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Blue Jays await federal exemption letter after getting OK from health officials –



TORONTO – As the Toronto Blue Jays work through the summer camp intake process in Dunedin, Fla., they are only a federal government exemption letter away from shifting their training north to Rogers Centre.

Obtaining the letter, which would allow them to modify terms of the Quarantine Act for returning travellers, is the final step needed for approval of their camp proposal, after getting the green light from federal, provincial and municipal health officials, according to a source directly involved in the process.

There is optimism the exemption – akin the one provided to the NHL – will get done, but time is quickly running out for the Blue Jays, who have a charter ready to leave Dunedin for Toronto as soon as Saturday.

An extended delay in securing the letter, which must come from a federal minister, could force the team to run its camp in Dunedin, since preparations for a tentative July 24 start to the season are already condensed.

The approval is expected to be initially for camp only, as the work over the past week and a half has focused on moving the training to Toronto due to a surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida. There are further details to nail down for the regular season and time to do it, according to the source, although the camp plan will largely serve as a template for hosting the 30 games.

That protocol – developed with and signed off by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Toronto Public Health – extends beyond the measures demanded in MLB’s 2020 Operations Manual and is built around the creation of a bubble at Rogers Centre and the hotel attached.

The Blue Jays, under that plan, would be limited to the dome and hotel’s boundaries, essentially fulfilling the quarantine requirements there. But there are several steps beyond that, as well, the club is taking to limit risk to the wider community:

• Under MLB’s protocol, every player is required to undergo a diagnostic/PCR and serology/antibody testing, a process currently underway. Blue Jays players and staff will undergo a second PCR test, and only those who have had two negative results will be allowed to travel north;

• Once here, the Blue Jays will have additional PCR testing beyond the every-other-day checks mandated by MLB, and anyone who tests positive will remain in isolated quarantine until he produces two negative tests;

• Essential Toronto-based staff allowed to interact with players and staff will undergo the same testing and quarantine process;

• Their security screening before flying to Toronto via private charter will take place either at TD Ballpark in Dunedin or planeside to limit contact with the general public;

• Private buses conforming to physical distancing and cleaning standards set by the Public Health Agency of Canada will be used for transport from Pearson International Airport;

• To minimize contact with hotel staff and the general public, the Blue Jays will have contactless check-ins and food delivery, as well as private dining;

• The team will create a quarantine zone with a dedicated room block at the hotel that is isolated from the general public;

• Access to Rogers Centre will be limited and the building will be divided into tiered areas to further isolate players and staff, while physical distancing will be promoted through staggered outbreaks, with high-touch areas disinfected hourly.

A plan for the regular season would work similarly, with the visiting club operating under similar limitations and isolated in its own block of the hotel.

Adherence is obviously pivotal and, in theory, the harsh penalties for violating the Quarantine Act, as well as the stakes for Major League Baseball should ensure full compliance.

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The operational challenges of playing baseball amid the pandemic were highlighted for the Blue Jays during a recent outbreak at the club’s facility in Dunedin, Fla., and in a series of roster moves Thursday morning.

They reclaimed infielder Breyvic Valera on waivers from the San Diego Padres while also adding right-hander Bryan Baker, infielder Patrick Kivlehan and outfielder Josh Palacios to their 60-man player pool, pushing their total up to 62.

The only way to exceed the max of 60 is if some players are being placed on the COVID-19 Injured List, transactions that don’t have be announced publicly.

Bottom line – they’ve had additional positive tests.

Under terms of the Blue Jays’ plan, those players won’t be able to travel to Toronto until they produce two negative test results. As for their teammates, they should have their training camp locale settled one way or another soon enough.

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Canada stun U.S. to set up final with Sweden



Canada stunned world champions the United States on Monday, handing them a shock 1-0 defeat in the semi-finals of the women’s Olympic football tournament to set up a clash with Sweden in Friday’s showpiece match.

The Swedes beat Australia 1-0 thanks to a 46th-minute goal from Fridolina Rolfo to return to the final after their silver medal in Rio five years ago.

Canada celebrated their first win over the U.S. in over 20 years after Jessie Fleming’s 75th minute penalty settled the contest.

The crucial moment, in a game which had produced little incident, came when U.S. defender Tierna Davidson challenged Deanne Rose on the edge of the penalty area. After a video review, a spot kick was awarded.

Canada‘s veteran striker Christian Sinclair initially had the ball in her hands, but Fleming took the responsibility and kept her cool to slot home.

The U.S, pre-Games favourites for the gold medal, went close to an equaliser when Carli Lloyd struck the bar with a header but Canada held on for a famous victory – and their first appearance in an Olympic final.

The Americans have won the gold medal four times and have not lost to Canada for over 20 years. It is only the fourth time the Canadians have beaten their neighbours in 62 meetings.

“It has been a long time coming to beat those guys,” said Fleming. “We want to come away with gold now but it is really special for us to put our flag on the map,” she said.


The game was a dull affair until a triple substitution saw Megan Rapinoe, Lloyd and Christen Press brought on — a change which brought new life to the American attack.

The first effort on goal finally arrived in the 65th minute with a curling shot from Lloyd which was tipped over by Stephanie Labbe, and moments later the Canada keeper did well to keep out a glancing header from Julie Ertz.

But just as the Americans were piling on the pressure, a Canada break led to the penalty award and the end of the road for Vlatko Andonovski’s side.

“It sucks. Obviously you never want to lose, you never want to lose in a world championship, you never want to lose to Canada, obviously, and you never want to lose playing the way we did,” said Rapinoe.

Sweden, who lost to Germany in the Rio final, fired an early warning with a Rolfo shot rattling the crossbar.

Australia, seeking a first Olympic final, thought they had gone ahead just before the break with a Sam Kerr effort but the goal was ruled out for a foul.

It was the Swedes who took the lead when Matilda’s keeper Teagan Micah could only push a looping, deflected shot from Filippa Angeldal against the bar and Rolfo hooked in the loose ball.

Australia were reduced to 10 players in stoppage time when Ellie Carpenter was sent off for pulling down Sweden substitute Lina Hurtig as she ran goalwards.

“It is amazing, I am so happy,” said Angeldal, “I think we learnt a lot from this game, we worked so hard as a team and we will have to bring that to the final.”

“It feels like I am in paradise. I love to play with this team, we have a great team spirit,” she added.

Kerr said she was disappointed with the ruling out of her goal.

“Obviously, we are disappointed because we wanted to be in the gold medal match but at the end of the day, we have got a game against the U.S and the bronze medal is at stake,” she said.

The bronze medal game will be held in Kashima on Thursday with the gold medal match at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Friday.

The men’s semi-finals will be held on Tuesday with Mexico taking on Brazil and Japan up against Spain.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Pritha Sarkar/Hugh Lawson/Ken Ferris/Ed Osmond)

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Latin America’s resurgent left and Caribbean spurn U.S. policy on Cuba



The United States doubled down on its tough stance and sanctions on Cuba after historic protests in the Communist-run island last month and said it would seek to support protesters.

But many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region which is still scarred by Washington’s backing of coups during the Cold War and has shifted leftwards in recent years, are asking it to back off instead.

President Joe Biden branded Cuba a “failed state” in the wake of the July 11-12 protests over an economic crisis and curbs on freedoms. His administration imposed new sanctions on those who cracked down on protesters and promised the politically important Cuban-American community more actions were coming, like efforts to help Cubans circumvent “censorship”.

While the fresh sanctions are largely symbolic, they suggest a return to a period of detente under former President Barack Obama is not forthcoming.

The right-wing governments of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras joined the United States last week in issuing a statement condemning mass arrests and calling for full restoration of disrupted internet access.

Yet only 20 foreign ministers worldwide joined in signing the letter, signalling how relatively isolated Washington is on its Cuba policy, analysts said. Even U.S. allies like Canada who have condemned the Cuban crackdown and supported protesters’ right to freedom of expression did not sign.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s leftist allies in Latin America and fellow Caribbean island nations have focused their reaction on the contribution of the U.S. embargo to the country’s current humanitarian crisis, urging Washington to lift sanctions. Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have sent aid.

Some countries in the region have also warned against U.S. meddling in Cuba’s domestic matters.

These regional divisions came to the fore last week when the Organization of American States had to postpone a meeting on the human rights situation in Cuba due to objections by more than a dozen member states.

“Any discussion could only satisfy political hawks with an eye on U.S. mid-term elections where winning South Florida with the backing of Cuban exiles would be a prize,” wrote Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the OAS, Ronald Sanders, in a column published on digital platform Caribbean News Global.

“The task of the OAS should be to promote peaceful and cooperative relations in the hemisphere, not to feed division and conflict.”

He had sent a letter on behalf of 13 countries from the Caribbean Community or CARICOM – which though small, represents a significant voting block in the OAS – urging the body to reconsider the “unproductive” meeting, while other countries sent similar missives.


Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last month the OAS should be replaced “by a body that is truly autonomous, not anybody’s lackey”, sentiments echoed by Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez.

He also said he thought Biden must make a decision about the embargo against Cuba given that “almost all countries of the world” are against it, while Fernandez said it was up to no other country to decide what Cubans should do.

Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia all shifted left in recent years, while Peru last month voted in a socialist leader and Chile and Brazil appear poised to move to the left in elections due this year and next.

“We appreciate countries that defended the Latin American and Caribbean dignity,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who has accused U.S.-backed counterrevolutionaries of being behind the protests following years of open U.S. funding of democracy programs on the island.

The Chair of the OAS Permanent Council described the objections to the Cuba meeting as particularly unusual.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said it was “deeply disappointed” the OAS meeting did not take place, adding: “The people of the Americas have a right to hear from the Inter-American Commission on Human rights about the situation in Cuba”.

“We will continue to work within the OAS to press for democracy and human rights in Cuba and throughout the Americas and are confident this informational meeting will indeed take place in the coming days.”

William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington, said the problem was the OAS had under Secretary-General Luis Almagro “adopted a strident partisan stance totally aligned with U.S. policy”.

Biden was inheriting a regional foreign policy from former U.S. President Donald Trump focused mainly on Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, that had alienated much of Latin America, said LeoGrande, pointing out the Latinbarometer opinion poll showed a sharp decline in the image of the United States.

The OAS General Secretariat declined to comment while the State Department spokesperson said “Almagro’s leadership in supporting democracy and respect for human rights in the Americas” had returned the OAS to its original purpose.

Biden, a Democrat, had vowed during his presidential campaign to ease some of the sanctions on Cuba tightened by his predecessor Donald Trump, a Republican, raising hopes of a return to the Obama-era detente.

But analysts say the protests have complicated his leeway to do so, especially after he made a poorer-than-expected showing with voters in south Florida’s anti-communist Cuban-American community, which backed Trump’s tough policies toward Havana and helped him win the presidential election battleground state.

The Democratic National Committee last week launched a digital ad campaign in Florida highlighting Biden’s “commitment to the Cuban people and condemnation of communism as a failed system.”


(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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Kyle Lowry Signs With Miami Heat Leaves Toronto – HYPEBEAST



Kyle Lowry is bidding farewell to the city of Toronto after nine years to join the Miami Heat. For many years, Lowry has been the face of the Toronto Raptors, bringing in an immeasurable impact to not only the franchise but the Canadian community worldwide.

It is hard to quantify Lowry’s effect on the team, the city and the country but Lowry did definitely had a hand in shifting the franchise from being an underdog to an NBA champion. As Lowry departs the Raptors for South Beach, fans are possibly calling him the greatest player of the Canadian NBA franchise. Lowry holds the most assists (4,277), steals (873), three-pointers (1,518) and triple-doubles (18) in Raptors history.

Lowry is set to join the Miami Heat in free agency and is expected to sign a three-year sign-and-trade deal with the Toronto Raptors. Sources have reported that Lowry prefers a three-year deal with no options. The specific terms of the deal have yet to be announced, but Lowry took to Instagram and Twitter to seemingly confirm his move to Miami.

The 35-year-old NBA veteran averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. His move to Miami will give him the opportunity to play with Heat’s star Jimmy Butler.

In other sports news, Simone Biles announced she is competing in the balance beam event at the Tokyo Olympics.

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