Science & Environment

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Study estimates when the first warm-blooded dinosaurs roamed Earth
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Adithi Ramakrishnan
Published May 15, 2024 • 2 minute read

This illustration provided by the University of Vigo and University College London, depicts a dromaeosaur incubating its eggs as snow falls.
This illustration provided by the University of Vigo and University College London, depicts a dromaeosaur incubating its eggs as snow falls. PHOTO BY DAVIDE BONADONNA /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DALLAS — Scientists once thought of dinosaurs as sluggish, cold-blooded creatures. Then research suggested that some could control their body temperature, but when and how that shift came about remained a mystery.


Now, a new study estimates that the first warm-blooded dinosaurs may have roamed the Earth about 180 million years ago, about halfway through the creatures’ time on the planet.

Warm-blooded creatures — including birds, who are descended from dinosaurs, and humans — keep their body temperature constant whether the world around them runs cold or hot. Cold-blooded animals, including reptiles like snakes and lizards, depend on outside sources to control their temperature: For example, basking in the sun to warm up.

Knowing when dinosaurs evolved their stable internal thermometer could help scientists answer other questions about how they lived, including how active and social they were.

To estimate the origin of the first warm-blooded dinosaurs, researchers analyzed over 1,000 fossils, climate models and dinosaurs’ family trees. They found that two major groups of dinosaurs — which include Tyrannosaurus rex, velociraptors and relatives of triceratops — migrated to chillier areas during the Early Jurassic period, indicating they may have developed the ability to stay warm. A third crop of dinosaurs, which includes brontosaurs, stuck to warmer areas.


“If something is capable of living in the Arctic, or very cold regions, it must have some way of heating up,” said Alfio Allesandro Chiarenza, a study author and a postdoctoral fellow at University College London.

The research was published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology.

Jasmina Wiemann, a postdoctoral fellow at the Field Museum in Chicago, said a dinosaur’s location is not the only way to determine whether it is warm-blooded. Research by Wiemann, who was not involved with the latest study, suggests that warm-blooded dinosaurs may have evolved closer to the beginning of their time on Earth, around 250 million years ago.

She said compiling clues from multiple aspects of dinosaurs’ lives — including their body temperatures and diets — may help scientists paint a clearer picture of when they evolved to be warm-blooded.
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How we can help endangered pollinators thrive
Author of the article:Laura Shantora Nelles
Published May 18, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 5 minute read

Have you heard the latest buzz? May 20 is World Bee Day!


Created to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and the threats they face, this day is a bee-utiful time to appreciate the hundreds of species of bees in Canada that sustain our diverse ecosystems, help put food on our tables and a little drizzle of honey on your toast.


Nearly 800 species of bees call Canada home, including native species, like the bumble bee, and non-native, like the honey bee.

Beekeepers like Marc Hamilton, who keeps hives in Enniskillen, Ont., keep honeybees, which not only produce honey but also help pollinate fruit trees.

“My bees, what they mainly do is apple pollination,” he said. “Some commercial beekeepers will then move their bees after apple season … to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia to do blueberry pollination.”


With apple blossoms peaking in mid-May, the bees at Hamilton’s hives are certainly busy, but they’re not the only ones. Elevated on pallets, the ‘basement’ underneath the hives provides perfect shelter for the only other bee species that lives in a group – bumble bees. They don’t form their shelter in a hive or tree like honey bees, bumbles live close to the ground, which is why you may find them living under a pile or leaves, or under your porch or deck.


So, if most bees don’t live in hives, where do they live? The rest of our hundreds of bee species here in Canada are solitary and live inside hollowed out blades of tall grasses, reeds and other tube-shaped plants.

These bees range in size from the tiny sweat bee, which you may mistake for an ant if you see it in a flower, to the eastern carpenter bee, which is about the size of a bumble bee. Native bees have evolved with our natural plant species, and while some are less picky, certain bees, such as a squash bee, prefer a specific flower.


So, every squash you serve up for Thanksgiving dinner this October has most likely been pollinated by a squash bee!

Hamilton’s resident bumble bees and honey bees are able to co-exist because they have different means of pollination – bumble bees use a sonic buzz and are better at pollinating crops like tomatoes and blueberries.

Honey bees are more “generalists” in terms of which flowers they choose, and their honey will take on different flavours depending on what type of pollen and nectar is available.

Hamilton explained that apple blossom, or spring honey, will have a more minty taste, summer takes on a more cinnamon flavour, and fall honey, which is mainly goldenrod and aster, is sweeter. While Hamilton says it’s delicious (and his favourite), he also says the smell is not as appealing.


Unfortunately, many bee species are in danger of becoming extinct because of loss of habitat, fewer food sources and pesticides, among other threats. What would happen if all bees disappeared? According to the United Nations, 75% of the world’s food crops rely on pollination from wildlife, which means foods we enjoy – such as fruit, nuts, and many veggies – won’t be able to grow without pollinators.



LONG WEEKENDS ARE FOR YARDWORK?
It’s that time of year when you’re probably thinking of putting in your garden – and choosing plants that help bees and other pollinators is easier than you might think.


Jarmila Becka Lee, community action specialist at World Wildlife Fund Canada, says it’s important to include native plants to ensure a strong ecosystem.

“Wildlife get food and shelter from the plants, but the plants also get pollination and seed dispersal,” she explained.

Even if you’re not a gardener, sticking two or three plants in a pot on your porch or balcony will help provide a little oasis where a pollinator can stop for a rest and get something to eat.

“Often, as soon as you put them in, you start seeing some wildlife coming in, whether it’s bees or butterflies,” Lee explained.

In her own garden, she has also seen hummingbirds and small mammals.

If you’re into a hands-off garden, native plants are “easy maintenance, don’t need pesticides … and they can grow in a regular suburban yard,” she said.


Depending on whether your garden is in a sunny or shaded area, you may get different visitors.

Hamilton has been studying his own pollinator garden, tracking which visitors are coming and when. You can track this type of data, too, using a citizen science app, such as iNaturalist.

lnelles@postmedia.com

@shantoranelles

HOW CAN I HELP BEES?
Plant a pollinator plant (or a few): If you live in Ontario or Quebec, Loblaw-banner stores have a partnership with WWF-Canada, where you can find specially marked native plants in the garden centre. Other parts of Canada also have native plant growers with plants and seeds localized to the area. Learn more at inthezonegardens.ca.

“The more we have native plants on the landscape, the more we have stronger ecosystems,” Lee says. “It really helps if you can put in more than one of each plant, if they’re in a nice mass, that’s what attracts the bees and butterflies, then they have a little patch to forage in.”


You should also leave your stems and seed heads in your gardens in the fall.

“It provides shelter for insects, small reptiles, and other animals,” says Lee.

The seed heads also provide food for birds and small mammals over the winter. Once it’s consistently over 10C each day in spring, it is safe to clean up.

At Native Plants in Claremont, owner Karen Abrahams stressed the importance of having plants that bloom at different times in the season, with different size blooms, as the different sizes of bees will travel to different sizes of flowers.

And avoid pesticides because many, such as neonicotinoids, are toxic to bees and other beneficial insects.
 

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No Mow May is no way to help bees and other pollinators
There are more effective ways to encourage pollinators than letting your lawn go wild.


Author of the article:Brian Lilley
Published May 18, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read

No Mow May is not the way to go if you want to help the environment.
No Mow May is not the way to go if you want to help the environment.
If your neighbour isn’t mowing their lawn lately, they might be part of the misguided movement known as No Mow May.


The idea, according to the advocates, is that we should all skip mowing our lawns in May to allow bees and other pollinators to do their work.


What these advocates don’t understand is that their efforts aren’t helping bees, but they are breeding ticks.

The idea of not mowing lawns in May to help bees began several years ago in the United Kingdom. The problem with bringing the idea to North America is that we don’t really have wildflowers growing in most of our lawns, we have dandelions and clover perhaps, but that’s not the best food for bees, which are active at this time of year.

None of that has stopped municipalities like Toronto, Kingston, Sudbury, Cornwall and East Gwillimbury from embracing and encouraging the idea among their residents.


Experts point out there are other ways to help bees and other pollinators rather than letting your lawn grow.

Joe Salemi is the executive director of Landscape Ontario, a trade organization representing the province’s horticultural trades from landscapers to gardeners and everything in between.

“Planting native flowering shrubs, perennials, and annuals in our gardens is a more effective way to support bees and butterflies than leaving our lawns unkempt for an entire month,” Salemi said. “Neglected lawns become breeding grounds for fleas, ticks, and other pests.”



Those pests could include mice and rats, not the kind of critter we want to run into on the front lawn or in the backyard.


And ticks are a real and growing problem across Southern Ontario, expanding their reach each year. If there was ever a reason to get that lawn mower out and working, that’s it right there.

As Salemi said, plant the flowers bees need and want if you want to help pollinators. At least that will beautify your yard while helping mother nature.

Letting your lawn grow for a month just makes your yard look unkept and likely annoys your neighbours.

No Mow May is one of these things that has grown in popularity because as long as you claim you are doing something for the environment, some people will automatically assume it’s a good idea. There’s also the misguided belief among far too many activists that lawns, grass, is bad for the environment.


This idea is accepted as conventional wisdom by many self-proclaimed environmentalists but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

A healthy lawn sucks up CO2, improves air quality and generates oxygen. Deciding not to mow the grass for a month won’t help keep the lawn healthy and may in fact kill the lawn when you do cut it.

Letting your lawn grow to six inches or more and then whacking it down to three when you cut it can send the plant into shock.

By all means, do what you can to help the environment thrive, have a mixed yard of grass, shrubs, native plants and wildflowers, but put some thought into it. Don’t just latch onto the latest trendy idea because it has a slogan that can fit onto a bumper sticker or be a hashtag in a social media post.

Actually speak to an informed gardener at your local supply store about which plants will attract bees and butterflies. Planting those this month will do so much more than joining a misguided movement.

Now, it’s the middle of May, get out there and mow that lawn.

blilley@postmedia.com
 

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Indonesia raises alert for Mount Ibu volcano to highest level following a series of eruptions
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Edna Tarigan
Published May 16, 2024 • 1 minute read

In this photo released by the Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center of the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (PVMBG-ESDM), Mount Ibu spews volcanic materials into the air during an eruption in West Halmahera, Indonesia, Monday, May 13, 2024.
In this photo released by the Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center of the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (PVMBG-ESDM), Mount Ibu spews volcanic materials into the air during an eruption in West Halmahera, Indonesia, Monday, May 13, 2024. PHOTO BY PVMBG-ESDM VIA AP /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities on Thursday raised the alert level for Mount Ibu, a volcano in North Maluku province, to the highest level following a series of eruptions since last week.


The 1,325-metre (4,347-foot) volcano on the northwest coast of the remote island of Halmahera has been spewing thick grey ash and dark clouds up to 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) into the air every day since last Friday.

“Based on the results of visual and instrumental monitoring which show the occurrence of increased volcanic activity for Mount Ibu, we have raised the alert level from 3 to 4,” said Muhammad Wafid, chief of Indonesia’s Geology Agency.

Officials advised residents and tourists to not conduct any activities within 7 kilometres of the crater and to be aware of the potential for an eruption involving the release of lava from its summit.

Thousands of people live within that radius. Local authorities have prepared evacuation tents, but no formal evacuation order has been reported yet.

Deep volcanic earthquakes and visual activities from Mount Ibu have significantly increased.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.
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Cases of Canine Distemper Virus up in Toronto's raccoon population
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published May 20, 2024 • Last updated 19 hours ago • 1 minute read

Toronto's raccoon population has been hit by a spike of Canine Distemper Virus.

This is a good year to make sure your pets are up to date with their vaccinations, as Toronto’s raccoon population has been hit by a spike of Canine Distemper Virus.


Known as the zombie virus, CDV is contagious to dogs. Infected raccoons often act disoriented, can become aggressive and may experience seizures.


They may also approach people or sleep in open areas near humans. The virus, however, is not a threat to humans.

“We are seeing an uptick. Every couple of years, it raises its ugly head. People and pets should stay away from any sick animal and call animal control,” said Bill Dowd, president of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control. “Pets have shots for this, but dogs should be kept on a leash and there should be no roaming cats, and there should be the normal due diligence with kids.”

He added since the winter was mild, the number of raccoons that survived was greater than in other years.


“Raccoons are the perfect urban animal, and they are here to stay, so don’t give them food sources. Don’t put garbage out the night before, take away den sites and screen chimneys,” said Dowd.

At Toronto Wildlife Centre, animals which are susceptible to distemper, like raccoons and skunks, receive vaccines for the virus.

Symptoms of distemper can include fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and extreme thirst, wandering aimlessly — especially during the day — a lack of energy or “sleepiness,” losing balance, appearing “drunk,” or going in a circle.

“Canine distemper virus has been bad for many years. We get a call a day about it. There is nothing people can do, but vaccination programs are in place,” said Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

CDV is short-lived in the environment, and spreads through direct contact with fluids of infected animals.
 

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Britain slammed in inquiry for infecting thousands with tainted blood and covering up the scandal
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Sylvia Hui
Published May 20, 2024 • Last updated 17 hours ago • 3 minute read

LONDON — British authorities and the country’s public health service knowingly exposed tens of thousands of patients to deadly infections through contaminated blood and blood products, and hid the truth about the disaster for decades, an inquiry into the U.K.’s infected blood scandal found Monday.


An estimated 3,000 people in the United Kingdom are believed to have died and many others were left with lifelong illnesses after receiving blood or blood products tainted with HIV or hepatitis in the 1970s to the early 1990s.


The scandal is widely seen as the deadliest disaster in the history of Britain’s state-run National Health Service since its inception in 1948.

Former judge Brian Langstaff, who chaired the inquiry, slammed successive governments and medical professionals for “a catalogue of failures” and refusal to admit responsibility to save face and expense. He found that deliberate attempts were made to conceal the scandal, and there was evidence of government officials destroying documents.


“This disaster was not an accident. The infections happened because those in authority — doctors, the blood services and successive governments — did not put patient safety first,” he said. “The response of those in authority served to compound people’s suffering.”

Campaigners have fought for decades to bring official failings to light and secure government compensation. The inquiry was finally approved in 2017, and over the past four years it reviewed evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses and more than 100,000 documents.

Many of those affected were people with hemophilia, a condition affecting the blood’s ability to clot. In the 1970s, patients were given a new treatment that the U.K. imported from the United States. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products was traced to high-risk donors, including prison inmates, who were paid to give blood samples.


Because manufacturers of the treatment mixed plasma from thousands of donations, one infected donor would compromise the whole batch.

The report said around 1,250 people with bleeding disorders, including 380 children, were infected with HIV -tainted blood products. Three-quarters of them have died. Up to 5,000 others who received the blood products developed chronic hepatitis C, a type of liver infection.

Meanwhile an estimated 26,800 others were also infected with hepatitis C after receiving blood transfusions, often given in hospitals after childbirth, surgery or an accident, the report said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to apologize later Monday, and authorities are expected to announce compensation of about 10 billion pounds ($12.7 billion) in all to victims. Details about that payment are not expected until Tuesday at the earliest.


The report said many of the deaths and illnesses could have been avoided had the government taken steps to address the risks linked to blood transfusions or the use of blood products. Since the 1940s and the early 1980s it has been known that hepatitis and the cause of AIDS respectively could be transmitted this way, the inquiry said.

Langstaff said that unlike a long list of developed countries, officials in the U.K. failed to ensure rigorous blood donor selection and screening of blood products. At one school attended by children with hemophilia, public health officials gave the children “multiple, riskier” treatments as part of research, the report said.

He added that over the years authorities “compounded the agony by refusing to accept that wrong had been done,” falsely telling patients they had received the best treatment available and that blood screening had been introduced at the earliest opportunity. When people were found to be infected, officials delayed informing them about what happened.


Langstaff said that while each failure on its own was serious, taken “together they are a calamity.”

Andy Evans, of campaign group Tainted Blood, told reporters that he and others “felt like we were shouting into the wind during the last 40 years.”

“We have been gaslit for generations. This report today brings an end to that. It looks to the future as well and says this cannot continue,” he said.

Diana Johnson, a lawmaker who has long campaigned for the victims, said she hoped that those found responsible for the disaster will face justice — including prosecution — though the investigations have taken so long that some of the key players may well have died since.

“There has to be accountability for the actions that were taken, even if it was 30, 40, 50 years ago,” she said.
 

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Second U.S. human bird flu infection reported in Michigan
Three additional cattle herds had tested positive for bird flu

Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Jessica Nix and Riley Griffin
Published May 23, 2024 • 3 minute read

A Michigan farmworker tested positive with bird flu, the second person to contract the potentially lethal virus that has run rampant in U.S. cattle.


The farmworker experienced mild symptoms in the eye after contact with an infected cow and has since recovered, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. Michigan officials said Monday that three additional cattle herds had tested positive for bird flu.

Health officials are increasingly on guard for cases of H5N1, a bird virus that’s known to jump between species and can sometimes cause severe cases in people. The country’s first human case of bird flu from cattle was announced in a Texas farm worker in late March. That patient had an eye infection with the virus, called H5N1, and was treated with an antiviral. Health officials maintain that the risk to the public remains low, as there’s been no human-to-human transmission.


As of late Wednesday, the US Department of Agriculture has reported 52 herds in nine states have tested positive for bird flu. Health officials said they have antivirals and vaccine candidates on hand should they be needed.

The US is also in talks with Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. about the development of messenger RNA avian flu vaccines, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said on a call with reporters. Moderna’s vaccine is in early-stage trials, the company said in a statement, and results are expected soon. The shares closed up 14% in New York trading.

Pfizer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company’s shares gained 3.6% in New York.

Given the high levels of the virus in raw, unpasteurized milk and the extent of spread through dairy cows, the CDC said, more cases may be identified in people.


The human infection in Michigan “was not unexpected,” Nirav Shah, principal deputy director of the CDC, said on the call. “We found this case because we were looking for this case.”

After Michigan identified an H5N1-infected cattle herd, the farm worker was enrolled in an active surveillance program, which is currently monitoring 170 people across the state. The program sends daily texts to assess workers’ symptoms, Shah said.

When the worker in question reported mild eye symptoms, Shah said, health officials obtained swabs of the worker’s eyes and nose.

Those samples arrived at the CDC on Tuesday. While the nasal swab tested negative for an H5 subtype of influenza A virus, the eye swab tested positive. Shah said it’s “reassuring” that the nasal swab tested negative, because it reduces the likelihood of respiratory spread.


The CDC said eye infections, which have been present in both cases of cattle-to-human transmission, may be a result of a “splash of contaminated fluid” or touching the eyes with something contaminated with the virus, such as the hand.

Given the high levels of the virus in raw, unpasteurized milk and the extent of spread through dairy cows, the CDC said, more cases may be identified in people. The case underscores the importance of taking precautions, such as using personal protective equipment if exposed to sick or dead livestock, the agency said. Shah added that he didn’t know whether the farmworker was wearing protection, and Michigan said it wasn’t revealing more details about the farm or farmworker to protect privacy.


The agency notified Michigan on Tuesday after receiving the positive result and will make results of the viral sequence available within days. It will also conduct a genetic analysis to see if the virus has mutated in a way that could make it more dangerous, as well as how it interacts with existing antivirals and vaccine candidates, Shah said.

Michigan said that state officials have been tracking the situation closely since H5N1 was identified in cattle in the state on March 29. Three USDA management teams have been monitoring poultry farms in Michigan and one USDA epidemiological team has been deployed to monitor dairy herds.
 

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Bird flu virus detected in U.S. beef from an ill dairy cow, but USDA says meat remains safe
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Josh Funk
Published May 24, 2024 • 1 minute read

Bird flu has been detected in beef for the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday, but officials said the meat from a single sickened dairy cow was not allowed to enter the nation’s food supply and beef remains safe to eat.


The USDA said the virus was found as part of testing of 96 dairy cows that were diverted from the supply because federal inspectors noticed signs of illness during routine inspections of carcasses at meat processing plants. Bird flu was found in only one of those cows.

Bird flu has been confirmed in dairy cattle herds in nine states, has been found in milk and has prompted the slaughter of millions of chickens and turkeys. But finding it in beef is a new development for the outbreak, which began in 2022.

The agency said last month that it would test ground beef for bird flu at retail stores, but it has yet to find any sign of the virus.

Even if bird flu were to end up in consumer beef, the USDA says, cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.9 Celsius) will kill it just like it kills E. coli and other viruses.

Two farmworkers at dairies in Michigan and Texas were sickened by bird flu this spring. The danger to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said.

Only one other human case of bird flu has been confirmed in the United States. In 2022, a prisoner in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered.
 

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Public warned to be 'vigilant' as tick season arrives early in Ontario
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published May 26, 2024 • 2 minute read
The province is warning people to be "vigilant" as tick season has arrived early in Ontario.
Tick season is coming.

Ticks are biting bugs that transmit pathogens to humans and animals.


A mild winter and early spring has allowed the tick population to have a good survival rate. This will help tick season to start early and allow the bugs to spread diseases, such as Lyme disease.



Associate professor Manisha Kulkarni, with the University of Ottawa’s School of Epidemiology and Public Health, leads the UPTick research project and anticipates early tick activity.

“There isn’t normally much activity before April, but this year on the eTicknorth_eastexternal link we’ve seen an increase in the number of eastern Ontario submissions,” Kulkarni said in a release.

“Black-legged ticks can be active when it’s above 4 C so the mild winter in Ontario likely helped ticks remain active. Based on the tick photo submissions we have received, people and/or pets have been encountering ticks in parts of southern Ontario and a few spots in eastern Ontario in December and January.”




Kulkarni said they’ve seen a “continued expansion of blacklegged tick populations with more regions becoming endemic in Ontario.

“With more time in the spring, summer and autumn to find hosts, more ticks can reproduce,” she said. “This makes it both an expansion of endemic areas and an increase in tick abundance in those endemic areas.”

People may be at risk if they live, work in or visit a wooded area, or an area with tall grass and bushes, including city gardens and parks.

You may also be at risk if you are involved in outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping or gardening.

“As areas where ticks can be found continue to grow, so to do the risks of tick bites and tick-borne diseases,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“By being vigilant, wearing appropriate clothing and doing routine tick checks, we can avoid tick bites and ensure our trips outside are safe and healthy in the months ahead.”

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said “it is important that people take steps to protect themselves from tick bites and tick-borne diseases.

“Black-legged ticks are continuing to spread to new areas of the province, but by being proactive we can combat the risk they pose and safely enjoy the beauty of Ontario over the coming months.”
 

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Ontario privacy commissioner probing deleted Greenbelt emails
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Liam Casey
Published May 27, 2024 • 2 minute read

Ontario’s privacy commissioner says she will publish a special report about the use of non-government emails and deleted messages related to the Greenbelt.


NDP Leader Marit Stiles had asked Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario Patricia Kosseim to investigate the premier and government staffers’ reported use of personal phones and emails on the controversial file.

In a letter from the commissioner released by the NDP, Kosseim says her office is working on 19 active access-to-information appeals that are similar to the concerns Stiles raised.

In late 2022, the Doug Ford government removed land from the protected Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes.

After months of public outcry, and reports from both the auditor general and the integrity commissioner that found the process favoured certain developers, Ford reversed course.

The RCMP is now investigating the Greenbelt removal process.


The privacy commissioner did not provide a timeline on when her special report would be published.

“My office plans to publish a special report consolidating our findings and providing a comprehensive summary of our conclusions and insights into the access to information and record-keeping issues relating to changes to the Greenbelt,” Kosseim wrote in a letter to Stiles.

“Transparency in government actions and decisions is a fundamental principle that underpins the public’s trust in government.”

In a separate investigation, the auditor general found political staff used both personal and government emails on the Greenbelt file.

The auditor general also discovered political staff emails related to the Greenbelt land swap had been deleted.


Both actions were inappropriate and should not have occurred, the investigation found.

Stiles said the NDP welcomed the privacy commissioner’s special report.

“We have been deeply concerned by revelations of deleted emails, the use of personal accounts, and other apparent attempts to cover up the government’s actions as it schemed to give preferential treatment to well-connected Greenbelt speculators,” Stiles said.

“This report will provide a clearer understanding of the government’s conduct.”

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development.
 

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Ultra-processed foods associated with cognitive impairment: Study
Research followed 30,000 people over 11 years

Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published May 28, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

Aspartame, an artificial sweetner used in drinks and food, could be branded as a potential carcinogen later this month by a World Health Organization agency.

Eating ultra-processed foods is associated with but doesn’t necessarily cause an elevated risk of cognitive impairment, a new study published in the medical journal Neurology has found.


Ultra-processed foods — including soft drinks, salty and sugary snacks, ice cream, packaged breads and flavoured cereals — have high sugar, fat and salt levels and are low in protein and fibre.

Unprocessed foods include beef, pork and chicken, vegetables and fruits.

Researchers followed more than 30,000 people age 45 or older for an average of 11 years with participants filling out questionnaires about what they ate and drank.

How much ultra-processed food people ate daily was determined by calculating the grams and coming up with a percentage compared to the grams per day of other foods they ate.

The percentage was calculated into four groups ranging from the least-processed foods to the most-processed foods and researchers looked at 14,175 participants for cognitive decline and 20,243 participants for stroke with neither group having a history of either.


By the end of the study, 768 people were diagnosed with cognitive impairment and 1,108 people had a stroke.

In the cognitive group, people who developed memory and thinking problems ate a diet consisting of 25.8% of ultra-processed foods compared to 24.6% for those who did not develop cognitive problems.

Researchers found a 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods eaten was associated with a 16% higher risk of cognitive impairment after making adjustments for age, sex, high blood pressure, and factors that could increase risk of dementia.

They also found that eating more unprocessed or minimally processed foods was linked with a 12% lower risk of cognitive impairment.

For those in the stroke group, people who had a stroke during the study consumed 25.4% of ultra-processed foods in their diet compared to 25.1% for those who did not have a stroke.


After adjustments, researchers found more ultra-processed foods was linked to an 8% increase in risk of stroke, while more of unprocessed or minimally processed foods was linked to a 9% decreased risk of stroke.

The stroke risk for eating ultra-processed foods was even greater among Black participants with a 15% increase in risk of stroke.

However, the study only included those who self-identified as Black or white so results don’t apply to people from other populations.
 

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Woman sues Disney after suffering brain injury, ‘coughing up blood’ on water slide
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Published May 28, 2024 • 2 minute read

Humunga Kowabunga water slide at Disney waterpark Typhoon Lagoon.
Humunga Kowabunga water slide at Disney waterpark Typhoon Lagoon. PHOTO BY POWEREDBYDISNEY_93 /Instagram
A woman has filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney Parks, claiming she lost consciousness on a slide at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park and was left with a brain injury.


Laura Reyes-Merino, 25, was on Humunga Kowabunga, which features a “near-vertical, five-storey drop” in the dark, according to the park’s website.

But after “banging inside the ride,” one of the three side-by-side enclosed body slides, the woman went unconscious, WOFL reported.

Reyes-Merino’s limp body was found at the bottom of the slide by her fiancé and his mother.

They “frantically” asked for help, according to the lawsuit, but were told there were no lifeguards on duty.

As an employee tried to find a lifeguard, “blood kept coming out of her mouth in the water,” where she could have drowned had her fiancé not pulled her out, the lawsuit alleges.

A lifeguard did eventually show up but they said they could not touch Reyes-Merino and instead called for an ambulance which further delayed treatment for the woman.

If there had been “lifeguards at the end of the ride to watch and help guests coming off the ride, (Reyes-Merino’s) brain injury would not have occurred as she wouldn’t have been drowning in the water coughing up blood,” the lawsuit states.



While the suit did not state how severe the brain injury was, it did claim Reyes-Merino suffered “disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish” and the “loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.”

She is suing Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for a minimum of $50,000 in damages.

Another lawsuit was filed against Disney after a rider suffered a “painful wedgie” on the same ride.


The woman and her husband, Emma and Edward McGuinness, were there to celebrate her 30th birthday and she went on the slide, which caused her swimsuit to be “painfully forced between her legs and for water to be violently forced inside her,” according to the lawsuit.

At the end of the slide, she suffered a “painful wedgie” and began bleeding.

She was taken to a hospital, but was later transported to another medical centre to see a specialist for her injuries, according to court documents, which included severe lacerations, damage to her internal organs and a hernia.

Disney did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
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Farmers must kill 4.2 million chickens after bird flu hits Iowa egg farm
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published May 28, 2024 • 1 minute read
More than 4 million chickens in Iowa will have to be killed after a case of the highly pathogenic bird flu was detected at a large egg farm, the state announced Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
More than 4 million chickens in Iowa will have to be killed after a case of the highly pathogenic bird flu was detected at a large egg farm, the state announced Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — More than 4 million chickens in Iowa will have to be killed after a case of the highly pathogenic bird flu was detected at a large egg farm, the state announced Tuesday.


Crews are in the process of killing 4.2 million chickens after the disease was found at a farm in Sioux County, Iowa, making it the latest in a yearslong outbreak that now is affecting dairy cattle as well. Last week, the virus was confirmed at an egg farm west of Minneapolis, Minnesota, leading to the slaughter of nearly 1.4 million chickens.

Overall, 92.34 million birds have been killed since the outbreak began in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although bird flu has become somewhat common among poultry, its spread to cattle has added to worries about the disease. In May, a second dairy farmworker was diagnosed with bird flu, and the virus was detected in both beef and milk. It has been confirmed on dairy cattle farms in nine states.

Health and agriculture officials have said the risk to the public remains low. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the meat from a single sickened dairy cow was not allowed to enter the nation’s food supply and beef remains safe to eat.

Workers exposed to infected animals are at a higher risk. The only three human cases confirmed in the United States included two dairy workers and one man working to slaughter infected birds on a poultry farm.
 

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Volcano in Iceland starts erupting again, spewing lava into sky
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published May 29, 2024 • 1 minute read

A volcano erupts in Grindavik, Iceland
A volcano erupts in Grindavik, Iceland, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. PHOTO BY BIRN ODDSSON/ICELAND CIVIL DEFENSE /Associated Press
GRINDAVIK, Iceland — A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted Wednesday, spewing red streams of lava in the latest display of nature’s power, triggering the evacuation of the popular Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.


The eruption began in the early afternoon following a series of earthquakes north of Grindavik, a coastal town of 3,800 people that was also evacuated.

The Met Office said lava was shooting about 50 metres (165 feet) into the sky from a fissure about 1 kilometre (1,100 yards) long.

The Blue Lagoon thermal spa was evacuated before the eruption began, national broadcaster RUV said.

Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, sees regular eruptions and is highly experienced at dealing with them. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

The latest eruptions signal a reawakening of the Svartsengi volcanic system after almost 800 years of quiet. It’s unclear when the period of activity will end or what it means for the Reykjanes Peninsula, one of the most densely populated parts of Iceland.
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Woman is back on dialysis after doctors remove transplanted pig kidney
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Lauran Neergaard
Published May 31, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

WASHINGTON (AP) — A woman who received a pig kidney transplant is back on dialysis because surgeons had to remove the gradually failing organ after just 47 days.


Lisa Pisano was the second person to receive a kidney from a gene-edited pig, and NYU Langone Health announced that she is stable after an operation to remove the organ earlier this week.

The first patient to receive a pig kidney transplant, Richard “Rick” Slayman at Massachusetts General Hospital, died in early May, nearly two months after his transplant. Doctors there said there was no indication he died as a result of the experimental transplant.

Pisano’s heart and kidneys were failing when, in a dramatic pair of surgeries in April, doctors implanted a mechanical pump to keep her heart beating and then the pig kidney.

At first she seemed to be recovering well. But Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the transplant, said there were “unique challenges” to managing both the heart pump and new kidney. Her blood pressure dropped too low multiple times for optimal blood flow to the kidney.


The kidney lost function until doctors no longer could justify keeping her on immune-suppressing medications, Montgomery said in a statement Friday.

A recent kidney biopsy showed no signs of rejection — the biggest concern in highly experimental animal-to-human transplants — but there was “significant injury” from insufficient blood flow, he said. NYU will further study the explanted kidney for further insight on how it reacted inside a living person.

Montgomery noted Pisano wasn’t a candidate for the life-prolonging heart pump while on dialysis, and her heart disease in turn barred a traditional kidney transplant.

“We are hoping to get Lisa back home to her family soon,” he said. “Her strength and bravery in the face of adversity inspires and drives us as we continue pursuing the hope and promise of xenotransplantation.”


Pisano told the Associated Press in April that she knew the pig kidney might not work but “I just took a chance. And you know, worst case scenario, if it didn’t work for me, it might have worked for someone else.”

More than 100,000 people are on the U.S. transplant waiting list, most who need a kidney, and thousands die waiting. In hopes of filling the shortage of donated organs, several biotech companies are genetically modifying pigs so their organs are more humanlike, less likely to be destroyed by people’s immune system.

Formal studies of such organs are expected to begin next year. Meanwhile, NYU and other research teams have temporarily transplanted pig kidneys and hearts into brain-dead bodies, with promising results. In addition to the Mass General pig kidney transplant, the University of Maryland transplanted pig hearts into two men who were out of other options, and both died within months.

For more health news and content around diseases, conditions, wellness, healthy living, drugs, treatments and more, head to Healthing.ca – a member of the Postmedia Network.
 

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B.C. jury's $400Gs award for mastectomy after cancer false alarm reduced on appeal
That maximum for civil judgments in Canada was set by the courts in 1978 at $100,000 and has risen with inflation since

Author of the article:Susan Lazaruk
Published May 30, 2024 • Last updated 2 days ago • 3 minute read

B.C.’s Appeal Court has reduced a $400,000 pain and suffering award to a woman who sued her doctor for the cancer misdiagnosis that led to her choosing a mastectomy.


The award was reduced to $250,000 by the panel of three judges, who ruled in reasons for judgment that $400,000 was “wholly disproportionate.”

The jury’s original award was close to the $450,000 maximum allowed for such damages at the time of the May 2023 trial. That maximum was set by the courts in 1978 at $100,000 and has risen with inflation since.

“An award (near the upper limit is justified by debilitating injuries that have catastrophic effects on the plaintiff’s ability to function,” wrote Justice Ronald A. Skolrood, with Justices David C. Harris and Patrice Abrioux agreeing. “While significant, the appellant’s injuries here do not rise to that threshold. Accordingly the damage award is reduced to $250,000.”


That is “likely above what would be awarded by a judge alone, but such deviation is permitted based again on the respect shown for the jury’s findings,” Skolrood wrote. “An amount of $250,000 maintains sufficient deference for those findings while avoiding an award that is shockingly unreasonable and unsustainable.”

Elena Ivanova had a mastectomy of her right breast in March 2016, after her doctor, Dr. Robert Wolber, prepared a report that included “what she understood to be a diagnosis of a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer,” according to the judgment.

“After the surgery was performed, the excised tissue was examined and it showed no sign of cancer,” it said.

Ivanova sued Wolber and the surgeon for negligence and a jury in May 2023 awarded her $400,000, Skolrood wrote.


The jury also found the surgeon wasn’t liable, the judgment said.

Ivanova found a lump on her breast on Jan. 31, 2016, and less than two weeks later, she had a mammogram and ultrasound that showed a large mass and smaller masses and cysts.

About three weeks later, a biopsy was done and the sample sent to Wolber.

Wolber sent the specimen to six other pathologists at Lions Gate Hospital for review and all agreed it contained “invasive carcinoma,” but they didn’t agree on which type of subtype of carcinoma, the judgment said.

About three weeks later, on March 10, 2016, Wolber wrote his report that included the diagnosis of “invasive metaplastic carcinoma” but said another biopsy should be done for a more precise diagnosis.


Five days later, Ivanova met with the surgeon and she said she understood she had an aggressive form of cancer and “removing the cancer was a matter of life or death” and “the only way to survive” was to have a full mastectomy as soon as possible, the judgment said.

The mastectomy was done on March 24, 2016, two months after she found the lump.

About two weeks later, the tissue sample tested negative for cancer at the B.C. Cancer agency and Wolber amended his report to include that information. His report also stated he had earlier recommended a further biopsy not a mastectomy.

But an expert called by Ivanova testified Wolber’s original report “unequivocally communicated the presence of a metaplastic breast carcinoma. This was below the standard of care of a practising surgical pathologist.”


That expert testified Wolber recommended a biopsy, which would have been “substandard treatment for metaplastic carcinoma,” he testified.

A medical expert called by Wolber testified that had a biopsy or lumpectomy been done, the mass would have been properly diagnosed, and his assessment of the biopsy sample was reasonable and noted all six other pathologists he consulted found the biopsy showed invasive carcinoma, according to the reasons for judgment.

Wolber’s insurance company also appealed on a second ground, whether the jury erred in finding that “Wolber’s breach of the standard of care caused Ms. Ivanova to undergo a mastectomy rather than a partial mastectomy,” according to the judgment.

But Skolrood wrote that he was “satisfied that there was sufficient evidence” for the jury to conclude she would not have chosen a full mastectomy if it weren’t for the misdiagnosis.
 

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Ancient skull shows Egyptians tried to remove cancer 4,500 years ago
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Ben Brasch
Published May 30, 2024 • 3 minute read

Skull and mandible 236, dating from between 2687 and 2345 B.C., belonged to a man age 30 to 35.
Skull and mandible 236, dating from between 2687 and 2345 B.C., belonged to a man age 30 to 35. PHOTO BY COURTESY OF TONDINI, ISIDRO, CAMARÓS, 2024 /The Washington Post
Edgard Camarós and his team were looking at a screen connected to a powerful camera aimed at an Egyptian skull from about 4,500 years ago. What they saw changed the previously understood timeline of when humans may have tried to treat cancer.


The image on the screen was definitive, he said — “It was clear that we were looking at a milestone in the history of medicine” — but nobody spoke for a few seconds.

“That was one of those eureka moments,” he told The Washington Post.

Camarós, a professor of archaeology at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and his team say they found proof that moves forward our understanding of when humans tried to treat cancer by 1,000 years. He and his team published a report Wednesday in the Frontiers in Medicine journal, detailing how they found markings indicating that ancient scientists were trying to remove cancer from a skull.

Cancer was the second-leading cause of death in 2022 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 608,000.


Any multicellular life form is at risk of cancer, Camarós said. Even the dinosaurs were prone to cancer.

“If we understand how cancer evolves, we may understand about ourselves,” he said. And if researches can find out how certain cancers changed or vanished, maybe they can better tackle modern-day forms of the disease.

To Camarós, oncology isn’t just about the past 20 years of successful innovation but also about thousands of years of scientific curiosity and trying to understand the disease to improve human lives. And this skull discovery moves everything forward just a bit, he said.


“It’s like witnessing the starting point of something,” he said.

The team was studying the skull to get a better sense of cancer in antiquity when they came across a cut mark from a metallic object near where a tumor had been. It meant that scientists about 4,500 years ago were either trying to treat cancer or were conducting a medical autopsy, both of which are news to historians.


The skull, No. 236, had been in the Duckworth Collection at Cambridge University for years after being found in 20th-century Giza, Egypt. The skull was last studied in the 1960s, when a professor confirmed that the skull had contained cancer, which Camarós said was an advanced discovery at the time.

But technology has changed a lot in six decades.

Camarós, who said he has a passion for oncology and archaeology, instantly wanted to look at the skull in 2021 when he came upon the box that was marked with “cancer” on the outside.

“It was like a magnet for me,” he said.

He and his fellow scientists placed the skull in front of the camera in October 2021.

Camarós said the microscopic technology available in the 1960s didn’t compare with modern digital cameras that can zoom with “almost no limit.”

It would “have been absolutely impossible for us not to see the cut marks,” he said.

Camarós now wants to study the genetics of ancient cancers at the molecular level to answer questions about how the disease may have changed. A big part of that is finding other samples that contain DNA and identifying whether there was cancer present.

“If there is any other case in the future, it will come out because of the technology,” he said.
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Icelandic volcano spews lava in what could be its fiercest eruption
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Rachel Pannett, The Washington Post
Published May 30, 2024 • 1 minute read

Eruptive fissures spew lava from a volcano in Grindavik, Iceland, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Eruptive fissures spew lava from a volcano in Grindavik, Iceland, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. PHOTO BY MARCO DI MARCO /AP Photo
A volcano has erupted in southwestern Iceland for the fifth time since late last year, spewing lava toward the seaside town of Grindavik. Officials said it may be the most vigorous eruption in the area to date.


The eruption began early Wednesday afternoon, sending a plume of hot volcanic ash and gas high into the air and opening a more than two-mile-long fissure along the ground.

As of Wednesday evening, there was “still considerable lava fountaining” on the main part of the fissure, which extended south of the Hagafell mountain, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said.

Gas pollution could affect Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, on Wednesday night into Thursday, it added.

Grindavik is about 30 miles southwest of the capital. Most of the town’s nearly 4,000 residents were evacuated before the volcano’s first eruption in December. The area is also home to one of Iceland’s biggest tourist draws, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.


Grindavik, the Blue Lagoon and a nearby power plant were evacuated before midday, according to Iceland’s national broadcaster, RUV. The eruption began at 12:46 p.m. local time, according to the meteorological office.

Barriers built to protect the town held, although there was “significant damage” to local pipes and roads, Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told RUV. He said it wasn’t surprising that the latest eruption was more powerful than previous ones, because more magma had accumulated.

Volcanic activity isn’t unusual in Iceland, but the eruptions over the past few months have occurred in a zone on the Reykjanes Peninsula that hasn’t been active for 800 years. Once a volcanic rift zone is activated, it’s not unusual for a quick succession of eruptions to take place.

Wednesday’s eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes in the area in recent days, the meteorological office said.
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