• Pianos and the Pan Am Games. While the connection between the two isn't clear, organizers seem to have justified the $250,000 it's costing to bring 41 fully functional pianos to the streets of Toronto.

    "Everyone, whether you've had two lessons on a piano or whether you're a concert pianist, everyone at one point in their lives has encountered a piano in some form," Don Shipley, creative director of arts, culture and festivals for the Pan Am Games, told the National Post.

    To celebrate Toronto's winning bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games, Toronto-based artists from each of the 41 Pan Am countries will decorate each piano with a distinctive nod to their country of origin.

    The pianos, each eight with "Play Me, I'm Yours" written across the key cover, will be "placed in accessible spaces across the city core where the public is encouraged to spontaneously break out and play a tune," the Pan Am Toronto site announces. Organizers hope the pianos will encourage community interaction and start

    Read More »from ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’: Toronto brings pianos to city for Pan Am Games
  • The lovable loonie celebrates its 25th anniversary with a special commemorative coin.Nothing makes you feel old quite like marking the 25th anniversary of something you recall taking place with absolute clarity.

    Particularly when the celebratory object in question gets a brand new special edition facelift to mark the occasion.

    But those of us who were old enough to retain memories from 1987 will likely recall the birth of the loonie — Canada's shiny, gold-coloured one-dollar coin — and the story of how we came close to calling the now-iconic coin something very different.

    Can you imagine referring to our one-dollar piece as the trapper? (Or even worse — the "furry"?)

    It almost happened.

    As Yahoo! Canada News notes, the coin's original design featured a voyageur traveling by canoe in honour of the country's early fur trappers and traders.

    The dies had already been set by the Royal Canadian Mint. But on their way from Ottawa to Winnipeg something strange happened: They disappeared, never to be seen again.

    The Mint was left scrambling to find a new design. Enter Robert

    Read More »from Loonie gets a special edition facelift on its 25th birthday
  • Calgary Stampede vice-chairman Bob Thompson (left) and Patrick Hadsipantelis from the Royal Canadian Mint pose with the Calgary Stampede coin put into circulation to celebrate the event's 100th anniversary in Calgary, Wednesday, June 20, 2012.As someone who grew up in Calgary, I know the Stampede can be a rootin' tootin' good time.

    Many longtime Calgarians roll their eyes at the prospect of 10 days where cowboy boots, white Stetsons, fancy western shirts and bolo ties are considered de rigueur.

    But even jaded natives understand the big show, which launches its centennial edition Friday, is a huge moneymaker for the city and a venue for deals that can bolster investment in the economy.

    As Toronto Star correspondent Petti Fong reports, Calgary's business execs will be at those daily Stampede pancake breakfasts to schmooze with visitors from elsewhere in Canada and abroad.

    "It hearkens back to the times when deals were made on a handshake," Jon Jackson, with the Calgary Hotel Association, told the Star.

    [ Related: Silent movie and Archie comics helped put Stampede on the map ]

    "During Stampede, huge deals are made and partnerships are made. It's one of the busiest times anywhere in Canada from a hosting and entertaining

    Read More »from Calgary Stampede a prime venue for doing business, if you like cowboy hats and pancakes
  • Know Canada beer mug - Bruce Mau DesignAs Americans celebrate the Fourth of July and we get back into gear after Canada Day, let's reflect on our love-hate relationship with our friends south of the border.

    It extends to the times they notice us. We love it, don't we, when the last remaining superpower mentions us in some even vaguely laudatory way. But we also resent the fact that even when Americans notice, their knowledge of us is so superficial.

    Enter Studio 360 and Bruce Mau Design.

    Studio 360, a Peabody-winning program on WNYC New York Public Radio and Public Radio International, commissioned the New York- and Toronto-based design firm to redesign Canada's brand.

    The goal of the campaign, dubbed Know Canada, is not to boost our country's image but to school Americans about how to see their northern neighbours without cliches such as Mounties and maple syrup in the way.

    "In our redesign, we begin with an assertion that Americans simply don't understand Canada," they say on the Know Canada web site. "Our view is that

    Read More »from U.S. radio show, design firm pitch ‘Know Canada’ campaign to rebrand Canada for Americans
  • Today marks the 111th anniversary of the world's longest covered bridge.

    Google.ca is celebrating New Brunswick's 391-metre-long Hartland Bridge by featuring the historic structure as its Google Doodle.

    Hartland Mayor Craig Melanson said he had no advance warning of the drawing he calls a "million-dollar advertisement" for his town and province. He was made aware of it only when he received a call from his daughter.

    The bridge opened on July 4, 1901, and stretches across the St. John River. It was built by a private company after disgruntled citizens, impatient with the government's indecision about building a bridge, banded together to form the Hartland Bridge Company. Until the province purchased the bridge in 1906, it was funded by tolls: 3 cents for pedestrians and 6 cents for a horse and wagon.

    The bridge was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980.

    Cross the bridge, YouTube-style, below:

    Read More »from Today’s Google Doodle: New Brunswick’s Hartland Covered Bridge
  • At any given time, Canadians are walking, running, cycling, skateboarding or finding some other way to get from one end of the country to the other for some charitable cause.

    Terry Fox, the young one-legged cancer survivor whose tragically interrupted cross-country Marathon of Hope remains an inspiration more than 30 years after his death, was the model for pushing one's personal limits to fulfill a noble goal.

    The troubled Steve Fonyo completed Fox's coast-to-coast run before spiraling into a life of petty crime that saw him stripped of his Order of Canada a couple of years ago. He was a sobering reminder that our heros are human, not plaster saints.

    Charity runner not discouraged by arrestA man running across Canada to raise money for a children's hospital says he won't be slowed by his arrest in Quebec. Curtis Hargrove is charged with obstructing justice after refusing to leave the Trans-Canada Highway.

    And Rick Hansen overcame an auto accident that put him in a wheelchair to Read More »from Cross-Canada charity runner Curtis Hargrove’s Quebec arrest brings publicity boost
  • Nurses who work for the Canada Pension Plan have won a major gender-discrimination settlement that could reach more than $200 million, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

    The nurses, most of them women, determine the eligibility of people applying for CPP disability benefits. They filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Right Tribunal that their salaries of $50,000-$60,000 a year was half that of CPP doctors, a male-dominated group that performed essentially the same job.

    The tribunal, in its 2007 decision, sided with the nurses and ruled they were being discriminated against on the basis of gender.

    However, a second tribunal ruling denied the nurses compensation for wage loss or pain and suffering. The nurses successfully appealed in the courts, triggering negotiations with the federal Treasury Board, the Citizen said.

    Under the settlement, endorsed by the tribunal, nurses will be paid $160 million but other elements of it, including adjustments to pension benefits, could bring the

    Read More »from Canada Pension Plan nurses win huge gender-discrimination settlement
  • Canada's two historically most important fisheries have gotten some good and bad news.

    On the East Coast, there are signs devastated northern cod stocks are finally rebounding, 20 years after the federal government imposed a moratorium on the once lucrative fishery.

    But on the West Coast, a newly published study raises the alarm about sockeye salmon stocks.

    First, the good news. Researchers say there's evidence cod are living longer and growing larger, thanks ironically to warmer ocean temperatures presumably linked to climate change.

    Life after cod fishery moratoriumCBC's Lee Pitts looks at the many ways life has changed in Newfoundland, 20 years after the federal government shut down the cod fishery in Atlantic Canada

    "In particular, this year we're seeing evidence that a lot of the real negative signs in the cod stocks that have been with us for 20 years are turning around," George Rose, director of the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research at Memorial University in St. John's,

    Read More »from Canada’s fisheries: Good news on the East Coast, bad news on the West Coast
  • Hospital food will never win awards for taste. But shouldn't it at least be healthy?While it's not as though hospitals have ever been lauded for their gourmet cuisine, the idea that you're filling your body with the nutrients it needs to heal has certainly inspired more than one patient to force that last bit of rubbery mystery meat down the hatch.

    Because when you're lying prostrate in a bed on wheels, IV firmly hooked into your right arm and your wellbeing in the hands of the people around you, it's important to trust your health is being looked after from top to bottom.

    But according to the CBC, your gag reflex may have been trying to tell you something all along.

    According to a host of experts sourced by the news network, hospitals often use frozen, processed food out of cost and convenience — food that, naturally, lacks proper nutrition. It's edible, but it's not actually good for you.

    "The vegetables are frozen and it is convenient, but they are so waterlogged that they are really not there," Joshna Maharaj, a Toronto-based chef and healthy food advocate told

    Read More »from Hospital food not only tastes bad, it actually isn’t good for you
  • Canadian prison inmates have been building furniture and punching out licence plates for decades but CTV News reports India's apparently just waking up to the potential of an imprisoned labour force.

    Correspondent Janis Mackey Frayer says Tihar Jail, which at 12,000 inmates is the largest prison complex in south Asia, has been turned into a profitable producer of goods ranging from food products to shoes, with proceeds going to help victims of crime.

    Officials told CTV News that Tihar generated $3 million in revenue last year while also teaching prisoners skills that can help them find jobs after they're released.

    Its bakery, for instance, produces some of the country's most popular bread, biscuits and muffins.

    "I am learning and it passes the time," Ashwini, serving a life sentence for murder, told CTV News.

    Inmates also build furniture, sew uniforms and make eco-friendly paper and office supplies ... for the country's police and courts.

    Prisoners are paid up to $80 a month but a

    Read More »from India’s prison work programs keep inmates busy while helping victims of crime

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