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Race to save the abandoned chimps of ‘Monkey Island’

AVERY HAINES | posted Monday, Mar 14th, 2016

It’s been called the real Planet of the Apes. A series of six islands, off the coast of West Africa, inhabited solely by former research chimpanzees. The primates have survived decades of invasive experiments, two civil wars and most recently Ebola. Their lives have, once again, been put in danger.

Our Avery Haines traveled 8,000 kilometres by plane, car and boat to remote Liberia to visit the now abandoned research facility and “Monkey Island”.

“I had heard about these chimpanzee’s being ‘retired’ on these islands some time ago but was shocked to discover the latest threat to their lives,” Haines said.

The threat this time is not experiments, not war, not disease, but starvation.

It’s a story that begins back in the 1970’s, when a U.S. research lab, the New York Blood Center, decided to set up in Liberia, trapping wild chimpanzees and infecting them with diseases like hepatitis and ‘river blindness’ to develop vaccines.

After more than 40 years of experiments, the New York Blood Center ended it’s Liberian project in 2005. The surviving chimpanzees were put on a series of islands with no natural food or water. The caretakers, many of whom have worked with the chimps since the 1970’s, were paid to take them food and water every other day. Then, at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, the New York Blood Center quietly decided to stop paying the caretakers. The chimpanzee’s began starving to death.

In this 14 minute documentary, Haines takes you to the haunting, eerie research facility and to the islands where these chimps continue to live.

“This isn’t a story about big bad researchers. It’s not even a story about the Humane Society coming to the rescue. More than anything it’s about a few Liberian caretakers who have risked their lives, again and again to protect the chimpanzee’s they’ve been caring for, for decades”

The Humane Society of the United States has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the abandoned chimps, and continues to pressure the New York Blood Center to live up to it’s financial obligation.

There are two ways you can help:

CLICK HERE to donate funds to help keep the chimpanzee’s fed and cared for

CLICK HERE to sign a petition to urge NYBC to reinstate funding for this chimpanzee colony

Worlds of celebrity and politics converge at Trudeau state dinner

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 11th, 2016

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was feted at a lavish state dinner held in his honour Thursday night, where a star-studded gathering of dignitaries, business leaders and entertainers converged on the White House for the historic celebration of Canada’s leader.

Trudeau’s visit marks the 11th state or official visit of Barack Obama’s presidency but the first for a Canadian in 19 years.

The event was the ultimate intersection of the capitals of North American legislative power — Ottawa and Washington, D.C. — and Hollywood celebrity, with high-profile figures from the political and business arenas joining notable homegrown names from the world of entertainment on the high-wattage guest list.

Michael J. Fox stopped briefly to speak with reporters before heading into the dinner and was asked to share his thoughts on Canada’s new leader.

“He’s cool,” said the award-winning actor, standing alongside his wife, Tracy Pollan.

“I was a fan of his dad,” he added, referring to the late former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. “When I was a kid, I used to say we had the coolest world leader going. His son is pretty cool, too.”

Comedian and actor Mike Myers was virtually unrecognizable from his days on “Saturday Night Live”, sporting snow white hair and thick-rimmed glasses as he arrived at his first state dinner.

“I’m just so proud to be Canadian and American, the pomp and the ceremony of it all,” said the Toronto native, star of hit films including “Wayne’s World” and “Austin Powers.”

“When I lived in Canada, Pierre Trudeau was my prime minister for 14 years and he was my hero. … Now, I’m thrilled to have his son as my prime minister. I think it’s going to be a great time for Canada and a great time for Canadian-U.S. relations.”

Vancouver-born actor and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds donned white tie alongside his wife, American actress Blake Lively, who wore a slinky silver Ralph & Russo dress boasting a plunging neckline. Canadian actress Sandra Oh of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame and Toronto-born “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels were also among the attendees.

The prime minister and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, were warmly greeted by the president and his wife, Michelle, upon their arrival at the glitzy gala. Trudeau and Obama looked sleek in tuxedos alongside their elegantly attired wives.

Michelle Obama wore a strapless midnight blue floral jacquard gown with asymmetrical draping designed by Vancouver-raised designer Jason Wu. The New York-based Wu also dressed Michelle Obama for both of her husband’s inaugural balls.

Gregoire-Trudeau opted for a boldly hued choice wearing a cap-sleeved embroidered purple dress by Canadian designer Lucian Matis. Earlier in the day, Gregoire-Trudeau wore another Matis design, a striking red and pink dress at this morning’s welcoming ceremony.

“She could have played it a little safer, but she went for colour and she went for high glam,” said longtime fashion journalist and TV host Jeanne Beker of Gregoire-Trudeau’s state dinner gown.

“I can’t remember being this excited for Canadian fashion.”

Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, and his in-laws were also among the invited guests.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, retired NBA star Grant Hill and his Canadian singer-songwriter wife, Tamia Hill were also on the guest list.

A host of senior Obama administration officials and advisers, U.S. and Canadian ambassadors, U.S. senators and Canadian cabinet ministers were joined by philanthropists and CEOs from companies including Xerox, United Parcel Service and global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

In a humourous toast to Trudeau, Obama joked that the prime minister “may be the most popular Canadian named Justin” — likely a reference to pop superstar and Stratford, Ont., native Justin Bieber.

Guests at the swanky dinner dined on Alaskan halibut “casseroles” with cepes, delicate angel hair asparagus, chanterelles, baby onions, and lardon and herbed butter; followed by roasted apricot galette with Appalachian cheese, heirloom lettuces and pine nut crisps.

The menu featured ingredients from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic coast, and a nod to Canada with duck poutine among the canapes set to be served.

A maple pecan cake with cocoa nib wafer and butterscotch swirl ice cream was on the menu for dessert. There will also be a handmade sugar sculpture called “A View from the Mountain Top,” which was “inspired by the splendour of the Rocky Mountains, which extend from New Mexico to Canada.”

Pastries are also slated to feature “American and Canadian influences.”

The state dinner is being held in the East Room of the White House, and will also feature a performance by American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

Busy day at Pearson as March Break getaway begins

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 11th, 2016

A record number of travellers is expected to pass through Pearson International Airport on Friday as the March Break getaway begins.

The airport estimated 115,000 passengers came through its doors on Thursday, with 5,000 more — a total of 120,000 — expected on Friday. That’s a three-to-four per cent increase over 2015.

Pearson says it is doing everything it can to make things easier for travellers, but patience and extra time are still recommended.

There are new stores, a pharmacy, activity kits for kids, valet parking, concierge, free baggage carts, free wi-fi, and lots of food options, Scott Collier, vice president of customer and terminal services, said in a statement.

Tips for travellers:

Arrive early, two hours before a domestic flight and three hours if you are going international.

Check with airlines for your flight status prior to departing for the airport.

Be aware of any baggage restrictions. Ensure liquids and gels in carry-on luggage are in containers no larger than 100 milliliters, and be prepared to take out your laptop prior to screening. For more details on what is permitted, click here.

This March, Pearson is offering covered parking at Terminal 3 for the same price as its value park garage when passengers book online.

Pearson employees will also be handing out free activity kits for kids. Each kit will include sweet treats, a “how to draw an airplane” booklet, a scavenger hunt, and other travel essentials.

Staying in town? Click here for our March Break activity guide.

Boredom, be gone: Fun-filled March Break guide

PATRICIA D'CUNHA | posted Friday, Mar 11th, 2016

Baby pandas at the Toronto zoo.

Children have been waiting for this moment for weeks now, and March Break is very nearly here.

But some parents may not be as enthusiastic with the idea of having the kids home for a week, especially if they haven’t yet planned their activity list.

Not to worry, there are plenty of things to do around town that will help you plan a fun and stress-free break.

This is just a suggested list. You know your kids better: ask them what they want to do.

Baby animals galore
You’ve been waiting for it since the Toronto Zoo giant panda cubs were born last fall. Starting Saturday, you can finally see male Jia Panpan (Canadian Hope) and female Jia Yueyue (Canadian Joy) at the zoo. They will be hanging out with mom Er Shun at the panda enclosure.

Slang words teens of 2016 use

Carina Kresic | posted Thursday, Mar 10th, 2016

We all want to be hip and know the cool lingo of Gen Z, but sometimes some of the words just don’t make sense. Here is a list of our top 5 slang words and how you can use them:

major key

Major Key

Example: “Almond milk. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Major key to success”

Definition: Used by music producer DJ Khaled, when he started the ‘major key’ trend in his Snapchat videos.



Example: I’m feeling so #blessed today.

Definition:  Feeling good or feeling grateful about something.


Squad Goals

Example: Did you see Taylor Swift and her friends? Such squad goals.

Definition:  When you aspire for your group of friends to be as cool as an other group.



Example: She’s my bae. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Definition: Someone really special to you. Aka, before anyone else.


I can’t even

Example: OMG, that’s so funny. I can’t even!

Definition: Expression used when you have many emotions and you can’t comprehend or put them into words.



Example: Did you see what just happened? Lol. *dead*

Definition: When you think something is hilariously funny and you have no other words to use.

We want to hear some of the slang words that you use or used to use! Tweet us @BTtoronto!

TTC vehicles arriving late 53% of the time, Swiftly app reports

CityNews | posted Thursday, Mar 10th, 2016

If you’ve got a friend who’s always running late, it could be the TTC’s fault.

According to the San Francisco-based transit app Swiftly, Toronto buses and streetcars are arriving on time less than half of the time.

Swiftly collected real-time data over a four-week stretch in January and February, and found TTC buses and streetcars arrived off-schedule 53 per cent of the time.

Off-schedule is defined as more than one minute early or more than four minutes late.

According to Swiftly’s data, the 510 Spadina bus arrives on time less than 25 per cent of the time. The app’s data shows the 502 Downtowner and the 46 Martin Grove buses are also among the worst in terms of arriving on time. The 171 Mount Denis, 49 Bloor and 30 Lambton are among the best, arriving on time over 75 per cent of the time.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the service is always working to improve reliability.

Swiftly is a scheduling app that provides real-time data about municipal transportation.

Trudeau’s first speech to a U.S. audience: Let’s not live in fear of the world

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Mar 10th, 2016

Justin Trudeau didn’t mention the American election in his first message to a U.S. audience, a few hours after arriving for his first prime ministerial visit to Washington.

He didn’t have to.

The subtext was clear enough. The prime minister used a late-evening talk to lament the danger of isolation, in a country gripped by heated election debates over banning Muslim travellers; refusing Syrian refugees; expelling Mexican migrants; and cancelling trade deals blamed for sending jobs abroad.

“It becomes easy to be fearful,” he told the gathering, hosted by a progressive think-tank at an art gallery near the White House and attended by officials from both countries, including Canadian cabinet ministers.

”It becomes easy to turn in on ourselves. But we know from history that it’s much more important to turn outwards. And to draw out the best of each other. And to understand that whenever people get together regardless of how different they may seem there are always more things that we have in common.”

The closest he came to mentioning the election was to say that Americans, Canadians, and others who discuss politics are struggling with very similar problems: a struggling middle class, rapid change, and globalization that represents not only new opportunities but also risks.

He acknowledged the challenges of globalization.

He said fast-changing populations have people wrestling with their identity. He said Canada has the same challenges – he joked that it isn’t some perfect happy land where everyone hugs pandas all day and everyone’s a progressive feminist, but also has voices pulling the country in different directions.

Related stories:

A moment of firsts, as Trudeau arrives in the U.S.

Trudeau state dinner features the best of spring, with a dash of Canadian whisky

Trudeau alluded to Canada’s recent election. He didn’t specifically mention its debates over religious headwear. But he said the fanfare video shown before he took the stage had sugar-coated the campaign a bit.

He said North America needed a positive attitude about the world to take advantage of its new opportunities: ”To be at its most generous, to be at its wisest, to be at its most innovative… To learn to draw from the populations that come here from every corner of the planet.”

In short, Trudeau appeared to embrace the moniker attached to him in one American newspaper headline last week: “The Anti-(Donald)Trump,” with the piece contrasting his positions with the refugee-refusing, Muslim-travel-ban-proposing, Mexican-wall-wanting, trade-deal-blasting Republican frontrunner.

The contrast was not lost on the people milling about on the sidewalk outside. A small group of people waited to catch a glimpse of him entering and exiting the event, some lingering there for up to six hours.

One woman instantly made the link between the prime minister’s message and the grouchy anti-foreign mood of the American election.

”He’s so positive,” said Chantal Quintero, who’s from Canada but has lived in the U.S. for 22 years.

”And his message of unity is really something that we could use in the United States. Especially with the presidential campaign. Just his advocacy for women, for people of colour, for immigrants – it’s just a really refreshing message.”

The cocktail-party progressive pep-talk atmosphere shifts today, to a more intense day of policy-making.

The prime minister will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House in the morning, followed by a press conference. They plan announce closer co-operation on climate change, border security, and in the Arctic. Trudeau then goes for lunch at the State Department.

In the afternoon he’ll meet with lawmakers from both parties.

The day ends with the first White House State dinner for a Canadian leader in 19 years. Trudeau will dine in the mansion’s East Room, where his father was serenaded by Robert Goulet at an after-party for his own first state dinner here in 1969.

The three-day trip ends Friday with a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, a speech, and a town-hall-type forum with university students.

The visit comes so late in Obama’s tenure that one official couldn’t say whether or not this state dinner – the 11th of his presidency – might be his final one.

Another White House official this week described a ”special relationship” budding between the rookie progressive leader and the one who leaves office in 10 months.

Toronto’s inside workers accept new contract

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Mar 10th, 2016

There is labour peace in Toronto’s public sector now that the city’s inside workers have voted in favour of a new four-year contract.

This agreement, which was ratified Wednesday, covers about 20,000 inside municipal workers. It follows a similar deal last month for about 5,400 outside workers in the country’s largest city.

Related stories:

After ‘tough round’ of negotiations, inside workers reach deal with city

Toronto’s outside workers approve tentative contract agreement

CUPE Local 79 says the new deal covers full and part-time workers in three units.

A contract for a fourth unit, whose members work part-time in long-term care facilities, will be addressed in binding arbitration, as those members do not have the right to strike.

“We are pleased our members ratified the agreements we negotiated, made possible because of the strength they showed during bargaining,” said Tim Maguire, president of the local, in a statement on Wednesday night.

“We achieved some improvements and more important, pushed back serious concessions that would have hurt both the quality of city services and city jobs.”

No details of the contract were released, but the city’s last offer included protections against contracting out for some workers in addition to a five per cent raise over four years.

The union says the results of the vote will not be released.

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