World Cup crackdown: From hawkers to BBQs, here's what's banned near stadiums
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- 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."
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.)
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."
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird give an inside account of what happens during closed door sessions at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/G7?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#G7</a> conference <a href="https://t.co/lNjdUcotio">pic.twitter.com/lNjdUcotio</a>—@CBCTheNational
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.
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.
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