ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
It’s been a difficult year all over the world and the North Pole is no exception.
“We had one small scare with COVID-19, but it was a false positive,” Santa Claus said. “(But) I really worried for people, especially the children, all around the world.”
He worried so much he thought he lost his laugh. He would try to say, “Ho ho ho,” but only one “Ho” would come out before he fell silent again.
“I was really stressed about it,” he said. “I thought I had lost my Christmas spirit.”
He walked through the woods alone, toward a shimmering wall of ice overlooking a crystal blue and green lake, collecting small sticks for kindling along the way.
“Near the water, I knew I’d hear an echo,” he said. “But even then, I’d say, ‘Ho,’ and only one ‘Ho’ would come back. It was very sad.”
One day, a scholarly young elf named Gerald Fudge — no relation to the crowd in Grand Falls-Windsor — came to Claus’s door unprompted.
“’Knock knock,’ Gerald said to me,” Claus said. “It was strange. Gerald is a very serious elf. But after he repeated, ‘knock, knock’ several times, I realized he was trying to tell a joke.
“Who’s there?” Claus asked.
“Interrupting reindeer,” Gerald said.
Claus almost felt sorry for Fudge. He looked both nervous and happy at the same time.
Claus tried to say, “Interrupting reindeer who,” but before he could get it all out, Fudge yelled a nasally, “MARMP MARMP,” which rattled the bells on the wreath over the mantel.
“At first, I just stared at him for what felt like a minute,” Claus said. “I mean, it didn’t even sound like a reindeer, to be honest. But suddenly I felt this tiny sensation in my big belly, like freshly blown bubbles rising into the air. It went up through my chest, onto my tongue and ‘Ho ho ho’ came roaring out of me. I couldn’t stop!
“It was the Christmas spirit. It had been there all along. I just needed help from a friend.”
The elves rocked on the candy cane swings in a steady rhythm and jumped on the gumdrop trampolines, which made the sound of giant drums. “It’s back,” the elves sang in a high tenor.
“What’s that?” the reindeer sang in their low bass.
“Oh, Santa’s Christmas spirit’s back!” everyone sang.
They took their slides down the whipped cream mountain and marched toward the workshop just as the whistle blew for the season.
1. What is your full name?
Some call me Saint Nicholas, Jolly Saint Nick or Father Christmas. Others call me Kris Kringle. But Santa Claus is just fine.
2. Where and when were you born?
That’s hard to answer. I’m a man of the world, in the truest sense. I have always existed in one form or another, as the Christmas spirit is what I’m made of.
3. Where do you live today?
The North Pole — don’t listen to anyone who says different. It’s not Lapland. It’s the North Pole — end of story.
4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
Anywhere children are playing. As my old friend G. Stanley Hall put it, “People don’t quit playing because they grow old. They grow old because they quit playing.”
5. Who do you follow on social media?
The elf Gerald Fudge, who I mentioned earlier, takes care of all that. He’s very scientifically minded, always walking around with a clipboard collecting data and crunching numbers. Personally, I just love to get handwritten letters from children all over the world. It’s so nice to see a child’s progress as they learn to read and write.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
You know, I’m not too fond of coming down the chimney. Ho ho ho! It feels funny to actually admit it, and I’m certainly not trying to complain. But it would be nice to walk through the door once in a while.
7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
With every new year comes a new favourite year. I often stress about the next Christmas, but it keeps getting better and better.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
In 1842, we landed on the roof of a small house in Austria. There were 26 children inside! How joyful a home it must have been. They were all very cozy. But trying to put the gifts under the tree without waking them up was very challenging. I accidentally tripped over a little boy named Sepp and nearly knocked down the tree, but the reindeers made some noise outside to distract them and they all ran to the window. They probably caught us flying away, but I don’t mind that so much.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
Meeting Mrs. Claus, my beloved. She keeps me focused on spreading joy, even when it seems like there is very little joy to spread around.
10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
Cookies and milk. You just can’t beat it.
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
Oh, it’s so hard to choose. I just love it when people use their imaginations. But then again, I love stories about the real world, too. There is so much to read, watch and learn about! I couldn’t possibly pick just one.
12. How do you like to relax?
I like to sit back in my rocking chair in front of the fire with a nice glass of milk. I get some of my best toy ideas listening to the crackling.
13. What are you reading right now?
“Santasaurus,” by Niamh Sharkey. “Up on the Housetop,” a book illustrated by Wendy Edelson based on an old Christmas song, and “What Dogs Want for Christmas,” by Kandy Radzinski. Check out the links as I read them to children.
14. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that children will lose their imagination, stop believing. That’s why I work hard every day to make sure Christmas is a time filled with wonder.
15. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
My suit is more a matter of function than fashion. It’s very warm for those cold evenings, but it also buttons down for when I reach the warmer areas of the world. However, there is something pleasing to the eye when my hat whips around in the air as I fly through the sky on my sleigh.
16. What is your most treasured possession?
I would have to say my sleigh. It has gotten me through many challenges. It requires maintenance from time to time, and I do some upgrades here and there. Last year we installed a soft-leather seat. Elf Gerald Fudge proposed installing a GPS system to try to be more time-efficient on Christmas Eve. But I denied it. I like the old way. Despite the sleigh being hundreds of years old, it just keeps chugging along thanks to my wonderful reindeer.
17. What’s the first thing you do after you deliver the last gift and return to the North Pole?
Ensure the reindeer team is well-cared for, the sleigh is stored away, Mrs. Claus is tucked in comfortably, and then I pour a hot chocolate, get a hot bath going and check out The Telegram’s website.
18. Which three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
Oh my, oh my, these questions can be hard. Mrs. Claus and the first two children to come through my door, I would think. I could sit and listen to any child talk for hours.
19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
My Christmas spirit is my best quality. Sometimes it seems like there are people it doesn’t reach, but I still try. Maybe later there will be a little sparkle in their eye, a little dimple on their cheek or a little spring in their step when I’m not looking. I like to think so, anyway. Mrs. Claus always said I was a worrier. And I think with everything that happened this year, she’s been proven right, as she always is. But I try to take that worry and put it to good use by coming up with new toys and new ways to play so children will be happy.
20. What’s your favourite band?
It’s not my favourite type of music, but I have to say, the reindeer and some of the elves have put together a heavy metal band and they’re spectacular. They mostly do covers, but they’re really well-rehearsed. They’ve gone through a couple name changes. First, they were called “Toy Destroyer,” but now they’re called “Sleighbells of Doom.” I’m not much for the names. It’s too scary for me. But it’s all fun and games. And Rudolph can really shred.
New species of crested dinosaur identified in Mexico
A team of palaeontologists in Mexico have identified a new species of dinosaur after finding its 72 million-year-old fossilized remains almost a decade ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said on Thursday.
The new species, named Tlatolophus galorum, was identified as a crested dinosaur after 80% of its skull was recovered, allowing experts to compare it to other dinosaurs of that type, INAH said.
The investigation, which also included specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, began in 2013 with the discovery of an articulated tail in the north-central Mexican state of Coahuila, where other discoveries have been made.
“Once we recovered the tail, we continued digging below where it was located. The surprise was that we began to find bones such as the femur, the scapula and other elements,” said Alejandro Ramírez, a scientist involved in the discovery.
Later, the scientists were able to collect, clean and analyze other bone fragments from the front part of the dinosaur’s body.
The palaeontologists had in their possession the crest of the dinosaur, which was 1.32 meters long, as well as other parts of the skull: lower and upper jaws, palate and even a part known as the neurocranium, where the brain was housed, INAH said.
The Mexican anthropology body also explained the meaning of the name – Tlatolophus galorum – for the new species of dinosaur.
Tlatolophus is a mixture of two words, putting together a term from the indigenous Mexican language of Nahuatl that means “word” with the Greek term meaning “crest”. Galorum refers to the people linked to the research, INAH said.
(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests – CBC.ca
A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.
Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.
While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers.
“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”
Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 — visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.
The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.
‘Everything went south, super-fast’
By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.
“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”
Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.
“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.
When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.
“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.
“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.
Searching for answers
At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.
But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.
“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”
The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.
According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.
‘Unusual but not impossible’
University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.
However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.
“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.
According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.
She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop.
“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.”
Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.
‘An amazing kid’
The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.
But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.
Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.
She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.
“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.
“She’s an amazing kid.”
Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.
“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.
“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”
China launches key module of space station planned for 2022
BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.
The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.
“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.
Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.
In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.
The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.
Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.
Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)