Science & Environment

petros

The Central Scrutinizer
Nov 21, 2008
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Low Earth Orbit
Scientists have voted against a proposal to declare a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene to reflect how profoundly human activity has altered the planet.

The proposal was rejected by members of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, which is part of the International Union of Geological Sciences, according to three voting members of the subcommission contacted by CNN Tuesday.

The vote followed a 15-year process to select a geological site that best captures humanity’s impact on the planet. The international union’s Anthropocene Working Group, which spearheaded the effort, made a July 2023 announcement that identified the location as Crawford Lake in Ontario because of the way sediment from the lake bed reveals the geochemical traces of nuclear bomb tests, specifically plutonium, from 1950.

The vote was not unanimous, said Kim Cohen, an assistant professor of geosciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and a voting member of the subcommission.
“There were some abstainees. There was a minority of yeses to a majority of nos,” said Cohen, who voted in favor of the proposal.

Phil Gibbard, a professor emeritus of quaternary paleoenvironments at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and a voting member of the subcommission, said that the “proposal for a formal Anthropocene was rejected by a 66% vote.”

However, in a statement released Wednesday, Jan Zalasiewicz, the chair of the subcommission and professor emeritus at the University of Leicester, said that unverified information had been shared with the media and the voting had been “performed in contravention” of the group’s statutes. He said he has now requested an inquiry, which could include the possibility of annulling the vote.

Scientists have voted against a proposal to declare a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene to reflect how profoundly human activity has altered the planet.

The proposal was rejected by members of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, which is part of the International Union of Geological Sciences, according to three voting members of the subcommission contacted by CNN Tuesday.

The vote followed a 15-year process to select a geological site that best captures humanity’s impact on the planet. The international union’s Anthropocene Working Group, which spearheaded the effort, made a July 2023 announcement that identified the location as Crawford Lake in Ontario because of the way sediment from the lake bed reveals the geochemical traces of nuclear bomb tests, specifically plutonium, from 1950.

The vote was not unanimous, said Kim Cohen, an assistant professor of geosciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and a voting member of the subcommission.
“There were some abstainees. There was a minority of yeses to a majority of nos,” said Cohen, who voted in favor of the proposal.

Phil Gibbard, a professor emeritus of quaternary paleoenvironments at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and a voting member of the subcommission, said that the “proposal for a formal Anthropocene was rejected by a 66% vote.”

However, in a statement released Wednesday, Jan Zalasiewicz, the chair of the subcommission and professor emeritus at the University of Leicester, said that unverified information had been shared with the media and the voting had been “performed in contravention” of the group’s statutes. He said he has now requested an inquiry, which could include the possibility of annulling the vote.

‘Very disappointing’​

The geologic time scale provides the official framework for our understanding of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history. Geologists break down our planet’s history into eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages — with an eon being the largest chunk of time and an age the shortest.

While few scientists doubt the impact humans have made on the planet, the geological community was divided about whether the changes rose to the level of epoch, suggesting it was too soon in geological terms for such a declaration.

Some experts argued that the start of the Anthropocene could be better defined in other ways, such as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Others have suggested the impact of humans on Earth was better classified as a geological event that unfolds gradually over a long period of time.
 

spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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Loblaws store blasted for selling mouldy item at discount
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Published Mar 05, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read
Box of frozen Pacific salmon pie with mouldy pie out of packaging.
Box of frozen Pacific salmon pie with mouldy pie out of packaging. PHOTO BY @_RICH_COFFEY /X
As food inflation digs deeper into the pockets of shoppers, discounted items aren’t staying on grocery store shelves very long.

However, Ottawa resident Richard Coffey found out that buyers must be aware.


He shared a troubling story on X about a recent purchase he made from his local Loblaws store, tagging the grocery chain.

“Look, I get that when it’s marked down it’s not going to be the ‘freshest’ product, but, like, can you at least make sure it isn’t completely covered in mould before you sell it?”

A photo alongside the caption showed a box of frozen Pacific salmon pie, and the contents out of the packaging — covered in green, blue and white mouldy spots.

A quick zoom in to the photo shows it has a best-before date of Feb. 13, 2024.



“That’s wretched,” one person wrote, noting the expiration date and the likelihood of it being an “employee error.

“They can’t sell anything past its best-before date,” they added. “That needed to be binned weeks ago.”

Coffey noted that he purchased the frozen pie on March 2, the day before he posted on X.

“It’s pretty clearly a mistake (and I didn’t even notice that it was like two weeks over, so partially on me for not checking),” Coffey acknowledged.

“I’m mostly mad because I was hoping to have it tonight and thus got a pretty nasty surprise, lol.”

Loblaws reached out to Coffey on social media, apologizing for the inconvenience and asking him to send them his receipt, so the matter could be reviewed.

“This was an error, and we’re reviewing with the store to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” a spokesperson for the grocer told The Toronto Sun.



“We’ve been in touch with the customer and provided compensation,” she added. “In any case, if a customer isn’t satisfied with a product they’ve purchased, we encourage them to go back to the store, or directly to our customer care team.”

This isn’t the first time mouldy discounted items were shared on social media.

On the Weird Toronto Facebook page, one woman shared shots of “absolutely disgusting” bags of produce on the discount shelves at a No Frills at Kingston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E. in Scarborough.

“Discount food should be edible,” one person commented. “I see this a lot. It’s so sad.”
mouldy_salmon_pie-e1709665686823[1].jpg
 

spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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Consumers slowly souring on bagged milk, could be gone in decade: Expert
Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Mar 05, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

Got milk?

Well, bagged milk could soon — as in a decade — become a thing of the past in Canada, said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.


“Essentially, what’s going on is that demand for the four-litre format (three bags of 1.3 litres each) is dropping for a variety of reasons,” said Charlebois.

“We have families that are smaller. Demand per capita is dropping in Canada. Fewer people are drinking milk in adulthood. There are more dairy alternatives available out there. My guess is that we could actually see these bags disappear within a decade or so. I think it has a lot to do with demand, which is shifting.”

One indicator is that the four-litre format of bagged milk is slightly down in Quebec from 50% of volumes sold in 2022 to 49.7% in 2023, according to a report in La Presse.


“It was a reporter from La Presse, she called me and said, ‘Demand is down – but not much,'” said Charlebois.

“It’s a huge hypothetical here.”

Bagged milk, first introduced in the 1960s, is mainly available in eastern parts of the country like Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

Meanwhile, Charlebois said demand for other kinds of milk — soy, oat, almond, etc. — “has grown in the double digits for a few years now. Growth is pretty significant. With immigration, we estimate the majority of immigrants coming to Canada, and there are lots of them, are lactose intolerant. So intolerances are certainly a driver. But consumers are concerned about the environment, animal welfare.”

There’s also the anti-plastic movement.


“That’s the other issue — perhaps this approach to packaging milk will not age well over time because it is indeed plastic, yeah,” said Charlebois.

In the meantime, there are upsides for having bagged milk.

“Smaller bags are very helpful with people with disabilities, for example, or with arthritis,” said Charlebois.

“A (two-litre) jug is not easy to lift if you’re a child. The other thing that people love with bags is the fact that very rarely have we seen problems related to safety and quality with bags. We have heard from many, many Canadians saying they’ve seen their milk go sour even before opening their cartons of milk. But I haven’t heard anything with bags in particular.”
 

petros

The Central Scrutinizer
Nov 21, 2008
109,776
11,591
113
Low Earth Orbit
Consumers slowly souring on bagged milk, could be gone in decade: Expert
Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Mar 05, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

Got milk?

Well, bagged milk could soon — as in a decade — become a thing of the past in Canada, said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.


“Essentially, what’s going on is that demand for the four-litre format (three bags of 1.3 litres each) is dropping for a variety of reasons,” said Charlebois.

“We have families that are smaller. Demand per capita is dropping in Canada. Fewer people are drinking milk in adulthood. There are more dairy alternatives available out there. My guess is that we could actually see these bags disappear within a decade or so. I think it has a lot to do with demand, which is shifting.”

One indicator is that the four-litre format of bagged milk is slightly down in Quebec from 50% of volumes sold in 2022 to 49.7% in 2023, according to a report in La Presse.


“It was a reporter from La Presse, she called me and said, ‘Demand is down – but not much,'” said Charlebois.

“It’s a huge hypothetical here.”

Bagged milk, first introduced in the 1960s, is mainly available in eastern parts of the country like Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

Meanwhile, Charlebois said demand for other kinds of milk — soy, oat, almond, etc. — “has grown in the double digits for a few years now. Growth is pretty significant. With immigration, we estimate the majority of immigrants coming to Canada, and there are lots of them, are lactose intolerant. So intolerances are certainly a driver. But consumers are concerned about the environment, animal welfare.”

There’s also the anti-plastic movement.


“That’s the other issue — perhaps this approach to packaging milk will not age well over time because it is indeed plastic, yeah,” said Charlebois.

In the meantime, there are upsides for having bagged milk.

“Smaller bags are very helpful with people with disabilities, for example, or with arthritis,” said Charlebois.

“A (two-litre) jug is not easy to lift if you’re a child. The other thing that people love with bags is the fact that very rarely have we seen problems related to safety and quality with bags. We have heard from many, many Canadians saying they’ve seen their milk go sour even before opening their cartons of milk. But I haven’t heard anything with bags in particular.”
I havent seen that since the early 80s.
 

spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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First documented bald eagle nest found in Toronto, conservation authority says
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Mar 07, 2024 • Last updated 3 days ago • 1 minute read
Toronto's first-ever documented bald eagle nest is being watched closely by the conservation authority.
Toronto's first-ever documented bald eagle nest is being watched closely by the conservation authority. PHOTO BY @TRCA_HQ/INSTAGRAM /TORONTO SUN
The bird is the word as nature experts celebrate the arrival of the first documented bald eagle nest in Toronto.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the arrival of Toronto’s first-ever recorded bald eagle nest — a historic moment for our ecosystem!” the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) posted on its official Instagram account on Thursday along with a photo of a bald eagle.



TRCA said eagles were removed from the list of at-risk species in Ontario, “showcasing a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction.”

Their presence in Toronto points to the species’ recovery and reflects a healthy environment “and the impact of our ecological restoration work that has helped make conditions suitable for this pair to raise a family,” TRCA added on social media.

Residents and birdwatchers are asked to refrain from looking for or disturbing the nest as it could jeopardize the eagles’ safety and the success of the nesting.
1710147095647.png
 

spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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Deepsea eruption expected off Vancouver Island after 200 earthquakes in an hour
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Ashley Joannou
Published Mar 11, 2024 • 2 minute read
An image of the sea floor
An image of the sea floor at the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge is shown in a handout photo.
An eruption of magma under the Pacific Ocean floor far off Vancouver Island will be so hot the water will fizz but only scientists will notice.


Scientists with Ocean Networks Canada are predicting an eruption is coming anywhere from a few weeks to a few years from now after they detected up to 200 small earthquakes per hour in the area last week.


They say the expected rupture — about five kilometres deep and 260 kilometres off the coast of Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island — will be too distant and small to be cause for concern.

However, it offers a unique opportunity to learn more about how the Earth’s crust is formed.

Martin Scherwath, a senior scientist with the organization, said it will be the first chance for the phenomenon to be captured by the network’s underwater instruments.

The Neptune observatory has been collecting data from the site since equipment was first installed in 2009.


“So, this is the first time where a cable network observatory (has been) there all the time, and we actually have a chance to realize what’s happening,” Scherwath said.

He said the Earth’s crust doesn’t build slowly over time, but rather develops through this type of burst of cooled magma that was last recorded about 20 years ago.

“There will be a major spreading event, and we want to know exactly how much is it spreading, how much new ocean crust it is generating, (and) how fast,” he said.

Ocean Networks Canada says the observatory has seen increased earthquake activity in the area known as the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge for years, but that peaked on March 6, when it recorded the highest level of earthquake activity in nearly two decades.


“What happened last week was just really outstanding in comparison (with) the gradual increase that we have seen,” Scherwath said.

“So, there might have been a few a day on average, but 200 is an outstanding number.”

During the last eruption 20 years ago, scientists only had seismometers on the ocean floor to collect information about the earthquakes.

This time, data will be collected in almost real time and include additional equipment to measure temperature changes, or any sound from lava breaching the sea floor.

The magma is estimated to be about 800 degrees Celsius but will cool rapidly when it hits the ocean water.

Scherwath said “almost fluid, runny rock” will come out of the sea floor, solidify and quickly turn black, while the heat causes the water around it to fizz.

He said he and fellow geophysicists will be watching to see how much of the Earth’s crust is formed with one eruption, while biologists will be most interested in how animals respond to any changes.
ocean-earthquakes-20240311[1].jpg
 

petros

The Central Scrutinizer
Nov 21, 2008
109,776
11,591
113
Low Earth Orbit
Deepsea eruption expected off Vancouver Island after 200 earthquakes in an hour
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Ashley Joannou
Published Mar 11, 2024 • 2 minute read
An image of the sea floor
An image of the sea floor at the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge is shown in a handout photo.
An eruption of magma under the Pacific Ocean floor far off Vancouver Island will be so hot the water will fizz but only scientists will notice.


Scientists with Ocean Networks Canada are predicting an eruption is coming anywhere from a few weeks to a few years from now after they detected up to 200 small earthquakes per hour in the area last week.


They say the expected rupture — about five kilometres deep and 260 kilometres off the coast of Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island — will be too distant and small to be cause for concern.

However, it offers a unique opportunity to learn more about how the Earth’s crust is formed.

Martin Scherwath, a senior scientist with the organization, said it will be the first chance for the phenomenon to be captured by the network’s underwater instruments.

The Neptune observatory has been collecting data from the site since equipment was first installed in 2009.


“So, this is the first time where a cable network observatory (has been) there all the time, and we actually have a chance to realize what’s happening,” Scherwath said.

He said the Earth’s crust doesn’t build slowly over time, but rather develops through this type of burst of cooled magma that was last recorded about 20 years ago.

“There will be a major spreading event, and we want to know exactly how much is it spreading, how much new ocean crust it is generating, (and) how fast,” he said.

Ocean Networks Canada says the observatory has seen increased earthquake activity in the area known as the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge for years, but that peaked on March 6, when it recorded the highest level of earthquake activity in nearly two decades.


“What happened last week was just really outstanding in comparison (with) the gradual increase that we have seen,” Scherwath said.

“So, there might have been a few a day on average, but 200 is an outstanding number.”

During the last eruption 20 years ago, scientists only had seismometers on the ocean floor to collect information about the earthquakes.

This time, data will be collected in almost real time and include additional equipment to measure temperature changes, or any sound from lava breaching the sea floor.

The magma is estimated to be about 800 degrees Celsius but will cool rapidly when it hits the ocean water.

Scherwath said “almost fluid, runny rock” will come out of the sea floor, solidify and quickly turn black, while the heat causes the water around it to fizz.

He said he and fellow geophysicists will be watching to see how much of the Earth’s crust is formed with one eruption, while biologists will be most interested in how animals respond to any changes.
View attachment 21423
I like vents!
 

spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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Coral reef that ’shouldn’t exist’ thrives off B.C.’s Pacific Ocean, biologist says
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Nono Shen
Published Mar 12, 2024 • 3 minute read
Fish swim amidst pink coral in the Lophelia Reef, located in the Finlayson Channel of the British Columbia coast, about 500 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, in an undated handout photo.
Fish swim amidst pink coral in the Lophelia Reef, located in the Finlayson Channel of the British Columbia coast, about 500 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, in an undated handout photo. PHOTO BY HANDOUT /The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — It started with a tip from the local First Nation of a “bump on the sea floor” where the fish liked to be and led to the discovery of Canada’s only known live coral reef.


Deep sea ecologist Cherisse Du Preez worked with the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Heiltsuk First Nations and began searching for the Lophelia coral reef in 2021, taking a remote controlled submersible deep into the ocean in Finlayson Channel, about 500 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.


On what was to be their team’s last dive for the expedition they found it, a “thriving, beautiful,” ecosystem about 200 metres down.

“You light it up and you realize you’re the first person to ever see this, beautiful pinks and purples and yellows, crevasses, mounts. And once you see past the corals, you realize that there are other animals on them,” said Du Preez, who’s the head of the deepsea ecology program with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


“Then the movement starts and you start to see the eels and the octopus or the rock fish swimming in and out. And even when we tilt the camera up you can see the schools of fish on top. Everywhere you look is life.”

All the science and rationale in the world says the coral reef shouldn’t exist here, but the First Nations knew something was there, said De Preez.

The Fisheries Department announced last week it had closed the area on B.C.’s central coast over the coral reef to all commercial and recreational bottom-contact fisheries, including mid-water trawl.

The department said the indefinite closure is “based on a significant scientific discovery as this site, while small, is a globally unique reef that is highly susceptible to damage, most notably from fishing gear.


The reef is the most northern known coral reef in the entire Pacific Ocean, it said.

Du Preez said she clearly recalls the excitement when they first discovered the reef.

“It’s quite remarkable to visit these places to get the visuals and to feel that paradox of it’s far away, it’s another world, but it’s our world,” said Du Preez.

Mike Reid, fisheries manager for Heiltsuk Nation’s integrated resource management department, said his nation always knew that something was supporting the fish in the area, but they didn’t know what it was.

“Lophelia reef is very important to the ecosystem, to the biodiversity of that specific area, it adds to the overall health of that area,” said Reid.

The reef provides habitat and refuge for animals, allowing for the creation of colonies of fish and other creatures, Du Preez said.


“This coral reef has valleys and mounds … the mounds provide nursery grounds. So, you have all the schools of tiny fish living and hiding from the animals hunting them.

“Then you have large fish, we have species that are of special concern and endangered using this coral reef as food and shelter, as habitat,” said Du Preez.

Du Preez said they found dead coral around the reef, which could be the fault of climate change.

“It’s a very big concern, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to stop fishing in this area is because we have to take away all the stresses we can to give this reef an opportunity to survive the changes that we can’t control.”

A one-degree change in temperature could be devastating for the reef, she said.


Leri Davies, spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Region, said fishery officers from their Conservation and Protection Branch routinely patrol marine refuges, marine protected areas and closed areas.

“We use a variety of intelligence-led enforcement methods including air, ocean, river, and ground surveillance, as well as night and covert patrols, to actively monitor fishing activities in all sectors and ensure compliance with the laws,” said a Fisheries Department statement.

Du Preez said the Canada’s Pacific coast is “globally unique,” with nature and wildlife not found anywhere else.

It gives us the ability to have so much life in our deep sea and we are so fortunate, she said.

“We are so spoiled on our coast with our deep sea and I hope that through media like this Canadians start to feel that the deep sea is as Canadian as the Rocky Mountains.”
coral-reef-20240311[1].jpg
 
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spaminator

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Montana man used animal tissue and testicles to breed ’giant’ sheep for sale to hunting preserves
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Matthew Brown
Published Mar 13, 2024 • 3 minute read
a sheep nicknamed Montana Mountain King
This undated handout photo provided by the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, shows a sheep nicknamed Montana Mountain King that was part of unlawful scheme to create large, hybrid species of wild sheep for sale to hunting preserves in Texas. PHOTO BY MONTANA FISH WILDLIFE AND PARKS /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana rancher illegally used tissue and testicles from wild sheep killed by hunters in central Asia and the U.S. to breed “giant” hybrid sheep for sale to private hunting preserves in Texas, according to court documents and federal prosecutors.


Arthur “Jack” Schubarth, 80, of Vaughn, Montana pleaded guilty to felony charges of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to traffic wildlife during an appearance Tuesday before a federal judge in Great Falls. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


Court documents describe a yearslong conspiracy, beginning in 2013, in which Schubarth and at least five other people sought to create “giant sheep hybrids” by cross-breeding different species. Their goal was to garner high prices from hunting preserves where people can shoot captive trophy game animals for a fee.

Using biological tissue obtained from a hunter who killed a wild sheep in Kyrgyzstan belonging to the world’s largest species of the animals — Marco Polo argali sheep — Schubarth procured cloned embryos of the animal from a lab, according to court documents.


The embryos were later implanted in a ewe, resulting in a pure Marco Polo argali sheep that Schubert named “Montana Mountain King,” the documents show. Semen from Montana Mountain King was used to artificially impregnate other ewes to create a larger and more valuable species of sheep, including one offspring that he reached an agreement to sell to two people in Texas for $10,000, according to the documents.

Male argali sheep can top 300 pounds with horns up to 5 feet long, according to officials, making them prized among some hunters. They are protected under international convention as a threatened species and outlawed for import into Montana to protect native sheep from disease and hybridization.

A person who was not named in court documents shipped 74 ewes of a prohibited sheep species from Minnesota to Schubarth’s ranch to be artificially inseminated with Montana Mountain King semen, the documents show. Offspring that had only a portion of the central Asian sheep’s genetics sold for lesser amounts.


In 2019, Schubarth paid $400 to a hunting guide for testicles from a trophy-sized Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that had been killed in Montana. Schubarth extracted the semen from the testicles and used it to breed large bighorn sheep and sheep crossbred with the argali species, the documents show.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Todd Kim described Schubarth’s actions as “an audacious scheme to create massive hybrid sheep species to be sold and hunted as trophies.” Kim said the defendant violated the Lacey Act that restricts wildlife trafficking and prohibits the sale of falsely labeled wildlife.

Schubarth said when reached by telephone on Wednesday that his attorney had advised him not to talk about the case.


“I would love to talk about it but can’t do it now,” he said. His attorney, Jason Holden, did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.

Authorities agreed under the terms of a plea deal not to pursue further charges against the defendant pending his cooperation in the government’s ongoing investigation in the wildlife trafficking case.

Montana Mountain King is in the custody of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Department of Justice spokesperson Matthew Nies. As part of the plea deal, Schubert agreed to quarantine any other sheep containing Marco Polo argali genetics and any bighorn sheep that were harvested from the wild.

The deal also allows federal wildlife officials to inspect and, if needed, neuter the animals.

Captive animal facilities where game species can be raised and hunted were banned in Montana under a 2000 ballot initiative. But they remain legal in some other states.

Schubarth’s 215-acre ranch is state licensed as an alternative livestock facility, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon. It was grandfathered in when the 2000 ballot initiative passed and has continued to operate, although hunting is prohibited, Lemon said.

Sentencing for Schubarth is set for July 11 before U.S. District Judge Brian Morris.
wildlife-trafficking-giant-sheep[1].jpg
 

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Flesh-eating disease: What is it, what does it do and can you survive it?
The disease, which is rare, strikes men 10 times more than it does women

Author of the article:Gordon McIntyre
Published Mar 18, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 4 minute read

Ryan Busto, a 41-year-old from Metro Vancouver, is in critical condition with “flesh-eating” disease in a San Diego hospital, and friends are raising money to help him out.


Busto was on a group cycling tour when he came down with flu-like symptoms and “severe” saddle sore, said his friend Tara Rosenberg, who is organizing the fundraiser.


Busto was in an induced coma but has transitioned from ECMO (life support) to ICD in an intensive care unit. He is a helicopter maintenance engineer at HeliJet, with his wife Marina they have seven- and four-year-old daughters.

“He’s like an amazing, amazing human, and I don’t just say that because he’s my brother,” his sister, Dominique Busto, told News 10 in San Diego. “We got a call saying his heart function had dropped down to 10 per cent and we were just throwing things in a carry-on suitcase, booking flights.”

By Saturday, her brother’s heart function had increased to almost 50 per cent.


“Waking up my parents to that news — it’s just not anything I would wish on any family,” she said. “Having to come down to San Diego and not knowing what was going to go on. Were we going to come down to here just to find a lifeless body or was he going to pull through? We didn’t know what we were going to find.

“If you have a small scrape, if you have a saddle sore and you’re feeling … the beginnings of a flu coming on, that is a major sign. Get yourself checked so it doesn’t get to the point that Ryan’s at.”

Last month, Christopher Won, an assistant fire chief with Vancouver Fire and Rescue, had his leg amputated while on holiday in Hong Kong after also contracting the potentially deadly disease.

To find out what the flesh-eating disease is that is afflicting Busto and what can be done about it, Postmedia News talked to Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director at the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre:


Q: What is flesh-eating disease?
A: I obviously first wish this unfortunate gentleman a full recovery.

The bacteria that are present in that part of your body are a little bit different (than if a limb, say, is infected). It could be a more complex and more significant infection.

That’s part of the body that we call the perineum, the genital area, and the flesh eating in that part of the body goes by the name Fournier’s Gangrene.

It’s caused by a variety of bacteria, spread pretty quickly, and requires surgical intervention.

Q: How do you contract it?
A: Here’s what happens.

Someone would have an open sore, it could be a small fissure or an infected hemorrhoid, something relatively benign.

If a person has underlying diseases such as diabetes that weaken their ability to heal from bacteria it can, in a small, small number of cases, spread rapidly and involve the tissues around the area, including all the way into all of those muscles that are in that area.


There’s a lot of muscle, think of your glutes.

Once it invades the muscles it becomes flesh eating.

(If the open wound is elsewhere, say an arm or leg, the infectious bacteria comes from outside the body, such as the bacteria that causes strep throat or E. coli.)

Q: What are the symptoms?
A: We can start with pain, just local pain. Pain and swelling.

Then you get a high fever and if (the bacteria) gets into the tissues as I’ve described, you will get very sick very fast.

You’ll feel weak, you’ll feel dizzy, you’ll feel achy all over and in the end you’ll have severe and increasing pain in the area.

Q: How is it treated?
A: It requires intravenous antibiotics for a length of time, it can involve the need for repeated surgeries to make sure the dead tissue is removed so the infection doesn’t spread.


It can leave scarring and can lead to prolonged hospitalization.

Q: What are survival rates like?
A: On average, in a certain amount of cases, it can be fatal about 10 per cent of the time. And it’s predominantly a male disease: For every 10 guys (who contract it) there’s one woman.

I want to underscore, (contracting flesh-eating disease) is very rare, very unusual.

Q: Is there anything you can do to prevent it?
A: Nope.

If you’re getting sick and the sickness is progressing really quickly, then that is an issue that requires urgent medical attention. And that’s the same for the flesh-eating disease causing strep in your limbs.

It’s a good habit for all of us: If you wake in the morning and you’re perfectly well, let’s say, and (later that day) you have an illness that is making you very unwell very quickly you should consult (a doctor) because infections in general can spread rapidly and have very, very bad outcomes.


Don’t wait, don’t call 811, go to the emergency room.

(Conway’s comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.)

gordmcintyre@postmedia.com

x.com/gordmcintyre
 

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Iceland rocked by volcanic eruption as lava flows resume
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir
Published Mar 16, 2024 • 2 minute read
This handout photo released by the Icelandic Coast Guard on Saturday, March 16, 2024, shows billowing smoke and flowing lava pouring out of a new fissure, during a surveillance flight above a new volcanic eruption on the outskirts of the evacuated town of Grindavik, in western Iceland.
This handout photo released by the Icelandic Coast Guard on Saturday, March 16, 2024, shows billowing smoke and flowing lava pouring out of a new fissure, during a surveillance flight above a new volcanic eruption on the outskirts of the evacuated town of Grindavik, in western Iceland. PHOTO BY ICELANDIC COAST GUARD / HANDOUT / AFP /Getty Images
A volcanic eruption has resumed in Iceland with lava emerging near a fishing town already severely damaged from three previous eruptions at its doorstep since December.


It’s the seventh eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula near the capital city since 2021, when the area woke from an 800-year dormancy. Scientists have warned that volcanic events could continue to happen there at regular intervals in the future.


The eruption began at 8:23 p.m. local time after a short lead-up, according to Iceland’s Met Office.

The magnitude of flows and the location of the activity are similar to those of Feb. 8, the Met Office said. The events are unfolding near Grindavik, a fishing town badly ripped up by earthquakes and the force of eruptions nearby. The area is located 40 kilometres from Iceland’s capital.

As in previous volcanic incidents recently, flights in and out of the country are operating as normal, airport operator Isavia said on its website.


Iceland is one of the most geologically active places on earth due to its position between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates on the mid-Atlantic ridge. It has about 30 volcanic systems and more than 600 hot springs.

“At first glance, this eruption seems somewhat less powerful than previous ones and will probably conclude in a few days,” Thor Thordarson, professor of volcanology and petrology at University of Iceland, said by phone.

People Evacuated
Fewer than 10 houses have recently been occupied in Grindavik as authorities have intermittently allowed residents back into town, evacuating them when eruptions appear imminent. That’s even as the town remains dangerous, beset by potentially deadly cracks that have formed in previous seismic events that have ripped up roads, power lines and water pipes.


Such an evacuation was in the final stages when lava emerged north of the town, Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, a spokeswoman at the Civil Protection Authority, said by phone. Iceland’s top tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon spa, nearby was also evacuated, she said. Earth barriers have been built to protect the area from lava flows.

Other infrastructure in the area include the Svartsengi power plant owned by HS Orka hf and a number of businesses centred around geothermal heat and power. During the previous eruption, all 30,000 inhabitants of the peninsula remained without hot water for several days.

Grindavik and the power infrastructure are unlikely to be further damaged by this eruption unless activity continues for an extended period, volcanologist Thordarson said.


Iceland’s parliament on Feb. 23 passed a law enabling the state to buy all residential properties in Grindavik to help inhabitants build new lives elsewhere. The town was home to about 3,700 people or about 1% of the island’s population.

Grindavik’s destruction over the past months represents the worst volcanic damage in 50 years in Iceland, given most eruptions happen in the wilderness. In 1973, part of a 5,000-person fishing town was buried under lava in the the Westman Islands, off the country’s southeastern coast.

Fissure eruptions on land, such as the current one, produce little ash and usually wreak no havoc on air travel. One of the most disruptive eruptions in Iceland’s recent history happened in 2010 when volcano Eyjafjallajokull in the southern part of the country released a plume of ash so vast that it grounded air traffic across Europe for weeks, resulting in the cancellation of 100,000 flights and affecting over 10 million people.
Iceland-volcano-March16[1].jpg
 

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ALS risk factors linked to golfing, gardening: Study
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Mar 17, 2024 • Last updated 2 days ago • 2 minute read
Golfing, gardening, yard work, woodworking and hunting have all been linked to developing ALS, a new study warns.
Golfing, gardening, yard work, woodworking and hunting have all been linked to developing ALS, a new study warns.
Golfing, gardening, yard work, woodworking and hunting have all been linked to developing ALS, a new study warns.


Golfing puts men at three times the risk of developing the fatal motor neuron disease, according to Michigan Medicine, per a New York Post report.


“We know that occupational risk factors, like working in manufacturing and trade industries, are linked to an increased risk for ALS, and this adds to a growing literature that recreational activities may also represent important and possibly modifiable risk factors for this disease,” said first author Dr. Stephen Goutman, who is director of the Pranger ALS Clinic and associate director of the ALS Center of Excellence at the University of Michigan.

The study examined the lives of 700 people — 400 who had ALS and 300 without the disease — and looked specifically into their hobbies and non-work activities.


Goutman suggested that golfers and gardeners are especially prone due to frequent exposure to pesticides, which earlier Michigan research has tied to the disease’s growth in patients.



When it comes to woodworkers, the author said that breathing in formaldehyde has a similar impact, which is also noted in other previous studies.

Goutman said it was “surprising” that an elevated risk of ALS in women who golf or partake in the other listed activities was not found. He said that the study size of females was too small to draw definite conclusions.

“Future studies should include these activities to pinpoint how they can be understood in the context of ALS prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” he said.

This new paper, published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, doubles down on the risk environmental factors pose to a person getting and succumbing to ALS.

“Our goal is to understand what occupations and hobbies increase ALS risk because identifying these activities provides the first step towards ALS prevention,” said senior author Dr. Eva Feldman.

“Our goal is to establish a similar list for ALS to create a roadmap to decrease risk.”
 

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Canada's buggiest city
Ontario claims 15 of the Top 25 most bed bug-ridden cities in Canada

Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Mar 19, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

Toronto is Canada’s uncontested winner when it comes to bed bugs.


Toronto topped other Canadian cities for having the most bed bugs in 2023 for the seventh year in a row, according to pest control company Orkin Canada.


“As we’ve seen travel return to pre-pandemic levels, Canadians should be on guard for bed bugs, as these pests are extremely resilient and can hitchhike from place to place unnoticed and with ease,” said Alice Sinia, an entomologist with Orkin Canada, in a statement.

“Known as expert hitchhikers, bed bugs cling to clothing, luggage and furniture to invade new spaces, stowing themselves in baseboards, electronics, bedding, wallpaper, wall hangings and sofas.”

The cities were ranked by the number of bed bug treatments the company performed during 2023 on residential and commercial properties.

Elsewhere in the country, Vancouver dropped from second to sixth place on this year’s ranking, while Sudbury rose to second place and Oshawa to third.

The top 10 bed bug-ridden cities in Canada are:

1. Toronto

2. Sudbury

3. Oshawa

4. Hamilton

5. Ottawa

6. Vancouver

7. Winnipeg

8. St. John’s, N.L.

9. Sault Ste. Marie

10. Scarborough
 

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Invasive species lead to access restrictions in B.C., Alberta national parks
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Ashley Joannou
Published Mar 19, 2024 • 2 minute read

Parks Canada is closing all bodies of water in British Columbia’s Kootenay and Yoho national parks, and restricting watercraft in Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park in an effort to slow the spread of invasive species.


The lakes, creeks and tributaries in eastern British Columbia will be closed until at least March next year in response to the deadly whirling disease parasite found in fish.


At the same time, non-motorized watercraft from outside park boundaries will not be allowed into Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta starting April 1, to protect against both whirling disease and invasive zebra and quagga mussels.

Jeanette Goulet, with the aquatic invasive species program for mountain national parks, said Tuesday that boats are the main way species are transferred between bodies of water.

“They can pick up things like mud, sand and sediments, plant fragments,” she said.

“And if their equipment is not cleaned of all of that, drained of any standing water, and dried for a certain amount of time, then that poses a big risk of transferring aquatic organisms … between water bodies.”


British Columbia’s first case of whirling disease was detected in Emerald Lake last year and was later found in Kicking Horse River, Wapta Lake, Finn Creek, Monarch Creek and the confluence of Emerald River and the Kicking Horse River.

Access was first restricted for five months last October, and Francois Masse, Parks Canada’s superintendent for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay, said extending the restrictions another year will help protect fish species including several types of trout and Kokanee.

Goulet said staff will be monitoring the parks and anyone found breaking the rules could face a fine of up to $25,000.

There’s no treatment specifically for whirling disease, Goulet said, and removing the diseased fish from the water system is not feasible.


She said officials are gathering more information before deciding what’s next.

“Other jurisdictions have either decided to let the infection play out and see if a natural resistance does build up in the fish, or, in some places where they’ve seen population decline in the States, they’ve actually restocked with trout that have a resistance that have been bred in hatcheries,” she said.

“I don’t know if we would ever go that route in parks.”

Locke Marshall, the superintendent for Waterton Lakes National Park, said along with the ban on non-motorized watercraft from outside park boundaries, fishing for all species will no longer be permitted in flowing waters in the park, but will be allowed under current regulations in park lakes.

He said invasive zebra and quagga mussels that are present in other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions pose a threat to Waterton Lakes and downstream infrastructure across southern Alberta.

He said if infestations start, they can cost millions to control.

Marshall said a mandatory inspection station for non-motorized boats has been operating since 2021 but only 56 per cent of watercraft users participated last year.

“The risk of aquatic invasive species spreading is too high to continue with this previous approach,” he said.
 

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Neuralink posts video it says shows patient moving cursor with mind
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Daniel Gilbert, The Washington Post
Published Mar 21, 2024 • 2 minute read

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-technology company, posted a video Wednesday that identified what the company said was the first patient to use its electronic brain implant in a clinical trial, saying he was able to move a cursor on a computer screen with his thoughts.

It would be another milestone for the company, which received approval last year from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct a trial of its electronic brain implant in people.


In the video, posted on Musk’s social media site, X, the patient said his name was Noland Arbaugh, 29, and had become paralyzed from the shoulders down after a diving accident about eight years ago. Arbaugh said he loved playing chess, and the video appeared to show him moving the cursor to play computer chess.



The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims made in the video. Neuralink did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neuralink’s device and rival products are designed to read brain activity to decipher what movement a person intends to make, and then run a command to execute that action. Arbaugh said initially he practiced attempting to move his hand until it became intuitive to imagine moving the cursor.

“Basically it was like using the Force on the cursor,” he said in the video, an apparent reference to Star Wars, adding that he’s used the implant to play a video game as well.

The video of Arbaugh comes nearly three years after Neuralink posted a video showing a monkey playing Pong with its mind. (The company has come under fire for its treatment of animals in developing its brain implant.)


Neuralink isn’t the first company to introduce an electronic implant that allows a person to move a cursor by thinking about it. Synchron, a rival, is developing a stent-like device that rests atop the brain’s motor cortex and has enabled patients to type messages using their thoughts, sometimes assisted by eye-tracking software.

Neuralink has taken a more invasive approach in the hopes that it will transfer data from the brain to the computer faster than rival technologies. The company has said it uses a robotic device to sew an electrode-laden computer chip into the surface of the brain. Musk has said that the initial application of the device is to help paralyzed patients recover function, but also envisions it one day enhancing the capability of healthy people.
 

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Doctors transplant first gene-edited pig kidney into patient
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Jemima Denham
Published Mar 21, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

In this March 16, 2024, image courtesy of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, surgeons prepare the pig kidney for transplantation during the world's first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a living human.
In this March 16, 2024, image courtesy of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, surgeons prepare the pig kidney for transplantation during the world's first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a living human. PHOTO BY MICHELLE ROSE/MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL /AFP via Getty Images
Doctors successfully transplanted a genetically edited pig kidney into a man with end-stage disease, a step towards using animal sources to help alleviate critical shortages of organs available for procedures.


The 62-year-old patient is recovering from the four-hour procedure performed March 16 and is expected to be discharged soon, according to a statement from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The patient, Richard Slayman, had an earlier kidney transplant in 2018 that began failing last year.


The procedure used Crispr gene-editing technology to adapt the organ for transplantation into a human body, building on previous experimental efforts to implant pig kidneys in the bodies of brain-dead humans. Biotechnology company eGenesis Inc. used Crispr to edit genes in the pig organ to increase the safety of transplantation and removed pig viruses that could have led to rejection.

The animal kidney began functioning almost immediately, prompting those in the operating room to burst into applause, Tatsuo Kawai, an MGH transplant surgeon, said Thursday in a press conference. “These results led us to think about proceeding in ways with transplant candidates who are running out of other options,” Kawai said.


U.S. regulators authorized the surgery under an expanded access pathway that allows medical procedures that have not been yet cleared when patients have very serious or life-threatening conditions.

The development may lead to help for more than 90,000 patients in the U.S. waiting for kidney transplants. Many of these patients are treated regularly with dialysis, a technology for cleaning the blood of toxins.

While expensive, transplants often result in better outcomes than dialysis for people in the late stages of kidney disease, said Leonardo Riella, MGH’s medical director of kidney transplantation.

“Clearly transplant is a much better in potentially reducing cost in comparison to dialysis, but without organs we cannot do it,” he said in the press conference.
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Medical students saying 'no thanks' to family medicine as primary care crisis worsens, doctors say
There are currently between 2.2 million and 2.3 million Ontario residents without a family doctor, and that number is expected to more than double in the coming years.

Author of the article:Elizabeth Payne
Published Mar 22, 2024 • Last updated 2 days ago • 4 minute read

Family doctors — and groups that represent them — have been calling for a more sustainable economic model for family medicine and a reduction in the growing administrative burden that many say is burning doctors out and driving them out of comprehensive family medicine practices.
Family doctors — and groups that represent them — have been calling for a more sustainable economic model for family medicine and a reduction in the growing administrative burden that many say is burning doctors out and driving them out of comprehensive family medicine practices.
It is a day that represents promise for thousands of medical students across Canada. But this year Match Day, in which graduating medical students are matched with residency programs that will direct their career paths, is being seen as a sign of the worsening crisis in primary care, especially in Ontario.


Across the country, 252 family medicine positions went “unmatched,” according to the Canadian Resident Matching Service. In Ontario alone, there were 108 unfilled family medicine spots — meaning those positions were available but no one wanted them, at least in the first round of matches. There will be a second match day next month, so those numbers could change.


But those who have been warning that dramatic change is needed to avert a growing primary care crisis say governments should be paying attention to what the numbers could mean.

Medical students, say health officials and observers, are voting with their feet against practising family medicine.

“Students don’t want that type of practice when they graduate,” said Dr. David Barber, chair of the section on general and family practice of the Ontario Medical Association.


Barber called the situation “disappointing, frustrating and alarming.”

david barber ontario medical association
Dr. David Barber, a Kingston family doctor, is chair of the section on general and family practice of the Ontario Medical Association.
It is clear medical students have been paying attention and are saying “no thanks” to family medicine, Barber said. He said the trend of fewer graduating students choosing family medicine was a sign of a “lack of confidence in the provincial government’s approach to supporting family doctors.”

There are between 2.2 million and 2.3 million Ontario residents without a family doctor, and that number is expected to more than double in the coming years.

Family doctors — and groups that represent them — have been calling for a more sustainable economic model for family medicine and a reduction in the growing administrative burden that many say is burning doctors out and driving them out of comprehensive family medicine practices.



Dr. Andrew Park, who heads the Ontario Medical Association, says there has been a declining interest in family medicine for a while. “This kind of reinforces what we have known in terms of the perception of family medicine as a viable career is going down among medical students.”

Members of the grassroots group known as the Ontario Union of Family Physicians have even warned doctors against coming to Ontario to practice family medicine. They say the Ontario government is not responding to the crisis with the urgency it requires.

That group joined others, including former leaders of the Ontario Medical Association, in warning young doctors not to set up a comprehensive family medicine practice in Ontario, suggesting they go to other provinces that have taken steps to address the situation, such as British Columbia and Manitoba, which have offered extra money and support for administrative work to family doctors.


In a statement, the Ontario Union of Family Physicians said the match results for family medicine were “entirely predictable.

“The underwhelming outcome resulted from an unstable economic model for office-based family practice and a lack of respect and understanding for the role family physicians play in health care, by multiple levels and iterations of governments in power,” said the statement, signed by doctors Ramsey Hijazi, Vakar Khan and Alex Duong.

Hijazi, who heads the organization, is a Carp family doctor who will leave his family practice later this spring.

“Starting up a new family practice in Ontario is not sustainable,” he said. “It is not a good place to set up a practice.”

ramsey hijazi ontario union of family physicians
Dr. Ramsey Hijazi, who heads the Ontario Union of Family Physicians, will leave his family practice later this spring.
Hijazi said the government did not seem to be listening to front-line doctors about solutions to the crisis. He founded the Ontario Union of Family Physicians, he said, out of frustration about the growing, unpaid, administrative burden on family doctors — an average of more than 19 hours per week — and the fact that the amount of money family doctors earn has been steadily declining.


The Ontario government has increased the number of interprofessional health teams — which include doctors, nurse practitioners and other health professionals, and it has also expanded the practice of pharmacists so that they can treat some minor medical complaints. Observers call the expansion of health teams a promising step, but say it does not go nearly far enough to address the size of the problem. Unlike other provinces, Ontario has not announced any significant steps to reduce doctors’ administrative burden or pay family doctors more.

Meanwhile, many family doctors are leaving their practices, and potential openings to train new doctors are going unfilled. Amid growing desperation by patients without primary care, clinics are popping up across the province offering primary care by nurse practitioners — at a cost. A clinic in Kanata is asking patients to pay $600 a year for access.


John Gallinger, who is CEO of the Canadian Resident Matching Service, noted that there were more family medicine residency positions available this year than in the past — in part in response to the shortage of family doctors. He cautioned that observers should not come to any “strong conclusions” about medical students turning away from family medicine until the second match day, which is at the end of April.