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May, 2019

Questions on sale still surround Negro Community Centre – Montreal

MONTREAL — For the past two weeks, word has swirled around the Negro Community Centre that the iconic building has been sold to condo developers. But so far efforts to learn the exact contours of a sale agreement involving the crumbling structure on 2035 Coursol Street have generated little more than speculation.

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  • Questions, but few answers, emerge about NCC

  • A community left in the dark when it comes to NCC’s future

An agreement in principle appears to be in place between the bankruptcy trustee, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and an unknown buyer for around $300,000, according to Thierry Larrivee, a spokesperson for the Sud-Ouest borough where the NCC is located. But Global News was unable to confirm the transfer of the property  through the municipal tax assessor’s office, and city spokesperson Patricia Lowe confirmed Tuesday that any sale has not been finalized.

Other documents that have come to light do little to clear up a situation that has morphed into an ongoing saga in recent weeks. Accounting by PWC indicates that the NCC owed $166,037.58 at the time it went into bankruptcy protection earlier this year, with the city of Montreal being the largest unsecured creditor with a total debt of more than $130,000. The accounting office of Steven T. Tabac is listed as being owed almost $25,000, but no one there had heard any news of a sale.

PWC has said it does not comment on the deals it brokers.

Watch: NCC closure debate

If the building is in fact bought by a developer, a real estate group would face a number of legal hurdles before turning it into condos or any housing for that matter. First off, as recently as June 11, city officials wrote a concerned citizen to confirm that the building has a historical designation  (“immeuble d’interet patrimonial”) under the borough’s by-laws.

According to city councillor Craig Sauve, the zoning of the building would also have to be changed if the property were to be developed. Currently it is zoned as “educational-constitutional” by the city of Montreal.

The board of directors of the Negro Community Centre is also reluctant to talk to the media. Global News has confirmed that around the time it went into bankruptcy, the amount of cash-on-hand the organization claimed — more than $235,000 — well exceeded its liabilities. And although concerned citizens have been holding ad hoc meetings in the basement of the Universal Negro Improvement Association with an eye toward saving the historic building, the six board members of the NCC have not attended them. Attempts by Global News to contact the board have also been unsuccessful.

Watch: NCC on verge of bankruptcy

The organization was founded in Little Burgundy within the former home of the Union United Church in 1927. It became a hub for black cultural life during most of the 20th Century; it housed dance classes, piano lessons and athletic events in addition to being an informal meeting place for field trips and other community events.

The NCC fell on hard times sometime in the mid-1990s, and the building was abandoned in the midst of gentrification and massive demographic change in the neighbourhood. Former members of the NCC’s board say overhead costs in recent years topped $30,000 a month.

“Time is of the matter, so we have to really work rationally and see what can be done within a reasonable amount of time,” Michael Farkas recently told Global News, a concerned citizen who used to be on the board of the NCC.

Another meeting is set for the UNIA Thursday night. Community leaders believe that by meeting and sharing information about the NCC they may be able to save the building for future generations.

Silence of the bees: ‘It has to stop. It just has to stop.’

TORONTO – Davis Bryans is a fourth-generation beekeeper at Munro Honey in Alviston, Ontario. It’s a lifestyle he loves. It may be a long day – 12 to 14 hours in the summer – but he’s outside, learning about the natural world around him and watching as life flourishes season by season.

But what he’s noticed lately is that life is declining around him. In particular, that of insects.

For the past six years or so, Bryans has noticed a steep decline in his bee crop.

Davis Bryans, owner of Munro Honey, with just some of his hives.

Courtesy Munro Honey

“We’re out the environment and we’re really noticing other pollinators that aren’t there,” Bryans said. “Like the leaf-cutter bee, the bumble bee, the butterflies…they’re just not there.”

And it’s not just his crop, others are also in decline. The culprit responsible, Bryans believes – along with other beekeepers around the world – are neonicotinoids, known as neonics or NNIs. In fact, in 2013, the European Union put a temporary ban on NNIs.

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READ MORE: EU bans pesticides in effort to save bees

The first time Bryans started to notice something was wrong was around 2007. His crop was declining, but cropping practices had remained the same.

He and other beekeepers in the same area were perplexed.

Bryans tried replacing the queens. But that didn’t stop the bees from dying, sometimes a twitching mess in front of the hive, sometimes just laying dead in a pile.

Finally, in 2012, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), a branch of Health Canada, sent investigators to the region from both the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Full Episode: 16×9’s Flight of the Bees (Encore)

The report from this investigation was published in October 2013. In part, it read:

“The information evaluated suggests that planting of corn seeds treated with the nitro-guanidine insecticides clothianidin and/or thiamethoxam contributed to the majority of the bee mortalities that occurred in corn growing regions of Ontario and Quebec in Spring 2012…The unusual weather conditions in the spring of 2012 were likely also a contributing factor.”

Clothianidin and thiamethoxam are two types of insecticides. Part of the neonicotinoid (NNI) family, they are used on about 95 per cent of corn crops in Canada and the U.S., as well as about 70 per cent of soy. The report clearly identified the pesticide as contributing to the majority of bee losses in a key region of corn and soy production. But there was no ban.

Then in July 2014, the Ontario government made an unprecedented move: the Liberal government confirmed that it was seeking to restrict the use of these pesticides.

But for some beekeepers, it wasn’t enough. That’s why on Sept. 3, a proposed class-action lawsuit was launched against Bayer AG and Syngenta, two major manufacturers of neonics. Two of the beekeepers involved in the $450 million lawsuit were Munro Honey and Sun Parlour Honey.

Countries are reporting widespread bee deaths, attributing them to the use of insecticides.

Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Ontario beekeeper Tibor Szabo said that he plans on joining the lawsuit as well.

“I have been heavily affected by these chemicals for sure,” he said. This year, he’s lost 1,165 hives, each with 1000 bees.

READ MORE: California honey production dries up amid record drought

Szabo is a third-generation beekeeper. His father, once a leading bee research scientist, was awarded the Order of Canada in 1987 for his work with bees.

Trying to make a living

Both Bryans and Szabo question why NNIs are being used straight across the board when not all farmers may need it.

“To put it on 100 per cent of crops without knowing if they need it?” Bryans said. “That’s a crime.”

“It’s mobile, persistent and systemic,” Szabo said. “Putting it on every agricultural field in southern Ontario is nothing but insanity.”

And the use of the pesticides, these men believe, is making it harder to run their businesses.

“We try to run 2,700 hives,” Bryans said. In each of those hives there are 80,000 bees. “But it’s hard to keep those numbers up.”

For Szabo, who raises queens, this year he was only able to produce 2,000. He used to be able to produce 6,000-7,000.

“We just can’t keep the hives going,” he said.

The dismaying part is that bee losses used to be largely relegated to winter, but that is no longer the case. At any point during the year, Szabo is faced with the possibility that a large part of his crop is dead or unhealthy. And Szabo lays the blame on NNIs.

“It has to stop. It just has to stop.”

WATCH: ‘Neonic’ pesticides killing bees, harming environment: scientists

The key to keeping their businesses going, both men agree, is diversifying.

“You do what you can,” Szabo said. “You have to adjust and do different things, but it’s crazy.”

Bryans said that his losses are making his business more costly and labour-intensive. One example is trying to find a sick bee in 2,700 hives.

“You have to go down and try to find that one bee in 80,000. It’s very labour-intensive. It’s gotten to the point…we’re having a hard time of it.”

Bee losses across Ontario this past year are estimated to be around 58 per cent, Szabo said. While some may blame last winter – a particularly long and harsh one – Szabo said that it’s not the winter. It’s that unhealthy bees – bees that are “essentially brain damaged” – can’t make it through the winter. They lose their ability to function properly – such as clustering to stay warm.

WATCH: Manitoba apiarist concerned about bees’ survival

And don’t try to tell him it could be varroa mites, a mite that can be lethal to bees.

“Poisoning symptoms are so, so different,” he said.

As for the lawsuit – put before the courts by Munro Honey and Sun Parlour Honey – Bryans said that he feels like there was little else he could do.

“When your back is up against the wall you’ve got to do something. And if they’re going to take our industry away, they’re going to have to pay us to do it. But I don’t think the average person wants this industry gone.”

“We feel if we don’t say anything, the rest of the environment is suffering,” Bryans said.

CropLife, who represents the manufacturers of these pesticides, declined to comment on the suit.

Syngenta only issued a release that read in part, “While Syngenta has not received the complaint in question and cannot comment on any specifics, we do take concerns about bee health very seriously. The scientific evidence, including field studies conducted in Canada, clearly shows that bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with modern agricultural technologies, including neonicotinoids.”

WATCH: Beekeepers to launch lawsuit

But both men hope that the lawsuit will stop the widespread use of these pesticides.

READ MORE: U.S. wildlife refuges phasing out GMO crops, some pesticides to help bees

“I would like to see, realistic and proper risk-assessment on all insecticides, especially systemic insecticides, before any of it is released,” Szabo said.  “This stuff shouldn’t happen… Regulators need to get with the program. I’d like to see some accountability from the federal government.”

Bryans said that bees – believed to be responsible for more than half of the world’s pollination – are too important to lose.

“They pollinate stuff that you hardly even realize that they’re pollinating, like wild flowers, maple trees, clovers, hay in the hay fields,” he said. “It’s very important and we feel like we’re doing a service to the environment.”

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2 Calgary men killed in workplace accident in Saskatchewan

CALGARY- Two Calgary men have been killed in a workplace incident in Saskatchewan.

RCMP say three men were working on sewer lines on a road near Fox Valley, when two of them fell about 12 feet—triggering a partial collapse.

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The third man was able to call 911, and emergency crews responding to the scene pulled a 25-year-old man out of the hole. He was rushed to hospital, but died of his injuries.

Due to noxious fumes, first responders had trouble getting to the second man. A local farmer eventually showed up with equipment that was able to hoist the 24-year-old victim out. However, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

An investigation is now underway, and poor weather including rain and high winds may have played a factor.

The victims have not been identified, but officials say both men worked for a company in Swift Current.

How much is your stolen credit card data worth, anyway? – National

If you’re one of the unfortunate shoppers who may have had their credit-card information stolen during a trip to Home Depot or a U.S. Target location over the past year, you may be under the impression your data commanded a small fortune.

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Not so.

According to Trend Micro, a data security company, credit card numbers poached by cybercriminals in data breaches like the kind Home Depot confirmed this week regularly sell for as little as $0.50 in underground online markets such as the Russian forums reportedly hawking numbers stolen from store locations in the United States and Canada dating as far back as April.

MORE: Home Depot confirms data breach at Canada, U.S. stores

Even a high-end price for an unblemished, freshly stolen account number is typically under $50, according to Trend Micro. The median price meanwhile is far lower than that.

“We’ve tracked prices over the past couple of years and the average range seems to be about $1–5 USD,” Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud and emerging technology says.

Falling prices

As for stolen Canadian cards, most are now generally protected by chip-and-pin technology that requires a PIN punched in at the store to make a successful purchase. Experts say the the added layer of technology has made stolen Canadian card numbers less valuable to cybercriminals and their customers.

Another reason prices are so low is that the so-called “valid rate,” or the percentage of cards that haven’t been cancelled by banks, credit-card companies or individuals following a breach, is falling with each new high-profile incident.

The more attention such breaches receive (when they’re discovered and disclosed), the more awareness has gone up and faster stakeholders have responded.

Prior to the Target breach late last year, stolen card numbers fetched fees of more than $150, because the valid rate and probability of a successful purchase were very high.

The price on stolen numbers acquired in the Target breach, in contrast, were initially high but quickly plummeted in the weeks following the breach’s disclosure as cards were rapidly cancelled.

Brian Krebs, the security blogger who first broke the Target and Home Depot stories, lays out a more detailed analysis here.

The sheer volume of a breach on Target’s scale – and possibly Home Depot’s – also dilutes the value of a stolen card, according to Trend Micro.

“The cybercriminal underground economy is much like any other type of business economy. It experiences pricing highs and lows, depending on demand and supply,” Trend Micro said in recent paper. “Incidents such as the massive breaches involving popular retailers increases the supply of such credentials, driving prices down.”

Still, while individual returns appear to be diminishing for stolen cards, experts say criminals are keeping ahead of the barricades that security firms are racing to put up, innovating new ways to exploit systems and steal profit-generating data.

“Even though the prices of most products and services sold in the underground market have been decreasing, that does not mean that business is not doing well for cybercriminals,” Trend Micro’s report said. “It can even mean that the market is growing.”

WATCH: Home Depot hack job

University of Saskatchewan axing TransformUS – Saskatoon

Watch above: University of Saskatchewan acting president scraps cost-cutting program TransformUS

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan will not go through with its cost cutting initiative TransformUS, according to its interim president.

The announcement was made on campus Tuesday by interim president Gordon Barnhart.

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He said that the change will not just be “in name,” but a significant difference in how the university tackles it’s projected deficit. Instead, TransformUS will be replaced by a smaller set of priorities.

“Any changes will be driven by mission, not just money,” said Barnhart during the announcement.

Eight priorities for action were set for this year, including an accelerated commitment to aboriginal achievement and the continued restructuring of the College of Medicine.

“University leadership tried to do too much in a time period that was too short,” said interim provost and vice-president academic Ernie Barber, on the past cost cutting process.

In 2012 the university identified a projected deficit of $44.5 million by 2016.

University officials say that over the last two years, the university has reduced that number by generating roughly $32 million through savings and revenue.

The university is still projecting a $3-million deficit for the 2014-15 academic year, which officials say is manageable.