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Canadians investigators in Iran and royals in Canada

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Canadians investigators

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 14 …

What we are watching in Canada …

OTTAWA — Canadian investigators are getting their first chance to visit the crash site outside of Tehran today, as part of an international team looking into the sequence of events that ended with a jet from Ukraine being shot out of the sky.

The attack killed all 176 people on board, including 57 Canadians.

The aircraft was shot down just hours after Iran launched air strikes against two military bases in Iraq where U.S. forces, and also some Canadians, are stationed.

The air strikes were in retaliation for a targeted drone strike on Jan. 3 by the U.S. that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani.

Iran’s judiciary said Tuesday that arrests have been made and the president has called for a special court to be set up to probe the downing last week of the plane by Iranian forces.

Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the jetliner, acknowledged three days after Wednesday’s downing that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the Ukrainian plane by mistake.

Also this …

VICTORIA — B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is excited by the prospect of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle calling British Columbia their part-time home.

He had a light-hearted conversation about the couple with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, he said during a news conference in Victoria.

“We’re both kind of giddy about it. Canada is a cool place to be. We are all pretty happy about that as Canadians.”

The Queen said Monday there will be a period of transition to sort things out on the couple’s future roles as members of the Royal Family during which Meghan and Harry will spend time in both Canada and the United Kingdom.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent the holidays at a secluded beachfront villa near Victoria, where they were seen exploring the community.

Horgan said hasn’t “given a lot of thought” to the costs of the family putting down roots in the province, if B.C. is where they choose to spend their time in Canada.

“I’m sure there are people working on that right now,” he said. “And I may have more to say on that should the royals choose to put down roots in British Columbia.”

The Prime Minister’s Office wouldn’t comment on potential costs of the couple living in Canada.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans signalled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as the House prepares to send the charges to the chamber for the historic trial.

It will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history, a serious and dramatic endeavour coming amid the backdrop of a politically divided nation and the start of an election year.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not set the timing for the House vote that will launch the Senate action. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and obstruction of Congress in the probe. Democrats said the vote could be Wednesday.

With the impeachment trial starting in a matter of days, senators are still debating the rules of the proceedings. GOP senators are conferring privately about whether to allow a motion to dismiss the charges against the president or to call additional witnesses for testimony.

Trump suggested over the weekend he might prefer simply dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to charges from the House, which he considers a “hoax.”

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BOSTON, Mass. — A U.S. cybersecurity company says Russian military agents have successfully hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the centre of the scandal that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Russian agents launched a phishing campaign in early November to steal the login credentials of employees of Burisma Holdings, the gas company, according to Area 1 Security, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in email security.

Hunter Biden, son of former U.S. vice-president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, previously served on Burisma’s board.

It was not clear what the hackers were looking for or may have obtained, said Area 1’s CEO, Oren Falkowitz, who called the findings “ncontrovertible”and posted an eight-page report. But the timing of the operation suggests that the Russian agents could be searching for material that damaging to the Bidens.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December for abusing the power of his office by enlisting the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, a political rival, ahead of the 2020 election. A second charge accused Trump of obstructing a congressional investigation into the matter.

ICYMI (In case you missed it) …

TORONTO — An investigation into a mistaken alert about an incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station will be completed fairly quickly, Ontario’s solicitor general says.

Sylvia Jones has tapped the chief of Emergency Management Ontario to investigate how the alert warning of an unspecified problem at the facility was sent in error to cellphones, radios and TVs across the province at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

“It’s very important for me, for the people of Ontario, to know exactly what happened on Sunday morning,” Jones says.

“Having said that, I do not anticipate this is going to be a long, drawn-out investigation. I want to know what happened and equally important, I want some recommendations on insurances and changes we can make to the system to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Initial observations suggest human error was responsible for the alert that was sent out during routine tests of the emergency alert, Jones says.

“This has never happened in the history of the tests that they do every day, twice a day, but I do want to know exactly all of the issues related to it, whether it was one human error or whether it was a series of things.”

A follow-up alert was sent to cellphones nearly two hours after the original notification.

Wierd and wild …

CALGARY — The first giant panda twins born in Canada have safely arrived in the land of their roots.

The Calgary Zoo says Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue are exploring their new panda pad at a breeding research facility in Chengdu, China.

The zoo says the pandas — whose names mean Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy — left Calgary on a flight early Friday with their keeper and a member of the facility’s veterinary team.

The pandas were born at the Toronto Zoo in 2015 and were transferred to Calgary with their parents in March 2018, as part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China.

Parents Er Shun and Da Mao are to remain in Calgary until 2023.

Know your news …

The Queen says Prince Harry and Meghan can move part-time to Canada. What Canadian military base did Harry train at when he was with the British army?

(Keep scrolling for the answer)

On this day in 1949 …

The first non-stop trans-Canada flight, from Vancouver to Halifax, was completed.

Entertainment news …

TORONTO — Comedy veteran Catherine O’Hara is getting a lifetime achievement award from Canada’s national performers’ union.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists says it will present the “Schitt’s Creek” star and “SCTV” alumna with its national award of excellence April 18 in Los Angeles.

The honour recognizes an ACTRA member’s career achievements and contribution to Canada’s entertainment industry.

O’Hara currently stars as eccentric matriarch Moira Rose on CBC’s “Schitt’s Creek,” but her vast TV credits include “Six Feet Under,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and HBO’s “Temple Grandin.”

Big screen credits include “Beetlejuice,” “Home Alone,” “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind” and “For Your Consideration.”

Past winners of ACTRA’s special award include O’Hara’s “Schitt’s Creek” co-star Eugene Levy, as well as Jay Baruchel, Molly Parker, Neve Campbell and Jason Priestley.

Know your news answer …

Suffield. It was widely reported that Harry did two stints at the British Army Training Unit Suffield in southeastern Alberta in 2007 and 2008.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2020.

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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Airborne transmission

Hundreds of scientists say there is evidence that the novel coronavirus in smaller particles in the air can infect people and they are calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) to revise its recommendations, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

However, the health agency said the evidence for the virus being airborne was not convincing, according to the NYT.

“Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence,” Dr Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead of infection prevention and control, was quoted as saying.

World’s third-highest

India now has the world’s third-highest number of novel coronavirus cases behind Brazil and the United States, at nearly 700,000, according to the latest data, as the outbreak shows no sign of slowing.

India has seen eight times the number of cases as China, which has a similar-sized population and is where the virus originated late last year.

Late on Sunday, India cancelled the planned reopening of the Taj Mahal, citing the risk of coronavirus infections spreading in the city of Agra from visitors flocking to see India’s most famous monument.

Agra, site of one of India’s first big clusters of the virus, remains the worst-affected city in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state.

Not since the Spanish flu

Officials are closing the border between Australia’s two most populous states from Tuesday for an indefinite period as they scramble to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Melbourne.

The decision marks the first time the border between Victoria and New South Wales has been shut in 100 years. Officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

Hydroxychloroquine and HIV drugs off the table

The WHO said on Saturday that it was discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 after they failed to reduce mortality.

The setback came as the WHO also reported more than 200,000 new cases globally of the disease for the first time in a single day.

The U.N. agency said the decision, taken on the recommendation of the trial’s international steering committee, does not affect other studies where those drugs are used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.

Kicking in place

Soccer-mad Argentines in the farmbelt city of Pergamino have devised a clever way to keep playing while avoiding risk of spreading COVID-19: a human foosball pitch with zones for each player to avoid physical contact.

The game, known as “metegol humano” divides the pitch into rectangular zones with white lines limiting where a player can move – helping to enforce social distancing, though limiting slide tackles or pitch-length dribbles with the ball.

Two teams of five players – a goalkeeper, a defender, a midfielder and two forwards – can take part, said Gustavo Cuiffo, a creator of the project.

Seen from above, the demarcated court resembles a large foosball table – though with real people and no swivel handles.

“It is the first time I have kicked in several months,” said Gustavo Santapaola, who took part in a match at the Play Fútbol ground. “I honestly tell you, I am excited.”

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Britain to put nearly $2 billion into arts to help survival

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will invest nearly $2 billion in cultural institutions and the arts to help a sector that has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

Theatres, opera houses and ballet companies have been left without a live audience for months.

Though English museums and cinemas can re-open with strict social distancing in the latest easing of lockdown which began on Saturday, guidelines still dictate no live performances at theatres or concert halls.

That has created an existential crisis for much of the sector, which has been vocal in calling on the government for support.

“This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down,” Johnson said in a statement.

The government said the 1.57-billion pound ($1.96 billion) investment was the biggest ever in Britain’s culture sector.

It said that Britain’s museums, art galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues would be protected through emergency grants and loans.

The government will consult with figures from Arts Council England, the British Film Institute and other specialist bodies on awarding grants, while it said repayable finance would be issued on affordable terms.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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Nearly 40 feared dead as torrential rains hit southwest Japan

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Nearly 40 people were feared dead as torrential rains continued to hit Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, with river banks at risk of bursting on Monday morning and new evacuation orders put in place.

Flooding and mudslides that began at the weekend torrential rains killed 21 people so far. A further 18 people were showing no vital signs and presumed dead pending official confirmation, and 13 people were missing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

“I offer my deepest condolences for those who have passed from the torrential rains,” Suga said, adding that some 40,000 members of the Self-Defence Force were involved in rescue missions.

He added that evacuation centres were also working on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus by distributing disinfectant and asking evacuees to maintain their distance from each other.

As of Saturday, some 200,000 have been ordered to evacuate their homes, according to Kyodo news agency.

The floods are Japan’s worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year that left about 90 people dead.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Michael Perry)

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