The National·The National Today

World Cup crackdown: From hawkers to BBQs, here's what's banned near stadiums

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: what Russia is banning around World Cup statiums; Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo appears to be slowing; why mole-rats are in vogue with scientists

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Russian President Vladimir Putin juggles a ball following a meeting with the head of FIFA at the Kremlin in 2016. On Friday, Putin warned regional leaders not to let the zones around the 12 World Cup stadiums become cheap and tacky open-air markets. (Alexei Druzhinin/Reuters)

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TODAY:

  • From drones to barbecues, a look at the things Russia is cracking down on around World Cup stadiums
  • Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo appears to be slowing
  • Mole-rats in vogue with scientists due to surprising array of abilities
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here


Putin gives hawkers the boot

Russia has invested $18 billion in hosting soccer's World Cup, and Vladimir Putin is determined to make sure the show goes off without a hitch.

The Russian President is warning regional leaders not to let the "fan zones" around the 12 stadiums become cheap and tacky open-air marketplaces.

"I want to address colleagues from the regions — no matter what, you cannot allow these venues to suddenly turn into some sort of markets like those in the mid 1990s," Putin said during a nationally televised town hall yesterday. "That is categorically inadmissible."

A flag with the logo of FIFA World Cup 2018 flies in front of the Kremlin in Moscow on Friday. The FIFA World Cup soccer championship runs from June 14 until July 15 in Russia. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE)
He was referencing a time after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the broad spaces around major sporting venues like Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium — the venue for the World Cup opener and final — were filled with vendors selling everything from soup to nuts.

The stern words are probably unnecessary, however, given the myriad restrictions that Russian authorities have already put in place to govern the month-long, 32-team tournament which kicks off next Thursday:

  • Sightseeing excursions to the 11 host cities have been banned, as have pleasure cruises on local waterways.
  • You can't pilot a drone within 100 kilometres of any of the stadiums, and there are 41 no-fly zones for regular aircraft.
  • Tourists — both foreign and domestic — are supposed to register with police within three days of arriving in any host city.
  • Protests have been prohibited, and public events not connected with soccer can only be held on certain days and times.
  • Forget about open-air fires, or even barbecues.

The biggest blow to football fans and average Russians might be the strict limits on the sale of alcohol around stadiums, parks, plazas and other likely gathering places — not just on match days, but the day before as well. (Although police are still setting up drunk tanks, just in case.)

Workers set up part of the Fan Zone in Moscow's Red Square on Friday. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Russia has spared little expense on the showcase tournament, spending $5 billion on the construction and refurbishment of the stadiums alone.

Although there are questions about what will happen after the World Cup. Sochi, one of the host cities, didn't even have a professional soccer team until a second division club was hastily moved there last week.

The Kremlin has budgeted about $250 million over the next five years to keep the venues running, but Putin is suggesting that somebody had better figure out how to make them profitable sooner than that.

"A modern stadium is not just a football pitch," he said yesterday. "You can put anything you want there. You can install stores, cafes, restaurants ... and special gyms. Much will depend on regional leaders."

Russian Matryoshka dolls of Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Lionel Messi of Argentina in a Moscow souvenir shop on Friday. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
And there will be private individuals who will make big money from all the Russian public investment in this World Cup, and the thousands of foreign visitors who will flock to support their national teams.

This Bloomberg report identified 13 Russian citizens and companies targeted by U.S. sanctions who stand to profit — completely legally — from their ties to the tournament.

For example, Viktor Vekselberg, one of the country's richest men, controls the airports in four host cities.

In April, the U.S. government froze almost $2 billion of the Swiss-based oligarch's assets in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.


Ebola outbreak slowing?

The deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo appears to be slowing, with authorities reporting the first new confirmed case in over a week, along with five more suspected cases and the deaths of two previously infected individuals.

There have been a total of 52 confirmed and probable cases of the virus, and 10 more suspected exposures, since the hemorrhagic fever surfaced in a remote region near the border with the Central African Republic in early April.

To date, 27 people have died.

Health workers check their protective gear in an Ebola safety zone at the Health Center in Iyonda on June 1. The Democratic Republic of Congo's health ministry has approved five more experimental drugs for use on Ebola patients. (Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images)
The latest confirmed case — a person who had contact with someone who died from the disease on May 20 — might give authorities pause, however, as the patient is one of the 1,800 people who had received shots of the experimental Ebola vaccine.

Still, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told Reuters today that he is "cautiously optimistic" that the outbreak has stabilized and that the threat is waning.

Yesterday, the WHO committed a further $15.6 million US to help the DRC's neighbours ensure that this Ebola outbreak — the ninth in the country's history — doesn't spread across borders.

Ghebreyesus will visit the region this weekend to check on the efforts to stem the virus.

Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, will visit the region affected by the Eblola outbreak this weekend to check on efforts to stem the virus. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)
The DRC health ministry has also approved five more experimental drugs for use on Ebola patients.

The list includes ZMapp, which saw some limited success as a treatment during the 2014 West African outbreak that killed 11,315 people.

Four of the drugs are already in the DRC. It will be left up to doctors to determine which drug they would like to try, based on patient needs.

There are also indications that China is looking to use the outbreak as a testing ground for its own experimental vaccine.

The China Daily reports that the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has dispatched a team of more than a dozen experts to the DRC in a "pre-emptive intervention." The vaccine, approved by Chinese authorities last fall, is likely to be administered only to Chinese citizens living in the country, the report says.

The WHO-recommended vaccine that is currently being deployed in the DRC was initially developed by Canadian government scientists and is now being produced by pharmaceutical giant Merck.

Russia has also produced its own Ebola vaccine, to avoid a "Western monopoly" on treatments for the deadly disease.


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Mole-rats in vogue

Israeli archaeologists think they have found a way to make a data mountain out a molehill.

Instead of time-consuming and costly digs to try and pinpoint ancient sites, they are proposing to simply sift through the dirt piles left behind by blind mole-rats for animal-excavated evidence.

The idea comes from observations that researchers from Bar-Ilan University made in the field during an exploration of an early Bronze Age site outside the coastal city of Ashkelon. And the slow-dawning realization that shards of pottery in certain molehills were a pretty fair indication of what lay deep beneath the ground.

An adult specimen of Nannospalax (leucodon) montanosyrmiensis, a variant of the lesser mole-rat, seen near Albertirsa, Hungary. Various types of mole-rats are in vogue these days among scientists because of their surprising physical abilities. (Sandor Ujvari/EPA-EFE)
The blind, Middle Eastern mole-rats, also known as Palestinian mole-rats, are prodigious tunnellers. They're able to move dirt, rocks and other items that are up to 10 times their body weight.

A detailed study of their "back-dirt" mounds found not just bits of pottery, but evidence of other human activity such as cooking and smelting.

The scientists believe that similar insights can be gleaned by examining the dirt piles of other diggers, like rabbits, gophers, prairie dogs and armadillos, opening up a whole new world of animal-assisted archaeology.

Mole-rats seem to be in vogue in scientific circles for other abilities, too.

A paper published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal placed naked mole-rats — the furless African cousin of the Middle Eastern species — among the many animals now understood to communicate via "cooperative turn taking" (the two-way call and response conversations that underpin all human language).

Naked mole-rats live in dark underground tunnel systems and are native to the tropical grasslands of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. (Julie Larsen Maher/Associated Press)
And a researcher at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is using the bucktooth rodents to try and understand the process by which older humans lose their choppers, and how to limit the associated pain.

In fact, mole-rats have become the go-to test subject for all sorts of studies about what humans might aspire to, since they rarely get cancer, hardly feel pain and can live up to 30 years, many times the lifespan of other rodents.

Calico, the Google-backed biotech firm that is trying to unlock the mysteries of aging, is big into naked mole-rats. In January, it created a stir with a paper that claims that the pink and hairless rodents defy the normal laws of aging, with their risk of death staying flat as they get older, instead of multiplying exponentially as for all other mammals.

Naked mole-rats are becoming more popular in research laboratories, where the seemingly invulnerable rodents have surprised scientists with their ability to live up to 30 years and their potential to offer insights into human health. They're being used to study everything from aging to cancer to strokes. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)
After reaching sexual maturity at six months, each naked mole rat had a one in 10,000 daily chance of dying, says the paper, and if anything it went down as they got older. (The sample — fewer than 50 animals — is awfully small for such a sweeping conclusion, however.)

The thesis is that the mole-rats have superior telomeres, the coverings that protect DNA strands from damage. This allows their bodies to resist the decay of aging for much longer than other species.

Suggesting that mole-rats — whether digging in a field or hanging out in a lab — are the ultimate time machines.


G7: Behind closed doors

Paul Martin and John Baird discuss what goes on behind closed doors at the G7 summit:


Quote of the moment

"A new day has dawned in Ontario and help is here."

- Doug Ford, Ontario's next premier, underlines his commitment to make big changes to the provincial government — and the way it spends — in a meeting with the media Friday morning.

Doug Ford addresses the crowd Thursday night after being elected Ontario's new premier. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • White House insists Trump is prepared for North Korea summit (CBC)
  • UN sanctions six human traffickers in Libya (Telegraph)
  • Airbnb cancels thousands of bookings in Japan (BBC)
  • Former white supremacist 'monster' shares story with students (CBC)
  • Apple warns suppliers that iPhone demand is falling (CNN)
  • French fake news bill sparks censorship fears (RFI)
  • Germaine Greer criticises Beyoncé's fashion choices (Guardian)
  • What is behind the phenomenon of 'poo jogging'? (Sydney Morning Herald)

Today in history

June 8, 1998: James Cameron's post-Oscar homecoming (to Chippawa)

The eight-minute director's cut of the Oscar-winning Hollywood filmmaker's post-Titanic Ontario homecoming. Complete with multiple renditions of My Heart Will Go On, interviews with his high-school teachers, and a parade down main street. "Chippawa is on the map!," proclaims one local. If only because it's just down the street from Marineland.

James Cameron's post-Oscar homecoming

Digital Archives

23 years ago
8:04
Chippewa residents give the Oscar winning director the red-carpet treatment. Credit: Action drawings: James Cameron “My Heart Will Go On” by James Horner and Wilbur H. Jennings, Famous Music LLC. 8:04

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.

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