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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Destroying an Invaluable Philippines Ecosystem

“It is vital not to let damaging fishing practices become the norm."
"Once people started using destructive fishing methods they stuck with what is familiar – even after those methods later became illegal. So, it’s essential to ensure young fishers engage with sustainable fishing methods such as hook and line fishing, or traps. It’s also critical to motivate older fishers to set aside destructive methods."
"If the Philippines were to fully implement its new fishing laws on sustainability, then ocean protection would improve and use of damaging gears would decline.:
"Fisher organizations can also take the lead, as sometimes happens in the Philippines, and cooperate on limiting destruction, ideally with support from local government."
Jennifer Selgrath, PhD student, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, Fulbright Scholar 
Squid fishers on Danajon Bank Selgrath-Squidfishing
It seems hard to imagine but in the islands off the central Philippines, blast techniques are commonly used for fishing. A fisherman in a narrow boat will toss a bottle bomb into the water which explodes and the boat rocks while fish bob to the surface, dead mostly, others gasping briefly then dying. No fuss, big mess as coral shatters in response to the shock. The internal organs of reef fish are ruptured by the blast, their spines fractured, their flesh torn by coral shrapnel. And this is not a new kind of fishing technique, it is traditional.

Nothing survives the blast. Microscopic plankton, sea horses, anemones, sharks; in a 10- to 30-meter radius of such an explosion very little escapes death. The Philippines has been bestowed by nature to be the custodian of 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef, making for marine biodiversity on a grand scale. Now that climate change is racking up changes affecting oceans, the recognition that something must be done to stop illegal fishing, and most certainly 'blast fishing' from wreaking any more irreversible damage is beyond urgent.
Bacuit Bay and the town of El Nido seen from above. El Nido once suffered from rampant blast fishing. Credit: Lano Lin / Shutterstock
A new study out of University of British Columbia conducted in the Philippines by the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheres' Project Seahorse and the Landscape Ecology Group at the University of British Columbia, headed by Jennifer Selgrath, produced a paper: Shifting gears: Diversification, intensification, and effort increases in small-scale fisheries (1950 - 2010, published in PLOS One, concluding that such fishing methods cause greater damage to climate-endangered coral reefs than ever.

The researchers tracked various types of fishing methods — such as hand line, traps and nets — used on coral reefs between 1950 and 2010, to discover that from the 1960s the use of sustainable fishing methods such as traditional hook-and-line fishing remained stable, but that a marked increase in the use of fishing practices less selective, illegal and more destructive had moved forward, particularly in the regional use of destructive fishing methods such as the use of explosives and poisons, both outlawed by government in 1932.

Despite legislation in the Philippines dating after 1998 banning these destructive fishing techniques their use persists with a growing number of fishers making use of crowbars to smash up corals to enable them to catch elusive marine animals such as abalone which bring greater profits. For many traditional fishermen the profit they obtain ensures they will continue to defy the law; if their ancestors did it, it can't be wrong. Basically, these fisherfolk live a poverty tradition, barely managing to sustain themselves.

Legal net fishermen gain three kilos of fish daily. Dynamite fishing can net nine kilos, occasionally up to 20 kilos. Slice off a few centimeters of fuse wrapped in aluminum foil, strap on a match for a detonator; funnel sand to the bottom of a glass bottle and pack it with explosives. That fuse, in aluminum wrap, allows four seconds to toss the bomb and wait for it to explode. It helps to preserve human life to know the proper bomb-making technique; some fishers have been killed or maimed through carelessness or distraction.

In 1970, according to a report by the Philippine national statistics board, an average daily catch was 20 kilos, reduced to two kilos by 2000. Declining fish stocks convinced more fisherfolk that they would do better through illegal fishing. In blast fishing the entire food chain -- plankton, small and large fish -- juveniles that will never attain to spawn size, perish. Absent healthy corals the entire ecosystem along with the fish within fail to flourish and gradually die off.

Rubber hose wedged between teeth, fishermen sink ten meters into the water after a blast to lurch awkwardly along the ocean floor, collecting stunned and dead fish scattered among broken coral. In twenty minutes surfacing with a  handful of high-value reef fish and about five kilos of scad and sardines, a small catch completes the process. Two men can split the earnings from that catch, about $10 profit each.

Coastal resources management in various island regions have limited resources at their disposal; a handful of slow-moving boats to patrol hundreds of square kilometers of sea. Dynamite fishermen reason their parents used this method and there are still fish; if the scientists warning of disappearing fish were right the fishermen would themselves die if the oceans ran out of fish. However that would never happen, the fish will never disappear, they believe.

In a matter of seconds, dynamite fishing can destroy a reef that took hundreds or thousands of years to grow.
Photo Credit: Richard Whitcombe / Shutterstock

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Friday, June 29, 2018

The Pot Boom

"[There are 65-year-olds who smoked marijuana in college and universities in the '60s and '70s] who became grown-ups with jobs and families [and stopped using cannabis and may now feel somewhat nostalgic for the herb]."
"If they never tried it in college and they don't know the creeper effect ... they end up taking more, and that's when they get into trouble."
"[Nine out of ten people over 50 using cannabis reported to a study having] no emotional or functional problems [with the use of weed]."
Dr. Brian Kaskie, professor of health policy, University of Iowa
Why More Americans in Their 50s and 60s Are Smoking Pot
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Now that marijuana has assumed an aspect of respectability for a drug that is recognized as an aid to improving impaired health conditions, many older people are increasingly turning to pot to manage their chronic pain condition, neuromuscular diseases like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, along with other age-related health conditions. It seems clear enough that not many elderly people are driven suddenly to marijuana use for the fun of it, according to Dr. Kaskie.

He and colleagues published a study last year focusing on the increased use of marijuana among older Americans, to discover that most people past fifty years of age using cannabis are healthy Caucasians. Men, they found, are likelier than women to use cannabis but overall most users turned to pot less frequently than once in every ten days. A quarter of those studied used the herb fewer than five times during the past year.

According to experts, those new to marijuana use would find benefit in searching out facts about its use. To that end, Dr. Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health headed an expert panel recently for the purpose of developing useful advice to act as practical guidelines respecting the recreational use of pot, in the hopes of minimizing the occurrence risks of harm.
About 4.9 million Canadians consumed cannabis in 2015, according to a new research study released by Statistics Canada. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Emphasized is that marijuana users should select carefully, to obtain products with low THC content; not smoke pot (the most fraught use); avoid "deep inhalation" leading to an increase of toxic material intake to the lungs; avoid marijuana altogether, under age 16, pregnant or at risk for mental health problems; not drive (or operate any machinery) for six hours at least after using; and use occasionally, preferably on weekends, or one day a week at the very most.

Colorado, Washington, Aslaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. -- states which have relaxed their laws respecting marijuana use, have realized few changes in cannabis use among twelve- to seventeen-year-olds after legalization. Pot use among teens has actually dropped to its lowest level in a decade, in Colorado. It is the older generations, parents and grandparents where a surge of pot use is anticipated as a new cannabis "naive" generation comes on stream, raising concerns of risks to first-time users.

Among older Canadians, where marijuana is set to become legal by October of this year, its use is already on the increase. In applying reverse logic, a decrease in teen use may be linked to the perception that if older people use pot, it has lost its appeal. In Canada, people aged 45  to 64 represented 23 percent of consumers in 2017 figures, up from four percent in 1975, according to Statistics Canada.
America's golden years turn green (Drug Policy Alliance)

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated that the number of cannabis consumers age 15 and over will increase from 4.6 million to 5.2 million by 2021 in Canada. In other words, approximately 600,000 people who don't now use cannabis will begin its use once it becomes legal. According to a 2017 Nanos poll, an estimated 1.9 million more people in Canada will become marijuana users. The odd aspect is that it is not from among the very young that the increase will occur, but among the elderly.

Concerns are being raised over dosage which people respond differently to. Some new users experience nothing whatever while others can come away with some quite unpleasant reactions. That marijuana is now more potent than it ever was is another concern. The U.S. drug enforcement agency released results of a recent study of illicit pot where it was discovered that THC levels -- the main psychoactive in pot -- have risen from about four percent in 1995 to 12 percent by 2014. Back in the 1970s THC levels were held to be close to one percent.

At high dosages, THC levels of more than 20 percent can produce anxiety attacks and psychotic-type symptoms. Pot mixed with liquor (or prescription drugs) has the potential to lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure and other health-risk side effects. When smoked or inhaled through a vaporizer, THC enters the lungs, becomes absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream then travels to the brain. Ingested as a food, the process is considerably restrained.

Cannabis is digested in the stomach, metabolized by the liver, and takes from 30 to 90 minutes for the active ingredient to reach the brain. Symptoms of pot poisoning most commonly observed are cannabinoid hyperemesis (nausea, vomiting, cramping), psychosis and chest pain. In Colorado, a marked increase in emergency visits with "possible marijuana exposures" in the first year of legalization was experienced the first year of legalization.

This was largely attributed to people overdosing on edibles, the majority of them lacking previous experience, and many being out-of-state tourists. Recently, two Toronto police constables illicitly took possession of several bars of seized marijuana-laced chocolate bars. While on surveillance duty they both ate part of one of the chocolate bars, causing them soon afterward to call 911 for emergency health aid, suffering severe ill effects requiring medical attention. Both have been suspended with pay and face disciplinary charges.
Const. Vittorio Dominelli, 36, has 13 years of service. He has been suspended with pay. (Natalie Kalata/CBC)

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Celebrity-Emulation : De-Selecting Primary Food Sources

"I lived on beans and gluten-free pasta, which was disgusting, but Gwyneth was a role model -- her life seemed bright and wonderful, while I was sluggish and unmotivated."
"It was like waiting for a bus that never came. Even though I wasn't getting where I wanted right then, I kept thinking I'd feel better next week, or month."
"It was very sudden, as far as my friends and family were concerned, and eventually they got fed up and stopped inviting me out. I got very isolated with it, but at the time, I couldn't see what the problem was. I was too immersed to see logic."
Haley Wallbank, London teacher, 52

"I wasn't impressionable but when you're young, you take control over your diet for the first time; and gluten-heavy foods did make me feel really bloated."
"[The transition was expensive, up to four times more than standard foods, but] I felt better in myself."
Hanna Caldwell university student, 25

"There are food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances, and they're not all the same thing."
"There aren't many good tests for sensitivity, and a lot of people suffering with complaints don't feel they are getting satisfactory explanations from their doctors."
"It's easy to denigrate people for eliminating food groups, but if cutting something out makes you feel better, I fully understand why people do it."
"[Elimination diets] can be done to extremes. [What's of greater importance is that] our microbiomes have been decimated by modern living. The bulk of the problems I see are from people eating diets that are harming their health [from consuming highly processed foods, chiefly]."
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, author, The Four Pillar Plan
Gluten – good or bad?
Gluten – good or bad? Photograph: Alamy
Most people don't like to admit, even to themselves, that they are suggestible, that if a recognizable name often in the news comes up with a novel theory about a brave new diet, claiming it to have altered their health immeasurably, giving them more pleasure in life while leaving them feeling in control, healthier, with more energy and a more sculpted appearance -- whatever it is they're touting finds instant recognition in people dissatisfied with their lives and a new cultish fad is born.

Alternately, someone with a series of alphabetic academic credentials following their name who writes a book claiming to have studied the issue of nutrition and human health and to have synthesized all the acquired and available data to a conclusion and sets out the do's and don'ts of dietary nutrition, what is permissible for optimum health outcomes and what will guarantee a setback, finds instant acclaim and a faithful following.

Food processors are swift to signal that they get it, and they switch instantly to giving their clients what they want; assurances that there is no saturated fat for example, in products that don't, in any event, carry any fat -- leaving the indelible impression that the corporate entity thinks the consumer is rather doltish so what harm is there in assuring such connoisseurs of fine foods that their canned peas are void of saturated fat and MSG? Reduced salt content in products remains one of the reliable indices on the other hand of good choice.
Some of the UK’s best-selling ultra-processed foods.
Some of the UK’s best-selling ultra-processed foods. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Just as populations are no longer reliant on whole foods to make up the major content of their diets, one food fad after another and constantly evolving processing of food products removing them further and further from the nutrition that whole foods once bestowed on us, brings us to a situation where "free-from" foods are now enjoying vast popularity as consumers claim to themselves their allergies and disposition to certain food products are to be avoided as people continue to self-diagnose their food intolerances.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, monosodium glutomate free, and other once-prominent nutrition elements of good, balanced diets are now the rage and those foods are earning huge profits for the food processors and distributors taking advantage of people's gullibility and anxious search for solutions to whatever ails them; mostly cosmetic in nature. There's a new word that aptly describes the host of people who consider themselves fairly knowledgeable about food, and avoidance and that's 'nutrichondriac'.

Gluten, as an example, is a vital protein source and it is present in just about all types of foods; to avoid consuming gluten -- not only in bakery products but a whole slew of other products using various types of flours and grains, the fine art of label inspection must be undertaken, constantly and unremittingly to ensure whatever is put on that particular person's dinner table is absent gluten. And those products that do absent gluten are quite expensive in comparison to gluten-containing products that usually taste better and contain vastly more food value for a diminished cost.

One in five people, by popular urban legend's influence, believe they are lactic acid intolerant; allergic or intolerant to cow's milk, according to Food Standards Authority figures, while in actual fact a mere five percent of people derived from northern European descent are in fact lactose intolerant. Allergies are immune system reactions to a specific food which the body erroneously perceives as a threat. On the other hand, sensitivity or intolerance speaks to digestive complications; diarrhea, bloating or stomach cramps absent allergic reaction. The former can be life-threatening, the latter not.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Your Body, Your Baby, Your Choice

"Some physicians may not agree with the request because of ethical or medical reasons. But if a patient decides they want to go ahead with the procedure, contrary to the wishes of their doctor, that doctor has a responsibility to refer the patient for a second opinion or transfer care."
"All maternal health care providers need to understand and hear the reasons why some women consider pre-planned caesareans the best option for them. This includes understanding the person's values, fears and concerns."
"But any final decision should not be made until women are equipped with the most up-to-date and evidence-based information to help them make such an important decision about how their baby will be born."
"Each hospital needs to understand the contributing factors to caesarean sections in its population, but the ultimate goal will always be to have a healthy mother and baby."
Dr. Jennifer Blake, chief executive officer, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

"We shouldn't as practitioners offer them [caesarean sections], or do them generally, unless there is a medical reason."
"However, there is no doubt that there is a group of patients who, for whatever their own reason, come forward and request a caesarean section without indication. So, what is a practitioner to do with that?"
"There's the perception that this category is increasing. Therefore, we felt we had to have a position on this."
Dr. Jon Barrett, chief of maternal-fetal medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto 
guter via Getty Images
The popularity of caesarean sections among women who fear the process of childbirth but view lower abdominal surgery with a positive focus, to extract their baby in lieu of vaginal birth has always been viewed askance by surgeons who find it difficult to imagine that women would prefer surgery to what has always been considered normal delivery of a baby. Caesarean section delivery was reserved for complicated births for the times when it was not feasible to continue with a vaginal delivery for fear of harming mother and child.

Despite controversy and published 'discussions' and professional opinions mitigating against choosing C-sections when they are not indicated by an adverse potential in a normal delivery, women continue to request surgery. Finally, surgeons have done that metaphorical shrug and decided that it is in everyone's best interests in the final analysis, to submit to new mothers' requests. It is, after all, their pregnancy, their birthing time, and little harm comes to either mother or child through that version of childbirth.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has reversed its previous stance on the issue, with a declaration that as long as a woman has been "fully briefed" on the positive and negative aspects, and remains convinced she wants to proceed with a pre-planned C-section, there should be no resistance from her doctor. Who must respond in agreement or take steps to refer the woman to another doctor who would be willing to perform the surgery.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, more than 103,000 C-sections were conducted last year in Canada. In Canadian hospitals then, C-sections represent the most common "in-patient" surgical procedure, where 28 percent of births took place through C-section. British Columbia had the highest number at 35 percent, and the lowest number was seen in the North-West Territories at 18 percent. No longer does the SOGC claim that absent a medical reason for abdominal surgery over vaginal delivery, C-Sections should not be on offer.

In 2004, the SOGC position was clearly stated: "The Society is concerned that a natural process would be transformed into a surgical process". That professional sentiment has not changed at all, as it happens; the society continues to believe that a medical need should be present to justify a C-section. However, the reality is, women in society have embraced a trend they have no intention of relaxing. It is as though there is no need for a rationale to reflect a rejection of professional best-practise recommendations.

Obstetricians believe in part that older first-time mothers have convinced themselves that this, their first and likely last pregnancy must not be given to chance for success, but that everything that could be done to ensure success must guide their decision-making. There is also the assumed issue of adverse fears of vaginal delivery to attribute the rising rates of C-section preferences. A slight decrease in still-births has been seen in C-sections, along with fewer newborns assailed with breathing problems attributed to oxygen lack at birth.

On the obverse side is the fact that this is surgery being chosen, where the increased risk of severe hemorrhage, cardiac arrest and deep-vein thrombosis can threaten women who have a planned C-section, in comparison to those reliant on vaginal birth. Once a C-section reflects a first pregnancy the following pregnancy may be complicated by the placenta moving through the scar of the C-section, risking bleeding and hysterectomy.

Through C-sections, there are also risks to babies' health, inclusive of potential excess fluid accumulation in the lungs, lacking the vaginal birth passage when lungs are squeezed going through the birth canal, the fluid being released from the lungs. "There's a higher risk of the baby not being able to breathe properly", that might require intensive care, noted Dr. Barrett. On the negative side with vaginal deliveries is the elevated risk of damage to the pelvic floor muscles.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Laser Surgery : Know The Risks

"My vision is considered 20/20, because I see the As, Bs and Cs all the way down the chart."
"But I see three As, three Bs, three Cs."

Geobanni Ramirez, Lasik patient

"Patients undergoing Lasik surgery should be adequately counseled about the possibility of developing new visual symptoms after surgery before undergoing this elective procedure."
Report on clinical trial, U.S. Food & Drug Administration

"We want the F.D.A. to warn the public that Lasik injures eyes and causes pain, vision problems and other persistent problems that cannot be solved -- and that you don't get these problems from glasses or contact lenses."
Morris Waxler, retired senior F.D.A. official

"No eye is optically perfect, and all eyes [with or without Lasik] have at least some degree of higher-order aberrations."
"These irregularities can cause visual distortions."
Dr. John Vukich, official, American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery

"There is nothing wrong with eyes that undergo Lasik except for the fact that they need glasses for distance."
"They [patients] see well before the procedure and ought to see equally well after the procedure. But they don't."
Dr. Cynthia MacKay, opthalmologist, Lasik critic
Anatomy of the eye

Anatomy of the eyeYour eye is a complex and compact structure measuring about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. It receives millions of pieces of information about the outside world, which are quickly processed by your brain.

In the  United States the Food and Drug Administration gave its considered and informed approval when the first lasers meant to correct vision came on the market. That was back in the 1990s; the technology has been popularly used for the past three decades and approximately nine and a half million Americans have elected to undergo the procedure, along with millions of others globally. These are people who believe in a quick fix making the need of eyeglasses and contact lenses to improve their vision obsolete.

Eye doctors performing the surgery assure the public that the procedure is guaranteed to give them total satisfaction. That assurance has resulted in a wide public acceptance and the perception that this surgery is indeed without concern, that the promise of improved eyesight and the abandonment of eyeglasses is a surety. Geobanni Ramirez, a 33-year-old graphic artist, has undergone his own epiphany and he begs to differ. Laser surgery has left him with light sensitivity, double vision and visual distortions that expose him to halos appearing around bright objects. Vehicle headlights are transformed into starbursts of blinding intensity.

He also experiences dry, sore eyes requiring drops every half-hour or so and the drops themselves burn. He has been left with poor eyesight such that even venturing out at night when darkness falls is concerning. Like the old dark humour that had a surgeon remarking that the operation he had conducted went very well; unfortunately the patient died, he has been told by his eye surgeon that his is yet another success story in Lasik surgery. An assurance that means nothing to him, but which complements the fact that prior to surgery he was never given a heads-up that permanent damage might occur following surgery.
Image showing nearsightedness (myopia)

Nearsightedness (myopia)With normal vision, an image is sharply focused onto the surface of the retina. In nearsightedness (myopia), the point of focus is in front of the retina, making distant objects appear blurry.

The Food and Drug Administration convened a meeting to discuss chronic pain and impaired vision leading to job loss and disability, depression, and in worst-case scenarios, suicides -- back in 2008 in the aftermath of Lasik. As for the complications vexing Mr. Ramirez and upturning his life post Lasik, the F.D.A.'s recent clinical trial concludes that such complications are anything but rare. Close to fifty percent of people with healthy eyes prior to Lasik surgery had the misfortune to develop visual aberrations for the first time in their lives, the trial revealed.

Of that number, close to one-third developed dry eyes, representing a complication capable of causing serious discomfort. Nonetheless there are many doctors whose professional careers revolve around Lasik surgery, and they dedicate themselves to convincing potential new patients that Lasik remains the safest procedure for eye correction, and that it is "exceedingly rare" that serious complications could arise from the surgery. Among these doctors there are some who may admit that post-surgery patients may require the use of eyeglasses at times.
Farsightedness (hyperopia)

Farsightedness (hyperopia)With normal vision, an image is sharply focused onto the retinal surface. But, if you're farsighted, your cornea doesn't refract light properly, so the point of focus falls behind the retina. This makes close-up objects appear blurry.

Still, most of these surgeons insist that any soreness, dry eyes, double vision and like conditions such as those experienced by Mr. Ramirez are temporary, and within months their effect is completely reduced for most patients. "Do bad outcomes sometimes occur? Yes. But the risk is extremely low", counters Dr. Eric Donnenfeld, a past president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. Patient advocates disagree, however, and they have become vocal in their demands that the F.D.A. issue strong public warnings about Lasik risks.

Studies exist that suggest there may be an increased risk for long-term eye complications, including possibly earlier cataract surgery required by Lasik patients. As well as the potential for developing corneal ectasia, a serious vision-threatening condition. Lasik (laster-assisted in situ keratomileusis), in a fifteen-minute procedure, eliminates the requirement to wear glasses through the reshaping of the cornea, the clear, round dome covering the eye. The cornea focuses light on the retina at the back of the eye.

Lasik surgeons make use of an ultraviolent laser to reduce the cornea curvature for near-sighted people, and to accent the curve for those who are farsighted. According to Dr. Cynthia MacKay, an ophthalmologist who decries the procedure, this surgery has the potential to injure the eye because it severs tiny corneal nerves, thins the cornea thus making it weaker, and permanently alters the eye's shape. Should all this knowledge of possible side-effects and injuries stemming from the procedure be widely disseminated as its critics would like, the elective procedure would become far less popular.

Illustration of LASIK eye surgery

LASIK surgeryDuring LASIK eye surgery, an eye surgeon creates a flap in the cornea (A) — the transparent, dome-shaped surface of the eye that accounts for a large part of the eye's bending or refracting power. Then the surgeon uses a laser (B) to reshape the cornea, which corrects the refraction problems in the eye (C).

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Defending Earth

"This plan is an outline not only to enhance the hunt for hazardous asteroids, but also to better predict their chances of being an impact threat well into the future and the potential effects that it could have on Earth."
"[Protecting Earth from incoming asteroids will be a huge job, no astronauts would be involved.] That's something relegated to the movies — it makes a good movie, but we do not see in our studies any technique that would require the involvement of astronauts. [NASA's proposed asteroid-deflection techniques] would all be done by robotic spacecraft."
"[The agency's Double Asteroid Redirection Test [DART], to be launched in 2021, will be] our first technology demonstration of the kinetic impact technique to deflect an asteroid."
NASA's planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson

"[One focus of the DART goal is to increase international cooperation to better prepare the rest of the world for the possibility of an asteroid strike — under the leadership of the United States.]"
"This kind of cooperation is really important  It's a global hazard that we all face together, and the best way to approach and address that hazard is cooperatively."
Aaron Miles, senior policy adviser, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
This Is NASA's New Plan to Detect and Destroy Asteroids Before They Hit Earth
Artist's illustration of a large asteroid headed for Earth. Credit: ESA
A report from the National Science and Technology Council in the United States outlined a pressing need to improve vigilance by the international community dedicated to preserving Planet Earth's geological integrity and the safety of all living creatures, through international programs in coordination with the United States in detecting the presence of and danger posed by asteroids and other space objects speeding toward Earth, recognizing that a collision with a large rock-metal-ice object hurtling toward the planet could result in utter catastrophe.

During Earth's formative years tens of millions of years ago such collisions did occur when for example a 200-kilometre-wide crater was discovered, all that remained of the results of such an ancient collision that wiped out three-fourths of the vegetation and animal species then existing on the planet. The crater's remnants were recognized on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Gulf of Mexico, a wide swathe of utter destruction.

The knowledge that Earth is vulnerable at any given time to other collisions which might occur have been fortified by some that have. As, for example in 2013's event when a 20-metre asteroid appeared suddenly over the sky in Chelyabinsk, Russia, exploding and damaging thousands of buildings in the thermal blast, causing widespread injuries. In 1908 a much larger asteroid exploded over Tunguska, Russia leaving 2,000 square kilometres of forest devastated.

The report, published in Science, pointed out that were such an asteroid to explode over a far more vulnerable, populated area such as New York City, the fallout would be enormous, the death toll unspeakably dramatic. NASA has catalogued no fewer than 18,310 space objects of sizes from minuscule to alarmingly huge. Just over 800 of those space objects are 140 metres or larger. Should a space rock happen to suddenly appear  and an estimate made of its strike time; anywhere from days to weeks in advance, current space technology offers no solutions for stopping or altering its trajectory.

The National Science and Technology Council report speaks of the urgent need to improve asteroid detection, its tracking and the potential for deflection. Its participating partners are NASA, federal emergency, the military, the White House and other similar U.S. national authorities. Scientists, according to NASA's planetary defence officer, have discovered 95 percent of near-Earth objects measuring one kilometre or larger, continuing to search for the remaining 5 percent and smaller objects still capable of inflicting damage on Earth.

The most difficult to detect are rocks that have passed the sun and are on their way out of the solar system, approaching from the day side, while ground telescopes are known to detect asteroids speeding into the inner solar system, approaching from the night side of Earth; the former is how the Chelyabinsk asteroid suddenly appeared. The nightmare scenario of a Tunguska-sized asteroid hitting New York City equates to millions of people dying.

Even with all resources put to work, headed by the American initiative and joined by international partners with every reason to be as concerned as the U.S., solutions will take years of planning, design, construction and implementation before it could be said an effective defence can be mounted. It would take years for any effort to turn away a threatening asteroid; a number of years to build a spacecraft, another few years for it to reach its target. A minimum ten years' advance notice of a feared approach of a killer asteroid is what Dr. Johnson envisions.

The mission could be comprised of a design to smash the asteroid or comet with a fast-moving robotic spacecraft to alter the path of the threat. Even to launch a nuclear device to superheat the surface of the asteroid, to remove sufficient material to make for a swerving diversion, thus bypassing its initial target Earth. It all sounds dramatically science-fiction-like, but then so does the prospect of our home, Earth, or parts thereof being blown to smithereens by some gigantic space object approaching and colliding  and destroying it and us.

Smoke trail in sky
This image of a vapor trail was captured about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Chelyabinsk meteor event, about one minute after the house-sized asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere.
Credits: Alex Alishevskikh

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Vision Zero

"In every situation a person might fail, the road system should not."
"Every crash with serious injuries or fatalities is something you need to carefully look at and say what was wrong here, what should I have done, not the citizen -- what should I have done as a professional and responsible person in the system?"
Claus Tingvall, director of traffic safety, Swedish National Road Administration
Vision Zero Traffic Safety by Sweden The Vision Zero is the Swedish approach to road safety thinking. It can be summarized in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.

"We were quite surprised to see that separated bike lanes made such a big difference."
"For a driver, there are so many more vehicles and the catastrophe for a driver is being hit by a moving vehicle."
"So what are they looking for when they're turning right or left? They're looking for other vehicles."
"And look but fail to see is the classic problem."
Kay Teschke, professor emeritus, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Traffic-caused deaths have been close to halved in Sweden, the country with one of the lowest rates of road deaths among developed countries. Sweden's traffic-related deaths are 2.7 per 100,000 people. New Zealand and the United States' statistics are both 10.3 per 100,000, according to 2015 statistics from the Centres for Disease Control. Third highest among ten high-income countries is Canada, with 5.4 deaths per 100,000. Nothing is static; things go up or they go down. In Sweden traffic deaths have markedly descended, in Canada they have increased.

In 1997, Sweden initiated a life-saving enterprise they named Vision Zero, with the intention of bringing traffic deaths down, and finally eliminating them altogether; a vision perhaps impossible in its final intention, but on the other hand, quite possible in its early aspiration. According to the drive behind the Swedish initiative, there is no acceptable number relating to loss of life through traffic accidents. And so, Sweden's enterprising initiative bore fruit from the tree of its intention.

And now other countries are looking to repeat Sweden's ongoing success, emulating and repeating what they saw being done in Sweden. More roundabouts are being built in Swedish cities to replace intersections, with the intention of reducing the risk of head-on crashes. Vehicles may not turn at intersections when pedestrians and/or cyclists are in the process of crossing. Pedestrian bridges are being built. There are separate lanes for bicycles. Drinking and driving has elicited an appropriately sterner crackdown by police.

In Toronto, the Vision Zero policy was adopted along with a five-year action plan for implementation, with the goal being the reduction of traffic-related serious injuries and fatalities with an eye to six vital areas; pedestrians, schoolchildren, older adults, cyclists, motorcyclists, aggressive driving and distraction. A selection very obviously comprised of the most vulnerable to come to harm through vehicle-derived accidents. Despite which, traffic accident deaths continue to increase in Toronto.

Toronto has been tardy in adopting all of the improvements listed in their own Vision Zero targets, still awaiting implementation. According to a study of bicycling in Toronto and Vancouver undertaken in 2012, cyclists using special bicycle-specific cycle tracks risk one-ninth the serious injuries leading to hospitalization, in comparison to a cyclist using a major street absent bicycling infrastructure.

To date, approximately one thousand cities in the United States and throughout Europe have reached their goal in achieving Vision Zero, with no traffic-related fatalities in a year's time, a long-sought record that they have every intention of maintaining through diligent effort, appropriate infrastructure and social engineering through education.

rallyImpromptu Ottawa City Hall rally hours after the death of cyclist Nusrat Jahan on 2 Sept 2016, where Coun. Catherine McKenney calls for Vision Zero. Photo: 1310 News

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Growing Your Own

"The odds are better there won't be any contamination from the things we grow ourselves, but no fresh foods are safe."
"Gardening and cooking are a food safety continuum. Safety must be considered with every step in the process, from pre-planting to placing meals on the table."
"Did the previous [home] owner have a lawn there that could have been exposed to lots of chemicals? Was there any run-off from roads or driveways? Was it a place where people walked their dogs? Those questions also apply to community gardens." 
"Cooking is a highly effective step in destroying bacteria that might be there."
Jeanne Brandt, family, community health specialist, Oregon State University Extension

"Composted or aged manure or other soil amendments containing any animal components such as manure, meat, egg shells or bones are not recommended for gardens as they may not be thoroughly processed and thus contain food-borne pathologies."
"Washed produce should be dried before storage. Berries, broccoli and similar should be washed only prior to serving, to avoid mould development."
"Drip irrigation is the safest way to apply the irrigation water because there is no direct contact with the edible portion of the produce."
"Always wash your hands before entering the garden or harvesting; after handling compost, plant debris or garbage; after touching a pet or farm animal; and after using the toilet."

Sanja Ilic, assistant professor, food-safety specialist, Ohio State University Extension

So if you have the idea fixed in your mind that anything you can grow in the summer in your garden plot in your backyard, is guaranteed more quality nutrients and safety, it's an appealing one, but at the same time to ensure that no pathogens are present on the fruits and vegetables you bring to the table, with pride and anticipation of superior taste and quality, remember if you have an animal companion pet a hazard exists respecting that pet's waste products as it evacuates or urinates in proximity to your garden.

According to public health officials, not that much can be done to treat food-borne disorders, but if one is struck with food poisoning that arrived in your gut via fresh produce, stay well hydrated to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. And while you're recovering think about the evasive actions you may have neglected taking in the prevention of contamination while taking pride in growing your own garden vegetables.

Ironically, one of the reasons given by people who devote time, space and labour to growing their own is food safety. In some instances, they're fooling themselves. If we're to believe what statistics tell us, more food-borne illnesses are as likely to be caused by home-grown produce than they are by fresh foods that have been acquired through the usual channels of procurement such as supermarkets or summer farmers' markets.

According to surveys, home gardeners fail to understand that soil, compost, human and animal manure and water, innocent seeming though they may be, are potential sources of disease-causing bacteria with the possibility of contaminating produce. Generally, the focus goes elsewhere, according to Jeanne Brandt: "They were most concerned about chemical contamination". And identifying the right vegetable garden location is the first step in planning a home garden.

"You want to know what's been on that (planting space)", she cautions. Routines whose purpose is to keep garden spaces orderly, gardeners' hands and tools cleaned, are often bypassed by novice gardeners. In North America close to half of all food illness outbreaks have been caused by fresh produce; greens, lettuces, and row-crop vegetables eaten raw -- as in fresh salads -- represent the number one culprit placing children, the elderly and pregnant women at risk.

Risks of acquiring food-borne illnesses can be minimized however, by the adoption of some simple practices to prevent garden contamination, and in extension of that, the kitchen as well, where preparation takes place before table presentation. Compost prepared from grass clippings or plant trimmings, for example are good alternatives auguring for safe outcomes. City water, having been treated, is the safest to use. Ensuring that wildlife; poultry and pets are restricted from the garden area is paramount to preventing their ordure from contaminating garden soil.

Attention should be given to preventing cross-contamination from the use of dirty tools and even table surfaces when harvesting whole foods. Take care to ensure that railroad ties, corroded metal, pressure-treated lumber are never used in preparing raised beds for vegetable gardens. If  using rainwater stored in barrels for irrigation, periodically clean the barrel with bleach.

Lettuce varieties
The Old Farmer's Almanac

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Destiny's Child

"I didn't see how we were going to get out of it alive [1996 Mount Everest blizzard]. The cold was so painful, I didn't think I could endure it anymore. I just curled up in a ball and hoped death would come quickly."
"You’ve gone so far up the mountain, you’ve come so far from home, and you spent six months preparing for this goal … . There’s no way you’re going to turn around unless things are really going south."
"I thought, 'Well, old girl, it's been a good ride. No regrets'."
Charlotte Fox, American mountaineer

"Charlotte had survived so much up high."
"It was stunning and profoundly sad that she died that evening of May 24 in a household accident."
Alison Osius, Rock and Ice magazine

"Finding her body was a very shocking and difficult thing. There was something profound about [the experience of] Fox's death."
"She gave me a gift when I arrived [evening before her death]. She recently had a birthday and she told me, 'I'm happy to be 61'."
"Those words, ‘I’m happy,’ might have gone right in and out of my ears if this hadn’t happened. … To be the last person with her, with my hands on her heart, and to remember those last words she said to me, I have to look at it as a privilege rather than a horror. … I got to send her off, with love."
Kim Reynolds, friend
Charlotte Fox, a survivor of the 1996 Mount Everest expedition, died last week after an apparent fall.
Charlotte Fox, a survivor of the 1996 Mount Everest expedition, died last week after an apparent fall.  (AP)

Some people are driven to prove themselves to themselves; that they have the endurance, stamina, strength and agility let alone the determination to forge ahead where most others would hesitate and then decide that the odds were not in their favour of survival. She was one of those rare creatures who did forge on, did reach the  impossibly-heighted summits of the world's tallest, most environmentally  hostile mountain ranges. The imposing heights, the mind-boggling geological features, the constant threats posed by frighteningly inclement weather did not appear to faze her.

This women whose search for challenge and adventure seemed inexhaustible appeared not to permit age to slow her down, continuing to climb and trek two 8,000-meter mountains in the two years preceding her death. This was a woman who broke records, as the first female summitteer to climb three mountains "at altitudes of 8,000 meters or higher" following her success in summitting Mount Everest, and despite the dreadful toll that summit had taken in eight lives forfeited, while she herself endured such misery that she felt she would welcome death.

On Everest her supplemental oxygen had run out at a height where hypoxia was a constant threat, and at a time when wind, cold and snow imprisoned her in her tent post-summit, with feet frostbitten, unable to do anything to preserve body heat other than assume a fetal position alongside her climbing companions, awaiting their miserable end. Jon Krakauer's account of that dreadful night and its death toll repeated her memorable account of circumstances that had overtaken climbing groups competing for their opportunity to summit, encountering a jam at the critical Hillary Step.
In this photo taken on May 17, 2018, mountaineers make their way to the summit of  Mount Everest, as they ascend on the south face from Nepal. PHUNJO LAMA/AFP/Getty Images
Delays, confusion, crowding, all contributed to a late descent just as a dreadful howling storm descended on the mountain and visibility was eliminated as climbers and their guides found themselves in an impossible situation, anxious to find their way down to their final camp before that day's ascent to the top. "Into Thin Air" recounted a tense and desperate time of exhaustion, mental depletion, determination to survive, and heroic self-sacrifice on the part of one climber, Anatoli Boukreev, to rescue as many desperate people descending as the last of his strength could manage.

Charlotte Fox's childhood was in North Carolina; she was fascinated by high altitudes and for thirty years was a ski patroller in Colorado. She was the first American women to climb three mountains at altitudes of about 26,246 feet (8,000 meters) or higher, the first to summit Pakistan's 8,000-meter Gasherbrum II which she felt was her greatest accomplishment, and then in 1995 summitted Cho Oyu in the Himalaya. At age 59 her last climb was 7,129-meter Baruntse.

In 1993 her boyfriend died in an avalanche, and she lost her husband to a paragliding accident in 2004. She was no stranger to the tragedies that visit those rare souls who push limits that would make others blanch with horror. Death had touched her intimately when it claimed those dearest to her as they challenged nature's geological and atmospheric boundaries and their own instinct for self-preservation, failing to survive the threats their own natures demanded of them.

In the end it was a pedestrian household accident that claimed her life. A woman who had thought nothing of challenging the geological giants that nature had designed, survived each and every demanding physical effort and the impediments that chance offered to stop her from success in her bold ventures, but she was incapable in the final analysis of forestalling death that came to visit as she descended a steep wood staircase at her own home when, it would seem, she stumbled and fell at age 61.

Life 'went south' for Charlotte Fox on May 24, 2018, at her four-and-a-half-story home perched on a steep mountainside overlooking Telluride, Colorado.

Charlotte Fox and her dog Gus. Fox has died after falling at home. Photo: Amy Denicke
Photo: Amy Denicke   Charlotte Fox and her dog Gus

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Medical Community in Moral Conflict

"[These findings are] a bit depressing."
"We have 66 residents a year in family medicine and a number of them come to me saying, 'I really want to become [an abortion] provider. Help me find somewhere to do the training'. And they can't get anywhere to do it."
"[Medical education now avoids abortion techniques, conservative/religious faculty members in fear of pressure] from a very small but vocal group of students that believes abortion is killing and we shouldn't be teaching it, we shouldn't be condoning it and we shouldn't be doing it."
"The [medical] schools have perhaps capitulated, or seen that it is better to just be a bit quiet about this."
Dr. Susan Phillips, professor, family medicine and public health sciences, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

"The majority of family medicine residents do not feel competent to provide abortion services."
"[Medical schools] should focus on normalizing [abortion training, while respecting the right to opt out]."
Survey study, journal BMC Medical Education

"We believe that if you make abortion something that is part of the scope of family medicine training, while respecting people's rights ... you remove a lot of the stigma and you make people more likely to get exposed."
"These are essential -- not 'niche' -- competencies. We need to have the current generation of family physicians graduating and being, at a minimum, able to counsel and speak with women on this topic."
Dr. Daniel Myran, family physician, Study lead author
Eighty per cent of respondents in Canada received less than one hour of formal education on abortion. Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are no legal restrictions on abortion in Canada. There are also no legal guidelines enacted into law with respect to abortion, although abortion is freely available throughout most of Canada with few exceptions. Most Canadians are in agreement that abortion availability represents a woman's right to choose whether she is prepared to carry a pregnancy to full term for any reason whatever. And among those in support of medical abortions many believe there should be a cut-off date commensurate with that time when a fetus passes the stage of viability.

An estimated one in three women in Canada will have an abortion at some point in her life. Family physicians perform the majority of pregnancy cessation procedures and only medical doctors are licensed to provide abortions (76 percent of the 86,824 reported abortions in 2014-15 were performed by family doctors). A new study has come to the conclusion that there is a shrinking pool of abortion providers willing to undertake the procedure. Leading to the obvious realization that there is a need for graduating physicians to replace them, with proper training.
Approximately one in three Canadian women will have an abortion in her lifetime.   Fotolia

The study reached out in a survey of family medicine residents throughout Canada. The researchers in studying the responses from family physicians ascertained that 88 percent of respondents were exposed to less than a single hour of formal education on abortion specifically during their medical training. This, while 79 percent had never during their medical training had the opportunity to observe or assist in an abortion procedure. Professor Phillips outlines a number of issues at play in this stepping back of acknowledging the need to ensure that graduating physicians are competent in abortion procedures.

She places responsibility for this serious deficit on what she points out is a new era of "accommodation -- putting accommodation of the individual learner or teacher ahead of publicly held values and standards". The Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 struck down what it ruled to be overly restrictive laws when it decriminalized abortion. Despite which, all these years later, barriers remain firmly in place, inclusive of a reaction by doctors in rural areas and some provinces due to "ongoing stigma toward abortion provisions", as the study authors point out.

Eight medical schools outside the Maritimes and Quebec aided in distributing an anonymous online survey produced by the researchers, reaching a wide audience of medical practitioners. Of the tens of thousands of doctors receiving the online survey, a total of 436 family medicine residents responded, 21 percent of whom reported having been exposed to one or more abortions during residency, while 57 percent claimed to have had no formal education on abortion whatever. Of the residents surveyed, 61 percent were in support of more abortion training to be available to residents.

The newly introduced drug Mifegymiso, an abortion pill, was made legal for prescription use in Canada last year, after the survey was conducted. The new drug can be prescribed up to nine weeks, "And it doesn't detract from the clear need for an approach to offering abortion training as a core aspect of family medicine", remarked Dr. Wendy Norman, a leading researcher in reproductive health at the University of British Columbia.

Abortion does not appear on the list of 99 priority topics to be taught established by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the body responsible for setting training standards. The results of the survey, however, has led the College to re-examine its lack of recognition of abortion procedures as a must-have skill and is now prepared to look at "how to enhance abortion education in family medicine education programs in Canada."

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Physical Exercise and the Aging Brain

"There is solid evidence to suggest that maintaining a regular exercise regimen can improve brain health."
"Each of these sessions [in an exercise program] gives you points that you rack up, and when we get to about 52 hours, then . . . we have this opportunity to reap the benefits of the exercise."
"You can think of it as exercise turning back the clock of age in your brain. We live in an era of instant gratification . . . but the encouraging thing about this is that it emphasizes the idea that you shouldn't be discouraged if you don't feel something in the first month. You just have to keep going."
"We are still learning about all the ways in which exercise changes our brain, and we are also all different, so identifying an ideal exercise dose remains a challenge. We have many more questions about exercise dose, and we will design further studies to follow up."
"We need to discuss this as a society because the global population is aging. By 2035, the scale is going to tip, and older adults [ages 65 and up] will be more plentiful than younger adults."
Joyce Gomes-Osman, post-doctoral research scholar, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
"It's very encouraging that the evidence supports all sorts of different exercise interventions, not just aerobic, to improve thinking abilities. "
"The most stable improvements in thinking abilities were found in processing speed, both in healthy older adults and individuals with mild cognitive impairment." 
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Chief of the Division of Cognitive Neurology, Director, Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
The researchers discovered that participants began experiencing cognitive improvements after working out for a total of 52 hours in approximately six months.
The researchers discovered that participants began experiencing cognitive improvements after working out for a total of 52 hours in approximately six months.  Mario Tama/Getty Images/File

In a joint study undertaken by researchers both at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel it was found that any type of exercise, including walking, cycling, resistance training, yoga, weightlifting and so on is capable of having the astounding effect of improving cognitive and thinking skills in older people. Over 11,000 adults in their 70s were recruited to participate in the review, and its findings were published just recently in the journal Neurology Clinical Practise.

The researchers involved are convinced that even simply going out for a vigorous walk will help the elderly maintain their cognitive function. Lead author of the study, Joyce Gomes-Osman, has expressed her hope that the study findings will impress a significant number of people to encourage them that beginning an exercise plan and sticking to it, is not all that difficult, and the rewards make it well worth while for the effort.

After working out for a total of 52 hours within a six month period, study participants exhibited clear cognitive improvements, although researchers were quick to point out that noticeable benefits will vary from person to person, as well as the period of time it takes with a dedicated exercise program to begin experiencing those positively uplifting cognitive-improvement rewards. Though the benefits accruing from an exercise regimen accumulate over the long term, patience is required.

An attempt to accelerate the process would not necessarily turn out to be beneficial since it was determined that more intense exercise sessions of a shorter duration don't make the grade; in comparison to a steady exercise routine undertaken over a longer committal period. Aging while remaining mentally alert is a topic concerning greater numbers of people as peoples' longevity and expectations of remaining both physically and mentally alert consumes the public interest.

As we age, scientists have affirmed, our central nervous system slows down the production of new cells in our brain's hippocampus, affecting thinking and problem-solving. Still, according to researchers, regular commitment to endurance exercise is capable of stimulating the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, identified in a 2016 Harvard Medical School study.

That protein, over time "helps new neurons survive and thrive", noted Dr. Gomes-Osman. "Sometimes it's hard to translate these studies to people's lives, but I think we took a real important step in creating advice to translate results of evidence of exercise and brain health to a practical application that's applicable to everybody."

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Grim Deprivation

"The Charter [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] does not protect against trivial limitations of rights."
"I find that the provision of powdered milk does not constitute cruel or unusual punishment."
Federal Court Judge Alan Diner

"Not surprisingly, when these changes were introduced, inmate grievances related to food issues spiked."
"Unresolved demands regarding inmate dissatisfaction with food [likely played a role in triggering the December 2016 Saskatchewan riot]."
"Playing with the food of hungry and frustrated prisoners can have unintended detrimental effects."
Ivan Zinger, correctional investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator
Warkworth prison. Pete Fisher/Postmedia

The Correctional Service of Canada introduced a new National Food Menu in January of 2015. as a cost-saving measure. The new menu brought in standardized meals to be served across the country to federal inmates. Part of a larger cost-cutting program, federal costs for inmates' meals were cut back by an estimated total of $6.4 million, the 2017 annual report o the Office of the Correctional Investigator pointed out.

The new, standardized menu reduced the cost of the prison service on meals to $5.41 daily for each inmate in the federal incarceration system. The menu is construed to provide 2,600 calories as a daily intake as recommended for men between the ages of 31 and 50, while meeting all the nutritional requirements for good health set out by Canada's Food Guide. An estimated $3 million was saved with the elimination of fresh milk alone, and the substitution of powdered milk.

English muffins were replaced with toast, and vegetable selection was also reduced; type, not quality or quantity served. The investigator, Mr. Zinger, attributed this very issue, the food menu change, to a riot that left one inmate dead, and eight inmates injured as they went berserk in January of 2016, at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. The riot caused roughly $3.6 million in damages to register inmates' ostensible dissatisfaction with the newly-introduced food cost-saving measures.

More latterly, another inmate has registered his outrage that fresh milk is no longer available for his breakfast cereal, that he must make do with powdered milk, claiming that his Charter rights have been infringed. The man is a dangerous offender, locked up at Warkworth Institution in Ontario. Being forced to use powdered milk, argues 58-year-old William A. Johnson, represents cruel and unusual punishment, violating his right to "security of the person".
There is no constitutional right to fresh milk.Getty Images

This convicted sex offender, serving an indeterminate sentence and imbued with a robust sense of entitlement, filed his grievance back in January of 2015. Warkworth, he insists, unfairly denies its inmates fresh milk, bacon, and french fries, none of which appear on the National Food Menu for federal inmates. This violent sexual predator clearly has a dim awareness of his obligation within society to respect others' right to "security of the person", much less realize that the food menu is favouring his health by withholding bacon and french fries.

Much less does he quite understand the obligations of citizens to respect the social contract between civilized people that views it as a severe criminal offence to viciously harm other people. The correctional investigator speaks of food as being "foundational to health and safety" within a prison. Food of choice clearly in his estimation, viewed as a reward by society to criminals who prowl about on the lookout for opportunities to do harm to innocent people.

Food complaints evidently rank as the third most common grievance spelled out by inmates during the past three years. Over 6,000 complaints were received by the prison service about the food it has served since 2014, clearly pre-dating the introduction in 2015 of the inmate-offensive new menu. These grievances were outnumbered by complaints focusing on prison staff and outside communications.

The moral of the story: If you want personal free choice, obey the law and respect the human rights of others. The unfortunate lack of tablecloths and cloth napkins alongside well designed silverware may in the future represent a new focus of complaints. Could be if word gets out about this lamentable lack of attention to proper table settings, it might be enough to turn the criminal element toward embracing the law and becoming model citizens.

The Correctional Service of Canada provides 2,600 calories worth of food a day at a cost of $5.41 per prisoner per day. Some say it's not as tasty as it looks. (Office of the Correctional Investigator)

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