Tag Archives: Neil

Canadian swimmer Maggie Mac Neil facing prospect of competing at Olympics without family

When Maggie Mac Neil won the 100-metre butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, her mother, father and younger sister were in the stands cheering.

“My parents have done a great job throughout my career always trying to come to as many meets as they can,” said the 20-year-old London, Ont., native who is now attending the University of Michigan. “It was definitely nice to have them there in Korea.”

When Mac Neil competes for Olympic gold this summer in Tokyo, it’s unlikely any family members will be there to watch. Concerns about COVID-19 and restrictions due to the virus are convincing friends and family of many Olympic athletes to rethink travelling to the Games.

Susan McNair, Mac Neil’s mother, said staying home won’t be easy.

“I didn’t grow up anticipating I would have a child in the Olympics,” McNair said. “I didn’t anticipate if she did make the Olympics that we would ever not be there.”

WATCH | Maggie Mac Neil posts Canadian-record time at aquatic worlds:

Canadian teen Maggie MacNeil posts a Canadian-record time of 55.83 seconds at the world aquatics championships. 2:56

Last March, Nathan Hirayama celebrated with his family in the stands at BC Place Stadium after Canada defeated South Africa to win the bronze medal at the HSBC Canada Sevens Rugby tournament. He had hoped to repeat the experience in Tokyo — his parents had already booked flights — but now doubts it will happen.

“Our families have been on this journey with us for so long, supporting us and travelling and staying up in the middle of the night watching,” said the 32-year-old from Richmond, B.C. “They invested in what we’re doing. I think the whole experience would be fantastic to share with our loved ones.

“I think what we’re coming to understand now is, if these Olympics do happen, they’ll look a lot different than what we all dreamed about or foreseen for so long.”

Fears over COVID-19 forced the Tokyo Olympics to be delayed one year. With the Games now scheduled to begin July 23, some of the playbooks that instruct athletes, officials and members of the media of the protocols to be followed have been released, but many questions remain.

“If you have been to the Games before, we know this experience will be different in a number of ways,” reads the playbook for international federations. “For all Games participants, there will be some conditions and constraints that will require your flexibility and understanding.”

WATCH | Breaking down the IOC playbook:

With less than six months to go to the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have said the Games will go on no matter what. Now, they’ve released some preliminary guidelines explaining how that will happen. 1:37

Organizers have said they will wait until the spring to decide if fans will be permitted to travel to Tokyo or attend any events.

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, believes a limited number of fans will be allowed.

“I would see some, but certainly not full stadiums,” he said.

The Canadian Olympic Committee is waiting for more information before advising families and friends about travelling to Tokyo.

“We continue in our preparation to participate at Tokyo 2020 with a focus on the health and safety of our athletes, their families, and their communities,” Eric Myles, the COC’s chief sport officer, said in a statement.

“We are planning based on the assumptions that the COVID-19 virus will still be present internationally and that Team Canada may not be vaccinated. We expect the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to update their playbooks in April, at which point we hope to provide a more thorough update for athletes to help inform their family and friends’ decisions.”

WATCH | Mac Neil overcomes nerves to claim gold at acquatic worlds in 2019:

Canadian Maggie MacNeil discusses her victory in the 100m butterfly at aquatics worlds. 0:50

McNair, who is a family physician, had originally planned on her brother and his family to join them at the Olympics. Now, with tight restrictions expected on access to athletes, she questions the point of going.

“There’s a lot of factors kind of against going at this point,” she said. “Even if we didn’t have access to her there [but] we could see her swim, I think I’d be the first one on the plane.

“But there’s a lot of cons against it right now. I want the joy of watching her swim, but I also want to do what’s right, in terms of our safety and the safety of others.”

Another deterrent could be recently-introduced rules that travellers returning to Canada are required to take a COVID-19 test upon landing and spend the first three days of their quarantine, at their own expense, at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results.

For Hirayama, whose great grandparents came to Canada from Japan, Tokyo has special significance. His parents had planned to meet up with old friends while in Japan.

He hopes conditions will change and his parents can make the trip.

“It’s hard to plan for anything that’s not a week away,” he said. “Things change so quickly. It would be awesome for them to book a last minute ticket, but I don’t think they’re planning on it now.”

In some ways, not having her parents make the journey would be a relief for Mac Neil.

“My parents are getting older,” she said. “It’s definitely better for them to just stay home safe and healthy.

“I think no matter where I am in the world, no matter where they are, I can always feel their support.”

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Neil deGrasse Tyson on Cosmos: Possible Worlds and the Future of Our Own

Cosmos: Possible Worlds debuts March 9th on National Geographic. The new 13-episode television series was created by Ann Druyan, who also co-created the original Cosmos with her late husband Carl Sagan. It covers the beginnings of the universe and life on Earth, with a brief refresher of the cosmic calendar that condenses all of this into one “year,” as seen in 2014’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. But then it quickly branches off into all-new material, including the latest discoveries of planets orbiting other stars and the wonders we might find one day if we ever made it to one. The show also tells poignant stories about the advances and setbacks scientists have faced throughout human history. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the new show, spoke with us about Cosmos and the need for an understanding of science.

Thank you so much for doing the interview with ExtremeTech. Before we get started, when I was in New York, I used to go in the mid-2000s to the Hayden Planetarium to see the awesome “Frontiers” lectures you hosted.

Yeah, we still have them. Thanks for that support.

Oh, wonderful. I still remember after each guest lecturer finished, you used to step in and say, “host privilege” and ask the first question before we got to the audience questions.

[laughs] Yeah, my life got so busy, I don’t host most of them anymore. I cherish those memories where I’d just bust in and ask the first question.

That leads me to our own first question, which is watching these new shows, just like in 2014, I remember how you sounded at the Planetarium, and that’s exactly what you sound like in the shows.

Thank you for noticing that, because the part I’ve learned from others who are in show business is that people resonate with authenticity. If you know that that’s how I am and that’s what I’m doing, then it’s not an act. No, it’s really me. I really feel this way and I’m really wide-eyed when I talk about it and all that’s real, so thanks for noticing.

So that’s the idea, right? To take the viewer, not like with a cold science documentary, to instead take them on the ship with you.

Yeah, otherwise I’d just be lecturing. Right? That’s not communicating, so one of the taglines is, “come with me.”


We’re going to be there together. Here’s a little known fact, that back in 2014, where we were figuring out what I’d be wearing on the Ship of the Imagination, I made a suggestion. I said to Ann Druyan, who is the secret sauce throughout all of this, I said, why don’t I have a little emblem or something on the breast pocket or chevrons or something showing that I’m captain of this ship?

She said, no, she doesn’t want anything. I said, well, why? And she said, “because that puts distance between you and the audience.” I said, you’re absolutely right. Oh my gosh! Because then I’d be captain and you’re not, and I went to flight week school and you didn’t go. Did you go to the academy? No, but I did.

Whereas if you “come with me,” then we’d take this journey together and that is an important dimension of the show … right alongside, of course, the scripting and the visual effects and the music and the set design, is all a way to bring a comfort level to you so that it’s not just, you’re “here” and the science is “there.” It’s that you realize you are immersed in the science and you like it, and you might want to do something about your circumstances upon having been newly empowered by the show.

Host Neil deGrasse Tyson. Credit: Dan Smith/FOX

In the sixth episode, one of the sequences shows how years ago, different kinds of scientists like geologists, chemists, and physicists might have examined a meteorite in a backyard differently, and how biologists and astronomers of the time may well have walked right on by it. You show how we’ve learned to connect these things.

One of the DNA strands of Cosmos is how seamlessly it blends the brands of science that we otherwise think of as separate and distinct entities taking at different times of the day with different textbooks in different professors. Nature doesn’t think that way. We have biology thriving inside of rocks with chemical environments. This goes on and on and on, and we have to be nimble as we move across those fields. Otherwise, we’re stuck compartmentalizing knowledge that nature does not.

What was the goal of this new series? Obviously this time it’s about possible other worlds, but what else?

We need some hope given our current circumstances. This is the most hopeful of the three Cosmos. In fact, personally, I think it’s the best in every way. That sounds cliche because everybody always says that about their most recent project. I think if you watch enough of the episodes, I think you’ll agree. Just everyone brought their A-game. We’re talking about all the people who typically make high-budget cinema. We brought them on to lend their … Not lend, of course they were compensated, but to give of their talents. You combine the power of all of this, we are showing you not only worlds such as exoplanets, that’s the first and obvious interpretation of possible worlds from the subtitle, but also worlds within us. There’s the world of the mind, there’s the quantum, there’s the mycelium that’s a network of roots that communicates electrochemically between and among plant species…

And you say to yourself, whoa, that’s an internet that preceded our internet, but that’s a world. So, Cosmos opens people’s eyes to … or rather it broadens your concept of a cosmic perspective. What is your view of us now that you’ve been in space? What is your view of us now that you’ve learned that bees use mathematics to help each other locate the next destination for the hive? Or that plants use an internet? Or that … You just look around us and things that we had ignored so thoroughly because we are so narcissistic about human life and the tree of life, that we’ve lost track of or maybe never knew what role the rest of this life was playing in the biosphere.

The sequence with the bees is brilliant.

Isn’t it? I agree 100 percent.

How did these episodes come together this time? Was it any different than the last time with the way you worked with Ann?

Ann is the secret sauce of all three Cosmos: 1980, 2014, 2020. Her co-writer in 1980 was, of course, Carl Sagan, but also a guy named Steve Soder. Steve Soder reprised his co-authorship in 2014. For 2020, we have Brannon Braga who is one of the long-time writers, producers, and directors of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He knows television. He knows how to arc stories to fit between commercials. The original Cosmos didn’t have commercials because it was on PBS. Plus, he actually has a Hugo award for one of the science-fiction stories that he told for Star Talk, so he’s also a storyteller. These are all good people doing the right things in exactly the right places.

I’ll add, you didn’t ask, but I’ll add, while my expertise is astrophysics, there’s science in it that’s not my expertise. So, fortunately, we have committees, we have panels of scientists that have expertise in every place we went and that ensured that the story was stitched together, and that it would have an authentic foundation on what was true.

One might think the show is just about astronomy at first glance, or something about space exploration. Then the more you watch, the more you realize it’s about all kinds of science and how that reflects what is within us as well as externally something that we study.

Right and I think that’s one of the important fingerprints of Cosmos as a series.

Why is this so important, especially today, in 2020?

Because it matters what’s true. This series will be an exercise in seeing what’s true and how much power that can bring you to enact change that can help not only preserve who and what we are on Earth, but enable us to thrive on Earth. It’s a mission statement, if you will, of the show so that by the time you’re done, you can feel compelled to create a society that your descendants would be proud of rather than one that your descendants will be embarrassed by.

You’re actually answering some of the questions I was going to ask, but I was going to say, what do you want viewers to come away with? Would that be a good summary?

Yes. By the way, you can’t always tell someone they’re wrong if they have dogmatic beliefs, what they think is right, but what you can do is show them other examples of people who wanted an objective truth, but there were dogmatic forces operating against them. So, one of the mediums of the storytelling is animation.

The animated stories tend to be, the historical ones, where you join the plight of someone who struggled to get the government or the society or the people in charge, to struggle to get them to listen and to heed the warning or to follow the advice. We’re in the middle of that with the coronavirus. Are people going to listen to scientists or not? If you do, the virus might just sort of wash over in a very light way and never to return. If you don’t listen to scientists, then something else is going to happen. This is the cost of inaction, relative to the cost of action.

I think about the times where people didn’t listen to scientists throughout history. I think the obvious one is with Copernicus and Galileo, where people clung to the belief that the Earth was at the center of the universe. The story you tell about Vavilov is heartbreaking.

Exactly. The Vavilov, that’s the one, you went straight to it. I tear up every time I see that and I think that’s going to be … I think that episode [the fourth one] is going to be written about just as a force operating on our own understanding of a modern society and what we need to do to have a habitable Earth as we go forward.

This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity. Stay tuned for a separate interview Monday with Cosmos creator Ann Druyan.

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Neil Patrick Harris Is in Talks to Join ‘Matrix 4’

Neil Patrick Harris Is in Talks to Join ‘Matrix 4’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Ryan Gosling Says He Was 'Worried' About Saying Neil Armstrong's Famous Line in 'First Man'

Ryan Gosling‘s upcoming role sees him as the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.

While preparing for the Damien Chazelle-directed film, First Man, the 37-year-old actor revealed he was “worried about saying the astronaut’s famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“I was worried about it.  It hung over me as it is the most famous life and a beautiful thing to say,” Gosling said during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show set to air Friday, Oct. 5 on BBC America. “Neil didn’t think about it ahead of time so I tried not to think about it too much.”

The father of two also opened up about meeting with Armstrong’s sons, Eric, 61, and Mark, 55, and making sure he did their father proud.

“Neil’s sons wanted all the stories and context to shed new light on their father,” the actor confessed. “It was the greatest challenge I have been part of and it was the biggest relief that, after they saw the film, they said, ‘All our lives we have been asked what it is like to be the sons of the first man on the moon.  Now we can say, ‘Go and see the film.'”

ET was on the set of First Man where Gosling shared how much effort went into realistically recreating these space missions in missions in order to communicate the sheer cost of getting to the moon.

“I mean it’s hard to communicate just how dangerous and how extreme these missions really were,” Gosling said. “Sitting in these really carefully reconstructed capsules having astronauts involved in those missions talking to me in my ear through the scenes. It was a very very surreal process, an opportunity I still can’t believe I got to have.”

First Man soars into theaters on Oct. 12.

See more in the video below.


Ryan Gosling on the ‘Surreal Process’ of Simulating Space Travel in 'First Man' (Exclusive)

Eva Mendes Says Her Daughters Think Dad Ryan Gosling Is a Real Astronaut After Visiting Him on Set (Exclusive)

Ryan Gosling Explains What's Behind His Close Bond With Co-Star Emma Stone (Exclusive)

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The Saudi temper tantrum could land one devastating blow — to Canadian health care: Neil Macdonald

Here's a proposed Canadian reply to the escalating Saudi temper tantrum. Call in the kingdom's ambassador and tell him: Sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but Canadian universities will never again accept Saudi medical residents.

The government could explain that cancelling orders for relatively piddling amounts of wheat and maple syrup is the kingdom's perfect right, subject of course to any contractual penalties. And frankly, we can do without the piddling amount of Saudi oil we import. It's not like we don't have any of our own. The world's not going to come to an end.

But, very sorry, Canada regards the health care of its citizens as a most serious obligation.

We know he's your boss, Mr. Ambassador, and that you're probably terrified of him, but we simply cannot allow a Middle Eastern despot-in-waiting to ever again put public health in jeopardy by yanking 800 Saudi doctors-in-training from Canadian teaching hospitals because he's sulking over a mildly critical Canadian tweet.

Mohammed bin Salman could put public health in jeopardy by yanking 800 Saudi doctors-in-training from Canadian teaching hospitals. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

So, tell your crown prince that we know he'll keep on torturing critics in public for the grave crime of expressing their opinions, and chopping off people's heads and other body parts (and even crucifying the corpses) for, among other things, witchcraft, and that Saudi employers will continue using foreign workers like slaves, and that Saudi men will keep treating their wives and female relatives as property, and there's really nothing Canada can do about it but express our concern, which, by the way, we will continue to do.

Ultimately, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has the sovereign right to behave like Torquemada in a jalabiya if he chooses.

But we can't play games with Canadians' health, Mr. Ambassador, so your government will have to find another country to use as a training facility for your medical school grads. Shukran, wa maasalaame, princeling.

Wouldn't that be a satisfying message to deliver? It would go over pretty well with the Canadian public, too, I'll wager.

Dependence on Saudi residents

The trouble is, we just can't afford to get up on our hind legs like that. Unfortunately, we need those Saudi medical residents. Unfortunately, we are needy.

Here are the facts, in their shabby splendour:

In Canada, the provincial governments tightly control the number of medical residents – medical school grads who spend three to five years working in Canadian hospitals, qualifying as doctors. Residents are paid relatively poorly, earning something in the area of $ 65,000 a year, but their services are a vital part of the health care system.

In 2018, the provinces funded 3,308 residency positions. Those residents eventually become fully practising doctors, and governments, which strive to contain medical budgets in our publicly insured system, are always anxious to limit the number of doctors who will eventually be billing the system. Money ultimately trumps public need.

Which brings us to the Saudis.

Saudi medical school graduates arrive with lots of money, and are warmly welcomed. Not only does the Saudi government cover their salaries, it pays Canadian governments for the privilege of training in our hospitals and caring for Canadian patients.

According to Prof. Joe Schwarcz, who specializes in science and public policy at McGill University, the Saudis hand over roughly $ 100,000 per resident per year. This year, there are 800 Saudis in addition to the 3,308 Canadian-government-funded positions, meaning the Saudis comprise about 20 per cent of the 4,108 residents in Canadian hospitals. Taking into consideration the salaries hospitals don't have to pay them and the money their government pays for their training, those Saudi residents effectively bring $ 165,000 apiece per year with them, for a total this year of about $ 132 million.

Roughly 1,000 medical residents and fellows are being taken from the health-care system, putting a strain on it in the short term. 2:15

And in September, Saudi Arabia's crown prince intends to yank them all, and all his money, unless he receives an abject apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the federal government's criticism of Saudi human rights abuses.

In theory – in theory — the disappearance of the Saudi residents won't matter. Schwarcz says the provinces take the position that the 3,308 resident slots it funds are sufficient to meet the system's needs, and that the 800 Saudi residents are all extraneous. In other words, it's nice to have them, but we don't really need them.

But, says Prof. Schwarcz, that's just another of the fictions that go into the illusion that our medical system is providing all Canadians with excellent and timely health care.

"They are said to be extras, but they are not extras. The fact is that the Canadian residency slots by themselves are not enough to service the hospitals properly. Governments have come to depend on the Saudi residents. They are 20 per cent of the working hands of the resident work force, and when we lose them in September, of course patients will feel the loss. Of course there will be consequences."

To compensate, Schwarcz says, Canada will need to expand the number of Canadian-funded residencies by at least 800 positions.

But, because Canadian medical residents go on to become full-fledged Canadian doctors (unlike the Saudis, who go back home when their residencies are complete), that would necessarily mean creating more permanent positions for specialists and family doctors in Canada, which carries obvious costs for the provinces. Schwarcz says creating more positions is not just necessary, but urgent.

"Our system is short staffed. It's obvious to anyone who looks at the waiting lists and the beds in hospital corridors. How ridiculous is it that some Canadians cannot find family doctors? The basic problem is that there aren't enough doctors in Canada, period."

To start with, provincial governments could offer residency positions to the record 115 medical school grads who were denied spots this year. That's right, 115 qualified graduates from Canadian medical schools were stalled on their road to doctorhood, basically because the government could depend on the Saudis. Then the government could add another 700 positions.

But that would mean finding $ 132 million somewhere. Far more likely, the federal government will negotiate some sort of face-saving arrangement to soothe the thin-skinned prince.

Because we need to. We need those Saudi residents, just as we  need all those General Dynamics factory jobs in London, Ont., where Canadian workers proudly build the billions worth of war machines and weapons platforms – or, as Trudeau likes to call them, "Jeeps" —  that help enable Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's campaigns to crush dissent and Shia Muslim nationalism on the Arabian peninsula, particularly Yemen, where the Saudis have escalated a ruinous, bloody civil war.

Bin Salman's army sometimes doesn't do the best job – it managed to slaughter at least 29 schoolchildren in Yemen last week – but you won't hear much about that from Trudeau's ministers.

Discretion, as the Liberals are learning, is profitable. Criticism, however principled, costs money.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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Star Sightings: Allison Janney Has a Sweet Golden Globes Night, Neil Patrick Harris Takes Vegas & More!

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Awards season has officially kicked off — and the stars are celebrating! Allison Janney was one of the Golden Globe winners who enjoyed LINDOR milk chocolate truffles while waiting for her trophy to be personalized at HFPA’s Official Golden Globes After-Party sponsored by Lindt chocolate on Jan. 7. Matt Sayles/Invision A couple of days earlier, on Jan. 5, Laura Dern and Kyle MacLahlanbuddied up at Esquire and the Medavoys’ Golden Globes celebration, presented by Maserati. …

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Neil Patrick Harris Says Jimmy Kimmel's Son Billy Is 'Eating and Smiling' Following Heart Surgery

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Neil Patrick Harris had some good news to share with Jimmy Kimmel Live viewers on Wednesday night. The 44-year-old actor is among the celebrities filling in for Kimmel on the late-night show this week as he takes some time off to be with his 8-month-old son, Billy, who just underwent heart surgery.  Harris was happy to report that Billy was “recovering very well” following the operation. “Jimmy told me today that the respirator is out,” he said. “He is eating, he is smiling. So, all good news….

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