Cineasta gana caso contra el gobierno federal

El 17 de Junio de este año, el periódico Toronto Star anunció que el cineasta Steven Schnoor, quien está haciendo su doctorado en la Universidad de York, ganó el caso que llevó a la corte de "small claims" (tribunal de reclamos menores) contra el gobierno federal por la difamación que sufrió del previo embajador de  Canadá en Guatemala, Kenneth Cook.

Como es muy raro leer que alguien gane un caso contra el gobierno federal, leí con detalle la noticia y me enteré que el film en cuestión relata el desalojo ilegal que se hizo en el pueblo El Estor, Guatemala, de un grupo de residentes indígenas Mayas (específicamente, Q'eqchi'). Para mi vergüenza, una compañía minera canadiense, Skye Resources (basada en Vancouver, Canadá), la cual ahora está combinada (unida) con la compañía HudBay Minerals, fue la responsable de este abuso inexcusable.

Los detalles del artículo original "Former Canadian ambassador guilty of slander" describen lo significativo de esta victoria, ya que a pesar de ser de "reclamos menores" en realidad es algo de mayor significado, no sólo porque restaura la reputación del director, sino porque es una protección de la libertad de expresión, de la interferencia política y de la justicia.

El caso se tardó 3 años en ser determinado, pero a final de cuentas se confirmó que el ex-embajador de Canadá había difamado al cineasta y su película pues había puesto en duda la veracidad de algunos detalles y lo que es peor aun, él había contactado a un obispo católico en Guatemala para que lo ayudara a difundir esos falsos rumores.

El documental que dirigió el Sr. Schnoor, muestra el desalojo que se hizo de la gente del pueblo El Estor, Guatemala. El film completo (9:26) se puede ver en el siguiente video de YouTube:

Es de admirar la perseverancia del Sr. Schnoor de no dejar que esos rumores y falsedades se siguieran diseminando, así como el trabajo pro bono de los abogados Murray Klippenstein y Cory Wanless que lo ayudaron en este caso.


México & Canada Get A+ in Google Transparency Report

Good news for my adoptive country, Canada (see details below) & ¡Muy buenas noticias para mi país natal, México!

Earth & the Moon image taken from www.opefs.com

I found out yesterday (via The Daily Planet program of the Discovery channel) that Google has published a Transparency Report. In this report, Google informs the public of the number of requests government agencies have made to them to either remove content from their services or to provide information about users of their services and products. It was so good to find out that Canadian government agencies have only made these types of requests to Google less than 10 times during the first six months of 2010. As I wanted to find out more information on this topic and see how other countries, including Mexico, were doing, I was so happy and relieved to learn that Mexico, like Canada, has also only made this request LESS THAN 10 TIMES.

Just as a point of comparison on the significance of this number (<10), Google reports that the U.S.A. has asked this 4,287 times! That was really unexpected (at least for me). Now, regarding China, there is not even ANY number that can be reported, as they consider this statistic a "state secret" (not very surprising there). The next countries that follow the USA in the number of requests were Brazil, with 2,435 petitions, while the U.K. and India came very close to each other with approximately 1,400 requests. For the complete world map and the corresponding figures, Google has a chart where it shows the breakdown for each country. If you are interested in censorship and freedom of information, this could be a very good resource for getting a global view.


New bee discovered in Toronto - Nueva clase de abeja en Toronto

New bees discovered by York researcher triggers buzz - They had me just with the title (article published by The Toronto Star on Sep. 1, 2010). 

At last, finally, some positive news about bees, my favourite insect, not just news about their mysterious and worrisome disappearance. Turns out, there is a new type of "sweat" bee, discovered right downtown in Toronto (near the College subway station), by the researcher Jason Gibbs, known to some as the "bee guru" (what a cool nickname to have). The photo below is not the one of the newly discovered species, but it is one of the same family of "sweat bees".

Lasioglossum Dialictus Pilosum - Sweat bee - Copyright © 2009 Ted Kropiewnicki

After following links from the news article, I find out that his thesis has been published in a single issue of the publication Zootaxa, titled: "Revision of the metallic species of Lasioglossum (Dialictus) in Canada (Hymenoptera, Halictidae, Halictini)". But the newspaper article does not do justice to his findings. As the paper abstract mentions, 19 new species are described, 16 of which have been discovered by him! (if my counting is right). His thesis identifies and describes 84 species of sweat bees.

Some of the interesting facts mentioned in his thesis:

    "The bee family Halictidae has been called 'the despair of taxonomists'" due to the large number of species and the subtle differences between them (there are 274 species just in North America, out of a total 630 species)."

    "The bee subgenus Dialictus has "the most diverse social systems of any equivalent group of insects."

    "They are known as "sweat bees" due to their attraction to perspiration."

    And finally, these bees are also known for not stinging!

The name of the new bee discovered in Toronto? Lasioglossum ephialtum. I'm not sure I will be able to remember it, but I will keep in mind that a new species was discovered right downtown!

P.S. On a final related note, after searching for an image to use in this post, I found a couple of very useful and interesting sites: The Tree of Life Web Project, which is a collaborative effort of biologists and nature enthusiasts around the world. They have more than 10,000 web pages, each for a particular group in the tree of life, all ordered hierarchically and giving their characteristics and evolutionary history. I would highly recommend it to those interested in nature. The other site, the Bug Guide, is a resource for naturalists from the U.S.A. and Canada, who are interested in bugs and want to learn about and share their observations on many types of insects found in North America.


Development of bio-synthetic corneas by Canadian scientist Dr. Griffith

A very positive achievement was announced on the journal Science Translational Medicine on Aug. 25 regarding the creation of bio-synthetic corneas. These corneas were developed by Dr. May Griffith, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (O.H.R.I.) in collaboration with Dr. Per Fagerholm, an eye surgeon at Linköping University in Sweden. 

Dr. May Griffith with bio-synthetic cornea

The article published in the journal reports that 10 patients had their eyes operated on by the surgeon in Sweden to transplant the synthetic corneas (in one of their two eyes) two years ago. The patients' eyes have shown no signs of rejection and most importantly, the sight in 6 of these 10 patients has been helped significantly, with one of them actually achieving 20/20 vision.

More details on this great development can be found in the news release provided by the OHRI page: "Seeing the world with new eyes: Biosynthetic corneas restore vision in humans".

It should be noted that less than 3 years ago, the OHRI announced that Dr. Griffith would start the study of artificial corneas which has produced these incredible results. In addition to this achievement by Dr. Griffith, she was hailed as one of Canada's Top 40 under 40 (in 2007), she holds at least 3 patents (possibly 10 by now), has authored more than 50 articles and has published six refereed book chapters.

To finalize this brief note and to top it all off, what is most remarkable about Dr. Griffith is that, as it is mentioned in the OHRI news release: "her accomplishments came during a period when she ... underwent treatment for cancer and adopted a baby.". In my view, she is someone who truly deserves all our appreciation and respect. Here's wishing her every success in a long and illustrious career.


Stephen Hawking viene a Ontario - S. Hawking is coming to Ontario!

Foto StarChild tomada por la NASA

Esta nota no es realmente acerca de Toronto, pero como la Universidad de Waterloo queda cerca (en Kitchener-Waterloo) y como está dentro de la misma provincia de Ontario, me la he apropiado como una noticia buena que hay que comentar y celebrar pues es un gran logro de esa Universidad.

La buena nueva es que el director del Instituto Perímetro de Física Teórica, Dr. Neil Turok, por fin logró que se concretara la visita del gran físico de nuestro tiempo. Dr. Stephen Hawking, a su Instituto (él inició su plan en el 2008). S. Hawking ya tiene el puesto de "Distinguished Research Chair" y el centro que se llamará "Stephen Hawking" ya se está construyendo (se estima que el centro estará listo para inaugurarse en el 2011). La visita de este gran científico sólo durará hasta Julio de este año, pero más visitas están en planes.

En un detalle importante relacionado a esta visita, él ha aceptado dar una conferencia pública que se televisará en todo Canadá. La conferencia está programada a las 8 pm del 20 de Junio en el canal de TVO. (Este evento es algo que ya tengo anotado en mi calendario.)

Para mayor información acerca de esta noticia, lean el artículo "Ontario institute finally gets Stephen Hawking" publicado por el Toronto Star, el 5 de Junio.
Perimter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Waterloo, Ont., Canada


Israeli president wants brain-research alliance with Ontario

The news article "Shimon Peres asks Dalton McGuinty for meeting of minds" was published on Monday, May 24, 2010 by the Toronto Star. It was really a surprise announcement for McGuinty and pretty good news for Toronto. It turns out that he has asked Ontario to partner with Israel in leading-edge brain research.

And the news gets better. In what seems to me the most beneficial Premier's trip for Ontario during this government term, our Premier has decided to name a Chief Scientist to advise the government on scientific issues. See "Israeli scientific success convinces Premier McGuinty to name a chief scientist to advise government" for the complete story. As far as I can recall, the trip our Premier made to Israel has had the most positive potential impact for our province. I will keep my fingers crossed, hoping these plans come to fruition in the near future.


Frecuentemente se comenta en los medios de difusión que Toronto tiene un "complejo de identidad" como ciudad porque casi nunca aparece en las películas como sí misma. En gran parte, esto se debe a que hay un gran número de películas estadounidenses que se han filmado aquí, en donde Toronto "hace" el papel de otras ciudades, por ejemplo, Chicago en la película del mismo nombre (en el 2002), X-Men (2000), Good Will Hunting (1997), The Fly (1986), Cinderella Man (2005), Pushing Tin (1999), Serendipity (2001), etc., etc.

Como es tan raro que Toronto sea reconocida como tal en el cine, el New York Times publicó un video en donde el reconocido director Canadiense, Atom Egoyan (nacido en Egipto y criado en Toronto) relata cómo uso varias localidades de Toronto en su film más reciente, Chloe.

La página "Toronto Plays Itself" tiene el video y un artículo relacionado al mismo tema, "Adapting to Life's Change, on Screen and Off". Es interesante ver que este "complejo" de nosotros se ha descubierto y hasta publicado en el New York Times, lo cual, en realidad, es bastante satisfactorio para muchos de nosotros, que nos gusta ver que se "hable" de nuestro terruño.