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Sports

London Knights add 16 new players in 2020 OHL Priority Selection

At a time when many things have to be altered, the 2020 OHL Priority Selection went ahead in much the same way that it always has.

The London Knights added 16 new names to their family, many of which come with hefty hockey connections.

In total, the Knights drafted four players whose fathers played at least at the major junior level, two went on to the National Hockey League and they also rolled the dice on a forward who some hockey experts believe could be the best player in the entire draft in Frank Nazar. London landed him in the fifth round.

The sons of Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith, former NHLer Steve Dubinsky and former Sarnia Sting standout Jon Sim came before and after that selection and that says nothing of the Knights’ first two selections that sat back-to-back on London’s master draft list.

London general manager Mark Hunter called the name Ben Bujold of the Kanata Lasers at number 19 and then three picks later landed defenceman Jackson Edward of the York-Simcoe Express with the second selection of the second round.

Knights associate general manager Rob Simpson says Bujold was a player who impressed the organization every time they watched him play.

“We’re extremely excited to have Ben. He is quick and fast and always has the puck on his stick. His work ethic is exceptional and he can make plays.”

980 CFPL colour commentator Jim Van Horne believes London fans can think back to some of the qualities a player like former Knights captain Chris Tierney brought to the ice when they picture the kind of player Bujold could develop into. Tierney currently plays just a little farther east from Bujold’s hometown of Richmond, Ont., with the Ottawa Senators.

The next name the Knights had down was Edward, who Simpson says brings all kinds of dimensions to the team.

“He’s a big six-foot, one-inch defenceman who skates very well. He can transport the puck out of his own end… and has a good combination of offence and defence to his game.”

Team personnel decorated screens through Zoom as opposed to seats in a war room making sure COVID-19 precautions were followed and some things ended up working out better that way.

“It was kind of funny,” laughed Simpson. “If guys got talking too much or got too argumentative, you were able to mute them out.”

That’s a feature that doesn’t exist under normal circumstances when everyone is in the same place.

Next came Colton Smith who, after his dad was named Senators head coach, moved to Ottawa and actually played on a line with Bujold as part of the Kanata Lasers.

Simpson says Smith is one of the best goal scorers in the draft.

Their fourth pick not only brought London a father-son connection, but it also brought a Mark Hunter connection to a player who used to play for him when Hunter was the head coach of the Sarnia Sting.

Landon Sim is the son of Jon Sim who recorded back-to-back 56-goal seasons with Hunter in 1995-96 and 96-97. Sim went on to play 469 games in the NHL.

Jon Sim is from Nova Scotia and was able to play in the OHL because when he was in major junior there were no teams in the Maritimes in the QMJHL. Landon Sim has been playing in Nova Scotia but made the decision to declare to be eligible to play in the OHL because his father had done so.

Like his father, Landon Sim is not a big player but he oozes skill and determination just like his dad.

For the third-straight selection, the Knights found bloodlines when they nabbed Brody Crane, whose dad Derrick played for London from 1990 to 1993 before being moved to the Ottawa 67s and Windsor Spitfires.

Brody is from Union, Ont., and is committed to Penn State but Simpson says he is a local player who has “skill and breakaway speed and a physical dimension to his game. With him being a local player we are hoping to be able to recruit him for the future.”

The Knights had a second pick in the fourth round and landed a defenceman who many feel could have gone much higher in Isaiah George.

“We had him rated very high up,” admitted Simpson. “He is a puck-moving defenceman. He breaks the puck out of his own zone very well. He has great gap-control and can really skate and has skill.

Then came a player to watch in round five. He may not be a Knight right away. He has many options as far as his future path is concerned but, according to Simpson, the Knights felt they have to give Frank Nazar one more option.

“He is committed to the USNTP but he could very well be the first overall pick. He is an exceptional player with talent and skill. He makes plays and has explosive speed. One of his favourite players growing up was Patrick Kane and we’re hoping he can one day follow along in that same model and be a London Knight after the program as well.”

The son of former Sudbury Wolves winger Terry Chitaroni was drafted two picks after Nazar. Mason Chitaroni played minor midget in Sault Ste. Marie this past season.

In the sixth round, London selected goaltender Owen Flores of the Chicago Young Americans. He was one of two goalies the Knights drafted. Owen Willmore of the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs was the Knights 14th round pick.

London took centre Jonah Aegerter of the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies in the seventh round and centre Andy Reist of the Waterloo Wolves in the ninth round.

The Knights went back to NHL bloodlines in Round 10 with defenceman Aiden Dubinsky. His father Steve played for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Calgary Flames, the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues.

In the past, Thunder Bay has brought London players who became captains like Danny Bois and Joel Scherban. In the eleventh round on Saturday, it gave the Knights forward Jack Pineau.

London drafted winger Nate Dowling of the Windsor Jr. Spitfires in the 13th round and closed their selections by taking centre Nicholas Yearwood of the North York Rangers.

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World News

Woman in life-threatening condition after being hit by SUV in Cochrane

A pedestrian is in life-threatening condition after being hit by an SUV in Cochrane, Alta., on Saturday.

RCMP said they responded to a collision in the No Frills parking lot on 5 Avenue after 1:45 p.m.

A 35-year-old woman was struck by a Ford Edge SUV, and an ambulance took her to hospital in serious, life-threatening condition, police said.

The driver, an 83-year-old woman, remained on scene and spoke with investigators, officers said.

RCMP asked witnesses to contact them at 403-851-8000.

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World News

Christianity crackdown: Worshipper prays for help as cross brutally torn down from church

The country’s Communist party intensified religious persecution last year and has closed churches, imprisoned pastors and rewritten scriptures to deter popularity in the faith. The Chinese government restricts religious practice to five official recognised religions to be practiced in approved premises, classifying many groups outside of its control as “evil cults”. And while the coronavirus outbreak has claimed over 3,000 lives in the country, authorities have persisted to derail religious practices.

In footage posted on Twitter, Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, showed the moment authorities arrived at the state-sanctioned church in

Fuyang city, Anhui – located around six hours from Wuhan, where COVID-19 begun.

The video shows a crane truck parked outside the church gates on April 1 before the local government removed the cross.

The person recording the video can be heard saying: “They want to remove the church’s cross. We need to pray for this. May God have mercy on us!”

A worshipper – assumed to be a church member – can be seen kneeling and praying outside the church gates.

Shocked internet users condemned the destruction of the holy building. Writing on Twitter, one person speculated the Communist Party wants to use the land where the church is situated for other purposes.

One person said no faith should be condemned, while another added that “any religion in the world is a cult in the eyes of a group of atheists”.

And another Twitter user said the act was rooted in a second cultural revolution, after the first in 1966 launched by Mao Zedong to reassert his control over the Communist Party.

China has introduced new administrative regulations, enshrining measures on the structure and function of religious organisations, into law.

It came into effect on February 1.

The new laws ensure the subordination of religious groups to the Communist Party.

Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the Communist Party, has lodged the State Bureau of Religious Affairs under the thumb of the party, with a surveillance policy.

“Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics (Article 17).”

The new laws call for the sinizication of religion. Article 5 states that “Religious organizations must support the leadership of the Communist Party of China” and “adhere to the direction of Sinicization of religions.”

In line with the measures, religious organisations are to report their wide-ranging affairs to authorities, including financial expenditure, personnel changes, important meetings and activities scheduled.

Organisations must also ensure staff learn “the major decisions of the Communist Party of China, national policies and regulations, the glorious traditional Chinese culture, and knowledge about religion” (Article 32).

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Religious groups are tracked using informers, DNA records and facial recognition technologies, according to First Things.

Over the last eight months, churches have been shut and in some cases bulldozed.

Another driving force in the closure of such premises is the threat of intimidation, arrest, imprisonment and torture. Video surveillance cameras are being installed in those that remain open.

In the city of Fuzhou, a Catholic archdiocese, over 100 churches have been closed since August.

Meanwhile, human rights defenders like activist and lawyers who are calling for the protection of religious venues have been targeted with violations such as arbitrary detention, harassment and restrictions on practice.

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World News

Coronavirus: Popular Kelowna trail changed to one-way path to support physical distancing

Call it a sign of the physical-distancing times: a popular outdoor trail in the Okanagan has been changed into a one-way route.

This week, the City of Kelowna announced that the Apex Trail at Knox Mountain Park is now one-way only until further notice.

Located just minutes from downtown and with its sweeping views of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake, Knox Mountain is a popular place for locals and visitors alike.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the park isn’t as busy as it normally would be, but it’s still an active place.

The city says park users can use the Apex Trail to travel up the mountain and Knox Mountain Drive to go back down. Directional signage will be in place to guide park users.

Knox Mountain Drive will remain closed to vehicle traffic until further notice.

For more information on Knox Mountain, click here.

For more information about the City of Kelowna and COVID-19, click here.


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Politics

After intel firing, top U.S. watchdog vows to maintain oversight of Trump administration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. federal watchdog vowed on Saturday to continue to conduct “aggressive” independent oversight of government agencies, after President Donald Trump fired the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community late Friday night.

Michael Horowitz, chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), an independent agency in the executive branch and the inspector general at the Department of Justice, said in a statement that Michael Atkinson was known for his “integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight.”

Trump wrote in a letter to Congress Friday night that Atkinson, who was involved in triggering an impeachment probe of the president last year, will be removed from his position in 30 days.

The firing comes as U.S. inspectors general, who are charged with independent oversight of federal agencies, were recently tasked with broad surveillance of the government’s response to the coronavirus, including the historic $2.3 trillion fiscal package to mitigate its economic impact.

“The inspector general community will continue to conduct aggressive, independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee,” said Horowitz.

“This includes CIGIE’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and its efforts on behalf of American taxpayers, families, businesses, patients, and health care providers to ensure that over $2 trillion dollars in emergency federal spending is being used consistently with the law’s mandate.”

Democrats have expressed concerns about how the fiscal package will be doled out through the U.S. Treasury, headed by Steven Mnuchin. “We’re not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The watchdogs’ role in the coronavirus oversight is to examine the decision-making process, and provide the public information about where the taxpayer dollars and other resources go.

Atkinson, a Trump appointee, had determined that a whistleblower’s report was credible in alleging Trump abused his office in attempting to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 U.S. election for his political benefit.

Trump said Friday Atkinson no longer had his “fullest confidence.”

Atkinson expressed concerns that Trump potentially exposed himself to “serious national security and counter-intelligence risks” when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son during a July 25 phone call, according to a Justice Department legal opinion.

U.S. Senator Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised Atkinson, while noting Trump has the authority to fire him.

“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive,” Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, said in a statement. “However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure.”

But U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, demanded a better explanation for Atkinson’s firing.

“Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence,” he said. “More details are needed from the administration.”

Trump is trying to scare the watchdog community, Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told MSNBC Saturday morning.

“He’s decapitating the leadership of the intelligence community in the middle of a national crisis,” he said. “It’s unconscionable, and of course it sends a message throughout the federal government and particular to other inspectors general.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN that Trump was undermining the intelligence agencies, adding that there were no laws to protect people against retaliatory firings.

“When you speak truth to power you should be a hero, but in this administration when you speak truth to power all too often you get fired,” said Schumer.

Republican House Representative Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump supporter, mocked Schiff’s concern about Atkinson’s firing.

“He was Schiff’s key impeachment enabler,” Jordan wrote on Twitter.

After contentious, partisan hearings, the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump but the Republican-led Senate acquitted him of the charges in early February.

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World News

Number of coronavirus intensive care patients in Italy drops for first time

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy reported its lowest daily rise in COVID-19 deaths for nearly two weeks on Saturday and said the number of patients in intensive care had fallen for the first time.

Officials urged the country not to flout strict lockdown measures they said were starting to show results, although new cases rose by 4,805 on Saturday which was slightly higher than recent daily increases.

The Civil Protection department reported 681 deaths, bringing the total to 15,632 since the outbreak of the new coronavirus epidemic in northern Italy on Feb. 21. It was the lowest daily rise in deaths since March 23.

The total number of confirmed cases rose to 124,632 from 119,827 reported on Friday but for the first time, the number of patients in badly stretched intensive care units fell, with 3,994 patients being treated, down 74 from 4,068 on Friday.

“This is an important piece of news because it allows our hospitals to breathe,” Civil Protection head Angelo Borelli told a regular daily briefing where he has announced the grim daily tally of the world’s most deadly outbreak of the disease.

For days, Italian officials have said that broadly stable rises in the number of cases suggested that the outbreak had reached a plateau and that the numbers would begin to go down – if strict lockdown measures were respected.

But with Easter approaching and video footage circulating on social media of groups walking outside in cities including Naples, Rome and Milan, there were fears that the signs of progress were leading more people to flout the rules.

“Some images spread on social media, which show a relaxation in the behaviour of some people – fortunately only a few – , should not be taken as an example, they should be deplored,” said Domenico Arcuri, the government’s special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency.

“We can’t have the idea that we’ve already reached the moment to return to normal,” he said.

The government of Lombardy, the northern region at the epicentre of the crisis where more than 49,000 cases have been recorded, made a similar plea and issued a directive ordering people to cover their mouth and nose whenever they go outside.

Italy is still one of the countries worst affected by the new coronavirus, accounting for almost a quarter of worldwide deaths from COVID-19, the highly infectious disease associated with the virus.

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But as more countries in Europe have reported severe outbreaks of their own, it has become less of an outlier.

As the case numbers have flattened in Italy, there has been increasing discussion about eventually rolling back a lockdown that has closed most businesses and slammed the brakes on an already fragile economy.

With the government looking at ways to protect the economy, a senior official said it planned to extend its powers to protect key companies from foreign takeover.

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World News

Mexican tequila makers, unlike brewers, plan to keep up production, exports

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican tequila makers have sought to dispel concerns that their exports to the United States will dry up, after two large brewers in the country suspended production to comply with government rules put in place due to the new coronavirus.

“Neither in the United States nor in Canada are there restrictions on manufacturing and selling alcoholic beverages,” the president of the Mexican tequila chamber, Rodolfo Gonzalez, said in an interview.

This week, Heineken and Grupo Modelo both said they would halt production in Mexico after the government declared a health emergency and ordered suspension of non-essential economic activity.

It caused a storm on social media and large lines in some local supermarkets as Mexicans sought to stock up on beer.

Mexican tequila makers, however, interpret the newly imposed rules differently.

Gonzalez said the sector was still expecting growth rates of between 4% and 5% for this year – even as the new coronavirus is denting sales to bars, restaurants and hotels worldwide.

The United States and Canada are the largest export markets for the emblematic Mexican alcoholic beverage, with the chamber reporting about $2 billion in sales revenues across 118 countries every year.

Gonzalez said the labor-intensive harvest of the prized agave plant would continue because agricultural production is considered an essential economic activity, even if the production of alcoholic beverages is not.

Gonzalez said stopping crop production would have severe consequences for tequila makers.

“We have to finish planting all the agave for the 2020 cycle by next month,” Gonzalez added. “If we were to suspend our activities it would cause irreversible damage.”

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Politics

Coronavirus: Michael Gove admits ‘nature’ of Universal Credit may need to change

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has acknowledged the government may need to review “the nature” of its flagship welfare reform, after being asked whether Universal Credit can provide sufficient financial support to claimants.

More than a million new applications have been submitted since the UK imposed strict social distancing and travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new welfare system is designed to provide an incentive for people to take up work, by enabling claimants to keep receiving benefit payments alongside income from a job.

However in normal circumstances, claimants are expected to actively seek work in order to qualify for financial support.

This has led to concerns about whether the system has enough flexibility to deal with the current circumstances where work is unlikely to be an option for the vast majority,

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster insisted the whole welfare system was kept under review, but asked whether the standard weekly claim of £94 per week was sufficient for people to live on, he indicated further changes could follow.

“I think we have to consider the nature of the system and whether or not we do need to ensure that we better support the vulnerable, we keep that constantly under review and I think it’s important that we do recognise that its a very very difficult economic time for very many,” he said.

The message from Mr Gove contrasts with comments made by the Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, who told a parliamentary select committee last month “the underlying principles of Universal Credit have not gone away”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently admitted he would not be able to live on £94 per week, which is also the rate of statutory sick pay.

However, Mr Gove was keen to stress that while Universal Credit was one of the mechanisms by which the government was offering support to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic, it was not the only one.

“It is not the only means the government is deploying, as you’ll be aware there are up to 1.5 million people in the most vulnerable category – the shielded vulnerable – who we are distributing food and prescription medicines to.”

He also pointed to a new task force led by Environment Secretary George Eustice, which is working with local authorities and charities to identify those who are vulnerable and in need in communities across the UK.

The Department for Work and Pensions is recruiting at least 5,000 more staff to increase its capacity to handle the surge in demand for Universal Credit.

Ministers have previously made clear that in addition to the standard claim of £94 per week, new Universal Credit claimants may be able to receive more money through housing and support additions.

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Health

New Brunswick RCMP member tests positive for coronavirus

A police officer in New Brunswick has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-isolating at home.

“At this time, the case is not believed to be related to frontline interaction,” RCMP said in a statement released on Saturday.

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In the meantime, police said there is no anticipated impact on frontline policing or deployability.

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Health

Winnipeg lab employee self-isolating after mistaken exposure to new coronavirus

A Winnipeg lab worker is now in 14 days of self-isolation after mistakenly being in contact with chickens that had been exposed to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says on the morning of March 28, an employee, “well-trained in all aspects of animal care procedures” entered a large animal cubicle, mistakenly believing it “housed non-infected chickens.”

The staff member was wearing enough personal protective clothing for a room with non-infected animals, but not enough for infected animals, they said.

“Therefore, the personal protective equipment that was worn by the employee at the time was not sufficient for the room at that time. All prescribed room signage was in place,” said a statement from the CFIA.

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The chickens in the room had been inoculated with the coronavirus causing COVID-19, 11 days prior.

“The purpose of the study being undertaken was to determine whether chickens could become infected with the coronavirus causing COVID-19. Samples taken from the chickens on the day of the potential exposure tested negative, indicating that the risk of potential exposure was very low.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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