Tag Archives: shot

Officer dead, driver fatally shot after ramming vehicle into barricade near the U.S. Capitol

A Capitol Police officer was killed Friday after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol and then emerged wielding a knife. It was the second line-of-duty death this year for a department still struggling to heal from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Video shows the driver of the crashed car emerging with a knife in his hand and starting to run at the pair of officers, Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters. The driver stabbed one of the officers, Pittman said. Authorities shot the suspect, who died at a hospital.

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the suspect stabbed one of the officers. The officials spoke to AP were not authorized to publicly discuss the pending investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers,” Pittman said. “This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police after the events of Jan. 6 and now the events that have occurred here today.”

Police identified the slain officer as William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit.

Police identified the slain officer as William ‘Billy’ Evans, an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit. (U.S. Capitol Police via AP)

Authorities said that there wasn’t an ongoing threat and that the attack did not appear to be related to terrorism, though the Capitol was put on lockdown as a precaution. There was also no immediate connection apparent between Friday’s crash and the Jan. 6 riot.

The crash and shooting happened at a security checkpoint near the Capitol typically used by senators and staff on weekdays, though most are away from the building during the current recess. The attack occurred about 100 yards (91 metres) from the entrance of the building on the Senate side of the Capitol. One witness, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, said he was finishing a Good Friday service nearby when he suddenly heard three shots ring out.

It comes as the Washington region remains on edge nearly three months after a mob of armed insurrectionists loyal to former president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s presidential win.

Five people died in the Jan. 6 riot, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was among a badly outnumbered force trying to fight off insurrectionists seeking to overturn the election. Authorities installed a tall perimeter fence around the Capitol and for months restricted traffic along the roads closest to the building, but they had begun pulling back some of the emergency measures in recent weeks. Fencing that prevented vehicular traffic near that area was recently removed.

Law enforcement officials identified the slain suspect as 25-year-old Noah Green. Investigators were digging into the suspect’s background and examining whether he had a mental health history as they tried to discern a motive. They were working to obtain warrants to access his online accounts.

A car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill is seen on Friday. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Pittman said the suspect did not appear to have been on the police’s radar. But the attack underscores that the building and campus — and the officers charged with protecting them — remain potential targets for violence.

Evans is the seventh Capitol Police member to die in the line of duty in the department’s history. Two officers, one from Capitol Police and another from Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, died by suicide following the Jan. 6 attack.

Almost 140 Capitol Police officers were wounded then, including officers not issued helmets who sustained head injuries and one officer with cracked ribs, according to the officers’ union. It took hours for the National Guard to arrive, a delay that has driven months of finger-pointing between key decision-makers that day.

WATCH | ‘We will get through this,’ says Capitol police chief:

Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the U.S. Capitol police, thanks the community for supporting them through an ‘extremely difficult and challenging year.’ 0:19

They were called upon soon afterward to secure the Capitol during Biden’s inauguration and faced another potential threat in early March linked to conspiracy theories falsely claiming Trump would retake the presidency.

“Today, once again, these heroes risked their lives to protect our Capitol and our Country, with the same extraordinary selflessness and spirit of service seen on January 6,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire House, we are profoundly grateful.”

The suspect had been taken to the hospital in critical condition. One of the officers who was injured was taken by police car to the hospital; the other was transported by emergency medical crews.

U.S. National Guard troops stand guard near the scene of the incident on Friday. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

The U.S. Capitol complex was placed on lockdown after the shooting and staff were told they could not enter or exit buildings. Video showed National Guard troops mobilizing near the area of the crash.

Video posted online showed a dark-coloured sedan crashed against a vehicle barrier and a police dog inspecting the vehicle. Law enforcement and paramedics could be seen caring for at least one unidentified individual.

U.S. President Joe Biden had just departed the White House for Camp David when the situation unfolded. As customary, he was traveling with a member of the National Security Council Staff who was expected to brief him.

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CBC | World News

Health Canada says AstraZeneca shot is safe as U.S. questions vaccine’s clinical trial data

Health Canada said today Canadians should not be concerned about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine — even as a U.S. regulatory body raises concerns about the company’s clinical trial results.

Marc Berthiaume, the director of the bureau of medical science at Health Canada, said the issues flagged Monday by a U.S. federal health agency relate to the product’s published efficacy rate, not to whether it’s safe to use.

Berthiaume said Health Canada’s decision to authorize the product was not based on any of the clinical trial information U.S. authorities are now probing. He said Canada based its approval largely on data that emerged from AstraZeneca trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil, and on studies published in countries where the shot has been in use for some time.

“I think it would be alarmist to suggest that the results of additional clinical testing could lead to a change in the approval status of AstraZeneca here in Canada,” Berthiaume said.

“The additional information that was collected in the U.S. will be sent to Health Canada in the coming weeks. If there’s a need to readjust, then we’ll do that with Canadians later.”

Millions of people have received the AstraZeneca shot worldwide, including more than 17 million in Britain and the European Union — almost all without serious side effects.

Health Canada ‘concerned’ about vaccine hesitancy  

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said U.S. questions about the efficacy rate change nothing for Canadians at this point. She conceded the barrage of headlines about the AstraZeneca shot are “something of a concern to us” because they could make some Canadians reluctant to take vaccines.

“We’ve said this many times before — that even the most effective vaccine only works if people trust it and agree to receive it,” she said.

“It’s like any other reputation. Once there’s some doubt that creeps into that reputation, it’s that much more difficult to gain that back. The press and the concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine don’t help.”

WATCH: Health Canada says federal recommendations on AstraZeneca vaccine are not changing 

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, says federal recommendations on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are not changing at this point in time. 1:40

In a statement released last night, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the U.S. said the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), which keeps an eye on clinical trials, found “outdated information” may have been reported by the company when it released some information yesterday.

The agency said the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant may have released information that gives an “incomplete view of the efficacy data.”

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” the agency said — without stating what sort of data may have been  included improperly.

The statement came only hours after AstraZeneca released the results of its U.S.-based phase three clinical trials, which began last August and wrapped up earlier this month. Phase three is the point in a clinical trial when a vaccine maker gathers more information about safety and effectiveness and studies the effect of different doses on various groups.

The company said its COVID-19 vaccine had a 79 per cent efficacy rate for preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and was 100 per cent effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. Investigators said the vaccine was effective for adults of all ages, including older people — something which previous studies in other countries had failed to establish.

The product has not yet been authorized for use in the U.S.

Speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the head of the NIAID, said the monitoring board was surprised by the the better-than-expected efficacy results published by AstraZeneca.

“They got concerned and wrote a rather harsh note to them and with a copy to me, saying that in fact they felt that the data that was in the press release were somewhat outdated and might in fact be misleading a bit, and wanted them to straighten it out,” Fauci said.

The board members pegged the vaccine’s efficacy at between 69 per cent 74 per cent — up to 10 points lower than what AstraZeneca itself reported — and said the company’s decision to issue a press release with better results served to erode public trust.

“We told the company they better get back with the DSMB and make sure the correct data get put into a press release.”

In response to the blowback, AstraZeneca said the efficacy numbers it released yesterday were current as of February 17 — a month before the clinical trial was actually completed. In a statement, the company said it would “immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board” and provide the U.S. regulator with “the results of the primary analysis within 48 hours.”

This is just the latest public communications issue the company has faced over the last three months.

Earlier this year, a number of European countries halted vaccinations in response to questions about the product’s efficacy in people over the age of 65, only to restart them after new evidence emerged.

After Health Canada approved the shot for all adults, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended the product be used only on people under the age of 65, citing a dearth of clinical trial data on the vaccine’s effectiveness in older people.

NACI changed course last week after reviewing three “real-world studies,” saying the two-dose viral vector vaccine can and should be used on seniors.

The European Medicines Agency has also had to assure European Union member countries that the product is safe to use after reports of post-vaccine blood clots in a very small number of patients.

The agency concluded that the benefits of protecting against COVID-19 — which itself results in clotting problems — outweigh the risks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has said it’s “possible” the vaccine may be associated with “very rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia” — a condition associated with very low levels of blood platelets. Health Canada has maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

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CBC | Health News

British and French PMs say they will personally get AstraZeneca shot

The latest:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday he would get the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 shot very soon, voicing his confidence in a vaccine that has been suspended in some other European countries after reports of blood clots.

Several European Union countries have suspended their rollout of the shot, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, but Britain’s regulator has said that there is no evidence of a causal link between reports of thrombo-embolic events and the vaccine.

Asked if European countries had disregarded scientific evidence, Johnson said: “The best thing I can say about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine program is that I finally got news that I’m going to have my own jab … very, very shortly.”

“It will certainly be Oxford-AstraZeneca that I will be having,” Johnson told Parliament.

Also Wednesday, Britain’s National Health Service said that Britain would see a drop in the availability of vaccines toward the end of the month.

“The Government’s Vaccines Task Force have now notified us there will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers beginning in [the] week commencing 29 March, meaning volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained,” NHS officials said in a letter sent around the state-run health service on Wednesday.

“They now currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply.”

In France, one of the countries that has suspended AstraZeneca jabs while it waits for the European Medicines Agency, the prime minister said he wants to boost confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine by getting an injection as soon as his government authorizes its use again.

At age 55 and with no known underlying health problems, French Prime Minister Jean Castex isn’t, strictly speaking, among the groups yet eligible for vaccination in France, which has prioritized injections for the most vulnerable.

But speaking to broadcaster BFM-TV, Castex said Tuesday that he wants to get an AstraZeneca injection to set an example.

“Given what is happening, what has just happened, with AstraZeneca, I told myself, in effect, that it would be wise that I get vaccinated very quickly, as soon as the suspension is, I hope, lifted,” he said.

Castex said that he wants to demonstrate to his fellow citizens “that vaccination is the exit door from this crisis.”

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza says European countries, including his, are hoping that the EMA on Thursday will deliver “the clarifications and reassurances necessary” to be able to resume administering the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

Italy was one of several nations that in recent days halted AstraZeneca shots over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and international regulators say there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

Speranza told a parliamentary Social Affairs Commission on Wednesday that it is Italy’s hope “to have by tomorrow answers from EMA that will enable the relaunching without hesitation of the vaccine campaign,” using AstraZeneca doses.

WATCH | Millions of Italians back under lockdown as country is hit with 3rd wave of COVID-19:

Millions of Italians are back under lockdown restrictions, as the country is hit with a third wave of COVID-19. Deaths and intensive care admissions are also on the rise, while the halt on AstraZeneca is slowing down Italy’s overall vaccination effort. 2:01

He said the Italian government “has utmost trust in EMA,” as well as in Italy’s medicine agency, noting: “We insist on the utmost safety and we are paying the utmost attention to what has happened.”

So far, just under 10 per cent of Italy’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. Speranza told lawmakers that some 50 million doses of vaccines, including for the first time in Italy the Johnson & Johnson one-dose injection, were expected to arrive through June, while some 80 million doses are due to arrive between July and September.

Spanish health officials, meanwhile, said they are investigating two more cases of adverse reactions among people who received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Spain’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that one person died of a brain stroke that resulted in internal bleeding and a second person who died suffered an abdominal blood clot. Both had been vaccinated in the previous 16 days.

Including the two deaths, the country’s medicines agency has recorded three suspicious cases so far among 975,661 AstraZeneca doses administered.

AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

WATCH | Doctor with expertise in vaccine hesitancy answers questions about the AstraZeneca vaccine:

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, from the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, says the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot has been vindicated by real-world data. 7:37

In a statement released on Wednesday, the World Health Organization addressed the reports out of Europe, saying its Global Advisory Committee on vaccine safety is looking at the latest data around the AstraZeneca product.

Those findings will be released to the public when the review is complete. For now, the statement said the global health agency “considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”

The Geneva-based agency said in large-scale vaccination campaigns, it is “routine for countries to signal potential adverse events following immunization.” 

Those adverse events are not necessarily linked to the vaccine itself, WHO said, but it is “good practice to investigate them.”

Brazilian and Australian regulators maintained their recommendations to continue rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine despite many European nations pausing its use, while global health experts came under increasing pressure to clear up questions over its safety.

India said on Wednesday its coronavirus immunization campaign would continue, despite some concerns in Europe about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine it relies heavily upon, as infections hit a three month high.

Since starting the drive in mid-January, India has administered 36 million vaccine doses, which are mostly the AstraZeneca shots developed with Oxford University and locally known as Covishield.

Vinod Kumar Paul, who heads a government committee on vaccines, told a news conference that experts in India had looked into the issue and weren’t concerned about possible side effects.

“Covishield vaccination in the country will go on with full rigour.”

From Reuters and Associated Press, last updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Updated guidance on AstraZeneca vaccine sparks further confusion:

Canada’s vaccine advisory committee changed its guidance on the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, recommending it be given to those over the age of 65. But it has sparked more confusion by saying if given the choice, Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s were still preferable for seniors. 2:14

As of 11:55 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 918,084 cases of COVID-19, with 31,594 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,545.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday the warning bells are sounding that a third wave of COVID-19 infections is hitting Canada.

“We’re watching, of course, that epidemic curve really carefully, because there is this upswing we’re seeing now,” she said.

In an update published Tuesday evening, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported more than 4,080 documented cases of variants of concern, including:

  • 3,777 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the United Kingdom.
  • 238 cases of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa.
  • 71 cases of the P1 variant originally linked to travellers from Brazil.

In Ontario on Wednesday, health officials reported 1,508 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths. According to a provincial dashboard, COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 741, with 300 in intensive care units.

In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases at a briefing on Wednesday, as health officials provided an update on the state of the pandemic there, as well as ongoing vaccination efforts.

Across the Atlantic region on Tuesday, health officials reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Monday — five in New Brunswick, two in Nova Scotia and one in both Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In Quebec on Wednesday, health officials reported 703 new cases and 13 additional deaths. According to the province, hospitalizations stood at 532, with 107 in intensive care units.

Premier François Legault announced Tuesday that the curfew in the province’s so-called red zones will be bumped back from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., saying people can take an evening walk but “indoor gatherings are still forbidden.”

Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut on Wednesday. Premier Joe Savikataaq said in a tweet that there were just two active cases remaining in the territory. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided an update for the day.

Also Wednesday, Rebecca Kudloo, the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, called on Inuit women and families across Canada to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Tuesday. Health officials are also reporting 14 confirmed cases of variants of concern, all in the Winnipeg health region. 

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 156 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Tuesday. It was reported that of those new cases, 101 were in the capital of Regina. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the province will monitor how the variants are spreading. 

“So the fact that B117 is more transmissible is becoming very evident,” Shahab said. “All of us need to be a bit more cautious, especially in Regina.”

Alberta health officials reported 355 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 11 per cent of the province’s active cases involve virus variants believed to be more transmissible.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 556 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths. A statement from health officials said there have been 116 new confirmed cases of variants of concern found, for a total of 996, most of them involving the strain originally found in the United Kingdom.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 2:15 p.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

Health-care workers inoculate people with the CoronaVac vaccine at the Bang Khae Market on Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 120.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 68.4 million of those cases listed as recovered on the John Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India needs to take quick and decisive steps soon to stop an emerging second “peak” of COVID-19 infections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.

“If we don’t stop the growing pandemic right here, then a situation of a nationwide outbreak can get created,” Modi told a virtual conference of leaders of Indian states.

Rapidly increasing COVID-19 infections in hospitals in the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea were hitting its fragile health system “like a tornado,” with services shutting as staff become ill, health workers said on Wednesday.

Australia said it would send 8,000 vaccines to its northern neighbour, responding to a request for urgent assistance for the country’s small health workforce of 5,000 nurses and doctors. Australia is also asking European Union to send one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines the country procured to Papua New Guinea.

The Philippine government has decided to temporarily ban the entry of foreigners and limit the entry of returning Filipinos at Manila’s international airport to 1,500 daily as it struggles to contain an alarming surge in coronavirus infections.

A government body dealing with the pandemic said the month-long travel restrictions would start Saturday and aim to prevent the spread into the country of coronavirus strains that are believed to be more contagious. Among those to be allowed limited entry are homebound Filipino workers.

Philippine Airlines said it would announce some flight cancellations to comply with the temporary restriction.

Manila and other cities in the capital region reimposed seven-hour night curfews for two weeks starting Monday and locked down dozens of villages amid the surge in infections, which some officials attributed to public complacency and critics blamed on the failure of the government’s response to the pandemic.

A city employee, left, disinfects homes in Manila on Tuesday as the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 surges. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

The Philippines has reported more than 631,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 12,848 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that the country may not meet his goal of relaxed COVID-19 restrictions by the summer’s Independence Day holiday if people do not continue to take precautions, noting vaccinations will still be underway.

“I won’t even be able to meet the July 4 deadline unless people listen, wear masks, wash their hands and social distance because not everyone by July 4 will have been vaccinated,” he told ABC News’ Good Morning America program in an interview that aired on Wednesday.

In Africa, Libyan health officials said Wednesday that the variant strain of the coronavirus first detected in South African has now been confirmed in the conflict-wrecked country.

The National Center for Disease Control said at least 15 cases have been reported in the western city of Misrata, along with two more cases of another variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

The B117 variant first detected in the U.K. was first reported in Libya on Feb. 24. The centre suggested that the new variants were among the causes of a recent, speedy surge in the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the North African country.

Morocco is further ahead with its vaccination program than any other African country, but undocumented migrants are not part of its plans.

In Europe, Norway has seen a spike in cases, prompting Norwegian Health Minister Bent Hoeie to say that “we are now setting a record that no one wants to set.”

“In the last 24 hours, we have seen 1,156 new cases in Norway,” Hoeie said, noting that official figures show that there have been 5,337 new cases since last week. “This is the highest number we have had since the beginning of the pandemic.

Britain is reviewing the idea of vaccine certificates to allow access to travel, hospitality and entertainment and discussing the best way to proceed in terms of fairness, Business Minister Kwarsi Kwarteng said.

Hungary announced a record number of COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday as a powerful surge of the pandemic put an unprecedented strain on the country’s health care.

Health officials announced 195 deaths in the last 24 hours, breaking the previous peak of 193 in early December. The number of patients being treated for the disease rose to nearly 10,300, also a record, and nearly three times the number of those hospitalized in early February when the latest surge began.

Officials have sought to mitigate the surge with new restrictions and a vaccination program that has made Hungary one of the most-vaccinated countries in Europe.

A new shipment of 100,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, which among European Union countries is only being used in Hungary, is expected to arrive on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on his Facebook page.

With more than 50,000 jabs on Tuesday, nearly 1.4 million people have received at least one shot, the second-highest rate in the EU.

In Greece, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said the country was “at the most critical juncture of the pandemic,” as he called on general practitioners and pneumonologists to volunteer to work in state hospitals.

Kikilias said that if some 200 doctors did not respond to his call in the next 48 hours he would recommend to the prime minister to allow health authorities to force them work for the state health system.

In the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority said it will receive 62,000 coronavirus vaccine doses through a World Health Organization COVAX partnership. Health Ministry spokesperson Kamal al-Shakhra said authorities would receive 38,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday and Thursday. He said the AstraZeneca vaccine will be kept in storage until the World Health Organization addresses recent safety concerns.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 2:10 p.m. ET

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Flight PS752 shot down after being ‘misidentified’ as ‘hostile target,’ Iran’s final report says

Iran’s civil aviation authority says an error by the Iranian military was the cause of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752’s destruction in January 2020.

In its long-awaited final report on the incident, released today, Iranian safety investigators conclude that the Boeing 737-800 passenger plane was shot down by accident after being “misidentified” by an air defence unit as a “hostile target.”

All 176 passengers and crew members — including 138 people with ties to Canada — died in the crash.

“The … aircraft was misidentified by the air defence unit in the suburbs of Tehran and, consequently, two missiles were launched toward it,” the report reads. “The operation of the aircraft had not imposed any error to the air defence unit.

“The interference of military activity with civil aviation operations resulted in an accident.”

Investigators identified the immediate cause of the crash as the detonation of a warhead on the first of two surface-to-air missiles fired in close proximity to the plane. The explosion damaged the aircraft’s navigation systems and caused it to crash. The plane exploded on impact.

The report, conducted by Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, bolsters the Iranian government’s claim that the plane was shot down as a result of human error — but it leaves unanswered many questions raised by the Canadian government and the families of the victims.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said it has received the final report and senior officials will respond at a press conference Thursday morning.

Iran denied shooting down the aircraft for three days after the crash. In response to mounting international pressure and evidence, Iran later admitted a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “mistakenly” shot down the jet.

The Iranian military was on high alert at the time because of the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike five days earlier, and a subsequent retaliatory attack by Iran on Iraqi bases where U.S. forces were stationed.

In a video posted to Facebook, Ukraine’s foreign minister blasted the investigation as incomplete and biased.

“What we saw published today is just a cynical attempt to hide true causes of the downing of our passenger aircraft,” Dmytro Kuleba said, according to an English translation.

“This is not a report but a collection of manipulations aimed not at establishing the truth, but acquitting the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Kuleba said the investigation violated standards set out under international law and by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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Vancouver skateboarders zero in on Olympic shot

When Andy Anderson and Adam Hopkins first got hooked on skateboarding, never in their wildest dreams could either have imagined they’d one day be vying for a spot on Canadian Olympic team.

But pandemic willing, that’s exactly what the two Vancouver-based skaters are chasing, not to mention the chance to make a little history with the sport of skateboarding debuting at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“It’s kind of crazy to be here at this point with Olympics being on the table,” said Hopkins, 30. “That was never something I really thought about. I was more on the road — traveling, filming videos, shooting photos, doing that kind of thing.”

“It’s really interesting,” said Anderson. “Nothing’s really changed except how much respect I get from other people. I’m still just a skateboarder, but now that this sport is in the Olympics people want to get me on the news!”

Respect hasn’t always flowed to skateboarders, especially from people who buy into some of the unkind stereotypes around the sport.

Olympic hopeful skateboarder Andy Anderson at the Leeside Tunnel Skatepark in East Vancouver on Thursday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

And it’s not lost on 24-year-old Anderson how ironic it is that the town he grew up in — White Rock, B.C. — had bylaws that made street skateboarding illegal.

In fact, a few years ago, while en route to receive a special commendation from the mayor for winning the world freestyle skateboard title in Japan, a fellow citizen threatened to have him arrested.

“I was skating across White Rock to get the award and this dude is yelling at me from his balcony,” he laughed. “In my hometown, for me to ride from my house to the coffee shop is illegal.”

In contrast, Hopkins honed his skills in a place where skating was encouraged: the family barn in his hometown of Thunder Bay.

Canadian national team member and Olympic skateboard hopeful Adam Hopkins at Hastings Skatepark in East Vancouver. 0:39

That’s where his dad built a vert ramp and where he laid the foundation that has propelled him to the top of the sport and his mastery of some of the biggest and most difficult tricks.

Reluctant to talk about himself — “In skateboarding you’re more humble,” says Hopkins  — he also gives credit to those who had the vision to build the Hastings Skatepark in East Vancouver, recognized as a world-class facility and key to his and Anderson’s development.

Hopkins credits Hastings Skatepark for giving him a place to develop his skills. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Some purists aren’t keen on the Olympic “sportification” of skateboarding, with its unavoidable emphasis on rules and judges and structure. But Hopkins sees it as a way to open doors.

“I guess it’s legitimizing for a certain segment of the population, 100 per cent. There’s a lot of benefits to that, like getting skatepark facilities, getting indoor facilities built,” he said.

The Tokyo Olympics will showcase two events for men and women: street and park, the latter being the focus for both Anderson and Hopkins.

Canadian national skateboard team member and Olympic hopeful Andy Anderson at Leeside Tunnel in East Vancouver. 0:36

A schedule of international qualifying events to choose 20 competitors for each discipline is still being nailed down because of the uncertainty COVID-19 has thrown into the mix.

Adam Higgins, Canada Skateboard director of high performance, believes if all goes well, Canada could qualify as many as seven or eight skaters for Tokyo.

“Those numbers aren’t unrealistic, we’re pretty close. We just need a couple more competitions to get there,” he said. “Andy and Adam are both in a very close position, if not in a qualification spot right now.” 

Andy Anderson became a world champion skater despite growing up in White Rock where street skating is illegal. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Despite the uncertainty, Anderson said his only focus right now is being ready to shine when the moment comes.

“I feel pressure, but I also enjoy pressure — at least I tell myself I do,” he smiled.

“True champions like [skateboarder] Nyjah Huston and Shaun White in snowboarding, they don’t perform their best unless there’s pressure. It’s the pressure that makes diamonds, right?”

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So you got your COVID-19 shot. Does that mean life goes back to normal?

After Toronto family physician Dr. Tali Bogler received her final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in January, she felt a newfound sense of relief — but also knew her daily life wasn’t going to suddenly change.

On an afternoon in late February, while still dressed in her bright blue hospital scrubs after a shift, she was cuddling one of her twin daughters while catching up with her parents on a video chat.

It’s the same kind of virtual family time Bogler has experienced throughout the pandemic. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean she’ll start seeing them in person without precautions any time soon, she said, since her parents won’t get their shots for months.

“It’s really hard,” she said, though acknowledging there’s also a sense of excitement for what’s to come. “This period of time, from now until September, I guess, when everyone else is vaccinated, is a transition period.”

More and more Canadians will be grappling with that sense of limbo in the weeks and months ahead after getting vaccinated and protected against COVID-19 while millions of others are still waiting for their turn.

“What does that normalcy look like?” asked Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre.

“That’s a question that we are collectively struggling with.”

Dr. Tali Bogler, pictured with her daughter in their backyard in Toronto, video calls her parents who haven’t yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. (Sam Nar/CBC)

Experts who spoke with CBC News stressed that people still need to err on the side of caution and keep their guard up awhile longer, whether vaccinated or not, to protect those around them. 

But after a year of lockdowns and restrictions, there’s also bound to be plenty of friends and families hoping to spend time together once more Canadians start getting their shots — a reality that requires taking stock of everyone’s comfort level when it comes to risk.

“I do think we’re entering into a phase where people are more and more tired of having to deal with public health restrictions, and so we’re probably more likely to encounter that,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Susy Hota, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

“I think the important message to give people is that in the short term, nothing changes. So they have to live their lives the same way as they were before they were vaccinated, because it will take some time to get enough people vaccinated.”

Risk ‘quite low’ among vaccinated people

Of course, as time passes, more vaccinated people will know more vaccinated people, be it friends, family members or co-workers.

So, at what point can those groups of COVID-protected people start spending time together without the usual pandemic safety concerns?

“If your parents are older, and they’ve gotten vaccinated — and you’re vaccinated — the risk is quite low, especially if you are continuing publicly to maintain all the other public health measures,” Hota said.

But those situations won’t be common for a while, forcing friends and families to navigate a stark, two-tier world of protection levels. 

That means even while vaccinations scale up, public health measures such as mask-wearing and distancing from others are expected to stay in place.

“We often talk about herd immunity,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health. “And that’s often what we really need to have before we can be confident that having so many people vaccinated is acting like that wall to keep COVID from coming back into our community.”

‘Nothing changes’ in the short-term until more people are vaccinated, says Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control for the University Health Network in Toronto. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

While the vaccines in use so far are proving highly effective at stopping serious illness and death, they aren’t 100 per cent protective and don’t offer instant immunity. Researchers also still aren’t sure how much they might curb transmission of the virus.

“If it interrupts infection, then it’s kind of stopping that chain of transmission from happening, just by virtue of having fewer people who are going to get infected,” Hota said. “But there may still be some asymptomatic infections and some ability to shed virus.”

In Israel, where mass vaccinations are already taking place, the country’s largest health-care system has so far reported a 94 per cent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections — and early study findings suggest at least one vaccine may curb transmission, too.

Those results bode well, but it’s still going to take time to confirm them more broadly, Vinh said.

In the meantime, plenty of people waiting to get vaccinated will remain highly vulnerable to the impacts of a COVID-19 infection, be it lingering, long-lasting symptoms or a gruelling recovery following an ICU stay.

“People who have had cancer, people who had transplants, people who have genetic conditions,” he said.

Find ways to lower risk

At first blush, it’s probably not the news most people want to hear. Finally, at long last, vaccine shipments are ramping up and more residents will be rolling up their sleeves in the months ahead, yet nothing changes?

Hota said while it might feel that way at first, there’s likely going to be a slow and steady reduction in restrictions as vaccination campaigns roll out from high-risk age groups to younger populations.

“If you rush it,” she said, “you can jeopardize the whole approach.”

Dr. Dominik Mertz, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, said it will become even more crucial in the months ahead to assess your comfort level around risk, and the comfort level of those with whom you’re considering spending time.

“Policy decisions aside, it’ll be a discussion,” he said. 

“Some families may decide, OK, my grandparents or parents are vaccinated — they’re high risk, but highly protected — and we as a family decide it’s OK meeting in their house.”

Care home workers get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in late December. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

But you can also make those efforts to start seeing each other without fully scrapping precautions, he said. Instead of meeting indoors post-vaccination, you could spend time outside where the transmission risk is lower.

“Maybe don’t take the full risk,” Mertz said. “Find something in between, where your personal needs are met but you don’t take the highest possible risk.”

And, he said, it’s important to pay attention to what’s happening in your broader community, not just your own social circle. 

High levels of community transmission would mean the chance of people you know being infected goes up as well. It’s a trend public health officials are watching closely given the cases of highly contagious variants already circulating, which could lead to another surge in cases.

WATCH | Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may curb transmission, early research suggests:

New research conducted in Israel shows that if a person is infected with COVID-19 after receiving a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine there’s less coronavirus in the system, and that could mean the vaccine may help prevention transmission. 1:55

‘Normalcy is on the horizon’

With so much to consider, Canadians could face some frustration and ethical dilemmas over the next year.

Toronto resident Mary Ellen Abrams, who is currently living in a retirement community in Palm Springs, Calif., said she was surprised to get access to a local vaccination program during her stay in the U.S. — but then found herself stumped on what to do next.

“We’re all kind of saying, by mid-March, two weeks after the second dose, we should all be able to hang around each other, to go for dinner together,” said the 65-year-old. “They’ve opened up indoor dining here in California and we thought, ‘Gosh, can we do that?'”

She also wondered whether it would be safe to see her grandchildren in Toronto after she gets back and completes the mandatory hotel quarantine, since she hasn’t spent time with them in-person since last March, beyond saying hello on a front porch or during drive-by greetings.

Mask-wearing, physical distancing and other public health precautions will likely stay in place for some time as vaccinations ramp up, experts say. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But finding answers to her questions hasn’t been easy, Abrams said, with little information available on any government websites about what you can or can’t do in your daily life post-vaccination.

“Everyone will want to be vaccinated if they know they can get their life back to somewhat normal,” she said.

Vinh said that scenario requires a little more patience to avoid giving the virus more chances to spread during what has the potential to mark a turning point in the pandemic.

“We don’t want to say, ‘Well, we have a vaccine coming and they say it is almost 100 per cent effective, and once I get my first shot I can go out and do my thing, my regular thing,'” he said. “Not yet, not yet.”

The payoff of getting your shot, for now, remains the personal protection it provides, not a sudden end to the pandemic for everyone in your life — even though that’s the ultimate hope for mass vaccination efforts.

Bogler, the Toronto physician and mother to twins, can certainly relate to that feeling.

Memories of her COVID-19 exposures at work are still fresh, including a stretch where she had to isolate from her daughters and partner for two weeks last year. But those close calls likely won’t be the norm for her anymore, taking a weight off her shoulders even as she continues masking, distancing, and staying apart from her parents awhile longer.

“Normalcy is on the horizon,” she said.

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Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot OK to use despite variant questions, WHO panel says

The Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and should be deployed widely, including in countries where the variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa may reduce its efficacy, a World Health Organization panel said on Wednesday.

In interim recommendations on the shot, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) panel said the vaccine should be given in two doses with an interval of eight to 12 weeks, and should also be used in people aged 65 and older.

Even in countries such as South Africa, where questions have been raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy against a newly emerged variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, “there is no reason not to recommend its use,” SAGE’s chair, Alejandro Cravioto, told a briefing.

“We have made a recommendation that even if there is a reduction in the possibility of this vaccine having a full impact in its protection capacity, especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have circulation of the variant,” he said.

Health Canada is considering authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than the two mRNA vaccines already approved for use in this country.

AstraZeneca‘s product was also less efficacious (70 per cent) in clinical trials than the Pfizer-BioNTech (95 per cent) and Moderna vaccines (92 per cent) rolling out to Canadians. 

Health Canada “is currently completing its review of the submitted data and expects to make a decision on the authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming days,” a spokesperson said in an email on Tuesday. “While the Department collaborates with other regulators, it remains committed to conducting an independent and thorough scientific review of all COVID-19 vaccines.”

South Africa this week paused part of its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data from a small trial showed it did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the variant of the coronavirus now dominant in the country.

Option for Canada?

Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) that makes recommendations to governments on the use of newly approved vaccines for humans, said AstraZeneca’s vaccine is better than nothing. 

“Let’s say it becomes available in the next two or three weeks when there is no Pfizer or Moderna,” Quach said. “I think people who are healthy and not at risk could benefit entirely.”

The WHO said the preliminary findings from South Africa “highlight the urgent need for a co-ordinated approach for surveillance and evaluation of variants” and their impact on vaccine efficacy.

“The important thing to remember is the AstraZeneca vaccine is an efficacious vaccine,” said Dr. Katherine O’Brien, head of WHO’s immunization department. “It is an important vaccine for the world given the short supply that we have.”

WHO’s expert panel recommendations about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed at Oxford University in Britain, largely mirror those issued earlier by the European Medicines Agency and Britain’s drug regulator.

The AstraZeneca vaccine forms the bulk of the stockpile acquired so far by the UN-backed effort known as COVAX, which aims to deploy coronavirus vaccines to people globally.

COVAX plans to start shipping hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine worldwide later this month, pending WHO approval for the shot, vaccine stocks and countries’ readiness to receive it.

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Western governments defend Oxford-AstraZeneca shot after South Africa halts rollout

Several Western governments rushed to offer support for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination after South Africa halted its rollout when research showed it offered minimal protection against mild infection from a variant spreading there.

The arrival of vaccines has given hope that scientists can tame a pandemic that has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide. But if vaccines are less effective against new variants, they may need to be tweaked and people may need booster shots.

South Africa announced its pause after researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said Sunday that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided only minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the B1351 variant, now the dominant form of the virus in that country.

The research, which is not yet peer reviewed, included about 2,000 volunteers with a median age of 31. The researchers defined mild disease as at least one symptom of COVID-19. There was no data on whether the vaccine would prevent severe illness, and researchers said that was still possible.

“This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected,” said Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial. “But, taken with the promising results from other studies in South Africa using a similar viral vector, vaccines may continue to ease the toll on health-care systems by preventing severe disease.”

French Health Minister Olivier Veran voiced support for the AstraZeneca vaccine, arguing it provided sufficient protection against “nearly all the variants” of the virus.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said current evidence suggests all three vaccines approved in Europe — which include AstraZeneca — provided effective protection against serious infections.

Britain and Australia urged calm, citing evidence that the vaccines prevented grave illness and death, while AstraZeneca said it believed its vaccine could protect against severe disease.

“We think that both the vaccines that we’re currently using are effective in, as I say, in stopping serious disease and death,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters. Britain also uses the Pfizer shot.

WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine approvals and concerns:

Health Canada is expected to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week, which would make it the third COVID-19 vaccine approved in Canada. In South Africa, authorities have paused rollout of this vaccine after a study found it offers only limited protection against the coronavirus variant first identified there. 3:42

“We also think in particular in the case of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that there’s good evidence that it is stopping transmission, as well — I think 67 per cent reduction in transmission.” (Oxford investigators suggested, based on swabs from U.K. volunteers, a 67 per cent reduction after the first dose.)

Australia is expected to approve the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine within days and expressed confidence in it. 

“There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death. That is the fundamental task: to protect the health,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Health Canada is also reviewing data submitted by AstraZeneca to decide on its approval. 

But if vaccines do not work as effectively as hoped against new and emerging variants, then the world could be facing a much longer — and more expensive — battle against the virus than previously thought.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was the big hope for Africa as it is cheap and easy to store and transport. South Africa, which had hoped to roll out the AstraZeneca shot this month, is storing around one million doses it has received from the Serum Institute of India.

The B1351 variant dominant in South Africa, also known as 20I/501Y.V2, is also circulating in at least 40 other countries, including Canada and the United States. Other major variants include one first found in Britain, known as 20I/501Y.V1 or B117, and one found in Brazil known as P.1.

Vaccine hopes

An analysis of infections by the South African variant showed there was only a 22 per cent lower risk of developing mild-to-moderate COVID-19, more than 14 days after being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot, versus those given a placebo.

Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalization or death could not be assessed in the study of around 2,000 volunteers who had a median age of 31, as the target population were at such low risk.

Prof. Shabir Madhi, lead investigator on the AstraZeneca trial in South Africa, said the vaccine’s similarity to another produced by Johnson & Johnson, which reduced severe disease by 85 per cent, suggested it would still prevent serious illness or death.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said efforts were underway to develop a new generation of booster shot vaccines that will allow protection against emerging variants.

“This is the same issue that is faced by all of the vaccine developers, and we will continue to monitor the emergence of new variants that arise in readiness for a future strain change.”

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The NFL playoffs get a shot in the arm this weekend

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The NFL’s best teams jump into the playoffs this weekend

For sheer gluttonous enjoyment, it’s tough to beat Super Wild Card Weekend. Watching back-to-back-to-back NFL playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday was a true delight. But many hardcore fans consider this upcoming weekend the best of the year.

That’s because the Divisional Round brings the league’s best teams back into the picture. In past years, the top two seeds in both conferences enjoyed a first-round bye. Starting this year, only the No. 1 seeds got the break. Those are Green Bay and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

Besides going a combined 27-5 this season, K.C. and Green Bay have the top two candidates for MVP in quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Getting them back in the mix should make for another exciting weekend.

Here’s a quick look at all four matchups:

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET)

The Rams have the hottest defence in football after smothering Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last week. That gives them a puncher’s chance to pull off another upset — this time against the best team in the NFC. But the Packers have the NFL’s No. 1 offence and, in Rodgers, the likely MVP. They also get to play at Lambeau Field, in near-freezing temperature, against a team from Southern California.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET)

Ravens QB (and reigning NFL MVP) Lamar Jackson says he’s never played in the snow. The forecast for Saturday night in Orchard Park, N.Y., calls for 1-3 cm. But that might actually help the Ravens, who run a ground-based attack built off Jackson’s rushing talents. Bills QB Josh Allen is a great runner too, but Buffalo shifted to more of an aerial attack this season as it led the AFC in points and then picked up its first playoff win in 25 years.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City (Sunday 3:05 p.m. ET)

The Browns got their first playoff win in 26 years, upsetting Pittsburgh despite the absence of their head coach and a Pro Bowl offensive lineman due to positive coronavirus tests. Cleveland is back to full strength now but faces an even taller order against the defending Super Bowl champs. Kansas City coach Andy Reid is, famously, near-unbeatable with an extra week to prepare, and the Browns’ defence has plenty of weaknesses for him and Mahomes to attack.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday 6:40 p.m. ET)

Fox is broadcasting this game. But, as Tom Brady joked, it might be a better fit for the History Channel. Brady, 43, squares off with Drew Brees, who turned 42 today, in a battle of ancient quarterbacks who are both among the greatest of all time. Brady is not aging like a normal human, but Brees won both their matchups this season. He threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions in a pair of Saints blowouts while Brady tossed two TDs and five picks. That last stat is an indication of what might, despite the QB hype, actually decide this game: New Orleans and Tampa Bay have two of the best defences in football.

Tom Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bucs past Washington in the NFC Wild Card round. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

It’s a chaotic time for Canadian curling

When Curling Canada announced it would hold the Scotties and the Brier in a bubble in Calgary this winter, it put a lot of pressure on provincial and territorial governing bodies. They have to figure out which teams will represent them at a time when indoor curling isn’t allowed in much of the country — much less a large playdown tournament. Eight provinces have already cancelled those (B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia) while others are still holding out hope for some kind of championship event instead of just naming their team.

It’s getting tougher to keep track of who’s doing what, but CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux puts it all together for us in his latest story. He also looks at what’s ahead and explains why Curling Canada is so determined to go ahead with the Brier and Scotties (money, yes, but it’s more than that). Read the piece here.


The New York Jets made history with their coaching hire. Robert Saleh, whose parents are Lebanese, is believed to be the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. The former San Francisco 49ers defensive co-ordinator is also the first head coach to net his former team a pair of bonus third-round picks under the NFL’s new policy to reward teams that develop minority coaches and executives. Saleh, 41, has never been a head coach before. But he earned universal respect in guiding San Francisco’s fierce defence to the Super Bowl last year, and his upbeat, energetic style seems to resonate with players. Saleh will try to rebuild a rotten Jets team that went 2-14 this season and could land a new quarterback with the second overall pick in this year’s draft.

Kyrie Irving’s vacation has cost him almost a million bucks. The mercurial Brooklyn guard has missed the last five games while away from the team for “personal reasons.” During that time, a video showed him attending an indoor family birthday party without wearing a mask. The NBA fined Irving $ 50,000 US today for violating its health and safety protocols and said he’ll forfeit his salary for the two games he’s missed while serving a five-day quarantine, which will end Saturday as long as he doesn’t test positive for the coronavirus. That works out to more than $ 800K. Irving is the second player to be fined by the NBA this season for attending a large indoor social gathering. The first was his new teammate, James Harden, who the Nets acquired in a blockbuster trade this week.

Things to watch on CBC Sports

Anyone’s Game: The docuseries, premiering tonight on CBC TV and also available on CBC Gem, follows the basketball team at Orangeville Prep. That’s the elite Toronto-area high school that has propelled several Canadian players to the NBA, including Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray. CBC Sports contributor Vivek Jacob spoke with Orangeville head coach Tony McIntyre and alumnus Shemar Rathan-Mayes about the program’s impact on Canadian basketball. Watch the video here.

Winter Olympic sports: Starting early Saturday morning and continuing Sunday, you can watch live World Cup events in luge, bobsleigh, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and ski jumping on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. See the full schedule here.

Road to the Olympic Games: Saturday’s show features World Cup races in luge, alpine skiing, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from 1-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. Sunday’s show features alpine, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from noon-2 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app, or check local listings for TV times.

You’re up to speed. Get The Buzzer in your inbox every weekday by subscribing below.

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The Marathon Project: ‘Time is now’ for Canadians to take shot at Olympic standard

The Marathon Project will be the first competition at the distance for Canadians Justin Kent and Ben Preisner, who also share the same coach and a love for road racing after a seamless transition from the track.

But they took different paths to this weekend’s elite-only professional race in Arizona, while the latter appears more aggressive in making an immediate push for the Tokyo Olympic standard.

“I had my eye on the Olympic standard and a lot of my training was geared towards that,” said Preisner, who spent the final five weeks of his marathon build running at altitude in Flagstaff, 270 kilometres north of Chandler, site of Sunday’s 42.2 km event.

“Through my half marathon training and what I’ve done now in the marathon, I’ve felt I’m capable of hitting the standard. This is the time to do it. The Olympic year is [approaching] and the [qualifying] window is closing [May 31]. I might as well give it a shot and be confident going in.”

Preisner, one of six Canadians who will take the line at 10 a.m. ET, also trained at Flagstaff in January until his planned marathon debut in London was postponed in March when coronavirus shut down sports in North America. The 24-year-old ran his own marathon time trial in April in two hours 15 minutes 24 seconds, nearly four minutes off the 2:11:30 men’s Olympic standard.

Ben Preisner of Milton, Ont., says he was fit to run a half marathon personal best at worlds in October after training at altitude in Arizona early in 2020. (Submitted by Richard Lee)

Preisner then shifted his focus to the half marathon and noted he was in shape to lower his 1:02:57 personal best at the world championships in October before Athletics Canada pulled its team from the event after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Poland.

“I took that fitness and it played well into this marathon build,” said the native of Milton, Ont.

Preisner won his debut half marathon in 2019 in Vancouver and four months later at the Toronto Waterfront event after five years of cross-country and track running at the University of Tulsa.

“I love the feel of road racing. It’s kind of a fast cross-country race and I’ve always excelled at the longer distances.”

Kent, who remained in Vancouver to train, pointed out many don’t reach the marathon standard in their first race like Cam Levins, who set the national record in his debut at Toronto in 2018 and is racing Sunday.

WATCH | Cam Levins smashes Canadian marathon record:

In his marathon debut, Cam Levins of Black Creek, B.C., broke Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old Canadian men’s marathon record by 44 seconds. Levins finished fourth in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a time of 2:09:25. 1:48

“I feel I’d be doing the distance a bit of a disservice if I said I’d run the Olympic standard in my first go,” said Kent, who is also coached by Richard Lee at BC Endurance Project. “Training has been going really well and I want to come out of this marathon with a positive experience, whether that’s 2:15 and I finish strong, or I get closer to the Olympic standard. I’d be happy either way.”

The 28-year-old mostly ran the 1,500 metres and mile before bursting on the road scene last year and winning the Vancouver Sun Run 10K.

‘There’s such an allure with the marathon’

This year, Kent won the men’s race of the first-ever virtual Canadian 10K Championships, met the world half marathon standard and ran a 62-minute half along Vancouver’s Seawall.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Anson Henry discusses the importance of pacemakers:

What is a pacemaker? Are they important? Oh, they’re important alright. CBC Sports Anson Henry breaks it down. 2:44

“I’ve always felt good running on the road,” he said. “I think my stride clicks a bit more with a harder surface and I get in a groove.

“There’s such an allure with the marathon and as a distance runner it’s always fascinated me.”

Kent said he prepared mentally for The Marathon Project, which will be contested on a fast 6.9 km loop course with roundabouts at each end, by running loops in training and 50 laps around a track last month in breaking the national 20,000 record by nine seconds in 1:01:01.

Lee believes Preisner and Kent could run sub-2:14 with a reasonable chance of being under the Olympic standard if the weather cooperates, they feel strong, control their nerves and fuel properly during the race.

Scottish runner Sarah Inglis, a physical education teacher in Langley, B.C., is also making her marathon debut in Arizona while Natasha Wodak, Kinsey Middleton and Rory Linkletter round out the Canadian contingent. Ben Flanagan of Kitchener, Ont., who won his debut half marathon earlier this month, will be a pacesetter for the 2:11:30 men’s group.

Wodak’s primary goal for Tokyo is the 10,000, but the Vancouver runner is “feeling fit and healthy” and told CBC Sports she has had several workouts suggesting she can run sub-2:27 and under the 2:29:30 women’s Olympic standard.

“In my last two big sessions I was able to hit my target paces even though I had some pain — hamstring tendinitis that comes and goes,” said Wodak, who clocked 2:35:16 in her first and only marathon in 2013. “I know when it gets tough during the race and the pain sets in, I’ll be able to endure and fight.”

Levins, like Preisner, spent five weeks in Flagstaff continuing his build from the London Marathon.

The Black Creek, B.C., athlete ran at 2:09:30 pace through 35 km in the rain and cool conditions but later dropped out when the standard didn’t feel attainable.

The thought of a quick return to racing in the United States and being part of a quality field was attractive to Levins, who lives in Portland, Ore.

“If I lower the Canadian record, I should be in a good situation for being selected for the Olympics,” said Levins, who ran the course on Tuesday. “It’ll probably take that to solidify a spot. There are a lot of good Canadians [competing], a lot of guys in good form, but I have no reason to think I’m not ready.”

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