AI helped design a promising drug in flat 21 days

first_imgHong Kong: In a significant development, a Hong Kong-based health startup has used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to design a drug in just 21 days that showed potential treatments for fibrosis – a discovery that can speed up drug designing for various incurable diseases. The AI system called generative tensorial reinforcement learning (GENTRL) helped design six promising treatments for fibrosis in 21 days. “Four compounds were active in biochemical assays, and two were validated in cell-based assays. One lead candidate was tested and demonstrated favorable pharmacokinetics in mice,” said Insilico Medicine in a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Also Read – Swiggy now in 500 Indian cities, targets 100 more this year In comparison, traditional drug discovery starts with the testing of thousands of small molecules in order to get to just a few lead-like molecules and only about one in 10 of these molecules pass clinical trials in human patients. In a similar technique used by DeepMind to outcompete human GO players, GENTRL — powered by generative chemistry that utilizes modern AI techniques — can rapidly generate novel molecular structures with specified properties. Also Read – New HP Pavilion x360 notebook with in-built Alexa in India Insilico has also made GENTRL’s source code available as open source on Microsoft-owned repository GitHub. “The development of these first six molecules as an experimental validation is just the start,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine. “By enabling the rapid discovery of novel molecules and by making GENTRL’s source code open source, we are ushering in new possibilities for the creation and discovery of new life-saving medicine for incurable diseases,” he added. The new technology leveraged Insilico’s groundbreaking academic research in 2016 about using modern AI techniques of generative adversarial networks (GAN) and generative reinforcement learning (RL) to accelerate drug discovery. “When we first proposed the idea of using the AI technique of generative adversarial networks to accelerate drug discovery in 2016, most of the industry was sceptical,” said Zhavoronkov. The creation of the new molecules marks the industry’s first scientific validation of using of generative and reinforcement learning AI technologies for the successful discovery and generation of new molecules. Insilico Medicine is developing a comprehensive drug discovery pipeline utilizing AI generating novel molecules with the specified properties for a variety of target classes. “This paper is certainly a really impressive advance and likely to be applicable to many other problems in drug-design,” said Dr Michael Levitt, professor of structural biology, Stanford University who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013.last_img read more

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Qatar 2022 World Cup logo reflects move to winter tournament

first_imgDoha: Flashed on big screens and projected onto landmarks worldwide, the 2022 Qatar World Cup logo was revealed on Tuesday with a design that reflects both the tournament’s compact infrastructure and winter schedule. Using the colors of the Qatari flag, the white emblem is set against a maroon background and it finally provides an image for soccer’s most controversial tournament beyond construction sites. It was inspired by the contours of the World Cup trophy with the unbroken loop depicting a figure of eight – the number of stadiums built for the Middle East’s first World Cup in the tiny Persian Gulf nation. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh FIFA said the design also draws “inspiration from a traditional woolen shawl,” a winter garment reflecting the World Cup being played in November and December 2022 to avoid the fierce summer heat in June and July when the tournament is usually played. The reveal came at 2022 local time (8:22 p.m.) in Doha and the image was projected onto buildings in the Qatari capital, including the Al Zubarah Fort, and appeared at sites in Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced later Some other countries in the region played no role in the launch due to the ongoing political tensions. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been boycotting Qatar economically and diplomatically since 2017, and its severing of travel links could prove problematic for fan travel in 2022. Among the international sites where the logo was displayed on Tuesday were the Arch of Peace in Milan, trains stations in Paris and Rio de Janeiro and Times Square in New York. Ten sites were used in Turkey, reflecting Qatar’s deepening alliance with a regional ally that has helped it circumvent the Gulf boycott impact on food and construction supplies. Qatar won a FIFA vote in 2010 that has been dogged by controversy. A FIFA investigation found that some of Qatar’s conduct “may not have met the standards” required while concluding there was no “evidence of any improper activity by the bid team.” Working conditions and rights for migrant labourers building the stadiums in Qatar were also criticised, forcing standards to be raised.last_img read more

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Teens to appear in Montreal court this week in alleged gang rape

first_imgMONTREAL – Three teens are set to appear in a Montreal courtroom later this week in the alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl last month.In total, five teens aged between 13 and 16 — one girl and four boys — were arrested last Thursday.Three of them — the girl and two boys — were arraigned a day later and ordered detained until a bail hearing this Wednesday.A Crown spokesman says the three were charged with gang sexual assault; armed sexual assault; unlawful confinement; and production, possession and distribution of child pornography.One of the two other teens is to be charged Thursday with similar offences, while the fifth adolescent has yet to be charged.Initially, Montreal police had given out a slightly different list of charges and had said a court appearance was expected Monday.Const. Andree-Anne Picard says the alleged attack occurred in an apartment on March 24.They say they were informed on March 30 about the alleged assault.Police say the teens all knew each other and were attending a party together.Cogeco Nouvelles reported the teens filmed the scenes and then shared them on WhatsApp and Snapchat.The station says it was the alleged victim’s older brother who saw the images and recognized his sister before alerting their father.Picard says investigators don’t have reason to believe there are other alleged victims.(Cogeco Nouvelles)last_img read more

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BC researchers get patent to develop potential vaccine for syphilis

first_imgVANCOUVER – Researchers at the University of Victoria have been granted a patent to develop a potential vaccine against syphilis as rates for the sexually transmitted disease soar worldwide.Microbiologist Caroline Cameron said a vaccine would complement current treatment with penicillin.The infectious disease often goes undetected and is increasing in epidemic proportions among some populations, including men who have sex with men, she said.Researchers are trying to understand the function of a protein that works to prevent syphilis bacterium from entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body as they work on a vaccine, she said Tuesday.Trials have shown an immune response to the protein, which is the component of the vaccine that has been patented, Cameron said, adding a vaccine may be over a decade away from development.“The World Health Organization is promoting vaccine development for sexually transmitted infections and it has become a priority because of the increased number of cases around the world,” she said.Scientists elsewhere around the globe are also working on possible vaccines for gonorrhea and chlamydia, said Cameron, who is president of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research.The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in 2016 that syphilis rates had reached a 30-year high, with almost 500 cases of the disease reported in 2015, nearly double the number from a decade earlier.The centre urged regular testing and launched a campaign targeting gay and bisexual men because they were over 90 per cent of those infected.Health officials in Alberta said last November that online hookup sites such as Tinder, Pure and Grindr have contributed to the hike in sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis.The highest rate of infection was in 15- to 26-year-olds, but no sexually active group was immune without using protection.The Public Health Agency of Canada said syphilis rates have been rising steadily since 2001, and it is the third most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection in the country, following chlamydia and gonorrhea.Between 2010 and 2015, the syphilis rate increased by nearly 86 per cent in Canada, especially among young men, consistent with trends in the United States and Europe, it said.The disease is passed through contact with a syphilis lesion and may increase HIV transmission.Congenital syphilis may have severe consequences for newborns, including cerebral palsy, hearing loss and even death, with risk of transmission at more than 70 per cent, depending on the stage of the mother’s disease, the agency said.— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.last_img read more

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Even as longform census data returns Statcan readies for day without it

first_imgOTTAWA – As a political brawl played out on Parliament Hill seven years ago over the cancellation of the long-form census, Statistics Canada quietly kept the mandatory survey on life support, waiting for the day it might again come in handy.The fruits of that foresight will become apparent Wednesday when the agency delivers the latest tranche of data from the 2016 census — and the first details from that resurrected mandatory long-form questionnaire after a 10-year hiatus.It’s the latest layer on the paint-by-numbers population portrait Statistics Canada began unveiling earlier this year: a population boom out West and a spike in the number of households; a historically high number of seniors; children living at home longer; and more generations than ever living under a single Canadian roof, among other flourishes of fact.Wednesday’s release is expected to show immigrants making up a larger share of the population, with more and more of them settling in western Canada, along with additional insight into how they, their children and their grandchildren are doing at making ends meet.The census will also provide details on Indigenous Peoples, whose numbers are growing faster and skewing younger than the non-Indigenous population. Their numbers are expected to be close to 1.7 million with about one-quarter expected to be under age 15, said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics.After the previous Conservative government cancelled the long-form census in 2010, Wayne Smith, then the country’s chief statistician, was among the senior managers who had agency workers quietly prepare a mandatory survey that would be ready for a government change of heart — or a change of government.It’s not clear whether the agency will make any comparative use of 2011’s national household survey, a voluntary substitute that was quickly panned due to problems with data quality. Instead, Statistics Canada is expected to focus on comparing the latest numbers to their 2006 counterparts — a sign the agency would rather forget what Smith called a difficult period that produced a blip in census history.That blip, however, continues to have ripple effects on the long-form questionnaire.When the previous Conservative government cancelled the mandatory survey in 2010, citing privacy concerns, Statistics Canada invested in efforts to create a statistical register of the population from government holdings, known as administrative data. Michael Wolfson, a former assistant chief statistician, said the national household survey gave the agency “the raison d’etre to for a much stronger push into developing administrative data sources.”Agency officials had previously been uneasy about the concept, fearing a leak of details would result in a “privacy Armageddon,” Smith said. But the Conservatives were nonetheless keen on creating the digital register.So census officials mined government information holdings like birth certificates, immigration records, driver’s licences and tax files with greater zeal to build profiles of almost every Canadian, plug any data gaps in the voluntary survey, and potentially replace large swaths of the questionnaire.This year, for example, the income data in the census came entirely from tax return information held by the Canada Revenue Agency, eliminating one question on the long-form survey.In an August report, Statistics Canada said it had used CRA’s administrative data, federal immigration and citizenship records — along with details from provinces and territories — to create national, provincial and territorial population counts it says are comparable to the 2011 results. Only in cities and small towns did the model fall short.The agency hopes to use parts of statistical register in time for the 2021 census and potentially replace the short-form questionnaire beginning in 2026.Eventually, the figures could be updated in real-time rather than updating population counts every five years.“You can have the equivalent to census data for a large number of variables every year, or even continuously for that matter,” said Smith, who oversaw some of the work before resigning last year as chief statistician.That could free up resources to focus surveys on items captured in the census that aren’t available in any administrative source, such as ethnicity, visible minority status and Aboriginal identity — all questions the statistics office will answer this week, said Michael Haan, an associate professor in the school of sociology at Western University in London, Ont.Other countries that created statistical registers have sent out shorter questionnaires annually on many of those topics, Haan said.“You won’t have to fill out lots of information on your household composition because we can get that from other data sources,” he said. “But those files will be supplemented by a shorter survey about the things that don’t exist on administrative files.”— Follow @jpress on Twitterlast_img read more

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Ottawa responsible for inquiry into military murdersuicide Nova Scotia premier

first_imgHALIFAX – Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he believes the responsibility for an inquiry into the death of Afghan war veteran Lionel Desmond and three of his family members rests with Ottawa.McNeil made the comment in the legislature Wednesday in response to a question from Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie, who noted that Ottawa doesn’t seem interested in investigating the horrific crime.Desmond shot and killed his mother, wife and daughter before taking his own life earlier this year in a rural community near Antigonish, N.S.“We believe the responsibility for the inquiry rests with Ottawa,” McNeil said in the legislature.He noted that the province’s Justice Department is examining its options, but he stopped short of saying he would call a provincial inquiry.“I will commit that our department of justice … will continue down that road in the spirit of potentially looking at whether or not there should be an inquiry in our province and what role we would play with the national government,” he said.Outside the house McNeil said that he wasn’t either ruling an inquiry in or out, as the provincial government waits for a report from the medical examiner.When pressed by reporters he wouldn’t commit to calling one.“There may be other steps that we as a province can take but it’s premature for me to make any of those assumptions until I finally see what we hear back from the investigation that’s ongoing,” McNeil said.Desmond’s sisters, Cassandra and Diane Desmond, journeyed to Ottawa last week to get answers from federal officials but say they were largely ignored.Federal officials insisted the decision on whether to call an inquiry rests solely with the Nova Scotia medical examiner’s office.Lionel Desmond, a former infantryman who served two tours in Afghanistan, fatally shot his mother Brenda, his wife Shanna and their 10-year-daughter Aaliyah in their home last January.The tragedy gained national attention after relatives said he didn’t get the help he needed to deal with PTSD after he was forced from the military for medical reasons in 2015.In Ottawa last week, a spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said the federal department had conducted its own internal review of the case, but hadn’t made the results public because of privacy concerns.The renewed call for an inquiry from Desmond’s sisters came two weeks after Ottawa released a suicide prevention strategy aimed specifically at current and retired military personnel.last_img read more

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Highlights of sweeping new Ontario labour laws including a minimum wage boost

first_imgTORONTO – Ontario’s Liberal government passed a host of changes to labour laws Wednesday. Here are some highlights of the legislation, including the centrepiece minimum wage increase:— Minimum wage rises from $11.60 an hour to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018 then to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.— Casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees will be given the same pay as full-time employees for doing equal work. There are exemptions based on seniority and merit.— Lower minimum wage rates for liquor servers, students under 18, hunting and fishing guides will also rise along with the general minimum wage.— Once an employee works for a company for five years, they will be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation.— Personal emergency leave no longer only applies to workers at companies with 50 or more employees. All workers will get 10 days per year, two of them paid.— Victims of domestic or sexual violence, or parents of children who have experienced or are threatened with it, will get five days of paid leave and 17 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave.— Employers will not be allowed to request a sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave.— Parents whose children die will get unpaid leave of up to 104 weeks. It was previously only offered to parents when a child’s death was related to a crime.— Employers must pay three hours of wages if they cancel a shift with fewer than 48 hours notice, with weather-dependent work exempted.— Employees can refuse shifts without repercussion if the employer gives them less than four days notice.— Employees on call must be paid three hours at their regular pay rate.— Companies that misclassify workers as “independent contractors” instead of employees in order to skirt labour law obligations would be subject to fines.— The maximum fine for employers who violate employment standards laws will be increased from $250, $500 and $1,000 for various violations to $350, $700 and $1,500. The government will publish the names of those who are fined.— Ease restrictions on union certification and allow unions to access employee lists and certain contact information if the union can demonstrate it has the support of 20 per cent of employees.— Makes it easier for home care and community services workers, people in the building services sector, and those who work through temp agencies to unionize.— The maximum fines under the Labour Relations Act will increase from $2,000 for individuals and $25,000 for organizations to $5,000 and $100,000.last_img read more

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Commons committee calls on Liberals to subject parties to privacy laws

first_imgOTTAWA – A committee of MPs is calling on the federal government to make political parties and players subject to federal privacy laws to prevent nefarious actors from manipulating Canadian elections.Political parties are only bound by internal, voluntary policies — an issue the federal privacy commissioner has identified as a loophole in the law.How parties use data has been the subject of scrutiny on Parliament Hill and in the U.K. and the U.S. in the wake of a Facebook data scandal where users’ information may have been used without authorization and manipulated for political gain.In a report released Tuesday, the House of Commons ethics and privacy committee called on the government to move quickly to regulate parties, political organizations and other players to force them to better disclose how they use personal information, including how they target Canadians with ads.Requirements could include forcing political players to show who paid for an online ad and to authenticate their identity and showing users why they were targeted — similar to measures Facebook has already enacted.The committee report says evidence heard during hearings to date has left MPs with “grave concerns” about the electoral system.“In light of what the committee heard, it believes that Canadians would have greater confidence if they knew that their political parties were not exempt from privacy legislation,” the report said.“Any legislative amendment should obviously take the special activities of political parties into account so as not to entirely prevent the use of personal information, but rather to better regulate its collection and use and the transparency surrounding the management of such information.”Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the government was looking at ways to strengthen the reach of the privacy commissioner and updating federal privacy laws.“We can’t have a data-driven economy and we can’t have the economic potential unleashed if we don’t have the trust of Canadians,” he said.Nearly 87 million users, including 622,161 Canadians, had their information accessed by the U.K. firm Cambridge Analytica without authorization. The company allegedly used the information for political gain in the Brexit referendum, as well as in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.A Canadian company was implicated in the scandal.Executives from B.C.-based AggregateIQ testified that they had done nothing wrong when the company helped with online advertising campaigns for groups pushing for the U.K. to leave the European Union. But the committee found the testimony from the two executives was “inconsistent, full of contradictions, and conflicts with the testimony of several other reliable witnesses,” the report said.Conservatives and New Democrats on the committee used harsher words targeting AggregateIQ chief executive Zack Massingham, who didn’t appear for scheduled testimony earlier this month due to an unspecified health issue.The Tories and NDP want the House of Commons to exact some kind of parliamentary punishment for Massingham’s failure to appear at the June 12 meeting.“Allowing Mr. Massingham’s actions to stand unchallenged would set a lasting precedent that could undermine the ability of other members of Parliament and committees to gather witness testimony from witnesses on issues of national importance,” the opposition parties wrote in their dissenting report.In an emailed statement, the company’s chief operating officer, Jeff Silvester, said the company provided “clear, consistent and honest answers to all of the questions” MPs on the committee posed. Silvester said he also voluntarily attended the most recent committee meeting to answer questions.“AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where it operates and has been co-operating fully with all of the applicable investigations,” Silvester said.last_img read more

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Neighbours struggle to share news of 10yearold girls death with their kids

first_imgParents on a suburban Toronto street agonized Wednesday over how to tell their children that one of their regular playmates had been killed in the Greektown shooting spree.Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis was out on Danforth Avenue with her family on Sunday night when she was caught in the hail of bullets fired by 29-year-old Faisal Hussain. Neighbours and friends said Julianna’s father Donny was among the 13 others injured in the attack.The street around the family’s home on Penny Crescent in Markham, Ont., usually abuzz with children playing, was all but silent on Wednesday as residents processed the news that one of their own had died in the shooting that also killed an 18-year-old woman from Toronto.One man who did not want to identify himself because he had yet to connect with the Kozis family in person said Julianna would often sit on her front lawn with other local children talking for hours.The man said his wife was “a mess” after hearing the news and had taken the day off work.“I have not told my son yet…We will probably tell him tonight,” he said.Nancy Olesen had already broken the news to her eight-year-old daughter, who enthusiastically recalled playing basketball with Julianna in the past.Mother and daughter both blinked back tears as they reflected on the young girl’s death and the impact her loss will have on the family-oriented neighbourhood.“There are tons of kids so they are always all playing together,” Olesen said. “… even if you don’t know the family super well, just the fact that you have kids, it really touches home.”The Markham Synchro Club said Julianna had been one of its artistic swimmers.“Julianna was a beautiful, aspiring athlete who was in her third year in our sport,” the club said in a statement. “This is a traumatic event for many of us and we are committed to working through this in a thoughtful and responsive manner.”The York Region District School Board declined to confirm whether Julianna was a student, but board Director Louise Sirisko issued a statement saying the tragedy on the Danforth hit close to home.“There are few words to adequately express the depth of sorrow that we feel,” she said in the statement. “Senseless acts of violence like these leave an imprint on our communities and weigh heavy on our hearts. We join families and communities in grieving for all those affected by this terrible incident.”One of Donny Kozis’ high school friends set up a GoFundMe page on Wednesday to raise money to support the family.At Markham City Hall, mourners gathered to sign a book of condolence for the family.Local teacher Cindy Sisti was visibly emotional as she left her tribute.“I hope that when the family gets a chance to read the messages, it will sink in and provide them some comfort,”she said. “The grief is shared by many.”As the community tried to come to grips with the shooting, police and federal officials were offering reassurances that Sunday’s attack was not the work of terrorists.Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders refuted claims from the Islamic State terrorist group that said the shooter was one of its “soldiers.”Saunders said his force was investigating Sunday’s violence from every angle and had found nothing to indicate a connection to the group commonly known as ISIL.The claim, made in a post on one of the group’s social media channels, asserted the attack came in response to the group’s calls to target citizens of the U.S-led coalition battling its activities abroad.Saunders, however, issued a sharp denial.“At this stage, we have no evidence to support these claims,” he said in a statement, adding that Toronto police would continue to “explore every investigative avenue” in its probe, which includes examining how the shooter obtained a gun.A spokeswoman for federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale echoed Saunders, saying currently “there is no national security nexus” to the man behind the attack.Hussain, who was found dead with a gunshot wound following an exchange of gunfire with police, was also not on any federal watchlists associated with national security, Goodale has said.Hussain’s parents have said their son had severe mental health issues all his life and had not responded to treatment. Neighbours have said Hussain had a supportive family and did not show outward signs of mental illness.Saunders said police will be interviewing those who knew Hussain, reviewing his online activity and “looking into his experiences with mental health.”The other person killed in the shooting was Reese Fallon, a recent high school graduate who was preparing to study nursing at Hamilton’s McMaster University in the fall.One of Fallon’s friends, Samantha Price, was injured in the shooting. Both worked at an east-end Loblaw’s store, the company said, adding that the shooter also worked as a part-time employee at a different location.A waiter at Mezes Restaurant on the Danforth was also among those injured, who were treated at three Toronto hospitals. Two of the injured remained in critical condition.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect name for Nancy Olesen.last_img read more

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Call for Toronto handgun ban reignites passionate gun control debate

first_imgTORONTO – A call on the federal government to consider turning Canada’s largest city into a handgun-free zone will do little to prevent the kind of senseless violence that saw a young woman and girl shot dead in Toronto’s Greektown last weekend, gun rights advocates said on Wednesday.The city council debate that followed the rampage by a man who may have had a history of severe mental health issues was both offensive and misguided, they said.“They spent a day slandering gun owners and accusing gun owners of supplying violent offenders with their weapons,” said Nicolas Johnson, a gun rights advocate and founder of The Gun Blog. “The people who are shooting up our streets are not the people who will be obeying any gun bans. The only people who will obey a ban are the people we don’t need to worry about.”Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, whose ministry has been working on additional gun control measures for some time, said he would be open to considering Toronto’s proposals. Former Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan, now a Liberal MP, said tackling the availability of firearms is critical to reducing the scourge of gun violence such as seen on the weekend that also left 13 people injured.It’s illegal, Vaughan points out, to drive a snowmobile, keep poisonous snakes, ride dirt bikes in parks, or randomly set off fireworks in Toronto — all because of the dangers posed.“There’s no rational reason for guns in cities; they’re just too damn dangerous for urban areas,” Vaughan said. “What upside is there to the tolerance of guns in cities? All I’ve seen is people being buried.”While the sale and possession of firearms of all types is already tightly regulated in Canada, proponents of even tighter controls say the evidence is clear: Easier availability of guns in Canada in recent years has resulted in more gun crime and suicide by gun.“For the last 10 years, we’ve had a steady erosion of gun control in Canada and for four years, we’ve seen successive increases in gun homicide across the country,” said Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control and a professor at Ryerson University. “When you increase the availability of firearms, you increase the risk they will be misused.”Cukier said former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government eased controls with profound effect. Among other things, she and other gun control advocates point to police reports that half of illegal guns they now recover originate with legal Canadian gun owners — about double the rate of five or six years ago.James (J.R.) Cox, owner of Target Sports Canada, called that figure a “statistical lie.” The only thing that has changed, he said, has been the police definition of what counts as a domestically sourced gun as opposed to one smuggled from the United States.Cox, who owns shooting ranges in Calgary and the Toronto area as well as retail outlets in the U.K., said council’s call for a ban on handguns is futile. It makes as much sense, he said, as banning car rentals because someone used one to mow down innocent pedestrians.“It will have the same effect as thoughts and prayers will without actually solving anything,” Cox said from Calgary. “There is no gun problem in Toronto. There is a crime problem.”Where control advocates and rights advocates find common ground is on the need to tackle the question of why someone would want a gun to kill a person. Both sides of the emotionally charged debate cite factors such as poverty, education, unemployment and alienation that make some citizens prone to gun violence.You shouldn’t be punishing the rest of Canada because Toronto can’t fix its problem, Cox said.Vaughan, however, is unmoved in his desire to see as many guns as possible removed from urban areas such as Toronto, where current restrictions have failed to curb what he called “unacceptable” levels of gun activity. Given the carnage, Vaughan said, bowing to the desires of gun enthusiasts and target shooters simply doesn’t cut it.“It’s a hobby and not every hobby is tolerated,” Vaughan said. “I’m more concerned about the impact (guns) are having on children in my city right now than I am on people who collect them.”last_img read more

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Ten people hurt in bustruck collision at highway intersection west of Saskatoon

first_imgKERROBERT, Sask. – Ten people have been injured in a collision involving a semi-truck and a bus carrying workers at a highway intersection west of Saskatoon.RCMP say no one has died but an air ambulance was dispatched to the scene.Mounties say the crash happened at the intersections of Highways 21, 31 and 51 near Kerrobert shortly after 4 p.m. Friday.Investigators say there were 16 people on the bus.Three people have been sent to hospital in Saskatoon and seven were treated at the hospital in Kerrobert.The nature and severity of the injuries were not released.The driver of the grain truck was not hurt.RCMP said a collision analyst is en route and the intersection is expected to be closed until early Saturday morning.Kerrobert is just east of the Saskatchewan-Alberta boundary and about 180 kilometres west of Saskatoon.The crash happened only days after the Humboldt Broncos played their first game since the Friday April 6 collision involving the hockey team’s bus and a transport truck at a rural Saskatchewan highway intersection.Sixteen people, including 10 players, were killed and 13 players were injured in that crash.RCMP have not released any details of the investigation or what they believe happened in the Broncos bus collision.The only thing the Mounties have said to this point is that the truck was in the intersection.The driver of that truck, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily injury.Sidhu, who was not hurt in the crash, was released on $1,000 bail in July under conditions he not drive and that he surrender his passport.last_img read more

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Canadian air force short 275 pilots as attrition outpaces recruitment training

first_imgOTTAWA – The Royal Canadian Air Force is contending with a shortage of around 275 pilots and needs more mechanics, sensor operators and other trained personnel in the face of increasing demands at home and abroad.The Air Force says it is working to address the deficiencies and that they have not negatively impacted operations, but officials acknowledge the situation has added pressure on Canada’s flying corps and represents a challenge for the foreseeable future.“Right now we’re doing everything we can to make sure we recruit, train and retain enough personnel to do our current mission,” said Brig.-Gen. Eric Kenny, director general of air readiness.“In the next 20 years, it’s going to be a challenge to grow the force at the rate that we would like.”The shortfall in pilots and mechanics was referenced in an internal report recently published by the Department of National Defence, which also flagged underspending on maintenance for bases and other infrastructure, as well as reductions in annual flying times thanks to Conservative-era budget cuts.Some of those issues have since started to be addressed by the Liberals through their new defence policy, but the personnel shortage remains an area of critical concern given the need for pilots and others to fly and maintain the military’s various aircraft fleets at home and abroad.Those include the planes and helicopters involved in Canada’s military missions in Iraq, Latvia, Mali, and Ukraine; domestic search-and-rescue aircraft; and the CF-18 fighter jets deployed in Romania and guarding against a foreign attack on North America.The Air Force is authorized to have 1,580 pilots, but Kenny said in an interview the Air Force is short by around 17 per cent — or about 275 pilots — along with similar shortfalls for navigators and sensor operators, who work onboard different types of aircraft, as well as mechanics.Kenny also acknowledged the threat of burnout as service members are forced to pick up the slack left by unfilled positions, and the added burden of promised new drones, fighter jets and other aircraft arriving in the coming years, which will require even more people to fly and maintain.Efforts to address the shortfalls have looked at retaining service members with tax breaks, additional support and services for family members to ease military life, and plans to free up experienced personnel by assigning administrative staff to do day-to-day tasks.Several initiatives have also been introduced to speed up recruitment and training, and attract older pilots back into the Forces, which has borne some fruit and aimed at buying time for officials to decide whether to change the length of time pilots and others are required to serve before they can leave.“This is beyond just looking at benefits,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday. “We’re looking at a much more holistic approach in how we look after them.”But the current training system means the Air Force can only produce 115 new pilots each year, which commanders have said is insufficient to meet needs given the rate at which military pilots have moved on to commercial opportunities in recent years.Conservative defence critic James Bezan suggested one reason the military is losing pilots is because they are being asked to fly older planes, including CF-18 fighter jets that are close to 40 years old.“If pilots aren’t getting new aircraft, why are they sticking around?” Bezan said.“And so, the idea of bringing in used fighter jets from Australia that are even in worse shape than the current CF-18s that we fly today, why would they stick around?”The Department of National Defence is drawing up plans for a new system that officials hope will be in place by 2021 and include the ability to expand or shrink the number of trainees in any year given the Air Force’s needs.Kenny said the shortfalls will remain a challenge since the current system will remain in place for several more years — and because it takes four and eight years to train a pilot from scratch.“We know what capabilities we’re receiving and now we can start working to make sure that we have personnel that are trained to be able to meet those requirements,” he said.“But I’m not going to lie: It’s definitely a challenge.”— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.last_img read more

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Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

first_imgOTTAWA – Canada’s election watchdog is seeking three specialists to analyze social media for threats to the integrity of the next federal election, a move that follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.In a recruitment notice issued Monday, the Commissioner of Canada Elections says the specialists will collect and methodically scrutinize content from social media, blogs, chat rooms, message boards, and video and image-sharing websites.The commissioner’s office is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Canada Elections Act and will be especially mindful of attempts to use “fake news” and disinformation to sway voters in the run-up to the 2019 general election.The two English-speaking and one bilingual contract employees, to begin work in January, will not simply monitor social media feeds but use analytical skills to support investigations and detect current and emerging risks.They will be responsible for regularly briefing investigators and management on trends involving social media and other public information sources that might affect the electoral process.The specialists could also be called on to help with court proceedings by preparing electronic evidence and giving testimony, the recruitment notice says.Under the proposed terms, each contractor would work up to 220 days next year, and the contracts could be extended for up to three additional years.“I think we’re anticipating that there’ll be a need for it, which is why we’ve done it this way,” said Michelle Laliberte, a spokeswoman for the commissioner.“It’s bolstering what we have currently in-house on a temporary basis.”While interference through social media wasn’t a major issue in Canada’s last general election, the commissioner’s office wants to be ready “based on what we’re observing in other countries,” she added.Last year Facebook said hundreds of dubious accounts, likely operated out of Russia, spent about $100,000 on some 3,000 ads about contentious issues such as LGBT rights, race, immigration and guns from June 2015 to May 2017.Facebook later said an estimated 10 million people in the United States saw the ads.Canada’s cyberspy agency, the Communications Security Establishment, warned in a report for the Liberal government last year that cyberthreat activity against democratic processes is increasing around the world, and Canada is not immune.The new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security plans to pick up the thread and update the report early in the new year.Scott Jones, head of the centre, is already seeing heightened public awareness about online threats to elections.“One of the big changes that we’ve seen is, there is a conversation happening around this,” Jones said in a recent interview.“Our goal is to continue the dialogue, to continue to work on our ability to protect and defend.”But Jones said he also wants to help Canadians be more discriminating “connoisseurs” of the information they consume. “How can we be better users of social media?”— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitterlast_img read more

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Injured Metro Vancouver transit officer says thanks to his supporters

first_imgNEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — An officer with Metro Vancouver Transit Police who was shot last week in the line of duty will undergo surgery for his injuries this week.In a statement, Const. Josh Harms expressed his gratitude to his colleagues with the transit police and the RCMP, as well as staff at the B.C. Ambulance Service and Royal Columbia Hospital.The 27-year-old also thanked his wife, family and members of the public who expressed their support.Harms was shot Wednesday on a SkyTrain platform in Surrey.Police said Daon Glasgow was taken into custody Sunday after a Canada-wide warrant was issued.No charges have been laid.Transit police say Harms visited the department’s headquarters on Friday to meet with his co-workers.“I have so many reasons to be grateful, and so many people to thank,” he said in the statement released Monday.“I thank God my injuries were not worse. Though I have a long road ahead, I am going to make a full recovery and rejoin my colleagues as soon as possible.” The Canadian Presslast_img read more

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Ubisoft historian says companys 3D Notre Dame a reminder of beauty during

first_imgMorgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press MONTREAL — As the fire-gutted Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris faces years of reconstruction, a Montreal-made video game may provide some comfort for those longing to revisit every inch of the church, from the soaring spire and towers to the cavernous vault.Artists and historians working to create the 2014 game “Assassin’s Creed Unity” spent 14 months combing through photos, videos, and architectural plans to create a digital model so realistic that some have speculated it could help to guide the reconstruction of the 12th century cathedral.Ubisoft historian Maxime Durand said that while he doubts the company’s digital plans will be needed, he hopes the game can still help the renovation in a small way, if only by reminding people of the structure’s beauty.“I believe the architects won’t need our digital plans to rebuild the cathedral,” he said in a phone interview.“But if the reconstruction we did for the game can help to enthuse people for the reconstruction, or if it allows people to visit (virtually) while they’re waiting to go one day … that will already be our contribution.”Durand pointed out it wouldn’t be the first time that art helped inspire the refurbishment of Notre Dame.He said Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” raised awareness of the long-neglected Gothic cathedral, which led to a major restoration project and construction of the spire that toppled Monday.Hugo hoped his novel would “get people excited about the monument, and this helped in part to revitalize the monument, renovate it to how we see it in the modern day,” Durand said.Ubisoft did not respond to a question about whether it had offered its digital plans to aid the rebuilding effort. But on Wednesday, the French game-maker announced it would donate 500,000 euros, or just over $750,000, to the reconstruction effort and would allow people to download its Unity game for free on PC for one week.“Video games can enable us to explore places in ways we never could have otherwise imagined,” the company said in a statement. “We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture.”The cathedral forms the centrepiece of the game, which is set during the French Revolution. Recreating it fell mainly to artist Caroline Miousse, who worked with a team including Durand and a texture artist for 14 months.Together, they combed through photos, videos, and modern and historical architectural plans to create a 3-dimensional version of the structure that could be examined from all angles.Durand said the game’s “homage” to the cathedral is largely accurate, with a few exceptions. For example, the artists chose to include the church’s famous spire, despite the fact that it wasn’t rebuilt until decades after the period in which the game is set.Durand said that due to the upheaval of the time, the cathedral’s 18th-century interior had a darker feel than recent visitors would have experienced.“At first it was still a cathedral, but it became a state cathedral, then it was abandoned and used to store cannons and wares,” he said. After the revolution, he said thieves pillaged the interior, and it was eventually abandoned for a short time.“Nowadays, people don’t feel that oppression when they go inside the monument.”Durand said it would be “very pleasing” if Ubisoft’s work could help to rebuild the cathedral but reiterated that he doubted the mapping was needed.As evidence, he pointed out that Miousse’s realistic depiction of the cathedral was built without her having seen it in person. He said her first visit came shortly after her work on the game had been completed.“I think it’s proof they can rebuild without the help of the game, but in the meantime it’s there for people to explore,” he said.last_img read more

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In the news today May 7

first_imgFive stories in the news for Tuesday, May 7———UN REPORT HAS MESSAGE FOR CANADA: CO-AUTHORA UN report that concludes a million species are threatened with extinction and that “fundamental, structural change” is required to halt a steep decline in the natural environment has lessons for Canada, says one of its authors. Kai Chan, a University of British Columbia professor, says the current fight that Canada is having between provinces and the feds around oilsands, pipelines, climate change and local environmental impacts “is not actually a fight that we should be having.” Chan helped write the report from the International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. That report was released Monday after a three-year effort by hundreds of scientists from 50 countries.———CLIMATE CHANGE EXAM QUESTION ANGERS STUDENTSA Quebec high school French exam question that asked students about adapting to climate change has drawn a torrent of online criticism, as teens used memes and videos to denounce what they see as government inaction on climate issues. The question on last week’s ministry exam for Grade 11 students asked: “Can we adapt to climate change?” It quickly drew the ire of students like 17-year-old Francis Claude, who feels the way the question was phrased suggests the government has accepted climate change.———HUMAN SOUND NOTED AS THREAT TO WHALE SPECIESCanadian scientists say human-made sounds in the ocean are a key factor contributing to the threatened status of three types of whales off the east coast. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada released its findings today on the sei whale, fin whale and Sowerby’s beaked whale following a gathering of 43 scientists in St. John’s, N.L., over the weekend. Researchers who study marine mammal populations say that the continuing low numbers of the sei whale in the aftermath of decades of whaling led them to ask for an endangered designation. They also found that the fin whales and the Sowerby’s beaked whales should continue to be designated as species “of special concern.”———CANADA WELCOMES U.S. HELP ON CHINA: MINISTERA Nova Scotia cabinet minister says the federal government would welcome any help the United States could offer in helping Canada in its ongoing dispute with China. Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan tells The Canadian Press that American influence could make a difference as tensions between the countries escalate. China has suspended Canadian imports of pork and canola from two Canadian companies each, following the December arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant alleging she committed fraud. A senior Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said Canada is working with all allies, including the U.S., to pressure China.———QUESTIONS ABOUND WITH BIRTH OF ROYAL BABYThe much-anticipated child of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has arrived, igniting a flurry of baby fever and speculation on all manner of royal gossip. Questions abound for crown watchers and celebrity fiends: When will we see pictures of the baby? Who will his godparents be? What country will the new family visit first? Will Meghan ever get to enjoy Mother’s Day with her son’s birthday so close to her special day? Does England even celebrate Mother’s Day? For some of these and other pressing matters, The Canadian Press turned to monarchy experts to weigh in.———ALSO IN THE NEWS:— International Trade Minister Jim Carr discusses Canada’s global trade agenda and World Trade Organization reform at the 49th Washington Conference on the Americas hosted by the Council of the Americas.— Five cabinet ministers — Joyce Murray, Jean-Yves Duclos, Ahmed Hussen, Ralph Goodale, and Diane Lebouthillier — respond to various chapters of the auditor general spring reports and answer questions from the media.— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the National Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony and delivers remarks.— Environment and Climate Change Canada research scientist Chris Derksen presents highlights from the recently released Canada’s Changing Climate Report, and answers questions from the media.———The Canadian Presslast_img read more

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Study on cancer prevention a message for governments Canadians researcher

first_imgVANCOUVER — Researchers who have estimated future rates of 30 different types of cancer hope their study serves as a road map for policy-makers to introduce prevention programs that would help Canadians reduce their risk through positive lifestyle choices.The study, which included epidemiologists and experts in environmental and occupational exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos, says as many as four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented by not smoking, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, having a nutritious diet and practising sun safety — the top five actions to decrease burden of the disease.The Canadian Cancer Society, which funded the study, said failure to act on the findings published Wednesday in the international journal Preventive Medicine would lead to almost 60 per cent more cases of preventable cancer cases by 2042.By then, the number of cancer cases due to excess weight would nearly triple, from 7,200 to 21,000, with people in that category at risk for at least 11 different types of the disease including breast, colorectal and esophageal cancers, the society said.Christine Friedenreich, a co-principal investigator among 10 main researchers, said the results of the Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer study point to the need for initiatives by all levels of government.No single policy will solve the complex and growing incidence of excess weight and obesity, but targeted approaches such as on childhood obesity and anti-stigma programs could be part of an overall strategy, said Friedenreich, scientific director in the Department of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research at Alberta Health Services.“This is the first time in Canada that we have such a comprehensive study where we can actually quantify exactly how that burden could be decreased at a national level,” she said.The study analyzed national population data from 2015 to determine how many people are projected to be at risk of developing certain cancers by 2042 if no preventative action is taken.If current trends continue, the number of new cancer cases due to smoking would increase to 46,900 in 2042, from 32,700 in 2015. Physical inactivity would hike the number of cases to 16,500, up from 11,600.Measures to get people more physically active and healthy could include more spending on public transportation, Friedenreich said.The Canadian Cancer Society has also advocated for introducing labelling on the front of food packages, restricting marketing to kids and introducing a manufacturers’ levy on sugary drinks.The society praised Health Canada’s announcement last week that cigarette packs will have to be plain and dark brown by next November in order to drive down the use of tobacco to five per cent by 2035.The department’s statistics show the prevalence of cigarette smoking increased to 15 per cent, or 4.6 million smokers in 2017, up from 13 per cent, or 3.9 million smokers, in 2015.Part of the study said tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of cancer, followed by excess weight.Smoking-cessation programs are available across the country, including through the society and the Canadian Lung Association. They vary across provinces, from counselling by phone to online information and support groups.The BC Lung Association runs a provincially funded program called QuitNow, which includes a live-chat connection with so-called quit coaches who can also be accessed on a toll-free line and a customized online questionnaire that provides information such as how much money someone could save by quitting.Chris Lam, the association’s CEO, said a toll-free text-to-quit number is also available. It uses artificial intelligence to reply to questions from people seeking support, perhaps before they’re about to pick up a cigarette.“Based on their profile and based on predictive language the text-to-quit program will text them back things like, ‘Perhaps you should go for a walk or talk to your family or friend,’ ” he said.Those with a strong urge to smoke can be further prompted to call another line so they can be talked through a tough time by focusing their attention elsewhere, Lam said.One of the most popular aspects of the online program includes a forum where people find support through community.“They see one story about someone who’s quit for a number of years and they immediately almost all want to chime in with their own quit stories and their struggles and their successes because they really do see that as a community where they can share, where they’re not stigmatized,” Lam said.However, he would like the success rate of the program to increase beyond 27.5 per cent.–Camille Bains, The Canadian Presslast_img read more

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Liberal government runs 14B budgetary deficit in first two months of 201920

first_imgOTTAWA — A new preliminary estimate says the federal government posted a budgetary deficit of $1.4 billion through the first two months of the current fiscal year.The Finance Department’s numbers show the combined shortfall for April and May 2019 came after government spending and public debt charges expanded at a pace about three times higher than revenues.The report says expenses during those two months jumped up 13.5 per cent — or $6.3 billion — compared to a year earlier, mostly due to increases in direct program spending and transfers to other levels of government.The department’s latest fiscal monitor says over that period public debt charges rose 13.3 per cent, or $600 million.Government revenues only provided a partial offset, compared to a year earlier, by increasing 4.2 per cent — or $2.3 billion — mostly because of higher tax revenues.The report says the government ran a $2.1-billion deficit in April and a $700-million surplus in May.The combined deficit compares to a $3.2-billion surplus over the same period in 2018.The Liberal government’s spring budget forecasted a shortfall of $19.8 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year.The Canadian Presslast_img read more

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True Bloods Kristin Bauer Needs Donations For Conservation Film

first_imgTrue Blood star Kristin Bauer van Straten is asking fans for donations to help fund a new documentary that looks into the poaching and slaughter of Africa’s majestic animals.“I will be taking a camera crew to Kenya to ask Africans, the on the ground experts and heroes; what is happening, what the possible solutions are and, How can we help you?” says the actress. “They are living this crisis and working very hard to stop it, they know what can be done – they just need a larger voice. Together is the only way elephants and rhino may make it and also the only way I will be able to do make this documentary. In the last six months 2 species of rhino have gone extinct and more are on the brink. I don’t think we can afford to wait to do something.”Kristin hopes to raise $30,000 for the film, and has set up a fundraising page on KickStarter.com.“I have set the goal lower than what I need on this Kickstarter campaign because with Kickstarter it’s all or nothing. You make your goal or you get zero. But I am hoping to make it so much fun that we will make double, or triple our goal! Any purchase is help and support. This is a huge undertaking in every respect to take a camera crew all over Kenya to meet with the people of Kenya, the impressive experts and groups that are making such a difference ~ Like the orphange [sic] for elephant and rhino babies in Nairobi. We’ll interview experts in Amboseli, who are creating a network of over 100,000 people from many government agencies, working together to police the illegal trade in the parks, at the seaports and airports. We will also find out about the campaign in China to lessen the demand using a PSA campaign that shows a Mother elephant’s worried when her baby is so happy to be cutting her first “teeth” as Mom knows it could mean her death.“Every dollar helps! And help me spread the word about this movie and come back often…I will be adding incentives as I get more items from my cast mates and friends! The heroes in Africa really can’t do this alone and nether can I. I hope you will be inspired to come on this incredible journey of passion and love with my husband and me.”To read more and find out how you can donate, click here.last_img read more

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Tiger Woods Foundation Supports Military Families

first_imgThe Tiger Woods Foundation is excited to announce plans to expand services and programs for children from military families.In celebration of Veterans Day, the Tiger Woods Foundation is fundraising for this critical cause from Nov. 6-8, where donations as little as $1 will help bring vital support for children of the U.S. military.“As a proud supporter of the men and women in our Armed Forces, Intelligent Decisions is very proud to match every donation dollar for dollar,” Harry Martin said. “These programs not only provide excellent educational experiences, but also a sense of community for the children whose families sacrifice so much for our freedom.”To date, the Tiger Woods Foundation has served children from military families through the Earl Woods Scholarship Program and the Tiger Woods Learning Centers, with programs and services designed specifically for them. This includes the Foundation’s award-winning STEM-based curricula, which offers a variety of hands-on activities, including fingerprinting, DNA analysis, hair and fiber analysis and chromatography. Further, military families are supported via the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, where 100 percent of scholars graduate with a bachelor’s degree.“My wife and I cannot express our heartfelt gratitude enough to the staff and the generosity of those who provided a scholarship for my son,” said a parent of a TWLC Military Summer Academy participant whose child attended at no cost to the family. “There was no way I could have afforded this camp for him, and this opportunity was ‘once in a lifetime.’”Donations will help provide classroom materials, including pH testing kits, DNA analysis and fingerprint identification equipment, microscopes and digital portrait software. For example: $5 provides a student with evidence collection materials, $10 provides diffraction glasses for 50 students, $20 provides DNA analysis equipment for 25 students, $50 outfits a class with fingerprint identification supplies, $100 supplies each student with pH testing kits, $250 creates simulated forensic lab for up to 200 students, $500 provides digital portrait software and $1,000 provides microscopes for 10 students.The fundraising campaign will be conducted on TigerWoodsFoundation.org, and every dollar will be matched by Intelligent Decisions. Participants from around the world can contribute as little as $1 directly to the TWLC military curriculum.The three-day campaign, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 9 a.m. ET, will conclude Friday, Nov. 8, at 5 p.m. ET. In addition, everyone who donates will receive an exclusive Tiger Woods personalized, digitally autographed Digigraph photo, as THANKS for their generous support!last_img read more

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