Spider scare sends federal government workers home — twice | CBC News

Spider scare sends federal government workers home — twice | CBC News

In a predicament that would surely elicit sympathy from Little Miss Muffet, 50 federal government employees were frightened away from their Ottawa office building not once, but twice, after someone spotted a potentially dangerous spider.
In June, managers at 2300 St. Laurent Blvd., a Shared Services Canada building, sent employees home for two days after someone spotted an unusual spider in the office. The building’s owner paid to have the offices fumigated before employees returned.
Then, on Oct. 18, there was another spider sighting, but this time it was caught. Over fears it might be a venomous brown recluse, one of only a handful of spiders in North America whose bite can harm humans, the arachnid was sent to an entomologist to be identified.
When people see a brown spider they are going to assume it is a brown recluse, even though most spiders are brown and most are harmless.
– Catherine Scott, arachnologist Without waiting for the verdict, which came later that same day, managers again decided to send employees home for two days while the building was fumigated and its ducts cleaned — this time costing taxpayers $18,000.
“Given that the spider did not appear to be a typical house spider, management decided to err on the side of caution by relocating and fumigating in order to ensure the health and safety of all,” Monika Mazur, a spokesperson for the department, wrote in an email to CBC News.
Government promises plan to deal with air quality in Gatineau building The entomologist unofficially identified the spider not as a brown recluse, but a yellow sac spider, Mazur said. That kind of spider is also purported to have a necrotic venom, but there’s little evidence it’s harmful to humans.
Mazur said Shared Services employees have the resources to work from home, so the evacuations did not impact the department’s operations.
The spider that sent employees packing in October was eventually identified as a yellow sac spider, like this one. They are common in Canada. (Submitted by Sean McCann) Evacuations ‘totally absurd’ Catherine Scott, an arachnologist and PhD student at the University of Toronto, said the evacuations were a massive overreaction.
“This is totally absurd and a giant waste of money,” she said. “Fumigating the office with chemicals is probably more dangerous to the people working in that office than a spider would have been, even if it had been a brown recluse spider.”
Nets installed to catch falling concrete at Place du Portage
Scott is working with a research team studying how often people mistakenly believe they’ve seen a brown recluse spider. She said spotting one in Ottawa is extremely unlikely.
“Only a handful of individual brown recluse spiders, literally less than five, have ever been recorded in Canada in the last century.”
This is a harmless spitting spider (genus #Scytodes), #NotARecluse! Like recluses, they have 6 eyes. Unlike all other spiders, they spit a mixture of venom and silk on their prey to subdue it! https://t.co/rfyxMzH36O
— @RecluseOrNot She said even if one of the venomous spiders had been in the office, employees wouldn’t have been in danger.
“Even in a building where there are hundreds or thousands of brown recluses, the chances of getting bitten are low. The spiders are reclusive. They are not interested in humans,” she said. “It is only a very small proportion of bites, like less than 10 per cent of bites, that are really serious.”
Scott said people often mistake other varieties of spider for brown recluses because that’s a name they’ve heard.
“There are over 40,000 spider species in the world, but when people see a brown spider they are going to assume it is a brown recluse, even though most spiders are brown and most are harmless.”
A federal office building was shut down for days over fears that a poisonous spider was on the loose. 5:46

Read More…

Tory councillor wears blackface at Kent bonfire celebrations | UK news

A parent-teacher association for an Anglican primary school in Kent has apologised after members taking part in a well-known bonfire night celebration wore blackface makeup, among them a local Conservative councillor.
Hever Church of England school said a small number of people connected to the PTA had worn the makeup when they marched alongside the school’s float at the celebrations in Edenbridge on Saturday.
The town stages a large procession of carnival floats through the centre to the site of the bonfire where an effigy is burned. This year the local bonfire society chose Boris Johnson .
The school’s float had a Caribbean theme. Photographs of the event sent to the Guardian show Trevor Bryant, a Conservative member of Edenbridge council, wearing a frilly shirt and hat, with blackface makeup.
Bryant confirmed he had worn the makeup, but said he had no further comment.
It echoes a longstanding row over the similar if better-known bonfire night celebrations in Lewes, East Sussex, where some participants traditionally wore Zulu-type outfits, and blacked up their faces.
Joanna Stratton, the headteacher of Hever school, said there had been “an error of judgment” by a small number of people from the PTA who took part in the celebration.
“The school was not aware of the content or format of the PTA participation, and only became aware of it after the event,” she said. “The school is proud of its multicultural staff and pupils and does not tolerate any racism or bullying.
“I have spoken to the PTA and they would like to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused. There was no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings and any upset caused is completely contrary to what they hoped to bring to Bonfire night . I will be speaking to the PTA further to ensure there is no repeat of this.
“We are very proud to be a multicultural school with ‘respect, love and wisdom’ as our motto.”
Topics UK news Conservatives Race Bonfire night Anglicanism news

Read More…

Northern white rhino: New hopes for IVF rescue – BBC News

These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image caption Sudan was the last of his kind A new study raises hopes of saving one of the last animals of its kind.
A victim of poaching, the northern white rhino population has been reduced to just two females, which are both unable to breed.
DNA evidence shows the rhino is more closely related than previously thought to its southern white cousin.
Creating rhino hybrids using IVF is likely to have a positive outcome, say scientists, although this option is considered a last resort.
The white rhino split into two divided populations living in the north and south of Africa around one million years ago.
But an extensive analysis of DNA from living rhinos and museum specimens shows the northern and southern populations mixed and bred at times after this date, perhaps as recently as 14,000 years ago. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Najin (L) and Fatu: the only two remaining northern white rhinos
“Despite the fact that they started to diverge one million years ago, we show that they have been exchanging genes during that period, possibly as recently as the last ice age, when the African savannah expanded and reconnected the two populations,” lead researcher Dr Michael Bruford of Cardiff University told BBC News.
“So, if they have been exchanging genes recently, this may imply that they could do so now.”
Cross breeding using assisted reproductive technology could potentially act to rescue the northern white rhino from its current predicament, he said.
The northern white rhino was once common throughout the north of the African continent, including Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC and Chad.
Illegal hunting to meet demand for rhino horn caused a rapid decline in the wild, and the rhino sub-species was declared extinct on the wild in 2008.
Earlier this year, Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, died at the age of 45.
Two females are left – his daughter and granddaughter, who live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they are guarded around the clock. However, both have health problems of their own and cannot breed naturally.
The southern white rhino is found in southern Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
Numbers dropped to a few hundred individuals around a century ago, but conservation efforts led to a recovery. About 20,000 exist in protected areas and private game reserves. What would it take to save the northern white rhino?
The survival of the northern white rhino looks bleak, and relies on last-ditch hotly-debated conservation efforts, which involve IVF and cloning.
A priceless store of frozen sperm from male northern white rhinos still exists, but conservationists are divided about how it should be used.
In July, one team took eggs from female southern rhinos – which number around 20,000 in the wild – and fertilised them with frozen sperm from a male northern white rhino, to create hybrid embryos. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Southern white rhino at Londolozi Reserve in South Africa
The new study suggests this sort of approach might pay off, given that the two rhinos are closer genetically than once thought.
“We think it improves the chances,” said Prof Bruford. “It is difficult to predict what might happen if we cross the two subspecies but given the current options for the northern white rhino it becomes a more viable option, should other approaches fail.”
Other options include using frozen tissue from a wider pool of northern white rhinos to generate stem cells that have the capacity to develop into eggs and sperm.
This would avoid diluting the gene pool, but is more challenging to achieve.
The research , by scientists in the UK, South Africa, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and the US, is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B .

Read More…

Ilhan Omar: ‘People are choosing unity over division’ – BBC News

Media playback is unsupported on your device Video Ilhan Omar: ‘People are choosing unity over division’
Ilhan Omar, 36, is a Somali American who immigrated to the United States as a teenager.
She beat Republican Jennifer Zielinski to win the Minnesota House seat previously represented by Keith Ellison.
Ms Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib have become the first two Muslim congresswomen to be elected. 07 Nov 2018

Read More…

Mid-terms 2018: How these elections broke records – BBC News

These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel US mid-terms 2018 Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Supporters of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, celebrate her victory This year’s crucial mid-term elections were always likely to make history.
More women and LGBT people ran than ever before and, with a polarising president in the White House, many predicted voters would head to the polls in their droves.
While the headline remains that the Democrats won the House and the Republicans held the Senate, these elections will be remembered for a host of different reasons.
So here are just some of the records that were broken and some of the winners who sealed their place in history… Year of the woman
This was how the mid-terms were being billed by some, a reference to the 1992 elections in which the number of women in Congress doubled.
And that has proven true. The number of women in both chambers will be at a record high come January, beating the current tally of 107.
It’s worth noting that there are still some districts still to be counted, so yet more women could serve in the 116th Congress. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption The story of election night in two minutes
Hillary Clinton’s surprise defeat to President Donald Trump two years ago, a man who has a history of making sexist remarks, appears to have been a galvanising moment for American women.
The new intake heading to Washington includes a number of historic firsts. Such as… The youngest congresswoman
Last year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was mixing cocktails at a restaurant in New York City.
Now, the 29-year-old will swap the tequila and taco bar for the grandeur of the Capitol building after becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Ms Ocasio-Cortez supports universal healthcare, tuition-free college and criminal justice reform
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders volunteer who led a progressive campaign, stormed to victory with more than 78% of the vote in New York’s 13th district.
“We have made history tonight,” she told cheering supporters after the result was confirmed.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 miles (1600km) away in the state of Iowa, Abby Finkenauer also joined the ranks of the nation’s youngest representatives.
Ms Finkenauer, 29, won a close race in Iowa’s first district and will unseat Republican Rod Blum. More on the mid-terms:

Read More…