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Newsstand: January 28, 2014

Nope. I still can’t get over Pharrell Williams’ hat. In the news: refunds for attendees of Rob Ford’s tardy speech, no post-ice storm rate hike for Toronto Hydro customers, who knows how useful the unelected members of the TTC board really are, a Toronto Zoo keeper helps save a species of fish from extinction, and using Google Glass to turn operating rooms into Tom Cruise’s computer from Minority Report…or something like it.

matt newsstand gull

The Economic Club of Canada has issued full refunds to members of the business community who paid $89 to hear Mayor Rob Ford give a speech at an event where he got stuck in a freight elevator for 45 minutes. Economic Club president Rihanna Rhiannon Traill made it clear that the refund was because of the unexpected—and slightly ridiculous—delay, and had nothing to do with the content of the Mayor’s speech. It is pretty evident that Traill missed our line-by-line breakdown of the Mayor’s speech, which points out just a smidgen of factual inaccuracy, because making people pay for a bogus speech that is delivered on time seems worse, no?

According to Anthony Haines, the CEO of Toronto Hydro, customers will not see a post-ice storm rate hike to help cover the $12.9 million-worth of damages it caused. “Our customers, who suffered the ice storm and outages and their own financial hardship, we really didn’t feel right about asking them to pay for the costs associated with restoration,” said Haines at City Hall yesterday. Well, isn’t that nice? And not snarky-nice, but honestly “nice” nice.

Almost a year after a group of four private citizens were selected to join the Toronto Transit Commission board, it appears the initiative might not be working as well as expected. At the very least, it is hard to gauge what contribution the unelected board members are making, or how much influence they peddle. There is some criticism of the unelected officials for reasons including an apparent lack of participation during meetings, and for being infrequent users of the TTC services. However, according to Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park), some of the brewing frustration may stem from the idea that the unelected officials are not treated with equal power on the board. “Watching that and having seen the TTC for a long time and participating in mixed-model boards,” says Perks, “I really get a sense that the citizen members are not equal partners at that table.”

A year ago, prospects for the long-term survival of the Mangarahara cichlids—a rare species of tropical fish—seemed grim. Three lonely males living in aquariums seemed to be the last of their kind. Toronto Zoo wildlife care keeper Tim McCaskie learned that there might be a slim possibility of finding the fish in Madagascar, and so he and two colleagues set out on their own Finding Nemo–esque expedition to try and locate the disappearing species in the wild. After checking over 15 sites, the team located and moved 18 fish to a facility in northern Madagascar, where they are now being bred. McCaskie has said that a pool of 20 would ensure the species’ survival for nearly a century, so things appear to be looking moderately better for the little fishies.

Not to be outdone by saving a species from the brink of extinction, a group of doctors at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital hope to revolutionize the way operating rooms work by incorporating wearable Google Glass technology into their practice. It is exciting stuff that allows experts from around the world to participate in, and lend their expertise to complicated procedures. It will also allow doctors to call up previous patient health records for immediate reference. Non-patient tests are set to begin at the hospital in the coming weeks. And so, once again Google takes a tiny step towards becoming the Tyrell Corporation.

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