Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Greetings Sent to Earth From Space

by Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil

As anyone who's seen It's a Wonderful Life or read A Christmas Carol knows, sometimes a new perspective on things is all it takes to truly appreciate what we have -- and there's no better time for this than around the holidays. For the six person crew aboard the International Space Station, circling some 225 miles overhead, their unique vantage seems to have instilled in them a new found appreciation for the world outside their window. In their holiday message to the rest of us, the crew speaks of Earth as "a beautiful planet that we should all be thankful to have as our home."

Featured in the holiday greeting sent back down to Earth in the last few days are, from left to right, NASA's Cady Coleman and Scott Kelly, along with Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency. Also on board but not on camera are Dmitry Kondratyev, Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka from Russia.

Along with the simple holiday decorations and hairstyles which can only be described as 'out of this world', the astronauts' count our planetary home among friends and family when it comes to what they are most thankful for -- something we back on Earth, perhaps, do not do enough.

"This is a time when we can all think about being together in treasuring our planet, and we've got a pretty nice view of it from up here," says Coleman.

... read more story at

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Up to 8.6 Million Gifts Could go Unwanted this Holiday Season, According to New Research

Two-in-10 Canadians admit they hold on to some of these unwanted gifts for more than five years

TORONTO, December 23, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - New research reveals that 40 per cent of Canadians will likely receive at least one gift they can't use or don't like this holiday season and many will become victims to holiday holding. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of Canadians admit that they are holiday holders who store unwanted holiday gifts and almost one-in-10 Canadians are holders for life, keeping the unwanted items forever.

According to the research commissioned by Canada's largest online classifieds site,, the majority of those who hold on to unwanted holiday gifts do so out of guilt and shame. In fact, one-third of holiday holders admit that they feel guilty not keeping the item and two-in-10 would be ashamed to admit to the person that they didn't hold on to the unwanted item.

"Our emotions are getting the best of us," said Allyson Smith, a well-known comedian and Kijiji Canada's gift-giving therapist. "There's no reason to have an emotional attachment to a gift that you can't use or don't want and I refuse to accept the excuse that the person is holding on to the holiday gift for fear of getting caught. Our research clearly shows this is not the case - only a very small percentage of survey respondents have ever been caught by the gift giver getting rid of the item."

With no chance of getting caught, many Canadians would let go of their holiday holding habits. In fact, only 8 per cent of Canadians would still store the item. The others would put the item to good use, exchanging it for something they wanted or needed (31 per cent), re-gifting the item to someone who would appreciate it (26 per cent), or giving the item to charity (23 per cent).

Less than one-in-10 Canadians would consider turning the unwanted item into cold hard cash, yet the research reveals that 62 per cent of Canadians could use some extra cash to pay for their holiday shopping. Furthermore, approximately the same percentage of Canadians agree that selling an unwanted gift means the gift giver's money doesn't go to waste and ultimately it's okay to sell the item, according to half the survey respondents.

"This isn't about having to choose between naughty and nice," adds Smith. "Half of Canadians agree that not using a holiday gift is worse than selling it or giving it away."

The survey also revealed some other interesting information about Canadians' and their unwanted holiday gifts:

...Some of the worst holiday gifts ever received include: an already opened fruit basket, a broom and dustpan, soap on a rope, and a used diary.

...Some gift givers are being left in the dark. An astonishing 47 per cent of Canadians pretend to be overjoyed to receive the unwanted gift. Others display it every time the gift giver is present or brag about the gift to others hoping the gift giver will hear about it.

...When it comes to others' perception of holiday holders, two-in-10 feel that they're likely also holding on to other unwanted items, not just gifts.
The majority of Canadians (60 per cent) agree that unwanted gifts become a burden after the holidays.

When it comes time to let go of unwanted holiday gifts, Canadians should visit to get started.


These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between December 20 to 21, 2010, on behalf of Kijiji. For this survey, a sample of 1,008 adults from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled.

About Kijiji

Kijiji, which means "village" in Swahili, is the number one classifieds site in Canada, connecting nine-million buyers and sellers each month. offers Canadians a free, easy, and local way to buy, sell, and trade goods and services in their community. With local sites for more than 99 cities and towns across the country, Kijiji makes it easy for Canadians to find exactly what they're looking for in their own community. Kijiji Canada is part of the eBay Classifieds Group, the global leader in online classifieds with a global presence in more than 20 countries and 1,000 cities.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let me Hear Your Heart Beat

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands, December 22, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - What if monitoring your heart rate were as easy as listening to music while you jog? Thanks to advances in space technology, an iPhone will soon be able to do double duty: keep you in tune with your favourite artists and your vital signs.

With the support of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme (ESA TTP), Swiss company CSEM created the final prototype for their Pulsear device this year. A tiny unit embedded in a regular earphone uses infrared signals to see how fast your heart is beating. It sends infrared signals through the tissues in your ear. A tiny photo diode records the results and sends the information via the earphone wires to a device that plugs into your phone.

The result is an accurate reading of your heart rate, without the irritation of wearing a chest belt.

"Lots of people listen to music while they exercise and lots of people find the belts uncomfortable," said CSEM's Dr Andrea Ridolfi, "so we thought it made sense to measure heart rate through the ear."

Solution thanks to space-tech

Earlier attempts by CSEM to monitor heart rate using earphones were not satisfactory, said Dr Ridolfi, because the available technology was not sophisticated enough. But that was before CSEM developed a complex chest sensor for measuring astronauts' blood oxygen levels for ESA's Long Term Medical Survey system. "Once we were done," said Dr Ridolfi, "we said, 'let's recycle this'."

With a grant from the ESA TTP's 'Technology Transfer Demonstrator' initiative, CSEM created the prototype. The initiative supports development of new hardware and software to bridge the gap between the space technology and its terrestrial use.

An iPhone application shows your heart rate over time onscreen and compares, say, today's jog with last week's. Subjects who tested the app during their fitness training rated the device highly. While the current prototype measures only heart rate, future versions could easily be adapted to measure additional vital signs such as blood oxygen levels. This would open up a number of medical applications.

"Technology transfer from space has a huge potential to spur innovation in areas you wouldn't expect to find space-tech", explains Frank M. Salzgeber, Head of ESA TTP. "ESA TTP wants to help European industry to apply sophisticated space solutions to their markets."

More information:

Monday, December 20, 2010

100,000th Patient Transported by ORNGE Air Ambulance Service

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario December 20, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Ornge, a world leader in transport medicine, reached a major milestone in its five year history today, as the organization transported its 100,000th patient.

All aspects of air ambulance services were divested by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in January 2006 and since became Ornge. Ornge, a not-for-profit organization, was created with the mission of developing a fully integrated, world-class transport medicine system for Ontario.

Since that time, Ornge has transported 100,000 patients more than 33.5 million statute miles (54 million kilometers) — over 1,350 times around the earth or 6,898 times the length of the Trans-Canada highway — in its rotor and fixed wing aircraft, along with critical care land units.

"This milestone is a testament to how far we've come thanks to the hard work and dedication of every member of the Ornge team," said Dr. Christopher Mazza, President and CEO of Ornge. "We are proud to have provided so many Ontarians with excellence in patient care, and we remain committed to continually seeking ways to enhance our service."

"In a province the size of Ontario, a quality service like Ornge is absolutely vital," said Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of everyone at Ornge -- from pilots, to paramedics, to communications officers -- 100,000 Ontarians so far have received the emergency help they needed. I want to congratulate Ornge on this milestone, and thank the whole team for taking such good care of Ontario families."

"In just five years, Ornge has transformed patient transport into a system that is truly world class, and an integral part of providing quality and timely patient care when it's needed." said Deb Matthews, Ontario Minister of Health and Long Term Care.

"Ornge helped save my life," said Anthony Lue, who was airlifted by an Ornge crew after being critically injured in an industrial accident in 2009. "Without the care I received in the air and the quick transport to the hospital, things could have been a lot worse. I now know that thousands of others have stories just like mine."

The demand for transport medicine continues to grow across Ontario. In the last fiscal year alone, the number of patient transports climbed by 5 per cent, including a 2.3 per cent increase in air transports and a 31 per cent increase in land transports.

To address this challenge, Ornge has taken steps to ensure a sustainable provincial transport medicine system for years to come. In September, Ornge introduced its first AgustaWestland AW139 medically-equipped helicopter, which will be added to the fleet of aircraft. Several more AW139's are scheduled to be introduced in 2011. Ornge has also opened Canada's first Centre for Excellence in Transport Medicine in Thunder Bay, a facility capable of housing all three forms of transport medicine: fixed wing, rotor wing and critical care land units. A similar facility will open in Hamilton in 2011.

In addition, Ornge will be expanding its paediatric transport team with the generous assistance of the Rogers Foundation. The newly-renamed Ted Rogers Paediatric Transport Program will operate from both Ottawa and Markham for the benefit of sick and injured children across the province.


Ornge is the world's leading innovator in the emerging field of transport medicine, and operates from a number of bases across the province of Ontario and performs more than 20,000 admissions annually. It coordinates all aspects of Ontario's aero medical transport system, the new critical care land transport program, paediatric transport program and the authorization of air and land ambulance transfers between hospitals. Ornge is dedicated to the provision of high quality patient care through innovative transport medicine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nearly 5,000 Ontarians die from infectious diseases every year

The Ontario Burden of Infectious Disease Study (ONBOIDS) finds many of top 10 are often overlooked

TORONTO, December 14, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Nearly 5,000 Ontarians die from infectious diseases every year. Many of these infectious diseases get little recognition in terms of public awareness, media attention and resource allocation, says a new study released by the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (OAHPP) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

Led by Dr. Jeff Kwong, scientist at ICES, and Dr. Natasha Crowcroft, director of surveillance and epidemiology at OAHPP, ONBOIDS is the most comprehensive review of the burden of infectious disease in Ontario to date. The study reviewed data on 51 different infectious diseases to determine their impact on the life and health of Ontarians.

The ten most burdensome infectious diseases in Ontario are:

...Hepatitis C virus

...Streptococcus pneumoniae

...Human papillomavirus (HPV)

...Hepatitis B virus

...Escherichia coli (E. coli)

...Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS)

...Staphylococcus aureus


...Clostridium difficile

...Rhinoviruses (common cold)

"Each year, Ontarians seek medical attention for more than seven million episodes of infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are not going away, and we as a society need to realize the impact of a number of these diseases," says Dr. Kwong.

A large proportion of the burden of illness could be attributed to a small number of pathogens and syndromes for which highly effective targeted interventions (e.g., pneumococcal, HBV and HPV vaccines) and non-specific interventions (e.g., hand washing, male and female condoms) already exist. The future burden of some of these infectious agents and syndromes may be dramatically reduced with greater uptake of available interventions.

"It is important to remember that infectious diseases are preventable in many different ways. These findings show where and how we should be concentrating our efforts to get the greatest impact in improving the health of Ontarians. Improvements range from concentrating on immunization programs where vaccinations exist, such as for human papillomavirus, through increasing screening and access to treatment for hepatitis B and C, to developing new ways to fight infectious diseases," says Dr. Crowcroft.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Retirement at 75? The Rat Race May Be a Marathon for Younger Canadians

New poll findings show having to work longer number one retirement concern amongst Canadians 25-34

TORONTO, December 13, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Canadians aged 25 to 34 fear that they will have to work longer into their golden years, according to a new poll commissioned by Edward Jones. This is a concern that has increased over the past four years - in 2006, 28 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 34 listed this as their top fear about retirement, while today 40 per cent say this is their top fear.

A similar trend can be seen in the U.S. In 2006, only 15 per cent of Americans aged 25 to 34 listed having to work longer as their number one retirement fear, while now nearly one-fourth (23%) list this as their top fear.

"The recession has been a wake-up call for many investors - especially those that are still early in their careers," says Sucharita Maitra, principal, Retirement Planning, Edward Jones. "Many fear that they will have to work longer to supplement their savings making retiring at 65 a pipe dream, a worry that has become even more pronounced since the recession. I can't stress enough the importance of starting to save early to avoid having to work longer."

Maitra points out some key reasons for why Canadians should start saving early:

More time to take advantage of compound interest. Compound interest grows investments more quickly because interest is calculated on the original investment amount plus the interest that has already accrued on initial investment. For example, an investor who starts investing $1,000 a year at a 5 per cent interest rate starting at age 24 will retire at age 65 with $141,623. The original investment was only $41,000 but compound interest added $100,623. On the other hand, if that same investor waited 10 years until age 34 to start investing, they would only save $78,836 by age 65. That is $62,787 less than if they had started 10 years earlier.

Registered accounts let you keep more of your hard-earned dollars. Saving vehicles such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) provide a tax break, which can really add up over the years. The money saved on taxes can also be invested back into retirement savings, allowing money to grow faster.

Small sacrifices now may mean big enjoyment later. Saving a small amount now and continuing to save will build a retirement fund for the long-term. Even putting away an extra $50 a month by forgoing a dinner out once a month can really add up, thanks to compound interest.

"Quelling fears about retirement comes back to planning and preparation," says Maitra. "Developing a financial strategy early and sticking to it will assist in calming those worries and allow young Canadians to finish the rat race in record time."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Governor General of Canada Becomes Patron of Volunteer Canada

OTTAWA, December 8, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Volunteer Canada, the national voice for volunteerism in Canada, is proud to announce that His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, has agreed to be the Patron of the organization.

The board and staff of Volunteer Canada are very honoured by this timely announcement, as December 5th is International Volunteer Day and 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of International Year of Volunteers in 2001.

"We are particularly pleased that the Governor General has agreed to be patron of Volunteer Canada because of his vocal recognition of the value of volunteers to the quality of Canadian communities and active support of volunteering as a key contribution to our nation's social, cultural, and economic prosperity," said Ruth MacKenzie, President & CEO, Volunteer Canada.

With more than 30 years of passionate commitment to the cause of volunteering and civic participation, Volunteer Canada ( inspires Canadians to be engaged from coast to coast to coast. From its office in downtown Ottawa, Volunteer Canada creates and develops programs, national initiatives, vital research, and tools for the non-profit sector.

Focused on influencing social policy and developing valuable resources around volunteerism, the organization is driven to help non-profits and businesses alike to build capacity for the changing culture of volunteerism. It recognizes the impact of Canada's 12.5 million volunteers through a variety of national campaigns and it works with its Corporate Council on Volunteering to catalyze conversations about corporate community involvement.

Founded in 1977, Volunteer Canada works collaboratively with volunteer centres, business, and non-profit organizations to support volunteerism and the ultimate agents of social change, Canada's volunteers.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Volunteers Crucial in the Fight Against Diabetes

Canadian Diabetes Association thanks its world-class volunteers in recognition of International Volunteer Day

TORONTO, December 1, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - International Volunteer Day takes place on December 5 each year and is recognized by the United Nations as an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of volunteers in communities around the world. The Canadian Diabetes Association would like to send a sincere message of gratitude to our community and professional volunteers who generously provide their time to help advance the fight against diabetes.

"The Canadian Diabetes Association would not be able to accomplish its mission without the support of its many community and professional volunteers across Canada," said Michael Cloutier, president and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association. "Our volunteers are vital in supporting people living with diabetes and we are grateful for the time and expertise they share with us and in the communities they serve."

Through the dedication and commitment of Association volunteers, Canadians affected by diabetes can attend an educational presentation delivered by one of our volunteers, can obtain funding for their test strips based on the advocacy efforts of our volunteer advocacy committees; can receive information on the symptoms to watch for in a child who may develop type 1 diabetes from a healthcare professional who has reviewed our latest Clinical Practice Guidelines theme 'Protecting Mothers and Children' and can benefit from the work of Canadian diabetes researchers who are a step closer to finding a cure thanks to Association volunteers fundraising for research grants.

As a Goodwill Ambassador for the Canadian Diabetes Association, Dan Hill, Toronto-based Grammy and Juno Award-winning musician, knows first-hand why volunteering and holding fundraising events are important in the fight against diabetes. This past October in Edmonton, Hill headlined a concert where proceeds benefited the Canadian Diabetes Association.

"More than 9 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes," said Hill. "As a Goodwill Ambassador for the Canadian Diabetes Association, it is my hope to bring further attention to the disease by sharing my own experiences of living well with type 2 diabetes."

The Canadian Diabetes Association has a range of volunteer opportunities available in your community. Visit to learn more about how you can become a volunteer and to complete an online volunteer application form.

About the Canadian Diabetes Association

Today, more than nine million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes. Across the country, the Canadian Diabetes Association is leading the fight against diabetes by helping people with diabetes live healthy lives while we work to find a cure. Our community-based network of supporters help us provide education and services to people living with diabetes, advocate for our cause, break ground towards a cure and translate research into practical applications. For more information, please visit or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).