’s 5-3 win over Edmonton. 0:56

Oiler captain McDavid, playing on his 24th birthday, was held scoreless but buzzed around the net, driving on Holtby relentlessly and drawing multiple penalties.

Oiler centre Leon Draisaitl, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s top point getter last season, registered one assist.

Boeser scored twice in the third period to seal the win as the Canucks took advantage of numerous Oiler defensive breakdowns.

Vancouver opened the scoring with less than five minutes to play in the first period. Tanner Pearson, racing with the puck up the right wing, managed, just before getting hit by Oiler Zack Kassian at Edmonton’s blue line, to spin and put the puck on the tape of Horvat in the slot. Horvat skated in alone and shot the puck low stick side past Koskinen.

The Oilers tied the game early in the second. Draisaitl, off a turnover, fed the puck to Yamamoto who one-timed the puck from the slot into the top corner of the net.

WATCH | NHL returns with cautious optimism:

The NHL season returned to the ice on Wednesday with many questioning if it was the right decision amid rising COVID-19 cases. The league is hoping the season will go off without a hitch, as businesses that rely on the games are looking for ways to save their bottom line. 2:01

Hoglander, the Swedish rookie, put Vancouver up 2-1 with less than three minutes to go in the second, on a rebound after Edmonton failed to clear the puck out of its own end.

The goals came in bunches in the third period, starting with Nurse’s wrist shot from the face-off circle just 10 seconds in.

Gaudette then scored on a cross-ice feed from Antoine Roussel to make it 3-2.

Less than two minutes later, Quinn Hughes, down on the ice near the blue line managed to backhand the puck to an open Boeser in the slot, who fired low and in for a 4-2 lead.

Then Larsson fired a slapshot from the top of the face-off circle through traffic and in to cut the lead to 4-3.

Boeser then took a pass off the wall from Elias Pettersson to steam in on the right wing and fire the puck shortside over Koskinen’s shoulder.

WATCH | 9 NHL storylines… in 90 seconds:

Rob Pizzo identifies the key things to watch as the season begins. 1:54

The two teams play again in Edmonton Thursday night in what will be a 56-game regular-season sprint over 115 days. Due to cross-border COVID travel restrictions, the seven Canadian teams will play each other in the North Division.

Edmonton and Vancouver will play 10 times.

It was a return to familiar surroundings for both teams.

Edmonton hosted the NHL’s Western Conference playoffs and league’s final two playoff rounds last summer in the so-called playoff “bubble.”

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Casual social contacts can help combat loneliness and improve well-being during pandemic, psychologists say

Jennie Aitken, 33, began noticing it weeks into the pandemic.

The Victoria woman has a family and was frequently checking in with good friends, but since her management job with a local health authority required her to work from home, she could go days without seeing other people.

“I realized how lonely I felt,” said Aitken.

With the second wave of the pandemic pushing more people into the isolation of their own homes, a second public health crisis with potentially deadly consequences has emerged: loneliness.  

Even though we need to be physically distant from others, it’s good to make an effort to be socially close to people, psychologists say. (Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Not just an uncomfortable emotion, loneliness is a leading risk factor for death. Social isolation exceeds the health risks associated with obesity, inactivity, excessive drinking, air pollution and smoking over 15 cigarettes a day, according to a 2010 review of 148 studies by psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University in Utah.

That’s bad news in a worsening pandemic where increasingly tighter restrictions are forcing many of us to be apart from family and friends.  

Yet there’s a surprising antidote that can tide us through the holiday season and beyond: informal, casual interactions with acquaintances and strangers, such as neighbours, baristas, delivery drivers, dog walkers and others we may encounter in the course of an average day.

Called “weak ties,” these interactions can be just as effective in restoring our sense of well-being and belonging as connecting with our stronger ties to family and close friends.

“It just takes a handful of interactions – like going to the grocery store – and suddenly, I felt OK again,” Aitken said of her own experience.  

Even superficial interactions can improve well-being

When the pandemic hit, Jolanda Jetton, a professor at the University of Queensland, about 915 kilometres north of Sydney, and a few of her social psychology colleagues wrote the book Together Apart, in which they argued that the very social connections being discouraged are actually key to maintaining health during COVID-19.  

We can physically distance without socially distancing, Jetton and her co-authors said. 

While we must adhere to public health guidelines, we also need social contact beyond our immediate families, says Susan Pinker, psychologist and author of the book The Village Effect

When comparing social isolation against other health risks, Pinker said, it’s not just close relationships but social integration – how much you interact with people as you move through the day – that can be  predictors of how long you will live.  

Despite having to be in individual bubbles, it’s still possible to find ways to connect with others. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

“We really have to be creative in finding ways to see each other,” she said.

As we’ve cancelled big family dinners and nights out with our friends, one way to boost our well-being is to interact with the people standing right in front of you.  

Gillian Sandstrom, a professor at the University of Essex, about 110 kilometres northeast of London, found that while the number of interactions with strong ties (such as family and friends) improved people’s sense of well-being and belonging, “the same was true of the weak tie interactions” – relationships involving less-frequent contact, low emotional intensity and limited intimacy (such as greeting a neighbour on the street).

Sandstrom, who completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, studied the issue on the campus. 

Part of her study looked at a group of 58 undergraduate students and an older group of 52 community members and counted the number of weak and strong tie interactions they had as they went through their days. 

Participants reported greater subjective well-being and sense of belonging on days when they had more weak-tie interactions.  

Psychologists say that speaking to people you encounter throughout the day can help stave off loneliness. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

In another part of her study, she measured how many interactions 242 undergraduate students had with classmates. Those who had the most interactions, regardless of whether they had any friends in the class, reported greater subjective feelings of happiness and belonging.

“Weak ties are so important, and yet, it feels like we underestimate them,” she said.

“We have so many more of them than we have strong ties, and they’re so much easier to build. And they can do a good job in filling in gaps.”

Effect of small interactions adds up

Such interactions can help people compensate for some of the deeper connections they’ve lost in the pandemic, Sandstorm said.

Victoria’s Aitken agreed.

“These interactions feel so superfluous that you don’t really seek them out in the same way,” Aitken said. “So for me, I’ve had to make a real point of scheduling in casual interactions, like going to CrossFit, where I largely just stand around and talk to people behind a mask four metres away. It’s honestly been a major thing to keep me well.”

Even chatting with a stranger at a coffee shop leads to a greater sense of belonging and happiness, another of Sandstorm’s studies suggested.  

WATCH | The challenge of solo living during the pandemic:

As public health officials urge residents to limit in-person social interaction to their own households, adherence is especially daunting for people who live alone. 1:52

Sandstrom instructed one-half of the 60 participants to smile, make eye contact and have a brief conversation with the barista at Starbucks and the other to be as efficient as possible. Those who made an effort to talk to the barista experienced more positive emotion and felt more of a sense of belonging after leaving.

This echoes the work of Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at UBC in Vancouver, whose study of 78 people found that participants reported feeling greater well-being than expected when interacting with a stranger, equivalent to the mood boost they experienced when interacting with their romantic partner.   

However, Sandstrom said, we often don’t take advantage of these potential boosts in mood when we cross paths with each other.  

“I think people are so focused on efficiency that they’re losing out on these moments of connection and maybe not even realizing they are doing it,” Sandstrom said.  

Even casual connections with people can help foster a sense of belonging and community, psychologists say. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

“Each individual conversation with a stranger or weak tie isn’t necessarily anything special, but they add up to something which is even more important — a sense of trust and community.”

Sandstorm’s latest, yet-to-be-published study suggests that talking to strangers not only alleviates loneliness, but also increases feelings of trust and benevolence toward others. 

During the pandemic, she paired 64 strangers with each other and had them connect virtually for a conversation. Not only did people feel less lonely and isolated; she also found their general sense of trust in others and perceptions of others’ benevolence were higher after having a conversation with a stranger.

“Now, I go out of my way to talk to strangers,” said Sandstrom. “Even though I’m still an introvert.”

Community ties help — even at a distance

As jurisdictions around the world move to tighten restrictions in response to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, these weak ties that we previously took for granted are threatened. Physical distancing has pushed most of us away from in-person interactions in favour of communicating by email or text, using self-checkouts, or doing our shopping online.

University of Queensland’s Jetton said it’s important to be aware of interactions.

“We have all these devices that measure our steps…. Maybe we need to start measuring the social connections that people have and help them make plans on how to expand their social network,” Jetton said.

Speaking to strangers, even in a lineup, can help boost your spirits. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

While it might be hard to have casual social interactions in person, Jetton’s research suggests that merely belonging to a group can be one way to reap some of the benefits of weak social ties. Her studies suggest that belonging to a group, regardless of the strength of individual ties within the group or physical proximity, improves well-being.

We can still feel like a community member, even when the connection is impeded by something like a lockdown. Coming together for virtual church services, or art classes, or to sing, or cheer and bang pots and pans from apartment balconies are all ways we’ve adapted to stay connected, even when our immediate friends and family are physically distanced.

So while the provinces are tightening restrictions, limiting our chances for holiday gatherings, connecting with weak ties — from chatting with strangers on the street to singing as a group on Skype — can help substitute for some of the deeper connections that are physically out of reach right now.

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