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Tim Hortons set to introduce wooden and fibre cutlery
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Dec 21, 2022 • 1 minute read
Tim Hortons is set to introduce wooden and fibre cutlery
Tim Hortons is set to introduce wooden and fibre cutlery PHOTO BY HANDOUT /Tim Hortons
Tim Hortons is set to introduce wooden and fibre cutlery in the new year — a move they say will eliminate an estimated 90 million single-use plastics a year.

The wooden cutlery and fibre spoon are both compostable.

In another move to reduce the use of single-use plastics, plastic lids on Loaded Bowls are also being replaced with fibre lids, Tim Hortons said in a release.

And beginning in early 2023, Tim Hortons restaurants will shift to a new breakfast and lunch wrapper with an efficient design that uses 75% less material than the prior wrap box, which is estimated to save more than 1,400 tonnes of material a year, Tim Hortons added.

Tim Hortons is also now trialing a fibre hot beverage lid that is plastic-free and recyclable. The goal of the trial, which will run for approximately twelve weeks in Vancouver, is to develop products that are alternatives to plastic and easier to recycle and repurpose while still offering a great guest experience.

“Through our sustainability platform Tims for Good, we’re always looking for ways, big and small, to make thoughtful choices on material and design in order to reduce and eliminate packaging and contribute to more sustainable innovation,” Paul Yang, senior director of procurement, sustainability and packaging at Tim Hortons, said in the release.

Tim Hortons restaurants will also eliminate the use of all single-use plastic bags and will begin offering guests reusable bags for purchase starting in January.


View attachment 16832
To put that into perspective, the 1400 tones saved is 14 off highway loads of logs. 4 days production for one grapple yarder
 
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OPP determining whether to investigate Greenbelt development plan
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Jan 07, 2023 • 2 minute read

Ontario Provincial Police say they’re working to determine whether they should investigate the government’s plans to open up the protected Greenbelt to development.


The Progressive Conservative government has proposed removing land from 15 different areas of the Greenbelt so that 50,000 homes can be built, while adding acres elsewhere.


Both Premier Doug Ford and his housing minister have said the government did not tip off developers ahead of announcing the plan — media reports have suggested some prominent developers who are Progressive Conservative donors stand to benefit from the move.

OPP spokesman Bill Dickson says the service’s Anti Rackets Branch is reviewing information from those who complained about the Greenbelt move in order to determine if there’s evidence to support an investigation.

Caitlin Clark, a spokeswoman for Ford, says no one in the premier’s office or any member of the government has been contacted and no documents have been requested by the OPP on the matter.


The government announced its Greenbelt development proposal in November –contradicting a pledge to not touch the lands — saying the plan was in service of the government’s target of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years.



Advocacy group Environmental Defence, which has heavily criticized the government’s Greenbelt development plans, says it joined another organization in calling on the OPP to look into publicly available information on the Greenbelt move.

Phil Pothen, the group’s Ontario Environment Program Manager and in-house counsel, says the OPP have interviewed Environmental Defence’s director regarding the matter.


Media reports have suggested that some prominent developers who are Progressive Conservative donors bought Greenbelt land in the past few years despite the government’s public pronouncements it wouldn’t be developed. One purchase happened as recently as September, according to investigations by the CBC, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Narwhal.

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

Public backlash in 2018 prompted Ford to backtrack on an election pledge to allow housing development in the Greenbelt, with him promising he would maintain the protected area in its entirety.

Ford also made a similar vow in 2020 not to “touch” the Greenbelt while facing criticism after the chair and six members of Ontario’s Greenbelt Council resigned over differences of opinion with the government.

In 2021, when announcing plans to expand the Greenbelt, the housing minister said he would not cut the protected area or do a land swap.
 

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The T. Rex may have been a lot smarter than you thought
It appears to have been a social animal that worked in packs

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Dino Grandoni
Published Jan 09, 2023 • 2 minute read

Long thought of as big and dimwitted, the T. rex might owe its perch as king of the Cretaceous to its brains as much as its jaws and giant teeth.


A study published Thursday in the Journal of Comparative Neurology suggests the dinosaur’s cerebrum contained enough neurons to solve problems and even form cultures.


That’s a level of brain cells similar to that in baboons, potentially making theropods – a group of vicious, two-legged and fast-running dinosaurs that included tyrannosauruses and velociraptors – the “primates of their time,” according to Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist and biologist at Vanderbilt University who wrote the paper.

“What if the asteroid hadn’t happened?” Herculano-Houzel said, referring to the cosmic collision thought to have driven most dinosaurs to extinction. “That’s a whole other world that would have been terrifying.”


The new research builds on a growing body of evidence suggesting the Tyrannosaurus rex was more than just a big brute. Rather, it appears to have been a social animal that worked in packs.

The soft tissue that made up dinosaurs’ gray matter rotted away eons ago. So Herculano-Houzel looked at T. rex’s bony brain cases and compared them to the skeletons of its living cousins: the birds.

Extrapolating from emus and ostriches, Herculano-Houzel estimated the T. rex’s cerebrum had as many as 3 billion neurons, comparable to a baboon’s brain. Another terrifying carnivorous dinosaur called the Alioramus, meanwhile, had over 1 billion, similar to a capuchin monkey.

If the T. rex’s cognition approached that of a baboon’s, the dinosaur may have been capable of using tools and passing down knowledge through generations, Herculano-Houzel said.


“The overall study is an important step in understanding the evolution of the structure and function of the modern bird brain,” said Amy Balanoff, an evolutionary biologist at Johns Hopkins University not involved in the study.


Other research that chips away at the childhood image of the T. rex as a scaly, solitary monster involves mass burial sites found in Utah, Montana and elsewhere, suggesting the carnivores moved in groups like wolves. The remains of other male theropods have been found guarding clutches of eggs, a social behavior seen in modern birds.

Paleontologists even suspect tyrannosauruses had feathers – and are hunting for the fossil evidence.

Herculano-Houzel’s analysis hinges on treating theropods as a separate, warm-blooded group instead of lumping T. rex and its cousins with the rest of the dinosaurs.


Past researchers, she said, used to “take all dinosaurs together and throw them in the blender.”

Balanoff said she would like to see future research with updated fossil measurements. She also called the notion of the T. rex forming cultures a “really fascinating idea” but added, “I don’t know that we’re quite there yet in being able to make this prediction.”

“That being said, I welcome the positing of big ideas to drive science forward,” Balanoff said.

Now that paleontologists know to look for it, perhaps they will find more evidence of T. rex’s rich social lives, Herculano-Houzel said.

“If they were hunters, maybe you find evidence of them hunting in groups, using some sort of social communication. If you have no reason to expect that, you’re not going to look for that evidence.”
 
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Environmental group takes Ontario to court over plan to expand Hamilton's boundary
Ecojustice lawyer Laura Bowman alleges the province did not follow its own provincial policy statement and "A Place to Grow Act."

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Jan 10, 2023 • 1 minute read

HAMILTON — An environmental rights group alleges Ontario has broken the law by forcing Hamilton to expand its boundary into the protected Greenbelt to build homes.


Ecojustice on behalf of Environmental Defence has filed a notice of application for a judicial review of the province’s decision to impose changes on Hamilton’s official plan by expanding the boundary by 2,200 hectares into the Greenbelt.


Ecojustice lawyer Laura Bowman alleges the province did not follow its own provincial policy statement and “A Place to Grow Act.”

This fall, the province passed bills to remove land from 15 different areas of the protected Greenbelt in order for 50,000 homes to be built, while adding acres elsewhere.

A spokeswoman for Housing Minister Steve Clark says he took action to accommodate Hamilton’s population growth and allow for more homes to be built.

The City of Hamilton did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but its city council has previously said it’s not interested in expanding its boundary.
 

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U.S. safety agency to consider ban on gas stoves amid health fears
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Ari Natter
Published Jan 10, 2023 • 4 minute read

A federal agency says a ban on gas stoves is on the table amid rising concern about harmful indoor air pollutants emitted by the appliances.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to take action to address the pollution, which can cause health and respiratory problems.


“This is a hidden hazard,” Richard Trumka Jr., an agency commissioner, said in an interview. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

Natural gas stoves, which are used in about 40% of homes in the U.S., emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter at levels the EPA and World Health Organization have said are unsafe and linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other health conditions, according to reports by groups such as the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society. Consumer Reports, in October, urged consumers planning to buy a new range to consider going electric after tests conducted by the group found high levels of nitrogen oxide gases from gas stoves.


New peer-reviewed research published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stove use.

“There is about 50 years of health studies showing that gas stoves are bad for our health, and the strongest evidence is on children and children’s asthma,” said Brady Seals, a manager in the carbon-free buildings program at the nonprofit clean energy group RMI and a co-author of the study. “By having a gas connection, we are polluting the insides of our homes.”

The Bethesda, Maryland-based Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has a staff of roughly 500, plans to open public comment on hazards posed by gas stoves later this winter. Besides barring the manufacture or import of gas stoves, options include setting standards on emissions from the appliances, Trumka said.


Lawmakers have weighed in, asking the commission to consider requiring warning labels, range hoods and performance standards. In a letter to the agency in December, lawmakers including Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Representative Don Beyer of Virginia, both Democrats, urged action and called gas-stove emissions a “cumulative burden” on Black, Latino and low-income households that disproportionately experience air pollution.

Parallel efforts by state and local policymakers are targeting the use of natural gas in buildings more broadly, in a push to reduce climate-warming emissions (such as from methane) that exacerbate climate change. Nearly 100 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage a move away from fossil fuel powered buildings. The New York City Council voted in 2021 to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings smaller than seven stories by the end of this year. The California Air Resources Board unanimously voted in September to ban the sale of natural gas-fired furnaces and water heaters by 2030.


Consumers who want to switch from gas to electric ranges could get some help from the massive climate spending bill signed into law in August. The Inflation Reduction Act includes rebates of up to $840 for the purchase of new electric ranges as part of some $4.5 billion in funding to help low- and moderate-income households electrify their homes.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, which represents gas range manufacturers such as Whirlpool Corp., says that cooking produces emissions and harmful byproducts no matter what kind of stove is used.

“Ventilation is really where this discussion should be, rather than banning one particular type of technology,” said Jill Notini, a vice president with the Washington-based trade group. “Banning one type of a cooking appliance is not going to address the concerns about overall indoor air quality. We may need some behavior change, we may need [people] to turn on their hoods when cooking.”


Natural gas distributors, whose business is threatened by the growing push to electrify homes, argue that a ban on natural gas stoves would drive up costs for homeowners and restaurants with little environmental gain. The American Gas Association, which represents utilities such as Dominion Energy Inc. and DTE Energy Co., said in a statement that regulatory and advisory agencies responsible for protecting residential consumer health and safety have presented no documented risks from gas stoves.

“The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and EPA do not present gas ranges as a significant contributor to adverse air quality or health hazard in their technical or public information literature, guidance, or requirements,” said Karen Harbert, the group’s president. “The most practical, realistic way to achieve a sustainable future where energy is clean, as well as safe, reliable and affordable, is to ensure it includes natural gas and the infrastructure that transports it.”


Republicans, meanwhile, criticized the potential move as government overreach.

“If the CPSC really wanted to do something about public health, it would ban cigarettes, or automobiles, long before it moved on to address stoves,” said Mike McKenna, a GOP energy lobbyist. “It’s transparently political.”

Trumka, who before joining the commission worked for a House committee in a role that included work on toxic heavy metals in baby food and the health hazards of e-cigarettes, said the commission could issue its proposal as soon as this year, though he conceded that would be “on the quick side.”

“There is this misconception that if you want to do fine-dining kind of cooking it has to be done on gas,” Trumka said. “It’s a carefully manicured myth.”
 

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U.S. official warns of risks posed by heavy electric vehicles
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Tom Krisher
Published Jan 11, 2023 • 2 minute read

DETROIT — The head of the National Transportation Safety Board expressed concern Wednesday about the safety risks that heavy electric vehicles pose if they collide with lighter vehicles.


The official, Jennifer Homendy, raised the issue in a speech in Washington to the Transportation Research Board. She noted, by way of example, that an electric GMC Hummer weighs about 9,000 pounds (4,000 kilograms), with a battery pack that alone is 2,900 pounds (1,300 kilograms) — roughly the entire weight of a typical Honda Civic.


“I’m concerned about the increased risk of severe injury and death for all road users from heavier curb weights and increasing size, power, and performance of vehicles on our roads, including electric vehicles,” Homendy said in remarks prepared for the group.


The extra weight that EVs typically carry stems from the outsize mass of their batteries. To achieve 300 or more miles (480 or more kilometres) of range per charge from an EV, batteries have to weigh thousands of pounds.


Some battery chemistries being developed have the potential to pack more energy into less mass. But for now, there’s a mismatch in weight between EVs and smaller internal combustion vehicles. EVs also deliver instant power to their wheels, making them accelerate faster in most cases than most gas-powered cars, trucks and SUVs.

Homendy said she was encouraged by the Biden administration’s plans to phase out carbon emissions from vehicles to deal with the climate crisis. But she said she still worries about safety risks resulting from a proliferation of EVs on roads ands highways.

“We have to be careful that we aren’t also creating unintended consequences: More death on our roads,” she said. “Safety, especially when it comes to new transportation policies and new technologies, cannot be overlooked.”


Homendy noted that Ford’s F-150 Lightning EV pickup is 2,000 to 3,000 pounds (900 to 1,350 kilograms) heavier than the same model’s combustion version. The Mustang Mach E electric SUV and the Volvo XC40 EV, she said, are roughly 33% heavier than their gasoline counterparts.

“That has a significant impact on safety for all road users,” Homendy added.

The NTSB investigates transportation crashes but has no authority to make regulations. For vehicles, such authority rests largely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Even apart from EVs, the nation’s roads are crowded with heavy vehicles, thanks to a decadelong boom in sales of larger cars, trucks and SUVs that’s led to extreme mismatches in collisions with smaller vehicles. But electric vehicles are typically much heavier than even the largest trucks and SUVs that are powered by gasoline or diesel.

Sales of new electric vehicles in the U.S. rose nearly 65% last year to 807,000 — about 5.8% of all new vehicle sales. The Biden administration has set a goal of having EVs reach 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030 and is offering tax credits of up to $7,500 to get there. The consulting firm LMC Automotive has made a more modest prediction: It expects EVs to make up one-third of the new-vehicle market by 2030.
 

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Maryland girl discovers megalodon tooth
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Jan 11, 2023 • 1 minute read

A Maryland girl got a big surprise for Christmas: An ancient fossil hiding in water.


Alicia Sampson said on social media that her daughters Molly and Natalie asked for insulated waders for Christmas to “go sharks tooth hunting like professionals.” And as soon as they got the waders, that was just what they did.


“The only thing Molly really wanted for Christmas was insulated chest waders because she knew she was missing out on some good fossil finds further out in the water,” Sampson told CBS News.

“As soon as they finished breakfast they got their waders on as quick as they could and headed to the cliffs with my husband Bruce.”

Sampson says the hunt happened on a freezing day, but the tide was low.

In no time, Molly found a megalodon tooth as big as her hand.

“She told me she was wading in knee-deep water when she saw it and dove in to get it,” Sampson said.

“She said she got her arms all wet, but it was so worth it. The look on her face is the only thing that makes me regret not going with them because I can’t even imagine the shriek that came from her mouth.”

The family took the tooth to the Calvert Marine Museum, which confirmed the fossil’s identity.

“(Molly) has found over 400 teeth in her nine years, ranging from teeny tiny to an inch or two — and now with this one, which is five inches,” Sampson said.

 

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Canada's single-use plastic ban lacks proof: Report
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Jan 17, 2023 • 2 minute read

There is no proof banning plastic products will help stop pollution, the Department of Environment has said.


A report has contradicted claims by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault that banning single-use plastics would make a “sustainable world,” a Blacklock’s Report says.


“Given data gaps in the current understanding of plastic waste it is challenging to draw conclusions about the relative impact of the initiative on plastic waste in Canada as a whole,” said a department report.

Researchers say “accurate and comprehensive accounting of the total amount of diverted plastic waste as a result of initiative activities is not available.”

The plastics ban to be enforced since the end of 2022 was introduced saying it would reduce the volume of landfilled plastic.

“An accurate and comprehensive accounting of the total amount of diverted plastic waste is not available which limits the ability of this evaluation to assess the extent to which progress toward this outcome has been achieved,” said the report Horizontal Evaluation Of The Federal Leadership Towards Zero Plastic Waste In Canada Initiative.


‘Single Use Plastic Prohibition Regulations’ ban six types of plastic products including polystyrene food containers, cutlery, stir sticks, straws, grocery bags and six-pack rings.

Use of alternatives will cost consumers $205 million next year while administration expenses to date total $64.4 million, by official estimate.

“We promised Canadians we would deliver a ban on certain harmful single-use plastics. We’re following through on that commitment,” Guilbeault said Dec. 17.

“We’re joining the global effort to reduce plastic pollution and protect our wildlife and habitats,” said Guilbeault. “There is a clear linkage between a world free of plastic pollution and a sustainable world.”

The Horizontal Evaluation report says the six types of plastics blacklisted in Canada aren’t the most commonly discarded plastic litter.

“This ban fails to target litter categories that appear to make up most single-use plastic litter found in Canada such as wrappers and bottle caps,” wrote Nova Scotia scientists at Dalhousie University and the Sable Island Institute.
 

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Drone thermal imaging captures rare turtle laying eggs in Thailand
Leatherback sea turtles are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Published Jan 17, 2023 • 1 minute read
A thermal image of the leatherback sea turtle digging sand, in Phang Nga, Thailand January 14, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a handout video obtained by Reuters on January 17, 2023. Department of Marine and Coastal Resources/Handout via REUTERS
A thermal image of the leatherback sea turtle digging sand, in Phang Nga, Thailand January 14, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a handout video obtained by Reuters on January 17, 2023. Department of Marine and Coastal Resources/Handout via REUTERS
PHANG NGA — Thai marine conservation officials have used thermal imaging equipment mounted on a drone to capture footage of a leatherback sea turtle, the world’s largest turtle species, coming to shore to lay eggs.


Leatherback sea turtles are classified as vulnerable on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, with populations declining due to habitat loss, poaching, and plastic pollution.


The turtle spotted last week had found its way to shore and dug a nest in the sand to lay her eggs. The eggs will incubate for the next 55-60 days before hatching, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources of Thailand’s (DMCR) website.

A thermal image of marine and coastal officials standing near a leatherback sea turtle, in Phang Nga, Thailand January 14, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a handout video obtained by Reuters on January 17, 2023. Department of Marine and Coastal Resources/Handout via REUTERS
A thermal image of marine and coastal officials standing near a leatherback sea turtle, in Phang Nga, Thailand January 14, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a handout video obtained by Reuters on January 17, 2023. Department of Marine and Coastal Resources/Handout via REUTERS
The department said a thermal drone was able to record more information than labor-intensive human patrolling techniques, as its sensors could detect the body heat of warm-blooded animals – or more specifically the thermal differences between animals and their surrounding environment – despite the darkness.

The technology was helpful in preventing noise and light from disturbing the turtles while nesting, it said.

A thermal image of marine and coastal officials standing near a leatherback sea turtle, in Phang Nga, Thailand January 14, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a handout video obtained by Reuters on January 17, 2023. Department of Marine and Coastal Resources/Handout via REUTERS
A thermal image of marine and coastal officials standing near a leatherback sea turtle, in Phang Nga, Thailand January 14, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a handout video obtained by Reuters on January 17, 2023. Department of Marine and Coastal Resources/Handout via REUTERS
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Costco must face lawsuit over 'dolphin safe' tuna claim
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Jonathan Stempel
Published Jan 17, 2023 • 1 minute read

A U.S. judge on Tuesday said Costco Wholesale Corp must face a lawsuit claiming it falsely advertises and labels its canned tuna as “dolphin safe” despite using fishing methods that harm and kill dolphins.


U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco said the plaintiff in the proposed nationwide class action plausibly alleged that Costco fraudulently pledged adherence to a higher dolphin-safe standard than federal law requires, and then broke its “heightened promise.”


The plaintiff Melinda Wright accused Costco of violating California consumer protection laws by claiming its tuna was caught with “100% Monofilament Leaders & Circle Hooks,” a practice she said is not dolphin-safe, and was “100% Traceable from Sea to Shelf,” which she said could not be verified.

Costco had sought a dismissal. The Issaquah, Washington-based retailer said Wright only speculated about the risk to dolphins in tuna she bought, and that it made no promises about dolphin safety beyond using a “dolphin safe” logo on labels.


But the judge said reasonable consumers would infer from Costco’s logo and statements about seafood sourcing that its fishing practices promoted “protection of and respect for” marine life, with limited negative environmental effects.

He said this was particularly important because consumers “overwhelmingly” prefer tuna labeled dolphin-safe when given a choice.

Costco had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Wright did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Orrick did not rule on the case’s merits.

Wright said she paid $15 for eight cans of Kirkland Signature White Albacore Tuna in Water at a Costco in Ukiah, California in 2021, and would not have done so or would have paid less had she known Costco’s claims were misleading.

The case is Wright v Costco Wholesale Corp, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-04343.
 

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Ontario integrity commissioner, auditor general to launch Greenbelt investigations
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Allison Jones
Published Jan 18, 2023 • 3 minute read

Ontario’s integrity commissioner and auditor general both announced Wednesday that they would conduct separate investigations into the government’s decision to open protected Greenbelt lands up to housing development.


The integrity commissioner is launching an investigation into Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark based on a complaint from incoming NDP leader Marit Stiles. She sought an investigation into what she calls “curious timing of recent purchases of Greenbelt land by powerful landowners with donor and political ties to the Ontario PC Party.”


Stiles cited media reports that some developers bought that land over the past few years despite Clark and the premier previously publicly saying it wouldn’t be developed, with one purchase happening as recently as September — two months before Clark announced he’d open the lands up.

“The whole point of this is to shine a light, I think, in some of the dark corners to see whether or not anything has actually been conducted improperly,” she said at a press conference Wednesday.


“These are rich developers, these are donors to the (Progressive) Conservative Party and so we want to make sure that they weren’t given any kind of special heads-up or that they weren’t given any special treatment here. Obviously, the result of the government’s change of heart … is going to benefit and make a lot of money for very few people.”

Clark announced in November that the government will remove land from 15 different areas of the protected Greenbelt, while adding acres elsewhere so that 50,000 homes can be built.

Stiles asked the integrity commissioner to investigate whether Clark broke ethics rules around making a public policy decision to further someone’s private interests.

Clark and Premier Doug Ford have both denied tipping off developers ahead of the public announcement.


Clark “looks forward to being cleared of any wrongdoing at the conclusion of the investigation,” a spokesperson for the minister said in an emailed statement.

The integrity commissioner declined to investigate a similar complaint by Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, saying Stiles’ request and “extensive affidavit and supporting material” did provide “reasonable and probable grounds” to start an investigation.

Commissioner J. David Wake wrote that when given a chance to respond to Schreiner’s complaint, Ford and Clark said the specific Greenbelt lands were selected by development by public servants who were subject to an enhanced confidentiality protocol.

Stiles, Schreiner and interim Liberal Leader John Fraser had also jointly written to the auditor general to ask her to conduct a value-for-money audit of financial and environmental implications of the Greenbelt decision. Bonnie Lysyk confirmed in a letter Wednesday to the three leaders that she would investigate.


“This issue has garnered significant public attention over the past few months and has been repeatedly raised during question periods in the legislature. We have received considerable correspondence on this issue,” Lysyk wrote.

“While requests from individual members of the legislature and the public are assessed and factor into our audit work, a letter requesting us to conduct work in a specific area jointly signed by the leaders of all Opposition parties of the Ontario Legislative Assembly is a request of high significance.”

The government has assured Lysyk she will have their full co-operation, she said. Audit work is set to start in the next few weeks.

A spokesperson for Clark said the developments will see desperately needed affordable and attainable homes built, and that the government pledges to “set aside” any environmentally sensitive areas to protect them before any construction begins.

Schreiner said he is glad the two investigations will go ahead, though he conceded that neither office has particularly strong disciplinary powers.

“But the court of public opinion is powerful and the people of Ontario need to know the truth,” he said at a press conference. “There needs to be transparency and accountability around these land deals that do not pass the smell test.”
 

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Australian park rangers say 'Toadzilla' could be world's biggest toad
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
James Redmayne and Joseph Campbell
Published Jan 20, 2023 • 1 minute read
Cane toad dubbed "Toadzilla" and believed by Australian park rangers to be the world's biggest toad is held by Queensland Department of Environment and Science Ranger Kylee Gray, in Conway National Park, Queensland, Australia January 12, 2023.
Cane toad dubbed "Toadzilla" and believed by Australian park rangers to be the world's biggest toad is held by Queensland Department of Environment and Science Ranger Kylee Gray, in Conway National Park, Queensland, Australia January 12, 2023. PHOTO BY QUEENSLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRON /via REUTERS
SYDNEY — Australian park rangers believe they have stumbled upon a record-breaking giant toad deep in a rainforest.

Dubbed “Toadzilla,” the cane toad, an invasive species that poses a threat to Australia’s ecosystem, was spotted by “shocked” park ranger Kylee Gray during a patrol in Conway National Park in Queensland state on Jan. 12.


Gray and her colleagues caught the animal and brought it back to their office, where it weighed in at a 2.7 kg (6 pounds).

Guinness World Records lists the largest toad at 2.65 kg (5.8 pounds), a 1991 record set by a Swedish pet.

“We considered naming her Connie after Conway National Park but Toadzilla was the one that just kept getting thrown out there, so that kind of stuck,” Gray told state broadcaster ABC on Friday.



Gray’s colleague, senior park ranger Barry Nolan, told Reuters the animal was euthanised due to its “ecological impact” — the usual fate for the toads across Australia.

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 to control cane beetles and other pests but their population exploded and with no natural predators they have become a threat to Australian species, Nolan said.

“A female cane toad like potentially Toadzilla would lay up to 35,000 eggs. So their capacity to reproduce is quite staggering. And all parts of the cane toad’s breeding cycle are poisonous to Australian native species, so prevention is a big part of how we need to manage them,” he said.

Toadzilla’s body was donated to the Queensland Museum for research.
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How a saucerlike cloud hovered over Turkey
What made the cloud in Bursa especially aesthetically pleasing was the time of day it formed

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Matthew Cappucci
Published Jan 23, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read
A gorgeous lenticular cloud downwind of Mount Shasta in Northern California in February 2020.
A gorgeous lenticular cloud downwind of Mount Shasta in Northern California in February 2020. PHOTO BY PAUL ZERR/SHASTA-TRINITY NATIONA /Handout
As a round, orange-tinted cloud hovered over Bursa, Turkey, it might have looked like a flying saucer was about to land. But it was just a lenticular cloud – not uncommon in the vicinity of tall mountains.


Photographs and videos of the cloud on Thursday have gone viral, captivating viewers around the world. Some have questioned the legitimacy of the images. But they’re genuine, and they offer an opportunity to dive into some fascinating meteorology.


Bursa – where the cloud was seen – is about 50 miles south of Istanbul, across the Sea of Marmara. It’s home to about 2 million people.

How did it form?
Integral to our meteorological detective work is knowledge of the surrounding area. In this case, a quick bit of online research finds that Bursa is nestled in the foothills around 8,343-foot Mount Uludag just to the south.

The lenticular cloud in photographs is a textbook example. It resembles a stack of pancakes or hockey pucks in the sky.


Lenticular clouds form in linearly stratified environments – or those characterized by a perfectly layered atmosphere. (Picture “settled” salad dressing that has separated into layers based on the density of ingredients. The atmosphere does the same thing; we just can’t see it.)

Under ordinary circumstances, those layers remain separated. But if an obstruction or obstacle (like a mountain) spans multiple layers, air from below can be forced upward, interrupting the otherwise perfectly layered environment. This is especially true when winds closer to the ground push air masses toward rising terrain, so they have no option but to rise as well.

Because air near the ground ordinarily holds more moisture than the air above it, that pocket of near-surface air winds up moister than the surrounding environment. And since air temperatures cool with height, that air parcel may be chilled down to its dew point as it ascends. When that happens, the air becomes saturated – and forms a cloud.


But the influence of the mountain doesn’t last forever. In fact, once the bunched-up air has passed over the mountain or obstruction, it descends to its original level – warming up, drying out and eroding the cloud. Thus, the cloud is present only over the top of the mountain and just downwind, forming a hat-like cap cloud that is often circular.

Even though lenticular clouds appear to remain stationary over the top of the mountain, they’re actually formed in very windy environments. Remember – they’re born from a stream of air forced up and then back down, so there’s a constant channel of air flowing through them. On Thursday, strong winds from the south were blowing over western Turkey because of low pressure over northern Italy.


Other notable examples
What made the cloud in Bursa especially aesthetically pleasing was the time of day it formed – shortly before sunrise. Its altitude, probably around 10,000 to 20,000 feet, allowed it to catch sunlight and be illuminated before the sun actually poked over the horizon and bathed the city in amber warmth.

A similar photo from Weed, Calif., went viral in February 2020.

In the United States, lenticular clouds are common in western areas, where Pacific moisture is forced over the high terrain of the Rockies. The greater the variations in topography, the more prominent the resulting lenticular. They’re frequently spotted perched above Mount Rainier in Washington state.

They can form in the eastern United States, too, including in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. One example from last spring depicts an invasion of shallow lenticular clouds in the D.C. area.

In Gibraltar, an ever-present lenticular cloud known as the “Levanter” is a staple of the city’s skyscape.
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spaminator

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Humans still have the genes for a full coat of body hair
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Mark Johnson
Published Jan 24, 2023 • 6 minute read

Roughly a million years ago human beings lost most of their body hair, a key moment in evolution that involved major changes to the same set of genes that determined whether many of our fellow mammals kept or lost their coatings of fur, according to new research.


The study, published in the journal eLife, compared our genetic blueprints with those of 62 other mammals, including elephants, manatees and armadillos, examining how hairlessness evolved in different species at different times. The work also identified new genes and gene regulators linked to body hair, a discovery that may someday be used to treat millions of balding Americans.


The technique of comparing broad changes in the genetic codes of different mammals may also allow scientists to investigate questions with profound implications for human health: What genes developed to protect naked mole rats from cancer, and can they be manipulated in humans to treat or prevent the disease? What genetic changes have allowed bowhead whales to live for up to 200 years, far longer than any human, and can the knowledge be used to increase our life span?


“I think this is a very powerful application,” said Peter Sudmant, an assistant professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkeley who was not involved in the study. The research method used has emerged at a moment when sequencing technology is advancing rapidly, allowing scientists to read long sequences of DNA faster and more accurately.

“I think we’re at the dawn of a very important era of medical genetics and comparative evolutionary genomics,” Sudmant said.

Hundreds of genes were likely to have been involved in the loss of most our body hair, said Nathan Clark at the University of Utah, who carried out the study with Amanda Kowalczyk at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Maria Chikina at the University of Pittsburgh. Using computational tools they helped develop, the authors found that although the genes for a full covering of body hair remain in our genetic code, they have been muted.


“The initial loss of hair in a lot of species was likely very adaptive,” Clark said. “When you think about it, clearly a dolphin swimming in the water, or a whale or a manatee, would be greatly slowed down. They need to be streamlined. They don’t need that hair covering anymore.”

In the case of humans, one theory holds that the loss of body hair proved advantageous for hunting in warm climates. Less hair, coupled with development of a system that allowed the body to cool off by sweating, may have been key changes that allowed humans to become better hunters, able to chase some prey to exhaustion.

Although the fossil record is insufficient to determine precisely when ancient humans lost their full body hair, Clark said, “it’s likely to have occurred when we were leaving the shaded canopy of trees and then heading out supposedly on foot across open areas . . . so heat dissipation probably became a pretty important thing for us, and the ability to sweat probably came at the same time.”


“That would be my guess,” Clark said, clarifying that, “this paper doesn’t prove that.”

What the new study does show is the insight that can be gained by taking a multispecies view of evolution. Attempting to pinpoint specific genes that shut off in one animal that lost its body hair would be, as Clark put it, “a needle-in-a-haystack problem.”

However, finding genetic changes common to many animals that lost hair is far more manageable. Scientists can line up the genetic blueprints of each animal and note areas that have changed rapidly in some species while remaining constant in others. The approach capitalizes on an underappreciated fact of evolution: Despite very different appearances and behaviors, humans share much of their DNA with other mammals: 99 percent with chimpanzees, 85 percent with mice and 80 percent with cows.


Clark and his colleagues compared more than 19,000 genes and almost 350,000 regulatory regions and narrowed their focus to those linked to keeping or losing body hair. Many of the genes linked to hair growth contain instructions for making the protein keratin, which forms hair, nails and the skin’s outer layer.

The scientists examined animals that lost their full body hair along with others, such as bison, guinea pigs, aardvarks and bears, that have retained full coats of fur. They designed their study to discount genetic regions that code for two confounding variables: living in water and large body size. A disproportionate number of thinly haired mammals are large, and those living on land in hot climates would face challenges dissipating heat.


Among animals who lost body hair, some may have experienced the evolutionary change much more recently.

“If you look at African elephants and Indian elephants, they’re relatively hairless, but they have very close relatives who were alive hundreds of thousands of years that were completely woolly,” Clark said. “You have this dichotomy where [woolly mammoths] went up north and kept all of their thick hair, and [elephants] are down south and they lost it all. They have very sparse hair covering.”

The process of losing body hair was likely to have been very slow, and among mammals it occurred at least nine different times, according to the paper. The key factor determining how long the transition took was whether lack of hair provided an animal with a specific advantage. If it did, selective pressure favored animals that had the genes for full body hair dialed down or turned off.


For example, a warmer climate that reduced vegetation in the tundra is thought to have contributed to the extinction of woolly mammoths about 10,000 years ago.

“If the more woolly ones that couldn’t sweat well were dying off because they were overheating trying to chase some food source, then yes it would be a big disadvantage,” Clark said.

If there was a clear advantage, the loss of body hair might have occurred over hundreds of generations, taking thousands of years, Clark said. If there was no advantage but body hair was simply no longer important, then it would probably have taken thousands of generations or more.

The technique used in the paper also sheds light on the less-understood areas of our genetic blueprint. While about 20,000 genes carry the instructions for making proteins, they account for only about 2 percent of the genome. Other areas function much like a dimmer switch on a light, affecting the degree to which genes or groups of genes are turned up or down. Turning up a gene almost always causes more of a specific protein to be made.


“Not nearly as much work has been done on those regions,” said Mark Springer, a professor emeritus in evolution, ecology and organismal biology at the University of California at Riverside. This paper “really points the way forward for future research. There’s much more to be learned.”

In 2017 Clark and some of his colleagues used a similar technique to compare the genomic evolution of animals that live above ground with blind mammals that live below ground. They found many vision- and skin-related genes that changed at a faster rate in animals living underground. They also identified genes and regulatory regions that could be used as potential targets for treatment of congenital eye diseases.

“I have to say this kind of stuff is incredibly cool,” Sudmant said. “We’re looking at 75 million years of evolution. The fact that you can look at the molecular pathways that are influencing a trait like body hair is mind-blowing.”
 

spaminator

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Group forms to build small modular nuclear reactor in Ontario
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Jan 27, 2023 • < 1 minute read

CLARINGTON, Ont. — Ontario Power Generation, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and Aecon Group Inc. are joining forces to build a small modular nuclear reactor in Ontario.

The group wants to build the reactor at the Darlington site, east of Toronto.


Under the agreement, OPG will be the license holder and have overall responsibility for the project.

GE Hitachi will be the technology developer, responsible for design, procurement of major components, and engineering and support.

Meanwhile, SNC-Lavalin will provide design, engineering and procurement support and Aecon will be the builder.

Construction of the project is expected to be complete by late 2028.
 

Dixie Cup

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I know that Alberta, along with Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario were also looking at modular nuclear generation but I don't recall what has happened to the idea.

A strategic plan for the deployment of small modular reactors is where I found this information.


Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta are working together to leverage each province’s experiences and expertise to advance SMR development and deployment in Canada. Together, the four provinces have outlined several actions required to enable provincial decision making on whether or not to move forward with specific SMR projects, and the actions required if a decision to proceed is made.

 
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spaminator

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Scientists invented melting liquid robot that can escape from cage
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Leo Sands, The Washington Post
Published Jan 27, 2023 • 4 minute read

This tiny robot can melt, escape from a prison by sliding through secure bars, and then reform into a solid and complete tasks.


The metal microbot, made out of liquid metal microparticles that can be steered and reshaped by external magnetic fields, has been widely compared to the character T-1000 in “The Terminator” movie franchise, a cyborg assassin played by Robert Patrick that could morph his way around solid objects before embarking on a murderous rampage.


But, in contrast with the film, the inventors of this robot believe their discovery can be used for good – particularly in clinical and mechanical settings – by reaching hard-to-reach spaces.

The robot was presented as part of a study into the metal microparticles, known as a type of magnetoactive phase transitional matter, that can morph shape, move quickly, be controlled easily and carry many times its own body weight.


The scientists behind the study, who published their findings Wednesday in the journal Matter, created the robot using a composite of metals with a low melting point.

“This material can achieve Terminator-2 like performance, including fast movement and heavy load bearing when it is in its solid state, and shape changing in its liquid state,” Chengfeng Pan, an engineer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who co-authored the study, told The Washington Post, when asked about his discovery and the comparisons being made to the Terminator movies.

“Potentially, this material system can be used for applications in flexible electronics, health care, and robotics.”

By blasting the robot with magnetic fields at alternating currents, scientists increased its temperature to 95 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) and caused it to morph from a solid into a liquid state in 1 minute 20 seconds. Once transformed into liquid metal, the figurine could be steered through the narrow gaps of its locked cage by more magnets – demonstrating its morphability.


It is the first time a material capable of both shifting shape and carrying heavy loads has been identified for use in microbots, according to scientists at the Chinese, Hong Kong and American universities who worked on the study – solving a riddle that has confounded miniature robot makers who previously struggled to achieve both morphability and strength in their designs.

In its liquid form, the robot could be made to elongate, divide, and merge. In solid form, it was steered at speeds exceeding 3 mph and carried heavy objects up to 30 times its own weight. The combination means a robot made from the material could be deployed to fix electronics in difficult to reach places, for example working as a makeshift screw or for electronic soldering in tight spots.


In another experiment, researchers demonstrated how the robot could be deployed inside a model human stomach to remove an unwanted foreign object. Scientists steered the solid-form robot, measuring less than 0.4 inch in width, through the fake organ until it had located the foreign object. It was then melted by remotely controlled magnetic fields, stretched in its new liquid metal state around the object – and once securely hugging it – cooled back into a solid, allowing it to tow the foreign object out of the chamber.

The shape-shifting material is the latest in a string of developments across the burgeoning field of miniature robotics – as scientists race to identify potential medical and mechanical applications for tiny robots in everyday life.


Recent microrobotic innovations include robots small enough to potentially crawl through human arteries, intelligent enough to be taught to swim, and others capable of flying through the air powered by tiny onboard power supplies.

“We’re still early in the exploration of what kind of materials can do this,” Brad Nelson, a professor of Robotics at ETH Zurich who was not part of the study, told The Washington Post. One of the most interesting areas of research in microrobotics right now is in clinical applications – particularly the delivery of drugs to the brain or for treating blood clots, he adds.

While the metal microbot unveiled on Wednesday is instructive, its use of neodymium iron boron – toxic to humans – means it would only be clinically safe for use inside humans if it were completely removed from the body afterward, Nelson says.


“The folks that are really looking at clinical applications of these devices, we want to look at materials that can degrade in the body, remain in the body, without causing harm to the patient,” Nelson said.

For Pan, the comparisons between his creation and the Terminator’s T-1000 character are understandable – but limited in how far they can be taken. “Our robot still needs an external heater for melting and external magnetic field for controlling the movement and shape changing,” he said. “Terminator is fully autonomous.”

Nelson also argues that the risk of inadvertently creating a real-life cyborg assassin is not something to worry about.

“I don’t see any possibility of injecting something into somebody, and then the microbots swim into their brain and take over their thoughts, or something crazy like that.

“The technology isn’t there, and I don’t see it going there,” Nelson says – adding that were the technology to be tested in clinical settings there would be safeguards in place to protect against such risks.