Sergio Aguero, Manchester City’s record scorer, will leave the English club after 10 years when his contract expires at the end of the season.
The 32-year-old Argentina striker has 257 goals for City, the most famous being his stoppage-time winner against Queens Parks Rangers on the final day of the 2011-12 season that clinched the team its first league title in 44 years.
A key player in the growth of the Abu Dhabi-owned club as a major force in England and Europe, Aguero has struggled with injuries over the past year and been restricted to just 14 appearances in all competitions this season. The penalty he converted against Fulham on March 13 was his 181st goal in the Premier League but his first in the division since January 2020.
In a Twitter post on Monday to his 14 million followers, Aguero said he had a “huge sense of satisfaction and pride” about playing for City for a decade and is ready to “continue competing at the highest level.”
“Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated,” club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said. “His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the club and maybe even in those who simply love football.”
Al Mubarak said a statue of Aguero has been commissioned to stand alongside those currently being made to honour the player’s former teammates, David Silva and Vincent Kompany.
That trio, along with midfielder Yaya Toure, were central to City’s success over the past decade.
Aguero, who joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011, scored at least 28 goals in all competitions in six straight seasons for City and will go down as one of the greatest strikers to have played in the Premier League.
He is the league’s highest-scoring overseas player. His haul of 181 puts him fourth on the all-time scoring list, behind Alan Shearer (260), Wayne Rooney (208) and Andy Cole (187).
Aguero also has a Premier League-high 12 hat tricks.
Aguero said he forged “an indestructible bond with all those who love this club — people who will always be in my heart.”
“I will continue to give it my utmost for the rest of the season to win more titles and bring more joy to the fans,” Aguero said in his Twitter post. “Then, a new stage with new challenges will begin.”
One of <a href=”https://twitter.com/ManCity?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ManCity</a>’s most iconic players, Sergio Aguero 💙<a href=”https://t.co/90MDXNw4es”>pic.twitter.com/90MDXNw4es</a>
City is on course for the “quadruple” this season, as it leads the Premier League by 14 points, has reached the final of the English League Cup, the semifinals of the FA Cup, and the quarterfinals of the Champions League — a trophy Aguero has yet to win at the club.
He has, though, won the Premier League four times, the League Cup five times, and the FA Cup once.
Aguero was able to change his game to fit in with the style of play demanded by Pep Guardiola after the Spanish coach took charge of City in 2016. He transformed himself into more of an all-round player, with the ability to drop deeper and link up play, but never lost his fearsome ball-striking and poacher qualities inside the area.
Aguero has previously spoken about returning to Argentina to finish his career with former club Independiente.
Humans haven’t been great for the health of the planet, but even if we pollute ourselves into extinction, Earth will continue on. It’s survived enormous asteroid impacts and megavolcanoes, after all. A few primates aren’t going to do worse in the long-run. The ultimate fate of life on Earth lies a billion years in the future. A new study supported by NASA’s exoplanet habitability research lays out how the sun will eventually bake the planet, turning Earth from a lush, oxygen-rich world to a dried-up husk with no complex life.
NASA is interested in the future of Earth because it’s the only habitable planet we can study up close. As such, scientists have attempted to extrapolate the properties of Earth-like planets we might be able to detect from great distances. Kazumi Ozaki at Toho University in Japan and Chris Reinhard at the Georgia Institute of Technology created a model of Earth’s climate, biology, and geology to see how it will change.
According to Ozaki and Reinhard, Earth’s oxygenated atmosphere is not a permanent feature. There was very little of it in the atmosphere until 2.4 billion years ago when cyanobacteria evolved to absorb carbon dioxide and expel oxygen — this is known as the Great Oxidation Event. This gave rise to all the forms of multicellular life we see on Earth today. There’s just one problem: the Sun. As stars age, they get hotter, and the Sun is about a billion years from roasting Earth.
The study predicts that in a billion years, the Sun will become so hot that it breaks down carbon dioxide. The levels of CO2 will become so low that photosynthesizing plants will be unable to survive, and that means no more oxygen for the rest of us. When that happens, the changes will be abrupt. Ozaki and Reinhard say in the study, published in Nature Geoscience, that it could take a little as 10,000 years for oxygen levels to drop to a millionth of what it is now. That’s a blink of the eye in geological terms. Methane levels will also begin to rise, reaching 10,000 times the level seen today.
Cyanobacteria like these oxygenated the atmosphere, but the era of oxygen may be fleeting.
This harsh, choking atmosphere will be incompatible with any multicellular life as it exists today. The globe will be given over to bacteria and archaea, the heartiest of living organisms to see the planet through the rest of its existence until it’s swallowed by the Sun. Even if more complex life did survive, it would be irradiated by the increasingly luminous Sun. Without oxygen, the ozone layer will evaporate and expose the surface to more intense UV radiation.
Ozaki and Reinhard conclude that oxygen is an important biomarker, but it may not be a permanent feature of planets with life. That could change how we categorize exoplanets going forward — even without oxygen, there could be plenty of single-celled life.
The Trudeau government has agreed with the Senate that Canadians suffering solely from grievous and incurable mental illnesses should be entitled to medical assistance in dying — but not for another two years.
The two-year interlude is six months longer than what was proposed by senators.
The longer wait is one of a number of changes to Bill C-7 proposed by the government in response to amendments approved last week by the Senate.
The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed people who fear being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions to make advance requests for an assisted death.
It has also rejected one other amendment and modified two others in a motion that is to be debated today in the House of Commons.
If the Commons approves the government’s response, the bill will go back to the Senate, where senators will have to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected chamber or dig in their heels.
Government proposes expert review
Bill C-7 would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives, bringing the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.
As originally drafted, the bill would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.
A strong majority of senators argued that the exclusion was unconstitutional. They said it violated the right to equal treatment under the law, regardless of physical or mental disability, as guaranteed in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
They voted to impose an 18-month time limit on the mental illness exclusion, which the government now wants to extend to two years.
WATCH | Changes to medical assistance in dying bill for dementia, mental illness up for debate
Senate amendments to the medical assistance in dying bill would make it easier for Canadians with mental illness or the prospect of dementia to get help ending their lives. But as those changes are debated there are concerns a sensitive subject will become a political football. 2:19
During that interlude, the government is also proposing to have experts conduct an independent review of the issue and, within one year, recommend the “protocols, guidance and safeguards” that should apply to requests for assisted dying from people with a mental illness.
In the meantime, senators had wanted to clarify that the exclusion of mental illness does not apply to people with neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. However, the government has rejected that amendment.
In rejecting advance requests, the government motion argues that the Senate amendment on that issue “goes beyond the scope of the bill” and requires “significant consultation and study,” including a “careful examination of safeguards.”
It suggests that the issue should be examined during the legally required five-year parliamentary review of the assisted dying law, which was supposed to begin last June but has yet to materialize.
The government has agreed, however, to a modified version of a Senate amendment to finally get that review underway within 30 days of Bill C-7 receiving royal assent.
The government is proposing the creation of a joint Commons-Senate committee to review the assisted dying regime, including issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities. The committee would be required to report back, with any recommended changes within one year.
Court-imposed deadline looms
The government has also agreed to a modified version of another Senate amendment to require the collection of race-based data on who is requesting and receiving medical assistance in dying.
It is proposing to expand that to include data on people with disabilities and to specify that the information be used to determine if there is “the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics.”
That is in response to the strenuous opposition to Bill C-7 from disability rights advocates who maintain the bill sends the message that life with a disability is a fate worse than death. They’ve also argued that Black, racialized and Indigenous people with disabilities — already marginalized and facing systemic discrimination in the health system — could be induced to end their lives prematurely due to poverty and a lack of support services.
Some critics have also raised concerns about unequal access to assisted dying for marginalized people, rural Canadians and Indigenous people in remote communities.
Since the Liberals hold only a minority of seats in the Commons, the government will need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass its response to the Senate amendments.
The Conservatives, who largely opposed expanding access to assisted dying in the original bill, and New Democrats, who are reluctant to accept any changes proposed by unelected senators, have indicated they’re not likely to support the motion.
That leaves the Bloc Québécois as the government’s most likely dance partner. Despite his own contempt for the Senate, which he maintains has no legitimacy, Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet, has said senators’ amendments to C-7 are “not without interest and indeed deserve to be looked at.”
The government is hoping to have the bill passed by both parliamentary chambers by Friday to meet the thrice-extended court-imposed deadline for bringing the law into compliance with the 2019 ruling.
But with the Conservatives signalling that they may drag out debate on the Senate amendments, the government will ask the court on Thursday to give it one more month — until March 26.
Her laugh. That competitive fire. All that winning.
Sandra Schmirler, from Biggar, Sask. was larger than life on the ice. She was kind, caring, humble to a fault. On the pebbed sheets, she was intimidating.
What you saw, is what you got. And she was a champion.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: Sunday’s show will feature Schmirler’s daughter Sara England.
Schmirler and her Saskatchewan foursome are one of the most dominant rinks in curling history — winning three Scotties, three world championships and an Olympic gold medal in the 1990s.
They never lost an international event they competed in for Canada.
But for all the winning Schmirler did, giving birth to her two daughters were her biggest accomplishments and her proudest moments.
Sara England, Schmirler’s first daughter, was born in the midst of her Olympic pursuit. Jenna England, was born after her Olympic stardom.
WATCH | Sandra Schmirler wins Canada’s first Olympic gold in curling:
1998 Olympics 2:40
Then, far too quickly, she was gone.
Schmirler died of cancer in March 2000. Her loss sent a wave of sadness across Canada and beyond.
But in the wake of that unfathomable tragedy, the Sandra Schmirler Foundation came to life.
And on each opening Sunday at the Scotties since 2002, the Sandra Schmirler Telethon raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to help save babies born too soon.
This year, in the midst of a pandemic, the tradition continues — it’s the 20th anniversary.
“It’s hard to put into words that it’s been 20 years of very long-lasting support,” Sara said from her home in Regina.
“My sister and I have been working with the Foundation since 2015. It’s gotten bigger and bigger each year.”
All Sara and Jenna have are the old videos of their mother curling to remember who she was. They’ve been told all the stories about how empathetic she was. How funny she was. How much she loved her daughters.
“We were so young when the Foundation started. We never really fully understood the full capacity of what it was until we saw the Telethon first hand,” Sara said.
Sara, 23, and Jenna, 21, are now ambassadors for the Foundation. They’ve been sent telephones, along with dozens of others across the country, to answer the calls this year.
The first Telethon was held in Brandon, a fitting place considering Schmirler won her first Scotties and the Olympic trials in Brandon.
Since then, Telethons have raised $ 3.9 million and the Sandra Schmirler Foundation has funded $ 4.9 million of life-saving equipment in 61 different hospital neonatal intensive care units across every province and territory.
“Sandra Schmirler Foundation donors are dedicated and generous people who continue to ensure Sandra’s legacy lives on,” said Brenda Gallagher, the foundation’s director of operations.
“Because of them, so many families will bring healthy babies home from NICUs.”
With the Scotties taking place in a curling bubble in Calgary without fans, the city is still marking the day — the City of Calgary has declared Feb. 21, 2021 to be “Champions Start Small Day”.
Sara says she’s going to be part of the foundation and telethon for as long as she can — another way to connect with her mom, celebrate her mom and honour her mom.
“We’re helping other families become parents. That’s what is so special to me. Family was so important to my mom,” she said.
“Every year we go, it blows my mind how much support and how much love everyone has for my mom.”
All these years later, Schmirler’s legacy continues.
The 20th century was notable for numerous reasons, not least of which that humanity split the atom. In the remnants of atomic explosions, scientists found never-before-seen elements like einsteinium. Now, almost 70 years after its discovery, scientists have collected enough einsteinium to conduct some basic analysis.
Scientists understood that something should exist on the periodic table where einsteinium sits (atomic number 99), but the material had never been identified before 1952, which is when the United States set off the “Ivy Mike” thermonuclear bomb in the Marshall Islands (see above). However, einsteinium is extremely unstable, and it decayed before we could learn much about it. That’s been the case for the intervening 69 years, until now.
We no longer have to make einsteinium with hydrogen bombs, thank goodness. Scientists have a regular, if meager, source of einsteinium from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor. This device is used to produce heavy elements like californium (atomic number 98). Scientists make californium because it’s an excellent source of neutrons, but the process also yields some einsteinium. Usually, einsteinium is mixed up with other materials and decays rapidly into berkelium and then into californium.
Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory managed to isolate a tiny sample of pure einsteinium, a mere 200 nanograms. Previously, 1,000 nanograms was considered the smallest sample suitable for analysis, but the team prepared their einsteinium for testing and completed an X-ray absorption spectroscopy series. The sample showed a blueshift in the emitted light, meaning the wavelength was shortened. They expected a redshift; longer wavelengths. This suggests einsteinium’s bond distances are a bit shorter than predicted based on nearby elements on the periodic table.
A tiny sample of einsteinium. It glows from the intense radiation as it decays.
So that’s potentially fascinating science! But the coronavirus pandemic ruined the experiment as it has so many other things in the past year. The team was unable to complete X-ray diffraction testing that would have told us more about the electron and molecular bond structures of einsteinium before the lab was closed. When the team was again able to access their experiment, too much of the sample had decayed into californium — einsteinium decays at a rate of about 3.3 percent each day. Therefore, the contaminated sample was no longer suitable for testing.
The good news is more einsteinium will be available from the reactor every few months. This first step will pave the way for future research on this mysterious element.
Intel is finally back in the desktop graphics business, at least if you squint. The company has announced a partnership with certain PC OEMs to bring DG1 silicon to specific pre-built systems.
This isn’t exactly a full-on desktop graphics launch — that’ll come later in 2021 with the launch of DB2 — but Intel is still indisputably shipping at least a handful of discrete GPUs in the low end of the desktop market, for the first time in more than 20 years. The company announced it had partnered with “two ecosystem partners, including Asus” in its initial PR, but LegitReviews thinks the GPU featured in the image above is manufactured by Colorful. The other DG1 card identifies itself, ships without a fan, and is clearly an Asus-branded product.
Unfortunately for anyone hoping to play around with Intel’s latest desktop card and/or hoping to find a low-end GPU at a reasonable price, this GPU is OEM-only. Sometimes, OEM-only products will surface on secondary markets like eBay, but that’s not going to happen in this case. According to Intel, these GPUs will only work on very specific systems. LegitReviews inquired on this point and was told:
The Iris Xe discrete add-in card will be paired with 9th gen (Coffee Lake-S) and 10th gen (Comet Lake-S) Intel® Core™ desktop processors and Intel(R) B460, H410, B365, and H310C chipset-based motherboards and sold as part of pre-built systems. These motherboards require a special BIOS that supports Intel Iris Xe, so the cards won’t be compatible with other systems.
So, that’s that, then. It’s not clear why a motherboard would require a special UEFI to use a new GPU. Presumably DG2, when it arrives, will not have this problem.
It’s interesting to see Intel back in the graphics market because it’s been so long since we had an actual three-way fight. Once 3dfx died, the only company to offer any kind of competition to the ATI/Nvidia duopoly was PowerVR with the Kyro and Kyro II. While these GPUs were an interesting alternative to the Radeon and GeForce product lines, they did not find mainstream success and faded from the market.
Intel has not previously covered itself in glory where GPUs are concerned. The company’s first attempt at a discrete GPU, the Intel i740, was custom-designed to showcase the capabilities of Intel’s new AGP bus. It didn’t compare well against GPUs with onboard RAM, and Intel didn’t stay in the market very long. Intel’s Larrabee was based on a modified Pentium architecture with 512-bit vector processing units. Overall interest in Larrabee was high, but Intel canceled the product and used Larrabee as the basis for the first generation of Xeon Phi processors.
It’s not unfair to be skeptical of Intel’s ability to launch a competitive GPU. We don’t even necessarily expect Intel’s first-generation cards to be all that great, objectively speaking. So long as they’re good enough to get a little traction somewhere in the market, Intel has an opportunity to iterate and improve the design. With a third player on the field, both AMD and Nvidia are presented with new challenges — but also, potentially, with new opportunities depending on how Intel’s presence impacts user GPU purchases.
All of this hinges on Intel building competitive products and being willing to stay the course over the long term. Incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger may have his own ideas about where to take the company. These DG1-equipped systems aren’t going to make a huge splash in the wider market, but we should know how effectively DG2 will compare against AMD and Nvidia before the end of the year. Given how hard AMD and Nvidia cards have both been to source, Intel could spin a modest GPU into a smash hit just by shipping it on-time, at MSRP.
It’s been one cruel decade since Egyptians dared to disrupt the status quo of living in a suffocating police state.
The first month of 2011 was marked by the early days of Egypt’s uprising, part of a wave of Arab Spring protests that many saw as brave, hopeful and inevitable.
Now, with a pandemic capping off a decade of violence, horror and mass displacement in the Middle East, the protests in Tahrir Square are, at best, consciously forgotten by skeptical Egyptians as a naïve footnote or, at worst, cursed as original sin.
Many of the ills that made Egypt ripe for an uprising in 2011 have only been exacerbated in 2021: the lack of jobs, the lack of political participation and the utter lack of freedom.
Under President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has outdone itself as a prolific jailer and executioner — Human Rights Watch recently estimated the number of political prisoners at 60,000 and rising.
According to activists, the government has also deployed a persistent campaign aimed at framing the revolution as the harbinger of Egypt’s myriad woes and the reason it has been “brought to its knees.”
Egypt is now a country where the “Tahrir people” — as they’re pejoratively referred to by supporters of the regime — are either out of the country, if they haven’t been arrested, or keeping a silent vigil.
Many of them find it “very, very painful” to revisit those two and a half weeks in 2011, says celebrated Egyptian novelist and commentator Ahdaf Soueif, who participated in the protests.
According to Soueif, they “keep the 18 days in a place where they can be safe, where we protect them against accusations of having been a collective hallucination,” she said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Ideas.
“I hope the day will come when we draw inspiration again from those 18 days.”
Weeks of demonstrations
It took 18 days of protests in Tahrir Square for the uprising to bring down Egypt’s longstanding strongman president, Hosni Mubarak. Defying predictions of certain failure, the protesters took over the square, bringing Christian, secular and Islamist Egyptians — as well as affluent and poor citizens — together in idealistic common cause.
WATCH | Anti-government protesters clash with pro-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square in early 2011:
Violence erupts in Egypt as anti-government and pro-Mubarak protesters clash in Tahrir Square. 1:45
After Mubarak’s fall, the country saw a military council take charge, followed by the election of a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, vast counter-revolutionary protests, a military coup and the subsequent massacre of hundreds or more at a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in August 2013.
The 2011 protests spread beyond Egypt to neighbouring Libya — currently all but a failed state — as well as Syria, which was plunged into a horrific civil war that has seen intervention from the region and abroad and has killed tens of thousands and displaced many more.
Other countries swept up in the Arab Spring are either in the grip of violence (like Yemen) or in a repressive political vice-grip (Bahrain or the UAE). Only Tunisia, where the wave of protests began, appears to be on a relatively peaceful path of post-revolution political reform.
Hard as it may be to talk about Tahrir, given the loss of life and the crackdowns, some veterans of the revolution insist there is something to be salvaged from its ashes.
“Yes, society has changed,” said Soueif, who wrote a book about the protests called Cairo: My City, Our Revolution. “Everybody believes that something different is absolutely necessary, but [they] don’t quite know how to go about getting it.”
But while there may have been subtle positive consequences from the uprising — like a greater awareness of the rights that have been denied to many people — she cautioned, “I really hesitate to say it because the price has been so high and continues to be so high.”
On top of what happened to so many Tahrir activists, Soueif’s blogger nephew and activist niece are currently in prison. Last year, Soueif was briefly arrested herself for protesting the conditions in their prison during COVID-19.
The Tahrir revolution may have laid the groundwork for future action, whenever conditions permit it.
For example, it has led to mass politicization among Egyptians, says journalist and blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, a longtime blogger and activist who was also involved in the 2011 protests and helped document them.
One major lesson from that time is that “public squares do not bring down dictators and do not change regimes,” he said from Berlin, where he now lives.
“The real power is in the factories, it’s in the workplaces and it’s in the civil service offices.”
Countless strikes were going on during the revolution and workers were “chanting the same chants that we were chanting in Tahrir… and they declared their solidarity with the revolution,” said el-Hamalawy.
“That’s when I knew that … we’re going to win. Victory was on our doorstep.”
But ultimately, there was no victory.
WATCH: Tahrir Square protests lead to political stalemate:
Banks and stores have reopened in Egypt while talks between the government and opposition groups have failed to curb protests in Tahrir Square. 2:04
Destined to fail?
Activists say they found themselves wedged between forces much larger and more organized than they could hope to be — namely, an Islamist vision of the country espoused by the well-established Muslim Brotherhood; the military’s iron grip; and the geopolitics of the region, which has long favoured dictators who insisted real democracy was not compatible with stability.
There was also the very practical problem of organizing a leaderless movement and marshalling it beyond the streets. The cracks showed immediately after those 18 days.
“This was a missed opportunity,” said Khaled Fahmy, an Egyptian historian and professor of modern Arabic studies at the University of Cambridge. He happened to be in Egypt when the protests started. Unusually for a historian, he was both an observer and a participant during a revolutionary moment.
“There was no attempt to think, OK, now Tahrir — then what? How do you transform this into a movement?”
Decades of military and one-party rule in Egypt have made it difficult for national opposition parties to flourish.
Another lasting injury from longtime repression, said Fahmy, “is [our] inability … to imagine another world” in which the state as it is today did not exist. That meant the absence of a model of a more open society to point to in Egypt’s history.
Does all that mean the revolution was destined to fail?
“If the revolution had been adopted and protected by the people who had the guns and given the space to work through these decisions and these visions that were coming from the ground up, then it would have worked and we would have had something amazing,” said Ahdaf.
Tahrir Square’s role
Beyond serving as the site of protest, Tahrir Square itself provided space and inspiration for discussion of ground-level proposals for an “ideal” Egypt that might have seen the light of day had there been a way to channel them into practice.
One example, said Fahmy, was the idea of a demilitarized police force that would be designed to serve the people rather than the state — a novel idea for modern-day Egypt.
A far more basic achievement for the square was that it brought people together to talk.
“This sounds banal,” said Fahmy, but not in a place like Egypt. “Our cities, our country, our political system is designed in a way to deprive us of not only free speech but the ability to listen to others.”
That kind of conversation is the starting point of compromise, he added.
Fahmy believes the revolution continues, at least on some level. The 2011 protests, he said, “is one phase.”
Soueif agrees. But not el-Hamalawy.
“No, it’s not ongoing. The revolution got defeated,” el-Hamalawy said. “There will be another revolution, but not anytime soon, I’m afraid.”
Indeed, even among those who participated in the Tahrir revolution, the lessons and the legacy are contested.
After years of instability and the return of fear, the old argument that stability trumps freedom resonates among many Egyptians and others throughout the region.
That resonance is unsurprising given the state of the Middle East after the protests spread and crackdowns of varying levels of brutality ensued.
The message from Egypt’s rulers now — as it was during Mubarak’s time — is “give up your freedoms and we will give you security,” said Fahmy.
“It’s a Faustian deal and many people accepted that. And the result is that people have not only given up freedoms, they’ve given up their dreams. That’s the most dangerous thing.”
But el-Hamalawy said Tahrir’s legacy cannot be forgotten wholesale.
Because of the internet, “the whole visual memory of the revolution, it is saved,” he said.
“Now there is a younger generation that’s growing up and on YouTube, they know quite well that their older brothers were protesting in Tahrir.
“The memory is there. Tahrir is there. And it will remain there.”
This episode of CBC Ideas was produced by Nahlah Ayed and Menaka Raman-Wilms.
The Super Nintendo is an iconic part of early 90s gaming with classic titles like Super Mario World, Star Fox, and Chrono Trigger. However, the machine itself was woefully underpowered compared with the competition. Nintendo used a series of enhancement chips to compensate, but not all games had them. Now, one dedicated developer is releasing patches to emulate one of those chips in games that never had them, eliminating the annoying slowdowns that have plagued gamers for almost 30 years.
The SNES was a huge leap for Nintendo, which had become a household name with the NES launch. It stepped up to a Ricoh 5A22 CPU with a whopping 3.58 MHz of processing power from the 1.79 MHz Ricoh 2A03 used in the NES. However, by that point, Sega had launched the Genesis with a more impressive Motorola 68000 chip clocked at 7.6 MHz. That was a big performance gap in those days, so Nintendo used chips like the Super FX and SA1 in game cartridges to back up the internal CPU.
Nintendo used the SA1 in 34 SNES games like Super Mario RPG and Kirby’s Dreamland, without which the games would have rendered at a snail’s pace on the console. The SA1 had a 10.74 Mhz CPU, 2KB of faster RAM, and multiple programmable timers. Many SNES games didn’t have any co-processors, though, and they could have used one. Games like Contra III and Super R-Type ran well enough most of the time, but levels with too many sprites and effects would slow down noticeably. That’s still true in emulation to this day.
Brazilan developer Vitor Vilela has started addressing this shortcoming by patching in support for the SA1, a project known as FastROM. So far, he has released FastROM patches for Gradius III, Contra III, Super Mario World, and most recently, Super Castlevania IV. This makes the games running in emulation behave as if they had that extra processing capacity originally. Arguably, the patched games play better than they ever have in the last three decades.
FINALLY that awesome level without slowdown on stock hardware! 😀 Also, looks like more enemies are spawning. pic.twitter.com/FFsnPBBAJf
According to Vilela, adding FastROM to a game can make it up to 33.58 percent faster. The real-world gains depend on how often the game accesses the ROM chip, but we’re talking about at least 10 percent better performance. That could make all the difference in games like R-Type that will occasionally fill the screen with more sprites that the SNES could handle. However, the SA1 was a more general chip than something like the Super FX developed for Star Fox. Vilela says patching a sluggish 3D game like Race Drivin’ would require a complete code overhaul. Still, there are plenty of games that could benefit from FastROM. Currently, Vilela hopes to create patches for Axelay and U.N. Squadron.
You can download the patches from Vilela’s Git Hub, but you’ll have to get the game ROMs elsewhere. As we know from recent events, Nintendo is still very opposed to people hosting ROMs of its classic games.
This New Year’s Eve is being celebrated like no other, with pandemic restrictions limiting crowds and many people bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget.
Australia was among the first nations to ring in 2021 because of its proximity to the International Date Line. It is a grim end to the year for New South Wales and Victoria, the country’s two most populous states, which are battling to curb new COVID-19 outbreaks.
In past years, 1 million people crowded Sydney’s harbour to watch fireworks that centre on the Sydney harbour Bridge, but most had to watch on television as authorities urged residents to stay home.
Locations on the harbour were fenced off, popular parks closed and famous night spots eerily deserted. A 9 p.m. fireworks display was scrapped, but was still a seven-minute pyrotechnics show at midnight.
People were only allowed in downtown Sydney if they have a restaurant reservation or were one of five guests of an inner-city resident. People were not allowed in the city centre without a permit.
Some harbourside restaurants charged up to 1,690 Australian dollars (roughly $ 1,660 Cdn) for a seat, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday.
Sydney is Australia’s most populous city and has had its most active local transmission of the coronavirus in recent weeks.
Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, cancelled its fireworks this year. “For the first time in many, many years we made the big decision, difficult decision to cancel the fireworks,” Mayor Sally Capp said.
“We did that because we know that it attracts up to 450,000 people into the city for one moment at midnight to enjoy a spectacular display and music. We are not doing that this year.”
In notable contrast, the west coast city of Perth — which has not had community spread of the virus since April — was gearing up to celebrate the new year almost normally with large crowds expected to watch two fireworks spectacles.
New Zealand, which is two hours ahead of Sydney, and several of its South Pacific island neighbours have no COVID-19 cases, and New Year celebrations there were the same as ever.
In Chinese societies, the Lunar New Year celebration that falls in February in 2021 generally takes precedence over the solar New Year, on Jan. 1. While celebrations of the Western holiday have been growing more common in recent decades, this year will be more muted.
Taiwan’s plans go ahead
Beijing is holding a countdown ceremony with just a few invited guests, while other planned events have been cancelled. And nighttime temperatures plunging to -15 C will likely discourage people from spending the night out with friends.
Taiwan is hosting its usual New Year’s celebration, a fireworks display by its capital city’s iconic tower, Taipei 101, as well as a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office Building on New Year’s morning. The flag raising will be limited to government officials and invited guests after a traveler who recently arrived in Taiwan was found to be infected with the new variant of the coronavirus.
The island has been a success story in the pandemic, registering only seven deaths and 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Spectacular displays of fireworks are lighting up night skies around the world as people welcome a new year. 1:22
Hong Kong, with its British colonial history and large expatriate population, has usually seen raucous celebrations along the waterfront and in bar districts. For the second year running, however, New Year’s Eve fireworks have been cancelled, this time over coronavirus rather than public security concerns.
Hong Kong social distancing regulations restrict gatherings to only two people. Restaurants have to close by 6 p.m. Live performances and dancing are not allowed. But crowds still throng shopping centres.
Much of Japan was welcoming 2021 quietly at home, alarmed after Tokyo reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases at about 1,300. It was the first time that daily cases in the capital have topped 1,000.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked people to skip countdown ceremonies and expressed concern about crowds of shoppers.
“The coronavirus knows no yearend or New Year’s holidays,” she told reporters.
Many people skipped what’s customarily a chance to return to ancestral homes for the holidays, hoping to lessen health risks for extended families.
Meiji Shrine in downtown Tokyo, which normally attracts millions of people during New Year holidays and is usually open all night on New Year’s Eve, closed at 4 p.m. this year.
Bell-ringing ceremony cancelled in Seoul
In South Korea, Seoul’s city government cancelled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony in the Jongno neighborhood for the first time since the event was first held in 1953, months after the end of the Korean War.
The ceremony, in which citizens ring a large bell in a traditional pavilion when the clock strikes midnight, normally draws an estimated 100,000 people and is broadcast live.
Authorities in eastern coastal areas closed beaches and other spots where hundreds of thousands of people typically gather on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise. The southeastern city of Pohang instead planned to broadcast live the sunrise at several beaches on its YouTube channel.
South Korea’s central government banned private social gatherings of more than five people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide from Christmas Eve until Jan. 3 to help bring a recent viral resurgence under control.
Millions of Indians planned to usher in the new year with subdued celebrations at home because of night curfews, a ban on beach parties and restrictions on movement in major cities and towns after the new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus reached the country.
In New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, hotels and bars were ordered to shut at 11 p.m. The three cities have been the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Drones were keeping watch on people’s movements in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital. Large gatherings were banned, but there were no restrictions on visiting friends, relatives and public places in groups of not more than four people, police said. Face masks and social distancing were mandatory, they said.
Many revelers flocked to Goa, a former Portuguese colony and popular backpacking destination with numerous beach resorts. Authorities decided against imposing a curfew with coronavirus infections largely controlled there.
In Sri Lanka, public gatherings have been banned due to a resurgence of COVID-19, and health and law enforcement authorities urged people to limit celebrations to close family members. Health officials have warned of legal action against hotels and restaurants that hold parties.
Officials have also closed schools and restricted public transport in response to the renewed outbreak.
One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced on Monday to nearly six years in prison under a vague and broadly worded law aimed at combating terrorism, according to state-linked media.
Loujain Alhathloul’s case, and her imprisonment for the past two and a half years, have drawn international criticism from rights groups, members of the U.S. Congress and European Union lawmakers. Alhathloul, whose family members in Canada have been advocating for her release, is a graduate of the University of British Columbia who lived in Canada for five years.
State-linked Saudi news outlet Sabq reported that Alhathloul, 31, was found guilty by the kingdom’s anti-terrorism court on charges including agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.
She has 30 days to appeal the verdict.
Activism and imprisonment
Alhathloul was among a handful of Saudi women who openly called for the right to drive before it was granted in 2018 and for the removal of male guardianship laws that had long stifled women’s freedom of movement and ability to travel abroad.
She was arrested for the first time in 2014 while attempting to drive across the border from the United Arab Emirates — where she had a valid driver’s licence — to Saudi Arabia. She spent 73 days in a women’s detention facility, an experience she later said helped shape her campaigning against the kingdom’s male guardianship system.
In 2016, a year after she became one of the first women to stand for municipal election in Saudi Arabia, she was among 14,000 signatories on a petition to King Salman calling for an end to the guardianship system.
In March 2018 Hathloul was arrested in the UAE, where she was studying, and forcibly flown to Riyadh, where she was held under house arrest before being moved to prison in May, rights groups say. She was among at least a dozen other women’s rights activists arrested.
UN calls sentence ‘deeply troubling’
In a statement, the UN human rights office said the conviction and sentence handed to Hathloul, “already arbitrarily detained for 2½ years, is also deeply troubling.” The office urged her “early release” as a matter of urgency.
Her family has called on the Canadian government to be more aggressive in holding Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations to account. Alhathloul has told her family she has been held in solitary confinement and suffered electrocution, flogging, and sexual assault.
A rights group called Prisoners of Conscience, which focuses on Saudi political detainees, said that Alhathloul could be released as early as the end of March 2021 based on time served. She has been imprisoned since May 2018 and 34 months of her sentencing will be suspended.
The judge ordered her to serve five years and eight months in prison for violating anti-terrorism laws, according to Sabq, which said its reporter was allowed inside the courtroom during Monday’s session.