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The Political Excommunication of Erin Weir Betrays the Face of Modern Political Cowardice

Posted  September 11, 2019  by  Anonymous

By Eric Cline
Former Saskatchewan New Democrat Minister of Justice

Erin Weir is not well-known outside of Canada. Even many Canadian readers won’t recognize the politician’s name. But the story of how he was smeared and excommunicated by his own political party presents a stunning indictment of political cowardice in the age of #MeToo. And what happened to him could happen to virtually anyone who runs for office.
Weir is a federal Member of Parliament (MP), having been elected in 2015 to represent the Saskatchewan riding of Regina-Lewvan. He ran in that election as a candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP), which sits to the political left of Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberals, and constitutes the third-largest party in the Canadian parliament. His downfall began on January 30, 2018, the day he announced his candidacy for NDP caucus chair by sending an email to other NDP MPs, and to the leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh (who, at the time, had not yet become a Member of Parliament). The email set off a chain of events that eventually led to his expulsion from the NDP caucus, and stripped him of the opportunity to stand as a candidate for the party in the upcoming Fall, 2019, federal election. Under the Canadian political system, party leaders are free to unilaterally block candidates, no matter the views of voters or the rank-and-file. Without party affiliation, Weir’s political career is effectively over.
Weir’s undoing was the work of Christine Moore, an NDP MP for the Quebec riding of Abitibi-Temiscamingue. In a reply-all email responding to Weir’s expressed interest in becoming caucus chair, she wrote that she could never support him because “there are too many women (mostly employee[s]) who complained to me that you were harassing to them.” She then added: “As a woman, I would not feel comfortable to meet with you alone.”
Like Weir, Moore was not well-known—except insofar as she already had helped ruin the career of two MPs in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party after advancing claims that they, too, were sexual harassers (a subject discussed in more detail below). And her new accusation would have come as a surprise (and still does) to anyone who knows Weir, a 37-year-old economist who once worked for the Canadian section of the United Steelworkers union.
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If There Were Quick, Easy, Flying Leaps That Lasted, You’d Have Already Taken Them

Posted  September 9, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

The saying is that long journeys begin with first steps, not flying leaps, and if there were flying leaps that routinely led to lasting change, you’d have already taken them.

It’s a straightforward message, but when applied to weight management, diet culture regularly asks us to ignore it.

The inconvenient truth of healthy living is that it will certainly require effort.

Yes, there are likely those who will succeed by changing everything all at once, but for most, slowly building and layering change, and respecting the fact that their roads will absolutely also see their share of disappointments and setbacks, is the way to finally get somewhere.

Your first step might be as small as losing one restaurant meal a week in place of cooking, or trying to reduce your sugar sweetened beverages by 50%, or actually scheduling a day to buy, or a service to deliver, weekly groceries, but if you choose steps you can actually accomplish without suffering, you’re more likely not to fall, which in turn, will help keep you moving forward.

        
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Saturday Stories: Running While Fat, Running While Female, And Frustrating, Confusing, Israel

Posted  September 7, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Kate Brown, in Runners World, on running while fat.

Cara Harbstreet, in Human Parts, on running while female.

David Horowitz, in The Times of Israel, with an incredibly insightful interview with Matt Friedman with some background on how and why for many, Israel may baffle or infuriate.

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Quirks & Quarks ‘science in the field’ special — the summer adventures of scientists working in exotic and remote locations

Posted  September 6, 2019  by  Anonymous

Dodging venomous vipers and plant poachers to study how climate change impacts insects; Searching for dinosaurs in BC’s rockies — and finding grizzly bears instead; When the desert doesn’t bloom fake flowers are a scientist’s solution; A moment of distraction leads to near disaster while studying insects in a tropical paradise; Projectile vomiting birds are among the challenges in studying arctic lakes.

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Why You Should Turn Off Your TV And Holster Your Devices Before You Eat

Posted  September 4, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Ok, it’s a short study and it relied on dietary recall, but if taken at face value, the results certainly suggest you should be turning off your devices and eating away from the TV.

The study involved the 3 day recall of both diet and media use among 473 individuals.

Plainly, researchers found that meals that were consumed along with some form of media distraction contained 149 more calories. They also found that people consuming those extra calories at a media meal did not compensate by eating less at their next meal.

Given how easy it is to do this, and how by doing so you might even strengthen some interpersonal relationships by eating with friends or family around a table, you really have almost nothing to lose by trying, except perhaps a few calories.

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Saturday Stories: Suicide, Goop, Vaccines, And Kurbo

Posted  August 31, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Connie Schultz, in Creators, on what to say (and not say) to someone whose loved one has died by suicide.

Amanda Mull, in The Atlantic, on what Goop really sells.

Richard Conniff, in National Geographic, on the world before vaccines.

[And if you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here’s my take on Weight Watcher’s new kids Kurbo app and how while Weight Watchers might know kids aren’t likely to lose much weight, do the kids?]

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Children

The Rewards Project – A Registered UK Charity Geared At Putting An End To Sugary School Rewards

Posted  August 26, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

So it’s back to school time, and zero doubt, many of your kids are going to have teachers and schools who will use candy and junk food as a reward.

It’s a shame too, not just because they’ll be providing your kids with junk, but also because they’ll be teaching them, over and over and over, that junk is a reward for anything and everything.

I’ve written before about easy non-junk food rewards for teachers, I’ve also written about how you might want to approach things with your kids’ sugar pushers, and I even kept track one year of just how much junk other people were offering my kids. What was clear from the response to all of these pieces was just how prevalent this problem was, and just how frustrated parents are.

Well as a sign of those times, in the UK, a new charity has popped up called The Rewards Project and its mission is trying to change this common practice. Click through and you’ll find some sample letters to send to your child’s school (though I think they’d be much better were they to offer some alternatives and suggestions in them and as I wrote about and linked above, lead with praise for the school and its teachers).

All this to say, if there are charities popping up geared at tackling this issue, clearly there’s a real appetite out there for change. In turn this suggests – and my experiences with my kids’ schools and more would definitely support this notion – that your kids’ schools and teachers might be more open to changing things than you might think.

You’ll never know unless you try.

(Thanks to Dr. Miriam Berchuk for sending this my way)

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Saturday Stories: Fitness Evolution, Soda Taxes, and Tick Saliva

Posted  August 24, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

James Steele, in The Evolution Institute, on how evolution best informs exercise.

Jeremy B. White, in The Agenda, on how the food industry may be winning the war against soda taxes.

Sarah Zhang, in The Atlantic, marvels about tick saliva.

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9 Great Suggestions For Improving The Quality Of Dietary Research (And 1 That According To @JamesHeathers Is “Deeply Silly”)

Posted  August 19, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Last week saw the publication of an op-ed authored by Drs. David Ludwig, Cara Ebbeling, and Steven Heymsfield entitled, “Improving the Quality of Dietary Research“. In it they discuss the many limitations of dietary research and chart a way forward that includes the following 9 great suggestions,

  1. Recognize that the design features of phase 3 drug studies are not always feasible or appropriate in nutrition research, and clarify the minimum standards necessary for diet studies to be considered successful.
  2. Distinguish among study design categories, including mechanistic, pilot (exploratory), efficacy (explanatory), effectiveness (pragmatic), and translational (with implications for public health and policy). Each of these study types is important for generating knowledge about diet and chronic disease, and some overlap may invariably exist; however, the findings from small-scale, short-term, or low-intensity trials should not be conflated with definitive hypothesis testing.
  3. Define diets more precisely when feasible (eg, with quantitative nutrient targets and other parameters, rather than qualitative descriptors such as Mediterranean) to allow for rigorous and reproducible comparisons.
  4. Improve the methods for addressing common design challenges, such as how to promote adherence to dietary prescriptions (ie, with feeding studies and more intensive behavioral and environmental intervention), and reduce dropout or loss to follow-up.
  5. Develop sensitive and specific biomeasures of adherence (eg, metabolomics), and use available methods when feasible (eg, doubly labeled water method for total energy expenditure).
  6. Create and adequately fund local (or regional) cores to enhance research infrastructure.
  7. Standardize practices to mitigate the risk of bias related to conflicts of interest in nutrition research, including independent oversight of data management and analysis, as has been done for drug trials.
  8. Make databases publicly available at time of study publication to facilitate reanalyses and scholarly dialogue.
  9. Establish best practices for media relations to help reduce hyperbole surrounding publication of small, preliminary, or inconclusive research with limited generalizability.”

But there was one recommendation that seems at odds with the rest,

Acknowledge that changes to, or discrepancies in, clinical registries of diet trials are commonplace, and update final analysis plans before unmasking random study group assignments and initiating data analysis.

For those who aren’t aware, clinical registries are where researchers document in advance the pre-specified methods and outcomes being studied by way of an observational experiment. The purpose of pre-registration is to reduce the risk of bias, selective reporting, and overt p-hacking that can (and has) occurred in dietary research.

Now to be clear, I’m a clinician, not a researcher, and I’m not sure how commonplace changes to or discrepancies in clinical registries of diet trials are, but I’m also not sure that’s an argument in their favour even if they are. I do know that recently two of the authors claiming registry changes are commonplace were found to have modified one of their pre-specified statistical analysis plans which if it had been adhered to, would have rendered their results non-significant.

But commonplace or not, is it good science?

To answer that question I turned to James Heathers, a researcher and self-described “data thug” whose area of interest is methodology (and who you should definitely follow on Twitter), who described the notion of accepting that changes and discrepancies to clinical registries were commonplace was, “deeply silly“.

He went on to elaborate as to why,

First of all – the whole definition of a theory is something which sets your expectations. the idea that ‘reality is messy’ does not interfere with the idea that you have hypothesis driven expectations which are derived from theories.

Second: there is nothing to prevent you saying “WE DID NOT FIND WHAT WE EXPECTED TO FIND” and then *following it* with your insightful exploratory analysis. In fact, that would almost be a better exposition of the facts by definition as you are presenting your expectations as expectations, and your after-the-fact speculations likewise.

Third: if you have a power analysis which determines there is a correct amount of observations necessary to reliably observe an effect, having the freedom to go ‘never mind that then’ is not a good thing by definition.

Fourth: The fact that changes were made is never ever included in the manuscript. i.e. they are proposing being able to make changes to the protocol in the registry *without* having to say so. it’s a ‘new plan’ rather than a ‘changed plan’.

Fifth: If you can still do the original analysis then no-one will ever believe that you didn’t change the plan after looking at the data. you have to protect yourself, and the best way to do that is to follow your own damned plans and be realistic from the get.

Lastly, Heathers is unimpressed with the argument that registry changes are A-OK because they’re commonplace, and he discussed ancient Aztecan punishments for those citing it.

All this to say, there’s plenty of room to improve the quality of dietary research. Here’s hoping the bulk of these suggestions are taken to heart, but please don’t hold your breath.

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Saturday Stories: Morning People, In Sickness, And Mom Bods

Posted  August 17, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Olga Khazan, in The Atlantic, discusses people like me – cursed to wake up every day before 5:30am.

Mark Lukach, in The Pacific Standard, discusses love in the face of severe mental illness.

Alice Sueffert, in ScaryMommy, discusses finally showing her mom bod some love.

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Children

Kellogg’s Partners With Random House To Use Free Books To Sell Ultra-Processed Sugary Junk Food To Children

Posted  August 13, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

To be clear, neither Random House, nor Kellogg’s, should be fairly expected to do the right thing when it comes to health.

Kellogg’s job is to see food. Random House’s job is to sell books. Nothing more, nothing less.

So it’s hard to get mad with either company for their “Feeding Reading” initiative which provides parents with permission or excuse to buy their children such health foods as:

  • Frosted Flakes
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Eggos
  • Nutrigrain Bars
  • Froot Loops
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Apple Jacks
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats (note, unfrosted mini-wheats are not eligible)
  • Corn Pops
  • Raisin Bran
  • Krave
  • Keebler cookies
  • Cheez-its
  • Austin crackers
  • Pringles

Truly, not a single choice parents or children should be encouraged to make. All ultra-processed, sugary, junk (and some crackers and potato chips).

Again, no reason to expect either Random House or Kellogg’s to be doing the right thing by kids, but in my opinion, their clear partnership in doing the wrong thing here certainly doesn’t reflect well on either of them.

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Saturday Stories: Apples, Crystals, and Mindfulness

Posted  August 10, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

James Hamblin, in The Atlantic, on how fresh apples (and other fruit) are perhaps the only probiotics you should be buying.

Emily Atkin, in The New Republic, explains why even if you believe in the nonsense around healing crystals, you probably shouldn’t be buying them.

Sahanika Ratnayake, in Aeon, with some truths about mindfulness.

[And in case you don’t follow me on social media, in Medscape this week I ask does the anger, zealotry, and ugliness of the more vocal parts of the low-carb community hinder its wider adoption?]

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National Post Publishes Correction

Posted  August 9, 2019  by  bigcitylib

BOOYAH!  JOB DONE!  The Natty Post corrects in response to this story:

Editor’s note: In the original article, Michael Rogers intended to say “early evolutionary ancestors” instead of Neanderthals when speaking about the agricultural revolution. As well, he intended to say there’s no anthropological evidence of Type 2 diabetes, not Type 1. All changes have been made in his quotes. 

Not even sure the phrase “early evolutionary ancestors” cuts it science-wise in this context but fuck it I’m in  a good mood.  We’ll let it go.  Kudos to Bianca Bharti for fixing things and being a good sport about it.  As for Doc Rogers, well they say he is from the University of Guelph.  I had a friend who went there.  When I asked him what it was like he said Guelph is the sound a whale makes when it swallows.  I don’t know what that means but I don’t think its a compliment.

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National Post Publishes Absolute Bullshit Re Beyond Meat

Posted  August 8, 2019  by  bigcitylib

The absolute bullshit is this bit:

“For the last million years, we’ve evolved with a very specific diet that’s been based on whole foods,” [Michael] Rogers said. “There hasn’t been a change in our diets this drastic in all of human evolution with the exception of one event in human history: when the Neanderthals ventured from forests into pastoral land and started … agricultural practices,” more than 12,000 years ago.

I don’t know who Michael Rogers is, but this kind of quote is the kind of thing that makes you think he isn’t much of an expert.  I mean, the timing of wheat domestication is about right, a couple thousand years too early, maybe.  But the species is wrong.  The last Neanderthals walked maybe 40,000 years before crops were domesticated, unless Mr. Rogers knows something nobody else does.

Seriously, this is a big fat fucking boner of a mistake: Neanderthals invented agriculture.  BULLSHIT!!!   That the NP published it without  fact checking is embarrassing.  And if you are trying to criticize alt-meat, making this kind of claim isn’t going to help.

PS.  I have never tried a Beyond Meat product nor do I have an opinion on the company.

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The Recipe For Aging Gracefully And Adding Life To Your Years

Posted  August 6, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

No one wants aging to happen to them, and yet.

While eventually we’ll all lose the fight, that doesn’t mean we can’t go down swinging, and the good news is the recipe for aging without frailty is exceedingly straight forward and was recently spelled out in a systematic review published in the British Journal of General Practice.

The magic formula the 46 included studies pointed to? A mix of regular strength training with regular protein supplementation.

Spelled out a bit further?

20-25 minutes of strength training 4x per week and the purposeful inclusion of protein with every meal and snack (or alternatively, two daily protein supplements providing 25g of protein each).

Though the aforementioned formula won’t guarantee a long life, the evidence certainly suggests it’ll help to provide a better one adding life to your years if not years to your life.

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Exercise

Most Generous Conclusion Of Chocolate Milk In Exercise Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis? It Will Increase Your Time To Exhaustion By 47 Seconds Over Placebo

Posted  July 29, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Literally every time I write about chocolate milk being a beverage worth actively minimizing in your diet (have the smallest amount of it you need to like your life), someone inevitably chimes in to tell me I’m wrong because it’s great for exercise recovery.

And I’m not sure how I missed this when it came out, but last year, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials involving chocolate milk and exercise recovery.

After excluding studies that didn’t meet their inclusion criteria, the (non-conflicted) authors were left with 12 studies, 2 deemed of high quality, 9 of fair quality, and 1 of low quality with 11 having extractable data on at least one performance/recovery marker including ratings of perceived exertion, time to exhaustion, heart rate, serum lactate, and serum creatine kinase.

Their overall conclusion?

The systematic review and meta-analysis revealed that chocolate milk consumption had no effect on any of those variables when compared to placebo or other sport drinks.

Their most generous conclusion?

If they excluded one study from their analysis of the effect of chocolate milk on time to exhaustion then chocolate milk was found to increase time to exhaustion by 47 seconds over a placebo beverage. They also found, in another subgroup analysis, that lactate was slightly attenuated in chocolate milk drinkers compared to placebo (a finding that was not present in the high quality RCT looking at same).

(for a brief discussion on the stats involved and the subgroup analysis, here’s a post on same from epidemiologist @GidMK who concluded that chocolate milk is “not a fitness drink“).

Happy to have this post published so that I can share the next time someone inevitably tries to suggest that chocolate milk is magic.

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Quirks & Quarks is on hiatus. There will no more podcasts until September

Posted  July 26, 2019  by  Anonymous

Check back for our new season September on 7. Enjoy your summer

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Sorry, Eating Thin People’s Poop Isn’t Likely To Make You Thin

Posted  July 25, 2019  by  Yoni Freedhoff

Though there are certainly some celebrity quacktacular physicians I would like to see eat crap, but what I wouldn’t be able to tell them is that doing so would likely have a beneficial impact on their weights.

A recent small study, Effects of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation With Oral Capsules in Obese Patients, found results that to me at least, seemed wholly unsurprising. 22 patients with obesity were randomly assigned to receive either a “fecal microbiota transplantation” from a donor whose BMI was 17.5 or a placebo and to take them for 3 months (and for those curious, the induction dose was 30 capsules).

The transplants were successful in changing the microbiome of the recipients, but alas, did not affect their weights.

Perhaps the only thing surprising about all of this is that there are people out there who strongly believe that a microbiome transplant stands a chance against thousands of genes, dozens of hormones, and a Willy Wonkian food environment all of which being coupled with millions of years of an evolutionary crucible of extreme dietary insecurity.

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50 years ago we walked on the moon, and it transformed life on Earth

Posted  July 19, 2019  by  Anonymous

Quirks & Quarks is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin putting the first human boot prints on the Moon. We’ve collected reminiscences and reflections from Canadian astronauts and from scientists across a diverse range of fields. They explain how the historic Apollo 11 landing inspired them and shaped the future that they’re continuing to create.

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Obsession-Worthy Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream

Posted  June 29, 2019  by  Angela (Oh She Glows)

Many years ago, I was reading a blog post by a blogger I’d been following for a while. She wrote about a recent struggle with depression and her honest words made such an impact on me. I remember thinking how brave it was for her to tell her story. While I hated that she was […]

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Christmas

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Posted  June 29, 2019  by  Angela (Oh She Glows)

photo credit: Ashley McLaughlin  Comments (2) | Share on Facebook | Tweet | Pin It | Snapchat | © copyright 2019 Oh She Glows. All Rights Reserved.

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General

Quirks & Quarks is on hiatus. There will be no podcasts until our July 20th Apollo 11 anniversary special

Posted  June 28, 2019  by  Anonymous

We’re taking a little summer break, but check back for a new program celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20.

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General

Is your Wi-Fi watching you? Dog’s manipulative eyebrows, Darwin’s finches in danger, An AI learns numbers, genetics of smell, bonobo wing-mums, sponge scientists and electric car questions

Posted  June 21, 2019  by  Anonymous

Your Wi-Fi router could be used to watch you breathe and monitor your heartbeat; We’ve bred dogs to have expressive eyebrows that manipulate our emotions; A face-eating parasite is devastating Darwin’s famous Galapagos finches; AI is now learning to do things it hasn’t been taught; Do your genes smell bad? DNA shows what our noses know; Bonobo mothers act as wing-mums for their sons; A research assistant named Spongebob? Sea sponges collect data for science; Do electric car batteries take more CO2 to make than they save?

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The Once-Gweat Wabble of Wowdy Webels…

Posted  June 21, 2019  by  Balbulican

It’s been been a while since I checked in on my favourite “fearless source of news, opinion, and activism that you can’t find anywhere else”. I was therefore shocked – shocked! – to discover that the Rebel appears in the…

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Trans Mountain Pipeline Approved

Posted  June 18, 2019  by  bigcitylib

…but far from built. I’ve talked about this  before.  My opinion is that Trudeau did the right thing by approving the pipeline.  You can’t really rule this country if the entire middle bit hates your guts because you took away the…

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Should we have humans in space? A Quirks & Quarks public debate

Posted  June 14, 2019  by  Anonymous

In our first ever Quirks & Quarks public debate, recorded live in Toronto, astronaut Chris Hadfield, cosmologist Renée Hložek, planetary scientist Marianne Mader and space flight historian Amy Shira Teitel weigh in on whether we should leave space to the robots. An extended podcast edition includes Q&A segments not in the radio broadcast.

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“Have I read anything you’ve written?”

Posted  June 10, 2019  by  Marijke Vroomen-Durning

I’ve been asked a few times, “Have I read anything you’ve written?” My first smart-ass instinct is to reply, “I don’t know, what do you read?” But I don’t. Because for some people, meeting a writer is surprising. They don’t know what to say and that’s …

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Mann Wins!!!! Frontier Centre for Public Policy FOLDS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted  June 7, 2019  by  bigcitylib

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Mann for successfully putting the boots to Winnipeg’s Frontier Centre for Public Policy.  They defamed him; he fought back and won.  See their grovelling apology below.  Bask in their tears.  &nbs…

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General

A diet of microplastic, Canada’s northern limits, elephants smell numbers, depression genetics, magnetic therapy for concussion and aurorae on other planets.

Posted  June 7, 2019  by  Anonymous

We’re consuming a lot of plastic and have no idea of the risks; Canada is using science to lay claim to the North Pole; The elephant’s mathematical trunk can smell numbers; Depressing conclusion as new research reverses 25 years of research; Concussion…

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General

Infection Following Natural Disasters – Take Care

Posted  June 2, 2019  by  Marijke Vroomen-Durning

Following every natural disaster, we see television news and online videos of destruction. Images of destroyed homes, cars and trucks flipped over, and boats well inland instead of in the water, show us the massive damage nature can cause. But for the thousands who are living through the seemingly unprecedented number of tornadoes, serious storms, and flooding, it’s not a video. It’s very real. The disasters are leaving thousands of families uprooted, with some losing loved ones.

But after the storms have passed over and the waters have receded, after the news cameras leave and people stop taking videos, the residents are left with not only putting their lives back together, but with the potential of serious illness or injury, after the fact.


While the emergency is occurring, the most important issue is survival. This means taking cover or evacuating. But once the imminent threat has left, other dangers may lurk. From broken water and sewage systems to terrified wild animals, survivors may be exposed to dangers they’ve never faced before.


Infection following a natural disaster is common in many areas. Infections can spread quickly in crowded shelters. People who walk around the disaster area can injure themselves by tripping on debris. They can cut themselves while trying to move things or be hit by material that may still be falling. Frightened pets and wild animals may be driven into unfamiliar territory and may bite.


With so many tornadoes touching down in North America this spring, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the topic. A while ago, I wrote about the connection between national disasters for Sepsis Alliance, an organization I work with. If you would like to read more about the types of infections that could follow a natural disaster, visit Sepsis and Natural Disasters, found on the Sepsis Alliance website.


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General

The benefits of video games, composting corpses, brewing ancient beer, right whales in the wrong place and supernovas and bipedalism

Posted  May 31, 2019  by  Anonymous

Video games aren’t corrupting young minds – they may be building them; Don’t bury or cremate – soon you may compost your corpse; Drink like an Egyptian – 5000 year old yeast is resurrected to brew ancient beer; Right whales were in the wrong place beca…

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Sharks on a bird diet, fossils of fungus, ‘lifelike’ machines, giant beaver extinction, the beauty of calculus and oil spill dispersants

Posted  May 24, 2019  by  Anonymous

Flying food for fish? Tiger sharks are somehow eating songbirds; Fungus fossils shows the complexity of Earth’s life a billion-years-ago; Scientists create robot-like biomaterial with key traits of life; Ancient beavers as big as bears died out because…

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Erin Weir Debacle Will Haunt Jagmeet Singh

Posted  May 24, 2019  by  leftdog

The Erin Weir debacle continues to haunt the federal New Democrats. It underscores party leader Jagmeet Singh’s seeming policy confusion and calls into question his political judgment.

It just won’t go away.

Weir is the Regina MP who was expelled from the NDP caucus last year and barred from running again for the party. His sin? He had dared to defend himself against charges of sexual harassment.

This week, the 37-year-old, lifelong New Democrat conceded that he won’t run under his party’s banner in the fall election. Nor will he run as an independent. He will sit this one out.

The Weir saga began with a 2018 email from NDP MP Christine Moore to fellow caucus members claiming that he had harassed not her but other, unnamed women. Singh almost immediately suspended Weir from caucus, while his office began a search for women willing to complain. Eventually, four were found. Three said Weir stood too close to them when talking and didn’t know when to shut up. The fourth said he had twice yelled at her over the issue of carbon tariffs — once during a policy debate and again later in an elevator.

At another time, these complaints might have been kept in perspective. But in the #MeToo frenzy of 2018, they were viewed as unforgivable political crimes. Weir was ordered to apologize to the “survivors” and take sensitivity training. He readily agreed, but with one exception. He didn’t see why he should apologize to someone for having heated words over a policy issue — even if that someone were female.

When his accuser was quoted anonymously on CBC, Weir responded to media requests for his side of the story. That, it seemed, was truly unpardonable. Singh expelled him from caucus and barred him from running for the NDP in the fall federal election.

In particular, Singh faulted him “for diminishing the finding of harassment by claiming that this was in fact a policy disagreement.” “It’s a bit Orwellian,” Weir told me in telephone interview this week. “If you try to defend yourself, it only proves that you’re guilty.”

In January, the Regina-Lewvan NDP constituency association asked Singh to reconsider and let Weir contest the nomination. Singh refused. Earlier, 68 prominent Saskatchewan New Democrats, including 13 former MPs, made a similar pitch. Singh dismissed that plea as coming from “people in a position of privilege.”

It was a comment that didn’t go over well in Saskatchewan.

The NDP will rue its treatment of Weir. It has been not only unfair but unproductive. A former economist for the Steelworkers Union, Weir has a keen understanding of the political economy of his home province.

On the issue of energy pipelines, for instance, he understands both the need to combat global warming and the dollars-and-cents reality of his constituents.

He favours construction of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta’s tarsands to the Pacific Coast. In part that’s because the pipes for such a project are manufactured in Regina. In part, it’s because “to the extent that we continue to use oil,” pipelines are the safest way to move petroleum.

He says he is baffled that “the current leadership” of his party has taken no position on carbon pricing, given that this issue promises to be central to the October election.

He’s equally baffled that Singh opposes all oil pipelines but appears to favour building new natural gas pipelines in British Columbia. (In fact, the NDP leader has suggested, at different times, that he both supports and opposes a plan to pipe B.C. natural gas to the Pacific Coast for liquefaction and export to Asia.)

Many New Democrats will disagree with Weir on the pipeline question. But he’s right that the party needs to clarify its muddled position.

He’s also right that vigorous debate between those who happen to be men and those who happen to be women shouldn’t automatically be treated as sexual harassment. Such an approach does no sex any favours.

Thomas Walkom is a Toronto-based columnist covering politics. Follow him on Twitter: @tomwalkom

The  Star

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