Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, March 31, 2016

In Remote Communities What Qualifies as Sub-Standard?

"We have seen states of emergency declared in Northern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We have read painful stories of suicide, addiction and disease."
"I have spoken to First Nations leaders who are deeply concerned for their people, but just as deeply committed to finding real, lasting solutions. I have assured them of our government's firm resolve to work with them in partnership, to find those solutions. But this will not happen overnight."
Canadian federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott

"This ongoing medical crisis is related to access to medical services. Canadians would not, and should not accept the access to health care that those in these remote communities live with on a daily basis."
"Any care beyond primary care is provided away from the home community."
Weeneebayko Area Health Authority

"Unfortunately, it is not something that is news [lack of on-site urgent medical care on isolated aboriginal reserves] to us. It is something that has been an issue for many of our communities for a long time now."
"The shock of losing so many people in one tragic event [catastrophic house fire killing 9 members of one family] is overwhelming. There's a tremendous loss and overwhelming grief that all of us are feeling."
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler
CTV National News: Significant housing concerns

Poverty, crowded, unsanitary conditions have led to yet another crisis on remote, isolated First Nations reserves with children being found suffering from eczema and suspected scabies cases. Although eczema has a genetic base of origin allergens and irritants in the atmosphere can also trigger its appearance, and unsanitary conditions don't help. And in the Northern Ontario community of Kashechewan with its low incomes laundry soap is far more expensive than it is in urban areas. This is a community that is accessed only by plane, boat or ice road.

Three doctors from the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority issued an open letter to governments emphasizing the need for increased resources to address persistent problems at this reserve and others just like it situated elsewhere across the country. There is inadequate availability to medical resources, unsurprisingly, in these remotely-situated traditional communities. Nurses, support medical services and physicians are available only sporadically. People suffering from serious health problems are required to be transferred to hospitals in urban communities.


Derek Stephen of Kashechewan posted photos on social media of the angry-looking bumps and rashes on his niece's legs and face. The baby is now receiving medical treatment in Timmins, Ont.
Derek Stephen of Kashechewan posted photos on social media of the angry-looking bumps and rashes on his niece's legs and face. The baby is now receiving medical treatment in Timmins, Ont. (Derek Stephen/Facebook) 

According to the latest figures available from Statistics Canada, in 2011 there were six million, three hundred and twenty-nine thousand, four hundred and fourteen (6,329,414) Canadians living rurally, representing 19 percent of the Canadian population, as opposed to 81 percent living in urban areas. Rural areas of small towns face similar challenges of ensuring there is potable water for residents, of having volunteer fire fighters, of hoping to persuade newly-graduated medical practitioners to open a practise in their town.

People living even more remotely, with sparse numbers of neighbours rely on their own wells and septic systems, and must travel distances for medical assistance. These are not necessarily First Nations people, but those who prefer, or whom circumstances of life decree that they live isolated lives. In so doing, they must become resolutely capable of looking after their needs in the knowledge that their location necessarily restricts municipal services of any kind.

First Nations leaders regularly raise the issues of sub-standard health care and lack of mental health services, let alone that homes on reserves are often inadequate, requiring upgrades. People who live rurally know they have the responsibility to look after their properties. People living on reserves do not own the homes they live in; they live more or less as wards of the state, since reserves receive public funding for all their needs. Since they have no personal investment in property they take no care of it, though they depend on the housing to live decently.

Living in remote, isolated communities where are the employment opportunities to come from? Children who are educated on reserves are reliant on the quality of education that their own councils deem appropriate for them, not on curricula and teaching methods that are standard in urban communities. Little wonder reserves are under-served. Residents have generally made a choice to live where they do; they are mobile and could live elsewhere than on reserve, but to do so is to be independent of government handouts.

And irrespective of the financial resources placed at the disposal of native councils there seems never to be enough to cover all needs. Part of the problem resides in the proclivity of council members, and chiefs to ensure that their extended families benefit disproportionately, while other tribal members come second. The allocation of funding meant for specific public welfare purposes is not always properly distributed, since those handling the funding often use it for non-essential and self-serving purposes.


A fire on the Pikangikum First Nation has claimed nine lives. PHOTO: KYLE PETERS
 
In the remote northern Ontario First Nation community of Pikangikum, three children under five along with six adults, all from one family representing three generations, died in a house fire late Tuesday. Sometimes there is fire-fighting equipment on reserves, but scant few among the unemployed residents step forward to form volunteer brigades and no one becomes knowledgeable in the use of the equipment which just sis there, untended and unused.

When such calamities occur, and they do with regularity, including numerous suicides particularly among the young, condolences from local, provincial and federal politicians are quick to appear, along with pledges for additional funding to solve the unsolvable.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Price of Moral Blameworthiness

"The high degree of Mr. Muzzo's moral blameworthiness, combined with the enormous and far-reaching consequences of his offences, set this case apart from others."
“For as long as Mr. Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving. Yet the message escaped him. It is important that it does not escape others."

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst

"That's Milly and Harry. They joined their hands together. They [hospital staff] pushed their beds together; I decided I had to turn the machines off so Milly's heart wouldn't explode. I couldn't pick which baby to turn off the machines first."
"Edward and I crawled into bed with them. We put our hands on top of theirs so that ... just like we were with them when they were born, we were with both of them when they died. They died hugged by us in bed surrounded by all the family and friends that sang to them 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' as we turned off the machines."
Jennifer Neville Lake, Newmarket, Ontario
Vaughan crash
Harry, Milly and Daniel were the three children of the Neville-Lake family killed in the crash, along with their 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville. (Gofundme.com)

Jennifer Neville-Lake and Edward Lake, the parents of Milly, two years of age, her brothers Harry, five and Daniel, nine, had the opportunity to  arrive in time to the hospital where their childen were being cared for on life support, before their two younger children died. They were able to see their two youngest children still alive and breathing, albeit with mechanical assistance. They arrived too late for Daniel, though, he died before they could bridge the distance and time gap that separated them.

Theirs was a heavy burden of unassuagable grief; the reality that Jennifer's father, her children's grandfather, was dead, killed in the same collision that took the lives of the three children. Four members of one family involved in a dreadful, avoidable accident that mercilessly snuffed out their lives, leaving their families in an agony of disbelief and a lifetime of attempting to come to grips with their inability to protect those vulnerable souls they loved.

Their grandmother Neriza Neville was driving, returning the children home in their Grand Caravan that also carried her husband, 65-year-old Gary Neville and the children's great-grandmother Josephina Frias. The two women survived the crash. Their vehicle had been smashed into by a Jeep Cherokee being driven by its owner, 29-year-old Marco Muzzo. He had just returned by private jet from Miami where he had attended his own bachelor party.

The night before he returned there were festivities with friends, the kind that go on into the wee hours of the morning with ample alcohol to fuel the fun. On the plane returning him to  Canada, he had continued to drink. He still decided he would drive from the airport to his home in Vaughan, north of Toronto. En route he happened to run through a stop sign, the result of which was the collision with the Neville-Lake family's vehicle.

Marco Muzzo, right, leaves the Newmarket, Ont., courthouse surrounded by family in February. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the Vaughan, Ont., collision that killed four people.
Marco Muzzo, right, leaves the Newmarket, Ont., courthouse surrounded by family in February. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the Vaughan, Ont., collision that killed four people. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press) 

That happened last September, and Mr. Muzzo, heir to a billion-dollar construction fortune has been in custody since then. He was sentenced to ten years in prison and will likely be eligible for parole once a third of his sentence has passed. A twelve-year driving ban has also been imposed. Mr. Muzzo has expressed his deep remorse. Early on he made a guilty plea. He had no prior criminal record. He has, however, earned ten speeding convictions under the Highway Safety Act.

A forensic psychologist has affirmed that with his wide social network, his employment record and close family support he is considered a low risk to re-offend. But this is a man who was casual-to-oblivious about his responsibility as a driver sharing the road with others; his speeding convictions attest to that. His choice to drive while intoxicated even though he had no sense of being under the influence of alcohol when he decided to drive himself, weighs more heavily on the scale of justice than his remorse and support network.

When he expressed his remorse, the young man pledged his intention to "spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for my conduct, and devoting myself to educating the public of the disastrous consequences of drinking and driving". A tad late, to be sure. It is not as though the dangers inherent in driving under the influence of alcohol are largely unknown, and his experience will now be held as a warning beacon on the shoals of intemperance and intelligence.

He now has the experience of a lifetime, one that will follow him throughout the days and nights of his life. An unwholesome and unenviable memory to live with, one that cannot be expiated, since death is so final and becoming, however unwillingly and unwittingly, a servant of death through intoxicated driving and toxic decision-making results in an irreversible course of action.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Casualties of Conflict

"My wife and I [each] thought that Amal was with the other. Many children were lost that day [post-bombing in Nawa, Syria]."
"My wife starting crying [at news that their child was not with relatives]. She just wanted to go back."
"If a motorcycle passes by our home, she [8-year-old child] comes into the room crying."
"The people are nice here [Cyprus], but it's difficult. Life in Syria is a thousand times better. ... Hopefully the war will stop and we'll be able to go back."
Jaffar Ismail, Syrian refugee, Nicosia, Cyprus
Amal Ismail, 8, left, is seen with her older sister Alaa, right, 18-month-old Aryam, right rear, and mother Maha at the  International Organization for Migration office in Nicosia, Cyprus. Amal was finally reunited with her family after she was mistakenly left behind by her parents when her southern Syrian town of Nawa was bombed two years ago.
AP Photo/Petros Karadjias     Amal Ismail, 8, left, is seen with her older sister Alaa, right, 18-month-old Aryam, right rear, and mother Maha at the International Organization for Migration office in Nicosia, Cyprus. Amal was finally reunited with her family after she was mistakenly left behind by her parents when her southern Syrian town of Nawa was bombed two years ago.
 
A Syrian warplane had just bombed the southern Syrian town of Nawa in the neighbourhood where Jaffar and Maha Ismail lived with their two daughters, Alaa and Amal. Jaffar reacted to the falling bombs by running out in the street with his older daughter Alaa, unable to walk normally as a result of a congenital back problem. It seems that Maha was under the impression that six-year-old Amal was also with her husband, along with Alaa.

When they connected it became clear that little Maha was with neither of them. And somehow, in their panic, they reassured themselves that Maha was in all likelihood with one of their extended family members, so they fled with only Alaa. And the decision was made on the instant to vacate their town with the assumption that their youngest child was safe with Jaffar's parents or perhaps with one of his siblings who had sought haven in another village.

It's difficult to imagine, even in the panic of a bomb attack that parents would make such a decision; to move on without their intact family, leaving behind a vulnerable child of six on the assumption that she would be safe, that some one of their extended family who presumably with children of their own to take care of,  would have taken their younger daughter with them. But this is precisely what this father and mother did.

They crossed the border into Lebanon and in a several months' time-frame decided to go on to Turkey where they arranged passage on a boat to the northern coast of Cyprus. Once landed in Cyprus someone guided them to the south of the island. Eventually they contacted one of Jaffar's brothers back in Syria who informed him that the family was under the impression that Amal was with her parents.

Later calls to cousins led to the discovery that the wife of a relative had found Amal wandering in the street, and had taken her in. Eventually Mr. Ismail made contact with the International Organization for Migration and they put into motion the process of reuniting the little girl with her parents. Jaffar's brother brought Amal to the Syrian-Jordanian border to meet up with an IOM official who provided a Cypriot visa for the child.

In that two-year interim where Amal had been separated from her parents another baby was born to the parents. 
AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
AP Photo/Petros Karadjias    Amal Ismail with her 18-month-old younger sister Aryam.
 
An Arabic-speaking woman escorted Amal on a plane to Cyprus and reunited her with her family. Reuniting the family had been no simple affair. The family like other Syrians seeking haven from the brutal conflict being fought by the Syrian regime against its own people, are given subsidiary protection in Cyprus which means that though entitled to rights afforded asylum seekers they are unable to bring family members to the country to join them.

This is when IOM Cyprus chief officer Natasa Xenophontos Koudouna stepped in to see that an exemption was granted the Ismail family after reviewing the case, enabling the reunion to take place. Father Jaffar mourns the loss of his carpentry shop, his three properties, his spent savings, but he yearns to return to Syria where life was "a thousand times better", than how the family is living in Cyprus, on a 900-euro-a-month state allowance.

Little Amal who still asks her father and mother why they abandoned her however, thinks otherwise: "I don't want to go back home", she states with the conviction of one who knows better.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Seattle's Homeless Jungle

"We as a city have got to come together, so that we can build a movement with other cities and force this on the national agenda."
Seattle Mayor Edward B. Murray

"You step in there [homeless encampment], and it's like you're not even in the United States anymore."
"The human waste, the solid waste, the drugs, the tents -- even when you have areas of poverty around the world, you don't see it all in one place."
Chief Harold Scoggins, Seattle Fire Department

"Even though we're all beyond frustrated and disappointed with some of the results, including the increased count on the streets, which is devastating, we have accomplished a lot of good work that we have been recognized for."
"Thousands of people have gotten a roof over their head. The problem is there's been a significantly higher inbound flow of people coming into the homeless cycle than we anticipated."
"We have a very thriving, healthy, growing GDP [Gross Domestic Product] economy. We're creating poverty at unprecedented levels at the same time. That's a broken economy fundamentally. There's something inherently wrong with our economic structure."
Dan Brettler, CEO, Seattle-based Car Toys, co-chair Seattle Committee To End Homelessness 

Tents are pitched illegally on a sidewalk in Seattle in January. The number of people sleeping outside in the city shot up by 20 percent in just the past year.
Tents are pitched illegally on a sidewalk in Seattle in January. The number of people sleeping outside in the city shot up by 20 percent in just the past year.   David Ryder/Reuters/Landov

Seattle, Washington is doing very well, thank you, its tech-driven economy is on the booming track to continued growth and prosperity.  Its West Coast location has made it an extremely attractive venue, however, for homeless people, people who have suffered personal catastrophes that have resulted in lost jobs, lost marriages, lost homes, lost hope. And others who are afflicted with mental illness issues; others yet who are addicted to alcohol and drugs and cannot find their way home.

In November the mayor of the city, Edward Murray, declared a state of emergency over homelessness even though the city is seen as having the problem well in hand. The city is regarded as having solved to some degree the distress of homelessness, recognized elsewhere as a model in housing the homeless. Seattle has devised a city-wide-supported strategy to set aside areas where tent camps are authorized, where social services are available and rules of civil conduct govern.

Sharon Chang, ThinkProgress

There is a problem, however, in the existence of an outlier encampment whose residents consider their tent city their permanent home. That home is located in downtown Seattle, but residents can be forgiven for not being aware of its hidden existence. It is the city's largest homeless camp, and it exists among the pylons under the city's major highway. All together there is  an estimated 10,000 people without permanent shelter in King County, with its population of over two million residents.

The population of the illegal encampment which is popularly referred to as the "Jungle", a five-kilometre stretch of unseemly  territory under Interstate highway 5, which 400 souls call home. For whom there is nowhere else to go that appeals to them. Seattle has the dubious distinction of being recognized as a prosperous city whose homeless population numbers have soared. They are higher than that of any metropolitan area aside from New York and Los Angeles.

The San Francisco template of a healthy economy where the high tech sector is leading a boom, also leads to unaffordable rentals and finds its echo in Seattle. Those who can afford the high rents don't end up homeless. Those that cannot, often do. In the jungle, it could be said that a mixed-economic-social condition exists. Yes, there are the hard-core heroin addicts, but there are also couples and people with jobs, unable to afford to live in high rental properties.

"The Jungle," a unauthorized homeless encampment under Interstate is shown on Feb. 2, 2016. Photo: GENNA MARTIN, SEATTLEPI.COM / SEATTLEPI.COM
"The Jungle," a unauthorized homeless encampment under Interstate is shown on Feb. 2, 2016. Photo: GENNA MARTIN, SEATTLEPI.COM

It was Mayor Murray's intention to clear out the Jungle, performing that public good in a measured way and offering improved alternatives to the residents. It takes money to do that properly. And there are complications, since the Jungle exists on state property, since the land under the highway is state land. Over the years funding allocated by the federal government for public housing has dwindled, just as mental health and addiction treatment have received less state funds.

Seattle Police and Fire Department crews know the Jungle fairly intimately. They have responded to over 820 emergency incidents over a five-year period. Of those incidents, 70 were violent, 500 were emergency medical calls, and 250 of them were fires.
 

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Caveat Emptor

"Vivimind is available in Canada only because of a lax regulatory framework that has allowed an ineffective prescription drug to be rebranded and marketed as a natural health product."
Scott Gavura, Science-Based Pharmacy blogRelated image
"This product [Neurochem Inc.'s Vivimind, as a natural-health product] is not intended to treat, prevent or reduce the risk of any specific diseases."
Health Canada 

"[An effective Alzheimer's treatment] is perhaps the greatest unmet need facing modern medicine."
Extracted from a Canadian co-authored journal paper in Lancet Neurology

"It's an urgent public-health problem e have to address very quickly."
"I remember looking at a paper in Science -- a vaccine against amyloid in a mouse model ... and lo and behold the pathology just melted away, disappeared. It was very exciting."
Dr. Howard Feldman, Alzheimer's researcher,  University of British Columbia

"For the clinical trialists in the world ... the past ten years have been frustrating."
"If it doesn't work, you waste money and the patient's time."
Dr. Serge Gauthier, University of Montreal
Related image

A great deal of money was wasted by Montreal resident Francesco Bellini, by his pharmaceutical company Neurochem Inc. He was convinced he had a winning formula in a pharmacological product he was advancing with the name of Alzhemed, as a promising drug to treat the dread disease Alzheimer's. It had gone through the discovery stage and was in advanced Phase 3 trials. He had invested $100-million in the product, certain it would make him a billionaire. And then, phhht! A failure.

Dr. Gauthier found in his research, that two thousand trials involving about 900 hoped-for dementia drugs were registered in the past two decades. None of them succeeded. Of the total less than 200 products are still listing in their development stages. Of all research pharmaceutical products only 3.8 in the discovery stage and 1.2 percent in advanced Phase 3 trials are for dementia. Yet Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases are on the rise.

Millions of lives worldwide are devastated by that diagnosis and the agonizing failure of the human brain leading to death. Alzheimer's is the sole major cause of death in industrialized countries still without a disease-modifying treatment, in spite of the billions that have been invested in attempts to research an effective treatment. Scant little research is being done, however, in contrast to 31 percent of research dedicated to cancer treatments.

One strategy in particular looked so promising that researchers failed to look at the potential that might exist in other areas and tended to focus primarily on it. Proteins known as beta-amyloid and tau in Alzheimer's-afflicted brains spread abnormally, affecting neuron transmission and killing off cells. The assumption was that reducing amyloid plaque would result in an improvement in the condition of demented patients.

What has happened is that drugs shown to be effective in reducing amyloid plaque in animals have not succeeded in bringing that hoped-for improvement to humans experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies have traditionally been so eager to get their product to market in hopes of reaping huge profits they have gambled erroneously on drugs which, in the end, fail.

The drug Alzhemed which failed in 2007 clinical trials, disappointing Mr. Bellini, was given approval from Health Canada as a natural-health product in 2010, with a change in name to Vivimend, effectively giving it a bill of health as it were, as a natural health remedy for Alzheimer's. With natural-health products there is no need to prove effectiveness. Vivimend is a synthetic drug that mimics the active ingredient homotaurine, found in some seaweed.
warning signs.ENG

1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

3. Problems with language

4. Disorientation of time and place

5. Poor or decreased judgment

6. Problems with abstract thinking

7. Misplacing things

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

9. Changes in personality

10. Loss of initiative

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Accommodating the Homeless

"I don't think there's much question that in a better climate where you can stay warm and dry at night, that will have an impact [on where the homeless choose to migrate]."
"It's not a narrative that gets talked about a lot. The number of people in homeless shelters is just the tip of the iceberg."
Nick Falva, director, research and data, Calgary Homeless Foundation

"The word is out that there are certain places in Canada ... where those behaviours [drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues] will be more likely tolerated."
"[It's] not really that remarkable a find [that homeless people are moving to Vancouver."
Julian Somers, lead author, report on homelessness in Canada

"All the planning was based on the assumption that if you built enough housing everything would be hunky-dory. As it turns out ... it ain't that easy."
"[A] new generation [of homeless people began flooding in to Vancouver from as far as Ontario; younger, drug-addicted, aggressive and averse to help]."
"It's not the shuffling guy with his hand out; they're getting angrier. People are scarier. It's taken on a very different public persona."
Kerry Jang, psychiatrist, Vancouver city councillor
Video thumbnail for COURT CAMPERS

Vancouver is known as a laid back place with a mild climate where the homeless can look forward to certain advantages not so widely available elsewhere. A 20-hour Greyhound bus trip to the West Coast doesn't cost all that much. There have been other studies identifying patterns of homeless people taking to migrating to cities where a reputation for aid to the homeless beckons. Cities as far-ranging as Osaka, Japan to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to New York City.

The West Coast of North America is disproportionately receiving homeless people. According to a 2013 study, five of the seven largest homeless populations have congregated along the Pacific Ocean, in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, south of the Canadian border. In 2008, then-mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson campaigned on a pledge to end homelessness by 2015.

His "housing first" campaign was based on an idea that before drug addiction on the streets can be fought, the need to house the homeless must first be addessed. An aggressive social housing building event took place with the government of British Columbia lending over $143-million to the enterprise that resulted in a network of cheap, "single-room occupancy" hotels in hopes of rehabilitating this segment of the population.

And it succeeded very nicely, reducing the homeless count. And then it shot up again. Where there were 536 people sleeping outside, homeless in 2015, increased from a high of 273 in 2014. Middle-aged alcoholics comprised the majority of the homeless in 2008, and they were mostly housed in 2008. Victoria too, on Vancouver Island has been receiving waves of homeless people. Notoriously a downtown park is now occupied by a tent city.

Steven L'Heureux, left, and Gord Ross live in a tent city that is growing next to the Victoria courthouse. It began with one or two tents in August but has since expanded to 20 to 30.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist - See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/neighbours-fed-up-with-tent-city-next-to-victoria-courthouse-1.2119100#sthash.wKzsK9vm.dpuf
VKA-tents-571201.jpg
Steven L'Heureux, left, and Gord Ross live in a tent city that is growing next to the Victoria courthouse. It began with one or two tents in August but has since expanded to 20 to 30.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist - See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/neighbours-fed-up-with-tent-city-next-to-victoria-courthouse-1.2119100#sthash.wKzsK9vm.dpuf

Photo, Darren Stone, Times Colonist

The Government of British Columbia produced campers to provide alternative housing and food in Victoria. They bought a $3.65-million building to house the homeless, but it was all rejected by the residents of the tent city. Protesters from the population at large supported their ongoing occupation of the park which has turned the nearby area into a crime hub, where discarded needles and public defecation enriches city life.

In Medicine Hat, Alberta, the city chose to become the first city in Canada to end homelessness. Their success was brief, attracting homeless people from afar. Housing has been found in the city of 61,000 for 885 people, an estimated 45 percent of them new to the city. "That was actually quite alarming to us", admitted Jaime Rogers with the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society.

Somers' team followed 400 homeless people over a ten-year period to identify an emerging and clear pattern. Mentally ill people settle into the Downtown Eastside, beginning a steady routine of hospital admissions, clinic visits, arrests and court appearances. Health goes into a downward spiral and after racking up hundreds of thousands in city services, they die at an early age: "This is clearly not a positive story."


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Friday, March 25, 2016

Eating Patterns and Healthy Lifestyles

"Once  you get used to it, it's not a big deal. I'm not hungry at all in the morning, and this is other people's experience as well. It's just a matter of getting adapted to it."
"From an evolutionary perspective, it's pretty clear that our ancestors did not eat three meals a day plus snacks."
Mark Mattson, neuroscientist, National Institute on Aging, Maryland

"When you have low insulin and low IGF-1 [hormone; insulinlike growth factor linked to cancer and diabetes], the body goes into a state of maintenance, a state of standby. There is not a lot of push for cells to grow, and in general the cells enter a protected mode."
Valter Longo, Longevity Institute, University of Southern California
Soup & Salad Diet
The Fountain of Youth may not be a fountain after all, but a discovery not yet gained, that using some kind of protocol -- perhaps with the more sparing use of food to stall cell-aging -- humankind could be capable of living longer, living healthier lives. Dr. Mattson speaks of not having eaten breakfast for the last 35 years of his life, and since he never liked having breakfast to begin with, not missing one whit bypassing the opportunity to stoke up the body engine after a good night's sleep.

Of course, there have been some scientific enquiries into the fact that many people don't like eating breakfast. One of which appeared to reach the conclusion that if some people in some lines of work -- say for example, an airlines pilot who regularly skips eating breakfast, has an early flight, his brain, not having been given glucose for a prolonged period of time, might not be responding with the same kind of alacrity and accuracy as it would had he eaten breakfast.

Dr. Mattson takes his theory and his own bodily needs which he obviously uses to bolster his assumptions to quite some degree. He sometimes as well skips lunch, indulges in a midafternoon run, and sometime in the afternoon indulges in a meal or a series of smaller meals in a six-hour period that will contain all of his daily calories, which he estimates to be around 2,000.

Three meals a day, at specific intervals throughout the day is a ritual of particularly recent vintage. Through  human history food availability has not been as conveniently accessed as it is today. For one thing throughout most of human history, people struggled with food scarcity. A seasonal, episodic opportunity to access food would have prevailed, and people simply adapted to survive.

Part of that survival mechanism was the ability to store calories in the form of fat over the skeleton in times of plenty and the body would retrieve that stored fat at times of food scarcity. Our livers and muscles store carbohydrates as glycogen, and our fat tissue contains energy reserves capable of sustaining the body when food is unavailable.

Dr. Longo has studied the effect of fasting in laboratory mice, discovering that two to five days of fasting monthly had the effect of reducing biomarkers for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Encouraged by the results, the research has now been expanded to studying those same effects on people. Fasting, explains Dr. Longo, lowers insulin and IGF-1, having the effect of slowing cell growth and development.

Should this be corroborated in further research, the conclusion would result that the process aids in slowing down the aging process, while reducing disease risk factors. Time-restricted feeding, which is what Dr. Mattson himself engages in, suggests cancer risk may be lowered using that technique, while assisting people to control for a moderate, healthy weight.

Alternate-day fasting is being studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago, on obese adults. Dr. Krista Varady has discovered through trials of eight to ten weeks that people lose about six kilos on average, experiencing marked reductions in LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides and insulin.

 Dr. Mattson's experience in intermittent fasting demonstrated that mice were protected from strokes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease through that feeding regimen, extending life spans by 30 percent. He found that this type of fasting had the effect of increasing proteins protecting brain cells, enhancing the test animals' ability to repair damaged DNA. The stress associated with fasting, he concludes, makes cells stronger.

One benefit of fasting is that it forces the body to shift from the use of  glucose for energy to using stored body fat, converted to compounds called ketones. According to Dr. David Ludwig of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, ketones represent a "clean" energy source, burning more efficiently than glucose.

Ketones are what the body uses for energy during undiagnosed diabetes, when insulin is no longer produced from the beta cells of the Islets of Langerhans. A characteristic 'milky' odour on the breath reveals that ketones are being burned by the body seeking an energy source, when it can no longer convert ingested glucose in an absence of insulin production.

"It takes a very disciplined person to skip a couple meals every day", cautioned Dr. Ludwig, a protocol that may prove too difficult and which may slow metabolism. He advocates as a more practical approach, to limit sugar int he diet and processed carbohydrates; to replace them with natural fats, protein and unrefined carbohydrates.

Personally, I'd advocate for skipping daily lunch. I've been doing it for 50 years.

The 5:2 diet calls for two days per week of minifasting where the aim is to go a long stretch, say 14 to 18 hours, without eating. During these two fasting days, you also eat only about 600 calories, give or take.
The 5:2 diet calls for two days per week of minifasting where the aim is to go a long stretch, say 14 to 18 hours, without eating. During these two fasting days, you also eat only about 600 calories, give or take.    Viennaslide/the food passionat/Corbis

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Predicting Alzheimer's

"Sometimes I think, 'This is a terrible storm on the horizon that could absolutely devastate us, and I want to know if it is real or not'. Other times I say, 'Gosh, if I do find out that it is real and I know I will die that way and I know probably the age I will die -- that is an almost unbearable amount of information about my future."
"People say you could go sky diving or ride a bull. But you can only do things like that as long as time and income provide. You still have to get up in the morning and go to work and pay your bills."
Marty Reiswig, 37, Denver, Colorado

"It depends on the day [whether he feels regret for having a genetic blood test]. I have battled weight issues and the suicide issue, and I have had problems with my marriage ever since I found out [gene-tested positive for early-onset Alzheimer's]. Some days I really regret it. It is a  huge burden. Other days I am glad I know."
Participant in test-group of patients, Washington University School of Medicine, St.Louis Missouri

"I was already living every single day, ever single moment assuming I had it. I did not want to find out I have it. I wanted to find out I don't have it [genetic predisposition to early-onset Alzheimer's]."
"To me, it is just so obvious. Worrying about what the truth is is far more damaging, and it doesn't change the conclusions."
"Knowing the truth] frees you from making the wrong assumptions."
Matt Reiswig, 41, Denver, Colorado
­Marty Reiswig, left, and his brother Matt are part of a family in which a member has a 50-50 chance of inheriting a mutated gene that will lead to Alzheimer’s around age 50. Marty, 37, chose not to take a blood test that would reveal if he has the gene. Matt, 41, took the test and does not have it. Credit Nick Cote for The New York Times
The two brothers sharing the agony they each experienced watching their father succumb to early-onset Alzheimer's -- and before that, their grandfather -- reach its final devastating stages, knew they too could be staring the same kind of future in the face; and become men whose memories were obliterated completely, their mind deranged, their bodies eventually shutting down functions. Early-onset Alzheimer's was a familial trait, one shared by their extended family.

One of their cousins wrote an unusual family-history book, one he titled "The Thousand Mile Stare".

Another of their cousins, whose father also had the misfortune of that deadly gene, at age 43 worried he hadn't long before he too would succumb. And at age 40 Brian Whitney, living in Washington state, made the decision that propelled him to have the genetic testing done. He was concerned about leaving his young family, and in particular his two-year-old daughter who, he imagined, at the age of ten would have to bear witness to her father becoming increasingly remote and then dying.

That he might conceivably pass that gene to his daughter tormented him, and convinced him to have the test. If he did, he lectured himself, it would be his humanitarian duty to volunteer for research studies into Alzheimer's. His argument with himself centered on aiding scientific understanding that might eventually result in treatment that could conceivably benefit his daughter. And so now, because he tested positive, he has become a research subject in a clinical trial.

Monthly a nurse arrives at  his home so he can be injected with an experimental drug. His cousins, Matt and Marty also struggled with whether or not they should undergo genetic testing, to finally know of a certainty whether or not they had inherited that faulty gene triggering Alzheimer's. In the end, Marty Reiswig with two young children of his own, joined a study group where researchers follow family members where the gene is prominent.

Not all of the group's members have been tested, though all were at risk of having the mutated gene. After due consideration, however, Marty Reiswig decided he would not undergo the test. "For me, the return is not worth the investment", he stated. On the other hand, his brother Matt, living nearby with his wife and five children feared he might already be in the early stages, at age 41. If he lost his keys, if he couldn't remember a name, he was certain he had beginning Alzheimer's.

So he had the test. And the result was that he was free of the malign gene. He wept with gratitude. 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Humanly Degraded?

"Family and community members tried to create a safety network, but did not have the resources they needed; nor does it appear they knew what to do when the risk increased."
"The family lived in a community with limited access to alcohol. When legal alcohol could not be purchased, it would be made and stored in containers."
"Lily's older brother came home from school and discovered her body in a container of homemade alcohol."
Del Graff, child and youth advocate, Alberta

"This heartbreaking story underscores the need to continuously work to prevent similar incidents. By strengthening how we work with children, families and our service delivery partners — including indigenous partners — we can improve the system as a whole. We still have work to do, and our government is committed to taking action to implement needed improvements."Alberta Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir
Fatal Care: Hundreds known to Alberta child welfare authorities died in the care of their parents. Why? EdmontonJournal.com
The dreadful, persistent life-wrecking problem of alcohol abuse in native communities seems unending in its reach and in its consequences. Even though in the aboriginal community there is an awareness of the situation, the allure of alcohol appears to be too great for people to avoid it, or to break away from its demeaning and addictive and destructive use. When tribal councils decide to vote against having alcohol available to reserve residents and ban alcohol, they are defied.

As did a young pair of residents of the remote Fox Lake aboriginal reserve in northern Alberta when they circumvented the interdiction by the simple enough expedient of brewing their own alcohol. And in this particular instance -- the addicted parents of young children who, because of the vulnerability of the children to neglect and abuse from their parents who would imbibe and become violently combative with one another -- the family received services from child intervention workers.

Despite which, the youngest of the couple's children, a ten-month-old little girl, was discovered by her older ten-year-old brother on his return home from school, drowned in a vat of alcohol, their mother in a drunken stupor. One wonders whether this alcohol-addicted pair, setting an example for their surviving children, fully understand how completely they have failed their children, and whether they really care.

Provincial government authorities, on the other hand, do care, and it appears to be they who are suffering the pangs of guilt. Months earlier when the child was eight months of age, intervention workers responded when the child's mother was assaulted by her husband and because she was drunk, taken into custody for the night. A case worker found the mother disinterested in an offer to enter an addiction treatment program; she was as uncooperative with the worker as she was with police.

The child's death spurred an investigative review, and out of that review came recommendations from Mr. Del Graff. Who ascertained to his satisfaction that the child welfare services hadn't been served sufficiently to make certain that the child's extended family was prepared to work in tandem for the purpose of protecting the child from potential harm related to the neglect she was subjected to by her parents.

The child was described as happy and curious, well-adjusted and comfortable with those around her who loved her; the danger being her parents' alcohol abuse. Domestic violence was a component of the parents' drinking habit, leading the children to opt to stay over with grandparents when they themselves felt themselves to be in an unsafe environment represented by two insensibly alcohol-stupefied parents.

This is a family whose plight was flagged a year before the little girl was born, when a delegated First Nations agency providing intervention services on reserves spoke with members of the extended family. At that time the grandparents had agreed they would monitor the situation with their grandchildren's safety and security in mind.

When the little girl was discovered unresponsive by her brother she was taken to the local health centre, and there declared dead. Her mother pleaded guilty to criminal negligence and received 90 days in jail along with two years probation. Her remaining children were taken  from the family home, to be placed in the care of their grandparents.

The province has agreed to honour the two major recommendations that came out of Mr. Del Graff's investigation and report: that frontline workers assist in the creation of support networks and that people involved in support networks be aware what they must do and whom to refer to when risks accelerate.
Little Fox Lake is one of several monitoring sites linked across the globe that help develop United Nations protocols on emissions. (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Safeguarding Canada's Blood Products

"We thought this was a good idea and this business was suitable for Canada. Looking back at things, we underestimated some of the history that surrounds blood and plasma in Canada."
"While the majority of our shareholders are proud members of the Iranian Canadian community, including myself, Exa Pharma [the Iranian parent company] and Canadian Plasma Resources do not conduct business in the republic of Iran. Our sole focus is to collect plasma in Canada and manufacture it into products to be sold in the Canadian market to treat Canadian patients."
Barzin Bahardoust, CEO, Canadian Plasma Resources
Blood plasma is the straw-coloured liquid portion of blood traditionally used for transfusions or hemophilia drugs. It can also be processed into immunoglobulin, an intravenous drug for cancer and other diseases. Blood plasma is the straw-coloured liquid portion of blood traditionally used for transfusions or hemophilia drugs. It can also be processed into immunoglobulin, an intravenous drug for cancer and other diseases. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

Mr. Bahardoust went from studying at University of Toronto on an electrical and computer engineering doctorate to becoming an entrepreneur, convinced by an Iranian family deeply involved in pharmaceuticals to alter his career aspirations under their aegis to establish a compensated plasma business. Most blood plasma is sourced within Canada from the United States. Which itself depends on an established network of pay-for-donated-blood clinics. In Canada it is illegal to exchange payment for blood.

Payment given donors of their bodily fluid is a subject that raises questions around the philosophical ethics involved. Blood donors typically volunteer what they are willing to provide, expecting nothing in exchange, and being offered nothing for their generosity but congratulations. This is an altruistic measure dependent on public goodwill to provide Canadians with blood transfusions through the public medicare system in tandem with Canadian Blood Services, a non-profit charitable group.

A mere four percent of the Canadian population invests itself in offering blood when clinics are advertised, asking for a response from the general public. Generally, the same people give, over and over again. And clearly that four percent could not possibly meet the demand that is seen in medical services. Concern has been stated over Canadian Plasma Resources' ties to Iran, as well, since it is an Iranian company that is tied to Canadian Plasma Resources.

When Canada went through a period of self-examination in the safety of blood collection after a scandal of the 1980s when tainted blood transmitted HIV and hepatitis C from donor sources to patients, the Krever Commission, struck to examine the issue after 30,000 Canadians were infected through transfusions and plasma products, conceived primary recommendations addressing the issue of paid products; rejecting not only paying for blood, but also critical of the importation from the U.S. of paid-for blood products.

Plans were to proceed on the part of Canadian Plasma Resources to open clinics in downtown Toronto in 2013. Critics, however, citing safety concerns, accused the company of deliberately selecting locations close to homeless shelters for the purpose of attracting impoverished people to the idea of earning money in exchange for blood. It was the idea of exploitation of the poverty stricken, allied with the fact that indigent people usually suffer poor health, that spurred condemnation.

The uproar that ensued cost the company its initial investment  in securing offices and equipment to set itself up in business in Toronto. It moved instead to Saskatchewan where Mr. Bahardoust and his company were officially welcomed by the province's health minister who stated there were no plans to enact a ban. Canadian Plasma Resources procured a licence from Health Canada to operate a collection clinic in Saskatoon.

The Krever Enquiry in its time made note of what they considered a major factor in the tainted blood scandal; the failure to collect and manufacture sufficient blood and blood products domestically. Even while it recommended against encouraging donations through payment. The scant response to donating blood without compensation  has led to a reliance on American donors, and that donor base includes prisoners, a situation that comes with a higher risk of infection.

The Ontario Hemophilia Society, the World Health Organization and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are listed by Blood Watch, a vocal activist critic group of for-profit clinics as resistant to the practice of paying for donated blood. A safe blood advocate by the name of Kat Lanteigne who experienced a close family friend becoming ill with AIDS after contracting HIV from her hemophiliac husband lobbies the provinces against private, for-profit plasma clinics.

Health Canada states that since the introduction of modern manufacturing processes over 25 years ago, "there has not been a single case of transmission of hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV caused by plasma products in Canada". Derek From with the Canadian Constitution Foundation as a lawyer, donated plasma in exchange for a $45 weekly increase to his income while a student in the United States. "What we're doing right now is we're begging people 'Come in! Donate your time! Donate your fluids! Out of the kindness of your hearts, do this'!"

"And what results do we get? Very poor results. It doesn't work", he concluded. The Federal Court upheld a Canada Border Services Agency decision to deny Ramin Fallah, a shareholder to Canadian Plasma Resources' parent company, Exa Pharma Inc., a work permit. He had been hired by Canadian Plasma Resources in Canada, as an executive. But the CBSA claimed his former employer, Fanavari Azmayeshgahi, "has been identified in open sources and by allied governments as being an entity of (weapons of mass destruction) concern."

Canadian Plasma's business partnership with the German pharmaceutical company Biotest AG, with processing plants in the U.S. and Germany represents yet another suspected link to Iran's nuclear program. Since Biotest is in a joint venture called Bio Daru, with Darou Pakhsh, a pharmaceutical company on a list of Iranian companies which Britain views as being at risk of using exports for weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

Complicated? You bet!

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Monday, March 21, 2016

"Cured" 2-Year Post-Treatment for Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer patients can expect a clean bill of health if they stay disease-free for two years, meaning they won't need more CT scans.
Testicular cancer patients can expect a clean bill of health if they stay disease-free for two years, meaning they won't need more CT scans.


 "Cured" 2-Year Post-Treatment for Testicular Cancer

"This is a paradigm shift for men with advanced testicular cancer."
"For many cancers, the five-year mark has been the gold standard. Only when you've passed the five-year mark are you thought to be at a very low risk of relapse."
"Now with metastatic testicular cancer, after the two-year mark you're considered golden. This is much more reassuring for patients as opposed to waiting five years."
Dr. Daniel Heng, clinical associate professor, University of Calgary, Dept. of oncology

The results of a study bankrolled by the Calgary charity Oneball is now set to be published in the March edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The findings will be recognized as bringing huge hope and relief to men who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer, the most common form of cancer in young men. Some thousand men are annually diagnosed with testicular cancer. If the cancer is found at a early period, it has a survival rate of 99 percent.

The finding of this new study out of the University of Calgary reflects a cure rate of almost 100 percent in those patients who are deemed to be free of cancer after a two-year period following diagnosis and treatment. Where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, there is a varied prognosis. Scientists agree that survival rates for men with advanced metastatic testicular cancer can be anywhere from 40 to 90 percent.

University of Calgary researchers synthesized data over a twelve-year period based on about a thousand metastatic testicular cancer patients to reach their conclusion. Typically, post-recovery patients undergo a CT scan every three months in the first year following treatment. That becomes less frequent in the second year, with scans every four to six month. Following that two-year protocol, annual CT scans are given for up to five years following treatment.

The results of the new study, however, now leaves scientists free to recommend that such frequent monitoring of patients after two years of disease-free survival can be dispensed with, including the associated blood tests and physical exams. The fear and suspense that people live with each time another scan appointment approaches will now, in theory be lifted.

In a cautionary note, doctors emphasize that whether or not someone has experienced testicular cancer, awareness of it should not be relaxed, and regular self-examination is strongly recommended to ensure that if it does exist, it is found and treatment given as soon as possible for best possible outcomes.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Belief in the Paranormal

"It was insane to me. I told him many times he was out of his mind. He was convinced that if he didn't pay her [psychic] for the work she was doing for him, bad things would happen to him."
Lauren Horton, New York

"It certainly has some parallels to the classic addictions -- drug addiction and also pathological gambling."
"Starting small, escalating, developing what we would consider a tolerance, and then feeling that loss of control, engaging in what feels like compulsive behaviour."
"They [psychics] can offer an almost magical way to restore a relationship. I think even more powerfully, connect with a person who was loved and . . . has now passed away . . . I think that that's one of the things that makes it so exploitative."
Dr. James MacKillop, addiction researcher, St.Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario

"Science is about looking at questions and this is a big question for a lot of people If we start looking in further and trying to find tools, such as functional MRI, that you can actually scan the brain while psychics are doing readings, I think you're going to start to see this evidence start to emerge over time. So I think it's a fertile ground for scientists to really think about."
"It's a gifted minority [of psychics] that are out there."
"We kind of want to know if there's something more out there. I don't know that answer."
"I'm behind the scenes. I know everything that's going on [his mother doing psychic readings] and it was that moment when she's in the crowd of 2,000 people ... and she's talking to this one person. She said the name of the loved one that's going through this very specific situation and I'm going, 'Oh my God, how did  you know that?' And then I started paying attention."
Dr. Christian Smith, brain tumour researcher, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
Brampton psychic Geraldine Smith holding letters from grateful parents whose missing children she has 'traced'
Brampton psychic Geraldine Smith holding letters from grateful parents whose missing children she has 'traced'
August 11, 1978| Credit: Dick Loek

"There are people in this business who are not legitimate, and there are people, a lot of people like myself, who are legitimate that have gifts and varying degrees. Part of my service is providing empathy and support to people."
"I'm not in the business of false hope. I'm in the business of truth, whether you like it or not."
Miki Corazza, psychic
 Dr. Smith seems an unlikely person as a medical practitioner, a scientist, a research specialist in brain tumours, to hold a fascination and an open mind about psychics, people who are felt to be gifted in some strange alcane manner that they are able to sense what most people cannot, and able as well to express information about specific people known only to those people, though that information has never been divulged to them by any human agency; it is as though that knowledge has been plucked from some deep inner spring of unaccountable knowing.

The mystery is there, and it is deep and puzzling, but Dr. Smith's own connection to the art, or profession, or whatever it can be classified as, including the paranormal is simple enough. His mother, Geraldine was a 1970s-1980s psychic of wide renown for her abilities. And he tells the story of his own mind being captured into the puzzle of that deep knowledge emanating from some unknown source, able to be plucked out of the ether by some select skills of rare dimension, as a boy of 14, in the audience as his mother performed her mysterious connection with that mysterious source.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan's wife Nancy was known to have trust and belief in psychic experiences. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King also believed in the power of psychics. And then there was a Jewish psychic in the 1930s in Berlin whose powers of prediction were sought by none other than Adolf Hitler. Erik Jan Hanussen  whose birth name was Hershmann Chaim Steinschneider was known as Hitler's Jewish clairvoyant. He was also known as "The Prophet of the Third Reich",  "The Nazi Rasputin", and "Hitler’s Nostradamus." He was murdered in 1933.

Of more recent history is the case of Niall Rice, when the 33-year-old Internet consultant was revealed to have paid out $718,000 to psychics. Niall Rice paid a psychic money for a 130-kilometre bridge of gold located in another dimension to serve as a portal for him toward reincarnation. That psychic, Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, 26 years of age was sentenced for grand larceny after admitting collecting over $550,000 from Rice. It was, after all, his to give of his own free will, and she accepted his absurd naivete.

As far as Dr. Smith is concerned, although the psychic industry is rife with charlatans who prey on susceptible people who will believe what they want to believe, there are others whose genuine gifts of psychic intuition exist and whose talents present as a challenge to scientific enquiry. He has interviewed and consulted many to satisfy his own curiosity as a scientist. He speaks of one psychic he consulted who he said had an accuracy rate of as high as 85 percent.

Ms. Corazza, who has practised her trade for 42 years, has had many people approach her with their sad stories of exploitation at the hands of  unscrupulous people posing as psychics. She counsels people herself, she does not instruct. The fraudulent fortune tellers who prey on people's trust disgust her. She advises people who approach her with their agonies of frustration over their experiences with psychics to scrupulously avoid any contact with them in future.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

All Is Not Necessarily Fair in Sport-League Corruption

"Whenever I see the words 'commitment fees', 'commitment bonuses', 'access fees', 'access bonuses', that for me raises a red flag. It's language used to dress up bribes traditionally.
John Githongo, Kenya anti-corruption leader

"Because of Nike's secretive meetings with the top three A.K. [Athletics Kenya] officials, it is my opinion that Nike officials have always been aware that the payments in question are improper."
Affidavit, former Nike administrative assistant

"[Bribery, embezzlement and] unsavoury, improper business practices [are common in sports federations]."
"I hear it all the time from sporting officials. To survive in this world, these are the rules of the game."
Roger Pielke Jr., University of Colorado
David Rudisha (photo: EPA/IAN LANGSDON)
Current 800m world record holder Rudisha

Blowing the whistle on malpractice is always fraught with controversy, denials on the one hand, accusations on the other with each side having its share of champions. And the one who blows the whistle is never very popular with either. A disaffected former employee of Athletics Kenya, a 10-year administrative assistant, has unleashed a storm of offence and defence in a major sport scandal in Kenya, a country well mired in corruption, like most African countries.

It is generally agreed that Kenya produces the world's best competitive runners, although Jamaica claims that place for its runners. Champions of any sport irresistibly draw the attention of commercial interests. What greater impressive public relations advertising could make for a happy marriage between a celebrity and a seller of a product than having a world-renowned sport-footwear producer sign a contract with a country's sport federation whose runners are recognized as the best?
Wilson Kipsang of Kenya hoisted his country's flag after winning the New York City Marathon on Sunday. Kipsang won in an unofficial time of 2 hours, 10 minutes, 59 seconds.
Wilson Kipsang of Kenya hoisted his country's flag after winning the New York City Marathon in 2014.  Kipsang won in an unofficial time of 2 hours, 10 minutes, 59 seconds.   Craig Ruttle/AP

Nike Inc. that had privilege. And when a Chinese clothing company offered sponsorship of Kenya's runners Nike blanched considerably. Leading to a 2009 contract where an agreement to pay hundreds of thousands in honorariums and a 'commitment bonus' of a half-million to sweeten the deal led Kenyan federation officials to view Nike most favourably again. The whistle-blower was blunt; this was a bribe, unsurprisingly.

The Chinese Li-Ning Company had offered only $200,000 as a bribe, and Nike proved it could do so much better. The new contract with Nike was negotiated where the agreement to pay Athletics Kenya an annual sponsorship fee of $1.3-million to $1.5-million, along with an additional $100,000 honorarium annually and the 'commitment bonus', balanced the scale of corruption completely in Nike's favour, and incidentally avoided a lawsuit where Nike could have claimed no grounds existed for termination.

The pot-sweetener ostensibly to be in support of training and the support of Kenyan athletes who required a financial leg up ended landing in private bank accounts owned by officials, swiftly withdrawn from Athletics Kenya's bank account. As an investigation unfolds and investigators peruse letters, bank records and invoices, all courtesy of the whistle-blower, Nike protests its innocence; pure altruism on its part, those payments meant to benefit Kenyan athletes.

Investigators with Kenya's Directorate of Criminal Investigations repeatedly asked for Nike to provide additional information, but evidently what they ask for is being construed as confidential, therefore a reluctance to divulge based on client-provider confidentiality. "Why was such a huge sum of money paid as commitment? It's only Nike who can tell us", commented one detective.

Nike's twenty year involvement with the national runners' association has meant that millions of dollars have passed hands to ensure that Kenyan runners wear Nike's swoosh-brand. And since Kenyans hold world records in the 800 meters, 1,000 meters, 3,000 meters, 20,000 meters, 25,000 meters, 30,000 meters, half-marathon, marathon, it naturally follows that without Nike's signature product they would be incapable of producing such sterling results.

It hasn't sat well with Kenyan athletes to learn that hundreds of thousands of dollars that could and should have been disposed honestly and fairly to give needed financial aid to impoverished Kenyan athletes were taken instead by the privileged authorities in Kenya's sport federation. Which led to a Nairobi protest at Athletics Kenya headquarters.

The investigation revealed that the organization's chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat had requested that Nike wire the bonus to his personal account, but was refused. Regardless, within days the $500,000 had been withdrawn by top officials with Athletics Kenya, as revealed by bank records. Mr. Kiplagat and two other officials deny that did anything that could be construed as ethically questionable, let alone criminal.

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