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Underwhelming women’s weight room in NCAA bubble prompts questions of inequity

The teams had barely landed in Texas when complaints of inequity between the women’s and men’s tournaments roared over social media posts noting the women’s weight training facilities in San Antonio were severely lacking compared to what the men have in Indianapolis. Both tournaments field 64 teams.

In an Instagram post, Stanford sports performance coach for women’s basketball Ali Kershner posted a photo of a single stack of weights next to a training table with sanitized yoga mats, comparing it to pictures of massive facilities for the men with stacks of free weights, dumbells and squat racks.

“These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities,” Kershner tweeted. “In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better.”

Several top former college and current WNBA players quickly tweeted support for the women and criticism of the NCAA.

“That NCAA bubble weight room situation is beyond disrespectful,” tweeted A’ja Wilson, who led South Carolina to the 2017 national championship and now plays for the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA.

NCAA Senior Vice-President of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said the governing body would try to quickly improve the equipment available at the women’s tournament. The original setup was limited because of a lack of available space in San Antonio, with plans to expand once the tournament field shrunk in the later rounds.

“We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment. In part, this is due to the limited space and the original plan was to expand the workout area once additional space was available later in the tournament,” Holzman said. “However, we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.”

Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell said his team hasn’t seen the weight room yet, but has not seen anything else to indicate that the women are getting anything less than the men.

“I saw something on Twitter about the men’s weight room is a lot different and things were being given to the men that were not being given to the women, but I haven’t seen any of that here,” Insell said. “Now, maybe later on we’ll get to see what’s going on. But, right now we’re kind of just going to practice, going to eat and going to your room.”

COVID test results

The NCAA has administered nearly 2,700 tests so far and only one has come back positive which was a great sign for the women’s basketball tournament.

NCAA Senior Vice-President of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman revealed the numbers on a media call Thursday morning, but did not identify who tested positive.

“From the report I received this morning over the past two days, close to 2,700 tests were performed that included the members of the travel parties, bus drivers and staff and only one confirmed positive test,” she said. “It’s a testament to all those involved in our championship. So given the sheer number of individuals involved in this, where we sit currently today, I’m pleased where we’re at.”

Holzman also said that all 64 teams announced Monday in the bracket have arrived safely in Texas so none of the replacement teams will be needed.

“We continue to emphasis the need for us to make sure we’re conducting our championship in a safe manner,” she said.

Everyone will continue to be tested daily.

Obama makes his pick

Former President Barack Obama picked Baylor to win the national championship this year beating Stanford in the championship game.

Obama had N.C. State and Maryland in the Final Four with the two No. 1 seeds. That would mean that the Terrapins, who Obama had picked against a few years ago in his bracket when his niece was playing for Princeton and they were tournament opponents, would knock off Dawn Staley’s South Carolina team in the regional final.

Staley had some fun with Obama on Twitter.

“@BarackObama I’m telling @MichelleObama……it’s obviously you did not confer with her. We will forgive not forget. You’re still our guy tho.”

Obama mostly went with the better seeded teams to advance in the first round. He did have No. 6 Oregon being knocked off by 11th-seeded South Dakota.

Draft deadline

The WNBA announced April 15 as its draft date for this season.

Every eligible player who would like to make themselves available for the draft must opt-in by renouncing their remaining intercollegiate eligibility.

A player who wishes to opt-in must email the league no later than April 1. If a player is competing in the Final Four, the player has up to 48 hours after her last game finishes to let the league know if she plans on entering the draft.

In the past, players who have run out of college eligibility are automatically entered into the draft. This became more of an issue this season when all the players were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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CBC | Sports News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reliance on personal responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘We just need to stay in our provinces’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CBC | Health News

Trump’s move to cut WHO funding prompts world condemnation

Nations around the world reacted with alarm Wednesday after President Donald Trump announced a halt to the sizable funding the United States sends to the World Health Organization. Health experts warned the move could jeopardize global efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At a briefing in Washington, Trump said he was instructing his administration to halt funding for WHO pending a review of its role “in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” The United States is WHO’s largest single donor, contributing between $ 400 million and $ 500 million US annually to the Geneva-based agency in recent years.

Trump has repeatedly labelled COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and criticized the UN health agency for being too lenient on China, where the novel virus first emerged late last year.

Outside experts have questioned China’s reported infections and deaths from the virus, calling them way too low and unreliable. An investigation by The Associated Press has found that six days of delays between when Chinese officials knew about the virus and when they warned the public allowed the pandemic to bloom into a public health disaster.

International pushback

The European Union on Wednesday said Trump has “no reason” to freeze WHO funding at this critical stage and called for measures to promote unity instead of division. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the 27-nation bloc “deeply” regrets the suspension of funds and added that the UN health agency is “needed more than ever” to combat the pandemic.

Borrell said “only by joining forces can we overcome this crisis that knows no borders.”

The EU has increasingly been critical of the Trump administration over the past years.

The novel coronavirus is spread by microscopic droplets expelled into the air or left on surfaces when people sneeze or cough. Worldwide, the pandemic has infected nearly two million people and killed more than 127,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathized with Trump’s criticisms of the WHO, especially its “unfathomable” support of re-opening China’s “wet markets,” where both live and freshly slaughtered animals are sold.

“That said, the WHO as an organization does a lot of important work including here in our region in the Pacific and we work closely with them,” Morrison told an Australian radio station.

“We are not going to throw the baby out of with the bathwater here, but they are also not immune from criticism.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is among many world leaders who have criticized Trump’s decision to stop funding the WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the WHO was essential to tackling the pandemic.

“At a time like this, when we need to be sharing information and we need to have advice we can rely on, the WHO has provided that,” she said. “We will continue to support it and continue to make our contributions.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, pushed back on Trump’s announcement. 

“Placing blame doesn’t help,” he wrote on Twitter. “The virus knows no borders. We must work closely against COVID-19. Strengthening the UN, in particular the underfunded WHO, is a better investment, for example, to develop and distribute tests and vaccines.”

Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, called Trump’s decision “extremely problematic,” noting that the chronically underfunded WHO is leading efforts to help developing countries fight the spread of COVID-19.

“This is the agency that’s looking out for other countries and leading efforts to stop the pandemic,” Sridhar said. “This is exactly the time when they need more funding, not less.” 

Sridhar said Trump’s move was a short-sighted political decision that would likely have lasting consequences. 

WATCH | Trump suspends WHO funding, touts plan to restart economy:

U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would suspend funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic while touting plans to restart the U.S. economy ‘soon.’ 2:03

“Trump is angry, but his anger is being directed in a way that is going to ultimately hurt U.S. interests,” she said. 

China, which has won WHO praise for its actions to curb the virus’s spread, urged the United States on Wednesday to fulfill its obligations to the WHO.

“This decision weakens the WHO’s capability and harms international cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Critiques from home

In the United States, Trump’s decision has drawn criticism from American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris, the U.S. health advocacy group Protect Our Care and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Organization, among others.

Dr. Harris called the move “a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier.” Gates wrote on Twitter that removing funding to the WHO during a pandemic is “as dangerous as it sounds.”

Former national security advisor John Bolton took to Twitter to defend the decision, calling it the “correct response” in light of the organization’s failures.


The WHO did not respond to repeated requests from The Associated Press for comment, but Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other top WHO officials were expected to attend a news conference on the pandemic later Wednesday. 

Many analysts have praised the initial response to the pandemic by WHO, which is being challenged as national interests collide with the international cooperation that UN agencies rely on. 

But recently, many governments have split with WHO’s advice on issues of public health policy, notably on travel restrictions and whether the public should wear masks.

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CBC | World News

‘Not now. Then when?’: Kobe Bryant’s death prompts battle over focus on star’s rape charge

For author and attorney Mark Shaw, there’s one memory of Kobe Bryant seared into his brain — that of a young basketball star seated in a Colorado courtroom with what he perceived as a flippant attitude to the charge of sexual assault against him.

“Here was Kobe with an arrogant look on his face,” said Shaw, who covered the case for ESPN in 2004.

“It bothered me and it bothered all of the other reporters. He wasn’t taking this seriously at all. I don’t know if he was in denial or whatever, but he just didn’t take it seriously.”

Shaw, who is convinced of Bryant’s guilt, said he is particularly bothered by the coverage of Bryant’s death, that not enough emphasis has been placed on this part of the athlete’s life.

The tragic death of Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash Sunday, has sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes for the basketball great who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles during his 20-year career. But others have been quick to note that Bryant’s legacy is also marked by an allegation of sexual assault. And that, in turn, has sparked a backlash from some fans angered that the allegations were revisited so soon after his death.

“When someone passes away, certainly you want to highlight what they did well in life. And apparently he did kind of turn his life around from that point and became a great father, and the things that he’s done and all of that, that’s great,” said Shaw.

But you just need to tell both sides of the story. A lot of times people just don’t want to really know the truth. They would rather discard that and only look at the positives that were involved with somebody’s life.”

Bryant at the Eagle County Justice Center in 2004 for pretrial motions in connection with the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman. (Ed Andrieski/The Associated Press)

Indeed, a Washington Post reporter faced considerable social media backlash and death threats after she tweeted a link to an old article about the sexual assault allegation against Bryant shortly after he was killed. (Felicia Sonmez was suspended by the paper, which then seemed to back off on Tuesday.)

Jill Filipovic, lawyer and author of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness, said it’s possible to “grieve a life lost and also address that life honestly.”

“To everyone yelling NOT NOW: Then when? When are we supposed to grapple with, and tell the whole truth about, the lives of people many admire?” she tweeted Sunday.

In a blog posted titled Kobe Bryant and Complicated Legacies, Filipovic wrote that all of his success in sports is “key to Kobe’s story” but also “is not the whole story.”

“Out of some mislaid definition of ‘respect,’ we are so excellent at sidelining the inconvenient parts, at least when the inconvenient parts are women we’ve made invisible and the one inconvenienced is a man we would prefer to keep admiring, without complication,” she wrote.

Bryant with his daughter Gianna at the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game. Gianna was also killed in the helicopter crash Sunday. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge at the request of the accuser, in exchange for a public apology. Bryant also settled a civil suit against him by the accuser for an undisclosed amount of money.

While some endorsements dried up, including McDonald’s, other major companies like Nike stuck by Bryant. He was largely able to put the allegations behind him, going on to have one of the most successful careers in the NBA, eventually retiring in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in the league’s history. 

However, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, those allegations resurfaced. In March 2018, after he won an Oscar for the short animated film Dear Basketball, based on a poem he wrote, some criticized the Academy for its selection. And in Oct. 2018, he was ousted from the jury of an animated film festival after an online petition was circulated demanding he be dropped.

Shaw said in recounting Bryant’s legacy, it’s fine to talk about how Bryant seemed to change his ways following the alleged attack.

I think you can do it in a way where you say despite him being charged with sexual assault … Kobe Bryant had become a changed man. I think you can put a positive spin on this — but it does need to include this incident that happened back then.”

Globe and Mail investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle, whose recent book Had it Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo? includes a chapter about the Bryant case, said it’s important to remember someone like Bryant as a whole person. 

“He can be a basketball legend, and it means so much to so many people, and he can also be an amazing father, by all accounts. He can also be someone who faced very credible sexual assault or rape allegations,” she said.

“I don’t necessarily think that people should hate Kobe Bryant. My book is all about ‘It’s not black or white. The hot take isn’t necessarily the most productive one.'”

His death, the outpouring of grief, and what some might say is an effort by fans to ignore the most controversial chapter of his life is illustrative of the intense relationship many have with their celebrity idols, said Bradley Bond, a University of San Diego associate professor in communication studies.

Bond studies the psychological concept known as parasocial relationship: the way people develop very strong social and emotional ties to fictional characters and celebrities.

The nature of entertainment media is to continually disclose information about these people, and the public feels like they get to know them over the course of time, he said.

“So it makes sense that when one of those perceived relationships dissolves that we experience grief in a similar way.”

Eric Mascarenhas comforts his son Nicolas at a memorial for Bryant near the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/The Associated Press)

And when a celebrity does something that conflicts with one’s own moral code, it either negatively influences the relationship or fans find a way to close that cognitive dissonance with some type of excuse, Bond said.

I think the easiest case with something like Kobe’s complicated background is to simply not believe the accuser.”

As well, fans may also be able to separate an actor or athlete’s personal life with their performance.

“You can still admire that primary attribute even if secondary attributes might conflict with what you see as an admirable person. I think you can separate Kobe the athlete from Kobe the individual.”

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Hurricane Dorian creeps up U.S. coast, prompts fears of near-record storm surge

Hurricane Dorian, back to a Category 3 storm, began raking the Southeast U.S. seaboard early Thursday, left tens of thousands without power as it threatened to inundate low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia with a life-threatening storm surge after its deadly mauling of the Bahamas.

As of early Thursday in South Carolina, over 16,800 in Charleston County and over 6,800 in Beaufort County were without power, according to Dominion Energy. Berkeley Electric Cooperative reported another 4,900 in Charleston County.

“We will experience hurricane-force winds, in at least gusts,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Wednesday. Even if the hurricane doesn’t end up hitting the state directly, he said, “there’s still going to be wind and water and if you’re in the coastal area, that water can be treacherous.”

Dorian appeared likely to get dangerously near Charleston, S.C., which is vulnerably located on a peninsula. A flood chart posted by the U.S. National Weather Service projected a combined high tide and storm surge around Charleston Harbour of 3.1 metres; the record, four metres, was set by Hugo in 1989.

Power lines and trees have been reported down with the eye 128 kilometres southeast of Charleston Harbor as of 5 a.m. Thursday, CBS News reported. The network said road closures are in place due to flooding in downtown Charleston, and thousands of people in the city are without power.

Dorian had crashed into the Bahamas as the country’s strongest hurricane on record, leaving widespread devastation and at least 20 people dead. But it weakened substantially in the days since, dropping from a Category 5 to a Category 2 storm before increasing again late Wednesday. Dorian could maintain this intensity for about nine hours or so before gradual weakening through Saturday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Stores and restaurants were boarded up with wood and corrugated metal in Charleston’s historic downtown, and about 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast. More than 1,500 people were in 28 shelters statewide.

Hurricane Dorian threatens to swamp low-lying regions from Georgia to southeastern Virginia on its trek northward. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Georgia’s coastal islands were also at risk, Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday, adding “We are very worried, especially about the barrier islands getting cut off.”

In North Carolina, where authorities said an 85-year-old man died after falling from a ladder while getting ready for Dorian, Gov. Roy Cooper warned of the threat of storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains. The Outer Banks barrier islands were particularly exposed.

Duke Energy said Dorian could cause more than 700,000 power outages in easternmost parts of North Carolina and South Carolina, and Georgia Power said about 2,800 homes and businesses were already without electricity.

The Navy ordered ships at its huge base in Norfolk, Va., to head to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, were being moved inland. The commander of the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic issued an emergency evacuation order for military personnel and their dependents in five North Carolina counties.

‘We are ready to go,’ FEMA official says

Though weakened, Dorian remained a force to be reckoned with, its swirling circle of winds and rain wrapped around a large, gaping eye visible on photos taken from space. At 2 a.m. EDT Thursday the distinct eye of the hurricane churned about 168 kilometres south of Charleston, moving north at 11 km/h off the coast with dangerously high winds of 185 km/h.

A hurricane warning covered about 800 kilometres of coastline, and authorities warned about 3 million residents to get away before the water and wind rose.

The acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Peter Gaynor, said 4,000 federal responders; 6,000 National Guard members; and 40,000 utility workers were on standby.

“We are ready to go,” Gaynor said. “We’ll follow Dorian up the coast until it is not a threat.”

In Florida, initially projected to take a direct hit from Dorian, there was widespread relief and gratitude Wednesday after the storm passed the state from a relatively safe distance offshore.

“We’re lucky today,” said Ryan Haggett, kitchen manager at the Oceanside Beach Bar and Grill, at Flagler Beach. Haggett and others removed storm shutters from restaurant windows, preparing to serve dinner Wednesday night.

With the threat to Florida easing and the danger shifting northward, Orlando, Florida’s international airport reopened, as did Walt Disney World and Universal. Dorian forced Disney Cruise Line to cancel one trip and delay the return of another ship to Port Canaveral, Florida.

One resident in the state died while preparing for the storm Monday evening, when Dorian’s path was still projected to threaten Florida. Joseph Walden, 56, was sitting on a tree limb and using a chainsaw to trim other limbs in the Orlando suburb of Ocoee when one of the cut limbs broke free and knocked him to the ground, police said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

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Facebook recording of user audio prompts probe from EU privacy regulator

Facebook’s lead regulator in the European Union is seeking information over how it handled data during the manual transcription of users’ audio recordings, Ireland’s Data Protection Commision said on Wednesday.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Facebook had been paying outside contractors to transcribe audio clips from users of its messenger service.

According to the report, the audio in question came from users who chose the option in Facebook Messenger to have their chats transcribed for them. The chats were transcribed by artificial intelligence and the contractors were brought in to check the accuracy, the report said.

Facebook, which has been facing broad criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices, said in response to the Bloomberg story: “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.”

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), Facebook’s lead regulator in the European Union, already has eight individual probes into the U.S. social media giant, plus two into its WhatsApp subsidiary and one into Facebook-owned Instagram.

“Further to our ongoing engagement with Google, Apple and Microsoft in relation to the processing of personal data in the context of the manual transcription of audio recordings, we are now seeking detailed information from Facebook on the processing in question and how Facebook believes that such processing of data is compliant with their GDPR obligations,” the commission said in an emailed statement, referring to EU data privacy rules.

Bloomberg, citing the company, reported that the users who were affected chose the option in the Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages.

Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), regulators have the power to impose fines for violations of up to four per cent of a company’s global revenue or $ 22 million US, whichever is higher.

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Spike in carfentanil deaths prompts warning from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health

The number of Ontarians taking carfentanil, and dying from it, has spiked since the year began, according to he province’s chief medical officer of health.

Dr. David Williams sent a warning to the province’s public health units in late June about a “sharp increase” in the presence of the powerful fentanyl analogue. 

Using information from Ontario chief coroner Dirk Huyer, Williams wrote that in the first four months of 2019, carfentanil “directly contributed” to 142 deaths in Ontario. 

That number, wrote Williams, is “already 50 per cent more than the total number of deaths in which carfentanil directly contributed in all of 2018, which was 95 deaths.” 

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is urging public health units to spread the message about the dangers of carfentanil. (Thunder Bay District Public Health Unit)

Also spelled carfentanyl, the drug started making headlines in Canada in 2016 and 2017 as it was detected in street drugs and linked to overdose deaths. 

It has been traditionally used as a tranquilizer for very large animals, and some studies have described it as 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

Not known if drug is being taken intentionally

In his June release, Williams also lays out evidence that more Ontarians are taking carfentanil, whether knowingly or not, than before.

In 2017 and 2018, between zero and 100 people who did urine tests with LifeLabs — a private operator of community lab services — had carfentanil in their systems.

In April and May of this year, that number surged to more than 700, though Williams acknowledges the sample of people using LifeLabs services is small and that the data might not reflect what all Ontario drug users are doing. 

Wiliams also writes that it’s not clear to health providers whether “people were using carfentanil intentionally or unintentionally.’ 

The drug, which can sometimes look like fine white grains, can also be packaged in other forms.

In the past few years, it’s turned up in counterfeit oxycontin pills in Ontario, been sold as heroin in Calgary, and been discovered on the back of LSD-laced stamps in Quebec. 

Waterloo police have also connected carfentanil to a wave of what appeared to be purple-tinted heroin that made a deadly sweep through Ontario last year. 

Purplish heroin was discovered in communities across Ontario in 2018, and Waterloo police say the sample they tested contained carfentanil. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Williams ends his release with a series of tips for health care providers on the ground, including people who work in overdose prevention.

Among his suggestions are to remind drug users about never using alone or at the same time as a friend, and to always carry overdose antidotes like naloxone. 

Huyer, whose team of coroners has been working to increase the frequency and detail of death-related carfentanil reports, says workers in harm reduction and emergency services should also understand the dangers of the substance. 

Ontario chief coroner Dirk Huyer says investigations are complete in only 53 per cent of cases involving carfentanil this year, meaning the drug could be blamed for even more deaths than it is already. (Greg Bruce/CBC)


“All of this points to a drug that is very potent and is more dangerous than other opioid drugs,” he told CBC Toronto Thursday.

He added that increased awareness and information can help curb the number of deaths. 

“This is 142 individuals and each of those people lived a life and died and each of their family members suffered the tragedy of their loss, and no one should ever forget that.” 

‘Our overdoses are more intense’ 

Jennifer Ko, one of the staff members at the Moss Park overdose prevention site, says reactions to stronger drugs like carfentanil are noticeably more extreme. 

“From a worker point of view, we’ll notice that our overdoses are more intense,” she told CBC Toronto, which means there are more of them, and they each require extra medical intervention. 

“People’s tolerance have generally increased, but carfentanil is just that much more potent.” 

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Raptors’ ‘janky’ defence prompts laughs, but shows Nurse thinks ‘outside of the box’

Kyle Lowry had figured he’d seen it all from his offbeat, guitar-slinging coach.

But when the Raptors were sputtering against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors late in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, Nick Nurse suggested switching to an unorthodox defence more often seen in middle school — and one Lowry had certainly never played in his 13 seasons in the NBA.

The box-and-one defence, which Curry called “janky,” worked. The Raptors stifled the Warriors on seven of their final eight possessions. It also prompted a few laughs Tuesday at Oracle Arena.

“You can laugh at it, you could clown it . . . it’s just like playing zone,” Lowry said. “Nothing Nick does surprises me now on the court as a coach. It doesn’t surprise me. That one kind of caught me off guard, but yeah, it was innovative.

“Never practised that ever. I don’t think I’ve ever run a box-and-one in my life, I’m going to be honest with you.”

The defence helped Toronto climb out of 13-point deficit on Sunday, although the Raptors lost 109-104. The seven-game series is tied 1-1 heading into Wednesday’s Game 3.

WATCH | Steph Curry on Raptors’ unique defensive strategy:

Warriors guard Steph Curry discusses Toronto’s “Box and 1” defensive strategy. 0:38

A box-and-one is designed to stop one dynamic scorer, in this case Curry. The “one,” which was Fred VanVleet, sticks to Curry, while the other four defenders form a box, guarding a space on the floor in a zone defence.

When’s the last time Warriors coach Steve Kerr saw that defence?

“In ninth grade a team played one against me. Very proud to announce that. I had a box-and-one, just like Steph. So janky defences have been going on for a long time,” Kerr said with a chuckle. “What does ‘janky’ mean anyway? I’m not exactly sure.”

Curry said it’s southern North Carolina slang, that “I pulled out of my back pocket.”

Urban Dictionary defines it as “inferior quality” and “dilapidated.” Think of an old rundown car, or a well-worn pair of running shoes.

A Brazilian reporter fretted over the fact there’s no Portuguese translation for “janky.”

“Yeah, I know, everybody’s making fun of me for it, right?” Nurse said on his unorthodox defence.

The 51-year-old coach tossed the idea out during a timeout. He wanted to change up the game’s rhythm. The players were on board — after a crash course in box-and-one.

“They were like ‘Well, what does that look like?”‘ Nurse said. And so he drew it up.

“Literally he drew Fred [VanVleet] . . . he said to Fred ‘This is Steph, you have Steph,”‘ Lowry said. “He put me, Kawhi [Leonard], Pascal [Siakam] and Marc [Gasol] on the board in spots and said, ‘Stand there.”‘

WATCH | Nick Nurse: Raptors’ coach defends final play defence:

Raptors head coach defends his team’s decision to double Steph Curry on the Warriors final offensive possession. 0:34

Bold move to go back to a rudimentary defence in the NBA Finals. What does that say about Nurse?

“I guess a guy that thinks outside the box,” Leonard. “He’s coached a lot of different levels, seen a lot of different games. . . he is experimental, and a lot of times what he draws up on the board works.”

In Nurse’s first season as an NBA head coach, he’s made news in these playoffs for some of his off-court quirks. He’s a big music buff, and photos have shown him departing the team plane with a guitar slung over his back. He’s been asked about the monogrammed “NN” Nike hat he always wears. But he’s steered clear of any talk of his baby boy born on the day of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

On the court, he’s the first former G League — or D League as it was known then — coach to guide a team in the NBA Finals. It took him 13 different teams over more than two decades to get here.

He was the D League coach of the year in 2011, and led both the Iowa Energy (in 2011) and Rio Grande Valley Vipers (2013) to D League championships.

Nurse, who was hired by the Raptors in 2013 as an assistant to Dwane Casey, draws on his development league experience. Toronto had a revolving door of a roster in the regular season, due to trades, injuries, and Leonard’s load management. And Nurse said his years in the D League prepared him well.

“The biggest thing I always say is getting the head coaching experience,” Nurse said. “You’re trying to always as a coach develop chemistry, define roles, get guys to play their butts off. And in the D-League you have so much change in personnel, guys coming and going, that you end up having to do that probably much more than you would at this level or most levels.”

These Finals feature a record 16 players with G League experience, nine of them from Toronto: Siakam, who’s the favourite to win the NBA’s most improved player award this season, VanVleet, Danny Green, Canadian Chris Boucher, who was the G League MVP this past season with Raptors 905, Norm Powell, Patrick McCaw, Jeremy Lin, Malcolm Miller and Eric Moreland.

Nurse has fond memories of his D League years.

“Everybody that has been in the D-League is a little better off for it,” he said. “It’s a really great place and really great people. The players, they play hard. I really enjoyed my time there.”

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Moving U.S. border agents from Canadian to Mexican border prompts fears of long delays

Hundreds of border agents from across the U.S. are being temporarily transferred south ahead of the busy summer tourism season, worrying those along the northern border who rely on cross-border commerce — including U.S. innkeepers, shop owners and restaurateurs who fear their Canadian customers could be caught in backups at border crossings.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says 731 northern border agents from land, sea and airports are in the process of being sent to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they will help their southern counterparts handle the influx of families and unaccompanied children from Central America.

The move comes as businesses gear up for the summer season, when tens of thousands of Canadian tourists help buoy the economies of communities in border states, as well as deeper inside the United States. Since U.S.-Canada border security was ramped up shortly after the 9/11 attacks, local and state officials have worried that heightened security could hurt trade and the free flow of people back and forth across the 8,891-kilometre border.

400,000 people a day

Garry Douglas of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh, N.Y., said commerce with Canada is the “single greatest driving force” in the regional economy, and it took years to get adequate staffing levels at the northern border, where around 400,000 people and $ 1.6 billion US in goods cross daily.

In an email, he said he hadn’t seen any problems yet, but cautioned that peak travel season doesn’t begin until Canada’s Victoria Day holiday weekend May 18-20.

Last week, 13 bipartisan members of Congress from six northern border states wrote acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, expressing concerns the plans could hurt cross-border travel and commerce.

“The decision to deploy northern border CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officers to the southern border makes it increasingly more difficult for the agency to meet their core mission requirements at the border, which include effectively securing U.S. points of entry and safeguarding and streamlining lawful trade and travel,” said the May 3 letter, which was released Wednesday.

The letter was signed by four members of Congress from New York, four from Michigan, two from New Hampshire, and one each from Minnesota, Washington and North Dakota. On Thursday, Vermont’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch sent an identical letter to McAleenan.

“Tourism is central to our economy in the Granite State, and I have serious concerns about any disruption in the efficiency of operations at the Canadian border,” New Hampshire Democrat Annie Kuster said in an email interview.

“Moving Customs and Border Protection personnel away from our northern border has the potential to impact U.S.-Canadian commerce and tourism just as we enter the busy summer months. I will work with my colleagues whose states and districts share a border with Canada to address this serious issue.”

Senators Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said they understand the need for additional resources at the southern border, but in a joint statement, they said they’re monitoring to “ensure that the northern border remains safe and secure, and that crossings that facilitate jobs and vital economic activity are not negatively affected in Maine.” Collins is a Republican and King is an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

While CBP wouldn’t specify where the agents are coming from, they are being drawn from 328 ports of entry.

Vermont CBP port director Gregory Starr, speaking Wednesday after the ribbon-cutting for a new port of entry at Derby Line at the Vermont-Quebec border, said some of his agents were heading south. He said those staying in Vermont would do their best to avoid backups.

“It’s an issue that we have to deal with,” Starr said. “We’re going to help out as much as we can and try to maintain our presence here, as well.”

In Maine, the town of Old Orchard Beach relies heavily on Canadian tourists. Some hotels and motels fly both the U.S. and Canadian flags out front.

Marc Bourassa, one of the owners of the waterfront Kebek 3 motel, said 90 per cent of his customers are Canadian, so he’s concerned about delays at the border. For the past couple of years, Canadian guests have reported to him that things have been running smoothly at the crossings. He doesn’t want to see the apple cart being upset.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that they they’d do something like that,” Bourassa said. “But there are lots of things that don’t make sense to me. I guess that’s life.”

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Potential victory by Ukraine’s ‘Donald Trump’ prompts uncertainty

The very real prospect of a comedian being elected Ukraine’s next president on Sunday is nothing to laugh at for many Ukrainians who dream of seeing lost territories restored and their country unified again.

They fear political neophyte Volodymyr Zelensky — whose only political experience is playing Ukraine’s president in a TV show — is ill-equipped to handle a tough adversary like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“During the election, there was basically no room for the Crimea issue — Zelensky says absolutely nothing,” said Sergii Mokreniuk, 40, who along with his wife and two children fled their home on the disputed Black Sea peninsula when Russia took over five years ago.

“There is no way to know where Crimea stands in Zelensky’s politics.”

Sergei and Elmaz Mokreniuk and their children fled their home in Crimea when Russia took over in 2014. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

Canadian-born political analyst Mychailo Wynnyckyj agrees.

“Zelensky is not making any statements about foreign policy that are coherent — in other words, he’s presenting himself as a negotiator, but he has no experience in negotiation.”

The Kitchener, Ont., native is an associate professor at the Kyiv-Mohyla Business School and has lived in Ukraine for 17 years.

“Ukraine is about to elect a Donald Trump — that’s the simplest way of putting it,” Wynnyckyj told CBC News in an interview.

Wynnyckyj said voters appear poised to take a leap of faith on someone whose politics they know very little about, based only on his fame from being on TV.

“We have an equivalent to the phrase, ‘Lock her up,’ ” a slogan Trump used repeatedly during his successful 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. presidency, he said. 

“It’s called ‘Lock them up’ because he’s supposedly fighting corruption, but at the end of the day he’s not made it clear at all how he plans to do that,” said Wynnyckyj.

The Mokreniuk family now lives in Kyiv and has protested Russia’s occupation of Crimea. (Submitted by the Mokreniuk Family)

Zelensky, 41, racked up twice as many votes as President Petro Poroshenko in the first round of the election last month and polls suggest his standing has only improved since then.

In his TV show Servant of the People, once elected as president, Zelensky’s character throws himself into the task of cleaning out political deadwood in the government and breaking down the deep connections between the politicians and the country’s oligarchs, which is what many Ukrainians say needs to happen in real life.

The closely watched presidential contest has been notable for its many bizarre moments, such as both candidates undergoing public drug and alcohol tests and a boisterous debate Friday night in front of tens of thousands of duelling supporters at an outdoor football stadium.

Zelensky and Poroshenko took turns trading insults and questioning the other’s fitness to lead the country.

“How did it turn out that Ukraine is the poorest country with the richest president?” Zelensky taunted Poroshenko, whose chocolate and candy empire has helped make him one of Ukraine’s richest people.

Conflict epicentre

Ukraine has been at the epicentre of the West’s conflict with Russia since 2014, when the country’s pro-Russian president was overthrown in the Maidan uprisings. Soon afterward, Russian troops moved to take over strategic positions in the Crimean peninsula and pro-Russia leaders held a snap annexation vote, which most of the world considered illegal.

The Mokreniuks are among an estimated 30,000 Crimeans who chose to move to other parts of Ukraine rather than live under Russian rule.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attends a policy debate with Zelenskiy in Kyiv on April 19, 2019. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Sergii Mokreniuk organized protests and other anti-Russia demonstrations. In response, he said, he was followed by Russian security services. The tires on his car were slashed and, he said, he and his wife received death threats.

“We want to come back to Crimea, but we can’t,” he told CBC News during an interview at a transplanted Crimean restaurant in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.  

His wife, Elmaz, 35, is a Crimean Tatar — a Muslim ethnic group that has historically suffered under Russian rule.

Stalin ordered the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Tatars from Crimea in 1944 and most families weren’t allowed to return for several generations until after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.

“They deported my grandmothers and grandfathers — Russia did this,” she said. “This is in [my] genetic memory.”

Russian sailors march during the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on July 29, 2018. (Pavel Rebrov/Reuters)

Scarce details

Zelensky, 41, has given few interviews about his plans for governing Ukraine and instead relied mostly on social media commentaries, YouTube commercials and appearances at his comedy events to appeal to voters. He has amassed an impressive 3.5 million followers on Instagram.

In his limited statements on the future of Crimea and the breakaway regions of Donbass and Lughansk in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky has said only that he wants Russia to end its occupation.

The war involving Russian-backed separatists has claimed more than 11,000 lives and prompted more than two million people in the region to flee to Poland, Russia and other regions of Ukraine.

Zelensky has talked about involving the United States and Britain in any future discussions with Russia, but many in Ukraine’s government appear to believe nothing will change as long as Putin is in charge in Moscow. 

“There’s a lot of skepticism, certainly on my part, of whether the keys to peace are in Kyiv or Moscow,” said Wynnyckyj, the political analyst.  

“Likely they are in Moscow, because it’s not Kyiv that started this war.”

Moscow has poured billions of dollars into Crimea in recent years to help win over the population to Russian rule, including building an expensive bridge to connect with the peninsula.

Worries over Zelensky

Sergii Mokreniuk, who supports Poroshenko, said he fears Russia would take advantage of a rookie president to increase its efforts to destabilize Ukraine.

“If Zelensky wins, I predict Russia’s desire to attack Ukraine will greatly increase,” he told CBC News. “I fear this scenario the most.”

People walk past an election campaign poster with portraits of Ukrainian presidential candidate and President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kyiv on April 11, 2019. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Poroshenko, 53, has made closer ties with NATO — and eventual NATO membership — a key part of his plans for Ukraine’s security.   

Wynnyckyj said the Ukrainian president should be given credit for rebuilding Ukraine’s army and keeping the conflict in eastern Ukraine from spreading.  

However, Poroshenko’s campaign for re-election has been weakened by near-constant allegations of bribery and corruption and by him being part of the oligarch class many Ukrainians feel needs to be tamed.

Canadian military instructors and Ukrainian servicemen take part in a military exercise in Yavoriv, Ukraine, on July 12, 2016. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

“People are dissatisfied with the economic situation,” said Wynnyckyj. “The vote driver is domestic policy.”

Allies could be nervous

However, Wynnyckyj said Ukraine’s Western allies, particularly Canada, have reason to be nervous about the country’s potential change in direction.

Canada has been at the forefront of many initiatives to improve democracy and fight corruption in Ukraine. Militarily, it’s also an important partner in the NATO training mission outside Lvyv, which has helped improve the qualifications of more than 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

The concern, said Wynnyckyj, isn’t that Ukraine will undergo a radical pivot towards Russia, but rather that a highly polarized electorate may turn on Zelensky if he’s unable to deliver his promise of quickly improving the economy.

“Large urban centres are voting en mass for Poroshenko while rural areas are voting for Zelensky. Those people will become dissatisfied with him very shortly — and when that happens we have additional civil unrest.

“That’s something that really worries me.”

Tourists visit the Swallow’s Nest castle near the Black Sea resort of Yalta, Crimea, on July 20, 2016. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

Sergii Mokreniuk now calls Ukraine’s capital his home and works for its government as a senior official in its “Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced People of Ukraine.”

Among his duties is formulating the sanctions list of Russian officials involved in Crimea and foreign companies that conduct business there. After Ukraine’s political leaders approve the list, it’s circulated to other Western countries and helps determine which Russian individuals and entities face travel and business restrictions.

“We need to work hard every day if we want to live in Crimea again,” he said.

And if Zelensky wins?

“Whoever is the president, I work for Ukraine, for Crimea and for Crimeans.”

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