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Weekend Newsstand: February 22, 2014

It's Saturday, which means it's time to do some of those things on your ever-present to-do list. But first go spend some time in the park. It's good for you! In the news: urban parks make city-dwellers happier and help them to live longer, a woman tried to smuggle 10,000 diamonds into Canada, and while TTC customers are happier, they're not uniformly happy.

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If you live near a park you are likely to live longer and be happier than your friends surrounded by cement alone, according to a new study by Alan Logan. Logan, who is speaking at a conference called The Organic Vision today, says urban areas need to build well-balanced parks in an effort to boost citizens’ mental health. Researchers are still unsure why looking at or being in a park has such a dramatic effect on people’s mental health but guess that it might have something to do with phytoncides, which are released by trees into the air. They tend to hover around four feet from the ground and have been shown to aid in the production of killer cells, which humans need in order to stay healthy. The bottom line seems to be that if you don’t have a park near your home, you should try to make time to hang out in one.

A woman has been accused of trying to smuggle more than 10,000 diamonds into Canada by hiding them inside her body. The Canada Border Security Agency said the woman, arrested in Pearson airport on February 3, hid nearly 1,500 carats of rough diamonds “internally.” She is due in court next month and was arrested on charges under the Customs Act of making false statements, unlawful possession of prohibited goods, and smuggling.

TTC riders who frequent subways and buses are overall quite happy with the service they’re getting, while streetcar riders are not so enthusiastic. This information comes from a survey of 1,000 TTC passengers conducted in late 2013, and suggests that customers are picking up on the work the TTC has put into its system. While the streetcars are still all 30-year-old monsters that lack air conditioning and sometimes get stuck traveling up small curves in roads, there has been a rollout of new subways and articulated buses to fit more passengers and improve customer service. Chief customer officer Chris Upfold told the Toronto Star: “The spots where we’re seeing our customer satisfaction go up is where we’re putting our efforts into. And the cleanliness in buses, streetcars and subways is something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into.” A fleet of 150 new low-floor, air-conditioned streetcars has been purchased and will begin rolling out on August 31. So, just in time to miss the likely summer heat waves. Huh.

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