Peace then and now

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. – Dalai Lama

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. – Jimi Hendrix

Be the peace you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi


Get active in creating peace

by Dheera Nithyananda

All the best teachings from business, sports and spirituality tell us to “be proactive” in creating the future we want and not to slip into idleness or laziness in our creativity. Keeping focused on proactivity is how Richard Branson, Michael Jordan and the Dalai Lama have shaped their worlds. We can do the same.

Common Ground’s entire history is about keeping the flame of dynamic future thinking and action in full force and this initiative is no exception.

Join the Walk for Peace and shape your world into greater peace.

Another initiative with the same focus is Minute 4 Peace. We can each spare a minute or more of meditation for peace each day and when we do, the research shows us that violent crime rates drop.

Each minute of meditation reduces violent crime cost by $0.20. The website www.minute4peace.org tracks your contributions, and since starting a month ago has recorded 10 million minutes from people in over 50 countries, reducing crime by 1,500 violent crimes. Please join us as we aim for seven billion minutes, one for each person on the planet, by 12.12.12.

Dheera Nithyananda is the first person to lead expeditions to the three extremes: Everest and the North and South Poles. He teaches leadership and meditation.


crowd on bridge

Photographing Peace

by Myriam Dinim

I dedicate my photographs and this writing to June Black, who for years stood in front of the library in downtown Vancouver, on behalf of peace, collecting signatures to stop the Vietnam War.

My involvement with the peace movement really started when I met Joseph Roberts. Our life as a duo was made all the more powerful by the simple fact we were anti-nuclear and peace activists together. kid on balcony with peace flag

In 1981 we participated in the Anti Nuclear Day of Protest, Choose Survival that only drew a small crowd, may be 200 or 300. Next year in 1982, with the prior organizers no longer around, we took a new, positive approach. To inspire more Vancouverites to join, we needed to move beyond the anger associated with protesting. We worked with our friend Rick Testa, a brilliant copywriter, to find the best words for our fresh movement, and birthed the name Walk for Peace. What a delight when 35,000 people gathered at Kits Beach in front of our house in 1982 to walk from Kits over Burrard Street Bridge to Sunset Beach where a stage full of musicians and speakers inspired us all!

Many meetings happened in our living room and most of us sat on the floor, with a few chairs for the elders among us. I produced a newsletter at my dining room table and most of our networking to get people involved took place on one phone: our home phone, there were no cell phones or internet then. Interviews with the French network were done by phone or in my backyard at Cornwall and Yew, sometimes while breastfeeding my baby.

Rafe Mair once interviewed my daughter who was nine years old at the time and he was amazed at how she handled his questions.

It felt good to raise awareness and to educate ourselves through meeting people like Sister Rosalie Bertell and Dr. Helen Caldicott. Ask anybody who did the first few walks from 1982 to 1984 and they will have their own special stories.

So come and join us on Saturday, June 30th in Kitsilano to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Walk for Peace. Guaranteed you will have your own stories to tell the next generation.

Note: Myriam Dinim supplied most of the photo for this special walk for Peace edition.

peace marchers


Military spending at highest levels since WWII

There are now plans to expand Canadian military bases around the world. And the military is fast becoming a central thread in the fabric of society. We need to stop this new Canadian militarism.

The Canada First Defence Strategy is the Conservatives’ blueprint for military spending, which already totals $480 billion. But some costs are already way over budget, including the proposed purchase of F35 fighter jets and the construction of new Canadian warships. This could push military spending over half a trillion dollars.

veterans for peace
Veterans Against Nuclear Arms at Walk for Peace

Spending money on weapons will not create security. Real security is only possible when the people of the world can meet their basic needs.

Sadly, the Conservatives are increasing funding for things we need the least, while decreasing funding for the things we need the most.

Prime Minister Harper plans to expand the reach of Canadian forces overseas. Canada already has agreements to establish bases in Jamaica, Kuwait and Germany.

It is planning bases for Singapore, South Korea, Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania.

This expansion would give Mr. Harper the power to embroil Canada in the affairs of sovereign states and would redefine Canada as an aggressive military power.

The new Canadian militarism also includes dramatically raising the military’s profile in more aspects of Canadian life. In the last few years, Canada Day celebrations have been dominated by military displays and recruitment drives.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has agreed that all citizenship ceremonies must include a military speaker, in order to promote military service as the highest form of citizenship.

The new citizenship handbook, Discover Canada, emphasizes Canada’s involvement in wars abroad and heaps praise on the country’s military history.

We believe that money earmarked for military spending must be reallocated to social and environmental programs: to protect jobs and pensions, preserve public healthcare and education and create a green economy. We oppose any attempts by the government to expand Canadian militarism abroad or to entrench it in Canadian society.

Adapted from a Declaration of the Canadian Peace Alliance (cpa@web.ca) Reprinted from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom newsletter Peace Lines, March 2012. WILPF was founded in 1915, The Hague.


The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal

Here are a few of the principles in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, 1950. You can see why certain heads of state have chosen to pretend that International Law does not pertain to them:

Principle III The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle V Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Crimes Against Peace: Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned …

 

9/11: Have we been bamboozled?

by Jim Fetzer

• Here are four stories that didn’t make the mainstream news. They range from some you will find easy to believe to some you’ll find incredible.

If you want to know more about the fabrication of 9/11 and you’re tired of the lies we’ve been told or want new independent information, you’ll want to attend The Vancouver Hearings, June 15-17 at the Denman Theatre, 1737 Comox Street in Vancouver.

Story 1: The “collapse” that wasn’t a collapse

collapsing towers

Videos show Flight 175 completely entering the South Tower before it explodes, when that should have happened on contact. Would you believe that Pilots for 9/11 Truth has studied air/ground communications and discovered that Flight 175 was in the air but over Pittsburgh at the time?

http://pilotsfor911truth.org/ ACARS-CONFIRMED-911-AIRCRAFT-AIRBORNE-LONG-AFTER-CRASH.html

Did you know the fires in the towers did not burn hot enough nor long enough to cause steel to weaken, much less melt? Have you noticed those buildings are blowing apart in every direction rather than falling to the ground – that they did not collapse?

http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com/2010 /02/new-911-photos-released.htm

Story 2: The first death of Saddam Hussein

How about the hanging of Saddam Hussein? You probably saw it on television. It was widely broadcast at the time. But Saddam Hussein, his two sons and about 60 members of his general staff were killed on April 7, 2003.saddam hussein

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2012/05/12/ed-schultz-and-the-mission-accomplished-fiasco/

Chris Wachter, a B-1 bomber pilot, took them out with 2 JDAM bombs at a restaurant on the outskirts of Baghdad. He was lionized when he returned to his base, put on CNN, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and honoured by The Rev. Robert Schiller at The Crystal Cathedral on May 25, 2003.

http://twilightpines.com/media/cwachter1.mpg

The following day, he was flown back to Langley, VA, home of the CIA, and told that, while they admired his flying skill, “officially,” Saddam had gotten away. Killing the leader of a foreign nation had been made illegal by executive orders from three presidents: Reagan, Carter and Ford. So they put one of his doubles in a spider hole, “found him” and then tried him and hung him on December 30, 2006. Almost no one noticed the difference.

Story 3: The second death of Osama bin Laden

Everyone knows that Barack Obama took out Osama bin Laden during that daring raid on his compound in Pakistan, right? There was a famous photograph of Obama, Biden and Hillary watching as it went down.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1382859/Osama-bin-Laden-dead-Photo-Obama-watching-Al-Qaeda-leader-die-live-TV.html

However, Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA, explained there had been no coverage for the first 20-25 minutes and these assaults only take five minutes or less. Osama bin Laden actually died of medical complications on December 15, 2001 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Scholars for 9/11 Truth published editorial about it. David Ray Griffin wrote a book on it, Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive? Nicholas Kollerstrom wrote his article, “Osama bin Laden: 1957-2001.”

http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com/ 2011 /05/osama-bin-laden-1957-2001.html

Story 4: What didn’t happen at the Pentagon

The official account claims a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon, but there’s no massive pile of debris, no wings, no tail, bodies, seats or luggage. Not even its massive engines were recovered from the building even though they are virtually indestructible – they weren’t there.real aeroplane superimposed over photo

http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-didnt-happen-at-pentagon.html

The plane is supposed to have skimmed the ground at 500 mph and taken out a series of lampposts en route to its target. But “ground effect” makes that impossible and those lampposts would have ripped off the wing and exploded the jet fuel stored inside it.

It didn’t happen. And the only photo the Pentagon has provided shows a plane that is far too small to have been Flight 77.

Jim Fetzer is a former Marine Corps officer, the founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and a journalist for Veterans Today. He has written dozens of articles on subjects like 9/11 and JFK.

 

Speak out on June 4

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki

Portrait of David Suzuki• Canada would be a different place without our 80,000 registered charities dedicated to everything from health to economic policy to the environment. Recent efforts by the federal government and its backers in media and industry front groups like Ethical Oil to demonize and silence legitimate organizations ignore the important role charities play in Canada. That’s why environmental and other organizations are joining with Canadians for “Black Out Speak Out” (blackoutspeakout.ca or silenceonparle.ca en), launched on May 7 and culminating in a website blackout June 4.

Canadians understand the value of charitable organizations. Close to 85 percent of us over 15 years of age donate to charities every year. Often, it’s to help people in other parts of the world. According to Charity Village, Canadians gave $20 million… within four days of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. For supporting worthy causes, Canadians are entitled to a small tax break.

Canadians also know our spectacular natural environment is crucial to our national identity, health, and survival and that we can’t always count on governments and industry to look out for its interests. And so they give their time, money and voices… The David Suzuki Foundation relies on Canadians for close to 94 percent of its funding. Canadians also expect transparency and results, which is why our funding and spending information is public.

With the help of many Canadians, we’ve enjoyed many successes… [so] we’re astounded by the increasing efforts to stifle so many people and organizations that devote countless hours to ensuring that Canada remains a stellar example of an open and democratic country with strong social values and a clean and healthy environment.

If we are committed to these ideals, it follows we should also value freedom of speech on matters of national interest. It’s fair to place limits on the extent and types of work organizations with charitable status can do. It’s fair to ask questions about donations and what, if any, influence they may have on activities. But it is unacceptable to try to silence people with smear tactics designed to discredit them and deny their funding.

If our leaders want to pin all their hopes and our future on a twinned pipeline through Alberta and BC to ship raw tar sands bitumen to China, then Canadians at least deserve a proper conversation about it. We’ve seen recent signs of hope, with the Alberta government calling for a national energy strategy, for example, and with people in the media and elsewhere questioning the wisdom of employing an omnibus budget act to gut environmental laws and attack charitable organizations.

With continued suppression of those who speak out about the environment and women’s and human rights, along with muzzling government scientists and cuts to government scientific and environmental programs and departments, it’s clear we’re facing a growing campaign, in part backed by industrial interests, to silence opposition.

We expect and deserve better. That’s why we’re speaking out. Silence is not an option. We’re asking all Canadians to join us to help preserve two core national values: nature and democracy. Let’s keep Canada strong and free. Please visit the websites of your favourite environmental organizations on June 4 to add your voice.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

 

The Food Fight of Our Lives

A photoshopped image of a green and red pear, sliced open to reveal the centre of an orange

Millions Against Monsanto

by Ronnie Cummins

• Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry’s contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We’re fighting back.

“If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” – Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., Monsanto subsidiary, Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” – Phil Angell, Monsanto communication director, New York Times, October 25, 1998

For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and regulatory agencies, supermarket chains, and giant food processors.

This November, in a food fight that will largely determine the future of what we eat and what we grow, Monsanto will face its greatest challenge to date: a statewide citizens’ ballot initiative that will give Californians the opportunity to vote for their right to know whether the food they buy has GMOs.

A growing corps of food, health, and environmental activists – supported by the Millions against Monsanto and Occupy Monsanto Movements, and consumers and farmers across the nation – are boldly moving to implement mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in California through a grassroots-powered citizens ballot initiative process that will bypass the agribusiness-dominated state legislature.

Passage of this initiative on November 6 will radically alter the balance of power in the marketplace, enabling millions of consumers to identify – and boycott – genetically engineered foods for the first time since 1994, when Monsanto’s first unlabeled, genetically-engineered dairy drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), was forced on the US market,

This is not the first time Monsanto has been challenged by citizens’ initiatives or state and local legislative efforts. But this time, the momentum is in our favor.

In the past, GMO “right-to-know” activists have been outmaneuvered and outgunned by Monsanto and its minions in every state, except Vermont and Connecticut, where passing a labeling bill is still, at least theoretically, a long-shot. Monsanto recently threatened to sue the state of Vermont if legislators there pass a GMO labeling bill.

Efforts to pass GMO labeling laws at the federal level have gone nowhere, despite the fact that more than one million consumers have emailed “Just Label It” petitions to the FDA, demanding mandatory labeling. The FDA counted only 394 of the signatures claiming that the main petition was submitted as a single document, or docket, and therefore counted as only one signature.

The battle has been raging for decades. But this time, it’s different.

Behind this historic California initiative is a broad, growing and powerful health, environmental, and consumer coalition, which includes the Organic Consumers Association, Organic Consumers Fund, Food Democracy Now!, Mercola.com, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, LabelGMOs.org, Eden Foods, Alliance for Natural Health, Dr. Bronner’s, United Farm Workers Union, American Public Health Association, Cornucopia Institute, Institute for Responsible Technology, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, California Certified Organic Farmers, and scores of others.

This time, the industry faces informed – and alarmed – consumers who understand the danger of allowing out-of-control chemical and biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont – the very same corporations that have assaulted us with toxic pesticides and industrial chemicals, Agent Orange, carcinogenic food additives, PCBs, and now global warming – to dictate their food choices.

Why has it taken so long to get this far? How have Monsanto and its cohorts been able to grow and maintain market supremacy while force-feeding unlabeled “Frankenfoods” to the public for decades? By buying off politicians, bullying farmers and scientists, and keeping consumers in the dark.

Monsanto has sued over 150 farmers across the US and Canada (see Percy Schmeiser vs Monsanto, January 2004, Common Ground) and threatened thousands of others, for refusing to pay for “intellectual property theft” after their fields were contaminated by Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered crops.

The company has harassed and used the media to bully scientists who have exposed the public health and environmental hazards of genetically engineered foods and crops in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. The renowned scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai from the UK, was pressured and discredited for reporting on the dangers of genetic engineering until he was eventually fired from his job. The same thing happened to the UK’s Environmental Minister, Michael Meacher.

In a number of other cases, scientists such as Ignacio Chapela, have received death threats. Chapela also said he received death threats to his children from “a high government official” in Mexico after he showed contamination of native corn with Monsanto’s GMOs. Other scientists, most notably Andres Carrasco from Argentina, have been assaulted by thugs. Monsanto has even hired the notorious Blackwater mercenaries to spy on its opponents worldwide.

Why has Monsanto gone to such great lengths to thwart GMO labeling laws and initiatives? Because it understands the threat that truth-in-labeling poses for GMOs – and biotech industry profits. As soon as genetically engineered foods are labeled in the U.S., millions of consumers will read these labels and react. They’ll complain to grocery store managers and companies, they’ll talk to their family and friends. They’ll switch to foods that are organic or at least GMO-free. Once enough consumers complain about GE foods and food ingredients, stores will eventually stop selling them.  Farmers will stop planting them.

In Europe, there are almost no genetically engineered crops, while here nearly 75% of all supermarket foods are GE-tainted.  Why?  Because Europe requires labeling of genetically engineered foods – and the US does not.

This is exactly why activists have launched the California Ballot Initiative. Passing mandatory GMO food labeling in just one large state, California, the eighth largest economy in the world, where there is tremendous opposition to GE foods as well as a multi-billion dollar organic food industry, will ultimately have the same impact as a national labeling law.

Once food manufacturers and supermarkets are forced to come clean and label genetically engineered products, they will likely remove all GE ingredients, to avoid the “skull and crossbones” effect, just like the food industry in the EU has done. In the wake of this development American farmers will convert millions of acres of GE crops to non-GMO or organic varieties.

Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association – under the guise of its front group, the so-called Coalition Against the Costly Food Law – are building up a massive war chest up to battle the California Ballot Initiative. They will literally spend millions to spread lies and disinformation that GMO foods and crops are perfectly safe – and that we need more, not less GMO food and biofuel crops in this era of climate change and growing population.

They will lie and say that GMO labels will be costly to the food industry and raise food prices. They will say that it is the job of the FDA to decide whether GMOs are labeled, not the states. Yet we already know that this battle will never be won in Washington DC, where Monsanto and Food Inc. lobbyists have politicians in their back pockets. It will only be won in places like California (or Vermont), vital centers of organic food and farming and anti-GMO sentiment, where 90% of the body politic, according to recent polls, support mandatory labeling.

It’s time to take back control over our food and farming system. It’s time to stand up to Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies.

Ronnie Cummins founded the Organic Consumers Association and wrote Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers. You can help by contacting organicconsumersfund.org

Smart meter’s top-down agenda

A photograph of a so-called smart meter

by Josh Del Sol

• In the technetronic society, the trend seems to be toward aggregating the individual support of millions of unorganized citizens, who are easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities, and effectively exploiting the latest communication techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason. – Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era (1970).

When Barack Obama was just a toddler, Zbigniew Brzezinski was envisioning the day of making just such a technetronic “smart” society.

Fast-forward to 2012 and what we’re seeing is a so-called “smart” grid being forced upon an unwilling, but awakening population. This issue is unfolding with great grassroots notoriety here, as part of BC Hydro’s “smart metering” program, and unfurled simultaneously around the world.

If the people of BC and around the world allow the installation of the smart grid, democracy will fall. Tens of thousands of people in BC alone, and millions globally, are waking up to the deceit of this global agenda.

BC Hydro has recently recalled 1,000 smart meters due to their not functioning. Hundreds of thousands of BC citizens have now received Hydro bills anywhere from 30 to 1000 percent higher, following smart meter installation – increases with no real justification. It now appears possible that none of these meters measure accurately. One scenario will be a complete recall of smart meters across the province, if public outcry continues to grow.

According to BC Hydro’s figures, our cost of each smart meter in BC is approximately $555. In Quebec, where citizens now officially have a free opt-out option, the cost is $263.16 – less than half our amount. In Ontario, it is $232.56. In many US states, the cost is less than $200 per meter, including in Idaho, where no meters transmit wirelessly.

BC hydro awarded a multi-million dollar contract for smart meter installation to US multi-national giant Corix. David Emerson joined CAI (private equity) in 2008 as a senior advisor, with Corix in its “portfolio.” This is the same David Emerson who defected in 2006 to Stephen Harper’s government from the Liberals (previously Minister of Foreign Affairs) to become Minister of International Trade. Follow the dots. Would this be a conflict of interest? Emerson was executive chair of BC Transmissions Corp, chair of the BC premier’s advisory council, co-chair of the Alberta premier’s council, co-chair of the prime minister’s advisory committee. In the BC government, Emerson was the Deputy Minister of Finance, Deputy Minister to the Premier, and President of the British Columbia Trade Development Corporation. Emerson privately was CEO of Canfor Corporation, CEO of Vancouver International Airport Authority and Chairman of Canadian Western Bank. He is either extremely talented or well appointed.

In March’s Wired magazine, current CIA director David Patraeus admitted governments plan to spy on citizens through their “smart” appliances and we’ll be forced to re-think “our notions of identity and secrecy… Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters – all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost and high-power computing.”

Via the US Freedom of Information Act, researcher Angel De Fazio obtained documentation showing a $298 million grant for smart meter deployment in Nevada. One funding source was the “US Armed Forces Research and Development Projects.” The US has acknowledged its research programs around microwave radio frequency radiation and its effects on the human body and mind.

In a California lawsuit, Pacific Gas & Electric had to supply information on how frequently each smart meter transmits wirelessly. The average meter pulses 14,000 times per day, each for 4.5 milliseconds – every six seconds. Some meters pulse up to 190,000 times per day, or twice per second. Utility companies are fond of using a cumulative total (i.e.“60 seconds per day”) rather than admitting the constant emissions. These totals do not include the emissions from each wireless “smart” appliance the grid will require of us in the future, creating a veritable soup of electromagnetic radiation that the WHO calls a “class 2B potential carcinogen.”

Health concerns have led the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and the Austrian Medical Association to publicly call the immediate ban of the smart metering program.

Most smart meters in BC are not yet actively transmitting; most meters are still being read manually, which means we still have time to recall the entire smart metering program in BC.

BC Hydro has stated, “We will not force you to have a smart meter.” However, it has failed to inform us we have a choice. An estimated 30,000 British Columbians have, on their own accord, notified Hydro of their non-consent (though Hydro’s public figures may still be lower) and installation has been delayed for most. Mail BC Hydro your letter of non-consent. See the templates at CitizensForSafeTechnology.org. If a smart meter has already been forced on you, you can demand to have it replaced.

For more information, see Take Back Your Power, ThePowerFilm.org

Seva Canada turns 30

Seva eye screening clinic at a school in the Gulmi District of Nepal.

Seva® Canada, an international eye care charity based in Vancouver, turns 30 this month. Since 1982, Seva Canada has restored sight and prevented blindness in the developing world. To date, Seva and its partners have given the power of sight to three million people in Tibet, Nepal, India, Guatemala, Egypt, Cambodia, Malawi, Madagascar and Tanzania. But what makes Seva different is its unique approach to international development; it empowers the people and communities where it works.

One of the few successful international development organizations, rather than provide relief, Seva supports development. When a crisis occurs in a low to middle income country, whether it is a famine or a natural disaster, many organizations rush to the area. No doubt, suffering is reduced, but the impact ends with the emergency. Seva, in contrast, is among the organizations that work in these countries before, during and after a crisis occurs. Success for Seva is when foreign intervention is not needed at all.

Other organizations coordinate medical missions, short-term stints by physicians or rotations abroad by students or residents. The physicians feel good about providing direct care to patients and improving their lives. The community continues to benefit as long as the foreign physicians are there. There is a short-term advantage to everyone with a medical mission – patients are treated, medical supplies are delivered and there is a sense of accomplishment. However, medical missions can also have negative ramifications as they do not provide an effective plan for the improvement of communities and can actually hamper long-term development and create a reliance on charities and aid resources. The missions can reduce the incentive for those communities to build their own healthcare structures and not rely on outside assistance. While medical missions make sense in emergency situations as they can provide immediate relief and also help in the education of healthcare professionals from the developed world, they can also have a negative impact.

Seva, however, focuses on development and achieving long-term change with the intent of improving the lives of people in communities, now and in the future. It involves much planning, coordination with local partners and ongoing research. With development, the goal is to build local capacity and sustainability and the work continues even after Seva is no longer involved.

Seva believes in creating local, sustainable programs that aim to reduce the dependence on outside assistance and that are culturally sensitive and available to everyone. Seva works with international partners including local organizations, community leaders and government to determine the needs of an area. Seva then lends support through planning and launching programs, training local doctors and community outreach personnel and providing technology and supplies – always with the end goal that the community will become financially self-sustaining.

Seva’s innovative sustainability model of enabling communities to care for their own through the transfer of knowledge and support means that when someone donates $1 to a program, its value is actually much greater. Imagine planting a seed. The seed grows into a tree that then seeds other trees and then a forest, all from the same $1 donation. That $1 helps provide eye care in the present and in the future; it keeps on working for the individual and the community.


Beyond the Darkness exhibit honours Seva’s work

Celebrate Seva Canada’s 30 years of restoring sight and preventing blindness in the developing world at Beyond the Darkness, a photo exhibition by the international, award winning photographer Larry Louie.

Exhibition: April 23-May 12, HSBC Pendulum Gallery, 885 West Georgia Street. Donor Reception: Thurs April 26, 6-8 pm. RSVP to admin@seva.ca. For more info about Seva, visit seva.ca or call Deanne Berman, 604-713-6622, communications@seva.ca

Photo © Ellen Crystal, www.merit2.com

Educating doctors

a big red heart-shaped pillow wrapped in a stethoscope

DRUG BUST

by Alan Cassels

The people’s briefing note on perscription drugs

• A few years ago, I was invited to be the guest on an Ottawa radio talk show, the topic being something I was well familiar with, a book I co-wrote called Selling Sickness. The book explores how the pharmaceutical industry influences regulators, physicians and patients in order to sell its treatments.

On this occasion, Steve, the show’s host, invited the station’s “house doctor” to join us. Barry, a local doctor, had his own program at that station and it soon became startlingly clear I was about to be tag-teamed. After warming me up, Barry came to the point: “How could you possibly insinuate that physicians were under the influence of pharmaceutical sales reps?” These are the salespeople working for drug companies that make personal visits to doctors, dropping off samples and otherwise ‘educating’ our physicians about new drugs. “I’m offended that you think we physicians can be so easily bamboozled by sales reps,” he spat out.

Pinned against the turnbuckles, I turned to the radio host and asked, “Steve do you own any shares in pharmaceutical companies, maybe have pharma stocks in your mutual fund portfolio?”

“Sure I do,” he said. “Well, Steve, you’re wasting your money,” I said. “You know, those companies spend upwards of $2 billion per year marketing their drugs to Canadian doctors; most of that goes to drug reps. So, Steve, if those drug rep visits ain’t having any influence on doctors, then you’ve made a poor investment. If Dr. Barry is right, pharma’s marketing model ain’t working.”

They both sputtered a bit. C’mon guys. Reality check. Does an industry this successful and this powerful invest in things that don’t work? Of course not; pharma has lots of high octane brains to invest its money where it produces the greatest return. Period. If it’s in pizza or pens, delivered by smiling drug reps, then that’s where the money’s going.

Barbara Mintzes, an epidemiologist at UBC’s Department of Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics knows a thing or two about drug marketing, having studied the advertising and marketing activities of the drug industry for nearly two decades: “We know from the research that sales representatives, also known as ‘drug detailers’, have a big influence on doctors’ prescribing,” she says. “They often have much more influence than doctors realize. If doctors aren’t getting the full story [about a drug], if most of the time they hear nothing about side effects or about rare, more serious harmful effects, how can they make sure they’re prescribing safely?”

When I asked a friend, a former sales rep in Nova Scotia, he said: “Hmm, ‘good safety profile’, is about all we’d say about safety. Basically, unless they [the doctors] ask, we don’t bring up the topic.”

It’s easy to see why drug sales people are effective. Generally, they are polite, engaging and extremely good at reading people, trained to focus on the positive of their products and driven to do whatever is needed to get doctors to write their prescriptions.

Some physicians won’t see drug reps, but a 2006 survey found about two-thirds of doctors in BC see reps at least once a month and 42 percent of BC’s GPs get visited several times a week. Many doctors like the free drug samples. More than one doctor has told me that’s the only reason he sees reps. The samples are always the newest and usually the most expensive drugs on the market.

Worries about how drug reps might be biasing prescribers led researchers to think about providing doctors unbiased or academic sources of information. Thus, the concept of counter-detailing or “academic detailing” was born. The Granddaddy of this movement is Dr. Jerry Avorn, a physician and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. His 2004 book Powerful Medicines reflected on the thinking behind it: “If the pharmaceutical industry could change doctors’ prescribing patterns this way to increase sales, why couldn’t the same method be used to improve the appropriateness of drug use?”

That’s a very good question and he and his colleague Steve Soumerai set out to prove academic detailing could do what it purported to do: provide a lifeline to physicians swimming in a sea of pharmaceutical marketing spin. More than 25 years later, academic detailing programs are in place in many parts of North America, but they have hardly any effect on medical practice.

Why? Well, for one, it’s hard to change prescribing. As Dr. Avorn notes, it’s not easy to get “evidence-based, unbiased clinical knowledge” to supplant other types of information based on “tradition, superstition or mainly commercial agendas.”

The second reason is size: there are probably 100 drug sales reps for every one academic detailer in Canada. The academic side of things is simply outgunned. Despite good research that academic detailing can improve prescribing, there is little public investment in it. The first program started in Canada was here in BC, a single detailer based out of Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. That program has grown to about 10 academic detailers covering the whole province and there are also well-established programs in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. However, the big provinces of Ontario and Quebec aren’t even in the game, with the exception of a program in Hamilton. Alberta had a program but it was cut. Manitoba’s program is on life support.

The third reason, and this is my own conclusion, is that no one has made a powerful enough business case for academic detailing.

A duo of ex-pharma detailers in Atlantic Canada, who call their company Prescribed Solutions have an answer. They know the selling game well and their pragmatic approach is to visit doctors armed with drug cost-effectiveness information and teach doctors how to improve generic prescribing so that both patients and drug plans can get good drug therapy and save money.

These Atlantic Canada entrepreneurs understand that one of the most important bits of information doctors need (other than drug safety information) is comparative cost information of the drugs they prescribe. Basically, if there are 10 drugs in a class that all do the same thing, why would a doctor prescribe the most expensive brand, which could be three times the price of the proven generic? A major gap in our physicians’ knowledge is the price of drugs and prescribing an affordable drug can have huge implications on whether a person gets a script filled.

A study out last month by UBC researchers shows patients will avoid a trip to the pharmacy if they don’t think they can afford them. And for many essential drugs, that can be decidedly bad for your health.

If drug reps schmoozing in doctors’ offices are trying to get new customers through free samples and evidence exists that academic detailing is effective, leading to safer, more cost-effective use of drugs, why haven’t governments or employers – who pay for your private drug benefits – embraced it?

Because they haven’t done the math. For every one percent increase in the generic use of drugs in Canada, the private payers – those with drug coverage through the employer – save over $100 million. If Canadians used generics at the same rate as Americans, it is estimated we’d shave about $2 billion per year off our drug bill. This is not small potatoes.

Is any kind of counter-detailing even on the radar of most politicians or union executives? As far as I can tell, the only politician I’ve heard asking for more investments in academic detailing is BC’s NDP leader Adrian Dix. I think he might be on to something.

If provincial governments are all about creating jobs, let’s provide jobs to the many pharma reps out of work due to the recent economic slowdown. Let’s put them on the public payroll and get them to spread the word about drug safety and cost effectiveness to our physicians.

It is time to undo the love affair between drug companies and doctors and start building some new relationships where patients can all benefit.

Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria and author of the forthcoming book Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease, due out April 2012. Read more of what he’s writing about at www.alancassels.com

 

Northern Gateway money vs environment

SCIENCE MATTERS

by David Suzuki

• The battle lines are drawn and Northern BC’s pristine wilderness is the latest front. With hearings underway into the proposed $5.5-billion, dual 1,172-kilometre Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project to transport bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat and imported condensate to dilute it from the coast back to Alberta, the fossil fuel industry and its supporters have stepped up the rhetoric. Environmentalists and people in towns, rural areas and First Nations communities in BC have lined up in opposition.

It’s not just about potential damage from an oil spill… The larger issues are about our continued reliance on polluting fossil fuels and the economic impact of rapidly exploiting and selling our resources and resource industries.

It’s about Canada’s national interest. With lax royalty structures and massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, not to mention foreign ownership of tar sands operations and lobbying by foreign companies, Canadians are not enjoying the real benefits of our oil industry. In fact, increasing reliance on the tar sands is hurting other sectors of the economy, manufacturing in particular.

Thanks to the government’s support of the fossil fuel industry, ours is a petro dollar that rises and falls with the price of oil. The high price of oil has increased our dollar’s value and that has hurt the more labour-intensive manufacturing sector, which relies on exports. Not only have hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs been lost over the past few years, but Canada has also been missing out on opportunities to join the boom in production of renewable-energy technology.

Industry adherents have come up with many arguments supporting the Northern Gateway project. Some have more holes than an oilfield. Take the jobs argument. Even Enbridge admits that most would be in short-term construction work. Only about 35 to 40 long-term jobs would be created at the Kitimat marine terminal.

Most economic benefits from increased tar sands production would go to the companies and their shareholders, including firms from the US, Korea and China. In fact, state-owned PetroChina, which already operates in the tar sands, has just bought 100 percent of the MacKay River project.

The “ethical oil” argument is so absurd as to be hardly worth mentioning, but it’s one the government has latched on to. Oil can’t be ethical or unethical. People, and by extension the companies they own and operate or the governments they represent, can behave in ethical or unethical ways, but a product can’t.

The Northern Gateway project and much of the recent and pending tar sands expansion will help companies owned by the government of China dig up the bitumen and send it there for refining and use. The ethical oil folks admit China is a police state, so why do they support selling them our industry and resources? The anti-American conspiracy theories are even more absurd. Saying that opposition to the Northern Gateway is a plot by US funding agencies to protect America’s access to Canadian oil is just idiotic.

The only real argument for Northern Gateway is that it will increase profits for the oil industry and hand over more of our resources and the associated profits and jobs to China. The arguments against it are so numerous we’ve barely touched them here.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Beagle Freedom Success

Produced by The Beagle Freedom Project

Jun 14, 2011

The Beagle Freedom Project’s second rescue of beagles who have lived their entire lives inside a research laboratory. These beagles have known nothing except the confines of metal cages. They have known no soft human touch, no warm bed, no companionship, no love. They have never been outside or sniffed a tree or grass. Finally, after years of being poked and prodded, these beagles are FREE! ARME got the call that a facility was willing to release them to us after they had been used in several tests. The BFP members picked them up on June 8th and now they are all in loving foster homes, and one has already been adopted.

If you are interested in adopting any of these special beagles, please email them at: shannon@beaglefreedomproject.org. If you cannot adopt, but would like to help, ARME is a non-profit organization and we rely on your donations to continue this work. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. You can donate here: http://www.beaglefreedomproject.org/donate.php
PLEASE DO NOT BUY PRODUCTS TESTED ON ANIMALS! You can see their faces now….. buy only products that have the cruelty-free symbol.