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Toronto city councillor flips bird to proposed ‘roof tax’

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 25th, 2016

A Toronto city councillor has decided that flipping the bird is a good way to get a message across.

In a media release sent out on Monday, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti attached a photograph of him giving two middle fingers with “tax this” written in white letters.

The release was sent to media as a response to Coun. Mammoliti thinking the roof tax is a cash grab.

Currently, taxpayers pay one amount for water and wastewater, but he said city staff want to create another charge for storm water.

The Ward 7 councillor said if council gets their way, homeowner with a hard surface roof would be paying more for a service they already have.

‘Voluntary’ online literacy test for Ontario students cancelled due to cyberattack

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 25th, 2016

The Ontario agency tasked with administering the first online literacy test to tens of thousands of high school students in the province last week says it was forced to pull the plug by an “intentional, malicious and sustained” cyberattack.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) said Monday the network hosting the “voluntary” online test was targeted by an “extremely large volume of traffic from a vast set of IP addresses around the globe.”

It said the impact of the distributed denial of service attack carried out by “an unknown entity or entities” was to block legitimate users such as school boards and students from accessing the test.

Most of the province’s 900 secondary schools – representing a maximum of 147,000 students – had signed up to participate in the test, which was a technical trial run before the first official test scheduled next year.

The EQAO’s director of assessment said some 15,000 students appeared to have managed to complete the test, and the agency is currently reviewing the data to see whether the results can later be released. However, there will not be time for another trial test before the spring, Richard Jones said.

There is no evidence at this time that the incident was linked to a similar cyberattack that affected websites such as Twitter and Netflix on Friday, Jones said.

He said the agency shares the frustration felt by students, parents and educators.

“We’re totally shocked that this sort of attack would happen, it’s certainly nothing that we expected at all,” he said.

“We expected, as part of this trial, that we … would find out that there might be technical issues at the school or board level, for example, we might have some learnings there that we would be able to go from, but we didn’t expect at all that there would be this kind of unwanted activity on our system.”

The EQAO, which oversees standardized testing in the province, said it is confident that student assessments can successfully be administered online.

The province’s education minister echoed that sentiment, saying offering online testing is the best way to support students.

“We’re going to keep ensuring that Ontario students have an opportunity to write this test online,” Mitzie Hunter said. “Of course, in the spring we’ll ensure that there is a paper-based backup as well to ensure that all students are able to complete the test.”

An investigation into Friday’s incident is underway and will lead to recommendations to prevent similar problems in the future.

The test was also meant to serve as a “risk-free” way for students to take it ahead of the next scheduled assessment in March 2017.

If students passed the online test, it would count, but if they failed or didn’t complete it, they would be considered “first-time eligible” for the test next spring.

The program was open to all 72 school boards, as well as First Nations and private schools.

14 ways to make the most of your slow cooker this season

Kristen Eppich | posted Monday, Oct 24th, 2016

Related: Simplify your weeknight dinners by letting your slow cooker do the work for you!

Slow cookers are very divisive appliances; you’ll find just as many people who claim to never use them, as you will those who rely on them for the bulk of their cooking. I believe the reason for this is that while there are tons of delicious slow cooker recipes, there are just as many bland and mushy ones. This situation can be remedied with a few basic tips that will make every dish come out a winner.

1. Read your manual.
Sorry to start with such an irritating reminder, but it will help. All slow cookers or ‘crock pots’ are similar in principle but have different settings. The manual is your first shot at getting it right. In particular, your manual will indicate the optimal level that you should fill the basin or liner to for even cooking.

2. Don’t splurge, cheaper cuts of meat work better.
Tougher cuts of meat are derived from parts of the animal that are exercised more often, so they tend to be lower in fat and richer in taste. These two attributes make them the perfect candidate for your slow cooker. Extended cooking time at a low heat will result in very tender meat with a wonderful depth of flavour.

3. Trim the fat.
Remove as much fat as you can before adding meat to your slow cooker. Residual fat will be rendered as it cooks and excess fat will sit in a layer at the top of your food and result in a greasy texture.

Related: Slow-cooker recipes to get you through fall and winter

4. Brown your meat.
Browning your meat before adding it isn’t a must, it’s highly recommended.  This step is often avoided — because we all want to just toss the ingredients in — but browned meat will add a richer flavour to your finished product.

5. Use less liquid.
Because there is no evaporation in slow cooking, the recipes require less liquid. If you are adapting a recipe to suit your slow cooker, keep this in mind and reduce the amount of liquid you add.

6. Spray the liner.
Before you add anything, lightly spray the liner with cooking spray. It will help with the clean-up later on.

7. Layer properly.
If cooking with hard, raw vegetables that you know require a longer cooking time, layer them at the bottom of the pot where they will have the most exposure to heat and liquid.

Related: Slow-cooker French onion soup

8. Keep it low and slow. 
Slow cookers have different settings. When it comes to cooking meat, opt for the low setting whenever possible, especially when using tougher cuts of meat, which allows for tenderizing. Beans also prefer the low-slow method, but vegetable-based dishes can handle the higher setting with a reduced cook time.

9. Avoid adding frozen food . . . for the most part.
Frozen meat should never be added to a slow cooker. Because of the nature of the “slow-cook” the internal temperature of the meat rises at a slower rate. As much as possible you want to avoid having meat sit between temperatures of 40F-140F, as frozen meat can’t heat up fast enough. Frozen vegetables can be added if they are small or chopped, but will also increase the cook time. Whenever possible, use fresh food.

10. Keep the lid on.
They say that every time you lift the lid of of your slow cooker you release enough heat to increase the cook time by 30 minutes. Resist the temptation. If you must check on the status of your dish, wait until you have at least reached the minimum cook time. Just relax and let it do its thing.

11. Add very tender vegetables toward the end of the cooking time.
If you have very tender vegetables that you want to have hold their shape, add them closer to the end of the cook time. How-to: quickly lift the lid and slip them in for the last 30 to 45 minutes.

Related: How to choose (and use) a pressure cooker

12. Salt lightly.
A small amount of liquid and a long cooking time mean that flavours will be deep, rich and highly concentrated. You can’t correct over-salting, so salt lightly and add more seasoning as needed toward the end of cooking.

13. Avoid the “too much liquid” dilemma.
If you end up with too much or too thin a liquid within your cooked dish, there is a fix for this. Remove the lid and continue cooking uncovered on high to help reduce the liquid level. If you have a large cut of meat, remove it to a platter to allow more surface area so your liquid can cook down.

14. Use it a day ahead.
And the hits just keep on coming! Slow-cooked meals are often better the next day — when all the flavours have had a chance to marry. Transfer your meal to a large dish (don’t store in the slow cooker liner because it retains heat for too long) and refrigerate overnight. Reheat the next day.

Originally published January, 2014.

Read more:
11 best tips for big-batch cooking
Moroccan vegetable stew in the slow cooker
Make glazed ginger-garlic ribs in the slow cooker

What you need to know about the new safe sleep guidelines for babies

Ariel Brewster | posted Monday, Oct 24th, 2016

This morning, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new set of safe sleep guidelines—the biggest update since 2011.  Many of the recommendations are more of the same advice we’ve heard previously—don’t use bumper pads or blankets, always put baby to sleep on her back, don’t bed-share—but some of the new findings and suggestions are going to be harder for many parents to incorporate into their routines.

The 20-page policy statement tackles the topic of SIDS and safe sleep more thoroughly than ever before, using lots of different meta-analyses and studies. We spoke with co-author Lori Winter-Feldman, who is a professor of paediatrics, a practicing paediatrician in Camden, New Jersey, and a member of the Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, to help guide us through what we found most surprising in the AAP report. Here’s what we learned.

Parents should room-share for an entire year.
The AAP is still adamantly against bed-sharing (sometimes called co-sleeping) for safety reasons, but, they say, we should be room-sharing for at least six months, and, optimally, a full year. Here’s the exact wording: “It is recommended that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface. The infant’s crib, portable crib, play yard or bassinet should be placed in the parents’ bedroom ideally for the first year of life, but at least for the first six months.”

Yup, we know, this sounds extra cautious—and downright impractical for many parents. (It would make sleep training nearly impossible, for one.) But, says the AAP, room-sharing arrangements “decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 per cent, and is safer than bed-sharing or solitary sleeping (when the infant is in a separate room).”

I was happy to room-share for the first few months of motherhood. I wanted my helpless, teeny little bundle of baby squish as close by as possible, pretty much at all times. But there was no way we could fit a full-sized crib into our bedroom. When our baby outgrew the bassinet at four months, we moved him to his crib in the nursery a few feet down the hall and used a video monitor to take a peek whenever he fussed. I didn’t love shuffling down the hall for middle-of-the-night nursing sessions, but eventually we both seemed to sleep more soundly in separate rooms, anyhow. In my case, the only way we would have been able to sleep in the same room for a full year is if I set up a twin mattress on the floor of the nursery.

With this new recommendation, parents are being told they definitely shouldn’t bed-share, but they really should room-share—a tricky balance to strike, and a complex message for paediatricians to communicate.

“We understand that this is going to be frustrating to parents—we get that,” says Feldman-Winter. But she says discussing the health risks, and any challenges you are having when it comes to following safe sleep guidelines, should be part of the conversation with your doctor.

Bed-sharing is still dangerous, even with no risk factors.
The research shows that bed-sharing is particularly risky if your baby is younger than four months, if she was born pre-term or with a low birth weight, if you or your partner are smokers, if you or your partner has consumed alcohol, if you are not exclusively breastfeeding, if you smoked during pregnancy, and for certain ethnic and cultural backgrounds (specifically, Native Americans and African-Americans).  This leads some parents to reason that if they don’t have any of the other risk factors, bed-sharing might be safer for them.

“Mothers do this intuitively: ‘If I’m reducing the risk here and here—I don’t smoke, for instance, and I’m breastfeeding, or I’m not one of the higher-risk groups, then maybe it’s OK?’” says Feldman-Winter.We have a mathematical term for that: risk stratification.” So the task force tried to re-examine populations with no other risk factors, using existing studies and data. They still found that bed-sharing with babies under four months puts them at five times greater risk for SIDS or suffocation. The risk increases with every hour you bed-share, too—which means that bed-sharing only in the early morning, after that last sleepy, 5 a.m. “snooze-button” feed, is safer than bed-sharing all night long.

Meanwhile, nursing moms know that bed-sharing often makes breastfeeding easier (and therefore you’re more likely to stick with it), and breastfeeding protects against SIDS. It’s a confusing jumble of conflicting evidence.

If you’re still going to bed-share against medical advice, make sure you remove all blankets, pillows and comforters from the shared flat sleep surface, says Winter-Feldman. “It’s still not safe, but it’s better than not following the recommendations at all.”

Do your best to return the baby to a bassinet or crib after feeding, but if you do doze off while nursing, you and your baby are better off in a bed than on a couch or rocking chair. “Couches and armchairs are extremely dangerous places for infants,” write the report authors. If you know this is happening a lot, make sure you’re doing feeds in a bed, and not on an armchair or on a couch.

“Sitting devices” should not be used for routine sleep.
I’ll be honest: strapping my baby into his swing for 90-minute morning nap was often the only way I got a shower in while on maternity leave. But the AAP is now warning against babies sleeping in what it calls “sitting devices,” such as swings, strollers, bouncer chairs or car seats. This includes both naps and nighttime sleep. What’s the problem with these devices? The AAP warns that the average baby spends 5.7 hours a day in a car seat or similar sitting device, which can cause flat head (positional plagiocephaly). What’s more, babies under four months have poor head control in a sitting position; their heads can fall forward and cause upper airway obstruction and oxygen desaturation. “Instead, parents should transfer a sleeping baby to a flat, safe sleep surface (a crib or bassinet) as soon as possible,” says Feldman-Winter. This is easier said than done, obviously. “I know the Rock ‘n Plays are wildly popular,” she says, “but we do consider those sleep environments hazardous unless someone is monitoring the baby closely.”

Offer a pacifier at naptime and bedtime.
Once a steady breastfeeding relationship has been established, research shows that babies who sleep while sucking on a soother have a significantly decreased risk of SIDS—anywhere from 50 per cent to 90 per cent. Experts call this “the protective effect of pacifiers.” You might have heard of nipple confusion, or worry that allowing a pacifier creates a bad habit or hard-to-phase-out sleep crutch that will persist into toddlerhood. But the AAP reassures parents that “in general, sucking habits in children to the age of three years are unlikely to cause any long-term problems.” The report does, however, warn against letting babies sleep or nap with a pacifier clip attached to their clothing (it’s a strangulation risk) and states that sleeping, unmonitored infants should not use pacifiers with “objects such as stuffed toys” attached to them. (The popular WubbaNub binkies would fall into this risky category.)

Elevating the head of the crib mattress or otherwise keeping your baby more upright will not reduce reflux.
This report looked at all the available evidence and found that, contrary to popular belief, putting babies to sleep flat on their backs does not increase the risk of choking and aspiration, even in those with gastroesophageal reflux (a more severe condition than the occasional newborn spit-up). Furthermore, “elevating the head of the infant’s crib is not effective in reducing reflux,” says the AAP. “It may result in the infant sliding to the foot of the crib into a position that may compromise respiration and therefore is not recommended.” The risk of SIDS outweighs the benefits of allowing your baby to sleep on his stomach or side. Sadly, the experts don’t provide better advice for what to do with a baby who seems to be screaming in pain from reflux. Feldman-Winter theorizes that infants with reflux are calmer when they’re held in a vertical position not because their head is elevated, but because the cuddling and attention from a caregiver is soothing.

Safe sleep starts on the maternity ward and in the NICU.
Often, parents see their brand new baby in the hospital bassinet and the nurses have placed them to sleep on their sides or stomachs. This leads them to assume that if the hospital did it, then it must be OK. The AAP wants to spread the message that there’s no evidence that fluid (amniotic fluid or spit-up) will be cleared more readily while in the side position.

Swaddling does not reduce SIDS.
There is no evidence, says the AAP, that swaddling protects babies from SIDS. In fact, babies have an increased risk of death if they are swaddled and then roll onto their tummies. Never place a swaddled baby to sleep on her stomach. If your infant “exhibits signs of attempting to roll, swaddling should no longer be used.” The doctors also found no conclusive relationship between SIDS and babies who were swaddled with their arms in, or with their arms out. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swaddle—it can be a great way to encourage sleep and calm your baby. Just make sure she’s always swaddled on her back.

In-bed sleepers are still a question mark.
Studies on the safety of in-bed sleepers are underway, but the results aren’t in yet, so the AAP can’t recommend for or against them. There are no Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards for in-bed sleepers, either, which should be worrisome for parents using products like the DockaTot, By Your Side co-sleepers, or Snuggle Nests. Research is ongoing.

Frequent wake-ups keep your baby safe.
The updated guidelines reiterate the importance of always putting babies on their backs (not their side or tummies). “My baby wakes up a lot unless she’s on her stomach!” you say? We hear you. But the experts believe that’s actually a good thing. “An infant who wakes frequently is normal and should not be perceived as a poor sleeper,” write the AAP authors. In fact, frequent “arousal” is the best way to protect against SIDS. “Physiologic studies show that infants are less likely to arouse when they are sleeping in the prone [on their stomachs] position. The ability to sleep arouse from sleep is an important protective physiologic response to stressors during sleep, and the infant’s ability to sleep for sustained periods may not be physiologically advantageous.” This is not exactly what exhausted parents want to hear, though.

Dr. Feldman-Winter is aware that a lot of these rules aren’t easy to follow, but doing your best to adhere to the latest recommendations is extremely important for ensuring a safe infant sleeping environment. “We know it’s not easy—that’s why we want to have these conversations about reducing risk. The best we can do is to get folks moving along the pathway to change,” she says. “And fortunately, SIDS is a rare event.”

Read more
Does your baby need a sleep coach?
How to survive your baby’s four-month sleep regression
When to let your baby or toddler sleep with a blanket

Outrageous condo development proposals causing a stir across Toronto

Faiza Amin | posted Monday, Oct 24th, 2016

Old City Hall will be converted to a four storey parking garage to accompany a 90-storey condo, that’s according to a development proposal posted on the heritage site’s front steps.

The sign has caused much confusion these last few days, but rest assured, it’s a fake and it’s not the only one.

A link at the bottom of the poster takes you to this website, which features even more outrages development plans on some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

For instance, a 40-storey condo will be built half-way in the air and connecting to the CN tower. The Blue Jays will be getting some new neighbours, with two 60-storey towers proposed to be built on top of the stadium.


Images taken from developmentproposal.tumblr.com

CityHall is slated for the construction of 198 parking spaces to be built six levels below, for an anticipated 50-storey residential building.

Glo’erm and Tuggy, the artists listed on the website and said to be the creators of the ‘Development Proposal’ project, provided no explanation as to why they posted the notices.

CityNews did reach out to the artists listed on the website, but our messages were not returned.


Stolen head from statue of Christ is returned, orange replacement removed

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 24th, 2016

SUDBURY, Ont. – The missing head of a statue of baby Jesus has been returned, and the bright orange clay head that replaced it has been removed.

Gerard Lajeunesse, the priest at the Ste. Anne des Pins parish in Sudbury, Ont., says the head was returned to him on Friday.

The statue had recently been fitted with the temporary clay head — topped with a spiky orange crown — crafted by a local artist, which garnered international attention and was compared online to a character on “The Simpsons” or to the infamously botched restoration of a fresco of Jesus in Spain.

Lajeunesse says the stolen head was returned to him on Friday, by a woman he knew.

He says the woman, who he wouldn’t identify, came upon the head through her work, but didn’t realize it belonged to the church until she saw the media reports about the orange replacement.


A statue is shown outside Ste. Anne des Pins parish in Sudbury, Ont., on Thursday Oct. 20, 2016. A statue of baby Jesus got a facelift after it was vandalized in northern Ontario - and the result is turning heads. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Gino Donato
A statue is shown outside Ste. Anne des Pins parish in Sudbury, Ont., on Thursday Oct. 20, 2016. A statue of baby Jesus got a facelift after it was vandalized in northern Ontario – and the result is turning heads. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Gino Donato


Lajeunesse says the replacement had already been removed by the time he got the original head back.

Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot Biscuits recalled due to ‘off-taste’

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 24th, 2016

The makers of Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot Biscuis have issued a Canada-wide recall of the product following reports of illnesses.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says Mondelēz Canada issued the recall due to potential “off-taste.”

The products being recalled include:

  • 350-gram boxes, with UPC code 066721 01046 9 and a best before dates of Feb. 24 and Feb. 28, 2017
  • 1.4-kilogram boxes with UPC code 0 66721 01856 4 and a best before dates of Feb. 20, 2017 through to Feb. 23, 2017
  • 3.5-kilogram bulk boxes, with UPC code 1 00 66721 51038 6 and a best before date of April 25, 2017
  • 3.6-kilogram 2-pack boxes, with UPC code 1 00 66721 51404 9 and best before dates of April 21, 2017 through to April 25, 2017, April 29 and April 30, 2017 and May 1, May 2, May 5 and May 12, 2017

The CFIA says the products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

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