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ZICARELLI: Well-rested Argonauts plot a daily routine to tackle East final

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The Canadian Football League season is far from over, with the post-season looming for the Argos.

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It has been a season of turnover and tumult, a regular season that would see the club part ways with its defensive co-ordinator for personal reasons and later trade a starting quarterback.

Ryan Dinwiddie had moments when he looked like a rookie head coach, while McLeod Bethel-Thompson found ways to win games as the team’s incumbent at quarterback.

In time, Dinwiddie will reflect on the season, but that time is not now with an Eastern final on the radar against an opponent to be determined this Sunday when the Montreal Alouettes face the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the divisional semifinal.

The Argos lost their final game of the season to Edmonton when Toronto didn’t dress its best players on a night the club could have won its 10th game of the season to keep its home record unblemished.

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The Argos’ most recent meaningful game was played on Nov. 12 against the Tiger-Cats, when Toronto secured first place and the much-coveted playoff bye.

The Argos’ next game of significance won’t be played until Dec. 5.

In fact, Toronto has been home since an away game in Ottawa on Nov. 6.

The rest vs. rust debate has always been a topic of discussion when a team earns a playoff bye.

Dinwiddie plans on keeping his players fresh, while at the same time get them on the field to hone in on football’s fundamentals as a way to keep them sharp and polished.

On Tuesday, for example, Dinwiddie said players were able to lift weights and watch film of the Ticats and Als.

“Just letting them (players) know to keep their eyes on the prize and focus in on the task at hand,” said Dinwiddie of the day-to-day routine. “We got some time off, but we’re still focused on working hard and working smart at the same time.

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“Guys have to be focused. We’ll have three weeks together and I want to make sure no one loses sight of that … Guys will have to be selfless and kind of give it their all to the team the next three weeks to make sure they’re focused.”

He’s encouraged at the way the Argos played in beating the Ticats to secure home field in the East final, by far Toronto’s most complete game of the season.

“We’ve had our growing pains,” said Dinwiddie. “We’ve grown each week. I had some mistakes, mistakes that I’ve learned from. The key is not make the same mistake twice. It’s been a great learning year for me, a great experience wearing this hat and I look forward to wearing many more.”

INJURY UPDATES

The good news involving John White IV is that the veteran running back won’t require surgery to his knee, an injury he suffered on Nov. 6 when the Argos beat the host Ottawa Redblacks.

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The bad news is White doesn’t figure to be an option in the East final, perhaps even the Grey Cup, if Toronto makes it to the big game in the Hammer on Dec. 12.

Dinwiddie said White hurt his PCL, which normally requires four to six weeks to heal.

“John is a hard worker,” said Dinwiddie. “It’s not looking good right now.”

As for rookie offensive lineman Peter Nicastro, who began the season as the team’s starter at left guard before he moved to centre, Dinwiddie said Nicastro is itching to play and is pushing to play.

“We’ll see,” said Dinwiddie of Nicastro, who is nursing a knee injury.

Under no circumstance will Dinwiddie compromise Nicastro’s future, which looks quite promising given how well he has played in making the jump from Canadian university football to the pro level.

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“He’s tough, he’s trying to push to get ready,” added Dinwiddie. “But sometimes you have to hold those guys back away from themselves. He wants to be available for us, but at the same time you don’t want to put him in harm’s way. We’ll see how that’s going to play out.”

Veteran receiver Eric Rogers, according to Dinwiddie, will be a go for the East final.

Rogers has been dealing with a hamstring injury and hasn’t played since Sept. 17, when the Argos lost in Regina to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Rogers could have played last week in Toronto’s season finale.

“I trust Eric,” said Dinwiddie, who knows Rogers from their days in Calgary. “I’ve seen Eric come off the six-game (injured list) and go out and make big plays in the West final. He’s a gamer and he’ll show up ready to go.”

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Dexter McCoil Sr. was having an MOP season until the linebacker hurt his elbow in Toronto’s home win over the BC Lions, the same night Nicastro hurt his knee.

“Dexter is fighting through the elbow a little bit, but he’s lifting weights and getting his range of motion back,” said Dinwiddie.

Another injured player the Argos are hopeful of getting back is defensive back Jamal Peters, who hurt his knee in Hamilton on Thanksgiving Day.

Dinwiddie said a knee brace will arrive at some point this week, allowing Peters a chance to get comfortable.

“He’s getting close,” said Dinwiddie of Peters. “The docs have to clear him this week. We anticipate seeing him on the field.”

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Netflix reveals release date for Vikings: Valhalla, other shows

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There’s a ton of good genre stuff either on right now or about to drop, from The Wheel of Time to The Witcher to The Book of Boba Fett and beyond. And it looks like 2022 will be just as packed. Netflix has unveiled its genre lineup for the new year, and it’s robust.

So what sci-fi, fantasy and history shows are coming to Netflix next year? The biggest news is probably that Vikings: Valhalla — Netflix’s sequel series to History’s Vikings — will premiere on February 25. The announcement also came with some new images:

The reveal was short on other specific release dates, but there were a few, including Archive on January 14, In From The Cold on January 28, and Raising Dion season 2 February 1. As usual, Netflix is very busy.

The Umbrella AcademyStranger ThingsThe Sandman and more are all coming to Netflix in 2022

There were a lot of other shows and movies Netflix confirmed are coming out in 2022 but didn’t give exact premiere dates for, including Magic: The Gathering, Resident Evil, The Sandman, The Umbrella Academy season 3, The Witcher: Blood OriginAlice in Borderlandi season 2, All of Us Are Dead, Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, First KillLocke & Key season 3, Stranger Things season 4 and The Cuphead Show!

A bunch of these came with neat little synopses. For example:

  • The Umbrella Academy season 3: After putting a stop to the 1960s doomsday, the Umbrella Academy returns home to 2019, convinced they have fixed the timeline. But after a brief moment of celebration, they realize things aren’t exactly how they left them… Welcome to the Sparrow Academy.”
  • Stranger Things season 4: “Top-secret government experiments and a dangerous gateway that connects our world to a powerful yet sinister realm? Sounds like Hawkins.”
  • The Sandman: “A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy by Neil Gaiman
    (Good Omens, Coraline) that follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.”
  • Resident Evil: “A live action, scripted series building on Capcom’s legendary video game franchise starring Lance Reddick as Albert Wesker. Nearly three decades after the discovery of the T-virus, an outbreak reveals the Umbrella Corporation’s dark secrets.”
  • Magic: The Gathering: “An all-new animated event series…following the lore of the compelling characters, and fantastic worlds that have entertained and delighted fans for more than 25 years.”
  • Locke & Key season 3: “The Locke family uncovers more magic within Keyhouse, while a new threat – the most dangerous one yet – looms in Matheson with plans of his own for the keys.”

Bring it.

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Donald Trump tested Covid-positive three days before Biden debate, claims ex-chief of staff in book, World News

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Donald Trump’s last chief of staff has claimed that the former US president had tested positive for COVID-19 just three days ahead of his debate with Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden in 2020.

Mark Meadows, who served as Trump’s fourth chief of staff, made the shocking claim in his new memoir called ‘The Chief’s Chief,’ according to media reports that accessed the book.

Explaining how ”Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there,” Meadows said Trump was aware about the norm ”to test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the start time” of the debate, which was held on September 29 last year.

Also read | Social media erupts as Trump gets featured on miniature Mount Rushmore

Yet after receiving confirmation that he had tested positive, Trump went ahead with the debate, potentially endangering several lives. He had called the novel coronavirus, which has claimed millions of lives worldwide, as a ”hoax.”

According to Meadows, ”I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. But I also didn’t want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about – which according to the new, much more accurate test, there was not.”

Also read | Donald Trump, banned on Twitter and FB, to launch his own social network

Since the positive test was done by an old kit, Trump suggested a new one be performed using the Binax system, hoping that it was a false positive. This proved beneficial as the second test came back negative.

Meadows has also provided the House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly January 6 US Capitol riot with records and agreed to appear soon for a deposition.

“Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition,” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House select committee, said in a statement.

Trump has urged his associates not to cooperate with the committee, calling the Democratic-led investigation politically motivated and arguing that his communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts say that legal principle does not apply to former presidents.

On January 6, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from formally certifying his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Shortly before the riot, Trump gave a speech to his supporters repeating his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.”

Meadows was a Republican House member until he left in 2020 to join Trump’s administration.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Half of eligible Lucknowites fully vaccinated against Covid

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Half of the eligible Lucknowites are now fully vaccinated against Covid (taken both doses), says the health department data.

Besides, the state capital crossed the 52-lakh (5.2 million) mark in the total Covid vaccine doses administered since January 16 when the inoculation started nationwide.

Against a target of over 37.4 lakh (3.74 million), the number of Lucknowites who have taken both doses of the Covid vaccine stood at 18.82 lakh (1.88 million) till 7pm on Wednesday.

Till now, 33,35,779 people in Lucknow have got their first dose, which is over 87% of the target population.

During the day, over 18,000 beneficiaries took their second dose in the state capital on Wednesday.

Health officials say they are making efforts to administer at least one dose to all the eligible people by December-end. Several campaigns are being run to motivate people for taking the Covid vaccine jab.

“People are coming on time for their second dose. This is increasing the vaccination coverage in the state capital,” said Dr Manoj Agrawal, the chief medical officer of Lucknow.

He also said, “Apart from running Covid vaccination centres till 10pm, mobile vans facilitate vaccination under the cluster model for those who are unable to move out of their homes.”

“With a major chunk of the eligible population taking their second dose now, we can cross the 90% mark by January,” said Dr Abhishek Shukla, secretary general, association of international doctors.

Lucknow tops all 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh and experts say vaccination coverage in the state capital is essential to check the spread of the Covid infection.

“Lucknow has a major floating population that visits it for a day or two for some work and goes back. If all Lucknowites are vaccinated, they will remain safe and will not spread the infection,” said Dr PK Gupta.

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