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Tokyo medal contenders, possible delays for election results: In The News for Aug. 4

·10 min read

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 Aug. 4 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Canadian sprinters Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown both won their semifinal heats in the men's 200 metres at the Tokyo Olympics, giving them each a chance to add to Canada's medal count.

De Grasse cruised into Wednesday's 200 final with a Canadian-record time of 19.73 in his semifinal. The 26-year-old from Markham, Ont., made it look easy and in classic De Grasse style, he got off to a pedestrian start before laying down a scorching second half, easily reeling in the competition.

He will be looking for his second medal in Tokyo after taking bronze in the 100 metres. He'll also try to get a medal in the 200 for a second straight Games. De Grasse took silver in the event at the 2106 Rio de Janeiro Olympics when he set his old Canadian-best mark of 19.80 seconds.

"I knew I had it in me. My (personal best) was from 2016, and I knew I was better than that, especially coming off of the personal best a couple nights ago," De Grasse said. "I didn't expect to go that fast. I wanted to save it for the final, but the American Kenny (Kenneth Bednarek) was pushing me a little bit, so I knew I had to make sure I qualified for the final.

"My coach told me 'make sure you get first because you want to have a good lane for tomorrow night.'"

Brown also ran an impressive semifinal in 19.99 seconds, but his qualification was a little more complicated.

Brown, Joseph Fahnbulleh of Liberia and Noah Lyles of the United States all crossed the line with the same time, and a photo was needed to determine the placing.

Brown and Fahnbulleh received the automatic berths in the final, while Lyles finished third and had to wait until the heats were over before his time was confirmed as good enough to advance.

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Also this ...

Canada's chief electoral officer is warning that Canadians may have to wait a few days to find out the final results of a federal election called in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Stephane Perrault wants Canadians to know there's nothing nefarious about that departure from the norm.

It's part of a process Elections Canada has devised to ensure an election can be conducted safely and produce trustworthy results while the country remains in the grip of COVID-19.

"It's important for Canadians to understand that this is part of the plan of deliberate choices that we've made," Perrault said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"It's not an accident, it's not a sign of things going wrong but in fact is part of the process as we've designed it in these very unique circumstances of the pandemic."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is widely expected to pull the plug on his minority Liberal government later this month for an election in mid to late September. All parties are gearing up for a campaign, even as chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam is warning that Canada is on the verge of a fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the more infectious Delta variant.

Elections Canada is braced for a potentially explosive increase in the number of Canadians who choose to vote by mail during the pandemic.

Perrault says officials won't start counting those mail-in ballots until the day after the election and it could take up to five days to complete.

That means results in some closely fought ridings — and even potentially the overall outcome nationally — may not be known immediately.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

NEW YORK _ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced mounting pressure Tuesday to resign, including from President Joe Biden and other one-time Democratic allies, after an investigation found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers.

"I think he should resign,'' Biden told reporters Tuesday, echoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York's U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, all Democrats.

The leader of the state Assembly, which has the power to bring impeachment charges, said it was clear Cuomo could no longer remain in office. Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, said he would move to complete an impeachment inquiry "as quickly as possible.''

Cuomo remained defiant, saying in a taped response to the findings that "the facts are much different than what has been portrayed" and that he "never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."

In a telephone conversation with Heastie, Cuomo insisted he wouldn't leave office and told the speaker he needed to work fellow Democrats and garner enough votes to stop an impeachment, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The nearly five-month, non-criminal investigation, overseen by New York's attorney general and led by two outside lawyers, concluded that 11 women from within and outside state government were telling the truth when they said Cuomo had touched them inappropriately, commented on their appearance or made suggestive comments about their sex lives.

Anne Clark, who led the probe with former U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, said the allegations had varying degrees of corroboration, including other witnesses and contemporaneous text messages. Investigators interviewed 179 people, including the governor himself.

"These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws,'' New York Attorney General Letitia James said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Many of the women said they feared retaliation if they reported Cuomo's behaviour, investigators said, describing his administration as a hostile workplace ""rife with fear and intimidation.''

The investigation's findings, detailed in a 165-page public report, turn up the pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who just a year ago was widely hailed for his steady leadership during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis, even writing a book about it.

While James concluded the investigation without referring the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges, local authorities could use its evidence and findings to mount cases. Albany District Attorney David Soares said he would request materials from James' office and welcomed victims to contact him.

In his taped response, Cuomo apologized to two accusers: Charlotte Bennett, who said the governor asked if she was open to sex with an older man after she confided she had been a sexual assault victim, and a woman he kissed at a wedding. Cuomo said he was hiring an expert to reform sexual harassment training for state employees, including the governor.

But he denied other allegations as fabricated and lashed out at the investigative process, saying it was fuelled by "politics and bias.'' He explained that he's physically embraced people his whole life, that his mother and father _ former Gov. Mario Cuomo _ had done the same and that the gesture was meant to "convey warmth.''

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

VARIBOBI, Greece _ Firefighting planes resumed operation at first light in Greece on Wednesday to tackle a major forest fire on the northern outskirts of Athens that forced thousands to flee their homes the previous day amid the country's worst heat wave in decades.

The fire in the Varibobi and Tatoi suburbs of the Greek capital was the worst of 81 wildfires that broke out around the country in 24 hours from late Monday to late Tuesday.

Five water-dropping planes and nine helicopters were helping more than 500 firefighters, soldiers and numerous volunteer groups on the ground, the fire department said.

"It was another exceptionally difficult night," Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said while visiting a fire department mobile coordination centre in the area on Wednesday morning. He said fire fighters had succeeded in reducing four active fire fronts to one overnight.

The fire was fuelled by tinder-dry conditions caused by a protracted heat wave that began last week and sent temperatures soaring to 45 degrees Celsius.

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries. The fire burned homes, businesses and vehicles, and sent a large cloud of smoke over Athens on Tuesday night. The government announced it would provide hotel rooms for local residents for as long as they are unable to return to their homes.

On Tuesday, residents evacuated in cars and on foot, while riding schools in the area raced to evacuate horses from the path of the flames. Some horses, released from their stables, wandered down the streets.

Apart from the fire north of Athens, two more major forest fires were still burning Wednesday morning, one on the island of Evia and one in the southwestern Peloponnese.

The fire department said 95 firefighters, two aircraft, four ground teams and 35 vehicles were battling the flames in Evia, while 74 firefighters, three ground teams, 22 vehicles and one helicopter were tackling the fire in the Messinia area of the Peloponnese.

As the heat wave scorching the eastern Mediterranean intensified, temperatures reached 42 degrees Celsius in parts of the Greek capital. The extreme weather has fuelled deadly wildfires in Turkey and blazes in Italy, Greece, Albania and across the region.

The heatwave is forecast to continue in Greece until the end of the week.

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On this day in 1983 ...

In the so-called "Fowl Ball" incident, New York Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield was charged by Toronto police after killing a seagull with a thrown baseball. A charge of unnecessary cruelty to an animal was later dropped

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In CFL news ...

The CFL has established a policy should COVID-19 issues force game cancellations this year.

The league didn't stage a 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and teams will resume play with an shortened 14-game regular season that begins Thursday night.

If a game can't be played and rescheduled because of COVID-19 issues, the club suffering from the COVID-19 issues will forfeit a 1-0 loss. If both squads have COVID-19 issues, each will forfeit the game and assigned losses.

In either scenario, if a team can prove at least 85 per cent of its players under contract have been vaccinated, at least once, the players will receive their salary for the cancelled game. If that figure falls below 85 per cent, players won't be paid.

It was not clear if coaches would still be paid if a team's vaccination rate fell below 85 per cent as they are not part of the league's collective bargaining agreement it has with players.

The CFL said as of Friday, when teams made their final cuts, 79 per cent of players were fully or partially vaccinated. Three clubs had over 85 per cent of their players vaccinated with the rates of the other six ranging between 67 to 81 per cent

"Our goal is to ensure we have zero game cancellations due to issues caused by an outbreak of COVID-19 within our football operations,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says. "While this policy spells out what will happen if cancellations do occur, its main purpose is to encourage all of our players to get fully vaccinated in order to minimize the risk to our season and, most importantly, their health and safety."

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ICYMI ...

A Newfoundland town that became famous on a late-night American talk show for sharing a name with a sex toy is once again urging residents to steer clear of a sign spelling out the name "Dildo."

The town of Dildo reminded residents and visitors in a Facebook post last week that the giant Hollywood-style sign sits on private property and hiking to the sign is prohibited.

The town said the sign also sits atop a steep, rocky cliff and the trek up for photo shoots is dangerous.

The Dildo sign went up two years ago as part of a bit on the talk show hosted by American comic Jimmy Kimmel.

Kimmel launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign to become honorary mayor of Dildo and sent his sidekick, Guillermo Rodriguez, to the town for a few live reports.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021

The Canadian Press

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