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Scanlan: Kids are now heavier, rounder and weaker — the fix ought to be simple

24 March 2017 00:17:00 Ottawa Citizen - News

A 12-year-old millennial is taller, heavier, rounder and weaker that a typical child a quarter-century earlier. So says a professor of pediatrics and a leading expert on childhood obesity. Part four of a four-part series by Wayne Scanlan on youth fitness and sports specialization. Here's a doctor who gives the diagnosis straight up. The patient, in this case, is the country of Canada. Asked to rate Canadian youth on their health and fitness levels, Dr. Mark Tremblay, a professor of pediatric medicine at the University of Ottawa, speaks bluntly, almost sadly. “Statistically, we're not doing so well,” says Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) based at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. “Not just statistically, but meaningfully.” Several years ago, Tremblay published a scientific paper comparing a 12-year-old boy and girl from 1981 to a typical 12-year-old in 2007 (based on Statistics Canada data collected from 2007-09). The changes were telling, if hardly surprising. “It's profound, just to summarize, that a 12-year-old is taller, heavier, rounder, weaker, less flexible and less aerobically fit than a generation ago,” Tremblay says. One can surmise the fitness gap would be even larger today, based on the 'F' grade doled out by Participaction — a non-profit that promotes active living — under the Sedentary Behaviour category in a 2016 report card on youth fitness. According to Tremblay's report, the waist circumference of a 12-year-old girl increased by six centimetres in the 1981/2007 comparison. The grip strength of a boy declined by 10 per cent. As Tremblay says, these findings make sense when we imagine the cultural shift in childhood activities over the past 30 years. Children were outside every free moment, climbing trees, throwing balls and wrestling after school. They gripped sticks and fired snowballs. “Just thinking about grip strength, children today grip, very gently, their smart phone, not a tree branch, and not the scruff of someone's neck,” says Tremblay. At 55, he grew up playing outside, as did most of his generation. “These are very profound and from a health perspective, very important changes we've seen over time.” According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality, contributing to an estimated 3.2 million deaths world-wide each year. Ian Janssen of Queen's University reported that sedentary behaviour cost the Canadian economy an estimated $6.8 billion in 2009. Continuing down this path with climbing rates of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the resulting hit to the economy due to health costs and absenteeism will be massive. On the flip side, the Conference Board of Canada notes in a 2014 report that a simple intervention of increased physical activity and reduced sedentary behaviours would reduce health care spending by more than $2 billion by the year 2040. And still we sit idle. The data on adult fitness is even more grim. In 2015, Health Canada reported that 54 per cent of Canadian adults were considered overweight or obese, compared to 23.1 per cent of adolescents 12-17. “Scientifically the fitness of our nation has declined,” Tremblay says. “We've demonstrated quite recently that aerobic fitness in children around the world has declined, in a systematic way across the last several decades. Again, not that surprising. “The decline is slower in mid and lower-income countries where they walk to school, do their chores, and need to lift things.” Get outdoors How to change this picture? Dr. Tremblay draws a sigh, based on years of delivering a message unheeded. A culture change is required, as fundamental as a glance back to Canada's past, a simpler time when we spent hours outside engaged in work and play. Those same electronic devices holding adults and children in a spell deliver overwrought tales from around the globe of danger lurking around the corner. “If you send your eight-year-old out to play on his own some nosy neighbour is going to call child services and a whole orchestration is involved,” Tremblay says. In the 1960s if a child wasn't outside playing, neighbours would have thought that family strange. Fear permeates our culture, and not just because of the latest terrorist attack. Dr. Tremblay notes dryly, “you can't go out in the morning because of mosquitoes and the risk of West Nile (virus). Later in the day, there is rush hour traffic . . . pollution. Sun causes skin cancer. “So, you can't go out at any point in time.” MORE: Senators strength coach alarmed over declining youth athletic skills The solution seems simple. Shake the fear and open the door. Instantly, activity levels rise, sedentary behaviours wane. Bone density improves. Stress evaporates. Texting and walking becomes difficult, but the smart phone will dutifully record an active step count. Later in the day, sleep should be better. “Incidental eating is reduced,” Tremblay says, of the bi-products of going outdoors. “Steps increase. Connection with the environment is improved. The chances of authentic interaction with people, animals, plants is infinitely greater. And on it goes.” Tremblay calls the widespread opportunity of an activity outdoors, as rudimentary as a walk, the “low hanging fruit” against a building health care crisis. “I'm looking out my back window right now,” says Tremblay, watching his dogs wrestle playfully. “It's there. It's free. I can go there right now and do something and so can everyone.” The majority of Canadians live within a kilometre of a public park. There is a movement, gaining strength, of advocating not just outdoor play but slightly more risky play, such as running UP a slide or climbing trees. Activities of yore. Dr. Mariana Brussoni led a study in British Columbia that showed risky outdoor play promoted health, but also creativity, social skills and resilience in youth. ALSO: In high schools, teens increasingly channeled into just one sports stream We have the doctor's diagnosis. Now, the summation of a remedy: “You've got to eat well, move well, sleep well and avoid toxins. It's as simple as that,” Tremblay says. “We can make it as complicated and as sexy as we want. Sell supplements and fancy gadgets or whatever, but the basics always rise to the top.” Frontier reputation Two weeks ago, Tremblay delivered the keynote closing address at the 2017 Canadian Parks conference in honour of Canada's sesquicentennial celebrations. He was struck by the irony presented to him, marking an active, glorious past during this period of inertia. “As we reflect back on 150 years, we have a heritage as frontiers people — nature and the outdoors are almost synonymous with what it was like to be Canadian, whether it's canoeing across a lake or snowshoeing through a forest,” Tremblay says. “And the great outdoors is still there. We are the second biggest country in the world, probably the most beautiful, and physical activity opportunities are endless.” But wait: There's good news for Canadians who can't find the time to exercise Vacuuming the family room counts. Dr. Veronica Poitras, a researcher with CADTH, a not-for-profit health care resource, led a comprehensive review by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) in 2015 that illustrated how even a modicum of exercise delivers health benefits. Focusing on school-aged children and youth (5-17), the review included findings from 16

Vice null Time24 March 2017 00:17:00


Unsolved in the Ottawa Valley, Part 2: The locals call it death row

14 March 2017 13:15:25 Ottawa Citizen - News

In April 2014, two people out for an evening stroll in rural Morewood came across a human skull in a ditch running with spring meltwater. The body was badly decomposed: It had been exposed to the elements, and preyed upon by insects and animals. Ontario Provincial Police cordoned off the area, and launched a forensic investigation. An autopsy determined the individual, a man, had been the victim of foul play. For strategic reasons, however, the police did not release his cause of death. They deemed it “hold back material,” information that would be known only to the killer. Such material can sometimes identify a false confession, or seal a conviction if drawn from an interview subject. DNA testing was required to identify the body and, two months later, the OPP confirmed what others in the community had already theorized: The victim was Raymond Collison, a Winchester Springs man who had disappeared in September 2009. Collison’s family had reported him missing three weeks after he was last seen getting on his bicycle outside the McCloskey Hotel in Chesterville. Raymond Collison Collison, 58, lived with mental illness — schizophrenia — and had disappeared before for weeks at a time. His family knew something was wrong only when his mail began to pile up and his government cheques went unclaimed. The discovery of Collison’s body solved one longstanding local mystery in North Dundas Township. But it also breathed new life into a startling assortment of old, dark ones. • Locals call it death row. The flat, four-kilometre stretch of Thompson Road, just outside of Morewood, is home to a smattering of family farms, some vast cornfields and a gravel pit. Patches of forest mark division lines between properties. It looks like any other rural road in North Dundas Township. Yet this stretch of quiet country road in “Canada’s dairy capital” has seen more tragedy than most inner city streets. The decomposed corpse of Raymond Collison was found at the corner of Thompson Road and Steen Road. A few kilometres away is the bungalow where Randy Rankin was shot and killed on a winter’s night in February 2007 . His defiant widow, Dorothy, continues to live in the house: “No one is going to scare me out of my own home,” she says. Randy Rankin death remains an unsolved mystery. Morewood’s death row has known other tragedies. In September 2002, the charred remains of 58-year-old Fern Patenaude were found inside his burned out Ford pick-up truck in a field on Lafleur Road, just off Thompson Road. Patenaude, a part-time farmer, had suffered four years of anguish: An unexplained series of fires on his property had destroyed an old house, a barn, a machine shop, and a number of vehicles, including a vintage 1936 Chevy. Fern Patenaude tends to a wounded horse. But it was the scene that he encountered on the afternoon of March 4, 2002 that would leave him, he later told reporters, “just about at the end of my rope.” That day, when he went to feed his two Belgian draft horses, he found Pirate, a four-year-old, dead on the ground from a gunshot wound. The horse’s genitals had been mutilated. The other horse, Prince, had also been hit with a shotgun blast, but would survive. “I just don’t know who in the devil would do that,” Patenaude said at the time. Two young offenders were later convicted of shooting the horses and mutilating Pirate. The OPP initially concluded that Patenaude’s death was accidental. Forensic tests showed he did not suffer any injuries — broken bones or gunshot wounds — before being overcome by smoke and flames. His body was found splayed out the back window of his cab, halfway into the bed of his truck. Investigators said careless smoking might have caused the fire that killed him. But police reviewed the case in the aftermath of the Collison killing, and now consider it a suspicious death because of one gnawing question: Why didn’t Patenaude escape out a door instead of pushing out the solid window of his cab? What’s more, the fires that had plagued the last few years of Patenaude’s life did not stop with the arrest of the two young offenders. By 2006, a serial arsonist was believed to be sowing fear across the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Dorothy Rankin’s father, Ray Thompson, was one of the arson victims. A late night barn fire on his Thompson Road farm killed two horses and a pig. One of the horses, a standardbred named Laddie Starr, had finished in the money only days earlier. More than two dozen barns, storage buildings and farmhouses burned to the ground in the county under mysterious circumstances in 2006 and 2007. Hundreds of cattle died in the blazes, a handful of which were found to be arson; the rest were deemed “suspicious.” No one has ever been charged with those crimes. Yet, as bizarre as it may seem, the barn fires are not the most notorious string of unsolved crimes in the area. Not by a long shot. • Many young people in North Dundas Township don’t know the story of the Ottawa Valley serial killer. Even the township’s 29-year-old mayor, Eric Duncan, had not heard of the case when asked about it recently by a reporter. The case gripped the region in the 1980s, but has never been solved. No one has ever been charged in the four to six homicides linked to the killer, who tended to prey on people living alone in isolated houses. The killer sometimes burned the homes of his victims after slaying them. Three were shot in the head. The case is legend inside OPP detachments in Eastern Ontario. But when investigators started working the Raymond Collison homicide case in 2014, OPP Det. Insp. Jim Gorry warned his detectives not to look to the past. He instructed them to examine the case based on its own unique set of facts. “We looked at the Collison case and said, ‘We don’t want to get tunnel vision: We want to do it independently, and where it leads us, it leads us,’” Gorry says, referring to the start of the Collison investigation. “And that’s exactly what we did.” TOMORROW : Unsolved in the Ottawa Valley, Part 3 . EARLIER: Unsolved in the Ottawa Valley, Part 1: The killing of Randy Rankin

Vice null Time14 March 2017 13:15:25

When they wander: If someone you love has Alzheimer's or dementia, it's the nightmare scenario

03 March 2017 22:28:27 Ottawa Citizen - News

Jeff Marier remembers the panic he felt when he came home from a rare dinner out with friends four years ago to find the lights blazing and the front door wide open. It wasn't his valuables he feared was missing. It was his mother. "At the time, I could still leave her alone. At least, I felt I could leave her alone," says Marier, 62, an only son who lived with his mother and was her only caregiver. "I walked in and there was no one there. I was scared. But there was a message on the phone from my neighbour. They said 'We've got your mother here. We found her outside wandering around.' Luckily she knocked on their door. She said she was lost." Mary Marier, now 90 and living in a long-term care, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2006. Mary had wandered twice before, but nothing as serious as this. Jeff Marier holds a photo of his mother, Mary, while visiting her at her long term care facility in Ottawa. Tony Caldwell "That was the final straw," Jeff said. "From that point on, I knew I could not leave her alone. That changed everything. That meant I was here. There was no running to the store, no running to the bank. Either I'm taking her with me or I'm not going. It's a scary feeling when someone disappears like that." Mary had become one of the "the wanderers" — patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease who see a doorway as a route home — even if the home they're thinking of is one they haven't lived in for decades. Ottawa police don't collect stats on how many of the 1,600 adult missing persons cases they investigated last year involved dementia, but Sgt. Reno Rushford of the Missing Persons Unit knows the number is rising quickly. "After 30 years of being here, I can tell you without a doubt that those numbers are higher than they were even five years ago," Rushford said. “It’s the ones where you go to an elderly couple’s house and they just don’t want to leave their home that are so heartbreaking," Rushford said. "You have an elderly lady and she says, ‘He was doing fine. He was sitting in his chair. I thought I would have 20 minutes to at least take a shower today. But I came out and he was gone. "Then the search is on." More than half a million Canadians are living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, a number that's likely to double in the next 15 years, according to the Alzheimer's Society of Canada. There is no cure, not even a proven treatment to slow the disease's progression. About 60 per cent of those afflicted experience at least one incident of wandering during their illness. Those who don't are probably just too disabled to walk, says Dr. Frank Knoefel of Bruyère Research Institute's Memory Program. "If everyone with Alzheimer’s was physically fit, then there would come a time where everyone would have a period of (wandering)," Knoefel said. "As the disease progresses, physically you’re still very well, but cognitively you don’t remember. And if you don’t recognize that you’ve been to this place before, then your mind map starts breaking down." "Mind maps" are nothing more than a collection of memories built up over time: We know that to get home, we turn left at the church then right at the gas station. Alzheimer's and dementia strip away memories like peeling layers off an onion, Knoefel said. "Bits and pieces of the map disappear. I'll see the gas station but if I don't remember to turn there, I'll just keep going." Often someone with dementia reverts to an earlier time in their life. Mary Marier became outspoken about her experience with Alzheimer's. "If when I was 40, my morning routine was to go out and get my coffee then buy my newspaper, then that's what I'm going to do, even if I don't live in the same place I did when I was 40. When I step outside, suddenly it's 'Where am I? Where's home?'" That can be profoundly disturbing for loved ones. Jean's husband, Dan, was a forester who used to tend a 1,400-acre woodlot near Sault St. Marie and a sailor who could precisely navigate his 27-foot sailboat the length of Lake Superior in heavy fog. Jean was one of about 70 people who attended an information session on Alzheimer's disease last month hosted by MPP Lisa MacLeod. (The Citizen agreed to not use the couple's real names to protect the family's privacy.) "The forest was his home," Jean said. After the couple moved to Ottawa, he still loved to walk. Then in 2015, Dan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. "He used to walk through the neighbourhood. Then he started not coming home. That’s when I got scared." Jean bought a GPS tracker for Dan to wear like a watch. Once he disappeared and they found him wandering in a construction site two kilometres away. Another time, he wandered on to a golf course. "My fear is that he would get tired and just lie down somewhere. It was summer, but on a golf course, who's going to find him? I was very scared.” Dan now lives in a secure retirement home in Nepean. Most searches end quietly and quickly — about 95 per cent are found within a half kilometre of home — but occasionally they are gone for hours or are found kilometres away. When the weather is harsh, wandering can be deadly, especially since the loss of "executive function" in the brain can make people walk out into sub-zero weather without proper winter clothing. Earlier this week, police spent the night looking for a 70-year-old man with dementia and diabetes who wandered away from the retirement home where he lived during the confusion of a shift change. He was missing for 20 hours until officers found him the next morning walking on Heron Road. He couldn't say where he'd spent the night. "He hadn't been seen since noon and we weren't called until that night so already we were six or eight hours behind," Rushford said. "He was OK, but imagine what would have happened if it had been -20 that night." Sgt. Reno Rushford is head of the OPS Missing Persons Unit for the Ottawa Police Service. Rushford remembers one man who went missing in Billings Bridge who turned up hours later in a coffee shop near Parliament Hill after walking straight up Bank Street. In another call in Orléans, the man walked to a fire station where the firefighters called police. "We were able to get him back, but it was difficult because he was very aggressive," Rushford said. "He said, ‘I don’t need your help. I’m a grown man. You’re embarrassing me.’ His wife was there and she was completely drained. It’s just very sad to see that deterioration of someone." When a call for a missing senior comes in, front-line officers must decide whether it must be treated urgently. Is the person on medication? Do they suffer mental-health issues? Have they wandered before? Is there a pattern to their wandering -- to old neighbourhoods or former workplaces? Finding wanderers is also more difficult today because few people know their neighbours anymore. "It used to be, I could go to a house on a street and say, ‘Have you seen Mr. Jones?’ and everybody on the street would know who he was," Rushford

Vice null Time03 March 2017 22:28:27

Why alien species can have catastrophic economic consequences

28 February 2017 17:17:01 Ottawa Citizen - News

The invasion of alien species should be treated as a natural disaster, says a Canadian researcher who will be among the headliners at a national conference on preventing the spread of invasive species. Like natural disasters, species that enter a biological niche where they have never before existed can be difficult to control and predict and can have catastrophic consequences, says Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of environmental science at McGill University. On the east coast of Canada, Japanese seaweed is wiping out native kelp. Dutch elm disease, known since 1945 in Canada, is spreading into Western Canada. And piranhas, native to South America, have been found in the Great Lakes. While they are not able to overwinter so far, climate change could change that. "Every time we think we have seen the worst, there's something else," says Ricciardi. "You could see it as biological pollution. It should be treated with the same concern as oil spills." The National Invasive Species Forum, which runs in Ottawa from Tuesday though Thursday, has attracted about 100 people, from scientists to government officials and representatives from the pet industry, says Gail Wallin, co-chair of the Canadian Council on Invasive Species. Ricciardi argues that biological invasions are a matter of "biosecurity." Invasions cost the fishery, forestry and agricultural industries billions of dollars every year. They can even result in the extinction of native plants and animals. Alien species should be treated like oil spills, says Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of environmental science at McGill University. The cost to the economy of alien species exceeds that economic impact of natural disasters, says Ricciardi. "I think of it as a national security issue. But we don't treat it that way." In 2004, the strategy for Canada said a preliminary review of the costs of invasive species pegged them conservatively at $13.3 million to $34.5 million annually for only 16 species. Meanwhile, there is an unprecedented pace of introduction of alien species because of global travel. The movement of plants and animals is a natural process, but it has been hijacked by humans, says Ricciardi. "On any given day, ships are transporting several thousand species. Travellers carry plant spores and seeds on their shoes and don't even know it. Some species are sold as pets." Ricciardi said he would like to see a shift from the focus on the "monster stories" of individual species. One of the greatest dangers is that some alien species create synergies with other aliens, with disastrous consequences. As more invaders are accumulating in ecosystems, it can be expected that they will be more disruptive, he says. For example, the synergy of zebra mussels and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes along with another invader, a small bottom-dwelling fish called the round goby, as well as bacteria, have been linked to the deaths of fish-eating birds such as loons and mergansers. Invaders that have appeared to be innocuous for many years may suddenly become dangerous as the result of changing factors such as climate change, he says. Ricciardi urges a precautionary approach, as Australia and New Zealand have done, and rapid federal response management. The principles that apply to disaster preparedness should also apply to invasion preparedness, he says. "Invaders are like hidden taxes. They are invisible, but the cost doesn't go away. The cost of prevention is minuscule compared to chronic costs." One of the things to be discussed at the conference is a federal database and a list of species to be shared among the provinces. But ordinary people are part of the solution, says Wallin. Many invasive species are moved by people, from gardeners who buy ornamental plants to children who release their goldfish into waterways. "When you give people the right tools, they will make the right decisions." Most unwanted Here are a list of some of the top "species of interest" that have invaded Canada according to Gail Wallin and Barry Gibbs, co-chairs of the Canadian Council on Invasive species. Giant hogweed: This was introduced as an ornamental garden plant but it has escaped and taken over roadsides in many parts of Canada. It may cause skin burns if touched. The emerald ash borer. Knotweed: Widespread across Canada, its roots have caused damage to foundations, roads and bridges. Knapweed: This purple-flowered weed was imported into North America more than a century ago and has since established itself in fields, forests and prairies, out-competing native species and reducing the amount of forage available for wildlife and livestock. Zebra mussels: Widespread in waterways in Eastern Canada as far west as Manitoba, these bivalves change the freshwater ecology, stripping nutrients from the ecosystem and clogging up water intakes. Emerald ash borer: This Asian native has killed millions of ash trees in Ontario. While they travel slowly on their own, they are dispersed by people moving firewood, logs and lumber. Asian longhorn beetle: This forest pest introduced in the 1990s has no natural North American enemies. It kills all broadleaf trees but prefers native maples. Feral pigs: Also known as wild boars, these Eurasian natives have escaped from farms where they were raised as meat animals. Known to be aggressive, they also destroy cropland and natural habitat because they tear up the ground while looking for food. They are also prolific in the wild. It is believed there are more than a million feral pigs in Saskatchewan. They have also be sighted in Ontario, including rural areas east of Ottawa. Wild boar, raised for meat, have escaped farms. Flowering rush: This pond plant, which produces a pink flower, was introduced as an aquatic ornamental. When it establishes itself on natural shorelines, this plan forms dense stands at interfere with recreation, crowd out native plants and harm fish and wildlife. Saltcedar: This native of Asia has been sold as an ornamental small tree or shrub for many decades. It produces a leaf litter that increases the salinity of the soil, discouraging native plant species. European fire ant: Found across Canada, this species lives colonies and is known for its painful bite. Colonies are hard to destroy once established. Asian carp: There are several species of Asian carp that have been found in North America, including the St. Lawrence River. They multiply quickly and displace native fish species, presenting a danger to sport and commercial fisheries. Northern snakehead: Also known as the "frankenfish" this toothy predator native to Asia has been found in several U.S. states. It was likely dumped into ponds, lakes and rivers from fish markets or pet shops. It been called the "walking fish" for its ability to travel on land for short distances by wiggling forward. It can survive out of water f

Vice null Time28 February 2017 17:17:01

Here's what gives a summer sunset its pretty colour

03 August 2016 19:19:00 Ottawa Citizen - News

This summer, Postmedia’s Tom Spears brings you the often offbeat science behind the season that calls us to go outdoors. It’s all part of a series we call the Science of Summer. Today’s story is on the science behind what makes a sunset pretty. The vivid colours in the sky at sunset look like art, but underlying them is the physics of light and colour, as fascinating as the colours themselves. Wayne Hocking of Western University's physics department has spent years studying our atmosphere, and knows a lot about what it does to light. Sunlight begins with all the colours of the rainbow combined, until our air breaks them apart. This happens because light bounces off molecules of nitrogen, oxygen and other gases in the atmosphere, a process known as scattering. Blue lightwaves are short compared to the warm colours of red and orange, Hocking explains, which makes blue light the most likely to scatter. Longer waves of red and orange light push through the air without scattering as much. "So the blue light scatters more than the reds and greens and yellows," he said. "Because the blue scatters more intensely, that's why the sky looks blue (in the middle of the day). "The red light, relative to the blue, sort of comes straight down to Earth, whereas the blue light coming from the sun scatters a bit more. So we have this bluish haze to the sky." Sunset introduces a new angle, literally. As the sun sets on the horizon, light is entering the horizon at a shallower angle. Late evening sun is cutting sideways through the atmosphere — passing through more air than the daytime sun coming nearly straight down. Now a second factor comes into play: absorption. The atmosphere actually absorbs some lightwaves, blotting them out completely. And the light it absorbs most is blue and green light — the short waves. The long trip sideways from a sun near the horizon filters out most of these colours. Red light is scattering around the sky and spreading its colour, meanwhile, and by evening it no longer has a lot of blue light overpowering it. "So by the time it (the sun) sets, the blue light has pretty much been absorbed and we're just left with the red light, and we're left with this reddish tinge," Hocking said. Dust particles in the atmosphere, pollutants and sooty particles from forest fires or even volcanoes will change the colour of a sunset. These make it more red, Hocking said. That's because these are relatively large particles (compared to molecules of nitrogen and oxygen), and therefore they are better able to scatter the long waves of red and orange light. The result is that large fires even many hundreds of kilometres away can send enough smoke downwind to change the colour of the sky, even when the smoke itself is not visible. Humidity can also add a reddish, hazy look, he said. Hocking has even seen a green sunset, also known as a green flash. It happens mostly near the poles, he said. With the sun dipping to the horizon, "the light will actually bend as it passes through the atmosphere. It's called refraction. "You can have occasions where it sort of bends the red light out of the way and the blue light is heavily absorbed, and you are left with a sun that actually looks green. "It's kind of cute.You can say, Hey, I've seen a green sun." Hocking was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014 in recognition of his work.

Vice null Time03 August 2016 19:19:00

Forest fires in Canada, by the numbers

05 May 2016 00:04:08 Simcoe County-News (from

A by-the-numbers look at the number and size of forest fires in Canada

Vice null Time05 May 2016 00:04:08

Albertans open arms — and doors — to wildfire evacuees

05 May 2016 00:01:54 Halton-News (from

Albertans welcome the displaced as Shell Canada and Syncrude offer space in their northern Alberta camps for evacuees fleeing the wildfire that continues to burn through Fort McMurray

Vice null Time05 May 2016 00:01:54

Humans leading cause of wildfires:scientist

04 May 2016 21:41:54 Brampton-News (from

Humans cause majority of wildfires in Canada: scientist

Vice null Time04 May 2016 21:41:54

Sky's the limit: Renfrew paramedics harness the power of drones

19 April 2016 00:25:48 Ottawa Citizen - News

The wheels started to turn for Renfrew paramedic chief Michael Nolan in February 2012 after one of his crews helped rescue a snowmobiler whose machine had crashed through the ice on Calabogie Lake. Paramedic Brad Smith later won a Governor General's Award for bravery for his role in the dramatic rescue, using a canoe and his hands for paddles to get to the stranded man clinging to a crust of ice. But Nolan thought there had to be a better way for paramedics to save lives — and money — in a jurisdiction that stretches its resources over 10,000 square kilometres from West Carleton to near Mattawa, and reaching into west Quebec and Algonquin Park. "What if it had been possible to know more about the situation on Calabogie Lake?" Nolan asked himself. "Or if there was a technology that could, say, deliver a rope to the desperate man hanging on to that wafer of ice?" Soon after, Nolan learned that one of his paramedics, James Power, had military experience with drones, also called "unmanned aerial vehicles," or UAVs. And the gears that were turning in Nolan's head clicked into place. The ability to assess a situation from the air would help first responders answer calls more efficiently and safely. The images and video also provide a record for quality assurance and training. A drone offers a "cheat sheet" for first responders, says Nolan. "It identifies the likely injuries. It lets you prepare for a situation that otherwise would be in the moment." The paramedic service's first drone was a hobbyist model. It soon became obvious Power needed one that could fly longer, have additional attachments and a more sophisticated operating system as well as greater awareness of the airspace. He has since upgraded to drones modified especially for the paramedics by B.C.'s InDro Robotics and technology from Ottawa's Kongsberg Geospatial that allows the drone operator to be aware of other objects around it to prevent collisions in the airspace. Drones can be mobilized much faster and less expensively than aircraft, and can get much closer, says Power. Police are still using $100,000 cameras mounted on aircraft to take pictures of crime scenes. That's not the most effective use of resources, he says. The drone was used for aerial surveillance when OPP were investing the scene of a homicide in Foymount last September. The Renfrew paramedic drone has been used for surveillance — the OPP seconded it to get a bird's-eye view of a homicide scene in Foymount as first responders followed the path of a killer who took the lives of three women last September. So much about the scene was unknown. Was the armed intruder still in the house? Where were the exits located? Where was the victim's 20-year-old son? The drone was also used during a forest fire near Eganville last spring, helping to identify hot spots. The possibilities are endless — you can even put a nuclear radiation detector on a drone, says Nolan. Last month, the drone checked out the hard-t0-access scene of a landslide that dragged several hectares of Leda clay and accompanying trees into the Bonnechere River, creating a natural dam. Within a few minutes, the drone identified the location and the extent of the damage. The landslide is a prime example of a situation where the drone proved its value, said Peter Emon, warden of Renfrew County and the reeve of the town of Renfrew. "I think every rural municipality should have one. It gives you a vantage point you wouldn't usually get." But the drone must be used within legislation that governs paramedics, including respect for privacy, as well as Transport Canada's regulatory framework that says drones can only be used within the operator's visual range. The paramedics have applied for exemptions from Transport Canada that would allow them to fly the drone any time or anywhere under appropriate conditions. Renfrew's paramedic service is the first emergency service in Canada to innovate and work collaboratively with Transport Canada. Nolan has spoken about the initiative as far away as Turkey, and will travel to Oxford in England later this spring. Soon, Nolan hopes that a drone can be used to deliver life-saving medications and devices such as an EpiPen for someone in anaphylactic shock. Instructions for using the device could be provided over a cellphone. "People are starting to think of UAVs as not just science fiction, but real-life tools," says Philip Reece, CEO of InDro Robotics. "I wouldn't be surprised if, within two years, it's standard for every fire engine to have a UAV on board."

Vice null Time19 April 2016 00:25:48

Military shrinks to lowest level in years – and could shrink further

27 January 2016 01:58:26 Ottawa Citizen - News

The Canadian Armed Forces have been bleeding personnel at an increasing rate, as attrition and recruiting problems push the number of men and women in uniform down to levels not seen in years. The numbers are likely a sign of things to come as the Liberal government moves on its promise to create a “leaner, more agile” force. The previous Conservative government expanded the military after coming to power a decade ago, adding thousands of men and women to the ranks. After the 2009 financial crisis, the government promised to keep 68,000 full-time military members and 27,000 reservists in uniform despite billions in spending cuts. But a Defence Department report tabled in the House of Commons this week shows a shortage of nearly 1,900 regular force members and 5,300 part-time reservists as of March 2015, thanks to higher than expected attrition and, for reservists, “challenges in meeting recruiting quotas.” That compares with a shortage of 900 full-time military personnel and 4,500 reservists the previous year. The military has said it needs more than 4,000 new recruits each year just to offset attrition and keep 68,000 full-time troops in uniform. The report doesn’t explain the difficulties in recruiting and retaining personnel, but the shortfall created problems, at least in the short term. Of 95 occupations in the regular forces, 24 were “stressed” – that is, understaffed – though the report said new recruits in the system would “gradually” make up the difference. The shortage of reservists was especially acute as the part-time force has been called upon numerous times to help with missions such as Afghanistan, or in crises at home such as floods and forest fires. The shortage of army and navy reservists was cited as a particular concern. Defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said the numbers in the report put the Canadian Armed Forces at their smallest size since at least 2009. But rather than rushing to the rescue, the Liberal government could end up shrinking the military even more. The Liberal government has ruled out any significant budget increases for defence. Instead, it has promised a comprehensive defence review to create the first defence white paper in more than 20 years, with a plan to making the military "leaner, more agile.” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed Tuesday that one of the things the government will be looking at is the size of the force. "It's going to look not just look at the procurement, it's going to look at our number of forces, how it connects into our global footprint," he told reporters outside the House of Commons. "We want to make sure that the Defence Review is done in a manner that sets us ­ Canada up for the next 10, 20 years and how we fit as part of the world." The Conservatives were sensitive about reducing the size of the military after criticizing previous Liberal governments for doing exactly that in the 1990s. But the Tories’ refusal to reduce the number of personnel in uniform at the same time it was cutting billions of dollars in defence spending put a disproportionate amount of budgetary pressure on other parts of the military, including maintenance and procurement. One former defence chief, retired general Rick Hillier, warned in 2013 that reducing the size of the military was the only way to ensure the force remained strong and stable. He said the number of full-time members should be reduced from 68,000 to 50,000. Most analysts agree that the mandated staffing levels and planned procurement projects are unsustainable under the current defence budget. “Something has to give,” said Perry, who has estimated that cutting the size of the force by 1,000 regular-force members would save about $105 million a year. National Defence also reported that it was short about 2,200 civilian employees, against an authorized strength of more than 24,000. The Conservative government did not have a target for the number of civilian workers, though it did put a priority on employing those in uniform. The Canadian Armed Forces, by the Numbers 68,000: Mandated strength of the regular force 66,130: Actual strength of the regular force on March 31, 2015 1,870: Difference between mandated and actual strength 27,000: Mandated strength of the reserve force 21,707: Actual strength of the reserve force on March 31, 2015 5,293: Difference between mandated and actual strength — Source: Department of National Defence

Vice null Time27 January 2016 01:58:26