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Monthly Archives: February 2019

How ‘vampire’ spiders with a love of human blood could combat malaria – National

TORONTO — There’s a species of  jumping spider that lives on the walls of people’s homes and feeds on human blood. Researchers believe it could become a weapon in the fight against malaria.

The Evarcha culicivora is reportedly found around Lake Victoria in east Africa. And even though it’s also known as a “vampire” spider, you don’t have to worry about it sucking your blood.

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It lacks the mouth parts to pierce people’s skin. Instead, it targets the female (Anopheles) species of mosquito that not only eats human blood, but also transmits malaria parasites.

“This is unique. There’s no other animal that targets its prey based on what that prey has eaten,” said Fiona Cross, an arachnologist who co-authored a study on the spiders.

By eating the malaria-carrying mosquitoes, the spider apparently also makes itself more sexually attractive to prospective mates. Win-win.

Cross has urged people “to embrace the spiders” and “harness their potential in malaria control.” Her findings have been published in the Journal of Arachnology.

More than half a million lives are lost to malaria each year, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease, which is rare in Canada and the U.S., can be contracted in Africa, South and Central America, as well as parts of Asia. It can often be prevented by taking prescription pills.

Unfortunately, one study found that “only about 44 per cent” of travellers who became infected with malaria took a preventative mediation.

City manager takes blame for Metro LRT delays – Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: A city councillor spoke up today, saying he has lost confidence in the city manager. Vinesh Pratap explains.

EDMONTON — Edmonton’s city manager is taking liability for the issues surrounding the Metro LRT Line. Simon Farbrother took the blame during Monday’s Audit Committee meeting.

“There’s a multitude of projects that this city works on, we actually do review them on a regular basis. I’m not sure why we missed this, but we did and at the end of the day that’s my accountability,” Farbrother said following the meeting Monday.

The meeting gave city council the opportunity to question the city manager following the release of an auditor’s report into the many issues that have hindered the $665-million project.

Councillor Mike Nickel stated he doesn’t have confidence in Farbrother and requested council hold a separate meeting to discuss the matter. Mayor Don Iveson countered that one councillor doesn’t represent the feelings of all city council members.

“It’s quite clear to me at this point that the city manager is working closely with the general manager of transportation to make exactly the kinds of changes that the auditor has called for,” said Iveson.

During the meeting, Iveson questioned why verbal updates were given but not written. Transportation Department General Manager Dorian Wandzura said “splitting the contract created unclear responsibilities.”

Three people with the city associated with the project are no longer with the bureaucracy. There has also been a 70 per cent turnover in the transportation department’s leadership, Wandzura told council.

“There have always been challenges with the transportation department’s culture, in my view,” Iveson said, “and a symptom of that is a failure to report up.”

He also provided council with a list of lessons learned as a result of the metro line delays.

Procurement/Best Practices ReviewProject Management Reference GuideEnhanced Project OversightCouncil/Citizen Communication PlanOrganizational Effectiveness Review

In a blog post released last week, Iveson expressed his thoughts regarding the City Auditor’s report. The mayor said Farbrother and Wandzura will be held responsible for making sure appropriate changes are made.

City Council will hold both the City Manager and the General Manager of the Transportation Department accountable for meeting the action plans detailed in the report and ensuring these mistakes are never repeated. Changes have already been made, but more are needed, particularly around culture, and Council will be monitoring this very closely.”

The Metro Line was initially scheduled to open April 2014. Instead, it will open Sept. 6 under an interim signalling system. The line of sight operation is safe and suitable for public service, the project team has promised.

READ MORE: Edmonton Metro LRT set to open for the start of the school year

Line of sight is a railway industry mode of operation that requires a speed restriction, so train operators can come to a stop within half the range of their vision.

The line of sight operation for the Metro Line requires trains to not exceed 25 km/h on the approximately 2 and a half kilometre above ground stretch between MacEwan Station and NAIT Station.

The 25 km/h limit means it will take trains about 15 minutes to travel between Churchill Station and NAIT.

Thales Canada, the company behind the problem-plagued signalling system at the heart of the delay, isn’t supporting the opening of the line under the interim signalling system and argues its system is safe for operation.

READ MORE: Signalling contractor fires back at city over Metro LRT Line opening

The city is working towards full implementation, which will remove the operating restriction and run the LRT at maximum speeds of 50 km/h. Once the Thales signalling system is fully implemented, the Metro Line will offer 10-minute service between the Health Sciences Station near the University of Alberta and NAIT Station.

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Is ‘racial colour-blindness’ hurting our children?

MONTREAL – Has the following statement ever left you scratching your head: “I don’t see race, I just see people.”

Racial colour-blindness is something that sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t seem realistic in practice.

After all, experts insist that until we can comfortably talk about race, we can’t possibly address the issues that plague certain minorities.

If we insist we can’t see visible minorities, how can we hear their struggles?

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A new study by Social Psychological and Personality Science, When societal norms and social identity collide, asks this question in relation to how minority children living in western countries see both themselves and others.

“Their racial background is often integral to their identity and how others perceive them,” stated the study’s authors Kristin Pauker, Evan Apfelbaum and Brian Spitzer.

“Yet, talk of race is taboo.”

The study came to this conclusion after gathering 108 American-raised Latino, Asian, Black and Caucasian children between the ages of 9 and 12 and asked them to play a game similar to “Guess Who.”

Each child was given 40 photos and told they had to ask as few questions as possible to figure out which card the other person was holding.

Children who come under the “visible minority” umbrella, it seems, were just as likely to avoid the topic of race.

“It is troubling that pressures to adhere to colour-blind norms override talk of race, even among racial minority children,” wrote the authors.

In fact, only 40 per cent of the children asked questions like “are they Black?” or “are they White?” in order to win the game.

Afterwards, about 58 per cent said it would have been rude or offensive to ask those types of questions, while 23 per cent insisted it would be extremely racist.

“Teachers are particularly important social referents for instilling norms regarding race,” noted the study.

“Norms that equate colour-blindness with socially appropriate behaviour appear more broadly influential than previously thought, stifling talk of race even among those for whom it may be most meaningful.”

Their conclusion: minority children don’t benefit from this so-called “racial colour-blindness” approach.

“Issues of race continue to be a source of controversy and contention…from education and business to policing and the law,” wrote the authors.

“It remains unclear how these issues can be resolved, much less articulated, if no one is willing to acknowledge race.”

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Greek anti-austerity party receives mandate to form coalition government – National

ATHENS, Greece – A new anti-austerity party formed by rebel lawmakers who quit the governing left-wing Syriza was given its chance Monday to seek government coalition partners and prevent Greece from holding its third national vote this year.

Former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who heads the newly formed Popular Unity, received the maximum three-day mandate from the country’s president after the head of the main opposition conservative New Democracy failed to form a government.

Neither of the two parties was expected to find willing coalition partners, and early elections are practically guaranteed in September following the resignation of Prime Minister Alexis’ Tsipras last week, seven months into his four-year term. The most likely date is seen as Sept. 20.

The renewed political uncertainty has hammered the Athens Stock Exchange, which was down 8.2 per cent in afternoon trading Monday, dragged down by Europe-wide jitters after China’s market tumbled. That followed two straight days of losses last week on election concerns.

WATCH : More turmoil for Greece with snap election, migrant crisis

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Tsipras resigned on Thursday following a rebellion in his party over Greece’s new bailout, which saw dozens of Syriza lawmakers dissent and vote against him when the deal came to a vote in Parliament.

Syriza hardliners blasted the party’s young leader for reneging on the promises which brought him to power in January elections to repeal austerity measures imposed in return for Greece’s two previous international bailouts.

Already on an election footing, the new party has become one of Tsipras’ fiercest critics.

“Some people think that they can hide the consequences of the (bailout agreements) from the Greek people,” Lafazanis said, commenting on Tsipras’ decision to trigger elections, as he met with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to receive the mandate to form a government. “This is democratic backtracking, if not an undemocratic aberration.”

Despite acknowledging there was no chance of forming a government, Popular Unity has said it will keep the mandate for the full three days.

“We don’t have illusions, an anti-(bailout) government cannot be formed by this parliament,” Lafazanis said. “But we will use this mandate to show that the only thing that works toward the interest of the country and the Greek people is to have a new anti-(bailout) parliament.”

Tsipras has insisted he had no choice but to accept the steep tax hikes and deep spending cuts demanded by European creditors in return for the country’s new three-year, 86 billion euros ($99 billion) bailout, to prevent Greece from a potentially catastrophic default and being forced out of Europe’s joint currency.

A war of words erupted between New Democracy and Syriza over the weekend when Tsipras refused to meet with New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis as part of the exploratory mandate.

“Unfortunately, the country is being led to a catastrophic, in my opinion, course that could have been avoided, with the responsibility of Mr. Tsipras,” Meimarakis said during his meeting with Pavlopoulos. “I believe he can still understand that he must meet with us so there can be, even now, an effort at agreement so we can avoid such a course.”

Under electoral regulations, each of the three largest parties in Parliament has a maximum three days to seek coalition partners. If no coalition can be formed, the president convenes a meeting of party leaders in a last-ditch attempt to find consensus before a caretaker government is appointed and an election date is set.

This looms as the third time this year that Greeks head to the ballot box, after the January election and a July referendum Tsipras called within a week, urging voters to reject creditor reform demands – which they overwhelmingly did.

Despite his about-face, Tsipras is expected to win the election. But it is highly uncertain whether he will be able to form a government on his own, or will once again be forced to seek a coalition partner. After the January vote, he formed a coalition government with the small nationalist Independent Greeks, with which Syriza agreed on policy and ideology only on opposing bailout deals.

Now Tsipras will find himself having to advocate for the implementation of measures he was elected on promises to abolish and then campaigned actively to reject.

©2015The Canadian Press

Cyclist collision kills one on Jacques-Cartier Bridge – Montreal

WATCH ABOVE: A cyclist was killed after colliding head on with another cyclist on the Jacques-Cartier bridge bike path. Global’s Kelly Greig reports.

MONTREAL – A cyclist was killed after colliding head on with another cyclist on the Jacques-Cartier bridge bike path early Monday morning.

“The two bicycles collided together they were in opposite directions,” said Christine Coulomb with the Sûreté du Québec.

The victim, a 55-year-old man, was declared dead on the scene.

WATCH: Raw footage after a cyclist collision kills one. (TVA)

The other cyclist, a 25-year-old woman, is in hospital with minor injuries.

The ramp where the accident happened is just off the bridge, where cyclist enter the downtown core.

Neither cyclist was wearing a helmet when they collided.

“I’m not sure it would have made a difference. If speed is involved at some point a helmet cannot do everything,” said Marc Jolicoeur with Vélo-Québec.

“You need to be careful, you need to slow down when you’re on a bridge where there’s such a ramp down and you can get a lot of speed so it might not have done any difference.”

The bike path was closed early Monday morning, but traffic is back to normal.

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