Independent Media

photo of David Christopher

Public consultation is a real chance to repeal unpopular legislation

It’s here. Almost a year into their mandate, the Liberal government has finally launched its long awaited public consultation on Bill C-51, and a broad range of privacy and national security issues.

Speaking at the launch, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said they had already identified a limited number of areas of Bill C-51 they wanted changed and that they wanted to get Canadians’ views on how to deal with the rest of the unpopular legislation.

Bill C-51, readers may recall, is the highly controversial spying bill forced through Parliament by the previous Conservative federal government. Notably, the legislation turns the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) into what the Globe and Mail has called a “secret police force,” with little independent oversight or accountability.

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Site C and LNG: a tenuous relationship

say no to Site C

Site C would be BC’s most expensive infrastructure project ever. Its debt funding will be loaded onto the shoulders of our children. It needs a convincing business case and, so far, that case is anything but convincing.

by Eoin Finn B.Sc., Ph.D., MBA

The relationship between the LNG industry and the Site C’s power is tenuous at best. To date, four LNG plants – LNG Canada, Kitimat LNG, Woodfibre LNG and now Pacific NorthWest LNG – have received export licenses and environmental certificates from Canada’s Governments. Only one – the small-scale Woodfibre plant in Vancouver’s Howe Sound – will use grid electricity to power its liquefaction process. All the much-larger plants will each burn about 10 percent of their gas intake to power the minus 162oC refrigeration process. If built, they would together add about 30 million tonnes to BC’s annual carbon emissions – a 50 percent increase. Upstream emissions would at least double that.

When I first settled in Vancouver in 1978, I went to a Canadian Club lunch. The guest speaker was BC Hydro’s CEO, who sternly warned the audience that, unless he got the OK to build three nuclear plants, the coal-fired Hat Creek and the Site C dam, we would in future have to munch on sushi in the dark. That was my introduction to “hydronomics”, and the engineers who want to keep on building dams – proving that, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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Natural health products are not drugs

food and natural

Changing the way NHPs are regulated will have an impact on the products you will find on your store shelves. Providing the evidence required for drugs is vastly expensive, which is why the price for drugs is significantly higher compared to NHPs.

Tell Health Canada to leave our NHPs alone

 

by Helen Long

Health Canada has recently launched the Consulting Canadians on the Regulation of Self-Care Products in Canada document. Previously referred to as the Consumer Health Product Framework, this document has changed dramatically since its original inception, and proposes that, in the future, many natural health products (NHPs) be regulated using the same rules as drugs.

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Canadians want climate plan, not fracked LNG

by Bruce Mason

 

• On October 2, when Canada’s environment ministers met in Montreal, they were made aware of how Canadians view key climate issues. Topping the list: the majority (66%) of Canadians support an effective climate plan to meet targets.

The new public opinion research revealed a substantial majority of respondents (70%) believe climate change is a significant threat to Canada’s economic future. It also found that 60% support a price on carbon emissions everywhere in the country.

The survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted by Nanos Research for Clean Energy Canada, was released as federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers gathered to prepare for a First Ministers’ Meeting on climate change later this year.

“The public is sending a clear signal. They’re tired of bickering among politicians,” reported Merran Smith, Clean Energy’s executive director. “Canadians want to see provinces do their part, but they also want the federal government to pick up the slack if provinces don’t deliver necessary results.”

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Why Non-GMO labels don’t go far enough

GMOs and glyphosate

by Jeremy Caradonna and Thierry Vrain

spraying herbicides• The total sale of products with Non-GMO labels is now in the billions and the growth of this market is certainly to be applauded. However, the Non-GMO label inadvertently shields health-conscious consumers from one of the scarier realities of the modern food system – that glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is also being applied to non-genetically modified crops.

The world now has 500 million acres of GMO crops: mainly soy and corn in North and South America; cotton in the US, China and India; and canola, sugar beet and alfalfa in the US and Canada. These crops are genetically modified to withstand the application of glyphosate, in the form of Roundup – hence the label “Roundup Ready” crops. Glyphosate is a synthetic amino acid, a glycine analogue that kills all plants except for the crop engineered with a bacterial gene that provides resistance to the herbicide.

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Monsanto tribunal in The Hague

For an increasing number of people from around the world, Monsanto today is the symbol of industrial agriculture. This chemical-intensive form of production pollutes the environment, accelerates biodiversity loss, and massively contributes to global warming.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Monsanto, a US-based company, has developed a number of highly toxic products, which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. These products include:

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the twelve Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility;
  • 2,4,5 T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer;
  • Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe;
  • and RoundUp, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history – this toxic herbicide is used in combination with genetically modified (GM) RoundUp Ready seeds in large-scale monocultures, primarily to produce soybeans, maize and rapeseed for animal feed and biofuels.

Monsanto promotes an agroindustrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens peoples’ food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life.

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Syria in crosshairs of corporate pipeline war

deseert oil pipeline

The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949, barely a year after the agency’s creation… Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Kuwaiti, hesitated to approve the Trans Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria.

by Mike Whitney

The conflict in Syria is not a war in the conventional sense of the word. It is a regime change operation, just like Libya and Iraq were regime change operations.

The main driver of the conflict is the country that’s toppled more than 50 sovereign governments since the end of World War 2 [see williamblum.org]. We’re talking about the United States, of course.

Washington is the hands-down regime change champion; no one else even comes close. That being the case, one might assume the American people would notice the pattern of intervention, see through the propaganda, and assign blame accordingly. But that never seems to happen and it probably won’t happen here either. No matter how compelling the evidence may be, the brainwashed American people always believe their government is doing the right thing.

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Keep the Peace and feed us all

Will BC create a Peace Valley breadbasket or a Site C basket case?

by Bruce Mason

In photo, Caroline Beam and her children Xavier, Lucas and Tristan at their home on the banks of the river, with the Gates pictured in the background. The Beam children have grown up with the river as their backyard. From the upcoming book, The Peace in Peril, by Christopher Pollon. Photo by Ben Nelms.

• Let’s focus for a moment on some fundamental issues for Common Ground readers – nutrition and food security, safety, sustainability and sovereignty – as they relate to the most costly ($9 billion and rising), unnecessary mega-project in BC history.As you read this, scorched-earth infrastructure for a massive, otherworldly wall of compacted earth is being constructed to crush and greedily swallow up nature in the northeastern Peace Valley. Towering 60 meters high, and more than a kilometre wide, the Site C dam will cause an apocalyptic, man-made, 93-square-kilometre flood, engulfing enough precious topsoil to grow the nutritional requirements for at least one million people.

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Hoodwinked by the diabetes industry

Drugs to lower blood sugars don’t do much for your health

DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

 

Portrait of columnist Alan Cassels• In the last five years in British Columbia, taxpayers – that would be you and I – spent over $100 million on drugs and insulins for type-2 diabetes through our Pharmacare program. In addition, people in BC probably spent another $200 million out of their own pockets and the pockets of our employer-sponsored drug plans on diabetes treatments. Add to that the costs of all the doctor’s visits and the diabetes paraphernalia – including glucose test strips, lab tests and so on to keep blood sugars monitored – and two things are clear: this is one expensive disease and it creates a huge amount of medical busywork.

Maybe the hundreds of millions of dollars we’re spending on diabetes measurements and treatments is well spent. Surely, it would be if we could be sure people are getting the drugs they need so they don’t suffer heart attacks and strokes and the more serious complications of diabetes. But can we be sure of that? Hmm, probably not.

There is one particularly strong theme you’ll hear when doctors discuss diabetes: that if you have it, you are increasing your cardiovascular risk, for example, your risk of a heart attack and stroke, both which could be fatal. People with type-2 diabetes have difficulty processing sugar, a condition that is described in guidelines as a “complex chronic disease characterized by hyperglycemia due to defective insulin secretion, defective insulin action or both.” Insulin is produced by the pancreas and regulates both the breakdown and movement of glucose, which is critical to maintaining blood sugar levels within normal ranges. The good thing is if you’ve got too much sugar floating around in your bloodstream, there are many drugs to lower those sugars.

But if you read no further in this column, here’s the punch line: Most of the money we spend in this province on drugs to reduce blood sugars in type-2 diabetics achieves almost nothing. While the drugs can be extremely effective at lowering blood sugars – and so it appears they are doing something useful – they will do almost nothing at lowering serious health risks, such your chances of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.

Don’t believe me? The latest newsletter put out by the Therapeutics Initiative at UBC, which assesses clinical studies of drugs, concluded, “Glucose lowering medications for people with type 2-diabetes are widely prescribed in Canada despite having been approved by Health Canada without credible evidence that they reduce mortality or major morbidity.”

The newsletter says a little bit more, but let’s consider the implications of this statement for the average person. A man named John is in his mid 70s and has lived all his life without any consideration that he may be ill. He has no symptoms, but after being sent for a routine blood test he is told he is now a diabetic and needs to take drugs and maybe insulins to control his disease. More specifically, he is told he has a “high” reading on his hemoglobin A1c test, (HbA1c), also known as a glycosylated hemoglobin test. This is a marker of how well one’s blood sugar has been controlled during the previous two to three months. If it is much higher than ‘normal’ the doctor will look for any signs of kidney or eye damage or damage to blood vessels in the legs, all of which are considered “microvascular complications” that are linked to diabetes. The next step is he’s put on a drug called metformin. This is how things usually roll.

In BC, the government sponsored diabetes care guidelines say that any hemoglobin A1c greater than 6.5% constitutes a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes. Most experts say that 7 percent is the magic threshold and keeping the HbA1c level below 7 percent will lead to fewer diabetes complications (eye or kidney disease). But again, this is controversial. Even Consumer Reports on Health in the US says there is no definitive proof that keeping HbA1c under 7 percent prevents heart disease or premature death and they remind us that most of the studies of HbA1c are short, a year or less. The upshot? Who knows what the long-term effects of driving blood sugars down below this level are?

But we push on. Why? Because John’s HbA1c is closer to 8.5 and the guidelines say it should be 6.5. The standard advice for anyone identified as having a “high” HbA1c level is to lose weight and control one’s blood sugars through diet and exercise. Controlling one’s diet – especially cutting back on carbohydrates – and getting more exercise can be the closest thing to a cure and the good news is you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get adequate exercise. In fact, daily walking is enough for many people to stave off diabetes, push their HbA1c down and avoid the worst complications of the disease.

Have you ever noticed how much activity there is around a disease if the drug industry can produce profitable products that appear to do something for it and can be sold for daily use over the long term? Well, type-2 diabetes is the poster-child for a drug-friendly disease, and you can imagine the absolute cornucopia of drug treatments for type-2 diabetics that are out there.

Diabetes is the marketer’s ideal condition as it allows a lot of profitable busywork around measuring blood sugar levels, altering those levels with drugs, and measuring again. Trying to get your blood sugars down to 7 or 6.5 percent makes for very good activity to distract people from the fact the drugs are doing almost nothing to alter the underlying course of the person’s diabetes.

Like most newly diagnosed type-2 diabetics, John first gets prescribed two of the oldest and cheapest drugs, metformin and glyburide. The real big money for the drug companies, however, comes from the newer treatments, including more than a dozen on-patent and much more expensive drugs that lower blood glucose. These include the Gliptins: sitagliptin (Januvia), saxagliptin (Onglyza), linagliptin (Trajenta), alogliptin (Nesina); the Tides: exenatide (Byetta), liraglutide (Victoza), albiglutide (Eperzan) and dulaglutide (Trulicity); and the Flozins: canagliflozin (Invokana), dapagliflozin (Forxiga) and empagliflozin (Jardiance).

Collectively, Canadians spend nearly $750 million per year on prescription drugs that lower glucose, an amount that works out to about 628 prescriptions per 1,000 people, about the same volume we consume in antibiotics. But how many drugs does one need to get those numbers down? In BC, about 100,000 people take a single drug (mostly metformin) every day to lower their blood glucose. But it doesn’t stop there. Nearly 65,000 BC residents take two or more diabetes drugs and nearly 30,000 take three or more.

A 2013 review from the Cochrane Collaboration found that ‘intensive glycemic control’ – trying to keep the HbA1c at or below the 7 percent mark – did not reduce rates of cardiovascular death, non-fatal stroke and end-stage kidney disease. What was cruelly ironic in that study – a meta-analysis of nearly 30 studies on the same question – is that patients who were subjected to intensive glycemic control had more serious adverse events, including severe hypoglycemia (which often ended in hospitalization). In other words, the taking of multiple drugs to drive one’s blood sugars lower and lower seems to be a fool’s game.

Who stands to benefit from the war on glucose? Just follow the money, I say. Driving for lower and lower blood sugars is big money in Canada. In BC alone we spend hundreds of millions of dollars chasing blood sugars into absurd territory. We allow the pharmaceutical companies to write the guidelines and our own doctors to be ‘educated’ about those pharma-funded guidelines.

Hoodwinked by the diabetes industry, we spend, as a society, tons of money treating this so-called risk factor called hemoglobin A1c, yet all that money does almost nothing to save lives or help people live longer. We should be spending healthcare dollars that purchase health. This diabetes scam just gives more profits to the drug companies while giving us nothing in return.

Alan Cassels lives in Victoria where he studies and writes about the pharmaceutical industry, disease mongering and overdiagnosis. His latest book is The Cochrane Collaboration: Medicine’s Best Kept Secret.

What does the “C” in Site C Dam stand for?

by Joseph Roberts

water rafting
Joe Foy photo

What does Site C stand for? Choose one or more of the following items:
1) Corruption
2) Cronyism
3) Corporatism
4) Christy Clark
5) Complicity
6) Con game
7) Criminality
8) Cost overruns
9) Collapse of economy
10) Corrosion
11) Committing ecocide
12) Climate change

Consequences

Damage to the environment, displacing productive farm land, destroying fish habitat, ruining heritage sites, dismissing first nations concerns and treaty rights, breaking up communities, and creating such massive debt your electrical bills will skyrocket. As well the huge debt will rob money from all other public expenditures causing the same kind of austerity measures big business has pressured governments in Greece, Italy and other countries to “pay back” – i.e. the debt created by their “friends” in government whom they donated election campaign money. The current provincial government has been in power so long that it has become corrupt and callous. This pretense has gone on too long. The con is spun by mass media owned by the very interests that profit from such large projects as pipelines, dams, fracking, supertankers, toll bridges, and LNG, all leaving the citizens to suffer the debt and deterioration of habitat.

What is going on

Join the growing movement to end the greed of political operatives serving their multinational masters. Democracy belongs to the people. Their neo-liberal ways are a disgrace, making BC an acronym for Bullshit & Corruption. They invite big money from anywhere to come here, buy elections, and do as they please. Power will not be given away by these operatives, it must be taken back by the people.

The premier of BC has spent over a million dollars on her vanity press, dragging around PR soldiers and a personal photographer. She is not alone in this ethical vacuum. George Carlin said it right. “There is too much bullshit and it is not good for anyone”… and BC’s government is full of it.  People know it. They see it and are disgusted.

We finally got fed up with Harper’s belligerent ways ignoring science and climate change. He is gone and good riddance. We can no longer afford Christy Clark’s arrogance. Her Cheshire Cat smiles won’t repair MT Polley’s dam destruction even with her publicity team pretending a sow’s ear is a silk purse. And her friends’ theft of the commons is hideous.

It is even more the hideous becaue it is hidden behind a smiling PR fortress, playing to the cameras while avoiding the public rage. Woodfiber LNG with a Hiroshima-equivalent of thermo power, with each of its proposed tankers a delightful target for a deranged mental case repackaged as a terrorist. The fracking of northeastern BC has destroyed the local water tables, streams, lakes and habitat, and for what? So large foreign energy companies can rip us off! Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Encana, and the rest of the Enron-like ilk has Christy Clark as their cheerleader.

She takes realtors over to China to sell off our lands and homes, inflating house prices so high we can’t afford to live in the places where we grew up. The bankers certainly don’t mind because they get to issue higher loans and make more interest. Wake up and smell the corruption parading as government. Time to decide. Which side are you on? The people or the corporations; protecting seven generations or burning everything for short term profits.

The current neo-liberal political cabinet have chosen the corporate grave train. We the people have choosen to not have their oil filled rail tankers explode on our towns or valleys. The party is over. We are taking our province back.