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Family affair: Billie Eilish, Finneas win big at Grammys

MESFIN FEKADU THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 27th, 2020

LOS ANGELES _ The edgy, avant-pop album that siblings Billie Eilish and Finneas created in a small bedroom made a big splash at the 2020 Grammy Awards, winning 11 honours for the musical family.

“When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” — created in the musicians’ Los Angeles home — helped Eilish win the top four honours, including album, song and record of the year, along with best new artist. The 18-year-old is the youngest artist to achieve the feat and the first to do so since Christopher Cross did in 1981.

Finneas — who co-wrote, produced and engineered the album, walked away as Sunday’s top winner with six. Eilish won five honours.

“We didn’t write a speech for this because we didn’t make this album to win a Grammy. We didn’t think it would win anything ever. We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being the bad guy — whatever that means — and we stand up here confused and grateful,” Finneas said onstage.

Together, they also won best pop vocal album, while Finneas’ individual honours included producer of the year (non-classical) and best engineered album (non-classical).

“This is my first Grammys. I never thought this would happen in my whole life,” Eilish said. “I genuinely wanna say I am so grateful and I only wanna say that I am so grateful.”

“This is to all the kids who are making music in the bedroom today — you’re going to get one of these,” Finneas added.

The bedroom where they created magic was brought to life when they hit the stage and performed “When the Party’s Over,” which featured Finneas on keys and Eilish singing in a soft, pitch perfect tone.

Los Angeles, where the show was held, had a central theme at the show Sunday: hometown heroes Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant, a global icon, were honoured and celebrated at the show.

The Grammys kicked off with a performance in honour of Bryant, who died hours before the awards along with his daughter and seven others. And later in the show Hussle’s collaborators and friends, including DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG, gave an all-star tribute to the man who died last year.

Hussle also posthumously won his first pair of Grammys on Sunday.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay introduced the performance, which featured band players, background dancers and Legend wearing traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean clothing in honour of Hussle’s African roots. Mill performed a new song called “Letter to Nipsey” while others joined together for “Higher,” which won best rap/sung performance.

“This is for Nipsey Hussle. This is for hip-hop,” said DJ Khaled, who collaborated on the song with Legend and Hussle, whose family stood onstage.

“We all love him. We all miss him. It’s terrible that we had to lose him so early,” Legend said. “We’ve seen some tragedy today and last year … let’s hold each other tight.”

The show — which took place at the Staples Center, Bryant’s old stomping ground — began with a touching, emotional and a cappella performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by host Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men.

“Los Angeles, America and the world-wide world lost a hero,” Keys said, adding that the audience was “heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”

“Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna … are in our spirits, they’re in our hearts, they’re in prayers, they’re in this building,” she said. “Take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and our support with their families.”

Before the show officially honoured Bryant, Lizzo performed the songs “Truth Hurts” and “Cuz I Love You,” saying at the top of the show: “Tonight is for Kobe.”

Lizzo won three honours, including best pop solo performance for “Truth Hurts” and two R&B awards.

“Hold on one second,” she said, catching her breath. “Thank you to the academy. This is really (expletive) sick.”

Lizzo was among the mix of newcomers and well-known acts who reached their goals of winning their first-ever Grammy Awards on Sunday, which also included Tanya Tucker, J. Cole, DJ Khaled, Eilish, Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michelle Obama, Sara Bareilles, Rosalia, 21 Savage and Tyler, the Creator.

“To my mother, you did a great job raising this guy,” Tyler, who won best rap album, said to his mom, who was onstage and crying by side.

More crying took place Sunday.

Demi Lovato, who has mostly taken a break from the public since focusing on her recovery after reportedly overdosing in July 2018, gave a stirring, vocally top-notch performance that earned her a standing ovation. She was so emotional that she had to restart the song as a teardrop ran down her cheek.

Camila Cabello’s performance of “First Man” — a song dedicated to her father — also induced tears. Cabello walked off the stage to her dad’s seat to finish singing the song in front of him, while he teared up. Audience members were emotional, too, including Gwen Stefani.

Ariana Grande had a lengthy performance — probably to make up for the drama that surrounded her axed performance last year. Run DMC joined forces with Aerosmith to rock the Grammys stage, while Usher, Sheila E. and FKA twigs paid tribute to Prince.

Lil Nas X brought the story of “Old Town Road” to life by performing alongside the artists who helped the song stay at No. 1 for 19 weeks through various remixes, including BTS, Mason Ramsey, Diplo and the track’s main co-star, Billy Ray Cyrus.

Veteran rapper Nas then joined Lil Nas X for a new song, shouting out Bryant at the end: “Kobe, we love you.”

A dark cloud loomed over ceremony since the Recording Academy announced it had put its recently hired CEO, Deborah Dugan, on administrative leave for misconduct. Dugan and her lawyers fired back at the academy, claiming that the awards show is rigged.

But no mention of Dugan was directly made during the three-plus-hour show.

1 injured in possible drive-by near Jane and Wilson

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 27th, 2020

Police are investigating a possible drive-by shooting in the Jane Street and Wilson Avenue area that sent a female to hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Emergency crews were called to the scene on Wilson around 2:45 a.m. Monday

Police said the victim made her own way to hospital. Her injuries are not considered to be life-threatening.

Investigators do not believe she was the intended target.

The suspect’s vehicle is described as a black sedan, possibly a Mercedes. It was last seen heading westbound on Wilson.

Police said a man with a gunshot wound also showed up in hospital a short time later. Investigators are trying to determine if the two incidents are connected.

Wilson was closed both ways from William Cragg Drive to Highview Avenue while police investigated. The area reopened just before 6:30 a.m.

Bryant’s helicopter flew in fog that grounded other choppers

Stefanie Dazio The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 27th, 2020

CALABASAS, Calif. — The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9:45 a.m. Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard. The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thousands of fans, many wearing Bryant jerseys and chanting his name, gathered outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and site of Sunday’s Grammy Awards where Bryant was honoured.

The 41-year-old Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the game’s most popular players and the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.

The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department grounded their helicopters.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made.

Bryant’s helicopter left Santa Ana in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, shortly after 9 a.m. and circled for a time just east of Interstate 5, near Glendale. Air traffic controllers noted poor visibility around Burbank, just to the north, and Van Nuys, to the northwest.

After holding up the helicopter for other aircraft, they cleared the Sikorsky S-76 to proceed north along Interstate 5 through Burbank before turning west to follow U.S Route 101, the Ventura Highway.

Shortly after 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned again, toward the southeast, and climbed to more than 2000 feet (609 metres). It then descended and crashed into the hillside at about 1400 feet (426 metres), according to data from Flightradar24.

When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 160 knots (184 mph) and descending at a rate of more than 4000 feet per minute, the data showed.

The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks was holding a basketball tournament on Sunday.

Federal transportation safety investigators were on their way to the scene. Among other things, they will look at the pilot’s history, the chopper’s maintenance records and the records of its owner and operator, said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy at a news conference.

Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Bryant in the chopper, said the crash was more likely caused by bad weather than engine or mechanical issues.

“The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Justin Green, an aviation attorney in New York who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps, said pilots can become disoriented in low visibility, losing track of which direction is up. Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning that person could fly the helicopter without relying on visual cues from outside.

The National Transportation Safety Board typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.

Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard what sounded to him like a low-flying airplane or helicopter.

“It was very foggy so we couldn’t see anything,” he said. “But then we heard some sputtering and then a boom.”

The fog cleared a bit, and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.

Firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses, and medical personnel rappelled to the site from a helicopter, but found no survivors, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

News of the charismatic superstar’s death rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and anguish.

“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me,” retired NBA great Michael Jordan said. “We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific shot-maker with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.

He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

His Lakers tenure was marred by scandal when in 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He said the two had consensual sex, and prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge at the request of the accuser. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court.

Bryant went on to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010, and retired in 2016.

Among those killed in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter, said Altobelli’s brother, Tony, who is the sports information director at the school.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley tweeted that the dead also included Christina Mauser, a girls basketball coach at a nearby private elementary school. Her husband, Matt Mauser, founded the Tijuana Dogs, a popular Orange County band. In a Facebook post he said: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”

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Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles, David Koenig in Dallas, Tim Reynolds in Miami and Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this report.

Saskatchewan lab joins global effort to develop coronavirus vaccine

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 24th, 2020

As Canadian public health agencies prepare to deal with a new viral illness, a specialized lab in Saskatoon is using its research on different strains of the coronavirus to help develop a vaccine.

The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre, also known as VIDO-InterVac, has received permission from the Public Health Agency of Canada to focus on the threat.

“People need to work together and collaborate and share the information,” said its executive director, Volker Gerdts.

The deadly coronavirus, first linked to a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has been connected to 26 deaths and infections in hundreds of people. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States have each reported at least one case of the virus.

There have been no confirmed cases in Canada and officials say the risk of an outbreak remains low.

About five or six people in Canada are being monitored, including those with a travel history to the Wuhan area and with symptoms of the illness. Respiratory samples are being sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

“Emerging diseases arrive and, because of all the travel we do and the connectiveness we have right now, the world becomes smaller and smaller and there’s a better chance for these pathogens to quickly spread around the globe,” Gerdts said.

The Saskatchewan lab was developed in the wake of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003 to ensure that Canada could be prepared for emerging disease and illness, he added.

Researchers there have spent a significant amount of time focusing on pathogens like coronaviruses. Gerdts said they’ve successfully developed a vaccine for coronavirus strains in cattle and pigs.

“We have expertise in working with them.”

While coronaviruses are relatively small, they are known for mutating and jumping species, which is why they cause so many problems.

Gerdts explained the coronavirus strain in pigs had not been seen in North America until two years ago. But within a year it had affected 10 million of the animals.

Colleagues in China have made the outbreak-specific coronavirus genome sequence available to researchers around the world, Gerdts said. His lab is now using it to hopefully find a way to help.

The lab also has clearance to handle samples of the pathogen and is attempting to get samples from China or the U.S. If that’s not possible, it will order synthetic gene fragments.

The goal is to have the first vaccine candidates ready for testing in animals within six to eight weeks, Gerdts said. But human trials are at least a year away.

Gerdts said Canada has shown a leading role in developing vaccines, including one for the Ebola virus, and there’s a need to have more capacity to manufacture them here.

If his lab had a manufacturing facility that he’s been advocating for, he said production of a coronavirus vaccine for human testing could happen quicker.

Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Canadian research is part of a global effort and will be shared with the World Health Organization.

“We currently do not have a specific vaccine against this novel coronavirus,” she said. “With a global effort on preparedness, I think that’s something that we need to strive for.”

Boy charged with murder after woman, 54, found dead in home near St. Clair and Oakwood

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 24th, 2020

A boy has been charged with murder after a woman was found dead in a home near St. Clair and Oakwood Avenues.

Police say they discovered the body on Monday at a home on Atlas Street after being called to conduct a well-being check.

An autopsy was conducted and her death has been ruled a homicide. She has been identified as Giulia Matthews of Toronto.

Her cause of death has not been released. It’s believed her body had been in the home for quite some time before she was found.

A boy under 18 has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He can’t be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Police said he was arrested in Manitoba and will be brought back to Toronto.

China confirms 26 deaths related to coronavirus, expands lockdown

YANAN WANG, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 24th, 2020

China is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country’s most important holiday.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down Friday in at least 10 cities with a total of about 33 million people. The cities are Wuhan, where the illness has been concentrated, and nine of its neighbours in central China’s Hubei province.

“To address the insufficiency of existing medical resources,” Wuhan authorities said in a Friday notice, the city is constructing a hospital modeled after the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital in Beijing. The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 25,000- square-meter (270,000-square-foot) lot, slated for completion Feb. 3.

The SARS hospital was built from scratch in 2003 in just six days to treat an outbreak of a similar respiratory virus that had spread from China to more than a dozen countries and killed about 800 people. The hospital featured individual isolation units that looked like rows of tiny cabins.

Normally bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were eerily quiet in Wuhan on the second day of its lockdown. Masks were mandatory in public, and images from the city showed empty shelves as people stocked up for what could be an extended isolation. Train stations, the airport and subways were closed; police checked incoming vehicles but did not entirely close off roads.

Hospitals in Wuhan were grappling with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies. Videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for checks. Some users on Weibo said their family members had sought diagnoses but were turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

At least eight hospitals in Wuhan issued public calls for donations of masks, googles, gowns and other protective medical gear, according to notices online. Administrators at Wuhan University People’s Hospital set up a group chat on the popular WeChat messaging app to co-ordinate donations.

The “Fever Control Command Center” of the city of Huanggang also put out a call for donations publicized by the state-run People’s Daily, asking for medical supplies, medicine and disinfection equipment. The notice added that at the moment they wouldn’t accept supplies from foreign countries.

Authorities were taking precautions around the country. In the capital, Beijing, major public events were cancelled indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of Lunar New Year celebrations. Two major tourist destinations, Beijing’s Forbidden City and Shanghai Disneyland, announced they will close indefinitely on Saturday.

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 830, the National Health Commission said. Twenty-six people have died, including the first two deaths outside Hubei and the youngest recorded victim.

The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died there after returning from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives. Heilongjiang province in the northeast confirmed a death there but did not give details.

While the majority of deaths have been older patients, a 36-year-old man in Hubei was admitted to the hospital earlier this month after suffering from fever for three days. He died following a sudden cardiac arrest on Jan. 23.

Initial symptoms of the virus can mirror those of the cold and flu, including cough, fever, chest tightening and shortness of breath, but can worsen to pneumonia.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan, but people who visited or had personal connections to infected people were among the scattered cases counted beyond the mainland. South Korea and Japan both confirmed their second cases Friday and Singapore confirmed its third. Cases have been detected in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, the United States, Thailand and Vietnam.

Many countries are screening travellers from China and isolating anyone with symptoms.

The World Health Organization decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency for now. The declaration can increase resources to fight a threat but its potential to cause economic damage makes the decision politically fraught.

Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns of the cities will last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s Communist Party-led government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as SARS and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is thought to have originated from camels.

The Wuhan outbreak is suspected to have begun from wild animals sold at a food market in the city. The market is closed for investigation.

Across China, a slew of cancellations and closures dampened the usual liveliness of Lunar New Year.

One Beijing subway station near a transport hub conducted temperature checks at its security checkpoint Friday. Some security personnel were clad in full-body hazardous material suits.

Schools prolonged their winter break and were ordered by the Ministry of Education to not hold any mass gatherings or exams. Transport departments will also be waiving fees and providing refunds for ticket cancellations.

Associated Press researcher Henry Hou and video journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report.

Boy, 7, seriously injured in Hamilton shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 24th, 2020

A seven-year-old boy suffered serious injuries following a shooting in Hamilton, an incident police say is “unacceptable.”

Hamilton police say they responded to reports of a shooting in the east end of the city just before 8 p.m.

When they arrived they discovered the young boy had been struck by at least one bullet that had been fired from outside the home.

Police have not released any other details surrounding the incident including what may have led up to the shooting or any suspect descriptions. Police would also not confirm reports that this may have been a drive-by shooting.

“This is unacceptable,” said Hamilton deputy police chief Frank Bergen.

“Coming out of year of 47 shootings, we’ve already had three shootings in 2020 – this is our first victim. A 7-year-old is not acceptable.”

Paramedics said they transported the child to hospital with “serious, life-threatening” injuries. Police later updated the boy’s condition, saying it has since stabilized.

No one else was injured in the shooting.

“This is a time when our community has to stop and understand what the proliferation of guns are doing in our community,” said Bergen while appealing for anyone to come forward with information.

“We hear a great deal about the problems within the GTA and we are now talking about a sidewalk within our community that’s also affected by this. Let’s all of us start looking at what are the problems with guns and gangs and look at solutions together.”

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